Sunday, September 28, 2008

Driving Tips From An Experienced Traveler

Well I thought I'd put some driving tips and things we've learned on here, so people can maybe learn something for their next road trip, or at least just catch a glimpse of what ours days are usually like! There are some things we've learned that have really helped pass the time and keep people sane.

1. Less is more!! We've learned that the less toys and things the kids have, the better they'll play. It seems like when they have a lot of stuff they're not satisfied with what they have, so they'll constantly want something else and then get bored because they've "done it all". I don't know why it works this way, but having a small amount of toys really helps.
2. Set aside time. We put our kids' toys and activities into four categories: dolls/transformers; coloring/LeapPad; movie time; quiet and nap time. When we first set out on travels we'd let them do whatever they wanted, and what ended up happening was that they'd get bored of everything in just a few hours. So now we make a schedule and they're not allowed to mix the activities. If it's a school day, Noah does his school first thing and the girls can color or do their LeapPad. Lela usually ends up falling asleep! When Noah is done with school, they can play with their babies/Transformers. By then it's usually lunch time so after lunch it's quiet time/naptime. They don't have to sleep, but they don't get to play or watch a movie. Noah usually reads a book and the girls sleep. After that, if we're still traveling, they can watch a movie. We go in order of who gets to pick the movie and the other kids can't complain about what the movie is!! Lela will without fail pick Dumbo! They also can't play with toys or color or do anything else during movie time. They usually don't want to, but this is so they can enjoy the movie and be quiet! Movie time is a wonderful time for us in the front!

3. Give drinks at a minimum! The kids get a drink of water every hour or so. They're not expending any energy, so I don't know why they'd need it more! And they only get water or lemonade if we stop somewhere for lunch, no soda or tea. If we give the kids their own water to drink, we'd have to stop every hour. If we're about an hour away from our next stop, I'll get a bottle of water out for them to pass around and drink.

4. Keep it neat. We've learned to clean the van whenever we stop for a night. This means we put all the coloring stuff in the right bag, sort out the doll stuff and put it in the right owner's bag, pull things out from under the seat, throw away all trash, and reorganize anything that became askew. This is something I love to do! I hate it when I can't see the van floor. We also vaccum out the van once a week, getting in all the cracks and under carseats. When your van is your home, you have to keep it tidy!

5. Give the kids an out. When the kids get especially tired of being in the car, we just have screaming contests. We'll just all (including Caleb and me) scream and yell our lungs out until we're all laughing. This is a good thing to do when the kids are crabby and crying anyway. Usually if you start, they'll join in and have fun and start laughing. It's even more fun to do it with the windows down!

6. Game Time! Come up with games everyone can play. We play a reverse of I Spy. One of us will say "Find something purple" or "Find a blue truck" and the first person that finds it gets to pick the next object. This is really fun when you're driving off the interstate on country roads, there are more houses and towns.

Well anyway, I hope these tips were interesting to you and not too mundane! Traveling is a lot of fun, and it's a good way to spend quality time as a family!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Our trek across the Northern US

On September 15th we started our trek from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Washington State. We had a great time driving across South Dakota, although it seemed like we were never going to get to Rapid City! Our goal was to make it to Rapid City and camp by Mt. Rushmore that night. We saw many strange sights while driving across the prairie. We saw roadblocks that were actually bales of hay, we got a good laugh out of that. There were many strange sculptures on the side of the road, and a lot of motorcyclers! Caleb saw a sign that he thought was really fun, it said "Discount car toes". We were wondering what car toes were, until we realized they meant "tows". It was even more funny when we saw the same sign several times with the same spelling mistake. We made the obligatory stop at Wall Drug and walked around for a while, we even got sodas at the historical soda fountain. We finally made it to Rapid City at about 6 pm mountain time. We were saved by the time change! We were on the road for 9 hours, but we were able to pretend it was only 8 because of the time change. We found a Walmart, got some food, and then set up camp at a KOA camp. The kids had a great time camping and we made smores and had cowboy beans, campfire style!

