tel aviv & caesarea {israel travel}

 

Our first ‘day’ of our Israel trip consisted of a 10.5 hour flight, four hour layover in Jordan and a short 25 minute flight to Tel Aviv. By the time we arrived in Israel, it was dark there and we had (mostly) lost a night of sleep to bad airplane movies (Space Jam??) and even worse airline food. I was never so happy to see a Starbucks when we landed in Jordan, and the guys found a McDonald’s. Such American tourists we are.

After a short but good night’s sleep, we woke up to this gorgeous view of the Mediterranean we had no idea was right outside our hotel window.

We then got acquainted with the group we were part of and our tour guide over breakfast. The Israeli diet doesn’t consist of anything terribly unusual. They have similar foods to us, only more fresh bread, vegetables and fruits, and less meat and dairy. And when I say more vegetables, I mean they serve salad with every meal … including breakfast. While all of the fresh food was an amazing change to the lack of winter options here; I will admit, I haven’t touched salad since we got home a week ago.

Next, we headed out to explore Tel Aviv and it’s sister port city of Jaffa. We only had a few hours here and hardly scratched the surface of seeing this vibrant, young and busy city.

Isn’t this gorgeous? Even though it is their winter, there was still plenty of green, palm trees and flowers, in addition to all of the agriculture we would see as we drove different places.

In the afternoon, we stopped for some more authentic Israeli food and continued on to Caesarea. Caesarea was an ancient port city built by Herod the Great to serve as a link to the Roman Empire. It took 12 years for the initial grandeur to be built, but then it was conquered and rebuilt … only to be destroyed and have the cycle repeated by the next dominant power.

Here, historians have found the only archaeological mention of Pontius Pilate – the Roman governor who ordered Jesus to be crucified. The port later served as the apostle Paul’s point of landing on his evangelistic journeys; and Cornelius, the first Gentile convert to Christianity, heard and believed the gospel here.

Today, a national park preserves much of the ruins and evidence of ancient cultures that came and went. I think that is what struck me the most about Caesarea and other ruins we visited: people spent their lives building what they perceived to be magnificent, only to have it demolished by their enemies who would do the same. It was a poignant reminder to me to be intentional about what I am building my life on.

Much more to come!

shalom {israel travel}

Shalom. Hello, goodbye, a peace greeting.

We just returned from the Holy Land. Matt has always wanted to go to Israel, and I told him not until the kids were grown. And then along came a Groupon deal, and next thing you know, I was the one suggesting we go (thanks to our awesome parents who watched the kiddos for the week). So we packed up our bags and headed very, very east with our best friends for a week.

We walked where Jesus spent his life. We watched the sunrise at the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm. We saw historical relics pointing to King Herod, Pontius Pilot and lots of fascinating Jewish history. When we got out of the hotel, we experienced a lot of good, local food: falafels, Jerusalem bagels pomegranate juice, and more. We watched the entire city of Jerusalem shut down before our eyes on Shabbat – the Jewish sabbath.

I’m still processing all I saw and took in and in what ways it will affect me. But after 30 hours of a hotel shuttle, two flights, a delay and car ride home, I’m enjoying some cuddles with my babies today. More to come!

 

2016 in review

Every year, between Christmas & New Year’s, we write a ‘Year in review.’ Really just for us to refer back to, it helps me to have everything in one place to look back on to reflect, and slow the blur of the moments-days-months-years thing that happens immediately after your first child arrives.

In 2016 …

{This is a guest post by Matt, because – while I’m supposed to be the writer – he says it better than me.}

Stines’ 60 percent bliss (the other 40 percent we forgot) (this may be entirely true!)

How does a guy summarize the moments that made life special? I don’t know how to express all this. It seems fitting to start with vacations, school, job… but all that seems second rate to the things I want to remember.  

There was a huge rather sporadic trip west to the Tetons, and already all the stressful moments have faded to make the adventure alluring enough to go again. So we unexpectedly decided to skip the beach and take a trip to Israel in January 2017.

Grace did start kindergarten. She has a great teacher, and has done well in every way. But the thing that has me holding her tighter is recognizing she is flapping those wings and it won’t seem like long before she flies out of our nest.

Milly started school too in her three-year-old class. We get nothing but good reports about her smarts, participation, and personality. Belle and I were not sure how she would do since she is so capable of living contently inside the large world of her imagination. We have a love/hate relationship with her determination to satisfy her own expectations in spite of conventional wisdom.  

Somehow Campbell grew a personality and fit right in. His morning cheek-piercing smile has become an essential part of our days. Oh, how he smiles … he is so happy. His giddy grins are starting to fade a bit as he develops opinions about what he wants but he is so happy to be held, see a banana, find an open cabinet, or see a new face to smile at him. He started sucking his thumb, and the peace it brings him makes our hearts warm.  

One aspect of our family we do appreciate enough is that we all like each other. There are fights, but not too many big ones. Whining, but the tantrums are rare, and there are lots (a precious million) of hugs, kisses, ‘I love you’s’, snuggles, game nights, ‘I missed you’s.’

