Dozer Day

Last year we took the kids to Dozer Day at the Clark County Fairgrounds for the first time. Since then, every time we drive by on the freeway, Connor asks when we get to go again. Dozer Day is held every year on the third weekend of May, and I’m  not exaggerating when I tell you that I put the next year’s event in our calendar almost as soon as we are driving away.

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I was hoping the threat of it being a rainy day today would keep some of the crowd away, but it wasn’t to be… It takes more than a few raindrops to scare away people in the Northwest!

I purchase my tickets in advance online because it’s cheaper than buying them the day of. It’s also easier to avoid the lines at will call and have them mailed to you. The tickets aren’t cheap, it cost us about $41 for our family of four, plus $6 parking. It is so completely worth it though. We could easily spend that much money just eating dinner out, and that buys us an entire day of fun!

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The most popular area is near the grandstands where there are rows of excavators and bulldozers to drive. It was well organized but be prepared for LONG lines. We arrived at the event about 30 minutes before the gates opened (I HIGHLY recommend doing this) and waited in line outside. Once inside, we headed directly to this area and didn’t have a horribly long wait. Later in the day I spoke to a lady who said they arrived when the gates opened and had to wait in line for 2 hours!

 

After the kids each had a turn on the excavator and bulldozer, we had a short lunch break. I brought our own lunches, but they have several food vendors selling everything from pizza and gyros to corndogs and turkey legs.

When lunch was finished, we headed over to the paved area where all of the vendors, games, and more trucks and adventures are. One of the kids’ favorite activities is crawling through the tunnels. There are also giant tires and a big sand pit to dig in. Between the mud and the sand, make sure you bring extra clothes for the kids!

There are garbage trucks that you get to push a button and dump the trash can into, firetrucks and ambulances to explore, cement trucks to sit in, and so much more.

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Many vendors have games or activities for the kids. There was a beanbag toss, coloring area, and button making booth to name a few. We ended up bringing home a bag full of stuff. Stickers, tattoos, toy dump trucks, sand shovels, mini hand sanitizers, and even a cutting board!

There is also a scavenger hunt where you collect stickers to put on your hard hat throughout the day at different areas and then you can earn a prize.

If you don’t feel like waiting in the long lines in the grandstand area, they have smaller machines up in the paved area that are just as much fun. The kids loved digging in the small sand piles just as much and the lines were much shorter!

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The best ride of all has to be the steam roller. The kids get to be buckled up in the seat by themselves and drive it on their own (with the operator right next to them for safety). Connor was very serious about it after he was done and told me “I can’t drive a car mommy, but I know how to drive a steamroller”. I’m pretty sure he is imagining that he can just keep one at home now and drive it down to the store whenever he needs to go somewhere!

This is a great adventure for the family and I highly recommend it!

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St Croix – Time Off!

I just realized I neglected to write about our free days while we were in St. Croix!

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The two Sundays that we were on the island, one of the YWAM families were gracious enough to take us to church with them. It is such an adventure to visit new churches and it seems like it never fails… The first time you ever visit a church, there is bound to be a guest speaker that day!

We were able to witness a couple of baptisms, visit Sunday school classes, and met new people. We also got to see a scuffle when a centipede happened to crawl on a gal a couple of rows up from us during worship. After that, I made sure to sit on the edge of my seat and was VERY aware of my surroundings!

Friends and fish tacos… A great way to spend your Sunday! The first week we stopped by the grocery store on the way home from church and discovered our new favorite snacks… Lemon cookies and coconut biscuits. The second week after church we joined friends and went out to eat lunch. Then we spent the rest of our day relaxing at the base.

One evening we were able to go to a festival called “Jump Up” that is held in the streets of Christiansted only four times a year. We listened to steel drum bands, ate snow-cones, watched the Mocko Jumbies dance, and just enjoyed the festivities.

We were also able to attend their annual Agriculture Fair. We were only there a couple of hours which was barely enough time to eat lunch and let the kids choose one activity to do. They chose the bouncy slide which was a complete disaster. They are both somewhat afraid of heights and they were scared to go down the slide… And they had waited in line for almost a half an hour to do it! It made for a great but painful learning experience.

There were plenty of delicious and unique food to sample at the fair. We had our fill of Johnny cakes, benye, meat pies, and fried chicken. My favorite part of visiting new places is trying new foods! The interesting thing at the fair was the gigantic amount of cake being sold. Apparently it must be a favorite fair food because there were cake booths everywhere!

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Our last Saturday on the island was a completely free day for us. After calling every single rental car place and finding no available cars, we were starting to despair, but in an answer to prayer, one of the staff offered to let us use his truck for the day!

