Friday, August 31, 2007

6 Degrees of TTS

My husband never ceases to amaze me - or rather, the people he knows. Everywhere we go he knows someone. We're sitting on the beach in Fairfield, where I grew up, where I now know almost no one. Our daughter decides to play with these two adorable little boys and their friend, whose mother asks where she's from. She then tells Kt she's from Maryland as well, but from Rockville. It turns out she and TTS went to the same high school - and there they are, 300 miles away from home, sitting 5 feet away from each other on a beach in Fairfield. Is that just weird or what?? Just spooky, I tell you!

Oh, and it's killing him not to blog until tomorrow. I think he forgot August had 31 days in it, because as soon as he woke up he grabbed the computer. Then I heard him utter, "Oh, it's still August..." LOL Tomorrow is his big blog redebut! Don't miss it!


OK, I must fess up to something. When I arrived here last night, my brother was back here (yes, the architect, motorcycle riding, jazz percussionist little bro) playing on his Xbox (not a 360). So, when I heard the cheers from the crowd, I assumed he had connived T into playing tennis with him.

In actuality, he was watching the US Open, which is a big deal around here. When it's in New Haven, my brother's architecture firm gets tickets so he can attend. Last night it was in Flushing and he was watching James Blake, who happens to be from Fairfield (woohoo), is friends with my brother's good friend Sean and who won last night in a really good tennis match. I watched some of the last set with them - it was phenomenal!

I wonder why tennis isn't such a big deal in Maryland? I guess it's just not political enough!

Thursday, August 30, 2007


T and I spent most of the car ride up to Connecticut telling our girls to keep it down so we could hash out all that happened on our little Hungary missions trip. We are very close to being able to put together a trip report to send out to our many supporters and friends - it will be an early Christmas letter!! Hope they don't mind.

We are here in CT, home of Duchess, Circle Diner and the Long Island Sound. Beach, food and fun is what we're here for! LOL Oh, yeah, and my family is here as well! D & T are playing XBox360 tennis, the girls are in bed (hopefully) and I'm getting ready to head there. My head is swirling with our conversations about pretty much everything. It's crazy to think that we just went on a missions trip that energized what we're doing. Usually we come home completely wiped and ready for a break. Now I think we are excited to see how long we can sustain the momentum that this trip started.

I've been reading the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge. It's a very good book and I think it has really hit a lot of important issues I am dealing with right now. I'm going to finish it up either this weekend or at work (where I've been reading it - kind of slow!). It has many Beth Moore type themes running through it, so much of the info in it contains ideas I'm already accostumed to. It's just good to hear it all from a different perspective. If you are a woman or you know a woman, you should read this book. If you are a man who has absolutly no contact with women ever then you can skip this one. (LOL)

Labor Day weekend. Just exactly what is Labor Day??

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Tomorrow, I'm going to Connecticut where I will go to the beach, rain or shine, because that's where I want to be. 'Nuf said!;-)

My Two Daughters

So, here's my predicament. I have two daughters that are both a little bit like me in different ways. Kt is the brown-nosing, overachieving, analytical thinker that I was, but a little more extroverted. OK, a lot more extroverted! Em is the introvert that I am, meaning she checks out when things get overwhelming. Which is exactly what I used to do, but I always dove into my little intellectual world full of books, homework and entertainment.

Em checked out by the middle of the conference in Hungary, hiding away in our room with some stuffed animals she had "won" as prizes. The animals had met in the "adoption center" where they were nearly starved to death. I cannot relate to this. Not because I'm a mom who wished her daughter to be social, but because if I were going to create an alternate reality, animals would not be included!

So, today, Em announced to me that school is boring, and it's only getting "boringer"! Now, if she were anything like Kt I'd assume that she was placed in the wrong class, not challenged enough, and that she really and truly was bored. However, it's Em we're talking about and I am drawing another scary conclusion: first grade is hard, and she is checking out. Upon further questioning, she did admit that first grade was too hard and that she has decided she wants to be homeschooled. Not this year, but next year. That's a glimmer of hope - that she prefers school to home for now, but she's still big and bright in my radar. Having never been inclined to do anything academic, I've always feared this moment.

Kt's highlight of the day was her first Gifted and Talented Math class - where she gets to leave the confines of her overfilled classroom and head off to another room with all her very best friends. Geeky socialite. That about sums it up!

Em's highlight of the day? Getting another "roar" card from her teacher (7 more 'til the homework pass) for standing quietly, waiting patiently at her desk. No wonder she's bored!


T just told me that a friend of his said last night, "We finally found a church that still sings hymns!!" So, I ask you, what is the single most important characteristic when choosing a church?

Do You Know This Woman?

This poor friend of mine was stuck with me for at least 80% of our Hungary trip. I know - you're looking at this picture thinking, "Poor friend? Poor you!" LOL I'm so thankful that she is so full of life, wisdom, love, fun, scintillating sarcasm (much like my own), smarts, common sense (something that was many times absent on our little journey), and just plain goodness. Without her, I would have literally crashed and burned on this trip. For many reasons, but mostly because we kept each other focused on the most adorable kids at the entire conference as opposed to external stresses that I often become obsessed over.

Being my first space trip, it was such a blessing to be taken under the wing of one of our favorite babysitter, space travelers, college leaders and friends. It was difficult coming home and shipping her off to school, and as I browse through various pictures of our trip, every time I come across one of her I either smile hugely, laugh out loud or just roll on the floor laughing. I don't know many people who always bring a smile to my face, but she is definitely one of them.

Thanks, LB, for being so intentional with others, with yourself, with me and for loving every person you met in Hungary with a thirst and desire to know them each intimately. That kind of characteristic is very rare and comes from within, where I know Christ dwells richly in you. And while I'd love to think that you'd be with us on every journey, I saw more than ever in Hungary that you are allowing Christ to guide you wherever He desires, and I know in my heart that it'll be somewhere amazing! My impatient self wants to know now! Oh, and thanks for taking the pajama party off our hands. We owe you big!! Go, poturdie girl!

**Here's one of many things she learned in Europe - if you like that, read her whole blog!**


So, I reached my 15,000th visitor to my blog! I used to try to figure out each thousandth visitor, but it's continually was my husband. Anyway, I stopped checking, but this one seems big. I have a feeling I know who it was.... and it appears to be my new friend in France, who is vacationing on Corsica with her parents - rough life!

We met a few months ago online and were excited to meet in Hungary, as she and her husband and two daughters, the same ages as Kt and Em, serve with Christian Associates in Aix-en-Provence, just outside the French city of Marseille. While I really enjoyed meeting their entire family, the week was a whirlwind of activity, workshops and meal meetings for them and lots of babies for me, so we left Hungary without having spent much time together at all. Thank goodness for google chat and blogs! I guess I'll just have to go to Aix if I really want to spend some time with them.

Although I didn't spend much time with them, Kt and O. spent plenty of time together - swimming in the Danube, meals, pajama party and just plain old having fun together. We honestly couldn't have been more blessed by the families we met, and you, my friend, are a big part of that!!

Thanks for being visitor #15,000 here!

Is It ONLY Wedensday?

This is such a slow week, or maybe I'm just dragging my feet. It's super busy but it just seems to be lagging a bit. Yesterday I worked and had one single solitary customer. Oh, and someone who picked up her pottery. The nice thing about it was that I spent the first hour painting a vase and thinking to myself, "This is my kind of job!" Of course, running around before work, to the doctor and to sign the girls up for gymnastics, made me realize that money doesn't grow on trees. (Sound familiar, mom?) So while I love my job, I'm appreciating that my husband isn't nagging me to find a "real" job right now!

Kt had an interesting day at school. We have all suffered from some kind of allergy/cold thing since we came home. It's been 1.5 weeks, but it's not going away. It's sort of confirming what I've always believed - that we're allergic to our house! LOL Anyway, Kt has been tired, achy, runny nose, no voice for a few days. She told me yesterday that she fell asleep for during her reading assessment!! YIKES! If that isn't bad enough, she almost missed the bus, skipped breakfast and lunch for 4th grade is at 1:05 - no snack. It's pure torture! It's no wonder she almost fell asleep. Thanks to her day yesterday, we've instituted some house rules and we'll see if they work. So far today, she only forgot her lunchbox - so typical!

Em had an equally interesting day. Of course, most of the fun details of her day come out at bedtime, when she insists that I come lay down with her in bed at night. On many occasions she has expressed that because of this coveted time, her parents are the greatest of all, so I don't dare give this up until she decides she's too old for it. That will be a sad day!

