Monday, January 31, 2011

ah, much better

The vast majority of my decorating choices are made primarily based on money.
I'm cheap.
To the very core of my being.
Wait. I don't like how that sounds
(and no, darling sister Kim, I'm not referring to being cheap but not easy....
and that is still better than being easy but not cheap!).

I'm frugal.
I just won't spend money on expensive stuff to make my house look a certain way.
But I really, really didn't like the rustish colored curtains that were in our family room/aquarium when we moved in.
The curtains themselves are fine, but they look really bad with the brown vomitish colored sofa. The two shades of yuck just really do nothing for each other.
It really looks quite bad.
And it is dark.
And it doesn't help that the room was quite messy when I took the pictures.
But that is a completely different issue altogether....

When I was in Maryland, we went to Ikea.
I love Ikea.
But not anymore.... because they have Ikeas in the Middle East, for pity sake, but they can't manage to bring one to South America!!
Okay, anyway, I do love Ikea, and it was very very difficult to restrain myself while there.
After all, I did only have room for two bags worth of stuff to take on the plane.
But they did have some fabric on clearance for $2/yard.

While it certainly was not what I had in mind for new curtains, it was light, cheery and cheap... so it "fit the bill", so to speak.
They do look mildly like tablecloths, but they lighten up the room considerably.
They make it much more cheery.
And they only cost $30 and about an hour and a bit of time to make.
Now that makes them even much more beautiful!

Soon I'll be painting the room, the side tables and hopefully making a nicer display for the kids' artwork.
And we'll just put up with the yucky brown couch for a few years.

birthday madness is over

We finally had Cade's birthday party.
After me feeling like poop and then being gone for a week.... it was about time.
Thankfully, the boy was patient.

The party was on Friday.
It was a family party - which I prefer and so did he.
Love it when it works out like that: When your kids actually have the same preferences that you do.

He wanted a Pirate Wii party - and I wanted a low key party...
it worked out fine.

Now I have no idea if there is a Wii pirate game, but he just wanted to play Mario Karts but have a pirate ship cake. So that is what we did.
Somehow he also managed to convince his eldest sister to dress up like a "she-pirate".
This is what he believes a she-pirate looks like:

She is missing an eye-patch, which is naturally an integral part of being a she-pirate.
They did attempt to make some but they didn't turn out so well.
I was rather thankful that they didn't ask me to make some - I was just too plain ol' lazy to bother, and they we having a good time trying.

Maddy also too charge of making a banner "Ahoy Mateys" (I have no idea if that is spelled right, but she seemed to think so) and a map. She did quite a delightful job, yes?

I hung some burlap up, wrapped some around the birthday boy chair, and called it done!
Cade made his own pirate hat, eye patch (the one he attempted.... and was successful for a few minutes), and hook.

The cake was about the only effort that I put in, and even (don't tell Cade this) that was pretty much a slacker job on my part.
- I think this whole having-a-birthday-after-Christmas-when-I-have-already-crashed-from-the-flurry-of-activity just doesn't agree with me. By the time his birthday rolls around, I'm kind of done for a while. It is a huge blessing that he is pretty satisfied with mediocre... Does that make me a bad mom? -

Okay, so the cake.
It turned out cute, but before I put on the sails it looked down right pathetic.
One sloppy job!

And fortunately I made the sails two weeks earlier when the original party was supposed to be.
I found toffee flavored shoe string/lace (whatever) candy at Ikea in MD, so it added a cuteness factor - looking like ropes.
I stuck the candles in the "canons" on the sides of the ship.
I thought that might be better than burning the sails, and therefore the cake, down.

He managed to blow all the candles out, and I managed to only get 5 wax drops on the not-mine-table. Hmm.... yup, I thought about the 5 cent paper sails but didn't think about the $700 solid wood table.
Smart, Carla.
Really smart.

Cade was quite delighted with all of his gifts.
Cap'n Crunch Cereal and kinder eggs....
(brilliant gift!)

Nerf gun.... He loves those!

