Wednesday, May 5, 2021

It's Wednesday

From this Side of the Pond

 Hanging out with my momma at the hodgepodge today! Head on over to her blog to join in the fun! 

1. What's something you 'may' do this month? 

Hm...I may finally get wedding photos all downloaded and organized. I may finally learn how to keep a plant alive (fingers crossed on this one). I may countdown the minutes to summer break. Actually on second thought...that last one is a definite! 

2. Last time you literally or figuratively shouted mayday!

Driving to Atlantic City last weekend. Mostly if we're in the car together hubby drives but he needed to take a work call on his iPad so I drove the last little bit. The part where we actually drove into the city with a bunch of lanes and I wasn't sure where I was going and I couldn't have hubby help because he was on the phone so I was silently shouting mayday to myself. 

It all turned out ok though...mayday aside I managed to get us to the resort and parked :) 

3. Let the chips fall where they may, come what maymaybe, Cape Maymayflies, devil may care, you may now kiss the bride,  much to our dismaymayhem, mayonnaise...choose a 'may' word or phrase from the list and tell us how it relates to your life in some way right now. 

I will obviously be choosing "You MAY now kiss the bride". If you missed all my wedding recap posts, I recently got married so how could I not choose this one?! And right here is the moment we became husband and wife and he was told you May now kiss the bride. 

4. If someone were serving you breakfast in bed this weekend, what would you like to see on the menu?

Well I don't anticipate this happening this weekend...but if it were I think I would opt for chocolate chip pancakes which are always a favorite of mine. With some homefries and sausage on the side. OR eggs benedict= a deliciously rich breakfast that you can't go wrong with. 

5. Tell me one true thing you believe about motherhood. 

That it requires more selflessness than seems possible. 

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

We're getting the master shower retiled in our bathroom this week...well the plumber is at least coming so yay! We have a very small master bathroom and while we can't add anymore square footage we thought changing the fiberglass insert out for some classic, clean tile would be a better look and make it feel a bit more upscale. I shall keep you posted. But the current state of it looks like it can only get better hah! 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Weekend Recap

 Anyone else feeling stir crazy these days? I know it's not just us! Hubby and I were both itching for a little mini vacation- we have our (belated) honeymoon coming up in mid-June but it wasn't quite soon enough! And hubby has been working so hard the last few months so we decided to find somewhere we could spend the weekend. Somewhere that wasn't too far, driving distance. And we landed on Atlantic City. Neither of us had been and it seemed like a fun weekend adventure for us. So this past weekend we found a Rover for the dog, loaded up the car and headed out for 2 nights away. 

Before I get into the actual trip, let me tell you the best extra detail we were able to work out. We happen to have to drive right past where my aunt, uncle and Mema live. This would be my momma's mom and her sister's family. I haven't seen this family in so long- I worked it out that I'd seen my Mema in the summer of 2019 and even longer since I'd seen my aunt. AND they had never met my husband! So this was extra special. We didn't stay long- but long enough for some long awaited introductions, hugs and some catch up time. 

After getting checked in and settled, we headed down to the casino to check things out. I had never been to a casino before so I was enthralled with everything- SO MUCH people watching to be done at a casino let me tell you. And in general it is sensory overload but definitely a fun vibe. 

The 2021 Casino look...let me tell you. A mask selfie is tricky!

After checking out the casino we headed out to do a little exploring on the boardwalk and walk to our early dinner reservation at a nearby restaurant. I wish you could tell how truly unbelievably windy it was in this picture here. There was a wind advisory Friday night, with projected gusts up to 50 -60mph. It was wild.  Still, it was a beautiful sunshiny evening at the beach so I was a happy camper!

We went to dinner at Dock's Oyster House and should you find yourself in Atlantic City, you should definitely plan to eat here. It's a super fun spot with delicious food! The restaurant is nearly 120 years old (opening in 1897) which I think is so incredible. And they serve some seriously delicious seafood. They did have some non seafood items, but I'm of the belief that when I'm at the beach I want seafood. So we started with some of their broiled oysters- two ways. Rockefeller and Champagne Leek. Both of which were amazing! And we added a chilled lobster to our appetizer selection because why not? We're on vacation! 

And that was followed with a delightful main course of scallops for me and halibut for hubby. No one was unhappy.  

We also ordered dessert but ate it before I remembered to snag a picture...key lime pie. Which is one of my all time favorites! Besides the delicious food, the atmosphere was really fun! They even had someone playing some live music on the piano.

We ended the evening, spending a little more time at the casino- not being lucky...and walked on the boardwalk. Saturday after a quick morning stop at the casino we spent most of the day up and down the boardwalk. We strolled down to the ferris wheel at one end...


