We made a few other notable visits in Ft. Myers. 
Picture
ECHO:  Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization   ECHO provides assistance to poor farmers all over the world.  They work with famers in other countries to improve growing, they have a seed bank, they have a glabal farm where they develop their knowledge base.   We took a tour of ECHO's Global Farm.   It was quite educational.

Picture
At the Weinman's suggestions we visited a "fair trade" store owned and operated by a friend of theirs.  He, She & Me is affiliated with the Ten Thousand Villages stores and offers hand-crafted fair trade items from around the world.  We learned much about how every purchase empowers the impoverished.  We hope to be a involved in making more products available for purchase in order to help bring dignity and wealth to the poor.

 
 
Fort Myers, Florida was on our "must stop" list for the sole reason:
the Weinmans!  If you know this family, then you completely understand.  When the Weinmans lived in Tucson, we had the pleasure of getting to know them through Young Life committee and at Cornerstone Christian Academy (Emily and Christina were in K and 1st grade together).  David and Susan have so much missions experience that we literally could not wait to get their take on things.  And they didn't disappoint! 
In addition to just getting to hang out with the Weinmans, their church was having their Missions Conference the next weekend.  The speaker for the mission dinner was a Business as Missions guy.  Bonus!  So we went back to Ft. Myers again, and again. 
Picture
We bought tickets to attend New Hope Presbyterian's missions dinner, and there we heard Michael Baer speak on the topic of his book, Business As Missions: The Power of Business in the Kingdom of God.

A former pastor and currently active in the business world, his message was clear and powerful.  We are all called to work for the Kingdom in whatever area of influence we have, whether it be business, ministry, or elsewhere.  He was a great encouragement to us, and we look forward to futher discussions with him about the work he is doing, what we're doing and how God might weave it all together. 

Picture
David, Susan and me - at the Missions dinner
Picture
Christina
Emily joined Christina and Paula in helping to serve at the dinner. Hopefully it made her feel a little more at home.  She fit right in with the servers...and she didn't burn anyone with hot coffee.

Picture
Picture
Max and Daniel hit it off...they went out in the canoe, shot airsoft guns and played video games.  Here they are sitting with a sweet couple at the dinner.  They apparently carried on a very nice conversation too.  He's growing up...*sniff...sniff*

 
 
On our way back up from the Keys we stopped in Ft. Lauderdale to visit with our friends, the Kemps who were visitng there as well.  Sid and Shannon Kemp founded the organization Feeding God's Children and we were so fortunate to meet them when we were in Knoxville.  They introduced us to a new friend that we enjoyed meeting and we all had a very fun lunch.

Sid reminded us that day that God is the giver of all good gifts.  Satan doesn't prompt us to do good things, or give us anything good.  Only God does!  When you are prompted to pray, it is the Holy Spirit, and you should take note and DO IT!  It's just another good gift from the Father.
 
 
School on the road has its pros and cons.  We pretty much speed through the book work, and try to focus on other things to do in the area.  Reading probably accounts for about half of our course load.
Picture
As a bonus, I found the Disney Youth Education Series online a few weeks before our trip to Florida.   They offer classes for the kids and in addition you can purchase a discounted tickets for the students and their chaperones.  This made our Disney trip affordable and educational!  The kids attended a half day Physics class at the Magic Kingdom that was informative and quite enjoyable.  They went behind the scenes of the Haunted Mansion and Stitch's Great Escape.  They offer classes at different parks in different subjects.  Next time you head to one of the Disney parks, check it out!

A few weeks later, we were back in Orlando for a few days, and Emily and I were able to see A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.  We had a great time and the play was fantastic!
Picture

 
 
We joined an RV Camping club called Thousand Trails right before heading to Florida.  It has made our camping fees much more affordable, and frankly the planning a whole lot easier.  It's not easy to plan where to stay and all when you've never even been to the city before!  So joining the Thousand Trails Zone Camping program has been great for us so far. 

