Life

“Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God.” -Jim Elliot

Can we do Devotions in the Morning?

How in the world would I possibly be able to say no to such a request? Anna has such a tender heart. She recently told me that she wanted to be able to explain to her friends about Jesus. So, I recommended getting “More than a Carpenter” because I had read it myself as a kid. But I suspected it would be a bit heavy reading.  We bought the book and read through some things together. But it does have quite lofty thoughts that she’s not really ready for. So, we’ve just been reading through Our Daily Bread on my Bible app. It’s been fun to see her processing the devos. I pray she keeps this tender heart. 

Apple Picking 2015

Today we headed out for our annual pilgrimage to pick apples. This year we headed to Fishkill Farms instead of our usual. The place was crazy crowded and quite a bit different than what we’re used to at DuBoice Farms.

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First of all, Fishkill Farm has a $5-a-car entrance fee on the weekends, but with the throngs of people, I can understand this as a means of trying to encourage people to come on the weekdays.

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Secondly, there was a lot more freedom with your own vehicle to drive around the property. We didn’t realize this at first, so we walked most of it on foot. But the property seems to be a bit more spread out it and ended up being quite a bit of walking.

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Lastly, the payment method was a bit different. Instead of bringing your bags of apples up to a register, the payment process was simply driving to the exit and paying from your car. You have to open up your trunk and let them look inside so they can see how many apples you took.

The boys favorite part was racing each other. Anna even got in on the fun. In order to keep them from wanting to sit down or ride in the baby’s stroller, I would come up with some obstacle course races. The loved it. They kept asking me to come up with more.

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Prices were similar to other places we’ve been. I’m always amazed at the cost at these places for us to pick our own apples. You would think it should be less since we’re doing the work. I’m sure they have some extra costs associated with allowing so many people on the property, but we could just as easily have gone to Adams or another grocery store a got it for about half the price. Of course, you miss the experience, which is why you’re going anyway.

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I think we prefer DuBoice because of the extra kid-friendly things you can do – like the corn maze and live music. But, we still had a lot of fun.

#projectcapture #capturingeloise

#projectcapture is about capturing the personalities of my children in pictures. Though we have four children at this point, I’m always amazed at how each child’s personality is different. Eloise seems to be more determined than our other children. She’s advanced in everything she does. She’s attached to mommy and daddy (mostly mommy) and has such a sweet face that charms all who look at her.

CapturingEloise-2

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And here are a few more:

#projectcapture #capturinglucas

#projectcapture is about capturing the personalities of my children in pictures. #capturinglucas took the most thought. Lucas expresses himself more in his mind than in his actions. Lucas is extremely thoughtful of his siblings – especially his baby sister. He gives incredible thought to everything he says. He is my analyzer. You can almost see the wheels churning in his head. Give him a maze puzzle and he’s in heaven.

CapturingLucas

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CapturingLucas-5

And here are a few more:

Cooking Dinner and Enjoying the Pitching Machine

The other day I saw a Facebook video showing how to make a cheeseburger hot dog. The video was half time-lapse half normal speed. It looked super easy to make.

It wasn’t.

I guess I needed to pack down the meat some more, because it just wouldn’t form right. But Anna and I eventually got it to work.

Also, I probably should have cooked it a little longer on the grill because when I brought it in the house, it was still a bit pink. The microwave helped solve that problem.

Despite how it looked, it actually tasted very good. The kids enjoyed it…which is saying something.
Cheeseburger Hot Dog

I also made Daddy’s Delectable Delight, which is just a fun way to say sweet tea. The kids also really like that.
Daddy's Delectable Delight

After dinner, we loaded up Lucas’ new birthday present from grandma with some batteries and had some fun with pitching machine.

I also played with the slow motion feature on my iPhone and we all absolutely cracked up when Lucas got hit by a ball and the slow motion showed his apparent slow reaction. So funny.

Backyard Baseball

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Ever since we went to the Mets game a few weeks ago, my whole family has gotten into baseball. Anna’s been working on her fastball, Micah loves anything active and is quite the natural, and we make a big deal out of Lucas having the same name as Lucas Duda, who hit a home run at the Mets game we went to.

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So, naturally, all the kids enjoy playing a bit of backyard baseball. The more we play, the more official we get. We now how bases and a pitcher’s mound. And today we even found some gloves for the kids to use…even the pink color didn’t keep Micah from want to use it.

