The things we say

Sometimes you catch words coming out of your mouth that you truly never could have guessed would pass your lips. For example, “You can’t have your ice cream until you finish your McDonald’s.” Or, “You will go to the beach and you WILL have fun!” Unfortunately, those sentences were delivered more than once while we were living in India and traveling through Indonesia. Getting the kids to eat Indian food at first was quite the struggle. So when we would find a familiar food item or restaurant, out of exhaustion and in need of a minute of life without constant battle (Parents of young kids- I know you feel me,) we would give them what we assumed was EXACTLY what they would want, only to find that there was STILL something off. Like, the cheese was different on the pizza, and there was no McDonald’s cheeseburger, only chicken.

When we left India for a forced 3-month exit, we assumed travel was the best option versus returning to the US. After a month in Thailand, where we had spent most of the time swimming in a pool or at beach, by the time we brought the kids to a beach in Bali, they were “beached out.”

In the hotel room, asking if they could relax in bed and watch TV instead of the beach!

That sounds ridiculous, when I say it out loud. But in reflection I can understand. Going to the beach after leaving the summer season of India was like literal water to our thirsty souls. We were in desperate need of being outside, in the fresh air. So we overplayed the beach like you did when you were young and you put your favorite new song on replay. It was tempting to perceive our kids were simply being “spoiled” and “ungrateful” with their whining and resisting of fast food/ the sea and sand. But sometimes our perspective on what they would enjoy isn’t always spot on.

First Day in Thailand after leaving India.

I recall these stories because something happened the other day that brought them back to the forefront of my mind as if it was yesterday and not almost 3 years ago.

I found myself saying something that felt almost as foreign as it was crossing my lips, simply because it was my first time saying it.

“Wow. I am so thankful for the Cochlear aqua gear.” Try saying cochlear aqua gear 5 times fast.

I’ve realized that living in a foreign country sometimes parallels the way it feels when you are simply walking through a foreign aspect of your life (like being the parent of a child with cochlear implants). The unexpected challenges catch you by surprise. Just like the things you assumed would be tasty and fun, were not- The things you thought would be an easy, just aren’t.

When the weekend comes, we are often looking for activities that our family can do that check a few boxes. Is it outside? Is it active? Is it something that all 3 kids would enjoy? Checking all 3 boxes is not easy. But when we heard about the upcoming church picnic and kids color run, I think we registered faster than we read the event details. So when we packed up our picnic lunch and I was checking to see if there was anything I forgot….BAM! “Oh wait- what about his “ears?” (Note: We call his implants his “ears.”) I messaged his audiologist and she said he could still participate but to make sure to use his “aqua gear” to protect his implants from the residual powder that was to be thrown on him while running.

The aqua gear are incredible. They allow him to wear his implants in the pool! However, they make for a very clunky, gawdy experience for him and they do not stay put with his level of activity in a pool. They frustrate him and he often chooses to remove them and simply go without sound. Sometimes this makes my heart sad. I think because it reminds me, even though they are amazing, his implants did not repair his hearing loss. Although, sometimes I think it makes me more sad than he actually is. He has just as much fun with them off sometimes! Maybe it’s because he is an excellent lip reader. Maybe I project how I feel too quickly. Once again- assuming that fast food restaurants, beach trip and color runs are sure-fire wins, when they might actually not be.

Post-Color run. Thank God he wore the aqua gear to cover his implants!

Likewise, being the parent of a child on the Autism spectrum, sometimes it’s just simply a Saturday that catches you by surprise. Here you are thinking you will sleep in a little (because it’s the weekend, right?) and that your family might enjoy an outing and a day off of schedules. Instead you wake up to find it’s going to be one of those “off days”- the ones that remind you your child has some extra struggles. To enhance the struggle, these “off” days always seem to come the day after a couple days that felt “normal” and “functional”…“thriving” even. 

Garrett did NOT enjoy the powdered color!

But what’s my point?

Like always, I find solace in both rejoicing and lamenting, sharing my experiences with words and hopes of affirming not just myself but anyone else who might be reading this and longing for this kind of connection.

I bet all parents can relate to this thought, that a lot of days simply just do not turn out how you thought it would.

I remember back when we were newlyweds, dreaming about what values we wanted to instill in our children. Back when people asked how many kids we wanted to have and we would answer romantically, “five.”

And now….10 years later with 3 children, I can understand why those receiving our answer of “five” held the facial expressions and the muted responses that they did.

But just as important as it is to recognize the struggle and process those emotions so we can support one another better the next time around, the “great” days and moments need to be meditated on too.

Family walks….. 50% chance of success, am I right?

So on that note….the other night we were all sitting at the table eating dinner.

The end.

Just kidding! (Kind of.) Because to be honest, THAT sentence alone is a victory worth noting. 

Because getting 2 boys with sensory issues, ADHD and Hearing Loss to sit at a table and have a functional dinner time meal is like getting a fish to NOT flop when it’s first out of water.

But lately…… we’ve not only been sitting together….. and eating…but talking too! Talking in a group conversation type style! You know the kind- where people take turns, and finish each other’s sentences, and connect!

Just lately, we have seen it. And it’s priceless.

Some days, you are taken aback, because your 6-year old cochlear implant wearer just told you in full sentences, “Will you go wait in line for me and ask for a velociraptor balloon animal- but if she can’t make that- will you get a monkey?”

I remember when he only had 30 words total that he could say.

Some days, your 8-year old, chooses to give his balloon animal to his 6-year old brother. EVEN THOUGH he obsessed and fixated on getting one, spending the majority of his time at the picnic event worrying about getting one, and almost had a full-on episode when pulled out of line…..

A rare moment captured.

Some days you get to see your child grow. You get to see your child do something that was either SOO very difficult for them to do (but you know that they’ve worked hard on it in therapy) OR something you NEVER thought they’d be able to do! Because miracles DO happen, and walls DO come down and limits CAN BE surpassed.

And for the moms and dads out there who can relate- sometimes you get to encourage your own self because you have seen and felt that YOU TOO have experienced growth!

I remember the days when I worried if I would ever be able to NOT worry. I remember when my daily prayer was to not get mad or let my frustration with kids’ behaviors get the best of me. I remember when as a couple we grieved over if we would ever experience a social event where our family was functional, socially appropriate or without crisis. 

I still sift through all of these thoughts, but I am anchored by experiences of success, muscle memory, thicker skin and above all else, an unshakeable faith in my Sovereign God. My God who sees all of my days, all of my weaknesses, all of my efforts, all that I carry, and all that I hold dear. 

And because of that I GET to honor my son’s sacrifice of a ballon animal- even though there were a number of unfavorable behaviors that preceded…. 

I get to give myself a pat on the back when I chose patience and resisted the felt social expectations and judgements surrounding me and chose NOT to reprimand my kids, but instead walked them through a “do-over” so they could experience how things could have gone. So they could experience the possibilities of how life could be.

Because of God’s grace and mercy and the life experiences that HE has allowed me to endure, I understand better WHICH behaviors to place my mind and my heart on. I understand better how to handle the unexpected.

I am definitely, still flawed and dependent on Jesus and will be until Heaven. Thank God HE is with me every day until then. Because I know there will be many more moments of failed outings and wrong assumptions of what our children should think is fun and great and tasty.

