Family Alive

Brian, Kristine, Analise, and Josiah Toone

Archive for 2008

Packing, packing

27th December 2008

It’s not hard to pack for a tropical climate when it’s 75 degrees outside!  This is crazy… it’s not supposed to be this warm in December, even in Alabama.  Either way, we’re making good progress on getting packed for our trip.  My dear friend Kim invited the kids over to play this morning, which gave me 4+ golden ALONE hours to get things done. The piles are all made, and now it’s just a matter of making them fit into the suitcases/duffels.  We’ve got lots of stuff we’re taking down for friends, and we’re trying to pack relatively light for ourselves.  That means 5 total outfits for each of us, and I’m planning on using the hotel laundry service frequently.

The kids have snazzy new rolling backpacks – Princess and Cars – that will be packed well with stuff to do.  I’ve got busy kids, and though we’re packing lightly, I want to have plenty of things to keep them entertained, more in our hotel than anywhere else.  Analise got a new pair of headphones (pink, of course!), which she tested out on my iPod yesterday.  She wore them all afternoon, carrying the iPod, saying “Rock on, dude”.  She was too funny. Her friend Lauren came over for dinner, and I had to tell her that it wasn’t nice to wear headphones when you have a guest!

Tomorrow we’ll be at early church, possibly a trip to Target for some last minute things, the lunch at Brian’s parents.   Hopefully, there will be some good naptime, as we’re leaving bright and early (BEFORE it’s bright and early!) at 3am for our 8am flight out of Atlanta.  Abigail’s parents were happy to take us so they could see her off.  We’re thankful for the ride!

We’re also trying to get our computer set up for Skype.  If anyone has any tips/info for us, drop us an email or leave us a comment.  Hope this will be a cheap easy way for us and Abigail to talk to people at home.

If you don’t hear from us before we go, look forward to an update midweek.  Pray much grace for us as we travel!

Posted in Nicaragua, Travel | 3 Comments »

An early Christmas wrap-up

25th December 2008

Analise and her Santa cookies

What a difference a year makes!  Last year, we were writing Santa a letter asking him to please just leave the gifts on the porch because Analise was scared of him coming in.  This year, Analise was more than happy to decorate a plate and pick out cookies for him.

Our Santa plate, 2008

I’ve had several posts written in my head, and I’d been wanting to post some things all day, but now that I’m all Santa-ed out, I just want to share a glimpse of our Christmas Eve.

One of Josiah's favorite gifts, his Thomas plate and bowl
One of Josiah’s favorite gifts, his Thomas plate and bowl

Analise and her Ariel paint-by-number
Analise and her Ariel paint-by-number

Her favorite gift, a princess wedding gown and crown-veil (from Josiah)
Her favorite gift, a princess wedding gown and crown-veil (from Josiah)

My little sweeties looked so good!
My little sweeties looked so good!

My new favorite photo
My new favorite photo

Christmas Eve 2008
Christmas Eve 2008

a rare moment of sibling giggling in the Nica rocking chair

A few Christmas memories… Again, Santa came by the house on a fire truck.  Very exciting.  And loud.  Analise was hesitant with the sirens so she stayed on the porch, but Josiah and I went out and waved at him up close.   At church, Josiah blew my candle out, and asked the usher, “I need anover one.”  He proceeded to blow it out 3 more times during ‘O Come all Ye Faithful’ while Brian tried to keep Analise from tipping her hair into the flame.  The service ended with the kids worship team leading the singing of ‘Joy to the World’ and both kids wanted to go up front and dance.  They were so cute.  And both of them were singing ‘Joy to the World’ all evening, even Josiah with the 2 lines he (sort-of) knew, and he mumbled through humming the rest of the song.

It’s been a bit of a disjointed Christmas for me.  I’ve been really busy getting us prepared for our trip to Nicaragua.  I have had lots of Tastefully Simple business going on.  I feel like I wasn’t ready after all the traveling of Thanksgiving, and I’ve been coughing and kind of sick all month.  We haven’t done all the traditions I would have liked, but I remind myself the kids don’t know all the things I think we *have* to do.  They love everything we do.  We made cookies, wrapped presents, shopped for others, listened to Christmas music, looked at lights, went on a hayride an live nativity, saw Santa at the airport, had a birthday party for Jesus.  And this post on one of my blogs says exactly how I feel.  But tonight is the Holy Night.  Our Savior has come… and we can celebrate him all year long.   Glory to God for that!

