Dr. Pepper Peer Pressure

I have a confession to make and it’s a shameful one. I’m almost too embarrassed to write it! What will my fellow mom’s think of me? What about the crunchy Moms? What about my Southern mom friends who will roll their eyes and wonder…big deal?

So here goes.

Last week… I used an incentive (bribe) to get my four-year old to participate at soccer who had suddenly decided that soccer was “boring”

You say…big deal? Everybody does that.  Here comes the confession part.

I bribed him with a can of Dr. Pepper.

Oh The shame!!!

We were ready to leave for soccer when Eli brought me a can of Dr. Pepper….yes I drink pop (soda for the rest of the USA) so get over it. I have one a day.  I know….it’s awful for the body with the chemicals and what not. Yada Yada.

I told him that he couldn’t have it unless he participated in his soccer lesson and didn’t whine. He was excited to take on this challenge and off we went. Frankly, I was high fiving myself because the only thing good about this soccer class has been listening to the adorable (good-looking) British coaches laugh with the little preschoolers and play sleepy lion on the field.

And then we got to soccer and Eli refused, in front of ALL THE OTHER MOMS to play, announced that he hated soccer, and stood and cried.

I played it cool… you know. I looked at the other Moms, put on my best “oh my word, he is so tired today” face, then calmly whispered in his ear so that none of the other Moms who were sitting on their perfectly spread out blankets with their BPA free water bottles and organic, non gmo, gluten-free, peanut free, bland snacks would have to hear me say, “If you want your can of DR. Pepper you have to participate”.

Then I waited… would he announce that he wanted his DR. Pepper and that I had promised? I had already planned to deny that we drink pop and announce loudly how awful that stuff was, but he didn’t say a word.

He also still refused to play. Instead, he sat in the shade and watched his team run up and down the field. The upside was that one of those terrific British (handsome) coaches sat next to him and played with him the whole time. He was loving the attention!

Every once in a while he would come back to my chair and tell me that he wanted to go and I would whisper “Dr. Pepper”. He would go back to his shade and sit.

An hour later, soccer was over and we went to the mini van. He was ready for his reward. But nope, he didn’t get the Dr. Pepper. He was distraught and as all the other Mommy’s were watching and LISTENING he was exclaiming loudly “I want my Dr. Pepper!! I NEED my Dr. Pepper!!”

I shrugged it off to the yoga pants-wearing Moms, but inwardly cringed. What were they all thinking??

We drove off and Eli settled down. I explained to him, in the privacy of our van, that he didn’t earn the Dr. Pepper because he had not participated in his class. He looked wistfully out the window and I thought, “I think he understands!”

We pulled into the cute little farmers market stand in our town to buy some fresh tomatoes and cheese. I was feeling good. I won this game! I played by the rules! This has been an awesome parenting moment! Mommy 1 — Eli — 0.

Until he spotted the bottled Stewart’s Root Beer behind the glass door.

He looked at me and smiled knowingly with those sweet little blue eyes.  I looked around and saw a couple of the other Moms from soccer with their lovables  babies wrapped in slings and reusable groceries sacks thrown over their shoulder and I suddenly didn’t really care what they thought.

And then I made a decision… it wasn’t a Dr. pepper and I wasn’t rewarding his bad behavior…so I bought him a bottle.

**Disclaimer:  I love my crunchy mama friends.  No offense intended 🙂

Keep smiling and waving!

Telling the story of Jesus

I recently visited La Sagrada Familia, a basilica built in Barcelona, Spain by the talented Antoni Gaudi.  Gaudi is known for his modernistic art style and embellishments on buildings.  You can see some examples here.http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/320.

I saw the basilica from a distance and was intrigued by its style because it isn’t the normal cathedral.  It’s different.

Gaudi, world famous architect, built this building to tell the story of Jesus.  The story of salvation, grace, redemption, and miracles….from the beginning.

