Archive for Travel

And yet…

How does one follow the last post? Choosing joy in spite of being absolutely miserable inside…I don’t know the answer. You just choose. You put one foot in front of the other.

And yet…

Here it is almost a year later and I am still choosing joy in spite of being so unhappy.

I sometimes feel like a foreigner living in a foreign land. I love my town. I love the people and yet…I feel like an alien.

And yet…I seem to like yets and pauses…I use them a lot. That is kind of what this blog is about pauses, reflection, the yets.

A friend struck a chord with me this morning. She said she was going to buy an RV and put a juicer in it and travel the country heralding the virtues of juicing. Oh, if only life were so simple and blissful. Traveling and juicing.

It seems that all the things we set out to do when we started this blog have been destroyed. Was it the enemy? Were we naive? What happened to family? What happened?

Such lofty dreams of making a difference; of loving each other. But we have made bad choices. Choices I take full responsibility for.

I can’t undo my choices. I don’t even know how to fix them.

I may not seem like it, but I really am trying to choose joy. I really am trying to press on toward the prize. Tomorrow I will go and dance with all my heart for Jesus who loves me…sinner and all.

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Tree Hunting

“Hey, it’s snowing outside!” said Azariah who has been concerned about snow levels for his 8th birthday next month.

“Where have you been?” Papa Joe asks him sarcastically.

It has been snowing steadily for the last half hour of our drive up into the Ochoco National Forest to get our Christmas tree. I am feeling quite comfortable in the passenger seat as Joe navigates through the snow with our 4 wheel-drive “Sir Bourbon“, which is what one of the kids dubbed our vehicle. The scenery is beautiful. The evergreen trees look as if they have been slathered with white frosting. The flakes coming down are huge. It is a beautiful sight, and I am thrilled to be able to travel in such a wonderful place. Although I have been blessed that most of my life I have been able to go to a u-cut Christmas tree farm, this is my first experience getting a tree from the forest.

In Oregon, for $5, you can buy a permit to go and harvest your own Christmas tree from the national forest. As long as you stick to a few simple rules, the forest is at your disposal. What a deal! The best Christmas tree lot in America and hundreds of trees to choose from…for only $5 and the price of gas!

As we wandered up the forestry road, it was quickly becoming clear that we shouldn’t drive too far up the hill. With each increase in elevation, the snow became deeper and deeper. We saw a wide clearing and decided to back in and park.

Side note: I am a very nervous passenger. I don’t like sliding, cars too close, trees too close, being towed, towing something, etc. If I can, I drop my head into my hands till it is over.

As Joe backed into the spot, the wheels started to spin. I ducked my head down. I didn’t think anything was wrong, but I didn’t want to look either. Next thing I knew though we were sliding a little downhill. I got out of the vehicle to “help direct” Joe, but really I just didn’t want to be in the sliding vehicle.

Another note: Don’t make comments on me being a bad mom and leaving the kids to go sliding down a hill. It was only a little ditch and a tree was blocking our sliding…poor tree. I really am a wimp.

Well, I am of little help in directing and sure enough, we slide into the tree. Thankfully, we have “rescuers” that live about 20 minutes away. Joe tells us we should all go out and explore and find our tree while he waits for his dad and uncle to come pull us out of the ditch.

Michaela offers to stay behind with Nehemiah while the rest of us head for the hills. We had forgotten to bring our camera, but here are a few shots I took with my phone.

Notice the small trees are few and far between.

The beginnings of a giant snowball…

The kids and I were having a wonderful time in the snow, but we still hadn’t found the right tree. The snow was starting to come down heavily, so we decided to head back to the Sir Bourbon. The tree might have to wait for another time.

Our rescuers soon showed up while Josiah was in search for the perfect tree. As the towing/pulling took place, I meandered around the clearing diverting my eyes from the vehicles. The little kids and Michaela had taken to the warmth of the vehicle. Josiah came and showed me a picture of a tree he found and told me to come and see.  Together with Kira and Elijah, we walked down a long hill and saw Josiah’s tree. It was beautiful, but I was unsure how we would get it up the hill and whether we would even be able to get a tree today. So off we trudged back to the Sir Bourbon. I was huffing and puffing by the time we got up there. I thought to myself, “Once up that hill is enough!”

They just about had the Sir Bourbon free after snapping a cable and the use of chains on both 4 wheel-drive vehicles. Joe’s uncle asked if we had found a tree. I told them how Josiah had found one but it was down a hill. He said how it would be a shame to come all the way out here and not get a tree. And, of course, I had to go back down the hill!

