Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I need your help!

I am trying to organize our summer, and I'd love your help.  If you have recommendations for me, I'd love to hear them!

I am normally a very organized person, and I have our summer schedule all figured out around March/early spring.  This summer is different, and we all know why.  I didn't plan much of anything for the summer because I assumed much of our summer would be spent healing Chrissie.  The kids wanted to be with Chrissie and help her recover, be there to encourage her, be the ones to help her into our swimming pool for the first time, etc.  Well, now I am scrambling a bit to conjure up a new routine, which includes figuring out each child's summer schedule.

Problem is I really want us to all be together.  We are a homeschooling family who all truly enjoy being with one another.  We are quite used to taking trips together.  We all get home sick for one another when we're separated, and with Mom being gone for 31 days (by Chrissie's side in the PICU), I think we're all longing for some good quality family time.

Which presents another challenge.  It's a little difficult to have the type of family time that we're all longing for.  We want our family time to include Chrissie.  It just doesn't feel right without her here.  Every inch of our home and ranch was once pitter-pattered by Chrissie's wobbly feet.  It's just hard to achieve the new normal in such a short amount of time since Chrissie's Homegoing, but we are trying and persevering through Him, who gives us strength.

But it seems like everything we want to do here as a family is something we always did with Chrissie.  Family movie nights just don't feel right.  Rodeo/team-roping/horseback riding just isn't the same because Chrissie isn't here to spur the horses and holler, "Faster, faster, faster."  It doesn't even feel right to eat dinner together at our family table because Chrissie always loved to say the dinner blessing and engage in imaginary conversations of laughter, even when we had no idea what she was talking about.  Family devotion and prayer time isn't even something I've felt that I can face yet (although the others have) simply because I cannot imagine trying to get through it without Chrissie.  She was such a joy-filled part of our family devo and prayer time.  She would sit so quietly and participate so maturely, just waiting for the opportunity to chime in.  We always had to ask her the same questions as the rest of the kids (even though she was only 4 and didn't understand much of the conversation/questions), but Chrissie was determined to participate fully.  And she even memorized most of the Lord's prayer, as well as praying aloud her own independent prayer, always thanking God for each and every one of her family members.

In the struggle to find a new normal, I have longed to have some family time away from our home where we are not reminded of our princess everywhere we look, every time we turn, every move we make, every activity we engage in.  But it's challenging financially right now after Matt missed several weeks of work, medical bills are piling in, as well as funeral costs.  We don't want to finance a vacation, so we're asking you to give us creative ideas for FREE family fun!

We're in Texas, so it would need to be atleast within driving distance for it to be feasible, as there is no way we could afford plane tickets for everyone.  It just seems like everything costs money, which is driving me crazy!  What did families used to do for fun (away from home fun)?!?  Surely there are activities and "vacations" out there that are low-cost.  Oh please won't you help me find them?!?

PS  Three of our kiddos will be attending a bereavement camp for kids in the Austin area that is free, thank you, God!!!  (Parker, our 14-year-old, was too old for this camp.)  There's another bereavement camp for kids in Wimberley, but they're already full...maybe next summer.  I'd LOVE to find a family bereavement camp, but so far, I'm not having a whole lot of luck.  (One reader told me about Faith's Lodge in Minnesota, which we'd LOVE to attend, but, again, we'd  have to buy a lot of plane tickets since it's not really within an easy driving distance.)  And two of our youth-group aged kiddos will be going to Student Life camp in July, but other than that, we're just having Camp Patterson at Forgotten Saw Ranch all summer.  I'm not complaining (AT ALL) because our ranch happens to be one of our very favorite places to be on the face of the earth, we just aren't quite used to being here without the laughter of our Chrissie just yet.  We're learning though, and we are grateful that God is faithful and we can do all things through Him, who strengthens us.


Anonymous said...