Even Eloise joined in on the fun.
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Here are a few more pictures:

Raising Old Men

So we spent a couple of days at the Great Wolf Lodge. We had lots of fun – though, I’m a bit concerned that we picked up skin diseases with the large amount of people all sharing in the water. 

Of course the kids stayed very busy. But the boys had the most fun in the “hot pool”. It wasn’t like the water in the other areas were cold. 

Oh well, I guess I’m raising some old men. 

   
   

Heroes of Change

We’ve recently gone through some changes in our church. Changes that I’m quite excited about. Changes that I think are necessary to the sustainability of the church. And changes that better orient the willing workers with the needs of the people.

Change is always always hard. Few people like iOS 7. Petitions about Facebook changing its interface are rampant (ironically on Facebook itself). Restructuring at work is hard. And on and on.

Change in church is no different. In fact, it’s almost sacrilegious to change something about church. Dropping a ministry or a service, to some, is akin to giving in to the liberal theology/philosophy of the day. There’s a reason the sarcastic phrase, “We ain’t never done it that way before!” hits home for so many in the church – because there are always those who will resist change out of the simple fact that that’s the way we’ve always done it.

To be sure, an evaluation needs to be made as to whether the old system is indeed working. But what happens when it isn’t working well? What happens when the congregation no longer connects with a certain ministry? Should we redouble our efforts and pulpit-bully them into participation? Should we secretly judge them for lack of involvement? Should we throw up our hands and say the Pastor isn’t giving enough time, energy, and passion?

I struggle with this. I remember as a kid in the backseat of the family car on the way to Sunday evening church looking out the window of the car and seeing people going about their lives – even Christians! – and wondering why they were so callous to God that they would not go to church on a Sunday evening like I did. I’d probably even heard that kind of talk from the pulpit when the pastor was frustrated only 1/4 of the people showed up for the service. Maybe not so bluntly, but it was there.

I don’t mean to imply that people aren’t callous to God. They are. You are. I am. We all want our own thing. We don’t want to dedicate our time to Him. We’d rather do our own thing, watch TV, play a game. But that’s not the point. The point is the attitude. In the backseat of the car, looking out the window, I didn’t have an attitude of concern for the people I saw. I had an attitude of judgement. I thought I was better than them. I still struggle. I compare my involvement in the church to those of others and think I’m better than most. Make no mistake about it, this attitude is wrong. This attitude is not the gospel. And this attitude is telling God that I’m somehow worthy of His merit. And here’s the problem, I’m not. I’m not worthy of any merit. It is by his grace that I can somehow do a good thing here or there. Certainly it makes God smile when I do submit to Him, but it does not gain me a better standing before God. I am a sinner plain and clear. And for that, I the merit I receive should be death, but for Jesus’ sacrifice and reparation for my wrongs.

For many I think people are equating the ministries they grew up with as next to godliness. They become the kid in the back seat looking out the window judging people for not following God the right way. They see the changes in ministry as an affront to the cause of Christ and judge people for not continuing on with the old ministries.

But what I’ve been most impressed with lately is the number of people in our church who are going along with the change. It may not be the most comfortable thing to do, but so many people in our church see the need for the change and are just looking to support these new ministries in whatever way they can.

The (not golden) Bridge

Last night I went to the Mid-Hudson Bridge to get some shots for work. We’re doing a fundraiser for an organization called Solving Kids’ Cancer.

Anna is interested in what I do at my job. Every now and then when JK brings the family to the store to shop, they’ll come up and say hi. I showed Anna my computer and tried to explain what I do. I even had her edit some pictures that I was working on. But all in all, it’s pretty boring for a 7 year old. Last night was fun because we got to go out on location.

(Picture by Anna)

The goal for this project was to take some pictures of the gold lights of the Mid-Hudson bridge so that I could post them as part of the fundraiser project. The bridge was supposed to be all gold as a tribute to pediatric cancer victims and survivors. Unfortunately, there was a mix up and the bridge wasn’t all gold.

But Anna and I had fun together throwing rocks in the water and watching the water for jumping fish.

This picture is of Anna being “surprised” by a jumping fish:
A Jumping Fish

As usual, Anna asked alot questions. Here are just a few:

  • What if our car was full of water but you could breathe in it?
  • What should we get mommy for her birthday?
  • What if everyone walked with a cane?
  • What if everything was cherry flavored?