But I look forward to more unexpected phrases like, “Thank God for the aqua gear.”

All the Feelings

As we all know, kids have so many different emotions that often shift from one to the next in a matter of minutes, if not seconds! The other day, after numerous requests, Jackson asked if the time had finally arrived for our family to go mini-golfing as promised. Upon receiving his long-awaited yes, he shouted with glee and a giant smile took over his face. But within seconds, tears started to fill his eyes unexpectedly. He said, “Mom, I’m so happy, why am I sad?”

This particular moment reminded me of when Gracelyn was a toddler and had a similar experience. At the time she was our only child and spent most of her time with me at home. So whenever Adam would get home from work, he would enter the house and make a great gesture of open arms ready to embrace her. I would bring her to the door and say with great excitement (for not only her-but myself as well) “Daddy’s home!”

To our surprise, her response was very different than we imagined. At first, she would run to the door with excitement and joy, but as soon as that initial moment passed, she would revert to a strange sadness, and then emit a sudden “No” followed by a stomp off. It took us some time to realize that she did not mean to reject Daddy, nor disappoint. She was simply overcome with emotions. ALL of the emotions in fact, and her little brain did not know how to process, prioritize nor what to do with “All the feelings.”

Jackson’s sweet celebration and relief after waiting 6 long weeks to earn the sportsmanship medal!

It’s a strange sensation to handle- feeling more than one emotion simultaneously. We are all familiar with the phrase “happy tears” to describe tears that accompany joy of some kind, but sometimes that experience of feeling both incredible joy and intense grief at the same time can feel too big for one heart to manage. However strange, or uncomfortable it may be, I know that it is not isolated to our home or family members. I have witnessed friends and family members juggle this emotional experience as well as often hear this theme of emotional dichotomy in most songs on the radio. Most recently, in this Christmas season, I have heard this experience mentioned in the lyrics for the majority of Christmas songs that are current today, as well as the traditional songs that have graced this season for decades.


“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is one song that I heard the other day and couldn’t help but hear and feel ‘All the Feelings’ as it played over the car radio. More than once the song makes mention of Christmas being a time where your troubles are out of sight or miles away; that Christmas is a time where things return to the “way it was.” Families gather and experience love and joy, but those reunions bring memories of the “way things were.”

Whether these lyrics are relatable for you, I think it’s fair to say that it is hard to experience that “Merry Little Christmas” feeling without recalling in your heart and bones the grief that our “troubles” left behind. The two co-exist it seems.

Experiencing the joy of my 8 year-old still inviting me to come to school functions! Gingerbread House day!

For some, the joy of Christmas time may be easy to experience. For others, the holiday season can be a reminder of all that is lost. But for most, Christmas time brings both feelings of joyful anticipation and grief. The season has a way of amplifying what is lost while simultaneously making your heart realize and appreciate those around you more than normal. Plainly put, I think Christmas time brings a more clear lens on life that includes the very real emotional dichotomy that exists.

Dichotomies like overwhelming grief when receiving news that a loved one has terminal cancer, but then experiencing incredible gratitude for the sweetness of time spent together as a result.

Or the heartache that can overtake you when receiving an intense diagnosis for your child and then the wonder upon the wisdom and clarity that the news brings; enabling you to not only better understand your child and more accurately meet their needs, but an increase in love for them that you never thought possible.

I can imagine the majority of people experience “High highs and Low lows” during the other 11 months of the year as well, but at Christmas time- whether you are in a season of high OR low, you feel them both and they are both amplified.

Jackson with an “unexpected” sad face getting his photo taken in the mouth of a shark!

“High highs and Low lows” has become a common phrase we have used this year when others have asked how our family is doing. And to be honest, I have been tempted to view life through the lens of dread, fearing hope because I have gotten so used to the “other shoe dropping.” It can feel as if it would be easier to protect yourself from the pain and disappointment that the unexpected can bring if you forego hope and choose to live jaded, skeptical, sarcastic and cynical. It appears too risky to choose hopefulness.

Hope is kind of like a balloon that wants to fly high in the sky and float. Hope says, I don’t know what I will encounter, but right now- I feel joy and I WANT TO embrace it and move forward. Hope knows that fear is real and the unexpected might happen, but even in the face of that risk it chooses to be brave in order to embrace joy.

Fear is like the weight that keeps the balloon from flying away, keeping hope locked in the ground. Fear tells you to give up, stop trying, stop “fighting the good fight” and let sorrow win.

I had been struggling with this internal battle, feeling like I should “let my balloon fly” but wanting to keep it tethered for fear of future heartache. And then one day, in the midst of carrying the weight of it all…

The heaviness and intensity of having 2 boys with special needs,

The reality of a loved one’s suffering and limited time,

The consistent financial tension that living on a one-income ministry salary can bring,

and add to that ANYTHING ELSE UNEXPECTED that we just do not feel any margin for..

… I cried out to the Lord in surrender.

I cried out completely overcome with it all, feeling as if there was no rest in sight and completely devoid of hope.

And in His great mercy, HE answered and I saw our “High highs and Low lows from a new perspective.

One of our recent trips to visit Gramma, treasuring these visits and these views.

I had been battling the great weight of those lows that just kept piling up. I had felt angry and frustrated that as soon as I would experience a “win” of some kind, be it good news, positive feedback or especially a day with no phone calls from the school, like clockwork- something bad would happen within hours, sometimes even minutes of embracing joy.

But HE answered the prayers of my heart and reminded me that my struggle was not unseen by my God.

He gave me eyes to see and I finally saw HIM above everything else.

I saw that,

HE KEPT showing up.
For every victory that was overcast by another trial, ANOTHER VICTORY WOULD COME.
HE never stopped bringing joy.
HE never stopped providing.
He never stopped healing.
He never withheld recovery.
We were never forsaken.

The “High highs” are proof that God keeps showing up. As much as pain keeps coming, so does HE. He even tells us this in John 16:33, “In this world you will have pain, fear not- I have overcome the world.” We are reminded of this in the book of Revelation. As believers in Christ, we KNOW how this story ends. And it’s not on a low.

The magic of bubbles and sunsets and an incredible big sister who is always ready to blow the bubbles.

For the people of Israel, the birth of Jesus came after a record of lows that beats any complaint I have ever had or heard of. 400 years between the last prophet and Jesus’ birth. Often referred to as the “Silent years” – the people of Israel experienced great loss, suffering and displacement. I think the song “O Come, O come, Emmanuel”, A Christian hymn for Advent and Christmas explains it so well:

“O come, O come Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”

Emmanuel means “God is with us.”

A mourning Israel in captivity struggled to remain steadfast in their faith.
Prayers were lifted in desperation for the Lord to save His people. Yet in some scripture and in this hymn, great sorrow is expressed and yet followed by words like “Rejoice!”
The people of Israel did not pretend when they spoke to their God. They trusted HIM with their true feelings, but continued to show him Honor and Praise and continued to offer their Faith believing that HIS promises are true. Promises they clung to like in Isaiah 9:6 , “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Promises confirmed and prayers answered in in Luke 2:11 such as,

“Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Every time the story of the birth of Jesus is told, it holds a sense of mystery, wonder, peace and hope. The story involves people ranging from shepherds to Kings, from carpenters to Wise Men, from Babies to Angels. It is a story for every person. And I believe the magic of Christmas is the Christ child.