As well as Pirate swords (he got two - good thing as it is very difficult to have a fight with just one.... we, the entire family, have all had a chance to dual the pirate) and an eye patch (worn all day Saturday and Sunday.... and would have today if he didn't have school), frisbee disk thing - very cool and flies far, and a cool little disk throwing thingy that I can't really describe any better than that unless I write a whole long paragraph and I don't want to so I'll leave it at that especially considering how annoying run-on sentences can be.

And then came Wii.
All the kids were at it for the first four minutes or so, and then one of them had the brilliant idea of playing tag outside instead (this may be the one time I use the word brilliant in a serious, non-sarcastic way.... don't get used to it.).
Love that they played outside instead.
But there was a little competition between two female adults, one teenaged guy and the birthday boy.
I'm happy to say that the birthday boy kicked their booties (that is a much more piratey way of saying butts...).

So now the almost three week long celebration of Cade's 8th birthday has come to a close.

Problem is, we are going on a month and a half with Maddy's....
We are finally having her party on Saturday.
And she doesn't do low key.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

peanut butter is a liquid

In case you ever doubted...
or in case you never thought it could be....
it is.
Yes, peanut butter is a liquid.
Or at least according to TSA it is.

Now that I know, it sort of makes sense, but I just really didn't think they would have confiscated my three large jars of peanut butter that I had in my carry-on.
I thought I was so smart - putting it in my carry-on so that it wouldn't take up so much weight in my other bags.... trying to get as much stuff down here as possible.
But now I am completely without.

I am truly a disappointment to my family.

Other than that, my trip to Maryland was fabulous.
Simply fabulous.
And I am about to take you through my journey, to some degree.
Just a warning, however: My brain is somewhat altered and I feel like I may not end up making much sense.... so bear with me.

The flight there was great.
So beautiful.
This is Ecuador - shortly after take off and just outside of Quito.
I'm really not exactly sure where this was, but it almost took my breath away.
The colors of the ocean were incredible.
On the second flight, from Miami to D.C., we had some more amazing views.
The moon started coming up.
And the sun starting going down.
It was a full moon.
Huge, bright and absolutely incredible.
I think that American Airlines should buy some pictures from me.

Forget it. They couldn't afford me.
(Okay, they aren't that good....)

In the Miami airport, I had my first sighting...
I had to stop by four places to find it, but there it was, in the fifth place, in all its shining glory:
Diet Dr. Pepper.
And a chorus of angels sang.
I bought a piece of pizza and cracked that baby open.
It was good.
Very good.
And it better have been....
just look at the close up of the receipt.
That was one expensive soda!

The purpose of the trip was shopping and visiting, and that was exactly what we did.
Lots of good talks, lots of good laughs and time to kick back together.
Julie also spent a lot of time carting me around to different stores, slowly checking everything off my long list.
I spent a very long time in Target.
It wasn't all fun, though, I must say.
I found the shopping very hard.
It was great, it was fun, it was so nice to get some things that we have been wanting for a while, but it was hard.

Julie and I did our own shopping, but at one point she found me...
and found me having a little break down.

I was completely overwhelmed.

There is so much in the US.
So much stuff. So much variety. So much of everything.
You could spend so much money and never be satisfied.

I kept thinking how much good could be done with all of this stuff in many parts of the country, here in Ecuador, where they don't have much.
I was overwhelmed with wanting to buy so many things that I could bring back here and give to people. Money goes a lot farther in the US, and there is so much that is available for so little. Just check out the clearance racks at Target, Old Navy or other's incredible!
I so desperately wanted to buy loads and loads of stuff, for incredible deals, and bring it all back... but I couldn't. And it broke my heart.
(And it broke my heart that we, as North Americans, take it so for granted.
And as soon as we head back out to Target the next time, we see more stuff, and want that stuff too...)
And I was completely overwhelmed again.

Because I am like that, and I don't want to be.

Here I was, thinking about all the good that I could do with all of these things, but then in the very next thought, all I could think about was how much stuff I wanted for myself.
And then I started crying all over again.

