Friday, August 31, 2012

Timmmm-berrrrr... uh-oh...

Despite my protests that I loved the curly willow tree in the backyard (which we grew from a little branch our neighbors gave us), Pete went out yesterday to chainsaw it down.  Apparently the fact that it is damaging our house is more important than my love for its appearance.

Right as I was getting ready to leave for work, Strider came running downstairs saying, "A tree just fell on my ceiling!"  We raced outside to find this scene:

 The first words out of Pete's mouth, and this is a direct quote, were:  "It wasn't supposed to go like that."

The first words out of my mouth, in response, were, "I'm going to get the camera."

A few minutes later, the scene had developed into this:
 .... and then the tree started to rotate and slide on its own accord, and I heard the second sentence that I really didn't want to hear:

 "I've gotten myself into a precarious position here.... Not sure how I'm going to get down."

Greeeeaaat.  And soon I was going to be late for work!

Strider stepped up, literally, though, and was able to lift the chainsaw down (and not get smashed by a falling tree) and then we helped Pete navigate down the step-ladder.

When I left, Pete had assembled the kids to start removing some of the carnage, but the tree was still on the roof.
Later I heard that four of the neighbor kids/young men came over and helped remedy the situation.  Again we find ourselves thankful for neighbors!

All of this was made much funnier to me --and to Pete -- because he had apparently, just this past weekend when he was with my brothers and dad, given a big speech about how he always gets trees to fall in the right spots.  As he lamented, "Pride comes before a fall, I guess."

In this case, that was proven quite literally!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cousins Camp, 2012 Session C

Last week Nonna and Poppa invited Strider and Ellie for the final Cousins Camp session of the season, and, man, was it a hit!  I have not seen Strider so excited about something in a very long time.  He was talking  at a very fast rate during our phone call and when he arrived home.  I waited a few days to finally write this post, to let his voice come back down an octave or so.  :)

Here is the conversation about it with a more mellowed Strider:

Me:  So tell me 3 unique things about this year's Cousins Camp.
Strider:  Alright, let's see.  1.)  Whitewater Rafting Center, 2.) McDonald's Smoothies, and 3.) Uncle John visiting.

Me: What about the other thing you were so excited about that you called me about the first night?
Strider:  I don't know -- weren't you listening?
Me:  If I recall correctly, you were going on and on about your new shoes.
Strider:  Oh yeah, they're really cool.

Me:  So what was the deal with the Whitewater Rafting Center?
Strider:  It was a great deal!  We got to do 4 high-ropes courses, flat-water kayaking, a zip line, and rock-climbing.
Me: Wow -- that's a lot for one day!
Strider:  Yeah, it was.  (Thank you, Nonna and Poppa for taking me!)
Me:  Which part was the most challenging for you?
Strider:  Probably one of the ropes courses, called the Canyon Crossing, because you're about 60 feet above the ground and walking on pivoted 2-by-4 and it's swinging.
Me:  Yeah, you couldn't pay me to do that.

Me:  What else did you do?
Strider:  Mini-golf, swimming in the lake (with Gracie the dog, and without) and flipping off the dock, going to restaurants, and grocery shopping.  This is the only time of year I can go to the grocery store and pick out anything I want.

Me:  Ok, tell me more about the food -- which is always a highlight of Cousins Camp it seems.
Strider:  We averaged about 3 desserts a day and NO vegetables.  Just kidding.  But it's not too far from kidding.  We went to a restaurant that had 30 different kinds of pop and 100 kinds of beer, which I was really excited about.

Me:  Did you and Ellie sing the ol' Cousins Camp song at all this time?
Strider:  Welll.... no, just say, "no."  We've grown out of that.
Me:  Did you really?
Strider:  Not really.

Me:  Any last thoughts you'd like to add about your experience?
Strider:  Yeah, Nonna and Poppa, can you please take me to the beach with you this weekend?  Pleeeease?

Me:  And I have some thoughts I'd like to add, too!  I think it's high time MY generation got invited to Cousins Camp.  We miss out on all the fun!  Now that my cousin Linsey has moved to NC, we adults could actually have Cousins Camp!  I think it's time Nonna and Poppa add a Session D....
Strider:  Ok, this is getting a little tedious, Mom.

Well, on that note, I'll just post the rest of the pictures.  :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

GateWay begins!