I saw a quote the other day that truly stuck with me and encouraged me to embrace the season of Advent. It said, “It has never been a mother’s job to make childhood so magical that your children don’t see their great need for Jesus too. Our children do not need a perfect holiday; they need a perfect Savior. Every unmet expectation, every holiday frustration, every tear or argument is a chance to show our children the reason we needed our hearts to be rescued.” Katie Blackburn, Risen Motherhood.

I confess, I have always celebrated the magic of Christmas in all of its ways. I am honestly not sure when I will tell my kids the truth about Santa or their Elf on the Shelf. I adore Christmas movies, and stories, and twinkling lights. But I also adore sharing with my children the idea that maybe Santa brings Gifts to everyone around the world to invite them into the celebration that is the birth of Jesus, the birth of the Savior, who is for ALL peoples.

How the Elves were found on December 22, 2021- morning after all 3 of our kids went down with the stomach bug.

In Ecclesiastes it says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

I think that the reason every individual and people as a whole can feel the dichotomy of joy and grief, and can experience these emotions magnified during Christmas, is because God set eternity in the hearts of men. He left a mark in all of us. A mark that reminds us that there is something more than this world can offer. A mark that provides us with a sense of mystery and wonder when contemplating the birth of Christ. A mark that deep down tells us that we are HIS creation. And as our Creator, HE blessed us with the ability to be cognizant of Him and to feel drawn to the hope of His existence, His Sovereignty, and His Savior.

Advent, the season leading up to Christmas is a season of joyful anticipation. Advent in Latin means “Coming,” referring to the coming of our Savior. I can imagine the birth of Jesus, the arrival of our Savior was a time of joy unimaginable. But that joy came from a place of answered prayer, after great suffering and years and years of feeling abandoned. The joy and grief go hand in hand. Grief amplifies Joy, and Joy gives hope in the ability to endure grief once more, if it should come.

A common Advent scripture, Lamentations 3:22-24 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.”

I pray this verse could be your anthem in times of grief and your song in times of Joy. And I pray you experience the wonder, mystery and hope that is Christmas, the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ, who WILL come again, and make all things new.

Merry Christmas, Blessings, and Happy New Year!

Sarcasm or Encouragement?

Have you ever been in an emotional rut?

Stuck waking up day after day feeling the same heavy emotion? Carrying the same hopeless mindset that leads you into the same painful experience of trudging through the day?

If you have not, that is amazing! I know I definitely have. I have experienced seasons of suffering, be it physical, mental or emotional that left me feeling like I may never wake up feeling hopeful again. Those seasons were long at times and at other times brief, having only felt long.

As a high school and college athlete I loved all of those motivational posters. You know, the ones with the pictures of mountain scapes that read, “Attitude is Altitude” and the others that always showed someone in the military dominating life with the word “SUCCESS” written over top of their picture.

It’s funny how time can change you. Those same posters I was inspired by in my youth irritate the heck out of me now! Now, I find myself more drawn to sarcasm. And it seems I may not be the only one! As I was writing this blog I google searched these infamous posters shown above only to find that many have been altered to include the same photo but with a sarcastic caption.

Funny, right? Now, I am not cynical enough to create these hilarious posters, but I do resonate with them. Even more so, I resonate with the messages that are sarcastic but yet still uplifting. Like this one…

As a mom, I get my fill from the light hearted and funny quotes that you can find at www.smilesmacker.com. They make you smile, you can share them with others to make them smile, AND you can even buy products and have your favorite quote placed on it!

Regardless of my encouragement preference or anyone else’s, I think the main thing is that encouragement is so necessary. Life is hard. Most people are trying their best, and still stumbling, failing, meeting opposition or discouragement. Sometimes we try our best and things go great, but then we realize we are not done yet. We have to try our best again, no matter how hard it was the first time. And that is life. Especially life for many parents in a pandemic. The impact that the coronavirus has had on the education system has been intense. It has caused a great deal of challenge and exhaustion for parents, kids, teachers and community members. I believe it has been hard on everyone regardless of if they are a parent or not. I highlight the parents in this blog, because I am speaking as a parent, in hopes of encouraging another.

This past year we homeschooled our children in India, and it was a heart-breaking experience. Not all homeschooling experiences are like this, I am sure. I mean, when I homeschooled our daughter for kindergarten, it was great! As for our negative experiences, we were balancing the special needs of two children who needed more than we could give, and we all felt broken at the end of it. So when we returned to the U.S so that our youngest could get the cochlear implant that he needed, we placed our kids in public school and saw them thrive! Now this is not always the situation either. I know this because when we placed our son in a public school for Kindergarten before we moved overseas, we were receiving phone calls from the principal’s office twice a day for weeks! I share both sides of the coin, because-like I mentioned earlier… Life is hard! For everyone, for all different sorts of reasons. No one side has it easier, and the grass is NOT greener on the other side.

We loved seeing our kids thrive for those 3 months in public school. But then COVID-19 came and shut everything down. There we were, homeschooling again. And now, the 2020-2021 school year has begun and we are homeschooling again. And it sucks. Can I say that? Can I just be honest? It sucks! And it is NO ONE’S fault. It just is.

But I vividly remember being back in India. At night, I would feel so heavy at the thought of thinking about waking up again, only to meet the same crushing demands of the day. For me, it was the humbling realization that I could not homeschool alone, I needed my husband. It was the painful realization that my son was struggling with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder and the latter part (ODD) was for me alone. He welcomed my husband’s authority but threatened mine. I grieved that I was unable to provide our eldest daughter the attention she needed while also grieving that our youngest grew to hate school time because that meant his siblings were occupied and whatever lesson we were trying to perform with him was in vain as he was battling decreasing hearing loss and an inability to communicate.

These are painful memories. They have become very fresh as we have returned to this homeschooling routine once again and it has brought to mind the all too familiar struggles that we once endured.

But one thing is different. Very different.

Choice.

I guess that is one positive thing that you can take away from a negative experience. That and the ability to say, “I have done this before. I survived. It all turned out OK, and it will again. I WILL be ok.”

I think the motivational sayings started to bother me because when I read them, I was interpreting them as saying, “This isn’t that hard, you SHOULD be able to do this well. YOU just have to try harder, YOU just have to be better.”

Instead, I am reading them as if the person who wrote them is saying, “Mama, I feel you. I hear you. I know how you feel. This is hard. You WILL get through it. You WILL be ok. Things WILL get better.”

And this time around, I am remembering the way it was and CHOOSING a different way. I am choosing not to go to bed dreading tomorrow. I am choosing to ask for help. I am choosing to give myself grace. I am choosing to say it’s ok if it doesn’t go well, we can try again tomorrow and we can always try another way. I am choosing to validate myself, affirm myself, and use the tools I have to make it through the best way I can.

I am going back to my FCA days when we would teach about the Armor of God. And I am using my arsenal of emotional support oils to gear myself up for the day. I am using these resources to give myself a shot, to surprise myself, to be proud of myself, and to be the best I can for my family.

I am doing this with scripture and with the help of applying these Young Living Essential Oils:

  • Hope
  • Gratitude
  • Joy
  • Believe
  • Frankincense
  • Valor

Let me know if you would like to learn more about these essential oils and their properties!