Anyway, Em brought home some work that she was unable to finish in school. This was a persistent problem for her in school last year, so I'm glad her teacher is trying to nip that in the bud early on. Em is claiming it was all the fire drill's fault, but.... well, history often repeats itself! We finished her assignment yesterday, and then she told me that she had won two coupons. Once she gets to 10 she'll get a prize, and it might even be a homework pass that she can pass in instead of homework. Very excited, we are, about this - I happen to hate homework passes, but I'll throw in the towel this year.

At bedtime, Em says to me, "I know now what is so different between Mrs. P and Miss C. When Mrs. P says something, you have to do it when she says it. She will NOT wait for you!" I had to completely laugh out loud. I said back to her, "So, Miss C was a little more patient with you?" She replied, "Yes, she was very nice to wait for me. But Mrs. P expects that when she says we do it!" I replied, "So.... what you're saying is that Mrs. P is more like your mother than Miss C?" She looked at me, laughed and said, "Exactly!" I happen to think Mrs. P is just what we need this year - because it sounds like real school has begun! Or at least it's finally sinking in for one 6 year old who totally drove her kindergarten teacher crazy last year!!

So, now I'm off to drop something off for T at church, pick up Kt's prescription and some food, run Kt's lunch up to Clemens when I help with Kindergarten lunch again and then back here to do laundry, pack and clean up for our trip tomorrow to Connecticut. We're going to try the housesitter thing again - this time with a church secretary. Our neighbor's are just rolling their eyes at us, but it's either that or kill our dogs and I'm not interested in that - just yet!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Composition Notebooks Secured

At the third Giant, T was able to find a plethora of black marble composition notebooks. We can conclude that either they were all sent there OR that the schools in that area do not require them. Either way, we know now where to go next year! ;-)

Could that be it? I've written out six emergency cards, 2 toxic waste spill cards, 2 inclement weather cards, PTA volunteer sheet, school directory form, ..... oh, I forgot Em's pencils - finally sharpened but sitting on T's desk, the two $15 checks for "magazines" still on T's desk, the PTA dues (still not sure we'll join - not sure there is any benefit to that....). Then I'm done. For now. This is the time of year I am grateful that we decided to have only two kids. It's even overwhelming with two.

So, last night I put Em to bed. She's so sweet, and she loves first grade. Right now, she still thinks it's fun. She's excited that her friend Conner is in her class AND that she gets to sit with him. I was digging around for more information yesterday and here's what I got.

Me: So, how do you like Mrs. P?

Em: I LOVE her. But she's not Miss C. I mean, I like her and all, but she's just different.

Me: I know you love Miss C, but I think you'll love Mrs. P, too.

Em: So, Miss C went to Connecticut? What is she doing there?

Me: Teaching kindergarten.

Em: So, you mean, we only had her here for ONE YEAR??? And then she left?

Me: Yup, aren't we lucky?

Em: Why did she do that?

Me: Because she got married?

Em: Oh, well, she should come back and then we could have her forever!

There is just something about kindergarten teachers that we keep in our hearts. Kt swears up and down that Mrs. O is the best teacher in the school. I happen to remember my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Handy. I LOVED her. In fact, when I met Kt's teacher that's who she reminded me of. Sweet older woman who just made you feel warm inside. Her classroom was a carnival of sorts - I can remember it down to almost every last detail - where the dress-up clothes were, the sand/water table, the piano she used to play for us, the tables for art projects, where Mr. Noran used to wheel in the milk for each day, the stinky bathrooms, and where we would have circle time. We had lots of windows that opened up to the playground, a big chalkboard that Mrs. Handy used to let us write on with colored chalk, big closets for all our coats and rubber boots and the big closet where she kept all her special treasures. I don't remember her having a desk - I'm sure she had one, but she never used it. She was always doing something with us. It was pure magic!

After kindergarten, I don't remember much. Mrs. Bauchmann and the Sun Up! reading book, Mrs. Lawrence, where I met my friend Amy, Mrs. Hudzik where my best friend, Heather, came to school late one day because she had a tick removed from her scalp, Mrs. Hughes, who read us great books and where Brian used to copy my spelling homework daily while we waited to be dismissed as walkers, Mrs. Hudzik again, where my handwriting was so bad that I can remember spending hours at the writing center to work on it (who would have thought I'd end up being a calligrapher!) and finally, Mrs. Kaminski, who shouldn't have been a teacher at all. I do remember quite a bit from sixth grade, mostly that I was mischievous, had some interesting friends and "total phone."

Oh, the memories made in the halls of a school by some of the most influential people in the world, our teachers!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Round and Round I Go

You Are a Ferris Wheel

Deep down, you are a fun, whimsical, and easygoing person.
You often enjoy life for what it is, and the littlest changes in course can be quite thrilling.
In relationships, people tend to feel what you feel. It can be liberating at first...
But after a while, the people closest to you end up feeling a little trapped.

Your life has perfectly normal cycles of ups and downs.
However, you can't help but sometimes feel that you're missing out on the most exciting aspects of life.
You only are happy when you're experiencing the highest of highs.
Your low points just make you feel depressed, restless, and bored.

At your best, you feel on top of the world with a great sense of perspective.
You believe that anything is possible, and that you are happily looking down on everyone else.
At your worst, you feel like your life is going in circles. You often feel like you're not going anywhere.
This is sometimes psychologically disorienting. And sometimes it brings on a sense of hopelessness.

An Instant

Sometimes, everything can change in an instant, or in an email! I have been thinking about a few plans for early October and they all pretty much came crashing down about 10 minutes ago. My sister's husband is heading to Florida for a week, so I've been planning since June to go down to help her for a few days and my mom was going to try to finish the week with her. I've also considered a trip up to Gordon College for homecoming this year, as it will be my 15th class reunion. I have been trying to get dates for both of these things because I've been assuming they fall around the same time.

Sure enough, my brother-in-law will be gone Oct. 1-5 and homecoming is Oct. 5-6. HOWEVER, my mom just emailed and said my aunt and uncle will be with my sister the week before and possibly staying longer to help her AND that someone at Gordon College is going to be committed. A completely insane idea has transpired at that school to combine two traditionally crazy, crowded and chronically painful weekends into one. Yes folks, Family Weekend and Homecoming will both be held together on Columbus Day weekend. As if it was not difficult enough to fight the droves of peak weekend travelers around 128, or find even a one last pathetic hotel room in New England for even one night, or find a parking space where Public Safety wasn't waiting with ticket in hand on campus..... Now they will double the insanity by accommodating everyone all at once.... If you haven't already guessed, the idea has quickly been nixed from every crevice of my reasonable mind. It's just not happening. At this rate, I will never be visiting my alma matter again!

That being said, I'm free, completely, the first week/weekend in October.

First Day - Second Try

OK - I took down my first day post because I just don't want to read it again! The girls came home today, very happy. I still have many concerns but I'm going to put them on the back burner for a couple weeks and see how this year begins. I'm an information gatherer by nature, so the beginning of school is very difficult for me because basically I know nothing. All we know is what school supplies are kids need. I don't know when they eat lunch, when they have recess, when their specials are, what reading levels/groups they are in.... and as a mom, I want to know all those things. It's just very stressful for me. I need a beach, and I need it bad!!

Tonight the girls have no homework but instead brought home two folders worth of papers for me to fill out. As if I don't have enough to do! I guess I'll have to give up the computer for the evening, sit in front of the TV (what's even on tonight??) and in between folding laundry fill out Safe to School, PTA volunteer forms and Emergency Info. What fun! I'm actually ready for bed!

Black Marble Composition Notebooks

These things should be banned from every school supply list imaginable. It's bad enough that there is not one left in either Howard or Montgomery counties, but the fact that I need six of them is slightly enfuriating. Why? Because 5 of them are for my first grader. When Kt was in first grade, she also needed 5 and at the end of the year each of them came home with a subject written on the outside: Spelling Journal, Daily Writing Journal, Math Journal, Science Journal and Social Studies Journal. Only the spelling and writing journals were even written in. The math journal had about the first 6 pages used and the science and social studies ones were not even touched. Why am I looking all over the county for 6 of these things, in black I might add??? Hmmm.....

Things That Make You Go Hmmm....

So, having a bunch of these today. First, as soon as I got into the house from the bus stop there was a message on my machine. The kindergarten teacher's aide called me to see if I could come in and help with kindergarten lunch today. Hmmm.... what to do? I'll go, because I'm a pushover! And because I know the kindergarten teachers will need a break today!

