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Time Travel in Texas

It is hard to believe it is already over a week since we landed in Texas! And while people keep talking about throwback Thursday, it was a Throwback State for us!

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We started off in Temple, Tx where we visited with John and Janet. They were Matt’s supervisors when he was there, they knew Matt when he met a “girl”, they were our supervisors when we were both there and they’ve always been a couple we’ve loved and learned from at a distance!

Always so wonderful to see these two!

Always so wonderful to see these two!

It was so great to visit them and remember times in Nigeria…at one point Matt said the name of a restaurant we ate at out of the blue and I could almost taste the agusi stew! Crazy!!

The next day we went to see Bob and Sharon near Dallas, friends we had known in Salida. Sharon recently had an accident so it was one-armed hugs, but so wonderful to catch up with them and introduce both Taylah and JJ to our friends!

It was hard to believe that they hadn't met Taylah yet!

It was hard to believe that they hadn’t met Taylah yet!

Then we headed south of Dallas to visit with Larry and Trish. We used to visit Larry and Trish on Sunday nights when we lived in Nigeria for popcorn and milkshake nights (which we had last night for fun!). It was their son Beau who was traveling with Matt when we met, and God has continued to connect our families in the most interesting of ways!

Trish got her baby fix!

Trish got her baby fix!

Matt helped Larry with a project

Matt helped Larry with a project

Amazing to think about all that has happened since our days in Nigeria!

Amazing to think about all that has happened since our days in Nigeria!

Another friend, Kara came to visit while we were there and we got to meet her precious little girl! JJ and Annie had quite the time hanging out with each other!

JJ and his new friend...

JJ and his new friend…

So glad that Kara could make it!

So glad that Kara could make it!

Enjoying some time out of the car and in the trees!

Enjoying some time out of the car and in the trees!

Kara had some fun travel snacks for the kids!

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Then we had one last Texan night in Amarillo. We had all been so well fed through our travels we decided to go light and have a Messick picnic for dinner…we got some of our favourite fruits and had a little buffet before we enjoyed the pool.

apples, mangoes, pears, cucumbers...our fruit tanks were full!

apples, mangoes, pears, cucumbers…our fruit tanks were full!

Then it was through the rest of Texas, New Mexico and into Colorado! (hooray!)…we learned just how flat the road could be and how to destroy tumbleweeds as we drive over them! (and that there are rattlesnake warning signs!)

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F.L.A.T!!!!!

F.L.A.T!!!!!

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rest stop...or run around stop is probably a better term!

rest stop…or run around stop is probably a better term!

we were hoping they were all sleeping still....

we were hoping they were all sleeping still….

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We were thankful to finally arrive in Colorado and know we’d be unpacking our bags for a few days! And, our dear Miss Cheryl welcomed us in her special way!

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Always good to come "home"

Always good to come “home”

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Thanks for praying for us…this has been a fun/exhausting/exciting journey! And, please keep praying for our support…we are so close to breaking the 80% mark!

We’re getting a little road weary after a couple of really long days, but Saturday we landed at an oasis in Shreveport Louisiana!

It is our first time in Louisiana for all of us and we only half caught the sign racing over the bridge!

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We were coming to stay with our friend Julie’s family here, and she’d been telling us just how welcome we were going to feel here and she wasn’t kidding!! I think we got a super-sized helpin’ of Southern love and hospitality!!!

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It felt like we packed three days of outside fun into one afternoon (after 8 hours in the car to get there!!)….

The kids fed the geese

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Played on the swings

We all fell in love with Miss. Dinah!

We all fell in love with Miss. Dinah!

Rode the bikes

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There was a marathon game of soccer baseball/kickball with Jacob and Aaron (JJ and I even played!)

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Taylah found a dollhouse…

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and JJ got lots of love!

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And of course we ate and ate some awesome southern cookin’ too! We loved the chance to visit with new (that feel like old) friends…We were wishin’ all the Gibsons were here too, but we are so so so so SO thankful for Julie sharing her family with us!

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Realized as we drove through Brandon, Mississippi Saturday, that we had friends living there as well…we tried to visit with them, but unfortunately when we called, they were in Florida! (We’re sorry we missed you Mannings!!) This road-office seems to be working pretty well though!

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We made it to Temple Tx last night where we are visiting with some wonderful friends from our time in Nigeria. This week we’ve traveled PA, MD, WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, AL, MS, LA, and now TX…that’s a lot of drivin! Ya’ll have a great day now! (that’s my new Louisiana speak!)

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Oh, and I can eat me some breakfast!!!

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The Hulk bleeds green!

Wow, it’s been a full couple of days!

