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House of Mephibosheth- Da Dian, China

So we came to China, as we go everywhere, with a purpose: we came with the desire to love people, to help where we can, and to leave it a better place than when we arrived.  However, even with our best intentions, when you can’t speak Chinese, it is extremely difficult to connect with local needs (because we can’t UNDERSTAND the local needs).  So when some friends of ours mentioned a special needs orphanage in the Shandong province that may need assistance, we jumped on board and asked to go along on a small, reconnaissance- type mission trip that they were going to be taking.

We met up with Dave, Bruna and Frank, the driver they’d hired, early Thursday morning.  Being a Chinese holiday, we didn’t realize how much that would already affect our morning, but since there were no taxis, we had to take a bus and walk half a mile to get to them.  Then we set out for the small, rural city of Da Dian which was not too far away- only a three and a half to four hour drive.  We got to cross a bucket list item off our list on the way there… crossing the longest sea bridge in the world. The Qingdao Haiwan Bridge, going from Qingdao to Huangdao, China, spans a whopping 42.5 kilometers!!! 

https://www.amusingplanet.com/2011/01/china-builds-worlds-longest-sea-bridge.html

Traffic proved to be much more problematic than we had expected.  Since it was a holiday, not only were many more people on the road, but there were many more accidents.  We hit one stretch along this seemingly never-ending bridge and we saw no less than 7 accidents: some small fender benders, others affecting 3-5 cars.  Needless to say, the trip there took longer than expected. 

Finally, after driving down tiny dirt roads through fields and pastures, we arrived at our destination.  Just through the gate on our right side was the greenhouse, blooming with green, color, and produce; on our left were chickens and baby chicks running around squawking loudly; as we pulled around to park in front of their home, wild goats roamed and children played.  Welcome to House of Mephibosheth.

Why Mephibosheth, you might ask.  In the Bible, after King David’s (crazy) father-in-law Saul and his best friend Jonathan (Saul’s son) had been killed, he looked for a way to show kindness to their family.  He asked around to see if there was anyone in their family who was still alive. By chance, there was one son of Jonathan remaining- his name was Mephibosheth.  He had been crippled in both feet as a young boy and cast aside by society, but David took it upon himself to restore his father’s land to him and he promised to always let him eat at his royal table.  In the same way, House of Mephibosheth was formed to look after those who were abandoned by the world and to give them a chance to eat at the table of a king (Jesus) forever.

After eating lunch with Steve and his 8 children (both adopted and natural), he showed us around the complex.  Steve and his wife Xinwei had built this complex from the ground up (with actual planning and design assistance from the kids).  It had taken nearly 8 years to construct, but what a place!  Their vision for House of Mephibosheth was to make it a sort of play-land/ theme park for children with special needs, a place where these children could realize who they are and what they are really capable of, and where they could see themselves for their abilities, not their disabilities.  We walked down to the house where their 8 special needs orphans live and watched as they were gently fed and cared for. 

While we were on this first initial visit, we were astounded by one thing over and over again- people kept on coming; people from the village where they lived, people who had heard about their ministry and others who they had never before met.  When we were down there, there was an elderly man who had come to make an offering and he held Steve’s hand and cried because he felt so honored to give to such a wonderful ministry.  It was beautiful.  That was the first time the tears started falling, but it wouldn’t be the last.

We spent the afternoon with Steve’s kids Faith, Ben, Helen, Azariah, Zuriel, Rain, Cocoa, and Raymie.  There were more visitors in the afternoon.  One large group came and brought toys for all the kids so we spent lots of time reading, playing with play dough, doing puzzles and coloring with the kiddos. 

As the afternoon wore on, we jumped on the trampoline and watched the kids play in the water hole, making an imaginary boat out of a storage bin and playing “pirate” with each other.  Zozo (Zuriel) caught a fish, the boat capsized with Cocoa onboard, and the boat was pelted with “friendly fire” of pebbles. 

