Friday, April 29, 2016

The Saturday 7

...4 hours early! That's how I deal with being late two weeks in a row! Bam. ;)

1. It's been a long week. A long two weeks actually, but this week seemed longer. Dan was gone in Atlanta last week and Pittsburgh this week. Yesterday afternoon/evening I spent the better part of 4 hours running kids to their various activities, and when I pulled up in front of Hallie's flute teacher's house, she came out and asked if I'd forgotten the kids didn't have lessons that week. WHY YES, THANKS. Yes I did. *sigh* Dan got home earlier today and there was great celebration all around, especially by Tristan. That 9yo boy has such a tender heart and missed his daddy fiercely this week.

2. FIVE MORE WEEKS OF SCHOOL! Can you tell I'm excited?! I've got all my curriculum squared away for next year and I've cleaned out everything "extra" I don't need for next year. I'm currently reading Gretchen Rubin's book Better Than Before (about mastering the everyday habits of our lives)  and in this chapter she is asking things like, "Are you a started or a finisher?" I'm definitely a finisher. I love wrapping projects up, throwing things away, combining two ketchup bottles into one, finishing books and definitely finishing the school year. :)

3. Will started a "business" at school, selling stress-relief balls (made out of a balloon filled with flour, cornstarch or powdered sugar.) He designed a custom order form and sold 11 on his first day! He was in production mode for a good portion of the evening tonight. He got bored (naturally) while making them but I reminded him that $13 (what he estimated he would make in profit) was more than  he would make in two weeks doing chores around the house, so it was definitely a good project to stick with! We'll see how long he lasts before he expands his product line. ;)

4. Tuesday was the primary election for PA and our county went for Trump by the highest percentage (77%) in the entire STATE. I am just going to leave that there because... I TRULY CAN'T EVEN. I saw a bumper for "We're Screwed 2016" today and, not to be a total downer pessimist, but... YEP.

5. On Monday I was a chaperone for my first field trip with Will and Hallie. They were at BizTown, which is like a miniature "real town". They had real jobs and live bank accounts and had to buy and sell products and open bank accounts and pay bills, etc. It was a fun day for everyone. My business (UGI, our local gas company) had a lot of meter reading and billing and at one point, my poor 6th grade CFO announced that he felt like he was barely keeping his head above water. Welcome to the real world kiddo! haha.

6. My sister Emily arrives Sunday (yaaaaaay!) four weeks before her due date for baby boy Mugisha. Next week is kinda crazy (two day trips to Philly, speaking at church Weds night) and I'm hoping that I can drag Emily home with me for at least a little during one of those Philly trips. One of Emily and Anna's best friends Lauren just birthed her little girl here two days ago so I'm sure they will be coming up here anyway soon. Which is WINNING for me; yay sister time!

7. Tomorrow night I am driving over two hours to hear Jen Hatmaker speak in an overflow room at a church outside of Harrisburg. Crazy? Maybe. But I love her writing (and she adopted her kids from ET using the same agency we did) ... so ... I feel like it's really going to be worth it. Stay tuned to see if next week I actually think it WAS worth it or if I am really annoyed that I drove over 4 hours for an event that was "meh". I'm pretty sure I won't mind the alone/quiet time in the car though, AT ALL. :)

8. Bonus point! It's your lucky day. ;) During my hike last week, my friend Rachel turned me onto the "Ask Pastor John" podcast. It's where people email their tough theology and life questions to John Piper and he answers them. I find it fascinating and although I am not a die-hard Piper follower, I really like his solid Biblical take on a wide variety of challenging issues. My one caveat to this whole thing is that, a few years ago I was at a conference, and a very well-respected speaker/Bible scholar/author said that, as someone who knows and works with JP, he finds him to be a very Biblically intelligent man, but not a very pleasant one. I find that juxtaposition very interesting. Because, IMO, you can be the world's best expert on predestination and calvinism and all that jazz but if you're kind of a jerk to people in real life? Meh. I dunno... I'm kind of out on your fan club. Not that you can't still be right about all the theology, but I'm just not gonna be your biggest fan because being a kind person is more important to me than being right. Not that being right isn't important too, it is.  But that's just how I feel. Maybe I'm wrong. I guess JP and Jesus and I can sort it all out in heaven one day. ;)


Monday, April 25, 2016

The Saturday 7

...twodayslate. Whatevs.