The Word of God contains so much encouragement. This scripture in particular-

Ephesians 6:10-18

The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

I am supporting myself and my home by using diffuser blends to create the environment I am longing for such as:

And I am making myself laugh with sarcastic inspiration.

I hope you too are able to walk lightly into a new day, laugh and feel hope. Because you ARE doing a GREAT job.

Grace in the weeds.

The first time I heard the expression, “In the weeds” was in reference to a server at a restaurant being completely overwhelmed with orders and people. When I became a mother, I thought of this expression often and soon the idea of being “out of the weeds” was a mere illusion.

My brain now contains so many “in the weeds” memories, I cannot keep track. Like the time I was changing the dirty diaper of one squirming child, while the other figured out how to unlock the door and escape the apartment. Or, when my husband was out of town and during bedtime one child FINALLY fell asleep and immediately the other one started repeatedly yelling at the top of their lungs, “MOM! Come wipe me!”

Then there was that one time that our middle son came down with the stomach bug, followed by my husband two hours later, then, myself and then the other two children until all 5 of us were fighting over the 1 bathroom.

We all have our own “in the weeds” experiences, don’t we? Lately, our family’s experiences have had more to do with physical and emotional capacity for one another; Or rather, lack thereof.

When life hits you from multiple angles simultaneously, it can feel so much like you are “in the weeds” that in fact, you are drowning under them. Emotionally it becomes difficult to support one another when you are all treading water. The past couple years our family has experienced so much transition, loss, and change that supporting one another while we are all weary has often felt impossible. And to make it even more interesting, the 5 of us have had totally different experiences from one another! Take these pictures for example, all 5 of us physically in the same place, yet emotionally experiencing completely different things. It can feel divisive when one of you is feeling joy or excitement and the other… not so much.

When we told the kids we were moving back to Florida, Gracelyn had actual tears of joy while Garrett had tears of sadness. And BOTH of their reactions were right, justifiable and OK. Similar to our first couple months in NY after leaving India, I was experiencing joyful family reunion while my husband was processing the end of a dream.

Personal preferences, past experiences and even genetic makeup can create for these differences in experiences from person to person. But however explainable, it still doesn’t make it easy. However, it does help to recognize when you, yourself are in the weeds. It helps to identify it-because when you do, you can share that with your loved ones, and this gives them the ability to offer you grace.

11 years into marriage and we are definitely still working on our communication skills. But this one- this “grace in the weeds” practice has been priceless.

Here is the part where I lift up my hubby.

He was ready to move overseas in our first year of marriage. 9 years later we went. How did he wait this long? Grace.

He knew I was in the weeds. In the weeds of motherhood. In the weeds of moving to another state while 8 months pregnant. In the weeds of identifying and managing my anxiety. In the weeds of life! How did he know I was in the weeds? Besides the obvious. I told him. I told him I was struggling. I apologized for ways I projected my frustrations on others. I asked for grace while I leaned into the Lord and asked HIM to carry my burdens, change my heart and give me the strength to do the things I needed to do.

It is hard to ask for grace, if you don’t believe you need it. And if you don’t believe you need it, you might be missing out on the ways that you can grow as a person. This might not be the case with everyone, but it was for our family.

I am sure that in our last couple months in India, I was not at my best. Little did I know that I had been taking a placebo instead of actual anxiety medication, but even so, my head was not where it needed to be for my family, for the people I love. But, my husband gave me grace, upon grace, upon grace. He was able to do so because he has seen me at my best and my worst and because he constantly checks in with me and asks me how I am doing. And I tell him my truths because I trust him with them.

When we returned from overseas, I was able to extend the same grace to him as he took time to process unchartered waters. Because I too have a mental log of him at his best and his worst. I too ask him how he is, and he trusts me with his truths.

Walking through the weeds with someone can be painful. Long-suffering may be reality. Mental logs of your loved ones at their best and worst can be helpful forms of measuring tape and asking questions and being honest are crucial. But grace….true grace comes from Jesus.

The truth is- we love our people. We love our loved ones, and when it comes down to it we would probably jump in front of a bus for them.

But when our loved ones get ornery, cranky, selfish or unkind, it can be hard……so very hard. Don’t pretend like you don’t know…. you do. Those moments when your person is behaving in a way that hurts, and you want to set them straight. And sometimes you do. And other times, you stop and take a breath, and realize that their behavior is just the pain talking. The pain inside that no one else can see. So instead of setting them straight, you give them space and love them anyway.

A few verses keep circling in my head as I write this blog.

“As the Scriptures say, ‘No one is righteous— not even one.'” Romans 3:10

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12

“But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'” James 4:6

There are many reasons that I love Jesus. Today, one of the main reasons is this, without HIM, I would not have seen my sin. Without HIM, I would not have redemption. Without Him, I would not be able to receive grace, nor offer it.

No one is perfect, but it can be hard to see your sin, when you are a pretty good person. You can look to the left and look to the right all day, and see yourself as doing a pretty good job. Until the day you do something, behave a certain way, or even feel a certain way that you never thought you would, let alone could. The day you realize you are a sinner, is the day you are truly capable of love.

When you can see your own faults, you can ask for help, and ask for grace. And when you have had to ask for grace or forgiveness yourself, then when it is YOUR time to offer it to someone else, you have a mental log of what it felt like to receive forgiveness or grace when you did not deserve it. Then, you too can offer it as well.

Grace in the weeds.

I love my people.

We are all sinners.

I can’t imagine a life without forgiveness.

I started writing this blog because our family just moved after living 8+ months in my parents house. My parents are amazing. Their generosity and hospitality and Pete the Cat mentality are incredible. But everytime I spoke with someone about our current circumstances, they asked me how my husband was doing. Because, let’s be real- any spouse living in their in-laws house for an extended period of time deserves grace right?

Well, my hubby did it for a very long time. He had his ups and downs, but I am so grateful for him. He loves my parents, me and our children so well. He knows when we are a healthy family unit, and when we need help for our family unit to thrive.

I love you Adam.

Thank you.

The mirage of “Arriving.”

I have heard the expression, “I have arrived!” It was said to announce not a physical arrival to a destination but a metaphorical arrival. I have held dreams of this kind of “arriving” or success. Along the way I learned that,

“Success is not always in the outcome, but in the attempt.”

Hmmmm. Thought provoking, right? Who was the author of this enlightening thought you ask? Well, I can tell you.

Sometime in late 2013, early 2014, I was determined that I would overcome SOMETHING. ANYTHING! I was so tired of being a prisoner to my weaknesses and always talking about the same struggles day in and day out. It felt like finding joy in motherhood, being able to exercise again and having a “faith big enough to move overseas for” were simply goals that I could not reach. My mind told me that these goals were possible for others, just not me. If you have been reading my blog, than you have heard me express my battle with anxiety. At this time in my life, I was in denial that what I was struggling with had anything to do with anxiety. I believed it was truly just a result of my weakness.

