Thursday, December 3, 2015

Paul Blart, the White House and my naked soul

Once again, time has gotten the better of me.  Fall has quickly turned nearly into winter (we woke up to a faint dusting of snow on the ground...NOOOOOO!)  As I took down my fall decor and replaced it with my Christmas stuff, I realized I needed to update things around here so that I would be able to look back at Halloween in years to come and smile at the creativity of my kids.

With two second graders and a fourth grader, I realize my days are numbered with fun childhood traditions that I (I mean they) hold so dear.  The kids had thought long and hard about their costumes this year and I have given up years ago trying to control what they would be.

This year, Turner wanted to be Paul Blart, Mall Cop.  (He would also like you to know he is Paul Blart, Mall Cop 2, which OBVIOUSLY  was way funnier than the first one!)  So, that was what he was.  However, I had to fight him to keep the pillow under his shirt for the picture before he ditched it for the night of trick or treating.  (PS- the pillow totally makes the costume, without it you are just a skinny cop on a scooter.)  Not to mention by the second house, the mustache had fallen off. Whatever.

Olivia and her friend, Lila, were going to be ice cream store managers.  The idea then morphed into a soda jerk.  This costume was particularly hard to come by without the help of Steak N Shake.  So she spent the better part of the night correcting people as they called her a Steak N Shake employee.  Oh well.

Quinn was a brave knight.  He crafted his own battle scar next to his eye, which led to several people insisting he was  Genghis Khan.  When he finally looked up who that was on the Internet, he was a little irritated! Which makes him act a touch like Genghis. (Sorry Mrs. Leonhardt.)

The three amigos.  Our favorite Halloween tradition is having Cousin Nick (and now the future cousin Kaleigh) come and join us for mummy dogs and trick or treating.  Followed by the annual loot patrol at the end of the night which results in Kaleigh and I confiscating all of the dark chocolate and Nick and Steve eating whatever things they can con the kids out of.
But I can already tell I'm losing my babies, because instead of heading home with the rest of us to binge on candy, Olivia opted to spend the night at Lila's.  Waaaaaah!

About two weeks ago, Steve and I headed to Virginia and D.C. for a work trip.  We managed to add in a few hours of play time before we headed back to the kids.  We had a lot of fun shopping and eating in Georgetown.  My favorite part was face-timing the kids from the White house.  They thought it was the coolest thing ever.

And last weekend we headed to Gramma and Papa's for Thanksmas (our combo Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration on the years we don't get together for Christmas.)  It was a great time of food, family and our newest cousin, Josephine.  She is four weeks old and I think the kids were a bit disappointed to find out that she isn't exactly "play worthy" yet.  They did have fun taking turns holding her and even got to give her a bottle and help her get a bath.  The girls are particularly thrilled that the gender numbers are now even.  It's been a rough spell having the boys out-number the girls!  Ha.

So, life has been good and full around here.

The day before Thanksgiving was a little rough.  It would have been my mom's 75th birthday.  While she would have just hated turning 75, I sure wish she had!  5 years post her death and I still am surprised every time grief rears it's ugly head.  While I love packing up and heading to a holiday with kids running around, hustle and bustle of a full house, there are just days that I wish I was packing the car to head to Toledo.  A quiet house where there would be fights about where to order take out from, the tv turned on just way too loud because my dad couldn't hear a darn thing and people bumping into each other because my parents' apartment would have been way too small for all of us.  It would have been crowded, loud and tense.  But it would be home.  It would be that sense of walking into the house, knowing that your mom and dad were pacing the floor waiting for you and your kids to walk through the door.  It would be knowing that your dad ran to the store 4 times that day to make sure there were enough doughnuts for the kids, pop for everyone and candies in the candy dish.  It would be knowing that there would be fresh flowers in my mom's vase, because the only time my dad bought them for her was when we were coming.

It would be knowing that my mom would want to know every detail about every stupid thing the kids did and said.  She would want them to show off all the tricks they know.  She would be amazed what Olivia can do in gymnastics.  My dad would have yelled at her to be careful and to not do the tricks in the house and my mom would have yelled at him for yelling at her.

My kids would have taken rides on her wheel chair and on her scooter.  However, they may have outgrown that this year.  Perhaps, there would have been a visit in the hospital, maybe someone would have been in the nursing home by now.  There is no telling.  Sometimes memories and vain imaginations are better than reality.  I know that is true.  Oh, but what I wouldn't give for one more walk through their door.

One more, "Hey, babe, you look good" from my daddy.  One more tear filled, "I thought you would have been  here a half hour ago" from my mom, knowing it was just because she couldn't wait to get her hands on those babies and a kiss on my cheek and a laugh from Steve.  No one could make her laugh like Steve could.  They adored him.  And me.  And my babies.  They would never believe that Turner came up with the Paul Blart costume all on his own.  They would be convinced that Quinn will go to Harvard, or Yale or some other Ivy League, and Olivia would be the apple, beauty and Olympian of their eye.

So, these are the things I imagine and dream of as grief rolls over me like an ocean wave.  The dream of what would be.  But really wouldn't have been, given the story God has written.  It is well with my soul.

