Thanksgiving in August

We ate turkey dinner with all of the trimmings.  Yup.  It was August 19th and we pretended it was Thanksgiving and it was so very yummy (mostly because it was lovingly made by my mom!)

Even though it was a fake Thanksgiving, I still paused over the gravy bowl and took a second to realize how many things I have to be thankful for.  Even just a week earlier I would have been hard pressed to visualize my whole family healthy and sitting around the dinner table.   I am one thankful mom.

Two and a half weeks ago Soccer Dude was bit in the face by a large dog – a large well trained dog.  It was a freak accident.  Really.  But as freak of an accident as it was, it landed our boy in the hospital for 5 days.  He needed two surgeries to repair the damage and in the process we discovered he is allergic to several antibiotics. As you can imagine, none of us were happy about this turn in events. We were supposed to be having fun at my parents home in Michigan – not sitting around a hospital in Detroit. Every time Soccer Dude would introduce himself to the nurse coming on duty he would mumble between the hundreds of stitches in his mouth, “this is the worst summer vacation ever.”

At about the same time, Little Man was struggling with muscle weakness and the process of making a new prosthetic leg was not going well.  The physical therapist who was helping us shook her head and told us he would need months of physical therapy.

So things haven’t gone as we planned this summer. It has been a ride.  But, we are amazed at how two weeks and a lot of prayer can change things.

Soccer Dude’s face is healing and he has had no infection in his wounds. He is still struggling with crazy allergic reactions that are causing full body hives, and he has some swelling in his face.  We are starting a new journey with him to figure out what all he might be allergic to…related to antibiotics, the accident and maybe even more.  Let the fun begin!  We would appreciate you keeping him in your thoughts.

Little Man –  He has worked hard over the past two weeks and his strength is coming back.  His story also is nothing short of miraculous. When the docs saw him Monday they were amazed and instead of recommending three months of physical therapy as they expected, they declared there no longer is the need.  We were able to move forward in the fitting process of the prosthetic and he gets his new leg tomorrow.

There have been times this summer that I wondered if we would be able to return to Asia this fall as we had planned.  We still have some loose ends hanging out there, but we are taking strides to be off this coming week.  We are taking it one step at a time and are thankful for each small victory that takes a step closer.

Growing up – With photos

You ever try to write a blog post, edit photos, answer homeschool questions with a four year old rolling around under your feet?  I shouldn’t.  I did which resulted in me hitting “post” rather than “save as draft.”  Here is the full post with photos from Little Monkey’s special day.

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IMG_9096During our travels in February we celebrated the birthday of our sweet Asian beauty.  I truly love watching as she grows and matures, but I must admit that each milestone also brings my heart a twinge of pain.  Eight.  Sigh.

To further confirm my theory that this child is growing up fast….she has a bucket list of things she wants to do/see in her lifetime.  What 8 year old does that?!  One of the things on that list was to see the Terracotta Warriors.  We just happened to be traveling through the city where they are located around her birthday.  It was such a fun way to celebrate our girl!  We spent the day learning more about the buried army, Chinese culture and taking many photos to remember the day.  Not sure which we like better…the Great Wall or the Terracotta Warriors.  Each soldier made around 221 BC has a uniquely carved face.  Cool.   But the Great Wall is the biggest man-made structure in the world and also constructed way before power tools.  Unimaginable.  We love the history and rich culture of this country!

 

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Don’t let Soccer Dude’s “been here done this” look fool you.  He acts to cool for school when I ask him for a photo, but when it comes to reading about this stuff and watching the work of the archeologists….He might have enjoyed our day more than the birthday girl.

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Now the other two kids…they might not be our history buffs, but they can make anything an adventure.  Here are my two crazies making the day just that much more fun.

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We wrapped up the day with a trip to McDonalds for burgers.  We can’t get burgers in our city so it was a treat.  Little Monkey was a bit put out that I couldn’t make her a cake in our hotel room, so a surprise fruit topped cake compliments of our hotel was a fantastic way to end our day.

I could tell you so many more stories…like how we decided to save money and take the public bus out to the Warriors.  We were the only crazy expats on the bus and the driver decided he didn’t want to finish the route and just dumped us out in the middle of no where.  We ended up on a mini bus with a bunch of grannies who had never seen white people on their local buses and where sure I didn’t know how to parent since my children weren’t wearing enough clothes.  You should have seen the look on their faces when I clued them in that I understood what they were saying and respectfully told them in mandarine that the kids weren’t cold and that many American families have four children.  I love shocked expressions….followed by conversations with locals! Wink!

All in a day in the life of a crazy family who live cross-culturally.

