Good-bye For Now

On Sunday we will officially be homeless. We will be homeless by choice, our trip is set to begin. Our bags are packed, our boxes of what we felt necessary to save are tucked away in my wonderful sister-in-laws’ attic, and all that is left to do is to say our good-byes.

This last part of what must be done is the most awful, heart-wrenching, emotionally draining aspect of preparing to travel for such a long period of time as we are. Up until this point it has been easy to just think of the amazing places that we will be going to and experiences we will have, putting the thought of saying good-bye to those I love out of my mind.

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The last time that Chad and I left for foreign shores we had a set time frame as to when we would return to the States. Our plan was to stay for at least two years. And two years it ended up being, mostly because I had it in my head that I would be seeing every one back home in that time frame.

This trip is different, we are leaving for an indefinite amount of time, we may travel for a month or we may completely relocate, only to return periodically to see family and friends. Good-byes are difficult, but saying so long when you don’t know when you are going to see the person again… well it’s awkward and sometimes unpleasant and mostly just downright sad. I struggled quite a bit with the good-byes on our last trip, so I have to admit that I am apprehensive as to how the ones for this trip will play out.

For our friends, we are having a kid-free going away party (many thanks Mom and Dad!) where all of our acquaintances, friends and adopted family can come and get a little bit of quality time with us before we go. We will entertain them with the current plans we have for our trip and try to harass them into coming to visit us at some point in our travels. Seeing a familiar face after traveling for a while is so refreshing, so hopefully some people will take advantage of the opportunity of a free-place to stay in a far off land. The night will be full of laughter, probably some tears, and most definitely a bunch of beer, whiskey and other spirits will be enjoyed. (Really, how often do you get to leave your toddler over night and just have fun? We must take advantage.)

As far as our families go, for the first three days of our vagabonding we will be staying at my parents house, followed by three days at Chads parents house. We are going to try to get as much quality time with both sides of the family as possible. Its hard to equate three days with an unknown time apart, but it will have to do. Quality not quantity right?

We are hopeful that both sets of parents will come and visit us along our journey. My parents have traveled in Europe before, so I think they will be an easier sell than Chads parents. I am not sure, but I do not think that they have traveled far (with 7 kids how could you really?), at least not outside of America. So for the three days that we have them all to ourselves, we will have to lay it on thick (think used car salesman “Have I got a deal for you!”). I would love nothing more than for our families to share in part of our adventure. And if they cannot then at least we live in the age where everyone is just a video chat away. Thank God for Skype!

On an even more somber and depressing note, there is one parting that I am finding especially trying. I am in denial that I will have to say adios to Mexican food. Delicious burritos, tacos, nachos, carnitas…I seriously cannot continue with the list, my mouth is watering, my stomach rumbling. How will I assuage the craving once we are on the road? I know that even though I have to leave my mom, when I miss her, I can still call her. How can I call a tostada de ceviche? Seriously, someone needs to invent the food maker box thing from Star Trek. I guess until someone does that (come on people, there are 3D printers now that can print guns, wheres my magical authentic mexican food maker?) I will have to cook my own mexican food. This good-bye, feels like a most final good-bye. And that makes me sad (and hungry). I love my family and friends and of course mexican food is not the only thing here in Santa Rosa that I will miss, but when you all come visit us you better smuggle me a burrito in your carry-on.

What was something that you had a hard time saying good-bye to when you’ve traveled or moved? It doesn’t have to be a type of food, unless you are obsessed with food like me. On that note, I am off to get a snack!

So Much to Do

I hate using cliches in writing this blog, but I find myself thinking over and over again, “so much to do, so little time”. Its true, our time is short for our hometown of Santa Rosa, even shorter still for the home that we have lived in these past three years. We are moving out of this amazing home we were so blessed to be able to rent in exactly 8 days. Yes, 8 days! We are leaving town in just 15 days!

So far Chad and I have done the important things. We have packed up our belongings in nice clear rubbermaid containers that my (very generous) sister-in-law is letting us keep in her attic until we come back. We have given notice to the utilities, bought our travel insurance, gotten all the important documents together for the most part. We have done all the boring, mundane preparations, I cross them off my written list hanging on the fridge while C checks it off his electronic list on his phone.