But do be mindful of those you love and care about who dream of what would have been this holiday season.  It does not mean we are fragile or ungrateful or unappreciative of all the amazing people who are still with them.  We couldn't be happier and more thankful to have them- YOU- in our life.  It just means there are holes that won't be filled.  Give us a moment (or two) to imagine what would have been, what was or what we wish we had back, even for a moment.  Give us a hug.  Remind us you love us and that it will be ok.  Because it will.  And so will we.  And so will I!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Family: It's good to be an out-law

Today is a beautiful October day.  If the weather would just manage to clone itself day after day to be just like today, I would be one happy camper.

Life around the castle has been full.  But then again, when isn't it?

Over the weekend we headed to Ashtabula.  Steve's sister, Kerry, and her husband, Todd, are due with their first baby in about three weeks.  It will be the first new cousin since Carter was born 7 years ago.  To say the kids are bonkers over a new cousin is an understatement.  I think there is already arguing over who gets to hold the baby the most over our November "Thanksmas".

Since Aunt Kerry and Uncle Todd have decided to wait until the birth to know the gender of the baby, we have all been calling it SHIM.  (I find it may be hard to transition over to an actual name now that we have all gotten over the giggles of saying SHIM.)

Gramma and Papa threw a baby hurricane.  (To call it a shower would not be doing justice to the blow out party they threw for SHIM).  It was held at a beautiful restaurant on the shore of Lake Erie, just outside of Cleveland.  If it had been a sunny day (and not the 45 degree rainy mess that it was) we would have had an amazing view of downtown Cleveland.

Steve and his brother, Scott, took the boys to a Science Museum while Olivia and her cousin, Natalie, helped pass the presents at the party.

The weekend wasn't even 48 hours of togetherness (Scott and his family drove 8 hours from northern Michigan to celebrate the baby.)  Because of our 4.5 hour drive and their driving time doubled, we rarely get together outside of the holidays.  I realized as we were packing the car on Friday morning and anticipating an early dismissal of the kids from school that afternoon in order to hit the road for a dinner time arrival, that I wish we all lived a little closer and could do the occasional weekend family thing.

I had a butterflies, this is going to be fun, feeling in my belly Friday morning.  It felt like a fun event and excitement to be with family.  As we drove and passed other families headed somewhere on a late Friday afternoon, I tried to imagine where everyone was headed.  Football games? College kids going home for a weekend?  Parents off to see their kids play a collegiate/high school game?

It occurred to me that most Friday nights I anticipate hitting the couch with comfy pants on, ready to go nowhere.  I like it like that.  But I also realized that I really miss that feeling of "going home."  Even as a 43 year old adult, there is an excited feeling you get to be with family you love and don't see often.  With my parents both being gone 4 and 5 years each, there is no more "home" for me in Toledo.  But it is so awesome when you realize that your husbands' family is truly your family.  In some ways, maybe even better.  In Steve's family, those of us who have "married in" call ourselves the out-laws (rather than the in-laws.)  We have our own identities.  We like each other.  We laugh.  We laugh at each other. (Or maybe they're just laughing at me?? Hmmm...)  We can appreciate each persons unique contribution to the family.

I love that my kids go bananas when they see their cousins.  There is running, yelling, playing, giggling and an occasional fight followed by a time-out.  No one is immune.  There are magical memories being created each time we pull in and out of Gramma and Papa's driveway.  Similar to the magical memories I have of my cousins and my trips to my Granny and Grandpa's house.

Perhaps it is the distance and the rarity of these times that add to the magic.  I realize that these are days to be savored.  A new dynamic will come with a new baby.  It is a welcome change.  The cousins become the "older cousins."  Families evolve and change.  For now, this out-law is just glad to be counted one of them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Life after cancer: It does exist

I don't know if you know this, but September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.  Although culture has not seen fit to dye every doggone object teal like they will pink next month, this cause is a big one for me.  As a survivor nearly 4 years out of my diagnosis of STAGE III Ovarian Cancer, I want to dedicate this post in THANKFULLNESS of my health status.  Cancer-free.

I considered what I wanted to write about in light of the above. I could post pics of me bald.  I could reminisce.  I could re-tell my story.  I could give you warning signs and medical facts.  All of which would be fine.  Perhaps even better than what I will give to you.  But I've settled on something else.

Instead, I want to give you a snapshot of what HEALTH.  LIFE.   And HEROES look like to me- just a  Mom. Wife.  Cancer Survivor.  Regular Joe. (or should it be Jane.)  With a life lived fully and gratefully (for the most part. ) Hey, nobody's perfect.

Life around my castle has been full.  I gave myself a few weeks "off" when the kids went back to school.  During my weeks, I like to keep busy by volunteering at their school.  With all of the travel and moving and settling, I decided to wait and go back to "work" until after Labor Day (as the good lord intended!) I used those couple of weeks to settle the house, get things just so and do errands without my entourage.  But just about the time Labor Day rolled around, I was starting to get a little bored and was ready to get back into the swing of things.

The teachers at my kids' school are true HEROES.  Each person that I know personally who works at River's Edge Montessori goes above and beyond their pay grade to love and serve the kids of Dayton, OH. Many of these students are starting life off in ways that would make the average American's head spin.  Each day, these teachers do the best they can to teach kids who don't speak English, don't know where their next meal will come from, don't have stable home lives or don't have a home. Period.