Looking up to the  front of the cathedral there are intricate carvings of Jesus’s birth, the wise men, travelling to Egypt to escape certain death, and Jesus as a young child teaching the scribes in Jerusalem.  It is covered in carvings of flowers and birds symbolizing creation and the explosion of joy when Jesus’s prophesied birth took place.  You can’t help but feel happy when gazing at the statues.  http://www.sagradafamilia.org/en/symbolic-visit/

The passion façade depicts the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  It is much darker with a feeling of dread and goth.  There are so many details like Peter denying Christ and the rooster crowing,  to Pilate washing his hands to clean himself of Jesus’s perceived guilt.

When you take the tour and gaze upon the story, you HAVE to learn about Christ and his life.  It’s a given.  Is that what Gaudi planned?  I believe that God used Gaudi and his talent to create a missional story to the world.  A way to show his love and the Bible to the millions of people who will never read it, but will visit a tourist attraction.

Millions of visitors come to La Sagrada Familia every year.  They come from all over the world speaking 100’s of different languages and many different walks of faith.  They come because it’s the number one tourist attraction in Barcelona and it’s a World Unesco site.  They come because the Pope dedicated it.  They come because it’s beautiful.  And because they come, they hear the story of Jesus and his love.  They can’t HELP but hear it.

And this is where I’m going with this.  My life should be a beautiful basilica.  An example of Jesus’s story.  When people meet me and get to know me, my life should tell the story of God’s grace.  I want to have a side that is exploding in joy because of Jesus’s birth and life, but a passionate side that tells about his redemptive grace.

I’m studying the book of Revelation this year.  Wow.  Just writing that gives me chills because for years I’ve been terrified of that book.  It scared me.  But the more I study it, the more I understand that it’s another way to prophesy God’s goodness and plan for my life.   It is becoming my desire to make sure that everyone has heard the story of the redemption of Christ.  That Christ wants them to know Him and not to turn away.  He’s coming back.  He is merciful.  He gives us what we DO NOT Deserve.  But His death on the cross and his resurrection gives us the ticket to be washed in His blood and forgiven.

I think about Gaudi and the talent God blessed him with.  What if he had said no?  So many times I say no.  I don’t listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling me.  It’s uncomfortable or embarrassing.  I don’t want to rock the boat.  But that is wrong.  I want to live on the edge.  To be different.  I want to be a tourist attraction where people ask questions and research my faith.

I want to tell the story of Jesus… just like La Sagrada Familia.

One Year Ago Today–We bought a piece of New Jersey

Love these ladies in my neighborhood!  Shirley from Manhattan, Jodi from Connecticut, and Danielle from Iowa.

Love these ladies in my neighborhood! Shirley from Manhattan, Jodi from Connecticut, and Danielle from Iowa.

One year.

365 days in our New Jersey town home.

12 months of downsizing and minimizing our lives.

52 weeks of weeding through 21 years of furniture, books, boxes, clothes, and toys to find a comfortable living arrangement in our 1300 square foot house.

When we sold our house and moved to New Jersey, honestly I had very low expectations.  I didn’t expect to put down any roots or make any friends.  I didn’t even want to try to make friends.  In fact, in July of last year when we had lived here for two months I still hadn’t made any connections and quite frankly didn’t want to.

Then something changed.  I started looking through my kitchen window at my cul de sac and wondering about the lives of those around me.  The ones I was sharing walls with.  Then I made the conscious effort to put a smile on my face and go out and meet them.

And guess what?  I liked them and they liked me.  We started hanging out in the driveways chasing kids and yelling “CAR!!” every time a car pulled into the lot.  We invited them into our homes and us into theirs.  We threw a holiday party and had over 30 people in our tight space and had two families over for Christmas Eve.  All the kids have become great friends and I’ve found a group of ladies I can’t live without.

My low expectations were unwarranted.  Living here has been amazing and everything that I thought I would hate, I haven’t.

New Jersey has a bad reputation, but so do other states.  I’ve found that by putting a smile on my face and genuinely caring for those around me can go a long way.

