Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It Went Really Well!

First day down...it went really well.  As expected, Z was a bit of the wrench in the works at some transition points, but I hope that will work itself out as he gets used to the schedule and expectations.  If anything, the girls were disappointed we didn't do more.  All in good time.

Here are my cuties on their first day of school...totally homeschooling it in their bare feet.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Back to School

Today is our first day of school, but I wrote this post last week and scheduled it to post today, so don't think I'm so on-top-of-everything that I can pull off the first day of school and a blog post on the same day.  Just keepin' it real.

There are two really big changes to school at our house this year.  First, we're trying out a for-real schedule.  As in, each subject has its own starting and stopping time like a brick-and-mortar school.  Of course, I'm going to be flexible, knowing that keeping a schedule with a 2-year-old involved is a farce.  But we have to have some kind of structure or school will take all day and nobody will be happy (especially the teacher).  So we're going to try this and see how it goes.  Please pray.

Secondly, and much more tragic, we are doing away with quiet time.  I know I'm going to go through all the stages of grief over this one.  Since A was tiny, I've had at least some point in my day when everybody was either asleep or playing quietly in their room for a fixed amount of time so that mommy could regroup and stay sane.  All my friends know that our day revolves around quiet time.  Can't do play dates during quiet time, gotta be done before or start after.  Quiet time has been sacred around here.  

But again, I don't want to be doing school at supper or after, and Z is not going to play happy for all of the sit-down, reading types of subjects we have this year.  I have to use his nap time to get some of them done or it will be pulling teeth.  Please pray.

If everything goes (relatively) smoothly today, I might have energy to post back-to-school pics for your enjoyment.  If you don't hear from me again for another month, though, well...at least you'll know why.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Our Family Road Trip - Part 3

We only spent three nights in Florida and then it was time to head home.  We made much better progress getting out of Florida than we had coming in and decided to press on to Mobile before stopping.  This time, we stopped at the Alabama welcome center and made sure to crank up the "Sweet Home Alabama" as we pulled away.

We psyched ourselves up for finishing the drive the next day instead of splitting into two days.  We knew it would be a slog, but we would sleep in our own beds at the end of it.  I called the hotel in Lake Charles where we had made reservations and they were happy to cancel our room, but we "would still have to pay since it is less than 24 hours in advance of the stay. "  That was a new one for us.  All the other hotels had let us cancel as long as we called before 3pm the day of our stay.  We decided to go ahead and use it since we would be paying for it.  

That was a really good decision.  I got online (hooray for travel with a smartphone!) and found a promising park in Lake Charles where we could spend the afternoon.  It was epic!  Just look at that playscape!  
And a splash pad to make everything bearable.  We all changed in the restroom, went and got soaking wet, then explored the playground.  After we dried out, we went back and ran in the fountains before going to play again.  It was really good to have a fun experience on the road instead of just at our destination.  

The next morning, we finished our trek home.  We had to stop at the Texas welcome center and get the best photo yet.  Those last few hours were soooo long, even if we were on home turf.  

Overall, the trip went so much better than I expected.  It wasn't until we were coming back into Texas that the girls finally said, "I'm bored."  By that point, we were willing to let them zone out to movies for the remainder of the trip.  It went so well that J and I even started planning our next road trip.  This time, I get to pick the destination and it won't be a beach.  And if I can help it at all, it won't be in August.  
The end!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Our Family Road Trip - Part 2

