Friday, November 30, 2012

Problems are a part of life

Excerpt from Jesus Calling (Sarah Young)
Problems are part of life. They are inescapable: woven into the very fabric of this fallen world. You tend to go into problem-solving mode all too readily, acting as if you have the capacity to fix everything. This is a habitual response, so automatic that it bypasses your conscious thinking. Not only does this habit frustrate you, it also distances you from Me.

Do not let fixing things be your top priority. You are ever so limited in your capacity to correct all that is wrong in the world around you. Don't weigh yourself down with responsibilities that are not your own. Instead, make your relationship with Me your primary concern. Talk with Me about whatever is on your mind, seeking My perspective on the situation. Rather than trying to fix everything that comes to your attention, ask Me to show you what is truly important. Remember that you are en route to heaven, and let your problems fade in the Light of eternity.

Psalm 32:8; Luke 10:41-42; Philippians 3:20-21

Written by Sarah Young from Jesus Calling

Friday Funnies

Sidge: "Daddy told me that if you snooze, you wooze."
*****
Sidge: "Daddy told me to put it in my pipe and smoke it."
Me: "Lovely."
*****
Sidge observing me playing Words with Friends. "Are you playing Scribble?"
*****
Sidge: "Mom, you look like a pizza."
JB: "Sidge, are you talking nice to Mommy?"
Sidge: "Yes. Pizzas are very beautiful, Daddy."
*****
While helping me look for poop that I should clean up with the pooper-scooper in the backyard, Sidge said to me: "Let's keep on our eye." (Instead of let's keep an eye out.)
*****
Currently Sidge is telling me that he wants to have a superhero birthday party. But he wants to wear a chef's costume and have cupcakes with gingerbread men on them."
*****
While talking about what they want to be when they grow up, Isaac asked me, "How do I become batman when I get bigger?"
*****
Sidge: "When you go to heaven, do you take a rocket?"
Me: "No, not usually."
Sidge: 'Okay, because I don't want to take a rocket. I want to just fly all by myself."
*****
I have been jotting down the things the boy tell me they want to be when they grow up anytime it came up in conversation over the last year. Here are the most recent growing up desires:

2011
Isaac: "I want to be a doctor and a tiger." -- 2011
Elijah: "I want to be a lion." -- 2011
Abigail: Her brother's currently call her a meerkat -- 2001
Isaac: "A painter and a fixer." -- June '12
Elijah: "A doctor and Daddy's Sou Chef." -- July '12
Elijah: "Robot repairman." -- July '12
Elijah: "An elephant." -- July '12
Isaac: "Just a painter. Painter and a fixer and a policeman and a fireman and a batman." -- August '12
Elijah: "An elephant and a fixer and Daddy's Sou Chef. And I'm gonna do that when I grow up. Okay? And I'm gonna be a spiderman too." -- August '12
Elijah: "Spiderman and batman." -- August '12
Isaac: "Batman" -- November '12
Elijah: "A daddy" -- November '12

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The High Calling

I was recently offered the oppotunity to review an online newsletter: TheHighCalling.org, an online magazine and community founded on the belief that God cares about our daily work. I browsed many of their articles, but especially found myself drawn to article on change. (You can read the text of the article by clicking here.) "Let's face it: change is difficult," author Jason Scott begins. "Few of us relish the idea of being thrust into brand-new situations, relationships, or jobs. Yet change is as constant as death and taxes."

What I really love about the series of these articles is that they meet you where you are at. A network of 1,500 Christian bloggers provide you with encouragement, advice, and resources all with a faith-based background. You can choose to receive daily or weekly emails and then browse headline of articles, visiting for a more indepth read those pieces that particularly sound like they would minister to you.

Honoring God in our daily work is much more than mere evangelism. Our work itself should be a testimony to our creator. That is why sites like this are a great encouragement -- a  reminder to remember the high calling of our daily work. I know that I am constantly looking for little bits of faith and encouragement throughout my day. I hope this resource might be something that you too find uplifting.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wee-wind Wednesday

To couple along with the post I just wrote (below), I thought I would flashback to a post I wrote in February 2008. I thought it was amazing that I stumbled upon this post ... now. What I loved about this post was that I wrote it months before I ever became a mother. Months before we adopted Isaac, and yet, I had found peace. I had reached a place of contentment with my life and with my childlessness. I'm so blessed to have the opportunity to look back and see that even without children, the Lord gave me the peace I so terribly wanted. I'm so blessed that I journaled everything so well on the blog that I have the opportunity to rewind and look back.
 

Perspective

This fifth cycle of IVF has given me perspective. And not because it is the fifth time. But because it is the first time I am doing this IVF thing as a mother.

The other day, JB forgot to give me my lupron shot before he left for work. He had to talk me through it via Facebook. I sat there giving myself a shot in the thigh with Abigail attempting to steal my alcohol swab at my side.

Way different than when I did this a half decade ago.

The first four times I did IVF, I was childless. As a result, I just assumed that the range of emotions I was fighting during each attempt were due to not being a mother. I figured I was just sad that I didn't have children. But this cycle, I am fighting some incredible emotions. And I have three children.

It wasn't until I found myself sitting on my living room sofa this past week, crying, for no reason at all, that everything came into focus.

Perspective.

I have it now.

There was a reason that the difficult emotions surrounding infertility were worse when I was in the midst of a cycle. There was a reason that it got better when I went off medications in between cycles.  There was a reason I cried all the time and was exhausted and couldn't sleep.

Stinkin' hormones.

Not only do I have perspective now, but JB does too. He's not just a medical student this time. He's a doctor who counsels patients regularly who are dealing with hormones or depression. He is able to talk me through this with amazing clarity. He's able to remind me why I am feeling this way and what I can do about it.

