Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Abortions: Take Action

Did you know that right now, abortions are legal in the District of Columbia for any reason, through all nine months of pregnancy, until the moment of birth? Currently, abortion is completely unrestricted in D.C., which means that abortions can be performed for any reason, through all nine months of pregnancy, until birth in our nation’s capital. This is a tragedy that must be fixed. The D.C. Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would ban abortions in D.C. after 20 weeks (about the 6-month mark) when an unborn child can feel pain.

I know that I had no idea that abortions could be performed for any reason until the nine month mark.

Medical evidence shows that by 20 weeks in age, an unborn child can feel intense pain as he or she is torn apart, limb by limb, by brute manual force, during a D&E abortion –a horrific practice that is happening right now, at an abortion business not far from the White House in Washington, D.C.

The responsibility rests with Congress, which has clear Constitutional authority over the District of Columbia.

Because of extensive lobbying over the last few months, the House of Representatives will vote TONIGHT on the D.C. Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, sponsored by pro-life leader Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ). This bill would ban abortions performed after 20 weeks (about the six-month mark) in the District of Columbia.

Even if you are pro-choice, wouldn't you agree that abortions should not be performed once a child can feel pain?

Thanks to your activism, the D.C. Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 3803) is up for a vote TONIGHT. You can bet that Representatives are paying attention to what they hear from their constituents, so every call counts.
Click here to call your Representative and ask them to vote YES on the D.C. Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 3803).

By clicking on the link above, you’ll be provided with your Representative’s name, phone number, and talking points when you talk to the staff member who answers the phone.

Be a voice for the voiceless: Tell your Representative to end late-term abortion in our nation’s capital by voting YES on and vocally supporting H.R. 3803.

Don’t forget, once you’ve taken action, make sure to forward this message on to five or ten of your like-minded family members and friends so they too can contact their Representative to tell them to end the horrific practice of late-term abortion in Washington, D.C.

A Day in Our life

Life here on Terceira is very different from the life I lead as a mom in Eglin. Very different from the life I lead as a mom in Turkey as well.

Firstly, we live off-Base. This is the first time I have ever lived off-Base. A trip to Lajes Field takes about ten minutes. But it is far enough that I don't go up more than once or twice a week. When I do go I try to combine multiple things that I have to do.

I am throughly enjoying staying at home and not doing too much. I have no desire to venture away from our oceanside resort. Every morning I wake up and look out my open window. I can see the waves rolling off the shore, the wind gently blowing the trees and plants in our garden, and I have no interest in trying to retreat to anywhere else. I am already retreated.

I only plan on being involved in two major activities. The first is MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers). There is currently no MOPs group on the island. This happened a bit randomly. I happened to run into a woman at the chapel who was hoping to get a group started, and somehow, I have taken the reins on this as the Coordinator. The second thing we are going to get involved in is Awanas -- a Bible School for the boys on Tuesday evenings. This will start with school in September.

Also, there is church. We have been debating whether to try an off-Base church (there are a few very small English-speaking churches off-Base) or just stick with the Base chapel. We have decided to wait until August when they are supposed to be starting a contemporary service on Base that offers both nursery and Sunday school during service. No other services, currently, either on or off of the Base offer nursery and Sunday school which means that we would have to have 1 or 3 kids in service with us. There is not a cry room either! So we are hoping that August will provide us with an option in that regard.

But that's the weekends. And this post is going to stick to the weekdays. Excuse me as I regroup.

So what is a typical weekday at our house like now?
  • Early morning: The morning begins around 7am here at our house. (Which is the best it has been in four years! I used to beg to sleep until 7am.) On Tuesdays and Thursdays JB leaves around 8am. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays he is at mandatory PT (physical training) at 6am. He gets home around 8am and is with us until 10am. From 7am-9am we are having breakfast, changing clothes, feeding the dog, preparing for our day either with or without Daddy here. This is usually a pretty hectic time for me.
  • Abigail naptime: From about 9-11am Abigail is napping. Her nap can varry from just one hour to over two. During this time, I try to spend individual time with the boys. If Hita is there (Wednesdays), we might go over to the beach and dig in the sand or go for a walk. I try to read with them and get chores done that I can't do when Abigail is awake. I will have them play individually and play with the other one, etc. We will have a snack around 10am. Here is a video featuring the type of thing we do when Abigail is napping.
  • Post morning nap: Once Abigail wakes up, it is usually time for me to start prepping for, feeding, and cleaning up lunch. But if I can, I like to try and go for a walk or do something active if she is up early enough to not conflict with lunch. On Tuesdays and Thursdays JB comes home for a long lunch which is wonderful. Here is a video of the boys entertaining themselves while I work on lunch.
  • Nap time: All three kiddos go down for naps around 1:30-2pm. Prior to naps, we've been trying to take the time to clean up and get the house in order before we go down, if we can. Abigail always falls asleep right away. One boy sleeps in their room. The other boy sleeps in my room and they switch every day. I usually have them rest for 1.5-2 hours even if they don't sleep (which lately at least one of them does not). During nap time, I hang out in the upstairs living room. Sometimes I try to rest. If not, I usually try to sit down and relax. I read or more often do my blogging, writing, or emailing.
  • Post afternoon nap: Everyone starts waking up between 4pm and 5pm and it will be 1-2 hours before JB gets home. (He has been getting home around 5:30pm). We usually hang out upstairs in the living room during this time for a change of scenery before heading downstairs and preparing for JB's return home. This video: Summersaults shows the type of thing that is going on upstairs after everyone is awake from their naps.
  • JB home time: Once JB gets home, he usually works on dinner with Sidge. We usually eat outside on the porch. Abigail goes to bed around 7pm but the boys have been going to bed closer to 8pm.

A little "i"

Isaac: "Look Mama. I made a little i with my lunch."

