Life, unexpected

I have not been blogging lately because I hurt my back real bad and couldn’t sit.  I will also be going on vacation soon, but I will blog all about that when I get back.  Today is the day I would normally get a jump start on my Christmas card, but I’m having a really hard time writing it.  Partly because it’s depressing.  Mostly because it’s painful.  I have had 3 unexpected deaths happen to people I love very much and physically almost died myself.  I have been in more pain physically than ever before (yes, including childbirth, and this pain lasted much longer than childbirth!).  I have seen things and experienced things I hope I never have to see/feel again.  How in the world could I write all that in a Christmas letter? It would be so depressing.  Then I got to thinking of how God walked me through it all.  How He gave me the strength to help others in need.  How He gave me the will to fight, when I felt like dying.  How He allowed what we went through to really make my family realize how precious life is, and how we should show our loved ones that we love them.  Not only in our words but in our actions.  I still don’t think I will write a Christmas letter this year, but I have really grown a lot and I have learned so much this year.  Maybe more than ever before.  Life is precious.  It is a gift from God.  We are not guaranteed how long we will have with our loved ones, but if we have Jesus Christ as our Savior, we will have happiness and peace for all eternity.  Having Christ in my life helped me to get through the trials.  I didn’t fall into depression, but clung to Him for help. He gladly helped me through.  The trials did not ruin me, but strengthened me.  I grew stronger as a person, stronger as a Christian, and more thankful for the free gift Jesus gave me. 

Romans 10:9

That if you confess with your mouth Jesus IS Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you WILL be saved.

Packing for a family

I regret that I don’t have better pictures for this post, but unfortunately, all my bags have been shipped already, so I will have to update later with more pictures.

I know when you are packing for a trip with a baby or a toddler, all rules blow out the window.  However, when you pack for a family with school age children, your burden is so much lighter!  Your child should be able to wear clothes for a day and not get them soiled.  They should be able to have good hygiene and be able to groom themselves.  What used to take hours to get ready for the day now takes 30 minutes when everyone can take care of themselves.   The same is true with packing.  When you travel with a baby, you need a whole suitcase just for baby items.  Mountains of diapers and wipes and extra clothes, not to mention toys and safety equipment you need to bring with you.  When you travel with older children, you should be able to pack very light.  For our cruise, we are bringing much more than we normally would for a trip.  We have formal clothes, pirate clothes, gifts for our cruise buddies, and lots of little extras to make the trip magical for our children.  With all of that extra stuff aside, we packed all of our “normal” travel items into 2 large carry-on backpacks.  They look huge and I wish I took a picture, but I will add one later when we are heading out on our cruise.  They may look big and bulky, but each bag only weighs 20-25 lbs!  We have clothes, toiletries, travel books and any extra accessories we need for a family of 5 stuffed into the bags.  I will be doing laundry one day on our cruise, which cut the clothing bulk in half.  I also told everyone not to bring jeans.  The only one that didn’t listen was my teen.  Jeans weigh a lot and don’t dry quickly.  She said she would be fine in wet jeans.  I told her I would not stay in the laundromat to dry clothes an extra cycle for jeans 😉  This is, after all, a vacation.

Image

These are the bags I bought to hold all of our belongings.  You can see that the shoe bag at the top already has shoes in it.  There are different size bags.  I bought 2 large ones for Nathan and myself.  I bought some medium sized ones for the kids, small ones for misc. stuff (phone chargers, pens, etc.) and some small thin ones for toiletries: one for boys, two for girls.  Cruise ships have very small bathrooms, but the Disney cruise actually has 2 bathrooms in each room.  One with a toilet/sink and one with a tub/shower and a sink.  So we will have boys get ready in one room, girls in the other and at the vanity in the room and we will see how that works out.

This is a picture of the bags in the suitcase.  We were able to close the backpack without having to extend it.  We could have fit a lot more stuff in the bag, but I wanted to keep the weight down.

Image

This picture shows the suitcase with the large bag at the bottom and one medium bag.Image

This picture shows the bag full.  It has the large bag, 2 medium bags, a shoe bag and a thin bag.  Nathan’s suitcase has a large bag, 2 medium bags, and a thin bag.