Enchanted Rock. Fredericksburg: walk around town, eat German food & go to the seed farm. Camping is low cost! Visit caves; there’s one near Gtown, Burnet, and San Antonio.
Buy or check out at the library, day trips from Austin type books.
Drive to Brenham and tour the Blue Bell Ice Cream Factory. There is also a miniature horse ranch near Brenham. The community playground in San Marcos. (Or is it New Braunfels??? the large wooden playground) Season tickets to Six Flags, Schlitterbahn, Sea World or San Antonio Zoo. If you get season tickets to the zoo, those passes will work at many, many zoos in the US. We had season tickets to Six flags for years.
One year we took a roller coaster vacation. Camped most of the time, started in Dallas, went to OK, then St. Louis, then up to N to Cedar Point (had to pay here) then to Ohio to a Six Flags/Sea world combo, then to PA to an old, old roller coaster park, to KY to their Six Flags and then camped near Mammoth state park… We stayed in many a camp ground and mostly went to Six Flags parks. Part of the fun, relatives that lived nearby would join us!
Many towns and cities have a “Movies in the Park” night. Check out San Marcos park and rec web site, they have movies and concerts all summer. Zilker Hillside Theater is doing Annie this year. It is free. If you haven’t gone before, go early and lay down blankets or beach towels. Some people then go swimming until it starts. We usually go get a picnic supper and bring it back. Just hang out til it starts.
Austin Congress bridge to watch the bats. Google ‘free stuff to do in Austin’ or ‘free things…’. Star Gazing at UT or the U in Gtown. Take a self guided tour of the capital. We love walking up and down the stairs, going in the underground. (if you walk straight across the rotunda, dead center, and talk (say the ABCs) when you get in the exact center, you hear your voice echo.)
Lots to do!

Idelle said...

Quiet frankly, I think the best way to have your vacation is to re-discover where you live. To--yes-spend time completely togeather and make new memories out of old.

Dashing head-first into a beavy of activites is not a good idea. It will be "avoiding to unavoidable" which is not something you want to do.

Drive around. Blast music. Get sodas at the drive-thru. Play "road games" check out your local library for activites. Set up a tent and camp. Put on a show. Make tie-dye shirts. Bake. Cook. Teach yourself to juggle. Have contests.

The best way to heal is to to take it slow. To sleep in if you can. To all read the same book.

Chrissie can still be *there* her laughter can push you on.

Don't hide in cheap amusement parks or dark movie theaters.

Live. Embrace your family. Learn more about each other than you ever knew.

Rest in each others arms and love.

And play a little.

Rediscover yourselves--and your home.

Kris said...

Have you ever tried Geocaching? It is a great way to be outdoors with a purpose. All you need is a handheld GPS (like Garmin's eTrex), which you can get for around $100, and some small dollar store toys. More info at My kids love to go "treasure hunting" as they call it. State and National Parks often have some nice visitors centers. We just went to one in our area this week that was free. They even had photos laminated for the kids to look for items in the exhibit, which made it more fun for them (8 and 5). We actually took our kids to the LBJ library in Austin when we were there last year. They had an okay time. There's a lot of space stuff there. It's free. Not sure how far it is for you, but we took them to the Cabelas store not far from Austin (Buda). Lots of animal displays. (Photos of that store are on Cabela's website). Apparently a great viewing of bats during the summer in Austin ( Hope that gives you some ideas.

The Mac's House said...


Ok first off I would love to tell you to hop a plane and come to Williamsburg, VA not only because we live here but due to the historic area that it is. However, with the cost involved in getting here I can understand that isn't possible......

Lately there has been a mom posting that she and her sister in law have been taking the kids "Geocaching" around town. I haven't done it personally but they are having a ball finding "treasurers" thanks to their GPS. More info on how to go about doing it for your location and how many miles you would like to search from your own home is available online simply by searching "geocaching".