Elijah: "Hey, I want to try that too. I can do it too." 

Elijah: "Sorry Mommy. I just needed to eat that cheese."

Monday, July 30, 2012

The good news is ...

... that these are clean underwear.

I have made a decision I am incredibly happy with. I am storing all of the kiddos laundry right in the laundry room. Instead of dragging clean clothes upstairs and putting them away only to go get them and bring them downstairs to get the kids dressed to go out again, I have all of them right in the laundry room -- (an idea I got from the Duggars' book.)

The only problem with this is that Abigail has figured out how to open up every single one of these cabinets. She loves to get the boys' pajamas out and wrap them around her neck. She also loves to get out their clean underwear and walk around swinging them in the air and putting them in her mouth.

Yes I know I can childproof the cabinets. The problem is that the boys' clothes are put at their level so that they can help me put them away. So that they can get them out themselves. If I childproof to keep Abigail out, I'm not sure that the boys will be able to allow themselves to get in. And the childproofing will also really slow me down.

So, for now, I'm just waiting till she tires of whatever it is she is playing with and then putting them back away. It creates more work -- but more memories!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Losing Smallest Human

I was attempting to do a post for Scrubby's World According To Scrubs. Scrubs was going to introduce his loyal followers to all three of his "little people." Only, just after we started the video, little Abigail turned up missing, and I didn't turn the camera off during the stress of finding her. In the last few days the boys and I have come up with a strategy for keeping her better contained using a series of doors and gates. Literally, if I leave for just thirty seconds, she is off to somewhere else -- as you can see from Scrubby's newest video: The World According to Scrubs: Losing smallest human.

Chore Chart

I have been playing with the idea of a chore chart in my mind for quite a few months. There were four goals I had for the chore chart that I would hope to implement. I wanted it to be (a) sustainable, (b) inexpensive (c) motivating and (d) fun. I knew that the boys were of an age where having family responsibilities was important, but I wasn't sure how to encourage them to help while making it fun at the same time.

I finally came up with the following chart after talking to many of my friends and trying to combine or eliminate their successes and/or failures:

Here's a picture of Sidge showing off his chart. Isaac's chart is on the left and Sidge's chart is on the right. I opted for drawing them on the freezer with a dry eraser marker. This was completely free. And then, instead of coloring in the squares which would require me to redraw the grid each week, we chose to use magnets (which we have an abundance of and no real use for). On Saturday evening, when we clear the board and start again, I might have to redraw a few lines, but overall, it stays pretty well from week to week. 

Here is a close-up of our chart. JB helped me with the pictures at the top of each column. (I don't think he was impressed with my initial artwork attempt. The idea was that the kids would know what each column was for since they can't read. But my artwork really didn't help them know anything.) 

The boys have five ways they can earn their magnets each week.
  • The first column is feeding or watering Scrubby for breakfast. (Isaac does food in the morning and water in the evening and Sidge goes opposite.)
  • The second column with a picture of Mader is for helping clean up their toys before afternoon naps.
  • The third column is for feeding or watering Scrubby for dinner.
  • The fourth column is for cleaning up their toys before bedtime.
  • The fifth column is for saying their memory verses before bed.
At the end of the week, they get one mini marshmallow for every square that they have a magnet in. At this point, they are very motivated and want to earn their magnets. So I haven't really had to deal with what I would do if they refused to help. In addition, I will often say, "Okay, I'm going to give you two more minutes to pick up your toys. If you don't pick them up within two minutes, you'll still have to help me, but you won't get a magnet." Overall, we've been doing this for about four weeks now, and it is going really well.

I'd love to hear from other people what worked or didn't work for you.

Pretty and Pouty

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A day in the garden

"It's been awhile. I thought it might be time for you to spend a few minutes in the life of a Scrubby. So join me in my new yard with my family."

"Sorry. Hang on a second. I just need to finish this nap first."
"Awwww Sidge. Thanks for that hug. Okay. I think I'm awake now."

"Please ignore the young human doing flips in the background and focus on me. It's not often I get a blog to myself."

"As often happens in my home, the relaxing is always short lived. Heaviest human child decides he wants to play Kung Fu on my back."

"This is so embarrassing. I have to pretend like this heavy human can take me. I can't even watch."

"I, in turn, decide to execute my right to an ear nibble. It's one of my favorite things to do."

"This is my ferocious look."

"Sorry. Starting to feel tired again. I think it is time for another nap."

 "Try this angle. I think this is my best side."

"Go ahead and team up on me. I'll pretend you win ... again." 

"Wait. Was that something I should be chasing? Barking at?" 

"Do you think this angle captures my stunning regalness."


It's amazing how something so little can cause you so much stress.

Car keys.

I'd love to hear your own stories about the drama associated with losing a key to a vehicle. Or a key to a house. And in the meantime, I'll share mine.

Firstly, if you think losing your car keys is bad, I'll top that for you. How 'bout losing car keys to a car that doesn't belong to you? And how 'bout losing those car keys with three small children in tow?

Yep, that was my Friday.

Borrowed Nick and Kristy's jeep. Our van needed to pass some Island inspection, and I had a meeting to attend. (Did I tell you all that it looks like I'm going to be starting a MOPs group on Base?) So since I still haven't been properly refreshed on how to drive stick, especially on an island with an incredibly large number of hills, I needed a vehicle.

Took their jeep. Went to my meeting. After my meeting the kids and I walked across the street to the shoppette to get a few things with coupons for products which are not available in the grocery store. By the time I returned to the borrowed jeep, the car keys were nowhere in sight. My keys were. But Nick and Kristy's keys, which I had attached to my own, were nowhere to be found.