We waited 15 minutes for the bus today. Our little bus picks up exactly 9 children, then goes off to school. Every year they publish that our pick up time is 8:50, but we have no idea if it's our same bus driver, who always changes that time to 9:05 so the kids aren't getting dropped off alone at school. We appreciate that, but this year our same bus driver just didn't bother to show up until 9:05 and said.... absolutely nothing to us. She's not the nicest lady and while I'm grateful she's consistent, I wish she had a little more personality and maybe even a smile! Hmmm....

Finally, I still need composition notebooks. I guess I'll shower and go out and look for some. I thought I might price them on Amazon, although that might take too long. They are rather cheap, but I was wondering about the option of buying them... uh... used? Why are they even offering to sell used composition notebooks? Is that not just plain scary or ridiculous? Hmmmmmmm.......

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Big Plans

There is only one person in this house who has big plans, and it's not me. I'm actually going through a sort of depression over sending my kids off for another year of school without having had a family vacation this summer. I knew when we made the commitment to go to Hungary that we'd have to give that up, I just never realized how difficult that would make returning to school. I'm just not ready.

Kt has some serious plans, however, and has asked me about them every single day since we've come home. She is determined to return to Hungary next summer for the very same conference. She is insistent and has asked me every single day to promise her that we will let her go back next year. Now, every day I've explained to her that the chance of us returning next year are slim. It's expensive, we have not been invited, we don't know what kind of a team we'll have, and I'm not even sure we'll be going anywhere as a family next year.... Even with all my explanations, she insists on bringing this up every single day!

Today, as we left church, she said to me, "Mommy, is it all right for me to go back next year to Hungary? Will you let me go?" By this time, I'm just rolling my eyes, trying not to get all mad at her, and I basically said all the same things..... Then she said, "Well, Caroline, McKenna and Olivia all invited me to come back, so I'm invited. And Miss Kelly said she would stop here on the way to Hungary to pick me up!" Man, this girl is just completely intent on getting back to Hungary.

The truth is, I couldn't have asked for a better experience for Kt this summer. To her, it was almost better than one of my Disney dream vacations. She met people who will have a lasting impact on her life, she did something with a bigger purpose than laying on a beach, she learned that the world is different outside of the confines of the U.S. and she has a heart that wants to go. I'm not really sure what to do about it, but it is what it is. She will never be happy to sit at home and watch the world happen around her. She will always want to be a participant.

As for Em, we have a little more groundwork to lay. We skipped the boot camp experience with her this summer. Her journey is taking a different turn. She is still processing what happened, and while her plans don't seem as grand now, she does talk about Hungary to perfect strangers wherever we go, so I know it's on her mind. She might actually be happy to join me at Cinderella's Castle.... but not for long. And she prayed for Trev tonight (which I'm sure is extended to the whole team) that he would be able to tell everyone at school tomorrow all about Hungary. Good luck, team, and happy first day of school!

Bird Flu in Bavaria

It's a good thing this story didn't break a few weeks ago or T may not have allowed us to travel to Germany!! I'd have to say it's one of his worst nightmares at this time - which is why our basement is stocked with all kinds of "stuff" for that pandemic that's heading our way.


This morning I sat in our up and coming megachurch, waiting for Trev from our Hungary team to get up on stage and tell everyone what an incredible trip we had and it occurred to me: one of the issues in big churches is that we underutilize people. Every week it's the same people up on stage doing music and worship, the same people running the kidzone, the same people making announcements, the same people on the Greeting team, the Parking Lot team, the Information Desk team..... and honestly, if I didn't know any better I'd think that this church didn't need me at all. I could come every week, never sign up to do anything that I wanted or even thought about trying because I'm just not necessary.

I would love to be part of a church that said, "We want everyone here to have a chance at doing something for God, whether they are good or bad at it, just because they want to worship him in that way. We don't care if you can't sing, we'll hand you a mic. We don't care if you have never babysat before or don't have kids, we'll give you a morning of joy with 3 year olds! It's OK if none of our reflective vests fit you, come wave hello to everyone coming to church and help people cross the street." Instead, we make people discover only the things they are good at and fit them in where they can best be utilized so nobody has to listen to someone sing off key, or direct cars the wrong way down a one way street or discover that kids can be fun even if you don't understand what they are saying.

I'm sitting in church today, listening to 4 people share how God did something for them this summer out in the world not here. God taught them that He provides all that we need and more, that He will guide us to His intended destination in ways we can't even research or dream up on our own, that joy doesn't come in material things, that worship is the best way to start each day.... and why can't we learn these things here? Because we don't need to, and no one needs us to. Isn't is a wonder that God has to take us far away to teach us how much we are needed? I think it's really sad.

International Office Of Space

That's what we call this place. It's kind of a joke, but it's also kind of true. I mean, it's really like an office. I'm the receptionist, event planner, cleaner (although not really.... if you've ever been here, you know what I mean!), caterer, counselor, and I basically hold down the fort. I should be heading out to church soon, although my 9 year old sounds like she has croup. Here are some recent conversations with the President of our company.

Pres: The N's are coming over Sunday at 3.

Me: What do you want me to have?

Pres: I don't know.

Me: How many people are coming to see them?

Pres: I don't know.

Me: Are we having snacks or a meal?

Pres: I don't know. How about brownies or something?

Me: OK, so we'll clean the house up on Saturday.

Pres: OK. But I'm going to be away all day. How about I clean it up on Sunday? And I'll go get drinks and snacks.

Me: Uh, OK. But what about that old TV stand that's in the foyer that's been there since January. I told you no more events at the office until that thing is gone and this is about the 10th event....

Pres: Oh, right. I can take that to Goodwill tomorrow after church.

Me: (rolling my eyes, because after 8 months of hearing the same thing, I deserve to be able to do that) Right.... and clean the house, buy snacks....

This morning, day of event, after I spend all day yesterday trying to get ready, of course it doesn't look like I've done anything!

Pres: Did I happen to mention to you that I am speaking at Light Company this morning?

Me: Well, you did just now!

Pres: Oh, right. Well, I probably shouldn't be, but I'm speaking this morning.

Me: OK, well see you at "our" event this afternoon!

In case you don't know, our office is our house. Our president isn't very tidy, neither are his kids, and most of their mess goes unnoticed by them. It doesn't go unnoticed by me or the hundreds of guests they invite to the premises on a daily basis. I think it might be time to hire someone to clean up after them because I'm not really interested in that job anymore!!

Like This is any Surprise!

You Should Spend Your Summer at the Beach

You're a free spirit who is always thinking of new ways to have fun.
And you don't just love summer... you live for it.
So, you really should blow off your responsibilities and head to the beach!

Of course, I've spent only a minuscule part of my summer anywhere near a beach. It's quite sad! I know quite a few people who have had beach houses loaned to them.... and I'm thinking, "Why don't I know anyone who would loan me a beach house?" I have beach on my mind, and I'm feeling the need to go. But, tomorrow is the first day of school. I believe I've run out of time. For this summer anyway.

Don't Mess with New Haven!

This story is funny to me.... of course, knowing that my brother works in New Haven and his architecture firm just completed a brand new FBI building in that city.... well, I don't think I'd be sprinkling flour around their city any time soon!

Building Student Leaders

I guess Space is all about building leaders. It's something T has a passion for, and combined with his passion for world missions it is what has kept us in our suburban church, pulling out kids in within our sphere of influence who show an interest in those same two things. We totally hit the jackpot this summer, or at least it appears that way so far. Of course, I hadn't planned on the jackpot being so close to home....

A couple of team members, my husband included, have been attempting to hit every continent as far as a visit is concerned. It's sort of a running joke, because for T the ones he's missing are Australia (which has always been a dream of mine to visit) and Antarctica, which I could totally skip altogether - I'm just not a snow and ice person at all! Of course, in all our ramblings on this subject, our oldest daughter has apparently developed her own ideas about where she wants to go. Here's what she told me on our bus ride out of Sopron:

Kt: I really want to go on more missions trips.

Me: I'm glad you liked this one.

Kt: But I don't want to go on one just because I want to visit a continent. I want to go where God can use me.

Me: Well, that's a good reason to go. Why don't you tell your dad that?

Of course, just the fact that she put these two completely separate ideas together on her own was in itself scary, it's a reminder to T and I that much of what we're doing, what we say and how we "joke around" will be interpreted by our own children in the context of what we are doing at the time. We don't plan our missions trips based on what continent they are in, but I guess we ought to be making that a bit more clear to our nearest and dearest (sorry space kids!;-)) up and coming leader, who happens to live in the International Office of Space.

