Thursday, January 31, 2013

Can you keep a secret?

I've nearly made it through January without any major/life altering events.  Whew.  I am so thankful for an uneventful January.

Life has been full the past few weeks.  Its mostly been full of volunteering at the kids' school.  When I have not been at the school I've been running around getting things together for our trip to DISNEY WORLD!!!!

Thanks to Steve's parents (grandma and papa) generosity, the 5 of us are packing our bags, boarding a plane and heading down to warm (yep... I'm incessantly checking the forecast and it seems as though it is actually going to be warm while we are there) Orlando, FL on Tuesday afternoon.

I've never been there before.  Truth be told, I was having a hard time gearing up for this.  The blogs out there sent me into pure panic.  How to navigate?  How to plan?  I procrastinated and how would I  make reservations only 2 weeks out when apparently you need 180 days?  I was swimming in a sea of hints, tips and *insider advice* (thankyouverymuch, Pinterest!)

Well, our vacation week must not be a super hot time (trust me, I'm NOT complaining) or else, don't believe the hype on the 180 day thing.  I was able to make a reservation for us to ride a pirate ride with characters to watch the evening fireworks, eat at two pretty cool restaurants and have Olivia experience the Bibitybobity Boutique (as her 7th birthday gift which is Feb. 19th.)  Now I didn't have my heart set on anything anything except go to the theme parks; so my motto was, "We won't know what we're missing if we don't get to do it." Which goes along well with my life motto of, "If you wait 'til the last minute, it only takes a minute." (Which, PS, really hacks Steve off.  But that is for a different blog post.)

The trip is a surprise for the kids (so... shhh if you happen to see my kids between now and Tuesday.)  Not because I'm into drama (well at least that's not my reason for this surprise) but more because I don't think I could stand the "Is Disney today, mom?" 5,000 times before we leave.  So thus my scurrying around.  I have been getting stuff done while the kids are at school.  Which isn't a lot of time considering.

Our plan is to have the kids go to school Tuesday morning.  We will pull them out before lunch and head to the airport.  I have a goody bag packed for each kid for the airplane which includes Mickey Ears.   I suppose they will be able to guess from there. 

The icing on the cake?  When we arrive in Florida, there will be grandma and papa waiting at the end of the rainbow.  It really will be a grand surprise.

With the kids being 5, 5 and nearly 7 I think this is going to be the trip of a lifetime.  If you have any tried and true Disney tips, feel free to pass them along. Although I'm obviously down to the wire here.  So if it takes a minute, I'm in! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Playing catch up

I wanted to add some highlights from the holiday season.  And since I have *resolved* to blog more but really have little to say, I thought now would be a good time to catch you up on what's been going on around here through pics. 
We had a conference to work at during the week between Christmas and New Year's.  And poor us, it was held in New Orleans.  Our family had an absolute blast at the conference.  And eating new food.  Like beniegts.  Yay for french funnel cakes!
We also did celebrate Christmas.  We spent our first Christmas away from home this year.  Grandma and Papa hosted and it was so much fun.  Our whole family was together and it was magical.  They even hooked us up with a good old fashion white Christmas, Ashtabula style (14 inches of blizzardy snow.)  Which provided great opportunity for snowmen, snowballs, sledding and hot chocolate.
A highlight of Christmas morning was the arrival of Olivia's Easy Bake Oven, delivered by Santa.  I LOVED mine when I was about her age and was excited when that was one of her only requests for Christmas.
Well, there you have it.  From a person who didn't have much to say... I guess a picture is worth a 1,000 words.  And so are my thousand words.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Not just bon bons and soap operas

Two days in a row!  I know, right?!  It's totally crazy.  All or nothing around here, what can I say?

I have another reason for not blogging recently (although general laziness still comes in first).  A close second would be the time and energy I've been putting in to volunteering at my kids' school.  Each week I spend 6 hours in the classroom, 2 hours per kid.  Since all three of my kids are in different classrooms, I have the opportunity to meet many kids at the school.  It has been so life-giving to me.  Because I am just a volunteer, I don't have to do any planning, I have just a few responsibilities (which mostly include giving individual attention to kids with their reading... which I absolutely LOVE) and because I'm *just a volunteer* I have flexibility.  I have gotten to know my kids' teachers and classmates in a unique and valuable way.

