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

Mommy-ing with Anxiety And Oils.

Heather Braucher 

I had a flashback the other day. Oddly enough, I have this one a lot. It was back to a time when my 3 kids were 5 and under and every other week my husband had to travel  3-4 days for work. My oldest had begun pre-school (late birthday) and I spent most days at home with the two boys. As much as my daughter loved her pre-school, and I was grateful for having one less child’s needs to juggle, I DID NOT enjoy the 7 straight months of various sickness that followed.

Ear infections, flu, stomach bugs, bronchitis, pneumonia, and hand, foot and mouth disease all cycled through our family of five and the pediatrician’s consistent reasoning for this crippling season of chronic sickness- pre-school. It was very hard for me to accept that simply because my oldest was hanging out in a classroom for 5 hours a day, that our entire family’s immune system was shot. And the day that I found myself hurling with the stomach bug AND coughing at the same time due to my active case of pneumonia, I knew that something had to change.

Now let’s flash even further back to high school. In those days, I was a dedicated athlete. I loved training, and seeing progress. I went on to play field hockey in college with hopes of becoming a sport psychologist. I loved the passion, mental perseverance and discipline that sports and fitness desired from an individual. I wanted to be a part of helping people overcome obstacles in their way of reaching their full potential. I earned my B.S in Psychology and Sports Coaching and my M.S in Exercise Science. I had the privilege of working as a high school field hockey coach, a college field hockey coach, a sports performance coach at Velocity Sports Performance and PerformFit, a personal fitness trainer, a group fitness trainer, and even a strength and conditioning coach for athletes and teams. 

Around the 5th year of my career, just when I began to feel the part, an old college neck and back injury reared its ugly head. My ability to train others and myself began to dwindle and my career felt like it was ending just when it was taking off. Interestingly enough, my personal faith crossed paths with my professional journey and the intersection brought me from a job in sports performance to a job in sports ministry. In hindsight, the transition made perfect sense. I was drawn to the psychological element of training people, this explained why when I trained clients, it often felt a lot more like a counseling session.  

6 years later, married with 3 children, our family transitioned into a career in the field of world missions. We partnered with a global sports company and moved to South Asia. Now before you get the wrong idea, and imagine I am this devout Christian who is peaceful, pious, fit and psychologically sound, hear me…

It was exactly 11 months and 29 days postpartum after my 3rd child that I walked into my OB and said “I think I have postpartum depression and anxiety.” I am almost positive that my confession was probably 3 years late, but even so, thank God. My life would be forever changed by that day. Following that OB appointment came diagnosis, prescription and counseling. These tools provided me with understanding, proper brain chemistry, and coping skills.  With my counselor, I walked through stages of my life that left memories, regrets, pain and fears trapped in my brain and my body. And I mean, literally trapped in my body. You heard my background. I was an athlete, a fitness trainer. But at this point in my life it had been 3 to 4 years since I was able to exercise at all without ending up with debilitating back spasms. I was angry and overwhelmed ALL of the time. The freedom from recognizing and treating my anxiety allowed me to begin experiencing breath, life, and victory in areas where anxiety held me captive.

And the Lord did not stop there. It was then that I was introduced to the world of Essential Oils. Like I said, we had experienced chronic illness in our family for an extended period of time. Over the counter medications and antibiotics had become all too familiar in our daily routine. Prescription medicine was imperative in some areas of health, but even so, I was desperate for healing inside and out. I wanted the same thing for my family. My best friend shared some of the Young Living essential oil products that had a tremendous impact on her family. Essential oil blends like Stress Away, Valor, Vetiver and Peace and Calming became my secret weapons. And not just for me, but for my kids!

At the same time, it was also becoming evident our middle son was battling SPD/ADHD. Being too early for medication and diagnosis, oils like vetiver became instrumental in assisting his body chemistry. Over the next couple years all 3 kids began school and the EO’S that support our immune system were crucial in the game of “which sickness will they come home with next?” The products, education and community that Young Living offered provided my family with physical and emotional support. It also provided me with an outlet! As a stay at home mom, I found solace, as well as an avenue for utilizing my gifts. I loved creating roller blends and DIY gifts for friends and family. I loved being able to create something that I would later be able to offer my children when they needed help settling down, focusing, or even falling asleep. 

