November 21, 2013


Me, after nearly rear-ending some idiot who stopped to talk on his cell phone IN THE EXIT LANE: Whew, my heart is racing!

Lucan: My heart is racing, too, Mommy! It's going to win!


Lucan has always been very affectionate, earning the name "Lovable Lucan."  Lately his thing has been telling me, "Mommy, I love you 100!" or "Mommy, I love you 100 times!"  Not sure where he got that quantifier, but it melts my heart every time I hear it!


A current obsession has been playing Peter Pan and Captain Hook.  Of course, Lucan is always Peter Pan, even though he also loves to dress up like a pirate (complete with the crocheted eye patch that Charis made for him).  The obsession carries over into his building and drawing--he builds Captain Hook's ship out of legos, math blocks, trio blocks, pretty much any kind of building material.  And of course he draws and paints Captain Hook's ship as well, and his play-acting includes all of these elements.  He proudly announced to me one day, "Mommy, Captain Hook's pirates are getting dead!"

November 09, 2013

Tidbits from Mom & Dad's Visit

I finished chronicling our trip to Rome but didn't really finish telling about the rest of my mom and dad's visit from the States! They were here for a total of 3 weeks, and it was such a blessed time. The week after we returned from Rome, Ted had leave time he was able to use (the previous week was a busy work week for him, preparing briefings for the higher-ups and so on), so he took Dad downtown to the archaeological museum, one of the famous cathedrals, Herculaneum, and other places requiring a lot of walking that didn't really interest Mom.

Grandma was most interested in getting to love on her grandkids! She and Kenna made play dough one day, and she spent much time on the couch or in the rocking chair reading with the little guys.

I enjoyed being able to just "do life" here with all of us together. We did a very little bit of school the week Ted had to work, but the rest of the time we just enjoyed time as a family.  Lots of reading and game time, sewing projects for Charis and Mom, naps on the couch, movies, etc. And we got to go to a couple of Tobin and Arden's soccer games, too.

We celebrated Charis and Arden's birthday as a family, promising the kids they could have a special day with friends over after Grandma and Grandpa went home.

Every morning Lucan would come down the stairs and say brightly, "I'm so glad Grandma and Grandpa are here!" (The first day after they had left to return to the States, when I thought for sure he would be down in the dumps about them being gone, he marched down and said happily, "I'm so glad Grandma and Grandpa got to be here!")

Zaden easily wormed his way into his grandparents' hearts by running to them and cuddling them often, sucking his thumb and laying his head on their shoulders. Since he was much too young last time we saw them to really remember them from our time together in-person, it was fun to see them all get to know each other again.  (I'm sure Skyping helped! Though we don't really get to do it all that often, at least, not often enough!)

One evening shortly before Mom and Dad had to leave we went on a double date to a nice restaurant Ted and I had discovered some months back. A sweet couple from our church family came over to babysit, so we felt comfortable leaving Seanin and some pumped milk and a bottle. We enjoyed visiting over delicious courses that just kept coming and coming! It was nice to have some really GOOD Italian food, since our meals in Rome were so disappointing.

We also hosted an olive oil tasting event for some friends from Sicily. Emilio and Mariska brought their wonderful cooking and massage oils, soaps, and tomato-based products for us to sample along with about 35-40 guests. They cooked and provided some wonderful food for us, and we enjoyed having friends over to visit and eat. The weather was absolutely perfect, and our efforts to keep mosquitoes at bay worked for the most part--although we still got eaten if we went into the yard away from the porch area. Still, it was a very fun evening, and I think my parents enjoyed getting to visit with some of our friends!

Seems like the best part of their visit was just spending time together as a family!

Tobin's Decision

Last Saturday was momentous for Tobin and for our family--he accepted Jesus as his Savior!  Here is the full story with as many details as I can remember, along with his own testimony I had him write out during the week...

In Tobin's words...
On Saturday I had a talk with Mom.  Arden was at Laser tag for Noah M’s birthday party.  I confessed that I felt like there was something inside of me making me do bad things and making me a bully.  I also wanted to play video games nonstop.  At first I thought that I was becoming addicted to them, but then I realized that it was probably the thing inside making me.  We read some Bible verses and talked for a little bit about them.  Then mom asked me if I thought that I had really asked Jesus into my heart.  She said that she didn’t remember when I did it with her.  The only times that I did it, I was alone.  We talked a bit longer, and then we prayed to God.  Then I accepted Jesus into my heart, and immediately I could feel that the thing that was inside was gone.  I also felt a lot happier.  That night, I told Dad about my choice.  He was very happy also.  The next day we told Chaplain Keith.  He was so excited! 

In my words...
Saturday afternoon, about an hour or so before Ted was to leave to take our older boys to a laser tag birthday party, there was an incident involving some inappropriate behavior on Tobin's part. Because he knew full well that what he did was wrong, we told him he would have to stay home from the party. This of course did not go over well, and Tobin stormed up to his room to sulk. I had my hands full with a screaming baby and extra girls who were coming over to play with Charis and Kenna for a little while, so I wasn't really in a position to pursue Tobin and deal further with what had happened...I figured I'd let him sit and think about it for awhile and hopefully talk with him later when he was calmer.