I think more than anything else, I want to remember how sweet 2016 has been.  This year is gone and this season won’t last long. It’s so precious to fix our wounds with kisses and Band-aids. Tougher struggles are not far away, but for now, life is so, so, good.  

Jesus, thank you dearly for 2016- help me to never forget.  We love you.

 

the more the merrier

They make it look glamorous on Parenthood and Fixer Upper. Next thing we know, Matt will be bringing home puppies and goats and things like Chip. Oh wait, in seven and a half years of marriage, we’ve already had cows, goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs, cats and turkeys (possibly all Matt’s idea). And babies. And now, four of them! Yes, the ‘it’ I’m referring to looking glamorous is parenting FOUR kiddos.

So, 2017, bring on all your chaos, loudness and excitement. The more the merrier, we say. We feel so privileged to get to do this one more time.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2017 from our family to yours.

a wild one

There’s nothing to remind me how fast time moves like noticing the date on my last blog and my baby turning one.

With all the Thanksgivings we had, we celebrated Little Man’s ‘Wild One’ the weekend prior to his birthday (which fell on the day after Thanksgiving this year). He was all smiles as usual, and thoroughly enjoyed his cake. He’s the sweetest, happiest baby around. I constantly have strangers smiling and talking to me because he just can’t help but flash his wide-tooth grin everywhere we go.

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Here’s a peek of all the growing he’s done this year.

He’s brought SO much joy to our family. Love you always, buddy.

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when hollywood calls

You know where they do movie prop scouting? On Craigslist. You know how I know this? Because Hollywood called my husband last week, wanting to rent a tractor for a commercial.

It was a typical night at our house – I was cleaning up the table with little squirt at my side while Matt got the girls ready for bed. His phone rang and I saw the caller ID said ‘California’ so I ignored it thinking it was a spammer.

After finally getting everyone in bed for at least the third time, he listened to his voicemail.

“Blah, blah, I saw your ad on Craigslist (typical), and I’m a freelance film producer from L.A. looking to rent something like what we saw in your ad for $500 per day for a minimum of 3 days, plus any incidentals,” (atypical, very).

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But to make this story even more hilarious, I have to start at the beginning.

It started last fall, when I overheard my sweet hubby on the phone “What kind of motor/flywheel/(insert word unknown to me) does it need?” “Can we pull it out with a chain?” “How much to truck it here?”

At this point, I was really not even remotely interested in anything he was saying. I honestly thought he was talking about his company Ranger/soil sampler that he got stuck in somebody’s field. While I was off doing something more interesting than listening to him talk about things stuck in the mud, he got off the phone cussing.

“I can’t believe I just said that out loud. I’ve been texting this guy and didn’t think before talking on the phone and now you know that I’m getting you a tractor for Christmas.”

Um, what?!

As it turns out, he was planning to get me a Farmall A for Christmas because (there is a reason …) when we got married, we rode in to our reception on my brother’s Farmall B (and as I type this, I realize how redneck it sounds, but we were rustic barn wedding cool before rustic barn weddings were cool).

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As it turns out, B’s are more expensive than A’s (who knew?). After trying to find a reasonably-priced B to have around our farm for romantic memories sake and for the kids to learn to drive on, he found not one, but three tractors on Craigslist that needed a motor/flywheel/part thing and were stuck in the mud somewhere. Ever financially diligent as he is, he figured it was a three-for-one deal and he could sell the other two to give me not just a Christmas tractor, but a free Christmas tractor. I love that man.

Not that I didn’t appreciate the gesture, (I really did. And I ended up with another more everyday practical Christmas present since he spilled the beans on the tractor.) but we still have two tractors in our barn. And because I like money more than I like tractors, I suggested, and then suggested more strongly that he sell one of the tractors. Ultimately, he decided to sell the A and keep the H (clever namethinkers men who make tractors are). And that is how we ended up in contract negotiations with someone over a tractor and a commercial set.

Sadly, they ended up going a different direction with the commercial. The producer thought our tractor was ‘cute’ but they thought their $500/day plus incidentals was better served renting a brand new $100,000 tractor, not one that had previously been stuck in the mud and sold as part of a ‘tractor enthusiasts dream lot of three.’

So now, Matt has decided to tear apart the tractor (to fix another … flywheel?) and (maybe) keep it. Because, hey, maybe someday our kids will want to race tractors as a hobby, and for that, you need at least two.

Ps – If you or anyone you know would like to purchase/rent/lease this fine piece of machinery, call me at my number during the day. I’ll make you a deal. And you don’t even have to be famous.

grand teton national park {travel}

Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times. – Asian Proverb

I struggle to put in to words the beauty of the mountains. It’s not the first time I’ve seen the Rockies, but they take my breath away every time. This is lock screen on my computer right now, and I always have to remember I was there and it’s not just a stock photo.dsc_0044-1024x681

This was actually maybe 50 yards from our campsite on Jackson Lake. We went on walks, played at the secluded beach and had campfires in the mornings and evenings.

