Travel

Colorado 2018: My Picks for Visiting with a Toddler

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So instead of just showing you all the photos of the fam in Colorado I thought I'd add a little information to the post. While we've been to Colorado (specifically Estes Park and Grand Lake) for several years now, we have never been with kids, much less pregnant! So that meant adjusting our normal activities for things that were situated for an out-of-breath pregnant woman and bouncy one year old who needs his naps come afternoon time, but who am I kidding, I needed those naps too! 

 The view from the tram on the way down

The view from the tram on the way down

First off a few tips for those going to Colorado while pregnant. My doctor and a few friends warned me it would be difficult and to take it easy the first few days, so plan on that! Schedule your first day to do something that doesn't involve hiking or a lot of walking. We decided to do the tram, even though we were going up in elevation, I figured I'd give it a try and it turned out just fine. Also, they have an adorable gift shop with unique items in the lobby of the tram. Just a little FYI if you're tired of seeing the same 'ol thing everywhere!

Anotehr thing I did was drink water constantly! I cut back on my diet soda intake and some days didn't even have one. I usually have a hard time drinking water unless it's cold, so I ended up carrying my own glass water bottle with me. I would fill it up with ice and add a lemon or lime to it, and I ended up loving it. I never went anywhere without my water bottle in my hand. Honestly, I feel like this was the number one reason why I felt good the whole time. In fact, I felt better there than I do back in Dallas...probably the water. womp, womp.

So what things did we do?

Flat Hikes that were stroller friendly

Okay, so other than that I just said no to any hikes that went in elevation. I knew I couldn't handle it because I get some crazy pain just from a lot of walking, but we did manage a few flat walks at Estes Park Lake, Lily Lake and Sprague Lake. They were also find for our stroller. So it made it even easier not chasing a toddler out of the pond and hanging on to a stroller.

P.S. Sprague lake was my favorite because it's where we saw the mama and baby moose!

 Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake

 Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake

 Estes Park Lake

Estes Park Lake

I did have to pass on the fly fishing though, but that's okay, we made up for it by going for a drive in Rocky Mountain National park all they way to our one of our favorite places on the earth, Grand Lake Lodge.

Other things that were great were walking through town and exploring all the shops. One morning they had a great farmer's market. And of course going at dusk or dawn to look for animals in the park. We also had a little date night at the Stanley to eat dessert (kid free) and even managed to sneak away on a few adventure just the three of us.

Honestly, it was a great vacation for kids. I didn't feel like we missed out things and we had a huge house off of air-b-n-b that really made it worthwhile. If you have kids then you know you end up spending a lot of time at your lodging due to naps and early bedtimes, so make sure you have a place with lots of games, scenic views, or at least a pool or something so you don't feel confined to a small room your whole trip (totally felt this way on our cruise last year).

A few of my favorite places:

1. Kind Coffee (grab a kind latte (shots brewed with honey and sugar) and a sit outside and enjoy the view)

2. Inkwell & Brew (the Provencal is to die for (lavender and honey latte) and a store full of journals, um swoon!)

3. The Stanley Hotel - Take in a fancy dinner or just have dessert and drinks at the Stanley. You can also go for a tour or just look around. It's worth it!

4. Fun City - the kids had so much fun! And if your little one is close to two they can do just about anything with an adult!

5. The Tram - you get to ride up the tram to the top of the mountain. There is a coffee shop and gift shop at the top and you purchase peanuts to feed the chipmunks, great for kids!

 Ezra loved watching (and attempting) to feed the chipmunks at the top of the mountain. You get there by taking the tram.

Ezra loved watching (and attempting) to feed the chipmunks at the top of the mountain. You get there by taking the tram.

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 Ezra running the trail at the top of Trail Ridge Road. 

Ezra running the trail at the top of Trail Ridge Road. 

 And lots of evenings spent around the fire the this view...let's just say this is after the kids went to bed. :)

And lots of evenings spent around the fire the this view...let's just say this is after the kids went to bed. :)

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 This was the only place I really had trouble with pain or breathing, I mean you are 11,000 feet up!

This was the only place I really had trouble with pain or breathing, I mean you are 11,000 feet up!

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 Dressed in our PJs looking for elk!

Dressed in our PJs looking for elk!