I flashed back. The kids had been pulling stuff out of my diaper bag during my meeting. Abigail had been playing with my keys while we were in the Shoppette. I had noticed the chain they were on was loose when I hooked them onto my keys. They could be a number of places.

So I retraced all my steps. I didn't have a stroller for Abigail since I was counting on using a grocery cart to haul her around. And the boys had worn their army rain boots which make walking a slow-go. One full round retracing my steps, left me no closer to finding my keys.

So we walked to the Clinic to see if JB could help. Maybe watch a kid for me while I retraced our steps ... again. He could not. Seeing patients. Ran into some friends at the park. They watched the boys for me while I retraced again. No luck. I left my name at the Community Center. The Fitness Center. The Shoppette. Ran into JB. He then helped me go back through my steps all over again. Still no luck.

By this point I am in tears. Still carrying Abigail on my hip. Knowing that Nick and Kristy do not have an extra key as this was an island bomb that they purchased when they got here. Also realizing that I have three little kids and no way to get them home.

I retrieve the boys from the park and thank my friends profusely for helping watch them while we looked without luck. JB had to get back to work. It was nearing 1pm by this time -- two hours after I first noticed the keys were missing. Everyone was crabby and hungry. Sidge was actually saying, "Mommy, my legs are willy tired." I felt so bad for how crabby I was that I told the boys, "You guys have been doing a good job. Mommy is just really frustrated."

(Did I mention that when I retraced with the kiddos in tow, they kept saying, "Look what I found?!" only to then point out ice cream or candy. Not funny when you are looking for something!)

So we are stuck on Base. And so we are hungry. So I returned to the Shoppette to try to figure out something we can eat. Everything else was just too far to walk to without a stroller and without a car. As we are buying some Nutri Grain bars and a sausage biscuit and other foods that didn't go together whatsoever, the man behind the counter says, "Did they tell you?"

"Tell me? No."

"Oh. Well, we found your keys!" They knew me by name by this point. I'd been back in over and over again asking, "Has anyone found anything?"

They told me that they found the two keys attached to different grocery carts. Abigail had been playing with my keys and so obviously the not-attached-tightly-enough set had come off and snagged on the grocery cart.

I coulda hugged the man. Maybe I did. I can't remember.

We had a picnic in JB's office before heading home. I returned the jeep to Kristy. "How'd it go?" she asked. I told her it was the worst day of my life. That was probably a huge overstatement, but at that moment, it sure felt like one of the cruddiest days of my life.

I never did make it to the grocery store as I had planned. JB went for me instead to pick up some fruit for a fruit salad for our olympic party at Nick and Kristy's later that evening. The party, was a roaring success and I quickly forgot about the frustrations of just a few hours prior.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Grant and Elizabeth "go live"

I am so excited to share with everyone that Grant and Elizabeth, our very first sponsored couple on Because of Isaac, now have their profile on Bethany Christian Service's website. This means that they could be picked to be a child's mom and dad at ANY moment! While we haven't raised all the money needed for their adoption, we have raised a lot of it, and are confident that the Lord will provide the rest of the funds in His perfect timing.

I am enclosing Grant & Elizabeth's letter to the future birthmother of their child. Get your tissues ready. Talk about powerful. Talk about moving. What great parents they will be.

Dear Birthmother,

We should start at the beginning ... Elizabeth grew up loved. Her father was a storyteller. She spent hours listening to his tales and making up her own. Her mom instilled a love of flowers and gardens and bumblebees.

Grant loved to play.....and still does. His mom claims he was a handful; he prefers to think of himself as "active." He was, and is, a ball of energy.

As the eldest of six children, Elizabeth knows the joys of a big family. With four brothers and a sister, several of whom are now married, family gatherings are crazy and chaotic but never dull!

Family has created a foundation for her; it is a heritage she hopes to share with children of her own.Grant's family started with three boys, Grant as the youngest. When his Dad remarried, Grant became a big brother when he was twenty-four. Now he has an excuse to goof off and play around.Our extended family, which now includes two nieces and four nephews, is an integral part of our lives. We work to fit in visits and family gatherings whenever we can.

Grant uses his degree in Outdoor Education and his Master's Captain's license to work as an interpretive kayak guide and boat captain. He leads trips of children and adults, sharing information on wildlife, ecology, and natural history.

Elizabeth is a high school English teacher working with juniors and seniors. Her love of storytelling and reading are a perfect fit with teaching literature.When at home, we both love working in our garden. We have dreams of expanding, growing an orchard and adding more animals, one day becoming as self-sufficient as possible.

We live in the hayloft of a restored barn set on three acres and completely surrounded by woods. We're a bit off the beaten track, a tiny bit of privacy tucked in the middle of civilization. We have been happy here, but we imagine more for this place. We imagine it's a perfect home for children. A place where a child can run and explore, a place where forts can be built and things can grow, a place where memories can be made and a child can be loved...It has great potential.

In many ways, we feel we’ve been drafting this letter for years, for the dream of a family has been long in the making, and this letter, and most importantly you, are a part of that dream. We had no idea five years into our marriage, when first we started to plan for a child, that the desire we had for a baby of our own would take us down the path of infertility testing and treatment, of eight years of waiting and hoping, and now writing a letter to you, a young woman we don’t yet know but for whom we have prayed and imagined, nonetheless. But sometimes, the unexpected, the unplanned, brings about the opportunity for prayers to be answered in a miraculous way.  This is how we imagine you: God’s grace in action, offering what we don’t deserve, but for which we are so very, very grateful.

How much you must love and cherish this baby to be making the choice that you are. It takes great courage in our culture today to make the decision to give a child life. We are humbled by your willingness to do this for your child. Humbled not only for the gift you are giving to us, which awes us in the magnitude of what you offer, but by what this action says of you and your character; it speaks of bravery, of sacrifice, of integrity. We know it must be a decision that comes with pain as well. Though we may be in very different points in our journey, we do understand the sadness that comes with sacrifice, the grief that comes with letting go. We cannot take that part away; knowing and living with this pain ourselves, we wish we could for you. We can, however, honor you for the plan you have for this child, and respect you for the bravery it has taken to get to this point.

