Sunday, May 24, 2015

Coralynn Turns 5!

This post is SO picture heavy that I won't bother to laden in down with lots of thoughts.  Enjoy!

Birthday girl!

Minnie and Mommy Minnie!

Walt Disney, Minnie, Mommy Minnie

Minnie and Tinkerbell!

Look at that cake!

Minnie and CinderELLE

Baby Sophia is here!

Mommy Minnie and Walt!


Loved the decorations!

Jake as Jake!

Baby Sophia!

Coralynn and Abigail!

Photo Booth!

Anna!


Dancing!

Dancing with my Minnie!

Let it Go!

A sweet shot of sweet friends!

Picking a song!

Princess and Minnies must dance!

Group Shot Number 1!  Thanks, Avery, for holding up the cake!

Making tiaras!




Cuz I love her!

Look at these beauties!

Group photo with more friends!

Pinata!

Because I've told Chloe before that if she doesn't want the picture on the blog, she shouldn't pose that way.  ;)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I missed April.

I'm tired of making excuses for not blogging.  I just didn't get around to it.  I'm not even sure what happened in April to do some sort of review post.

I just checked my photo folder.  This picture- from March- was never published.   I never wrote about it.  It was weeks ago.  Let's talk about it...



I love LOVE this photo.  It represents everything that I love about my life.  This is in our family room of our apartment.  I love this room.  It's grey and purple and is so open that we can fit everybody in it.  Here we were with a group from Bethel's School of Supernatural Ministry (or something like that.  It's a seriously long, weird-sounding name).  There were 25 of us in the room.  I love having room for everyone I love to fit together.  

If you look in the upper right corner of the photo, you see my huge (it's 4x6 feet) family photo.  I LOVE that picture.  I love that it was taken just weeks before we moved to Panama.  I love that my dear friend, Mandy, took it. I think of her every time I see it.  I most LOVE how Coralynn and Chloe are holding onto each other.  Coralynn is no longer completely dependent on Chloe to get through this world, but I know Bits's independent spirit comes from knowing that Chloe always has her back.

In the middle of the picture, you see Tony and me.  And Coralynn.  I love, that in spite of the moment, Coralynn is playing on my phone.  I love that Tony is holding on to her and me.  I love that I'm holding on to him and her.  We're in this life together, and I love that we're physically in contact with one another.

I love that the Bethel team was praying over us.  I love the power in their prayers.  I love that the power comes from the Holy Spirit and their total confidence that God is hearing them, and they're hearing from Him.  I love that they were prophesying over us- telling us how God sees us.  I LOVE being encouraged through the Spirit. 

I LOVE that we're all squished together.  I love that Trevor is holding onto me and Audrey has her hand on Tony's back.  I love that Chris is in physical contact with both of us.  Our spiritual walks work better if we make it a team effort.  And this Bethel team is now our family.  We hold onto each as brothers and sisters in the Lord.  

The Bible talks SO much about love, and SO often, I feel the church is a horrible representation of that love.  I LOVE this picture because you can see the love.  We're not praying to a distant god who is too busy. or big, to care.  Or too annoyed with you to answer.  Or too angry with you to respond lovingly.

No, in this picture, we are curled up in the lap of Good Father God.  We're in conversation with the Creator of the Universe and the Lover of our Souls.  There is nothing distant about our relationship with God, or each other, in this picture.

So, when will I blog again?  I have no idea.  I'll try to do better, but I won't promise that I will.  I do appreciate each of you who still checks in on this little blog.  You are loved.  By me- and the Good Father.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Coming Up For Air!!

First off, I have to say that moms that work outside the home have earned a new level of respect from me.  I have some dear friends who are work at home moms, and they make it look easy.  All I'm doing is taking 4 hours of Spanish a day, and I'm exhausted.  And my house looks like it!

Today, though, I only had 2 hours of Spanish, and I feel like a new person!  I was able to get caught up on my to-do list which included blogging.  So, how are we spending March?  Let me show you (in no particular order)...