 We went looking for animals at dusk in the national park

We went looking for animals at dusk in the national park

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 The view behind Kind Coffee

The view behind Kind Coffee

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 The massive slide at Fun City

The massive slide at Fun City

Nairobi National Park: Where Safari Meet City

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In February, my mother-in-law came to visit and we decided to meet her in Nairobi, Kenya since she would have a 24 hour layover. We decided to make it a three day adventure and stayed at the beautiful Ololo Lodge in Nairobi National Park. It's a great place if you are okay with just staying in the park and not doing much else, but don't worry there's still TONS to do. 

You can take a safari every morning and evening, walk the beautiful grounds and see their farm and where they make their own furniture. You can also take a 30 minute walk to a nearby glass factory where you can watch them make glass. There's also a fun little place next door where you can buy more glass products and see animals, and just explore the quirky, fun grounds. 

And if you want to just rest and kick back they have the best space for relaxation. Take up a chair by the pool or grab a book and curl up in one of the cozy nooks around the grounds. 

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 They also grow their own mushrooms!

They also grow their own mushrooms!

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 The dirt contrast!

The dirt contrast!

 They grow their own herbs, veggies, and fruits in the greenhouse

They grow their own herbs, veggies, and fruits in the greenhouse

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 Walking to the Glass Factory & of course little man falls asleep

Walking to the Glass Factory & of course little man falls asleep

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 even the pigs have cute houses!

even the pigs have cute houses!

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 I can't get over all the cacti!

I can't get over all the cacti!

 Little man still fast asleep!

Little man still fast asleep!

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 Ready for a Safari!

Ready for a Safari!

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 of course, he fell asleep through all the good parts!

of course, he fell asleep through all the good parts!

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 It's just like the Lion King out here! 

It's just like the Lion King out here! 

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Swimming With Whale Sharks

Go! Go! Go! The man yells in a thick accent; it actually takes me a second to understand what he said. Then I quickly pull my mask over my eyes, put a death grip on my phone, and jump into the deep ocean blue. Immediately I begin clicking the shutter on my phone, hoping to catch the giant creatures swimming toward me. 

When I heard we would go swimming with whale sharks I couldn't decide if I was excited or scared. The term shark seems intimidating, why would want to go looking something that has the potential to kill us? But whale sharks are gentle creatures and they don't eat meat. There are only a few places in the world that you can actually swim with whale sharks and they are only around for a limited time. 

We packed up our truck with food, snorkel gear, drinks, blankets, and everything needed for a day at the beach. We then headed out of town driving for an hour on a paved road until we get to a bumpy, dirt road. If you didn't know the way, you would never know it led to anything. Another hour past military bases, camels, and goat herds and you reach one of the most serene and unique beaches. 

Instead of sand the shore is lined with large rocks, in the distance there are old run-down concrete buildings, now decorated with graffiti. Once we set up camp we wait for the man to pick us up with is boat. We left Ezra with two of our teammates who stayed behind on shore. They said he did great and only cried once he saw us returning. Finally, our little guy is starting to be comfortable around others!

Once we reached the area where the whale sharks hang out we then wait for the driver to tell us to jump. He does a fantastic job of pulling in front of the whale sharks so when you jump off the boat you land right in front of them! It was amazing! My flippers didn't fit so I wasn't able to swim to keep up with them, but I was still able to grab a few shots with my camera. Which by the way I highly recommend the Lifeproof case for your iPhone. It allows you to take it under water and take photos and videos. A dream come true!

After a few times in and out of the little boat you are so tired and ready to return to shore. We spent the rest of the day snorkeling, eating, talking, and of course getting way too much sun. 

I recently watched a video clip of a guy who traveled to every country in the world. He then would shout off a few things to do in each country, but when he came to our neck of the woods, he said he couldn't find anything to do. Well, mystery man, I feel sorry for you, because you spent all that money traveling all over the world and missed one of the most unique opportunities. I wish I could write him and tell him about all the things there are to do in our little country, whale sharks just one of the many!

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Who Runs The World?

Life is much easier with a one year old than a newborn. I am finally plugging into community here and able to be away from the house for more than a couple hours. One of the joys of my new schedule is getting to work with our running girls. Every Monday I drive out past wadis, camels, crazy drivers, and end up at a huge stadium with turf grass and an actual track. Underneath my sheet dress is my scandalous capri pants and t-shirt waiting to be seen by this group of teenage girls.

The girls start by warming up for 15 minutes around the track. Afterwards they do their stretches as a group and then for 30 minutes I work with them on strength training. It can be a challenge tailoring exercises for 9 year olds all the way to 17 year olds. We've done sprints, push ups, squats, stairs, resistance bands, and medicine balls.