Well I came from a not so well off farming family in a small little rural town. Luckily for my parents the town had a summer program where we could go sign in and spend all day there doing arts/crafts, games and generally just play without a fee and to this day they still have it one of the towns saving grace to young children in that town. When we weren't working the farm or off to the park we use to "camp" outside in tents at night like we were on vacation. Literally the only thing we were allowed to go into the house for was "potty" breaks, other than that we did a camp fire, cooked outside, slept outside and did family outside activities. Again with where you live and the heat that might not be ideal but you could "camp" inside I guess. :)

I googled what to do in Wimberly TX and came up with a bunch of places not sure if you all have been to them or not:

Wimberley Farmers Market 3-6 pm on Wednesdays
Swimming at Blue Hole public access on weekends but there is an admittance fee
Pioneer Town
Jacobs Well Natural Area Public Tours: no charge, donations accepted, 1 hour hike, Nature area by guided tour only
Environmental Education At John Knox Ranch
EmilyAnn Theatre
Corral Theatre - outdoor movies

Kid stuff:
Arts from the Heart - free

Art galleries and museums

The Fischer Loop is listed as a day trip.

Canyon Lake - eight public parks

I hope that there is some general information in there that might help you discover something that you haven't done yet as a family.

Can't say as there has been a day that I haven't thought of you and your family. In my good days I pray that you're having a good day too, in my very bad days I'm praying that you day is going better than my own. I don't know the loss of a child that has been on this earth to physically love and touch, only ones that haven't made it to term to see that little face. I know that the grief is totally different it has to be as you've lost a person that could hug you back while mine were only hugged in my heart and mind.

Your strength of faith and courage is amazing to me, I can't say that I would have been as strong.

Take care and wishing you the very best,

Sara Lee said...

Lemme tell ya, Minnesota is THE place to be in the summertime! Was excited to see that as an option. I've heard of Faith's Lodge and understand that it's a beautiful place ... a place of healing and escape. Could you drive your motor home with your family up north and stay at state parks along the way? Perhaps use some of the memorial money you rec'd? When our brother-in-law passed away, his wife used some of the memorial money (at the request of the givers) for personal "get-through-this" expenses. You could get away from the ranch, travel together as a family, visit Minnesota (and US! And Olsons in Mpls!) and make Faith's Lodge your destination.

We think of Chrissie often, too. Even though we never met her. Your family is in our hearts.

The Lees

Happymom4 aka Hope Anne said...

I don't know Texas so it's hard for me to know what to suggest, but I'm thinking that making new memories together as a family is the best thing you can do--whatever you can do to make that happen. Concerts? A day spent boating somewhere? Finding a new spot to explore? (we learned from our Chamber of Commerce about a lovely garden right in our own town that very few people seem to know about, and it's become one of our fav places to go locally!)

If you can't do any thing else, load up the kids with plenty of snacks and water bottles, gas up the vehicle, and drive around willy-nilly exploring the back roads . . . we like to do that sometimes when we don't have money but want something to do. (That is of course assuming you can budget enough for the extra gas $$$). I know it's not the same, but after losing a baby in utero, it was very important to us to be together no matter what it seemed. So I "get" that. Hugs!!

Heather, Rick, and Tendai! said...

go camping. on the farthest corner of Forgotten Saw Ranch. like adventure style camping. collect firwood, build your own leanto "kitchen" and shelters, make bannock & hot dogs.... sing songs late into the night and have fun. (im making myself want to go camping just talking about it.... course... we live in mozambique and making my own survival shelter amidst the snakes isnt sounding that good after all!) hope you can make some amazing new family memories this summer. you could allways do a family project- putting together care packages with letters for missionaries overseas, for orphans in orphanages, emailing missionaries to let them know you are praying for them.. that sort of thing. Make it a family goal to pray for and encouarage as many as you can this summer... best way to encourage yourselves is to encourage others!!! Still praying for you guys, blessings!

Laurel said...

Our large family LOVES to buy annual Family Passes to the local zoo and science center. For about $100 we can go as many times as we want throughout the year. And ... our passes can be used at many zoos and science centers around the country.

