Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Most Amazing Saturday: Noticing the Little Things

Last night, I was a mess.  I had a full weekend of bill-paying, laundry-cleaning, paper-grading, house-cleaning, and kid-raising.  I was completely overwhelmed, and way too sleepy to process how much I had to get done. 

So far today, I've done very little of any of the list above. 

I did go get routine lab work done, and the boys came with me.  On the way out the door, we noticed one lone ladybug on our house, and it made me remember and say a little prayer for my cousin, Sarah
I almost cropped out dirt specks in the surrounding area, but decided that my house is like life: not perfect. 
I decided then to take notice of the little things today and enjoy them. 

We went to what G called the "blood store" first so I could get blood drawn.  The boys sat quietly and behaved for five minutes. The phlebotomist drew blood from my rolling veins with no trouble, and I didn't pass out.  Success all around. 

Then we hit Wal-Mart for some basics for the house.  G stopped to wonder that Elmo was "a mermaid". 
He also suggested the we pick up more toilet paper, since he'd used a bunch yesterday.  I won't go into all his details.  I informed him we had an unopened pack of toilet paper at home, and that we should be set.  He protested quite a bit, but we left without toilet paper.  
G's story of the loss of a LOT of toilet paper. 
At this point, I was thoroughly enjoying my day with my sons.  They were funny and they had great perspective.  B heard about how many shopkicks I could get at JC Penney's and insisted we stop by.  We collected our 300 kicks, which Cass and I are saving for Black Friday giftcards.  

We ran home, unloaded groceries, then met Cassie and the kids at a local playground so they could play and we could jog.  I now know that Cassie is MUCH faster than I am.  I also know that I can jog much farther than I'd thought.  Each of my sons left the playground at different times to accompany me. 

We listened to "What Does the Fox Say?" several times on YouTube in the car, and B created a new dance for it.  He was impressed that I used precious data allowances to let them listen to the hit four times. 

I spend so much of my day wondering how I will accomplish everything that needs to be done in the small amount of time allotted.  Today was a great reminder to enjoy life itself, not just "when everything is done".  I'm grateful for my little guys who helped me notice the little things today. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Incredible Weight Loss Program

Fishy lost 3/4 his body weight in one night!


No thanks, Kaiya. I'll stick to the regimen we have. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I fell in love...

I have been back from Honduras for less than 24 hours, and I have to admit that I fell in love while I was there.


View from the terrace at our hotel
I fell in love with the country.  The views are absolutely breathtaking.  Even in the many poor areas of Tegu, there is a beauty in the tired faces, the shacks the people live in, and the roads with no names.  The church we attended on Sunday was small, but it was evident that God's loved filled the building and the hearts of those in it.  


Girls with their puppets
Boys with their new shoes
I fell in love with the people.  Everyone I encountered was so warm and friendly.  The kids at the orphanages and schools we visited were very sweet and polite.  They participated whole-heartedly in games we played.  They repeated every word as we prayed with them.  And even though they loved stickers, we had to persuade them to take more, more, more, because we brought plenty for everyone.  A few even gave me gifts- one gave a picture she drew with her uncle, another gave one of her princess stickers from her prized collection. 



Albert, Ana, Nery, Eduardo, Carlos, Eny
Our interpreters were amazing.  They not only helped us bridge the language gap, but jumped in to joke and play with the kids.  They put in long hours, and many of the kids we saw already recognized them from the many hours they volunteer to work with them. 



On our final day working with the kids, we went to Casitas Kennedy Orphanage, which is a government run center.  The mood there (and at Octubre 21, the other orphanage we visited) was much different than the schools.  While the kids are poor and have very little in Tegu, you can tell the kids at the school have love in their homes and hope for a future.  The children at the orphanage may have parents, but cannot go home because of drugs there, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or other awful situations.  You can pick out the kids who are new because they haven't become hardened yet.  Many of these kids will remain at in government run centers until they age out at 18, and without an education or family support system, their prospects are dim.
It was at Kennedy that I fell in love with David.  While I have several pictures of him, I cannot post them here.  (We are unable to put pictures of the kids in the orphanage online because of their home situations and the need for these kids to be protected.)  But trust me when I say he is absolutely beautiful.  I called him my little trouble-maker, because he enjoyed throwing socks and stuffed animals over the couch for me to collect and throw back.  While his friend Victoria (who was 18 months) blew bubbles, David chased her and attempted to eat the bubble wand in her hand.  As we folded laundry, he would swipe the clothes we folded and throw them back into a pile.  It was impossible to be upset with his shenanigans because he would grin at you as soon as he was caught and would giggle as you tried to keep up with his mischief.  I found that he could be distracted with pizza, and he sat sweetly on my lap and ate an entire slice.  He also loved for me to hug him tightly and cover him with kisses as I turned him upside down.  My reward was the beautiful sound of his laughter.  I'm sure I whispered "te amo" in his ear at least a hundred times, as I tried to make up for the fact that he surely wouldn't hear those words as often as a child should.  My heart broke when it was time to go, and David cried and clung to me tightly so that I couldn't put him down. 

Sight seeing in St Lucia

I fell more in love with God in Honduras.  As tough as parts of the week were, and as heartbreaking as some of it was, I know that God is there.  He is there in the volunteers that spend many hours with the kids.  He is there in the teachers who are paid very little and work very hard to teach these kids (one teacher had 43 third grade boys in her class!!).  He is there in the men and women who run the centers and schools.  He is there in workers who so clearly love these kids and work hard to care for them.  God is there in the many missions groups that come from America to share his love and bring much needed aid for the people there.  It is reassuring to know that regardless of their situation, God is holding each of these kids in his hands and whispering in their ears that he loves them.  And this has helped me to fall even more in love with my Father, and look to him for whatever he has next for me. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Swiper?

This evening, G headed off to prepare for bed ten minutes before his show was over.  I foolishly gave myself some extra knitting/reading time while he brushed his teeth.  The kid is not quite four.  Generally, when he brushes his teeth alone, he smears toothpaste all over the counter.  The book was good though, and I was near the end of the chapter.  I knew wiping up the mess wouldn't take long.  

All of a sudden, he emerged from the bathroom to complain "...swiped it!  I tried to brush my teeth and...swiped it!"  At first, I thought he meant the dog stole his toothbrush, but then I noticed she was laying at my feet.  I couldn't make out the pronoun--he? she? it?, so I asked him to repeat.  I still couldn't make out what he was saying.  