Because this gift is so amazing, so very great, we cannot imagine raising a child without sharing the depth of your sacrifice with him or her. This baby will know that he or she was loved completely: prayed for by us before he was even conceived, loved passionately by you while you were carrying her, and loved unconditionally by us all as he or she grows up. This must be a part of his or her story; we promise that it will be so.

We realize that this letter will be read by many people, but it is, in fact, written just for you. We imagine already what you are like, what characteristics you will impart to this child, what qualities you are already bestowing upon him or her. We want you to know who we are as well, to somehow see the life we will share with this child, to know that, above all, beyond home and lifestyle and possessions, we will work to instill faith and a love for our God in this child, and that we will fiercely love him or her.

Thank you. It is not enough to say, but we hope it expresses the fullness of our hearts and the depth of our gratitude to you. You are, in every way, a blessing to us and to this child.

With great humbleness,

Grant and Elizabeth

Friday Funnies

Elijah: "When I grow up, I am going to die."
JB: "Well, you aren't going to die until you are very old."
Elijah: "No, not die Daddy. Dive."
JB: "Dive? You are going to be a diver when you are really old?"
Elijah: "No, drive. When I grow up, I am going to drive."
My "office" (aka a place for my stuff to be) is near the time-out corner. Sidge came looking for me one day, and I heard him say, "Mom!? Where are you? Are you in time-out?"
While talking to my parents via Skype, the boys heard my Dad say they were headed out to Olive Garden for my Mom's birthday. Obviously our lives do not include restaraunts of any American-similarities because Sidge replied, "We have a garden too!"
Isaac while playing outside cried gleefully, "Mommy. I found your missing earring. Thinking he found the earring I was actually missing, JB quickly went over to inspect. He gave Isaac a big, "Good job" and "Thanks buddy," only to return to the house with a paperclip in hand.
While playing hot potato with Ms. Nicole, Isaac said, "No, let's play hot french fries."
As we finished our ice cream at the ice cream shop:
Me: "Did you like that ice cream Sidge?"
Elijah: "I loved it."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I can't love her

I am adjusting to life in the Azores. And out of sight, can sometimes be out of mind. If I put out the friends I had in Turkey out of my mind, I can forget about the pain of leaving them. But that isn't always possible. A few pictures can send me right back to the people I loved so much.

I also still realize how much I am still grieving when I find myself fearing making friends here. I have my arm up. I'm keeping people at a safe distance. I don't want to connect and disconnect again. My housekeeper, Hita, is wonderful. I enjoyed taking her on her first elevator ride ever the other day! (She's never left the island and there really aren't any high rising buildings here in Terceira.) She loves Abigail. She is a fantastic worker. And yet, I don't want to love her. I can't love her. I can't say good bye to her like I had to do Hatice.

A bit depressing, I know, but it's truth.
I got these pictures from our buddy from Turkey -- Peter's mom -- Sarahbee. Peter and his family flew back on the rotator with JB and Isaac when we moved to the Azores. Of course, Dan, Sarahbee, and Peter headed from Boston to another city in the USA. Daddy and Isaac loaded Scrubby on another flight and headed back the way they came -- to the Azores.
Firstly, Peter and Sidge got to hang out before we said good bye to Daddy and Isaac:

Time to say good bye to Peter. This caused me some tears, even if it didn't cause the boys tears. They had no idea that they wouldn't see each other for a very long time -- even if we tried to explain it to them. But we grown-ups did.

And here is a last photo of Isaac and Peter before they boarded their last flight together from Germany to Baltimore.

I have gotten word that Angelica's family has arrived in Japan. Stebbins is moving in in D.C. Sarahbee just bought a house in the Dakotas. Shane and Linda just said good bye to Turkey. A few friends remain on Base. I miss them all so much!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fun with Hannah

What a sweet little girl Hannah is. She loves to play with the boys. And she adores Scrubby. She and Abigail are often going off on a little adventure together. She and her mom are only here for a few days but what a great time we have been having. I cannot believe how much faster the days go with another adult here to have conversations with.

And here are some videos with Hannah: One and Two.

A reminder

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Always Adjusting

I am always amazed how quickly a day can shift from good to bad. At how much, as a mother, you have to be ready to change directions.

Tuesday for isntance. First, the good is that our friend from medical school, Nicole, has come to visit us with her 18 month old daughter Hannah. She and her husband are doing medical work in Barcelona, and Nicole took a few das to make the flight over to Terceira to see us. How wonderful. Nicole is such a fantastic woman. It is such a joy to catch up with her.

The morning had just flown by. And for a stay-at-home mom, that is a good thing. Chatting with Nicole and playing with the kids had brought lunchtime and JB's return home faster than I can ever remember it happening.

So, my brilliant idea? After lunch I suggested that we ride our bikes (and push our strollers) two blocks away to the natural swimming hole. I pushed Abigail. Nicole had Hannah. The boys were on their bikes with training wheels.

All seemed to be going so well. But you don't count on little things. Little things like little Isaac falling off his bike and majorly scraping his stomach:

He was quite distraught, and our time at the beach was cut remarkably short. I really couldn't blame him. Those deep cuts burn, and he was miserable with all the sand and wind. So we headed home. Only now I had one boy who couldn't ride his bike. I had a little baby girl all covered in sand. I had another boy who needed to be rinsed off. Thirty minutes after Isaac's accident we are back home and spending an hour recovering from the time at the beach. I was trying to hold Isaac. Clean Abigail and Sidge. Give Abigail a bottle. Put her down. Find clothes for Elijah. Major multi-tasking.