And my favorite dialog:

Anna: (In rapid succession) I want to ride in a boat. Can we get a boat? Not just a regular small boat. I mean a boat with two levels so we can be on top and bottom. We could come down here and ride in the boat with the family.
Me: I think you’re talking about a yacht.
Anna: Yeah, can we get a yacht?
Me: That would be awesome. But they’re really expensive. Like more than house!
Anna: How much?
Me: (After looking it up on my phone) Like $2 million.
Anna: You and mommy have $2 million.
Me: No, we don’t.
Anna: Yes, you do. Each of you has $1 million in your bank accounts.
Me: No, we don’t.
Anna: Yes, you do.
Me: No. Seriously. We don’t.
Anna: (Saddened by reality) Oh.

Door-to-Door Book Salesman

So, a couple of days ago we had a door-to-door book salesman come by. The plates on his car were from Nebraska. He gave us his speech and manipulated our responses. He didn’t have any flyers or business cards. The only option was to But, if we have him half of the set price, he promised to return in person to hand deliver the books at the ene of the summer.

Here, stranger-from-Nebraska-with-no-way-to-contact-you-once-you-leave, take this $150 dollars and be sure to return in 3 months.

Chengdu 成都

This past weekend I “surprised” Jeremy with a weekend away to Chengdu, which he has said he wanted to visit for over 2 years now, to celebrate our 4 year anniversary. Our anniversary isn’t till June 28 but this was the only weekend that Jeremy didn’t have assignments due for his MBA and before he starts his new job (which he won’t be able to take time off). I arranged for our friends Lee & Becky to take Anna as we flew to Sichuan province Friday night returning Sunday afternoon. It was our first time to be away from Anna over night but we all did really well. I think Anna didn’t even miss us! Unfortunately I had some problems purchasing the tickets so Jeremy knew we were going but it was that thought – right?!

Chengdu is famous for being the home of the Giant Panda, tea capital of the world and having the best food in China. I found that the people were the friendliest there. Our Chinese teacher, Francis, said that is because Chengdu is self sufficient and therefore very relaxed. Chengdu is in the valley of mountains and supplies their own food . . .etc. . . so they are good all on their own.

The trip was short and not without some kinks but we still really enjoyed ourselves. I wanted to make sure we experienced the food, we walked around city, went hiking, drove through the country side, saw rice fields being flooded, visited the pandas and enjoyed each others company. We both really enjoyed walking around the city because we live out in the middle of no where and don’t get to experience China night life like we did in Dongguan.

The next few blogs I will go into more detail of what we did. Please enjoy!

Bring On The Rolls

My son was born at a healthy weight of 6lbs 15oz but quickly began to lose weight, as do most babies right after they are born. Unfortunately with Lucas he continued to lose weight and at 16 days Lucas weighed in at 5lbs 14oz. Doctors recommend that babies should be back to their birth weight by 10 days! As you can see by the picture on the left Lucas was very skinny and dehydrated. It was a very difficult few weeks nursing constantly, carefully keeping track of feedings, wet & poopie diapers and weighing him every night to see if we were making any progress.

Today Lucas is 3 months old and looks very healthy (picture on right). Today he weighed in at 12lbs 14oz!! Way to go Lucas, you even have a double chin!!

Turn Up The Heat

It is said that SiChuan (四川)has the best food in China, it also has the spiciest food! Jeremy and I wanted to make sure we experienced this world famous food while we were there so for every meal we asked the waitress/waiter to give us SiChuan speciality food.

For breakfast Jeremy had boazi (包子)(top right hand pic.). It is basically a roll that has meat stuffed inside. They steam it in wooden baskets (seen in top left hand picture). We have actually had these before, they are a popular breakfast/snack food all over China. I ordered beef noodles (牛面). I have to say those where the spiciest things I have ever eat! They made my lips burn for 15 minutes after I was done eating. I loved them! (mmmm they sound good right about now.) The bottom left hand picture is strips of potatoes wrapped with a thin layer of fried bread. It was greasy but delicious!

Here we had a tofu soup, spicy chicken (bottom right) and fish (bottom left). I couldn’t eat the chicken plain, it was too spicy. I had to eat each bite with a bite of rice to soak up the spice. For both of us our favorite dish at this meal was the spicy chicken.

