Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Ten Cents Worth of Disney Tips

Our Spring break trip has come and gone. Disney has always been a family favorite for us. We made many trips during my childhood and they all bear fond memories. Talk of this trip started with the grandparents. About a month ago it moved from a fun vacation to a partial business trip due to some work our family business has contracted in the area. For that reason, all of our lodging, travel costs and many meals were covered under the company expense. Since someone from every family works for the company it pretty much covered us all. 

Tip #1: Plan your budget and then double it. 

I budgeted $20.00 for lunch per day (2 adults, 1 child). On average lunch inside the park ran around $32.00 for the three of us. For dinner I budgeted $30.00 per day (2 adults, 1 child). This ran around $42.00.

For snacks I budgeted $15.00 per day (2 adults, 1 child). This ran close to $40.00 per day due to the extreme heat. While we did take in some snacks of our own (trail mix, crackers, bottled water) it was all gone by mid-morning. It was hot (90 degrees) and walking takes a toll on your body, especially the little guys.  A Mickey Ears Ice Cream will run you $4.00 a pop. Bottled drinks are $3.00 each.  

Tip #2: Bring your own cute stuff from home.

These basic water bottles came from Hobby Lobby on sale for $1.19 and a local friend made the vinyl cutouts for $1.00 each. We filled them to the brim with ice each morning and then added cold water to fill in the empty spaces. They were the perfect size and were easy to refill later in the day.

Tip #3: Accept any cute clothing offers.

Most of us know someone who has already forged a path to Disney. Instead of unloading money on new clothes, see what you can buy or borrow from friends inexpensively. Most kids at Disney are dressed in their everyday clothes anyway. 

Tip #4: Go with the flow.

Disney is crowded, hot and expensive. There are long lines and plenty of room for meltdowns. Everyone isn't always going to look at the camera, or be happy. Anticipate the need to stop and cool off, eat and rest ahead of time. Lines for food, even snacks, can be very long. If you stay in a resort, I recommend taking a break during the day to go back to your hotel and rest. 

Tip #5: Make a list of priorities.

There's no way that you can do every single thing in any park in one day. There's just too much there to see and do. Hold a family meeting and make a list of priorities. Do those things first and then add extra things in afterwards. If everyone has a chance to do that one thing they really wanted to do you'll have a happier bunch.

I could list a million more things, but these are what stands out to me the most.

If you're planning a trip, feel free to contact me with specific questions. I'll be glad to help answer any that I am able. 

God is good, all the time!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sweet Plans

Goodness me. I'm not so great at blogging these days. I do miss it, there's just not a spot for it in my day most days. BUT! Today, I'm making time. I've had several inquiries about my vacation planning posts. I did a little housekeeping on the blog a few months ago to take some adoption details down for privacy purposes. It was so much easier to wipe the whole board clean and then go back and re-add old posts rather than going through them one by one. My intentions were to slide those vacation planning posts back in, but my round never got to it. You know? We'll, I've added them back and you can read them by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post labeled "vacation planning." 

Since I'm already here, I thought I'd take a minute to share some planning I've been doing recently and share how it has been made to come to fruition. You remember a little over a year ago we took my Mama on a trip to Disney because she had cancer. We stayed in an amazing house dirt cheap and hit the parks two days straight. It was a good time, but my Mama wasn't feeling great. She's wanted to go back since then, but hello, expensive.

So a few months back she and Daddy decided they would plan a trip for Spring Break. She found another amazing house and they reserved it and then told us about it after the fact with an invitation to come along with them. 

Due to the timing, only three from my house will be going, along with one of my brothers and his family. 

We sat down a few weeks ago to hash out what costs would be covered and which costs I need to plan for on my own. Glory Hallelujah. It's going to happen!

So, here's how this went down: 

I started with a small meal plan. We'll be taking snacks, cooking our own breakfast, etc... I over-estimated in each case to give myself some wiggle room in case we have any surprises. There is a good chance that some of these meals will be eaten at "home" and won't be a great expense at all. 

Then, I made my envelopes and jazzed up my coupon organizer/vacation pouch for excitement purposes. I just used things I already had on hand.

Next, I made a small list to show through the back of my organizer so that I could highlight envelopes as they filled up. This saved me from having to open every envelope as I went. I also added in a few extra meals that were not on the original list because I was worried that a "surprise" might arise. I fully expect to come home with cash. Since we are credit card free, and I do not prefer to use my debit card on vacation, I've padded each area.

Then, it was time to fill those envelopes up.

So, this is how I have done that.