We've been running!  Like actual running!  Carson and I run on Monday afternoons with some of our teacher friends.  It's been great to build relationships while building endurance in the beautiful sun of Panama!!  Also, Tony, Carson and I ran a race last Sunday.  I only run 2 miles, but I took 90 seconds off my best time.  Carson shaved 2 minutes off his time from last month running 3 miles in 23:08.  I want to run like Carson when I grow up!



We've been eating salad!  Monday is SALAD NIGHT!  After we run, everyone comes over to our house to enjoy a healthy meal.  Originally, I envisioned us have deep conversations about the things of the Lord.  Instead, we eat salad and then watch "Wipeout."   Different, but excellent.  What's better than a house full of laughter?


Okay, I still love the things of the Lord, and my extra time this month has been focused on helping make the Believe Conference a reality.  Next week, a team of 17 students from Bethel in Redding, California will head to Panama to pray over those who desire prayer.  I cannot wait to share all the amazing stories of what the Lord through His Spirit will do!



Carson and I aren't the only exercisers in the group.  Chloe and I have been heading to the gym together.  She's a super encouraging workout buddy, and I love having the opportunity to get to know her in a new way!


Spanish Intensive Brain is exponentially worse than pregnancy brain.  I have never been more exhausted at the end of the day than I have been these past 2 weeks.  But, with that said, I am going to miss Rocio, my teacher, when the class is over.  It's been an amazingly good experience.


This past Saturday night was the annual Royal Ball.  The older three kids were able to go, but I only got a picture of Camilla.  I never thought we'd live in Panama long enough that Camilla wouldn't want to be a Disney princess at the Ball.  Last year, she wore a normal church dress, but she wanted whimsical accessories.  This year, she was pure glamour.  And gorgeous.


Coralynn Mae- the Bits- was invited to a princess birthday party.  Unlike Camilla, Bitty wanted all the Disney princess she could find.  Unfortunately, we didn't have a great dress for the occasion.  She found this dress suitable, and she was thrilled to get princess hair and makeup for the full princess package.    What I see when I look at this picture is Coralynn's new smile.  She's never been good at smiling for pictures, but this past weekend, she began trying out this new smile.  
I.  Am.  Thrilled.

Friday, February 27, 2015

God is good.

I felt that I should update y'all on Coralynn's speech appointment.

She has rather intrusive issues with the shape of her mouth because of the errant position she rests her tongue.  She also is unable to swallow correctly.

We will be visiting a couple of dentists to hear what the options are for fixing these problems, and then we will resume Coralynn's speech therapy.

In the grand scheme of childhood issues, I know these are nothing.

God is good- all the time.  Nonetheless, my heart hurts.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Moccasins.

This post isn't really about moccasins, but that's all I've been thinking about for the past week.  Moccasins.  And, in particular, Coralynn's moccasins.  First, let's back up a few weeks.

Late January, I was in the throes of our 40-day challenge, and I was loving it.  I loved seeing what I was capable of when I tried.  As a serial underachiever, I like to know that I am capable of doing more than I think I can.  I loved that I can choose the terms that I use to describe myself.  With my new found confidence, I decided I was going to try another challenge.

During that same time, I was part of a series of meetings concerning a team of people that are coming from Bethel School in Redding, California.  I volunteered to serve as a guide/van driver/useful person during their 10-day visit.  Immediately after leaving the meeting when I officially volunteered, I felt the Holy Spirit told me that I needed to improve my Spanish so that I could be even more useful.

So, that became my new challenge- improving my Spanish.  I asked a friend, who owns a tutoring business, if she could find me a teacher.  She did, and I agreed to spend 3-weeks, 4-hours a day learning, improving, and growing more confident in Spanish.  My Spanish Intensive Challenge began Monday of this week.  I have completed 15 hours so far.

I went to class Monday, and I was almost sick to my stomach with dread.  I really hate studying Spanish.  I hated it when I was a kid doing a summer program.  I hated it when I was in high school, and I've hated any and all attempts made here in Panama.  I'd come to the conclusion that Spanish simply was not my thing, but a deal with the Holy Spirit isn't exactly negotiable, so off to class I went.