I will be totally honest. The fact that this is what goes on in our house has not escaped my understanding that our children will be impacted in ways we cannot fathom. Especially Kt, who is constantly processing even the smallest of events in the context of her faith. I have often wondered what kind of plan has been in store for my kids knowing where God has placed them in life - with two crazy people! After this summer, I can't wait to read those daily journal entries they start writing for school. Those have been our most telling sources of what happens in the mind of our children!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Schonbrunn Palace

This was my favorite spot in Vienna, although we arrived there from a bus tour taken the day we landed in Austria. It was not until the end of our tour, which sleep deprivation and heat seemed to have deteriorated, that I finally asked who lived in this monstrous abode. It was the imperial family's summer residence, the home where Marie Antoinette was raised. Wow!

As you can likely tell from our photo, we were not in the best of moods for such a grand tour, but I saw enough to know (and not enough to know!) that this is at the top of my list of places to visit when I return to Vienna at some undetermined as of yet point in my life. Here is a funny conversation I had with my half comatose daughter, who only knew that this was the home of a princess. We were waiting in a shaded, covered walkway between the huge palace and another set of buildings which were likely at sometime either stables or offices, but now are the home of a restaurant.

Em: Where did she live?

Me: In that big building. Let's sit here (on a step off the back door of the kitchen) but watch out. People might come out this door and not know we are here.

Em: I want to go in that door.

Me: We can't go in there.

Em: Why not? I want to see where she lived.

Me: Well, she lived over there, and we are going to go in and see that. This is a restaurant.

Em: So, she lived next door to a restaurant???

Me: Laughing.... well, when she lived here, it was not a restaurant!

How, exactly, do you explain 300 years ago to a 6 year old? I thought the immense size of the place might be some indication, but apparently I was incorrect. All in all, I'm guessing the fact that there was no longer a real, live princess living in that palace made it not seem so authentic to her. In a sense, Cinderella's Castle at Disney World is the only "real" castle she's ever seen, because she knows Cinderella lives there, has seen her with her own eyes. And by the way, she has her own restaurant as well!

New Invention?

This is HARDLY an invention, but as I sit here with 90 pencils in front of me, an overheated electric pencil sharpener and kids who have completely lost all interest in an activity that typically (and oddly) fascinates them, it occurs to me that if they actually sold "pre-sharpened" pencils, that is one thing I would totally pay extra for. To me, on a day like today, it would be well worth my money!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Carambar Fruits

A missionary friend, MR, gave me a delicious bags of treats, including these Carambar Fruits taffylike. I'm eating an orange one... sucking on it in a complete and utter daze because I just barely survived an introvert's worst, most horrifying nightmare. I escorted my two children to the first ever "open house" at their school.

It was first ever because in the past, they have staggered these events by grade. This year, for some unknown and completely insane reason, they gave parents and students a 45 minute window to come in and meet your teacher. We arrived 5 minutes early, had to park waaaaaayyyyyy down the street and could barely walk through the halls fillled with every single student and their parents. It was a complete madhouse and to say that I'm not happy about how it turned it would be an understatement. I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed, underimpressed, weary and overall really disappointed. Of course, I had a feeling this might happen after last year was so incredibly amazing.

Em's class is made up of almost everyone I'd hoped she wouldn't be with again and nobody (except for one sweet little friend) I would have chosen her to be with. While I love her teacher, I can see that we have a long, long road ahead of us this year. I'm not even a little bit optimistic about first grade this year. Then again, I can remember that same feeling when Kt was in first grade. It must just be the first grade teacher in me.

Kt's equally in bad shape. Literally all her close friends are in the other two classes. Her teacher is... interesting. Nice, but not someone I would choose specifically for Kt. She is sitting next to a child she fears (he has special needs, frequent outbursts and has been known to physically "hurt" people), is the only one of her close friends in that class without any of them, and is not at all excited about school. The last one is what worries me the most because Kt basically LIVES for school. Even all my pep talks have not lifted her spirits about heading back, and I'm a little anxious myself.

All this being said, I didn't feel any warm fuzzies today from anyone. Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm the prickly pear. I don't really know, but it's going to events like this one when I think, "Maybe T should have gone to this one!" By the last ten minutes, I was walking down the halls, following my frantic children to the kindergarten pod (mind you, neither of them is in kindergarten!) looking and acting like a complete zombie.

In the confines of my analytical, perceptive, discerning, pessimistic mind I am getting a really bad feeling about this year. I can't really put my finger on it quite yet, but there is something very dissatisfying to me about where my kids have been placed. I can see that trust is going to play a big part in my own personal journey this year. Trust and contentment. It's just going to be a season of.... I'm not sure yet.

On a bright note, the sun is out. Of course, it's over 90 degrees! YIKES!

School Supplies

Each year, I think to myself while on our long, arduous school supply gathering journey, "College can't be much more expensive than this! Can it?" Of course, I'm exaggerating, but here's what we've had to purchase for school this year (and I'm so thankful they have taken off the ream of paper for each child they have always suggested!):

4 boxes of Giant Food Brand Ultra Softcloths Baby Wipes, 100 count
1 box gallon size ZIPLOC brand plastic storage bags
1 box quart size ZIPLOC brand plastic storage bags
Crayola Crayons - 16 count
Crayola Crayons - 2 boxes 24 count
Index Cards - 3x5
Box of 8 basic colored pencils
2 Sturdy CLOTH school pouch for pencils
2 Pocket folders, just pockets
8 Pocket folders, with 3 prongs
2 pair sturdy scissors, Fiskars work best
4 LARGE boxes of tissues, Puff Plus preferred
2 packages unscented 4 dry erase markers, dark colors, NO NEON
12" wooden ruler
Yellow Highlighter
Pack of 8 washable markers
Black fine point Sharpie Marker
3 blue ball point pens for checking
90 sharpened #2 pencils (30 unlabeled for Emily, 60 labeled for Katie - I totally messed up)
3 pencil erasers
6 black marble composition notebooks (can't find these anywhere....oops! that's what we get for going to Europe!)
1 package, loose-leaf, wide ruled, 200 count
7 single subject spiral notebooks, not multi-subject
pack of 5 subject dividers for binder
2 3x3 sticky notes
1" binder
14 Large .88 oz Extra strength glue sticks (can't find these anywhere....)
mini pencil sharpener with shavings collector
2 $15 checks made payable to school to cover the cost of magazine subscriptions, homework planner, folder, spelling handbooks, and special class projects

It's a pretty detailed list we get and this year I just can't seem to keep it all straight. So... first grade will have one batch of pencils labeled with Em's name because I thought Kt's were the ones that were NOT to be labeled. Now I have to sit down and write her name of 60 pencils.... I wonder if all our tax money is just not enough??

Mind you, we still get notes during the year asking to replenish the kids school supplies. I can't imagine this would be necessary given the amount of supplies I'm sending in, but maybe I'm just naive about education or something. I've totally cheated on this list.... so now we're off to meet our teachers, drop off these supplies and get lectured on how we messed up. Yay!

On the Beautiful Blue Danube

Danube so blue, so bright and blue,
through vale and field you flow so calm,
our Vienna greets you, you silver stream
through all the lands you merry the heart
with your beautiful shores.

Far from the Black Forest
you hurry to the sea
giving your blessing to everything.
Eastward you flow,
welcoming your brothers,
A picture of peace for all time!
Old castles looking down from high,
greet you smiling from their steep
and craggy hilltops,
and the mountains' vistas
mirror in your dancing waves.

The mermaids from the riverbed,
whispering as you flow by,
are heard by everything
under the blue sky above.
The noise of your passing
is a song from old times
and with the brightest sounds
your song leads you ever on.

Stop your tides at Vienna,
it loves you so much!
Whenever you might look
you will find nowhere like Vienna!
Here pours a full chest
the charms of happy wishes,
and heartfelt German wishes
are flown away on your waters.

~Johann Strauss II


The Danube is the oldest, longest river in Europe, reaching through ten EU countries. The name means "to flow" and alludes to a strong, swift current. That we congregated on it's banks, an intentional, missional, vibrant movement of people with a heart for Europe, seems to me no mistake. I wish I'd known that day all that I know now, but I will never see our day in Vienna the same after learning about this seemingly insignificant at the time venue on the banks of the Danube. May God be heard for years to come as a result of what happened that day on the Blue Danube in Vienna.


That's about the only word I can think of for our last week before school starts. I have not seen a speck of sunshine since we left Europe, which is obviously making me wish I was 4000 miles away! Usually our last week before school is spent at the pool or in Connecticut at the beach. Instead, it's been spent trying to recover from jetlag, working, sorting through the misguided party antics of our resident teens and TV - yuck. HELP! This is seriously miserable!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Bitter, The Sweet and The Chocolate

T: I think this is the one. I think I'm going to lose them.

