Author Archives: joellennordstrom
Traveling with kids is WAY more comfortable when you have separate bedrooms, a real kitchen and a living room. I am amazed that people even attempt to book hotel rooms for more than 2 nights. Yuck!
I have been traveling internationally for almost 30 years now. At one point, I sold timeshare. And I met the people who LOVED it. Each family member had their own bedroom and together they had a beautiful living room in which to gather during the evenings. Plus, a refrigerator full of snacks, drinks, easy breakfasts for sleeping in and more!
I also met people who told me they would never buy timeshare because they could easily rent someone else’s property online – for cheap! That grabbed my attention.
So when my husband and I started traveling together I started searching for such luxurious accommodations. It wasn’t hard to find. Besides timeshares for rent, I also stumbled upon vacation homes for rent by owners and such. We spent our honeymoon in Mexico at a beautiful apartment with a jacuzzi on the beach for less than $80/night. I was hooked.
When we started traveling with 3+ children, a hotel did not sound like a vacation!
Our first big challenge was to complete a 6 week road trip through New Zealand with kids! Every step of the way, we stayed in homes! And as a bonus, we met fantastic people in the process!
We now also rent our home when we travel.
Sound scary? Not at all.
In fact, it helps pay for our vacations!
It all began when we moved to Costa Rica. We put our home up for rent for the year.
In preparation, we did the following:
- We renovated our attic so that it now has drop-down stairs, a solid floor for storage and automatic ventilation/fans to prevent mold.
- We put additional closets in our garage for winter jackets and sports items to create more free storage space in the house for our renters.
- We calculated roughly how much electricity and water would cost in our absence and included this in the rental fee to keep things simple.
- We downloaded a rental agreement with which we felt confident.
- We created a House Manual to describe everything about our home, town, neighbors, etc.
- We determined who we wanted to rent our home and then we searched for them.
Really, it was just a matter of making space by moving our personal items to storage.
We were very fortunate to find a family to rent our home. This meant that we could leave all the toys, games, books, potties, high chairs, etc. out for their convenience and use. For us this meant less packing! Win-win!
Many students wanted to rent our home. However, we did not want to sign multiple contracts, manage various people coming and going, or rely on one student to do this over an entire year. Plus, we did not want to have to pack away more stuff…books, toys, games, potties, high chairs, etc….
We advertised online with the local eBay and Craig’s list. We had a response very quickly as we included photos we uploaded on a website.
If you would like to rent your home, I recommend you check out the following websites:
- AirBnB to rent or host
- Craig’s List – list your home or find one where you are vacationing
- Click on >Your town >Housing > Vacation Rentals
- VRBO – Vacation Rental By Owner
- Trip Advisor
It is easy to open an account, upload photos, manage the calendar and write your own descriptions. These are simply the online tools to help you find a renter. Yes, they take a cut for this service. But it is definitely worth it!
Now, we are doing short-term rentals for when we travel during school vacations, ski holidays, summer break, winter holidays and more. After all, that is when other families are also traveling. So it is a fantastic opportunity to help cover our own expenses.
Today we had a home study follow-up report about how our adoption is going. It is conducted by the local government and is important documentation.
So they got a REAL insight to our world, because we FORGOT. Oops.
Yep, the house was in top chaos form, the kitchen was overloaded, the doors were hanging open, Jonas had taken Astrid to the doctor with Ming following along, and I was laying on the couch with a bag of frozen peas on a twisted ankle from the front yard when…
Ding-dong. I didn’t even recognize her.
Then I did. OH. NO.
Quick call to Jonas at the doctor’s office who promptly hangs up on me saying that they are just going in now. (Drop-in hours…how fun.)
So after washing my dining room table and pushing some chairs back up while hobbling around and offering something to drink, we started the interview. Of course, she wanted to see Ming’s room…which was also in prime form.
Jonas and the kids came 35 minutes later. And Ming…
Well, he was an absolute gentleman who shook our social worker’s hand. Wow!
So I guess we survived.
And in the end, it was simply hilarious.
Happy to share this little guy’s 3rd birthday with family, friends and the world!
Check out the video here.
Big brother Gunnar sang during the Blessing Ceremony in our church. Ming could not stay still…so joins Gunnar on-stage. Lovely.
Joy! He is beautiful, kind, sharing, and fun to play with. Today is wonderful. Our new son joined our family.
Sent from my Sony Xperia™ smartphone
A bright and sunny day spent on some seriously steep steps! Wow! Sometimes we were actually climbing the wall instead of walking.
Fortunately, we took the tram up and a toboggan down – luge-style! In between, we were traipsing up and down these walls of history. Beyond our point, you could see the unused portions of the wall where it is completely overgrown and probably falling to pieces.
Afterwards, we had our driver take us to the Chaoyang Theater to watch the most amazing acrobatic show ever! From contortionists to 8 motorcycles in a cage to balancing acts and more. It was truly amazing.
Tonight we packed. Tomorrow we leave at 5am to catch the bullet train across China. Finally, we head to Nanning. All day I have been a nervous wreck. Soon we will meet little Mingling…
3 days to Nanning…
Small steps towards the adoption as we come closer and closer. It is a state of confusion as there are simply too many emotions to process.
We spend our days here I Beijing as tourists. This city is huge and modern. The subway is clean and orderly. The people are fashionable and friendly. It feels ridiculous to spend our time here when our focus is on Guangxi. And yet we know that this is probably our first of many trips to China so we try to go with the flow. We take it all in stride as best as we can.