Gary and I are “change junkies” so who knows how long we nomads will live at this pad.  But wherever we go next, my expectations will be higher and our packing truck will be lighter.  And God will give me the resources and the smiles to love it.

 

 

 

21 Years — 21 Loves

TWENTY ONE YEARS.

That’s how long I have been married to my best friend and soul mate.  I know…sounds sappy.  But, it’s true.

So, in honor of our 21st, I’m listing 21 things I love about Gary.  Feel free to stop reading if you feel the need to hurl.

1.  I love that he loves Jesus first.  Okay, got that out of the way.  Shew!

2.  I love that he always puts my needs first like when I want to eat out, he usually lets me choose where.

3.  I love that he wears the same shirts over and over to work and never asks me to iron them (although..shout out to me because I ironed EVERY SINGLE SHIRT in his closet yesterday.  Your welcome)

4.  I love that he lays his workout clothes outside the bedroom door at night and quietly sneaks out in the morning to dress so he won’t wake me up.

5.  I love that he sleeps with his phone when he’s travelling with it turned on in case I need to reach him.  And, he knows from experience that if he doesn’t answer it I WILL call hotel security and report him missing and I WILL give them permission to go into his room to look for him (still sorry about that, honey…and apologies to the hotel in Vancouver for seeing him in the shower)

6.  Speaking of travelling, I love that he ALWAYS asks/tells me about business trips before he books a flight or hotel.  He just likes to make sure it’s okay with me and it always is.

7.  I love that he wants me to travel with him on those trips and lots of times I can.  The trips we have been on are amazing!

8.  I love that he takes me to places he’s been before just so I can experience what he felt the first time he was there.

9.  I love that he reads silly accidental texts with me and laughs so hard he can’t breathe.

10.  I love when he laughs so hard and can’t breathe and then he gets those awful “burp ups.”  Okay, I don’t really love those, but I’m getting used to them.  Remember…TWENTY ONE YEARS

11.  I love  when asked about his favorite Christmas memory of 2013, he said “watching you love Christmas this year”  oh. my. word.  That stole my heart…again.

12.  I love that he never discourages me from any crazy dream I’ve ever had.  Like..”Hey!  Let’s be nomads for three months and live in different hotels and houses in New Jersey.  Gosh.  Doesn’t that sound like fun??”  He said yes, and we did it.  And it was AWESOME!

13.  I love that he has a PH.D. in statistics.  He is the smartest man in the world.  I’ve been telling him that for years, folks, and I think he is starting to believe it.

14.  I love love love watching him work.  I’ve been going to professional conferences with him for years and nothing makes me prouder than to stand back and watch him talk rheumatology and drug research.  Seriously, I could watch him all night!

15.  I love that he has a quiet spirit.  He sits and reads his Bible every morning and prays over our children.  When a problem arises and I’m complaining, he asks me to pray about it first.

16.  Speaking of spirituality, the man is dripping with grace and mercy.  And my favorite quote that he says is “If we don’t teach our children grace and mercy, who will?”

17.  I love that in college he learned to ballroom dance with me and to jitterbug.  Then, we took dance lessons after the first two kids were born and had a ball.  We were terrible and I couldn’t stop leading, but we sure do have fun on the dance floor.

18.  I love that he never ever lies to me.  No matter what.  One time, I had a terrible rash on my face that I was convinced was getting better.  I asked him if it looked better and he said no.  I was so mad, but realized at that moment that he will always tell me the truth.

19.  I love that we both have the same dream to live in an RV and travel from one warm campground to another. And we will do that.  I promise.

20.  I love that he knows when the kids are driving me crazy and I need to go out.  Like the time I threatened to smack the kid’s face off and threw skittles at them and they called him at work to tell him.  He came home, looked at me and said “wanna go get thai food?”.  Yep…he gets it people.

21.  I love that 21 years ago he looked at me…a young BARELY 19 year old college sophomore and said “I do”.  The sweetest words ever spoken.