We spent 4 hours working on my pronunciation.  FOUR HOURS.  My teacher is fantastic.  She is, without question, the best teacher and personality fit I've had in my Spanish attempts.  We worked on pronunciation, not because she's unreasonable, but because that's what I needed to do.

Can I be really honest here?  4 hours is an exceptionally long time to work on pronunciation.  I sent Tony the same message 3 times: "I am going to die."  I was mentally exhausted. Tony replied that he was praying.  I thought that sounded like a fair plan, so I started praying, too.  Well, not immediately, but the next day, I prayed in the van on the way to my class.

We started Tuesday where Monday finished off- with pronunciation.  I literally began to cry.  It wasn't just the exhaustion that got to me.  It was the hours of being told that I was doing it wrong. And, that is hard.  It doesn't matter how good natured you are or how upbeat your teacher is.  Being told for hours that you're doing something wrong is just miserable.

In my tears, I asked God to make the hard stop- to give me supernatural ability to move my tongue to pronounce everything correctly.  Instead, he gave me Coralynn's moccasins.

(I've now completely lost everyone, but stay close, we're getting there.)

One of the hardest parts of parenting is being truly empathetic of my children's emotions.  To truly empathize with my kids is difficult because I can't get out of my adult brain and into my child's brain.  Even though I've felt what they feel and I've lived through what they're experiencing, I'm not 11 anymore.  That changes everything.  I can remember what it felt like to not understand algebra as an 11-year-old, but I cannot be 11 in my explanation or thoughts.  Does that make sense?  My life experience gives me  perspective, and that's valuable, but it doesn't make me the SAME.  No matter how hard I try, there will be a disconnect.

Until, I went to Spanish class,and, for the FIRST time in my 12 years of parenting, I was not only empathetic, but I was the SAME as one of my children.

As I sat there crying out to the Lord as I was crying over the letter r, He showed me Coralynn Mae. He showed me my sweet baby girl sitting in speech class struggling to say the words correctly.  He showed me a three-year-old who didn't have the maturity to express the frustration and hurt she was experiencing.   He showed me the pain of putting forth so much effort and seeing so few results.  Hours turned into Days turned into Weeks turned into Months turned to more than a Year of being told, "Try it again."  No matter how sweet her teacher was, eventually, she had to hurt.  And, she had no vocabulary to express that because she was so little.

Let's be SUPER CLEAR- Coralynn needed to take those classes.  She needed her speech to improve.  It would have been a far greater blow to her psyche to allow her to forever speak incorrectly.   The point isn't that I should have somehow protected her- or myself- from the hurt.

The point is that the Lord gave me a gift in being able to completely, fully, and contemporaneously feel my child's pain.

My Spanish, I'm praying now, improves as I fight through my frustration, my pride, and my embarrassment.   I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to quit in the past 4 days.  Now, however, there is no question that I'm completing this challenge.  If Coralynn Mae can push through, I can, too.

Tomorrow, Coralynn goes to have her final speech evaluation.  Tomorrow, I pray with EVERYTHING in my being, Coralynn will be released from speech.  No, I haven't walked a mile in her Bitty, glittery moccasins, but I know- for real KNOW- my child's heart.

And that's a better gift than being able to roll my rr's.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Best of...

In light of tonight's Academy Awards- and my need to write an update blog- let's do the "Best of" awards for Disney World!

Best Purchase of the Week:

Ponchos!!!


We arrived to Epcot about 3 hours after our flight landed and 10 minutes after it started raining.  I LOVE a poncho so I immediately bought myself one.  The rest of the crew took a little convincing, but soon enough we matched EVERY OTHER person at the park in our ponchos!

The pouring rain lasted the ENTIRE evening which brings us to our next award...

Best MacGyver Moment:

Coralynn, plastic-wrapped cups, and Mommy!


