VBS, a Beach and 2 Birds

A week of firsts for this family…and some shocking revelations because of them.

The kids attended their first Vacation Bible School. It was plain ole awesome with songs like “Nothing But the Blood” and a series of skits that presented the Gospel. The week of VBS made me realize a few things. There is no way I am capable of sending the kids to public school right now. Literally, I can’t do it. We were supposed to be in the van ready to leave almost 2 hours from the time I let them out of their rooms. Yes, they are caged animals. However, there was no time for memory work at breakfast or snuggling up to read between lunch and naps. We barely had time for the essentials: eating, getting dressed, brushing teeth, and cleaning up to my specifications, which includes sweeping all non-carpeted areas after breakfast. I have a problem, I know. I would seek help, but this is me with help from more than one professional.

Another thing I didn’t have time for was just seeing the kids. Crazy, I know. But I missed them. Not a lot. Gosh, no! But, yes, missed them. I mean, they spend 98% of their waking time with me. And, somehow being rushed through the morning meant we were rushed through the evening. Instead of having the entire morning to vie for my attention, they were left with those few moments from nap to dinner and dinner to bedtime.

VBS for them was supposed to mean glorious free time for me. Oh, and the learning about Jesus part. Yes, let’s not forget about that. But, I was looking forward to two and a half hours a day of nearly guilt-free freedom for 4 days. Keith called it my half-days off. Someone, slap him. Please. However, real life full of its responsibilities stomped all over my plans, and I spent that coveted free time getting groceries, taking the van to get fixed, and getting a rental.

I want to spend time with my kids, but I desperately need the occasional stretch of time for just me. Free time that does not entail grocery getting, meal planning, cooking, cleaning, laundrying, etc. Is that so selfish? Yes? Well, I still want it.

It comes down to the fact that the stage I’m in is just a season. A very short one. I have to keep telling myself that. I’m going to be dreaming about these days gone for much longer than the actual struggles of them are lasting. I count myself as one of the lucky gals who gets to stay home with her animals…um, I mean children.

Another first for the kids was a boat ride with two of their favorite men: Daddy and Mr. Chris. During this lake trip, two things occurred to me. 1) Our kids are going to miss our friends as much as we are. I’ll say no more on that sadness because I’m sure Megan is crying at the mere mention of it. 2) It doesn’t take anything fancy to entertain kids. A boat with maximum capacity of 2-3 adults on a lake that is technically a pond with a somewhat grassy beach not more than a hundred feet wide. But…it was awesome! And, I finally got some of that free time I’d been longing for.

A first for me, but not something I’m looking forward to making a habit of was deboning 2 whole chickens. Thanks to my farming, homeschooling, amazing friend Keri for that inspiration. Not just removing the meat either. I separated those dead birds into 3 piles: the edible meat (although not all of it looked edible…yuck), the bones, and the rest of the carcass, which included skin, fat, white pieces that were hard enough to be bones but not quite the right bone color plus a disgusting bag of who knows what that basically slid out of each bird’s crotch as I yanked on its flimsy leg. If you are about to vomit over this revolting image, you are not alone.

Who am I kidding? I have to admit that I did it all through thick rubber gloves…my saving grace on most days. Still, what has become of me? I use tongs to transfer the already processed “boneless, skinless chicken breast” from the bag to the pot for crying out loud! Oh, but, I finished the nasty deed by tossing those dry bones back into the pot and cooking them far beyond death to get that yummy, stinky, healthy, greasy, versatile stock. At first I thought it was a flop as it turned out gelatinous instead of liquid, but after using it all week it has been a space saver in the frig and is easy enough to dilute as I use it. And, meals have been easy breezy. Finally, something that’s easy. Totally worth it.

I think I’m ready to take on a chicken in Ethiopia. No? Make that a dead chicken. Okay, not quite yet. But I’m getting there.

Here's a handful of pictures to tide you over since I'm not getting on here too often.

Keith and I went to Hilton Head for a long weekend thanks to some of our best friends who invited us to their house there and other best friends who kept all 3 kids for us.
The kids couldn't understand why I wasn't excited about my birthday. It's just going to get more depressing. But, Keith ordered a cookie cake with what else but an angel.
When Keith gave piggy back rides one evening, they all jumped on at once.
Can you see everyone?
If Daddy can do it, Garrison thinks he can do it. Avery and Ivan slid right off when he stood up. Great effort though. And, very cute.
The boys awkwardly pose with our friend Jane. I missed their horse ride or you'd see those pictures here.
Avery rode the horse last with Mr. Tim, who said "she is a natural on a horse." When I asked her about it later, she wanted to make it very clear that she didn't like horses, just riding them.

The next post is supposed to be Part 2 of "The Story." Do you like how I said "supposed to be"?


The Story, Part 1…the aligning of our hearts despite the lack of relevant conversation

Several years ago (early 2008) Keith said the most frightening words I have ever heard him utter. Out of the blue. “If you ever feel like God is leading you to move to another country or into foreign missions, I need you to tell me.”

I believe my exact words were, (very long pause while I took a few needed deep breaths to settle my racing heart and regain control of my bladder) “O…….K…….”

