August 16, 2008

Summer Travels, Part 4: Kansas

After being home just one day-long enough to unpack, do laundry, re-pack and make a quick dash to Target for last minute items for the last leg of our traveling- we met at church at 7am the next morning to head to Florence, Kansas. Or should we call it Middle-of-Nowhere-but-Cornfields, Kansas? This was a 9 hour drive that was the hardest part of our traveling.

This was a missions trip with several of our high schoolers from church. We had 3 vehicles, 3 drivers, 23 people, 2 small children and 17 high schoolers. Tim drove a 12 passenger van with a bunch of the boys, and I drove our van with our kids and several of the girls, whom Sophia now refers to as "my kids." Let me just say that I was TIRED at this point. We stopped 3 times during this 9 hours (yes, that's right, the high school kids require more stops than my toddlers!), and I was actually quite thankful for a each stop for the chance to stretch, get some fresh air and try to get refreshed for the next bit of driving.

The purpose of our trip was to partner with an organization called World Impact to run a camp for the kids from their ministries. World Impact is an organization that exists throughout several inner cities of the US to bring the love and hope of Jesus Christ to the people of the city. For those of you who think it sounds familiar, you may remember that the camp that I worked at for several summers, The Oaks, is also a World Impact camp. The connection is "coincidental" if you will, as Tim found this opportunity for this trip randomly online one day, but I was all too excited for the opportunity to tap into my past experience and passions.

The trip was nearly perfect in all ways. Our kids were impacted beyond what Tim had hoped for, the people we worked with at Morning Star Ranch left lasting impressions on us, we formed a connection and partnership with Tim and Kim who run the camp programs at the Ranch, and we were able to not only help their staff, but to also put on a great program for the campers.

We spent a couple of days at the camp training, preparing, and exploring Wichita, where many of the campers come from. And then on Monday, the campers arrived. They stayed until Friday, and once they left, we headed out for Hayes, KS where we spent a night in a hotel playing and debriefing.

Sophia and Noah were all too excited about the hotel. It was their first experience in a hotel and they had a hard time settling down to sleep for the night. Sophia, Noah, and I all stayed in one room, while Tim spent the night in a room with several of the high school boys. He says he felt bad that he couldn't be with us, but I think that he really took the easy route that provided sleep!! The three of us didn't sleep much that night, not for lack of tiredness or trying!!! We tried putting Noah's pack n play in the closet, only half of which fit. Sophia had her own bed, as did I. That only lasted until Noah woke up in the middle of the night crying (probably b/c he was somewhat stuffed in a closet!), and in turn woke Sophia, which caused me to crawl into bed with her so that Noah wouldn't hear her and remember that she was right there and want to play! So needless to say, we were up and at 'em early the next morning ready for a quick swim and hotel breakfast.

And that, FINALLY, brought us to the last 6 hours of our driving, from Hayes, KS to HOME SWEET HOME!!!!

Where we plan to stay for some time!!!!

Noah's new friend, Darail, who was one of the Ranch staff members. They became fast friends, and it was hard put to find Noah without Darail close behind!

Summer Travels, Part 3: Nebraska

The third part of our trip was a short stop, but we were thankful for it. We drove from Amy's family's house in Minneapolis to Tim's sister's house outside of Omaha, NE. This trip took us through Iowa, which is always the least favorite part of our trip. The dislike for this part of the trip was only compounded by the fact that most of I80 through Iowa was down to one lane, which was headed into the sun at this point in the day. The trip usually takes 6 hours, but I am sure that it was at least 7 hours this time, if not 7.5. We were only too glad to be done driving that day.

We arrived at Ty and Pam's in time for hamburgers, sweet corn, and peaches. Ty and Pam grow and sell various kinds of fresh produce, and it was so good to finally be able to see what they spend all their time doing!

In all the different things Sophia rode at the farm, I think her favorite was riding in the fork lift with Uncle Ty!!! She is still talking about it and can't wait to do it again!

Noah checks out the watermelon with Aunt Pam.

Summer Travels, Part 2: Minnesota

The second part of our traveling brought us to Minnesota. After Grandpa Walt's party, we left immediately for Amy's family in Minnesota. This was probably the easiest leg of our driving for two reasons. First, it was only 4 hours, and second, we were able to do this part of the drive while the kids were sleeping so that we didn't have to stop even once. Unfortunately, it was nearly midnight by the time we got there.