1. Over last Sunday and Monday my friend Rachel and I hiked 23 miles of the AT. It was our most ambitious hike yet ...and we don't plan to repeat it. ;) We put in a solid 9 hours of hiking both days (yes we are old and slow!) and came to realize that, while we do truly enjoy the hiking, we also equally enjoy sitting around our campfire in the evenings, and being lazy in the mornings. We have to do enough "get up and get 'er done" in our real lives that we would rather hike a little less and enjoy the sitting around a little more. We're going to aim for either 12.7 or 18.6 in the fall, depending on how clearly the memories of the blisters are still hanging around. ;) It was overall a fantastic weekend-- perfect weather and besides the mental torture I put myself through with unexpected water rationing on day 2, a perfectly enjoyable time.

2. Dan was gone in Atlanta for training all last week. He is now gone again this week in Pittsburgh for more training (last week was a national conference for his "real" job; this week is training for his "side job" that is the swat team.) It's hard doing back-to-back weeks of parenting alone but it's definitely worth it for him to be well-trained for the incredibly difficult job he has!

3. Hallie turned 11 on Weds! I picked her up from school at 12 and took her out to lunch... the younger kids and I had been working all morning to try to get her Ikea loft bed done in time to surprise her, but alas, my Ikea skills (although impressive) were not quite that good. However, she helped us finish assembling it and is now the very proud owner of a new bed. And Olivia is the very happy recipient of a hand-me-down Ikea desk and mirror. We had Hallie's official family birthday dinner last night (her choice of risotto, roasted sweet potatoes, and loaded carrot cake!) and now the birthday festivities are over until July when we get a teenager in the family. Yep, you read that right.

4.  Tristan broke his finger last weekend (rolled a rock on top of it while at a friend's) so I had to take him in to get that checked on Friday. It's definitely broken, but thankfully it's aligned well for healing so he only has to wear a splint for the next several weeks. He also got another haircut and looks spiffier and cooler than ever. Hard to believe he was that crazy long-haired surfer dude just last month!

5. Saturday we drove to Neshaminy State Park by Philly to see a Civil War reenactment. My uncle Bob is (literally, IS ;)) General John Gibbon (of the Union troops). It was an impressive battle... I'd never seen a reenactment and definitely recommend seeing one at least once in your lifetime. It's a whole experience!

6. Spring is definitely here; warmer days and nights are sticking around finally, which is great! We've been hanging out with neighbors down at the lake more often, and it's been refreshing, after being inside for months, to be outside seeing friends again! The kids are playing dodgeball and gaga ball and riding bikes and climbing trees and catching salamanders... all the fun spring things.

7. I finished reading "These Is My Words", the diary of Sarah Agnes Prine this week. It was a fascinating look into the life of a pioneer woman in the 1700's. Their lives were so much harder than mine... I try to remember that on the days when I feel exhausted and overwhelmed. ;)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Saturday 7

1. This week Home Depot had a sale on mulch so we bought a ton of bags (...literally, I bet they weighed over a ton...) and last night and a good part of today, Dan and the kids and I slashed and dumped bags over all the landscaping beds around our house and yard. We didn't mulch anything last year (we are fans of the old get-two-years-out-of-one-mulching-job idea) so everything looks especially nice and fresh right now. The kids are significantly bigger now than they were two springs ago, and so could do a significantly larger part of the workload.

2. Spring has finally come to the frozen northeast; maybe for good?! One can hope. We had a snow squall last Sunday but it quickly melted and we have seen increasing temps all this week. I'm headed out early tomorrow morning with my friend Rachel for our bi-annual overnight backpacking excursion on the AT. (Does bi-annual mean twice annually or once every two years? I feel like I should know these things... at any rate, we go twice a year, in the spring and fall.) Our "big" goal is to hike all of the AT in Pennsylvania, which I think is about 220 miles; after this trip we will have knocked off close to 50 of that. It will probably take us at least another 5 years... but why not? We're in no rush. I'm so excited to get back out there.

