Monday, July 30, 2012

You Never Know.

I'm sure I'm not the only planner out there.

And although I'm not Type A, I do like to have a plan for our time in the United States.

I'm very thorough. VERY.

I make a list of every person I want to see, and I create a pencil schedule of when I will see each person.

I plan all of our doctors appointments and shopping trips.

I make detailed lists of what has to be purchased where and for how much.

I'm so thorough, in fact, I also plan where the trouble is going to happen.

I don't create it, but I estimate when, where, and why it is likely to occur.

I come up with action plans to deal with any issues that may arise.

Maybe I'm more Type A than I think.

This year was the best trip to Illinois we've had since moving away 5 years ago.  (How can it only be 5 years?  It seems like a lifetime has occurred since we left the home State.)

The issues I had foreseen were nowhere to be found.  Maybe they didn't make the flight out of Panama?  Regardless, I was beyond pleased with the trip.

We also had an amazing, amazing time in Georgia.  It is always so wonderful to reconnect with people who are so important to our life.

I didn't plan for many issues in Georgia, and the ones I did consider ended up being some of the biggest blessings of the trip.  I love how God fixes my issues to be blessings when there aren't really any issues!  He's just great like that.

I did have 2 conversations that I didn't plan.

And they sent me reeling. 

After the first, I sent an 8-word plea to my most-trusted prayer warrior.  She started pounding heaven on my behalf, and I felt it immediately. 

Where the first conversation left me in a stupor, the second conversation broke my heart.  Not because of what was said, but because of how I had mislead. 

The Lord spent the rest of the trip further breaking my heart in an attempt to open my eyes.

And open my eyes He did.

I am overwhelmed with an awareness that I didn't have 5 years ago when we left Illinois.  Or 16 months ago when we left Georgia.

What did the Lord show me? 

(and, just as a warning, I should have known this all along.)

Carson David is an amazing kid.  And I've spent too many years typecasting him as the difficult one.

To be certain, CD isn't easy to parent.  He's mouthy and opinionated and short fused and stubborn.  (Sounds like his momma!)

The Lord showed me that CD is also smart and confident and humble and friendly and sincere.

Sincere.  That's the one the Lord unloaded on my heart.

For all this child's personality flaws... STOP.  I'm not finishing that sentence because it is wrong.

His personality was created by the Creator of the Universe to be used for His eternal purpose.  It is not flawed.  Carson's personality is maturing into what the Lord needs him to be on this earth.  To say he has personality flaws is like calling immature seeds flawed.  Give them time to grow up and produce fruit!

Back to what I was saying, the Lord gave me a different set of glasses to view who Carson is.  And what he is in sincere.  He'll tell you when he's happy.  And sad.  And angry.  And hurting.  (That also sounds like his momma- he gets the b-ball skill from his daddy!)

I was sitting on the plane revisiting our 3-week vacation through these new lenses, and I saw a new child.  Actually, I got to see my child through his Savior's eyes. 

-I saw Carson playing with his friend in the swimming pool.  I saw Carson standing in awe of his friend's swimming ability with no need to diminish his friend's talent.  I heard him tell his friend what an awesome swimmer he was.  Period.  He didn't mention his abilities or talents to try to level the field.  He just complimented his friend's skill.

-I saw him dutifully learn choreography during Music Week and love every minute of it because he got to be part of the group.  I saw him beam with pride as he watched his sister perform her special portion of the musical.  He never desired to be the center of attention, and her success was victory to him.

-I heard him tell me that instead of getting me up to run early one morning, he had let me sleep because I looked so comfortable.  He thought maybe I needed the sleep.  Another time, I heard him call for me as I stepped out the door to run.  He wanted to go with me so we could do this together.

-I saw, again, him run up to the stage to get his 4th-place trophy.  He never once complained because it wasn't 1st-3rd.  He never asked me how many people he beat.  He never degraded the people who did finish ahead of him.  He relished that moment.  And the trophy sits proudly on his dresser.

It's strange how memories impact you differently than they do in the moment.  I suppose that's the gift of distance. 

I remember being at the Lincoln Presidential Museum.  We were waiting for a little movie to start.

Carson doesn't like movies.  (Yep, that comes from momma, too.)

He was sitting three people down the bench from me.  For the entire movie, I heard him saying, "I'm scared."

At the time, I was irritated.  Seriously, it's a 4-minute movie at a Presidential museum.  This isn't Nightmare on Elm Street.  Time to buck up, buttercup.

But, I see even that differently now.

He was willing to sit through the movie without trying to run off.  He was just letting us know how he was feeling.

Maybe that is the right way to handle those emotions.  Nothing wrong with admitting you are scared to do something. 

Especially if you do it, out of obedience, in spite of the fear.

Keep working on us both, Lord.  I think You're getting through!-

Friday, July 27, 2012

Shouldn't Make the Cut

Since returning from Panama, I've spent the majority of the last 3 days uploading and organizing photos.  I took 781 in 3 weeks with my snazzy new camera.  That's a lot of photos to deal with, and I've been trying to determine which pictures should go on the blog, which should go into my Shutterfly album, and which should just be deleted.