Out With the Old and In With the New

The smell of rancid meat is a great welcome home.  Oh. Yes. We. Did.  Our careful selves unplugged the power bar under the desk to keep our $20 printer safe from a power surge in our absence.  Well played except that we forgot that our extra fridge also uses that plug.  If you can skip the weird factor that our extra fridge is in our bedroom next to our desk/office space that is also in our master bedroom, you can go straight to the fact that this extra fridge was left to us by previous teachers.  This used fridge was a welcome gift since tracking down ground meat in this city can be a treasure hunt and when I find it, I stock pile.

We were gone for three weeks.  It was a fantastic time filled with great training, renewal, and rest.   Nothing like pulling out for a few weeks to give you a fresh perspective.  I am sure you will hear more about our trip in the next couple of posts.  We came home armed with new resources and a vision to embrace our new semester with boldness and innovation.

Kinda funny how you can be so ready for something new and be hit with the smell of the old as soon as you walk in the door.  Actually, we could smell it in the hall of our apartment.  So sorry neighbors!

A freezer filled with meat that had thawed and sat in my bedroom for three weeks…Wow!  Actually it was the two bags of chocolate chips and the 3 lb bag of coffee that I was saving in that same freezer that brought me to tears…and I never cry.  (Okay, that is a lie.  I cry a lot, but these tears I am blaming on our late evening arrival and my crazy love of both chocolate and coffee.  Oh, Ld deliver me!)

My sweet husband rolled up his sleeves and began to scrub.

It has been two days and you can not believe the smell that lingers.  We have tried everything, but due to the “excellent” design of the freezer that has a seam at its back that leads to a 2 inch compartment….well, let’s just say we push on the bottom of the freezer and we see red foam.  Crazy.

Today, I gave in.  I think we might just need perform surgery on the freezer and saw out the bottom or throw it out.

Not that I am over thinking this rancid meat as I come home thing….but, it really feels so ironic.  Sometimes all you can do is throw in the sponge.

Hubby starts his classes today.   He again has been assigned the literature classes with the added bonus of being asked to teach more freshmen on a second campus.  My classes start tomorrow.  No new students for me….the same sweet kids will be eagerly greeting me as I enter the orphanage halls.  So, what is my new?  Oh, that I could put into words what is taking place in my heart.  I guess all I can say is that I have new depths in my heart.  I am being broken so that I can love even more deeply.

I also might be shopping for a new freezer.

 

Traditions & Changes

pbear2We have entered a new season of parenting.  It has slowly snuck up on us in small ways.  At one time we enjoyed a silent apartment once all four kids when in bed by 7:30, I understood all of the Math in his school lesson and I was fussing over booster seats.  The changes aren’t all bad.  Now, I have a night owl who rattles off random facts from NPR and is a responsible babysitter.  It’s just taking some getting used to and I am thinking through this next phase with our young man.

It is time to give him some more freedom – but the idea of that totally freaks me out.  It is time to let him test out what we have been trying to plant in his heart – but I lay awake wondering if he has learned the lessons we have tried so hard to pass on.  It is time to let him stay up passed 8, but ya’ll seriously, how do you get a private moment once you have a teen in the house?!  sigh!

 

We don’t have all the answers.  Tak’n it one day at a time, but what we have figured out….he might not need us hovering over him at bedtime, but when he does seek us out we need to drop everything to listen.

This prompted us to start a new family tradition.  One on one time with his dad seemed like the best gift we could give soccer dude as he enters his teens.  So they packed backpacks and went to a nature preserve in the south to celebrate Soccer Dude’s birthday.

They saw lots of pandas, ate hamburgers and just hung out.

 

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I dreamt of them having deep conversations about what it means to be a man (I tend to be an idealist).  That didn’t happen.  But the shared jokes, memories and the idea that “I am worth dad taking time off to hang out with me” hopefully will have a lasting impact.  (The girls are already planning the 13th birthday trip!)

It was a good reminder that we need to be spending one on one time with each of the four kids.  Just being honest, we have great intentions, but with the business of life, homeschooling and work….it is one of the first things that slips.

5 more years, people.

That is what we have before this guy will be off to college.  The first 13 years have gone so fast.  I want to make the most of these years enjoying the fruit of what we have been working towards.

 

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Soccer Dude made dinner the other night.  He was frying eggs and pancakes for us.  I walked past the kitchen door and he called out for me to watch him flip an egg in the air.  As I watched him and laughed, I was taken back to the cafeteria at Asbury College.

There was a cute red head who was pretty proud of his skills.  He could make a perfect omelet at the egg bar. (Yes, that is a thing.)  Half way through he would flip that omelet in the air.  I fell in love with that boy.

If Soccer Dude turns out like his dad…..I will be one thankful momma.