Not to be misleading, there are plenty of students who come from homes that would rival any suburban situation.  We have many a gifted/talented student.  Our families who have found Dayton to be their home on immigrant or refugee status are some of the hardest working and most loving families I have met.  Their whole existence revolves around their children having a bright future. This city is beautiful because of it's diversity.  It is the same thing that, in my opinion, would make being a teacher here so challenging.

But these teachers give of themselves.  They go the extra mile.  They purchase snacks for their class because they know their kids are hungry.  One teacher I know goes weekly to Panera to collect the day old bread and sweets to pass out to students and teachers.  The only treat some of these kids will get all week.  This same teacher often stays HOURS after school to work for her students.  Teacher after teacher loves their kids with their whole being.  I want to be like them when I grow up.

The least I can do each week is serve these saints for just a few minutes.  Some days I sharpen pencils (it's my forte!)  Some days I grade papers or check home work (one hour less they have to do over their weekend).  I break copiers... I mean, I make copies.  I help kids read.  I give hugs.  I've even been known to sit in the school office (NOT my forte) and have only accidentally hit the panic button twice.  And NO, the cops didn't show up.  The school nurse bailed me out before that happened.  I listen.  I even fight at the district level when needed.  (It does nothing, but it makes ME feel better.)

My part is small.  My expertise, non-existent.  My heart is big.  My admiration for teachers, indescribable.  My thanks to GOD for granting me these bonus years... NEVER. EVER. ENDING.

The rest of my time I spend as a juggler.  A schedule magician.  A taxi driver.  A referee.  A ring master.  An illusionist.

Gymnastics practice three nights a week, soccer practice just as many, two after school tutoring sessions (for the kids, not me), violin lessons twice a week an hour before school starts (at the school at a whopping total of $30 for the entire year.  Yes, we will and thankyouverymuch!) modern dance on the one weekday that doesn't include all of the other activities, missions club once a month, church, pta, daily aerobic classes, keeping up with the house work so that the castle is a happy place to live, date nights, play dates, and the wrap up of another summer of Big Brother (my guilty pleasure).  Those are a few of the OTHER things that have been keeping me busy.

Just for fun this week I'm throwing in some dentist appointments, a mammogram, a cat scans blood work, bi-annual cancer check up, baby shower, birthday parties, backyard bbq's, a monthly meeting with the Sheriff to discuss race relations in Dayton, work with Athletes in Action and planning an event for our school to help foster relationships between families at the school.

This schedule is not a complaint.  It is not a boast or a brag.  It isn't even overwhelming.  It is a praise offering to the Healer God.  Ovarian cancer had a plan for me.  God has a bigger one.

While I do not know my future, I am thankful for today.  I am thankful for my health.  I am thankful for life, a gift to be used and shared.  Not to be taken for granted.  Today, a woman sits in a chemo chair that I once sat in.  I don't know her story.  I don't know her outcome.

Awareness. Thankfulness. Life.

I will not take what I have for granted!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Slowly but surely

Moving on Up

Well, it took me a little while to climb upstairs and show you the rest of the rooms.  But finally, we've wound around the spiral staircase and you have found your way into Olivia's room.  Which is really quite a privilege- because true of most 4th grade girls with pesky 2nd grade brothers, she doesn't let just anyone in.

Honestly, I'm secretly jealous of my 9 year old.  She has the COOLEST room on the planet.  I would have killed to have this room when I was her age.

Several years ago, she really wanted a loft bed.  Steve and our brother in law, Todd, built this thing from scratch.  It is as sturdy as they come and believe you me, a beast to move from house to house! It really is a space saver and in this house, albeit beautiful, we need to make use of every inch of floor space.  What it lacks in "extra" it makes up for in breathtaking.

She is currently in love with aqua.  If it's aqua she wants to wear it, look at it, wrap herself in it.  So... I did manage to talk her down for all walls aqua.  (I had a bargaining chip... I was the one painting the room and to be honest, I just couldn't get all of the walls done in time for the furniture to be delivered.)

Plus, I'm a fan of less is more.  9 year olds, notsomuch.

In addition to aqua, she is obsessed with all things gymnastics.  She has several posters and this really cute decal.  I would say it is just the right touch of sport and girlie.  We found the perfect accent rug for the room at Ikea, and thankfully we were decorating just in time for Target's back to college push.  They had these really cute dorm chairs that also work well for my kids' rooms.  (The boys have one in black.)

Because of the loft, there was also room for a small Ikea flip sofa underneath her loft.  It is ideal for sleep overs and for relaxing.  Seriously,  Jealous.

It was hard to capture this in photos, but to the left of her desk is a door.  A door to an OUTSIDE DECK.  Girlfriend has her very own second floor deck, complete with a bistro table and chairs.  We've had several conversations about how this is not her very own personal deck.  But since the girl keeps the room locked up like Ft. Knox, it may as well be!

