Tuesday, July 22, 2014

There and back again

Our three and a half weeks in Boston were really great.  We actually lived in Quincy, MA at Eastern Nazarene College for the summer in a dorm.  For our family, it was a perfect scenario.  We had our own dorm suite with two bedrooms, a small study area and our own bathroom.  We were right across the hall from another family with two kids and it felt just like old college days as the doors pretty much stayed open unless we were sleeping and the kids just flowed back and forth. 

There is much to tell and naturally lots of stories, but because I did a non-existent job of blogging while there, I'll spare you all of the details and just provide pictures to highlight our time.  Here is the danger of pictures on blogs, Facebook and Instagram... it is easy to make life look like it is all a bed of roses.

It is true that we had a great visit to a cool city.  We got to do stuff that many people might not get to do in a lifetime.  The weather was unusually perfect.  However, there were major bumps in the road as well.  I got homesick for routine, non-cafeteria food, my friends, my couch and watching Big Brother on a real tv.  I faced some major insecurities- I felt old, fat and out of shape.  I struggled relationally with people at times.  Some days I wished I could just be a "normal person" who stays at their own home in the summer. The struggle was real.

With that being said, here are all of my pictures that do NOT show any of that.  Ha! Quite honestly, who whips out a camera when they are doing the snot cry on their husband's shoulder at 42 years old because they miss their friends?  Not this girl. 

So, on that note...

 
We went sailing in Glouchester.


My kids were naturals.
 

 
We went downtown for 4th of July fireworks.  It was one of my dreams come true to hear the Boston Pops play live as the fireworks went off.  They were magical. Until...
 the Massachusetts State Police evacuated the city without explanation.  The explanation came when the heavens opened and a thunderstorm like none I've ever experienced, happened.  My kids were hysterically crying and Turner yelled over and over, "This is the worst day of my life."  Yep, magical.
Photo credit: me (I'm a little proud of that one.)

 
We rode the T.  A lot.
 
We spent our time with 11 amazing college athletes from around the country. 

 
We went to Harvard.
(We didn't actually GO to Harvard- we visited Harvard :)  It's pretty awesome.
 
 
We swam in the ocean.
(We didn't actually SWIM in the ocean.  It was a little cold.  More like waded in the ocean.)
 
 
We hung out in Dorchester, MA.
This was our entire *family* for the summer.  Seriously, some of the best college students I've ever been around. 


 
We saw about 25,000 Dunkin' Donuts.  (Seriously, it's like a Northeast obsession.)
 
Oh, and we caught a game at Fenway Park.

 
We saw some amazing sunsets.
 
(We lived 4 blocks from the beach. Hmm.. WHY was I homesick?  I could get used to that!)

 
We ate at Wahlburgers.  (The BEST hamburger I've ever eaten in my life btw.)
 
As in Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlburg.  As in the show Wahlburgers.  SO FUN.

 
We saw battleships.

 
We watched a little Netflix.

 
We made new friends.  (This is O's new friend, Charlotte. Cuties, right?)
 
The kids did 2 weeks of YMCA summer day camp that met right on the campus where we lived and they had a great experience.  They are so adaptable and continue to amaze me.

 
We celebrated 7/11 days with free Slurpees.

 
And we shared our family with others. 
 
And we grew.
 
And we loved Jesus.
 
And Boston shaped our family forever.
 
So did the 13 hour van ride there and back, but that's for a different post.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Licensed to drive

Nearly a month ago, we packed up the van and headed (on my Birthday, no less) on our journey East.  First stop, Gramma and Papa's house.  Now that is an excellent way to start off a road trip!  Only 5  on the road and we were greeted by two people who not only celebrate my kids but had several birthday treats waiting for me.  (I may be 42 years old, but whose inner child doesn't long to be sung to and loved on with balloons and cake??)

Another birthday surprise awaited me.  It was a surprise filled with a little lesson.  Birthday lessons are not always fun.

Consider this my PSA for the day... check your driver's license. 

On our way to Boston for 31/2 weeks (which is out of state by the way) I realized that it, in fact, was my birthday.  Lo and behold I had a sinking feeling that it was the year to renew.  I fished it out and sure enough, at the stroke of midnight, I would no longer be a legal driver.  Which was really bad news for a summer in Boston (did I mention that is out of state?).  It was 12:00 noon and we were in the middle of Columbus, OH.   Our state capital, for Pete's sake.  Seems like a great place to locate a BMV.  It is... if you are traveling through on a weekday or on a Saturday BEFORE noon.  Naturally, it was Saturday at 12:10 when I realized what was going on. 

