Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Family Updates: Sept, Oct, & Nov 2011

We added 3 photo albums to our Photo Gallery. Click on the photos at the right to view them.

September concluded with Caleb’s Lego Mindstorm arriving in the mail. He was so excited as he unwrapped each separate component in the package. He wanted to jump right to the hardest robot in the instructions manual, the cool one on the cover. But of course, he is just like me, and decided to start at the beginning of the manual and work his way through. Which I know is smart and sensible and right and what I would do, but sometimes I want to see Caleb be more childlike and impulsive. Sometimes we’re both too logical and practical. We have to work a little harder for whimsy. We loaded the software on the computer. Caleb assembled the basic robot setup. He learned the beginnings of programming on the software. He hooked up his robot to the computer and sent along the program he wrote into the robot. And voila! His robot can move, and talk, and even sing! So cool! He loves it and he has so much more to try and learn!

We had a fun evening celebrated Jude Rusch’s birthday pirate style. We had a great time and enjoyed time getting to know our neighbors more and more. I especially enjoyed chatting with Lena, Jake Hamiter’s wife.

October was great. Fall weather came suddenly and reprieved us of the horrible heat wave. I finally got to enjoy sitting outside on the porch with my toasty coffee in the morning. It wasn’t too long until it was too cold for that, but I’m really enjoying this area now that it’s crisp and refreshing. There is still a burn ban in effect because of the drought & heat wave summer brought, but I look forward to enjoying evenings outdoors by a fire once that burn ban is lifted.

One night Jon & I went out on a date. We found a new wine bar in the historic downtown area of Bryan. It was calm, spacious, and very suited to relaxed conversations. We talked for hours. We discussed how a big part of why we’re here in Texas is because God is taking Jon through the process of learning how to desire/want and to do something about it. Jon’s 2 years of college credits won’t transfer to Texas because after 10 years they expire here in Texas. Jon doesn’t want to repeat 2 years of general education. I feel like God was leading us to the conclusion that God is going to honor that desire. We began rethinking our original plan of Jon doing the traditional 4 year college thing. We began discussing what Jon enjoys and wants. We came up with a modified plan that is a much looser plan, but it gives a lot of room for God to do His thing. We’re slowing down our pace and going to take one thing at a time. We’re first going to focus on fixing up the little house to rent. We haven’t had the funds to fix up the bathroom in the little house and make it livable. So that’s first on the agenda. Then, once the little house is rented, we’re going to work on fixing up our house to make it cozy for us. We need the rent money from renting the little house to help us pay for fixing up our house. Then Jon will likely take classes to get his pilot’s license. He’ll enjoy that and it will increase his skill set and make him more employable in whatever career he ends up pursuing. He may possibly take classes to get a boating/captain’s license too. We are praying that God puts people in Jon’s path, and opens up doors in unusual ways, to get Jon’s foot in the door for some type of job that will lead to a career that will provide stability and retirement possibilities for our family, but that will also enliven Jon. We’re hoping that he will only have to take relevant classes at the university and that maybe he can work his way up in the job world. For now though, Jon is really enjoying working for Ron Rusch’s cabinet shop. He doesn’t have all the self-employed pressures any longer and he loves it. We really have no idea what’s going to happen, but know that God put us here and is leading us. God will open up the right doors at the right time. We’re following His leadings and we’re having a good time while we’re doing it.

We celebrated Halloween by going to a Harvest Festival with the Rusch Family. Ben dressed up as a leopard. I’m so happy he got to wear the costume Aunt Laura made for her kids 25ish years ago. Caleb didn’t want to wear a costume he’d worn before, so he mixed it up and wore a little of this and a little of that. He called himself “Captain Random” and he ended up winning the costume contest for his age group at the Harvest Festival.

November started with Jon’s drive out to CA for his friend Curby’s wedding. Jon made arrangements with his boss to buy some of Jon’s machinery that had been left in CA. This funded Jon’s trip and allowed him to also retrieve his table saw, band saw, and a few other things we thought we had to abandon in our move to Texas! I’m so thankful and see the Lord’s hand in working this all out. It was a hard trip on Jon though. He did a straight through drive both ways by himself. His back went out the day before he left and he had to endure the drive and the days loading the machinery in terrible pain. All that he put his back through on the trip greatly increased the damage to his back/sciatica problem and he ended up missing a lot of work once he was home. He’s visited a chiropractor a couple times, used his inversion table, and spent countless hours stretching. After a month of unending pain, we bought him a memory foam mattress topper and contoured memory foam pillow. Now he is able to get some sleep at night and with everything together, his back is back to normal and his sciatica pain is very slowly improving.

At that same time, we had a visit from Anna & Roland Peterson and their two kids Eli & Lila. Anna is one of my dear friends from college. They’ve been living in Colorado Springs for the last few years and have been preparing to move their family to Tanzania to work with Wycliffe as anthropologists. They leave the beginning of January. I love that they made the effort to come see us and our new Texas life before they left. It will be at least 3 years until they get a furlough back in the United States. I cherish my time with Anna and love getting to catch up with her. I love that our families got to have so much time together. It’s a rare thing. We even got to celebrate Eli’s 7th birthday while they were visiting. And what great timing for their visit; Anna was such a help to me while Jon was at the peak of his pain and unable to move much. The kids all played and kept each other busy having fun. It worked out so well. Since Jon wasn’t able to, Roland even drove me to the airport for my trip to California to watch my dear friend Becky Fulford become Becky Kapanka. Then they moved on to visit some of their family in Dallas. Their family watched their kids and then they got to fly out to California too, sans kids, for Becky’s wedding. It was so funny to have our families together in Texas and then a week later to be visiting in California with no kids.

