family

Lunch at School

Having my office at the school building means I get to see my children periodically throughout the day. I don’t get to my oldest as much any more because, now that she’s in middle school, she’s on the other side of the building. But, now that my 3rd is in elementary, I do get to eat lunch with both him and my 2nd!

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A Quick trip to the Midwest and the South

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Every year we take a trip out to Ohio for Thanksgiving where JK’s brother and family host us and a lot of other family members. It’s 4 days of family, food, and relaxation. Everyone looks forward to it. This year was no different and we had a great time. We also got to share our plans for moving to China to room full of family.

Usually, we pack up our bags and head back to New York early on Sunday to get back to school and work on Monday. But this year we decided to head South for another week of vacation with my parents. This really worked out quite perfectly for us. We were already more than half way to their house by being in Ohio and there wasn’t another time that we would’ve been able to easily visit with them before we headed to China.

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Though it didn’t seem like we did a ton of stuff, we really did accomplish alot. Our first priority, of course, is just being the family. And we did just that. But Jacquelyn had a determined mind to get to my brother’s house and clean out some of the storage we put in their attic 6+ years ago. She spent a couple of days doing that and got rid of a bunch of stuff. We also took a large load of books to McKay Books and got a good amount of store credit and then promptly used it all to buy some Christmas presents for the kids.

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Of course, Eloise’s job was to be cute. And she accomplished that quite easily.

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Anna was determined to get to Opryland Hotel. She has good memories of going there with the family last year, so that’s what was on her mind. We walked around the hotel with my parents and my brother’s family. The kids seemed to have a great time and we all enjoyed the time together.

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On our last day we went to the Opry Mills mall. I’d been trying to get there the whole week so I could stop at Cinnabon. It made me sick. To be fair, Cinnabon usually makes me sick because eat too much, but this time was different. Within 30 minutes I was not feeling well. I had a headache and just felt basically uncomfortable.

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Usually, when I start to get a headache I can prevent it from turning into a major headache by taking some Ibuprofen. Unfortunately, this time I didn’t do that. And I paid for it. After seeing The Martian with my brother at the theatre, my head was hurting pretty badly and I was nauseous. We found an open store and I bought and took some Ibuprofen. But it was too late, it didn’t help. On the way home, I was so sick I thought I was going to hurl in my brother’s car. Thankfully I didn’t, but I wasn’t much of a conversationalist. Afterall, it’s hard to avoid throwing up while having a conversation. (Sorry, bro.) When I got home, I went straight to bed and slept like a rock.

All in all it was a great trip. My only regret is that we didn’t get a chance to see my other brother and his family. But it was just too hard to get down to see them with all of our schedules.

Minnewaska

Saturday after some morning errands we headed out to Minnewaska. On the way up the mountain, Jacquelyn did some research online and found that the weekends are supposedly crazy busy. And, yes, it was crazy busy. All of the parking lots were completely full. But this actually worked out in our favor. Instead of having to pay $10 to park the car, we just joined a slew of other cars and parked along the side of the road.

We knew it was supposed to be a cold day, but we still didn’t quite prepare enough for the reality of it. This was really the first cold day of the season, so I guess we just didn’t think that we needed more layers. But since we were moving most of the time, we were able to handle it.

All said and done we walked just over 2 miles. We could’ve probably done a bit more, but with the cold we were ready to head home.

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Anna lead most of the walk.

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Lucas lead us on some remote paths looking for shortcuts.

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Micah had fun fishing and scaring his parents that whe would fall off the rocks and into the water.

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Eloise’s hands kinda turned purple because we forgot her gloves. But she didn’t really complain about it.

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Paul even admitted that he had some fun going on the stroll.

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Jacquelyn carried Eloise in the backpack carrier for most of the walk.

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And I took pictures…and made sure nobody plunged off the side of cliff.

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. 

   
   

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.

Anna’s Ice Skating Show

Anna finally performed her ice show! She did awesome! I’m so proud of how hard to she worked at it.


Things I learned while sitting in on her practices and performance:

Ice rinks are cold
Yes, this may not be a big surprise to you, but sitting in the stands for hours on end really establishes this fact. We had to keep the winter clothes out just so we could watch her practice.

1-year-olds and 3-year-olds don’t like to sit for more than 30 minutes at a time (and that’s pushing it)
Our 1-year-old made a game of seeing how many times he could get mommy and daddy to come get him from going down the stairs. No matter how many times I grabbed him and pulled him back, he headed right back for the stairs. The 3-year-old certainly did better than the 1-year-old, but his apparent goal was to stand in the middle of the isle preventing anyone from passing. He wasn’t aware of this, of course, but he surely didn’t want to get out of the way.

They like to turn up the music really loud at the performance
Wow. My ears are still ringing from the speakers blaring out Glee songs.