I really did not want to confront whatever was in the bathroom.  I really, really didn't.  I reluctantly followed him to the counter where he pointed to the sink.  "Swiped my toothbrush!"


Josh was hanging out with his dad.  I assessed the situation and decided to go for tweezers.  I could not find the tweezers anywhere in the other bathroom.  G came running with "tweezies", but upon closer examination, they were nail clippers.  We have a lot of nail clippers, all of which he proclaimed as "tweezies" for the next three minutes.  

Finally, I perused our first aid kit.  Sure enough, there was a set of black plastic tweezies.  If you look really closely at my photo above, you can just make out the tippy top of those tweezies below and slightly to the right of the swiped toothbrush.  

After I tried fishing the tweezies out with a couple cuticle pushers and safety pins, I realized the P-trap would have to be removed.  Don't ask me how I know that much about the anatomy of a sink.  I dialed Josh's cell phone and told him about the toothbrush and tweezies.  You have to know when to fold 'em, people.  Josh offered to disassemble the sink tomorrow to retrieve those treasure.  

Here's to hoping we don't find any splinters or ticks tonight!  Straight to bed, boys, and right to sleep.  


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Time to Move It, Move It

Meet Kaiya, the personal-training wonderpup.  Kaiya joined our family in the middle of August.  She can be a bit hyper, so I make an effort to get her consistent exercise.  A couple weeks after Kaiya moved in, I started back at work.  To work out some of her energy, I began taking her for a walk around our country yard each weekday morning.


Kaiya has become conditioned to an outside walk when the alarm goes off.  Just after the alarm buzzes, I hear the persistent thumping of her tail against the wall.  Soon thereafter, she adds a squeaky whine.  Kaiya has decided we need to walk every morning the alarm sounds.  She's conditioned me not to "sleep" through to the alarm after the snooze button.


Last week, it became too dark in the mornings to see. I carried a flashlight for one morning, then promptly lost it.  Josh directed me to the headlamp on a hook by the back door.  I've never been much of a jogger or runner, but it turns out I jog farther when I can't see how far I'm going.  I'll think I've just started on a trail, but I'm actually almost to the end.  Kaiya keeps up or runs just ahead, which is super motivating since I fear I might need her protection from potential bears or other critters.


Thanks, Kaiya.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Calling

In the dark hours of early morning/middle of the night yesterday, Cassie left for her trip to the Honduras.  She was called to go on this trip back in June.  We have heard through text, email, and Facebook that she changed planes during her layover without issue, arrived safely, ate a yummy dinner, and attended church this morning.  I am so proud as her older sister to see her do this.  Cassie is usually quite a nervous Nelly when traveling.  We know that God has called her, since the money and little details all worked out so well. I had wanted to go on a missions trip to Venezuela when I graduated high school, but it wasn't a calling.  That was clear when things didn't fall into place despite my efforts. 

This year, I was called to return to the classroom after eight years of a teacher training position.  Truly, it is a calling.  I spend hours outside of school hours planning and grading so that I can focus on students during school hours.  After four busy days on my feet and working "overtime", I can say that I have not once regretted the decision to return.  I know this is where I am to be this school year  God may lead me other places after this school year; we shall see what He does. 

Speaking of calling...I'm a bit lost without my sister.  We phone each other while driving and cooking.  It's so quiet without my phone friend.  I'm going to borrow a phrase: this is a "first world problem".  For the next few days, I'm going to have to find someone who wants to know that we lost a shoe or had to clean up pee before we left the house. 

Thanks for keeping up with us!  I can't wait to hear what Cassie learns, and see how this changes her.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I Spy with my Little Eye

I Spy is one of the games G likes to play in the car.  I have no idea who taught him the game, but he'll declare, "I spy with my yittle eye something..." and we take turns. 


Now the trick to playing with my three-year-old is to spy something very obvious or in the car.  He can be a slow guesser, so if I pick something outside the car, we may pass it before he guesses it.  I don't want to coddle the boy and just tell him he's right at the first thing he guesses.  I keep encouraging him until he guesses what I'd truly spied.  Today, I was really smart and spied the gray truck ahead of us. 

"I spy with my little eye something gray," I announced proudly.  We were on a long road, so he'd have plenty of time to guess.

In a fraction of a second he guessed, "Yours hair?"

Leave it to a preschooler to be honest.  He was about 20% correct.  I am in my mid-thirties, but there is a lot of gray in my hair.  I was dying it, but the roots were always showing, and my hair was thinning, so I stopped.  My hair is happier for it, and honestly, I don't think it's all that noticeable. 

When my mom was graying in her thirties, we'd remind her, "Gray hair is a crown of splendor."  I'd meant it.  Well, that crown isn't always a fun hand-me-down.  It's a reminder that I'm not as young as I once was.  Then again, I'm also not as high-strung or heartbroken as I once was, either.  Being a grownup has its privileges: I don't worry as much about what people think.  I'm happy with the friends I have.  There are many I don't see often, but know they would support me and I them if needed.  I get to laugh at my children's antics, and pick out dinner.  I guess if I Spy what my life is now, the gray is pretty ok!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Walmart Weirdos

     We took a family trip to Walmart today, which was nuts for two reasons.  First, it's Walmart.  Second, it takes quite a bit of patience to get everything on the list, say no to a lot of "I wants", shop competitively with my coupons, and leave with the same number of kids we came with.  This is parenting level 73, not to be attempted by amateurs.
     One of my rules is that kids must be within arm's reach of a parent or the cart at all times.  Years ago, the boys got tired of the options of sitting in the cart or walking next to the cart, so they came up with a third option- riding under the cart.  This makes the cart a lot heavier to push, but also means that at least one kid is accounted for at all times (and as an added bonus, that child can only see what is on the bottom shelves, so there are fewer "I wants"). 
     Today, N chose to ride below the cart.  At one point, Tommy doubled back with a few kids to grab some dog treats, leaving me with the cart and N.  As I pushed the cart down the aisle, N asked "Did you get the Pop-Tarts?"  I looked down at the cart and said "Nope, we haven't gotten there yet."  "Will you tell me when we get there?"  "Yes, I will let you know.  I know you like to pick your favorite."  We continued to chat about what groceries we would buy as we walked down the dairy aisle.  I noticed one older gentleman glance at me, look around and then glance back at me.  Another lady looked at me a little funny as she pushed her cart past me. 
      By the time Tommy returned,  I started to giggle.  Now my husband was looking at me funny.  That's when I explained to him that most people couldn't see our child riding beneath the cart, especially once we started loading food in it.  While I was talking to N, it looked like I was actually talking to my cart and the food in it.  It probably didn't help that I was looking down at the cart as I was talking.  This was Walmart, and that kind of craziness is not completely out of the question.   
    




Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Marry? Be Logical!

Last week, G asked for pepperonis.  Again.  The kid loves them, and eats them straight from a bowl.

"You love pepperonis so much, you should marry them!" I teased him.

"Marry them?"  G laughed.  "How you marry a pepperoni?"  He slapped his forehead with a palm.  "A pepperoni can't kiss you!"  Palm slap again.

"Well, I can't marry pepperonis.  I married Daddy, remember?"

"Marry a pepperoni.  Snort, snort.  What, you gonna dress it up like a lady?"

Today, when he mentioned that he loved Rory, I asked why he didn't marry her.

"Marry her?  She not wear make-up!"

I'm pretty lost by that response, but apparently when he does settle down, he'd prefer a kissing lady who wears make-up.  Good to know!

G and Rory in late April.  He'd just finished telling her, "I love you, Man!".

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Birthdays only come once a year

K has been planning her 5th birthday since... the day after her 4th birthday party.  First it was going to be a Justin Bieber party.  I'm pretty sure she thought that if she had a Justin party, he would actually come.  Afterall, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Belle made an appearance at her last party, so the bar has been set pretty high and she knows we've got connections.  Lucky for us, after about a week, she changed her mind and decided she would rather have a pony party.  For several months, K has planned the games, food, goodie bags, and decorations for her party.  She's told me names of all the friends (real and imaginary) that she plans to invite.  She's also told me that there will be a carousel at her party, like the one at the fair- except this one would be hers to keep in the backyard and ride whenever she wants.  I had to pump the brakes on that one.  Afterall, Princess K was born in a normal family, and unless Brangelina is sponsoring her 5th birthday, the only carousel at this party will be small enough to fit on her bookshelf.
Several themes later, K has moved on to planning a mermaid party.  Someone better invent sparkly mermaid nail polish before February, because K says it will be in the goody bags for her guests.  Also, if anyone knows what mermaid cupcakes are, let me know because she said her party is gonna have those too.  (And by "let me know," I mean "make them and bring them to the party pretty please.")
All the while, N has been pretty patient about planning his 7th birthday party which is in August.  He told me months ago that he wants an Angry Birds party, but he isn't particular about what games or food we will have.  I'm not feeling very inspired by his theme because honestly there is no way I'm going to make life-sized angry bird scenes for N and his friends to knock down.  My amazing husband suggested we take the Angry Bird theme to the bowling alley.  This way the kids can knock down pins which is kinda similar to the Angry Birds in the sense that you fling an object toward some other objects in an effort to knock them all down into a messy pile.  But bowling is better than Angry Birds because I don't have to construct anything over and over just to watch kids knock it back down and nothing blows up when you are bowling.  My boys are telling me blowing stuff up actually makes Angry Birds better, but they don't pay bills, so I'm ignoring their reasoning.
With the party drawing nearer, I asked N what kind of stuff he wants and who he wants to invite.  This is when I realized how very different N is from K. 
N: (shrug) Mom, whoever wants to come can just come.
ME: Well, yeah, but we have to invite them first.  Otherwise how will they know when to come to the party?
N: Blank stare
ME: So I need a list of who you want to invite.
N: Blank stare
ME: How about... (I started listing friends from school, the sitter, and soccer)
N: Yeah, just do whatever you normally do for parties.  Maybe on the computer?  You don't really have to tell me.
ME: Blank stare

UPDATE: After writing the first draft of this, we happened to be on a Target run when we found tons of Justice League and Superman stuff on sale.  The kind of sale where I could get plates, napkins, stickers, tattoos, treat bags, and some decorations - all for under $10.  N took one look, and decided he was more than happy to change his theme.  And this frugal mama was more than happy to allow it. I'm thankful that when it comes to birthdays, N has an easy going spirit, and that K's only comes once a year. 

Gots to Go

Yesterday, I took my boys to the library to catch up on their summer reading prizes and pick up a couple requested Tiny Titan books for B.  Then we grabbed some McDonald's (dollar menu sammich for B, 4 piece nuggets for G and for me, shared large fry and Sprite) and headed to Books-A-Million for their free "Safari Saturday" event. 

We arrived about a half and hour early, so we perused the books.  B asked if he could get one, but I told him no.  I'm not made of money.  I did tell him that if he found books he wanted, I'd check to see if they were available from our local library via the app on my smartphone and request them for him if they had them.  He relented, and revised my depiction of myself as "awesome sauce" to the phone being "awesome sauce."  Perhaps he was right.

We had a great time.  G tried on hats, recounted memories of baby books, and excitedly hugged, "Don't turn that page!" Monster.  B found a greatly-discounted pop up NASCAR book($4.97 from $30) that I was willing to purchase.  I found a neat "Fact or Fiction" book.

At 2:02, I asked an associate where the event was taking place.  He responded that it was being set up in the magazine aisle.  I took the opportunity to purchase the book for B and a bag of candy for G.  I also grabbed a discounted tall soy gingerbread latte with whipped cream for myself.  Then we headed to the magazine aisle where we waited until 2:45. 

During this time, B laid on the benches and floor.  G kicked his brother.  G sat on magazine stacks.  When I asked him to move, he refused until I threatened to leave.  The kid had been perched on an extensive stacks of wedding magazines I did not want to purchase.  Finally, a lady employee pulled together two benches and looked ready to begin reading Curious George Visits the Zoo.  I love that book.  I summoned my boys.  B remained sprawled out on the floor and G walked up to his brother and kicked him in the gut.

Unexpectedly, the last straw broke for me.  I quietly announced to my sons that we were leaving, gathered my items, and walked through the store.  G followed, screaming and crying that he did not want to leave.  B remained in the magazine aisle until I was halfway through the store.  I suppose he realized then that I had meant it.

I don't write this to ask for praise.  I write this as a reminder to myself.  I should have nipped this behavior in the bud days ago, when G colored on the Post Office floor with crayon, or when B wound the noisy busy box in the library over and over and over after I'd told him to stop.  Sometimes, I let things go too long.  I know the importance of "choosing my battles", but sometimes I take that too far!  What had really kept me in Books-A-Million too long was my desire to hear stories and to make a free animal puppet.  The "last straw" made me realize that all these enriching activities mean nothing if I'm raising my sons to be spoiled brats.