Roland dropped me off at the Austin airport. And then I was all alone. I didn’t have to multi-task. I was left with my own thoughts. It was blissful and bizarre! Times like that stand out to me because they are so few and far between in my world. Usually I’m focused on my agenda for the day. Mix into that a full day of engaging my two sweet children, including the attention, conversations, corrections, and instructions they need throughout the day and I have don’t have room for spare thoughts. When I find myself in a place of quiet stillness with no to-do’s or distractions I’m surprised by the sensation of my own wandering thoughts. I loved traveling alone! It was so wonderful.

Then I landed in my beloved California and got picked up by Kat and her husband Craig. It was sooooo good to see her! We dropped Craig off at home and we spent a lovely evening our favorite fondue restaurant, the Melting Pot. Kat and I have lots of special memories there. The next day we ran errands, ate In-N-Out Burgers, and loafed on the coach in the daytime to watch TV…In The Daytime!!!! Again, not part of my normal world. It was wonderful!

That evening we got ready and met up with our other girls for Becky’s bachelorette party. Everybody (but Anna – who made it out for the wedding, but not the bachelorette party) flew in for Becky’s wedding! We had such a good night and I loved seeing all my dear college friends! We started off at Amanda’s house and had such fun catching up and watching Becky open her presents. Then we moved on to a dueling piano bar. It was a first for me and so, so, so fun! We walked in wearing goofy cowboy hats and made an impression on the pianists. They highlighted our group a lot and made the night even more fun. We danced in the aisles to everything from Johnny Cash to Irish jigs, plus so much in between. Becky had a great night, which is the most important part. I love my girls!

Dan & Jenny Sumner and their little 2 year old Emma hosted Laurie and I for our trip. I’m so glad for that time getting to know Jenny in her family setting. I usually only see her at girl’s reunions. She and her family are so enjoyable and her daughter definitely steals the show. She’s adorable! We were so comfortable and cared for. Jenny even put mints on our pillows at night and had a little chalk board in a photo frame on our nightstand wishing us sweet dreams. I’m dying to recreate the homemade roasted butternut squash ravioli with browned butter sage sauce Jenny made us one night. It was heavenly! I’m itching to get the Kitchenaid mixer I’ve wanted for years with the pasta attachment so I can easily bust out awesome pasta on my own. Our car rental turned out to be a little mint green Volkswagen Beetle and Laurie and I had a good time driving that around all week. I love that Laurie and I got a week being roomies. We had so much time together and I cherish her friendship.

I got to spend a day with Tracy Flores & Amber Jenkins. We had a full day of long conversations, quality time, and a good dose of tasty treats. Those two girls are really close to my heart. They will forever be in my life and I’m so thankful for them. I can’t wait until our families can all be together again. Our kids are all each other’s best friends and I miss those relationships and dynamics in my family’s life. We’re plotting to get Sam a plane ticket out here so he and Caleb can have a week or two together. Hopefully soon.

Then back to my college girls. We spent such a wonderful week together. Becky had set us up to go to a TV taping of the Ellen DeGeneres Show. We thought the guest of the day was going to be the cast of the Twilight movies. So Laurie thought it would be a good idea to watch the first movie to acquaint herself with the characters before she saw them live. Laurie, Dan (Jenny’s husband), and myself spent a morning watching the teen vampire/werewolf love story unfold. It was hilarious. I’m a fan, but Laurie and Dan are not Twilight material, so it was an amusing morning. Then it was time to go to the taping. We ended up with different guests on the Ellen show, so watching Twilight was for naught. Ha ha! But, we did end up being given a $100 Groupon gift certificate, a CD of the musical guest, a box of Jelly Belly candies, and tickets to come back for the taping of Ellen’s 12 Days of Christmas Show! Those are incredibly sought after tickets! Ellen gives away thousands of dollars of prized to each audience member on the Christmas shows!!! I was in such a position. I knew I had to figure out how to make a way to get back to California to go to that show. It took some doing, but we worked it out. I have my plane ticket purchased to go back. Of the four of us girls that went, only Becky lives locally. Laurie lives in Washington D.C. and Kelly lives in Northern CA. They’ve both worked it out too. We’ll be on the December 13th taping, which will likely air on the 14th, so set your TV’s to record. It will be a quick turn around trip, but how fun to see my girls again and get prizes!

The day before the wedding was great. Anna had arrived and our close group of college girls got to spend the last half of the day enjoying each other and celebrating Becky. We got pedicures followed with dinner & sangrias at Habana, my favorite Cuban restaurant. There is something irreplaceable about this group of girls in my life. I’m thankful we’ve gotten to see each other about once a year over the last ten years.

Becky’s wedding was perfect! She was gorgeous and she picked a great guy. I wish them so much happiness.

I returned home looking forward to seeing my family after a whole week away. My whole family loved on me so much the first couple days I was home. I ate it up. Then it was time for Thanksgiving. Jon’s cousins Aaron & Andrew came to stay with us for the holiday. I’m so glad Andrew lives here now. He recently moved to San Marcos from Kauai. The senior Rusch’s hosted Thanksgiving and I couldn’t have asked for a better first Texan Thanksgiving. We had the tradition food plus smoked brisket and sausage. It was amazing! The weather was ideal and the people felt like family. I love that feeling. I love that I felt like I was at home. We played Bocce ball and the kids played ping pong and ran around having fun. It was a perfect day. Maybe next year we’ll be able to have our family come too. Then it will be an even more perfect day.