The one thing I have really learned as a Mom is that new discoveries are temporary. Don't assume you have solved a problem forever. Kids will figure out a way to change things and you'll need a new formula.

For example. The picture I showed you of Abigail this past week, below.

I had figured out a way to let her be outside but not be on her own, using a gate I had borrowed from my friend Kristy. But by the next day, take a look at the picture below:

Jailbreak! This week I have moved a chair in front of the gate to keep her from going around. But I know this will only be good for a limited time too. It's like basketball. It's like teaching. It's like coaching. It's like life. Stay on your toes. You are never as smart as you think you are.

Puupy Smiles

Monday, July 23, 2012


My Aunt Constance "Connie" with her son Colin.

I am constantly amazed at how cool God is.
In the fall of 2010, I found out that I was once again pregnant. Having thought Elijah was a “one-time-thing” we were blown away that another miracle had occurred. But we were also just a bit overwhelmed. We had one big dog, two toddlers, and, oh, yeah, we lived halfway across the world from all of our friends and family – in Turkey of all places.

So imagine my surprise when within twenty-four hours of discovering a new life was on the way, I received an out-of-the-blue Facebook message from Veronica Ray. She was 19 now, but we had known her since she was just a little girl. Now, she had just graduated high school and was looking to explore the world. More joking than serious, she put a comment on one of my photos, “Hey Wendi. Want a nanny?” I messaged back a follow-up. Are you serious? She wasn’t but now I had her attention.

I told her my secret. Baby Kitsteiner #3 was on the way. Help!!!!
Over the next few weeks, we came up with a plan. We’d pay her ticket to Turkey and let her live with us and eat with us if she’d help me with the kids. She could make money doing other work for other people but no money would actually exchange hands between us. It was wonderful! She got to see the world, and I had a “family member” there to help me with what turned out to be a very difficult year. From an appendicitis to going into early labor to having to live in Germany for two and a half months – I truly do not know how we could have done it without her.

But God knew. Isn’t He cool? He brought along something I needed before I even knew I needed it.
And He’s moved for our family again.

When we saw our home in the Azores, JB and I immediately discussed the prospect of a Veronica-like-arrangement again. We had the space here. Maybe another very special person would want to come and help us. As we saw it, to go out once a week (which we would love to but don’t do) would cost us about $50 each week for a babysitter. Four times a month is $200. For six months that is $1200. I’d rather pay for someone’s plane fare and have them with me a lot more than hire some local person to watch my kids. Financially it just made sense.
But Veronica had moved on to other things and was no longer available. Did we want to look for someone else? I shook my head and told JB, “I’m not up for finding anyone to come and live with us. If God has someone in mind, He’ll need to bring them my way and drop them in my lap.”

And once again, He did. I can’t even remember how the communication began. I think it was me who threw it out to my Aunt Connie. “Want to be a nanny?” yet again on Facebook. She replied in the affirmative. But we both didn’t think the other was being serious. I’m not sure I was. I definitely didn’t think she’d be interested.
But she was.

My mother is the oldest of five children. My aunt Connie is the youngest of those children. She was only 14 when I was born. When I was much younger, I would often go to visit family in the Illinois area and spend a lot of time with my aunt. But once I went to college, we lost touch. We sent occasional cards or emails but nothing much. In the meantime, she moved to Petoskey, Michigan. And I was all over the world. No time to run in the same direction. Connie and Mike are no longer married but their two sons live close by – Casey in Grand Rapids and Colin in Petoskey where he works as a lumberjack! (He’s a really strong guy so I’ve been told!) With Colin’s graduation from high school last year, Connie’s heart had begun to stir with the desire for some adventure.
And my heart had been desiring to stir with the need for family.

I’m sure it goes without saying that we miss our families something bad. I miss having a Grama that can watch them for an afternoon. I miss birthday parties with aunts and uncles in attendance. We do not regret our decision to live in Turkey or the Azores. We often remind ourselves that we “chose our little family over our big family.” In other words, if we went to Turkey … if we went to the Azores … JB would most likely not deploy. But it would mean being away from family for a very long period of time.
I hate that my parents won’t see Abigail until she is walking. I want my boys to spend time with JB’s mom and dad. But right now, that isn’t where our life is.

That being said, I am so thrilled to have family here with me. Connie is coming in late September. The initial plan is for her to stay at least six months. We’ll reevaluate at that point whether she will stay longer.
Her arrival caps off quite a run of visitors. My friend Nicole (JB’s classmate from medical school) and her daughter Hannah come in this weekend for a few days. In mid-August, JB’s parents are coming into town for three weeks. And then Connie will be here a few days after they leave. (She is a huge dog person too which is a great bonus!)

Anyways, just wanted to share my very exciting news with those of you who read my blog. I am so blessed that she is coming. Blessed that I will have someone here that will allow me to go for a run, run some errands, or run and take a shower. Do I need the help? No. I can do it without her. But will it make my marriage and mothering much better? It definitely will. Her presence will allow us to spend time together as a couple and allow my kids to have an auntie here that loves them.
I can’t wait!
I also found this picture: check this out! That's Joni with my aunt Connie (middle) and my Aunt Linda (my dad's youngest sister). This picture was probably taken when I was just a baby.

Pool Daze

Since we have been told the warm-enough-for-swimming weather only lasts for a few months -- becoming too cold by September -- we are trying to take full advantage of the beautiful pool the Lord has blessed us with. There is a thermometer in the pool and the temperature shows the water between 70 and 73 on most days. (Although when the boys look at it they say things like, Elijah: "It says cold." or Isaac: "It's 40 zero today.") I'd really like it closer to 78 or so. But we can get in it and the boys want to swim every day. So we've been doing just that.