Well, it wasn't too long before Tobin came to find me, tearfully asking if we could talk in my room.  I settled Seanin down and was able to give Tobin my full attention, a small miracle in and of itself given the state of chaos in the house!

As Tobin wrote in the paragraph above, he started off by telling me that he knew that what he had done was wrong, but then as at other times, he felt something inside him telling him to do something bad. He was so tearful and broken up about it.  Praying for wisdom and the right words to speak, I began asking him a few questions, led I'm sure by the Holy Spirit, gently prodding him to think about whether he had ever truly asked Jesus into his life.

For years now Tobin has had the same salvation story--he remembers sitting on his bed and praying to God to ask Him to forgive him and come into his life.  The description of the house where we were at the time means that Tobin was somewhere between 3 1/2 and 4 years old when he says he did this.  I've never discounted this story; I've always felt that there was something to it, because he persisted in telling us this whenever we discussed our relationships with Christ.  At the same time, I've always wondered...just a bit...only because neither Ted nor I was present with him, and he was SO young. Also, he has never wanted to be baptized, even though he has seen Charis and Arden go forward with that step in their faith.

So over the years, I kept quiet and just prayed, going with the assumption that Tobin was indeed born again and praying that God would reveal Himself to Tobin clearly if that weren't actually the case.

On Saturday, we talked for quite some time.  I was so heartbroken to hear Tobin say that sometimes he "heard voices" in his head, basically telling him he would be better off to die and go to heaven. :-( Oh, our enemy does indeed prowl like a roaring lion!  Over the years we have had some significant times of what we felt was intense spiritual warfare surrounding Tobin. He struggled with nightmares for a season while we lived in Las Vegas. He has struggled with insecurity and nervous habits (his latest is pulling at his eyelashes--his right eye has almost no lashes!). And there has just always been something we couldn't directly pinpoint, something different about his heart, his behavior, his responses.  He always had the "right" answer, yet he struggled with certain spiritual issues.

During our talk on Saturday, Tobin also said that he had experienced times when he wasn't even sure if there really IS a God. We talked about faith, how no matter how much evidence there is (we've been talking about that during our science lessons as we see the remarkable complexity of life!), ultimately our decision to follow Jesus is a step of faith...leading to a walk of faith.

Oh, how precious is the Word of God! I am so thankful for the many verses I had to memorize during my growing up years as well as for opportunities to continually study the Bible. We went to verse after verse, particularly places in John and 1 John, showing Tobin how he can know and have confidence in his salvation. Tearfully we held hands and both of us prayed. Tobin prayed specifically for Jesus to forgive him and be his Savior. Oh, the joy!

The difference was immediate! Instead of going to his room to spend time by himself, he began playing with the house full of girls who were here until dinner time! He was happy, joyful, helpful. His smile was radiant. He was positively beaming!

It has been a week now, and I can honestly say that I feel as if we have a new kid living in our house! While he isn't perfect by any stretch, wow, what a difference I have seen in his attitude and behavior. And he is somehow just more sincere--when he offers to help me, I feel as if he truly wants to, whereas before often I would feel that he just wanted to get something out of it...for example, knowing he couldn't play a video game until/unless the cleaning was done.

Perhaps Tobin had the beginning of a spiritual journey during that time he prayed as a small boy in his bed by himself. But last Saturday was truly a turning point for him. I can't wait to see what God has for him!  I have always felt that he may be called to a preaching role some day--a nickname Ted and I have for him is "The Proclaimer." :-) It will be a delight to watch him continue to grow in his faith!

Rome Adventure, Part 4

Columbus Day morning we cleaned our way out of the bungalows and said goodbye to the L family.

Then we headed downtown one last time so we could spend the morning touring St. Peter's in the Vatican City. The line looked daunting but actually moved quite rapidly; I think it took only 20 minutes or so before we made it to the security checkpoint. Ted stayed outside with Seanin in the stroller, not wanting to deal with the stroller and various baby accessories in the huge crowds.  It probably wouldn't have been too bad...aside from the steps to get up INTO the cathedral area, it was open enough that I think we could have managed.  Ah, well, it's a free place to visit, and I'm sure we'll be back with other family members!

There were throngs of people there. I can only imagine how crowded it is on a weekend or during the height of tourist season. I was so very thankful that we didn't have little ones to keep track of; Kenna did a good job of staying with us, despite her refusal to hold someone's hand the whole time. ("Little Miss Independent!")

Sooooo incredible to see Michelangelo's Pieta...

The rest of the cathedral was stunning as well. The natural light is so beautiful, and everything is so large and open. It's quite a different feel from the gothic architecture of Notre Dame, whose grandeur I loved during our visit to Paris in April. We only toured the main cathedral area, though the thought of climbing the dome was tempting! We also passed on going down to the crypt area--lots more crowds, plus Ted was waiting for us outside.

We decided to call it a day and head home. At one point we had thought we might have time to make a stop along the way to see another place we've been wanting to visit, but in the end we pressed on home and arrived hungry and ready for the frozen gnocchi packs from our freezer that were ready for me to heat up in the skillet!