I have started to pack my clothes and shoes for the trip and have been pleasantly surprised at how little room my clothes actually take. So far I have packed: 3 dresses, 6 skirts, 3 bathing suits, a sarong, 6 tank tops, 4 t-shirts, a sweater, a hoodie, 2 pairs of skinny jeans, 2 long sleeve shirts, 4 pairs of tights, 4 bras, 8 pairs underwear, 2 pairs socks, converse all-stars, one pair flats, 2 pairs flip-flops, 2 pairs of boots, and Keen hiking sandals. All of the clothing items fit into a carry on sized bag, the shoes with the hygiene products I plan to bring with me take up another carry-on size bag. Not bad if I do say so myself. I am going to go through it a couple more times before we leave and I am sure that I will probably end up leaving some stuff behind along the way but I have enough clothing and shoes to not have to worry for awhile (I hope).

Even though we have been busting our rears and accomplishing many things on our moving to do list, I cannot help this nagging feeling that I will forget something important. I feel this way before we go anywhere, I mean I feel this way even doing something as simple as going to the grocery store. I have a perfectionist frame of mind and I think because of this I tend to over think things… I am sure Chad is right now nodding his head in agreement with this. I have a hard time realizing that I am not in control of any of this. Neither is Chad. God is in control of this trip (and of course ultimately our lives), He has been this whole time. I need to trust Him more and lean on him, instead of my own memory (which with my memory lately is a very scary thought!).

On a very happy note, we have had an amazing answer to prayer this week. As I had written in a previous post we have been trying our darnedest to find a new home for our two dogs. We have run into dead end after dead end with this. But this week, our friends that are moving into our home and inheriting most of our belongings also decided that they wanted to inherit our dogs as well. At least until they can find them another amazing home. So not only will our dogs not be going to a shelter, they will be living in the same house, with two wonderful women that will love them and care for them until a better home comes along. Chad and I cannot even express our gratitude and thankfulness to D and M in their help with this and their friendship! They are an answer to prayer!

So, there it goes again in my head..”so much to do, so little time.” I know that God will see us through this time of preparation and stress and my job is just to pray and be thankful for all the blessings during it.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Reno

This past weekend was filled with many firsts. I went on my first “girls” trip, it was my first time away from Zoë and Chad, and it was my first time seeing Reno, NevadaI feel like a new woman, it has been a long time since I have taken an extended period of time just for myself and it was long overdue.

I am one of those annoying mothers/wives that feels guilty as soon as I walk out the door to do anything for myself. Chad consistently and persistently tries to get me to do more and I balk and get anxious and usually end up cutting short any time I do take. It’s silly and I have no idea why I do it. Maybe it’s that I like spending time with my little family. Maybe its that I worry that Zoë will feel abandoned. Maybe, just maybe, I have a hard time letting go (insert sheepish looking face). What if something happens? What if Chad can’t find Zoës purple socks, or some horrible thing like that. These are the thoughts that go through my head whenever I leave.

When we decided that we were going to travel around the world, I realized that my time to go on a girls weekend was dwindling. I decided it was now or never. I decided on Reno because, well I like to gamble. I do not gamble often (maybe 2-3 times a year) and I do not gamble huge amounts of money, but I love to play penny machines and sit for hours uninterrupted except for the occasional service of a cocktail.

I invited a few of my girlfriends that I know really like to gamble (because there is nothing worse than trying to gamble when the person that is with you is rushing you to finish). It was really spur of the moment, so only my wonderful friend, D, was able to go with me. We got a room for one night and drove down on Saturday and came back home on Sunday.

Let me tell you a little about Reno, it is a smaller, dirtier version of Las Vegas, but it has it’s own charm. The casinos are old, they are a bit run down. We stayed at the Silver Legacy, which was comfortable, clean and well-ventilated (they will have a Starbucks by the end of March!). I know it seems silly, but as we were being served champagne while we waited to check in, and everything around me was gold and lights and wood, I was excited and pleasantly surprised at the outcome of my quickly thrown together trip. We actually checked into our room, dropped off our stuff, had a quick bite to eat in the hotel cafe and gambled the night away. After just playing in one area for a while, we ended up at the casino floor bar, where there were dueling piano players and we played video poker and drank whisky cokes until we could no more . We never left the Silver Legacy although it is connected by walkways to the El Dorado and Circus Circus. I had such a great time!

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(Photo found on Bing Search Images)

Another reason that I really wanted to go to Reno, is because I wanted to try Hash House A Go Go. Hash House A Go Go is a restaurant (they have other locations in Las Vegas and San Diego) that serves amazing breakfasts. I think they serve other meals too, but the breakfast food is honestly the best I have ever had. Chad went to Reno for a bachelor party a year or so ago and had sent me pictures of the breakfast he had at this restaurant tucked away in Harrah’s Casino. I had been craving the 17 inch pancake and chicken and waffles ever since and was so excited to finally get to go. Sunday morning after D and I checked out of our hotel, we drove over to Harrah’s and had an amazing meal. I had the Andy’s Sage Chicken Eggs Benedict, which was enormous. I tried but was only able to eat about a third of it. I took the left overs home and it was enough for two more meals. I spent $16 for a meal that was three meals! I love it when that works out!