So we left.  I refused to yell.  I asked them, in the car, why they acted so poorly in public.  I brought up the coloring, running, laying on the floor, and the busy box incident.  Neither said a word.  Finally, B spoke up, "We just want to have fun."  I replied that being disrespected by my kids was not fun.  I explained that it was not "fun" for strangers to think that they were brats and that I was a bad mom.  He cried.  I cried.  Then I told him he owed me an apology when he felt remorse.  And I dropped it.

B did apologize.  There are several events this week, and I told them they'd have to prove themselves to me if they wanted to attend.  I am so blessed to have their godmother, who will willingly watch those who can't behave.  Now to stick to my plan.  That fine line of understanding and enabling is the toughest part of parenting. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Back to College

A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend JMU's Content Academy for 6-12 English.  It was a week-long conference that met daily for six hours.  During the week, I stayed in a dorm and ate at the meal hall.  It was the closest I'd been to being back in college, and I loved it. 

The Sunday before, a colleague and I drove up and hauled all our stuff into our tiny dorm rooms.  We were the only divas with minifridges.  I'd also brought my Keurig.  I re-arranged the room into something bearable for the week--even though we each had our own rooms, there were 2 beds, closets, dressers, desks and chairs in each.  I'd forgotten exactly how tiny dorm rooms can be!

When my colleague came to visit, she was jealous when she discovered that I had a bathroom attached to my room.  She had to use the hallway bathroom.  "My" bathroom had a stall with the toilet, a sink and large mirror, and a shower.  On the other end of the bathroom was a door--apparently this was a Jack and Jill bathroom.  I wondered aloud who was on the other side of the door.  Tracy answered, "Me!"

We opened the door and I met my bathroom-mate.  She was from another county.  We decided to lock the doors if we took a shower.  A few minutes later, we realized in horror that we could lock from inside the bathroom, but not from inside our respective rooms.  We didn't know each other!  How alarming for a total stranger to have total access to my stuff when I wasn't there.  Tracy felt the same way.

I encouraged her to google "Catina Chapman"/run a background check.  She laughed about it.  I was glad to have her five minutes later when I locked my key in the room.  This Tracy seemed OK, and I was sure she'd have a difficult time lugging a minifridge across the campus of JMU unnoticed.  Also, she didn't appear to be my size, and she dressed better than I did.  My clothes were likely safe. 

The next day, she saw me leaving lunch and called me over, laughing.  Apparently the many wings of dorms on the East side of campus all look the same from the inside.  She'd gone to the wrong one, opened "her" unlocked door, and noticed all her stuff gone.  She'd gone through the bathroom, and noticed all my stuff gone as well!  She'd gone out to the hall where she encountered some passers-by who assured her she was NOT in Potomac B.

I laughed, too, then countered, "Admit it, Miss. Tracy.  For five seconds you'd wished you'd googled 'Catina Chapman', and wondered how I'd made off with all your stuff."



Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Debit Card

Josh and I share one debit card.  This was a concsious decision we made to keep us from overspending.  The downfall is that sometimes the debit card is not in my wallet, and sometimes, it's disapperance isn't communicated with me. 

This morning, I woke up at 7:00.  Today is Saturday.  Cassie and I had decided three days ago to have a yard sale.  Since both of us live in the middle of nowhere, we'd asked our Mom if we could hold it at her house, which is located five minutes from a military base.  We posted the yardsale on some Facebook community boards last night. 

At 7:30, G and I were traveling down our country road when I noticed the Explorer had very little gas.  I checked my wallet, and saw an empty pocket where the debit card should have been.  I turned around immediately and retuned home. B was surprised I was back so soon, and he watched as I scoured the house for Josh's wallet.

It wasn't anywhere, so I raced outside to check my car. Josh had driven it to work yesterday since the Explorer was full of yard sale wares. The wallet was in the car, but the debit card wasn't in the wallet. 

I raced inside to interrogated my sleeping husband. I didn't want to wake him so early on a Saturday, but my anger was growing. He claimed it was in the "flippy downy thingy."

Back to the car. I checked the visor. I checked the passenger visor. Nothing. I called Josh in a panic, then noticed the sunglasses holder. A flippy downy thingy.  Sure enough, the debit card was there. I hung up. 

I will not recount my comments as I returned to the Explorer. As I seat belted in TWENTY MINUTES after leaving the first time, my wise soon-to-be-four-year-old remarked, "You know them not take debit cards at yard sales."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Love my Roos and Flip Flops

When did you get your first pair of shoes?  Honestly, I can't remember my first pair.  I do remember in elementary school, I had a pair of Roos.  I thought I was hot stuff because I had the secret pocket in my shoes- a pocket that was really only big enough to hold a lifesaver or a few tic-tacs.  Not that I ever would have put candy in there, because, EWWW. 
Everyone I know has shoes (you might be wearing some now).  Most have several pairs.  Brown shoes, black shoes, boots, the heels that look amazing but weren't built for comfort, the heels that you don't mind wearing all day, running shoes, sandals, and my personal fave- flip flops.  I think that pretty much covers the basics, but then I've never been much for shoes. 
Most of my friends know by now that I'm going to Honduras in September with Shoes for Orphans Souls.  It's a really cool program, because I get to help some of these kids put on their very first pair of shoes.  I doubt their shoes will have pockets, but I don't think they will mind.  I'm also pretty sure that unlike me, they will always remember their first pair of shoes.  These shoes mean that they can attend school.  For the younger ones who can finally go to school, this means their parents can go to work.  These shoes mean that they have a lower risk for injury or diseases from walking around barefoot.  These shoes will show them that someone cares for them. 

I've got 2 months and 16 days until I arrive in Honduras, and I have lots to pray about, and lots of stuff to gather.  For those that have read about the deals I got last summer on school supplies, I am looking forward to the challenge of finding amazing deals on some of the supplies I'll be bringing for the kids.  (Here is where my talent for getting toothpaste for free is going to come in handy!)

Supplies for VBS and time with the kids-  I need to bring 2 boxes of crayons, 2 containers of 100 wipes, 1 box of stick on name tags, 3 boxes of markers, 1 roll of paper towels, 1 soccer ball, 3 glue sticks, 100 cut out large red hearts, 100 cut out small pink hearts, 1 other type of soft ball, 1 pair of childproof scissors, 1 pair adult scissors, 100 brown paper lunch bags, 1 box of sharpies, bubbles, hard candy, bubble gum, stickers, and other things to play with the kids during down time.

Humanitarian aid items-  Lice medicine, combs, brushes, powder, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, diarrhea meds, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, deworming meds, lotion, underwear, vitamins, Spanish Bibles, etc. 