Finally, behind the curtains is an enormous closet.  Because the doors of the closet are mirrors, the previous owners had hung these curtains to cover them up.  I liked the idea and am keeping my eyes open for some curtains that would add a pop of color and youth to the room.  These will do in the meantime.  The closet is big enough for clothes and every single toy and craft item she owns.  It's like a mini American girl doll apartment behind those doors!

I have really failed to capture the brothers' room.  Poor guys.  If he were here right now, Quinn would totally call favoritism on me.  (That is his latest trick.  "Olivia gets another friend over?  I call favoritism.  It's favoritism, I tell 'ya.")  Hilarious, yet annoying.

Anyhow, this room was the previous owners' master bedroom.  Because our house is actually a true 2 bedroom (I really had to get creative and persuasive to get my way in this deal) it made sense for the boys to get the master.  It works perfectly.  Turner wanted a loft bed and Quinn did not.  So he gets the cool little nook for his bed.

Each boy has his own full closet.  There is room for one desk under the loft and one of those Target dorm chairs.  There is room in between the closets for the second desk.  And STILL room for the flip couch from Ikea.  Once again,  this is a room fit for a king (or two).  The boys were a little miffed that they would once again be sharing a room.  To be honest, I think they would be lost without each other.  During the weekend nights, all three kids end up doing sleep-overs together.  We might as well live in a one room shack as far as they are concerned!  Unless, of course, I made them do sleepovers.  Then it would be "so unfair."  A parent can never win.

 Something I was really happy to be able to put up in their new room was these two photos of owls.  My dad, who has been gone 4 years as of next Monday, took those pictures and had them framed.  Before he died, he gave them to me and told me he wanted the boys to have them.  When we moved, I asked if they would want the owls to hang in the room and they both agreed.  Honestly, I think they look great in the room.  

I was also glad that we were able to re-purpose our old dining room rug for their room.  Sadly, with the move and the different reconfiguration of the rooms, some of our furniture and rugs no longer fit.  (Literally)  It wasn't even a matter of I just didn't like it any more,  some simply didn't fit.  Thankfully, this was one item that worked and we didn't have to invest in one more thing.

This is a peek out of the boy's door.  If you took an immediate right you would be at Olivia's door (which as previously mentioned would be tightly locked.)  That little landing directly in front of you has a desk and "gramma's bed".  I'm not sure if that will be the permanent solution for that space. The former owners had a little office set up there and it was really cute.  Perhaps some day there will be a tv and gaming system/ bean bag chairs etc.  This space is the least of my worries for the time being.

If you walk through that wide open door there are two wardrobes on your left.  Because the room that Steve and I use for our bedroom was actually a living room, there are no closets.  We use the wardrobes there for our clothes.  This works well since to the right of the wardrobes is the full bath.  I have yet to get pictures of the bathroom.  Maybe that will be tour III.  The washer/dryer is in the bathroom as well.  It is a really large and spacious and fun bathroom with a black and white tile floor.

Each day that passes by, I feel more and more like I am at home.  Just the other day while talking with a friend I made a deep discovery of my soul.

She asked if I missed the old house.  I thought for a second and honestly answered, "Not one bit."  I think it surprised both of us.  But as I got to explaining I realized that the old house was my "cancer house."  There were so many hard times associated with that house. The months and months I spent hostage to those walls because of my treatment.  The laps I would take around my living room because I was too weak to go outside.  The kitchen where I shaved my head bald to beat the chemo to the punch.  The bedroom where I laid in bed and was so nauseous I couldn't go downstairs.  The layers of dirt that accumulated from the time that I just didn't have it in me to keep up on my housework due to depression, anxiety and raising little ones.

Sure, there were good memories.  It was our first home.  It was the only married home I knew.  The only home in which my parents would ever visit.  We had our routines there.  There were beautiful aspects. 

But it was time.

And now, I am home in my DREAM HOME.  

And I'm happy.  

And Thankful.

Friday, August 28, 2015

C'mon in... I've been waiting for you

Hello friends!  Welcome to my new house.  I gave you a sneak peek yesterday and hinted that there may be more to come.  I took a few shots around the house yesterday and have felt motivated by some of you kind friends and family who have commented on the digs.  Thanks for the encouragement.  Like I said yesterday, I LOVE it around here.  With yet ANOTHER trip to Home Goods today, there are additional pictures to add.  This weekend will be a big push toward getting the tv mounted on the living room wall and other odds and ends that seem to nag but not be on the top of the list for necessary living.  

So come on in and have a look around.  

As you enter the living room/ entry way (that was pictured yesterday with the marble fireplace and two chairs on either side of it) you look to the left and notice an amazing wood spiral staircase.  This is most definitely the focal point of the downstairs.  It is lovely.  It also makes the space a touch *confusing*. For me anyhow.  The downstairs doesn't flow like a normal living space.  Normal is over-rated though, right?!

I have tried to give you an idea of what the staircase does.  What I can't seem to capture is the openness of the space.  Directly above the staircase is a sky light.  So from the roof to the living room is a ton of natural light.  My own personal Happy Lamp, if you will.  And yes I will, come January, thank you very much!

(Ironically, I just mentioned all of the natural light and then I have included the darkest photo I could get of the entire house.  Honestly, I'm just too lazy to re-take a better picture. Nice.)