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Hotel San Juan de León

20th December 2008

We have booked our hotel reservations for our trip to Nicaragua! Like any country, the people of Nicaragua have a wide range of incomes – from very poor to very rich.  The town where we are staying, León, is the second largest city in the country. One of the unique things about León is the incredible mix of people living there. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated the country with flooding – particularly villages on the volcanoes north of León:

In all, Hurricane Mitch caused at least 3,800 fatalities in Nicaragua, of which more than 2,000 were killed in the towns of El Provenir and Rolando Rodriguez from the landslide at the Casitas volcano. The mudslide buried at least four villages completely in several feet of mud. Throughout the entire country, the hurricane left between 500,000 and 800,000 homeless. In all, damage in Nicaragua is estimated at around $1 billion (1998 USD, $1.17 billion 2006 USD) —

After the hurricane, a number of refugee camps were setup on the outskirts of León for people who had survived the mudslides. These villages eventually developed into permanent neighborhoods. These are the people that Kristine primarily worked with when she was living in Nicaragua from 2001-2003.

Nuevas Esperanzas
The work of Nuevas Esperanzas extends far beyond the city of León to villages near the volcanoes and on into the mountains near Malpaisillo focusing on everything from rainwater harvesting to housing projects for rural impoverished communities as well as displaced coffee workers. León serves as the headquarters and “base camp” for all of these projects. Check out the map of Nicaragua I created with various locations relevant to our current and past trips highlighted:

Nicaragua color shaded relief map

Color shaded relief map of Nicaragua (Click the map to open a larger image in a new window)

  1. León, Nicaragua – This is where Nuevas Esperanzas is located.
  2. Telica – Several rainwater projects are in the area surrounding the volcano.
  3. La Palmerita – Nuevas Esperanzas has worked to help establish permanent housing for displaced coffee workers.
  4. Cerró Negro – Kristine and I climbed the summit of this volcano with Andrew (director of Nuevas Esperanzas) in 2002. This volcano, like all of the others on the western coast of Nicaragua, is quite active. The last major eruption was in 1999. Check out the photos from recent eruptions.
  5. Matagalpa and Jinotega – This area is the original home for a number of the displaced coffee workers currently living in La Palmerita.
  6. Highest point in Nicaragua – 6,557 feet on the border of Honduras
  7. Managua – This is the capital of Nicaragua. The airport is located on the east side of the town (approximately underneath the number 7 on the map).
  8. Laguna de Apoyo – We will be spending our first two nights in Nicaragua with Jane and Andrew a short drive from the airport
  9. San Juan del Sur – This is a popular fishing village and vacation area in the far south of the country near the border of Costa Rica. Kristine and I enjoyed a visit here in 2002 during the Christmas holidays. (We won’t be going there on our trip this time, but I thought I would include it on the map as it highlights the parts of the country that we have visited in the past. Also, notice how major roads are only found on the western side of the country because of tropical rain forests (largest tropical rain forests north of the Amazon) and river deltas.)

Hotel San Juan de León
Finally, with that background in mind, now I’m ready to tell you about our hotel! First, a screen capture from the hotel website:

Hotel San Juan de Leon contact info

Hotel San Juan de Leon contact info

The hotel mailing address is on the left. One of the random things about León that I find fascinating is that mailing addresses are basically equivalent to abbreviated driving directions! For example, the hotel address is interpreted as “The north side of the San Jaun park”. Kristine’s address used to be “parque san juan, media cuadra abajo” which means 1/2 block below San Juan park! The righthand side of the screenshot shows the hotel telephone numbers: (505) is the country code, 311 is the prefix for León, and then the last four digits uniquely identify the phone number. 175,000 people and only 10,000 phone numbers.

The hotel has an amazing website. The rooms look great, and there is wireless Internet at the hotel. For one of the trips that I took to Nicaragua to visit Kristine back in 2002, very limited broadband Internet had just arrived in León and I helped hook up the computers at the Mercy Ships headquarters to a router to share the Internet connection. Previously, they had to take turns using a dial-up connection that was pay by the minute for the phone call to establish and use the Internet connection. Wireless Internet available at a hotel seems to be a big step up.

Finally, here is a map of León showing our hotel in proximity to Nuevas Esperanzas and other points of interest in town.