So what can I do?
  • I can exercise. Exercise helps me to feel better nearly instantly, however, the results are short-lived. (Within two hours after completion, I find myself a bit down again.)
  • I can get good rest. Good sleep at night and a good nap is tremendously helpful.
  • I can remind myself that this is a temporary emotion. That this will end. That I have to do this without the aid of anti-depressants because of the pregnancy aspect connected with it. And that at the conclusion of this process, I will return to the Wendi I know and love. I must trust (and know) that she will be back.
  • I can share. I continue to find it important to let the people around me know that I am a bit down. I don't need to worry about assuring friends and family that "this has nothing to do with you."
  • I can educate. I continue to feel a responsibility, especially through my blog, to educate. I don't want to portray an inaccurate picture of myself on the blog or in person. I want people to see infertility and motherhood and adoption in the proper light. In the proper, perspective, if you will.
Pumping hormones into your body will result in a person getting emotional. Depressed maybe. In actuality, doing it without children gave me a reason for the emotions. Doing it with children gives me no reason for the emotions. I'm just crying for no reason at all. Sad for reasons that have no source.

And I'm okay with that. I can be honest about that. I can share about that. And I hope it will allow others to share and be honest and open as well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

He's 4.5!

I realized that our little Isaac turned 4.5 on the 7th of November. For some reason, I was thinking halfway to five was the 7th of December. But some very slow math on my part indicated I was a month behind. Here's a couple of very recent pictures of our little guy:
 
 


Isaac currently:
  • Can best be described by the following words: detailed, nimble, verbose, sneaky, devoted, cautious, and particular.
  • is nicknamed "the negotiator." He is always ten steps ahead of us, smoothing things out for how he would like the next segment of the day to adhere to.
  • would still probably be considered a "daddy's boy." He and Daddy really "get" each other, and Daddy always know how to best reach Isaac when he is having trouble adjusting to new situations.
  • has a great relationship with his Aunt "Tawny."
  • is becoming very aware and asking a lot of "deep" questions about God.
  • can remember his life in Turkey and understands the difference between Turkey, the Azores, and America.
  • is a leader and a follower depending on who he is with. He is a leader with his brother and sister, but he can easily slip into the follower role if influenced appropriately.
  • has been learning how to play some educational games on the computer.
  • loves watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Jake and the Pirates, Fireman Sam, Veggie Tales, and other movies. However, if truth be told, I don't know how much TV he would watch if it wasn't for his brother's much stronger desire to watch things.
  • has to often be "made" to go outside or do an activity (like coloring or educational things) but once he starts them, he usually gets into them and really enjoys them.
  • loves ice cream and marshmallows and chocolate milk and potato chips but has no desire for any baked goods.
  • is still allergic to eggs. (Daddy had to give him another epi-shot the other night when we had Portuguese ice cream -- not having that again.)
  • is a pretty picky eater but is doing a better and better job sitting at the table and trying different things.
  • is very kinesthetically aware: has amazing balance and nimbleness.
  • Is especially snuggly during the few minutes right before he falls asleep. We love to go into his bedroom and talk to him after Sidge has fallen asleep, and he is drifting off as well.
  • Is very into pirates. He's very into everything pirates.
  • Has a limitless vocabulary and even uses words like definitely and possibly. One of his favorite phrases is "I have no idea" whenever we ask him something he doesn't know.
  • Enjoys superheroes. While he doesn't watch them or read about them or anything of the like, he is very into batman, superman and spiderman.
  • still pronounces some words with a cute, incorrect twist. one of my favorites is the word hopsital which he pronounces hosabull.
  • loves for us to read him books. (Loves to pick out books at the libary and go to storytime at the library.)
  • thoroughly enjoys the built-in "bar" upstairs which he  has converted into his own personal kitchen. While Abigail and Sidge are welcome to come in, the kitchen definitely belongs to him
  • can play for hours by himself with cars and Magnatiles (or anything else that can serve as a "house" for his car.)  
  • is a fantastic big brother to Abigail. They have a very close bond. He knows how to wrestle with her gently, shares with her all the time, hugs and loves on her. He has nearly limitless patience for her (unless she is messing with his cars or magnatiles.)
  • gets along very well with Sidge. He is definitely the leader between the two of them and can be a bit sneaky when it comes to their relationship (stirring things up beneath the surface.) But in general, they get along very well and are absolute best friends.
Isaac will always be our first-born son. He is totally a first child, and we are so glad he is our first child.

Monday, November 26, 2012

IVF # 5 Update: Just the shot now

I have taken my last BCP (birth control pill). I gained eight pounds while on the pill but am hopeful that the absence of it in the system will decrease the bloating and return me to my normal weight.

Now, I am just taking lupron shots. My mood has been quite low and I had one killer migraine, but overall, I am hanging in there quite nicely. The shots are a breeze, physically speaking. I just really dislike the low emotions that I am currently fighting.

My husband is a gem. He talks me through the range of emotions, reminding me why I am feeling the way I am. That there is a chemical reason my body is not balanced. I know he is weary. But he never acts that way. I know he wants his normal wife back. But he never says so. I truly don't know how I could do life without him. He is my best friend and keeps me from tumbling over the edge of cliffs on a regular basis.

Shane and Linda went home yesterday. It was wonderful to spend Thanksgiving with them, and my kids were thoroughly blessed by having two extra people to love on them.

As for us, we are preparing to head home ot America in just a few weeks. JB and I will spend a week there and then leave the kids and head up to Rochester, Minessota for a week to complete the IVF protocol. We'll return to Florida for a closing week before returning tot he island.

(Packing for one of the hottest places in the USA in December and one of the coldest places in the USA in December is not easy. Thank goodness I don't have to do the cold part for three kids too!)

Hanging in there right now ...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Secret Daughter: A Novel

Secret Daughter: A Novel

She slips into the hallway, but rather than stopping at the bathroom, she keeps walking right through the front door, getting tangled in the blue balloons as she runs past them and down the driveway. She sits down on the street curb. She cannot face it all again. She can’t go through the baby food tasting contest, or the “guess how big Gabi’s tummy is” game. She can’t watch every one oohing and ahhing over each darling little outfit. She can’t listen to the women discussing stretch marks and labor pains as rites of passage. Everyone acts as if being a woman and a mother are inextricably intertwined. A fair assumption, since she made it herself. Only now does she know it’s an enormous lie.

And then Somer realizes that there has been a line drawn. For her, it was the miscarriage that she had suffered. A moment where she and her husband Krishnan had realized that life may not play the way they thought it would.