D: Wasn't that what you set out to do all along? I think that was your intentional goal. I mean, isn't this why we did this?

T: I know, but aren't you sad?

D: Yes, but I'm so excited as well. I think it might have worked.

T and I had this little exchange on our last day in Hungary, speaking about the students, mostly leaders, who have been committed to Space since it's inception. Each of them just being propelled to the next level, which unfortunately for us means they are leaving. Moving to the next level. Going out on their own, for the sake of the Gospel, not just to have a little fun with the Shengs. (LOL)

A couple Hungary team kids came to me and asked if we could go next year to work with one of the CA families, like maybe in Paris or Amsterdam. I just looked at them and said, "As soon as one of you goes to that place, we'll come." I mean, that's the idea, right? We teach them, we train them, we take them, we send them. God moves them. He gives the whole process purpose, and these kids get it.

So, it's bitter. What will we do without them? I'll admit, we've grown a little dependent on them and we'll miss them dearly. They breathe life into us because their giving spirits are just so inspiring and refreshing. They have a deep trust in their Savior and an even deeper desire to share His light. But for us, we know we have to let them do it without us.

It's sweet, because we know our hearts will go with them. We are completely invested in them, we suffer with them, we pray for them, we can say, "I know that amazing person! I served with him/her!" They are the proof that we don't labor in vain.

It's chocolate - I know that's really what is pulling them to Europe. They may think it's the need for laborers in such a lost continent, but I've tasted and I know it's sweet, and bitter. The chocolate is just delectable! So Space cadets, once you've been launched into the world, don't forget to send me some of that yummy European chocolate! ;-)

The Team

I will start this post by just expressing this overlying theme for this past missions trip: I just served on my all-time, favorite, most amazing team EVER! I'm actually really sad that we won't be serving together ever again, because I'm not sure any other team will ever measure up to this past one - and that is totally a fact.

That being said, I've been processing what my role was on this team. Prompted by the post before this, I was afraid from the start that my role on this team would be "grown-up wife of SPACE director" - and it was a role I did not want. I did realize it would be a difficult one to overcome, and I recognized that, to a certain extent, I'd be viewed that way by everyone we met. Knowing that we had on our team the most talented, able-bodied, intentional, dynamic, and motivating leaders on our team - 4 others to be exact - I made it clear to T from the start that on this team, I wanted to be in the background and let them shine. In doing so, THOSE leaders allowed the whole team to shine to the point that I still have some Christian Associate friends asking who those leaders were.

One example of leadership assumption by default of being the wife of "the" leader - when we arrived, T was to be given a tour of the properties we would be utilizing. Since our hotel was being utilized for the conference, there was no space large enough to run a full kids program, so we had a space up the street for that. For reasons I will never understand, only two people could go on this tour and for other reasons I don't understand T and I were chosen. It only took me a few seconds to conclude that it was silly for me to go on this tour because MY work on this conference was at our hotel, in a very small room working with all the 2 and under children. So, I suggested they take along another leader who would actually be working in this space!

Every one of our leaders on this trip did things sacrificially to allow our team members the maximum benefit, most missional experience possible - and they were extremely intentional about it. And our team members, all high school students, blew everyone away. And I mean that in the most amazing sense. There was not one student on our team who acted like anything other than the most responsible, incredible, mature, loving teenager ever. I'm honestly so proud of all of them. Of course, their leaders allowed them to shine. We had no choice!

Out of this team and the leadership, there is only one thing I would have changed (maybe more if I took a bit more time to really think about it) that stands out to me: our attitude in dealing with conflict that arose in working with others. It was something that united us as a team, was slightly unexpected and deserved a different response and could have had the potential to destroy what we were trying to do as a team. I am humbled by the fact that one of our teens, not a leader, reminded us daily that we were there for the kids. It was not about us at all. Thank goodness for Trev!

Working with the babies, while it was a sacrifice of sorts and created a very isolated feeling for a few of us, gave lb and I a taste of missional life from a very different perspective. We communicated with some of these families on a whole different level, spent gobs of time with incredibly well-adjusted toddlers (who were amazingly good-looking!) and bonded over poturdies and some of the messiest diapers I've ever seen! It was the perfect job for me, although quite stressful at times. It made me appreciate all the more seeing our team in action whenever I could.

Thanks, everyone, for making this the BEST MISSIONS TRIP EVER for me. I'm almost afraid to try this again for fear that the standard has been set way too high! You all are the best!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Grow Up

Some days, despite the fact that I'm 37, I get this overwhelming feeling like it's time to grow up. Today I've been feeling that all day. Maybe it was the visit to the "Beautiful Style - Feel like you're 13" spa this morning, or the anxiety I've been feeling since I returned to the pile of drama here or maybe it's just the beginning of the school year jitters, knowing that once again, I'm "taking the year off" to be a mom. I have no idea, but I'm feeling like maybe I just need to grow up. And I'm not really liking that feeling.

Jet Lag

One way to ensure that your children will not overcome their jetlag is to allow them to have friends sleepover. Then, once they are completely worn out from jetlag, their friend sleeping over and goofing around all day, ship them off to granny's for the night.... in tears. Well, I did that anyway and I'll probably regret it. Fortunately, we still have 4 more days until school starts. WooHoo! (NOT)

Kt Mir Salon

I just visited the Kt Mir salon, conveniently located in my own bathroom! It's amazing what two 9 year old girls can create with two old pillowcases, scissors, a bathtub, hair brushes, make-up and fingernail polish. I'm not sure I'd go out looking like this (;-)), but it's been a breath of fresh air that my girls are still young enough to entertain themselves with simple things in life. No beer, drugs or even phone calls to boys yet. Just pure, unadulterated fun! They are working on my little 6 year old princess as we speak!

Moose Gas

I'm thinking there might have been a moose on our plane trip home from Europe. I wonder how much damage that did with our proximity to the ozone layer.... It certainly smelled like there was some damage!;-)

Rain, rain, go away!

It has been nothing but cloudy and/or rainy ever since we returned from Europe. I'm pretty sure this has been a contributing factor, along with other aforementioned incidents, to my lack of ability to recover from that melancholy, overtired, jet-lagged feeling. Of course, the Cote d'Or from MR is helping tremendously - thanks, good French friend!;-)

Speaking of Europe, we received an email today from one of the CA team members who was at conference trying to make a connection. At first, he was slightly discouraged because his past connections were not panning out. He would love to serve in Europe on a CA team and we knew this, so it was exciting for us that he was able to make a few solid connections. He wrote us saying he's received 4 invites from teams all over Europe.

After reading this, T said, "I want to be invited to go to Europe." To which I replied, "T, had you shown even the slightest inclination towards wanting to go to Europe to serve, I'm sure you would have had PLENTY of invites!" I mean really. If you are going to take your whole family on a missions trip serving families that serve on the mission field, don't you think they'd invite you if you were interested? OK, maybe I scared them all away, but at least a few could have overlooked even the scariest of women like me! :-)

We have talked in the past about serving on the mission field, but for whatever reason God has been directing us toward these party-hearty, suburban teens who need a bigger purpose in life. We both feel like the connections they made with the kids on this trip and their parents probably had the most impact on our kids feeling like it was possible for them to go. American families, living in groups/teams with children, young adults, students.... have many of them asking questions about what we are doing here. Very insightful for all of us.

Now the key here is finding a place in Europe, on a beach, plenty of sun and lots of lemonade. Can it be done?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


So, the short version is this. While we were away in Hungary on a missions trip, our housesitter hosted an underage drinking party in our basement, which our underage neighbors attended.... Then they went away on vacation and another neighbor and his friends decided to have a couple fun nights in their house. Things were stolen and somehow, they are blaming it on my housesitter and her friends.

Let's keep in mind that T and I don't drink. Ever. In fact, they are all throwing around names of different kinds of beer cans that were left in various places and I've only ever heard of Bud Light - pretty sad but true. Of course, the police are involved and we know very little. Everyone is telling the part of the truth that makes them look like the good guy and nobody is fessing up to anything felonious.

Have I mentioned how much I need a vacation?