...and then back the other way, checking out the views, doing some serious people watching and popping in to some restaurants for snacks, lunch, drinks- the works. 

The evening included another yummy dinner at Guy Fieri's Chophouse over at a nearby resort. It was great! Although, not as impressive as Dock's in my opinion. And we capped off the night with some gelato. Overall the weekend was relaxing, full of sunshine, quality time with my hubby, time for him to disconnect from work, hand holding down the boardwalk, toasts to the first 3 months of marriage and just enjoying life together. 
And then it was time to get those pups and head home...I'd say based on the pictures they had a good time too :) 


Friday, April 30, 2021

Z is for Zed

Z is for Zed. 

26 letters. 26 days of blogging. From A all the way to Zed. I think everyone should adopt the habit of calling z, zed. 

And truthfully, I don't have any fun Z adventures for this post. So I'm leaving you with a few final thoughts about my time overseas. 

It was magical. And impactful. And life-changing.

It was challenging at times and eye-opening often.

It was full of growing and changing and learning and loving. 

It was a long time, yet MUCH too short. 

It was just yesterday...except it wasn't. 

It was one of the sweetest seasons of my life for so many reasons. 

And I have loved reliving so many pieces of it here in the last month. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Y is for Young Life

Y is for Young Life

I talked previously about Young Life in my T is for Thursday Nights post but today will be a bit different. My parents used to laugh when people would ask my sister and I about what our favorite trip was and they would always rush to say...besides young life trips! Because so often, when asked that question sister and I would spit out Romania without too much thought. But it wasn't about the location- it was about the experience.

You see, in America, a lot of kids involved in Young Life have the opportunity to go to camp each year. They have them in several places and they are awesome (from what I hear). But, being overseas, us international kids didn't really have that option due to the logistics of getting us all there. So instead, we took service project trips. Young Life groups from international schools all over Europe would come together in one location through a ministry in that spot to support the local community in some way- while also still incorporating some "camp" elements at other points in the trip. So in 2005 and 2006 we headed to Romania. And in 2007 and 2008 we went to Bulgaria. 

Those trips were something else for a variety of reasons. First of all, us getting to Romania from England involved a flight to Hungary followed by a very long bus ride- about 10 hours if my memory serves me right, to our Romanian destination. Complete with a stop at the country boarder where are leaders were responsible for gathering up all of our passports, giving them to boarder patrol and managing all of the forms. I can't tell you why that was the best way to do things...but we made it. And I'm pretty sure we all agreed the crazy long travel day was so fun! There was also some rigamarole involved in getting to Bulgaria in the later years but nothing compared to the first 2. One thing that we always did was have a night in the "city" before leaving. So on the Romania trips that meant a night in Budapest, Hungary and in Bulgaria we had the evening to explore Sofia.

Aside from that one night, for the bulk of these trips, we stayed in some sort of hostel/lodge/campy situation. And it wasn't ever glamourous. But I don't remember that ever bothering anybody.  Each year there was a slightly different purpose to the trip. Year 1- there were a few jobs to tackle. Digging out a huge drainage ditch to prevent some flooding the town was struggling with and this worksite was known as "THE DITCH". It was a muddy mess and the most fun! 

That's my sister crushing it in the middle! 

But we also worked on some other projects around the town that year as well. The following year we worked on a playground, as well as a slightly smaller ditch. 

In Bulgaria things were a little different and both years we worked at orphanages- two separate areas though. We worked on building a playground one year- fixing their equipment to make it safer, repainting and adding in some new things. 

We worked hard.

Pretty sure this picture alarmed my parents when they saw it first. I'm know for my tendency to be accident prone.

And the other year we worked at a different orphanage but focused more on the inside. Repainting areas, fixing ceiling issues, maintenance around the building, fixing up the playground and spending time with the kids. That aspect of this trip made it extra special because we got to really interact with the people we were helping. It also made it particularly hard to leave that last day.

This trip was 13 years ago. But as soon as I saw this picture, I didn't have to think for a second to remember this sweet thing. Maya. 

When we weren't working we were doing Young Life things. There was some free time to spend with your leaders and friends. To meet new friends from the other schools. Fun fact- a friend that I met in Romania, who lived in Germany at the time, ended up living the floor below me my freshman year of college all the way in SC and we are still friends! Small world right?

There were also games. Lots of games. The silly kind, the gross kind, the messy kind, the funny kind. 

Who doesn't love a good game of dizzy bat? 

I don't remember what was in this jug...but I am positive that I won whatever competition was happening here. 

And who needs water balloons when you can have flour bomb fights!

