Friday, March 15th, 2019

Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.

Proverbs 15:33

This is an interesting text for the day but more on that later.  For the purposes of keeping everyone up to speed of our goings on, I (Jeff) pulled baby duty today at the hospital.  It was a somewhat bittersweet day as I knew that one of the little boys we looked after was going to be discharged on Monday to go to a new home.  This was a huge win for him as it would mean a potentially loving family dedicated to his care and well being.  For me, it was a bit saddening.  In only four days I had grown to love this little man.  He was full of life and energy and always had a smile.  I looked forward to seeing him every day and I even admitted to Sara this evening that had someone told me he was available for adoption I would not have hesitated a moment to bring him into our family.  It was love at first sight and now he is going home with someone else, and I am overjoyed for him, and I will miss him.

I suspect that the next few weeks will be much like today, full of the joy of loving these little ones who are so needy but so loving in return and then being sad to see them go but equally happy to know that they are going somewhere that will offer better care and more constant attention.  I know that I do not have the resources to care for all of these children but if there were a way to do it I would take them all.  So instead, just like Sara and FFR, I do the absolute best I can for the time that I have here.  It is excruciatingly hard to leave them each day after only thirty minutes, or maybe longer if I am lucky, but I know that I have given them every ounce of love that I have.  I can only hope that will be enough until they get the full ration they deserve.

Now back to the reading.  Sara recently submitted her resume for a position which would be a tremendous opportunity for her.  She is equal measures of excited, nervous, and worried that she might get and might not get the job.  She wants this job but is worried she may not get it since she has been out of the workforce so long.  I asked her about her feelings and she said that she has been praying a lot about this, but not the type of prayer many of us would say.  She did not ask God to give her the job.  Instead she has prayed to God humbling herself to His will, recognizing that His plan is best and affirming that she will abide by His plan whatever that may be.  While she is hopeful that this job is part of His plan, she also believes that if it isn’t then at least she has been given a sense of direction for her career. Her prayers, in my opinion, reflect this reading beautifully.  She reveres the Lord and recognizes His sovereignty over our lives and she humbles herself before His will.  After committing 20 years to my career and asking Sara to stay home with the kids as they grew older I admit that I hope it is her time now to realize what she wants in her career.  I hope that her humility and reverence will result in her achieving the honor of this job which she desires.  I know though that if she is not hired it is only because there is something better for her around the corner.


Wednesday March 13th, 2019

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2

I cheated.  Today’s reading was only supposed to be verse two.  But context is so important in so many cases and I did not think that only seeing verse two did justice for this reading.  The very namesake of our non-profit, Casting Off, was predicated on this notion of throwing off all that hinders: material wealth, possessions, predispositions, and fear.  Moreover, the great cloud of witnesses has been so instrumental in our mission.  Without their support we might never have gone this far.  So I feel it paramount that this portion of the Hebrews text be included in today’s reading.  Jesus endured terrible hardship, pain, embarrassment, and ultimate human suffering for “the joy set before Him.”  My hardships along my way then seem quite trivial by comparison.  But they have not come without the one thing which is necessary as the ultimate guidepost, “fixing our eyes on Jesus.”

Tonight we spent an evening with some new friends whom we met this last weekend at church, our first service here in Romania.  They are from New Zealand and like us felt called to leave their home and relocate.  In their case this was more permanent in fashion in that they have been in Romania for three years now and their next stops will take them even farther from New Zealand.  What I have enjoyed about their company is that they have been willing to share their ups and downs, challenges and successes, and most importantly have reaffirmed my faith.  They did not question my feeling that we were called for this mission trip, instead they embraced it and shared their own similar experiences.  When Sara and I spoke of the signs we saw, heard, or felt that prompted us in one direction or another they did not question our sanity or try to dismiss them as coincidence.  Instead, they have acted as part of that great cloud of witnesses, like so many of our friends and family who have supported us from day one and sometimes later, realizing that keeping our eyes focused on the ultimate joy would bring us along God’s path.