Less important but necessary...
The 1970's called and they want their suitcase back.
Since I've never really traveled, I don't have a luggage set, but I think we can all agree that this suitcase is not ready for international travel.  The latches/buckles are finicky and the case tends to pop open at random times.  (Tommy swears it is me, not the suitcase, but I think it is because he doesn't want to part with this little piece of history.)  I have a gift card to Kohls, but it won't cover the full cost of a luggage set.  If anyone has any Kohls cash they don't plan on using and would like to donate, please let me know.  Every dollar I can save on frivolous stuff like this is an extra dollar I can put towards stuff that might really make a difference for these kids. 
 

Of course, I still need to finish paying for the trip.  You can track my progress or make donations through this link- http://www.kintera.org/faf/r.asp?t=4&i=1045899&u=1045899-383005659&e=6748772364
For those that are praying for me, I've also listed some of the areas that I could use prayer on my trip site.  If you do donate, be sure to print your receipt for tax time.  Also, as a token of my appreciation, you can choose a scarf or a sock monkey coffee cup sleeve (made with love by Catina and yours truly). 
Save some cardboard, use a monkey
(Cup not included)





Monday, May 20, 2013

A Book for Aunt Cassie


Tonight, G asked me to read him this book:


 It's a hand-me-down, apparently from Taco Bell. The story is in Spanish and English, depending on how you hold the book.  Read it one way, then halfway through you meet up with the upside down ending of the version in the other language. 

I suggested that we give it to Aunt Cassie.  She can take it with her to the Honduras, and read it to the kids there!  The book is very tiny and won't take up much room.  Also, she'd just gotten monkey and banana scented stickers for the kids there. 

G wasn't having that.  He reminded me that this was his book.  I offered go pick up the alligator he wanted from Walmart.  I even called it by the name G had picked out.  "We can give this to Aunt Cassie and I'll get you Swimmy." 

"Yeah, Swimmy would like this book.  I could read it to him."  Have I mentioned that G is an excellent negotiator?

So, I read him the book--the Spanish version.  The book is based on a silly song, so I sang it in tune, in the best Spanish accent I could muster.  I was having so much fun that when I finished the song, I flipped the book over, and began the English version of the song.  I was halfway through the version he could understand when he cut me off. 

"OK, Aunt Cassie can have this book." 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why my kids missed the bus today

My kids missed the bus this morning.  To be honest, they miss the bus most mornings.  Part of the problem is that they can't catch the bus from home- they have to catch the bus from the sitter's house.  This means that we all have to be ready and in the car 20 minutes before the bus comes.  All it takes is for the dog to get loose, one shoe to go missing, one melt down, or a thousand other little snags to throw us completely off schedule.  Luckily, the school is only a couple minutes past the sitter's house, so missing the bus only adds a few minutes to my commute and the kids still arrive at school on time.

This morning, I was sure we were going to make it.  All the kids were dressed, including socks and shoes, which is no small feat.  The car was loaded. I had my keys.  And then K realized it was chilly outside and her doll was cold.  So while I corralled the older boys out of the house, K darted upstairs to find a sweater for her doll. Several minutes later, K reappeared with her doll properly bundled and we were able to leave. 

Yup, Merida and her sweater are why we
missed the bus today.
 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Learning to Help With Laundry: Part II

A few days ago, I described how my sons were helping me out with laundry.  Tonight I folded as I talked with my mom on the phone.  G wanted to help "ball socks" (he can't), so I'd roll a pair at a time, then send him to deliver it.  By the time he returned, I had another folded pair waiting for him.  After he delivered all of Daddy's socks, I sent him to his room with a full basket of his laundry. 

I took a break in conversation with Mom to review laundry-delivering procedures.  I reminded him that he was not to dump the entire basket on the floor of his room.  I reminded him that socks, underwear, shirts, and pants had their own spots.  He was to put them where they belonged.  He agreed. 

G took a considerable amount of time putting his laundry away.  He returned with an empty basket.  I asked if he had put everything where it belonged.  He admitted he had not.  I handed him a pair of socks and made eye contact.  I maintained eye contact as I explained that he was going to put those socks and all the other socks in the sock basket.  I told him to return to me afterwards.  He did. 

I then handed him another pair of socks and a pair of underwear. "Put these in the sock basket, these in the underwear basket, and all the other underwear in the underwear basket." 

I was proud of myself for walking him through the process.  I was also proud of how I ran my boy's energy out on a rainy day. 

At bedtime, I noticed a pair of clean undies on G's floor.  I returned them to an all-too-empty underwear basket.  Then I noticed the rest of the stack of clean underwear spilling out of the top of his dirty clothes hamper.  Underneath them was the entire stack of clean clothes--socks, shirts, and pants--that I'd sent him to deliver.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Hearty Breakfast

B likes buying breakfast at school.  I've funded breakfast at school for most of the year.  Last week or the week before, I discovered he goes there for cinnamon rolls.  B spends $1.25 each morning for an individually packaged cinnamon bun and a carton of milk.  I take that back.  On Fridays, he spends the $1.25 on a chicken biscuit and a carton of milk.

Now, I support a healthy breakfast.  However, for $2.50, I can buy an entire roll of store brand cinnamon rolls and bake them for my boy.  I'll save $2.50, even if I allow him to continue feeding his chicken biscuit addiction.  Last night, I baked up the first batch.  This morning, I directed B to the Rubbermaid.  Of course, G wanted one, too.

G eyed the contents of the box, then looked up at me and asked, "Mama, are them snails?"

No, son, our budget does not support escargot.  

Before we'd departed, each boy had eaten a cinnamon roll and a half.   This may put a damper on my budgeting.  G also asked for milk, so I poured some in a cup with a top and straw.  He insisted on the "Transformers cup".  I told him he could use the Transformers cup, but would have to drink it quickly since we were leaving, and he couldn't take an open-topped cup with him. 


"Why not?"  

"Because I don't want it to spill in the car."

"I have more?"

"No, you don't have long.  Besides, the less you have, the less you can--" clink, swish "--spill."  Mop, mop, mop.

Monday, May 6, 2013

G's First Experience with Gum

On Friday afternoon, B came home from school with a goodie bag from a pizza party at school.  G looked longingly at the bag and asked for a piece of candy.  Usually B does share.  I'm torn about whether or not to make him share something he's earned--like candy for memorizing Bible verses or the goodie bag for earning good grades on six tests' worth of 9 Weeks Tests.  Luckily, G had his heart set on gum, and babysitter/godmom had a canister full of the same gum.  She offered him a piece. 

