Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Weekly 7!

We're back to our weekly report of God's blessings from the week.  I hope you did find some charities that could use your help this Christmas season.  (Charity Navigator is a great resource to check the fiscal responsibility of the charity you are interested in giving to.)

~Tony had 6 days off last week, and the kids had off 5.  I love it when we all get to spend so much time together!

~We had a wonderful time on Thanksgiving.  We are so thankful to have been invited!

~Chloe spent the night at a friend's house on Thursday, spent an hour on skype with a different friend, had a friend come over Saturday, and went to a 4th friend's birthday party Saturday afternoon.  I'm so thankful that she is feeling more connected to other kids!

~The Fighting Illini beat Maryland last night.  This is of no value to me personally, but it is fun to watch Tony act like he's 16 years old without a care in the world!

~Camilla is no longer creating ailments during Spanish class.  I'm not sure if she's picking up the language, but at least she is staying in the room!

~Chloe has moved out of the girls' room into the maid's quarters.  She is growing up, and I'm enjoying it.  Pray for Camilla, though, who is still crying because Chloe isn't sleeping with her anymore.

~I'm so thankful for this warm Panamanian weather.  Normally 85 isn't my dream weather for the holidays, but it has been nice to not have to bother with coats and bundling!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Consignment Shopping!

Yes, there is a consignment store in Panama!  Since going with a friend three weeks ago, I've been back 2 times.  It is so much fun.  I went today with a friend who was looking for a dress for our husbands' company Christmas gala.  She found 4!  And today, the owner was marking tons of stuff half off!  Here are my finds from today:

Ann Taylor LOFT white denim jacket- $4.00
(Around $70 new)

Necklace- $8.00
(I have no idea the brand, but I love it!)

Ruby Rox dress- $15.00
(Around $40 new.)

Ann Taylor NWT neckalce- $6.00
(Around $80 new.)

Big Buddha Silver Handbag- $25.00
(Around $100 new.)

It was a great morning with lots of great finds.  And I had a wonderful time with a new friend!  I am blessed!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Money Monday!

I have no Cyber Monday deals to tell you about.  I have no amazing Black Friday purchases to share with you.

Thanksgiving Thursday allowed me the humbling opportunity to be used by the Lord.  A friend discovered the baby she was carrying had already been welcomed into eternity.  Her baby was the same age mine was when he left this life.  Tony and I were able to share with she and her husband our experiences with that pain.  I was reminded of three years (and a month) ago when people were ministering to us.

People we barely knew were there to love on us.  To share their stories with us.  To let us know that we weren't alone.  Their love filled the empty so present during those days.  I can't begin to tell you how their kindness affected us.  We still tell the stories of the love we were shown.

I'm so thankful how the Lord is clearly bringing peace into our friends' lives.  He's allowing them the opportunity to hurt and feel, but to know that He is there in it all.  The peace that passes all understanding is so real.  So present.   It's priceless- far greater in value than anything you'll find online today.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It's not just about gratitude today.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.  This is the day of thanks and gratitude, and I hope you are aware of how blessed you are.  I was thinking about listing my many blessings from the last year, but I was overcome with how good the Lord has been to my family this past year. 

Blessings are kind of an interesting thing.  The Lord tells us to rejoice in the day He has made.  We're told to give thanks in all things.  Our lives- not a single day in November- need to have a spirit of gratitude.  I know I am blessed, and I know I'm not even aware of how blessed I am.  I take so much for granted that I lack total awareness.   But, sometimes, blessings can be hurtful. 

Sometimes in our humanity, lists of blessings remind us what we're missing this holiday season.  The Bible also tells us to mourn with those who mourn, and to comfort those who need to be comforted.  Holidays are hard for some people.  This Thanksgiving, people are reminded of not only their blessings, but their losses, too.