Map of León, showing points of interest

Map of León, showing points of interest

I modified the map on the hotel website to add the present location of Nuevas Esperanzas and the old location of Mercy Ships where Kristine used to live and work.

Posted in Nicaragua | 1 Comment »

My rowdy little Christmas sweethearts

19th December 2008

Another photo treat for those faithful enough to still be checking in with us!  The kids have matching PJs for the first time (though oddly, Analise is nearly too big for her 4/5T size!)  I, of course, wanted a cute PJ Christmas picture, and this is what we got.

attempt 1

Never a quiet moment on our couch with these two…


Analise has learned the only way to hug her squirmy brother is a head lock.





This is as good as it gets!  Even though they are all off-kilter and Analise’s belly is showing, getting 2 smiles faces towards the camera is good enough for me!

Posted in News | 1 Comment »

A Christmas hello from the Toones

17th December 2008

A reward for those still checking our lonely blog!

The Toones - Christmas 2008 - after Matthew's Christmas concert

Posted in News | 4 Comments »

Starting the Christmas season here!

6th December 2008

We actually put the tree up this past week, but the kids and I are going to get into the Christmas spirit today.  We’re going to make sugar cookies, I think from this recipe, but here’s 2 others that I’d love to try… The Pioneer Woman’s cutouts with an egg yolk glaze that looks like watercolor or stained glass and this Betty Crocker recipe that a friend reminded me I passed on.  Maybe I got it from Anna??  I haven’t actually made any of these, but we’re going to do one of them today.  I’ll come back to share the results!

While the dough is refrigerating, we’re going to pick up the house a bit and put up some more decorations.  The tree only has about 30 ornaments on it, but the kids have been taking them off and rearranging them so much that I think we may not add any more.  Is that terrible?  They’re quite happy with the ones we have, and next year it’ll be like all our other ornaments are brand new to us because we haven’t seen them.  And I’m also thinking how easy it will be to undecorate the tree with such few ornaments…

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Nicaragua Adventure!

1st December 2008

Well, it’s official.  We bought our tickets last night for a family mission trip back to Leon, Nicaragua.  I’m so excited!  It’s awfully scary and overwhelming to think about this in several ways (financially, physically, emotionally).  Traveling with 2 preschoolers is going to be hard, and though I know Nicaragua well, I’ve never experienced it with kids.

Anyway, in case you’re just hearing this… we’ve been wanting to go back and visit my old home and mission field for a while.  Our dear friends Andrew & Jane Longley are running a ministry called Nuevas Esperanzas, which took over some of the work I was a part of with Mercy Ships.   Financially, this doesn’t seem like the most opportune time, but when God calls, it’s up to you to step out and follow His leading.  So we’re taking him on His word that He’ll provide financially to make this trip a reality, and we’re trusting that He’s got exciting things in store for us as a family.

Already we’re seeing His hand in this.  Our tickets were a bit cheaper than we expected.  There was discussion about possibly driving to Miami (12 hours) to fly from there because it was so much cheaper.  But we found good tickets from Atlanta (just 2 hours!), so that saves us quite a few hours in the car.  We also invited our good friend, Abigail, to come with us.  She’s been my “right-hand woman” since Josiah was born, and she babysits the kids weekly.  She’ll be a great help with the kids, and I’m so excited to get to share Nicaragua with her!  Nicaragua and the people there are so very dear to my heart.

There will be lots more chatter about Nicaragua to come, I promise.  But if you’re reading this and you’re in the Birmingham area, you are CORDIALLY INVITED to a dinner we’re hosting at Clearwater Community Church on Friday, December 12th from 6-8pm to share about our trip and the ministry of Nuevas Esperanzas.  There’s no charge for dinner (which will be FABULOUS – by a great local chef!), just whatever donation you’d like to give, with all proceeds going towards our trip.   Please comment or email us if you want more info or directions!  We’d love to have you there!

Posted in Adventure, Nicaragua, Travel | 3 Comments »

On the road again… to Indiana, this time!

24th November 2008

We’re heading out again, this time to LaPorte, Indiana to my Grandma Vivian’s house.  My parents are driving down from Wisconsin, and Anna and Hal are also flying in from Seattle.  It’s going to be a houseful, and we’re going to love it!