Thankfully I live with some strong men and children! With the help of Uncle Rick, Papa Joe, and Josiah, the kids got that eleven-foot tree back up the hill! I am still sore three days later from our little tree hunting experience. But it was worth it. This is the most beautiful Christmas tree ever!

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“The Joys of RVing with Children”

At the beginning of September, I was asked to write a guest blog for RVParking.com about RVing with kids. At first I thought, I am not qualified. After all, I am no longer living in an RV any more. Also, we haven’t gone to any RV parks. We lived in our trailer on our property for 3 months, and then traveled across country without stopping. We have never truly camped at a park with the kids.

I prayed about it and decided to give it a go. The hardest part was that I wanted to include a lot pictures. Since my photographer, Michaela, is hardly ever home, this wasn’t easy to do. Some of the pictures I already had, but some were “generated” for the post.

Like the campfire…

We live in a very dry climate and have only a few feet of yard, so an actual campfire was out of the question. So in order to recreate the campfire feel, we used a candle. Also, it was a very warm afternoon, but I wanted it to look like we were warming by the fire…sigh.

It was a lot of fun though.

What do you think? Do you think I was misleading? Do you think I was unqualified to write a blog for RVParking?

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Where was I…? Oh, yeah, relationships…

If there is one thing that I can convey to you, it is the importance of relationships…a relationship with your spouse, a relationship with your children, a relationship with Jesus, and relationships with friends.

As a mom, I find it very hard to keep in close relationship with friends. As other moms can relate, it is often difficult to finish a conversation. As I have written these few sentences, I have been interrupted at least 12 times. (“Hanna put away the vacuum. It’s not a toy.”) One of the reasons I write this blog is to stay in relationship with other people. Also, I want to encourage, I want to share my heart with you. Taking care of 8 kids has made that difficult, but this blog allows that to happen. (“Kids, turn down the TV!”)

The other day I was given an opportunity to see a friend in person…I know, what a weird concept! My husband took our boys for the day, and I headed to Lincoln City, OR with Kira, Petra, Hanna, and Nehemiah. It was a 4 hour drive one way, but well worth it.

Along the way, I stopped and snapped a photo with my cell phone.

My friend and I and the kids had lunch together. We were able to talk about old times and also find out some new things. We encouraged each other. We lifted each other up.

Some might think that 8 hours of driving was not worth the few hours of time we had together. But this is what we were created for…to be in relationship with one another and God. We are supposed to be in relationship. (“Kira, can you come and get Nehemiah?”)

It isn’t always convenient. It isn’t always easy. It isn’t always even pleasurable. But I guarantee that in the end it is worth it. (“Be there in a sec to finish dinner!…”)

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Madison Coffee House and Laundry

I have been fortunate enough to go and do laundry about once a week. This is a major time saver since I can do all our laundry in two hours. I had found a small laundromat that wasn’t too expensive, but it didn’t have any chairs or air conditioning. So it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. I usually sat in the car and read a book or worked on my laptop.

This week, though, my neighbor told me of a laundromat just down our street. She said it was nice, and I should check it out.

So I headed to Madison Coffee House and Laundry. Once there, the laundry was on one side, and the coffee house on the other. So in I headed with Kira, Petra, Hanna, and Nehemiah to the laundry. The machines were cheaper than the other facility, so we stayed. Also, it had air conditioning, tables, and chairs. After starting our laundry we headed over to the coffee house side. We were given a free quarter for each load of laundry we were doing. Thank goodness, because I wasn’t sure I would have enough to dry the laundry.

On the coffee house side were couches, computers, and free WiFi. Oh, if only I had thought to bring my laptop. They had gourmet coffees, teas, food, and fresh produce.

Also, there was a long table that sat 8. Around that table were tons of books, games, and homeschool curriculum. We made ourselves at home and had a fun time playing games and reading books.

I was truly blown away and blessed by the hospitality of this little coffee shop. It made me think of the gift of generosity. Shouldn’t we as Christians put our best foot forward and be as generous as can? Giving all we can? This place definitely gave its first fruits to those in need. Those in need of laundry, rest, and a cup of joe.

So if you are ever in Madras, Oregon, please stop by the Madison Coffee House and Laundry.

In the end I was able to get the laundry dry with the help of those free quarters, my daughter Kira, and a couple of ones I had in my purse. I actually had 2 quarters to spare.