Daily I felt that I was failing to achieve any goal I set for myself. I could rehearse all of life’s pains and struggles as if they were still raw and fresh. And I would rehearse them. At least my brain couldn’t stop remembering all those painful experiences and was convincing me that the idea of giving things another try was being a glutton for punishment. I wrestled with tasks as small as encouraging myself to get out of the apartment with two kids solo, to big ideas like just wanting to be a fully functional stay at home mom. Ya know, the kind that managing the home and children comes natural too. The kind without grumbling, no stress… just joy. Because after all, I chose it. And I assumed, if you choose it, you should love it. And be good at it, right? I also battled with questions like, how come I want to be a happy mom, but I can’t? How come I want to exercise, but I can’t? I was a former strength and conditioning coach and now every time I exercised I would end up with severe spasms in my neck and back so debilitating that I could not move for days. So when it came down to choosing between caring for my toddler and baby or giving exercise another shot, the decision was made for me.

Most of all, I asked myself, why can’t I just be fearless? What happened to the girl who studied abroad in Australia? The girl who travelled New Zealand solo? The wife who chose to spend her first wedding anniversary on a medical mission trip to Africa? Now, the mere topic of living overseas brought panic attacks. At the time, I did not know they were panic attacks. I did not know my body was having a physiological reaction to fear. And I did not know that my fears of living overseas were being manipulated by media and body chemistry.

photo from our 1st anniversary in Ethiopia.

My husband and I worked for a non-profit sports ministry with future hopes of moving and serving overseas. At one point in our journey I decided enough is enough. I was going to wrestle fear by the horns. I was going to say yes. Let’s move to India. Funny how in the movies there is sweat and a punching bag and usually a great soundtrack when a character overcomes something. For me, I just got more back spasms, and actual asthma attacks.

Now before you stop reading and think, this is the most depressing blog ever, hear me. As discouraged as I was, I still wrote the quote that I started out with. “Success is not in the outcome, but in the attempt.” I even shared it in a room full of people during three separate speaking opportunities. And to be honest, the more I told myself, and others, the more hope and life I breathed in and the more lies and discouragement I exhaled. Because the success IS in the attempt. The success is when you keep trying, even when it’s hard and you have failed.

You ARE successful, when you don’t give up on hope.

I used to think success was only when you “arrived” at your goal. For me, I had to look deeper at the goals I was setting for myself. I was setting goals, making expectations for myself that I believed if I just tried hard enough, I could achieve. For example, if I did all of my physical therapy exercises my neck and back would heal. If I strength trained enough the “right way” I would return to the athlete I was. If I prayed hard enough, I wouldn’t be afraid of moving overseas. If I read enough parenting resources, I would feel competent and in control as a mom. I believed I would truly feel success and peace when I reached these resolutions in my life.

Fast forward to today, June 2020. I can exercise now without ending up in spasms! I am still the mom of 3 littles ones that I love dearly but challenge me daily. I moved to India… and I moved back.

I can still remember the day I dreamed about being able to exercise again, like I do now. I can still remember how it felt to dream of one day not being afraid to move overseas, like I did. And I can still feel the ache in my heart over the days that I grieved over not feeling the way I thought a mom or wife should feel. But, I had no idea that “reaching my goals” would happen the way it did. It was not the result of “muscling” through. It was a gradual process of surrender. A process of surrender that brought me to a place of willingness. Willingness to try another way, to see things from a different perspective, to humble myself, and to trust the Lord deeper than I ever had before.

In 2016 I started treating my anxiety with medicine and counseling. The year that followed brought healing, grace, forgiveness and deliverance. One day, I was not afraid to exercise. And after I did, I waited for the spasms. They never came. So I exercised again the next day. No spasms!

It started small. But those small steps were the biggest wins I had ever experienced. I had started going out SOLO on adventures with my 3 kiddos. Joy, redemption and excitement were some of the emotions I experienced that I never thought I would!

And then one day, after a time of serious reflection, I was able to look back on our then 6 years of marriage and say, I think it is time for our family to move overseas. I shared with others how through managing my anxiety, I was able to see life SO much more clearly. It was as if my brain had more space to see all of my memories, not just the painful ones. I felt like I was feeling all the emotions, not just the anxious and stressful ones. And I could see the Lord’s hand over my life, over our lives and I could see the story HE had been weaving the whole time and I wanted to continue to be a part of it! I wish I could share every detail, person, lesson, moment, prayer and guidance that I experienced that all played such a significant role in these victories. It was not just the diagnosis, the medicine and the counseling. It was all of it. The life I had lived, the life I wanted to live and the grace to live it.

I used to think that the day I was “fit” again was going to be the day that “I arrived” at my goal. That the day I moved overseas would be the day that I truly overcame my fears. I know now that “arriving” is like a mirage.

I made it overseas. However, we thought we would live there for at least 3 years but we came back in 9 months. I am exercising again, but I am not and may never be the athlete I once was. I LOVE my kiddos and I am happy to be a stay at home mom and I go on a lot of adventures with them! Sometimes the hardest adventures are the days that we stay home!! At times I still find myself discouraged, and unhappy, but I live more now in the freedom of grace! I do not hold myself to the standard of those illusions I had set out for myself before.

When 9 months into our long-term move overseas ended, and we found ourselves selling all of our furniture and packing up our bags once more, we knew grieving would come but our minds were fixed on the reason for leaving. There were many reasons, but the most pressing reason was Jackson. We knew his hearing loss had progressed even further and now to the point of needing cochlear implants. We knew we needed to get back to the U.S to get the care he needed. We decided to bypass Florida and come straight to upstate NY to be with family. We were in need of support. But of course, as with most plans, we had no idea that our expectations for rushing back to the US to receive care for our son would play out like they did.

Month after month, we waited for doctor’s appointments and answers. Not only did things get more gray in what was to happen for Jackson, but then COVID-19. Every step we took to move forward and make sense of the past few years of our life, to understand what we were supposed to do now, was left unanswered. And the day I realized that we had been living with my parents in upstate NY for the same length of time we lived in India, I felt lost. I could not make sense of it all. I was losing hope that we would ever know how to find the best care for Jackson, where to live, where to work, or even who we were as a family going forward.

I was stuck in a mirage. The mirage that when we arrived back to the US, everything would be OK. That Jackson would get cochlear implants and we would find a home down the street from my parents, the kids would go to school with their cousins, and our family would have all the family support we needed. And the feelings of pain and sorrow from leaving India and ending a dream that was sought after for years would all fade because the reasons that we left would make up for it.

BUT, recognizing the mirage allowed for me to see all the REAL, tangible blessings around us!! Blessings that we would not have experienced if it hadn’t been for this season of unknown. Because of unanswered questions, because of the Coronavirus, because of time, we received support, love, healing, pruning, gut-checking, re-evaluating, and precious moments with family that you wish you could freeze in time.

Life is still messy, but we have finally received some answers and direction. We have found such great care for Jackson back in Florida with his audiologist and the team there that we have decided to move back to Florida. Jackson will be receiving his first cochlear implant maybe as early as September, but we continue to wait for those answers. We are relieved and grateful and feel such peace with this decision. However, it will not become another mirage. Once we “arrive” in Florida, everything won’t be perfect. Life will never be perfect on this side of heaven.

I have my eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of my faith, Jesus Christ. I walk in grace knowing that the success is not in the outcome, but in the attempt. It’s not about the destination but the journey. It’s not about where you are going, but WHO you are walking with. The victory is walking by faith and trusting in HE who is worthy to be trusted, to bring HIM glory and to hope that one day, He will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21

Numbers

The other day I noticed something, it was a gift that I had sent to my parents shortly before we left for India. A pillow with the words “Sending hugs from Gracelyn, Garrett and Jackson from 7,854 miles away.”