For those of you struggling with the loss of a loved one, the pain of divorce, the fear of an illness, or the dark cloud of depression, know that I have prayed.  I prayed that the peace that passes all understanding would be near to you this holiday season.  I pray that you are acutely aware of how blessed you are even as you feel the pain of your hurt.  The Lord cares about that hurt- even on Thanksgiving Day.   And my favorite passage of the Bible, so relevant today, Hebrew 4:15-16

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Jesus knows our hurt.  In His hunanity (and His divinity), He's felt the pain that makes you feel alone today.  You are not alone because He is not unsympathetic.  Go boldly to Him today.  Allow Him to heal you.  And allow thanksgiving to overcome you. 

Happy Thanksgiving.  I am so thankful for you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Multi-Faceted Gift.

If you were to ask me what I'm most thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday, it would be my wonderful, healthy family.  I am so grateful for my 4 beautiful children.  So thankful for their lives and their health.  With a friend's son being diagnosed with cancer just a few months ago, I'm more aware of what a gift health is.  It is with that in mind that I recommend the next charity of the month: CaringBridge

If you aren't familiar with CaringBridge, it is a website that allows families of those suffering from illnesses to post about how their loved ones are doing.  This gives families the opportunity to only tell the information once, but for many to follow the situation.  It is a lifeline to the "outside" for those in the depth of medical treatments.  You can give a tribute donation in the name of an individual member, or you can give to the site as a whole.

The blessing of CaringBridge is that you can give more than money.  I am not unaware that some of my readers are simply not able to give financially this season, but please know that you can still join us in giving.  There are many, many CaringBridge sites of adults and children in need of our prayers.  Even if you can't give financially, I ask that you join us in prayers for these families.  In case you don't know anyone at CaringBridge, I'd love to share with you some of the people I have the privelege of lifting up in prayer.  (I do not know any of these people personally, but I've been following them for a few years.)

Kate:  A sweet first grader who has been battling brain cancer.

Will:  An Auburn University graduate fighting a cancer recurrence.

Jack:  Jack lost his battle with cancer just a month short of his 10th birthday.  His family needs your prayers this, their first holiday season without him.

Do you follow a CaringBridge adult or child who needs our prayer?  Please, leave a comment so we can all join you in prayer.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy 18 months, Coralynn Mae!

Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday,

Dear Coralynn!

Happy Birthday to You!

And Many More!!

Money Monday!!

There is something about me that I'm sure most of you don't know.  I'm not good with authority.  Actually, I'm really really bad with authority.  That might be hard for some of you to believe because I'm a goody goody who doesn't break rules, but I do not like being told what to do, especially before I get a chance to do the right thing in the first place.

This dislike of authority isn't new, but we're beginning to recognize the depth of the problem.  When the kids returned to school, I needed to get up at a certain time.  I don't do alarm clocks.  Alarm clocks are authority so I resist them.   And Tony is afraid to wake me up in the morning.  Once I'm fully awake, I'm sweet as can be tolerable, but I take no responsiblity for what I say in that half awake/half asleep state.  We finally came up with the perfect solution.  We sleep with the room-darkening shades open.  Apparently, I don't see the Sun as an authority figure, and it pleasantly wakes me up at 6:18 every morning.  Perfect!  (Although, to be honest, I'm now resisting that, too.)

Why do I share this little character flaw with y'all?  What does this have to do with Money Monday?  Everything, because I love a budget.  Some of you think this is completely incompatible.  How can someone who has authority issues love budgets bossing them around?  The answer is quite simple.  My budget doesn't tell me what to do.  Stop looking at your budget as a boss telling you what to do without regards for your wants and feelings.  You create your budget.  You tell it how you are going to spend your money.

I see so many people discouraged because they hate budgetting.  They have the misconception that their budget is the enemy because it tells them "no."  I love those "nos" because my budget cares about me.  Those "nos" are because it knows!  It knows that I need the reminder to stay on track.  It knows that I don't want to have financial troubles.  It knows when I've spent more than I should, and it lets me know that I need to regroup.  My budget gives me permission to not worry about what others are going to think, because it knows what truly matters to me.  It isn't caught up with the excitement of the shopping trip or great "deals."  I created it, and it works for me.  It doesn't control me with fun-killing nos.  It reminds me who I really am- who I really want to be!

