Tag Archives: travel

Thankful, Grateful, Blessed

If you are friends with me on Facebook you likely saw my oversharing of photos from this past weekend. (Sorry) I had the opportunity to take a trip to Houston with Karlena to visit my best friend Gindi and her daughter Lillie. We also got to spend a little time with my dear friend Cathryn and her daughter as well. Cathryn was a friend of Gindi’s and over the past year I have gotten to know her through Gindi and Voxer and it has been such a gift to share life with these women every day.

It was the first time that I have ever traveled alone with one of our kids. Karlena was both excited and nervous. She was a wonderful travel companion and it was so much fun watching her experience all of these new things. Her unique personality came out this weekend and it was interesting seeing a different side of her outside of our family unit.

I was worried about Karlena being shy around Lillie, but the moment she got in the car they started talking and they played so well together the entire weekend. At one point they both needed a little alone time to rest, but there wasn’t any fighting or arguing. Gindi and I talked about how it was just such a joy to see our girls becoming friends. Just a few short years ago she and I were strangers and today I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it.

We had dinner on Friday night at a yummy Mexican restaurant, Los Tios. On Saturday the kids had breakfast, made cut-out sugar cookies and played and we got ready to head out to see an afternoon showing of the Nutcracker. Gindi had some very special tickets to the show and so we were treated to some light snacks before the show, pictures with a couple of the characters, a beautiful nutcracker to take home as a gift and the most fabulous ballet production as well. The costumes were stunning, it was definitely a show to see if you are ever in Houston in December!

Saturday night Cathryn came by with her daughter Carsyn and the girls decorated sugar cookies and had a little “contest” where everyone was a winner in one way or another! Next we loaded up the car with hot chocolate in hand to drive around and see some of the beautiful light displays that Houston residents have to offer. My favorite were the wrapped trees with the light strands that hung down. I don’t suppose that would work in the cold and snow of Minnesota, but it sure was beautiful.

Sunday morning we went to church and then made a stop at a nearby mall so that Karlena could experience the American Girl store for the first time. She was so overwhelmed, she walked in and told me that she was just shaking all over. I had a weak moment and let her pick out a little dog that she has since carried at her side non-stop. We made a few more stops in the mall and then went back home for lunch and relaxing a little before our next big event.

We had tickets to see a Broadway production of Sleeping Beauty on Sunday evening. So we went downtown to the Hobby Center and had dinner and then went over to see the show. We all thought that we were seeing the classic fairy tale rendition, but this version was a bit different. They had a bunch of audience participation, which was good to keep the kids awake through a show that lasted until 10pm, but there was a lot of “adult” humor in the show, many Houston related jokes and some songs that were way over Karlena’s head. I was entertained, but I think we expected something completely different!

Karlena showed her first real signs of being homesick on Sunday night. She climbed into bed with me that night in tears telling me that she felt so lonely and just wanted to see her brothers and daddy again. It was really sweet and was such a precious reminder of how valuable our entire family is.

On Monday we got up and Sam, one of Lillie’s brothers was home so Karlena got to hang out with a brother figure for a few hours! After breakfast Gindi pulled out gingerbread house kits and the girls got to decorating. They had planned on doing it the day before so there wasn’t an extra house for Sam, but he didn’t mind. He got out some graham crackers and set to work making his own gingerbread creation. It was fun to see him make something so amazing.

Sadly after we cleaned up our mess it was time to shower and pack and get ready to head to the airport. While our trip was a short one it felt like we filled it with so much laughter and fun. It was interesting because we got on the plane and Karlena said that she was glad to be going home, but she had tears in her eyes as she said how much she would miss Lillie. I think we all can understand that struggle when we leave a piece of our hearts with dear friends that live far away!

I too was excited to be heading home to see my family, and yet so very grateful to have been given the time to get away. We come home to a busy week of last minute things before celebrating Christmas with our families. A winter storm is now in the forecast for later in the week and we had to make some changes to our work travel schedule as a result. And I have a pre-op appointment with my Doctor on Wednesday to discuss my surgery which as I write this is a mere 9 days away. Life keeps speeding on by it seems….

But this weekend I was so blessed to be able to spend some time laughing with my girl and my best friends and it filled me up in more ways than I can count. Thankful, grateful, blessed indeed.

A Journey to Finding Home – #AtlasGirl

This post is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with hundreds of inspiring bloggers. To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE!

Family Vacation

My beautiful family on vacation last summer!

When I was growing up my parents took us on a family vacation each summer. We would load up the van with all of our camping gear, some food staples and head out on our adventure.

We would have rented some family friendly cassette tapes from the library and sing along to “C is for cookie”. And we would work on a new latch-hook project (does anyone else remember those?!) It was a time of innocence and something that we all looked forward to.

We tent-camped, cooked our meals on a little Coleman stove and made smores almost every night. When we would get to the camp site we would drive around and look for the best site to put up our tent and then once that was done we would go exploring.

One vacation was to Yellowstone National Park. We had been there a day when the spot next to ours was filled with this HUGE pull behind camper. And out came this girl who was just about my age. I honestly can’t remember her name right now, but I am going to call her Cindy.

Cindy was from California and she was surely rich. I hadn’t ever been inside a pull behind camper before and it was AMAZING. Put our 5 man tent to shame and I instantly felt a little twinge of jealousy.

She had pegged-rolled jeans (something those of us from the midwest hadn’t experienced yet) and she just seemed to be so wise about the world at the young age of twelve. I wanted to be just like her.

We became fast friends and when we were at the campsite together we would explore and she would tell me stories of this wonderland called California. I was pretty sure that I needed to go there when I “grew up”, because it was THE place to be.

We exchanged addresses and maybe even a couple of letters after that first summer, but the friendship with Cindy didn’t last. What stuck with me though was that feeling that what I had in front of me wasn’t “good enough” and if I wanted better I would have to go far away to find it.

I graduated from high school, and my dreams of living in sunny California had long since passed. Staying close to home was comfortable, safe. And I like those feelings. I can talk big about wanting to travel but the reality is that where I am most at home IS at home. (<====Click to Tweet)

I didn’t value family when I was growing up. I wasn’t able to see all of the wonderful things that my parents did for us. I just felt like because I didn’t have what someone else did, that I didn’t measure up.

But becoming a parent myself has changed that vision. 

I know how hard my parent’s worked to provide for us and  especially when they planned these trips each summer, I am well aware of how much went into making these memory-filled experiences. And I am grateful for them. I hope that I can do the same for my own family.

Emily Weirenga went on a journey of her own to find herself. Today her new book Atlas Girl – Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look is released and it is a beautiful memoir of her finding home in the most unlikely of places. Emily left home believing that she wouldn’t return and yet God sought her in each place that she travelled. As she did some exploring of her own she found His healing hand, redemption from the hurts of her past and the road leading her back home.

Each of us are on a journey to finding home, this book will encourage and inspire you to trust God in the midst of trials and darkness, to seek His light in this dark world and find to home in Him, wherever that leads you.

Thank you for your beautiful words Emily, what a treasure this book of yours is!


Emily T. Wierenga, award-winning journalist and author of 4 books, has released her first memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look. They say the book is like “Girl Meets God” meets “Wild” meets “Eat, Pray, Love.” I say the book is inspiring. You can grab a copy here. I was given a copy of Emily’s book to read and review, from Baker Publishing Group, all opinions are my own.