Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Surviving and Thriving while Dad is Away

While my husband was away at a ministry conference a couple of weeks ago, I made a goal for myself to try to figure out how to have a fun, non-exhausting, meaningful week even though I was alone holding down the fort with all three kids.  Sometimes such weeks pass soooo slowly, but this time, with some intentionality, we had a great time!  Here were my ideas for making the week doable and even enjoyable:

1) Have fun! It’s just plain rough having to do all of the parenting work by yourself, so I tried to give my kids lots of extra reasons to be happy and fun to be around, as well as to give myself things to look forward to each day. The work doesn’t feel so hard when you’re having a good time! Your “fun” may look different than mine, but we spent lots of time with friends (the kids’ friends and mine too), made trips out for ice-cream, went to our mall with an indoor play area (since it was -20 degrees Celcius or even colder all week), and took a fun trip the toy store to spend some of the kids’ Christmas money that we had saved.

(My kids after spending their Christmas money from their great-grandma! Sorry for the poor photo quality, but my husband had our good camera!)

2) Minimize housework. I spent the couple of days before my husband left working a little extra to get the house into decent shape so I wouldn’t have to spend much time cleaning. And I also just let some tasks slide that didn’t matter to me.

3) Simple meals. I cooked larger meals for a few days before we were on our own, which meant I had lots of left overs. I then made a big pot of stew to fill in as an instant meal for visitors as well as a random lunch or dinner here or there when needed. Chicken nuggets and hot dogs also played their part!

4) Paper plates. We don’t have a dish washer, so dish-washing is always the most time consuming chore of my day. During this particular week, for several dinners we used paper plates that  I had left over from Christmas. It was so nice to just eat dinner and throw away the mess!

5) “Play and Pray!” Some friends whose husbands were also at the conference came over to our place Sunday morning with their children in place of church. Obviously, if you can manage going to church, wonderful, but in our situation it isn’t very manageable with all of our kids and without our husbands. In order to still have fellowship, we got together and did a little Bible story for the kids (my friend had the kids act out Jesus feeds the 5,000 and Jesus walks on water with toys), sang some worship songs, and then prayed with our kids. Then as the kids played, the moms and spent time talking and praying for one another. It was such a fun alternative to church!

(We had 9 great kids at our “Play and Pray!”)

6) Pray for your husband and the ministry event.  My husband was at a conference that I would have very much loved to have attended, but was unable to (with any sort of sanity) on the account of our kids. I love knowing that I can play a vital role through prayer and tried to be intentional about praying for the conference and for my husband and his various roles throughout the day.

Those were some of the things that really helped me to not just survive but honestly have a great week during my husband’s absence. What things do you do to survive and even thrive during those times when you’re left parenting on your own? Please share your ideas with us all!

(Post by: Ashley)

Tuesday Topic: Slowing Down on Furlough

From Phyllis in Ukraine: Does anyone have tips for how to slow down and not wear ourselves out while on those visits to the States?

Last time we tried to put a some space between us and our home base for a time, specifically to recharge, and it seemed to me like that backfired. It seemed like we were rushing even more, because the demands were still there, we just had to go farther to meet them! I’ve been thinking that for this next time, we just need to go for a very short time, pack it full, and then plan on crashing when we get back. Would that work?

(If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to . Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, and specify also if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

Furlough/Support Raising Trip Checklist

We were “home” on furlough last summer, and let’s just say that it was a major learning experience for our family. Despite what I thought was good planning on our part (we started months in advance), we founds ourselves absolutely exhausted by the end of the summer and having to ditch plans right and left for lack of time or energy. Our major failing was a lack of concrete scheduling on the front end. We were bombarded with more good opportunities than our schedules could possibly handle, and they all seemed to snowball out of control at the end when we and everyone else realized that it was about time for us to head back. Since that experience, I have vowed to myself to be a much better planner for all future trips back “home.”