Now, sitting alone on a suburban sidewalk instead of drinking blue punch, Somer knows that day, three years ago, has become the dividing line of her life. Before that miscarriage, she remembers being happy – with her work, the house with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the friends they saw on weekends. It seemed enough. But since that day, she has felt as if something is missing, something so immense and powerful that it overwhelms everything else. With each passing year and every negative pregnancy test, that void in their lives has grown until it has become an unwelcome member of their family, wedging itself between her and Krishnan.

Sometimes she wishes she could return to the na├»ve happiness of their earlier life. But mostly, she aches to go forward, to a place her body doesn’t seem willing to take her.

I was a huge fan of this book. The infertility and adoption mixed with cultural aspects of life abroad (India) kept me reading cover-to-cover. If you are dealing with intense infertility, this might be a bit too painful for you to deal with right now.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I don't shop

I don't shop. Not usually anyways. Never really spend money. If I need something, I run into Old Navy or Target and manage a fast purchase of ten dollars or less.

And my wardrobe has been showing for it.

I have been wanting to go to downtown Angra (the only "big city" on the island) for quite some time. (To window shop was my initial plan.) 



But then, recently, with looks through my closet, it became increasingly clear to me that my lack of shopping was effecting my desire to get dressed each morning. I had sporty. But I didn't have anything a little dressy. I didn't have anything like this:


So, since Linda loves to shop and loves downtown, I thought her visit to the island was a perfect opportunity to head downtown and do a little shopping. I invited Carla, and Connie, and another new friend Sonia. Here we are pictured below (with Linda behind the lens, as if often the case):


And then I started trying on clothes ... clothes, mind you, I would have NEVER tried on or even picked up off the rack if friends weren't outside the dressing room curtain handing them to me. Connie was directly in charge of me not wimping out of buying anything due to price or  any other excuse I could make up. Between her and my four lady friends, I left one very cool store with about a half dozen different outfits. (Here I am, below, being informed of how to properly wear my boots over tights):


In the end, I used Linda as my judge. She is not afraid to spend appropriate amount of money on good clothes. So I asked her, with each piece, of what was being asked was extravagant. In general, the store was very reasonably priced, and while each piece was a bit more than I was used to paying, the quality was obvious in all of the pieces.

The truth? I spent more at the one store, in one hour, then I have spent shopping as an adult in my entire life. More than I spend in a year for sure. It was so wonderful knowing that I would go home to a husband who would say, "Good for you!" (He is constantly telling me that I need to buy a few nice things to wear now and then). I was especially thinking of my public speaking and having a few nice things to wear when I speak. (I have a talk coming up when I go home to America for Christmas.)

I will try to put up some snaps of the completed outfits later today when I finally getting around to putting each of them on and showing them to JB. For now, here are some closing photos of our time in Angra:

 window shopping

 enjoying the delightful cobblestone streets and unique stops

eating Chinese food! Really! How excited was I about this! 

Ice cream time! 

 Enjoying the beautiful city of Angra.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Funnies


In the car, Mr. Shane was asking Sidge and Isaac all about dinosaurs. They were talking about which one they wanted and what color they should be. When JB met us at Awanas that evening, Sidge pulled up a chair and said to JB, "Dad, let's talk. What color dinosaur do you want to be?" (The result was the picture above.)
*****
The boys were reading a Clifford book where he becomes a Hollywood star. The first time the boys heard a dog referred to as a star, Sidge was obviously confused.
Sidge: "How is he a star?"
Linda: "Well, a star isn't only in the sky. It is also someone who is famous and popular?"
Sidge: "Are you pop-uh-ler, Ms. Linda?"
Linda: "Me? No. I'm not a popular."
Sidge: "Yeah. Me either."
*****
Sidge came up with one of his "doctor tools" (a ratchet). "I have to listen to your mouth," he said to Linda. "Okay. There was a fly in there. It's out now. Now I can listen to your ears."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone

This year, we are joined at our home by Shane and Linda Jones and Nick and Kristy Seeliger (and their boys Noah and Jonah.) (Aunt Connie is living with us of course.) On the menu was a beef wellington, a Turkey, and a ham along with all the normal trimmings. I took a moment to look back at the Thanksgivings we have spent in recent years (since the blog began in 2005).

2011: Incirlik Air Base, Turkey: Large gathering of people for an outside Thanksgiving meal. Three kids present for this celebration.
2010: Incirlik Air Base, Turkey: Small group of friends over to our house where my just-learned of pregnancy with Abigail was the order of the day.
2009: Eglin Air Force Base: Almost all of JB's family drove up and we celebrated the holiday together on the Base with our two boys.
2008: Eglin Air Force Base: A small group of friends joined us for our first Thanksgiving as parents.
2007: Eglin Air Force Base: My side of the family made the ten hour drive north to celebrate the holiday with us.
2006: Rochester, Minnesota: We went over to our great friends house: Ron and Ebby Ray for a low-key holiday after another failed IVF.
2005: Rochester, Minnesota: While living in Rochester, we make the drive six hours east to spend Thanksgiving with my extended Huisman family.

I am a little sad that the terrible rain storm has prevented us from getting any football and any parades on TV. I also really miss my family this year. (I'm sure the hormones going through me are part of my emotion-filled experience this year.) But overall, my list of thanks is longer than I could ever pen in one blog.

To those of you beginning the holidays with grief surrounding you, please know that there is joy in the morning. That God feels your loneliness and the dreams that you have that have not come true. May you find His peace and comfort now and always.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When you thought I wasn't looking

Author: Unknown
When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you feed a stray cat,
and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw you make my favorite cake for me,
and I knew that little things are special things.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I heard you say a prayer,
and I believed that there was a God to talk to.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I felt you kiss me goodnight,
and I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw tears come from your eyes,
and I learned that sometimes things hurt,
but it's alright to cry.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw that you cared,
and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I looked....
and I wanted to say thanks for all the things
I saw when you thought I wasn't looking.

Unbelievable!!!!

On October 27, 2012, I posted about my friend Becky and her husband John. Adopted parents to Joshua, they were preparing to adopt their second son from Korea in the midst of news that John was due to deploy. I asked for prayer. Nearly everyone I know has been praying for this family -- to handle an adoption is one thing. To handle an adoption of an older child is another thing. Adopting an older child while already having another one at home? All the while doing so without your husband there to help you? It takes my breath away.

