Monday, June 28, 2010

A Divine Exchange

They most likely will return to China twice their original weights and with all sorts of stories about how they ate s'mores, played Wii and volleyball, swam, went to the theater and caught lightning bugs.  In the last three days, we have crammed a lot of American culture into our two Chinese exchange students!  When we are not entertaining them, they spend the weekdays traveling with their school group to Lancaster, Philadelphia, Washington DC and NYC for daytrips.  The Husband keeps telling me that I don't have to talk so loudly to them, but I assured him that I'm not talking any louder than I usually do.  It just sounds like I am because I'm talking slower! However, just because I am talking slower, doesn't mean that we do anything else slow around here, Chinese girls or not.  We ran just as crazy and busy this weekend as ever.  The only difference is that I got some very strange looks while the six of us walked through Costco and Kohl's for some reason??

They are very shy and quiet (just like us, ha-ha); however, we have all made it our mission to make them laugh and it works most of the time.  They especially liked watching America's Funniest Home Videos and The Husband's impersonation of someone playing an aggressive game of table tennis!  My maternal instinct kicked in as soon as I saw them, and with each new day, we are all getting more comfortable with one another.  As we watched them file in late Friday night, I had a big lump in my throat and tears threatening to spill over as I imagined how their parents must feel being so far away from their precious only children.  I decided I would love them like I would want someone to love my own child if I ever lost my mind and sent her away to a foreign country to live with strangers.  These beautiful girls are good for my family, since we mind our manners a little more often and try to serve them, as well as one another, out of love and a generous heart.  My own girls have made me proud this week, as they often do when I observe some of the fruit that results from years spent sowing, watering and weeding!

I would do this again in a heartbeat.  Hopefully, when the two weeks are up I will still feel the same way!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Yay! They Are Here!

They didn't arrive until midnight, but now we are finally home.  Our two Chinese exchange students have joined our happy, busy household.  It is 1:00 am and we are all up, they are unpacking and exploring their living space and I am wired from the giant Sheetz coffee I drank around 11pm.  It is so cool to watch their expressions and getting them to smile and laugh is positively delightful!

So far, so good with understanding each other.  We are trying to keep it simple and talk slowly (a real challenge for me, the babbling one).  They are completely adorable and while I know the next two weeks will contain some challenges, I am so happy to have them here!

Monday, June 21, 2010

I Am Not the Crazy Loon Some of You Think That I Am

I have observed several jaws dropping and eyes rolling when I've shared that we will be hosting two female, middle school age, Chinese students for two weeks beginning this Friday.  In truth, I have wondered if I have finally bitten off more than I can chew.  It was one of those decisions that was made instinctively, no logic involved (story of my life most days).  Now that we are just a few days away, the panic is starting to lift and I began to reason there are so many advantages to this situation:

1.  Every famous Christian author writes about hosting exchange students and loving it.  I have never once read that they regretted doing it or the kids went wild.  So, I figured when I sell my first book it better contain a true life account of being a missionary or hosting someone from a foreign country or it just won't seem legit.  And, anyone who knows me knows that as soon as there is a Caribbean cruise ship missions trip, sign me up. Until then, I prefer being the hostess.

2.  My garden needs weeded.

3.  I'll have a good excuse to hit the mall, I hear Chinese girls like to shop!

4.  I've been trying to get rid of my cat.  Chow time!

5.  I enjoy challenging myself in awkward situations with a language, age and cultural barrier.

Obviously, I'm kidding (except about the cat, who is free to a good home!).  I am taking my role seriously and I know I sound naive, but I want this to be such a life changing experience for these girls.  I don't want them to  just remember our culture, I want to demonstrate what an imperfect family in love with a perfect God looks like on a daily basis.  I want to demonstrate to my kids the gift of serving and hospitality, even when that is not always an easy thing to do.  We are all a little nervous, however we are excited, too.  My anxiety comes mostly from the idea of upsetting the already delicate balance of time management in our home.  To be responsible for two more teenagers seems a daunting task.  This is where faith and endurance get put to the test and we will come out stronger, if we allow God to lead us.  So, that's basically the plan and has been since the day we filled out the host family application.  Not our will, God, but Yours!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Little Women

My girls do surprise me at times. I never had a sister growing up and I used to dream about what life would be like if I had a cool older sister to hang out with. In fact, I used to watch the Electric Company and I had decided one of the girls on the show (whose name escapes me right now) would be the perfect big sister. Imagine my delight when after each sonogram we added another sister to the family! I never once felt disappointed or pressured to "try for the boy".

However, the last few years have presented some sister-related drama that leaves me wanting to rip out my hair some days. The older girls won't play with the younger girls. The younger sister(s) will irritate to get the older sister(s)' attention. #2 can work it in either direction, which could be why I find her the most challenging and find myself threatening to lock her in the basement some days! They can act jealous, stubborn, rowdy, and whiny. But, I know one thing. They really love each other.

The evidence is around me if I take the time to pay attention. #1 putting sunblock on the little ones without being asked to when I'm not around. #3 helping #1 to practice volleyball. #2 doing #3's nails. All three girls decided to get sweatshirts that matched on vacation and then they wore them together our last night on the boardwalk. Despite their growing pains they have a special connection, one I'm not sure even I can understand.