I have compiled a checklist of things to plan for when heading back for furlough/support raising/home assignment based on some of the things that we were happy we planned well for and other things where we failed miserably. I hope this list might help some of you prepare well in advance for a successful next trip back “home!” And remember, it is much better to plan as many of these things ahead of time as possible! (Which is why I am posting this in March in preparation for summer, a prime furlough time for many). The goal is to get back and know what you are doing and when, so you don’t miss out on accomplishing your priorities and don’t end up stressed out and burned out at the end of your furlough. Here is the checklist, but you can also download it in the blue “Downloads” box on the lower right hand side of the page (scroll down a ways and it is under the map of visitor locations). I saved it as a Word doc so you can edit as would best suit you.

Do you have any other suggestions for planning well for furlough?


Where will we live?

Do we have all of the furniture that we need?

Do we have dishes and  linens?

Do we need any baby/kid-gear, such as a pack n’ play or highchair or baby gate?

What car will we drive?

Do we need to borrow car seats?

Where will we purchase car insurance? (It is simple to purchase insurance online or over the phone.)

Phone number/website: __________

Which churches will we visit and when (arranging your visits before you even leave the field will help you schedule your time well!)?

Total monthly support needed:


Total one-time support needed:


Our first support appointments (Again, it is often much easier to set some appointments up before you leave rather than to try to do it when you are adjusting to life in the US. I know you don’t believe me, but you will when you hit the ground exhausted and are trying to settle your culture-shocked family into your new life!).

Names and Date/time:

Dates of parties or gatherings with current supporters (times to say thank you and share ministry updates):

Date, time, location:

Send out Evites for supporter parties, and/or include a notification in your newsletter if possible:

Check when invitation is sent:

__ Gathering #1 (Date:_______, Time_______, Location _______)

__ Gathering #2 (Date:_______, Time_______, Location _______)

__ Gathering #3 (Date:_______, Time_______, Location _______)

Family Vacations and Times of Rest (get them on the calendar and guard them with your life!!!)

Dates and perhaps your tentative plan:

Personal Goals:

Friends to see (list names and even dates if you decide to make plans in advance):

Places to visit:

Items to buy and bring back to the field:

Medical/dental appointments to be had:

Documents to renew (aka. driver’s licenses, passports, visas, debit/credit cards, international driver’s permits, wills and other financial documents, etc.)

Starbucks consumption goal: (kidding… or am I?!)


Kids’ plans: (this will differ a ton for each family, so I will just leave blank space for this category. Think through things like schooling if necessary, sports or other activities and lessons, camps to attend, or any other opportunity that you are hoping that your children will have while “home.”)

Holidays while we are in town:

What holiday, where and with whom?

(Post by: Ashley)

Make-It-Yourself: Travel Items for Kids

travel bag

There is a nice market out there for products designed to make travel with children easier. These ideas are genius and I am always excited when I hear of new products in this realm. There are two problems with many of these items though.  1) They are expensive, and 2) they are often difficult to find overseas, depending on your location. Here are some make-it-yourself alternatives!

M.I.Y Potty-topper- This is a great item to have throughout potty-training and toddlerhood when visits to less than ideal bathrooms are frequent. Rather than buying 10 for $5, if you can even find them, make your own out of waxed paper. You might need to tape two pieces together to make it wide enough, but it is easy and cheap.  Make a big rectangle, cut a hole in the middle, and voila! Test the first draft on you toilet at home for size. You could even make it U-shaped since most little kids only sit on the very front part of the seat.  You can hold it onto the potty with tape or a sticker if you want.

On-the-go dish soap wipes- We got a box of these awesome “pre-soaped” disposable dish rags that were wonderful for cleaning bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups  and the like in airports and such. You can easily make something similar by adding squirts of dish soap to  sturdy paper towels and sealing them in a plastic bag.

Disposable baby spoons- There are a number of “toss or save” sorts of utensils on the American baby product market, but in my opinion they are way too nice (a.k.a expensive) to toss.  Sometimes you can find disposable sugar spoons for coffee that are way cheaper and about the same size if you are looking for disposable.

Stand-in pacifier clip- If your child loses theirs and you are desperate, why not attach a piece of sturdy ribbon  to a diaper pin and tie it to the binky? Two safety points: 1)make sure it is shorter than the distance around your baby’s neck. 2) only use a real diaper pin that has a locking feature. If you are crafty you could probably devise a cuter clip than most on the market by exploring “classier” clip options and stylish ribbon designs.