And every night ended with a "talk" the part of club where they speak to us about the Lord. And usually on that last night of the trip their was a "Say So" time. A time set aside for kids who had found Jesus that week or that year, to stand up and Say So. Their leaders would stand with them and even thinking about it now gives me chills. 

I built some of the sweetest friendships on these trips. I grew in my faith. I learned about the world and was reminded I'm not in the center, that we need to think about others.

So even now, when asked what my favorite trip was I always leave with "well ASIDE from our Young Life trips..." because truthfully they're in a category all their own.  No, these trips weren't to the fanciest places or the most luxurious hotels. They weren't filled with sightseeing or other typical vacation activities. But they were impactful in a different way. In the way they shaped our faith, in the way they brought us together, in the way they fixed our eyes and our hearts on what is most important. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

X- Rays and Parents

X is for X- Ray

This post didn't really have a destination when I started it...I just kind of started writing and decided to see where it went. This isn't travel related and it's not an "adventure" per-se, But it is about something that shaped me. 

I was diagnosed with scoliosis in 2002 the year before we moved overseas. I was fitted with a brace and while I did try really hard to wear it the recommended amount, it was tough. You see there are two main types of back braces for scoliosis and my particular one was the kind that came up over my shoulders. 

When we moved in 2003, I had to get settled with a new orthopedist and my mom did a lot of research and found me the best doctor- truly I loved him. He was so kind and thoughtful, with a gentle nature and the tact needed when dealing with emotional teen girls. I can vividly remember the drive to go to my first appointment, telling my parents that the only thing I wanted to hear was that he doesn't use the same type of brace I'd been wearing. And my parents let me know that I shouldn't put all my eggs in that basket. Trying to keep my hopes reasonable so as not to be disappointed. 

At that appointment, I found out that my curve had increased quite a bit which was not great news and disappointed all of us. But I was also gifted the news that he wanted me to have a new brace made- to fit the new curve- and it would be a much slimmer, less noticeable brace that DID NOT come up over my shoulders. I could have hugged him. I'm not sure I can express how difficult it was to be at my public middle school in that previous year, with a back brace that stuck out through even my bulkiest turtleneck. It seemed like a small thing but for me it was huge. 

But back to "X is for X-Ray'. In those next few years where I wore my brace consistently- seriously, my parents will back me up. I wore that thing as much as I was supposed to (23 hours a day) with minimal "cheating". But part of that meant that I needed pretty regular x-rays to keep up with how my curve was changing while I was in the middle of my peak growing years. So every few months, my mom and I would trek into the city together. We'd ride the train to London, hop on the tube a few spots to head to the downtown hospital for my x-ray and visit with the doctor. The thing I always thing of is mom and I getting to the hospital on those days together. You came out from the underground in the middle of the BUSIEST intersection and we had to cross the road to get to the hospital. And without fail as we prepared to cross my mom would grab my hand/wrist/arm. I told her once that she didn't need to do that, I assured her I wouldn't run into traffic and could cross the street safely. She laughed and told me it was as much for her as it was for me. And so it continued but with less eye-rolling from me.

When I was a senior in high school I was able to stop wearing my brace that fall. My growing had stopped and my doctor felt like my curve would remain steady moving forward. And so this 5 1/2 year season came to a close and mom and I didn't have anymore trips across that street. 

I think back on those years and that season of my life pretty regularly. Occasionally I think about how hard it was. How uncomfortable the brace was, how it felt like it made everything more challenging, how despite having a supportive group of friends I hated having to be different in that respect. But as I thought through this post I thought of how hard it must have been for my parents too. To watch the hurt and pain of their daughter. To see the huge curve that seemed like it wouldn't stop growing.  But mostly I think about how grateful I am for being where I was. For the doctor I had. For the sweetest friends who never made it feel weird or embarrassing. And for parents who were patient and loving and there every minute. For a mom who would grab my hand to cross the street and hold that same hand when I was having a hard day. 

So x is for x-ray but it's also for eXcellent doctors and eXceptional friends and eXtraordinary parents. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Wait Where?

Remember early on in my  A-Z countdown, I talked about our first visit to our new school...a mere 24 hours after landing in a foreign country? Well today's story starts during that same visit. We were touring the middle school, as I was starting the 8th grade, while my poor sister was taking her French placement test. And when we were in the main middle school office, the sweet secretary asked my parents if I'd be going on the pony trekking trip. 

The what? 

Oh you know... the trip to the Black Mountains of Wales.. for pony trekking.

As it turns out the 8th graders always take a pony trekking trip in the fall. And apparently EVERYONE is going...according to the secretary. So my mom says sure, then I guess she'll be going! Because they did not want me being left out of something, the moment I got started- because they're the best. 

