Tuesday, July 31, 2012

June - July 2012

We’ve been in Texas for a whole year now!  So crazy!  This prompted a time of reflection for me.  This has been a very strange year with lots of difficulties in the lives of all the friends we’ve met.  I see God using Jon and I in big ways.  He has used us to be an anchor; a stabilizing force.  He has used our home to be a peaceful refuge for others.  I love that!  He even had strangers come up to my door and tell me what the Lord showed them about me, Jon, my home, and what God has in store!  I sat quietly while they shared their words from the Lord.  I wanted to laugh (but totally kept a straight face instead) because complete strangers told me so much that I already know about myself, my gifts, and visions the Lord has already given me.  How’s that for reassurance from the Lord!  But what I liked even more was that they told me what I already know and then took it a step further.  Not only will my home be a place of peace and a refuge…but it will be a place of healing.  I like how the Lord added that on to what He had already shown me.  Not only will we be an anchor…but our lives will go beyond just holding others up, we will thrive!  Our strangers also perfectly described the vision the Lord showed me of how Jon’s journey will go.  How it will not be an ordinary journey to a new career by going to school and doing the 4 year thing.  It will be a wonky path, kind of like a switch back trail, going left and right, but steadily up.  With each shift of direction happening from Jon meeting and talking with someone and that opens the next leg of the path.  It’s a journey based on trusting in God.  There may be a few classes thrown in there, but the four year plan is no longer being considered.  I’m excited!

We started off the month of June with Ben’s 6th birthday!  He had a blast celebrating his birthday with his friends at the pool.  It was a perfect afternoon.  It was great that Sam was still visiting with us for Ben’s birthday.  It made it that much more memorable for Ben.  Thank you everyone who participated in loving on Ben with your time and thoughtful gifts.  He loves everything he was given.  Jon and I have enjoyed watching our kids figure out the pogo stick we got Ben.  Both Caleb and Ben have spent a lot of time practicing to pogo in our living room.  It’s very entertaining for all.