Thank the good Lord for smart phones.  Steve and I began to frantically search for a BMV along our route that might have extended hours.  I even tried calling the BMV service *hotline* to see if I could give them my sob story and figure out a solution.  We were to be in Boston by Monday at 3:00 which meant we couldn't just hang around the state for one to open.  Pretty much the *hotline* wished me luck with no driving for the next month. 

As I was waiting on hold with the hotline, Steve had some luck finding extended hours in a small Amish town in central Ohio.  It was basically a race against the clock.  The way we figured it, we could make it there with 10 minutes to spare.  IF we didn't get stuck behind farm equipment, Amish buggies or a train.  Pedal to the metal, son!

We made it... with the full 10 minutes left.  I got my license and a mini-heart attack.  I definitely aged about 10 years in 10 minutes - makes for an awesome picture, that's for sure.



Here is what I have to say about all of this... why WHY why can't the BMV send a friendly reminder letter that your four years is coming to an end and would you kindly get your behind into your local BMV soon before you are in a world of hurt?  If I was in charge, that's what I would do.  Perhaps they could use the lady on the not so helpful hotline and pay her to send out those letters.  Because seriously, I NEVER look at my license and how in the WORLD will I remember when this one expires.  I can barely remember what is on my plan for tomorrow let alone 4 years from now.

Anyhow, consider this YOUR friendly reminder from the *hotline* lady... GO CHECK YOUR EXPIRATION date. NOW. You can thank me later.

Monday, June 16, 2014

On to something

 
 My kids are miraculously outside playing in the wading pool.  Together.  Without fighting.  I'm inside.  Doing my own thing.  It's glorious.

This is the way summer is suppose to be.  (Did I totally just jinx myself, or what?)  We might just be on to something.

Steve and I have decided to keep our school year tv/electronic game schedule for the summer.  During the school year, the kids are not allowed to watch tv or play games on the I Pad during the week.  I know, I'm the meanest mom ever.  It's just that by the time they get home from school, do their homework and go to gymnastics/martial arts, there simply isn't time.  And if I let them for a little bit the fight to turn stuff off is off the charts.  So, at 4pm on Fridays and in the mornings Saturday and Sunday they can watch cartoons.  Two hours of games each weekend day and the rest, figure it out for themselves.

I'm sure this is more than some parents allow but this is the plan that seems to work around here.  I've decided to keep the same routine.  It's been great.  No fights during the week of who is going to watch/play what and when.  I HATE that fight.  That fight drives me bananas.  Instead, they fight about other stuff.  But at least it's not THAT fight.

We are about to head to Boston for three weeks.  The drive will be long.  Lots of movie hours stored up. That will be awesome. 

Speaking of Boston, I should be cleaning, packing and generally freaking out.  But I'm not.  (I'm saving that for Thursday.)  Instead, I'm downloading music to I Tunes, blogging and enjoying the fact that my kids are outside enjoying each other. 
This is from the files of "totally random stuff"... Look at this picture that my friend texted me the other day.

"When did Turner become a child model?"  and attached was this picture.  WHAT?  It 100% looks like Turner.  It is 100% NOT Turner.  How weird is that?  In fact, I even showed him the picture and said, "Hey, who is that?"  And he says, "Me?"  Crazy!

Now, its time to go start getting my Boston freak out on!

Friday, June 13, 2014

F*R*I*E*N*D*S*


I have some very special friends.  It's important to have special friends no matter what, but especially when you are an only child.  I've been a little nostalgic these past few weeks.  May/June seem to be reflective for me as another school year ends, but also for other reasons.

Wednesday was the 4 year anniversary of my mom's death.  I can't believe its been 4 years.  These girls got me through a really rough stretch.  They were all at my mom's *celebration*.  They were so patient and loving the days that followed as I would randomly break down sobbing.  They were my family.  I don't know what I would have done without them.

These girls were there the day I found out I had cancer.  They hugged me, cried with/for me, cooked dinner, cleaned my house, took care of my kids, sat with me when all I could do was sit on the couch.  They told me I was beautiful when I was bald.  It was a rough stretch. They celebrated my cancer-free diagnosis (3YEARS AGO, PS.  YIPPEE) as if it were their own good news.  I don't know what I would have done without them.

