January 13, 2016

A Bucket of Blessings

Before returning to the US for a home assignment it is customary to dream! And let me tell you, the bucket list can grow pretty rapidly. As I sit here and think back on the last several months, I am amazed by all of the blessings, little and big, God has bestowed on us during this time. Our bucket list items have been checked off and we are feeling ready to return to Bolivia. I am so thankful!

What, you might ask, was included on my bucket list? Here's a taste (in no particular order):
  • Go to the library (public and at our local church)
  • Consume yummy American food (pizza, hamburgers, Dairy Queen and root beer!) 
  • Get the girls involved in Awana and/or Sunday School 
  • Go to Yellowstone National Park 
  • Celebrate the girls' birthdays with friends
  • Build a snowman, sled and ice skate 
  • Watch it snow with a cup of hot chocolate in my hands
  • Spend the holidays with family (our 1st Thanksgiving and Christmas in the US in 5 years!) 
  • Go into the woods and cut down our Christmas tree
  • Pray for a white Christmas (and we got more than we could have imagined! It was awesome!) 
  • Attend our local church on a regular basis
  • Visit some of the Laura Ingalls Wilder houses while road tripping
  • Have our family photos taken during the Fall (one of my husband's and my favorite times of the year)
  • Family reunions for both of our families
  • A visit to Canada to see my grandparents
  • Get the necessary health check-ups (not "fun" but definitely needed) 
  • and so much more! 

I really couldn't have asked for a better home assignment. Yes, it has been crazy. . .especially the first 6 months as we traveled and spoke on a pretty regular basis. Yes, it has been without routine. And yes, we are ready to get back "home" but it has been so very good to be here.

"Olaf" saying hello in our backyard
We have 7 weeks left. In that time we'll be putting things back in storage, packing luggage, getting in our last visits with family and friends, and cleaning the house we're living in. We are also prepping for our church's annual Global Outreach Conference which happens our last full week in the US.

My mind is gearing up. I'm thinking and dreaming more in Spanish as each day goes by. I'm praying regularly for peace and trust as my anxieties always rise before our international moves. But I'm also spending a lot of time thanking God for His many blessings. I am humbled by His goodness. My bucket is overflowing with His blessings!

November 06, 2015

Little House Field Trips

While we were in Bolivia planning out this home assignment we discovered that we would need to take a road trip that included a week in Colorado (see my previous post), a drive across Kansas, a week in Missouri and then the return trip to Montana through Iowa and South Dakota. My mind started working and I started doing some research. I discovered that on that trip we could visit ALL of the Laura Ingalls Wilder houses and/or towns that still exist. Of course over time we decided that was a bit much so we decided to visit two of the six options.

It was a little bright out there! ;)

Our first house was the replica of the "Little House on the Prairie" just outside of Independence, Kansas. It wasn't a long stop but it was so worth it. This replica cabin is definitely on the property where the Ingalls family lived. The well that Pa dug and that Mr. Scott almost died in still exists. The replica cabin has replica items inside that definitely make you feel like you are in the house on the prairie. They even have a little China doll on the mantle (much to the delight of my oldest daughter!). The property also has an old one room school house and a post office. We took a moment to visit the gift shop and learned a bit more about the history of the farm. We are all so glad we stopped.

The Post Office

The Post Office

The school house
The second house we visited was a two for one deal just outside of Mansfield, Missouri. This is the House on Rocky Ridge where Laura and Almanzo lived for 60 years as a married couple. This house was a delight as it was the original house that Almanzo built for Laura over the course of 18 years. The details are beautiful, including the height of the counters for Laura's "half-pint" size. She really was a little woman! Included in the price of the tour was the "Rock House" that Rose had built for her parents. They only lived in it for 8 years but it was fun to see. These houses also include a museum that houses Pa's fiddle (our favorite thing to see!), handwork done by Laura and her sisters and many other little things like original family photos. I loved seeing the clock that Almanzo bought for Laura (after they were married---you can find the story in the last book of the series). It still works! And sits on a shelf above the stove in their farmhouse. 

No photos allowed inside the house

The Rock House

November 04, 2015

Debriefing and Renewal

If you are a missionary or know a missionary than you are well aware of the fatigue that we show when visiting in the US. Our ministry and transient lifestyle can be exhausting, depleting us of the energy it takes to get through just a normal day. Our home church has now started sending the missionaries they have sent out to Colorado for a debrief and time of renewal (DAR) with Mission Training International (MTI). Check it out here: https://www.mti.org/dar/

Pikes Peak: The view from our retreat location
We are so thankful for this time. It was not an easy week as we dealt with emotions and experiences that aren't necessarily easy to face head on but it was a very necessary time that allowed us to process all that we have been through and where we're headed.