I have never given G gum.  I rarely chew it myself.  I tell students to spit out gum so often, it feels wrong to chew it myself!  Godmom and I tried to explain that he would chew the gum, but not swallow it.  She took the extra precaution of hacking through the Double Bubble with a kitchen knife so that his first serving would only be a third of a regular serving.  After grilling him one more time about what to do with the gum, she handed him his first piece. 

G took it, popped it in his mouth, and concentrated on chewing.  Ten seconds later, he said, "Now I spit it out?"  We assured him he could chew it until he got home.  He looked a little unsure, but seemed to go with it. 

I loaded him in the car and watched him chew from my rearview mirror.  His chewing looked funny.  His furrowed eyebrows told me he was really concentrating. His lips were closed, and his dimple was in full effect.  When you chew gum, are your lips closed?  You're not supposed to smack gum, but he looked just like he was chewing food, which somehow looks different from chewing gum. 

As soon as we got home, he wanted to spit it out.  I walked him to the trashcan.  Perhaps we should have described how "spitting" out gum is different from "spitting" in general.  He hocked up quite a bit of saliva and spat.  The gum did not come out. 

It was stuck behind his teeth.  He showed me where, and we took turns trying to pull it away.  It was stringy and it clung to his teeth.  We opted for a toothbrush.  Using the toothbrush was an endeavor.  It took several minutes to get it all. 

Then he asked for another piece of gum. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Laundry Helpers

By the time I finish folding everything on the "Laundry Couch", it's usually time to refill it with a load or three of clean clothes from the dryer.  If my boys didn't help me put the laundry away, there would be a serious bottleneck in our system. 



B was my first laundry helper.  When he was four, he asked if he could "deliver" folded piles of laundry.  He'd drag a full laundry basket behind him, beeping when he backed up.  His "crane" would drop each pile to the appropriate location. Then he'd bring the empty basket back with the robotic announcement, "Delivery. Complete."

Tonight, I handed each son a laundry basket full of his clothes to deliver.  B hanging up shirts in his closet when G breezed past me.  "Whoa, boy!  How'd you finish so quickly?"

I am so glad I lovingly folded each of those items.
"Oh, yeah, sorry," said G.  He uses the phrase frequently. 


I decided to pick my battle and allow him to put the clothes in their appropriate places unfolded.  I did not want to battle the Redhead nor the laundry.  I have loads to do tomorrow, and I'm not about to keep folding over and over!

G puts his socks in the sock basket in his dresser.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Third Time's a Charm

I called Cassie Thursday morning to remind her that C's book bag was still I'm my car. I'd taken him to soccer practice the night before. I knew it wasn't a big deal since he had a field trip that day. I was wrong! His soccer bag with his street shoes were also in my car. All he had were cleats.

The plan was for me to drop the bags at the sitter's house. Cassie's kids go to the same sitter, and she'd pick up the bag when she dropped off K. C would change shoes on the van on the way to school.

I forgot to drop off the bag.

I called Cassie when I got to work and noticed the bag underneath my bags. I immediately called her and told her to stop at my school. I'd leave my car unlocked and she could get the bag,

After morning duty, the office paged me. My sister was in the office. Apparently after I hung up with her, I locked the car behind me as a force of habit. I hadn't answered her text, so she'd gone looking for me.

Oops! Glad Cass was chaperoning so she could bring him his regular shoes!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The world has changed

If you are OCD or ridiculously type A, you should NOT read this post.  Seriously.  You also should not go to bookstores.  I'll give you a moment to turn back and pretend you never saw this.  You aren't missing anything, just a boring post about the nutritional content of water.  I promise.
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 OK, are all the OCD people gone now?  No?  Well the, have you looked at your sock drawer today?  I think you should go reorganize it.  Again.  Some elves may or may not have snuck in while you were sleeping and mixed the white socks with the argyle.  Elves are jerks like that.
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Ok, now that they are gone, let's get on with the blog. 

Catina and I were lucky enough to go shopping yesterday without any kids.  We were able to look at things we didn't need and discuss purchases.  We were able to finish a sentence without interruption.  It was awesome.
Then we stopped by the bookstore to buy some journals, and I decided to grab a cheap book on Honduras.  After we realized this store did not have any books on Honduras, we snapped a few pics, and hightailed it outta there before we could be tempted to organize the whole section.  Apparently geography has changed a LOT since I was in school.  Or perhaps the employees at this particular store failed geography miserably. 


Next time you go to Mexico, be sure to stop by Beijing and also see the "Top 10 Hong Kong."  Not sure if it is the top 10 museums, bathrooms, or bookstores, but you can find out when you get there.
While in Asia, there are lots fun things to do in Chicago, San Francisco, and the Cayman Islands.  Not sure if the "New England" book is in the Asia section, but it was definitely not in the United States section.  Maybe there is another England? So we should call England "Olde England", New England "The Old New England" and this new one "The Newest England" so we don't get confused.  Also, we should stop naming places England.
Kids love Virginia.  Which is now in South America.  Does this mean my zip code is going to change?
Notice the orange and yellow books about Alaska in the Arizona section.  Alaska, Arizona- who doesn't mix those 2 up?  It is a common mistake really.
I give up.  Seriously, if this is what we consider the Middle East, I will never be able to help my kids with their geography homework.  I am buying them each their own GPS so they will never feel as lost as I do at this moment.  Help?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Honduras in Autumn

I have a lot of fears.  Some of them are irrational.  I'm afraid of squirrels (google "squirrel attacks", it happens), I'm afraid of losing a kid (I constantly count them when we are out in public to make sure they are all there), and I'm afraid of traveling.  I want to take my kids to Disney one day, but I'm afraid of being in such a busy place and possibly losing a kid.  The very thought of traveling to Florida for a week with my family makes me feel sweaty, my eyes tear up, and the weight I feel on my chest makes it hard to breath.  Also, I am extremely uncomfortable with public restrooms- I have to wash my hands several times after using the restroom to feel clean, and I carry hand sanitizer everywhere I go.  Oh, I also don't like feet- don't touch mine, don't put yours near me, and let's not even look at them, 'kay?

So when I heard a commercial on the radio the other day about a missions trip with Shoes for Orphans Souls, I was pretty shocked when my heart leapt and I felt this strong desire to go.  Then they announced there was a contest to win a free trip.  I decided to enter, and will be sending in my submission this week.  The winner is announced Friday and I would appreciate your prayers that God's will be done.