These girls got me through my dad's death.  Just when they thought maybe they were going to have a non-needy friend back, I needed them again.  They never indicated they were tired of loving me, helping me, or serving me.  I don't know what I would have done without them.

I am able to be real and honest with these ladies.  They know my ugly.  They know I struggle with criticism and pessimism.  They know I struggle with fear.  They celebrate my strengths.  They laugh with me and shop with me.  They encourage me to be a better wife and mother.  They point me to Jesus.  They forgive me and give me grace.  I don't know what I would do without them.

Another pause for reflection came two weeks ago as our gang of four sat down for our last supper.  Our friend, Susie, and her family are moving to Rwanda.  Not across town or even to Iowa.  Rwanda. 


It's a heart breaker, to say the least.  Our kids have grown up together.  As in, from birth/adoption homecomings.  It is hard to imagine my life and our families' lives transitioning.  Doing life, real life, means ups and downs.  It's honest talks, seeking and giving forgiveness.  It's facing baldness and pregnancy and birthday piƱatas and store bought birthday cakes when you want to make a wild creative creation. 

It's saying good bye to friends who know you like family... and saying good bye.  It's watching the band break up.  Love is the ugly snot cry when you get in your car after hugging your friend good-bye and not knowing when the next hug will be.

I don't know what I'll do without her.

I DO know that the other two are not allowed to leave me.  EVER!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The monkeys are out

 
First day of school.  They were ready to go.  Two kindergarteners and a Second grader.

 
As I scrolled through the pics, I found this.  What in the world?  I have no idea how David Hastlehoff got into my pics.  But honestly, Quinn is the one who looks super-imposed.  If this doesn't make you laugh, you have a cold, cold heart.

 
And this?  Straight out of the 80's.  Everything about it!

 
Look at those two guys!  You just know they had a fight over who got to hold that sign. 
You know why I won't miss Kindergarten?  Because I never know if it is Kindergarten or Kindergarden.  Seriously.  That's why I loved "pre-K."
 
 
And here they are on their last day. 
We had another fight about the sign.  But this time it was where the green wipe off board has gone.  Who knows? 
Who cares?!
 
Olivia and her friend Lila.  It was a heart breaking day for Olivia as Lila moves on to 4th grade next year.
At the Montessori school, my kids stay in the same room with the same teacher and kids for 3 grade levels.  1-3rd years are together.  This dynamic duo will be broken up next year as Olivia stays in the room to tackle 3rd grade without her better half. 
Tears ensued.
 
Because Olivia will remain in her class (and because I think her teachers high-tailed it outta dodge before the dust settled upon the final bell), I didn't get a chance to take her picture with her amazing teachers, Mrs. Taylor and Mrs. Witt.  No worries... I'm planning ahead and am already sad for the end of next year! 
 
This double trouble will also get busted next year.  But that won't be the first time.  These two have been causing trouble for years.  Don't worry if you can't tell them apart.  Neither can I.  (Turner is on the right!)
 
Mrs. Shirley has been teaching a Koproski kid ever since we've been at the school.  She has invested well into our family!  There may be an extra crown in heaven awaiting her.  Just sayin'.
 
 
And our beloved principal is moving on next year. 
This time, I actually cried.  She is a tremendous leader, person and example for my children.  I may have asked her to stay if the parent group bought her a new car.  She just laughed, I was a little serious.
We have laughed and even cried together over the years.  I'm not sure what I'll do without my "twin." (Students have stopped her in the hall to say, "Hi Turner's mom.")

 
Mrs. Madden and Mrs. Josyula have loved this boy as if he were their own.  I can barely type words to express how much I love these two ladies.  Quinn has become confidant, independent, a reader and a leader under their watch.  He too moves up to a  new class level next year. 
 
The end of the school year is exciting and heartbreaking all at the same time. My heart says a huge thank you to all of the teachers who have invested into my kids' lives.  Seriously, you are some of the hardest working and finest women I know.
 
THANK YOU.  HAVE A GREAT SUMMER.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Getting schooled

 
This week had a few surprises.  Some were better than others.  Poor Olivia started things off with Strep Throat on Tuesday.  My kids made it through the Winter Vortex as strong as oxen, but this Spring has really given the kids (especially O) a run for their health money.  And if you count poison sausages, mine too!

I may have mentioned a time or 20 about how much I LOVE my kids' school.  While it is not perfect, it currently IS the perfect situation for our family.  If I were not able to be as involved as I am, perhaps I would feel differently.  But as it stands, I am able to spend about 8 hours a week volunteering.  I love the time I get to spend in their classrooms.