The timing for this trip was also excellent, as Amy's brother Eric and his wife Gretchen and their son, Titus were also in town from Florida. We got to spend the first day out on the lake with almost everyone, as has become somewhat of an annual tradition. After the lake, we headed back home for short naps and then out to Amy's brother's baseball game. Tim had been hoping he was going to be able to play on Ryan and Todd's team with them, but he ended up settling for a bleacher seat along with the rest of us.

Our second and last full day with the Ulferts family was a much more low key event. It included a trip to the park, skipping rocks in the Mighty Mississippi, a fateful empty stroller containing one cell phone crash into the River, lots of Cornhole (at which Tim and I continue our undefeated streak), notorious Lee-size steaks, motorcycle rides, and a bonfire complete with S'mores.

Playing with Cousin Titus at the lake

Riding in the boat with Mommy. Sophia is still not sure what she thinks of the boat. We had to coax her into it, and once she had done it, she said it was fun. BUT, now that we are home, she says the boat is kind of scary. She got to watch Tim ski a bit, and every time she saw him go down in the water (intentionally or not), she would get worried and cry.

I've decided that it would be much easier to learn to ski if I had the opportunity more than once a year. Although I'm hopeful that it'll get easier and easier each time, even if it is only once a year!!!

Reading Cinderella with Uncle Ryan

Summer Travels, Part 1: South Dakota

This summer brought LOTS of traveling for the Nielson family (hence the minivan!). And we will all agree that we were so thankful for the van, considering all the hours we spent in it over the last month! Within 3 weeks time period, we had spent 48 hours traveling in the van, not including local trips and outings at our various locations.

All said, the kids did far better in the van than we could have ever expected. There was hardly any crying, whining, requests to stop, emergency potty stops, or any of those things we expected. In the first 11 hours, we stopped only twice. Once for lunch and gas, and once for Tim to go to the bathroom!

The first leg of our journeys took us to visit Tim's family in South Dakota (an 11 hour drive from our home in Colorado). We spent several days there on the farm with all kinds of new things to explore and play. We played in Grandma's little pool, helped feed calves, played on Grandpa's big sand pile, chased kitties, rode all around in Grandma's little truck (or "little tractor" as Sophia calls it), and even went for a few rides in the big tractor with Daddy.

This trip was special for a couple of other reasons. Tim's sister Julie and her triplets we were at the farm for this trip, so we got to spend lots of special time playing with the cousins. Sophia is fascinated with her cousins, and talks about them all the time and was SO excited to actually get to play with them. They are obviously used to having other kids around all the time, so I don't think she made quite as big of an impact on them!

Tim's Grandpa celebrated his 80th birthday while we were there, which was actually the reason for the timing of our trip, and we were so glad to get to be a part of that. It gave us the opportunity to see lots of family members that we don't always connect with on our other trips, and to even meet some new members of the Nielson clan.

For us, the most exciting part of this trip was probably Noah's discovery of his feet. FINALLY!!!! Most people tell me to enjoy the time before my children learn to walk, but most people don't realize that because my kids have both learned to walk so late, I am more than ready for the monumental event when it finally comes. Noah is definitely old enough that he understands boundaries and the word NO, so I don't have to chase him and keep him out of quite as many things as maybe I would if he learned to walk at a younger age.

Anyway, we were at Grandpa Walt's big party and Noah was playing on the floor with his Aunt Pam. He turned and saw me sitting behind him, and took a few faltering steps in my direction. You could see the realization on his face that he had done it all by himself, and he was only to excited and proud to show us that it was no fluke; he couldn't wait to do it again. He turned around and walked back to Aunt Pam. This continued for several laps, and each time, he would add more and more steps and Pam and I would stretch the distance a little longer. Noah was SO excited about his new skill. He temporarily stole the spotlight and ventured out all over the room to explore the territory- on his feet! FINALLY!!!

This was probably only hour 4 in the van- after I had crawled in the back to
entertain Noah for a bit.

Petting the kitty with Grandma

Playing in the sand with Leona, Gabe, and Sam.

Riding in Grandpa's tractor with Daddy

Come to Mommy!

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