November 02, 2013

Rome Adventure, Part 3

Sunday our group changed plans just a bit; Mom's legs were sore and swollen from all the walking of the previous day, so she and Dad opted to stay in the bungalow and have a day of rest.  Thankfully it was a beautiful day, Dad had lots of reading material, and they were able to enjoy a peaceful, quiet day.

The rest of us went back to the same parking garage we had used the day before and decided to go to a different bus stop since we had just missed the previous bus; unfortunately, we ended up wasting a lot of time as the buses rolled in and then sat at the terminal for what we felt was an unreasonably long time, considering they filled up and people just sat there waiting while the driver and crew ate food from McDonald's...

At any rate, we finally rode the bus to the Circus Maximus and had our picnic lunch there overlooking the grassy area that hosted games and races thousands of years ago.  On the other side is Palantine Hill, which we weren't able to tour; hopefully next time!

From there we did quite a bit of walking, with the next official stop being in Trastavere on the Tiber River.

 We enjoyed some fantastic gelato in the courtyard outside a cathedral said to hold the remains of Bartholomew.  After consuming gelato and visiting with a lovely Italian family for a bit, we crossed back over the bridge and entered the Jewish Ghetto.

This was a fantastic bit of history!  There is much that can be said about this, but I'll just write about the couple things we learned that I found most interesting.  The Jews were initially herded into this area of about three hectares in the 1500s, and it was because of this ostracizing that they were saved from the effects of the Plague!  Isn't God good?!  The picture immediately below shows the interesting contrast between the Jewish living quarters on the left and the line where the ghetto ends: note the buildings are the same height, but there are 6 floors in the Jewish building vs. three floors next door...

We bought some kosher snacks to share as we walked to our next stop, the location where Julius Caesar was assassinated.  It has become a haven for stray cats, with local volunteers taking care of the many felines roaming around the ruins.  The kids enjoyed watching and counting cats, while a few reenacted the "E tu, Brute?" scene!

More walking! Puttering around the streets in a foreign city is always interesting to me! We grabbed a couple of meringues from a bakery to try as we walked, discovered a museum with a Leonardo daVinci exhibit (we didn't go in but looked at a few displays outside), meandered over a bridge, and finally caught the last bus back to the terminal, more than ready for a good dinner.  Unfortunately, the restaurant meal was again disappointing--the food wasn't bad, but the portions were smaller and the prices higher, and the service was definitely not as good as the previous night's.  The last adventure of the day was having to get the Suburban jumped because the parking garage attendants had left the key turned in the ignition all day.  Thankfully, it only took about a half an hour with a screaming baby before we were able to escape. :-/  Otherwise, it was another wonderful day of sightseeing and memory making!

Rome Adventure, Part 2

Time is getting away from me...I will try to be brief so I can catch up this blog a bit!

Saturday morning we all had breakfast together before driving downtown Rome (Italian style again, all of us in the Suburban!) looking for a parking garage across from the hop on, hop off bus terminal.  The garage turned out to have too low of a clearance for us, so we spent a good 20 or 30 minutes driving in circles looking for a place that would work for us.  We finally did get parked and walked to one of the bus stops and got settled in seats on the top deck with our earphones in place to hear the tour guide.

We got off at the Colosseum stop--so exciting to actually be walking toward and then INTO the Colosseum!  Although, knowing the history of the place, I suppose being excited about walking into an arena of death sounds rather macabre!  But what an amazing place to explore.  Sobering, however, to learn more about the many, many deaths--animal and human--that took place for "entertainment."

Mom and Dad with the Arch of Constantinople to the left

Inside with the L family...I guess Zaden and Lucan were running around by Grandma while Grandpa took the picture!
We spent a good amount of time wandering around inside, listening to or reading Rick Steves' audio guide for details.  Then we made our way out and walked over to the Forum, which you can see below, the shot looking out at it from an upper level of the Colosseum.
The top center shows the remains of an old temple; you can see the Arch of Titus peeking above the trees to the left between the columns and the temple.
We shuffled our way through the Forum, feeling rather tired by this time, trying to figure out what various things were with the help of Rick Steves and the posted signs.  Though the kids were starting to drag, they managed to find ways to rest along the way and even be silly!

Charis by the Arch of Titus

A rest stop in the Forum

We found some remarkably intact statues!

At first you see a beautiful shot of Joy and Brian...and then you realize the blue-shirt boy (Tobin) photo-bombing in the background!!

When we finally left the Forum, we realized we had to walk a ways to get to one of the hop-on, hop-off stops.  Oh, were we tired!  We grabbed cheap gelato as we walked to pacify the kids a bit and then gladly collapsed in our seats once the bus arrived.  We enjoyed a briskly cool ride around the city as the bus made its way back to where we had picked it up in the morning.  From there we walked to a restaurant to have a much-anticipated dinner.  The calzones and pizzas were a hit; unfortunately, we were rather disappointed in the pastas (too salty), and Seanin was DONE for the day, so Ted spent most of the dinner wandering around with him in the Ergo, bouncing him and trying to get him to sleep.  Still, food in Rome is food in ROME, so we enjoyed the wrap-up of the day with wonderful friends and family!