A few weeks ago we had to break up a fight between two girls because the younger girl kept talking bad about the older girl. And their natural instinct is to start fighting, pulling hair, crying, the whole shebang. But how can you blame them when they have never been taught anything else? How do you teach respect? Well, first off, you model it.

We try to live our lives with respect for the culture, the people, and the customs in the country we are guests in. Second, these girls will have to endure lectures and be disciplined according, something they have never really seen before. Most of their discipline has been in the form of physical abuse. We want to show how one can love sternly but still gracefully. 

So this past week we began implementing discipline. The girls have started arriving late to practice, talking back, and refusing to do drills. It's frustrating to have to tell them to go home for bad attitudes or starting fights, but as I've discovered it's necessary to teach them respect and the importance of listening. So when they arrive more than 10 minutes late they now have to run extra and do push-ups. When they refused to listen, push-ups, when they talk back, push-ups. Yes, some girls began crying and faking push-ups, but others got down on their knees and did what had to be done. It's a slow process, but a necessary one. 

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Refresh My Soul: Alaska

It finally feels like fall so to celebrate I'm posting part 1 from family vacation earlier this summer. If you were following along on Insta then you may already know that my parents took us on an Alaskan cruise. It was amazing! We had some great family time, got to see nature, and experience cold temps, which meant boots, scarves, and lots of hot coffee! My dreamland. 

So grab a blanket, sip some coffee, and enjoy the beauty of Alaska!

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Sunrise Service on the Beach

There's a stillness in the air that happens somewhere in the night—the wind stops, the waves die down, and the mosquitoes buzz. But it's there in the quiet when you realize just how big and vast the world really is.

On Easter weekend we traveled to a semi-secluded beach two hours outside the city, where your neighbors are foreign and local military, a couple of donkeys, and a camel. It’s a typical Horn of Africa scene, at least in our part, but it’s a safe spot where once a year the teams from our city come together and rest.

That evening as we warmed up chili over the fire, one by one we slowly sat in our folding camping chairs and watch the embers crack. A guitar started to strum and singing could be heard quietly over the roaring waves. “Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have mad. I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder. Thy power throughout the universe displayed.”

Never did those words ring more true than they did that night under the darkness, lit only from the fire, the night sky, and the occasional flashlight. And as seamlessly as the music had started, the stories began. Surrounded by both young and old, everyone had a story, so we sat and cried and laughed and offered thanks to God for his protection and love.

The next morning we had an Easter service on the shore, then we celebrated by swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Reed, Ezra, and I also hiked across the little mountain and took photos of the sunset the day before. And while Ezra was sleeping peacefully in his pack-n-play (with adult supervision) we took the kayak out on the ocean and found a sandy beach around the mountain. And greeting us as we arrived was none other than a camel! Only in the Horn of Africa!

Meet Some Fearless Moms

It's my first mother's day as a mother. While last year I got to celebrate mother's day pregnant, this year I get to really understand the joys and struggles that come with being a mother. And I also understand how difficult this day can be for so many. So I'm not going to bombard with you photos my little guy (I'll save that for another day), but I am going to show you some of the mothers I've met over the past year here in Africa. 

Last year I did a blog post showcasing mothers I've met in the past 10 years of my travels, I loved reading your messages and comments about it and so I've decided to share a few more stories. I hope that for those of you who look at today and feel pain and longing that you will somehow feel peace. I pray that you can know that you are loved and thought of and that just because you may not be celebrating today that you still have purpose and life! 

Sadly, a month after visiting with these families we got word about one family who lost their son. He was the only child I didn't get a photo of that day and now I regret it so much. Their son was a teenager and suffered from brain damage, but was able to walk himself. However, he came down with diarrhea and died. It broke our heart to hear of child dying of something so easily prevented. So it's why we work here, training people about the dangers of dehydration, loving on them every chance we get, and giving them something to try and make their life just a little bit easier. 

Our NGO works with a local school run by a woman who has returned to the Horn of Africa after living for years in Canada. She decided to return to her home country and open a school for street children. Many of these children do not have parents and are lacking the proper papers to attend public schools. During her time at the school she also came in contact with several families of handicap children. Many of these children suffer from epilepsy and have severe deformities. They do not have access to wheelchairs to the mothers will carry around their children so they do not have to sit in the dirt all day long. 