It’s been 4 months and 16 days since we arrived here in upstate NY.

6 weeks since schools closed and we returned to homeschooling.

The kids experienced 3 months of public school here in upstate NY before the COVID-19 lockdown.

We spent 1 month in Malaysia before we arrived in NY. We moved every 5 days to a new AirBNB.

Before that it was 1 month in Indonesia, 2 weeks in hotels, and 2 weeks in 3 different homes.

But first it was one month in Thailand in 3 different home-stays that preceded our time in Indonesia.

6 months in India before that, with 5 of those weeks in a hotel.

3 years in Florida leading up to all of this.

6 years in Northern Virginia before Florida.

Today, I have a family of 5 in upstate, NY.

Adam and I are in our late 30’s.

We have an 8, 6 and 4 year old.

Jackson is on the cusp of the number that determines he has Severe hearing loss.

Numbers…….

Each day we watch the numbers rise and fall.

Numbers of COVID-19 cases. Numbers of deaths. Numbers of survivors. Numbers of dollars that move up and down for various reasons.

One number never changes.

ONE TRUE GOD.

Malaysia

So we are not in Nepal! Not sure if you all caught that at the end of the last blog. We rerouted from Indonesia to Malaysia on November 11th. Our plans changed for several reasons.

Our last week in Indonesia was pretty tough. We were all travel exhausted and the effects of constant transition were taking its toll on our family. I was down for the count, knocked out by something that we thought was dengue. Two blood tests later and I still do not know what I had, but the kids caught a version of it as well.

Picture this:

Hottest week to record in history in Makasar, Indonesia. Constant fevers making it impossible to leave the air conditioned bedroom of the house that we were staying in, that just happened to be located directly next to a mosque who blasted the call to prayer over a megaphone 5 times a day.

Talk about being in a dark spot.

More significantly, Jackson had a noticeable decline in hearing again so we knew we needed to get his hearing tested sooner than waiting until we returned to Thailand in December.

So we booked flights to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and checked into an airbnb which later would become 1 of 5 Airbnb’s over the course of our stay in KL. Oh yea, before getting to KL we had already stayed in 9 hotel/houses in 2 months time.

We knew that we would be living nomadic for our 3 month forced exit from India, but we averaged a new place every 5 days. Can you feel my pain????

On the bright side, we knew we were making the right decision for our family and we had an ABR (sedated hearing test) scheduled for Jackson at Gleneagles Hospital 2 days after arrival.

Garrett, Gracelyn and myself also had checkups and walked away with 3 prescriptions each. How does Adam avoid this? I think someone needs to create a vaccine from his DNA.

We spent the first 4 days in KL returning to the hospital. Ill explain why in a bit.

But we also spent our time in Malaysia walking through Chinatown to the Pavillion Mall, taking grab cars to Suria KLCC mall and outdoor playground, visiting the Petrosains twin towers, eating donuts, visiting indoor playgrounds, going to the movies and seeing all of the christmas decorations up all over town.

Not sure if I am the only one who has noticed. But it seems everywhere we have gone around the world, marvel characters seem to be there!

Thanksgiving came during our time in Malaysia. At first I did not want to celebrate. Too many expectations to meet or let down during such a transient time. But we made some friends back in Indonesia that happened to be in KL and they invited us to join them! I never expected to celebrate Thanksgiving, and see Christmas decorations everywhere here in Malaysia, but I was grateful for both.

Well, as for the results of Jackson’s hearing test, little did we know our small re-route from Nepal to Malaysia would bring about a major re-route by the end of the month.

We had suspected a decline in jacksons hearing but we didn’t know how significant. Jackson’s hearing is now at a severe hearing loss level. This makes 4 declines total in his 4 years of life.

At this point we have been told that it is time to consider cochlear implants.

Back when Jackson first received his hearing aids we attended a support group for families of children with hearing loss. Many of the children in the group that were Jackson’s age already had cochlear implants. A representative from cochlear came and spoke to the group. I felt compelled to ask questions and take notes, as if this was an inevitable part of our future.

When we found out Jackson has Ushers Syndrome type 2, we were told to check his hearing every 3 months due to his rate of decline, even though ushers type 2 is not typical of progressive decline.

I just had a feeling we were headed this way.

With Ushers there is inevitable vision loss at varying degrees making it even more important to stabilize hearing.

So here we are now, almost 1 year since he received his hearing aids and we find ourselves spending the majority of our time scrolling websites about cochlear implants and discussing possibilities for surgery.

After considerable research and counsel from his audiologist in orlando, we know now that he is a candidate for cochlear implants, that he has maxed out his current hearing aid capability, that his hearing has declined roughly every 3-6 months and dropping and that the window for speech and language development is closing rapidly. Because of this, after great prayer we have decided it is time to return to the U.S and begin the process of pursuing cochlear implants.

Before we left for India we knew that he had hearing loss caused by Usher’s syndrome. At the time, we felt that we had everything we needed to care for him well even in india. We did not expect two declines in hearing while overseas.

It is clear now that we do not have all we need to care for him and our family unit well and thus we will be headed to upstate NY where my extended family is while we pursue cochlear implants for Jackson. During this time we will wait on the Lord to guide our next steps.

Being rerouted is hard. Having to wait is hard. Not understanding is hard. And trying to make sense of it all is exhausting.

Our journey has been one with setbacks and times of riding the wave, it has held changes in plans, open doors and closed ones.

Through it all we have tried to rest in the things we know to be true. The things true of ourselves, our needs, our abilities and limitations. Things we know to be true for the season we are in. And always the truth of who Jesus is and who we are as believers and followers of Christ. He is good, faithful and sovereign, no matter what. “He is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1

It is not our circumstances that makes this true, it’s the calm we experience in the presence of our circumstances. The calm that only comes from the Holy Spirit. The “peace that transcends all understanding.”

And with that, all we can do is the next right thing.

Yes, you heard me. I just quoted Anna from Frozen 2. But in all fairness, we saw the movie twice while here in KL and those songs are now engrained in my mind. And confess, I may have teared up during that scene.

So the next right thing for us looks like heading back to India, packing our bags and heading to the US.

Please pray for our family as we try to repack and transition once more.

Life actually.

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Isaiah 40:30-31

“Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

After the grind of language learning, homeschooling and home “minister-ing,” I look forward to the weekends, to rest. But as every parent knows, weekends are cool, but they are no day-off. So in typical fashion we filled the weekend with activities that were outside of the every day and had some fun. For this post I will share about two weekends and the week in between.

We took the kids to beat the heat in an indoor play center called Kid Fun City.

The next day we took them to the pool we had gone to a couple weekends ago. I made sure I took pictures of the estate that this pool is located on because it is a former general’s mansion turned resort and for a fee the pool is open to the public. The grounds of the resort are incredible, and I am sure Adam and I would have spent more time exploring if the kids were not running full speed ahead to the pool.

After the pool, we returned home and spent some time preparing for the week. We began monday in normal fashion with language classes and homeschool. However, it also began with some unexpected news of friends leaving. Here, the landscape can change in an instant. There are many other expats here in the city and many travel to their home country for holiday and many leave either because it is time for their return back or the government has asked them to leave. As a foreigner, we are restricted to a certain amount of time in country depending on our type of visa and business. I was gripped with the reality of our limited time here. Much like all of our days, in the big picture or small, tomorrow is never promised. We filtered much of our week through the temporal nature of life abroad while wrestling with being present at the same time.