One of the parks is in the Florida Keys, so we made a trek to the southern most part of the state (and United States).  We drove down long stretches of bridge and sand bars to reach the Ohio Key, about an hour from Key West.

Words that I would use to describe the Keys:
  • muggy (hot and humid, even in January)
  • sandy (it's really just a big sand bar, as far as the eye can see)
  • fishy (boats and seagulls everywhere)
  • tiki bars (they were everywhere, or should I say, everyone had one)
Picture
We visited Key West, mostly so we could say we've been there.  Took the obligatory picture at the "southernmost" point, and then we headed home.  We did have an AMAZING key lime biegnet before heading back to Buster.

Picture
Picture
One afternoon Joe and Max rented a kayak and paddled out to a little island.  There were tons of birds and fish.

Picture
 
 
Emily and i were busy bees in December kniting and crocheting.  Here are a few pics of our creations. 
For Christmas Emily received some "creative" books.  From Nana and Grandpa (Lucy and Frank), she got a book about re-fashioning T-shirts.  She's made a few so far - and a skirt!
Picture
Here's Nana modeling a scarf that Emily knitted and I crocheted the flowers.
Picture
Crocheted necklace
Picture
Emily's knitted hat
Picture
Emily's t-shirt creation - she cut out the dinosaur and stitched it onto the blue t-shirt.
Picture
she made this t-shirt skirt too!
 
 
Disclaimer:  these pics were actually taken on December 31:)  
On our way into Florida we made a brief stop at Florida's Space Coast.  Joe's Uncle Lloyd lives in Titusville, so we made that our first stop.  We plan to return in late February to hopefully see the space shuttle launch.  We spent part of the day visiting the national shoreline which was  beautiful.
Picture
Our first warm weather in over a month...we were all VERy happy to be in shorts!
Picture
a pelican passerby
Picture
random armadillo sighting
 
 
The Black family is itself an adventure.  I'm on a bit of an adventure myself, but really there is no comparison.  We met up with the Blacks in Orlando.  We basically "crashed" their vacation.

We arrived in Orlando on December 31, 2010.  We pulled into the Thousand Trails RV Park and got ready for the fun to begin.  The Blacks arrived on a Sunday, and we had a cookout.  It was our first "party" at Buster and I was so excited.  It's been a really long time since we've "had people over".
Picture
The Black family entirely and completely enchanted us!  It might have something to do with all the babies...hmmm, for those of you not familiar with "Joe, the baby whisperer" he's basically a legend. 
Sarah and Brian, otherwise known as "mom" and "dad" extraordinaire.  Sarah is Joe's cousin via the Eichelberger blood line.
First is Jade.  Daughter number 1...actually, the only daughter.  Sweetest thing ever.  She is 1 year older than Emily and they definitely have a "cousin connection".  I think there is a family resemblance too.  She and Emily recently wrote a joint blog about Disney princesses.  Check it out on Emily's blog page - the link is at the top of this page.
Picture
Next comes Canon.  Canon Black.  It's just such a cool name, isn't it?  Max and Canon spent a few weeks together summer before last, and they too have a lot in common.  Sarah and I both noticed how similar they act, behave, misbehave, and generally create a lot of tapping, humming and thumping wherever they go. 

Both Jade and Canon showed my kids so much about caring for their little ones.
Picture
Picture
And here is Rueben.  We became BFFs this week.  He was a maniac on the roller coasters - I think he went on just about every one - and a sweetie who liked to hold my hand. 

Picture
Here's Gideon with Emily.  
He's 3.  They had a special connection.  Emily's used to being with a lot of little boys, and I think she misses it just a tiny bit.

Picture
Joe and I got to hang out with as much baby as we could handle!  yay!
But the greatest thing was being with a great big, loving family.  We were sad when they drove off toward home...leaving us in the parking lot, waving goodbye.  Looking forward to seeing the Black's on their home turf this spring!
Picture
Joe and Linc
Picture
Lincoln and Jade
Picture
Sarah, Hudson (littlest baby Black), and Jade