Upon our arrival Saturday, we discovered that due to confusion, our apartment booking was lost in translation. Our first night was at a nice hotel packed in like sardines. I really hate hotels.
But we are world travelers and not easily phased by such minor bumps as not having a place to stay. After checking in, we headed out to meet an old friend from Orlando Toastmasters for dinner. Late that night I jumped back online to make a new apartment booking which suits us quite well.
Sunday we were met by our apartment host’s father and we then indulged in the Pearl Market downtown. I just loved being screamed at by this wild Chinese woman who kept telling me to “close the sale.” Those of you who know me well know that I did truly enjoy that encounter and am not being sarcastic at all. It was really fun!
Next stop was Wangfujing Street. There Jonas and Gunnar ate scorpions fried on a stick while Astrid was chased by a huge Chinese paparazzi with cell phones. It was a true cultural indulgence.
Add on top that every meal is its own adventure. We now only select restaurants with picture menus and budget for the extra 1-2 items that we don’t recognize and are pretty sure we didn’t order. All in all, it is interesting to see how Gunnar’s hunger outweighs his food choices. He eats it all now.
Monday was a take-it-easy day with a late sleep in. We managed to find a local restaurant with no pictures on the menu and had a very interesting brunch of fish (best ever!), mystery meat, congee, white mush with hot sauce, etc. It was pouring down rain which made the smog much, much better. So we then spent some time at this crazy plastic children’s place in a nearby shopping mall. Astrid was in heaven and really enjoyed driving the toy tank.
Dinner included cartilage skewered on sticks, random meats on sticks, duck necks, tasteless black and white dough balls, batidos (mango and watermelon just like Costa Rica), fantastic shrimps and more. Stopped for some ice cream on the way home – cranberries with green cream around the outside or red beans frozen on a stick were chosen by Jonas and me.
Tuesday we journeyed to The Forbidden City. The lines were unbelievable as we are traveling in the peak of peak season here. Squishing in with every camera-toting tourist to get pics of thrones, beds, etc used by the emperors. Not to mention the throngs of cameras on selfie-sticks that surrounded poor Astrid and Gunnar (the white giant) as people crammed in to take photos with them.
We created our own scene when getting photos taken as the emperor and family. Astrid was manhandled too much finally during the session. Heads adjusting and much screaming in Chinese when she tried to choose her own outfit. No no no. All resulting in a meltdown and do-over, thanks to the help ofan English-speaking man who informed the angry women that Astrid wanted to be the emperor NOT the empress. So we now have a fantastic picture of my very confident and strong daughter in the beautiful yellow dragon outfit and carrying a real sword. Boy was she proud! (and me too!)
We also finally met with the representative for their adoption agency here and made all the final details for our trip to Nanning.
Suddenly things got real.
And today was another play day. We spent it at the Olympics Cube – a Waterpark. Great fun followed by dinner at the Hutongs downtown.
So here we are. No Google or Facebook access. Sending this on my phone in hopes it will post. Wish us luck and stay tuned. I’ll try to upload photos somehow later.
Sent from my Sony Xperia™ smartphone
In 3 days we will travel to China. In 3 days we will start an adventure like no other. In 3 days…
Life is a huge collage of events. This (hopefully – and we need hope in life!) is one of those amazing events.
A beautiful new chapter.
A new story of hope!
So for those following our long story, probably the most interesting bit of information we have received recently is that our son’s nickname is Mingming. It makes me smile. Warms my heart. Makes me think cuddly thoughts.
We are more or less packed. Our clothes from Costa Rica have simply been placed back in our suitcases while we wear our warmer Swedish “summer” clothes here. (So far we have had rain every day…woohoo.) I have a few new clothes and some toys for Mingming. A strong wrap to carry him in. Soft picture books. A new phone to take pictures. I’m not sure that I need more.
Tonight the entire family gathered with a woman experienced in adoption and advising families – to ask our questions, to gain some insight, to simply focus. We are a very unique family with 3 adult kids and a 5 year old little sister. So we will each need to discover our path but together during this time. Jonas’ and my greatest hope is that we as a family will find connection and support from each other as we start this very special journey. I know that the older kids have so many siblings and experiences as big sisters and brother. And I also realize we have shared a very long and rocky road these past years. However, here is a new opportunity to re-unite as a family. Sigrid, Ragna and Gunnar have so much experience working with children that gives them insight and skills…and they can use these abilities to create something very special as they come near to Mingming during this tough transition. So many thoughts and wishes here…
We are packing. We are preparing. We are dreaming.
Again – life changes in the blink of an eye.
We are finally approved to adopt from China! Our soon-to-be son is 2 years old and named XiaoMing…or simply Ming.
We are overwhelmed with emotions. Our path has been a rocky one and this is simply the first step in a new adventure. We are trying to trust… To believe… Dare I say it? To have hope again.
It’s not easy. It even feels reckless. To dare to love another. To welcome the unknown. To commit to forever.
And yet – it feels like the most amazing conscious choice we can make. Because we can. Because we got the opportunity. Because we didn’t give up.
And yet – it will be hard. We know that. Isn’t that life? Isn’t that love? And isn’t that family? It simply is. But life, love and family are true blessings.
So today we celebrate!