I planned to sit back and wait to hear the winner.  After all, if God wants me to go, He will give me the trip.  I figured by entering, I was doing my part and that I was done.  Silly me!  I couldn't get this mission trip off of my mind.  I kept looking up information about it.  I kept thinking of how much I wanted to snuggle these kids, wash their dirty feet, and pray over them.  I want them to know how much God loves them, and I want to love on them. 

Then the doubts began creeping in.  The odds of winning are probably pretty slim.  I cannot afford this trip on my own.  In the last few weeks, our washer and dryer had to be replaced, the back window of one vehicle had to be replaced, and the alternator on another vehicle blew.  I'm still trying to figure out how to pay for all that.  Why am I even thinking about trying to pay for a missions trip?  I started thinking about how I don't attend church every week.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I miss church more than I attend.  Surely, there are more qualified, better Christians that should go on a trip like this.  Oh, and did I mention that I don't even have a passport??  This is silly.  This is crazy.  I can't do this.

I had told my husband, sister, and 2 other amazing Christian women about entering the contest and asked them for prayer.  I didn't mention that the gears in my head were turning, trying to figure out how in the world I could pay for the trip when I don't win the contest.  I didn't dare post on Facebook or tell anyone this desire, this call I felt to go on this trip.  See, if I tell people, then I've got to do something.  If I put it out there for others to see, this crazy idea, this impossible notion, and then I fail to go- I would feel ridiculous.  Yeah, these doubts were getting pretty strong. 

Today, I decided to google "The Great Commission" and then I googled "Francis Chan and The Great Commission."  Wouldn't you know he preached a sermon on that very passage?  (You can hear it at http://www.cornerstonesimi.com/special/media_player.html, the sermon 6/3/12 titled "The Thrill of Obedience.")  Wow.  It was exactly what I needed to hear to dispel my doubts.  God can use anyone and wants to use everyone.  If I wait until I'm a "good enough" Christian to share his word or to do what he is calling me to do, I'll never be ready.  There is so much more in this sermon that touched my heart, and it was one of those messages that you hear and feel was written just for you.  (Don't you love when God does that?)

I called Catina on my way home, and told her how God was working on me, and how I felt that He was calling me to take this trip.  While on the phone with her, I checked the mail and found a check for $134.  It won't pay for the trip.  It barely covers half of the first deposit that is due in 2 weeks.  But, it reassured me that God is going to provide a way.  I just need to trust in Him.

So that is what I am doing.  I am trusting that God wouldn't put this desire in my heart, He wouldn't call me to take this trip if He wasn't going to provide a way for me to do it.  I'm praying that while God works out the finances, He will also work on my heart and ready me for this trip.  And I am putting it out there, that I am going to Honduras in September, God willing. 

Friends, I ask that you join me in praying.  Specifically, pray that I will have the money to put down the first deposit, then the second, then the third.  That I will have the money for my passport.  Pray that God will prepare me to show His love, and to be a witness for Him.  Pray that my husband and kids will make it through a week without me.  Pray that my fear of traveling and issues with germs will stay be manageable.  Pray for my safety during this trip. 

This will be the scariest thing I have ever done, but I also trust that it will be the most amazing blessing. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Girl


Last weekend, we picked up the newest member of our family. Meet Rory!

We visited the vet yesterday, where the fear of Puppy Parvo was initiated--hello new form of germaphobia. I also thought we'd have to return her to the animal shelter to shield my kids from parasites.

The vet calmed me down, played with our Heinz 57, and answered our many questions. My biggest was about house training. We've no sooner gotten G potty trained, and now we're cleaning accidents again. Apparently this takes longer than a day. She sent us home with a paper. Check out number four.

Thus far, that is all Rory had done.

Our Spring Break just became crazy busy. In the interest of quick housebreaking, we must teach young Aurora to:
• cook.
• wash and fold laundry.
• vacuum.
• take out trash.
• wash dishes.

Silly me! I had thought puppies were a lot of work! We should have gotten one much sooner.




Saturday, March 23, 2013

Letting go

Once a week, I like to walk my middle kids (C and N) into school. Of course, C is too old to have his mom actually walk him to class, but N enjoys when I escort him to class and help him settle in.  K loves when I let her come along, even though she hides shyly behind me the whole time.  Sometimes I think she is practicing to be my shadow. 
K's favorite part of these mornings is when we leave, because there are about 8 steps to go down to get to the parking lot.  She and I hold hands while we hop down each step.  About 2 months ago, she told me she was big enough to hop without my hand.  Being the overprotective mama that I am, I asked her if she could hold my hand because I was scared of falling.  My sweet (and clever) little girl reached over, grabbed my hand, and planted a big kiss on it.  "There Mama, now you don't have to be scared."  I paused for a split second, weighing my options.  Do I let her jump  by herself?  What if she falls, I won't be able to catch her?  I'm the Mama, I can always tell her she has to hold my hand.  Then I thought of my dear cousin Eva, and the pictures I've seen of her little girls doing the splits on a fence, sitting on tree limbs, and climbing doorways.  And I thought of my New Year's resolution, to be more like Eva. 
And so I "let go" and let my daughter jump while I jumped down the steps beside her.  In this small gesture, I taught my daughter that not only is she big enough to try things on her own, but I trust her to know when she is ready.  I know I can't always keep her safe, but I hope to always give her the confidence to take the next jump as she grows.  (And if I'm lucky, she will let her Mama be by her side when she decides to take the next jump.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Still Here

On the very first day of 2013, we lost our cousin, Eva.  Eva was a close friend and sister growing up.  She lived around the corner from us until we moved when I was ten.  Her mother babysat us.  Her parents and my parents took turns keeping the three Nemeth kids and two Jalajas kids at the camper in our favorite campground in the summers.  Teenagers babysat all five of us during the rest of the summer when my aunt returned to work.  After we moved, Eva spent a couple summers at our house.  When I was in college, I spent an entire year's worth of weekends at Eva's house which was only forty-five minutes away.  We'd sautee mushrooms and onions, eat Cappucino Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream, and shop at Target.  Later, our firstborn children were born about a year apart.  B and Eva's daughter played well together.  I have a lot of pictures of the two of them. 

Eva had such a big personality, such a creative way of looking at things.  I miss her.  Still, I still hear her voice.  Just today I saw this on Facebook, and it brought up a memory of her. 