Gary, I do again and again.  Love you so much.

Tears in Virginia

It started in Virginia.

Tears streaming down my face.

I was driving and looking at the beautiful expansive land of the Shenandoah Valley and comparing it in my mind to the cluttered and cramped land of Piscataway, NJ. I was remembering the nights we spent on our back porch in the mountains looking at the thousands of stars and wondering when I would see them again.

I was reminded of the kindness of the people in the mountains. They smile in the grocery store and wave you thru at a four way stop. The folks in the service industry welcome you into their restaurants with a slow southern drawl and a lack of suspiciousness, which I’ve come to expect up here.

Patience is a virtue and the South just seems to do it better.

But then we arrived back to our hotel where we have spent almost 3 months and the staff was excited to see us and catch up. Our breakfast crew welcomed us with open arms hugging and kissing on Isaiah and Eli.

A random stranger complimented me at the grocery store on how impressed she was with me at the store with four kids.

Another woman at the store encouraged me by telling me that she had also moved here kicking and screaming 10 years ago and has learned to love it.

We were driving back to the Embassy Suites and I could see the Manhattan skyline in the distance.

I was reading the local newsletter and came upon lessons for fencing for Samuel, art institutes for Sarah, summer camps for Isaiah, and toddler story times at the library for Eli.

I started to notice the variety of restaurants in our new town. Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, Greek, Mexican food. All on one block.

I got an email today offering tickets to the New York Mets games for $10.

My mind starting thinking again and comparing it to the remote mountains. I began to consider the opportunities that we have here.

At first I was overwhelmed and uncertain about my feelings. Would I like it here? Would I really fit in here?

I don’t know. But I plan to find out.

It isn’t my plan to live in New Jersey, as Gary well knows, but I will make the best of it while I can.

This is a season in life and I’m going to grab the chances we are being offered.

And who knows, maybe I will like it after all.

Written yesterday–Posting today from town deep in the NC mountains.

This week’s blog is coming from the back porch of our quiet and quaint home in the western mountains of North Carolina.  The week started out cool and we had to use the furnace and fireplace, but yesterday warmed up to the 80’s and the fresh humid air was wonderful.

The trees are just starting to bud.  We can see Fontana Lake in spots we didn’t know existed because the leaves are so sparse.  The mistletoe is growing in abundance around our house, another pleasant surprise since we are usually here during the late spring or summer months and you can’t see it growing within the branches of the pin oaks and maples.

The depths and ridges of the Nantahala and Smokey Mountains are engaging and magical.  One cannot help but look up and yonder.  Mountain music seems to live in the air here as if a soundtrack is constantly playing.

Without television, cable, Wi-Fi, or phone the days seem peaceful and relaxing.  The only thing to worry about is what’s going to happen next in the book you’re reading or who is going to win the game of checkers. 

It’s seems unbelievable that just last week we were in New York City walking down Madison Avenue and looking at Picasso and Cezanne’ paintings  in the Guggenheim.  The sounds of taxi cars blaring their horns and the smells of pollution are in stark comparison to the quiet of the stars in the mountains and the gravel road leading up to our home. 

Our front and back screen door squeak and slam shut.  I would never want to fix those doors as they seem a part of this world.  It fits here.

I love these mountains and this house with the mixed match furniture and the ugly curtains.  I love it for its lack of concern of being perfect and having all the bells and whistles of other cabins in the woods.  I love it for the memories we have made here for 15 years.  I love it for the traditional bonfires.  I love it because the kids love coming here. 

They are happy at this house on our mountain and not because they are being entertained by things of the world.  But because they also like to sit and be quiet and listen to the mountain air talk to them.  I asked Samuel what has been his favorite part of the week and he replied without hesitation…the chance to get caught up with his thoughts.

And that’s what our Nopad-Nomad adventure is all about this week.

Aside

Lots of links…

I haven’t updated in a couple of weeks, but there hasn’t been much to write about. In fact, last week we didn’t even leave the hotel for four days!

