Friday, April 11, 2014

Nothing a little Cheetos, Chocolate and David Hastlehoff Won't Cure

Here it is, the end of another week.  It was a nice, normal week around here.  Which means we only had the normal crazy.  I like normal crazy.  The weather broke a touch.  It was not snowing, only a few rainy days and it even hit 70 yesterday.  The grass is green, the flowers are out and if only the forecast didn't call for a 46 degree day in the next five days, I would declare Spring to be Sprung.

Life just feels better when I can open the windows and shoo the kids out for a little bit.

Steve's dad had back surgery last week and we are thankful that all went well.  He is home and recovering.  We expect him to be swinging a golf club by the summer.  Steve's mom needs to go out of town this weekend, so Steve is headed to Ashtabula for the night to keep his dad company.  *Somehow* I find myself hosting our first sleepover on the same night.  I guess the somehow is actually my stupidity.  How I've managed to weasel my way out of one until now is pure skill on my part.  Its not actually the sleepover that intimidates me.  The friends that Olivia has coming over are great and I enjoy them and, frankly, I probably won't even see them for 2 days.  No, the intimidation factor comes with the brothers.

I HATE anticipating "NO FAIR!"  "How come Olivia gets friends over and we don't?"  (Because I might be stupid to do this while your dad is away, but I'm not INSANE... that's why!)

Keeping the boys from bothering the girls... dreading.  Keeping the girls from screaming and yelling at the boys the whole time...shuddering.  Unwinding on a Friday evening... impossible.

However, I delight in the right of passage that IS being a second- nearly third grade- girl.  THE SLEEPOVER.  So, part of my job today is to make sure there is enough junk food to sustain them.  AND the brothers.  Because if I have any shot of making it through to Steve's arrival on Saturday night, it's bribing everyone with sugar and a variety of snacks that will stain their hands- and my furniture-  orange. 

No worries, I'm gonna nail this!

One last thing to make you smile as you begin this weekend... I found this photo on my phone this week.  It made me laugh hysterically... and I seriously have NO IDEA how it got there.  See if you can name the face that doesn't exactly belong:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Meet me at the Olive Garden

It was chilly.  I was under dressed and under prepared.  It had rained all morning long; sometimes like cats and dogs and at other times an annoying drizzle.  I had been in Jerusalem a day or two.  I can't even remember now because some things seem to have blurred together.  One soggy, chilly day blending into another.  We started at the top of a hill in the Kidron Valley and as we carefully managed our way down the hill, trying so hard not to slip on the wet pavement, we stopped outside of a walled area.  I waited, once again, for the rest of the group to go to the bathroom.  I had worn a maxi-dress which skimmed the ground.  By the time we reached this next sight, my dress had soaked up rain puddles and the wetness reached mid-calf.  I was beginning to get cranky.

We entered in to find a grove of trees and another church built to signify the "traditional spot" of the garden of Gethsemane.  X marks the spot.  We waited as our group gathered and tourists from Nigeria and Korea crowded through the doors of this church.  As we waited for our turn to step inside and tour the church, we stood next to an Olive Garden.  No bread sticks were served but we did marvel some 2,000 year old Olive trees.  They were goofy looking yet magnificent.  I, however, was focused on standing somewhere dry for a few moments. 

We took our turn in the church.  It looked like the other churches that had been built to mark *the spot* throughout Israel.  Our guide then pulled us aside and told us we would be entering into a private garden in a few moments.  We wouldn't have long, perhaps 45 minutes total.  The guard opened the gate and we walked in.  It was quiet.  Peaceful. Wet. Cold. We huddled together as our guide read to us from the Bible:

"When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley.  On the other side there was a olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.  Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.  So Judas came to the grove, guiding the detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees.  They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.  Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?'
'Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied. 
'I am he,' Jesus said.  (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)  When Jesus said, 'I am he,' they drew back and fell to the ground...  (John 18:1-6)

In, quite possibly, this VERY spot, Jesus allowed himself to be arrested and taken to what he knew would be a gruesome death.  A necessary death for the redemption of those He loved... mankind. Wow. 

We had some time to be *alone* (which is a tremendous task when you are in a closed garden with 50 other people.)  The rain was only a slight drizzle.  But oddly enough, I barely noticed.  I sat on a wall, overlooking the olive grove.  I turned on my music (Blessed Assurance, I Come to the Garden and I Am by Phil Wing were all I had time for.) 