Cory had his first experience of driving on the left hand side of the road. My job was to be the navigator and to yell at him if he forgot to stay left. I only had one moment of panic and yelling “left left left left left!” and as it turns out, I am a horrendous navigator. Cory was very patient with me as I had to keep telling him to make u-turns because we went the wrong way!

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We started the morning out at Protestant Cay because the water is very gentle and perfect for kids. Jenna had her first experience snorkeling and loved it. She was swimming like crazy trying to catch a sea turtle but it was just too fast for her.

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After about half of our day spent on the beach and then we took the little ferry boat back to town for some delicious lunch. (Jenna was super excited about something she saw on the wall.)

After lunch we did touristy things like shopping, eating snow cones, and feeding pizza to the wild roosters (the pizza was donated to the kids for that purpose by a local Crucian).

We drove to another beach so we could go snorkeling some more, but the surf happened to be really rough. So, Cory risked his life and attempted to snorkel in the giant waves while I stayed behind and built sandcastles with the kids.

We ended the evening with dinner at a little restaurant that was right on the beach. The food was decent, but the location was spectacular.

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So there is a small snapshot of our free time that we had while in St. Croix. It’s always important to take a little time off for family time and to enjoy the culture and the country you are visiting.

 

Holland America Bulb Farms

This morning I decided to make a somewhat spur of the moment trip to visit the tulip farm in Woodland, WA. I had never visited it before, but after checking out their Facebook page and website, it looked like a fun outing and the perfect place for some spring pictures of the kids.

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When we arrived, we stopped in at the gift shop to make sure we found the correct field for picking. All of the staff that we met were incredibly kind and helpful. They directed us to the u-pick field where the flowers are only 50 cents a stem! They even have an “honor box” out in the field that you can put your money in if you don’t want to stop back in the gift shop.

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They were preparing the fields to be ready for Easter and the upcoming Tulip Festival, but as you can see, with all the spring rain we’ve been having lately, Connor managed to find a row full of water to play in! Most of the rows were actually quite dry and I was just fine walking around in tennis shoes.

Jenna loved getting to pick the flowers and was more than happy to let me take pictures of her. Connor on the other hand…

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Laying down in a muddy field of grass. Boys!

The weather was overcast and a bit threatening while we were there, so we got to hear them shooting the hail cannon which scared Connor a little bit. I think he was pretending he died out in the field from the cannon. Not quite how it works little man! The staff at the gift shop had a nifty little handout that explained how the cannon does work and we studied it for our science lesson today.

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I’m glad we came on a weekday because there were only a handful of other visitors and it made it a lot easier to take pictures (when both kids would cooperate). The kids loved it and were already asking to go back again. We really had a fantastic time and I recommend stopping by if you’re in the area!

St. Croix – Kids and Missions

Cory and I have gone on a variety of short-term mission trips throughout the years, but this was our first trip as a family with small children. I know not everyone’s experiences will be the same, but I want to share a little of what it was like for us.

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This is a picture of the kids in the Puerto Rico airport on our way to St Croix. We left our house around 6:30pm and had been travelling for almost 12 hours already. They had slept for about 4 hours on the first flight and I was attempting to get them to take a nap. It didn’t happen. They were in really good spirits and having great attitudes though, so it was okay. After they rested for a bit we let them watch a cartoon and attempted to power-nap on the super uncomfortable airport chairs.

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One thing you need to realize before travelling with children outside of the safety of the US, is that other countries (and territories) don’t quite have the same safety guidelines. Connor rode in a car seat ONE time while we were gone. (and yes, I did move the chest clip up to the appropriate height before driving)

The rest of the time we were on the island we rode around in giant 15 passenger vans. Sometimes the kids had seatbelts, and there were several times they didn’t. While that isn’t ideal, and my safety-conscious mind kept playing disaster reels through my head, it’s just something you should expect.

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Before travelling to St. Croix, I showed the kids pictures from the YWAM website and facebook page to try and familiarize them with where we would be going. Of course the one thing that stood out the most to them was the pool! The minute we arrived at the base they were begging to swim, but they had to wait until the next day as it was almost dark.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to food, but I knew if all else failed, they could eat PB&J every day! There were only two meals that Jenna wasn’t very fond of (chicken enchiladas and sheep stew) and as for Connor… Well, let’s just say he ate better than I expected.

When travelling with picky eaters (Connor), you have to decide if you want to pack food you know they’ll eat, or just hope they’ll eat something and not starve. We did a little of both. Mostly because we knew groceries on the island are quite spendy, so we brought extra granola bars, fruit strips, applesauce, and peanut butter.

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One of the great things about homeschooling, is that it’s easy to bring school with you. All of the kids that live on base are home schooled as well, so it fit perfectly in the schedule for our kids to do school in the mornings. We only did school for the first week though, and took a break the second week.