Our visit with Miss Shannon and her Mama and brother on Tuesday was so special. Shannon finally got to meet JJ in person…

JJ feels the same about Miss. Shannon as the rest of the kids do...LOVE!

JJ feels the same about Miss. Shannon as the rest of the kids do…LOVE!

Taylah and Mama learned how to make tortillas…

success!!

success!!

We took some fun family pictures….

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And…we were able to bless some of the young moms that Shannon works with in Honduras with some of the baby clothes that had been passed on to us for JJ. (thank you SO much Michelle and Deb!)

Anything "cool" enough is heading down to Honduras!

Anything “cool” enough is heading down to Honduras!

Saying goodbye was so hard! Shannon is such a special friend who has poured so much love into all our lives! Meeting her family for the first time felt like visiting a place we already knew well! We hope that next time we’ll be able to meet her husband and her kiddos!

So great to spend at least a few hours together!!

So great to spend at least a few hours together!!

Wednesday, it was off to Pawley’s Island South Carolina! (I have to confess that it is knowing who we’ll get to see on the ‘next leg’ of the trip that always makes the goodbyes a little easier)

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Partway along the road we found something leaking down by my feet.

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The incredible hulk bleeds green!!

Not exactly what we wanted to see, but during a quick stop for JJ to eat, Matt got under to take a look. There was a crack in the front heater core that would need to be fixed! Thankfully it was a much warmer day so we didn’t need the heat on.

We had planned on two nights with Matt’s Uncle Tim and Aunt Paige, so we God had actually scheduled in the time we’d need to get the van fixed. While I did school with the boys the next morning, Matt and his uncle found the parts they’d need for the repair and got to work.

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After a morning of school and introducing Auntie Paige to the blog….

Lots of computer helpers

Lots of computer helpers

the kids and Auntie Paige and I got to explore around the neighbourhood a bit…we saw fish and turtles and even a couple of alligators.

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Only our toes made it into the pool because the water was chilllllllly!!! (except for Elijah who was pretty sure he could go swimming if we let him!)

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But, what we were most excited about was getting to the beach. It was late in the day and a little chilly, but the boys played baseball on the beach with Matt, while Taylah raced the waves. There is something so very calming for me about the ocean, and it was so nice to stand on the shore a bit.

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Then, Matt and and Auntie Paige and I stomped Uncle Tim at cards before bed …

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And Friday, with the hulk all packed back up, it was off on our way again. Full sails ahead for Alabama…

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Except…we got an email yesterday from some wonderful friends we knew from Costa Rica who are serving in Uruguay, that they also were home and living an hour away from where we were and on our route!!! (We love LOVE seeing God’s hand on things when were willing to step back and let Him work!). So…we headed off to visit with the Morgans this morning for a very short chance to catch up and see their beautiful girls!

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After way too short a visit, it was back in the Hulk for a long travel day. Still working on perfecting the highway pictures as we speed over state lines!

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Through Atlanta at rush hour…do you think we qualify for this lane??

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Having a sleepover with Uncle John and Aunt Bonnie was such excitement in the first place, but then this morning after breakfast, the kids also got to look inside the dread Pirate Robert’s treasure chest and pick out some treasure! Amazingly, the treasure he had found had things that were just right for our kids! Imagine that!

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It was so sad to say goodbye to the Edwards this morning…but we know that God will cross our paths again someday, and we’ll be encouraged by their joyful loving hearts!

Such a gift to visit with Uncle John and Aunt Bonnie!

Such a gift to visit with Uncle John and Aunt Bonnie!

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Well, we missed the North Carolina sign as well…I was in the middle of teaching Jonah about adding mixed fractions and missed the picture…

We visited the museum of natural science with some new friends who plan to serve in Ecuador!! It was so great to meet the Holcutt’s and get a chance to visit for a little while we explored the museum!

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And then we got to see Miss Shannon (and her family!). Miss Shannon was our dearest friend during our time in Costa Rica and she was so much part of our family there (AND she let the kids play on her ipod!). Miss Shannon moved to Honduras where she’s been ministering to young mothers since 2011 and we’ve missed her so much! God’s timing for a quick trip home for her coincided with our departure on this trip and it didn’t take much effort to decide to start off our travels heading south so we could all see Shannon and catch up! We realized we’ve never been together in a country where you need to wear socks!

They got some ipod time this morning!

They got some ipod time this morning!

Seems JJ loves Miss Shannon too!

Seems JJ loves Miss Shannon too!

2011...yes, that's Taylah  Shannon is holding!

2011…yes, that’s Taylah Shannon is holding!

Shannon’s brother Xan is teaching them magic tricks this morning!!

Magic school this morning!

Magic school this morning!