When I reflect on my background, it makes sense why I am passionate about health, wellness and fitness. When I think about my body chemistry and family dynamic, it affirms my need for emotional support. But My God continues to weave my life into a story. He continues to affirm that no matter what season of life, whatever strength or weakness, whichever state or country, He sees me, He knows my yesterday and tomorrow and he is not done with me yet. He plans to use me for good. Be it through, motherhood, health, fitness, ministry, or natural living, I plan to be useful, to share my struggles and victories with others, and to be there for those seeking victory too.

Mother’s Day.

It was the weekend before Mother’s Day in 2018. We went to Cocoa beach and had an incredible day. But as the day was ending and we were rinsing off the sand, the day took a turn.

To this day I can see what happened clearly, and at the same time, not clearly at all. The three kids were sitting at barstools overlooking the beach. They were passing snacks and being yelled at for trying to sit on the ledge. That is when Jackson fell off the pier. It was a fall close to 15 feet. He landed on his back on the sand. I can still feel the moment when his foot slipped out of my grip.

Fast forward to Mother’s Day one week later, I found myself sobbing in lobby of our church. I couldn’t stay through the entire service because I kept recalling the previous weekends scare. I was grieving over the events of Jackson’s fall. My heart squeezed as I recalled running down the pier ramp and onto the sand. I scooped him up into my arms, and we rushed him to the hospital. I cried that Mother’s Day because my mama’s heart hurt at the reality that one weekend earlier, my grip was not strong enough to hold him. By the grace of God, Jackson was not only OK, but completely uninjured.

Jackson today, May 2020.

I praise the Lord for his mercy that day. Even so, the painful memory still endures. And unfortunately, before Jackson’s fall, I was not a stranger to these feelings of pain and shame. I remember as clear as day when Gracelyn was 1 year old and 1 day, and I gave her peanut butter and jelly for the first time. I was so excited to share such a treasured treat and I looked forward to many PB&J days to come. That is, until the reality of her peanut allergy appeared.

I can remember her small one-year old body being strapped to an adult sized bed in the ambulance with EMT’s struggling to get an IV in her while I sang the only song I could think of to try to distract her, the “Happy Birthday” song. Hours later, following epipen and 2 steroid injections, she was recovered and we journeyed home with the trauma behind us and instructions for a new life ahead.

Sweet and strong Gracelyn, today, May 2020.

And I will never forget the day that Garrett’s school called us in, lead us down a hallway and had us stand outside a door to watch our son destroy a classroom. The beginnings of Sensory Processing Disorder, anxiety and ADHD could explain the long story, but the short of it is, a scared little boy was unable to process the big world around him and desperately needed physical touch to ground him. A hug, a squeeze, something. But the public schools have their hands tied and unless a child has a 504 or an IEP, the child is left to wrestle through their wiring and the world’s expectations of them. Once they let us in the room, I held him as tight as I could while Adam began deep pressure. As a result our son returned to us and broke free from the frantic that held him captive.

One-of-a-kind Garrett, today, May 2020.

Sometimes I wish I couldn’t recall these memories so clearly. I wish I couldn’t feel the pain and fear so intensely. Instead I long to meditate on the moments of thanksgiving and relief that follow. The moments when I rejoice because my children are still alive and safe in my arms. But anxiety will do that to you. Your brain gets stuck. And without intentional mindfulness, prayer and keeping your eyes on the Lord, the creator and sustainer of your faith, it is easy to fall prey to the pain and forget the victories.

Me, May 2020.

I guess, in that way, we are not so different from the Israelites. They witnessed protection through the plagues on Egypt. They witnessed being delivered. Yet, when they were in the desert, out of fear, they questioned ever leaving.

My children are only 8, 6 and 4 and I know there is more to come. I know that I am still young in motherhood. But I know that I am not alone in these experiences either. There are so many mothers out there with so many stories to tell. And by what I can gather, none of us are immune to the fears and insecurities that motherhood brings.

I look back on the past 8 years of motherhood with so many emotions. I pray with my entire being that I am doing right by them. I ask for the grace of Jesus to cover all my mistakes along the way. I beg him to finish the work He has begun in me so that I may fulfill all that is asked of me.