This meal brings back bad memories because we made a rookie mistake. When ever you are going to buy anything you ALWAYS ask the price. Often times Chinese will see your pretty white face and think to themselves “Ooo, they have money and don’t know any better, I can raise the price.” But after living in China we DO know better and we DON’T have money so we can usually get the “normal” price for things (what a Chinese person would pay). We could not believe that for a 3 dish meal they charged us 240 yuan! That is more than what we pay to eat western food! But because of our easy going natures we looked at each other, shocked and appalled, paid the bill and walked out. The meal was good but it was not worth what we paid for it.

Hot Pot! Hot pot is probably my favorite meal in China (click here to see when we did hotpot in our home). With hot pot you order dishes, then they bring them out and you cook them in your pot of water which has seasoning in it. As the dishes cook it soaks up all the flavor of the spices and makes the meat/vegetables taste delicious. SiChuan’s hot pot’s spices are suppose to be the spiciest in China. While eating it we both had to blow our noses and wipe our eyes a few times. (It was very spicy but I didn’t think it was intolerable – my breakfast noodles were spicier!) We got the pot that is split into two, one for spicy and one for not. That way if it was too spicy for us to handle we could cook our food in the non-spicy side. Again we asked the waiter what was popular and he helped up order. The majority of the things he said Jeremy understood except one. When it came we figured out what it was – lamb stomach! (bottom right) I didn’t mind it but Jeremy couldn’t eat it. We also got regular lamb meat, mushrooms, veg eatables, blue birds eggs and noodles. We also order yindubobing (印度博冰)Indian bread (that is the direct translation). This was one of our favorite things to order in Dongguan but haven’t had it here in Beijing. As we cooked each thing it soaked up all that spice and tasted so good and cleared out my sinuses at the same time. Over all this was my favorite meal!

Yummy Lamb Stomach!

We really enjoyed Sichuan cuisine and I am ready to go back for more.
Yeah Sichuan Food ~ Bring on the Heat~
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July 5th Cont.



To end Zachary’s birthday everybody (that is everybody that loves Zach) went and saw “Transformers”. It was much better then we thought although I felt it was a little too long. (It didn’t help that I had only gotten 5 hours of sleep for the past nights prior.) All in all it was a great day and I know that Zachary felt loved.

Jenny’s Party

This is an update to the previous blog called “Christmas Party”.

One of the highlights of the holiday was throwing a Christmas party for Jeremy’s adult English class. (Almost every Saturday Jeremy goes to our local foreign grocery store and teaches the workers English) It was so fun to play games and eat yummy Christmas desserts. The best part was sharing the real Christmas story, wich many had never heard before.

Merry Christmas!

From Christmas

We had a wonderful Christmas! We started the day with homemade cinnamin rolls and read to Anna about the true meaning of Christmas. We then had fun opening up presents from our friends and family. Before going to have lunch with the Vosslers we were able to talk to our family over Skype. We ended the day with one of our Chinese friends coming over and having mexican dip.

From Christmas

From Christmas

From Christmas

Ode to Mykel

Mykal you are my friend
When I don’t want to eat
You eat it for me
You pick me up when I am down
and let me push you down
It was hard to share your toys
but I like wearing your clothes
Oh, Mykal
I do miss you so!
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To Shanghai and Back Again…Now Repeat

We knew for quite some time that our daughter, Anna’s, passport and visa were going to expire soon. We planned to go and take care of it as soon as our son Micah was born. After all, he would need a passport and visa as well. We might as well take care of it at the same time. Plus, Jacquelyn was really in no shape to travel being as far a long as she was.

We Pause now for a Context Explanation: In order to get a new passport for a 5 year old, both parents must go to the Embassy or one of the Consulates and show a photo for every 6 months of life of the child proving that the 5-day old picture of your child on the old passport is the same child 5 years later. Also, before we could get a passport for Micah, we had to get a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) – which is like the equivalent to an American birth certificate for us Expats. Again both parents must go and show their marriage certificate and passports along with the new baby’s Chinese birth certificate (which is a rather interesting process in and of itself…I’ll share that another time, I guess.) In both situations, it takes about 10 working days to process the paperwork, make the new passports in the US, FedEx them to China, and, if you do it in Beijing, they’ll mail it to you!

So Micah comes and we’re extremely happy just enjoying our new treasure. Micah was born on a Thursday and the following week was spring break…great timing for a birth, actually. I still had several paternity days, which we were planning to use to go take care of the passports.