This weekend marked a true gateway for us: a culmination and ending point for me, and a beginning point and entrance for Strider -- with Pete playing roles on both side of the "gate."

As I've written about earlier, the purpose of GateWay is to teach and train boys for an intensive year, highlighting many of the skills and character traits that define strong men.  After a decade of brainstorming and planning this program, and six months of writing, collaborating, and editing the curriculum, I am pleased to say the GateWay vision is now down on paper.  This is something I've been excited about for so long -- it's a good feeling to finally see it take shape in the form of real boys and men!  

And now that the vision part is done, I have happily handed my part of the baton on to the men leading the group.  In some ways, I feel like I am handing my son to them as well.  The role I've played in the first 12 years of his life is quite different from what it may be from now on.... It's like I've held his hand up until this gateway, and now I am letting go and watching him go through... Well, now I'm just getting all teary, so... onto better thoughts!  I'm very thankful that Pete is the one taking his hand from this point on.

To kick off the beginning of GateWay, the whole group (6 boys and their fathers) came over for a bonfire on Friday night.  After a big game of Capture the Flag, they made a campfire version of pineapple upside-down cake in foil packets, and then talked about what this big year will hold.  I was not privy to this ceremony, of course, so don't know exactly what was talked about, but I enjoy looking at the pictures anyway.  My brother John was able to be in town this weekend, so we were thankful he could join the group and offer some bits of wisdom, too (as well as take pictures)!

Then the next morning, they all hiked up Crowder's Mountain, and worked on team-building, doing "trust falls" and discussing more about courage and other character qualities.  Again, the details are a little sketchy to me, but I did hear about pond-wading, bouldering, and other fun explorations.

And so, Strider passes through the Gate on his way to becoming a Journeyman.  I am looking forward to seeing him learn and grow into the man God wants him to be!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


When we first announced we would be going to Moldova for 6 months, someone in my family said there was no way I would ever actually follow through with that.  Someone else in my family disagreed, and a little friendly wager, in the form of a dinner at a fancy restaurant, was placed.  Last night that wager was paid up -- and I was kindly invited along to partake as well.

Because the nature of how this dinner was paid for is a little secretive (think mystery shopping), I won't disclose the location, but will just say it was very, very nice.

Someone drank ALL of this wine!

And now I will wrap up this rather cryptic post, with no names or places detailed, with a fuzzy picture -- which is probably how we all looked to the person who consumed all of the wine by the end of the evening!

It was a very nice evening, and I considered it one of my big rewards for going through with Pete's Moldovan Scheme!

 (Speaking of which, I came across this link on the NPR web site the other day, which lists 7 countries "behind the curtain of communism."  Moldova is one of them!  If I had known that before we went there, I may have been a bit more hesitant....)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The TB children's center in Chisinau: Update

Good news!  Our Moldovan friend Irina emailed us this week and sent us photos, showing us that the tuberculosis kindergarten/center has received all new doors, and some new windows already!  So many people have generously given money towards this project -- it's been wonderful to see changes actually happen to help these poor children.

The picture on the left, below, was taken before we left Moldova last spring.  The picture on the right shows one of the new doors just installed!

Here is another before/after:

And a few other new items:

Now a company is coming in to do the finishing work around each of the doors/windows this week.

The 60+ children who live there are going to be warmer this fall and winter!!  They won't need to push mattresses up against the doors to keep the cold air out anymore!

I think at this point all 7 of the doors have been paid for, and 14 of the windows.  There are over 60 windows to be replaced in total, though, so we're still raising money.

Any contributions can be sent to Moldova World Children's Fund. (P.O. Box 548, Hendersonville, NC 28793)  Now that Pete is on the board of this organization, he can personally assure you that your dollars are being sent directly to this orphanage/center!

It's amazing to see what can happen when people band together -- even to help complete strangers very far away.  I'm so thankful for everyone has contributed to make this all happen!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cousins Camp 2012, Session B

Nonna and Poppa bravely opened wide the gates for Session B of Cousins Camp this past week.... and in came three little monkeys -- Colsen, Branson, and Kai!

 The first words Colsen said when he got home was that he LOVED it and is so sad he has to wait, "like, six whole months" until he gets to go back.  (I didn't have the heart to tell him it was really, like 12 whole months!)

Here is my interview with him about it all:

Me: So, Colsen, give me 3 words to describe Cousins Camp this year.
Colsen:  Well...
Me:  That's one!
Colsen:  {Laughs and laughs}
Me:  Ok, try again.