We also LOVE to camp. Plan a different destination for every weekend. Within just a couple of hours drive you have so many wonderful places to visit. (I spent about 2 1/2 weeks camping in Texas on our cross country road trip last fall.) Visit the State Parks. Find out about the Junior Ranger program for the kids. Go to the beach at Corpus Christi.

We will probably be taking another Road Trip to Texas in August ... maybe we'll all have to meet up somewhere and do some cheap family stuff together.

(friend of Brent & Michelle's)

Tay said...

Lorraine, As I live in Australia I don't know what is in Texas but I remember seeing those photos from Matties party where they all dressed up and went to the movies :) Movies are always a nice way to spend the day. I also like the ideas of refinding a way to have family fun at home without your sweet girl. I can only imagin how hard that could be but if you feel as if thats what you want to do then go for it. I also loved the 'thanks giving' play the kids did! It was so awesome! Maybe something fun like that would be great, not only lots of fun but a good distraction for you all! I wish I could just come over there and give you a big hug! Please know I am there in prayer and spirit!
Love you, Lorraine, Matt, Parker, Mattie, Meribeth, Sewyer, Keifer. May the lord give you strength.

Anonymous said...

We spend some time camping. We visited the beach. Drawed Livvy's name in the sand. Go for walks in the woods. Just spend time together. My girls decided that wherever we went Livvy would be with us anyway. They say things like, if Livvy was here she would love the icecream or the sea or anything they just want to keep her alive in their hearts. Its hard and there will be many firsts. First holiday without her, first trip to relatives, first movie but our other kids deserve to still experiece these things. You do to. Christie like Livvy would wish for laughter to return to your home. It needs not to be a place of lose it needs to be a place of love, laughter and memories.

Sara x

Anonymous said...

It is kinda a drive. I'm from Texas so yes I know how big the state is, but we live and work at a christian youth camp in North east Oklahoma, would be any all day drive for you, but we have a family camp in July and a homeschool family camp in August that are wounderful. My family will be participating in both. You can check out more info at There is alway scholarship money avalible if you flet like this is something that would be benificial to your family. Please let me know if you need more info. We are leaving for Haiti this afternoon and will be back on Tuesday. We are thinking of you and praying often.
With Love, Ericka Payne

Anonymous said...

if ya"ll make ur way to minnesota id love to meet up with you also! I tell chrissie"s story to so many it"s like you are known around here!My name is Sara Dubon

Sweet Joni said...

Here's a lady that surely you may want to hook up with; I'm certain you've heard of her :) She's been through what you are NOW!
Mary Beth Chapman
Old blog full of details ~
New blog after 2yrs of losing Maria Sue ~

Really only thing I can thing of is camping, swimming, canoeing, with Bible Study Campfires.

kippi said...

Our kids think it is the best to cook outside. Hey you are going to eat anyway. :)

But I was also wondering if it might be a healing thing for your family to do a project together. Like make a flower garden and call it Chrissie's garden - it could be as simple or elaborate as you want and it could be worked on every year. I get alot of therapy pulling weeds myself. Or another idea might be to decorate a wall in your home. Something you can do together - to laugh and cry as you talk about Chrissie and to know that she will never be forgotten.

I don't know, maybe this seems crazy. Just want you to know that we continue to pray for your family here on a farm in MN.

The Graber's said...

When I was little we used to have a "summer jar" where we would just drop down things or ideas that we wanted to do as a family during the summer. When a weekend came someone would pull out a piece of paper and see what it said. Sometimes we had to draw a few times because of weather or money, but it was a way for even little ones to have an input on what they wanted to do.

momto10kids said...