During this pre-paternity-days spring break I went online and scheduled the earliest appointment available at the Beijing Embassy. The appointment is 1 week before the Anna’s passport and visa expire. I’m not too worried about it, though. Surely, as long as the passport is being processed, the visa can go over a couple of days. After all, the Embassy could provide proof that the passport was being processed. So, on the first day back to school I check with our visa liaison to make sure this was okay. It turns out that my assumptions were wrong. The visa-processing-people would not be able to accept that the passport was being processed as, “there was no policy for this situation”. If Anna overstayed her visa, we would be fined 500 RMB (75 USD) for each day overstayed…plus she would have a “bad record”. I’m not sure what a bad record means, but I do know overstaying your visa accidentally or otherwise is not something you want to do. You can end up in jail in addition to the fines and bad record.

This was not the news that we wanted to hear. So I get on the phone with Jacquelyn and talk about our different options. We could try to go to Beijing and just do a walk-in appointment, but there was no guarantee that we’d be able to see anyone.

Context Explanation: The lines outside of the Embassy are tremendously long. Of the 1.3 billion people in China, about half are trying to get a visa to the US…okay, not half…but the line seriously snakes around the block for along way. Being American citizens, we most definitely probably wouldn’t have to wait in that line…but still, the thought of being in any line that resembles that one scares me. I actually have a recurring nightmare about such a line.

Another option was getting to Hong Kong. Although the Consulate down there didn’t have any appointments available either, we don’t need a visa to be in Hong Kong for like 30 days. But that would have been ridiculously expensive. Finally, we came up with the idea of going to Shanghai. Shanghai’s Consulate had appointments right way. Jacquelyn finds tickets online for that very evening and books them! We’ve got plenty of time. I can go home from work at 4:30, eat a nice dinner, pack up clothes and head out the door for a stress free trip to Shanghai.

As a review, here is the timeline up to this point:
-Monday 7am – find out we need to get the passport sooner than expected
-Monday 8am – talk to the embassy on the phone and try to figure it out
-Monday 9am – panic
-Monday 1pm – purchase tickets to Shanghai

I get home as planned and have a nice dinner. Just after finishing, I go to the computer and check online to make sure that we have all the documents needed as requested by the Consulate. Marriage Certificate – check; Anna’s age progression photos – check; current passports for the whole family – check; Anna’s CRBA – not with the other stuff. Hmm, okay, the search begins…

Remember, the CRBA is the equivalent to an American Birth Certificate. We cannot update Anna’s passport without it. We tear the house apart looking for it. We can’t find it. I have this faint idea that it is in a green folder. I had to use it to apply for Anna’s SSN like a year ago. Oh, no. Does that mean that I left it at my office? So, I pack several days worth of clothes, not sure if I’ll be matching in Shanghai or not and head out the door to my office. Jacquelyn continues looking for it at the house just in case it’s not at my office.

The taxi driver is not the best driver. He’s one of those drivers that can’t seem to figure out how to slowly press the gas, gain speed at a steady rate, and then in the smooth and calculated way press the brake when needed. If you’ve ever ridden with someone who rides the brake, you know what I’m talking about. We’re a block a way from the house and I’m already car sick and contemplating if it would be too rude to ask to get down sooner than what I already told him in order to change taxis. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time for such luxuries. But one things was for sure, I was not going to ask him to wait for me at my office to take me home. I’d try my luck at finding a different taxi – even though taxis aren’t as frequent out at the office.

I finally make it to the school and look everywhere for this thing that I think should be in a green folder. It’s not there. I run up to my storage room in case it inadvertently got moved up there. The lights don’t work in the room, so I’m using my cell phone as a flashlight. It’s not there. It’s got to be at the house. This is not good. I’m 25 minutes from home not helping in the search and just wasted about an hour going to the office. We need to be leaving for the airport in about 45 minutes. There’s no point in going to Shanghai if we can’t find this cursed CRBA. Can we get money back for the tickets that we purchased?

In the taxi ride home Jacquelyn and I go over the places that she’s looked and she starts re-looking in those places. We say a panicked prayer to God asking for help. She opens a backpack – somewhere that she’s already looked – and locates a green folder. Inside is the CRBA! Tears of frustration are replaced by tears of joy.