(Scrubs, by the way, has no interest in the pool, despite us throwing him in numerous times. The dog just can't figure out how to get to the steps. I think this is because when they had swim days in Turkey, there were no stairs to get out!)

The great news is that, thanks to my new friend Jenn who was giving the boys swimming lessons until she went back to the States for a visit last week, both the boys are swimming! Isaac actually has the way better form, but he keeps telling us he wants to wait for Jenn to return to swim again. Elijah on the other hand, wants to swim non-stop. His form isn't all that great, but he is really making progress.

And Abigail, well, she loves to wear goggles on her forehead (as you can see from the picture above) and has recently decided that the little pool we gave her to swim in is way beneath her. Oh, and the little boat that Grama K. sent her just doesn't allow her the freedome she so deserves. Here are some videos of our pool days.
  • Sidge swims: If you haven't seen me explain it earlier on the blog, Elijah has decided that his new name is Sidge. It is all he wants to be called. It originated with Isaac calling him Sidge-uh before he could pronounce Elijah. We shortened it to Sidge. And now, it has stuck. In fact, if I introduce him as Elijah to anyone he corrects me ... instantly. So, anyways, Sidge is swimming! Really! So happy about this!
  • Abigail in the pool: Forget her little pool. She wants in with Dad or Mom now all the time. Not easy when there are three kids and two grown-ups!
  • Float from Grama K.: Last week she liked it. This week she has decided she needs to be in the water.
  • White water from Jenn: Jenn teaches the boys to kick by making "white water." Here is Isaac showing off his skills.
  • Abigail first swim: Here she is determined to play on the steps all by herself. We have to stay close but not TOO close or she dives onto us.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Letter from Dal Owner

I received the following email the other day. I replied and asked if she could send a picture of her Perdy so I could share a photo with the letter on my blog.

Hello Wendi,

I lost my Dalmatian in July of 2011. She was 14 and had Cushings Disease. I miss her a lot, some days more than others. On my really bad days I go to YouTube and look at videos of Dalmatians. That is how I found your wonderful clips of Scrubs and Isaac. They have become my "go-to" videos when I need a lift. The other day I was looking to see if you had posted anything new. I was excited to see not only the new videos but a link to your blog. I spent a few hours reading and looking at pictures. Knowing how Scrubs came to you and the part he plays in your family makes the clips even more enjoyable. My life has not been touched by infertility or adoption, but it HAS been touched by Dalmatians. Until I find the right Dal to fill the empty "spot" in my life I will continue to enjoy Scrubs and his adventures. Please give him a big hug for me and tell him to keep those videos coming. Take care and thanks for sharing.

I love receiving emails like this. I especially love knowing that my life can in some small way touch someone else's. I love seeing that all people are, at our core, the same.
I have mentioned before what Scrubs did for me from July 2007 until May 2008. I truly believe he kept me from falling into a pit that I may not have been able to climb back out of. I was so down. Feeling so alone. I worked 40 hours a week from home and my husband was a resident. I lived on military base (aka a breeding ground) and I was floundering.

And then 15 pounds of spots (which quickly became 20 and 25 and 30) entered my life, and I was smitten. He gave me a reason to get up in the morning, a reason to exercise, and a way to meet people. And then when the babies came, surprisingly, back-to-back-to-back, Scrubby was right there. The moment we brought Isaac into the house, he laid down next to that crib like it was his mission in life.

So while I have never lost a dog, I can feel this reader's heart -- her sadness from losing her dear friend. I never had a pet growing up. I thought it a bit much when people signed cards from their pets or fell into grief when they passed away. Never again. I totally get it now. Scrubs is a part of our family. He is an integral member. When we first moved to the island, he was sneaking out of the yard a bit, and one day I really thought we might have lost him. I was nearly sick. I realized that as crazy as he drives me, I'd be LOST without his presence. He is our guard dog. He is our floor cleaner. He is our ear knibbler. He is our foot-stepper-onner. He is our playmate. He's a great dog.

Dalmatian owners do feel connected a bit. Dals often get an incorrect reputation of being mean or dumb. They are neither. They can be aloof and stubborn but they are incredibly loyal and nearly person-like in their facial expressions and attitude. Scrubs has an incredible amount of personality.

Thanks for the note new friend! What a beautiful girl she was. I can see a bit of Scrubs in her and can see why you have adopted my Scrubby as a surrogate doggie.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom & on my toes

Firstly, a big ol' Happy Birthday to my Mom! Thirty-seven years ago, she turned married my father (1975) and 3 days after that she turned 20. Is that right mom? I came in May of 1977 shortly before her 22nd birthday.

My own daughter would come when I was 34 years old -- nearly 12 years later in life than my mom was when she had me. Since I have been told I was a handful, my respect for my mother has grown even more. Abigail is an amazing joy to us. But man does she keep us on our toes -- in a good way!

Abigail has quiet moments -- here she is enjoying a book on the couch. 

 But quickly she decides that diving off the couch would be way more fun. The good news is, she is very good at stairs and steps and climbing up and down. She really does not fall much.

 Here she is deciding to climb behind the couch. Unfortunately this is as far back as this couch goes so unless I block it, she will continue to go in. She actually got herself out of this jam by herself today.

Not sure the glass corner rack is going to be a good thing to have in the summer room right now. Might need to come up with a different place for it. And yes, that's a box of toys she emptied out and is standing in.

P.S. To see more of Abigail's jams, click here.

Portuguese Life (we love it!)

What have we learned about life in Portugal in a month and a half of calling it home? A whole lot! Firstly, let me say that we ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT HERE! This place fits us soooo perfectly. It moves slow, has an incredible beauty, and is much closer to the life we came form in America. We truly feel that if it wasn't for the fact that we have family back in America, we could live here for the rest of our lives.