I don't want to want stuff.
I want so much to be free of that.
And as much as I loved being able to shop in Target that day (and other stores as well), I am, at least for the time being, so glad not to be near it.
The more I expose myself to all that stuff, the more stuff I want.

So I have an idea for anyone who wants to not want stuff so much...
Don't go near it.
Stay away from the stores.
Don't go in them.
If you see it - you'll want it, so don't let yourself see it.

I get that it isn't easy. Even though I don't see it all the time, I still want stuff. But it sure hits a lot stronger where you surround yourself with it.

In some ways, maybe bringing all sorts of things for the poor here wouldn't be a blessing.
Maybe it would be more of a curse.
Because, perhaps, I would only be introducing the desire for more.
Perhaps they would become dissatisfied with the little that they have and become jealous, envious and have ungrateful hearts. Perhaps they would only become entangled in it and have more to distract them from enjoying the simple pleasures that God has blessed them with.
Perhaps less is more of a blessing than more.

Remember the movie "The gods must be crazy"?
I think there was a well thought out point there.

So Target? Old Navy? TJMaxx? and all sorts of other stores....?
I'll be just fine without you for quite some time now.

(I wonder how many times I used the word "stuff".... a whole lot.)

One brief, but delightful blessing was this:
A bath.
Ah.... that felt good.
I almost wished that I felt sick with a cold or something, so that I could have enjoyed it all the more.
You may notice that there were a lot of bubbles.
A lot.
Julie poured some bubbles in for me and then introduced me to the jets in her tub. Her and Drew told me that the jets would make more bubbles.... I had no idea how many more.
There was a point where I literally could not see the faucet anymore. So I decided I had better turn off the jets. The bubbles ended up being close to 18 inches higher than the edge of the tub!
But oh, it was good!

And then the food, of course.
No, we didn't have Favela's or Buckhorn.
But we did have Chipotle.
And plenty of other yummy food.
I'm guessing I gained 5 lbs in 5 days.
But oh, it was good!
(side thought.... a scary one: So if I am in North America for over 60 days this summer does that mean I gain over 60 lbs?)

We spent Sunday in D.C.
We ate at the aforementioned Chipotle, drove by several sights (had already seen most of them, so we didn't take the time to do it again), and spent the afternoon in the Museum of American History. It is a great museum with lots of great things to see.
Old Glory
Ruby slippers
(they were a little dull for our taste.... they needed a nice bright light on them so they would sparkle. But I guess that wouldn't preserve them very well).
Julie Child's kitchen.
Archie Bunker's chair.
And a cool area chronicling the life and history of a house.
Who lived in it when, what they were like, what life was like during those times..... all that good stuff. The picture above is of Drew, Julie and the girls looking at how they did laundry "back in the day". Drew was checking to see if he could measure up to the laundress skills of the ladies back then.
Ummm, no, he couldn't.

We had dinner at some restaurant - don't remember the name, but it had the best hot dog I have ever, ever tasted in my life.
I never knew a hot dog could be that good.
A hot dog = a thing of beauty.
And, we even got lollipops after.
Now that is a good restaurant.

After a good day in D.C., we decided to take on some pie-making lessons.
Julie and the girls wanted to learn how to make pie.
I was happy to oblige.... especially considering that we got to eat the lesson.
Looking pretty good so far.
And Julie was a great pincher.
Drew, Julie and I each had a small piece of pie that evening after the girls were in bed.... it got a little late for them to have any that evening.
The next morning, I got up, went to take a shower and when I returned to the kitchen the entire remaining 3/4 of the pie was no longer remaining.
All Gone.
The twins apparently like pie as much as I do.
Girls after my own heart (and/or stomach).
Well, perhaps that saved another pound.....

The final activity for the trip was one in which you get uglier in order to get prettier:
Julie put highlights in my hair and did her roots.

I should really put a before and after picture on here, but I haven't taken an after.
I think it looks great - she did a fabulous job.
But she thought it was too subtle.
She may be right since no one noticed here.
But I think it is perfect.