In that process, I came to realize that I love a slightly off photo.  Maybe I've spent too much time over at Awkward Family Photos.  Or maybe I love the "realness" of not perfect pictures.  You know, I am a fan of transparency.  But, I love a smile covered by crazy Bits hair or Camilla rolling her eyes, as she is known to do.  I want my pictures to look like the people looked.  I don't want them to look like Olan Mills models.

Good thing, too.  With 781 photos, I have a lot of slightly-off photos.  So, here, with my apologies to the subjects, are some of our outtakes that I just couldn't let be forgotten...

The kids love VBS and Music Week, but the Music Week performance doesn't start until 7:30.  That's way too late after a busy week, and Coralynn was done.  How often do you get the bottom of someone's foot and her hairbow in the same picture?

If that doesn't scream, "WELCOME TO ILLINOIS!" I don't know what does.  Nothing better than making your loved ones stare into the sun while trying to get a picture!

Why, oh why, do we take family pictures right before we are getting ready to leave?  It was 90 degrees, we'd been playing outside, and it was well past bedtime.  Hot, sweaty, tired, (electrocuted-what is up with Carson?) and over it.  I'm thinking this isn't going to make the Christmas card!

Coralynn didn't want to stop touching the miniblinds.  She didn't want to keep her hands to herself.  She didn't want to stop screaming.  So, she hid under my chair.  The true picture of two-year-old greatness.

7:00am on Saturday after being at the swimming pool until 10:00pm Friday.  Coralynn is half asleep, Camilla is in no mood for pictures, and Grandma lost the ability to stand up straight.  Quite the 5k cheering squad!

At the Lincoln Presidential Museum, Chloe making her official 9-year-old-are-you-kidding-me face.  As she enters being 10, I wonder if we'll get to see this face again.  Yes, dear, go stand by the young Lincoln pondering wax figure so I can take your picture.

Camilla loves playing dress up, and she loves a good facial expression.  She is my facial expression master.  This is the perfect example of Camilla thinking something is taking too long and below her.  "Come on, Mom, take the picture already.  The delay is muting my cuteness."

Dad as Abraham Lincoln. 
I have no further words.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Race Day!

After a month of training, race day arrived this morning.

I saw this Adidas shirt in June and fell in love with the slogan.  Tony surprised me by buying it for me as a pre-race gift.  I was super excited!

We got up about 5:45 this morning to make sure we were all ready to run for the bagel!

Pre-race pose. 

The plan was for Tony to run with Carson and for me to run alone. 

Carson had a different plan.  He started like a bullet, and Tony stayed wth him assuming that Carson would tire out.  Before long, it became clear that Carson wasn't going to slow down. Tony decided to just let him run.  And run he did!  Carson finished the 3.1 miles in 26:17!

Tony settled in to his run and did a great job.  He finished in 27:12.

Tony and I ran a practice race on Wednesday, and we finished in 35:45.  I didn't love that time, and I was especially bummed that I walked for a part of it.  I determined a 2-part goal.  First, I wanted to finish under 33 minutes, and, secondly, I wanted to run the whole time.  I am THRILLED to tell you that I did run the whole time, and I finished in 32:05. 

Post-race picture.

We stayed for the results in the hopes that maybe Carson would finish well enough in his age bracket (sub 10) to earn recognition.  The top 4 finishers earned a trophy.   And we were all so excited that Carson earned...

4th place! 

He finished behind one 10 year old and 2- 9 year olds.

Watching him run up there with pure excitement made my entire day!

Way to Go, Carson David!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Vacation's Worth of Blessings...

We were able to participate in the 4th of July parade- one of my favorite smalltown activities!

We found Mrs. Claire at the parade!!  Mrs. Claire is one of the greatest influences in our lives, and we were so excited to see her!!

The girls got to play on a swingset!  One of my children's great complaints is the lack of a backyard, and we've never had a swingset so this was a big treat!

Carson scored a goal against Mr. Shawn!

VBS!  We love VBS!!

Libby and Chloe back together!  Watching the reunite is one of the purest joys of my life!

Camilla with her sweet friends!  I was so excited to see her reconnect so easily.

I got to spend some wonderful time with my sweet friend, Mandy!  It was amazing to hear about her life in the Lord! 

My big girls with their Great Grandma Dorothy!  We are blessed to still have Great Grandpa and Great Grandma!

Lovin' Camilla and her posing!

I thought it was special to watch Tony and Carson play basketball where Tony played when he was a kid!

We haven't been to Grandpa and Grandma A's house since December of 2010.  It was great to be together again!

A Bit of an Update.

Hey all!  I know it's been a while since I've posted, so I wanted to take this oppportunity to give a little update.