The Lord has blessed me with 3 children, 2 with very dominant personality types (and husband too!) I however, am wired the opposite. I have always struggled to find my voice in every setting of my life. Be it out of fear of confrontation, desire to keep the peace or just plain insecurity, I can honestly say it took me about 34 years to find my voice. And it was a messy road. Full of mistakes. Irony of it all, the Lord used motherhood to help me with that.

Today I can proudly say, I am the mother of an incredible, passionate, and dedicated daughter who will make an amazing actress one day. She is an expert at “not breaking character” when she becomes one. She is also the elder sibling of two boys with extra needs. We already have seen the impact of this on her life and so desire to stay vigilant in our awareness of her needs.

I am also the mother of a brilliant, witty, fire cracker boy who without a doubt is going to change the world- as long as I can keep him alive!! He may be wired with extra challenges, and he “extra” pushes my buttons, but we long to help him have access to all that he needs, to be all that God has planned for him. In these early years it is very challenging to discern when it is SPD, ADHD, ODD, anxiety, versus when it is just 6 year old boy. But God has placed us with the honor and challenge of identifying the difference, because there is a difference. Recognizing it and responding appropriately can change the course of his life.

And I am the mother of a precious 4 year old boy who has captured my heart and turned my world upside down. This boy was a God-given surprise that turned this scheduled, instruction following mama into a co-sleeping, wrap me around your finger type in the blink of an eye. And I think that was God’s plan because the way Jackson was designed does not fit into a type. Jackson has Usher’s Syndrome. His hearing loss, speech delay and future vision loss requires my ability to be flexible, innovative and full of grace.

I often wrestle with the temptation to ask God why he has chosen me for this family. I often feel so inadequate, weak, and discouraged. I struggle with the exhaustion from feeling like I am giving my all, my best, and not making a difference. Do you?

But I have to battle the temptation. For the sake of my children. And trust, that the Lord gave me these little ones for a reason. And that He does not expect me to be perfect. In fact, He knows I cannot. And, He knows that He can. For “He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

And in His great mercy, he plants people in my life along the way, to demonstrate love, faith, courage and wisdom. He places others in our life to guide us and help us, like puzzle pieces working together to finish a masterpiece. I mean, it takes a village, right?

These truths enabled me to move our family of 5 overseas. And these truths allowed me to move us back.

And I will preach this to myself daily, if need be. Because God is worthy to be trusted. He is worthy to be praised. If He is worthy to take our sin upon the cross, sacrificing his life for us, then He is worthy to carry us through the life we live now. He is the one most worthy of our humility. Only then can HE extend His grace, so that we might taste the life He has set before us.

Indonesia

10 years. We have been married 10 years! What better way to celebrate then heading to

BALI!!!

Bali is a place that we would never have visited had we not already been on this side of the world. So we decided to spend our first two weeks of Indonesia in Bali before heading to an island in Indonesia called Sulawesi. We saved up some birthday money since Garrett, Adam, Jackson and Gracelyn all had birthdays in the past 3 months and decided to stay at a hotel with an awesome kids pool and slide. They were so pumped. The day after we arrived it was Jackson’s 4th birthday. We had so much fun celebrating and enjoyed the hotel staff as they helped us celebrate Jackson too.

The beach was a close walk from our hotel and we got to see so many sea creatures just wading in the shallow waters.

The kids had so many questions about Balinese culture. every where we turned there were statues and gargoyles and temples.

In fact, we were all so intrigued that we decided to rent scooters one day and travel through town to visit a place called Puja Mandala. In one location, side by side are 5 different places of worship including a Hindu temple, a Mosque, a Buddhist temple and both Catholic and Protestant churches.

As intrigued as we were by the various religions and presence of endless puja stands every 5 feet, there was one place that captivated the kids attention like no other.

……Pirate Bay.

Our kids have had quite the cultural experiences this past year. As much as we hope to have deep probing question and answer sessions with them about what they are seeing, how it makes them feel, or what they think, we know that they are kiddos. In one breath Garrett will ask us, “Do they believe in Jesus” and before we can get an answer out, he’ll shout, “What! A pirate ship!!!!”