I woke up to find the following message on Facebook from Becky:

I just got the BEST birthday (it's tomorrow) present I could have ever gotten - John's deployment has been canceled!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am in complete shock, I keep asking him "is this for real?" No one else at his base has ever been this far along and had their deployment canceled without a medical reason. Praise God! Crying tears of joy right now - can't believe this has actually happened.

Praise the Lord for small miracles. This family needed John home so much right now. Even though we often say we should pray, when a real bonifide miracle happens, we still find ourselves in shock. I know I am.

SO HAPPY FOR YOU JOHN AND BECKY!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Let the games begin (for the 5th time)

The picture at left is just one of the four medicines I will take during IVF #5. This drug, Lupron, is taken via shot. (If you notice the yellow warnings on the bag, it is actually a chemotherapy drug!) I will also be taking progesterone and estrace. I have been on the birth control pill for the last three months.

Tomorrow, I will begin my Lupron shots. Five days after that, I will go off of the birth control pill. Shortly after that I will begin estrace. Progesterone will start around the time of my transfer.

I am continually having to remind myself that we are indeed going to do this thing again. It absolutely seems surreal. Some of the protocols have changed in the last five years. (The greatest change of all is that the progesterone, which was once in a very painful shot of thick oil that went into your lower back, is now in suppository form! Hip hip horray for tiny miracles.) But for the most part, things are the same now as they were then. I'm just a different person now. In many ways.

The results of my fancy uterus-blowing-up-ultrasound completed in Germany, initially appeared to be spot-on and very positive, but I am waiting for the CD of images to arrive in Rochester. (Hurricane Sandy has really screwed up postal services from our neck of the woods to the United States.) I'm patiently waiting to hear Mayo confirm what the doctor at Landstuhl already told me: that my uterus looks "good to go."

As of tomorrow morning, IVF #5 has officially begun!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cell phones

Am I the only person in the whole-wide-world who does not have a cell phone?

While in Germany, Shane asked me to call him on his cell when I was done with my appointment. I looked for a phone that would call an outside line. None of the public phones called anywhere but on-Base (DSN is what it is called.)

I asked the woman at the desk in the ER if she could help me.

"Is there a phone I can use to call someone's cell phone in the hospital?" I asked.

"You can just use your own cell phone to do that," she said.

"I don't have one," I said.

She looked completely confused.

"I've never had someone ask me this before," she said. "Everyone always has their own phone. Don't you have a cell phone?"

I explained to her that I have lived in Turkey and now the Azores. NO ONE in Turkey (except Patty) had cell phones, and very few people here on the island have one.

(She let me come into her office and use her desk phone.)

I truly think having to have a cell phone and people knowing I have it and that they can get a hold of me anytime they want really bothers me. I am so not prepared to live that way. Would it be totally impossible to choose to live without one?



Sunday, November 18, 2012

Because of Isaac: Amazing News!

 
It is with incredible excitement that I announce that the first couple for BECAUSE OF ISAAC: Grant and Elizabeth have received all of their funding for their domestic adoption through Bethany Christian Services.
 
What does this mean? It means that they are on the waiting list (you can view their profile by clicking here) for a birth mother to pick them. And once that birth mother picks them, they have ALL of the money they need to bring that baby home to live with them forever.
 
How cool is that? I will, of course, be making a HUGE announcement when they have their child in their arms forever. For now, the only thing they need is prayer. Prayer that the perfect family picks them. And prayers that it doesn't take too long.

Gangnam Style

There's been a new video going around the Internet. If I have heard of it, you probably have. It's called Gangnam Style. I must admit that the darned thing has been growing on me from my initial viewing which included me saying things like, "I don't get it. 150 million hits? Why?"

There's also been reports of this video soothing crabby children. With Abigail running a doozy of a fever today, our visiting pediatrician, recommended we try it. Okay, so she wasn't doctor-wise recommending, but she did want to see how accurate the reports were. So we tried it. You can see the results of Abigail being introduced to Gangham Style here: Gangnam Style Stops Baby Abigail from Crying.

Quite a success I doeth thinketh. You will see her vehemently signing more every time I stop the video.

Dress Question

What does it mean when something is "business casual / semi-formal." What do I wear to an event like this? I am imagining a skirt and top or dress pants with a sweater. Is that right? Why can't they just say what you are supposed to wear instead of giving you a definition that everyone needs to get defined? I would like to be appropriately dressed but not over or under dressed please!



Tour of Terceira

Normally, I would not take our guests out for a full day site-seeing adventure the day after they arrive. You need a day to recover from your travels. But the weather around these parts has been terrible -- rain and wind and cold nearly every day. And yesterday was GORGEOUS! So as soon as Abigail woke from her morning nap, we headed out for an entire tour of the island.

We stopped in Praia da Vitoria first, the Base (for gas) second. Then Biscoites (which inlcuded lunch), the Duck Pond, and Santa Barbara (highest point on the island -- elevation 3,500 feet). We also stopped in Angra on the way home, pausing for coffee at the Pink Hotel. Great day!

Linda is an amazing photographer so the pictures are far beyond what I could ever do myself. Here are just a few fun snaps. If you would like to see more pictures from our tour of the island, you are welcome to visit my Facebook album by clicking here.
 
 
 




Yoga & MOPs

 
If you look carefully, you can see me, flanked by both my boys as we make alligators. And little Abigail can be just seen off to the right of the picture in her crazy hippy pants and blue shirt.

I continue to be amazed by how our MOPs group (Mothers of Preschoolers) on Base has been coming together. As I have previously mentioned, I am the Coordinator for the group. This is not something I ever desired doing. I did not want to do it. Not even really a little bit. I have four wonderful ladies: Cambrie, Lark, Katherine, and Adrienne that are working along side me to help bring this group to the Base. Other than the PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel), the Base has not had any sort of group for young stay-at-home-moms in many years. I kept saying, "I'd be glad to help but not lead." But God had other plans. He told me pretty obviously, "You are going to lead and have other women help."