I gave this post the title of “Life Actually” because it reminded me of the movie, love actually. You know, the scene in the airport at the start and end of the film, with all of the hello’s and goodbye’s that life brings. I changed it to life instead of love because of the sobering nature of the week. Hello’s and goodbye’s are a part of life, but that does not make them easy. It was not easy to leave friends and family back in the states, and it is not easy to be absent during trials and celebrations. It hurts to say goodbye to new friends, it hurts to be left behind. It breaks my heart to watch others deal with grief of saying goodbye, be it temporary or eternal. Goodbye’s are heart breaking.

Small things can break the mundane and soberness of reality. For example, laughter and ordering coffee from your favorite coffee place in the middle of language class, or watching as as many Marvel movies in a week as you can. And hands down, Bollywood music and movies can change the mood of a room in an instant. “Bum Bum Bole” is one Bollywood song that is a hit right now and the kids are loving it. During our language class the kids have class with an excellent teacher and she taught them the choreography to this song and they had a blast. Music and dance always bring light to my day so it was pure joy to see Gracelyn’s excitement when she showed me what she had learned.

At the end of the week, I was so excited that my new Kurta dress was ready to be picked up. I was amazed at how great it fit, how beautiful it felt and how comfortable it was. And finished in perfect timing as Adam and I got to go on our first date since we moved here that Saturday! So I put on my new dress and we went to a coffee shop for pancakes, cappuccino and uninterrupted conversation. Oh, and we swung by the market because who doesn’t when you have the chance to get some groceries sans kids. As if having a babysitter wasn’t enough, we also took the kids to see the movie Secret Life of Pets. It was actually their gift to Adam for Father’s Day. At the movie theater there was a promotion for watching the Cricket World Cup Match so we enjoyed getting a “snapshot” with some local celebs.

After the movie, the kids and I worked together to bake some gluten free cupcakes and bread for Father’s day. It was my first time using a small convection oven and first time making bread ever. So….. it was…… interesting. I mean, it tasted like bread! That’s success, right?

In the afternoon, on Father’s Day, we were ecstatic to see the rain and the wind! It is either pre-monsoon season, or actual monsoon season, but either way- it rained! And that meant the temperature dropped. I stood outside letting the wind blow all around me as Gracelyn frolicked around in her rain boots singing “Jumping up and down in muddy puddles,” a tune from Peppa Pig, which surprisingly here is a local network favorite.

That night we went to our friends to watch the World Cup Cricket match of India versus Pakistan. All five of us loved the fresh air, the view of the mountains, and witnessing the joy and operation of a large family living communally. Our kids played with all the other little kids and the men watched the game while the women talked. As different as life may be from one place to another, the reality of shared interests that can transcend culture is awesome.

After these two past weekends, I was reminded that rest over the weekend is an illusion. I often awake saturday morning remembering the days of youth, sleeping in and watching TBS all day. It is much different now, as an adult, a wife, and a mother. It is also very different living in another country. I still can not believe how much sleep I used to get in my 20’s! But I digress. I am learning not look to the weekends to rest. I was reminded of this as I was looking at the mountain view at my friends house. As long as I can remember, mountain and lake views have always had a calming and soothing effect. I think it is because I grew up visiting the Adirondacks and some of my best childhood memories are there. And the view is always breathtaking. But I think it is also because when I see a mountain I hear the verse in my head, “I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-3

Truths like this and the ones at the start of this post help me find rest when weary. They help me find peace in a world where so much is not as it should be. They help me get back to the grind. The grind of “home-ministering” as they say here. The grind of home-school. The grind of daily tasks. The grind of transition. The grind of culture shock and homesickness. For the joy of the Lord is my strength.

These cuties help too 😉

Week 9. Perspective is everything.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

I was ready for monday. I am NEVER ready for monday. Maybe it was the pool party we went to on sunday that left me feeling refreshed and ready for the week. It was awesome. Held at what felt like an oasis in the middle of the city with several other expats. A pool to beat the heat, other kids for our kids to play with, food and a welcome influx of advice on things like grocery shopping, business, medical care, travel, education etc…

And we had a victory! It is always good to start your week with a victory. This was a win over ear infections. I read that mineral oil in the ear prior to swimming can help prevent ear infections. After the doozy of infections we had the last time we swam in a pool here, I was all for it. I can only imagine how I appeared. Me, carrying a small tupperware of liquid in a ziplock bag. However, if I put it in my bag, the coconut oil would have made a mess! I am convinced there is NO container in the world that coconut oil doesn’t sneak out of. I just kept imaging the locals thinking, “strange american.”

The week began with Garrett losing his second tooth and since the Indian tooth fairy was already “planning” on coming, Gracelyn decided to finally trade in her 3 teeth she had saved from her teeth extraction in Florida. Yes. She saved three teeth. And Yes, they came all the way to India. But kudos to her. She scored 30 rupees. My kids are learning to save!! Although, The “tooth fairy” must be careful not to overgift, else we will end up with a pet dog since that is what they are saving for!

One of several notes that Gracelyn left for the tooth fairy.

This week we also had two more yoga classes. I was a bit apprehensive for the next session considering how sore I was over the weekend. We so enjoy our yoga time though because we have an incredible instructor who is also a friend. Gracelyn is convinced that she is ready for the next level, where I am gladly accepting the modified positions.

If I am evaluating the week in terms of wins and losses, UBER was a total loss this week. We have not bought a vehicle yet, and taking uber is currently more cost effective. But every time I requested a car this week, the car would just sit there on my app, not moving.

10 minutes later, still waiting and overheated and frustrated, I would cancel my uber. They would still charge me! And then I would have to hail down a tuk tuk. Sounds easy except for the fact that most of my rides are brief and worth 50 rupees. A non-uber driver would charge me 150 rupees because I am a foreigner. I argued with one driver that I would absolutely not pay more than 50 and I ended up having to get out and look for another!!! In fact, I was so irritated by it that I asked my language instructor how to let the drivers know not to mess with me! I learned how to say, “Main Bevakooph nahin hoon”, aka- “I am not stupid.”

Another win this week was getting my Kurtas back! Remember how I said I sent them out to be pressed and then did not hear back for over 10 days? Well, no foul play! She was at a wedding! Weddings are a HUGE deal here. As soon as she got back, I got my Kurtas back.

In the arena of evaluating wins and losses, the next couple updates depend on the perspective. If you are viewing from the lens of health trouble equals loss, then we had some losses this week. But I am viewing from the lens of whether or not the healthcare we need exists here. So, from that perspective, we had some major wins! That does not mean I did not experience bouts of anxiety, frustration, sadness and fatigue- because I did, without a doubt.

But long story short, We found out that Jackson has Bilateral sensorineural hearing loss in December 2018. In January 2019 Jackson got hearing aids fitted. In March 2019, after months of tests we found out that Jackson has Ushers Syndrome Type 2. This is a genetic condition that causes hearing loss and eventual vision loss. This is the short version of our journey with Jackson’s hearing loss.