But it’s been good. We needed to catch up on lots of school work and have a little bit of normalcy in our days. The kids are doing a great job with their homeschooling and I’m proud of them. Samuel and Sarah both work independently in the open atrium of the lobby. The staff love seeing them hard at work and comment to me frequently how focused they are.

But we have had a few exciting events occur. So, here’s a quick rundown.

Last Friday, Mark and Jennifer (www.markallenwhite.com) drove to New Jersey for the first time in 8 years to visit us and see our future home. They used to live in New Brunswick, which is the next town over and haven’t been back since they left. We hung out at the pool, ordered hotel food, ran around Basking Ridge and took pictures of a 600 year old tree, visited two libraries and one bank, met the staff of our awesome hotel, had pizza delivered, and strolled through the atrium as if we were on Downton Abbey. It was a really fun day.

On Saturday we drove into New York City, which is only 45 minutes away and PARKED ON THE STREET BY CENTRAL PARK FOR FREE!!! Yes. Free. Quite possibly the highlight of our year. We visited the Guggenheim (www.guggenheim.org)  which was amazing and FREE thanks to a wonderful museum pass sharing program offered at our library. We walked through Central Park and spent some time at the Manhattan Children’s Museum (www.cmom.org), which was also FREE thanks to our library.

Easter Sunday we had planned to go to church at a local Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Warren, NJ. Gary looked up the times at www.stonecreekchurch.org and determined that we could attend the 12:00 service. When we arrived we noticed that the parking lot was packed, but that it seemed that church was ending instead of beginning. That’s when we figured out that he had looked up Stone Creek Church in Georgia instead of Stone Crest Church in New Jersey www.stonecrestchurch.com. Only slightly embarrassing 😦

Since church was a no-go, we ended up watching a podcast online www.northpoint.org and eating at Applebee’s. Not quite the storybook Easter, but oh well…

On Tuesday Samuel and Sarah were doing their daily walk around the hotel and an unruly guest asked them for some “tree”, which we googled and learned that they weren’t actually looking for an oak or maple, but “weed”. We reported it and they were evicted from the hotel and escorted off the property by five Piscataway police officers.

Yesterday, Eli got into the hot tub and handed Gary his blackberry. It hasn’t been the same since and is being replaced, thank goodness.

And the best moment of the week was last night. A couple of days ago Eli’s milk spilled in my purse. I didn’t discover it until it starting smelling bad. I washed the purse in the sink and put it through a cycle in the washing machine. It still reeked. So last night, Gary had the GREAT idea to hang the purse outside on his side view mirrors of his junky car to air out the smell. About 10 pm the front desk clerk, Matt, called to ask me if we were parked around the side of the hotel. After confirming it was our car, he asked me if we had hung a bag on the side. I started laughing so hard just picturing how redneck we must seem to him when he informs me that someone had called 911 because they were concerned that there was an unattended bag on someone’s junk car and they were suspicious. The police were in the lobby to investigate. OMG! Does it ever end?? I assured the police officer that we were innocent and after a really big laugh they left.

Today was spent at the Honda car lot having the van worked on . I cried with a little old man in the lobby whose wife had just died of pancreatic cancer. He was so pitiful and I just couldn’t help but feel so sorry for him. They had been married for 54 years!

Tonight we have packed up our room and are moving out for a week. We’re off to the mountains of North Carolina for a week without television or internet. I can’t wait to slow down and smell some mountain air.

And being below the Mason-Dixon Line will be great, too.

http://www.vrbo.com/232877ha (My last shameless plug…) RENT FROM US!!

Jersey Shore Meets Golden Girls Meets Gaza Strip

So I have been thinking about this post all weekend.  Been wanting to write about what I witnessed here at the Embassy Suites in Piscataway.  Just not sure how to say it…

On Friday our normally quiet, business friendly hotel turned into the meeting ground for several groups.  About 100 orthodox Jews observing Sabbath, the annual gala for a group composed of senior women, and the host to many predominately teenage girl parties and bachelorette outtings.  The hotel was sold out.