3. It's a gorgeous spring afternoon so I brought the kids and their friend down to the beachfront at our neighborhood lake. If you're friends with me on Insta, you know that pic I posted of me in flip flops, lying on a wooden dock by the lake? That's where I am typing this now, and I have to admit, it's pretty euphoric.  The kids are catching salamanders and the sun is bright and I can hear the water lapping at the lake's edge. The spring peepers are in full chorus and it's breezy and... beautiful. And I'm drinking cinnamon dolce coffee, so I have to say, I am WINNING all around right now.

4. My big two have been doing PSSAs all week, and have another week ahead. (It's our state standardized testing.) It's cute, each week of testing, each younger class "sponsors" an older one who is testing. Each day they bring them snacks and write them encouraging notes and cards. (Hallie's card from a second-grader said "you can do it! I love you." haha!) The school also gives the kids free breakfast all week, and when they're done testing each day, they go outside for an hour-long "nature walk" in the woods to recharge their brains. It's pretty great! And I don't know, maybe this is all run of the mill, but as someone with little to no experience in the world of public elementary schools, I find myself being really impressed by the thoughtfulness that I see again and again.

5. Seven weeks of school left. Eleven weeks of summer. Then back to school again. UGH. I find myself torn between wanting to plan the heck out of all eleven weeks in order to make sure we do every fun thing (water fights! hiking! campouts! beach trips!) and also wanting to throw literally every plan to the wind and fly by the seat of my pants all summer long. We do have a few things that have to be planned ahead (travel to Missouri for a family reunion; hosting our Fresh Air kid from NYC) but really, I'd be most happy to wake up every day with no plans, figure things out as we go, and eventually end each day at the lake. Practicality and my ideal version of life do not always coexist well... I'm sure that's not unique to me though.

6. I recently read When Breath Becomes Air. It's such a good read. So full of the big questions about life, death, faith, meaning... and it's so well-written. It's one of the few books I would recommend to everyone. The author, Paul Kalanithi, not only had several advanced medical degrees (as a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist) but a BA and MA in literature. He melded the big ideas and processes of highly specialized science with the big thought concepts of poetry, writing, and literature in a way that I have never encountered before. Definitely recommend.

7. On my way to the lake earlier, I saw one of Will's friends going off the community rope swing into the lake. Of course Will (who had naturally brought his suit) wanted me to stop immediately so he could join. He sent me a text from his friend's phone about an hour later that they were walking to another friend's house for a bit. Yes, I have a kid who is old enough to go off a rope swing without adult supervision... and yes, it's pretty great. :)

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Saturday 7

A day early this week because...

1. I am leaving tonight to head to Philly for the weekend. Every year my generation of my dad's side of the family gathers to talk about our family foundation, and our present and future work there. It's a fun weekend to catch up with family I haven't seen in a few months, and a nice break from the home routine... since no solo trip to Philly is ever complete without stops at REI and IKEA! :) I'm looking forward to being a few hours south too, because tomorrow we are supposed to have 4-5 inches of snow and high winds here. Yuck... this is April... where is spring?!  March was much warmer than this! All the lovely daffodils that bloomed last week are in for a sad surprise...

2. Yesterday I finished my Bible-in-year reading program that I started in Dec. 2015. There was little fanfare; in fact the only acknowledgment was from my brother-in-law Joel on the Bible app (apparently it alerts your "friends" there when you've finished a reading plan?) Anyway, (not that I'm  complaining; I actually haven't personally spoken of this accomplishment to anyone before now!) my biggest takeaway from my chronological reading of the Bible is simply that it is a testament to the faithfulness of God. I know this is nothing groundbreaking, but this past year really cemented in my heart the sureness of His faithfulness. Through all of humanity's foibles and self-centeredness, He is faithful. He faithfully leads us on, and He can be trusted. He will faithfully lead ME -- and He can be trusted.