As you stand at the front door and hang your coat and look past the staircase, you will notice our actual living space.  To the left of the staircase is the wall in which our aforementioned tv will hang.  Next to that wall (which you can't see here) is a door.  That is the door to our bedroom.  It had once upon a time (as in 4 weeks ago) been an additional living room.  It is now my beautiful bedroom.  Mostly because this is actually only a 2 bedroom house and mama had to live here, so mama had to be creative and *sell* daddy on a creative solution.  I see it as a win-win. (See final picture in this post for visual.)
Here is the finished product of the entry way/living room.  You will notice two  matching chairs and an added rug.  I have to say, I love this space.  It is cozy, formal(ish) yet unique.  I envision reading many a book here.  And then I snap back to reality and realize that might happen when the kids are away at college and I actually read a book.

I don't know if you can spot at the very bottom right corner of the above photo, a colorful bench.  The jury is still out on this bench.  It is cool.  But I have the tags on it still and go back and forth.  Above it is a humongous picture of the Flat Iron building (as seen in yesterday's post.)

Here is a shot of part of the living space where the tv will be.  There is now a rug where the wood floor is.  Again, the tag is on it and I'm going to take the weekend to live with it and see how it feels.  It seems a touch big for the space but Steve really likes to "put his feet on the rug."  (You gotta throw a bone every once in a while.)

Here is a glimpse into my bedroom.  This room is the biggest work in progress.  To me, all of the other rooms are top priority.  In some ways, our room has become the *dumping ground* for all of the furniture that isn't making the cut for the rest of the house.  Currently, there is an enormous brown couch living in our room.  But that is okay, since it used to be a living room, there is plenty of room.  You will notice an open door in this photo.  It is a screen door that opens to our beautiful wrap around front porch.  I love love love this feature.

Sadly, that gorgeous chandelier is not currently working.  The previous owners said that it never worked for them in 8 years.  One of the second tier priorities is to get an electrician out here to fix it.  It's just too pretty to have it in non-working condition.  I am looking forward to some day getting things on the walls, a rug, the tv off of the beautiful marble fireplace etc.  It is a beautiful bedroom and I feel like a queen laying my head down each night.

So, that is the *work in progress* tour of our down stairs.  It is a start.  I feel insecure about my decorating abilities.  (Dang you, HGTV/TLC).  But it is fun to put my own personality into this house.  It really is a dream come true.

Later this weekend, I look forward to taking you upstairs.  I hope you will come back!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Home is where the sofa sits

It was 4 weeks ago tomorrow that we got the keys and stepped inside our new house.  It was the first time entering in without someone else's stuff, 2 dogs and 4 cats in the way.  (Yep! 2 dogs and 4 cats!)  Let's just say they left behind a few *mementos* in the form of enormous fur balls.  Side note: cat lovers, try as best you can from turning into the crazy cat lover.  Those felines really mess up those of us buying your home in a huge way!  I've been shop vac-ing cat hair out of crevices, electrical sockets, base boards, window sills, door jams, key holes, appliances etc.  The cat hair is gonna end up sending me to the funny farm.

Anyhow, we took 2 solid weeks of back-breaking labor to get the place into some sort of livable shape.  Things are beginning to take hold.  While I still feel like I'm playing house in someone else's digs, it is starting to feel like mine.

I am one who loves to window shop.  I enjoy thumbing through catalogues and looking through magazines.  But when my back is to the wall and I have to make real life decorating decisions and spend real cash money, I become paralyzed.  Seriously, Home Goods, Pier 1 and Ikea have become my nemesis.

Slowly but surely pictures are being hung and sofas are finding just the right spot.  (I'm sure Steve dreads coming home from work because there have been a string of days in which we are moving chairs and sofas because *it just doesn't feel right* over there.)  Lucky for him, we are running out of walls to try things on.

Over the next few days, I'm going to try and take some pictures and give a little tour.  I'm mostly afraid that pictures won't do my amazing new house justice.  Seriously, Ive sat in my new place and looked around and thought, "How do I get to live here?"  I think that is a good thing.  I've also driven myself crazy with the need to *get it right*.  The decorating that is.  I feel like I've got this one shot and I gotta get it right.  I know that isn't true and that paint can be re-painted.  I've already discovered that large and expensive area rugs can be sent back to where they came from.  (PS- CB2 is an amazing company with an incredibly helpful and generous return policy!)  *Or so I've heard.*

I hope someday soon, the tv will be mounted on the wall.  The *just right* area rug will be found.  The finishing touches to each room will be made.  And I need to be fine with posting the *in process.*  That's real life anyway.  Right.  In process!

So, with that... here is a picture of part of our living room.  This is what you see when you first enter our house.  Already, however,  even this photo is dated.  We now have an adorable rug in front of the fire place.  I'll post that picture when I can.

This is my new pride and joy.  Our kitchen is an eat-in-kitchen.  I finally got my very own dining room table.  When we first got married, Steve's parents generously gave us their old dining room set (that was theirs when they first got married in the late 60's.)  While it did the trick and graciously carried us through our little kid years, I have been hoping to express my own style.  I'm so glad we waited until now.  This table and chairs from Crate & Barrel is so perfect in our new house.  I love it.