 
One of the most special things about the school, River's Edge Montessori, is that it is an ELL feed for Dayton Public Schools.  (I had no idea what ELL was until hanging around the school... it stands for English Language Learners...formerly known as ESL.)  There are 6-8 languages spoken at our school.  All students are mixed in together in the classroom and some of these kids speak up to four languages and many have stories you only read about or see in movies.  My kids, and now I, call them friend.
 
 
 

Two of those eight hours each week go to two special girls.  I decided at the beginning of the school year to join the school based Big Brothers/Big Sisters program.  I figured, if I'm going to be around the school, I might as well spend some intentional time with some girls who could benefit from some mom attention.

I have a second grade "little" and a sixth grade "little.  Honestly, I started the year out with the second grader and it didn't seem like that big of a stretch.  I have a second grade girl and I pretty much know what to do.  Chat, hold her feet to the homework fire and encourage her.  Her home life is rough and I have been moved by how rough some kids have it.

A few months ago I was asked to take on another little.  She is in sixth grade and a great student.  Her friends in class all had big sisters and they recommended her for the program.  Although the program doesn't  normally assign matches toward the end of the year, especially since she will be moving on to a middle school next year, they asked if I would.  Well... now... this has been challenging.  NOT because of her, but because of me.  What the heck do you talk about  with a sixth grader?  Ugh.  She is smart, stylish and artistic.  I'm making it up as I go along.

Our school hosted a "tea" for all 4th, 5th and 6th grade girls yesterday.  A teacher had a vision three years ago to begin a tea where girls can be taught what true beauty is, be celebrated for the young women they are and cast vision for who they may become.  I was invited to join my little as a guest.  I was a bit hesitant.  Feeling as insecure as those little girls.  Did she really want some old mom hanging around (I'm not as young and cute as most of the college age big sis'.)  I was surprised that she didn't seem embarrassed when she saw me walk in and I asked if I could sit next to her.

The vision this teacher has for these girls made me love and appreciate our school even more.  YES to inner beauty, beauty of the heart, waiting to save yourself until marriage, yes to manners and etiquette.  Yes to being in the school for my children and other peoples' children who, for a  million reasons, can't be.

This week, this school year, has been full of surprises; many of which have come from me going to school.  I guess school is never really over! 

Monday, May 5, 2014

11 years and going strong

 
Steve and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary on Saturday.  Does that put us in our Tween years? 
 
Because we recently made a trip of a lifetime to Israel, we thought dinner out would suffice.  I received roses, Steve did yard work and I cleaned the house.  Pretty much exactly what I figured we would be doing 11 years ago as I walked down the aisle!
 
 
Our wedding day was beautiful.  After a short 4 month engagement, all the details were set and I'm pretty sure it is entirely possible to pull off your dream wedding in 4 months! 
 
We were married at Nazareth Hall in Grand Rapids, OH.  Once upon a time it was a military school for boys.  Now, it is a venue for weddings, parties, proms and Sorority formals.  Which is where I discovered it.  My senior year formal with Alpha Phi at BGSU, I stood there and declared (probably silently and only to myself as a witness), "This is where I will get married." 
 
And so- I did. 
 
 
Did you know I used to be  blond?  Yep.  I look back and I am not so sure it was a good idea to stay blond for as many years as I did.  I think it made me look a little washed out.  Oh well.
 
I got married about six weeks before my 31st birthday.  When most people look back at their wedding pictures, I feel like they say, "We looked so young."  I don't find myself saying that.  Because I wasn't.  But I do say, "Man, was I blond!"
 
I have to say, I'm not one into frills.  I can honestly say, if I were to do my wedding all over again today, I would probably still choose my dress.  I know it is plain and not exactly exciting, but it is me.  And the peony/tulip bouquet?  Wish I could carry one every single day of my life!
 
 
Our sweet friend, Linnea, came to be with the kids while we went out for anniversary dinner.  The kids were so happy to see her.  In fact, I'm not sure she was here 5 minutes before she was upstairs making forts.  We got home earlier than expected from dinner.  I was greeted, "Oh, man.  Mom, why are you home early???  We're not finished yet."  That is the sign of a good night with your friend!
 
11 years later, life is amazing.  There have been some crazy events in the last decade plus, but oh man, my heart overflows with love for my amazing husband and the life God is building for us.