Christmas is 4 weeks and 6 days away.  That gives you 34 days to destroy your financial goals for this year and next. 34 days to spend yourself sleepless.  34 days to buy everything you want so that you can spend the new year dreading the impending bills. It also gives you 34 days to recognize how blessed you are.  34 days to see how much you can truly spend on those you love without pushing yourself too far.  34 days to create a budget to be your sidekick, your faithful companion.  It isn't there to tell you "no."  It's there to remind you what really matters to you.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Funsy Friday!

About a month ago, the kids had a day off from school.  My helper came that day, and the big kids and I decided to have a fun day.  To be perfectly honest, I'm not one of those fun parents who creates activities to entertain their children.  My theory is I gave the kids siblings.  What more do they need?  But, Chloe had a coupon, and I had someone to stay with Terror Bits so we headed to the pottery studio.

The kids and I each selected what we wanted to paint and the colors we wanted to use.  We painted for almost 90 minutes.  I was so impressed with how diligently and patiently they worked on their creations.  I was also quite thankful that I brought snacks with us!

Carson, who is quickly becoming the sentimental one, painted a jet ski "like Uncle Tim took [him] on."

Chloe, the gift giver, painted this statue of a fairy sitting on the moon with the idea of giving it to her teacher for her birthday.  She ended up keeping this because she created something else for Miss S.

Camilla, who loves containers of all kinds, painted this 2-piece flower purse.  (I love her smile and excitement!)

I painted a plate because I always think I'm creative.  It was a lot harder to make dots than I thought it would be.  Isn't that a statement on my artistic ability!

The kids were thrilled with their completed (pre-fired) artwork.  We picked up the fired pieces a week later, and I couldn't believe how well they turned out! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Video. The Song.

Meghan's (and watch for updates of the big impact Meghan and her family are going to have through medical missions!) comment on my Samaritan's Purse post reminded me of the video that we watched a few Christmasas ago.  The church projected it while we took turns taking our Operation Christmas Child boxes to the altar.  The message is a powerful one that has clearly affected me.  I wish I would have remembered it sooner because it is our theme song this year: Give This Christmas Away.

Samaritan's Purse.

If I could only recommend one charity this Christmas season, it would have to be Samaritan's Purse.  Many people are familiar with Samaritan's Purse's Operation Christmas Child program which I love dearly, but it's not my favorite.

My absolute favorite is their gift catalog.   Within it's pages are dozen of ways to help adults and children around the world.  It shows you how a small gift, just $5, will provide a child with a week's worth of milk.  Or, how a large gift, $15,000, will build a school in an impoverished country.  I love the reminder that every little bit helps, and that with large gifts (or lots of small gifts), big goals can be achieved.  And isn't that the message of Christmas- that a newborn, the smallest of humanity, with the eternal love of God, could save a dying world.

If you have a minute, look at the catalog.  I'm sure as you go through the pages, you'll find the perfect gift to represent your child or loved one .  Carson would love the sports equipment (an $8 donation- page 10) so I might give with him in mind.   On page 25, I think of Chloe and Camilla and their LOVE of fruit.  A $45 donation would provide 30 seedlings for a community.  Tony and I share a common heart for children who have been exploited.  A $75 donation could give a child a chance.   Just $9 feeds a baby, like my Coralynn Mae, for a week. 

Thank you to the many people who are choosing to give this holiday season.  None of us could possibly give by ourselves what we are doing together.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Money Monday!!

Grocery Budget: Well, folks, I hope the stockpile is deep because we're out of grocery budget.  I decided we were going organic, and spent the rest of the budget.  I just menu planned for this week, and I have everything on hand for this week and next week.  After that, life is going to get sketchy.  I'm going to stick to a $10 shopping trip once a week for the rest of the month.  That amount will cover milk, bananas, and bread.  Fun times in Frugalville.