1. I sold a few things. We have been doing some Spring cleaning that has surfaced some things we were ready to part with anyway. Instead of donating them I posted a few things on Facebook and sold them immediately. This filled up several envelopes.

2. I applied Kendra's lunch money for the week (since there is no school) to an envelope. She doesn't always eat school lunch, but I do have a budget for it so that she can when she chooses. This allowed for us to fill another envelope.

3. I worked a few extra hours about two weeks ago due to a project, so I applied that to another envelope.

4. I gathered my spare change and combed it for pennies and quarters for the pressed penny machines. 

You'll notice that I don't have spending money listed. My parents are gifting each grandchild a Disney gift card in their Easter baskets, so I didn't need to plan for that. In addition to the gift cards, their baskets will bear snacks like trail mix, fruit snacks and crackers with very little candy. We will take these along with us when we leave the house for the day to save on buying snacks. We'll get one special treat in the park.

I have been in charge of planning activities and table decorations for our first meal at the house. We have a family tradition that our first meal (with Nana) is always a big breakfast. This time she's purchased Mickey and Minnie waffle makers (on clearance at the Wal-mart). We'll have waffles, bacon and eggs. The table is always set to be fun and this time will be no exception. We leave the table decorated for the entire trip. It's a fun tradition that seems to get a little more grand with each trip. 

We definitely have room to cut corners here, but I am pleased overall that this plan came together. 

We're looking forward to it!

God is good, all the time!

Monday, March 16, 2015

That Rich Life

I could have never imagined how much a date on a calendar would mean to all of us. Sunday dinner was for me, so I thought. I've learned that it was for all of us. As it turns out, we can't wait from one to the next. We're carving out play dates and zoo trips in between those five and six week gaps between our Sunday meals. It has brought our family close again. I can't tell you how much of an honor it is to get to be the second Mama to these girls. We hope that one day they can all come to Sunday dinner at once. Although, I don't know where we would put them all if they did!

God has really blessed our hearts with some fancy Summer plans for this boy. He'll be serving as a Summer missionary with the Good News Club leading 15 back yard Bible clubs per week in our area. Each missionary is required to raise their own funding for their position, much like a career missionary would do. We have already seen God work out tiny details for him along the way and it isn't even time to send out his letters yet! We learned last night that he has received a missions scholarship to cover the cost of his training school. We are so proud of this boy!

I mentioned a while back that Little Sister had a new hair stylist. Hear me: hairstylist sent straight from God. She and our little K have formed the most amazing bond. Ms. Drena loves on our girl so big. We love going and letting her work her magic. She even checks on us between appointments.

God has placed some amazing people and opportunities for us along this life path. We are so grateful for them. It's always fun to sit back and recount what he has done. He is so good.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

God is good, all the time!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Little Sister Stuff

For Christmas, Little Sister asked for a Barbie house.

I am not a lover of Barbies. 

I cut their hair and drew upon their faces with markers as a child.

Having just brothers will do that to you.

When I was a little older my cousin gifted me her Barbie case that opened up to be a fabulous closet with Barbie clothes and shoes and such. I tried to play with it some, but I was really too old by then. 

About a year before our girl arrived I gave it back to Bevy because there were no girls in sight. 

I wish I had kept it in hindsight.

Even still, I wasn't on board about this Barbie house. I made an unspoken rule that if I could find a good used one dirt cheap  then I would buy it.

Well, I found one. Handed down from two previous owners, some furniture included and looked brand spanking new.

Just my luck.

So, I bought a new Barbie with a little sister, an extra outfit for the one half naked Barbie we had at home and called it a day.

Little Sister has played with this dang Barbie house every. single. day. since.

She loves it.

So, it was time to expand the Barbie family.

Let me tell you, well dressed black Barbies are pretty hard to find.

I'm not willing to pay shipping. I'm not willing to break the bank. If I'm going to house Barbies, they are going to dress tastefully.

So, after a month of searching I found this treasure of a doll at the Target yesterday. She's not a Barbie, she's a Moxie doll.


Little sister size.

Modestly dressed.

I scooped her up and ran her home. Little Sister named her KeKe and she joined the Barbie family. 

They're going to live happily ever after, I just know it.

I'm still on the prowl for a few more darker skinned girls for the family. There's talk that they need a man around the house, but I'm not sold on that one yet. A twenty-five cent sticker at a yard sale could seal the deal though.

Having a little girl has been far more fun than I ever imagined it would be. I've even played with Barbies.

God is good, all the time!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Owner's Manual

In a year and a half this boy will ease into his freshman year of college as this girl bursts through the doors of kindergarten. 