I have come to learn that when we are least willing, God is the most present. Take Moses for example: a man who had no desire to do what God was asking. All you can have is a humble vessel when that is the case. I must admit that there is no glory in this for me at all. I would have no problem, whatsoever, if tomorrow, a more capable individual stepped forward to lead this group. (And a big part of me would love if they did!)  I just want women who have moved across the world with their husband to have a place to meet other people.

We meet on the first Thursday of the month for some fellowship, food, and fun. Maybe a speaker joins us.  On the other three Thursdays we hold some sort of fun activity -- even if it is something minor like just meeting at the park. This past week, it was Yoga. Amber, another mom in our community, volunteered to come in and she and Adrienne put together a way fun hour of music and movement. I brought all three kids, was under the weather myself, and still had a fantastic time!

The highlight for me was Sidge's conversation with the instructor -- said in all seriousness.

Instructor: "Let's all shut our eyes."
Sidge: "I don't know how to shut my eyes."
Instructor: "But what do you do when you go to sleep?"
Sidge: "I sleep with my eyes open."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

No one could be happier!


While everyone is thrilled the Shane & Linda have arrived to spend Thankgiving with us, we believe that no one could be happier than Scrubs to have his "Shane" here with him. He didn't leave Shane's "foot" the rest of the night, and literally looked dumbfounded that Shane could actually BE here with him. I do believe if Scrubs never saw me again but had his Shane, he'd be a very content dog.

They got in to late for the kids to see them last night, but this morning, celebrations ensued. How wonderful to have family to spend the holiday with!

P.S. For any of you new to the blog, Linda was the pediatrician in Turkey with JB. We spent two years there with them.

Happy National Adoption Day

I have shared before that if every THREE churches in America combined their resources and helped adopt one child from the foster care system, there would no longer be orphans in the United States of America! This means that even if you don't think YOU could ever adopt from foster care, you could help find one family who could and help provide them with the money, resources, encouragement, support to adopt a child with a past who needs a new future.

National Adoption Day is a collective national effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families. This annual, one-day event has made the dreams of thousands of children come true by working with policymakers, practitioners and advocates to finalize adoptions and create and celebrate adoptive families.

In total, National Adoption Day helped nearly 40,000 children move from foster care to a forever family. Communities across the county celebrate the Saturday before every Thanksgiving. This year the National Adoption Day Coalition expects 4,500 children in foster care to be adopted on National Adoption Day, on November 17, 2012. The groups goals include:
  • Finalize adoptions from foster care in all 50 states
  • Celebrate and honor families who adopt
  • Raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting for permanent, loving homes
  • Encourage others to adopt children from foster care
  • Build collaboration among local adoption agencies, courts and advocacy organizations
To learn more about some of the families who have adopted through National Adoption Day in previous years, please click here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Funnies

Isaac: "This is a ve-hic-ul."
Me: "That's right. Another word for a car is a vehicle."
Isaac: "Yes, Aunt Connie called it a ve-hic-ul today. That's the craziest word I ever heard of."
*****
Sidge: "I don't wan to swim in the ocean. I just want to swim in my pool. In the ocean I could get bited by sharks and alligators."
*****
In the van.
Sidge: "I'm hungry."
Me: "Okay. Well we will eat food when we get home."
Sidge: "But I'm hungry even when I'm not at home."
*****
We went to a yoga for kids workshop with our MOPs group.
Instructor: "Let's all shut our eyes."
Sidge: "I don't know how to shut my eyes."
Instructor: "But what do you do when you go to sleep?"
Sidge: "I sleep with my eyes open."
*****
John: "Sidge, how may times have I asked you not to scream in the car?"
Sidge: "One hundred and fifty-one."
*****
Sidge hates to be chased. So much so, that if he is being chased, he will often turn on the chaser and attempt to become the chaser himself. If JB runs around saying, "I'm a monster," Sidge will nervously reply. "Okay, but I'm a monster eater." If John says, "Well, I eat monster eaters," Sidge will say, "I eat whatever you are. I eat everything. Don't chase me please."
*****
When telling me what he wanted for breakfast Sidge said, "I'd like two waffles. Medium. Not too hot. With no syrup." Geesh!
*****
We are constantly telling the boys to set a good example for their sister. Don't do this or that because then Abigail will do this or that. Tonight, Abigail was standing on the top of the end table. Sidge said, "She should get down. That makes me want to do that too."
*****
While making cookies from the pre-packaged cookie dough.
Sidge: Can I have some?"
Me: "Well I have to cook them first."
Sidge: "Well no, I like them before they are cooked. Just like that."
Me: "Who taught you about eating cookie dough?"
Sidge: "Joni did. Joni let's me eat them like that. Will you let me?"
(P.S. I checked with Joni who confirmed she was "guilty as charged."

Richard Scarry's Busytown Game


I am pretty positive I have never recommended a game on my blog. That all changes today. Richard Scarry Busy Town is just too fantastic to not put a plug on here for it. If you are looking for Christmas presents this year for children 3-7, this is the game for them!

I'm not the only one who feels this way. The game has received 136 reviews on Amazon. Nearly ALL of them were a 4 or a 5. (The three that weren't were still a "3".) Not one lousy review in the whole bunch. The game has actually won an award for quality given by parents. It's that good.

So what do I love about this game?
  • The spots that your piece goes in are very large. This makes it easy to count and easy to stay in the right spot.
  • There is really nothing to knock over and "mess up." I hate having to keep the kids still to prevent the game from being destroyed and having to start over.
  • There are a few fun "shortcuts" that are always a hit with young children.
  • You work on your own for a part of the game, but in the end, you win or lose as a team. I'm all for kids learning about winning and losing, but Isaac takes it really hard. This game allows him to take it hard with us.
  • You have to work together to solve the mysteries. (My boys love the idea of a mystery and the magnifying glasses you use to find them.)
  • Adults can actually have fun playing this game too. Big brothers and sisters will enjoy it. (My husband is NOT a game player and he actually enjoys playing this game with the kids.)
  • This game is simple enough that a mature two-year-old could play it, but fun enough that older kids would enjoy playing to.
  • The pieces are sturdy and can take a beating.
  • The spinner works well -- both my boys can use it easily.
  • The board is six feet long leaving lots of room for us to spread out and have our own place.
  • Kids have fun and build confidence every time they say, "I found it!"
  • Encourages teamwork.
  • Promotes attention to detail.
  • Reinforces object identification and matching skills.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Abortion: A series of questions


I am pro-life. I have a lot of pro-choice friends. A lot of them read the blog. I have a few abortion questions that have just been nagging me, and I would like to generate a healthy discussion. So as long as this goes well, I am going to be posting a few abortion-related questions over the next few weeks and months.