Here in India, we knew we would have to establish care and check his hearing every 3 months. After a couple ear infections and an increasingly louder 3 year old, we suspected his hearing was changing. We were so grateful to find an ENT and an audiologist within 5 minutes from our home! Remember, perspective.

I had a folder full of reports on all of Jackson’s medical history and I confidently strode into the audiology office ready to get a hearing check up. Soon I was to find out that there was too much room for error between the audiology test he had in the U.S, and the one here. This meant, that in order to get an accurate reading on his current hearing level he would need to be put to sleep and have another ABR test done. As much as I was freaking out inside, I knew we had to get this done to see if his hearing had declined and then have his hearing aids reset.

“Mam? Give this medicine to your son and when he is asleep we will begin the test.”

HAHAHHAHAHAHAHHA. You want me to give Jackson medicine, without any nutella or anything? Oh boy. After a few attempts to get the medicine down his throat in the office we were asked to take him outside and try again. I am guessing because his gag reflex was too much for the floor and the other patients.

Fast forward a few hours later, we had given up. Mom and Dad-0, Jackson-1. We got into the tuk tuk, hot, exhausted and defeated. Five minutes later when we arrived home, Jackson was asleep in my arms! You bet we turned right around and went back to the doctors office. I felt like a war hero carrying my 43lb son up 4 flights of stairs in the middle of 105 degree heat to get him back to the Doctor with enough time for her to conduct the test before he awakened.

An hour later we had the results. 24 hours later we were discussing them in her office. 2 hours later his hearing aids were reset and another hour later we were on our way home. Notice I kept saying, hour later?….. So if you can imagine all the time in between, with a 3 year old who has no volume control, refuses to do what anyone tells him and his favorite activity is to pretend to be a dinosaur. I was toast. Cooked. Fried.

BUT! Perspective. My Son could hear! Amen and Amen and Amen.

Week 8. Just a spoonful of nutella.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

I read once that it takes 21 days to make a habit and 60+ days to change your life. So at this point in our journey I believe it is safe to say we have experienced incredible life change and new habits. For example, I used to have ice cream almost every night before bed. You know, that sweet tooth night cap? But now, I am regularly so thirsty from the heat and dust that all I want is water and salt! I have always considered myself a sweets person over salty, but potato chips have NEVER tasted so good.

Another great change, is that in America, I always took a doctors word for gold! But here, I am finding that I follow a Doctor visit with a google search on “what are the 7 medicines he just prescribed for me to give my 3 year old?” I can barely get Jackson to eat his meals let alone take any medicine. Thus, I had to give my boys a heaping scoop of nutella every day this week to get them to take their antibiotics. Fortunately the medicine had a peppermint taste so I assume it tasted like a spoonful of peppermint patty. Coughs and sniffles have consumed each one of us lately. So I was grateful to have my oils when after I had used all the medicine I could think of, coughs were still keeping the kids and myself up. I used the Young Living Breathe Again Roll-on for me and Snifflease oil for the kids, and shortly thereafter…… sleep came.

Another change is that I used to take my second cup of coffee in the afternoon. 2 cups a day isn’t bad? Now, I can barely make it past 9:30 without a second cup. Maybe it’s because by 10 am my head is swimming with Hindi words during our language class. When there is only 2 students and one teacher, it is pretty obvious if you can’t keep your eyes open. I also blame the fact that India is for night owls. The evening brings bareable temps allowing for evening walks, parks, work and just simple socializing. Needless to say our kids are up for 15 hours a day!! NOT.A.FAN.

some of the objects we are learning.

We did get invited to our first Indian birthday party this week for our friend’s 5-year old son. It was excellent! Complete with a paw patrol theme, a bouncy house, countless balloons, cake and party favors. It was so wonderful to see them so happy. However, I learned a little too late that you can not simply run to a pharmacy or party city to get wrapping paper. In fact, I still have no idea where to go to get gift wrap! I felt so embarassed to offer the gift in a bag with not even any tissue paper. I will have to research this before the next one!

The heat is increasing. I am still finding it hard to stay hydrated. I noticed that many people here wear white to beat the heat. So I decided to find an all white Kurta for the super hot days. Maybe it was the beautiful handiwork that drew me to this one, or maybe it was the song “Hopelessly Devoted to you” from Grease playing in the background (random right?). But the one I chose makes me want to run through a field of daisies and sing “the Hills are alive!” This Kurta is also very light. Which reminded me of today’s verse. Weeks here are a roller coaster full of ups and downs. And long days make for swollen and tired eyes and weary hearts. But I look to Him. That is where my help comes from.

I was grateful that we got to experience some new adventures this week. Gracelyn and I started yoga! Our language teacher connected us to his friend who is a professional yoga athlete and teacher and she came to our home to teach us. I was so excited to get active and even better, in the comfort of our home. I have not tried to exercise outside in public yet or go to a gym. I had been feeling pretty out of shape and was eager to get back into it. As always, upon exercising I was reminded that my mind thinks I am still a college athlete while my body cries out in defiance, “Oh no, you don’t. I will defeat you with arthritis and scar tissue! Leave my atrophying muscles alone.” You can only imagine how my hamstrings felt the next day after doing several rounds of surya namaskar. NO PICTURES for this one, somethings are better unseen.

The other adventure was a day of sightseeing over the weekend. We had not done a major tourist outing since we were hounded by hawkers at Amer Fort. We were hopeful that being 2 months in we were not so wet behind the ears. We also decided to pick a few places and keep the visit duration to a minimum. The first was Jaipur zoo! Which is actually, no longer a zoo. That’s always fun to find out….while you are buying tickets and about to go in with 3 very excited children. Turns out the majority of animals were sent to a nature reserve while the remaining wildlife consisted of birds.

yay…..

To my surprise, it turned out to be great. And hilarious. For one, I have never in my life seen an ostrich the size of an elephant nor a pelican the size of a 12 year old boy before. So there was that. I have also never seen a museum of taxidermy animals in a zoo. But most of all, I have never been to a zoo where there is one monkey on the inside of the cage and the other monkey on the outside. At first we were excited to see the monkeys. But then we realized the one on the outside was clinging to the one on the inside and Jackson turned around and in sign language said monkey followed by signing the word “sad.” Later that night Gracelyn prayed that the monkeys would be reunited.

We also ventured to a museum. That was a fail. We lasted 10 minutes before meltdown 0′ clock started and people were sight seeing us more than the museum. So we bolted and headed to City Palace. This was a risk. We almost went home because the kids did not seem to be interested in history. Until there was a Bollywood movie filming in the center of city palace!!! 30-40 Indian women dressed in matching sarees, smoke machines, music and lots of “1-2-3 action AND cut!” I hope we get to find out what movie was being filmed someday. Attention spans run low with our crew, so after about 5 takes when the kids realized we were only going to see the same 30 seconds over and over again we needed to move on. And to our luck, we ended at a phenomenal puppet show where the puppeteers had their puppets perform a traditional Indian dance, a cobra and charmer dance and of course, an Indian Michael Jackson dance….. only India.

Our outing was a victory. We saw the sights, had a great time as a family, and I believe many people went home with a snapshot of us in their photo gallery on their phones.

Yes, random strangers took pictures of us and our children ALL. DAY. Encouraged for next week’s language class so I can learn how to say, “take pictures of the animals please, not my children.”