On Friday mornings, other home school kids from the island come to the base and they all get together to do PE classes. Our kids had a blast joining in with them! There are also dance classes once a week at the base and Jenna was invited to join. They did ballet for the first half and hip hop for the second.

It was really refreshing for me to be surrounded by so many home school families. Not only is it fun to explore the different curriculum and styles everyone uses, but it was refreshing for the kids to fit in and not have to answer so many questions about their schooling.

We prepared the kids before leaving as much as possible, by explaining that we were all going to St. Croix to help others. That meant that they would be helping wherever possible. One of their favorite “jobs” was getting to take care of the chickens every day with Miss Vanessa. She taught them how to care for the chickens, feed them, and collect their eggs.

Jenna washed A LOT of dishes while we were gone. I was really proud of her willingness to help, and not just when we asked her to. She volunteered to help with different tasks all throughout the week.

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Of course the kids had plenty of time to play with their new friends. The base is 5 acres, but is fully fenced so it was safe to let the kids run around and explore. Their favorite places to play were the rubble pile (a giant pile of rocks behind our house), the jungle (an area with some trees, and unfortunately some termites), and the tree-fort (a deck underneath a tree).

They were grubby and stinky the entire time we were there, but they had so much fun!

They played hard and were rewarded with skinned knees (over and over), scraped up backs, bumps on heads, and plenty of bruises. Miss Vanessa was always there ready to clean and bandage them up. She was a lifesaver for all of us while we were in St. Croix and the kids absolutely adore her.

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Of course we made time for fun adventures while we were gone too. The kids go to go to an event called Jump-Up in Christiansted. They especially loved the snowcones and mocko jumbies.

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They had a couple beach days and Connor actually went into the water (overcoming his fear of oceans) and Jenna learned how to snorkel.

There is so much value in letting your children explore the world. In the past two weeks the kids learned about new cultures, thankfulness for our living situations, wildlife (including “lizard friend” who lived in Connor’s room), geography, and so much more.

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Most importantly, I hope that my kids can grow up knowing how important it is to serve others.

I am so incredibly proud of these two kids!

 

**Also, in an attempt to not make this the longest blog post ever, I omitted several topics such as “how to travel with kids and maintain your sanity” and “the importance of flexibility” and “you don’t have to be rich to travel the world”. If you want any advice, feel free to send me a message 🙂

 

 

 

Family Mission Trip – We made it!

We flew out of Portland Sunday night (January 30th) and traveled through the night catching glimpses of sleep when possible. We arrived in St. Croix about 17 hours later (4:30pm February 1st)

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We had a layover in Puerto Rico and an adventure down an escalator that led outside resulting in a fun trip back through the security gates!

When we arrived in St. Croix we were met by one of the YWAM staff and made the long six minute drive back to the base. It’s such an odd experience driving here because everyone owns American cars (with the steering wheel on the left) but they drive on the left hand side of the road! I panic every time oncoming traffic comes towards us because I keep thinking they’re in our lane.

We arrived at the base and dropped off our luggage in our new home. I feel spoiled because we ended up in a single-wide trailer that has a kitchen, bathroom, and three rooms to sleep in!

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The base had 5 acres for the kids to explore, and it’s completely fenced in. Their favorite place to play is the sugar mill.

As soon as our luggage hit the floor, I was off and running. I met with the leaders for the NIKO program and jumped right in. Jet-lagged and sleep deprived made an interesting start to my trip, but God gave me an extra amount of grace and I powered through!

NIKO ran from Monday through Saturday. So, while I was serving as staff on the NIKO, Cory and the kids stayed on the base. I have only been back a few hours now and haven’t quite had time to fully catch up on their adventures here. As time allows, I will post more about this week later.

The island is beautiful and the weather is amazing. We have all been settling in quite well and our first week went better than we had hoped. Please continue to pray for us while we are here. I injured my hip during NIKO and have a rash on all of my skin that was exposed to the sun this week that is quite itchy and bothersome, so prayers for healing would be especially appreciated!

 

 

Crossing The Border

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While on vacation in California, we decided it would be fun to take a day trip across the border into Tijuana, Mexico. This was Jenna and Connor’s first trip out of the US and I was really excited to get to show them a new country and culture!

I wanted to stop by the tourist area first to do some shopping for tacky souvenirs. We drove our car and it was really nerve-racking in the beginning… And I was just a passenger! We drove through some pretty questionable areas (including a street filled with “gentleman’s” clubs) before finding a decent gated area to park.

 

We made our way over to Avenida Revolucion and partook of the most touristy things possible! Normally I wouldn’t waste time visiting some of the shops or taking pictures on the painted donkeys, but I’m fairly certain we were the only tourists in town, and it was nice to support the people working.