I sat and reflected on the events that occurred to the Creator of the Universe, right there in that very garden.  The fact that He willingly give himself over to be killed on my behalf was overwhelming.  It sounds so cliché.  So over-simplistic and utterly predictable, but I gained a supernatural understanding of God's goodness in that garden at that very moment.

I've struggled over the past 4 years to connect my intellectual understanding of God's goodness and the experience of my complete trust in His goodness, no matter what my circumstance, to my heart.  I've had some crappy circumstances and I have struggled to believe with my heart.

It was as if God took me half way around the world, sat me on a wall in a rainy garden to wash me in His goodness.  What a way to learn how to not allow outside circumstance (rain, wind, puddles, soggy dress, cancer, death, whatever) to keep me from missing the goodness of God.

Self-sacrifice... goodness doesn't get any better than that.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Give me a break

Today is the first *official* day of Spring Break '14.  Steve and I went round and round on going away for break.  Some friends of ours graciously offered us their beach house in South Carolina for the week.  Although we have been back from overseas only a week, we were vacillating on jumping in the van and heading to the ocean.  The weather report was the only thing that kept us in Ohio.  South Carolina's NOT Ohio's!  It is 32 degrees here and will be again tomorrow.  Shoot.  But the forecast wasn't all that much better at the beach.  55 degrees and rainy just wasn't worth the 9 hour drive.  So, we're having a "staycation."  Which, I've decided, is a really creative way to say, "Nope, we're not going anywhere... how 'bout you."

Two kids have their 6 and 8 year well visits and one kid has a cavity that is scheduled to be filled all on Wednesday.  We went to the Y this morning and swam.  Tomorrow we're headed to the Children's Museum.  I cleaned my house on Saturday and we watched Basketball and cheered on the UD Flyers to victory.  Pretty much the same as every other week around here.

One of the souvenirs we picked up for the kids in Israel was a Monopoly game in Arabic.  This is our first set of Monopoly and the kids have been obsessed.  If we can get a few rounds in before school and after school, they've been very excited.  I've been excited too, because I've been smoking them!  (Oops, was that out loud?) But seriously, Quinn is one shrewd business man so I should be proud.

After all of our appointments on Wednesday, we will be shoving off for two nights at the Great Wolf Lodge.  Lucky for us, we have one about an hour from our house.  If you've never been to a GWL, it is a super fun and very elaborate hotel/water park.  Thanks to the generosity of Aunt Debbie and Uncle Mike's thoughtful Christmas gift, our staycation was able to get a bit more exciting.  We have not told the kids yet, because, really, who could stand the questions of "Is it time yet?" for the next three days.  Needless to say, they are going to be very excited when the find out.

Although we don't get a warm sunny beach vacay this spring break, it's a little hard to feel sorry for myself when I close my eyes and remember the ONE sunny day we had in Israel.  This is us at Capernaum on the Mediterranean Sea.  Oh, my!

Take that, South Carolina!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The lighter side

A subtitle for our trip to Israel might be "Expect the unexpected."  Although when you've never been to a country before, it's all pretty much unexpected.
I wanted to include some of the odder, more bizarre moments of our trip.  There were plenty of amazing, interesting and God-sized moments during our travels, and I'll get to those.  But we also laughed.  A lot.  Most of our laughs came from this guy: Arez.  He is an Israeli (having spent some time in the States... which was totally reflected in his humor.)  He has equal *opinions* of all people groups and what rubbed me the wrong way at first, became very endearing and helpful during some heaviness throughout the week.  The fact that he looked like a young Paul Simon made me chuckle at times too. 
I've never traveled as part of a tour group before.  We went with about 15 co-workers from AIA and another 25 co-workers from our parent organization, CRU.  It was a large group.  Have you ever traveled in a pack of 50?  Honestly, its the only way to see a place like Israel for the first time.  But oh my, after 7 days of waiting on *someone* to finish up in the bathroom or buy *another* souvenir or take *one more* photo in front of some old (really old) rock... I was a bit ready to independence.

 Steve and I found ourselves wandering around Jerusalem on several occasions (see the above about traveling in a herd.)  We came across this poster in the Jewish quarter of the Old City.  It made me laugh.  Really hard.  Oh, the irony!