All these things for some reason reminded me of a passage of scripture in Luke 2:15-20, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherd returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

I don’t know why I keep thinking about this passage when I think about my kids and all that they have seen and witnessed this past year. Maybe I am storing all these realities up in my heart, and maybe they are too. For example, walking through Bali there were so many offerings on the ground made of flowers and straw, leaves and incense. The kids would sometimes accidentally step on them or knock them over. We asked a local about their significance. The reply was that the offerings on the ground are to ward off the evil spirits and the offerings up high on the temples and statues are to encourage the good spirits. Of course there is so much more to it than that.

Every space available had a temple or statue and offering and it appeared that a great deal of motivation behind the daily rituals was that of thanksgiving and fear, all to appease the spirits. Do not get me wrong, I am by no means an expert on world religions. I only understand as much as I learned by seeing and asking questions.

But witnessing these practices caused me to reflect in thanksgiving on the freedom I feel that I have in my faith in Jesus Christ. I have stored up this treasure in my heart that daily I know that I can not earn His love or appease His wrath. There is only one God and one mediator, Jesus. My righteousness is in Him alone. He was the ultimate sacrifice and nothing I do or do not do can add to what He has already done. In Psalm 51 16-17 it says, “You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O god you will not despise.” It is by realizing that I am broken, and sinful and in need of a savior that brings me to my knees daily, thanking the Lord for His grace and unconditional love.

I am also so grateful for the chance to see so many different people, cultures and worldviews, stuff that I had only read about, I have had the chance to see firsthand. And Bali had so much to it. I am so grateful that we had the chance to visit Bali both in tourist areas and local living. I surprised myself how much I enjoyed the food! But one of the coolest things we did was visit to a Luwak coffee plantation. It was there that we learned that Luwak coffee has a special backstory. The coffee beans are eaten by a furry little animal kind of like a raccoon or cat. The animal then poops it out, processing the bean even further. Which is then dried and crushed. The sight of Garrett taking part in the process made me laugh since he has always had a fascination with helping us make our morning coffee. We all enjoyed a spread of various different teas from the plantation. My two favorite were mangosteen and lemongrass. The avocado tea was surprising as well. Later in the day we hiked through some rice paddy fields. It was invigorating to take in the culture, the outdoors, the agriculture and to see our children’s faces light up with intrigue.

Our last day in Bali was Halloween! Still can’t wrap my head around what time of year it is while we are over here in the tropics. Adam and the boys had a fishing date while myself Gracelyn and a friend of ours went out to the local grocery store to find some unique treats for our trick-or treating evening planned at our friends house. Early the next morning we were back at the airport and off to Sulawesi, Indonesia.

I wish I could share more about our time in Sulawesi. Unfortunately, I fell very sick on day two. So sick that I was tested for dengue fever twice. I still do not know what I had, but I never want it again. The upside was we celebrated our beautiful first born’s 8th birthday, AND I got to have another Starbucks!

See you in Malaysia!……

Thailand

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

One week before leaving on a 3 month visa run, Jackson fell off the bed, got a nice slice in the back of his head that required stitches. 

Lord, have mercy.

6 months in India and I was soooo close to avoiding a hospital run! But these kiddos gotta keep me on my toes. On the bright side, he was able to get the stitches removed one day before our flight to Thailand. An answer to prayer since we were planning on swimming for the next 2 months!

In case I forgot to mention, we are limited to 180 days in India for 2019. This meant I had the incredible challenge of packing up our family of five with 3 months worth of necessities while also packing up our home to protect it from dust and mold. We only just arrived in India at the end of March, so since we were already out for 90 days, we only have to be out for 90 days more! ONLY! 

Haha. I hope you mistake my sarcasm for optimism! 

In one sense, a 90 day trek through South East Asia is a dream come true! With three kiddos under 7, let’s just say it’s a “dream” and leave room for interpretation. Our plans were to spend 30 days in 3 different locations, Thailand, Indonesia and Nepal.

We arrived in Thailand after a red eye flight and took a 5 hour bus ride down to the beach. After catching some z’s, we took a walk outside and it was love at first sight. From that moment on we spent all of our time soaking in the fresh air, blue skies and beautiful views. 

To help you better experience the fresh air with us, here is a little background.