God is hilarious.

This boy didn't come with an owner's manual. I feel like we've messed up a million times over on him, like he was our practice kid. God hasn't wasted anything on our Jordan though. This boy loves Jesus. We've been so proud of him lately making some decisions for his future and sticking up for his convictions. 

He's had two amazing offers to serve in ministry for the entire Summer this year. He'd have to give up all of his personal plans to do either. No Summer camps, no vacation time. He's had the hardest time deciding which one he wants to do, but didn't bat an eye about giving up his own Summer plans. That's our sweet boy.

I can't wait to see where God uses him!

God is good, all the time!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Riley's Check-Up

We hopped, skipped and jumped over to see the eye-ball doctor earlier this week. It turned out to be the longest day in this history of this wonky eye-ball world but in the end it all boiled down to not much news.

Riley's eyes continue to show gradual disease progression. In plain terms his cataract has grown a little, there's a little more accumulated infection and his band keratopathy has gotten a little worse. The doctor said the news isn't great but we're never going to expect to come in and see things are better. At this point a report of stable/very little change is our good news. 

The life of the last steroid injection has expired (he had this in July 2013 and it is good for 18 months). We expect that at this point the disease will gain a little bit of an upper-hand, increasing in probability and strength as time passes. The plan at this point is to go back in May and retake scans of the eyes that can be compared with the scans from a year prior. This will give us a clearer picture of disease progression over the last year and will enable us to make a better plan about what to do next. 

Riley is not in any pain and is living the normal teenage life, so the only concern we have at this point is preserving his sight for as long as possible. He has started to be more aware of what the future might bring for him and displays a healthy concern for that. He is very interested in seeing eye dogs, not necessarily wanting to need one for himself, and has devoted some time to researching about them. 

We appreciate your continued prayers for him. 

God is good, all the time!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Coming Home

Christmas morning I woke up with void in my heart. There was plenty of Christmas happiness and smiles and gifts around, but my fireplace only hosted five stockings, thirty-nine were missing.

It's hard sometimes to be the Mama of three, but also the Mama of thirty-nine more. It's an unbalanced scale of who I am, and who I really am.

The fact is that God sent me in to be the Mama of teenagers when I was just barely a Mama myself. It was hard and it was good. 

I'm not really sure why people don't get how deep this love goes. I think most can understand the love of a biological child, and even an adopted child. Something about a kid not getting that official "adopted" stamp across the top of a piece of paper draws an imaginary line in the sand in the minds of some. I'm here to tell you, you don't need a fancy stamp to wrap a child up in love. It doesn't matter if they come to you at six months, six years or sixteen, they'll wrap your heart up and cinch it up tight in a skinny minute. Probably when you're not looking.

And so it was on Christmas morning, I missed my girls something fierce. Those achings of my heart just couldn't be ignored this time. If I was longing for them, chances were, they were aching for home. Barry and I took a look at each other and said we had to do something. We wanted our girls home: all of them.

In the land of grown-up kids, trying to match up schedules just isn't pretty. It was decided that we wouldn't even try. So, that early Christmas morning we shot out some messages here, there and yonder that read "new tradition: Sunday dinner." Our girls and their families would be invited to Sunday dinner (all of them!) about every six weeks or so. We threw it out there not knowing if any of them would even come and within minutes our phones were buzzing with excitement. Our girls were coming home!

We knew there was no way we would get them all over at once, but we also quickly realized we couldn't do it at our home. Our girls have babies coming out of their ears! We reserved the farm at the children's home that we all once called "home" and set up a menu where everyone would share in bringing the meal. 

Yesterday, four of our girls and their families joined us for our first Sunday dinner. Oh my heart, it was so good. It's one thing to love these kids, but it is another thing to tell them that we love them and hug their necks in person. 

Kaylyn, Terreyka, Nikki, Bethe

By the end of the day messages were coming in from more kids, the neighbors kids, our kids' siblings: they all want to come. Of course, we said yes. 

My heart has been wrecked over the last 24 hours over this idea of home. My girls have always been welcome to come home, but having a set time and day and knowing that you are welcome made the difference for our family. These girls are our family. 

I think this is that place where foster care fails kids. Where do they go to Sunday dinner? Who do they call to say they've had a bad day, are getting married or are having a new baby? 

We've decided that for our girls, if they will allow it, that void stops here. We have always tried to keep in touch, but we have already seen the difference a circle around a Sunday on the calendar can make. I love Sunday dinner.

My girls come home again in six weeks. I can hardly wait.

God is good, all the time!