What I Learned from Family Vacation

This past weekend my family and I embarked on an adventure.  Seven of us (my wife, my 2 daughters, 2 sister-in-laws, my nephew, and I) went camping in northwest Michigan.  We were smart enough to get two tents, but there were still seven of us traveling together so we had no idea what to expect from the trip.

The primary worry I had going into the trip was sleep.  Would our little ones (Mikaela, 31 months & Juliet, 14 months) sleep in a tent?  Would they need their naps?  Would the rest of us get any sleep?  Would the weather allow us to stay in our tents or would we have to spring for a hotel?

In the end, sleeping was not a problem at all.  The girls went to bed in the tent in the same way they go to bed at home—made a little noise, but soon they were silent and asleep.  The difference was that Mikaela wasn’t restricted by being in a bed, so when we opened the tent to join the little ones on the first night we found Mikaela sleeping just inside the tent door.  We had laid her down at essentially the opposite corner of the tent.  She continued to move into random spots throughout the night, but she stayed asleep so we were happy.

Beyond the worries of sleep I was looking for some time with my family where I didn’t have to worry about work or “the real world”.  I even managed to only use my phone as just a clock, camera, and crazy enough a phone until we were two-thirds through our drive home and needed GPS.  I had a great time.  I felt relaxed, and I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything.

We did so much in such a short amount of time, but more importantly we shared so much time together and learned so much about ourselves and our girls.  We learned …

  • we can camp as a family.
  • we like minivans (Bettina was very skeptical before the trip, but we rented one and it was fantastic).
  • the girls can handle swimming in cool water.
  • the girls love the beach.
  • we need to let the kids stay up late every once in a while, because you never know what you’ll be privy to. We had a fire going outside the other night and I was holding our oldest in my arms while we sat around the fire.  She looked up and said, “Do you see that star? It’s like: ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ …” and continued singing through the song.  It was awesome and adorable.
  • we are all here for each other. If either my wife or I starts to get down the other is there for a pick up, and if necessary our girls are there with silliness or a hug to perk us both up.
  • dune sand will follow you everywhere you go.
  • McDonald’s really struggles with coffee orders sometimes. I mean they really struggle sometimes; they kept thinking we wanted orange juice at the speaker and then handed us food at the window.
  • transitioning back to reality is no fun, but vacations can’t last forever.

I’m really glad we took that trip out of town.  It was a great experience, and I hope that we can do it more often moving forward.  Now that we know the kids can make it through two nights in a tent we might be able to put together another trip down the road.  I don’t know when it will be or where we will go, but I’m already looking forward to it.

In the meantime I’ll try to incorporate bits of our trip and bits of what we learned into our regular life, so we can enjoy regular life even more than we already do.  Some aspects may be easier than others.  I truly enjoyed what we had up there and I enjoy what we have here as well, so if I could mesh the two together it could be amazing.  I think that’s worth a shot.


Side Note—Bettina’s Motherhood Perspective post was supposed to be posted today, but instead it will be this coming Sunday so stay tuned for that.


Devotional: Week of July 28, 2014

Psalm 56:3 – When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

Do I truly trust God or do I simply not trust myself? I often find myself saying that “God will provide” or “God will get us through this”, but I’m not sure how much of that is actually trusting God to control the situation. I think I may simply be saying “I see no way I can do this, so hopefully God can take care of it.”

That’s not the right way to handle life. Before I even try to take a situation on I need to turn to God. He has infinite power and infinite ability. Why wouldn’t I want that in my corner? Why wouldn’t I ask Him to help me or at least show me the way? We aren’t meant to get through our struggles alone. We need to lean on God and even let Him carry us if that’s what we need.

I won’t be able to simply flip a switch and fully put my trust in God, but I am willing to walk the path that leads to total trust.  If I can make my way down a path that allows me to be more comfortable with the life that is happening around me, then I will take the steps that need to be taken to find my way to that path.  I need to step away from doing things on my own and remember that I first must turn to the God who created me.

Prayer: God, thank you for always being willing to help me. Thank you for giving me the chance to learn through my mistakes and failures. Please help me remember to turn to you first and not as a last-ditch effort. Thank you lord for being my saviour.

A Poetic Aside

Hello world, I haven’t seen you in a few days.  Family has taken precedence for the last week or so, so the blogging has been pretty minimal.  Today’s post won’t be much different, but consider this the transition back toward normal.  Today’s post is a poem I wrote after completing the devotional for Psalm 90:12 a couple of weeks ago.  It’s been awhile since I’ve shared any of my poetry with the world, so this took some time for me to get the courage up to do.

Check back Friday for a new Top 5, Monday for a new devotional, and next Wednesday for my wife’s monthly hijacking of this blog.

Here’s the poem:

Let’s keep the fear from our faces
and the worry from our minds.
The brevity of life
can’t be ignored.

The numbers on our days
continue to climb upward,
but what will be
our final digits?

We cannot know the end
of our time together,
so let’s live, let’s love,
let’s have life while we’re here.

Days may bring
problems unexpected,
but we can face them
together arm-in-arm.

Remember the past
and hope for the future.
But today is what we have,
so today is when we live.