Anna is athletic
Actually, this isn’t a new revelation to me. Just the other day, we were throwing a baseball around for her first time and she amazed me at how fast she was able to throw it correctly and follow my form exactly.

Ice-skating is a culture unto its own
We certainly know what it’s like to enter someone else’s culture. In many ways entering into the ice-skating culture is similar to moving to another country.  There’s a new language to learn with it’s own abbreviations, customs to follow, and new places to go. The sheer amount of time that an ice-skating performer needs to craft his/her art ensures that they their life will revolve around the sport.

Ordering a House

Anna my 6 year old is screaming from upstairs in her bed for me to come up to her. She’s not screaming because she’s scared. I can tell from her voice that she’s just got something to tell me. It’s the typical persistant, ever growing louder by each call type of yell. I can tell she really wants to talk to me because I can hear her all the way from the sound-killing family room as I try to watch the NBA playoffs. Lucas, who is younger than Anna by 4 years is also screaming. But he’s doing it because Anna’s doing it. It’s a game to him. Plus, the result of the game is that daddy comes back in the room.

Someone in the kitchen, where it’s much easier to hear what’s going on upstairs, alerts me to their cries by saying, “The kids are asking for you.” I make the snide remark, “They’re asking for some discipline is what they’re asking for.” as I make my first motion out of my recliner. I’m a bit upset. It’s the second time we’ve completed this exercise tonight. As I get to the stairs, I’m contemplating the type of discipline I’m going to dish out. But by the time I reach the top of the stairs, my attitude has changed and I decide to hear her out on what this “urgent” need is. (Then I’ll decide what type of punishment she would get.)

“Yes, dear, what’s the problem?”, I say.
“Daddy, I miss China.”, she said at first fine, but by the word “China” is forcing out a tear and overemphasized wording.

Two thoughts occur to me at this moment. The first is, Man, she’s such a drama queen. Should I let her turn on tears like that? The second was, Man, I’m really glad I didn’t come in here without hearing out what my daughter had to say.

Except for Micah, who was like 4 months old when we left China, we’ve all done some type of grieving since leaving China. Lucas, 2, struggled with the unfamiliarity of everything and everybody. Anna’s biggest anxiety came in the form of her room. She misses it. She misses the colors, the bedspread, the closets, and that she had a room by herself. (Her brother shares a room with her now.)

Jacquelyn and I continue to struggle with our grief over leaving China, too. There are lots of manifestations as a result of our grief, but one of the main roots of the grief is our purpose. Or better put, the lack of purpose. What’s our ministry here?

“Daddy, I miss China”, Anna repeated, this time in full forced tears.
“What is it that you miss about China?” I said, trying to think of something that would comfort her. I sit on the bed and give her a snuggle.
“My room…You know that cover with the colors on it and it was purple and it was my blanket”, she said, using her hand to draw the designs of the comforter. “I want that. Can we get that out of storage.”
“Yes, we can get it out of storage. Did we bring it back with us from China?” I say.

“I miss my friends”, she continued.
“Well, your mom and I are praying about going back”, I said, realizing that by the time that we would actually get back to China her memory of the place would be very little and everything that we knew would be different. Plus, she probably will be pretty engrained in life here in the States by that time.

The statement was true. We are praying about going back. In fact, just that day I surprised myself with my response when the pastor of the church we are attending asked me where I see my self and my family in 5 years. Without hesitation I said, “Back in China, or if not China, some place around the world.” His reply was one of excitement, “Well, that gives us something pray about, doesn’t it?” He then probed a bit further, “What would it take to get you back there?” Again, without hesitation I said, “Two things. A specific call to do a specific thing and Jacquelyn and I take the next step in our spiritual growth.”

Anna had a puzzled look on her face and repeated what I just said as a question, “Move back?”
“Yeah, we’re praying about it”, I offered.
“But we just ordered a house”, Anna said, truly confused as to why we would “order” a house and then decide to move.
“We didn’t order a house, dear”, myself now confused.
“Yes, we did. Mommy got a piece of paper with a house on it. We ordered it.” she said quite positive of her memory.

Jacquelyn had taken Anna to look at a house that was for sale and picked up a flyer about the house.

“Oh, well, we didn’t order it. Mommy and you just looked at the house and that piece of paper just listed all the things it includes.” I said with a big a smile on my face.
“Can we get that blanket out of storage?” she said in her scattered, non-sequitur kind of way.
“Yes, dear. Now go to sleep. Put your head on your pillow and close your eyes. Good night, dear.”
“Good night, daddy”

Lucas, who up to this point was sitting up in his bed, repeating everything that Anna was saying, with the same intonation, looked at me with a huge smile.
“You, too, bud. Head down. Eyes closed. Go to sleep.”
In his 2 year-old, cute way he replied, “Go sleep”, and put his head down.