Here is my first question. This question is a real question. It is not to be taken sarcastically or as if I have a hidden agenda. I really just don't understand this and have not been able to get a real answer from anyone.

Why is it considered legal for a mother to let a doctor kill her baby inutero when the baby would live outside the womb (23-40 weeks gestation) but it is considered murder if once the baby is delivered she chooses to end its life?

I would really appreciate if the only people who attempt to answer this question are pro-choice people. I am not looking for opinions from other pro-lifers. I can get that anywhere. I am really looking for an explanation from "the other side." And "other siders", you know I will always disagree with you but that we will always be friends. If you are really concerned, you can answer anonymously, just please do so nicely. And if the comments are in any way inappropriate, I'll just delete them. I really want to keep this healthy and educated.



Book Review: Impact Player



Impact Player: Leaving a Lasting Legacy On and Off the Field

Former Yankee Bobby Richardson played alongside Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Joe Pepitone, and Yogi Berra during one of the most prolific dynasties in baseball history, and he remains to this day the only player from the losing team ever to be named World Series MVP.

I am an athlete and a Christian, and therefore I thought I would enjoy this book about faith and athletics grouped into one. What I didn't realize, until I started reading it, was that I am not a big enough baseball fan to want as many details as Bobby provided. While I enjoyed the book, I could only read it in small servings, and I kept thinking, "If this was about a team I followed intensely, I would love this book."

In Impact Player, Bobby shares his life story, including never-before-told tales from the Yankee clubhouse during the historic ’55-’65 pennant runs and World Series appearances. The book also features the unlikely friendship Richardson, a devout and outspoken Christian, shared with Yankee legend and renowned drinker and womanizer, Mickey Mantle.
I enjoyed the stories of his faith and what an impact he was off the field but you gotta really love baseball (and loving the Yankees will only enrich your read) to want to read this book cover to cover.

Impact Player is a perfect combination of faith and baseball and it offers a rare glimpse into one of the most celebrated dynasties in the history of the game. He shares the good and the bad and gives personal opinions about people involved in the Yankee organization without reservation. Impact Player also paints a fascinating portrait of a life well-lived and the lasting rewards that come from knowing and loving God.



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wee-wind Wednesday


October 6, 2008 -- over four years ago -- our adoption of our little Isaac was finalized forever! You can read the post celebrating that event by clicking here. What an awesome day to know that he was know seen by the courts as our flesh and blood! Look at how little he is (in the picture above.) And, look how big I already was (with Sidge in utero.)

Crazy kid & Crazy Weather

 
Abigail insisted on wearing her brothers' Buzz Lightyear costume. It was a little big but a good amount of rolling and some boots to go with it, and she was quite a cute little Buzz.
 
This picture also illustrates how C-R-A-Z-Y the weather in the Azores is. We were outside, feeding Scrubs when I took this picture. The boys finished, we went back inside and not five seconds later, it was pouring and then hailing. It changes so fast. From sun to rain to hail!
 
Abigail has been a different kid the last week or so. I am always amazed at how fast they leave one phase behind and enter another. While I was gone in Germany, she turned over a new leaf. She started taking heftier naps, and her mood improved continually. I am pretty sure that she was fighting a bad head cold for a few weeks (of which I am not the unwilling recipient) that was preventing her from sleeping solid. The tantrums and bad moods have lightened considerably. She has been a real joy to be around.
 
Here are a few recent videos featuring Abigail as the star:

Abigail and her shoes: Here she shows me, without words, what it is she wants. She loves her shoes, and always picks out the pair she wants (and never fails to pull out a match either.)

A day of chalk: I got some new chalk in Germany! The kids were excited and couldn't wait for some clear weather to get outside and draw. Here you'll see a bit of all of my kids' personalities emerging. One of the funny parts is when I ask Abigail to draw and she thinks I say jump. Cracked us up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Top Tier


When you leave your home and go to another one as many times as I have, you are very rational about how it will work. You cannot take all your friends with you -- definitely not physically and often not emotionally either. They will instead get filed into one of three tiers. (My friend Stebbs loves my tiers ... so I dedicate this post to you Stebbs.)

(Tier 1) "Friends for life" Friends: These are friends that you will make a point to visit, call, and stay-in-touch with. They are definitely on your Christmas card list (and may even get a present.) Sometimes the friend is more "reliable" about staying in touch and visiting then you are, but usually, at least one part of the equation really works to keep things close.

(Tier 2) "If our paths cross" Friends: These are friends that you will look up if you are in the same city and "do lunch", but overall, you won't stay in perfect touch. They may or may not be on your Christmas card list. These are people that you may have gotten together with a few times, but they weren't in your "inner circle."

(Tier 3) "This is really good bye" Friends: These were most likely, most casual acquaintances. Maybe you ended up at the same functions, but usually through mutual friends. You won't share Christmas cards and probably will not look each other up if you were in the same city. However, you will be friends on Facebook and shout out a quick "hello" every now and then.

Each time I leave a place, I know that only a few people from that place will go into my top tier. It's not to be mean to anyone else. It's just that you can't stay in touch with everyone. My blog and Facebook has helped me keep my group of people a bit broader, but I just can't emotionally invest much farther than that. Sometimes, I am not sure who will stay in Tier 1 and who will shift to Tier 2. It really just depends on distance and how well we do at staying in touch.

Shane and Linda Jones are one family that are my Turker Tier 1 people. They became family to us in Turkey. One of the best parts of Shane & Linda was that they were newly married and it was just them. In the same step as our friends Patty & Yamil, because they didn't have children, they were able to come hang out at our house when we were busy putting our kids to bed. They also loved on our children -- always a plus when you don't have family anywhere close.