We landed in India one month prior to the heat of summer (aka 115 temps) and monsoon season. This limited us greatly from any quality outdoor time. Getting outside was always a challenge. We depended on uber or hailing down a tuk-tuk to get around. Either way, it was never a seamless transition. 3 kids without carseats, motion sickness, language barriers and a map that was never quite accurate made us wish we could walk everywhere. However, with no real sidewalks and a traffic system that looked like the racing of the bulls prevented us from taking a stroll to the park. We were all so thirsty for outside time that we spent the next 7 consecutive days rotating between the pool, the beach and bike riding. Dream come true…check!

And the dream would have continued for the next 7 days at the beach but the kids wore out their bathing suits so much they all got bathing swim rashes! I have never seen anything slow Garrett down the way that rash did. We tried to mix it up and still had a great time as we ventured out to the local markets, explored more of the beach front looking for shells and took a chance on scooter rides. My first time driving a scooter and it was life breathing! I had not driven a vehicle since we left America and the autonomy of doing so brought a refreshing sense of independence.

After 14 days in Dolphin Bay, Thailand, it was time to move north to Chiang Mai. Our city in India actually has medical care beyond what we expected. However, our family has some needs that require specialists and many other expats had encouraged us Bangkok and Chiang Mai were the places to go. Thus, we planned our trip that we would spend the first 2 weeks decompressing with the healing outdoors and the next weeks getting checkups.

The place we stayed at in Chiang Mai was filled with families with young children just like ours, plenty of outdoor play room, a pool and 3 square meals a day. The kids made instant friends with other expats and we all enjoyed having good, nutritional meals and company. I especially loved the daily laundry service.

We were all able to get an annual checkup, a dental checkup, some debriefing over our past 6 months transition to India and some western food! One of my highlights from our time in Chiang Mai was finding out that the anxiety medicine that I had refilled in India was most likely a placebo and I am not crazy!! Haha. For real. I had been wondering why my medicine was not as effective for the past couple months and after having a checkup I was able to get the real thing and it was a night and day difference, praise the Lord!

But without a doubt, I think the kids would say that their favorite part about Chiang Mai was going to the Elephant Sanctuary and to the Chiang Mai Night Safari for church! Yes, you heard me right! We got connected with a church that held its services at a zoo! After service you get to walk around and see some animals for free!

While in Chiang Mai, we had hoped we would be able to get Jackson’s hearing checked and Garrett an evaluation with a pediatric behavioral psychologist. We needed to check in on his pre-existing sensory processing disorder/potentially ADHD. Unfortunately, Chiang Mai did not have the speciality services we thought they had. In fact, we had appointments scheduled for both boys and when we arrived to check in, that is when we found out that they were actually scheduled at the Bangkok location. Same hospital, different city.

UGH!

So we cut our time short in Chiang Mai and travelled to Bangkok. We were not excited about this because our family of 5 in a hotel in the city for 5 days is not a pretty picture. Especially after having left a city and relished in the outdoors for the previous 3 weeks.

Regardless, of the the less than ideal circumstances, we praise God that we were able to get the services we needed for our boys. Garrett had an evaluation with an excellent doctor and we were able to identify his ADHD clinically and get the treatment and resources that we needed. We were also able to establish care for Jackson and get the ball rolling on his future hearing test that we will need in December.

For fun, we went to the movies and let the kids get some energy out at a trampoline park!

So in one month we stayed in 4 different hotels. So far so good. Hard to believe there are two months left if not more before we can return to India. We had great adventures and great respite. We also had time to reflect on how the past 6 months in India was for our family and for ourselves as individuals. Upon leaving India, I was not very thrilled about this forced travel, but I found myself grateful. Grateful to step out, literally, pause and reflect. No matter where I go, I know who I am. Made in Christ and sustained by Him. Cared for and guided by a Sovereign God who knows every hair on my head and every day that has passed and is to come.

And to be honest, it was refreshing to wear a teeshirt and shorts, throw my hair back up into a messy bun and remember myself before India. I packed only 3 Kurtas for our trip! I knew that in Thailand and Indonesia I would be able to wear more western clothes but in Nepal, our last stop on our trip, I will need to take the Kurtas back out. Until then, bring on the western wear and Starbucks!

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 😉

Its getting hot in here.

“Two are better than one, because they have good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

115.

108.

113.

111.