Other things we have learned?
  1. The Portuguese are very “Italian-like” (self-described) in the way they communicate with each other. They are loud and animated and passionate. Our landlord is an eldery woman. Her kids and gradkids help manage the home. More than once two of them have come together to visit us and an arguing match ensues. It's quite funny and uncomfortable all at once.
  2. The driving is not nearly as bad as Turkey but it's still a bit uncomfortable for me. This is due to very narrow roads, very narrow parking spaces, and people who don't slow down when the road is narrow or when they see you walking on the side of the road.
  3. There are next to no stoplights on the island. In fact, during the 10 minute commute that JB has to work, he has no stops at stoplights -- instead there are roundabouts at all the intersections.
  4. The most common traffic congestion problem is cows! There are twice as many cows on the island as there are people, and they are all free-ranging and moved via main roads.
  5. There are absolutely NO fast food restaurants on the island. Not a single one. On Base there is a Subway (if you count that as fast food.) I’m actually happy about the lack of options. You really just have to go home and eat or sit down at a healthy restaurant.
  6. Milk, until just recently, has only been sold on the island in boxed form. They have just started selling litres of milk. They are actually much cheaper than the organic milk available on Base. ($2.00 per half-gallon vs. $4.50 per half gallon.) But it's so strange at the Portuguese grocery store to see two rows of yogurt and only one tiny section of milk.
  7. People here love children almost as much as they do in Turkey. They are often kissing our kids or rubbing their heads; however they do seem to ask before they pick them up.
  8. The people are very nice; many people smoke; overall people seem to have "normal" bodies -- in other words not a ton of obesity but no plastic surgery either. People at the beach look like real people, and they don't seem embarrassed by that at all.
  9. Many people speak English on the island. It has been very rare that we feel trapped by our lack of language.
  10. Unlike Turkey where going "into the culture" was incredibly overwhelming and uncomfortable due to extreme cultural differences, here it feels just a "little" different than America. It really is so much more European here and so much more comfortable in so many ways.
  11. The biggest issue with our house is that there are no 110 volt outlets. This means that everything must be plugged in through a converter (if it can handle 220 volts) or using a transformer. It's quite a process to figure out how to plug things in and where it can plug in.
  12. In addition, the wiring in our house in one section appears to have some major issues. This resulted in JB's new IMac being fried ... we believe. The landlord has been wonderful, but honestly, so have we. We told them that while they are working on fixing the wiring, we would work on fixing the IMac and maybe seeing what our insurance would cover before we asked them to replace it. Apparently this is NOT the Portguese way as our landlord told us that if we were Portuguese we would "want a new one yesterday!"
  13. The pace of life is much slower here; crime is nearly non-existent (other than petty theft), and people seem to really take the time to smell the roses.
  14. Overall it seems that the Americans have a good reputation off-Base. Senor Carlos who has become our "fix-it" guy and helps us with our yard tells us that he loves working for Americans because we never haggle him over the price and always pay him what we've agreed to pay him. Why wouldn't we?
  15. People stand in lines the "normal" way here. Oh how I hated that in Turkey!
  16. Because we are only a 4.5 hour flight from the USA, people are often going "home" for a baby shower or a wedding -- things that people really couldn't do in Turkey with the length of time and money it took to reach the USA.
  17. People definitely start things later, stay up later, and arrive overdue as a rule here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

How you know your from South Florida

I grew up in South Florida. My parents are from the Chicago suburbs, and I lived there for one year of my childhood. But South Florida was where I spent my childhood, and I identifiy with it most of all. I've almost lived away from it more than I have in it. I never plan to live there again. But still I refer to it is as "home." Every military member has to have a "home of record." Our's is JB's parents in South Florida.
I've lived lots of places since. Kentucky, Minnesota, Northern Florida, and Turkey and the Azores. Northern Florida is, in my opinion, nothing like southern Florida. Northern Florida is the south. But Southern Florida, is, its own place. No one is from South Florida. They are all misplaced northerners.
I found this list online and it really resonated with me! Enjoy!
  • Socks are only for bowling.
  •  You never use an umbrella because you know the rain will be over in five minutes.
  •  A good parking place has nothing to do with distance from the store, but everything to do with shade.
  •  Your winter coat is made of denim.
  •  You can tell the difference between fire ant bites and mosquito bites.
  •  You're younger than thirty but some of your friends are over 65.
  •  Anything under 70 is chilly.
  •  You pass on the right and honk at the elderly, but pull over for a funeral.
  •  You've driven through Yeehaw Junction.
  •  You could swim before you could read.
  •  You have to drive north to get to The South.
  •  You know that no other grocery store can compare to Publix.
  •  Every other house in your neighborhood had blue roofs in 2004-2005.
  •  You've gotten out of school early on Halloween to trick or treat before it got dark
  •  You know that anything under a Category 3 just isn't worth waking up for.
  •  You dread lovebug season.
  •  You are on a first name basis with the Hurricane list. They aren't Hurricane Charley, Hurricane Frances... but Charley , Frances , Ivan and Jeanne.
  •  You know what a snowbird is and you hate them.
  •  You think a six-foot alligator is actually pretty average.
  •  You were twelve before you ever saw snow, or you still haven't.
  •  "Down South" means Key West.
  •  "Panhandling" means going to Pensacola.
  •  You think no-one over 70 should be allowed to drive.
  •  Flip-flops are everyday wear.
  •  Shoes are for business meetings and church.
  •  No, wait, flip flops are good for church too, unless it's Easter or Christmas.
  •  An alligator once walked through your neighborhood.
  •  You measure distance in minutes.
  •  You have a drawer full of bathing suits, and one sweatshirt.
  •  You get annoyed at the tourists who feed seagulls.
  •  A mountain is any hill 100 feet above sea level.
  •  You know the four seasons really are: almost summer, summer, not summer but really hot, and February.
  •  Anything under 95 is just warm.
  •  You understand the futility of exterminating cockroaches.
  •  You can pronounce Okeechobee, Kissimmee , Ichnatucknee and Withlacoochee
  •  You understand why it's better to have a friend with a boat, than have a boat yourself.
  •  You were 5 before you realized they made houses without pools.
  •  You were 25 when you first met someone who couldn't swim.
  •  You've worn shorts and used the A/C on Christmas.
  •  You know what the "stingray shuffle" is, and why it's important!
  •  You recognize Miami-Dade as " Northern Cuba ".