We will be carrying these bags on the ship with us, to see if we can handle the weight walking around for a few hours.  This trip is a test to see if we can pack light when we head to Europe.  We will bring all the extra cruise stuff in a suitcase, since we will not be bringing any of that to Europe.  It’s amazing how little “things” you need on a vacation.  I remember a time when our car was loaded down with stuff, half of which we never would use.  Now I have become a light packer, and I realize that most places you go to will have what you need that you can buy.  Now, if you are going to the middle of nowhere, you will need to bring more, but even in other countries, they usually have band-aid’s, Tylenol and other things you may or may not use.  We will be wearing the same few items of clothes multiple times on our trip.  Make sure whatever you bring can be mixed and matched.  You don’t need a make-up bag full of make-up.  You should be able to have a complete set of make-up with less than 10 items in your make-up bag.  You may not have the variety you do at home, but it will lighten the load a lot!  If you are driving, make sure the kids have their toys/snacks in bags that are near their seats.  If you are flying, try to fit what you need in carry-on’s, so you don’t have to deal with lost luggage.  If you are flying to see family and have to pay for carry-on’s, it may be cheaper to ship your items to your family.  For our cruise, we shipped most of our belongings to family and saved money.  We also don’t have to worry about lugging it through the airport, or having lost/broken luggage.  I always bring along a safety bag when I travel.  I don’t use it at home, only for travel.  Actually, I have 2.  My older one my daughter uses now.  They both have special locks to prevent pickpocketing, and wire through the strap so someone can’t cut the strap and steal the bag.  I love it.  My new one has a water bottle holder, and can be used by men or women.  So I know my passports and money are safe.  Don’t ever take your purse off when traveling.  Even in a diner, people can steal it.  Just put it crosswise over your body while you eat.  Here are some pictures of the bag I have.  It’s a lot bigger than it looks.  It holds a lot of stuff, but since the strap is thick, it distributes weight well.  I am excited to use this while we are walking around the islands.ImageImageImage

Well, I hope you are able to pack light, pack smart and have fun without having to worry about lost, broken or stolen luggage!

Safety first

I am a HUGE stickler for safety.  I have always tried to teach my kids to be safe when they are at and away from home.  Here are some important tips everyone should know, to help keep them safe.

At home:
I always put an emergency number list somewhere down low that they can see.  It has 911 with a green dot after it (to show you have to push the green button on the phone to make the call work).  Then it has our address under 911.  I don’t care how old you are, if there is an emergency, your address can easily slip your mind.  I then have Nathan and my numbers listed, also I have listed “Mom” or “Dad” next to the numbers to show who we are.  Then I have another set of numbers of someone that is a friend/family member that could help with their relation next to their names.  If the police have to come to the house, they can easily find those numbers as well.  We hope we never have to use it, but are thankful that it is there!

Keep your doors locked.  Most break-ins happen through open or unlocked doors, it’s so easy to flip the switch, and will keep your family safe.  Also, teaching your kids to NEVER answer the door is a must!

Away from home:

When you are walking in a store or on the street, glance around and make sure no one is following you.  Especially if you are alone.  Always make eye contact with people.

When you are with your kids, keep a close eye on your purse.  Don’t leave it in the cart, carry it on you.  Also, a purse with a zipper is far safer than one with an open top.

When leaving a store, if you feel you are being followed, turn around and go back into the store.  I know someone was following me once to my car, and I went back in the store.  They stopped for a minute, and then kept walking.  It may have been nothing, but you never know.  Which brings me to my next point:

Once you get into your car, lock your doors before doing anything else.  If you have to buckle in a child, glace around first.  If you are distracted, it is very easy for someone to come up to you without you knowing.

If you feel the need to carry a gun, get a concealed weapons permit.  Protecting yourself and your family is so important.  Don’t be foolish with your firearm and leave it in a purse or somewhere that a child could reach it.  Always keep it on you if it’s loaded.  Whether or not the safety is on, a loaded weapon can be dangerous, and needs to be out of reach of children.

I’m not trying to scare anyone, or seem as if I live in a bubble.  But always being aware of your surroundings and doing simple things to keep you and your kids safe is always a great idea.  Have a safe and happy summer!!