I only had packed two pairs of shoes per person, one pair of flip flops and one pair of tennis shoes.  It never occurred to me that our shoes would become completely drenched.  There was no way Coralynn was going to be able to walk, in flip flops, ALL the miles that Disney requires, but I also didn't feel comfortable with her wearing wet shoes for 10 hours.  Tony and I did our best to dry her shoes with the hair dryer and towels to no avail.  By Tuesday morning, her shoes were still squeezable wet.    Enter MomGyver!  I took the plastic wrapping off the cups in the hotel room, and had Coralynn  put her socky feet in those before she put them in her shoes.  And, Coralynn, for her part, didn't complain at all.  She wore those baggies the entire day and came home with dry toes!  Yee!

Best Princess Interaction:

This is a major category because a major amount of our time was spent seeing princesses.  We ended up getting our picture with 10 princesses, By far, the best interaction because of general warmth, kindness, and consistency with her role, was our time with Belle!

(Both photos brought to you by Camilla's amazing new camera)


We waited almost an hour to get to see Belle, and she made the wait SO worth it.  She did a phenomenal job of making each of the girls feel like she had come to just see them.

Best Act of Kindness:



After living in the South, my frustration with forced-fake kindness heightened to levels I didn't know existed.  Saying "yes, ma'am" or "my pleasure" doesn't change your heart or your attitude.  Parrots repeat what they're told.  I like kind to be real.  (Diatribe over.)  Disney, and all their "cast members" certainly provide plenty of friendly help and service.  We never had a bad encounter, but I never felt particularly "magical" from any of the encounters.  Until, I met the man in Liberty Square.  The biggest regret from the whole trip is that I didn't get the gentleman's information so that I could write everyone at WDW to praise him.

It really is very simple.  I was looking to buy a Sharpie.  I never planned to get autographs so I wasn't prepared with proper pens.  The night before meeting Anna and Elsa I decided that I wanted them to sign Coralynn's shirt, hence, the pen hunt.  I asked in the store in the Art of Animation resort where we were staying.  Definitely no Sharpies there.  The firmness of the answer convinced me that Sharpies simply weren't available at Disney.

Fast forward, several hours later, to us in Magic Kingdom.  We were waiting outside Liberty Square to see Princess Tiana.  Because we had some time to kill, and because the line was super friendly, I decided to go on one more Sharpie hunt.  I found a "cast member."  He was probably 50, and his name tag said he was from Long Island.   I asked if he knew somewhere I could buy a Sharpie.  He asked why I needed it.  I explained that later that night (7:40) we were going to meet the Frozen princesses and that I wanted them to sign a shirt.  He asked if the color ink mattered.  I said, "No."  He handed me a Sharpie.  I thanked him, but quickly reiterated that I didn't need the pen for hours, that I had no way to return it, and that I really just did want to buy one.

He softly assured me that the pen was mine and to tell the Anna and Elsa that he said hello.

And, with that, I left feeling like WDW is the happiest place on Earth and that Long Island has an unfair reputation.  I know it sounds so silly, but he made my day.  He was SINCERELY being helpful.  And that tiny bit of true kindness made life a little better.  (And, just so you know I'm a total sap, I still have the Sharpie in my purse.  Makes me happy every time I see it.)


Best Single Comment from My Family:

We had some time to kill in between FastPass times so we headed to see Captain EO.  The kids asked a lot about what I remember from my trip to the parks so I thought taking them to see the 1986 classic would give them a real taste of my experience at Disney World.  We waited in line explaining to them who Michael Jackson was, and answering all their questions about life in the 80's.

We sat down to watch the show and put on our 3D glasses.  I remember being a kid with those glasses and reaching out to try to touch the characters that seemed to be right in front of my face.  Big smiles when I looked over and saw my kids (and half the audience) with their hands up to try to grab something that seemed so close.

Michael Jackson, as Captain EO, came on the screen.  I had no recollection of the show, so it was fun watching it fresh.  About 5 minutes after Jackson first came on the screen, other characters were discussing him.  And I heard a gasp.  I looked over, and Chloe had her 3D glasses propped up on her head.  "MOM, Michael Jackson is a MAN!?!"