I am tempted to worry.  How will he turn out?  Are we teaching him the right things?  Are we giving him what we can and pointing him to the One who can meet all of his needs?  Will he get off track during these confusing teen years?

My goal is to turn my worries over and simply enjoy the next five years before he catches the eye of some sweet girl in a college cafeteria.

 

 

Fallen off the edge of the earth?

Since I haven’t posted in weeks, I am sure you assume I have fallen off of the edge of the earth.  Nope.  Just traveled around it and we are now heading back again!

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At the beginning of July we flew to the States with the main goal of getting Little Man a new prosthetic leg made.  (Totally need to blog about that process, but we will save that for another time.)   He now is proudly cruising on new toes!  Mission accomplished, but that isn’t the whole story.  The side benefits of needing to come stateside for medical reasons – well they were numerous, to numerous to list, but I might give you a few of the highlights.

  1. Little Monkey got to see the Great Wall for the first time on our way out of the country.  She had mentioned the grievance that the Chinese members of our family had not seen the Great Wall.  A day hiking the wall was our remedy and it was all she had hoped for and then some.

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2. Hang’n with the grandparents was a highlight for all of us.  Being spoiled with favorite foods, riding four-wheelers, tagging along “helping” and chattering non-stop makes for some great summer memories!

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3. The beach.  Nothing else needs to be said.  No photo needed since I was in a bathing suit! 😉

4. Connecting with friends.  I can’t tell you how many times I was in tears this summer over the joy of friendship.  You can’t beat good friends who support you, love you and pray over you.  We are blessed.  Here are two examples – great friends I was in Bible study with 10 years ago!  The sweet fellowship continues.

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5.Simpson Park Camp meeting was a time of peace and renewal for me.  The few days we camped there were filled with such sweet times.  Love that place.  Every furlough should include some time soaking in the goodness of a campmeeting!

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6. I met my new niece!  The one weekend we were around and this sweet, obedient, little one arrived as if on cue! Okay, her mom might not say that, but her Aunt was thrilled by her delay!   Thank you for coming into the world just in time for us to welcome you, precious!

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7. Making it to the Hurley family reunion.  It was so fun to see cousins that I hadn’t seen in years and years and then to watch as our children became friends.  Priceless.

8. Worm guts, blue gill and gnats usually wouldn’t make any highlights list, but enjoying the great outdoors in the country – well I needed that!  I am ready now to go back to our city life after soaking in some country.

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Thinking I should make this a good top ten list, but then who can stop at ten?  It has been a great summer, but we are now ready to return.  Looking forward to a new season.

Trains, Planes and Rickshaws!

Since I last wrote, we have traveled by bus, train, plane, boat and rickshaw.

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After a long and exhausting day (exhausting, is the nice word I came up with after sitting here and pondering for several moments) of traveling we couldn’t find taxis.  Only 4 people are allowed in a taxi, so we need two.  We opted to jump in two of these crazy contraptions with our luggage for the last leg of our journey.  The kids thought it was hysterical.  My husband kissed me and said this is why he married me.  Hehehe – I guess it only takes me being a bit crazy to keep him crazy in love with me!

Where did we go that was worth traveling by rickshaw?

We went to a community center in south China to meet up with others who work with our company teaching english in various parts of Asia. In part this was to fulfill the yearly requirement of training, but it wasn’t just training (although there was a good deal of that).  We enjoyed getting to know others who live lives similar to our own – we worshiped together, studied together, shared stories and gained encouragement.  On top of that, the kids loved the classes and  activities that were prepared for them!

I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t mention that I also enjoyed not cooking, staying in a western guest house that had a washer and dryer!  We also enjoyed the english library and playground along with some warmer weather.  I am embarrassed at how much pizza, hamburgers, and coffee we consumed.  I am not a huge McDonalds fan – but there is something about not having a hamburger for 6 months that makes a Big Mac and a Diet Coke taste super yummy.  The drink I got at Starbucks was also heavenly!

While we were there we celebrated Little Monkey’s 7th birthday.  Birthdays are a big deal in our family and I have never tried to pull one off while away from home.  It stressed me out a bit.  But, I should not have worried.  All the kids at the conference enjoyed pitching in for a birthday bash for our girl and our sweet leaders planned a special evening of activities – cupcakes, an orbz ball (kinda like a human hamster ball that kinda made me want to be sick but the kids thought it was grand fun) and fireworks!  She deemed it the “best birthday ever” as she watched the fireworks and ran around with her new friends spelling her name with sparklers.

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After the conference we tacked on a few days of rest at an M guest house.  More reading, more western food, more warm weather and new family memories.

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The short of it.

We are now trained, rested, fattened up, and ready to begin a new semester!