Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Travel Chronicles

We are in Ethiopia and praising God we made it safely. Upon disembarkation of the plane, A took a deep inhale and said, “Hey, it smells like Ethiopia!”

Thanks for your many prayers offered on behalf of our travel. It’s 1:43 am and jet lag is in full swing.

Our trip was riddled by inconvenience, but, praise God, we stayed in fairly good humor. Our kids did amazing and we know to thank God for all the answered prayers.

Trip Chronicles: I was going to write it down for our personal memories but think it makes for a good story to share.

Our tradition has been to arrive 3 hours early at our small local airport, check our obnoxious amount of luggage and then leave and eat lunch at Chick-Fil-A and then say our final goodbyes. We get back to the airport right before our flight and it’s TRADITION. My girls love tradition.

We arrived at the airport and heard the news that our flight has been cancelled. If we waited for the next available flight on American Airlines, we would miss our international flight (the reserved bassinets) and have to wait two days before the next flight. Our we could board a United flight in one hour. 

Opting for the United flight, was a bit of a hassle as we suddenly had to pay for all of our luggage as United is not an affiliate with our international carrier, Qatar. An additional hassle (though we didn’t realize how big) …

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Let’s just say it was a big deal that instead of checking it through to our international flight, we needed to reclaim it in Chicago, and recheck it in the international terminal.

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So, instead of our lunch tradition of Chick-Fil-A and sweet goodbye, there was no time for lunch, we gave quick hugs, comforted the girls and rushed to our flight.

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We arrived to our gate and see the flight is delayed…and delayed. Everyone was in good spirits. We boarded the plane and were delayed on the tarmac. Jon and I each had a baby sleeping in our arms. They told us to disembark due to mechanical issues. we asked to stay on the plane as moving means waking sleeping babies.

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But, rules are rules so we disembarked with more tears from the girls, so unsure of this whole plan. We finally were invited to reboard for our 30 minute flight.

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We made it to domestic baggage claim in Chicago and Chicago isn’t set up for lugging six carryons and 13 pieces of checked luggage to the international terminal.

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We found a man with a very large cart who was willing to help us. He led the way to terminal 3.

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We hustled from terminal 1 to terminal 3…wait, we were supposed to be in terminal 5. We had to regroup and in looking in the door at terminal 3, saw Erica, Raquel’s sister, checking in for her international flight. We couldn’t believe it. 

It’s not possible to walk to terminal 5 and so we split up, Raquel and I took the kids on the tram while Jon went through Uber XL drivers until someone was big enough to fit in our 700 pounds of luggage.

We beat Jon to the terminal and started the check-in process, and again, we were spared so much as we beat the rush by about 15 minutes and an employee had mercy on us and started us immediately without waiting in line.

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This part of the process was probably over an hour as after our luggage was checked, Jon had to cart it on a small cart to the end of the terminal as their belt wouldn’t accommodate the tote size. Jon hauled, lifted, shuffled this luggage more than anyone should have to. Girls were sleepy, babies were crying, we were quite the show.

We made it through and then another international security, (which involved Jon and Raquel managing all the stuff and me taking the four kids through, one baby crying in each arm). I didn’t have to wait in any lines though as the security people got me through quickly. And…THEY LET US KEEP THE STROLLER. :)

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Upon finally boarding the plane of what was to be a full flight, it felt like we were on vacation. 

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We got our bassinet seating with extra leg room! We were split up around the plane but Raquel took A with her, I had Little Miss T and J while Jon sat in another bassinet section with Tiger. Once on the plane, the kids watched movies, slept, ate and the adults tried to do the same.

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We made it to Doha (which is a dream airport) and noticed both of the girls decided to wear their airline issued socks with their sandals.

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We didn’t get our own stroller back here but used airport issued ones.

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These babies did amazing and both took a nap as we moved through the airport. We boarded our last flight without hassle.

