The everyday little things that make our life perfect.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

We're Moving!

But without packing boxes! We are moving virtually. I will no longer be posting on this blog, but instead at Discovering Our Normal.

I am often told that I should get up and tell my story. Since my introverted self will not ever do that, I thought that I would tell a little more of our story through a blog. I know that I do some already here, but I am hoping to add a little more anonymity (as much as I can with a public inspirational speaker for a husband) as well as a bit more substance than just a blog with photos of our travels.

We chose the name, Discovering our Normal, because we were told once that it wasn't normal to go to Walt Disney World as much as we do. Yes, it may not be normal for other families, but it is completely normal for us. As I get older, I have realized how important it is for each of to discover what normal means to us individually and as a family and not to base it on society's standards.

Discovering our Normal will be an extension, of sorts, to the ministry that Chet already does with his speaking. Our new blog will still feature highlights from our trips. I will also talk about our homeschooling adventures, how we deal with Celiac disease (no gluten), and the normal joys and challenges that we face every day as well as the ones that may surprise us. It will be real. It will be us. The good, not so good, and the just plain ugly. I pray that our story will inspire, uplift, and help people know that they aren't alone. I am excited to have an outlet for me to express my thoughts and to share what I love.

Thank you so much for sticking with us! We have had this blog for six years and are excited about the new one. Please join us as we make this transition.

You can find us at:

Thursday, June 6, 2013


As usual, we had a blast spending time with our favorite characters. We were curious to see how Olivia would react but we had nothing to worry about! She loved the characters! (Not so much the princesses yet, just Mickey and friends.) She could hardly wait until it was her turn. When the time came, she would run up them on her own and give them a great, big hug! She loves them, especially "Eeee!" (Mickey and Minnie)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Fourteen Days

Fourteen days on a ship is a long time. Especially when the ship doesn't dock anywhere for six days. Thankfully there was plenty to keep us busy!

Tea Party with the Princesses (after three hours in the pool!)

An Olivia sized splash pad

A Character breakfast with Mickey and friends

Walking the Promenade 
(Olivia was walking some when we left for our trip, but, by the end of it, she was running everywhere. She also figured out how to climb stairs, push buttons in the elevator, and look just cute enough that our server brought her a bowl full of marshmallows for dessert every night. And, yes, she ate every single one!)

Porthole windows are so much fun to hang out in!

Hannah spent her cruise either in the pool or in the Oceaneer Club (just for kids). She made several friends. One night, she had a sleepover in the kids' club. She spent the whole night camping out with the counselors and other kids. They had a dance party with Stitch, played with Chip and Dale, and Goofy came to tell them "Goodnight."

Olivia also learned how much fun Dad's wheelchair can really be!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cruising the Canal

Our ship first entered the locks around 6:30 in the morning and we entered the Pacific Ocean sometime in the afternoon. It was a much faster process than I thought it would be. We sat on our balcony most of the day to watch the process. It rained most of the day which made it so much more pleasant to be outside. The crew that had been through the canal before told us that this day is normally extremely hot.

Heading through the first set of locks.

Hannah enjoyed watching for a little while, especially the little trains that kept the ship in the center of the locks. She decided after lunch that she would much rather go to the kids' club to play.

A beautiful butterfly that landed on our window in the canal. It was a strange feeling to see land so close on both sides of the ship as well as other vessels passing by. On our other cruises, normally we only see ocean and maybe a little bit of land or another ship way off in the distance. They are never this close unless we are docked in a port.

We headed down to the promenade deck to visit with the other guests later in the day 
and found some friends along the way.

Bridge of the Americas

Monday, June 3, 2013

From the Atlantic to the Pacific

We are back from our coast to coast adventure! We sailed from the port of Miami, Florida on board the Disney Wonder through the Panama Canal to the port of Los Angeles. The Panama Canal is beautiful as well as a modern marvel to admire especially when you consider that it celebrates its one hundredth year in operation next year. We made many friends on our two week voyage, ate a lot of delicious food, saw many great shows, and just had a wonderful time overall.

I took over three hundred pictures (and cleaned them down to 150), so I am going to break it up over a few posts. On our first full day, we were at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. The island is definitely one of our favorite places to be! Sandy beaches, laid back atmosphere, good food... one day here is never enough!

Olivia decided that sitting in the sand was not for her. She sat on a beach mat most of the morning playing with the sea shells and the little bit of sand that was on the mat. 

Hannah loves the beach! She had a great time playing in the sand and in the water. 

The Disney Dream (right) stopped by the island to wish the Disney Wonder (left) farewell before she headed to the West Coast. It is very rare to see two Disney Cruise Lines ships together so this was definitely a special treat for us Disney nerds. :)

Hanging out in our Cabana

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Almost time for Kindergarten!

Due to other conflicts, our big five year old is "graduating" from preschool about two weeks early. We have been so blessed by her preschool. She has been attending since she was 18 months old and has grown up with many of the same kids in her class. The staff has been so sweet and wonderful! They found out we needed to leave early so they dressed Hannah in her cap and gown to take a picture and will have all of her end of the year photos and mementos ready for us on our last day. This photo is from their spring program with one of her best friends.

