So I Tied an Onion to my Belt – 2011 Edition

Here we go again with another year, and I’m already behind on my annual retrospective post!
This past year has a lot to commend it, and a few things to condemn it. Three events, really, can sum it up — but of course there are additional details that shouldn’t be totally excluded.
We started the year possibly feeling a little chagrinned to discover that there would be no changes in the housing situation. Our little house in the prarie did not find a satisfactory buyer in the time we were willing to put into the effort, so we gave up and tucked in to wait for the new baby (and settled on a new van instead). Feeling not a little trapped, I was grateful to have a motorbike to experience a little adventure on. Little did I know how painful an adventure that bike would lead to!
By mid-May, I was confined to a bed with my leg in the air, while Nicole was home with a newborn, and two toddlers who needed their (obviously distracted) parents more than ever. Fortunately, my mom, who spends most of her time doing much better things overseas, was home to help prepare for my sister’s wedding, and was able to lend a helping hand — and then some!
Nicole was recovered, baby settled, and me hobbling in time for the aforementioned wedding — or two, as some very special girls wed the young men who’d become so important to them. We were excited that our family got to have a part in both ceremonies. We were excited too, to celebrate our own 10th anniversary.
With the summer over, and winter looming before us, promising more snow, gray and gloom than we really thought we could handle after such a tough year, we began plans for at least temporary escapes, affording the kids their first flights — among other things. Nicole found and booked us a vacation home in Florida for the entire month of January — something we’re enjoying even as I type this, and possibly our first successful (albeit hybrid) vacation ever!
And there you have it: 2011. Of course their was some home improvements, seminary, changes at work and various projects that I dove into, in the continuing hope that there will be more to life than what the last few years have offered us; there were first days of school, and soccer, and other new things for Ben and Abi — and the joy of seeing those things through their eyes. But at the dawn of a new year, with our philosophy of adventure looking a little battered and bruised by the winds of change and the realities of adult life, we are looking forward to finding, seizing and exploring more of the world that God gave us in 2012…

Family Florida Road Trip – Day 3

We made it! It was a long haul, especially after a night at a less-than-stellar hotel. I booked it online because it said it was the only Marriott in the area we were staying, but it turns out there were two, much better, much newer Marriott’s within a 2 block radius. By the time we figured that out, though, it was too late to change our plans. Besides, it was free, so we shouldn’t complain. The kids slept on a pull-out couch, while Eli’s pack and play was setup in the kitchen area. We were all too tired to care much.
We were up at 6, hoping to be on the road by 7 — and were pretty close to pulling that off. We went hard in the morning, stopping around 11:30 in Jacksonville, Florida soon after crossing the border. We had lunch at a Chic-Fil-A with a play place, and hit the road again. We’ve used up a good percentage of our data plan on NetFlix, plowed through numerous recharges of our electronic devices, ate lots of Nic’s pre-packed snacks, and slept as much as we could… but by 4pm we were in the right part of the state. Stopped in retirement central for Wendy’s and a potty break, called the property management place to inform them of our imminent arrival, and headed back out for the last stretch.
We arrived by 6pm — by working around the GPS that chose a much dumber router than Nicole figured out with Bing Maps — and excitedly ran into the place. It is nearly perfect. A little smaller than we’d thought, and kind of sparsely furnished, but what is here is nice. There’s plenty of room for our family, although it will be a little cozy when our guests arrived, and since we’re going to be spending most of our time around the pool anyway, size isn’t an issue.
It’s still cool here — at night and early morning, it probably always will be — but the pool is heated, and we’re acclimated to much colder temperatures, so we’re pretty comfortable. Today we’ll stake out the neighbourhood a bit, and then I’ll resume my normal work routine. Family arrives Saturday and I fly out for London, England on Tuesday. Life as normal — just in a warmer place!

Family Florida Road Trip – Day 2

The trip from Virginia Beach to South Carolina went without incident. All 3 kids are still doing so well. It helped that this was only a 7ish hour drive, rather than the day before’s 16 hour journey! We watched a couple movies on NetFlix and on the “new” Zune 30 that I’d had shipped to Jason and Brooke’s house – 100 hours of video on a $50, 5+ year-old device!
We’re running a little low on “mum mums” – Eli’s quick-dissolving rice snack that rescues us any time she gets a little emotional about being stuck in a car seat. We’ll have to ration them for the last day of the trip!
This evening we had dinner with friends in Columbia, SC. They were about to move to England for missions work last year, when their baby girl became suddenly very ill while in Belgium for pre-field training. They rushed home to confirm the local hospital’s diagnosis of Leukemia. Then spent the following months trying treatments to save her life. During that time they established a pretty neat ministry in their hospital and online through telling their story. Simi had quite a ministry of her own, but despite everyone’s best efforts, she passed away. Obviously they’ve been wrestling through what comes next, and how they should proceed. It was encouraging to see that their faith and their commitment to missions has not wavered, despite everything they’ve been through. Their other two daughters are close to Ben and Abi’s age, and Elizabeth and I knew each other in Germany many years ago, so it was great to visit with them. We look forward to seeing them sent out to the field!
The final leg is 9 hours, 20 minutes – plus pit stops, which will probably put us up to nearly 12 hours. But at the end of it, we’ll be “home” in Florida for the rest of the month! The weather has been cold all the way down, due to the arctic chill that has our home in Canada buried in snow and freezing, but we anticipate that temperatures will climb as the weather system passes – and as we get further south. We certainly hope we get to put on those shorts we packed soon!!

Our First Family Florida Road Trip – Day 1

Sunday night, everyone went to bed early — mom and dad, after cleaning the house and packing the van. Monday morning we got up at 3am, climbed into the van, and hit the road. Everyone slept until about 7:30, while I drove. The border was a breeze — not that we expected issues, but with a month-long trip, you never know what kinds of questions they’ll ask. Another 12 hours after that, and we were pulling up to Jason and Brooke’s house in Virginia Beach.
The kids did extremely well — NetFlix on the van’s flatscreen helped, I’m sure. Ben and Abi did some colouring, and played a little of their new Nintendo DS. Everyone napped a lot, Eli not as much as we would have liked. She screamed when she was hungry or poopy or tired, but otherwise was as pleasant and happy.
We hit weather once, and traffic once. The weather was in Pennsylvania (no surprise there) where lake effect snow had us in white-out conditions for a while. This was the start of an arctic front that was supposed to hit our home neighbourhood later in the day, so we were pleased to be ahead of the majority of it. The traffic was a mysterious total stoppage in Virginia on I-64, where we were stuck for so long that people just shut off their cars for awhile. Suddenly it started moving again, and that was it: smooth sailing the rest of the way!
Its been great to visit with old friends from our time in New York. Our kids are close to the same age (Ben and Alivia used to take baths together as babies!) — in fact, Ben stayed with Brooke and Jason while Abi was being delivered! And encouraging to see that they’re the same awesome people, just living in a different place. Its been a short visit, as we need to be on the road in an hour or so, but we have 2 more legs to this journey, and more friends to see.