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Raquel’s hands and sweet spirit were vital to this process. I am pretty sure without her, we may still be in Chicago on the airport floor.

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(Disclaimer, if you visit us, this won’t happen to you. ;))

Upon arrival in Ethiopia,I have never seen it so chaotic. There were crushes of people stuck in the airport from an immigration issue. Jon wrestled his way to the baggage claim, Raquel had to get in a different line for a different visa and I moved tired kids through walls of people. Many travelers were sleeping on the airport floor and so moving was difficult. We flew into the domestic terminal, international is much smoother. I made a wall of luggage and used my body to keep the kids from being too overwhelmed by the masses or pressed into by the desperate ones stranded in the airport. At one point, I looked and saw Raquel’s white face and long brown hair as she shouted my name and waved at me from the other side of immigration. She made it through after an answer to the immigration officer’s question.

2 hours and 15 minutes later, our luggage hadn’t come, Raquel had her visa and the girls were wrestling on the airport floor and saying things like, “I want to go back to America!” There were no luggage carts not in use and we decided that Raquel and shouldI take the kids and carryons while Jon stayed. A taxi driver friend took us to the guest house were we set up and had the kids in bed by around 4:00 am. Jon arrived with the luggage and we went to bed around 5:00 am. I was just so thankful I wasn’t one of the moms who had to camp out on the airport floor.

And now, I don’t want to think about an international trip for at least a year. Ha!  We really did feel your prayers throughout this process, so thank you!

 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Back To The Horn of Africa

The line up of totes is almost complete. Each one can weigh up to 50 pounds and I’ve weighed, added, rearranged to get it there. Babies require so much stuff! How do we pack for two years when just going to the zoo for the day takes three bags? ;) From cloth diapers to portable cribs, homeschool books and dried fruit, it’s as ready as it is going to be. As I’ve packed, I had so many things to tell you but once again, life takes more energy than I have. As I am running around like a crazy person this morning, finishing up all the sorting, packing, giving and storing, I know the most important thing I can do is pray and ask you for prayer. (I’m also deep breathing and eating breakfast while typing ;)) 

And this is the morning. Today we get on the airplane, tonight will be spent over the ocean. God has been so gracious in leading us through these past 11 months. He has been the peace through all my anxiety, hormones and sleepless nights. He is steady throughout each move and mini-transition we’ve had. 

We have three flights, 1 hour, 14 hour, 4 hour. 

Besides safe and uneventful travel, here are a few travel-specific prayer request:

Gracious People: When we check in, it is a zoo and a really kind and understanding person helps the process. The kind of people who don’t balk if a suitcase is 50.4 pounds. 

Bumped: Our family attracts lots of stares, in the USA, where we transit in the Middle East and upon arrival in Ethiopia. Please pray when we are “bumped” and exhausted, what spills out of us is Christ, to each other and all who are in contact with us (even though I want to remind people it is rude to stare). 

Stroller: The double stroller we have was supposed to be able to take through airports. Again, the guidelines have changed and now it is destined to be checked upon arrival. We are praying we are allowed to keep it. Two babies in a stroller they can sleep in is much preferred to wearing them.

Bassinets: Speaking of two babies. On international flights, there is something called “bulkhead seating” and there is a small bassinet that can be clipped across the front of two seats if seated in this row. Since there are 7 of us flying (5 ticketed passengers, two lap infants), we have requested this seating, obviously a very sought after row. It would make the flights so much easier. 

Arrival and Luggage: When we arrive, it is at our bedtime for our second night of travel (having skipped one night of sleep already. We then wait in immigration lines, then wait at the baggage claim. Sometimes, with babies, people are escorted to the front of the line. Join us in praying our luggage arrives and we can sail by customs and everything would arrive with us intact. 

Feeding Babies: God has allowed me the privilege of breastfeeding/pumping for both babies. It is harder to do when I am stressed and/or tired. I would really like to keep them both on breastmilk as they both seem to struggle with dairy and I don’t want to try and find a formula in Ethiopia. 