One thing I'm thinking of is taking a trip down to Galveston and hitting the beach and renting some jet ski's. That would be a great trip. Also, we are a homeschooling family as well who happen to be adopting a baby boy from EE through RR!! We live near Lubbock, Texas so if you want to run up here....come on over to our little ranch, stay awhile and we'll keep you busy and entertained! I'm not kidding. Come on up! You can ride our horses, camp out under the West Texas sky and help us teach riding lessons to area homeschoolers while you are here. We'll go to the drive-in, tour Texas Tech museum and Ranching Heritage Center. There is SOOOO much FREE stuff to do here. We even have a Christian Dinosaur museum near by. We attend West Texas Church at the Barn and can take you to our team sorting we hold each weekend. LOTS of family fun. Anyway, just throwin' that out there just in case you want to run up.

Below is our RR adoption blog just in case you feel like following our journey.

Hang in there. ONLY Jesus can fill the void Chrissy's homegoing has left.

Because He lives,

Debbie from Meadowlark Ranch
Shallowater, Texas

momto10kids said...

One thing I'm thinking of is taking a trip down to Galveston and hitting the beach and renting some jet ski's. That would be a great trip. Also, we are a homeschooling family as well who happen to be adopting a baby boy from EE through RR!! We live near Lubbock, Texas so if you want to run up here....come on over to our little ranch, stay awhile and we'll keep you busy and entertained! I'm not kidding. Come on up! You can ride our horses, camp out under the West Texas sky and help us teach riding lessons to area homeschoolers while you are here. We'll go to the drive-in, tour Texas Tech museum and Ranching Heritage Center. There is SOOOO much FREE stuff to do here. We even have a Christian Dinosaur museum near by. We attend West Texas Church at the Barn and can take you to our team sorting we hold each weekend. LOTS of family fun. Anyway, just throwin' that out there just in case you want to run up.

Below is our RR adoption blog just in case you feel like following our journey.

Hang in there. ONLY Jesus can fill the void Chrissy's homegoing has left.

Because He lives,

Debbie from Meadowlark Ranch
Shallowater, Texas

Anonymous said...

Have you heard that Mary Beth Chapman is releasing her new book called "Choosing to See" in September.
You and her share some common experiences...

Lori said...

Hi Lorraine,
I too was thinking along the lines of one of the other folks that posted--perhaps packing up the RV and leisurely driving to wherever. I wish I had the funds and/or the space to put you all up here for free--I think you'd LOVE Maine--esp. the coast.
Another option is taking a day or a week or whatever and volunteering as a family in Chrissie's honor.
Or maybe you know someone in another state you could temporarily "trade" houses with--their family take a week's vacation in Texas and your family in their home? That might feel too awkward though...
A family talent show, maybe? A church potluck at the ranch where everyone brings a dish to share? Have games for the kids, and stuff for the adults to do as well. Small prizes, contests etc.
Hugs and prayers, Lori

Anonymous said...

Ask your RR family friends to come and camp out at the ranch. There may be some within driving distance. Camping out some place new on the ranch can feel like going away. Re-enact the western movement with the famly. Get books at the library about the western movement and "make" outfits that look like the ones in the books. Use no electricty or modern things on your "trip" and enjoy the gift of story telling. I will be praying for you all to find your joy. IHN,Nancy

Amanda said...

I've been thinking about your question all day. Though my struggles in life have been different from yours, they were still deep. Whenever I am looking for something to do to distract me/help me heal, I look for ways to serve others. That way, I forget my sorrows for a time while helping my fellow men heal their sorrows. Doing a new service project would be something different for your family, free (or practically free), and could get you away from home.

What service opportunities exist in your area? I'll list some that I've done/or heard of near where I live. I don't know if you will have access to the same types of projects, but these might give you some ideas.

*Sew teddy bears (really simple ones) for children who are victims of domestic violence or lose their homes in fires.
*Make baby quilts to send to Africa or the local children's hospital.
*Crochet leper bandages.
*Paint wodden kids toys to send to third world countries.
*Serve in a soup kitchen.
*Volunteer at a food pantry organizing donations.
*Hold a yard sale for an charity. (One of the adoption causes you support perhaps?) Your children could organize the donations you could take in from neighbors.
*Visit a nursing home. People there can be so lonely.
*Write letters to servicemen and women.
*Clean up a local park.
*Mow a elderly or sick neighbor's lawn.