Summer has been unexpected in many ways.  I agreed to watch the four Rusch kids two ten-hour days a week, but that soon turned into three ten-hour days a week.  It has been a very consuming, but worthwhile job.  I’m glad I had a couple weeks to adjust before the third day kicked in, or I would not have made it.  I noticed lots of normal things getting left undone in the first two weeks.  The fresh fruit rotted before it could get cut up and eaten, the laundry never quite got completed, and the huge package of toilet paper from Sam’s Club stayed in its spot in the middle of the bathroom floor, instead of getting put away in the cabinet, until it had all been used up.  When it dawned on me that it was all because I was adjusting to being the caregiver for 4 extra kids who were going through the tough life changes of their mom leaving the home, then it all made sense and I gave myself a break.  By the end of the first two weeks, I was back on track with watching the kiddos and having energy left for my own life’s to-dos; perfect timing for adding a third day of watching the kids.  God knew what I could handle and when.  He’s pretty awesome like that.  So after another week or so of adjusting to the new schedule of Mon, Wed, Fri, I felt up to conquering potty training Jude.  He is 4 and had drastically regressed on his potty training from the emotional distress.  He had been unwilling to even try to go on the potty for a long time.  It was what he could control in life to balance the emotional distress and so he did.  I made him a pretty awesome laminated potty chart that he could take with him from my house, to his Granny’s house, to his own house.  He got so excited about the potty chart and about earning prizes.  Wow!  He blew through that chart in a couple weeks and I’m proud to say I’ve got myself a fully potty trained Jude now!  He is the most strong-willed child I have ever encountered, and so, I feel extra proud of myself.  I also felt adjusted enough to add in positive reinforcement for all the kids.  I had already done really well over all the weeks working with the kids on the rules, discipline, and behavioral issues.  They have been steadily improving their behavior.  Jude especially has improved on his epic stubborn angry tantrums that can last hours.  I have invested a lot into all the kids and into building their character, their responses to their feelings, and their behaviors.  Time outs are a great tool, but I was ready for more than consequences for bad choices, I was ready for rewards for good behavior.  Now they get to earn marbles to put in the marble jar when I see them follow the rules without being reminded or do things that make me proud of them.  There are incremental lines on the jar and they get a small prize from the prize bag when they reach one.  When they fill the whole jar up, we’ll go out for frozen yogurt!  Additionally, a huge factor in the steadily improving behavior, leading to enjoyable kids, is how their Dad interacts with them.  Justin has been very consistent with their discipline and coming from a tender and loving place instead of an angry, tired, or frustrated place.  So awesome, and exponentially more so, since he suddenly became a single Dad of four small children!  So I now have seven year old Jewel, who is such a sweet girl.  She loves dancing and dress up and girly things.  She almost never gives me any trouble.  I have 6 year old Summer who wants to please.  She loves to be a cooking or cleaning helper, so much so, that sometimes I have to make her go play with the other kids instead of being my shadow.  She is prone to being really emotionally sensitive, which we’re working on.  She can be a really chatty one.  I’ve been making it a point to really listen and give my full attention to what all the kids have to say when they want to talk with me, to be fully engaged in the conversation.  If I want my kids to talk with me when they’re adults about what’s most important to them, I have to listen now when they tell me about the frog, or the legos, or the drawing, because that’s what’s most important to them now.  It’s a little crazy trying to do that with 6 kids in the house and still get done what needs to get done.  I’m finding the balance.  Anyway, back to the kiddos.  I have a 4 year old Jude who is the sweetest guy with the sweetest personality and cutest little Texas accent.  But when the flip switches, he can get stuck being angry and stubborn.  I’ve been teaching him tools to help him let go of his angry thoughts.  We’ve come so far!  And finally I’ve got 4 year old Chris.  Chris is a character.  He loves attention and he is not shy in the least.  He loves to perform.  He also can get in the most mischief.  He has a very destructive curiosity.  After enough of my stuff suffered from Chris’s curiosity, I decided that Chris has to always be in my line of sight.  He can also be very sensitive and can turn into a big boneless pile of boy.  These are all things we’ve been working on with him and he too has come very far.  Of course, I have my own two boys!  Caleb is 10 now and is sooooo smart I can’t believe it.  Just the other day I came home and found that he and Jon had gone out and bought a soldering gun and Caleb was sitting at the table practicing soldering on paper clips so that he could soon solder on the circuit boards they pilfered from old broken things.  Caleb is really looking forward to a middle school engineering class and a separate robotics class we have him signed up for in the fall.  I hope he learns some stuff he doesn’t already know.  He has quite a bit of robotics knowledge already from the Lego Mindstorm robotics kit.  This class uses a different robotics kit and is taught by an engineer, so that’s great.  Caleb has adjusted really well to having his home taken over by a herd of small children three days a week.  He is a big help to me and he finds ways to play and enjoy the kids when he isn’t building with legos.  Ben is 6 now and he is such a delight.  He radiates fun and joy.  He is obedient and happy go lucky.  I have to remind him to slow down and be more careful in his rush to enjoy himself.  He’s working on it and I’ve seen a lot of improvement this year.  I’m trying to pour into him to stop and think and make his own decisions; to not just go along with what the group thinks or what the group is doing.  I love all my kids, my 3 days a week kids and my everyday kids!

We bought a summer pass to the city pools.  It’s one fun way to beat the Texas heat.  There are three different pools we can go to, each with their own amenities.  We prefer the big pool with two big slides and a separate deep pool.  I love the fun family exercise we get.  Ben has come really far in learning to swim this summer.  It all started with a mix of two things: 1) he was given a well fitted mask and snorkel for his birthday and 2) a friend ended up with his floaty, but we didn’t know and thought we lost it.  Ben was adamant that he did not want to buy a new floaty and he just wanted to be in the water with his new mask and snorkel.  He was fascinated with snorkeling.  Between the two, he caught onto swimming so fast that I can’t believe it.  He still can’t tread water yet, so he needs a grown up close by if he is in the deep end.  Caleb has also drastically improved his swimming this year.  Just the other day he finally figured out how to dive and not just belly flop!  Seriously, it was hilarious; he would belly flop every time he tried to dive.  But he finally got it now.  I bought myself an itty bitty teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini!  I’ve been burning off some of my tummy jiggly with all this extra swimming.  I’m almost to my weight/tone goal.  Yay!

We finally switched my phone from Sprint to Verizon.  I loved Sprint, but they have no coverage where I live.  Verizon was the only company that worked here.  My first phone call on my new cell from my house worked so good! No dropped call, no static, no "I'm sorry, the phone cut out, would you repeat that," no "Hello, I can hear you, can you hear me? Hello, hello?" It's been a long year with no reliable phone at home. Whew!  Jon has an old flip AT&T phone through his work now.  He’s anxious to repair the broken iPhone 3GS that he was given by a friend.  We just got the repair kit and replacement parts in the mail, so we’re crossing our fingers that he’ll have a decent phone soon.