I thought I was going to cry I was laughing so hard.  Watching the movie as a child in the 80's, it never occurred to me that it was strange that Captain EO had SO MUCH makeup on.  I don't even remember it registering with me at all.  But as an adult, and not living in 1986, it was VERY clear that he was wearing plenty of makeup.

Best Reaction to Walt Disney World:

The kids loved everything we did at WDW- except the Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom.  They really had an amazing time, were in great moods, and were up for anything.  We rode roller coasters, watched shows, ate at weird hours, and got too little sleep.

I loved watching them see new things and just absorb the whole experience.

But, there is no question that one single moment will forever be etched into my memory.

It was on Tuesday, our second day at the parks, and the first day at Magic Kingdom.  We'd gotten there before the park opened, saw the opening show, and walked to Fantasyland.  We'd visited Cinderella and Rapunzel, rode Dumbo, and tried out the Barnstormer.  Coralynn loved it all, but she seemed to take most of it in stride.

Until.  (Don't you love when a good "until" rocks your boat!)

Speaking of boats, we waited in line for It's A Small World.  As far as I know, It's A Small World is a hundred years old.   I remember riding it as a child, and I remember as a child thinking the ride was old then.  The stand by line was only about 15 minutes, though, and everyone needs to ride IASW, so I made my people get in line.  We chatted, my WiFi was uncooperative, and Carson plotted our next stop.  We got in the boat for the ride, (Coralynn to my right)  and the kids all seemed to be completely disengaged with the ride.

Until.  (Here it comes!!!)

Until we turned the corner into the first hall of dancing dolls singing the world's most contagious song, and Coralynn's face lit up.  Her jaw dropped slowly turning into a sweet smile.  She just gazed at all the dolls with pure joy on her face.  I've never been more thankful to happen to be looking at the right child at the right moment.



Best Realization from WDW:

There the 6 of us were in Walt Disney World, the center of commercialism and marketing overload, having just ridden the iconic Dumbo and seeing the princesses, preparing to ride the latest, greatest and newest, finest and my 4-year-old's most sweetly stunned moment came from the hundred year old ride.

The best realization was definitely that my kids, who have the "adventure" of living internationally, who've traveled more than many people have as adults, who have seen and done so much, are still brought to moments of joy from a silly, lo-tech, ancient ride.   That, my friends, made the trip far more "worth it" than all the princesses or magic that Disney could ever create.




Sunday, February 8, 2015

40-Day Challenge- Final UPDATE!

We've packed our bags.  We've repacked our bags.  We've printed boarding passes, found passports, and double checked the paperwork.  If we can get up by 3:45 tomorrow morning, we'll be ready to go by 4:45am!

Before we head off to the "happiest place on Earth," I wanted to let you know the results of the 40-day challenge.  As a whole, the challenges were... an EPIC FAIL.  Camilla isn't an avid reader, Coralynn isn't a dedicated tooth brusher, and Carson still teases his sisters.  I refuse to comment on Tony praying everyday, because I just don't feel right talking about that.

On the plus side, however, Chloe and I did SUPER well with our challenges.  She broke her vegan challenge 2-3 times.  I'm beyond impressed with her.  I exercised as much as my ailing knee would allow.  I'm quite pleased to let you know that this morning I ran with Tony and Carson in the race that happens each month.  I had originally planned to run 3 miles with the boys, but it was just too much to ask my knee in light of the miles we'll be walking every day next week.  I happily ran two miles.  And, I'm super pleased to tell you that I did not get lapped by the hubby!  The 3-milers started about a minute before the 2 milers.  I finished about 20 seconds before Tony did.  Victory is mine!

Equally exciting to announce is the GREAT success we had with not eating out.  We had one carryout meal the entire 40 days.  That was for the Super Bowl because the Super Bowl requires "fun food."  We were so motivated by that financial savings that we also stuck to a strict grocery budget.  It was the best month- financially- we've had since I can't remember when!  YAY!!

I was so impressed with the success of the challenge that I've taken on a similar, yet different challenge for when we return.  I'll let you know all about it... after Disney!

Until then!
L