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The very first shop we stopped in was filled with dresses for little girls. Of course Jenna was dying to have one, so we spent a fair amount of time trying to find something that would fit and not look too ridiculous. We found this cute little blouse and skirt, and Connor got a soccer jersey. Cory was in charge of haggling on the price and I was in charge of speaking in Spanish to the shopkeepers. In the end, the man told Cory that he “gave a good price for the white lady who speaks Spanish.” ha ha!

Jenna and Connor took a break outside one of the shops while their Nana and Aunt Sue bartered away on purses and jewelry inside. It was my mom’s first time in Mexico and she did an awesome job at bartering with the storekeepers!

We enjoyed a late lunch at a restaurant on the street after we finished our shopping adventures. The kids were thrilled with the “don’t drink the water” rule and enjoyed sodas with their meal.

After lunch, Jenna took a tortilla with her because she was dying to feed the birds. I watched in horrified silence as millions of pigeons swarmed down from the power lines to collect the offered pieces. And then Cory encouraged the kids to run after the birds like the little Mexican children were doing.

I realized mid-trip there were many things we should have talked to the kids about before our trip. They’re just kids, so the most important things they learned were to not flush their toilet paper, don’t drink the water, and don’t sit on the dirty ground (especially in a skort!).

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After shopping in Tijuana, we drove down the coast to Rosarito beach. It was cold and rainy by the time we got there, but we braved the weather and it started to clear up after we had been there for just a short time. The water was just as cold as it is at home though!

We were the only tourists on the beach (it was late November and raining), so we had to deal with constant assaults from vendors trying to pedal their wares. We bought the kids a coconut water, and while they had fun watching the lady chop it up and put the straw in, as soon as they took a drink they spit it right back out!

They loved the pan dulce I bought them from up the street though!

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We were dreading the line waiting to get back across the border, but it actually turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip! We still had a lot of pesos left over, so as the different vendors passed by, we bought all sorts of treats to enjoy in the car. We bought fresh flour tortillas, churros, ice cream, and tamales. (And nobody got sick from anything.)

There were also great opportunities to teach the kids about how others live and work, and why it’s important to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

Needless to say, we all had a great adventure in Mexico, and I hope another opportunity for us to go comes again soon!

 

WorldMark Resort – Indio, CA

Cory and I aren’t members of the WorldMark timeshare, but we had the opportunity to stay at their resort in Indio, California for a week this last November. I’m not a fan of pushy salespeople, so I always get nervous when I have to deal with them (and timeshares are usually FULL of them!). I was pleasantly surprised to find the staff very helpful and not overly pushy. Perhaps it was because we arrived late in the evening, or perhaps that’s how they always are. Either way, it worked for me!

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The very first thing the kids wanted to do when we arrived was go swimming. Since we got there after their bedtime, they had to wait until morning, and it was agonizing for them!

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The pool and lazy river were just below our balcony so I was able to enjoy my breakfast outside while watching the kids swim with Cory in the early morning.

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I loved the pool set-up at the resort. There was a regular swimming pool, a small lazy river, and a kiddie pool. The kiddie pool was quite large and one side had a sloped edge that looked like a sandy beach going into the water. There is also a shade cover that is over part of the pool to help reduce the amount of sun exposure the kids get. Of course I failed to get any close-up pictures because I was too busy relaxing while the kids splashed around having fun! (you can kind of see the kiddie pool in the distance)

Travelling in the off season is always my favorite thing to do. The pool was empty almost every time we went swimming. Most of the people at the resort were older (fifty and above) and we only saw about five other kids the entire time we were there, which meant not having to share any of the kid areas!

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There was a small playground close to our room that the kids loved to play on. It also had a shade cover over the top. While it’s not quite as necessary in November, my fair-skinned children appreciated the extra amount of protection from the sun!

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Our last night there we braved the “chilly” evening temperatures and went swimming in the dark in the lazy river. The kids thought it was the best thing ever to get to swim at night, and I was thrilled I didn’t have to coat them an inch thick in sunblock before heading to the pool!

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There are plenty of activities to do around Indio and Palm Springs when you get tired of laying around by the pool. We aren’t golfers, so we didn’t visit any of the countless golf courses. However, we did stop by the street market in Palm Springs.

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We found some delicious local fruit while we were there!

Besides shopping and eating, we visited Joshua Tree National Park, took a day trip to Mexico, and hiked Ladder Canyon. There are also many options of theme parks nearby such as Disneyland, Legoland, etc. but we’re saving those for when the kids are a bit older.

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The rooms have kitchens in them, so we bought groceries and had several meals at the resort to cut down on the cost of eating out. Eating on the balcony in the middle of November is rarely done at home, but it was wonderful here!

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…And of course you have to stop at In-N-Out Burger at least once a day….