What the photos don't show you is the huge exposed beams and high vaulted ceilings.  The whole kitchen is full of windows and is light and airy.  I finally love being in my kitchen and cooking (well, not the actual cooking part) and visiting with people who are eating while doing so.  It is one of my favorite spaces.  The brick walls and built in shelves are cool.  I'm still trying to figure out what exactly to put on the shelves.  Any cool ideas are welcomed.

When I lived in NYC, I lived just a few blocks from the Flat Iron building.  It has always been my favorite structure in Manhattan.  In fact, while I lived there, I collected black and white framed photos of it and they have hung on our bedroom wall at the old house since we were married.  Recently, this enormous canvas popped up at Ikea and I knew I HAD to have it in my new house.  It hangs in our living room.  I love it.  I have also been able to hang the other photos near there.  So, basically my new house is a shrine to the greatest City on the planet.

So that is the tour for now.  Like I said, I haven't even taken many good photos because I keep waiting for the house to *be done.*  But that may never actually happen.  So, instead, I'll do it little by little.  It may be fun to see how it all changes and evolves over the next few months.  In the meantime, a new house means a new door to take the first day of school photos in front of. These knuckleheads are slowly adjusting to the new house as well.  Perhaps my next stop on the house tour will be their rooms.  Theirs are really the only *finished* spots in the house.  I wanted to make their rooms and spaces the priority.  I'd say they are three happy and blessed kids!  

So check back for more of the tour.  Thanks for indulging me over here!  I really am having fun.

Monday, August 17, 2015

There's no place like home

Poudre River
I dubbed this summer The Adventure Summer.

I had to frame it somehow, just so I could survive the crazy.  With boxing up our house, packing up our family for a two week trip to Puerto Rico, moving to a rental house, packing up a van for a two week trip to Colorado and then finally, moving into a new home after 12 years, I needed to gear up for an Adventure.  My other option was dubbing it The Summer from Hell, but I thought that might be a bit much for the kids (and myself) to handle.  So I went with the former.

For a family who thrives on structure, familiar and predictable, this summer was a bit of a stretch for us.  Although every part of the summer was positive and some may say an opportunity of a lifetime, it was still much like the rapids in the picture.  Around every turn there were bumps, bruises and rocks to be dodged.  But we all managed to stay in the boat (both on the trip down the Poudre and throughout the summer.)

The kids did great.  They had a blast in Puerto Rico.  While we were there mainly for work (33 college athletes were on the summer project that we helped to staff) we also had a great opportunity to explore and experience the Puerto Rican culture and the beauty of the Island.  The kids adapted well and loved almost everything (minus the mosquitoes and the sand fleas).  We built some strong relationships with Puerto Rican students as well as other Americans on the trip.  What a privilege to have our entire family minister together!

Thankfully, some very dear friends of ours just flipped the house right next door to them and will begin to rent it out as a VRBO.  We got to be their "Guinea pigs."  We were their first renters while we waited to close on our old house and several weeks later, close on our current house.  It couldn't have been any more perfect for our situation.  We were right next door to Olivia's best friend at school (there were more sleepovers in that stretch than I can remember) and only a 5 min drive to our new house (perfect for moving day.)  It was a 2 bedroom and was cozy and perfect for our needs.

The trip to Colorado was for our every-other-year Cru Staff Conference.  It involves much work for Steve but also provides great connection with co-workers from all over the country whom we rarely get to see.  We heard from amazing speakers and were encouraged and challenged deeply.  The kids were in a special 10 day kids camp.  They made some great friends and had a blast.  In fact, the night before we hit the road to come back home, 2/3 kids sobbed at the thought of leaving their new friends.  

We high-tailed it home so that we could get the keys to our new house and start the move-in process.  Thankfully, since there was a little bit of work to be done in the house (painting etc) and since the furniture was not able to be delivered for several days post our return, we were able to stay in the rental house another 4 nights.  Steve's parents joined us as we painted and repaired some things for the big move in, which helped us more than words can say.  Sometimes, you just need the "little helpers" to be entertained while you put in 10 hour work days!  Thanks, Gramma and Papa!

One of those 4 nights at the rental house, Turner couldn't fall asleep.  The other 2 were out like a light and T came out of their shared bedroom crying.  Steve went to lay down with him and help him figure out what was going on.  As they lay in Turner's bed and he shed tears, he finally said, "Dad, I just want to go home."  After several more questions, Steve concluded it wasn't so much that T wanted to go back to the old house (although, for him that was the only home he as ever known) it was more the sense of stability and familiarity he was longing for.  I can totally relate!

The Adventure Summer was a good one.  There were many grand moments, exciting things and lasting memories.  But most of the time, our hearts cried out for "home."  For knowing what comes next, where our stuff is, routine.  We are slowly getting there.  Our home is *mostly* set up.  (We can find our dishes, our towels, our shoes and toys.)  School began last week.  We are back to soccer practice, gymnastics practice and making dinner and eating around our table.  It is starting to feel like home.  I think that as I wander through life and it continues to unfold, there are days/seasons I lay in bed and cry for "home."  I wonder if its my heart, crying for the stability and consistency of heaven that I was created for?  Yet, at the same time, I'm deeply thankful for the seasons of Adventure that help me appreciate Home even more.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Gone but not forgotten

Wow.  Here I am, over here!  Do you see me waving my arms and jumping up and down to get your attention.  I have to do that because I'm pretty sure you have given up on me and I'm hoping to get your attention.