By this point, if you're a regular follower of the blog, you know that we're skipping Christmas presents this year.  I promised you last week that I would share with you some of my choices for places to give financially, and I'll share another one Wednesday.  Some of you have chosen to give, and I'm thrilled about that; however, I realize that some of you just think this whole plan is just nuts.

You say, "but Lisa, my kids have always gotten presents.  What's Christmas without the presents?" Christmas has never been about the gifts we give.  It's always been about the Gift we were given, and how we celebrate that miracle.  

We sat the kids down last week and told them they weren't receiving presents this year (With the exception of one from Grandma and Grandpa Bob who have generously been giving to those in need this Christmas- and for as long as I can remember-, but still wanted to see their grandkids open something.  And- ultimately- grandparents aren't held to blog posts suggestions.).  At first, Carson was devastated.  Sat at the table and sobbed.  That was proof to me that this decision was a good one.  I explained to him that he didn't need anything else.  He had plenty of toys.  He wasn't convinced.  We talked for a while, and I wasn't getting anywhere.  He finally asked who was getting his presents. 

I told him that kids from the persecuted countries were going to have the opportunity to have Bibles.  And that kids in the United States who were in need were going to have clothes and shoes because he was willing to pass on presents this year.  And that villages in Africa would be receiving livestock with the money normally spent on toys for him that just became a mess he had to clean up.  (There's probably a joke in there about the mess livestock make, but I digress.)

He looked up at me.  You just have to know Carson to know the face, but it's that a-grown-up-has-finally-made-sense-cuz-they're-normally-wrong-wise-beyond-his-years face that touches my soul.  "Well, Mom," he said.  "Can I at least have a Bible cover when we go back to the States?  I couldn't take notes during persecuted church Sunday because I lost my pen.  I want a Bible cover to keep my pen."  In that moment, that single moment, Carson got it.  And I fell more in love with my only son than I knew I could.  He figured out that our wants are not more important that others' needs.  He knew that another Star Wars LEGO set doesn't make Christmas.  He, in the innocent way only children can do, saw the big picture.  People are more important than things.  And things don't prove you are loved.

And then he said, "I also want one more thing when we go to the States."  "Okay," I said silently irritated that he missed the point so quickly.  "I want John Reed shoes because I don't want to forget John Reed."  Is it wrong to burst into tears at shoe requests?  Do you think that's the reason Carson thinks adults are off? 

John Reed is a "big kid."  He's a few years older than Chloe, and Carson thinks he's the greatest thing E.V.E.R.    (Quick aside: Chloe thinks John Reed's mom is the greatest thing ever.  Wait.  I do, too.)  He was always very sweet to play with Carson and include him in post-AWANA games of basketball.  He's one of those big kids that your little kids look up to, and you're so thankful that your kid picked such a good mini mentor.  And he wears red Chuck high-tops.  And Carson calls them "John Reed shoes."

We haven't really seen John Reed since March.   I think we saw them briefly at church in July, but it wasn't a visit.  But Carson remembers.  He remembers the shoes, but moreso, he remembers the kid.  The young man who was such a good influence on him, and he wants to make sure he never forgets.  He wants the shoes.  And, you know what?  Carson is getting the shoes.  And he's getting the shoes for Christmas.

Christmas is about remembering the Gift we were given.  And I want them to remember the gifts they are given.  John Reed is a gift to Carson- and the shoes will help him remember.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

You might be competitive if...

(Please ignore that I look pregnant- I assure you I am not.)

You might be competitive if you volunteer to be part of an illustration at church about taste-testing Pepsi and Coke.  And during the taste test, you only got half of the answers correct.  You might be competitive if you start coming up with excuses for why you got 2 of the four right.  Because, if you had a glass of water to cleanse the pallet between tastes, you would have gotten them all right. And you might be competitive if you ponder going to the second service to try to redeem yourself.  You might also be competitive if you think that a blind Pepsi-Coke taste test might be the perfect Christmas morning activity.  Just sayin'...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Funsy Friday- Part 2!