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Yummi Bunni for a pre-Ethiopia treat

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Meet Raquel, the dear who has blessed us by agreeing to come along for 3.5 weeks. She will help to juggle babies, jet-lag and luggage.

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We love you all. 

Thank you all for the prayers and giving us the privilege of serving overseas. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Packing And Sorting And Babies, Oh My!

The girls are loving VBS this week. They’re asking where we will be next year at this time as they’re eyeing the 2nd grade craft and hoping they can do it, in a year. We’ve got some planners on our hands. 

Yesterday our family drove hours to a Global Enrollment Center appointment. We were only 5 minutes late (having used every minute of our 1.25 hour buffer I had planned in) and we were distracted and got stuck in a land between the US and Canada with no way to leave for 1.5 hours. Thankfully, the employees at the center were kind and had pity on our late state and six missed appointments and still got us in. I felt really organized (completely sarcastic here). We were all interviewed, photographed, fingerprinted while they were tired and a bit hungry. It made me laugh as it was only a shadow of things to come with our travel. Travel means changed plans and I was reminded this morning of the words, “remain” and “abide”.

Life has been so full and I haven’t taken the time to let God’s Word pour over me, more I’ve been reading it as a task to check off the giant list of to-dos. When I close my eyes, I see mental piles of sorting, Ethiopia, storage, give-away. My mind is running with stock up items for the next two years and the stress has been taking an effect on the way I’m treating my family, rushing them around, etc. 

This morning, I begged God for an undivided mind while I read John 15 and my heart focused on the only source of strength I have, the Father.  So thankful for God’s new mercies every day. 

Look at these cuties. 

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We had a quick trip and flying within the USA with the four was a soft practice for the international travel that is quickly coming. Every time we go through this airport, I take pictures of the kids sitting on these suitcases. This was the first shot of four kids in the picture. Oh my, melt my heart. 

I do not like asking for help. A friend and I at church were talking about being in “needy” seasons right now and our time to serve others outside of our family will come again. I know this is a busy time for everyone and here I am again, asking for help, but if someone has a little free time and wouldn’t mind something to do, I have a sign up list at this link

Friday, June 2, 2017

Go Time

The title should just be a big-eyed, straight-faced emoji. We are three weeks out from departure back to Ethiopia.

I’ve written numerous blog posts in my head in times when my mind is free but my hands are full, as I drive, as I pump, as I nurse, as I wash the dishes, none that have made it to type. I have four really cute reasons why they haven’t.

I don’t want to be silent in this space though, as I recognize how this blog has become a community of love and support for our family. We don’t want to lose that, so here’s to making commitments to more communication. 

Remember 10.5 months ago when we came back from Ethiopia for a wedding? Yeah, me too. It’s turned into a longer than anticipated time, one full of sweetness, babies, transition and some stress. As I have wrestled through the pregnancy hormones and knowledge of the unrest in Ethiopia (It has seemed to calm), I’ve struggled with significant anxiety. More on this another day but God has done great things in moving me through the worst of this but it is still something I am battling every day.  

We are thankful to be returning. The goodbye feels strange, It’s always my least favorite part, I try to ignore it and then it’s there. We’ve left before. It makes it easier in some ways, knowing the beautiful life we return to but also harder, knowing the feeling of the aching hearts and wet eyes all too well. 

Sorting through another box, deciding what to keep, what to store, what we need for the next few years and scratching my head as I just want to be free from stuff, trying to think of ways to not pack anything at all. Ha! I’ve decided in the long run, that would bring me more stress, though I aim to be a minimalist. At this point, I tend to get all business but know we want to say goodbyes well and that our kiddos need memories and stability in the midst of the chaos.

I’ve got so many pictures from the last few weekends as we’ve started to goodbye family. Here’s snagging just a few. 