With the end of preschool comes a new adventure, Kindergarten! As I mentioned before, we have decided to homeschool. This is a decision that we have been thinking, praying, and debating about for five years. I never thought I would homeschool. In fact, when she was first born, we were adamant that we wouldn't. But from our research and meeting with other homeschool families, we have found that many of those stereotypes simply aren't true.

I don't want anyone to think that we are only homeschooling so we can keep visiting Walt Disney World. We do travel a lot, but rarely is it simply for a vacation. Out of the four trips to the Disney Destinations that we currently have planned for this calendar year, only one of them is only for a vacation. All of the rest of them have business meetings tied to them. Chet travels even more often for speaking, and, we are blessed when we get to travel with him to those engagements. We have never liked the idea of always leaving our children behind while we travel to the necessary engagements. We want to be able to experience these things together as a family.

Hannah has already learned so much from our travels already. At five years old, she has already been to one of the Smithsonian Museums in Washington D.C.; learned how to make chocolate in Hershey, PA; made friends with a dolphin; has stood under the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis; learned about trains in Baltimore; and has made countless friends of all ages all across the country. Later this year we are traveling on a cruise through the Panama Canal and will visit the Grand Canyon. These experiences aren't the same when just read in text book. Here at home, the zoo, museums, aquariums, parks are all available as well. We are excited about the possibilities!

Another reason we are homeschooling is that simply put, our family is different. Right now, most of Hannah's friends think her dad is cool. Most have grown up with him around and don't see him as any different. We do not think that will always be the case especially in the public school setting. Hannah is our little tender-heart. She loves everybody and doesn't do well with confrontation, teasing, and bullying. We know that we can't always protect and shelter her from everything, but in these early years, we can teach her to stand up for herself, learn the value of self-worth, and help her see why some people act the way they do. Someday, she will be out in "reality," but that does not have to be today when she doesn't have all of the tools that she needs to be prepared for it.

Socialization will not be an issue. We have already found a local homeschool group in our neighborhood that is full of kids around Hannah's age. Hannah is currently involved in gymnastics and will continue next year. She has also expressed interest in piano and ballet. She is getting to an age where she can participate in more activities and church. She rarely meets a stranger when we travel with Chet to his speaking engagements and on our vacations.

I have no doubt Hannah will excel academically. She has always been very bright and we will continue to teach her just like we have these last five years. We like the idea of tailoring her studies and lessons to her interests, learning style, and needs to make them even more meaningful. We are currently picking out the curriculum plans that we want to use and I already picked up a book that talks about how to create lessons around Walt Disney World! :)

This is certainly not all of the reasons that we have decided to homeschool, but just the ones that may be more specific to our family. There are many other reasons that are common among other homeschool families. Homeschooling is what we have chosen for our family. It is works best for us at the moment, but we have not made a lifetime commitment either. We will take a year at a time and reevaluate as necessary. We are all excited about what the next year will bring!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

One Year Old!

 One year old! What a fast, amazing year it has been! Here are the things I want to remember about our little Livi-lu at one year old:

New thing we learned today: she does NOT like sitting on the grass! 

This girl is all about the food right now. At her doctor, the one year old "just so you know" sheet said that she might have a decrease in appetite during this time. They were clearly not talking about Olivia! She has perfected the art of begging, is trying to say "bite," and is not happy if someone else has food and she does not. The only food she has ever turned down is green peas. We quit her bottle cold turkey because she wouldn't take a cup as long as the bottle was a possibility. Olivia loves her cup now and is drinking regular milk instead of formula (Yeah! Smaller grocery bills!).

 Olivia may be our quiet one out in public, but she is a chatterbox at home. She "talks" quite a bit and is beginning to put syllables and consonant sounds together to make "words." I love listening to her babble right now because it sounds like she is trying to talk just like the rest of us, just in her own language. She definitely has something to say about everything that is going on, whether she likes it or not.

In the picture below, she is trying to do the motions to "Itsy, Bitsy, Spider." She just started doing them in the last week. She loves music just like her big sister and loves when we sing to her. Her other favorite songs are: "Jesus Loves Me," "it's a small world," and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

Olivia has the funniest sense of humor. This may not be so cute later on... when I call her to me, there are times where she shakes her head no and crawls off laughing in the other direction. She loves teasing us and does so quite a bit! She loves making silly noises and faces, anything to get a laugh.

Olivia loves to explore and is constantly getting into things. One of her favorite things to do is to pull all of the kid dishes off the shelf. She is always looking to "escape" from the living room and visit Dad in the office while he is working. He, of course, loves it but is not so thrilled when she helps him type emails or write code for the website. She still has no fear and is always looking for ways to be higher by climbing onto furniture. Her favorite place to sit is inside an old red wagon that now hold extra pillows and books in the living room. She pulls all of the pillows out and climbs right in!

Love this sweet smile! She is still a Mama's girl, but she loves her daddy and big sister so much! I love watching her interact with each. Hannah can get her laughing and squealing like no other. She loves to cuddle in her Daddy's lap. She is still my sweet little cuddle bug! 
Happy Birthday! Love you sweet girl!