Yesterday, the kids and Tony had the day off because of a Panamanian holiday.  We took the opportunity to put up the Christmas decorations.  Before Thanksgiving?  Yes.  Do I normally do that?  No.  I'm not a big fan of the clutter and loudness of Christmas decorations so I generally wait until the beginning of December; however, I decided to do it early this year. 

In my psyche, Christmas is triggered by the cooling of the earth as late fall turns into early winter.  Umm.  It's 90 here. Always.  So, I have the evergreen candles burning, the Christmas music playing... wait, I don't have the music going.  I HATE Christmas music.  Nails on a chalkboard...., and the decorations are up.

Our Christmas tree always has a color theme.  (I am just beginning to realize how much I organize my life!  You would have thought the C-names that were consecutively longer would have given it away!)  This is our first year with blue and silver- not my favorite color combination.  I was pleased with how the tree turned out.  (My photography skills need some serious help.)  It did kind of look like we were honoring our alma mater, Eastern Illinois University, but I'm pleased. 

The kids' little trees, with their technocolor multi-colored lights, are adorned with the treasury of ornaments they have created over the years.  And happily stored in their rooms for their sweet little eyes to see and out of my sight!

Not only is this my first tropical Christmas, it's my first Christmas without a fireplace or fireplace mantle.  I'm struggling with it.  Surprised me, too!  We finally settled on putting the kids stockings, my favorite Christmas decoration, on the hutch.  It's not the perfect solution, but they are up and visible.  I pray that 30 years from now, I can show my grandkids those beautiful stockings with their mom's or dad's name on it.

Happy Veterans Day.  And Merry Christmas.

With Gratitude...

We pause from the Funsy of Friday to thank the men and women of the United States Armed Forces for their service to the nation.

In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved. 
~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Funsy Friday- Part 1!

Coralynn Mae will be 18 months old in just 10 days.  How did she get to be so big?  I keep recounting because it's too hard to believe she isn't the itty bitty Bestest baby anymore.  She is "The Bits."  Our sweet baby girl who thinks she's one of the Big Kids!

She now refuses to use a sippy cup.  And you like my gold bracelet she "had" to wear?

All the Big Kids suck their finger when they finish their Coca-Cola light!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Persecuted Church.

We're doing something a little different during the rest of November's Wednesday.  I asked my family to skip Christmas presents for my family this year and instead give to a charity or family in need.  For the rest of the Wednesdays in November, I'm going to highlight some potential places to give this holiday season.  Hopefully, you feel led to give to one of them.  Or you'll be moved to give to your favorite charity.  Or you'll pray for these people and their needs.

Last Sunday at church, we had a special "Persecuted Church" service.  It struck me deeply.  Our pastor shared a few videos that I wanted you to see, too.

We also watched one about a woman named, Helen, who was imprisioned in Eritrea.  This video particularly touched me because I had friends who were missionaries in that country before having to leave for security reasons.    Also, please be in prayer for M!@ family who is headed to another of the persecuted nations.

Finally, we talked about the need for Bibles in the people in the persecuted church.  Listen to Pastor Dave's experience.

If you'd like to donate financially to provide Bibles and other support to the persecuted church, visit Open Doors.    The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is November 13.  Please consider joining in this time of prayer for those "who share our faith, but not our freedom."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Money Monday!

Grocery Budget:  As November is here, we have a new month of budgets.  Yay!  Last week, I hit PriceSmart with total abandon.  I decided I was buying everything and anything I wanted.  This a two-fold bad idea.  First, I spent $355.35 in an hour- a whopping 56% of our new increased yogurt-friendly budget.  Secondly, I decided to take this trip on the first of the month.  It took me over 35 minutes in the checkout line.   After a trip to Riba Smith (the American-style grocery store), we have used 60% of our grocery budget for the month.  Hold on to your chairs, people.  This could get interesting.

House Savings:  Last month was a good one for our house savings.  We were able to set aside just below 140% of our goal.  Tony's vehicle needed work, or we would have been able to do more.  I think that's going to be the official commentary of the house-savings plan:  did well except for Tony's car work.  Oh well.  I'm thankful to not have to take him to work, and we have been able to afford it so far.