I'm sad that I don't have a picture of this one, but it was BY FAR the most bizarre moments of my trip.  We were able to take a short boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.  We rode on a small boat that was a replica of a fishing boat that would have been used during Jesus' time.  As we shoved off on our short trip, all of a sudden the "captain" hoisted an American flag at the front of the boat which flew next to the Israeli flag.  A nice gesture, I suppose.  But then, from a loud speaker on the boat, began to play the Start Spangled Banner.  Okay?  And then we all stood and crossed our heart and began to sing the national anthem.  I don't know why but it just felt odd. Maybe a touch wrong? To be on a fishing boat, in the middle of Israel, reflecting on the life of my Savior, and singing to America.  Weird!  It made me giggle.  Hard!
You want to know another irony?  Or perhaps it's not exactly ironic, more like, just plain sad... Apparently it *never* rains in the desert.  Except the week we were there.  There was a record setting rain. And cold. The most rain in a few day period in 30 years, actually.  Lucky us.  It was 48 degrees and raining/hailing for most of our time in Jerusalem.  And guess what?  When you travel 1/2 way around the world to tour an ancient city of ruins and places that Jesus walked, you're going to walk.  Come hell or high water.  And higher water.

Speaking of high water, Steve and his buddies went for a float in the dead sea.  It was 55 degrees... there is no floating ANYWHERE that would be awesome enough for me to get in my suit and freeze.  So I took pictures.  Secretly, I'm totally jealous.  Oh well.

 And this sign?  Well... it's funny. 

Ps... we may be the only couple in history to have a marital spat at the entrance of the empty tomb.  We were waiting in line to enter the tomb that historians believe to be the one that Jesus' body was placed in after his crucifixion.  It's basically a small room carved into the side of a rock.  They allow six people into the tomb at a time.  The line was long as many people were taking a picture on their exit of the tomb.  Just before our turn to enter, a worker asked that, for the sake of time, people no longer pose for pictures as they enter or exit.  The long and the short of it - I am a rule follower.  We were asked to NOT take a photo.  Steve, REALLY wanted one of us to have a photo at the entrance.  We *might* have argued for a few moments about what to do.

 Guess who won? 

Our claim to fame.. the fighting couple at the sight of the resurrection.  Awesome.

In spite of the long travel, terrible weather, and rule breaking husband, it was an amazing trip. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Back and giddy with thankfulness

It may appear that I have allowed my blogging to once again fall by the wayside. 

Yep, pretty much.

But wait... I can explain.  I've been a bit busy.  And out of town.  As in REALLY out of town.  Since January, I've been to Atlanta, GA.  Los Angeles, CA.  Tucson, AZ.  NY, NY and just last Sunday, Steve and I got back from a 9 night travel to Israel.  As in Israel, Israel.  I hope all of that does not sound like bragging.  Seriously, this amount of travel is totally unheard of for me.  Most of the trips were for work, but naturally, they were all peppered with incredible pleasure!

To be honest, there have been points in time over the past several months that I have felt a touch of guilt.  The opportunities that I have had to travel and see the world lately are some that few people will have in a lifetime.  That humbling truth has not been missed on me.

God has graciously blessed me.  I have stories and pictures that I am dying to share.  I NEED to share.  For my own heart and memory.  Spring break began 20 minutes ago and I'm hoping this week affords me some time to collect my thoughts. 

In the meantime, it is also a different kind of celebration day around here.  I had my 6 month check up with my oncologist today.  I am once again *officially* declared cancer free.  In case you are keeping track, that makes nearly 3 years (June 1st ish will be 3 years).  I got a little *off track* with my every six month check ups because we were in NYC and had to cancel my appointment back in January.  It was an enormous growth step for me to cancel that appointment.  Normally, I would have been beside myself "needing to know" everything was well.  Could it be that I might be moving out of the crazy, hypochondriac state I've been living in?  It would be awesome to be a sane, normal person once again.  Time will tell. 

So, join our family in celebrating today another clean bill of health.  Between traveling the world and feeling amazing, I have much to be thankful for.  If I seem giddy, it's because I am. 

And I'll take it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sweet and Salty