Me:  Where did you go first and what did you do there?
Colsen:  Discovery Place Kids, and I went on a big firetruck and went on big slides and did all kinds of things!  And we played with this brick thing where we send bricks up and other people send them back down like a big circle.

Me:  Where else did you go?
Colsen:  We went to the pool, and after the pool we went to an ice cream shop, and then the next day we went to get a milkshake at Chick-Fil-A, and to mini-golfing and to a playground and then the pool and then we went home.  Didn't I go to a lot of places?!

Me:  What was your favorite thing to do?
Colsen:  I loved getting a milkshake and going to the pool.

Me:  What do you think Poppa's favorite thing was to do?
Colsen:  I don't know -- maybe playing the game in the pool where he tried to chase us and we all had to be reaaally fast swimmers to get away.

Me:  What do you think Nonna's favorite part was?
Colsen:  Probably all of it.

Well, let's hope so, because she's gearing back up for the final session of the summer later this week!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The music of Rayna's life (so far)

I paused tonight to think about our decade with Rayna.   We gave her the name meaning “Song of the Lord” before we even knew her, and have realized more and more each year how appropriate that name has been.  God has definitely been singing His song through her.  In these first 10 years with her, here are some of the melodies I have heard in this song:

There is always reason for Joy.  Her bright and sparkly eyes, quickness to clap and shout, and her enthusiastic appreciation of even the smallest things never let us forget about joy!  From the time she was just a few days old, she started smiling and making a happy noise at people, and she has never stopped.  Our house is abundantly more joyful than it would be without her.

God’s love overflows.  I love Rayna’s heart.  She doesn’t distinguish between stranger and friend, big or small, rich or poor, even mean or nice.  She just accepts and loves everyone.  Her ability to love, forgive and include others, has challenged and convicted us over and over.    I’ve also seen the face of God’s love when I see the people around Rayna love her so well.  Everyone embraces her uniqueness and celebrates her sweetness, and that love sings loudly to this mother’s heart.

Achievement does not equal identity.  This is the part of the song I need to hear over and over, and so it is sung often!  I have struggled so many times as the parent of the one child in the class who can’t do the task (climb the rope in gymnastics, act out the story in Sunday school, answer the questions about the reading.)  But then I have to step back and question why this is such a difficult role for me to play.  Why does her lack of accomplishment bother me so much on a gut level?  I know I still fall into the lie that my identity is wrapped around what I’ve achieved… and my temptation is to project this onto my children as well.  It is God’s grace that keeps singing the Truth about this to me, over and over, through Rayna.

It’s a good time to grow in patience.  God certainly knew what an impatient person I’ve always been, and His sweet song has been working out those rough edges within me.  When I have to teach the same concepts over and over and over, and repeat myself over and over and over, and think of new ways to break a difficult concept into smaller pieces… I can know I’m growing in patience.

His timing and schedules are better than mine.  My obsession with the babyhood stages and milestones has been forced to fade, and each year when school assessments are re-done, and height charts are re-evaluated, I again have to face my lack of control – and the goodness of that.  We realized soon after Rayna was born that the Lord was singing this theme to us (through a sign with an “Easter” lily), and it’s been a comfort to be reminded of it through the years.  He knows what He is doing, and the plans and growth He has for her are good and right.

The music is more complex than just these few themes, and I hear new variations and tones all the time.  Beautiful notes and complicated harmonies are interwoven throughout.

When I start to fret and worry, or stomp in frustration, as this parenting journey continues to jostle and tug at me, I am so thankful that I don’t have to look farther than my daughter to see God’s beautiful ballad to me.  What a blessing this Song of the Lord has been!

I wonder how the song will change or expand in the upcoming decade -- or how my hearing will improve…

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Guest Post by Strider

Top Ten activities from my trip to the boundary waters in northern Minnesota: (in no particular order)

1.  Knee-boarding
2. Tubing
3. Having campfires
4. Stand-up paddling.
5. Going to the Wolf Centre
6. Kayaking
7. Going on canoe trips
8. Swimming
9. Going to a fancy restaurant.
10. Spending time with family

Stand-up paddling

Canoeing around the lakes

A Loon: The Minnesota state bird

Playing on a big rock in middle of the lake

 Thank you, Uncle Al and Aunt Sue, for making this a great trip!