There have been a few obstacles in my way of getting over here to the blog.  No small obstacle was my broken down mess of a computer.  I finally scrapped my Dell and have crossed over to the Macbook Air world.  I am happy to say that I can now type and access the Internet flawlessly... until I realized it has been so long that I've been here that I no longer to could remember my passwords to get to the blog.  After some fancy footwork, I got that worked out.

On top of all of the technical difficulties, we up and moved houses.  Late May we packed our old house, went to Puerto Rico, came home, moved to a rental for about 6 weeks, went to Colorado for two weeks, came back and moved.  We have been living in the new house (8 houses down on the same street as before) for three weeks.

Boxes have been unpacked, rooms have been painted, doors have been fixed, Ikea furniture is being put together, sofas are en-route to be delivered, electricians are being called for lights that don't work and kids are now back to school so mama can get some actual work done without helpers.

All of that to say, life here has been full.  Part of me is sad to not have some of the funny moments recorded and pictures posted of things like before/after.  But so it goes.  Now that my password has been reset and there are spaces in the day to sit without interruption, I hope to fill you in on some of the goings ons of the past three months.  So much crazy.  Our summer adventure now turns into fall adventures soon.  However, I'm not completely ready to say goodbye to days at the pool and grill outs in the back yard.

Stay tuned for pictures of our new home.  I think you're gonna love it as much as we do.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

When the unexpected happens

Last night I knocked on a door and was invited into a home.  As I walked through the door- I walked into a new world.  Another family's world.  I gained a privilege afforded to only a few.

Sabida came to America 5 months ago by way of refugee camp.  Originally, she is from Somalia. She is a single mom of 10 kids.  At least I think that is what I concluded- communication was a touch challenging.  Primarily because of my lack of the Somali language.

Sabida's kids go to school with my kids.  Souleman is Olivia's classmate.  When I first met him he didn't speak a word of English.  He had a few "accidents" because he didn't know how to tell someone he had to go.  Can you imagine the frustration and humiliation of a 10 year old boy in that situation?  Back then, he never spoke.  He wouldn't make eye contact.  He never smiled.  When I met him 5 months ago, he stole my heart.

His 3 sisters are easy to spot in the hallways at school.  They are covered from head to toe in beautiful scarves and colorful dresses.  Two of the older sisters rarely crack a smile.  They often appear overwhelmed and distressed.  I have been determined to crack the code as  I smile and wave each time I see them in the hallways.  No response.

Until last night.

I sat in their living room, with my daughter by my side.  As we entered their home, we were offered a Mountain Dew and were whisked to a couch and invited to sit.  It was an impeccably tidy house with potently delicious smells wafting from the kitchen.  My mind went to my own living room, trashed with piles of mail, junk, toys and folded laundry strewn about the furniture.  Signs of hurriedness and a general lack of commitment to housekeeping.

I had arrived at 5:20 to pick them up for a school function I was in charge of.  I was suppose to be back to the school at 5:30.  Ironically, the evening's event would discuss cultural diversity and building relationships among parents within the many cultures of our school community. So OBVIOUSLY, I needed to get off of this couch and to the meeting!

Yet, there I sat at 5:30 (late for the event) on a couch in the home of this Somali family. (You do catch the irony, right?)  Olivia and I were very certainly the first Americans to step foot into their home.  The oldest brother - a high schooler-(bless his heart) found himself as the interpreter.  I'm still not sure if any of them knew why I was there or why there about to get into my van.  I DO think they understood we would be going to the school.  I think.

I sat on the couch, wondering how I would fit these 8 people, plus Olivia, into my mini-van.  I decided we would be creative and risk breaking the "rules."  Whomever wanted to come, could come.  Where there's a will, there's a way.  Thankfully, the oldest (and tallest) 2 would stay home.

At 5:45 I kindly, yet assertively stood and asked if they were ready to go.  I began to sense we might sit on the couch all night if I did not do so.  We all shuffled out to the van.  Never in my life have I realized how nice our van is.  We have a button that opens the doors.  The kids were delighted over this.  It took 10 hilarious attempts to communicate, "You don't have to pull the door handle."  Once they realized it was automatic, we had to push the button 10 more times to watch in amazement.  And FORGET ABOUT IT when they realized we had a 'tele' in the car and can watch a movie.

The event at school was a success.  I assigned myself Sabida's friend for the evening.  She was the only one at the event who spoke zero English.  I can't even imagine.  She hung in there, smiled a lot and was a good sport.  We gave the thumbs up to each other about 100 times and used " it's good?"/ "it's not good?" about equally as many times.

The ride home seemed much more relaxed.  Probably because they now knew the crazy lady who just showed up at the door and shoved them into the space-age mini-van isn't a total maniac. 