We’re getting pretty good at getting packed/unpacked.  I’ve just finished all the laundry from our last trip, and the couch is covered with the warm clothes to go back in the suitcase.  We’re leaving around 6pm, and if all goes well, we should pull into LaPorte around 6am.  Brian’s a trooper to drive us through the night!  I’m loading the iPod with new music (well, at least music we haven’t listened to for a while from our dusty CD collection!).  The kids should go to sleep by 9 at the latest, and I’ll read Brian some from our current book, A Year of Living Biblically.  Which, by the way, is fantastic, funny and thoughtful, and a terriffic glimpse into the Book of all books.  It’s written by an agnostic Jew, who decides he wants to know what it would be like to really live everything the Bible says, literally.  I thought it would be irreverent at first, but it’s not in the least bit.  He’s humble and honest, and seriously seriously funny.

We’re excited to be seeing my family!  I’ll check in while we’re gone.  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Posted in Travel | 1 Comment »

A COLD weekend in Gatlinburg

22nd November 2008

Well, actually, it wasn’t the weekend.  We left home on Thursday at 6pm, had a smooth 5-hour trip, concluding with the bright Christmas lights of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, arriving at 12:30am local time.

The kids and I visited Ripley’s Aquarium on Friday morning.  We had a great time, of course.  This was one of the first times it was really an interactive experience for both of them.  Analise was full of questions, and Josiah was really appreciating things, too.  We got a big long nap in our spacious, quiet apartment, right next to Brian’s conference hotel.  He had worked nearly all night to finish his presentation, and he spent all day over at the various sessions.  We woke up just in time for him to come home and take us down the street to dinner at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Factory.  We made the cold walk back up the hill, and caught a trolley to ride around town and see the beautiful Christmas lights.

Poor Brian crashed early for the night, and amazingly, the kids slept long and hard for us.  Brian had planned to get up this morning and ride up to the mountain pass, as he’s done the past few years, and he was really looking forward to it.  But he slept too late, it was very-VERY cold for riding (in the low teens!), and after we drove up, we found the road was salt and snow covered, so he wouldn’t have made it far anyway.  So we enjoyed a relaxing morning getting packed up, grabbing breakfast, and driving up into the mountains.  We played in the snow at a couple different stops, and drove the long way home through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

This was a fun trip.  I have probably said this before, but my kids are getting to fun ages so that we can really enjoy traveling.  Yes, the hours in the car can be really long, but we laugh, sing, play and find lots of fun things to see and do.  I’m already looking forward to next year!

Enjoy the pictures!  Our camera has an aquarium setting for low-light/no flash, so some of the photos got very grainy.  Click on each to see the larger version, then you can click the “back” button to come back to this post and look at the others.

Posted in Adventure, Travel | 2 Comments »

Missing in Action?

20th November 2008

Sorry, y’all!  I have just been swamped the past week or 2.  I’m so sorry!  I’ve been busy with my Tastefully Simple business (feel free to do some Christmas shopping through that link!!!), MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), sick kids, and at the moment, packing to go to Gatlinburg, Tennessee this afternoon through Saturday evening.  Brian’s been working even more frantically on the website he’s developing, the super-busy season of school, and getting ready to present at the conference he’s attending in Gatlinburg.  Amazingly, there’s been very little biking going on 🙂

It’s finally turned cold here in Birmingham.  The leaves have been gloriously beautiful the past couple weeks, and it’s so nice to finally know that fall has arrived.  This is the 3rd year in a row we’ve made this trip to Gatlinburg, and it’s a nice fall getaway for us as a family.  Here’s a glimpse from 2 years ago with a little 4-month old Josiah and a super cute 2-year old Analise.  I didn’t post any pictures from last year, but Brian’s parents went with us, and we enjoyed the Ripley’s Aquarium.  Like last year, we’re staying in a nice little apartment/townhouse next to the conference hotel, but his parents aren’t going.  We’ll enjoy our little place, go swimming, walk around town, see the Christmas lights, and drive up into the Smoky Mountains a little bit.  The kids and I will do the aquarium, I think, while Brian’s at his conference tomorrow.  Should be fun!  VERY VERY cold (for us Southerners!) but fun!  The high on Friday is forecast to be 36 with a low of 18!  That is about as cold as it gets in the south!  Hopefully, we’ll check in tomorrow or Saturday with some pictures.  Happy weekend!

Posted in Travel | 1 Comment »