Then Steve sat down with us and showed us a documentary that the local CCTV (China) station had done on their ministry.  We heard the adoption stories of Ben and Faith, both with cerebral palsy and of Helen, who had a cleft lip.  We watched this mixed family interact and laugh and love each other and it was beautiful.  We sang hymns before dinner and then went to bed early after a long and exhausting day of travel and play.

The next morning we woke up to breakfast made mostly of things from their greenhouse, along with some fresh goat’s milk.  The boys (6 and 8) took us out for a run around the village.  We fought the wind, uphill and down, through fields and along the back roads of the Chinese countryside.  We encountered working farmers, toothless old men, lots of graves, and lots of smiles.  I’m sure they were all wondering who these foreigners were!

After our run, we decided to go into the city to buy some fruit as a special treat for all the kids.  We hopped in the van and went to a simple street market where we loaded up on cherries, strawberries, watermelon, apricots, mangoes… you name it! 

We went back and made a big fruit salad and cut up the watermelon and brought it down to the kids.  What a fun time!  Watching these precious little ones enjoy the sweet fruit with juice dripping down their chins while begging for more was so cute.  Little Moses especially made me smile… he LOVED watermelon… a baby after my own heart.  Shawn too.

We were able to spend a lot more time with the kids this time around, and especially with a little guy named Tian.  This little guy was born with deformed feet and had been discarded multiple times before Steve and Xinwei got to him.  They paid for him to have a surgery where they literally cut his feet apart and put them back together correctly.  But now he is able to walk and pull himself around.  He loved to come sit in my lap and have me carry him places.  He showed me the greenhouse and all the plants, he showed me the new buildings that were still under construction, he convinced me to let him jump on my bed (I couldn’t resist), and I pushed him around on a trike for a while.

These precious, precious feet!
Tian

Later in the afternoon, Steve finally put us to work.  Bruna and I offered to help Xinwei, Steve’s wife (who has cancer) but ended up staying back with the special needs kids and his kids (they always play together and his kids are very helpful).  We watched them play with the baby chicks and go down the slide. They were loving it!

Sweet baby Moses!

The boys helped do some random house things- fixing doorknobs, doors, and then the big project, trying to help fix Ben’s “quad.”  Yes, that’s right, Ben has a little four wheeler that he can drive and ride.  He had told his dad when he was younger that he wanted to run fast, but since that is impossible with his condition, he decided to build him a machine that could give him the same effect.  He is planning to make a Segway for Faith as well because it is her dream to dance.  It is amazing the things he creates! And all out of scrap pieces that he just puts together! What imagination!!!

Look at that expression! That, right there, is WORTH it!!!

What I love about Steve is his practicality.  His kids want something, he will make it happen.  He sees things in them that others do not.  Take Shawn for example.  Shawn is an adult, Shawn is mute.  Nobody thought Shawn was capable of doing anything… but Steve did.  Later he found out that he was completely of sound mind, he just couldn’t talk… but he sure can text!  So now Shawn has a phone and texts what he wants to say.  He helps take care of the other orphans.  Not only has Steve given him a job and a purpose, but he has also given him a voice.  It is a beautiful thing. Not only that, but Shawn is so full of JOY!!! He is such an inspiration!

That evening, we sat down and chatted. The kids showed us some blueprints for things that they were thinking of making… and we watched parkour videos… random, I know, but they loved them! We simply enjoyed our last evening there with this inspirational family. It was a beautiful time of love and laughter!

The last thing I want to share about our time there was a private time when just Bruna and I were chatting with Steve.  A family came in (one of MANY groups who came through there during our few day stay) and sat down with him to talk.  The old man and his daughter were believers and they brought her husband along, who had a bad drinking problem.  They asked Steve for help.  So, as we watched, Steve talked with this man, using Ben as his translator (Ben is BRILLIANT), and you could see that the walls that this man had put up were beginning to come down.  We watched this man come to Christ right there in his living room.  It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever had the privilege to see.  The honesty in this man’s voice as he clearly recognized that he was a sinner and that he needed help to stop drinking was heart wrenching and as he poured out his heart to the Lord, I swear I could hear the angels rejoicing. 