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(Andys Sage Chicken Eggs Benedict-Photo taken by Jenny)

So if you are thinking of going to Reno, I would definitely recommend staying at the Silver Legacy and eating any and all meals at Hash House a Go Go (seriously, I am not kidding-ALL meals!). Have you been to Reno? What did you think of it? But more importantly, have you tried Hash House a Go Go?

Review: The OGIO Doppler Toiletry Kit

A Well Fitted Bag:

Welcome to our second product review. This is a short take on an essential item. As mentioned in the previous post we will be using the “Baby Thumbs”™ system to rate our products. 5 thumbs up being something we found to be excellent in all areas and 1 being something we would urge against purchasing.

The OGIO Doppler Toiletry Kit: Small, fitting, and tightly built.

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When we were going through our baggage from previous journeys, one of the things we pulled out was our old REI bathroom bags. Despite being washed, cleaned, and scrubbed, they were entirely the worse for wear.  And my other half let it be known just how much she despised these hanging bags, and left no question that we would not be purchasing the same ones again. They were unwieldy, hard to clean, and bulky. They were made well, but that was not enough to save them from the garage sale pile.

As usual, I insisted on purchasing new ones as soon as possible, despite the fact that there were much more important things to be doing, and that our trip was still several months away. As I have said before, I love to shop, research, research, shop, agonize over the purchase, research, research, and then, with much consternation, purchase… And then occasionally return after agonizing I made the wrong decision.

We went to REI once again, but decided that even the lightweight bags were far too bulky. In my opinion the perfect toiletry bag is compact, lies as flat as can be, has a hangar, and several individual pockets to sort the necessary items. I also deemed it necessary that it be a solidly constructed bag that has a well constructed zipper. It is funny how much thought can go into such a small item. But this is one that is useful to  store on a carry on, readily available wherever one may be. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have pulled these bags out to freshen up after a long bus, boat, train, or plane ride. And if you are a contact wearing individual like myself you will know that it is especially convenient if you can easily remove them when sleeping during long legs of the journey.

These sorts of bags can range in price from 10-50 dollars and there are really only a handful of styles to choose from. The OGIO bag that we finally settled on was the only one that seemed to fit the bill when it came to our desired amenities. It has 5 small pockets in the front and two main compartments laying behind them. Up top, below the attached hanger, are two horizontal compartments that lie flat but still have adequate room. For example I was able to put my contact solution and case in the sealed upper compartment with plenty of room left over. In total on a recent trip I was able to carry the following items without any bulge whatsoever: Hair Brush, Comb, Deodorant stick, Hair product, Contacts/Solution, Glasses in case, Toothbrush, Toothpaste and a complete set of soaps and shampoo.

It really was impressive just how nicely it compartmentalized everything without bulging out.  

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The main reason that the bag keeps it’s shape, even when loaded, is that it has a nice, solid outer shell that doesn’t flex but a little. It will give only slightly, and hold a decent amount of stuff, but not so much that it will be a hindrance to pack by growing beyond it’s original shape.

The outer construction is solid, with a strong oversized zipper that gives it a quality feel. The interior is thin polyester, mesh, and nylon. The liner material is thin, and cheap, but it is easy to clean and suits its purpose. I don’t really see the need for anything higher quality as I don’t anticipate stretching those compartments out too much.

The only negative aspect of this bag is that it lacks a mirror. Many of the other, even cheaper, bags come with one. I would have preferred one, but J preferred the extra compartment where one would have been.

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In summary this is a quality bag, and one that is perfect for our needs. Both of us got the same one, and are pleased with our purchase. The most appealing part of the bag, and the final compelling feature is the excellent price. It is currently $18 on Amazon. A steal at that price, and one I can gladly give 4 out of 5 thumbs up. If you are looking for a simple, roomy, durable toiletry bag we highly recommend it!

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Training in Trusting

Chad has been in England for the past two weeks, which has given me many opportunities to learn, prepare, and mature as a mom, wife, and soon to be world traveler. This past week especially has been trying and emotional for many reasons, and yes, you get to hear all about them!