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September 11th

On September 11th, 2001, I was at home with my then four children. My oldest, Josiah, had just turned 7. I also had a 5-year-old, a newly turned 3-year-old and a 4 1/2 month old baby. Joe had already left that morning for some test he had to take at the hospital. I was behind schedule and trying to make breakfast for the kids when I told Josiah to go turn on the TV to PBS. He came back a few minutes later saying, “Every channel has a plane flying on it.” I thought he must have not done the right channels and told him to try again. He came back and said, “Mom, every channel has a plane and a building on fire. I can’t get any kid’s shows.” I was quite curious now what on earth he was talking about. I walked into the TV room and immediately my heart sank to the bottom of my chest. I was shocked to see one of the Twin Towers burning as a result of a plane crashing into it.

Later my husband got home after watching all this in a waiting room of the hospital. We clutched our children. All we wanted to do was keep them with us. We knew at that moment that our family was the most important thing other than our love for Jesus.

We have tried to make decisions in our life that help our family to be closer. We have turned down jobs that would require Joe to be gone 70-80 hours a week. I have chosen not to work outside the home. We have homeschooled when it was extremely difficult.

And it isn’t just about our immediate family. We also want our kids to be close to their grandparents and extended family. So we came back to Central Oregon in order for our kids to know their other grandparents.

We also wanted our kids to be able to conquer fears, live dreams, see new things.

So this September 11th, we followed our daughter’s passion, by driving 7 hours to Forks, WA in order to celebrate Bella’s birthday, a fictional character from the Twilight series.

We left at 6:30 in the morning. Joe in our truck with Michaela, Elijah, Azariah, and Petra. I drove our car with Josiah, Kira, Hanna, and Nehemiah. We had the truck loaded with all sorts of unhealthy food intended to keep us awake…not to nourish us. Joe and I in our separate cars told stories of our travels along this stretch of road to Portland…the time we ran out of gas…the time we had a flat tire. It would have been nice to share the stories together, but at least we got to share them.

From Portland, we headed into Washington and up towards Centralia and then west to Aberdeen. After traveling at a snail’s pace in Aberdeen, we headed north to Forks.

Since we moved from Oregon to Ohio when our oldest was only 5, our kids have no memory of ever seeing the ocean. We were never able to make it to the Atlantic. Michaela has watched too many shark week commercials and Jaws and such, so she had developed a phobia of the ocean. She believed that the water was just teeming with fish out to get her. Any time she even saw a picture of the ocean, she shuddered in horror. We kept telling her it would be different when she actually saw it.

As we drove up Hwy 101, I was amazed that we hadn’t had even a peek of the ocean. But as we got within 30 miles of Forks, I noticed the smell of salt in the air. I rolled down my window. I squealed, ‘It has to be just on the other side of those trees!” Within minutes, we were able to see the tiniest snippet of ocean. I was screaming with delight, “Looky, looky!” Joe, too, was screaming at his crew to look at the ocean. We couldn’t contain ourselves any longer. Joe pulled over at Beach 4.

We couldn’t see it yet though. The trees were thick, but there was a trail. Joe took all the kids except Nehemiah on the trail. Nehemiah was in desparate need of a diaper change. I was disappointed I wouldn’t get to see their expressions as they saw the ocean for the first time, but delighted that they were going.

Petra had decided to wait to go down with me. So after changing Nehemiah we headed down the steep path through the rain forest down to the ocean. I passed some people along the way and asked if some super excited kids had come through there. They said enthusiastically, “Yes.” I told them how they had never seen the ocean. They thought that was pretty cool.

Finally, I got down to the beach. Everyone had their shoes off and one of them was already wet to his waist (Elijah). Michaela stood tentatively but admiringly on the edge of the water. I walked up and put my arm around her. She said, “Mom, it is amazing!….But I am not going any further than this.”

A few moments later we saw some sea lions just off the shore about 20 feet, playing in the waves. We were in awe of how close they were to us.

Michaela soon realized that she could stand sideways and plant her feet in the sand and have the waves run over her feet. Josiah and Elijah joined her at her side. Kira had taken the little girls up to the restroom. Azariah stayed further back on the edge of the water.

Soon Joe, Josiah, Michaela and Elijah were inching further and further out. A big wave came crashing in. Joe and Josiah made a run for the beach. Michaela stayed put laughing. She and Elijah got drenched from head to foot. So much for not going in any further.

All fears of the ocean absolved that day. We had some fun getting sandy and wet…some more than others. We all were amazed at the vastness and greatness of the ocean. We all were amazed that God had brought us here together.