Flying back home was pretty uneventful.
Except for the loss of the peanut butter.

When I arrived in Miami, I was gently eased back into the Spanish - as I think there is almost as much Spanish spoken there as there is in Ecuador!
I was pretty anxious to get on with the traveling - I really missed Eric and the kids - so I was glad for a short stop in Miami.
When we landed in Quito, I was very unprepared for what I felt.
My heart sank.
I was so sad.
Of course, I was elated to be back with my family. I really am not a fan of being apart from them for so long.
But when we landed, I instantly felt depressed.
It hit me that once again, I would be constricted by language issues.
I would once again be constrained by my lack of ability to get around.
And I would again be without a friend to really talk to
(that part is coming - slowly, but it is coming).

These feelings completely took me off guard.
While they were all things that I have felt, I have been very happy to be here. I know this is where we are supposed to be, and I have been thrilled to be here. It has been a blessing and a privilege.
But for some reason, it all hit me hard and I am now left with a lot of sadness.

It has been two days, and yes, it is already better. But I feel slightly changed. I feel like God is going to have to help get me going again. The blessing is, however, that even though some of the "happiness" is gone, His joy is still with me, and I still know that this is where we need to be. There is joy in knowing that you are in God's will.
The reality is still that I don't want to be anywhere else, but being here has just become a little more difficult.

With God, and only with Him, I am up for the challenge.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

home and away

In about 21 hours, I will be in Maryland!
I am so super excited.
I get to see snow.
(praying for a blizzard....)
I get to eat Cherry Garcia and maybe even a burrito.
I get to drink Diet Dr. Pepper.
I get to watch some "real" TV.
I get to shop at Target.
And Michael's
(or some other craft store that is larger than 8 x 9 ft)
And Trader Joes.
And maybe even TJMaxx.
And, the best part:
I get to laugh, cry (what good would a visit be without some heart-to-heart talks?), talk, craft, and just hang out with some of the most fun, giving, deeply spiritual, creative, enjoyable people that I know.

There is just one problem.
My family.

Now, when the kids were little itty-bitty things, I, for some reason, found it easier to leave. I missed them and all, and I missed my husband, of course. But it just was easier.
Now, however, I find leaving very difficult.
I love them.
I miss them.
I want to be with them.

Mia asked me tonight why I had to go.
I said, "Well, I don't have to. I really want to go. But I also really want to stay here. But since I am usually here, I'll just go for a little while."
That seemed to satisfy her somewhat.

Many times there is way too much yelling, impatience and selfishness in the house (all too often on my part). I really want to get away from it. It drives me batty. And it does me good to get away from it. It is a good break.
But it is still home.

They, the kids and Eric, are all a part of me.
I am a part of them.
It just doesn't feel right when those parts aren't together - separation, for too long, isn't right. It is painful. I love them way, way, way too much.

I think it's like that with God. With Heaven.
No matter how good life is - even if I know that He is with me here on this earth, we aren't together.
Something is missing and always will, until we get to heaven.
I believe God made us, whether we acknowledge it or not, to always feel unsettled here. To always long for something more. Usually we think that "something more" is stuff, money, relationships with people, and all of those other things - things that can be good and fine.
But what we are really longing for is HOME.
To be with Christ.
Something will always be lacking until we are Home.

I'm so excited to go away.
But I will be so excited to come home.
Its where I belong.
Its where I am meant to be.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

fancy scarf from a pair of old longjohns

Casa G.
(for anyone who is staring blankly at that....
it is the boys home we work with - former street guys)
has had a lot of clothes donated throughout the years.
While the donations are greatly needed and appreciated, there is a lot of junk that comes too.
Or some stuff that just wouldn't be used.
Like long johns, for example.
- also known as long-underwear -
for those who may not have grown up in Canada and called them by their proper name.

It can get a little cool here, but nothing like the weather needed for long johns.

I can honestly say that I have never salivated nor lusted after a pair of long johns -
until now.
As soon as I saw them, we connected, those long johns and I.
They were yelling at me "please make me into a beautiful scarf".
Don't laugh - I heard them.
You weren't there.

