Monday, December 22, 2014

A Walk Down Memory Lane - Christmas Version

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year.  The music, the decorations, the food...they all bring such joy to my heart.  I think the reason I love Christmas so much is because of the happy Christmas memories I have from my childhood.  Every year, my parents would take me and my sisters to my grandparents' house about 45 minutes away.  As a child, I thought I had the coolest parents around who would allow us to spend a whole week with our grandparents!  Now that I am an adult and parent, I know I had had the coolest and smartest parents in the world!  A whole week of kid-free Christmas shopping and preparations...WHAT?? Way to go mom and dad!

The stocking were hung...
During this week, my sisters and I took care of decorating my grandparents' Christmas tree and did a little Christmas shopping of our own with our granddady.  He was the big shopper in our family.  Our shopping list almost always included Jean Nate bath splash for our mom (this was way before the fancy stores like Bath and Body Works) and maybe a pocket knife or wallet for my dad.  Of course, our granddad would always throw in a treat (or ten) for his girls.  If we were really good, he would take us to the Daytona Beach Mall and let us ride up and down the escalators.  Did we have an exciting childhood or what?!

Christmas in Florida was rarely cold, so we could enjoy running around in shorts and t-shirts as we drank hot chocolate and looked at lights.  Speaking of lights, another tradition we enjoyed was loading up in our grandparents mini-van and driving to Ormond Beach to visit one of the biggest light displays in that area.  This family went over the top with their light display, and we loved it!

Opening presents with my mom.  I seem a little confused by the football.
Our grandparents were not content with sitting around being retired, so they were involved in many things and we were often involved right along with them.  I remember playing piano and singing at the senior center.  We almost always had extra visitors at our Christmas dinner table.

Our grandmama wasn't the best cook, but she hid it well.  She had perfected a few meals which just happened to be our favorites!  We could always count on having roast beef, rice-a-roni, green beans and cornbread at least once during our visit.

When Christmas Eve came around, we would get dressed up and attend a Christmas Eve party thrown by some friends and then usually go to the candlelight service at church.  Sometime after the service, our parents would pull into town like Santa's sleigh filled with home-baked goodies and gifts.  We'd always open one gift that night and then off to bed.  My sisters and I would all squeeze into one bed upstairs, discuss the possibilities that the nearby radio tower was Rudolph's nose, and sometimes drift off to sleep while harmonizing to the tune of "Silent Night".

For several years, our granddaddy dressed up like Santa.  My mom still has his old costume.
Needless to say, over the years, our traditions have changed.  I remember those initial changes very well...the first Christmas after my grandfather died...the first Christmas my older sister stayed in North Carolina.  Now, my family is spread out between three different states and two countries.  Our traditions continue to change.  This year, we also said goodbye to our wonderful grandmother.  She passed away a couple weeks ago surround by family and lots of love. 

I've learned over the years that tradition isn't just doing the same thing every year.  It is about loving the same people and celebrating the same timeless message of God's love sent down to earth.  No matter where we live or where we find ourselves celebrating the holidays, those are the traditions to which we will hold tightly. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Overflowing with Thanksgiving

I stopped by our blog the other day and realized it has been over three months since I've posted an update.  Life has been a little busy, needless to say.  I thought Thanksgiving was the perfect time to give a quick overview of this fall with the Toler Family. 

We stayed on the go this fall, but all our trips were very productive and fun!  At the end of August, we went to our linguistic center in Oaxaca to attend a workshop with one of our friends from the village.  Elyse celebrated her birthday with a Frozen themed party.

Elyse and her best friend have birthdays a little over a week apart.
Making decisions about the writing system of a language is hard work but still fun!
The beginning of our Pame library
We left Oaxaca and picked up my parents from the airport for their three-week visit.  We divided our time with my parents between the village and the city.  We needed to be in the city to submit our paperwork for visa renewals.  As usual, it took several trips to the immigration office, but we finally received everything we needed.

Vacation Bible School came to us this year.  Agency D3 - Discover, Decide, Defend
Enjoying the historical downtown of San Luis Potosi
Da finally got to enjoy a real Mexican burrito. 
We are so thankful that they were able to visit us, meet our friends, and experience village life.

