Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An Unexpected Hiatus

DisneyAfter an unexpected hiatus, I’m back! I planned to be a little hit or miss while vacationing at Disney, little did I realize the blogging break would end up being much longer.

We had a wonderful trip to Disney, but it wasn’t without its challenges. I was reminded, quite frequently, something I already know so well. Children (people in general, actually) thrive on structure. Even as planned out as the week was, the structure our daily lives resemble, looks nothing like the craziness a week of vacation tends to bring. That said, the kiddos were in awe of Disney and all it brings. We had many unexpected surprises along the way, and the cast mates (Disney staff) went out of their way for our family. Even so, by the end of each day…I had nothing left. It took it all out of me, and then some.

As soon as we arrived home, we stepped into high speed preparing for the next adventure. My children are currently spending this week with some dear friends of mine in Savannah, GA. Lorie and her husband, Duane, are seasoned adoptive parents, and they also have six biological children. The age range of their children is very similar to mine. She offered this week of respite to me several months ago, and I happily accepted her offer.

Respite from my 24/7 parental responsibilities is something I crave. Joel and I shared our parenting duties well, but as soon as He went Home to Heaven, it all fell on me. It’s been emotionally very difficult to be “on” all the time for the children and try to grieve the way my heart needs to at times. Therefore, this gift of respite was huge, but little did I realize how huge.

Last Monday (the day after my children went to Savannah), I had a scheduled inpatient surgical procedure. I was so glad the kiddos were well taken care of during my 1-2 night planned hospital stay. One less worry. However, my hospital stay turned into four nights, and I almost had to spend a fifth night.

Without going into all the details, I had stomach surgery. The surgery itself was very successful (sounds familiar…oh yes…I said similar words after Joel’s surgery in February), but the post-surgery recovery brought a few challenges…my blood pressure kept dropping, I ran a low grade fever, my resting heart rate was higher than normal, and my oxygen saturation rates were too low. In addition to that, I have a bruise along my abdomen that reaches out to my side and almost to my back that is U.G.L.Y. I bruise easily anyway, but I’ve never had anything like this before. It was a showcase piece for all kinds of hospital staff to view. Nobody could believe it until they laid eyes on it. The bruise was actually the lesser of the evils, but it brought the biggest reaction.

The other problems I kept exhibiting led to many tests to rule out the biggies (i.e. blood clots, tumors), and I’m thankful I had a surgeon willing to be so thorough with me. It probably didn’t hurt they all knew Joel’s story and wanted to avoid a repeat with me. They did well. I really am very pleased. I’m just slowly regaining strength to do much of anything.

It’s hard being “down” all the time. You would think I would have learned that lesson after my foot surgeries this spring. I’m just wired to be on all the time it seems. God, in His abundant mercy, is patiently teaching me about rest. Something I need and crave, but seldom take. This blog hiatus was just one piece of the puzzle, but apparently I needed it too. Thank you for patience as I get “back in the saddle again”.

One more thing… With August now here, I face another difficult “first” later this month. Our anniversary. I covet your prayers, in advance of that day (25th), as my heart is already hurting thinking of another missed celebration with my love.

Friday, July 14, 2017

It’s a Small World After All – Bound for Disney!

Disney

Our crew in 2014…from left to right…Leah, Anna, Joel, and Aaron

It’s been three years since I last went to Disney World and three years again prior to that, when Anna and I went alone. In 2014, it was only four of us…Joel, me, Anna, and Aaron. We happened to be there over the exact same time we’re going this year. Yes! We’re going to Disney World again!

We have been tremendously blessed by an anonymous donor with a trip for six of us to travel to Disney World, and we’re leaving Saturday! The four littles, along with big (adult) sis Anna, and me will be flying out Saturday morning and returning the following Saturday morning. I can’t believe it’s almost here, and I honestly can’t believe someone loves us this much to do something so HUGE!

We’ll be staying at a Disney resort and visiting all 4 theme parks along with Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). My youngest kiddos have no idea what they are about to experience. They are excited, but it’s an excitement they, themselves, can’t even comprehend until they lay eyes on this place.

I doubt I’ll be blogging much while we’re gone, but then again…you never know. (Laptop is going with me for evening entertainment after kiddos are in bed.) Even so, I’ll be sure to share all about it when we return, as I plan to take in every moment I can with these children and capture (through photography and journaling) their expressions and experiences. Each one of these kiddos of mine (Anna excluded) are former orphans and have never had an opportunity, such as this, in their young lives.

I ask, in advance, for your prayers in several key areas:

  1. No sickness develops for any of us.
  2. The children behave better than ever.
  3. We have no snaffoos to have to deal with…need a smooth week.
  4. The children realize the blessing this is and enjoy their week to the fullest without a feeling of entitlement.
  5. For emotional healing for all of us!

