nsew Recalculating. This is a word that is very real in my life. Commonplace, used daily.  Most people think of it in terms of directions and being corrected by your Garmin. I am direction-ally challenged and have no qualms at all discussing it. If you need me to get from point A to point B, please don’t use silly words like “East” or “South West”. Shake my head. Just give me a solid “Turn left at the McDonald’s and if you pass the big tree on the left, you missed it.” I feel completely at ease when I am driving to a new destination and have my Garmin along for assistance and support. When it announces “Recalculating…”, I hear “Don’t worry, all is not lost, you will still get there – we have options!” It gives me great hope that God gives me the same guidance in my daily life.

Quite often, my own personal plans must be rearranged in order to accommodate a new errand, unexpected sickness or someone else’s “emergency”. I could let it bend me all out of shape, or attempt to keep my grumpiness under control. As most of us would agree, it’s difficult to keep smiling when a wrench has been thrown into our schedule. Recalculating my day in order to feel accomplished works sometimes, but when unscheduled chaos sneaks in, it’s best to simply shoot for survival and hope that the next day doesn’t come unglued as well.

On other occasions, I change my course willingly. I look around and acknowledge that my current path just isn’t what I thought it would be. I consider my options, pray for discernment, write a pro/con list, talk to my hubby, sleep on it, chat with my friends, read blogs on the topic, and THEN, once I have put the decision off long enough,  change directions. I switch gears. Try a new path. This type of recalculating feels less difficult because I am controlling it.  * The irony is not lost on me here. I am fully aware that I’ve included 27 other people into “my” decision making process. It’s all good – as long as I am the one to pull the trigger, it’s legit. *  Being the one to call the shots helps me to breathe a little easier. I also know where to look if I’m still not content… in the mirror.

Sometimes our circumstances change without any warning at all. A loved one falls ill, we lose our jobs, or our long term plans suddenly fall apart, due to no fault of our own. Then what?! We must adjust our thought process, find new resources and plot a new course. This creates awful feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Thankfully, we are never alone in our fear or confusion. God is forever available with a new direction to suggest, a shoulder to lean upon, and hope for the future.  We are reminded of our strength (through Him) as life has brought us to our knees. God also provides angels on Earth to lead us, or better yet, accompany us along our new paths.  He opens our eyes to options that we might not have considered and opportunities that may be the perfect fit. He is forever present and eternally aware. With His help we can survive – even thrive – during each and every season of life that we encounter.

Recalculating doesn’t have to be a negative word. Sometimes, we don’t see the danger that is right in front of us – or we convince ourselves that we can get through it unscathed. Others really may know best on some occasions. Being flexible and willing to try ideas and avenues that were not our original choice could possibly benefit us more than we could ever imagine. Remember, we all have options, there are several courses available to each of us. So long as getting to my new destination doesn’t involve heading “Due North”, I’m all in!



“Are we there yet?!”

7d140009b992a90519ce9efca0f73413Quite often, when people discover that we truly enjoy traveling with our 4 kids, they respond with a small gasp, shake of the head and “Better you than me!” comment. Since they have been babies, we have included traveling into our families adventures,  including small road trips and bigger excursions such as yearly trips in the car to Florida – about 40 hours round trip from our home in Michigan. Now – before you think that it’s all been magical and Kodak- moments perfect, let me share some of our most memorable traveling scenarios. We somehow managed to lose ALL of the pacifiers during one particular  trip and subsequently had a crying baby in the car for hours as we drove in the pouring rain. Good times. We got the kids ice cream cones at a rest stop during one trip and our oldest child balanced his in the CUP HOLDER as he put on his seat belt ….. it quickly found it’s way to the floor as we merged back onto the highway for the next part of the drive. More tears. Yet another time, after 5 hours of expressway driving, our pre schooler exclaimed “WHAT?! I never buckled my seat belt ?!?!?!?!?” Sigh. And none of us will ever forget when our youngest had the biggest diaper explosion of her LIFE – and we had to strip that stinky, poop up to her shoulders baby in a random parking lot and line her car seat with newspapers before we could finish the drive. SEE?!?!? Doesn’t family travel sound like a “hootin, hollerin’ good time”?!?!? Makes you want to pack your bags, right ?!

We have taken 4 kids and a double stroller on buses, trains and cabs, and stayed in hotels, cabins and condos along the way.  We’ve visited beaches, museums, aquariums, hot air balloon festivals,  family friends and water parks. We have experienced flat tires, tornadoes and kids with strep throat while on our vacations. We’ve also had sunshine, belly aches from laughing and a lifetime of memory making events. Traveling with kids is much like daily life with kids – hit or miss. The better prepared you are , the better the experience. Keeping your expectations low is also essential. These babes are out of their element: different nap times- if any nap at all- not their bed, sippy cups or toys. Kids thrive on schedules and familiarity, which are both thrown out the window when you travel. Remembering this is helpful, otherwise, it’s way too easy to cry along with them on the expressway (which may or may not have actually happened to us).

Giving your children the opportunity to travel is a big gift. It doesn’t have to be Jamaica. Traveling 40 minutes to a local festival is a huge change of scenery for a child. New sites, sounds, smells and tastes are fascinating to young ones – and teens too !  Introducing different people, history, food and traditions to your kids is crucial in helping them to realize that it truly isn’t all about them. Opening their eyes to experiences that are not like those in their reality will grow them in a way you never thought possible – they will talk about these trips for years to come. I have fantastic memories of traveling with my own family as a child. Remembering times spent in the car with my sister playing cards and interviewing each other on our tape recorder always makes me smile. Taking turns being the “navigator” and sitting in the front seat holding the map in our hands was a special treat. Yes. An actual paper map. I am old.

It’s not for everyone – but how will you know if you never give it a try ?

Now – here are just a few memories, discoveries and realizations made on our last trip less than a few months ago…

  • Mary, happily munching on a bag of goldfish, says “People always say airplane food is gross – I LOVE it!”
  • I am told that a certain child’s toothbrush has been missing since Sunday. It’s WEDNESDAY when I find this out.
  • Unlimited food and drinks will catch up to you sooner or later.
  • Stink increases and patience decreases when 4 siblings share one room.
  • When a stranger in Mexico braids your child’s hair, she sits and smiles.  When you brush the same child’s hair at home, she screams.

After watching an amazing Cirque de Sole & witnessing some incredible street performers in Key West, we felt required to attempt similar stunts in the pool. Much. Less. Impressive.