I was so excited to get to spend a few days with Shane & Linda while I was in Germany for my procedure. In addition, our good bye will be short-lived as they are headed to the Azores to spend Thanksgiving with us.

I thank the Lord for ALL the people I meet on my adventures. All three tiers are equally important when you are in a place, but those who really stand in as your family when you are away, hold an extra special spot.

Love you guys! Can't wait to see you in just a few days!

150 Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches



I have reviewed quite a few cookbooks as of recently. And I've given away all of them. But this is one I think I am going to have to keep. So, sorry, no giveaway for this one.

I absolutely LOVE grilled cheese. So the variety in this book can help even me, a non-cooker, come up with ideas to spice up the basic goodness of a grilled cheese.

Here is the details of this cookbook from: amazon.com

150 Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Creative, inventive recipes for America's top comfort food -- more than 2 billion grilled cheese sandwiches are eaten each year!

The classic grilled cheese sandwich is now one of the biggest trends in cooking and enjoying an incredible resurgence in popularity. Top bloggers, NPR, and ABC are reporting that grilled cheese sandwiches are one of the top food trends to watch out for -- many have even said "grilled cheese is the new burger."

These recipes are fabulous: they begin with the comfort food feel of the grilled cheese which we all love and then make them incredibly versatile -- they're uptown, downtown, simple, gourmet, seasonal. And the recipes aren't limited to just lunch or dinner. There are recipes for snacks, appetizers and even desserts. Perfect for the home cook who wants tasty, healthy, economical meals featuring fresh ingredients.

There's a sandwich for every occasion and most are really family-friendly:
  • Breakfast/Brunch recipes such as Stuffed Nutella French Toast, Grilled Smoked Salmon
  • Appetizers such as Caprese Panini, Grilled Cheese Bruschetta
  • Lightened-Up and Healthy fresh ingredients, lighter cheeses and healthy breads including gluten-free to create "lightened-up" grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Meatless filled with favorite vegetables, herbs and cheese
  • "Beef" up your favorite grilled cheese
  • Bacon, ham, pork and prosciutto recreate the classic grilled cheese
  • New and creative ways to use chicken and turkey
  • Seafood: Grilled Salmon and Gruyere, and Shrimp Avocado Grilled Cheese
  • Condiments from aiolis to Mango Chutney
  • Desserts: Chocolate, fruits and cheese create decadent dessert sandwiches
Best of all, grilled cheese sandwiches are so simple they're also perfect for college students, beginner cooks and even for kids who want to help in the kitchen. So whether you like to enjoy your sandwich with soup in the winter or with seasonal summer produce, these classic and new recipes fit the bill.
 


Love Compels

No matter how far away I feel from my years of infertility, videos like this one featuring my online friend Stacy who is in this video, choke me up every time.

I have been having a rough time emotionally lately. I imagine it is mostly (those darned) hormones. Thinking about going home for Christmas. Going back to Minnesota. Doing IVF again. Struggling a bit. A bit down. Not sure I am ready to be "waiting" again.

For those of you waiting for children or a spouse or a salvation or deliverance, cling to God. He's present. He never changes. He loves you.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The American Tourist in Europe

I have a confession to make.

Often, when I am traveling in Europe, I find myself a bit embarrassed that I am an American.

When I am traveling in Turkey, it is obvious that I am an American. I don’t blend at all. So I don’t try.
But when I am traveling in Europe, I am automatically assumed to be German or Dutch. When you maneuver through the airport, flight attendants and security personnel will speak to you in English or the language of that home country. They most always assume I am German and begin with German.

I let them. And as long as I can fake it, I do.
The reason?

Americans are embarrassing!  They stick out so much and do not even attempt to blend in. So much so that I decided to write this post to try to help my fellow Americans. Please understand that in our country, we can act like Americans. But the rest of the world does not act like you. Europeans act very differently. And you can tell that they have strong opinions of these loud, obnoxious Americans who stand out so uncomfortably.
You know how we tell jokes about the French? Well, other cultures tell jokes about us! They make fun of us. A lot!

As famous American Tourist Guide writer Rick Steve’s wrote in his article UglyAmerican, many Americans traveling abroad, “invade a country while making no effort to communicate with the "natives." Traveling in packs, he talks at and about Europeans in a condescending manner. He sees the world as a pyramid, with the United States on top and the ‘less developed’ world trying to get there.”*
Another online article made me laugh when he recounted seeing what others thought of Americans. “I saw a play in Ireland in summer 1999 in which American tourists were satired – they were dressed in white sneakers, fanny packs, t-shirts with a sports team logo, and baseball caps. They complained about the cigarette smoke and asked for decaf coffee. Quite amusing since the actors resembled my parents a bit.”**

If people don’t like you and don’t respect you, you will not have as nice of a trip. Your travel experience (and that of Americans to follow you) will be effected. So how can you travel better?  
Acting Appropriate

To be a good traveler in Europe, an American must understand that …
It’s not about you. Americans believe the entire world is centered around us. It isn't. Even if you believe American ways are better, don’t compare. Enjoy doing things the European way. Europe sees two kinds of travelers: (a) Those who view Europe through air-conditioned bus windows, socializing with their noisy American friends, (b) and those who are taking a vacation from America, immersing themselves in different cultures, experiencing different people and lifestyles, and broadening their perspectives. Questions like: "how much is that in real money?" sound uneducated and rude.

You are not in America. An Ugly American demands to find America in Europe. He throws a fit if the air-conditioning breaks down in a hotel and insists on an English menu. He measures Europe with an American yardstick.*
Research will help you. Take a few minutes to research the cultural norms of the country you are visiting. For instance, knowing that it is rude to blow my nose in Turkey was important. Understanding that Turks say no by throwing their head backwards was vital.