It absolutely breaks my heart that Joel won’t be with us to experience their first Disney trip. It breaks my heart Joel won’t be here to experience Austyn’s first plane ride with him. It breaks my heart to know this trip came about as a result of his death. And yet…I am so grateful and so undeserving.

Thank you Abba for this blessing through generous people! Please continue to bless them with abundant favor!

#HeIsStillGood

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Road-tripping Solo with Four Kids – Did I Survive?

Road-tripping solo with four kids is in the books! While we’ve had several mini day trips and a couple overnighters, this was our first two-nighter, out-of-state, major road-tripping event without daddy, and we I survived…barely.

My survival was, no doubt, directly tied to the numerous prayers lifted up on behalf of many Facebook friends. I sent out a quick plea for help, and you all were too quick to step up to the plate on our behalf. And, for that, I thank you immensely. I can’t imagine what our trip would have been like without your prayers, because with your prayers, it was still a bit challenging.

Our challenges always include the pink bucket. You know the kind…the type the hospital gives out whenever you’re incarcerated admitted for an overnight stay. It’s the one the nurses often use to give you a bed bath with or to store all your toiletries.

For our family, it’s become the infamous “puke bucket” for our extremely motion sick little Bulgarian princess. Poor Katerina can’t catch a break. It probably didn’t help that we had to travel “the gorge” between North Carolina and Tennessee, making all the twists and turns that are much more stomach-unsettling. She did her best, but…she had to use the bucket three times. THREE times. The last was right as we were pulling up to the wedding parking lot.

Road-tripping with my four kids, wedding style

Yes…I took my children to a wedding. Granted, this was actually their second US wedding to attend, as their older brother got married a few weeks after they arrived in the US in 2015. However, these are pretty different kiddos from the ones we had back then.

Anyway…the wedding was set for 6:00 pm…an outdoor setting. What time did we arrive? You guessed it. 6:00 pm. I was so appalled. My son-in-law’s little sister was getting married, and we were honored to be able to attend. I drilled my children with proper wedding etiquette and the consequences of not following the mom-addressed guidelines. However, I never realized I would have to reprimand myself for arriving after the entire bridal party was at the altar and just before the bride walked down the aisle. Thankfully, we were able to see the cutest little flower girl and ring bearer (who just so happen to be my grandchildren). Otherwise, the reprimand to myself would have been even worse.

No need to punish the children for misbehaving during the actual ceremony, as they did phenomenal! I was so proud of them. Then, it was time to just cut loose. Benjamin shared with the world, “This is the best party EVAH!” All of my children (with the exception of Josiah) LOVE to dance, and they never stopped! Josiah, was quite content, to play corn hole with some “big kids” he met. So, all-in-all, your prayers were evident.

Benjamin, Katerina, and Amy on the dance floor, road-tripping style

As for me, attending my first wedding as a new widow was going to be tough. I knew that. I did remarkably well during the ceremony but lost it a couple times during the reception when different songs came on that reminded me of Joel or simply of his absence. That hole in my heart is still very large.

The rest of the road-tripping weekend was large as well…large fun! We intended to go to the Gatlinburg Aquarium, but the traffic (inside the building and outside) was simply too much. The kids were content to go back to the hotel and swim for the rest of the afternoon. We were joined by Amy and Wes and their two kiddos, and we had a blast spending the afternoon in the pool (me with my new fancy foot covering device and all). We followed that with a dinner out in Pigeon Forge and quick goodbyes until we see them again in a few weeks. We’d be road-tripping back home beginning the next morning.

Road-tripping hotel swim time

All-in-all, I survived another “first”. Actually, I more than survived. I thrived. That was confirmed on two occasions: 1) When Josiah told me, “Thank you for taking us places, Mom!” and 2) Upon Benjamin’s exclamation of the wedding/reception being the best party “evah”. They loved it! Therefore, I did too.

#HeIsStillGood

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The (Not-So-Wild) West!

My husband and I just returned from a vacation out west. In addition to airline miles, we traveled another 3900+ in the rental car. We experienced such a precious gift of time together, all while sightseeing this beautiful country.

I’ve shared before that I have a unique collection…newspapers from state capitals. I have such a passion for travel that years ago, I thought it would be a great idea to start collecting newspapers from each state capital, ensuring that I would get to every state in the union one day (because “the rule” is that I actually have to GO to that city to get the newspaper – not just ask someone to bring/send it to me). Thankfully, I’ve had the privilege of getting many over the last nearly nearly 14-15 years.

In my 2013 bucket list post earlier this year, I noted that I planned to add at least one more to my collection this year. Thanks to this recent vacation, I was able to add six more: Oklahoma City (OK), Phoenix (AZ), Salt Lake City (UT), Cheyenne (WY), Denver (CO), and Lincoln (NE). I already had some from the other states we visited last week.