One project I gave some leadership to right before Christmas break was organizing the local faith- based, not-for-profit group, Shoes4theShoeless, to come in and fit kids in need at our school with a brand new pair of gym shoes.

My friend, Kris, started this organization about 3 years ago.  They have fitted over 10,000 pairs of shoes to children in need in the Dayton area.  I would encourage you to head over to the website and check it out.  It is an amazing organization and God has blessed it greatly.

I casually asked Kris if she would consider coming to our school back in November.  She said she thought they could squeeze us in before the winter break.  I got my buns in gear and began working on the necessary details to mobilize volunteers and determine which kids were in need. 

On December 17th, 25 volunteers came to fit kids for their new shoes and over 250 kids (at our school of about 500) received a new pair of shoes, socks and a Bible that day.  It was amazing!

We set up *shop* in our school's front hallway.  Each student was greeted by a smiling adult, then fitted for a correct size of shoe, put on a fresh new pair of socks and shoes and walked away with a Bible and, in most cases, a huge smile.  There were many who had shoes several sizes too big or too small.  Many had never picked out their own shoes before or have never owned a Bible.

Our school has a large population of immigrant families.  Many have come from the Middle East and are in need of warm clothes and proper shoes.  It was fun to be able to fit them.  There are also some very, very needy families.  One girl asked if she could give up her new pair of shoes and pick out a pair for her dad so that she could give him a Christmas gift that he really needed. 

My friend pictured with me above is 11 years old.  She didn't even come to get fitted for shoes.  I saw her walking down the hall looking so sad.  I insisted she come and get fitted.  When we went to sit she quietly told me she wears a women's size 11.  I knew we would not have any in her size that day.  I got her info and my sweet friend, Kris, found a cute pair of men's Converse that would fit her and brought them for her the next day.

When we got her set up with her new shoes, she lit up and had the most beautiful smile on her face.  The sad girl from the day before disappeared.  She had a cool new pair of shoes that did not look like something her dad would wear.  She was also super excited about her Bible.  She told me she had never owned her own Bible before.  I encouraged her to read it and she said she would.

I am aware of the privilege it is to volunteer at my kids' school.  I am thankful.  I am sometimes overwhelmed with sadness of the situations I find myself surrounded by.  I'm busy.  I don't blog as much as I would like.  And I wouldn't change a thing!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Year, New News

Happy New Year.  I guess I would say I'd like to resolve getting back into blogging this year.  But I always would *like* to- it's more a matter of just doing it.  There is so much to journal, so much I would like to keep track of.  And presuming you're interested, so much I would like to tell you.  Instead of beating myself up or trying to make up for lost time... I'll just start with some GOOD NEWS.

If you have read my story over the years you will remember, and should you not know anything about me, I'll go ahead and let you know this key piece of information... January for me is a dreaded month.  I don't truly believe in Jinx' or bad luck or stuff like that.  But if I did; I might would believe that bad stuff happens to/near/or around me in January.  There were a string of years my parents would end up in the hospital (and not just the  "I feel weird, I'll go get checked out at the hospital" kind of hospital- I'm talking life threatening, ICU kind of hospital.)  I was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer 2 years ago on January 20th.  Last year, one of my best friends was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor in January.  So when New Year's Eve rolls around, I usually start counting down until February.

Our family drove down to New Orleans in between Christmas and New Year's this year.  (If you're doing the math in your head, that's a whole lotta togetherness from here to there!).  I contemplated (and prayed) about the fact that I had a CT scan and a doctor's appointment to look forward upon my return, on Jan 7th.  I also contemplated (and prayed) about the fact that I will trust God and no longer fear January.

This past Monday I had my CA125 (blood labs to indicate cancer levels) drawn and a CT scan done.  By that afternoon I received a call to let me know that everything is clear and wonderful.  A big sigh of relief and a "Thank you, Jesus" was let out- that's for sure. 

There is still a lot of January to go.  To be honest, every month has it's good and bad.  It's bright spots and negatives.  I want to choose to look at January as just the same as every other month.  For me, that is a big deal.  And a new resolution if you will.  So... Happy New Year AND Happy January.