This is by no way an exhaustive list, but hopefully it gives you some ideas. I'll look forward to reading what you come up with. I also second an idea several people have mentioned....library summer reading programs are incredible and free!

I cannot remember if I have ever posted on your blog before, but I read it every day and prayed for your entire family. I am still praying for you to heal.

Anonymous said...

Morgans Wonderland is in San Antonio. It is an inexpensive amusement park for people with special need and their families, but it also seems very peaceful with a lake and walking path. its in San Antonio. We may take our daughter there for her Make-A-Wish.

Anonymous said...

When I lived in Houston then San Antonio, I used to vacation TO Wimberly. I'm not certain how to vacation FROM Wimberly. We used to float down the Guadalupe River.

If there is a place to stay in Houston (or Dallas) that isn't terribly expensive, there are probably some great museums there, whether history, life sciences, art. I didn't have kids when I lived there but in a city that big, surely there are a lot of kid-friendly things to do.

Walking/hiking at state parks is one of my favorite things to do, as well as biking. Do you all have bikes? Is there a "bike tour" in hill country you can do? Keifer could be in a bike seat or back pack (if hiking).

Our tax dollars sure do pay for a lot of parks and public areas. I'd just try to get out and see them!

I wish you could just tour the country and stay in the homes of all of us who have followed your blog. Free lodging and food! You'd certainly be most welcome here in North Carolina! :)

I wish I could be more helpful. Know that I am praying for your family every day. I cannot fathom your loss.

Your sister in Christ

MBush said...

I also think you should try geocaching if you have a GPS...if not, you could check out, letter's the same idea except you don't need a gps. It's not really getting away, but it is something you can do as a family....or go camping and pre-look for some caches or boxes near where you will be.

sierrasmom said...

I have a good friend who recently lost their 5 year old daughter to a 3 day illness. They have 2 other children and experienced some of the same feelings. She said that some things they could still do as a family even though Grace is not with them but other things are too difficult. They did not go to their beach house in SC vacation that they usually did in May but have gone to Maine to visit my friends parents etc. Lately they have been able to go out to some restaurants that they used to go to etc. She really lets the other kids set the tone. You will find the balance with God's help and guidance, as they have.


First I want to say that Chrissie's story will always be with me. I can't wait for the day I meet her in heaven.
I hope what I write next doesn't sound stupid.
First, No matter what you do or where you go thoughts and memories of Chrissie will be with you. That is a wonderful thing.
Second, instead of going to places where you have to spend money, is there a creek with a park, or just a creek or just a park, that the kids can play and run. Have them make journals to write about their days including any thoughts or memories of Chrissie. Let them cry as they write, draw, craft, play. If they see things that remind them of Chrissie, take pictures and put them in a journal with their feelings etc. That's what I thought of at the moment and I hope some part of it will help you. ((HUGS))

Unknown said...

Look up MO Ranch in Hunt Tx online. It's inexpensive (day passes are $8) and chocked full of fun things to do. The lodging is very very reasonable and you can fit your whole family in a cabin. should you decide to go this route, let me know. I would love to get to meet you guys.

Unknown said...

oh about MO Ranch, One way to conserve on the cost is to rent a camping spot. It's cheaper than $8 per person and then you do not have to use the camping spot to camp. This came from someone on staff who was helping me find ways to save money. email me if I can help.

Courtney said...

May I recommend Camp Sol? It is a weekend camp for families who have lost a child. It is hosted at the camp where I worked for three summers during college--a camp that exists to serve children, like Chrissie, with medical needs.
I have not attended Camp Sol, but I promise that you would not regret a visit to Camp John Marc (the hosting camp).

fellow RR mom

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