Our time there was such an incredible blessing! We spent one more morning around their table and it was such a perfect picture of what our Lord invites us into. We have nothing in and of ourselves that qualifies us to sit at the King’s table, yet he invites us, he clothes us with righteousness, and he showers us with kindness, blessings and undeserved love.

After breakfast, we hopped on one of several buses that would take us back to Qingdao. Bus riding in China is always an experience… because in China, there is no such thing as a “full bus” or “personal space.” So when the bus filled up, people began to fill up the aisle and sat on the floor or stood. One guy even whipped out a stool to sit on! Dave ended up with a Chinese man sleeping on his shoulder. It was a hot, sweaty ride, but it was the end to an experience I will never forget!

I wish I could say that I know how they are all doing now, several years later. I do know that Xinwei has since passed. I have no idea how Steve and all of those kids are doing, but I do know that the Lord is faithful and that He WILL continue to provide for them!

The four of us with Steve, Xinwei and their family
 
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Posted by on February 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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2018: a year in review

Well, we’ve had an eventful year!  I feel like I say that every year, but really, 2018 was cray-cray and packed full of fun, adventure, joyful hellos and sad goodbyes.

What have we been up to?

Trent:

Trent finished his 11th year teaching, the last of which was at IDEA Judson, where he’s spent the last two years of his teaching career.  He coached youth basketball throughout the spring and then said goodbye in June. 

This year it was a different kind of goodbye.  It wasn’t the “see you in 2.5 months” goodbye, it was an “on to new adventures” goodbye.  Trent has left the teaching world (well, kind of) and has entered into the world of Real Estate!  He is now a licensed Realtor with eXp Realty

If you want to read more about that transition, you can read about it here

While he wasn’t intending to go back to teaching, there was a need and he decided to fill it.  The homeschool co-op that I teach at, Artios Academies, was in need of a pre-k teacher once a week, so Trent volunteered.  So he teaches there one day a week. 

More recently a new job presented itself and so he also works for Foam-It, a foam-insulation company.  It has a lot of crossover to Real Estate and allows him to make a lot of good Real Estate connections.

Angie:

I have been staying busy at home with the boys, teaching throughout the week and spending time in ministry.  I went from being a mom of a toddler and a teenager (we had our exchange “daughter” Yi-Han with us for half of the year) to being the mom of a preschooler and a newborn!  Yikes! 

In the midst of all of this, I am teaching Spanish classes out of my home on Mondays, I teach at Artios Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and am a group leader at BSF on Wednesdays.  Joining leadership at BSF has been such a huge blessing to me this year!

Our family volunteers at Revolution Church on Sundays and we have continued to lead our small group on Monday nights.  Meanwhile, we are still working for EF High School Exchange Year, placing exchange students all around the US!  All of this keeps us plenty busy!

Yi-Han

After spending nearly 10 months with our family, Yi-Han, our foreign exchange student from Taiwan, left us in June to go back to her family.  It was a teary goodbye for all of us. 

We loved having her here with us and it broke our hearts to watch her go.   She really did become like a daughter to us and we had such a great experience with her!  Our family did so many fun things together while she was here and we made many unforgettable memories- bowling, tubing the river, going to a Spurs game and a Missions game, visiting state parks, walking in the largest MLK march in the country, camping, visiting the Botanical Gardens, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, Sea World, Japanese Tea Gardens, the Witte Museum, and the zoo. 

Oh yeah, and she attended her first birth!  She was right there in the middle of things as Levi made his way into the world!  Pretty crazy, huh?!?

Jedidiah:

Jedi is now THREE!  How does that happen?!?  We celebrated his 3rd birthday with a super hero birthday party

Jedi is no longer a toddler, but a very smart, sassy, STUBBORN and unstoppable preschooler.  He loves LEGOs, superheroes, reading books and watching his “kewo” (Kindle). He talks all the time and his vocabulary grows by the day… also, his favorite question is “why?” WHY?????