So the kind secretary informs my jetlagged parents that the payment is due that day. Because the trip is in  just a couple of weeks. 

"Hm...Well... do we have checks that will work here? Or an account set up? Or the right kind of cash? Anything?" As it turns out they figure out a way to make it work. I don't know how. Did I mention we were jetlagged? But nevertheless, all settled.

Oh and I'll also need a sleeping bag...which in theory is no problem because we have sleeping bags. In our big shipment of things. That won'y arrive till after I'm due to leave. Oh no worries, we'll run to Target. target. But the secretary had the answer for that too and let us know where we could pick one up.

Oh and one more question...where is Wales? And pony trekking... that's like horses? She's never been on a horse. And wait, chaperones? Oh, just the teachers? 4 teachers- 50 kids and a bunch of horses in the Black Mountains... well OK then! 

So a few weeks after moving to a new country and starting a new school I rode on a bus with all my new friends to Wales. A place I hadn't even heard of before moving there. To ride horses for 4 days. We learned the basics of horse riding and spent the whole day, each day, out riding. Including one ride to a nearby city with a stop in a pub for lunch. Yep- with the horses in the parking lot. There were also activities and things in the evenings and lots of girly chatter in our bunk room. I remember that trip as the one that let me really feel like I was settled and a part of that group of kids. I was where I was supposed to be. 

I unfortunately don't have pictures to share from that week. As they were most likely all taken on a disposable camera and who knows where I put them. But I can picture everything in my head clear as day. From the look on my parents' faces as they were trying to work out what they were signing me up for. To the wide open scenery spread out across from us as we rode the horses. To the busy, excited chatter of 50 thirteen year olds off on an adventure. All of it. Etched in my brain. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

V is for...

 V is for...

I had most of my letters planned out at the start of the A-Z and letter v was one of the few I wasn't really sure which direction to go. So what do you do when you don't know what to write? Write a list. This is my very mixed up list of a variety of v words that didn't make it into any other posts. 

V is for visitors...coming from our old home to our new. I can't count the number of visitors we had when we were there but it was always a treat. It was a taste of home while also getting to show off and play tour guide for our new home. 

V is for vacation...trips to all over, giving us hundreds of memories to hold onto. Some of which you've seen through my A-Z...some that didn't fit in a letter but all memorable. 

V is for Vatican...a visit to a tiny country within a country. We got to tour the grounds, the inside and of course put cricks in our neck admiring the beauty of the Sistene Chapel. 

We visited the Vatican when we ventured to Rome. 

Also... is it just me or does it seem from the pictures I post, that my poor dad never goes on vacation with us? He does! He's just also our photographer usually :) 

And in Rome, we also saw the TreVi Fountain. (I know...a stretch)

I'm thinking I made a wish that this could keep being my life forever and ever...

V is for Stratford Upon AVon....ok this one is a stretch, but there is a v in there.  50 eighth graders exploring all things Shakespeare. Who got in trouble for making too much noise in the hotel. Also- who let us all stay in a hotel with such minimal supervision? Nuts! 

V is for valuable lessons learned. Too many to count each but they all shaped me into the person I am. Life lessons that taught me to accept others. To work with people from all over. To be welcoming and kind. To be flexible. To be resilient...oh boy that was a big one. To be confident and brave. To be adventurous.

V is for voice lessons...a favorite after-school activity. Complete with my first talent show performance. I'm pretty sure my parents were QUITE nervous for this, but I'm pleased to say I didn't embarrass myself- I remembered all the words, was on key and loved every moment. 

V is for volunteer...working with the middle school Wyldlife kids  as a junior leader. 

V is for "vamanos"...Let's Go! (to Spain). I participated in the Spanish trip when I was a junior and we went to Santiago de Compostela. I actually have not made a trip to a "major" city in Spain but loved every minute of this particular trip. 

I think they intentionally chose a smaller city...less English...with the purpose of the trip being full language immersion for the week. We stayed with host families, who were only allowed to speak Spanish to us and I stayed with one of my best friends. We had class in the mornings and then after lunch we explored the city, did some sight seeing and then were free for the night. There was a day trip to the beach, we went strolling through the mall and played futbol in the park. 

There was a fair in town that week so we spent the evenings riding bumper cars and getting snacks, hanging out in the park, being every bit the free teenagers we were. 

V is for volume. The VAST  amount of things I want to write and want to share about my time living overseas. And then as I try to get it all out, I can't quite put into words all that those years meant to me. 

But I sure do appreciate you guys coming along for the ride as I try.