So, what’s it like traveling with our crew? People often give us sympathetic sighs when we tell them we’re heading on a road trip…especially when they seem how many kids we’ve got! But, really, we’re pretty VERY fortunate that our crew travels really really well. They haven’t had much choice, really. From the time they’ve all been small babies, they’ve done long road trips and that’s helped lots!

Our expectation is that we’ll all travel well as a family and that it is not a time for complaining or fighting. We don’t always have great days, but they understand our expectations, and they do well as they work to meet them. It’s amazing what kids can do when they understand what is expected of them!

Somehow, they’ve all learned how to entertain themselves in the car electronic-free– looking out the window, playing quietly (or mostly quietly), or working on schoolwork now that they are older. And, now that there are some avid readers, that helps lots! The kids bring some of their toys along, or sometimes we have different car activities they can do with dry erase markers (battleship, mad libs, license plate games). Sometimes, on a particularly long day, we’ll watch a movie during the last couple hours as a special treat! We’ve tried to keep our days shorter…7-8 hours of driving time meaning 8-10 hours in the car TOPS!! After that, we all start to melt down and it really isn’t very fun. If we finish the day before melt-down time, we get to celebrate a great day of driving, and it is STILL fun to be a Messick!

It's a little crowded with all our stuff!!

It’s a little crowded with all our stuff!!

We also try to use stops to get our energy out. We try to eat while we’re driving so that when we stop for a pee break we can run around for 20 minutes playing a game, throwing a football or following the leader. It helps everyone move a little and gives us a chance to put some time into the kids for a few minutes. It is amazing as we travel in such a small space, that Matt and I can get to talking and the kids do their thing and (except for the constant questions), and we haven’t been interacting a whole lot! That being said, the questions can get to be a little much some days. This morning every 23 seconds or so, someone had a question about their schoolwork and with the road noise it is hard to hear them. I was getting pretty frustrated as I tried to work on something myself, and had to keep stopping to answer them, but we figured it out, and the issue really had much more to do with my own pride, impatience and self-importance than anything else…

We’ve been truly blessed with kids who travel well. And, oh I am so so so thankful! These trips have been exhausting and challenging in many ways, but they’ve also been special times traveling together and experiencing things that hopefully our kids will remember (fondly we hope) for a lifetime!

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Getting ready for a trip like this always makes it feel like we might as well be packing up EVERYTHING and moving out. It seems like there are so many things it takes to get through 6 weeks on the road..clothes, schoolwork, books (and at the speed the boys are reading it takes a LOT), spices, recipes, administrative stuff, shoes (we’ve got lots of feet), toiletries, toys…and who knows what else we see and think we’ll need.

By the time we got everything all ready to go yesterday, Matt was packing the van late into the night so that we could get off this morning.

Although we got off later than expected, we didn’t find ourselves in the huge snowstorm that we’d expected to find. There were a couple flurries in Maryland, a little freezing rain in Virginia, but nothing much.

We did stop and try our first Shamrock Shake though for St. Patricks day! YUM!!!! Not sure why I never tried one before!

YUM!!!

YUM!!!

And visited another of the same to try and get internet reception when our phone wasn’t working! We got internet, but not much volume on the phone line. Seemed a good spot to make our own lunch while we were waiting!

Going with the healthier option! But love the irony!

Going with the healthier option! But love the irony!

Trying to make a phonecall with no cell service...

Trying to make a phonecall with no cell service…

We promised some friends we’d post signs as we got to each state…we missed one state sign because we were all so drawn into the book we were reading…so Hudson Taylor replaces the Virginia sign.

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Read more Mama read more!!

Read more Mama read more!!

It was so exciting to arrive in Virginia and meet up with our dear dear friends. They brought the dread Pirate Roberts with them and the kids were very happy to see old friends!

Re-united with the dread Pirate Roberts...

Re-united with the dread Pirate Roberts…

The bigger boys are having a sleepover with Uncle John and Auntie Bonnie…last I looked over they were all on one bed playing hangman and giggling. What a special gift to be here with such wonderful people who love our children so dearly!

Thankful for a wonderful first day and all your prayers as we go! Tomorrow we’ll get to meet some new friends and then hug on the neck of one of our dearest family friend “Miss Shannon”.

Gettin’ Ready to Go!!!

Oh, it has been a week of preparations!!!!

My biggest project this week was getting together 6 weeks of school for everyone. What a job!! But, there was some serious happy dancin’ going on mid-week looking at 4 binders with travel logs, diaries, journal prompts, puzzles, geography, math, history, science and anything else I could find all set out for them to do. As we get going, the ride is a little bumpy, but we’re planning to do school each day on the road!

School on the road!

School on the road!