Not too long ago, we were going though a rough patch with Quinn.  He is half way through Kindergarten and is a smart, articulate, confident, outspoken boy.  He has a TON of personality and enough words in a day to match.  He is a character and on most days, I really appreciate 100% of who God has uniquely created him to be.
All of which made his behavior rather disturbing right around Thanksgiving.  His fuse was extremely short.  He would fly off the handle if I or his brother or sister even looked at him funny.  He became even more possessive of his *stuff.*  He would go from 0-60 into tantrum mode at the drop of a hat.  Life was obviously not fun for him and was becoming miserable for the rest of us.  He started saying things to me like, "I wish I wasn't part of this family."  "I don't like you."  "You are so mean."  When I would ask him about his day or if anything was bothering him, he would answer by shoving me away or "Why do you have to know everything?!"
I began considering if I should take him to see a counselor.  I even contacted the International Adoption Clinic at a nearby Children's Hospital.  It was near the holidays and things never really took off down that direction.  Then, one day, right before school let out for Christmas break, Olivia came home from school, very concerned.  She wanted to talk to me in private.
She told me about how that morning as the kids were walking into school, a boy from Quinn's class began picking on him.  Olivia marched up to the boy and said, "This is my brother!  You are not allowed to talk to him like that."  The boy apparently responded, "I don't care if he is your brother, I'm going to beat him up."
She was understandably upset.  When she finished telling me about the morning, I pulled Quinn aside and asked him about what had happened.  He crumpled into a heap and began to sob.  As it turns out, this boy, who is in his class, has been picking on him, calling him names and even pushing him down on the playground for months. I hugged him in my arms and the tears began to run down my face.  I volunteer 8 hours a week at my kids' school and had no idea.  I believe one of the reasons Quinn was so angry with me was for not knowing and not protecting him.  While I realize I can not be everywhere and I can't read his mind, it seemed the reason for his poor behavior came into focus.
The next day, Olivia got a hall pass from her teacher, went to Quinn's room and asked for a private conversation with Quinn's teacher so that she could tell her about Quinn's classmate and the bullying that had been going on.  I have never been so proud of my kids.  This little girl of mine stood up for her brother and was part of the solution to bullying.  That afternoon when Quinn came home, he told me all about how his teacher had talked with his classmate.  Quinn had a smile of relief on his face and for the first time in months, told me he had a good day at school.
Last week at the Y, my kids were playing in the childcare room.  They love the Y.  They have literally grown up there.  When I picked them up, Olivia was upset.  The workers told me there had been an incident with another child while they were playing.  A little girl had told Quinn to, "Go away you China person."  When I asked Quinn about this and how it made him feel, for the first time ever he was able to put his feelings into words.  He told me it made him feel mad.  When I asked him what he did when he felt mad he said, "I just walked away, like I'm suppose to."  He then went on to tell me that this same thing has happened to him before, at church. 
I know I should not be surprised.  I know Quinn will face racism and questions and opinions as he goes through life being of Chinese descent in a family of Polish people.  It's not that I think my kids are above making comments to those who look different.  It's not that I am surprised anybody would have sin in their heart against another person.  I do all the time.  It's just that I want to protect my kids from hard stuff.  I don't want them to face the cruelty of the world.  At least not yet. 
Yet, at the same time... there are lessons to be learned.  Grace to be applied.  Conversations to be had.  This whole parenting thing is hard work.  It is downright exhausting.  It's also the best gig I've ever had.  Please pray I don't screw it up too bad!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Not my new year's resolution. Obviously.

Keeping up with this blog was obviously not my new year's resolution.  Or maybe it was and I decided way back in December it would be okay to start that resolution on the 20th.  Details.  Not my strong point.
 I wanted to post a few high lights from the past few months.  I don't want to miss documenting some of these fun things that have happened.  Like Turner's 6th birthday.  Or sitting on Santa's lap.  Can you tell that the day we went to see Santa, I was choosing other battles?  We stood sandwiched between two families in their Christmas finest.  I was just happy to be there in one piece.  Matching Christmas outfits would have been awesome.  But fancy sweater/sweatpants combos work well too.
 The boys began martial arts a few weeks ago.
 Obviously, they are already convinced they are ninjas. 
And they might be.
 Olivia and I have been having some amazing talks lately.  She is a month away from being 8 years old.  She is an amazing girl.  I have a few stories to share with you but will save those for another day.  I know every mama thinks their kids are special (or at least have special moments.)  I most certainly think so about my three.
 There were several days in which the un-bearable cold here in Ohio nearly sent me over the edge.  We were frozen in and had an additional three days added on to our Christmas vacation.  19 days in all.  Honestly, my special three became a touch less special at certain moments.  Sometimes a family just needs a little less togetherness and a bit more structure and outside activity.  Seriously, if I've ever needed to move away from a cold weather climate, this is it.
Even a short trip to Atlanta over New Year's met us with chilly, cloudy skies and rain.  Lots and lots of rain. 

Don't let me fool 'ya though.  I was able to catch up on some vitamin D recently! I hopped on a plane a week ago and headed to sunny, warm (84 degree warm) Los Angeles, CA.  Poor me.  I had a work thing BY MYSELF for 4 nights.  I missed the crazy (but not the cold.) 

We have enjoyed a fun MLK day and now its off to gymnastics. 

So here, on January 20, I resolve to try and kind of, perhaps, attempt to sort of keep on our family's goings on.  Or not.  Time will tell.