Anna Ice Skating Practice

Anna has come a long way since her First Ice Skating lesson. She can now skate forward and backward. She can swivel (forward and backward), lift one leg, squat low, cross over legs on a turn and stop quite quickly. With being able to skate backward, she already passed her daddy’s ability…

This video shows Anna in a special practice for a show that Anna will soon be in. It’s meant to show everything that they’ve been learning. Take a look!

Anna Mae Reciting Psalm 100

Anna has been working very hard in her Bible class at school. Every week she has a verse to memorize. We usually work on it in the morning as she’s eating breakfast. The fact that she’s able to read many of the words helps with studying.

For the last several weeks, her assignment has been to learn Psalm 100. Anna has done excellent with it and knows the passage really well.

Anna Reading “The Daddy Book” Then & Now

My Favorite book of Anna’s is, without a doubt, The Daddy Book, by Todd Park. I’ve been reading this book since Anna was a just a little girl. She still likes to read it from time to time and it thrills my heart when she chooses it. I decided to take a video that I had made previously and add a current reading of the book.

Anna sure has grown up. She’ll be turning 6 in just a couple of days! Alot has changed from the first movie. She’s got a couple of brothers now, she’s in the US, and she’s going to school.

Anna’s 1st 100 Days

Anna has now attended 100 days of school in America! To celebrate this milestone, her Kindergarten threw a 100 Days Celebration. Each student was supposed to make a project with the 100 days theme. We had a bunch of candy left over from the Gingerbread house we made for Christmas, so *we decided to make another one with the “100” theme.

*I say “we” because it was my idea to make a Gingerbread House, but I didn’t do any of the work.

See below for the fun pics of the result. Good work Anna and Jacquelyn! Happy 100 days of school!

Working Hard at counting out the pieces.


Each portion used 100 pieces of candy and was in the shape of a “100” (except the nerd-wall). Can you see the 100s?


Update on Life in the USA

We’ve been back in the States for about 3 months now. God has blessed us in many ways since being back. The biggest thing has been His providing of a job for me. For the last month I’ve been working as the Webmaster for a family-owned chain of grocery stores here in the Hudson Valley of NY. I love the work and the people there are great.

Additionally, I’ve started working some freelance web-design projects. I just finished the first project and am quite happy with it. I’ll be writing another blog about it later.

Jacquelyn has adjusted pretty nicely, too. It’s been tough on her as she’s had to adjust her routine to me finding a job. Am I there all the time? Am I working on freelance projects? Do I have a job? Now that I’ve been working for a month, though, she’s finding her stride. Even though we’ve only got one kid in school, it seems like there’s already a bunch of running around to do.

Anna is attending the same school that her mother attended when she was a little girl. We’ve seen her shine so much since starting school. She was definitely ready for school! She’s reading very well. Jacquelyn is giving her piano lessons, as well, and Anna is doing EXTREMELY well with it. She’s got such a high aptitude for learning. She’s still having some hearing issues, but we hope to get our insurance situation worked out shortly and we will be visiting an ENT to get it fixed soon.

Lucas has taken a bit of time getting used to things around here. It took about a month of tears every time we left him in nursery at church for him to finally embrace it. But he’s such a fun and easy-going kid. He’s now loving being there. We’re also thrilled to report that He is now peeing and pooping on the potty! Woo Hoo! We’ve had a few accidents, and will probably a few more in the future, but he’s basically got it down.

Micah is super-cute. It’s hard to have a bad day when he’s around with his huge smile and crazy get-up-and-go crawling and attempts at walking. He’s very much like his big sister and the opposite of his big brother. When he and Lucas get older, I think it’s going to make for a very interesting relationship.

Our Home by the Olympics

In these two pictures I am standing at the Olympic center where the sailing will occur here in Qingdao. In the top picture you can see a building on the left that Jeremy and I guessed would be for the judges. If you look far to the right you see a bunch of apartment buildings with red roofs. That is the complex where most of our staff lives. We don’t live there but we live literally right behind those buildings. (There buildings are taller than ours so you can’t see them =( )

You can see now how close we are to where the Olympics will be held.

Princess Belle

We arrived in America and started right away reuniting with cousins. Can you guess who was more excited to see the other? It surely wasn’t Anna.

Anna’s cousins were so excited to have someone new to play with. However, Anna was a little unsure about her new playmates who did not have any concept of personal space.

The cousins wanted to shared their favorite game, dress up. They picked out the Belle outfit for Anna. After a little bit of convincing, Anna put the dress on and then the other girls picked out their own dresses.

The older cousin said she wanted to be like Anna and be Princess Belle. The younger asked me help her put her “Stinker Bell” outfit on. I said that I would help as long as she didn’t stink as well.