Looking back on our travels I have seen so many instances of Jesus’ guidance in the strangest of ways.  From the initial call to our recent change in plans which sent us to Romania in spring and then to Kenya later which ultimately was much better for the volunteer programs we were serving, we have seen God’s hand at play.  As we spoke with our New Zealand friends about their experience and as I thought about my own I imagined that some people could and will simply dismiss this notion as us simply finding God, not the other way around.  In other words, there were no signs or calling from God, we just saw a coincidence and assigned it to God to justify our desires.

Jesus was notorious for speaking in parables and was pretty good at it, I am no Jesus.  But I will share what I think to be an apt way to think about these signs that we have seen.  Imagine being on freighter on the Great Lakes, it is late fall or early winter, the gales are howling and the water is tumultuous.  Feel free to throw on your tape of Gordon LIghtfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” if it helps.  You have lost your ability to navigate through radar and maps so your only means of recognizing your heading and location is by way of lighthouses.  You stare intently into the pitch black looking for the faintest glimmer of light and watch as the winds whip the water around you.  You sense fear as your ship lurches to and fro and you wonder if you will make it home.  As water breaks over the railings and the hatchways are in danger of giving way you catch the glimpse of a harbor light, a beacon of hope that promises safety and peace.  Is that light a coincidence because you found it while looking for it?  Or is it rather an opportunity for salvation?  Better yet, does it matter why you saw it?  The world is tempestuous place, to me it only seems natural to seek a light which will lead the way to safety and salvation.  I don’t care how I found it or if it found me, I am just so thankful it is there and that it will guide me home.

Tuesday March 12, 2019

Exodus 14:13 But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again.

As I mentioned yesterday, Jeff woke up this morning quite happy to see little flakes of snow falling from the sky (even though they landed as water on the ground). Lucia was also excited by the snow falling, she came running to me this morning to tell me that she caught a snowflake in her mouth. After breakfast Jeff headed out to the hospital for the morning while the kids and I stayed home for some school work. As for my morning, the kids did great and our plan was to do school work this morning and then head to one of the many museums for a social studies and history lesson this afternoon. Unfortunately that didn’t work out, but the kids seemed content to play with their new friends from downstairs. For a while I heard them outside screaming and playing, and then they came in to warm up a bit playing some of the games we brought with us.

The kids playing video games with their new friend.

I have been busy with preparing my resume and an application for a job that I am very nervous about applying. I feel that I would be very good at this position, but I am not sure I have the necessary experience given that I have not worked in the field of social work for over 11 years. This position would be a dream job for me, but I am not feeling very confident. But I realized something important today, I was so excited and nervous as I went to hit “Submit”. I mean my stomach was actually spinning, just as it does before you have to give a presentation or speak in public.

This passage is a perfect reminder that I do not need to fear anything, but rather to stand firm in what God’s plans are for me. This process of preparing my application has shown me where I want to be with my career, and even if I don’t get this job, I now have some direction and something to work towards and that is a huge gift. God has plans for me and my family, this job may or may not be a part of it, but either way, His plan will lead me where I am supposed to be and I am happy to follow His path.

Friday March 8, 2019

John 4:19-20 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.\

I worked at the hospital again today and I must say today was a bit more difficult. The reality of the situation was more apparent and hit me a little stronger. We handed out diapers for the weekend to the nurses for the children that would otherwise not have them, 12 diapers for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I don’t know why this was so difficult for me, since that was the same amount we had been given out during the week, but for some reason the reality of 12 diaper changes over a 3 day period was just a bit more difficult to swallow. The reality of the situation was both heartbreaking, but also gratifying because it is very apparent that without FFR doing the work they are doing, these children would be getting far worse care. I don’t blame the staff of the hospital because from what I can tell, there are just too many children left there for the nursing staff to provide the care the parents should be doing and since the hospital does not provide diapers or clothing to these children that are just dropped off, FFR plays a very important role in making sure they receive some very basic care. Now to compound this issue even further, there are definitely parents who do not wish to abandon their children either, though there are these situations too. There are most certainly parents who are just unable to stay at the hospital with their children for varying reasons (they need to work, they have other children at home that need them, etc.). The situation is so convoluted and therefore blame is not the answer. I am so grateful that God has placed us here to work with these children and to provide them the love that their families are either unable or unwilling too. I know that these next few months will be hard emotionally, but I would not trade it for anything in the world. These children deserve to be loved and that is why we are here; the hard part is going to be when we have to leave, but I know that God is working hard here and that He is making sure these children are cared for at the most basic level.