Many times when we meet handicapped children in remote areas around the world they are not cared for or given much attention, but the amount of love that these moms (and some fathers) had for their kids was amazing. The moms would wipe of dried boogers or saliva before I took their photo and they would fix their hair and whisper in their ear to smile. 

The lady in the middle received a new wheelchair and her daughter came along with her.

Here they are with my mom, who got to be a part of giving them their new wheelchair and meet all the mother's above.

This mother I met briefly in February at a clinic in town. At first I thought she was the grandmother of this 17 day old baby but it turns out she was mother who had just given birth to this little sweet girl. She was at the hospital because her newborn needed to undergo some test to see if she was HIV+.

The mother was already HIV+ and so now the long wait of finding out if you passed it on to your daughter. I couldn't imagine what she must feel, having a baby only a few weeks old and having to find out if she has a life-threatening disease.

She was sad, and it broke my heart, because usually women will at least smile for me or find pride in showing off their kids, but you could tell she was hurting, tired, and alone. So pray for mothers like her, pray for their children, and pray for the doctors that one day they will find a cure for these heart-breaking diseases. 

Some mothers and their children I met back in February at a distribution where we gave out food, clothing, and blankets. You can read their stories here: Life in a Volcanic Desert

Refresh My Soul: Past Vacations

 St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, Florida

I've been thinking a lot about vacation recently. Hot season has arrived and my already weary soul is so ready for some rest! It's actually been a long time since the hubby and I have planned a vacation. What I mean is that most of our trips have been tagged on to conferences or taken because we live in unique places. Even our honeymoon was decided based on the cheapest thing out there. But for the first time we have saved and saved so we could go somewhere new for our 5 year anniversary in September. When I floated the idea by my precious mother she decided it would be a great family vacation! So now all of us and little man will be heading on a 7 day Alaskan cruise in July! Say what?! Bucket list location for sure. Reed and I love cold weather and mountains and living in one of the hottest places on earth we are eager for some cooler weather. 

I have often met people who don't take vacation. They throw around the phrase, "You can sleep when you're dead." Guys, don't be this person! Vacations are good and healthy! One of the best pieces of advice we got when we were preparing to move overseas was to "vacation" every day, every week, every month, and every year. What that look likes practically (for myself) is this:

Daily I spent time with God, reading, relaxing, praying, working out, and even napping at times!

Weekly we take a day where we don't do work, we sleep in, watch movies, laugh, explore new places. 

Monthly we have a date night (or family night). We go to a nice restaurant, swim in a pool, take a trip out of town.

Yearly, we take a vacation. Visit somewhere, stay in a hotel, order room service, get a massage, and DO NOT feel guilty about it. 

So for this month's refresh the soul I'm taking us back to some of my favorite vacations since being married. And if you have a vacation planned for this year, comment below, or share your favorite vacation you've been on. We are always looking for new places to explore! 

 Nice, France

Nice, France

 Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

 Epcot Center, DisneyWorld

Epcot Center, DisneyWorld

 Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

 Central Asia

Central Asia

 New York City, New York

New York City, New York

 Daytona Beach, Florida

Daytona Beach, Florida

 Fairhope, Alabama

Fairhope, Alabama

 RMNP, Colorado

RMNP, Colorado

 Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park, Colorado

 Verrana, Italy

Verrana, Italy

 Antalya, Turkey

Antalya, Turkey

 Paris, France

Paris, France

 Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

 Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

 Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores, Alabama

 Grand Lake Lodge, Colorado

Grand Lake Lodge, Colorado

 Marseille, France

Marseille, France

 St. Paul de Vence, France

St. Paul de Vence, France

 Annency, France

Annency, France

 Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas

 Lyon, France

Lyon, France

 Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

 Galveston, Texas

Galveston, Texas

 Monaco

Monaco

 Albertville, France

Albertville, France

 Murren, Switzerland

Murren, Switzerland

Refresh My Soul: Lac Assal

Back in December we took a family trip to the Salt Lake. It's the saltiest lake in the world and the lowest point in Africa. It's also one of the prettiest landscapes in our country. So enjoy this month's refreshment courtesy of the beautiful Lac Assal.

Refresh My Soul: Paris, France

Oh August, with your blazing heat and days full of hope and fear as children and teachers alike prepare for back to school. But the hope you bring as we anticipate the lowering temperatures, orange leaves, football, and best of all pumpkin spice lattes. Yes, fall, you are my favorite. So while we continue to wait for you in sweltering heat I'll just take a look back at the world's favorite places: Paris. Because we can all admit that Paris make everything better.