We had a great visit with my cousin Kara and her little guy Jude. I’m so happy she was here for our first 4th of July in Texas, which we celebrated with cake balls, fireworks, and friends.  The rest of the visit was fun filled as well.  We had a campfire, swam, and made big bubbles with Caleb's homemade bubble wand creation.  We explored our land for a short bit and played at the splash pad.  It was hilarious that we would both play scramble (a boggle type game) on our phones with each other while she was lying down with Jude in the guest room until he fell asleep at night and I was sitting in the living room relaxing.  I’m so thankful for the evening moments we got when all the kids were in bed and we got to catch up a little.  Thanks for staying up past your bedtime to chat with me Kara!  I love you!

After Kara and Jude headed home, we decided to check out the Brazos Natural History Museum.  It was fun. Caleb and Jon really enjoyed the gravitational waves special exhibit.  Ben and I ping ponged all over. He really enjoyed the dinosaur bones and fossils, the live bees and rotating beehive, and the live snakes, turtles, and lizards. It was super fun to search and find the queen bee in the beehive. They marked her with a couple yellow dots on her thorax. It was really interesting how all the bees around the queen always faced her and gave her extra space.

We got more work done on our house.  We painted the kitchen cabinets black and finally touched up the wall that the entertainment center had been on.  It had a very geometric design with patches of tan painted wall and patches of the original wallpaper that had been hidden behind the entertainment center before we removed it, when we first moved in a year ago.  I can’t believe we didn’t get to it sooner.  It only took a few minutes to drastically improve such a huge eye sore.  The paint was even lying around leftover from the last time the house had been painted when Grandma Jean still lived here.  We’re thankful for the improvements, but still plan to texture and repaint the walls later on.  I also got a slipcover for the couch and made a few comfy down throw pillows (technically they’re down alternative pillows).  Such a big difference!  We’ve decided to do minimal improvements.  We no longer plan to remodel the kitchen.  We don’t want to pour too much time and money into this house.  Our home is getting comfier and comfier, little by little.

I’ve spent a little time gardening and a lot of time cooking.  I’ve been having the Rusch family stay for dinner two to three times a week usually.  I’ve also been keeping up with making yogurt for myself and my family since May.  I end up making it about twice a week.  I love it.  My latest big food challenge was to learn to make gnocchi.  I did and it was awesome!  I made Pastrami Ragu Gnocchi which is fancy talk for a gourmet pastrami topping that was delicious. Now I want to figure out how to make a knock-off of a local Italian restaurant’s garlic red sauce that they use for their gnocchi.  It’s unlike any sauce I’ve had before.  My first attempt wasn’t quite there, although yummy in its own right.

Leigh Goyco and I started a Bible study together, for just the two of us.  I’ve really been enjoying the study.  It is on the book of James and is called “Mercy Triumphs” by Beth Moore.  I like so much about it.  I like that I get to delve into the scriptures in a new way.  I like that the book asks specific personal questions as well.  I like this because it promotes personal conversations and sharing of one’s life experiences and opinions in ways that might never have naturally come up, which is so beneficial to growing my friendship with Leigh.  I’m really enjoying the time spent with her and building our friendship.  She is such an enjoyable lady and the mama of 4 great kids.  I really enjoy her whole family.

Anna Hamiter’s wedding was at the end of July.  I was excited for her, but doubly excited for me, because my cousin, Anna Swink, is her best friend, who I knew would be flying in from Kauai!  I really enjoyed the good cousin time we squeezed in, which mostly ended up being late nights at the wedding venue getting ready for the wedding; Totally a blast, although a lot of work.  Anna was here for two weeks before the wedding and Aaron and Andrew came a couple days before the wedding.  I love my Swinktastic cousins and the fun time we had!  The wedding ceremony was at dusk and so sweet.  The evening reception was perfectly magical and twinkly with lots of dancing.  I even got one slow dance with my non-dancing husband to “our song,” Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis.  Caleb and Ben thought the send off was crazy awesome.  All the wedding guests that were left lined up under the tunnel of lights with glow sticks blurring in their hands while they were moving to the beat of the blasting dubstep music (fast electronic dance music).  The couple danced their way down the line and at the climax of the music everyone joined them in a final impromptu dance party under the stars before the couple drove off in their convertible with glow sticks raining down. Ben didn’t want to throw his glow sticks because he wanted to keep them.  Definitely a memorable send off!  I wish the happy couple so much love and blessings!

That’s it.  Love you all!
Jon, Rebecca, Caleb & Benjamin