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We are getting the appointments in, updating shot records, pressing forward.

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I am trying to take deep breaths and allow the kids to make memories.

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I love this picture, its taken at my in-laws, who have an immaculate house, there is so much life and mess in this room as the 14 grands descend upon it and all the adults try to chill and join the moments.

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Cousins who won’t look like this when they see each other again. 

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We enjoy the time and try to pack it full of sweetness.

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The girls’ buddies for the year, Sho, from Tajikistan and Zahra, from Indonesia, exchange students living with Chad and Christen. They love kids, which has been an amazing amount of fun. This goodbye will be hard for J and A as they won’t be in the USA when we return. 

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Pretending it’s summer for one weekend.

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Loving the smiley babies.

IMG 3934We are so thankful God has given us this season in the US.

Thanks for loving and praying us along! Now, if all is quiet for another week, feel free to remind me. 

 

 

 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Expectations Vs. Reality

Can you picture a Chinese jumprope? It’s a large, connected elastic band (picture a giant rubber band). At a pre-field training, we had an extensive lesson with these. Someone stood in the middle of multiple of Chinese jump ropes, stretched taut around their legs. Though the lesson had many facets, the one I am focusing on today is about expectations vs. reality. The further apart our expectations are from our reality, when life happens and the band gets snapped, it is really going to hurt. Anything we can do to get the two closer makes the pang “twangs” lessen.

I’m really off track for my original purpose of this post, but I’ve gone this far, so I’ll continue. 

This can make me a pessimist as I keep my expectations low so as not to have to painful of twangs. As I try to manage expectations, I can also stop dreaming, just function and many times, I am surprised by my reality as I had a different picture painted in my mind. Does that make any sense?  If it doesn’t , no problem, my initial intent was to write about Jon’s trip. 

About 1 1/2 years ago, Jon was asked to attend an SIM Int’l Consultation in Turkey. At that point, we knew nothing of Tiger and Little Miss and our whole family planned to go. Because of a coup in Turkey, it was moved to Montenegro. A country I had to google to know its location. And because of two new babies (yay!), the whole family going was not a good option as sitting in a hotel room with four cranky, jet-lagged kids isn’t really my thing. ;)

We blessed Jon and sent him, though it was sad to see him go and I was a bit panicky how everything would play out.

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And, (here’s the part where expectations and reality being close together is helpful). We are making it and beyond expectations!

Thanks to all who are praying.

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I asked him to send my pictures and his view is incredible. 

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But so is mine. 

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Yes, I now want to go to Montenegro someday.

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But for the stage we are in, I am good here. Both babies were immunized on the day after Jon left. #nanasavestheday.

My mom and Jon’s mom have been so helpful. Others have been amazing too and my expectations are far exceeded this minute as the girls are at a friends and BOTH babies are sleeping. Woohoo! 

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Someday, I want to see this place

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For now, this view is great.

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My reality is exceeding my expectations. It’s Saturday morning and he gets back Monday night. The homestretch and we are all still alive, healthy and happy. I know some of you have husbands, traveling all the time. My respect for you has gone up even more. 

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And for some of you reading who recognize at least two in this picture, Jon and Brett are rooming together. Liv, if you are reading, someday, when our 8 children are older, let’s join them, okay? ;)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

FAQ: What's Harder, Twins or Two Babies 7 Months Apart?

Before Little Miss T was born, I answered this question with a “we’ll see” and in my head I thought it wouldn’t be as hard as going from 0-2 kids.  It’s funny as other things seem glaringly obvious now. 

I hadn’t factored in the different stage of life I am in. When we brought home J and A, they came into our home and settled routines. I was a stay-at-home mom and they were my only kids. This past 8 months, we have stayed in many different beds, traveled by car and plane, moved “home base” multiple times, I am trying to manage a few things with our overseas life and J and A are homeschooled first graders. 

What is harder, twins or two babies 7 months apart?