I didn't take a picture of them as they were - they were too embarrassed by their forlorn state.
But they were a beautiful off-white, very soft and knew they could become something.
This is what they became.
To be clear - I cut out the crotch immediately.

I told my newly teenaged daughter that - after she thought it was totally gross and disgusting that I was wrapping someone's old long undergarments around my neck.

She thought it was even more disgusting when I said "crotch".

I used the legs - sewing them into two tubes, then connected the tubes and finished the ends. With the extra strips (yes, from the legs - not the horrible crotch), I made ruffles and flowers. Those I glued on with liquid stitch and then add a few stitches to secure the flowers.
Eric said I "embellished the heck out of it".
Is that a compliment or and insult?
Not really sure at this point.

The big question is - will I wear it?
And the answer?
Oh yah! - cause I'm going to Maryland* in three days, baby!!!
North America - here I come!
And other than getting to see my darling friend Julie,
I get to
go to Target
eat Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia
and best of all
have a Diet Dr. Pepper each and every day that I am there!

*This is my Christmas, Birthday, Valentine's, Anniversary, St. Patrick's Day, Ground Hog day - and whatever else you can think of - gift from Eric. He told me he was sending me on a "supply run". I didn't get it at first. But I will be stocking up with many supplies such as peanut butter, taco seasoning, baking soda and about 3 bajillion other things while I am there (did you know, according to the rules of the English language, if you add "illion" on the end of any word, it becomes a real word to indicate a really high number.... just in case you didn't know).
And just so you don't worry, we are still being frugal missionaries. I'm flying on air miles that would end up being more expensive to use if we tried to use them to fly home together on furlough this summer. Just want to be clear...

soccer skills

Not mine, that is.
If you know me - you already knew that I wasn't talking about me.

I was, however, talking about my daughter.
My own flesh and blood.
She came from my loins and she has athletic ability.
There is a God....
that is proof.

I'm trying not to live my athletic desires vicariously through her.
It's not easy.

She had a game on Friday (the third game last week!!).
It was at another American International school called Cotopaxi.
Nice school.
Very nice.

Getting ready to go in...
After her coach let go of her neck, she rubbed it.
Apparently he doesn't realize that he is a large man, and his paw is rather heavy (or tight) on a girls neck....

The assistant coach is a little more gentle
(and smaller).
And out she goes.
Notice the size difference here?
Maddy was likely the smallest one out on the field.

Three of the guys came with us to watch.
That was pretty cool.... they've watched some of her home games as well.
And they also played with the kids.

Now for some more of the game.
We'll just let some of these awesome action shots speak for themselves.
(actually I'm just saying that since I am clueless about the sport -
well, okay, not totally clueless...
they kick a puck and try to get it into the hoop)

Look at that aggression and focus on her face:
I think we need a close up of that:
Look at the determination,
the passion,
the insatiable quest for victory....

I suppose I'm not really letting the pictures speak for themselves.

I like what I say better.

The coach from the other team kept yelling things like
"You guys are leaving number 15 open!! She's fast!"
That's my girl.
Or, Eric's girl..... as the case may be.

(Just an interesting side note:
She has the same number that Eric always had for water polo - #15.
Well, at least I think it's cool.)

They lost.
But what great sportsmen like losers....
That's okay - they won one of their games this week.
And there was much rejoicing.
Way to go Spartans!

Completely unrelated....
I saw these two phone booths at the gas station we stopped at on the way home.
I just thought they looked so cool.
The colors, the texture of the wall behind them....
Once again, Eric probably things I'm nuts.
But I probably will blow it up and frame it anyway.
I like it.

a bit more birthday

Sick again.
But I guess its no surprise.... seems to be my thing as of late.

Due to this illness (and that of Maddy) we had to postpone Cade's party.
He was not impressed. But I'll try to make it up to him.

Today, however, was the Casa G. celebration.
It was also one of the boy's birthdays too.