There were Jewish men walking around in their black coats and prayer shawls with their impressive shtreimel on their heads.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shtreimel  The beautiful wigged women were taking care of many children while the kids ran around the hotel in their stockinged feet, boys with shaved heads and curls over their ears.  The kids were quiet and respectful, but they were everywhere. 

Because they were observing Sabbath, they were not allowed to do any work or use anything that required electricity or power.  Let me break that down.  They could not go in and out of their rooms that were locked because the locks are electrical.  So they taped the lock so it wouldn’t lock and left the doors open.  If they dropped food or trash, they didn’t pick it up.  They also did not flush toilets and requested that the staff come around and flush for them.

The men stood around on the open atrium and read the Torah as the women sat with the children and taught them.

They brought in all of their own food to be sure it was Kosher. 

That being said….the children had so much fun and not bothering anyone.  They kept to themselves, expect for Hiram, who was almost two, and was obsessed with Eli and vice versa.

But the Golden Girls didn’t like it.  They complained.  Wanted them gone.  They didn’t like the fact that the Jews were sitting in the atrium lobby talking and laughing.  They didn’t like the kids running around and making messes. 

We talked to the president of the group and she let us know that she wasn’t happy.  Our kids didn’t bother her, but the Jewish kids did. 

Then there were the groups of jersey culture kids (think Snooki) running around the atrium in bikini tops and towels.  They didn’t seem to have much parental control.  They were here to party and the Jews and Golden Girls weren’t going to stop them.

I even saw a young guy walking in with jello shots.

And here is what struck me over and over.  Each of these groups have been historically hated and discriminated against.  The Jews have been persecuted since Egyptian days.  They have a bad reputation and are many times misunderstood. 

The Golden Girls were old and without giving away what group they were representing, they are sometimes misrepresented in the media and their loved ones treated poorly,

The birthday kids and bachelorettes  were predominately African-American.  They are possibly the most discriminated people in America.

The three DIFFERENT groups all treated each other with disdain.  Without acceptance.  NO tolerance.

Why?  Because they each did not fit in to a mold that is deemed acceptable to them.

It seems to me, that groups that are discriminated against should also love and show respect to other groups that have felt racism and bigotry.

I would think they would stick together.  That they would understand how hard it is to be part of a minority group.

But I didn’t see that.  And it made me sad and wonder, what is going on?

New Jersey is a melting pot.  I have met so many different types of people just since living here.  People that I never would have had a chance to talk to if I was still living and raising my kids in Kentucky.

So how do we change?  How do we become more tolerant?

A saying that we quote over and over to our kids is this…

“DIFFERENT ISN’T WRONG, IT’S JUST DIFFERENT”

The people this weekend?  They are different.  They didn’t look like our family and they didn’t eat the same foods or wear clothing like we do.

But they aren’t wrong.  Their just different.

And if everyone could just remember that and accept that idea, this world would be a little bit closer to peace.

I sat down with one of the Moms on Friday night.  She was waiting to go to her room and light the candles for the start of Sabbath.  She had four daughters, the oldest was 5 and she hoped to have 8 or 10 kids.  She said being a Jewish woman was hard.  It was much easier to be a man.  I felt for this woman.  I immediately liked her and felt that she liked me.  She had never met anyone from Kentucky, so she learned a few things from me. 

It was fun.  My Sarah helped her little Esther open a popsicle and her little girl Leah shared her popcorn with Eli.

There was no animosity between us.  Just acceptance and a genuine interest in each other’s lifestyle.

I don’t ever want to be afraid or too stuck in my world to notice differences around me.  To realize that God created every man unique yet in HIS image.

We are commanded to love one another.  Not just the ones that sound and look like me.  But OTHERS. 

And up here in Jersey, we are striving to do that one week at a time on our crazy Nopad/Nomad adventure.