Your way is not the right way. In Turkey, I had to remind myself that the fact that the Turks did not respect lines did not make them rude. It can be difficult to remember but just because something is different does not make it wrong. Don’t criticize "strange" customs and cultural differences. You must remind yourself, continually, that only a Hindu knows the value of India's sacred cows, and only a devout Spanish Catholic appreciates the true worth of his town's patron saint. Discipline yourself to focus on the good points of each country. Don't dwell on problems or compare things to "back home."*
Being observant and sensitive to what is happening around you will go a long way. If 60 people are eating quietly with hushed conversation in a Belgian restaurant, you know it's not the place to yuk it up.* I often will try to observe the cultural appropriateness of what I am thinking of doing. Or if I am not sure, I will ask if it is okay. Can I bring my child into that restaurant? Is it okay if they are walking around or should they be sitting down? Is what I am wearing offensive?

You shouldn’t flash your “American-ness”. Maintain humility. Don't flash signs of affluence. You don't joke about the local money or over tip. Your bucks don't talk!*
People smoke. Non-smoking sections at restaurants are not nearly as easy to come by outside the USA. When we were in Turkey we just had to suck it up. Literally. Again, your way is not the right way (even IF it is the healthier way.)

You are loud! Ssssssshhhhhh! Look, I am a loud person. A very loud person. But Europeans are quiet and soft-spoken. I cannot tell you how many times I hear some really loud voices and turn, always finding Americans! Quiet down. Large arm and hand movements and boisterous behavior should be avoided until you know how the locals act.
You are the tourist. Go as a guest; act like one, and you'll be treated like one. In travel, too, you reap what you sow.* Don't be offended if they stare and point at you. You are the tourist. Just smile and move on. Apologize if you have done something that might be perceived as rude.

Children are given a lot of leeway. Even in cultures that do not celebrate children (England) as much as others (Turkey), people are often very flexible when it comes to children. Try to respect the fact that you are the one travelling with (three) small children. Choose a restaurant that is appropriate for your child. Try to sit where people may be less effected by noise. If you don’t know where to change a diaper or whether or not breastfeeding in public is okay, ask a local.
You can learn something from others. Accept and try to understand differences. Paying for your Italian coffee at one counter, then picking it up at another may seem inefficient, until you realize it's more sanitary: The person handling the food handles no money. Try to be genuinely interested in the people and cultures you visit.*

The personal should stay personal. Europeans do not ask personal questions of strangers like Americans do. They never ask me what I do or how many children I have or if I am married. They will discuss travel plans or broad concepts, but the details are not of interest to them.
Good manners are polite.  Avoid chewing with your mouth open, burping, chewing gum obnoxiously, passing gas, etc.

Slow down. Take things in. Europeans move at a slower pace and definitely take the time to sit down and drink their coffee.
You have to try new things. Sometimes you might just have to open a menu and point to something, taking a chance. You’ll have to take your own pickles off your sandwich if you don’t like them. Do not eat at American restaurants in Europe. Obviously, if you are there for many weeks, you may crave a bit of home. But when in Rome . . . 

Go easy on the ketchup and skip the ice. Europeans use a lot less ketchup and a lot less ice than we do. I have managed to get used to Coke without ice and not drowning my fries in ketchup. When I ask for ketchup, I typically get one pack. When I ask for more, I get one more pack. (I can’t bring myself to ask a third time.) If you really don’t want to look like an American, do not ask for ice. Period. And settle for a lot less ketchup. (Or mix it with Mayo -- yuck!) In addition, in many countries, the ice is not from a safe water source like the water is. In Turkey, we were definitely encouraged to not accept ice even if offered.
A little goes a long way. Try to learn a few words of the language. Please and thank you go a long way. Get a Lonely Planet book on language and practice just a few phrases. Most Europeans speak English but saying please and thank you in their language is just kind. Don't worry about making mistakes! Communicate!

Space is different everywhere. Spreading out at a food counter or taking up two seats is not seen as appropriate when a lot of people are present. Don’t worry if the person behind you in line is very close. Personal space has a lot of variety around the world.
Participate in the culture. Go to church. Go to a pub. Cheer for the local soccer team. Play where the locals play, not where the Americans play. (While tourists outnumber locals five to one at the world-famous Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen's other amusement park, Bakken, is enjoyed purely by Danes. Disneyland Paris is great. But Paris' Asterix Park is more French.) Traveling through the wine country of France during harvest time, you can be a tourist taking photos — or you can pitch in and become a local grape picker.*

Consume Responsibly. Europeans are very into recycling and conservation. Turn the lights off. Don’t be wasteful.
Patronize the mom and pop shop. You won’t find WalMarts on every corner in Europe. The little guys are what give Europe their charm. Spend your money there!

Join in. When you visit the town market in the morning, you're just another hungry local, picking up your daily produce. You can snap photos of the pilgrims at Lourdes — or volunteer to help wheel the chairs of those who've come in hope of a cure. Get more than a photo op. Get dirty. That night at the festival, it's just grape pickers dancing — and you're one of them.
Looking Appropriate


So now you know how to act appropriately. How can you look appropriate? You can . . .
Dress up. In general, Europeans dress much less casually then we do in the USA. It is very rare to see a European in any sort of sweat suit or workout attire. Generally speaking, long pants or skirts and buttoned shirts and blouses are the social norm. Blue jeans are seen as casual but are usually not seen as inappropriate, and as a tourist, you’ll be find in them. Pick some without holes in them. Lightweight pants are a great option.

Wear the right shoes. I must retract a previous statement I made to my friend Casey when chastised for my white tennis shoes. She was right as much as hate to say it. White tennis shoes, unless they are of the stylish Converse variety are just not something the Europeans wear. Opt for black tennis shoes if you want to wear them. I don’t think I realized how stereotypically American white tennis shoes were until I left America. White tennis shoes, crocs, open-toed sandals, and flip-flops just scream American and you will feel different.

Leave the ski coat at the lodge. Europeans don’t wear things like ski jackets and down jackets. They wear more formal coats. If you can afford it, you’ll fit in more.

Tone down your colors. Colors vary depending on the type of town and location but generally speaking, more neutral tones are always better received.

Not wear . . . baseball hats, backpacks (unless a stylish one), fanny pack, and water bottles at home. (And don’t wear your camera around your neck either.) Take the picture that you are given. Don’t ask the locals to pose.

I'd love to hear from you. Comments from seasoned travelers? Questions from novice travelers?

*Rick Steve's The Ugly American
** How to Avoid Ugly American Syndrome