The staff at MTI have experience, training and wisdom that was such an asset to this training. We thoroughly enjoyed our small group leaders and our time as a couple with one of the leaders. The girls loved their teachers, who are also experienced and trained. The stories the leaders were able to share with us showed their true understanding of the situations we face---they've faced them too!

One of the biggest benefits we saw as a family was the link between each age group. Our girls were split into age groups that were appropriate for them and were given tools to deal with what it means to be a missionary kid and how to deal with the emotions they face, the frustrations they deal with and the constantly changing lifestyle. The same tools described to them were used in the adult sessions as well on a much deeper level. All five of us walked away feeling more equipped and with the knowledge that there are others who understand us.

For a bit of a closer look:
One of the things that all of five of us learned about was the bridge of transition. Think of yourself in your country of service (land on one side of the bridge), as you step of the land onto the bridge you are mostly settled. You know who you are, what your job is, where your stuff is, etc. As you take your foot off the land and stand completely on the bridge you start feeling unsettled. Life isn't "normal" and the whole family starts feeling the affects of the changes. Then you hit the middle of the bridge. Life is chaotic! You're traveling, moving, saying good byes, leaving things behind and may not know what's coming. Thankful the chaos starts to settle as you continue across the bridge, maybe you've now landed in your passport country. You're now just feeling unsettled again. Can't find the item you thought you brought from your last home, still haven't figured out where your kids are going to school, etc. But those things slowly start settling into place and as they do you start to settle as well and then you've reached the other side of the bridge, your passport country.

This illustration has been great for our kids. We've been able to talk about the bridge and they have voiced where they are. I love that we all walked away with a better way to communicate with each other about where we are on the bridge (and that can always be changing).

And on a lighter note I have to add, our favorite times happened two (of the five) nights as we sat around a campfire with other missionary attendees, sharing hilarious stories from our overseas lives. It was a great time of fellowship!

November 02, 2015

Virginia City and Nevada City

After visiting Bannack State Park, a ghost town, we took the time to visit Virginia and Nevada Cities, where history comes alive on the weekends. This is an active tourist area that has delightful (and expensive) little stores to browse through, a museum town, a small train and some great places to eat. Our highlights included the volunteers who shared with us about spinning and carding wool, the train ride, the candy store, panning for gold (and rubies) and the ball that was taking place that night (we only watched for a few moments from the balcony but the girls were delighted). This field trip was a bit more expensive but still well worth the cost to dive into history. Enjoy the photos!

Taken after our ride

Spinning wool

Carding wool

Panning for gold
A photo with one of the young women dressed up for the ball

October 30, 2015

Bannack State Park

During the summer we set out on another grand adventure. We were staying at my mom's for an extended stay and took advantage of a short day trip over to Bannack State Park. Bannack is an old mining town. It is a ghost town that is kept in very good condition. As we were walking down the street and entering the buildings that were open, the girls kept mentioning things from the Laura books: "This is just like in. . .," or "Is this how it would have looked for Laura?" I loved that their minds were making those connections without any (or very little) input from me! Our highlights were definitely the one room school house and the one furnished building in the park, a small home. Here's just a glimpse of our field trip.

Our first experience with a one room school house!
A little later than Laura's childhood days but still so fun to see! ;)
Walking down Main Street

Riding at Grandma's house

October 29, 2015

Book Recommendations

I have two new book recommendations for you!

The first is Foreign to Familiar written by Sarah Lanier. This book is short and sweet but it's a gem. It is loaded with good information, great illustrations from multiple cultures and practical application. If you want to know the differences between the two main types of cultures in the world, read this book. It was very insightful for me as I looked back on our (currently) four years in Bolivia and I plan on taking it back with me when we return so I can remind myself of some of those differences! Find it HERE! 

The second book is for kids: Swirly by Sara Saunders. Our girls love this book! It's a great story for third culture kids, explaining the little bits of culture we pick up as we move from country to country and how that "colors" us. You can find it HERE.

October 28, 2015

Thrive: A Retreat

One of the first highlights of our home assignment was a personal trip made by me. I, along with my two sisters-in-law, headed to Breckenridge, Colorado for a four day event called Thrive. I highly recommend this retreat for women living overseas. Thrive exists to "encourage and empower Global Women to thrive and to be their advocate." It was an amazing time of fellowship with women who completely understand the quirks of overseas life. The women who ran this retreat gave and gave and gave some more as they poured rich life into us. Our time included blessings like massages, pedicures, hair cuts, small groups, teaching, and rest. There were some delightful surprises too but I can't share about those. . .you'll just have to attend the retreat to discover more!