This all brings to light a couple of thoughts for me. First, that suburban American kids need purpose in life because this apathetic boredom is creating misdirected felons. Second, where are parents these days? I don't want my kids to end up like this, and I certainly don't want to be the parents who tries to explain my own children's illegal behavior away so they don't ever get in trouble. Third, what is God trying to communicate to me, having this happen just this way? I did not need this upon returning, but here it is. Maybe it's this: educate myself and communicate to kids just how impactful their unwise choices will be on those around them. Also, make sure my kids have a bigger picture in mind so they don't need to spend endless amounts of time drinking themselves into oblivion because they have nothing better to do with their lives.

OK - party over.

Monday, August 20, 2007


I'm a list person, although I've outgrown making endless written lists of everything. Instead, I try to make my feeble mind retain my plethora of organized data. It's quite a task, especially when I am trying to process a cultural, missional, familial experience into something that can be communicated specifically for others who have no idea what I'm thinking! I'll give it a try here, but my guess is that I'll be frequently editing and categorizing this post, so bear with me!

Things I take for granted:
- lemonade: this lucious, refreshing drink is completely absent from the European menu. I did find that Citron Fanta somewhat quenched my longing, but even that was difficult to come by!
- square footage of living space: why we think we need bigger houses when families of 4-6 are living in less than 1000 square feet AND are happy is beyond me, but I know now that I don't appreciate my large house nearly enough.
- English: it's quite embarrassing that we only know English and just expect that we can find someone wherever we go who does as well.... we should learn more languages here!
- Variety: I find it difficult to choose when I have so many things to choose from. But having little or no choice is something I hadn't really considered until one morning when the only juice left was "multivitamin" - and that's what we had for about three days in a row.... I like choices.
- friends: I'm not sure why, but I tend to feel like I don't have any. Then I meet people who really feel isolated and friendless.... so now I know, I have friends.
- citizenship: being in America, traveling freely around the states, I forget that I actually belong to a country and have access to millions of acres of fun and I don't even need a passport to get there!
- cars: they make life so convenient, and I can't imagine how my world might close in around me if I didn't have a car to get me out. Of course, walking would do me some good as well!
- air conditioning and dehumidifiers: there wasn't one day that I didn't feel a dampness around me. That was probably one of my biggest adjustments.

Things I will miss about Europe:
- cleanliness: we are filthy here. It's quite pathetic. I'm sure there are messy places somewhere in Europe, I just didn't see any of them!
- outdoor cafes: they create atmosphere, community and just a fun place to congregate. They are also great for people watchers!
- history: everywhere you go, there are old town areas that are just incredible. Narrow cobblestone alleyways, Roman wall remains, small buildings, fountains, town centers and I would constantly find myself envisioning the sounds and sights of hundreds of years ago - horses, carriages, long flowing dresses, top hats, smoke filled streets.... it was easier to be transported to way back when.
- passport stamps: it's a reminder that different countries and cultures are so close together, just a hop, skip and jump apart.
- flowers: they were everywhere, but I most loved them in window boxes, which were everywhere. It was so colorful, fragrant and gave life to even the starkest of gray stone buildings.
- beautiful accents: I was mesmerized by Europeans who spoke in such eloquent, twisted English. They could have lulled me to sleep with their beautiful accents.
- markets: fresh fruit, fresh flowers, fresh meat.... so colorful, tasty looking and such variety. I wish I had a fresh market within walking distance of my house!
- clean bathrooms: Katie was the first to notice - not one toilet was left unflushed and most of the bathrooms were spotless.
- creative communication: on some occasions we had to be a little creative to convey our question or message. It's nice that some things, like numbers, are universal.
- smiles: when a European smiles at an American, you know you've done something right. It's one of the warmest things I've ever felt, very genuine and very authentic.

Things I learned about Americans:
- we're rude: about the only polite things Americans do that Europeans don't is wait our turn in line. Otherwise, we are plagued by entitlement, thinking we deserve something from everyone. We need to get over ourselves!
- we're dirty: after an evening at the mall, I'm pretty appalled at how disgustingly dirty Americans are. We leave tables looking trashed, garbage everywhere, bathrooms that stink with paper towels everywhere and toilets... well, you know what I mean. It's just downright filthy!
- we like to talk the talk, but not walk the walk: Americans talk too much and take little action. Meeting all those CA families made me realize that it's only a small percentage of Americans who are willing to actually give up the comforts we have to reach a world of unreached people who are thirsty for God.
- we are arrogant: we choose to only know English, think everything American is the best, believe that others want to hear us be silly (we're too loud!), have little respect for history and it's monuments (I'm throwing this one in for TTS), are easily frustrated when people don't respect us.

I'll stop here - I know there are more lists, categories, data entries, but for now I'll just have to take a break while I organize it all in the cerebral hemisphere.

Happier Kids

Maybe this is why we have so much fun on our mission's trips!


We're back, safe and sound, and just processing all that's happened while we were away. We arrived to our house looking different (I'm not so happy about that), our housesitter having had some neighborhood issues (I'm not so surprised about that!) and our neighborhood being in an upheaval about an apparent break-in. Welcome home!

On one of our last nights in Sopron, Kt asked me this question:

You know how sometimes you don't know someone's last name, or their favorite color or even hardly anything about them, but you can still be like almost their best friend?

Altogether, this experience as a family will be one of my favorites. It wasn't without it's challenges, it's ups and downs and scary moments, but it was by far the most amazing way to introduce my own children to life outside the United States. Being around "3rd culture kids" for a week, building relationships, loving on families who are serving in some of the most darkest places in Europe and doing it in a safe environment was just amazing. When your kids are begging to go back next year, you know you've hit the jackpot!

Now we're back and trying to process just what happened here. It just reminds me that life goes on even when it feels like it should stop for us! Do I get upset when the front posts on my porch look dorky and I just paid hundreds of dollars for that?? I do. But does it really matter in life? Probably not. I'll just try not to look at them everyday when I pull up to my house.... 100 times a day! I guess we still haven't learned that lesson - don't have major work done on your house when you are going to be thousands of miles away. Once again, a lesson gone unlearned by the Sheng house! So, I wonder what will happen at our house next summer while we're away!;-)

(And it's so nice to have blogger back in English - not hungarian!)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Short Pic Preview

In the Vienna Underground

Our Team at Sunset on the Danube River

Emily on the Danube Katie jumping into the Danube

Half Time!

We are continuing to have a great time here in Hungary! It's been an altogether amazing time meeting missionaries, their kids, and others who are here to work with these teams. I think we are each taking away some life lessons, food for thought and from what the kids have shared each night it appears a new appreciation for the sacrifices many make to reach the unreached - and the many blessings they receive in return. They see God work in ways that only those who choose to go will experience. It's really sinking in for our team.

Right now, I'm letting my laundry soak. We'd been told before we came that the hotel would be able to do laundry for us, and some of us hoped beyond hope it was true. It's taken us nearly a week to get an answer on this and now it has become apparent that #1. it will cost us, and #2. we don't have any time left to do it! Had they had this available on Sunday when we needed it, it might have made sense. Now, we are leaving in a couple days and are not even sure we'd get our stuff back in time.

Thank goodness EO'b thought enough to bring along some Tide, and even though the girls and I are allergic to it, I used it anyway! I did a full load in my tub at 11:30pm, after our full day of children - morning, afternoon and evening sessions. My back is KILLING me, and I'm swirling the laundry of four people through a wash and rinse cycle, soon I'll be putting it outside to dry.... When I finally get to bed tonight, I'll be waking up to take care of babies again.... I'm just completely exhausted! And the drama around here! Let me tell you, there is no end to it. But it's really just living real life in close quarters.

I have so much more to share, but I really must go check the weather here in Sopron to see if my laundry has any chance of drying! We could wake up to rain, in which case I might as well blow dry everything now. Don't you wish you came along?

I think I'm going to be posting this, but I'm writing on the Hungarian version of blogger, so I can't remember what I'm doing here for real.... I'm "bejegyzes kozzetetele" this post!;-)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

We Made It!

We arrived Thursday morning in Vienna - safe and sound with all our luggage! The flight was superb, but we unfortunately had little sleep. Our first day we went to our hotel - which was wonderful, brand new, and 2 short blocks from an avenue of shopping. Put a bunch of Americans in Austria, set them down in the middle of a bunch of stores and what do you have? Some happy Americans! No one actually bought anything other than food, but it was fun to stroll around H&M, even if everyone was speaking German!

Later that day, we took a bus tour around Vienna, which if you ever have a chance to visit is an amazingly beautiful city. The architecture is amazing, palaces that will wow you and parks everywhere. We had a beautiful, hot day and other than having difficulty staying awake we really enjoyed our tour. We also toured the palace where Marie Antionette was born and raised - it was just incredible! That evening, a few of our brave souls attended a sampling of the arts in Vienna while the rest of us went to bed!