On a totally different note, it was such a beautiful day. It was 60 F outside with the sun shining brightly and I just loved walking outside with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. As I walked to the hospital this morning I couldn’t help but wonder why I was getting so many people turning to stare at me. I didn’t think I stood out that much! But come to find out Romanians tend to wear jackets, coats, and hats until it gets much warmer (70-80 F) and so I was getting weird looks from people because of my attire (or lack thereof). I thought this was hysterical because there is no way you would catch me wearing a jacket or sweatshirt and hat when it is 60 F and sunny outside, I’d melt!

Jeff was home with the kids today trying to get some school work done and while Lucia did a great job today, by the time I got home Jeff was so discouraged. The older two kids are so against us teaching them or just doing the work in general that it really makes this process almost miserable. It is so hard to see our children not putting any effort and energy into their education. I knew that homeschooling them for this year would be difficult, but I really didn’t think that our kids would jeopardize their education just to prove the point that they didn’t want us to teach them. The rest of the afternoon was quite trying for both of us because we listened again to the kids apologize for their behavior and again promise to do better, but in the end nothing changes. Both Jeff and I are at a loss for how to handle this because in the end, we can’t force them to do the work. We can assign it, teach it, and ask (even tell) them to complete it, but in the end it is up to them whether or not they follow through and learn. I can see where this is headed too…Anjali’s only concern about this trip is that she will fall behind in her education. So we met with her teachers and the principal to make sure that we were going to teach what she would be learning back at school. Her educators all told us (and her) that this year would not put her behind in any way, but rather she would gain so much more than her peers because of the experiences she will have. Unfortunately, she seems to sabotaging her experience and her education just to prove a point. I can already hear her yelling at us because she is behind in school or not where she wants to be and it is all because of this trip. She is failing to see that both Jeff and I are trying our very best to give them the best possible education, but they are just refusing to work with us. David is a bit different, he just doesn’t want to do the work. I will say that Lucia is the only one who has taken her education with us seriously and it shows. She has completed her Kindergarten curriculum and is already half-way through the 1st grade curriculum. I understand that she has the advantage of never going to school and then having to make this transition, but I just really thought Anjali and David would be up for the challenge and for trying something new. I know that in the end they will be just fine, it just is disheartening that they are throwing away an opportunity to learn just because it is their parents teaching them.

Tuesday March 5, 2019

Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but those who hate to be rebuked are stupid.

We all woke up rested today, though I expect we will need a couple days to fully recover from the long day of traveling from Sri Lanka to Romania. The city of Brasov makes a wonderful first impression. Folks have been very kind to us and I absolutely love that you can almost feel the long history within the walls. We decided to explore what will be our new home for the next two months, so we took a short walk down to the city center where we found a pedestrian street (what could be two lanes of cars) filled with cafes, restaurants, and more shops than you can imagine. It is a beautiful sight to see this old city with the Carpathian Mountains in the background and as we walked around today I found myself looking forward to the hiking trails to come as we explore the mountains shadowing this city.

On our walk to Strada Republicii
The steps outside our apartment

Today I heard some great news from home, my grandmother seems to be making some improvements in her health. For the first time in weeks she was up and walking around the rehabilitation center and actually walked more today than she has combined over the last few months. This is good news and I am so happy that her health seems to be improving. Our God is a great God.

We enjoyed a nice pre-lunch snack of strudels, a pretzel, and a muffin, which we all devoured before we stopped in to an optometrist where I was able to order some new prescription sunglasses (I set mine down at the turtle sanctuary to retrieve something out of one of the tanks and they were stolen or they fell off my head in the ocean–I really can’t be sure!). After getting an eye exam for Anjali to be sure her prescription was accurate we had lunch in a Serbian inspired tavern. This also sparked our first attempt at a recording for the new YouTube series. There is nothing to show for it yet, but it at least gave us a starting point and some seriously silly kids who didn’t know what to do or how to act.