These were some of the temps this past week! Out of gatorade and glucon-d just ain’t cutting it. Not to mention our kitchen is the hottest room in the house and the only room without an AC unit. It is a sauna. And this whole gluten free eating is getting old! It requires constant food prep (in the heat) and several trips to the local grocery store (in the heat) and when we are finished, all we want is water anyway! This NY gal must still have NY blood because I feel like an oven that is always preheated, so with these high temperatures I need an ice bath to stabilize! So grateful for my husband. Our teamwork this week was clutch. This week did involve more than just heat though.

We paid our first electric bill which looks like a receipt that you receive and then are required to go pay at the electric supply office. This is tricky, without assistance I am sure Adam would have been lost somewhere in the middle of town in 110 degree temperatures looking for a building that no doubt is unmarked, has a long line of people and no A/C. Thankfully our superhero Landlord stepped in and saved the day (which he has done several times) and drove Adam to pay the electric bill and also dropped Adam and the boys off to get a haircut! How do you like that!

Those boys just about broke my heart with their big boy Indian hair cuts! They looked so grown up! And my heart broke for Adam as his sickness continued to hold him down no matter how hard he tried. For a guy who rarely went to a doctor in the states when sick, the fact that Adam went to a doctor here says a lot….. Indian virus-1, Adam-0.

In spite of the heat and sickness that dominated much of our week, I made it to the import store that sells frozen berries, frozen chicken, and frozen french fries! This is significant. I had heard about this store and tried to find it on my own. An hour later in a tuk-tuk with two boys, lost somewhere in the marketplace and overheated, we gave up. So thankful for a friend who picked me up and brought me there in her car! That meant I did not have to ride home with loads of groceries in a tuk-tuk! I took a snapshot of the outside of the store so that I would remember so I can go it alone in the future. I know I will need to with all this gluten-free cooking.

And, with my frozen chicken I was able to cook with the pressure cooker for the first time and make shredded chicken! I was so nervous I would over cook it that I ended up turning the heat off and checking on it 4 times. Which meant that it took double the time to cook, which kind of defeats the point of a pressure cooker. This also meant I spent twice as long in the sauna, er, I mean kitchen. Yeesh.

We were so excited that we had been invited to a friends house to watch India play in the world cup this week! Unfortunately going would have required both of us to be able to stand vertical. The heat had gotten us so bad that we took turns lying on the cold floor while the other tried to manage, anything at all. In our fatigue and surrender we let the kids take the shower buckets on the porch for some water play and they ended up turning the floor of the porch into a slip and slide. It was pretty great to watch. From inside,… on the floor,… in the A/C. Needless to say, India won the match against South Africa, and also won in the battle of Indian heat versus our hydration battle strategy. Now you know why I mentioned glucon-d not cutting it! Fortunately Amazon India brought us our tub of gatorate mix over the weekend!!!

India may have had some victories this week, but so did the Braucher’s. Jackson had his very first speech therapy session via skype! He crushed it! For a 3 1/2 year old to focus for 30 minutes on skype and not only remain engaged but excited was an answer to prayer. We are so excited to continue this therapy and are so grateful it even exists. We are also extremely excited to see Jackson’s progress in speech therapy, as he had spent two years with little to no progress in speech therapy before we knew about his hearing loss, and now that we have his “ears” in and they are all tuned up, we are ready!

Drumroll…….Gracelyn and I are finally ready to reveal some of our yoga progress! It has been awesome watching Gracelyn’s natural athletic ability unfold in these classes, very similar to how it did when she took gymnastics in the states. I have loved taking yoga from an athletic standpoint and have experienced increased mobility and pain reduction. Here they are!

Our week ended with receiving our long awaited package from the states full of goodies from Mima for the kids, and precious items such as popcorn seasoning, young living essential oil products and ziplock bags.

Stay tuned for next week, I have a feeling the popcorn seasoning and probiotic gummies we got will be a game changer.

Oh, and I went to the tailor with the material I bought last week! My dress will be ready on the 15th!

A Teeter Totter week.

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” James 1:6

Up.

And down.

Up.

And down.

That was this week. At least it was not like a merry-go-round. Although, my stomach would disagree.

Started with a great yoga class monday afternoon. My foreword bend is getting so much better and I felt like I nailed the Surya Namaskar. Feeling confident and limber, I was excited for a good week. We also made the decision to remove gluten from our diets. With Sensory Processing Disorder, Anxiety and potentially ADHD in the mix amongst our family members, it was time to test the correlation between gluten and hyperactivity. And then Garrett came down with the stomach bug.