Visiting a nearby village with a historical church in the background. 
My dad really enjoyed learning about the agriculture techniques in the village.
Kieran and his granddad had a lot of good man-to-man conversations.
We ended our village trip with a visit to some nearby waterfalls
After a wonderful three weeks with my parents, we dropped them off at the airport on our way back down to Oaxaca.  We had another workshop to attend and our kids attended their biannual homeschool program.  This is always a highlight for our kids (this was Elyse's first year to participate).  As much as our kids enjoy their friends in the village, there is something about hanging out with other third culture kids who understand this crazy life their parents have given them. 

The kids studied about oceans this fall.
We are so thankful for the wonderful volunteers who come to invest in our kids.
They love our kids like their own.
This trip it was Kieran's turn to celebrate his birthday.  We arrived in Oaxaca a few days after his birthday, so we just had a small celebration with a couple of friends.  Kieran has really enjoyed reading Charlie Brown (Peanuts) comic strip books this year and wanted to carry that theme into his birthday.  I baked the cake, but he took over the decorating.  I thought he did a great job on the Charlie Brown face!

Opening presents
At the end of our stay in Oaxaca, Kris started having chest pains and shortness of breath.  Once we returned to the city, he visited a cardiologist, had various test done, and then met with a cardiac surgeon.  In the midst of doctor appointments, we still squeezed in some time to go trick-or-treating with our friends.
Baseball daddy stayed home and rested...
but Spiderman and Anna were ready to collect some candy!
Now, we are in the process of packing up for a stay in Dallas while Kris meets with a team of doctors to see what needs to be done to help his heart (I'll write more about medical stuff in another post).  We are so thankful for the generosity of others and the overwhelming amount of prayers being lifted up for our family.  We are thankful for life, love and laughter. 

Tonight as I was putting Kieran to bed he said, "I love my life.  I'm so glad God gave me this life."  I agree.  We are truly blessed.  Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Weekend Getaway

Summertime usually means fun in the sun, no school, and time to relax.  However, when you do year round school and are in the thick of language learning, the months seems to blend together.  Before we knew it, it was July as we were preparing for our month long stay in the village.  After a gentle nudge from our supervisor, we decided we should take a few days to get away and relax as a family.  Kris found an amazing deal on (I'm convinced it was there just for us) and so we headed off for a long weekend in the beautiful city of QuerĂ©taro.  It was a five hour drive from our village but it was a beautiful drive through pine forest mountains with waterfalls on the sides of the road and then through semi-dessert with tall cactus.

We arrived Friday evening and let the kids enjoy the pool at the hotel.  As I mentioned before, we found a great deal on the hotel, and it was wonderful. It was one of the biggest rooms I've seen at a hotel.  Elyse was quite impressed with the toilet (it was a far cry from our outhouse), and both kids wanted to take multiple showers a day.  Okay, maybe the grown-ups did, too! 

First night's dinner was from Church's Fried Chicken
Checking out the hotel pool
First swim of the summer!
 The next day we headed off to a neat little theme park just north of the city.  Some friends told us about this park.  It was clean and had lots of shade.  The rides were mostly for kids (perfect for our family), but they also had one decent roller coaster.  The best part was that it cost about $3.25 a person to get in (and all the rides were free).  You can't even go to the fair in the U.S. for that price!  We all had a great day.

Elyse wanted to style our hair with the "fancy" hairdryer at the hotel
Waffles with bacon cooked inside!  Great way to start the day.
Loving on daddy
Ready to head to the park
Elyse's first ride

Waiting for the bumper cars
Kris and I decided we were too old for the bumper cars!

Up, up and away!
Kieran loved the roller coaster (in back ground)
Well worth the price!
For dinner we enjoyed another special treat.  We found out that there is a P.F. Chang's at a new mall in the city.  This was one of our family favorites when we lived in the States.  It has been at least two years since we've eaten at one, and it was delicious.  I'm pretty sure the kids licked their plates (literally).

The next day we went back to the park so the kids could enjoy the water park side which was also less than $4 a person!  Kieran is our little fish so this was quite a treat for him. To end the day, we rode a few more rides.  

Perfect day for the water park
Summer fun!

One last loopty-loop (Kris and Kieran are in the 3rd car up)

The next morning, we let the kids take one more dip in the hotel pool before heading back to the village.  The trip back was hard (and not just because it was the end of vacation) because both kids got very car sick. 
We really enjoyed all the space in our hotel room!
We're still not quite sure what about the purpose of this little door. 

We are thankful for this time to get away and look forward to exploring more of this beautiful country where we live.