Go to Thrive Ministry: https://www.thriveministry.org/ and click the "Attend Our Retreats" link for more info!

Coming home after the retreat!

Hello Again!

Wow it has been a long and needed break from writing! So much has happened that I could never completely fill you in on all the goings on of our family but we're enjoying a home assignment in the US (arrived in July) and it has been crazy busy, a huge blessing and very fatiguing! We're so thankful! 

We've been so blessed to check off so many of our "bucket list" items for our eight months here, many include school field trips for our Little House studies. It has been so good for the girls to see history before them. The books have "come alive" for them and I love it! We have now read On the Banks of Plum Creek and we're halfway through By the Shores of Silver Lake.

Being based out of Montana for our home assignment gives us a plethora of options for field trips. We are blessed to live near the Museum of the Rockies. The museum has a "living farm" that is open all summer: check it out here. So we took advantage and visited the house twice while it was open (did I mention that it's free?!). Our first visit was earlier in the summer and allowed us to take a look around the house (all of the rooms are open and furnished), chat with the volunteers (dressed appropriately) as they sewed and worked in the kitchen. The girls loved seeing the old stove, they helped turn some cream into butter, fed the chickens, used an old fashioned water pump to water the flowers and played dress-up in some prairie-styled clothing.

The Tinsley House at the Museum of the Rockies
Our second visit to the living farm, also known as the Tinsley house, was for their annual harvest festival the last weekend they are open. It was a fun-filled Sunday afternoon that included kettle corn, old-fashioned lawn games, a ride in a horse-drawn wagon, feeding the chickens, watching a blacksmith mold a piece of metal, and the opportunity to weave a small basket. We loved it! We also took a ride in an old Yellowstone National Park touring bus.

Lawn games

Learning how to weave a basket

About to leave on a wagon ride
As I'm able to write I'll include some more posts about our Little House field trips (they get even better!). Stay tuned.

May 11, 2015

Farmer Boy

Last week we started reading Farmer Boy. The girls are enjoying the story of young Almanzo and so am I. The descriptions of the food served in their home make it very tempting to go create something yummy to munch but I'm amazed by the amount of food one little boy could eat. How different our family's eating habits (and work!) are from theirs.

One resource I'm enjoying using while reading this book is the Dover Coloring Book: Old-Fashioned Farm Life. It continues to work well with the chapters and helps give the girls a visual of what is being described.
It also keeps their hands busy coloring while I read. I also continue to read the "My First Little House Books" as they apply.

Little House on the Prairie

So the days are flying by and during the past month we read Little House on the Prairie. I love Laura's descriptions of the wide open prairie. Growing up in Montana, I can imagine it must have been much like eastern Montana where the prairie grass still grows wild in many places. But I cannot imagine being Ma and living with so little communication with the outside world. I know her days were filled with so much work but I often wonder what kept her mind busy.

The girls and I enjoyed reading about the Native Americans and took some time to learn a bit more about the Osage Indians, as Laura would have called them. :) We found some music on Y-Tube and watched some Pow Wows of the Prairie Native Americans so the girls would understand a bit more the fear that Laura and Mary experienced during the meeting of the many tribal groups. Having moved to a foreign country and not always understanding what is happening around me, I can imagine their fear of the unknown. I am so thankful that Pa's relationship with the Native Americans was one described as friendship. He wanted peace.

When the girls were little I made a teepee which we brought to Bolivia with us so we enjoyed reading the chapter of Pa and the girls going to the vacant campsite while in the teepee. I had hoped to put the teepee up outside and "hide" some beads in the grass but the weather wouldn't allow it so we enjoyed reading in the teepee inside instead.

Our oldest did her best to capture what she heard.
One of Laura's desires in the book is to see a real papoose, or native baby. She finally had that opportunity as the Native Americans left their campsite and she was mesmerized by one of the babies she saw, to the point of wanting it so badly she was willing to throw a tantrum. The day we read this chapter I gave the girls small little babies I had made for them. It's a very simple pattern found here. Our oldest did her best to capture the image of the mama riding away on her horse with her baby in a basket on the side with what she had available (not much of the horse can be seen but it's there!). :)

The girls have also spent some time gardening with their daddy and just like Laura and Mary, they may not see much of the fruits of their labor as we head on home assignment before much of it can be harvested.