I think another reason why I am so deeply satisfied with the completion of this plan is that it's been a LONG time coming. I remember being in high school and attempting to make my own Bible-in-a-year plan by painstakingly looking up the last chapter of each book of the Bible, adding them all together, dividing by 365, and then handwriting each day's chapters into a little daily calendar. I'm sure I got bogged down somewhere in the OT and gave it up when I fell behind. I tried again off and on over the years, never successfully--  the last time was I think about 5 years ago, when I attempted to add a reading plan to my RSS feed and listen to it being read aloud each day. I remember being distracted when summer rolled around and I was outdoors all day every day and I (once again) fell behind. The Bible app has a great "catch me up" feature that will bump up the current day of your reading plan so that if you fall behind you don't have to give up all hope (as I am apparently so prone to do) and to be honest, I think that is what ultimately enabled me to finish... 16 months and a week after I started! Not sure I'll ever do it again, but it was definitely worth the effort.

3. Homeschooling is going well. We are steaming ahead hard and fast toward the finish line at the end of next month, and I'm already planning curriculum for next year. I'm going back to Sonlight (after two years away from it; one using piecemeal curriculum and one using My Father's World). I like to have next year's plan squared away before the end of the current year so I can milk every ounce of fun and freedom out of the summer... without having to bother with it or think about going back to "real life" in the slightest! Summer is my jam!

Next year may be my last year homeschooling, as Tristan has expressed interest in starting at the charter school in 5th grade... and it certainly would not do to leave Olivia behind! We've been thrilled with our experience at the charter school this far, and I have no regrets having our big kids there. Yet I'm so very grateful for the years I've been given at home with my kids. There is nothing like the magic of the early years-- learning to read, write, add, reason-- seeing their minds open and hearing the questions they ask. As hard and challenging and as being a SAHM mom is, and as absolutely exhausting and endless as it can seem, I feel entirely lucky that I've been able to be home with my kids for these early, formative years. It is the greatest blessing.

4. Hallie is turning 11 in two weeks... I remember being 11 and telling my brother that 11 was my favorite number... not because I WAS 11, of course, just because that HAPPENED to be my favorite number. Haha. Will will turn 13 this summer, and Dan and I will be well on our way to being parents of big kids. And while Olivia (at six) isn't entirely big, she's really not little either. I love having my kids close together though; it's so fun to be a cohesive family and do things all together and be able to all be able to enjoy and experience things together! I remember growing up and one of my parents having to stay back/sit out/wait in the car while the baby/toddler napped (for a decade or more!) and while it was still great, it really makes me appreciate the gift I've been given in being able to spend so much quality time doing things WITH my kids. Hiking, biking, kayaking, picnicking, adventuring-- it's all so fun and it's such a gift to be able to be with them! I don't ever want to take it for granted!

5. Will is heading to DC tonight with his Boy Scout troop. It's about a 3.5 hour drive (gotta love living within a few hours of the major east coast cities!) and they will be tent camping tonight and tomorrow night. Tomorrow they are going on a 7+ mile hike through the capital and visiting several monuments and historical sites. Scouts has been such a great opportunity for Will and he really loves it... it's so neat to see your kids find their niches and thrive!

6. Dan rotates through taking the kids out for breakfast one-on-one, and a couple days ago it was Olivia's turn. While at breakfast, she asked him if he knew she had two moms. (This is something she and I have openly discussed in the past.) He was a little taken aback, but she confidently "filled him in" to the fact that she has two moms, one in Ethiopia, and said that she would like to go back and visit her one day! What a big concept for a little six-year old! Whenever it comes up, we remind her that everyone in her birth and adoptive families has nothing but immense love for her. I hope that later in life, her earliest memories are secure in the knowledge that she was, and always has been, so loved.

7. I'm kind of out of things to say. I feel like I stink at this weekly recap thing ... I thought it would be a way for me to think and look back at what I did each week, but it looks like I tend to get all rambly and philosophical and run with thought tangents instead. I actually had to pull up iCal to see what I'm missing from this week's recap. How sad is that! Anyway, on that note, I am now reminded that Hallie had her annual flute recital on Sunday. She did great! I am proud of my musical and artistic girl. All our kids are so different and unique and they love completely different things. I love it and hope that I'm able to foster and encourage their individual strengths!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Saturday 7