We went on to Forks and saw the sights…the Swans’ house, the high school, the hospital. We also drove to La Push…”it’s La Push”, which was very beautiful. In some ways Forks was disturbing, in other ways, disappointing, and in others, delightful. By 5:30, we decided we needed to head on home. By the grace of God (and with the help of sugar and caffeine), we made it home at 1:30 am.

While I would have rather we had been able to drive all together, I am so thankful that we all got to see the ocean together…building memories, building relationships. And we all got to support Michaela overcome her fear and in her interests. This was another September 11th, that I will never forget.

Additional Note: We are searching for a vehicle that can transport at least 10 people and tow our trailer. We would also like it to get more than 15 mpg. Our thought was a Suburban that we could add a fourth row rear facing seat. If it was a 9 passenger Suburban, and we added the rear facing seat, it would seat 11-12. Nine passenger Suburbans  are hard to find though. If you know of one in Oregon, or possibly Southern Washington, that is priced REALLY cheaply, could you please let us know? You can send me a message at mamak@jokars.com. Thanks.

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A Pit Stop

I know, I know…I haven’t written a post for far too long. Honestly, I am unsure what to write about. I feel like a hypocrite in some ways. I mean, here I blogged about traveling and living in an RV full-time and then the next thing you know…BAM…we are living in a house and sending the kids to public school for the first time EVER! I am in shock too.

And instead of traveling and witnessing and getting to know people, I am home every day, all day. I’m clipping coupons, dusting furniture, and doing yard work. I mean this is nothing even to write home about let alone publish for the world to read.

I don’t mind doing these activities, but it just wasn’t what I thought we would be doing. Who knew that Michaela would take FIVE classes at the local high school? Who knew Josiah would join the football team and take some awesome outdoor science classes at the same school? Who knew there was so much work to be done for Joe’s dad? (OK, we did know that…LOL)

Now, don’t think by my cheery nature of writing that every thing is coming up roses. No, hardly. But I don’t like to write about the bad stuff. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me or even to try to fix things. It is just the way things are. I am not like some Americans…looking for a hand out. No, I want to work for what I deserve. And I hope what I deserve is given to me.

It pains me greatly not to be living in our RV. I appreciate our “house”, but it isn’t “my home”. Also, we had hoped to build family ties and togetherness, but most of the time we are quite divided. Joe, Josiah and Michaela are gone while I and the other 6 kids are at home. And since I don’t have a vehicle big enough to carry 7 people, we are rather stuck at home.

I also had dreams of building relationships with other people, but I only have contact with one other person on a daily basis…my next door neighbor (who is a very nice lady by the way).

I had also hoped to be seeing and exploring places as a family. While we have gone to a couple of places, that has become very hard since we have no income. A daily use permit in Oregon costs us $10 a day. That can add up fast. We could get an annual permit but just can’t afford the extra amount. Also, out-of-state licenses for fishing are exorbitant. So we stay at our house.

But all is not lost. I have used my vast amounts of time with the little kids to focus on their schooling. Elijah and Azariah are showing great progress in their reading abilities. Also, Kira is able to advance in her math studies. This has been very beneficial to them.

I have also finally cleaned up the trailer and am able to use it on a daily basis. Some of the kids are also sleeping in there on occasion. The water line, that we discovered was broken shortly after arriving here, still has not been fixed, but I hope that it will be as soon as funds are available.

But isn’t this what this blog is about…joining JoKars Wild on our journey. Sometimes the journey takes a pit stop, but it is still a part of the journey. I’m not writing this for you to feel sorry for me, but because I have committed to having you, the reader, as a part of my life, a part of all our lives. I want to encourage you when life forces you into a pit stop. No matter what, God is still with you and God is still with me. Jesus died on the cross so that I might live and live life to the full…even  if that “full” isn’t exactly what I had imagined…;)

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A JoKars Tale

Well, we finally got some pictures up of our journey from Ohio to Oregon. My wonderful photographer, Michaela, took almost 400 pictures…mostly of the scenery. So after much editing, we narrowed it down to 70 or so, and made a video for your viewing pleasure.

At first in making it we thought we wouldn’t be able to create it because it had so many pictures, but the new Muvee Reveal allowed us to use that many…and many more if we wanted. But we thought we would spare you the endless landscape pictures! Michaela is a great photographer though, so it was hard to narrow it down.

Because Michaela was in a different vehicle than myself, Josiah, Kira, Hanna and Nehemiah, she didn’t get very many phots of us. But I hope you enjoy a glimpse of our trip from Ohio to Oregon….

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