Yesterday, we traveled about an hour outside Vienna to the city of Sopron. Our hotel is just outside the city in the woods. It's peaceful, quite, lush and today it's pouring rain! We had a short time to get situated here and then right to work. We have a small group of children until tomorrow when the rest of the conference starts. Our team has already fallen in love with the children who are here and I'm guessing when the rest of the kids arrive, they will be equally in love with them as well! Pray for strength and wisdom as we work through some kinks and learn how to work with the other team that we are serving with.

As a side note, I'd ask for prayer for myself and lb. We are taking care of the infants up to age two room. Fortunately, we have only 7 children at most, but nobody adequately prepared for this group/age. We've been given the center room of a suite - it's about the size of a small bedroom - and we have NO TOYS! At the moment, we have only two toddlers and last night, for only 3 three hours, we were quite challenged. When we can go outside, we should be OK, except that once we actually 7 children, I'm not sure how we will manage all of them between the three of us with outings. Your prayers would be very welcomed!!

Other requests: we have one team member who has lost her voice, fortunately not her desire to serve. She's been a trooper! Also, please pray for us and our working relationship with the other team we met here. It's been a little rocky, as one might expect, and we are seeking wisdom and grace so we can work together and provide something these kids will remember for the rest of their lives. Last night, the team was amazing! I'm so proud of all of them and very encouraged for the rest of our week.

Praises: we arrived, we have all our bags, nothing appears to be broken (craft supplies) and so far everyone has had plenty to eat, beds and as of yet, no stomach ailments. We've been severely blessed!:-)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Everyone is here, downstairs.... I think we're all packed, but I'm pretty sure we've forgotten something. I'm just hoping it's nothing essential!!! I'm very nervous, my girls won't eat, not hungry. Poor babies. And it's so stinkin' hot!! I feel like such a nerd in my airplane clothes. Thanks, everyone, for praying for us. I hope to post from Hungary unless I'm just having too much fun!! Yay!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Today, while I was packing, cleaning and playing on the computer the girls were playing LIFE in the middle of the living room, aka ground zero! Those bags around them are the last of the duffel bags - YAHOO!! The rest of them are all piled up in the foyer. We are finally done. Now just packing the last of the girl's stuff, backpacks and then tomorrow - snacks! Well, at least that's what I'm thinking. We'll just have to wait and see when tomorrow comes!

Still Packing

So, I'm still packing... and need to start cleaning and I have a small list of things that need to get done before we leave. Like I should probably take a shower. And I would have already except that I'm expecting someone to show up here with a duffel bag so I've been waiting....

The girls are still in their PJ's. I did just feed them lunch and straightened out the kitchen a bit. They are veggin' today - TV, computer, games and relaxing. I don't usually let them go this long just hanging around but 1) they won't be doing this for a couple of weeks!, and 2) it's giving me some space to get a few things done! Again, I'd send them outside, but it's about 100 degrees (for real!) and that's making it even harder for me to pack because where we are heading, it's in the 60's/70's and rainy. Hmmm.... bug spray, can't forget that!

I made some tuna for lunch today and when I opened the can, it was the kind of can of tuna you wish you could have seen before you bought it. It wasn't bad or anything, but my solid white tuna was a different shade of white than I'd imagined. I had to pick a few pieces out and the rest we just ate. No one seemed to notice, it all tasted the same but it wasn't what I'd expected from my favorite Bumble Bee Solid White Tuna packed in spring water.

I was sort of thinking that's what missions trips are like. We have the whole package wrapped up right now - plane tickets, hotel reservations, games, crafts, connections, more hotel reservations and plane tickets - and while we can imagine what we'd like it look like or what it might be, we won't know until we open it up. Chances are, it won't be what our dreams look like, but it will still taste good and no one will notice because nobody can read our minds!

"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him." Psalm 34:8

Monday, August 06, 2007

2 More Days

Only two days, actually 1.5, left and I'm just completely exhausted, stressed and to top it off, ANOTHER box arrived today from California. I am finishing up laundry, did a grocery store run for snacks, meds and other essentials and am now home to try to organize. Not easy, considering I have two children who don't really care to keep anything organized, or clean, or help with anything. If it wasn't almost 100 degrees out I'd send them outside to play!

For past overseas trips, the custom has been to pack a suitcase for yourself, one "team" bag and one carry-on. Typically, well before departure date, they have a "packing party" and fill up all those duffel bags with team items or items for missionaries. The idea? Bring a duffel bag that you can then pack in your suitcase so your ride home is lighter. It's been an awesome idea and has worked well the past two years, even with Cameroonian relatives last year dropping off a couple suitcases AND a huge trunk - that was interesting!! Also, having everything done so when everyone gets here, we check for documents, passports, luggage tags, grab our bags and go. NO TIME FOR PACKING!

This year, either because I'm completely stressed out because I'm actually going this time or because there are huge communication gaps or both!, things are not going so smoothly. For our "packing party" only the leaders showed up. Our team members have consistently been out of town for meetings and because of that not only do I feel overwhelmed at the moment, but I also feel like we aren't very cohesive. We also have oddly assorted multiple size ranged duffel bags unlike anything I've seen in the past. Half of them are nice sizes and we've filled them to the brim. Others are carryon size and the truth is, there is no way we can fit everything in them!

Add to that, we somehow have ended up transporting 4 HUGE boxes of stuff from the California team, the last box arriving JUST TODAY! It is the largest, the heaviest and full of T-shirts, CD's and beach balls. I've filled the very last teeny, tiny duffel bag and still have a huge pile of stuff to pack sitting in the middle of my living room. I'm stressed - can you tell??? I've even considered taking an extra blood pressure pill today! At the very least, we will have a new policy on transporting other people's things AND a deadline for when we need that stuff.

I can tell I'm being stretched. I'm a very task oriented person, meaning I find it nearly impossible to move on to another task until one is complete. Right now, I have about 5 incomplete tasks hanging around, I'm not packed, my house is a complete disaster area and not only do I need to get all this done in 1.5 days, I have to have things looking semi-clean for our housesitter. I'm honestly beside myself, which is why we went to the pool this morning. I needed to get out of here!

Pray for me!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Em's Turn

My little one is just so nervous about going to Hungary. She is asking all kinds of funny questions, it's making me wonder what she is really thinking about!

In church today, we were prayed over at each service. Before this, either T or another team member would say a little something about our trip and each time they would say that Europe is a very dark, meaning spiritually, that only 3% is evangelical. So, tonight, Em asked me this:

Em: Is Hungary just very dark?

Me: Are you talking about what we said in church?

Em: Yes.

Me: No, it's light in Hungary, but what they were talking about it how many people in Europe do not know Jesus.

Em: Ohhhhh, so we are going there to teach them about how Jesus likes to help us?

Me: Yes, sort of.

Em: Oh, so are there trees there?

Me: Yes, there are trees, and animals.

Em: But, are there dogs?

Me: Yes, there are dogs.

Em: Thank goodness! Are there seals?

Me: Yes, there are probably seals. And deer, and squirrels, chipmunks.

Em: Oh, I hate squirrels. Are there elephants?

Me: No.

Em: Are there beaches?

Me: No, there are mountains and a lake, but no beaches.

Em: Then where are the seals?

She got me!

Car Conversation

I'm taking a short break because this just totally cracked me up today. Kt asked T and I in the car today if it was OK to swear. Here's how it went:

Kt: Is it OK to swear?

T: No, it's not.

Me: No, why? Do your friends swear?

Kt: Yeah, like all the time! (very sarcastically)

Me: (you should probably not ask this, but it just came out) Well, like what do they say? (T and I kind of give each other that look of complete shock)

Kt: Well, like my friend L. She said, "I swear, if that happens I will kill myself!" And guess what? It happened and she did not kill herself.

Me: (I'm starting to laugh and under my breath say to T, "I don't think we're talking about the same thing here.")

T: (Starts laughing as well and replies, "Apparently not!")

Kt: Why are you laughing?

T: Your mother is just laughing at you! (Gee, thanks!)

Me: I'm just laughing because I thought you were talking about something else.

Kt: What?

End of conversation.... and we moved on to T distracting everyone by nearly launching the Montero over a hill while Em squealed with laughter. Good save! Could we be experiencing a small generation gap here?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Such a Time As This

Kt and I read Esther this morning - in it's entirety. It's one of my favorite Bible stories, along with Daniel and Ruth, and countless others. We both knew the story, but every time I read it, there's some new treasure tucked inside it. This time I found myself wondering just what was revealed to the Jews and Esther as they prayed and fasted together for 3 days. It had to be something, because Esther had a plan. A really smart plan. It's nothing I would have thought of. If the King Xerxes offered me up to half of his extravagant, powerful kingdom I might have asked for Haman's head on a platter right then and there. She didn't do that, instead the carefully crafted and executed plan went into action.