Olivia and I  took them on the scenic route on the way home.  Our neighborhood has a street festival every 1st Friday night.  It was the first gorgeous one of the season and the neighborhood was out in full force.  We drove past street performers, sidewalk cafes and even a fire juggler.  The family stared out the window, clapped and declared, "It is beautiful" and "Dayton, Ohio is beautiful." I nearly cried, which would have once again regained my spot in their minds as the crazy lady.  The oldest daughter told me, "We no car.  Don't see Dayton.  My mother says it is beautiful."

I hadn't considered this.  Of course they don't see much of the city.  No car.  No English.  I drove them past our house and told them we would love to have them over for dinner sometime soon.  The oldest daughter answered, "We can't."  My heart sunk.  Perhaps I had offended them.  "No car."  When I told them I would pick them up, they clapped and said lots of excited things in Somali (which I'm choosing to believe were not things along the lines of  "The crazy lady won't leave us alone." or "Oh, crap, now she wants to have us to her house with no way of getting out of there.").

I knew the ice had been broken when I was about to turn onto their street to deliver them safely home and there was a quick conversation in Somali which was soon followed by a request to go to Kroger.  They usually have to walk nearly a mile to get to the store.  I would gladly save them this walking trip.  What are magic vans for?

I kept the kids in the car (to watch a movie, of course) while Sabina and her oldest daughter shopped.  They came out with a full cart of food.  How long had it been since they stocked up like this?  I have no idea.  9 kids.  No car.  No English.  No husband.  A struggle I can't even fathom.

Olivia and I helped unload the food into the house.  A perfect end to a perfect night.

A man in a truck drove by and yelled at Sabina as we all had bags full of food to be carried into the house.  Apparently, he had some negative opinions he thought he needed to share with her... loudly.  He drove away before I could give him my opinion back.  I wanted to punch him in the face.  Sabina yelled, "Sorry.  So sorry."  as he peeled out.  Two of the only English words I heard her say other than "good." 

He was an idiot.  He has no idea.

She is brave.  She is smart.  She is amazing.  I saw her handle her brood amazingly in the few hours I was with her.  I want her to teach  me how to do it.  I want to learn all that she knows.  I want to hear her stories and where she comes from. I want to know the names of the delicious smelling spices cooking in her home.  I hope someday she is able to tell me all about it.  If she wants to.  She served me last night in ways she will never know.  She trusted me.  She allowed me to peek into her world.  A sacred space.  I met Jesus in a new way last night.  He opened up His heart to me through Sabina and I am humbled.

How was I chosen for such an honor?  It is a mystery.  For all of this to be shared with my daughter is beyond words.  I wish for YOU such a grace and a pleasure.  I am truly the wealthiest person on the planet today.  I hold a treasure worth more than any earthly value.  God's heart through a human experience. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Out with the old, in with the new

It's a rainy Saturday.  The trees are popping with these little green things.  Leaves?  YES!  They just might be!  The tulips are out in full bloom.  Birds are chirping (even if they start a bit too early for my liking).  All signs that Spring has sprung here in the Miami Valley.  Hibernation has ended.  New life abounds. Neighbors have been busy in their small yards here in our sweet little city neighborhood.

I've been spring cleaning up in here.  In doing so, I've unearthed some treasures.  As well as a whole lot of crap.  It's made me want to shake the dust off of the blog.  And my memory.  It's good to remember.

Gymnastic Championships were last week.  Congrats to Performance Gymnastics Academy for the first place finish for Level 3 at the Rec level this year.  Olivia has successfully completed Level 3 and will move up to Level 4 team next year.  (A year ago that would have been all "blah blah blah" to my ears.  Now I know... that means YAY she did it!!!) 

My formerly shy daughter has become a confident 9 year old who works hard, encourages her team mates, giggles and follows instructions well.  I know mom's are proud of their kids.  It is fun to be proud of your child not just for what she does and her accomplishments, but for who she is and how she treats others. And it's doubly awesome when they accomplish much while being an awesome person all at the same time. I just might explode some days!  (Some days she gives me reasons to explode for other reasons.)

Seriously though.... when did this little peanut turn into this big girl?

I must have blinked or something.

Because this guy ...
well- never mind.  He's still a turkey.

If my mom were here to behold the kid Quinn is turning into, she would shake her head and tell me she knew from the instant we met him he was going to be a genius.  It's true!  I asked him the other day if he ever gets tired of talking.  He thought for about 10 seconds (the quietest he had been all day) and said, "No. Not really,  I just never run out of words."  That is the truth.

Time flies when you're having fun.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Here we are

More like EEK... I HAD a blog. 

I just can't get my act together.  Too much life happening around here.  Not to mention I have had the Januaries.  If you don't get the Januaries and you have no idea what I am talking about, stop right there and thank the Lord! 

All is well here.  The holidays are over.  Both boys are now 7 years old.  Olivia will be 9 years old in 13 days.  The days are getting longer.  There is still snow outside of my window.  The high here will be 34 degrees.  It's practically a heat wave.

We leave for a week in Florida in 7 days. 

Hope is on the way.

I mostly wanted to post here just to say, we are alive.  It was touch and go there for a few weeks as we had cabin fever, an entire week off of school because "it was too cold to live" apparently.  Whew  WHY DO I LIVE HERE?

That is all. 
 Lots of gymnastics
Lots of this and that.