Before I could get anything intelligible from my lips, and seeing the questions building in my eyes, he cut me off, “That’s it. I just need you tell me. Okay?”

End. Of. Discussion.

Why didn’t we discuss the issue further? I mean, this is a huge topic! It’s on the same level as, “Honey, if you ever want to discuss the logistics of an open marriage, I need you to let me know.”

Shocked to my core. That’s why. I’d be more inclined to discuss the open marriage because it’s something I’m sure I could talk him out of. I know how to negotiate. But moving to and serving in an impoverished country? The battle would be lost before it began. That’s right up Keith’s alley with that enormous soft, squishy heart that first drew me to him.

Of course I didn’t want to discuss that possibility!!!

It was maybe 6 months later we started talking about adoption again and another 6 months before we took those first steps (January 2009). And, you know God eventually led us to Ethiopia, although He revealed it to Keith first. In the end, I was being beaten over the head with Ethiopia. Not by Keith. No, he is the most patient person I’ve ever met.

Skip ahead 2 years to our first trip to Ethiopia. To meet the boys, appear in court and be declared their parents. With the exception of my very serious near death experience and the fact that I felt famished at the end of each day, it was a great week. Really. I’m totally not just saying that because I want you to come visit us.

Maybe we don’t completely skip over the 3 years from the time Keith posed that terrifying idea, circa early 2008, to that first week in the horn of Africa February 2011. Those were crucial years during which God was doing some major work in my heart. Enough that it needed its own construction site. Well, I tried to fight it tooth and nail: picket lines, a strike.

However, it’s difficult to ignore what you read, especially in the Bible, and what God is opening your eyes to all around you. Sometimes I refused to read…or I would read just for the sake of reading but did so with my mind, ears and heart nailed shut preparing for the hurricane that would destroy my very tiny world.

Oh, I didn’t breathe a word of my thoughts and feelings to my beloved. We could have discussed it. But I have a feeling that discussion would have ended in a packing party.

Back to 2011 after that first trip. I couldn’t get Ethiopia out of my mind, even with preparing to go back for the boys. I felt strangely homesick, or like I left a whopping chunk of my heart there.

A few weeks after returning, I couldn’t keep it in any longer. Keith and I were getting into bed later than usual, like after 11. We are NEVER up that late. Typically, a late night for us means 9:01. Keith was too exhausted and nearly asleep the moment he fell into bed (because he insanely gets up at 4:40 on weekdays…by choice), so I knew chances for any conversation were slim. Perfect timing.

That’s when I confessed. “Honey, I have something to tell you,” as if it were my deepest darkest secret. He just groaned, so I continued. “I kind of want to move to Ethiopia.” (long pause while he gathered his thoughts) “I’m not saying I want to move now, or even 6 months or a year from now. I just really think that’s where our family will be living at some point. There. I said it. Good night.”

If you haven’t experienced Keith when he’s sleepy, sick, overwhelmed, or just that “time of the month,” one word describes him: PMS. I do realize that is not one word. However, he could be diagnosed with PMDD, the acute PMS that, if left untreated, causes you to eat your spouse and give your children to strangers.

Pause. Yes, men have cycles too, minus the whole egg production part of it. Keith’s BFF and I have been tracking Keith’s for years without discrepancy.

In his crabby PMS state, he responded, “What am I supposed to do with that information right now?” Followed by silence.

Yep. Then we went to sleep.

I know what you’re thinking. We are excellent communicators. We should be co-teaching a couples’ communication class. Or, writing a book titled Marital Bliss via the Art of Quality Conversations.

What happened over the next few weeks and months? Obviously we didn’t talk about it. Another life-altering discussion that we avoided at all costs. Keith began sending me emails, more than the usual. That’s how information is disseminated between the two of us, although there are times when he forgets to cc me on the Gospel Community (church home group) email because I live in the same house and should receive any vital news through osmosis. The emails I started receiving contained very little of his own thoughts, just oodles and oodles of research apparently trying to prove that living in Ethiopia was impossible. The cost of living is outrageous. Limited rights for non-citizens. American schools more expensive than private schools here. The language too difficult to learn. The government unpredictable. Transportation. Visas. Lack of consistent protein and dairy sources.

The emails stopped when we brought the boys home. Maybe Keith thought a second week in Ethiopia would do the convincing for him.

However, it didn’t take long for Ethiopia to gnaw at him like it had me. Apparently he couldn’t get it out of his mind either. Meanwhile, neither of us was talking about it. Then one evening after the kids had gone to bed, Keith said, referring to Ethiopia while avoiding the taboo word, “Well, before we even consider the idea, we need to make sure it’s legal.” We had signed a jillion plus papers during the adoption process…didn’t matter what it said…we just signed. There could have been giant neon print saying, “I agree never to move with my adopted child back to his/her country of origination.” So, we sat and together composed an email to our main contact at the adoption agency who told us not only is it legal but other families have done it. Proving to ourselves, if no one else, that we are not weirdoes for wanting to move our entire family to the dust bowl that is Ethiopia. So there. We are practically normal.

That brings us up to last summer, June 2011.