We needed to pack for winter, for spring and for hopefully sledding in the snow…it’s amazing how much stuff it takes for 7 people to be ready for the snow! Not to mention just everyday clothes…trying to make sure we’ve got enough to go some days without laundry but not take everything can take some figuring…let alone the fact that we seem to outgrow things on a daily basis depending on who is having a growth spurt! Every time I start to freak out over just how much “stuff” we’re taking, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that even 4 days worth of socks for 7 people is 28 pairs of socks! WOW!

It was a trying week with all the pieces to get ready and keep up with “regular” life, but we were so thankful for some wonderful visitors at our house (who totally blessed us with meals), and for the chance to get out of the house to visit with a wonderful dear family. While the grown up’s visited, the kiddos played and ended up finding costumes to represent different scenes! It was a great time to unwind and laugh before the last packing push of the weekend!

Ready for a hoedown!

Ready for a hoedown!

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Or a dalmation...

Or a dalmation…

Somehow Elijah managed to incorporate a black cape into every costume!

Somehow Elijah managed to incorporate a black cape into every costume!

All dressed up for a wedding!

All dressed up for a wedding!

One of our traveling traditions is the snack jar.

Late last night I was getting the jar ready for our trip. 10am and 2pm are our official snack times. There is always some sort of a silly in-flight announcement and then we all get to pick a snack out of the jar. Little eyes keep a watch on the clock to make sure we don’t miss a snack time, but it sure has helped with little people always asking for food! What a wonderful blessing it was this week when some dear friends of ours ‘set us up’ with a whole BUNCH of snacks for our crew! In-flight snack time is going to be even more yummy on this trip for all the exciting variety of treats we’ve got! (Thank you SO much Millers!)

Gettin' ready for snacktime!

Gettin’ ready for snacktime!

My least favourite part of getting ready to go is cleaning the house…although it is so so nice to come home when it is at least mostly clean! I always like leaving with the fridge looking like this, but an empty fridge isn’t quite as welcome a sight on the return trip!!

Spit spot and EMPTY!

Spit spot and EMPTY!

Using up the things in the fridge was ok though…we had awesome breakfast burritos this morning that had to include the leftover bacon..YUM!

Breakfast burritos for the road!

Breakfast burritos for the road!

An early breakfast...

An early breakfast…

We spent lots of time this week also making some special gifts for friends we’ll see along the way. It was a sticky, slippy fun craft project for school in the midst of a hectic week!

Our special easter crafts...

Our special easter crafts…

Our goal was to leave this morning at 8am…We were actually doing really well and were going to be almost on time when we realized that JJ had a huge blowout…so the washer got one last run before we finally piled in to go….next stop Virginia!

Hurry up!!

Hurry up!!

Meet the Incredible Hulk

We’ve got a sweet ride for this trip!

God provides. Always. Sometimes what we ask for and sometimes , things we haven’t even realized we need!

Our plan had been to drive out West in our minivan. It would have been just fine, but pretty crowded with 7 of us in it and only limited space to pack ALL the things we seem to need for a trip this long. Our plan is to bring back the last of the things we have out in Colorado so that we’ve got all our “stuff” in one place for packing, but we needed a vehicle with enough strength to pull something behind it. Our dear van is awesome, but is suffering a few ailments that would make pulling a load impossible.

We were totally surprised when some dear friends said “Do you want to take our van?”. Really?? We’re planning a trip halfway across the country and back, and you are offering us your van?? With 5 kids?? For 6 weeks??

Really, If we know Christ, we know that our money is not ours. We know that our things are not ours. But how often do we actually live that way? How often do we give and lend and share as though things are not ours? I know that is something I need to learn to be much much better at! But that is exactly how this family is choosing to live; to them, the van is not theirs, it is God’s, and they want to see it being used for ministry, all the while giving Him the glory.

Wow!

So, we’ve got a big van that gives all of us plenty of space and a TON of space in the back for all our stuff…

Meet the Incredible Hulk!

Meet the Incredible Hulk!

We brought it home late Friday night, Matt drove the van and I had all the kids in our car. When we got up Saturday morning, we all went out to really check out the Hulk…..

Ready for the roads....

Ready for the roads….

Lots of room for our stuff...

Lots of room for our stuff…

And we found it FULL of love….verses and pictures and sparkles (yes Cheryl, sparkles…but they are attached to stickers so we’ll see how it goes!)! We know we are traveling in His hands, but what a special reminder of how lovingly we are held and of the incredible blessing of friendship, and fun.

Literally covered in prayer...

Literally covered in prayer…

Such an encouragement!

Such an encouragement!

Matt and I had sweetly designated seating!

Matt and I had sweetly designated seating!

Praise God for the Incredible Hulk and for the Shanes….we are blessed!

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