This part of the story is stark reminder to me to wait on the Lord, to follow His lead and not rush into anything. Of course, I say this as I've sent T on a wild goose chase over to the very disorganized, crazy Post Office in search of an answer to our passport dilemma. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't first pray to see if God might plant a better plan in my head. Even AFTER reading Esther! I can be so ignorant sometimes!

I must say, reading Esther also has be very excited to get my hands on Beth Moore's new study on Esther, whenever that may come out. Or even to watch that silly Veggie Tales version of the story. I'm even more excited to meet all these children in Hungary who, if they are anything like my kids, are going to be thirsty for some of God's Word. It's an amazing story, Esther is. God can use ordinary, abandoned kids to fulfill his great plan for mankind, especially when we are least expecting it!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Passport Prison

I feel like we are being held hostage by the US Passport disaster service. Back in March, everyone lauded us for promptly applying for passports for our August 8th departure date, assuring us that it would not be necessary to expedite them. Surely, we would receive them by the end of June. Here we are, 5 days away from departing, and Em's passport is not here. We only just received Kt's and mine 2 weeks ago. It's a bit suspicious as to the mystery behind how three passports, applied for on the same day, sent in together, paid for together (with check clearing in early May!) would be processed so far apart.

We have called now three times about Em's passport. The first time, it was just starting to be processed. The second time, it was finished being processed, waiting to be shipped. That was Wednesday. Now today, Friday, it's in Passport Prison waiting to be released. What will it take for someone to stick that thing in the mail??? It's not like they send along all the documentation with it or anything. We had to wait another week for Kt's birth certificate and my old passport. My birth certificate never arrived - it's in Passport Refuse I imagine. But I can "write a letter" requesting they try to find it. I'm not that dumb, Passport Personnel. I can see the mess you've created and I'll just assume that there's no way in #@$ you will ever find that.

When we embarked on this missions thing, I knew everything was too smooth to be true, that little issues would crop up and we would soon be enveloped by uncertainty, stress, possible regret. It happens every year and it's really just the way God would have it be. So, my type A persona kicks in, Plan B(eligerant Passport Customer) will have to emerge from this situation. Luckily, Camp Lovegren is still open for business (thanks, mom), but how do we leave our sweet little Em behind while we head off to Hungary? I just don't know if I'd have the heart to do that. It would be one thing if this was some big vacation, but people are counting on us to be there, not that the prison guards even care!

UPDATE: Not in a million years will anyone believe this. OK, maybe you will. T called this morning to check on the status and was happy find out that we had a tracking number for the passport they shipped either yesterday or today. HOWEVER.... upon verifying the address, it appears that some (fill in the blank) put T's name down as the city we live in. I'm speechless.

UPDATE 2: Passport HAS ARRIVED! I repeat, it HAS ARRIVED!! Not only that, but the address is correct. Now just ask yourself, can we read? Just wondering....

Bicycle Built for Two

I've never ridden on one, but I have vivid memories of a puzzle at my grandparent's house in Pennsylvania that depicted one. I loved that puzzle, and every time we would visit I would complete it not once, or even twice, but probably a few times daily! While I would work on that puzzle, my grandmother would sit in one of her lazy chairs in a big old housedress and sing, in the shaky, broken voice of an old woman:

Daisy, Daisy,
Give me your answer do!
I'm half crazy,
All for the love of you!
It won't be a stylish marriage,
I can't afford a carriage
But you'll look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle made for two.

I can remember this so vividly because so many images would go through my mind. Things like riding to my wedding in a carriage, riding on a bicycle built for two, riding to my wedding in my wedding gown on a bicycle built for two! All my grandmother's little diddys always sent me back in time, wondering what life was like before cars or bathrooms, back when Daisy was a popular name. I would always envision my grandmother growing up like that, and she was quite happy to share with me how difficult her life was, how she never bothered to complete high school because she had to work and how unfortunate she was to grow up without her father around, something that was quite taboo back in the early 1900's.

While I loved visiting with my grandparents and I savor the memories I made there, I see that my own mother has fostered a different kind of memory making for her grandchildren. She takes them places, teaches them things, rarely talks about growing up having to take care of her mom, who didn't drive (she reserved those stories for her own children!), and rarely do my girls ever imagine how difficult life must have been when she grew up. She lives in the present with them, and their memories will be vivid and experiential. There's not a puzzle in that house they've done a thousand times because there's nothing to - quite the contrary.

I'm so thankful for my mom, and if I was going to try to ride a bicycle built for two, I'd love to try it with her!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Camp Lovegren

The girls and I returned from Connecticut today. It's always bittersweet, as I feel like I leave a part of me in CT each time. I really love it there, especially being with my family. Now it's back to reality!

The girls apparently had a blast at Camp Love! They ate out, went to the beach, learned how to weed (thanks, mom!), gardened, played lots of Webkinz, worked on those summer packets and visited Gillette's Castle. Em's take on that castle was, "It was really cool, totally made out of stones. On the tour, you may not backtrack.... unless you lose a kid!" I guess there was a missing child that day - LOL!

One special day at camp, Em spent the day with mom at the Beardsley Zoo while Kt went to NYC with Uncle Doug. They took the train down to Grand Central, the subway to Battery Park (where they apparently walked by a bench full of pot smokers - what have I allowed my brother to expose my innocent children to? LOL), walked half way across the deck of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, then took the subway back to Grand Central, saw St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, FAO Schwartz, the American Girl Doll Store, Toys 'R Us and Times Square. Kt had frozen hot chocolate and loved it, bought herself a New York shirt and was dumbfounded by a $400 stuffed giraffe. Her reaction? "It was amazing! And we have a list of all the things we are going to do NEXT time we go!" Have fun with that, Uncle D!

Once mom and dad arrived, the reality set in that they would be going home. Yes, once again we spoiled alllll the fun! We did have Em's kindergarten teacher and her new husband, who moved up there, over for dinner and they brought their dog. The girls had a wonderful time with him. We hit the beach, the lake and the sprinkler and did LOTS of shopping! Last night, we had filet mignon from Stew Leonards - what a treat! Today, we drove all the way home. We are hoping for many more summers at Camp Lovegren!

I'd love to post some pictures, but they are all 4x6 prints right now. I'll have to see if I can figure out how to scan and save them on here..... someday!

Things I Dislike about Disney

Yes, say it isn't so!! For those of you who know me, you know I am semi-obsessed with Disney. Of course, showing up for the Pirate and Princess Party this past February out of costume helped convince my husband that I am far from the Disney freak he always thought I was. The REAL Disney freaks were out in full force!!

While I do love the magic of Disney, there are a few things I don't like. Allow me to share them with you!

1) They don't have a toll free number. For a company that is so customer savvy, friendly, oriented, every time I have to call LONG DISTANCE to talk to a Disney representative AND wait on hold I cannot figure out why I have to pay to do that. Don't we pay enough at Disney?

2) When calling gets too expensive, email doesn't seem a whole lot better. The Disney email system is SO MESSED UP! We took a trip in February and had a small incident that I thought could be resolved through Guest Services. My first attempts yielded a 2 week response time, numerous phone calls but no resolution. Just today, I received another email from someone else in the company..... several months response time..... he sent me an email (NO KIDDING) that had my previous emails attached to it and said he was unable to received or see attachments so he did not know what my issue was. For real????? Is this 2007 folks?

Anyway, I had to, once again, relay the entire issue and hit reply only to realize that it is going not to him, but to guest services again. Just shoot me now, why don't you! I guess the goal for them is to drive an issue into the ground until their customer just throws his hands up in the air and screams, "I surrender!!!!" Then, there's me.;-)

3) When you are in Disney World/Disneyland, most of the Cast Members are clueless about the goings on in Disney. They might be familiar with one aspect of Disney, like the cart they man, but everything else they sort of look at you like you have 10 heads. If you go to Disney, you might want to spend a bit of time researching it before you go because these people are not going to be much of a help once you're there.

4) It's just so darn expensive!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I've never thought manicures were for stay at home moms who wash their own dishes, do their own laundry, clean dirty bathrooms, chauffeur their children around to various activities, swim for exercise, fix their daughter's hair and cook. But I got one anyway - thanks, lb!;-)