Update:  Last week, I was discussing "wants" and "needs."  I wanted to let you know that Tony believes the $1000/month for teachers is a huge OVERestimate.  In his (educated) opinion, the number has to be lower.  He felt it couldn't be higher than $750/month and likely wasn't that much.  Please, realize how blessed you are!


As I've said before, I'm a slow spiritual learner.  The Lord has to tell me the same thing multiple times until I can get it.  I thought I was understanding the whole want and need thing.  And I was, but the Lord had more for me to understand.  My Bible study group talks a lot about lower and deeper.  (Help us, Lord, to go lower before you so that we can go deeper into your heart.)  I love that, and I can tell it's the financial path I'm on before Him.

When my grandmother passed away, I (as well as other family members) received an inheritance.  (I'm hesitant to refer to it as "small" or "large" because those are very relative terms.  All I'll say is that it was more than one dinner out and less that a 10-day trip to Disney World for 6.  Clear as mud?  Perfect.)  I've been trying to determine what I wanted to do with it.  My first reaction was high-end handbag.  I love purses.  I went to that fabulous LV store with the highly-recognizable monogram leather.  I looked around.  I fell in love with a pair of sunglasses- I love sunglasses.  I had my picture taken with them and the sales clerk.  It was a moment, but since Tony wasn't with me, I decided to not purchase.  I went back to the store.  I tried them on some more. They had a new pair I hadn't seen the first time.  I stood there for 45 minutes trying to decide.  I left.  Without them.

Next door to the LV store is another high-end store (though significantly less expensive- the store with the gorgeous CH leathers. Not Coach.  Keep thinking).  Gorgeous handbags.  GORGEOUS.  I went back to look at them, but the store was closed.  We returned to the mall the next day so I could look again.  I settled on a bag that Tony and I loved.  Carson liked it, too.  Carson, like his father, has fabulous taste.  (Unlike his father, Carson is brutally honest so don't ask him what he thinks unless you really want to know!)  I made the decision to go get lunch at the food court first.  We went and ate lunch.  I had corvina.  I always order corvina.  We went back to the store.   I tried out the purse again.  It's gorgeous.  I thought about it.  I chatted with the employees.  I told Tony that I couldn't do it.  I just couldn't.  We left.  Purseless.

I asked Tony on the way home if I just wasn't the kind of person who could pull the trigger on an expensive item like purse or sunglasses.  He was confident that I could spend big money on them.  What was going on with me?  We stopped at PriceSmart.  I bought $5 orange juice.  I think I bought it just to prove I could spend more than I needed to on something we didn't need.  I had no problem with that purchase.  I even splurged and let Carson buy baby carrots.  No guilt.  No second guessing.  Why can't I bring myself to buy the purse?  Or the sunglasses?  (They were similar in price.)

As we were driving around Punta Pacifica (an affluent area of Panama City), it struck me.  I am perfectly content with my current Kohl's sunglasses and Coach (30th birthday present) purse.  It's not that I don't need another one.  I can buy a purse without needing one.  It's that I'm content with where I am- with who I am.  The high-end purse no longer holds the same allure.  Yes, they are gorgeous.  Yes, the quality is better, but not enough to justify the price.  I think I may offically be a grown up because I realized, just yesterday, that the brand of the purse doesn't say absolutely anything about whom I am.  I have nothing to prove to anyone.  And buying that purse or those sunglasses would have been all about show.  I would have been buying it to prove to people I could afford it.  And that's just pitiful.

It's that kind of insecurity that leads so many people into financial ruin.  I've heard it said that debt is "buying things you don't need with money you don't have to impress people you don't like."  I agree, but it's more than that.  Our pastor in Illinois used to say that "the heart of every issue is an issue of the heart."  If you're struggling with out-of-control finances, I challenge you to look at your heart and in your mirror.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  The Creator of the universe created you in His image.  No brand names or expensive vacations or shopping sprees make you more than what He has already made you.  Quite simplified:  having more and spending more doesn't make you more.  And what have I just learned?  The ability to afford it doesn't change anything. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Funsy Friday!