But it’s OK! He only threw up twice in the night and we only had to wash 3 sheets!

And I had a girl date with my friend! We went to Old City which is this incredible piece of history. We strolled through the market, through a sea of colors and textiles and block prints and vendors shouting phrases that I am certain are in the Aladdin movie. I was on the hunt for “choodiyaan”, aka bangles. Married women here wear bangles as a representation that they are married, and I have not been wearing any! No wonder the tuk-tuk driver asked.

I was excited to find my first pair of bangles and first pair of Rajasthani flats. I also came with an extra dose of humility because I was well aware that most of the bangles probably would not fit over my wrist, nor flats on my feet. So when looking I joyfully shouted “Badi”, aka big when asked for my size. I was successful with the bangles! Not so much for the flats. And I found an incredible bag to boot. At least I can live vicariously through Gracelyn’s flats.

Gracelyn was making great progress with her 6 medicines that the ENT ordered. Probably because I gave her chocolate baking morsels from the states after every medicine. And that’s Antibiotic, Steroid, Probiotic, Allergy, and two nasal sprays. After a long previous week of sickness, I had taken her to the ENT over the weekend. We discovered that she is allergic to the dust here. So allergic that her adenoids were incredibly swollen and her ear drum was at risk of rupturing. They even sent us to x-ray to check on her adenoids! overwhelmed once again by sickness and medicine, it was imperative that I remember to be grateful for the medical care and and ask friends to pray for her healing. That and to diffuse Young Living Thieves and Purification of course.Also, A few of you have asked about healthcare here. I am pumped to share that after each visit, I pay cash!!! No insurance company, no explanation of benefits, not calling to appeal a service not covered!!! So amazing, in fact, I will show a picture of the receipts and little folders we get to take home from each visit.

The ups and downs are so frequent, they blur together. Wednesday morning I awoke so sick to my stomach that it knocked me out for three days. And when I recovered, Adam went down. What a great week to be gluten free huh? Friends, I don’t know how we managed to maintain it, but somehow the kids made it through the week with two sick parents and nothing but eggs, hard-boiled eggs, rice, nuts, fruit and vegetables to eat. It wasn’t until Saturday that we found a meat guy and figured out how to get chicken delivered to our door! New favorite foods for the kids equal raisins, oatmeal with swirls of nutella, cashews and potato chips. We have lots to learn in this gluten-free journey. At the end of an exhausting week we were not even sure if it was worth it. And then we let them have pancakes. And that was it. After witnessing an obvious impact from the gluten, I decided to head to the store and get creative. I learned how to make Rice flour Roti, and Quinoa cheese and veggie bites. Who knew it would take me to move to India to learn how to up my culinary repertoire. I even learned how to make homemade sweet lime soda. But, ended up using the instant version instead. But hands down my favorite item is good 0ld-fashioned gatorade. With temps of 109 and 110 this week, we have depended on gatorade for survival.

I ended the week on an up. To give Adam some rest, I decided to take the kids to the local mall because it has an indoor play area where they could shed some energy since they were cooped up all week due to the heat and two incapacitated parents. Unbeknownst to me, there was a marvel meet and greet event! It was awesome. Ironman, Spiderman, BumbleBee, all dancing on stage and the kids got to join them. Epic.

Went out to a new shop with a friend, found a new Kurta dress and……. drumroll……. Meters of material! I shared in an earlier post that I am intimidated by the common purchase of meters of material to turn into a three piece suit or a saree. Still intimated by the saree, so that is yet to come. But I did find some incredible material to take to a tailor to make into a dress! I will share the final product after it is made!

The teeter totter ended up. Grateful to end the week on the up and up. Nothing like falling sick, and people you love falling sick to make you homesick. I have missed my family and my friends greatly this week. I have missed their voices, the smell of the fresh air in NY, the green grass and the blue sky. I have missed deli sandwiches with turkey! I have missed friends from all phases of my life, apartments we used to live in, and the ability to be able to be with the ones I love in an instant for sickness, for births, for celebrations. But I am grateful that I have so many ways to connect, and so many wonderful pictures to look at and reminisce.

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.”