During the days, we hiked. I was confused when I opened the trail map. Not only did we have to drive several miles to the trailhead, but the shortest hike I could find listed was seven miles. Did I mention we have three small children?

So we did some walking and turning around. At Jenny Lake, we found a shuttle boat  that took you back to the trailhead after three miles. At one point, Matt was carrying two kids plus a CamelBak that had to weigh 25 pounds.

dsc_0105-1-1024x681She likes to take normal pictures.

Like most moms, I’m the designated family photographer (plus, a camera is lighter than two kids and a CamelBak full of water). I’m not in many pictures, but our oldest did want to test her photography skills and document that I was along for the ride, too.

dsc_0406-1024x681Because everyone loves a good disco pose and photos of themselves after camping for three days without showering. 

Our trip culminated with rides for our horse-loving girls.

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Matt and I fell in love with this song by Jess Ray when we were planning this trip.

I am headed for the hills,
I’m headed for the mountainland.
Somewhere I can breathe again,
In the air of heaven.
Somewhere I can see for miles,
standing underneath the stars.
See how small I really am,
and how big you really are.

This song will forever be our ‘camping song’ and give me all the warm fuzzy memories of the beautiful Teton range.

yellowstone national park {travel}

Geysers that spew 100+ feet in the air, vibrant colors, abundant wildlife, and people who act like they’ve never driven before – that’s Yellowstone in a nutshell.

I feel like YNP got the shaft from us because we stayed in the less-crowded, more mountainous Tetons. We knew going in that Grand Teton National Park would be our favorite, and is was. But that’s not to say that our day trip to Yellowstone was anything short of spectacular. DSC_0433Old Faithful putting on a show. We actually got ‘rained on,’ as the girls say, by the geyser because of the way the wind was blowing.

DSC_0426The sweetest boys in the world. Love them.

DSC_0070 (1)A girl and her bear pillow she takes everywhere – overlooking Yellowstone Lake and an area barren from a fire. 

DSC_0057 (1)Obligatory ‘Yellowstone Naonal K’ picture. 

There was just no way to see all Yellowstone had to offer. For the day we spent here, we saw bison, bear, pronghorn, bubbling springs, shooting geysers, lakes, waterfalls, and more.

cody, wy {travel}

Oldest baby girl off to kindergarten {check}. Tomatoes canned {check}. Olympic obesession put to rest {check – tear}. Two workouts completed in effort to compensate for sitting in the chair eating chocolate while watching the Olympics {check – and it’s only Tuesday!}.

I can now officially resume my life. And my blogging (You’re welcome. Hi, Mom!)

I last left off with our Great American roadtrip recap in Mount Rushmore. From there, we traversed the Big Horn Mountains. I suggested the trusty, safe ole interstate, but my safety-adverse husband thought nothing screams ‘adventure’ like taking a camper through some pretty significant hills and downgrades. At least until we hit 5000 RPMS going up, wondering why we were barely moving. We were committed at that point, but luckily the terrain evened out pretty quickly. Even so, we had to make a few stops to let the Suburban rest, which wasn’t a bad thing when you can still hear your children asking questions about the destination, despite the construction worker earplugs you’re sporting.

Once we made it to our destination of Cody, Wy., we set up camp, found a playground for the kids to run around, and visited the Smithsonian’s Buffalo Bill Museum of the West. Matt and I are kind of history nerds. We spent our first anniversary in D.C. visiting all of the historical sights. But we also wanted to take the girls because they’ve been interested in Native American history. Ever since I took them arrowhead hunting in our field this Spring, they always ask about what things were like when ‘the Americans’ were here.

That being said, after a while, they were bored with some of the traditional exhibits, so we took them to the drawing studio and the interactive teppee area. Everything was top-notch, and one could easily spend the whole day there.

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Cody was a great little (large, for Wyoming) town with plenty to do. I’m glad we stopped to get off the road and recharge before heading to Yellowstone.

Mount Rushmore is somewhere I’ve always wanted to see, but other than the Badlands (which we just saw from the interstate, and I’m sure would be fun to explore more), there isn’t a whole lot else to do in the area. So when we started mapping our trip itinerary, it worked out great as a stop to break up our drive further west. After two days in the car, we were ready to stretch our legs.

DSC_0057 (2)The girls and I had watched a few documentaries about why the presidents were chosen and how the mountain was carved. My sister also lived in North Dakota for a while and sent them a Mount Rushmore puzzle from her visit, so they were familiar with it. So the whole trip they were asking when we would get to see ‘the presidents.’

Although I thought we would be able to get a little closer to the actual carvings, Mount Rushmore did not disappoint. There was something special about staring into the faces that sculpted our nation, and world, really, as we know it today.

Times were harder back then. Thomas Jefferson and his wife had six children, and only two of them survived to adulthood. This was one of those times I hope the kiddos look back on and remember something about being grateful for their heritage.

We also had the park nearly to ourselves in the morning – that made it all the more special.

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