And people think I make this stuff up...

This is Tony.  He's sound asleep in the chair.  At 9:00pm.  In the middle of a sentence.  He was telling me about one of his coworkers.  He paused for a moment.  And fell sound asleep. 

90 minutes later, he is still sound asleep in the chair.  I can't imagine sleeping in this position.  Do other people do this?  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Catch-Up Weekly 7+!

The kids and I thoroughly enjoyed our whirlwind trip to the States.  The reason we came home wasn't happy, but we definitely had a wonderful time catching up with family that we haven't seen in too long!  We have so much to praise about this past week:

~I'm so thankful for all the prayers that went up on our behalf last Thursday.  It is a great feeling to know that you're covered in prayer!

~The flights went quite smoothly on Thursday.  We had a minor speed bump in security in Panama, but other than that, all went super well. 

~The Lord sent an angel to help us in Atlanta's customs area.  A translator without a client took a liking to Coralynn and kept her entertained while we waited in line.  It was so nice to not have to keep her contained!

~Our flight arrived at STL with no issues, and we easily found my waiting brother.  He had already gotten the car so all we had to do was grab baggage- which took longer than I wanted- and be on our way!

~Sonic!  I love Sonic!  Nothing says "Welcome Back to the United States!" like cranberry limeade.

~We pulled into town at exactly the time I told the kids.  A special thanks to Uncle Tim who drove exceedingly slowly into the driveway to insure our exact 8:30pm arrival!

~The kids slept great every night!  Coralynn isn't a very good sleeper, but she did really well the whole time!

~My mom's friend and hairdresser made an exception to her normal work days and cut my hair Friday morning.  I'm thrilled with the cut, and I'm so thankful I didn't have to explain what I wanted in Spanish.



~We had a smooth trip to Peoria, and my brother and I had the privilege of talking with Carson for the trip.  The entire trip.  The 2.5 hour trip.  We answered at least 100 of his questions before we left the first city's limits.  I'm thankful he has such a hunger for knowledge, but, wow, he asks a lot of questions.

~Friday night, we all had a great time meeting up with my Mom's dear friend from high school.  She's like another aunt to me, and it was nice to see her.  And to eat ice cream at Culver's!  (Yes, all my memories are combined with food.) 

~We also got to see my aunt, uncle, and cousins.  It was great to see them and great to have someone else answer Carson's questions!

~Friday night also saw the Cardinals win a World Series ring!  A highlight for my Dad's very St. Louis-loyal family!!

~Saturday, the memorial service went well, and I was very pleased with the kids' behavior during it.

~The time of visiting after the service was wonderful, and the kids enjoyed getting to re-meet everyone.

My parents, brother, kids and I!

~I'm so thankful that we were able to have lunch with Tony's parents.  The kids enjoyed getting to play with Grandpa and Grandma A.  And yay for Chinese food! 

~We were also able to enjoy some time with my mother's parents.  I know they enjoyed seeing the kids, too!

~I was nervous about the flights back, but the kids did well.  The highlight of the trip home was the AMAZING Delta flight attendants from Atlanta to Panama City.  Airline service often gets a lot of bad press, so I had to email Delta and tell them how fabulous this crew was.  They made the trip home so easy- I wish I knew which flights they were on so I could make sure to be with them every time!!

~It was wonderful to enjoy family, but I am so thankful to be home with my husband.  People ask us how we handle moving so often and being away from loved ones.  There are times that being far away is incredibly difficult and lonely; however, seeing Tony at the airport reminded me how complete the 6 of us are together.  I am blessed beyond measure.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Tuesday.

We're home.

We arrived about 10:30 last night.

The kids had school today, and I ran to the grocery store.

I'll update about my trip tomorrow.

I'm going to enjoy some down time with my husband.

See you tomorrow.