1. Dan's sister and her family left on Weds. We let the big kids skip school Tues so they could have an extra day with their cousins. They were the last of our family to leave (the goodbyes had been trickling for days) and I literally felt nauseous the whole morning they were packing to leave. I drove them to NYC so the extra few hours of chat time helped mitigate it, but I felt physically sick the rest of the day. Goodbyes and living so far apart... it just sucks. Favorite memories of the week include family hikes, playing games (Balderdash and Ticket to Ride). Seeing Corey enthusiastically help Will program his Mindstorm Legos. Time out for coffee for  just Miriam and I. Staying up late talking every night. Dan and his mom building adirondack chairs together. Several family ATV adventures. The cousins unexpectedly "camping out" in the attic every night.  Seeing Olivia and Eva "playing house" together for hours and hours. Making amazing desserts every night, because... why not? Getting to sit back and bask in the satisfaction I feel from having a house full of family, everyone laughing and talking and loving and eating and sharing and being together. I am so blessed, and I never feel it more than when I am surrounded by a dozen people who love me and with whom I can laugh and grow old. This to me is truly the best thing in the world.

2. I've been doing a decent amount of spring cleaning and decluttering this week. We have a big house and don't really buy "stuff" that frequently... but it is amazing how much junk we can collect without even trying to! Every year I tote bags of stuff off to Salvation Army, give bags of hand me downs to friends, and throw so much additional stuff away. So much stuff. It makes me a little crazy and I go on a binge, getting rid of it. My kids are lucky I find decluttering and organizing therapeutic. ;)

3. Race. In the years since adopting Olivia, I've become much more aware of race, especially in the last 6 months or so. She has periodically asked me "why aren't any of the people that live in [our neigjborhood] brown?" and "why aren't any of my friends brown? I wish I was tan so I could be like you guys and my friends." Of course this is heartbreaking and of course we rave over her beautiful skin and hair every chance we get. I've also been known to leave magazines open to pages showing black models... Just saying.  But all this doesn't change the fact that, even though we go to a mostly-black church, her daily life is almost all white. And she notices ...and wishes it was different. I'm brainstorming ways to make this better for her, but in the meantime, I'm hyper-aware of the issue. Tonight I was at a fundraiser for the CYC, a local charity that runs after school programs for at-risk kids-- a great program and a worthy cause. It was held at the local "members only" club, and out of the 230 attendees, there was one --ONE-- person of color, a beautiful young black woman. I wanted to go up to her and say -- "I'm so sorry. I know it's completely,  annoyingly white in here. I know you are well aware that you are the only black person here and I'm sorry. I wish it was different." The serving staff was more diverse-- I noticed people of Asian decent as well as Latinos. It made me sad for Olivia,  that one day she will likely find herself at a similar event with a similar dynamic. Will she wonder why everyone who looks like her is serving food? Will she be angry that there's so little representation in the attendees of people of color? Maybe things will have changed by then... I sure hope so.

4. This is getting long and I'm only halfway through. Geesh. My sister Emily is flying back to the US from her home in Rwanda on April 29. She's due to have her first baby (a boy!) on May 28 and she has to fly before 36 weeks. I'm so excited to see her and to welcome a new baby into the family. I'm personally so glad to be done with the baby years, but  equally SO excited that my sister is starting them and I get to be the aunt! Yay! Hallie is excited because 1) she's a baby freak but 2) she is convinced that one of her name ideas is the one they went with.. Haha. And Olivia is excited because the baby will be brown like her.

5. While April looks like a fairly quiet month, May is shaping up to be an exciting one. Abby graduates from her gap year program in CO, Anna graduates with her BSN, Emily graduates with her Masters (first in the family!) ...We have Emily's baby shower and her baby, of course. So exciting all around.

6. Speaking of April being boring, the kids have no half/full days off this month and although Hallie's bday is the 20th, she has PSSA testing that week and can't even take off on her birthday. She's asking for a loft bed for her bday, which means I'm scoping out the ones at IKEA. Which means while I'm at IKEA, I can pop over to REI. My divided just came this week and I'm very excited. There's not much more exciting to me than a trip to REI. :)

7. Hallie's flute recital is tomorrow afternoon. She is not even stressed. Today Will competed with his scout troop in a first aid competency thing at a local college. (Who schedules anything at 8am on a Saturday morning?!) Olivia starts gymnastics on Weds. ...Just another week in paradise. :)