Top 5 Ways to Prepare for a Family Reunion

In honor of the family reunion I’ll be attending this weekend:

5.    Study Facebook to learn about your relatives.

4.    Decide what color your family’s matching shirts will be.

3.    Finish all fights with your significant other at least 48 hours in advance to avoid carryover and appear perfect.

2.    Leave town and claim you thought it was a different weekend.

1.    Determine your go-to story that will have everyone laughing, crying, and generally being moved.

The Pacifier: Friend or Foe?

At 3:26 am my wife and I awoke to the sight of Mikaela at the side of our bed.  She informed us, “I can’t find my paci.”  She had probably been sleeping without it for the last five hours, but something led her to stir and now, at 3:26 am, she needs her paci to get back to sleep.

For us, the debate of whether to give a paci, or what type of paci to give, has long passed.  Bettina and I decided going in that our kids, if they wanted one in the beginning, would have pacifiers, but they would not have them once they were “too old”.  We didn’t really know what we meant by “too old”, but it was one of those things that we figured we’d know when we knew.  At this point both girls only use their pacifiers at naptime and bedtime, but they sometimes request it as a comforting aid when hurt or ill.

Pros and Cons of Pacifiers

If you’re still in the debating stage for whether or not to introduce a pacifier I will share my advice and research.  Keep in mind that I’m no expert, but I’m a dad that cares greatly for my kids and would do nothing that I felt could cause them harm.  I think the pacifier is a great tool that, when used properly, can be very helpful when soothing your child.  Some research is even showing that children that use pacifiers are at a lower risk for SIDS, but there is no direct causal link found at this time.

On the other hand, pacifiers can cause some issues.  It’s believed that prolonged pacifier use could lead to an increase in ear infections, and pacifier use could create nipple confusion for the child (there are now studies on both sides of this one).  Lastly, there are some pacifiers that could change mouth shape if used too frequently throughout the day and over a long period of time.

So there’s my little input to your debate, but you are the parent of your children and only you should make these kinds of decisions for your children.

Back to Our Girls

Now it’s just a matter of figuring out how and when to take the pacis away from our little ones.  We feel that Mikaela is ready, but with family in town for the next three weeks we’ve decided to delay the pacifier’s farewell for her until we are back to normal life.  Knowing the end was near, but that we were delaying it I sat down with Mikaela the other day and told her that in one month I was going to take away her pacifier.  She agreed and has since told other people who I was going to do so.  I’m not sure if she actually understands (she does understand a lot for her age), but I’m hoping it will at least lessen the blow some as the time draws closer.  And maybe if I continue a countdown for her it will help her see the end is getting closer.

Our younger daughter, Juliet, is 17 months Mikaela’s junior, so we are torn on her pacifier’s farewell.  It seems that it would be easier for us in the long run—though likely more difficult in the short term—if we were to also take her pacifier away in a month.  But that means that Mikaela was able to use her pacifier 17 months longer than Juliet.  I think we’ll land on taking both at the same time and hope that they form a mini support group for Sisters Grieving the Loss of Paci, but we’ll see how that goes.

The Farewell Tour

These pacifiers, these little round pieces of rubbery material have been in our lives for two and a half years now.  So it doesn’t seem right to simply take the paci from our child’s mouth and throw it into a trash bin full of dirty diapers.  This extra month we have given our daughters will also be an extra month for their pacis to enjoy the world.

They will get to go on one last vacation with us, they will get to rest upon the shelf a few more times, and they will get to ween themselves away from the home they’ve found with our girls.  But rest assured the pacifiers will be evicted in early August, and then we see how withdrawals go …

Devotional: Week of July 14, 2014

1 Peter 1: 14-16 – As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, “Be holy, because I am holy.”

As Christians we have been called to be like Christ.  I know that I will never be able to equal Christ’s goodness or holiness, but I also know that isn’t the call.  We are supposed to strive to be like Christ not to be Christ.  There is only one Jesus, so we need to be careful that we aren’t trying to be him but instead be like him.

It would be easy to get discouraged about being a dim light when we compare ourselves to Christ, but instead of being discouraged we need to seek out ways to brighten our light and help it reach farther.  We are here to love God and love others as ourselves, so each day we need to set out on a venture to reach those goals.

There are definitely days that I don’t reach both goals.  I am at a point in my life where I definitely love God and I generally even like Him too.  I had gone through some points where the love was running low and other points where there was love for Him, but it was hard to like Him.  Those valleys may return in my life, but at this point I love God and I enjoy His presence each day.

The other goal has been a little harder to reach each day.  There are days where I just don’t feel like loving anyone (even myself), but on those days I need to force myself to remember the call laid upon me.  Other days it may seem overwhelming to love others as ourselves, but then I remind myself that I am just a man seeking to be like Christ.  If I can’t love everyone today, I can still love someone, and then tomorrow I can continue to grow toward being like Christ by loving more and more until there is not a person on this earth—past or present—that I do not love.

I have my opinions of how I act, how I handle situations, and how I need to improve.  But it would be really cool to sit back and watch myself.  If I could set up a Candid Camera-style reality show where I didn’t know when I was being watched I could get an honest assessment of how I interact with the world.  Then I could see if I am loving on others in the way that I think I am.  I could even review the tapes periodically to make sure that I am growing in the right direction.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for welcoming me into your home.  You know who I was, but more importantly you know who I can be.  Please help me be the person you see in me, and please help me show Jesus to the world through who I am.