Once we got home our kids wanted to go straight to their tablets, but we were able to divert them outside to play with the kids that live below us. All we could hear from inside the apartment was the screams and laughter coming from 6 children happily playing together for the first time. The kids finally came in around 6, we ate dinner, showered the kids, and shooed them off to bed. It was a wonderful first day in Brasov.

Monday March 4, 2019

Psalm 68:35 Awesome is God in his sanctuary, the God of Israel; he gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!

Jeff prepares to head out for the airport. Yes, he is wearing a man skirt. And it is awesome.

Power and strength, we needed that in spades today.  As has been the case with nearly every time we have moved on to our next destination our travel arrangements have been, well let’s say “budget”.  When you travel with five people costs are already high but flying adds a whole new level of expense.  As a result we have been doing our due diligence in finding the most economical route at every opportunity.  The trip from Sri Lanka to Romania was no different.

The journey commenced at 2:40 this morning, an hour after scheduled departure which for an average adult would mean more time sipping cordials at the bar, but for us meant doing everything within our power to keep our three children from losing their collective minds.  At any given moment each one was within a nanosecond of utter meltdown which, in an international terminal, is not ideal.  Sara and I exuded patience at a level heretofore unseen on this journey as we expertly, and with a strong dose of God’s grace, managed to keep all three kids awake and sort of happy to get on the airplane.

Our Herculean efforts were rewarded with an upgrade to first class!  Hah, right.  No, we sidled into our economy seating which just happened to be one row in front of the exit row.  Oh happy day, we have no reclining seats!  “Lord grant me the strength to survive this flight.”  Sara and I split up.  She took the middle seat and allowed Luci and David to law down on her lap. I took Anjali who started off on me and then somehow migrated to the poor gentleman in the window.  As he was asleep he didn’t seem to mind or notice that he had a head pressed against his arm.  Sara and I took turns dozing and abruptly awakening as our bodies would suddenly lurch forward what with sitting at a 90 degree angle.  You know the feeling, you start to fall asleep and as your muscles finally concede to rest your body lurches forward uncontrollably whereby instinct kicks in and you rouse yourself just in time in a violent spasm.  You pretend like you meant to jerk your whole body awake and look around to see who saw only to find your spouse staring back at you with the look of utter sadness at her own understanding of your struggle.  To sum up, the kids slept, we did not.

We arrived in Dubai, chipper as Robins in spring.  Or we slogged off the airplane looking like we had just gone on an all night bender and pub crawled our way from Sri Lanka to the UAE.  Either way we made our way out and then navigated the Dubai airport which by all measures is the size of a medium sized city.  The bus ride from our terminal to the connections was twenty minutes, with no stops.  We did manage to get some views of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, which was kind of cool but otherwise standing on a lurching bus was not exactly what I was looking forward to at that point.  Arriving at our terminal we made the seven mile walk, or so, to our gate whereupon we sat and had some well deserved breakfast.  Fortunately our layover was short so Sara and I mustered the energy to entertain the kids and keep from drooling on ourselves as we flagged from exhaustion.  On to the next flight, we had another five hours to Bucharest and lo and behold, no upgrade to first class.  But we were not near an exit row so mercifully our seats would recline.  Of course in the economy section that means you go from a 90 degree angle to roughly 87.  As I got Anjali and Luci ready to take some extra naps I was treated to the lovely thudding as the kind gentleman behind me decided that my seat was apparently his own personal drum set.  I was too exhausted to care and I managed to doze intermittently.

Fast forward and we land in Bucharest.  We fly through immigration, bag check, and customs and meet our driver within minutes.  By far this was the fastest we have gone from flight to exit at any airport, except maybe Berlin, but not by much.  After a slight meltdown from Luci we were on our way to Brasov, a short two hour drive.  As we progressed out of the city and into the surrounding countryside and mountains we could not help but notice the similarity between this country and our home in Madison.  Though the mountains are noticeably taller, the trees, the homes, the feel was very Midwest.