Recycled formula dispenser- My son was a bottle baby for the second half of his infanthood and I quickly learned that traveling with all of that bottle gear is a pain! I loved our Avent formula dispenser cup with the nice little spout that was small enough to pour into a bottle without making a mess.  Much easier than a ziplock bag! You could achieve this same thing by recycling a small-ish pill container, depending on the size of the mouth of the bottles you use and the size of the pill container.

Take n’ Toss changing pads– Again, waxed paper is your friend.

Home-made disposable leak-proof  odor-free diapers- Just kidding!

Do you have any money-saving mom-saving items that you toss in your bag for travel? Any ideas of things we can make for ourselves to save on time, stress, and money?

International travel with kids

Airplane Taking Off by Peter WaltonWe are heading back to the US for a few months this summer, and I am already pondering the 30+ hours of travel door to door, trying to figure out miraculous solutions for containing and entertaining my two little ones, and am praying for the best. Ah! So, I thought I’d do a post about making international travel a bit more manageable. If you have ANY other suggestions, please add them to the comments! I am always searching for new ideas and know others would be blessed by your advice! Here is what I’ve got.

-Rest for the week beforehand. My goal is to get a full night’s sleep and perhaps even a daily nap for the week before we leave. That means packing in advance and being ready early.

-Don’t stress about the schedule. This is my greatest goal for this upcoming trip. My kids are in a pretty set routine, especially with their sleep, and in the past I have made the mistake of thinking that I could encourage them to stay somewhat on a schedule (which I thought would be in their best interest). Well, I have found that that is just not going to happen with all of the excitement of travel and am going to just try to take it as it comes. The kids will sleep when they really need to, right? (Please tell me yes!)

-Break up the trip? Not all of you may feel this a wise decision since it adds to the price of the trip and you might have a greater capacity for the work of travel, but for me who is a wimp when it comes to sleep deprivation, the game plan this time around is to invest in our sanity by staying at a hotel for a night mid-way.

-A well charged portable DVD player with an extra battery and lots of fun movies. Yes, like I have mentioned, I am of the persuassion that TV in general isn’t the best use of a child’s time (not totally opposed to all TV watching though…), but if you ask me on a day when we are traveling internationally, I will be waving high the banner of the mini-DVD player. It has been a lifesaver during travel.

-Fun treats and new toys (not expensive, but just new and exciting). Regardless of age, travel is hard! It is so much more fun when you have something exciting to enjoy. I myself get excited about a new magazine when I fly.

-Spare clothes. I learned this one the hard way. Yes, someone is likely to spill their juice or get airsick, so be prepared!

-Waxed paper. If you have babies in diapers, this is a great way to make disposable changing pads for airports and planes. You could even pre-cut some toilet covers for toddlers in case there aren’t any in the bathrooms.

-Chocolates and earplugs for your neighbors on the plane. Not that the earplugs will help a ton, but the gesture breaks the tension that you will likely feel as your neighbors realize that they are stuck in kid-central for the next 10 hours.

-Pre-printed airport maps with each Starbucks clearly labled. And you think I am joking. (Yes, I have actually done this!)

-Lots of Enya. Not that Enya is my favorite artist, though I do like her for certain occassions, but I definitely think there is much to be said about the effects of music on one’s mood. Can’t get much more soothing than Enya.

-Chamomile tea. My sister-in-law heard from her son’s pediatrician that chamomile tea has a calming effect. Wonderful! She gave it to my little nephew when they came to visit, and he was an angel! Not sure if it was the tea, or just that he is such a sweet little boy in general, but I plan on trying it this time to hopefully see the same effect.

-Prayer! For sanity, easy connections, no trouble at passport control, patient and calm kiddos, a patient and calm mommy and daddy, no air-sickness, no delays or missed flights, no missed Starbucks breaks…. Lots to pray for!

Also, here is a link to a previous post called “Helpful  Items for Missionary Moms,” which has some other helpful travel items.

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