We were able to spend time with family and see some landscape beauties that God created: the Kansas prairies, the New Mexican mountains, the cactus plants in Arizona, the snow-capped mountains of Utah, the plains of Wyoming, a distant view of the Coloradan Rockies, and the GRAND CANYON, among other things. We also visited Las Vegas (that can be a little shocking to behold!) and the nearby Hoover Dam (impressive structure!). We packed a lot into nine days but are so thankful for the time away and the time together.

God even blessed us with the ability to be delayed on our flights coming home, allowing Delta to give us both vouchers for future flights. Woohoo!!!

I’ve also taken a brief blog vacation. I needed a little time away to just – pause – and listen to Abba for awhile. He’s refreshed and refueled me, and I look forward to connecting here with you more often.

Here are a few pics from our not-so-wild west vacation adventure:

On an old caboose in Council Grove, Kansas

On an old caboose in Council Grove, Kansas 

Arizona cactus

Arizona cactus

The incredible Grand Canyon (pictures do not even begin to do it justice)

The incredible Grand Canyon (pictures do not even begin to do it justice)

More Grand Canyon 

Las Vegas at night

My sweetie in front of one of the beautiful Las Vegas hotels

My sweetie in front of one of the beautiful Las Vegas hotels

At the Hoover Dam

At the Hoover Dam

IMG_1406

Utah mountains

Utah mountains

Wyoming State Capitol Building (in Cheyenne)

Gerald Ford Birthplace in Omaha, Nebraska 

A Missouri sunset

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We’re Back!

We’re back from our weekend getaway to Disneyworld in Orlando, FL! My daughter and I had a blast and crammed a whole bunch of fun into 3 days and 3 nights! This trip was a much needed break amidst a summer of heartache and chaos. We both worked really hard to make this trip happen by selling lots of “stuff” that we simply didn’t need anymore. We’ve decided we’d rather spend our time and effort making memories together than collecting “stuff”. So, between Craigslist sales, a trip to the flea market, and two gifts…off we went to the most “magical place on earth”.

So much happened while we were away that it’s simply hard to condense into one blog post, but I’ll just highlight a few of those lighter moments today…

**Our trip began with a flight from Charlotte to Orlando. As we were just about to land, the gentleman sitting beside me struck up a conversation with me that went like this:

Man: “What was that?”

Me: Thinking he was referring to the pilot letting down the wheels, said, “The wheels of the plane.”

Man: “No. I KNOW that. What was that wet, smelly stuff that just flew all over me?”

Me: “Oh…that? The lady in front of you just misted herself.”

Man: “Great. How am I gonna explain smelling like a woman to my WIFE sitting a few rows ahead of me. Will you be my alibi?” (with all seriousness in his question)

Me: “Uh…sure.”

Later, after landing and exiting the plane. The man pulled me aside to have me “meet” his wife and proceeded to say, “If I smell like a woman…this lady here can vouch for me.”

**One evening, while having dinner at the resort food court, Anna suddenly announced, “I’m stuck!” Perplexed, I asked her what she meant by that. Apparently, she sat in a seat that hadn’t been wiped off too well from the previous patrons, and her pants were stuck in something sticky sweet. It wasn’t super glue, so she was able to get up. But, at this point…I was laughing so hysterically that I could hardly catch my breath.

**That laugh would later come back to haunt me. On our flight home, the kiddos in the seat behind me apparently spilled their soda. At some point during the flight home, my shoes didn’t want to come up off the floor. Now…I was the “stuck” one! (What goes around comes around.)

**You know how when standing in line for a ride, someone will usually come up and ask you how many are in your party? In other words, they need to place you in the correct line based on the number of people you’re riding with. Well, when this particular ride worker asked this question of Anna once during the weekend…she confidently announced “FIVE”. The worker walked away to find 5 spots and then came back to get all “five of us” only to discover only 2 of us standing there. Again, she said, “How many did you tell me?” Anna then realized her mistake and said, “Oh…I mean two. Just two.” While on the ride, I asked Anna, “Where did you come up with 5? Are we riding with some of your imaginary friends? Or – were you saving spaces for some newfound folks you met?” Giggles ensued…and so did the ride.

**One of the highlights of the many shuttles that we took to get around Disney was the bus driver that led our caravan of riders into singing the famous children’s tune, “The Wheels on the Bus (Go Round and Round)”. As I looked around, the faces on the bus represented Indians, Muslims, Caucasians, African-Americans, and Latinos. But, everybody on the vehicle knew that song! (Now if it could just be that way with “Jesus Loves Me”!)

All kidding aside, we had a great trip. There were a couple more serious moments that I’ll blog about (maybe tomorrow), but this time together was nothing less than an expressions of God’s abundant mercy and grace showered down upon us! To Him be ALL the glory!