We arrived at our new apartment and felt the overwhelming sense of peace as we reached our destination.  I think that the reading for the day is so appropriate as we started this new service opportunity as it reflects that God has given us strength to start over each and every time.  At each stop we did not know what we would encounter.  How would we live?  Would we have enough room?  Would we be able to communicate?  But we always faithfully put our trust in God and each and every time we have been rewarded tenfold.  I already love this place, and maybe that is the lack of sleep speaking, but more likely it is the grace of God.  Everywhere is His sanctuary and so everywhere we are we get to be in His awesome place.  We are so blessed to inherit this gift and I am so thankful for the strength he gives us to live it.

Tuesday February 19, 2019

“You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forever more.”  Psalm 16:11

Prasantha presents Luci with her Sri Lankan birthday cake

A fitting reading for the day’s events to be sure.  We truly saw the path of life play out in front of us this morning though to be sure the “pleasure” was tough to find at first.  Today was marked first and foremost to us by the celebration, or more to the point, the recognition of Lucia’s 6th birthday.  Since we first discussed our plans for this trip and the locations Luci has been a constant reminder of where we would be on February 19th, right here in Sri Lanka working with baby sea turtles.

After our usual continental meal of bread, jams, and tea we started out for the arduous trek of 50 feet across the road to the sanctuary.  As was the case yesterday, we were not entirely sure what the day had in store for us, only that, according to Lorna and Fanny, we would be doing the unceremonious task of cleaning out old turtle nests.  We were advised in advance of booking this project that there would be jobs that would leave us smelling particularly foul and feeling especially gross.  This was that job.

Cleaning an old nest means excavating the dryish sand and slowly digging down to the depths of the where the eggs had been placed previously.  Assuming the nest has hatched we would expect to encounter old, leathery eggs devoid of their previous occupants but ripe with the sweet aroma of rottenness.  It also meant that we might encounter an egg or two or more that had not hatched and would therefore still hold its now 45+ day old contents.  A 45 day old egg that has been baking in 85 degree sand and is re-exposed to free flowing oxygen is, to say the least, awful.  After burying the new eggs brought in by the local fishermen, we begun our task to clean the old nests.

A group of volunteers hunched over several deepening and widening holes is a sight to be seen, especially as the excavation brings them closer to the treasure of old eggs.  More than one of us gagged at the scent though I, having had my hand at field dressing deer, knew well enough to breath through my mouth or take breaths out of the hole upwind before digging deeper.  As we proceeded from nest to nest the task got no easier until Sara discovered something amazing.  Buried several inches below the sand surface she encountered movement.  Unsure at first she dug gently around and realized she had come across a baby sea turtle, an apparent straggler who had not yet dug her way out of the sandy nest.  Sara gently excavated the turtle’s face and then watched in amazement as the turtle wiggled and worked her way out of the sand and to the surface. What an amazing and unexpected gift, Luci would spend her birthday literally with a baby turtle.  She seemed quite content to share her birthday this way, but the fun was truly just beginning.  As it turns out, this baby turtle was merely the lead digger in what turned out to be a few dozen hatchlings.  We managed to secure a video of the wigglers working their way to the surface as the kids squealed with delight.  The unexpected treasure trove of turtles yielded a mad dash to and from the nesting area to the holding tanks as we carefully made sure that all turtles were accounted for and not stepped on by hurried and excited feet. Check out the video on my Instagram page.

Sara has a turtle head poking out!

As we finished off our cleaning duties the less than pleasant aroma seemed to subside, or at least became less perceptible, as the excitement and appreciation of witnessing the miracle of birth overwhelmed us.  The rest of our morning was spent cleaning up and doing some beach cleaning as well then off to lunch and our afternoon program.  The plan was to eat and then get cleaned up to do some teaching to the local school children at the Buddhist temple up the road.  Sara and I gathered our kids together and asked Lorna to join along so she could guide us in what she had taught previously.  When we arrived we found that we would not be in the temple this day but rather teaching on the front porch of someone’s house.  We also met the five boys who would be learning with us.  While their skills ranged from total beginner to novice, we found their energy and eagerness to be uplifting.  We practiced some new vocabulary and played a few games and then returned home to the conservancy.  Following another release of baby turtles we retreated to the volunteer house where we sat down for a nice meal, and a nice treat.  Prasantha (Dudley’s lovely wife) had made a special stop to pick up a birthday cake for Luci.  Lucia was thrilled to get the special comfort from home.