When C was a baby, he loved a toy phone that was shaped like a car.  It made them most annoying noises, and would beep and bleep at whim.  On a visit to NC to see Eva--years before she and I had children of our own--Cassie, Mom, and I complained about the lack of an On/Off switch on the toy.   Eva walked to the junk drawer, returned with a screwdriver, removed the batteries, and handed C his favorite toy back.  He happily chattered on the new and improved car phone. 

I know she'll always be with us.  I am so grateful that her personality was big enough to fill up the empty space in my heart every once and a while.  I am so grateful that her husband and her kids remind me of her.  I'm so grateful for the time I had with her and for my memories of her. I love how she changed--and still changes--me into a better person. 

I love you, Eva. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

B's School Report

When I was in seventh grade, we wrote reports.  I wrote mine on Labrador Retrievers.  Mr. Hunter taught us how to take short notes on index cards from several sources, arrange them, then write our report. 

Last week and this week, I did the same with my second grader.  His assignment was to write a biography on Susan B. Anthony.  His mother is a former English teacher who was going to help him complete the project the "right way."

We began by reading a short digital book I ordered from Books A Million.  After each section, we recalled facts and he wrote each on an index card.  I could tell when he was wearing down because one of his cards said, "second child blah blah blah blah blah."  After a giggle, he erased it and rewrote the fact correctly. 

o
 After reading three books on Susan B. Anthony, B organized his facts "like a timeline".  G got in on the act with his own "notes". 

 Before writing, I had B reread the assignment sheet.  "Wait, I can TYPE it?" he asked.  B's handwriting, as you can see from above, is atrocious, and he knew he'd have to rewrite.  He typed a paragraph or two each night.  While I was brushing G's teeth, B learned the wonder of autocorrect.  "Mama!  I spelled she with a little s and it was the first word and when I hit the period and space, the computer changed it to a BIG S!"



 B was supposed to include headings on his report.  We decided he'd only type a section or two each night.  As you can see from the beginning of his sentence under "The Mill" section, he was in need of a break again. 

 

By the end of the report, he was worn down and silly.  I had consumed a half gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.  Still, we'd spent quite some time together and had a lot of laughs.  We belly laughed over the word duty.  "Doodie!"  we giggled over and over for way too long.  We'd tackled a big project a bit at a time, and he felt good about getting to type and print.  


Tonight he illustrated the final copy, as the assignment asked.  Thank goodness we'd printed two copies.  As soon as we turned around, G added a purple streak to B's masterpiece.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Holdin' On

I carry a small purse. I do this on purpose. The smaller the purse, the less I can fit in it, so the lighter it stays. A piece of good advice I received when B was a baby was to carry a small diaper bag and keep stock in a large diaper bag in the trunk to replenish if necessary. B is really good about carrying very little and keeping it in a small backpack or bag.

G is very different. Just this past Monday morning, I was juggling with my laptop bag, lunch box, tote bag, purse, and coffee mug when he asked me to hold him. When I asked him how that would even be possible, he answered, "Hold me in one arm, and yours stuff in the other!" 

Here's G while I'm blowdrying my hair, asking me to hold his book.

This morning, I had a dentist appointment.  G went with me, carrying only what would fit in the red backpack pictured above.  He sat quietly, coloring and watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while I got my teeth cleaned.  "Hold me, Mama," I thought I heard him say above my mp3 music.  I listen to tunes so I don't have to hear scraping.  I held his hand, then patted him on the head.  Then I felt something on my stomach.  It was his book and drawings...he wanted me to hold them. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Year's

Even though it is cliche, I make New Year's resolutions. I don't always share them, but I find optimism and promise in making goals for the year. This year, I complete forgot about making a resolution as we recieved news that our dear cousin Eva was losing her battle with cancer. She passed away on New Year's Day, after a short battle with a rare and aggressive lymphoma. Eva was the kind of person that made an impression on anyone lucky enough to cross her path. She was an amazing daughter, wife, mother, and friend. In recounting some of our favorite "Eva stories", I found my 2013 resolution. This year, I will apply some Eva-isms to my life.

Eva-ism #1: Make people feel valued
Everyone who spent time with Eva, from family and friends, to those she taught or coached, felt valued by her. I remember spending weeks in NC during the summer when I was a kid. Eva usually took me shopping or swimming with her and her friends, and never made me feel like her little kid cousin (even though I was 4 years her junior which is a big difference at 12 and 16). In fact, I don't know if my aunt made Eva take me with her, or if Eva did it on her own- mostly because she always made me feel so included. But that was Eva, she always took time for people, listened to you, and made you feel that she enjoyed being with you.

Eva-ism #2: Make life fun
You couldn't spend time with Eva without smiling and laughing. During my summers in NC, Eva would wake me up by singing and dancing ridiculously. She would say "don't sleep your vacation away!" Sure, she could have let me sleep, or woken me up with a normal "wake up!" But that wasn't her style- Eva never did normal. Even while battling cancer, she made things fun with her quirky sense of humoer. At Eva's first chemo session, she took a picture dancing with her IV pole and joked about pole-dancing.

Eva-ism #3: If you don't like it, don't do it
While at a waterpark with our family one summer, Eva, Catina, and I grabbed some lunch. I don't remember what Catina and I had, but Eva had a slice of pizza. About halfway through, she took a bite, paused, and spit it back out. She explained "the pizza was gross and it hit me; I don't have to eat it." In a world where we feel like we have to finish what we start, sometimes we need to remember that if it isn't good for us, we don't have to keep doing it.

Eva-ism #4: Health is important
I'm not sure I've ever met anyone quite so healthy. As a teenager, Eva would blot the grease off of her pizza (while we lovingly mocked her "it's too greasy!"). Eva ate fruits and veggies. She also was a gymnast, a pole-vaulter, and walked and rode her bike regularly. I also know she brushed her teeth before bed, even on those nights when she was super tired and didn't feel like it. But that was Eva. She didn't make excuses for unhealthy behavior, she made time for healthy habits.

Eva-ism #5: Challenge yourself
Most people are content with riding a bike. Not Eva. As a teenager, she decided she wanted to ride a unicycle. While visiting over Christmas break one year, she brought her brand new unicycle and started practicing. To our amazement, she was riding around my parent's house in no time. Eva always seemed to pick a unique goal and would go for it. She would take the time, put in the work, and conquer each feat while making it look easy.

See, my cousin was a pretty amazing person. She managed to fit more life, laughter, and love into her 34 years then most people could hope to put into 100 years. I don't think I can ever fully explain how extraordinary she was. The best way I can think to honor Eva's memory, is to help carry on some of her awesome spirit. I invite you to join me, and apply a few Eva-isms to your life over the next year.