Waiting for a job

 # # #

About a month and a half ago my brother told me about a job opportunity in Nashville, TN, very near, and actually, associated with his own job. I read through the job requirements and agreed that the job could be perfect for me. I immediately applied for the job and submitted my resume to HR. With my experience and my brother’s voice in the hiring manager’s ear, I was quite sure that I would be offered the job. Or at least get an interview.

One of the pre requirements of the job was that I needed to take a manager’s test to see if I was manager material in general. I drove down to NYC and took the test and passed. (I got a parking ticket, too…) I was feeling pretty confident about the whole thing. When I initially talked with HR about this position, they said that it needed to be filled by mid-May. As it was already early May at that time, I thought things were going to move along quickly and I’d likely be heading to Nashville with in the month to interview in person and then, if all went well, be moving down my family a few weeks later.

Well, mid-May came and went with no updates on the position. My brother was confident that no one had been interviewed for the position. I contacted HR another time just to let the I know I was still interested in the job.

Finally, at the beginning of June, HR contacted me to let me know that I was no longer in the running for the position. Nathan did some research into it and found that one person had interviewed for the job and s/he was internal. Of course, that really sucked and I’m a bit upset that I didn’t even get an interview. It’s almost as if the position wasn’t really available.

Anyway, what I really started thing about was the psychological impact a possible move has on you. I remember when I was in middle school my mom told me that there was a possibility that my dad could be transferred – I think it was to Minnesota or something. The next day at school I was taking it all in, trying to set things into my memory so I wouldn’t forget about them. I wasn’t sad about the prospect of moving, just sentimental. That transfer ended up falling through and we never moved.

With the prospect of moving to another city for this job, both Jacquelyn and I had a difficult time of trying to move forward with our existing life. It certainly wasn’t as sentimental, as we’ve only been here less than 2 years. And in that 2 years, we’ve always felt like we could be ready to move again any time. But planning even for smaller thing like gymnastics for your children have an additional stressor. I mean, if we register, will we be able to get our money back? Should we plan on not doing the activity at all? I even struggled with my fish tank. I didn’t want to invest any more money into if we’re just going to sell it off or even take it with us to the new job. Should we buy a leaf blower? Should I resign from my volunteer positions at the church?

When the job opportunity fell through, I actually felt a sense of relief. The stress of possibly moving was pretty heavy. I may not have a better paying job with better opportunities for growth, but at least we were finally able to get our daughter enrolled in gymnastics camp.

New Salt Water Tank

Our “new” fish tank has been sitting for a very long time – a whole 4 months without having any fish or coral in it! The reason of course is that we’ve been waiting to get the Nitrate level down to a livable level. So, the amount of time is actually pretty normal for properly setting up a salt water tank. But sometimes it’s hard to explain that to our visitors who are wanting to see fish. And it’s even harder to explain that to a 6 year-old!

Well, we finally got the Nitrate level down to a decent level. Ideally 0 ppm is desired, but 20ppm is certainly liveable for many fish and coral. So, the other day we made our first fish and coral purchase! Actually, we spent so much time deliberating on which fish to get that we had to come back the next day because we ran out of time. This worked to our advantage because we had time to come home and do a bit more research.

So, our first fish inhabitant’s name is Colorful and is a Six Line Wrasse!

“Colorful”, the Fish

We also picked up our first coral. It isn’t much to look at, but we really didn’t want to spend alot of money on a coral before our nitrate level is down, since their makup is mostly water. It is a small colony of polyps.

About a month ago, we purchased the “cleaner crew” to further develop the biological filter. We bought Scarlet Reef Hermit Crabs, Blue Leg Crabs, Turbo Snails, Astrea Snails, and a Bumble Bee Snail.

Planning for the the Unplanned

My wife and I have been discussing our FSA. Well, it’s not actually “ours” yet, until the 1st of the month. FSA stands for Flexible Spending Account. Essentially, it’s a program that allows you to use your own money to pay for medical needs tax-free. It has the potential to really save a bunch of money. From the sounds of it, there aren’t too many catches to it. You can use it for doctor visits – emergency or otherwise – but the cool thing is that you can also use it, apparently, to even buy contact solution! It’s almost a no-brainer.

You decide how much money to put in to the FSA and that will be deducted from your paycheck over the next 12 months. You have full access to your money via a debit card. The only “catch”, if there is one, is that you either use it, or you lose it. So, that’s where the strategy comes in.