While there were no presents in the traditional sense, I think Luci was pretty happy with how her birthday went this year.  She truly got to spend it the way she had envisioned for over 12 months, playing with baby sea turtles.  This was the greatest present, an experience unlike any she had ever had and may not get to have ever again.  God’s gift to her today showed her the path of life in a literal sense of course, but also figuratively.  The path is one of love, new experiences, and an overwhelming sense of joy in the Lord’s presence that leaves you prancing through sand ever mindful of God’s precious turtles scampering below.  For mom and dad, another lesson was evident.  It is with God’s call and encouragement that we were even here.  Thus it is in His presence that we experienced this joyous day of new birth and a reminder of our daughter’s.  With all of our hearts we are thankful for this joy that God brought to us this day.

Sunday February 17, 2019

Isaiah 33:2 Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble.

Today was another day at the pool and packing up to leave. We got picked up late in the afternoon at our hotel for the 3-4 hour drive to Kosgoda to begin our work with the turtles. We arrived to the volunteer house just in time to drop our bags, meet our fellow volunteers, and head to the beach for our first turtle release. It was so much fun and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. To think we get to do this every evening is just too awesome to describe. The kids were in heaven. After a quick dinner we all went to bed to get some good rest for our work tomorrow. We have been told that Mondays are tank cleaning days and are very tiring.

Saturday February 16, 2019

Ecclesiastes 8:15 So I commend enjoyment, for there is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves, for this will go with them in their toil through the days of life that God gives them under the sun.

This scripture reading is perfect for today! I swear these readings are random and are in no way planned. Jeff had selected these scripture verses last Mother’s Day and we still had none of our travel plans arranged at that time. I love God’s sense of humor. It is like He is giving us permission to relax in the sun by the pool today–and that is exactly what we did.

We woke up just in time for breakfast (it ended at 11 am!) and it was a fantastic buffet. The kids (and Jeff and I) were exhausted so we just stayed at the hotel for some down time. We swam, exercised, and just settled in. We were staying two nights and the kids were content to just hang and skip sightseeing. The service at the hotel was incredible, people were extremely friendly and attentive. We very much enjoyed our stay.

The fruit bats here are gigantic!

Jeff and I basically hung by the pool with the kids for the day while they swam and it was very relaxing. I think it is so funny that, for the kids, if they have a pool they are happy. They really don’t share the same desire to explore like Jeff and I and that has been a bit of an adjustment. But I think we are starting to figure out what the kids want/need as far as sightseeing and exploring goes. Our time in Colombo will not include any sightseeing this go ’round, but that is okay. I think we are all really excited to see the turtles. We will be picked up from the hotel at 3 pm on Sunday.

Friday February 15, 2019

1 Kings 8:56 “Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel according to all that he promised; not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke through his servant Moses.

A crazy travel day awaited us today. Up at 2:15 am so we can be out of the house by 3:00 am for our 6:50 flight bound for Sri Lanka. We are all excited to get back to volunteering. While this vacation has been great, it was way too long for both me and Jeff. It was out of our hands, so I just had to accept it and enjoy it, but I am still glad it is almost over. Our flight to Sri Lanka included a 7 hour layover in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia which meant that we were able to see the Petronius Towers in downtown Kuala Lampur and a chance to take advantage of the wonderful train system linking downtown to the airport.

Anjali did Lucia’s hair on the airplane


All three kids crashed on the drive to see the Petronas Towers (we took a car on the way into town and the train on the way back to the airport).


We arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka quite late in the evening, and after a bit of panic at the airport (I forgot a piece of luggage at the turnstile, but thankfully was able to recover it). We found our driver, got our new SIM cards and we were off to the hotel. It was a very long day of travel and the kids were wiped out after the 24 hours of traveling. We finally got to the hotel around midnight, checked-in, got to the room, and we all crashed.