On day 3 of our trip, we arrived at our destination mid-afternoon, dropped our luggage at the condo and went to meet "the Germans" as we affectionately refer to H's big family.  They were very welcoming and lavished us with gifts and a Texas-sized bbq cook-out at their condo.  
After a good night's sleep, we hit the beach early the next day.  I was so proud of our girls!  They did lightyears better with the ocean than they did last year.  Instead of panicking and climbing us like trees, they were begging for us to go out with them and bob in the waves.  Bobbing in the waves, by the way, is very difficult to photograph with any clarity.
We went back to the condo for lunch and J took the girls to meet up with the Germans at their part of the beach while Z and I took a little snooze.  Then we all lounged around the pool at their condo, which was also a huge hit with my kids (surprisingly enough).  The outlet mall was calling to the international crowd, so we tagged along and let the girls shop for a souvenir there.  Three guesses what they got.  More stuffed animals.
The next day we decided to catch the free trolley to the tip of the island and see what shops we could check out while we waited for the houseful of German teenagers to get moving.  This was a good idea, in theory.  We mailed some postcards, ate some ice cream, walked the pier, then caught the trolley again only to get off a little earlier than we should have.  Friends, do not vacation in Florida in August if you are hoping to escape Texas heat.  The wait for the next trolley included dripping sweat, a little sunburn, two kids in ant beds, some warm tap water, and a whole lot of whining.  When we (finally!) got on the next trolley, J decided that would be a good time to take pictures.  The smiles below are totally fake.

But we ended up at a little shop near our condo where we bought more postcards and.....one more stuffed animal.  At least this time it was a fish, something sort of related to our location.  
We spent that evening having dinner with the Germans and trying to squeeze in meaningful conversation between kid distractions at a restaurant.  I do wish we had been able to spend more time with H's sweet family.  That is our take-away for the proverbial "next time"....spend less time getting wherever we are going and more time being there.  
To be continued...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Our First Road Trip - Part 1

Our little family got home about a week ago from our first BIG road trip...almost 2500 miles round trip.  That's a lot of miles for kids who are used to walking to Grandma's house.  Our exchange daughter, H, told us her family was planning a huge trip to the U.S. and we started scheming about meeting them.  We didn't know when we would have another chance to meet her parents and siblings.  They were headed to Florida, so off we went for another beach trip.

Since there are lots of fun pics to share (and I know that's what you really want to see), I'm breaking up my report into installments.  You'll have to keep coming back to finish the trip with us.

I spent lots of time and energy prepping, hoping that I could stave off the car crazies for 30+ hours in the car.  Our most valuable weapon in this fight was none other than my 17-yr-old niece, R, who earned her room and board by playing countless games of tic-tac-toe, passing snacks to the back seat, retrieving thrown toys, breaking up arguments, officiating trips to the bathroom, bunking on a sleeper sofa, and listening to songs from the Cars soundtrack more times than we want to admit.  If you are planning a long road trip, I highly recommend you pack yourself a responsible teenager.  

I packed picnic foods and we planned to eat on the road, taking in the sites along the way.  Our first stop at the Trinity River Island Recreation Area made my homeschool heart proud.  We went in to the visitor's center, explored the exhibits, learned about the animals that call the marshy area home, then schlepped our stuff to a picnic table for lunch.  Before Jeremy even got to the sidewalk, I was yelling to him, "Go back!  Go back!  The mosquitos are the size of wasps!"  Don't picnic by a swampy river in Texas.  We had our picnic closer to the building where we were only occasionally assaulted by a daredevil dragonfly, but we all agreed that picnics for lunch were a bad idea because of the crazy heat.  

Our next stop was just down the road at the Louisiana welcome center.  Then another stop at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete which boasts a live tiger on site.  He was there alright, sleeping away in the heat like any animal in their right mind should have been doing.  After all those stops, we slogged on for a few hours, skipping the Mississippi welcome center.  We made it to our hotel in Gulfport and tucked everyone in.

We were excited about waking up in Gulfport and going just down the road to Biloxi and touring their lighthouse.  Unfortunately, we failed to see on their website that tours were only offered from 9-9:30am every day due to the heat.  No, it's probably not a good idea to be inside a large metal can when it hits 100 degrees.  So we only got to see it from the outside.  Bummer, but still really beautiful. 

Then we got our first glimpse at the girls' attitudes about the ocean.  They were actually excited and eager to get in the water!  I could not have predicted such a totally opposite reaction from last year's beach fright fest.
We stopped briefly in Alabama to buy postcards and souvenirs.  We overpaid for stuffed animals that had nothing to do with the part of the world we were in.