How much money should we put into it? We’ve got some some expenses that can be planned, like glasses/contact, and the dentist, but how do you plan for the unexpected? It seems like we as a society don’t really do that when it comes to medical needs. We have insurance for that. Insurance takes the work out of planning for emergencies and doctor-related things. Every month we just hand over our money to the insurance company and trust that they will give us what we need when we need it.

I’m not knocking the system, I’m just making the point that we don’t have to think about our medical needs if we are insured. (FYI: I do have problems with the system, and, in fact, we’re not actually covered by insurance. We do have coverage of some kind, but it’s not “insurance”. But this post isn’t intended to knock the system. Perhaps I’ll talk more on that another time.)

So, as the deadline approached, JK and I tried to figure out how much money to plan for. Certainly, at least one of our kids is going to need to “unexpected” medical care in the next year. But that thought kinda scares me. How bad will this medical need be? Will one of my kids be hospitalized? Will one of them need a life-saving operation?

No wonder why we prefer insurance to being faced with mentally planning for the unexpected medical needs of a family. It’s not fun to think about.

Volunteering – Part 2

Last night we went caroling with our youth group. We visited mostly people from our church, but we also hit a few neighbors of one of our leaders. It was fun and I think it meant a lot to the people whose houses we visited. It also worked out that we got bring along our little ones! They had a good time, I think.

In my last post I mentioned we were looking for ways to get the whole family involved in a project. Though caroling wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, I think it was certainly a good project for all of us to be involved with. Anything that we can do to show care for other people is way to show and act out that Christmas isn’t just about ourselves. What better way to acknowledge Christ’s service of coming to this earth to empathize with us as we navigate this complicated place than to serve others and show that they are cared for?

Volunteering

Ever since Super Storm Sandy hit, JK and I have been trying to think of a way for us as a family to help with the relief. However, since we are on a very tight budget, we’re not really able to buy food and have someone deliver it for us. On top of that, we’re really hoping to get our whole family involved in service. But since we’re a family with some very young ones, it’s not super easy to figure out how to serve and keep the whole family involved.

As the holiday season gets even closer, we’re even more focused on trying to do a service project. Since we’re going to be in Nashville, I figured, oh, great, now I can get my family involved, too! Well, that complicates matters even more. Not only are we a family with small kids, but we’re also more than one family. I called the Rescue Mission and their minimum age to help is 7 – that excludes all three of my kids. I checked another soup kitchen thing and their minimum age is 13. Yikes!

Another problem is that almost all of the “holiday” service opportunities are over by the time we get to Nashville. They end the week before Christmas.

Not sure what we’re going to do yet.

Santa

We’re not really big fans of Santa. He’s a nice guy and all, but…well…you know, it’s just that…he’s not real. I know, I know, I’m a party pooper for the kids. My wife and I have had quite a few discussions about Santa even before we were married. Her parents weren’t fans of Santa by any means, but mine didn’t hate him as much.

I quite liked the way my parents handled Santa. They didn’t push it, but they also didn’t crush it. When asked if Santa was real, they would often reply with a question, “What do YOU think?” After I figured it out (and still to this day) I never felt deceived by them. They saw that Santa was fun for kids, but didn’t let it take it over the true meaning of Christmas.

One of our favorite holiday movies is The Santa Clause. But each time I watch it, I am utterly dumbfounded at the lengths Tim Allen’s character goes to in order to keep Charlie believing. It’s no longer a fun little thing for kids to believe in…it’s…it’s, I actually have no idea what it is at that point. When a kid figures it out, the gig’s up! Let him/her be. It was fun while it lasted, but now let’s move on and create more Christmas fun. Of course in the movie Santa IS real, and the goofy, Psychologist guy trying to do just that is made out to be a fool. And of course, it’s absolutely hysterical. We love it.

Last year our daughter came home talking about an argument that she was involved in surrounding the realness of Santa. Apparently one kid in the class was a strong advocate for Santa. Anna and a group of the kids in the class came down on the side against Santa. (Keep in mind that Anna was in Kindergarten.) I was proud of my daughter that she was already so grounded and not carried away by the Santa thing. But, in the tradition of my parents, we didn’t say yes or no. We just listened and tried to hear her summation of the arguments. We thought it was settled in her mind. But, alas, the holiday stir has once again come upon us and so has Santa.