Monday, July 2

6:00 am- Left our apartment and headed to the airport.
6:30 am- Arrived to the airport
7:00 am- Finally made it through to check our baggage.   During this process, the Delta representative asked me if any of my children were Panamanian born.  I said, "No," and she said, "ok- great."  Turned out the conversation was going to take an interesting turn.
7:15am- Finish our goodbyes to Tony, and headed to document check so we could go through security.  I had earlier asked him to wait for us to make it through before he left.  Good thought on my part.
7:16am- I'm stopped in document checking.  New law, and I need copies of the kids' birth certificates.  I don't have them.
7:25am- Tony is on the phone with our attorney's office trying to figure out a way to get the paperwork we need.
7:30am- Carson is in tears, and I feel tears welling up in my eyes.
7:35am- Tony remembers that he has the birth certificates scanned and saved on his computer.  Miraculously, the security people say that will work.
7:45am- Tony returns from the car with his laptop.  He starts digging for the documents.
7:55am- We are quickly running out of time, and the internet connection isn't working.  Chloe and I are storming heaven with our pleas.
8:00am- Tony finds the documents.  Security, miraculously, allows us to go through while they sort out the situation.
8:05am- QUICKLY say goodbye to Tony, and try to head through security.
8:06am- Stopped in security because Coralynn's carseat is too big to fit through the machines.  Carson is fighting back tears again.
8:10am- The security people find a bigger x-ray scanner and approve Coralynn's seat.  We hurriedly put our shoes back on. The sprint to the gate is on...
8:15am- We make it to the gate as they are boarding the plane.  Several other travellers offer their services to help us get situated.  Love how the Lord gives you angels when you need them!
8:20am- We finally take our seats on the plane.  Chloe and I have a mini worship service in row 26.  I canNOT believe we made the flight. 
8:30am- The flight is in the air.  We made it.  We really made it.
8:30am- 1:15pm  Flight is in the air.  Coralynn does a good job of staying in her buckled carseat.  I laugh to myself because the stranger sitting with Carson and Camilla is super talkative.  I can't remember the last time Carson was outtalked!
1:15pm- Flight lands.  I explain to the kids that we are going to be the last people off the plane.  I get Coralynn out of her carseat.  She's sopping wet.  I guess Pampers aren't supposed to last 8 hours.
1:17pm- We begin the walk to customs.  It feels like we're walking to Alabama.  A sweet employee offers to get the golf cart for us.  I happily accept the offer.  Chloe is mortified.  I ignore Chloe's complaints and remove the 25lb carseat from my back.  Chloe can cope.
1:45pm- We finally arrive at customs.  Thankfully, this goes better than the Panamanian experience.  I'm loving southern hospitality.
2:30pm-  We go to baggage claim.  We're the last people to get there from our flight.  I look for our bags.  Only 3 of the 4 have made it.
2:35pm- More southern hospitality- an airport employee does a quick search with a great attitude and finds out that our bag is still in Panama.  She directs us to baggage services.
3:00pm- I file a claim for our bag.  I'm assured it will arrive on Tuesday.  No big deal. 
3:15pm- The kids are beginning to lose their patience.  We had breakfast at 5am, grapes and cheese on the plane, and goldfish in baggage claim.  They are starving, and we're waiting in another line to get the rental car shuttle.
3:30pm- Arrive at the rental car center.  I find the National counter, and they direct me back to where I was.  My back is killing me, and I'm fighting mental exhaustion.
3:50pm- We finally make it out with our rental car.  I call Amelia to tell her we are on the way.  Miss my exit.
4:00pm- I find the right road, and we head to LaGrange. 
5:00pm- We pull into Amelia's driveway.  We're hungry and exhausted but thrilled to be here.
8:00pm- Put the kids in bed and head to WalMart to get stuff we need until our bags arrive.  I've never been more thrilled to see WalMart in my whole life. 
11:30pm- Collapse into bed.  I'm so aware that the Lord was with us the entire time, and I'm just beginning to understand how vital Tony is to our family.  I've proven I can do this by myself.  I just don't want to.
**1:00am Wednesday, July 4th- My missing bag arrives.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Poem

(with my apologies to Clement Moore)

'Twas the night before vacation, when all through our home
The kids were all awake, and trying to roam.
The suitcases were tucked in the trunk- so neat.
Getting them all to fit was quite a great feat!

Finally, with teeth brushed and lovins' from Dad,
the kids settled into their beds feeling glad, 
Because tomorrow they would all board the plane, 
Heading for Georgia to see friends once again.

Friends still familiar in sweet open hearts.
Friends their heads try to remember- forgetting some parts.
Whom will they see?  And what different might they find?
The questions of an expat child's mind.

The parents, quietly in the still of the night,
ponder the time since they last took this flight.
12 months ago, oh how much time has passed!
Friendships exist that were uncertain to last.

An awareness creeps over the finally still soul,
the awareness the Lord has kept us whole.
This trip to the States is more than vacation,
it's a reminder that love crosses the nations.

To those whom we will see in the next few days,
Being together leads our hearts to praise!
And to those whom we won't be able to see,
Please know that together we wish we could be.

We climb into bed as the yawns start to surge.
I drift to sleep as visions of friends emerge.
Knowing that reunions are so sweetly right,
I say, "I will see you tomorrow night!"