We made it to Florida and were so excited to be finally "be" in the right state!  Everyone knew we were stopping in Tallahassee and would have to finish the trip the next day, but we were still so happy to be in Florida.  

Florida takes their highway beauty very seriously.  Huge pine and oak trees line the interstate, lush green grass, blue skies, nary a billboard, building, or residence to be seen.  For miles and miles and miles.  It was a perpetual treadmill of trees.  Then bam! Town. And more trees.  J decided he didn't drive all the way to Florida to stare at trees, so he found an alternate route that traced the coast in hopes of getting a glimpse of the ocean as we drove.  Not so.  Even the coastal route was a tree treadmill, just dotted with more rural towns and sketchier gas stations.  

It was somewhere along this rural route that we stopped to eat at Emily's roadside diner.  I'm pretty sure our waitress' name was Flo.  The kids all thought it was a hoot with the Hollywood decor and folding tables.  It will always be remembered as the place where C picked Elvis' nose.
To be continued...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Whole Hearts

Sorry I didn't post any updates while our sweet Bolivian friends were with us.  It was an intense two weeks, to say the least.  Between doctor's appointments, cultural/language barriers and the everyday business of being a mom....it was intense.

I was told I had the hardest part of the hosting job, the pre-surgery days.  I didn't realize how true that was until the surgery was over and I was making visits in the hospital.  Baby B's mama was so stressed out and afraid that I had a hard time figuring out how to meet her needs and help her feel at home.  I didn't realize how much the anxiety was weighing her down.

She shared that for the last year, she had tried over and over again to do what her baby needed; seeing different doctors, trying medicine, protecting her vulnerable baby from everyday threats, selling possessions to come up with the high fees for tests and appointments.  Waiting to learn if her baby had been selected by Samaritan's Purse for the life-saving trip to the USA.  Rejoicing when the good news came.  Then making her first trip ever out of her hometown to the U.S., baby in tow, no other family.
So yeah, I guess I would be a little distant and distracted too, if thrust into a home of strangers who don't speak my language and don't know what I've been through.

Baby B's heart had a hole between the two chambers, so she was pumping non-oxygenated blood back into her body.  The surgery patched that hole and the recovery was remarkable.  My girls and I were happy to talk about how she had a whole heart now instead of a hole in her heart.

And I was blessed to also talk with her mama some about the hole we all have in our hearts...the hole only God can fill.  I'm still praying that God will give make her heart whole and that she can go home to spread the healing love of God that makes all of our hearts whole.

Since photos speak louder than words, here's a little recap...
Baby B and her family in Bolivia
Sportin' a big 'ol Texas-sized bow
Prayer before surgery
Holding mama up after she handed over her baby
The first night after surgery
Moved out of ICU within 36 hours
Released from the hospital after 4 days!
And I'm happy to say that little Baby B has a great prognosis for a happy, healthy life.  It's amazing to see the difference as she gains strength almost instantaneously.  And it was equally amazing to see the difference in her mama, burden lifted and fears wiped away.  It's a new lease on life for them both.

We are blessed to be part of your physical healing, Baby B.  May God continue the good work He has begun in you, bringing wholeness and health to your soul so that you may proclaim His love to the nations.  Abrazos y besos de Tia Sarita!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Kickin' Off the Summer

We've been busy finishing up school for the year with all that means.  Our last day was Thursday and we did a quick celebration with some cupcakes and an attempt at making sno-cones with a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine (epic fail!).  Then I quickly shooed the children to play so I could get busy preparing for our next guests.

I'm very excited that we have the opportunity to host a mama and baby from Bolivia through Samaritan's Purse Children's Heart Project.  Baby B arrives tonight with her mom and a translator.  They will be with us for about two weeks while she has heart surgery to repair a birth defect.  We are blessed to share the hosting with another family who will house Baby B during the post-surgery recovery weeks.

It's always a big task to prepare for guests, but I really enjoy sharing my home.  This time we'll get a crash course in Bolivian culture and pediatric cardiology.  I hope to have time to give you updates and share God-stories as we witness them.  Such an exciting way to kick off our summer!