I take my hat off to all of you single parents out there, because it is incredibly draining and difficult. To be the sole care-taker of a toddler can be tortuous. On the other hand, it can also be incredibly fulfilling. This week I have tried my darnedest to take the moments that Z and I had and make two weeks of girls days and nights (when did 24 hours become so long?). This worked most of the time in helping me to cherish the moments we spent together, but I will admit there were some tantrums that just made me feel totally inadequate and exhausted. Not even high paid actors can keep a happy face on all the time, twenty-four hours a day, 7 days a week, and neither could I, but I sure as hell tried. And really I am happy with that, I know that I am not and never will be a perfect parent. I am alright with just being a pretty good parent and these past two weeks I think I accomplished that. Zoë is alive and healthy, she is happy, the house is clean and the laundry is done. I think these are things that I can be proud of (when I have the energy to anyways).

In-between finger painting, playing with Zoë’s numerous baby dolls, and watching Bambi (almost every day… I admit I let her watch it almost every day, I sure hope she gets sick of it soon!), I was trying to pack what we are going to keep in storage. Our plan is that once we settle somewhere, we will come back to visit our wonderful family and friends and go through the carefully packed boxes and decide what to ship to our new home and what to get rid of.

I must make a side note here, I am a minimalist when it comes to what I feel is important to keep. I don’t collect anything, I don’t really feel that there is much in life that cannot be replaced, except for the sentimental childhood keepsakes of course, of which I have one medium sized box. Chad on the other hand, has many collections (did I say many, I mean many many many). He collects shot glasses, Magic the Gathering cards, Star Wars collectables, DVD’s, and the list goes on. I have a medium size box of keepsakes, Chad has two medium sized boxes of DVD’s alone. I truly think this is one of the reasons why our relationship works so well, if both us collected, we would be hoarders and not have any money, and if both of us were minimalist like me, our home would be pretty stark and boring.

It’s interesting though how I have been affected by this, not so much the packing of the things we are keeping (I honestly could care less about most of that stuff), but I am getting sad about some of the things that we are selling. I just sold the hiking backpack that Chad used to take Zoë in all over the place for our walks together. Yes, me, the minimalist literally teared up thinking about all the wonderful memories of Chad walking around with our adorable daughter on his back in this backpack, and I wanted to keep it! I wanted to keep something that we will not use again, because of the memories attached to it. I am beginning to understand my (pack rat) husband a bit better now. This has been a good learning experience for me, yes I still sold the back pack, but I can understand attachment to possessions now. This may be the beginning of the end of our uncluttered living situations… Uh oh.

The most upsetting and stressful thing to happen this week (seriously why do so many stressful things happen when your spouse is away?) was that I found out that the person who was going to adopt our two dogs, Whiskey and Soda, is now unable to do so. This hit me like a punch in the stomach. I don’t think I have mentioned our pups in this blog before because I knew that they were going to an awesome person that loves them as much as we do and I felt that in all honesty, they would probably be happier with him. I have become that person (I’m embarrassed to say) where her dogs were her children until she had a human child, and then the dogs turned into dogs and lost couch privileges and had to start sleeping on their own bed etc, etc.. I knew that they would regain their pre-Zoë life with their new person. I just felt so comfortable with the idea of them going to him, that I didn’t even give them a second thought.

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So, what else could I do, I scrambled. I have called rescues, shelters, annoyingly blown up Facebook begging my friends and family to share their bios and pictures. I am still hoping, praying, running around, calling, emailing, whatever I can, trying to find them a home. It is heart-breaking and honestly made me doubt that we should go on this trip for a minute. Its funny though, I know this may sound corny, but a song that we were singing for the toddlers in our church nursery this past Sunday kept replaying itself in my head, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, theres nothing my God cannot do.” And its true! We didn’t know that Chad would be offered remote work when he went to give notice to his employer, but they did and now we can travel more because we won’t have to use our savings as much. We didn’t know how we would be able to sell or store all of our big items, and our friend came back from her round the world trip and needed everything, not only that but she rented our house from our landlord immediately, so we don’t even need to move anything, so we had an incredibly easy time with that (Thanks Danielle!). We don’t know what will happen with our dogs right now, but something good will happen. We may not even see it, we may have to take them to a shelter, but an even better home will come around for them, I know it.

We have had an incredibly easy time preparing for this amazing journey, and we have run into a rough part. God has seen us through all the good, and he will definitely see us through this difficulty. This is training grounds for spiritual maturity. I choose to make this sad, horrible , exhausting experience a lesson in trust.

 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:3-4

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13