The next day we went to Mt. Rushmore and we were overwhelmed! I had been there as a kid, but Caleb and the kids have never been there. I forgot how majestic and looming the Mount is. I couldn't stop staring at Washington because he looked so noble and wise up there. Noah has been wanting to see Mt. Rushmore for a long time, and he was overwhelmed, I could tell. He told me later that he didn't know it would be so huge, or that we'd be so close. He also said they looked so real, he thought he saw one of the heads move! Kids are so funny. We had a great time and Kayla even got to see some mountain goats up close and personal.

After Mt. Rushmore we drove through Wyoming and stopped to camp in Billings. We probably could've gone a little further but we didn't want to be stuck with no camping spot, so we stopped there. Montana was just gorgeous and we camped right on the Yellowstone River. It was a lot colder there than in South Dakota, though! We were all shivering in the morning until we got loaded up and in the van. That day we drove through Montana and ended up in St. Maries, Id.

Our plan was to make it to Spokane, but that was just not going to happen! At about 4pm we were still in Montana with little to no money and nowhere to spend the night. Caleb called around to a couple Pastors to try to find a Missions Apartment and finally was able to contact Bro. McCullough who knew of a Pastor in Idaho that NTCP had helped. So Caleb contacted him and he graciously accepted us into his home, and fed us. They lived deep in the Idaho woods and it was a little scary driving there! I'm used to flat roads or maybe even a little hill, but these were winding, curving and hairpin turns! We saw several signs calling for the use of chains, and had several close calls with huge logging trucks coming around the corner of a hill. It was an adventure, let me tell you! But we made it safe and sound and had a wonderful time. I would love to see more of Idaho and explore the beautiful country God made.

That next day we had a short drive to Caleb's brother Josh's house in Grandview, Washington. We made it there in the early afternoon and the kids had a fantastic time getting to know their cousins, Sean and Olivia. We stayed there a couple days and had a good time with Josh, Rochelle and the kids. It was nice to just hang out and not have to be anywhere or do anything!

On Saturday, the 20th, we traveled to Fircrest, Washington which is a suburb of Seattle/Tacoma. We decided not to take the trailer and to just shove our essentials in the van, and I was thankful! We had to drive through the mountains, with high traffic, during a heavy rainfall! Thankfully the kids slept most of the way so Caleb could concentrate on the road. We stopped at an outlet mall and I was FINALLY able to find a new jean skirt! I've been looking for one for several months. And Praise the Lord, it was on sale!! We were late getting to Seattle, so we went straight to the Pastor's house instead of going to the hotel first.

We had such a wonderful and amazing time at Liberty Baptist Church in Fircrest, Wa. The Pastor, Bro. Brock, is a wonderful man who really has a heart for Missions. And the church was overwhelming with their love and support. Sunday night they presented us with gifts and they brought in a huge plastic tub filled to overflowing with stuff, plus gift bags full of stuff for the kids. While we were looking through it all in the hotel we discovered there was a brand new GPS system in the middle of everything. Caleb was so excited! He was jumping up and down. We have been wanting to get one for a long time, but everytime we would get the money, something else would come up that was more important. We wanted to get one before we left, but God never saw fit to bless us with one. Well, the church just HAPPENED to get us the exact GPS that we were wanting, a TomTom. We are so thankful to the Lord and also to Liberty Baptist that followed the Lord's leading in blessing us. We had an amazing week there and a fantastic Missions Conference. I believe that five were saved and almost the entire church surrendered their lives to full-time Missions on the last night. I know with their heart for Missions, they will do great things for God and be rewarded greatly in Heaven for all their work!! They took us to JC Penney and Cabelas and gave us money to spend, we went to Pike Place Fish Market and explored that area, and we also went on a Wilderness Trek where we got to see Bison, Elk, and even Moose up close and personal! It was amazing and wonderful. We had a blast. The Wonsers that were in the Conference with us have two adorable girls, Annabelle and Dixie Mae, and the girls got along great with them. They loved playing "Ring Around The Rosie" and got lots of laughs from people around us!

Right now we're in Tenino, Wa staying in a Missions Apartment here. We will be presenting at the church on Sunday, and they are gracious enough to let us use their apartment for a few days. On Monday we'll be going back to Josh and Rochelle's house and basing out of there. I'll try to update this when I can, whenever we have internet. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and thanks for your prayers and support!