While all this estrogen is hard to handle some days, I would not change a thing! They bless me beyond words and I enjoy watching them interact most days (unless they are "interacting" over who gets the bigger brownie)!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Because I Like Free Things (Maybe You Do, Too)

I am breaking tradition from my typical rambling and randomness to post some information that readers may actually find helpful. I'm talking about Summer Reading Programs and free/cheap things to do! Here is a rundown of what I have found:

1. Go to the libraries! Every library that I know of has now gone to an online process to register and log in books for their "Make a Splash" summer reading programs. Here are the links...since it is online this year I think I am going to register at all of them!!

Hershey - click here

Dauphin County - click here

Cumberland County - click here

2. Metro Bank will deposit $10 in a savings account for your child (new or existing) if they read ten books this summer. I can't believe I didn't follow through with this last year! We had already logged books for the library, so I only needed to take the time to copy them over to the Metro Bank book log. I am now scolding myself in my firmest Mom-tone "That's like throwing money down the toilet". Click here for more info so you don't have to give yourself a lecture like I did.

3. Book stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble are both giving kiddos under twelve a free book if they read this summer. Just stop in to pick up a reading log at Borders (I could not find anything on their website) or download a summer reading passport here from Barnes & Noble.

4. Kids Bowl Free sounded too good to be true last year and I was like "what's the catch?” There is none other than you have to pay to rent the shoes! You can get more information and register for the program here.

5. Don't forget mid-week morning movies at many movie theaters this summer. Yes, you have probably seen most of the movies, but who doesn't like going to watch a movie on the big screen, especially on a rainy day? Here is the Great Escape summer schedule. Get there at least a half hour early!

6. Soon, the 2010 Entertainment Books will be marked down to 50% off their list price and you can take advantage of all the Buy One Get One free coupons for places you go to, especially in the summer months. We even ordered one for Florida last year when we went there on vacation. We spent $12.50 on the book and saved over $100 using the coupons! Click here for more information.

7.  Go to Chuck E. Cheese with the kid's report cards and Reward Calendars.  Also, make sure you invest in the refillable drink cups, if you haven't already.  We've spent about an hour at Chuck E. Cheese, first thing in the morning with our drink cups and free tokens. We also get coupons via email and I'll purchase a hundred tokens for about $15 and that should last us for two trips, along with the free ones we always get. Click here to print the reward calendars.

I think that's all I have for now. Please comment if you have anything else that you would like to add to the freebies/super-cheap list!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

How Not to Write a Book

I thought I would share some of my observations in the event there are other overwhelmed mothers ladies out in the blogosphere with a book waiting to be birthed that just continues to sit in stand-by mode.  Here are my suggestions (free of charge):

1. When you wake up to a quiet house in the morning, grab your cup of coffee and sit down at the computer to write a few chapters, do not, I repeat DO NOT check e-mail or get on facebook. The next thing you know your coffee cup is empty, the kids are awake and the sounds from Curious George are destroying any ability to put together two sentences.

2. Keep fresh batteries in your voice recorder. That way when you have a clever idea on that half hour commute to work, you don't have to look for the old Sheetz receipt and a dull pencil under your seat to write things down. It also really helps if you actually know HOW to use the voice recorder your husband bought you for Christmas.

3. Bring your laptop when you are trapped at softball games and three-hour play practices. Even though you may find yourself distracted and unable to actually use the laptop, just knowing it is there in your minivan waiting for you makes you feel confident if an idea actually hits you. Of course, the paranoid thought of having someone steal the laptop out of your minivan comes close to canceling out the confident feelings you experience.

4. Set realistic goals. Goals like "I will write one chapter per week, but only when the laundry is finished and I clean the guinea pig cage". Then, with that goal in mind, be prepared to complete the second chapter by the time your youngest child leaves for college.

5. Take it slow, rest in knowing that God has called you to the task, and pay attention to strangers in line at Friendly's who complain that their child's free ice cream cone melted all over her feet and Friendly's better get her cleaned up along with a fresh ice cream cone. Stupid Friendly's and their free ice cream cones that melt in 85-degree weather. Geesh. Yup, there are people all around you that will make it into your book and they don't even know it!

There you, you should be ready to let those creative juices flow and crank out an award-winning piece of literature! No need to thank me....the pleasure is all mine!

Friday, June 4, 2010

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times.....

The "owning our own business" bug is biting again.

After closing the cafe four years ago and selling our Subway restaurants five years ago, I was done. In fact, I was beyond done. I was traumatized.

It is a huge risk owning a business and we experienced the risk paying off (Subway) and then the pendulum swung the other way to experiencing a risk that sucked the life and money right out of us (Olde Cafe). The uncertainty has kept me hiding out for the last five years saying "I'm not ever going to do THAT again".

However as I end my last two years being heavily involved with our school PTO and the kids are getting older, I am finding myself entertaining familiar thoughts from a decade ago. Why not give it a try? I keep thinking of products that could be successful in our area and how we can look into veteran's benefits for start-up loans (something we hadn't researched before). I have called to get leasing information and I have been praying!  I feel like there is a spark of hope in me that hasn't been there in years.

I know that one major thing in my life has changed my perspective of owning a business. The realization that if God opens the door, we should walk through it and if He decides to close a door, I have to stop trying to pry it open. When we opened all the other restaurants, I had faith that God (with my help, haha) could make it all work out, yet there was a lot of stress and striving.  I believe things would be different this time. Sure, the stress would still be there to some degree, but I would not allow it to consume me and define me. I already have a peace in not feeling rushed, to take our time and not be anxious about it.  And, we are going to start small this time, without having to quit either of our jobs. That was probably the biggest mistake we made when we put all of our eggs in the The Olde Cafe basket.

So, stay tuned! I have no idea where this is going (similar to my writing), but I'm going to hang on and try to enjoy the ride!