For my work I needed to photograph Santa in action talking with the kids, so I took along the family. Normally we probably wouldn’t go out of our way to have the kids visit Santa, but since I needed to go anyway, I thought they might enjoy it. When I told Anna what we were doing I said, “There’s going to be a Santa there that you can talk to”, she said, “Oh, so you’re saying there really IS a Santa – that he’s real.” Seriously, that’s what she said. It wasn’t even a question, it was a statement. “Uh, that’s not what I said…”, I said with my volume increasing as she walked away to look at the decorations in the store. Man, I thought we had this thing figured out!

We weren’t really in a good place to have this discussion, what with all the kids clamoring to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas and all. So I let it go. Well, actually, we didn’t just let it go, we added to the confusion by having Anna and the gang meet with Santa.

She and Santa didn’t have a really strong connection, though, so I think her wisdom will prevail soon once again.

Nothing special

It’s been a long while since my last post and I thought just starting to write would help me start to get back into the routine. I haven’t really been inspired of late to blog. Perhaps it’s because I’ve started to actively use twitter. Who knows.

Insignificant

Insignificant

Whenever I travel I feel insignificant. I see the people around me. They’re talking on phones about their problems, about their business, or just telling someone they’ve arrived and need to be picked up. They’re reading a book. They’re playing on a mobile device. Some are traveling for work, some for pleasure, or in my case, for the loss of a loved one. Each person is caught up in his or her own world. Someone cares about their problems, or business productivity, or even to pick them up from the airport. For whatever reason they are at the airport, or whatever they’re doing, someone cares.

But I don’t.

I don’t care about their problems. I don’t care about the business they are trying to conduct. And I certainly don’t care if someone is going to pick them up from the airport. It’s not that I don’t have compassion on people – I do. If someone sitting next to me starting talking about their problems, business, or even about who is picking him or her up from the airport, I’d enjoy that conversation. But it’s rare that that happens. And that’s the point.

I’m insignificant.

To the hundreds of people surrounding me, I don’t care one little bit about what’s going on with them. Nor do they about me. I’m just another in the mass of people that they pass in an airport terminal. In fact, except for that awkward second when someone realizes that I’m staring at them, analyzing his or her life by the clothes worn, or type of device played with, or interactions with those around and I quickly divert my eyes elsewhere only to return and finish the analysis once he or she has carried on with whatever he or she was doing, they don’t even see me. And those that do, maybe for a fleeting moment they have a thought about me to the tune of, “That weird guy’s staring at me.”

But that’s it.

Everyone’s flight number is eventually called. Everyone lands home at some point. Everyone moves on. That weird guy staring at people is eventually not there any more. His flight number is called, too. Even on the occasion when I do strike up a conversation with someone and a twinge of care is started, I’ll likely never see that person again. They get off the plane and go home, or board another plane for a different final destination than mine. They go home to those people that care about them. Maybe even that person who cares about them is the one who picks them up from the airport. And more than likely, that weird guy will awkwardly lock eyes for a split second before they get a safe distance down the terminal.

And then it’s normal.

Before you know it, your loved one is picking you up at the airport. Embrace. Talk. Catching up. Love. It all returns. The weird and temporary world of being alone and the stress of sharing (or not sharing) with a stranger is over. Work or school, and the hustle and bustle of life resumes. Your personal space is no longer being violated…by strangers, at least. Someone needs you. And someone cares.

It turns out I am significant.

Lucas Dunking


Lucas has grown in many since moving back to the States. Both his physical and mental skills have greatly improved. It’s been such a joy to see him enjoying life. He loves cars, trucks & trains more than anything else. In fact, the way to coax him into going to Sunday school is by saying something like, “Lucas, I think they have a truck for you!” (It works every time.)

He also like balls, which of course thrills my heart since I’m also a fan. He gladly joined me in playing basketball on this afternoon. We were at Anna’s school picnic at a State park. Despite his fear of heights (he’s our timid one), he overcame for a few seconds to dunk the ball. He actually wanted to do it several times, which, of course wore me out.

 

Picture notes:
My wife took this picture and I edited it. I did my original edits (cropping, B&W) in iPhoto and then moved over to Photoshop to add the puzzle effect. I also removed my arm pit shadows as it was distracting and the first thing I looked at. (See original and cropped B&W.)

Lucas Dunking B&W Cropped

Lucas Dunking Orginal