Two babies 7 months apart is a hands down winner.

Would I change it?

Never.

I am laughing at myself and how seeing how fast times flies with the girls and the hormones, everything is so PRECIOUS. I can hardly handle Little Miss’ squishy cheeks and her little eyes looking deeply into mine and I get all melty listening to Theo babble and being on the receiving end of his kisses. I look at our oldest and have panicky thoughts of, “Oh no, they are almost grown! Where did the time go? How did they lose their teeth already?!” Each stage my kiddos are in is amazing. Sometimes problematic when they all have needs at the same time, but this is probably the definition of moms of multiple kids struggle. 

To our delight, Tiger loves his baby sis, which is incredible but also challenging as he wants to touch her, kiss her, grab her every chance afforded to him, which means a whole lot of funny and sweet but also 100% supervision. 

After looking at pictures for this post, it's tempting not to post. It’s a little too real life, sweatpants, mess everywhere, hair out of control, kids dressed in whatever is most easily accessible, but it’s the hormone thing again as even the mess is feeling precious. 

Not photographed much (because I am continually out of space on my phone. Grr) but a rockstar dad is Jon, helping with everything, in any spare minute he has.

There are countless other unsung heroes who have come alongside and we are so grateful.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

FAQ: Who Does She Look Like?

Getting our crew out the door is hilarious or panic inducing, depends on how I look at it. I have barely been out but Little Miss and I did get out (just the two of us) for her two-week check up. Afterwards, I decided to run by a quick portrait studio, thinking we could be in and out. 

Little Miss T joins her siblings in a legacy of being amazing kids but not great or deep sleepers and this day was no exception. The photographer was bored as there was no one else and she spent 1.5 hours trying to get me to put her to sleep, but there was absolutely no way Little Miss T was going to participate in that silly activity. Ha! The photographer would say, “Maybe try nursing her one more time?” and so we tried on four separate occasions, which really only made her spit up on the props. People who get their babies on a schedule astound me.

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Because it was a studio, she also was continually annoyed by the flash. 

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This sweet little bundle seems to favor her daddy’s side. We have heard multiple times that she reminds people of Jon’s dad, even from people who have only seen him in pictures. :)

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When we heard at her 18 week ultrasound it was a girl, I was shocked as I was really hoping for a boy to keep things even, now I can’t imagine anything but a bit of girlie sweetness!

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We love the little dear so much! She loves to be held and has started to stare deeply into our eyes, studying our faces for chunks of time, so glad for this gift of God.

Monday, March 27, 2017

FAQ: What Do Your First Three Think of the New Addition?

What do your first three kiddos think of the new addition?

Five days after Little Miss T’s birth, as we ate dinner, my arms full of baby and Jon’s arms full as well, A lamented, “Do you remember our family before? We used to do so many things we can’t do right now.” as A talked, I clarified, “Do you mean before Tiger joined our family, just the four of us?” “No,” she replied, “I can’t remember life without Tiger.” A few minutes after this, she commented “I can’t remember life without Little Miss T either. Ha! It had been a rough five days apparently.

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Tiger is a lover. True to his nature, he loves his baby sis. He is empathetic about getting to her and any chance he gets, he rolls/inches himself towards her to give her pats or open mouth kisses on her head. (this is all heavily supervised). Teaching a seven-month-old full contact child the concept of “gentle” proves difficult. Ha!    

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Our second set of “twins”

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Trying to keep them separate on the couch. 

The “bigs” are definitely feeling transition with another new baby but also loving on her . They are amazing kids and we have seen them adapt, adapt, adapt to so many things and they are adjusting to being a family of six. A mentioned she prefers babies, not “first born” which is her way of saying newborn and they can’t wait for her to be interactive and have a stronger neck so they can move her around a bit more.   They are so happy for a sister and say the best part is “holding her and we have two babies so we can each have one.” 

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Our first (and so far only) family of six photo. :)