We always have a time of saying things we appreciate about the birthday person.
Many of the guys mentioned Cade's mad breakdancing skill.....
Not exactly about his person, but he seemed please.
We were cracking up - as each time someone said something, he got this big grin but then sort of rolled his eyes.

He seemed a little unsure of how to react, but it was darn cute!

I thought I wouldn't interrupt the moment with photos, but next, we all gather around the birthday people and pray for them.
It is a sweet time.
It was also a hard time, as praying for the boys and their personal situations can be very hard and emotional.
William has a tough story.
There were tears.

Then, of course, gifts are on the agenda.
Cade got some treats, a key chain and one of those book thingies where you collect all of the state's quarters. He wasn't jumping up and down about it, but I know that he will love hunting for those quarters.

Quinn, the daughter from one of the families that joins us each Sunday, also had special gift to share with everyone.
Cute, huh?

Want a closer look?
Even cuter up close, yes?

And then cake.
Not exactly the nicest transition after the above, but hey.... we did it in real life, you can do it on a blog.
So yes, cake.
And I didn't make it!!
William turned 17,
Cade turned 8,
1 plus 7 equals 8.
Perfect candles.

We should probably end with just one more picture, right?
I hope you aren't reading this just before dinner.
Although, I guess in some places, this could be dinner.

What a happy thought.

Friday, January 14, 2011

birthday boy - 8 years old!

He's eight.
That is a tough one to believe.
Especially considering most of his clothes are 5T.
(he is outgrowing some of them...)
What a peanut.

So the boy's birthday is being stretched out over five days.
Lucky duck.

His actual birthday, yesterday, was Thursday.
That means Casa G. boys over for dinner.
He wanted pancakes for dinner.
Casa G. and pancakes for dinner don't mix.
So, we had pancakes for dinner on Wednesday.
Green pancakes.
No, it wasn't St. Patrick's day.
It's what the boy wanted.

Now back a few days ago, when I was questioning Cade about what kind of cake he wanted, and all that rot, he gave me quite the answer:

"For my class I want a hamburger cake. Then when the Casa G. boys are over I want a cannon ball cake. For my party (saturday), I want a pirate ship cake and on Sunday at Casa G. I want..."
(mom interrupts)
"Woa dude! No no no no!
I love you but I am not making four fancy cakes.
Only two."
(pathetic look from son)
"Okay (he says begrudgingly).
Fine (he says with a pout).
I'll have a hamburger cake for school and a pirate ship cake for my party (he says like he's fish just died)."

So, hamburger cake for school:

Eric thought I put a real huge hamburger patty in between the cake.
I must say, it did look very real.
I just mushed up cake scraps (baked a 9 x 13, cut two circles for the bun, and the rest are the said scraps) with some cream cheese. Then I formed it just like you would a regular hamburger patty - only a lot bigger.
The relish is chopped up green gumdrops, onions are sliced "clear" gumdrops, the ketchup is strawberry jam and the mustard - yellow icing (I added a little bit of cocoa powder to it so it wasn't so bright, plain yellow.... it turned out to look much, much more like mustard!)

I couldn't go because of a meeting, but Eric brought the cake in to the school and said everyone went crazy over it.
Cade busted out with "I told my mom to make that!"... give credit where credit is due!

Then in the p.m., with Casa G., we had real hamburgers for dinner and plain ol' simple cupcakes made with the left over icing from the hamburger cake.
There were no moans or groans about it either.

The cupcakes are a little deformed from being in the freezer!
They were left over from when I made the snowman ones.
Love it when there is less work to do because it is already done.

We all had a great evening.
Except maybe Carlos:
I didn't include the close-up Eric took of his cut lip.
A Wii injury.

We've discovered that our aquarium is a little too small for playing Wii with four or five (or 10) extra rowdy guys.
Ricardo was playing, got so into it that he smashed Carlos in the mouth with the Wii remote.

Oh, and by the way,
at least someone likes my hat.
Happy Birthday K-dog!
We love you.

I linked the cake to thirty handmade days.