Friday Funnies

We read in our children's Bible that Joshua and Caleb had courage. That God helped them when they were afraid. "How does God help you when you're afraid?" I ask.
Isaac: "He keeps us safe from bad guys."
Elijah: "Yeah. He sends angels to fight da bad guys."
Isaac: "Yeah. And the police."
Me: "Sidge, you have play dough all over you."
Elijah: "That's because I was playing with play dough."
Elijah: "I can't put my underwear on. They're outside out."
While sitting on the potty doing his business, Isaac said, "Man that poopy really stinks." When I confirmed this he then said, "Is that why we don't eat poopy?" Elijah, standing outside the door said, "Poopy has derms (germs)."                    
Isaac: "Abigail you are an armpit."
Me: "Don't call Abigail an armpit."
Isaac: "Okay. But can I call her a cutie pie armpit?"
While Hita was cleaning, I took the boys to the beach a block from our house to dig in the sand.
Elijah: "Is this a net?"
Me: "Well, I think it is more like a sand sifter."
Elijah: "Okay. But I'll call it a net."
Me: "Isaac, your sleeves are too long, let me roll them."
Isaac: "I don't want you to roll them."
Me: "Why?"
Isaac: "Because then they are inside out."
Elijah started to climb over the top of a recliner.
Me: "Sidge, you know the rules. Don't do that. We don't climb on furniture." (He completely ignores me and does it anyways.) "Okay, I'm sorry, but you need to go to your room now.You didn't listen."
Elijah goes to his room. I ask JB to check on him and bring him out as he is headed that way. JB returns and said the following conversation ensued.
JB: "You know why you are in here?"
Elijah: "Yes, I climbed over the chair."
JB: "Are you supposed to do that?'
Elijah: "No. But it was pretty fun Dad."
Elijah: "Look mom. These match."
Me: "They do?"
Elijah: "Yeah."
Me: "Why?"
Elijah: "It's a black shirt and blank shorts."
Me: "Oh. Okay. But I think they are both blue."
Elijah: "What?"
Me: "I think it's a blue shirt and blue pants."
Elijah: "Mom they are shorts, not pants."
I often let Abigail eat her snack on a little stool in the kitchen. It is the same stool that Sidge uses to stand on to help us in the kitchen. I gave Abigail a snack. Then I asked Sidge if he wanted to help me put away the utensils. He did. I set them basket of utensils out of the dishwasher by the silverware drawer, and then walked away for a moment. Five seconds later, I hear Abigail scream. I rush into the kitchen to find Abigail sitting on the floor and Sidge standing on the stool which he has pushed next to the utensil drawer.
Me: "Where did you get that stool from?"
Elijah: "From over there."
Me: "Was that the stool that Abigail was eating from?"
Elijah: "Yes."
Me: "So where did you put her oranges?"
Elijah: "On the floor."
JB: "Boys, get down off the top of your (outdoor bike-style) cars. You know you aren't supposed to be up there."
Elijah: "Isaac was up there. But I wasn't up there."
Wendi: "That's good. You were a good listener."
Elijah: "Yeah, I didn't go up there because I couldn't get up there."
While JB and I were finishing dinner, Isaac came up to the table and dropped a rather large centipede (they are EVERYWHERE here) on the table. "Here you go Daddy. It might be a little dead."
Elijah: "I'm sorry for doing that Mom."
Me: "Doing what?"
Elijah: "For sucking the toothpaste out of the container."
Me: "Elijah, you can get a very bad belly ache if you eat toothpaste."
Elijah: "But I didn't eat it. I just dranked it."

Heaven is for Real for Kids

"Colton Burpo came back from his trip to heaven with a very important message: Jesus really, really loves children. In effort to reach even more families with this eternally significant story, this runaway bestseller is now told from Colton—kid to kids! Children will receive the same comfort and assurance that so many adults have received from the trade book."

I reviewed Heaven is for Real on my blog previously. This time, Booksneeze provided me with a free copy of Heaven if for Real for Kids in exchange for my honest review. I'd like to tell you I am going to give away this book on my blog, but unfortunately, I cannot do that. I just loved it too much and I definitely want to keep it in my library.

What did I love? Well, firstly, the illustrations were remarkable. Simply breathtaking and beautiful.

Secondly, was the way that what I read in the "grown-up" book was brought down to an innocent and applicable level. To be honest, I almost think this book is a better one to keep long-term. You can flip through it and get quick summaries of the things that four-year-old Colton witnessed while in heaven.

This is the moment in the book where Colton meets his older sister, lost to miscarriage -- a pregnancy he never even knew about until he talked to his parents about it later. An incredibly powerful image for those who have lost children before meeting them in this world.

The only issue with the book for me is that I am really not sure what age is a good one to let kids read this book (or have it read to them.) My boys (ages 3.5 and 4) loved the book. However, it spurred on very difficult questions about death. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I am not sure. Children need to understand the reality of forver but at what age should that be addressed? Parents will have to decide for themselves.

Every child (and grown-up!) will want to have a copy of this book in their library. There's a reason it's on the New York Times bestseller list. Awesome!