He dealt with a lot of changes this year.  In addition to lots of traveling, job changes, funerals, etc., he had to say “goodbye” to his “sister” Yi-Han and “hello” to his new baby brother, Levi.  But watching the two of them together has been so sweet.  He loves “his baby!”

Levi:

And, last but not least, the newest addition to our family, little Levi!  He made his debut 11 long days after his due date, but his birth was amazing.  He was born at home, right in our living room after a short, 4 hour labor… all 9 pounds, 14 ounces of him!  You can read his birth story here or follow the story through pictures here

We are so blessed by this little guy!  He is so smiley and content (well, at least if momma is holding him).  He is always on the move and he is just a joy to have!

Travels

We began the year, kid-free (Nana had Yi-Han and Jedi for the weekend), on the beaches of Cancun for our first EF National Meeting.  We enjoyed an all-expenses paid meeting/”baby-moon” in warm, sunny Mexico!  

I followed that with a cold trip to Minnesota, this time just Jedi and I, as my grandma fell very sick and spent several days in the ICU before passing away in February.  Although it was bittersweet, I can’t tell you how glad I was to have been able to go up and spend her last few days with her.  When she first got sick and was in the hospital, we didn’t know how serious it was.  I debated on whether or not to go, but Trent encouraged me to go and I will never regret that decision.  For anyone who was lucky enough to know my grandma, she was an incredible woman, full of love and laughter, who lived a life of service and, more than anything else, loved the Lord with all her heart.  She was one of my greatest mentors in my faith and in life.  We emailed frequently and I am forever grateful to have her words and constant encouragement for me to look back on. 

This trip was sweet for so many reasons.  My sister Christie was also pregnant and we didn’t think we’d get to see each other before we had our babies.  The time we spent together was sweet. 

Uncle D getting in on the action!

Jedi got to see his cousin Evie and spend some special time with her. 

Jedi and I got to spend some quality time with my grandpa, who passed a little over a month after my grandma did, along with a lot of extended family and friends that I hadn’t seen in a very long time.  

That was the first of FOUR trips to Minnesota this year.  The second was in June for my grandpa Jim’s funeral.  Even though he passed in March, he was cremated, so the family decided to wait until school was out (for the teachers, kids and family that would be traveling).  My grandpa was another person who I treasured deeply.  He was a man of fervent faith; he was funny, smart and creative.  I had the pleasure of reading his memoirs, which I am so grateful he wrote and left behind for all of us. 

This second trip was sweet because I had a little, bitty baby to show off, and I got to meet my nephew Rowan, born only 2 and a half weeks before our Levi. 

Trent was with me for this trip, and the four of us enjoyed being there for Rowan’s baptism as well as for the beautiful summer weather!

The third trip was a blessing.  Each year, my family has a time share up at Breezy Point Resort.  We haven’t been able to go since Jedi was little, so, after two sad, unexpected trips to Minnesota, my mom and dad offered to fly us up for an enjoyable trip.  So in late July, we flew up again.  This time we were able to catch a family reunion and I was able to see some family that I haven’t seen since Trent and I were newly married. 

Cousins!

That was followed by a week up at the lake with my family.  We had a wonderful, relaxing time together and Jedi loved it!

The fourth trip was in October and it was for a very special event, my baby sister’s wedding!!!  We are rarely there in the fall, so we were ready for fall colors and cooler weather.  We enjoyed our time playing in the leaves!!!

However, despite it only being mid-October, it SNOWED while we were there, which led to a fun snowball fight with Grammy.  We were completely unprepared for the cold weather, but Jedi loved it nonetheless. 

The weather was cold and rainy most of the time we were there.  The morning of my sister’s wedding was frigid!!!  Our bridesmaid’s dresses were very cold and poor Jedi was all bundled up over his handsome ring-bearer get-up.  But the wedding was beautiful and I was so honored to be a part of her special day!   We are definitely proud of her and we love her husband Billy!

Our travels this year weren’t limited to Minnesota.  We really wanted to make sure that Yi-Han got to see a couple of other places in Texas before she left (and before Levi came).  So at 37 weeks pregnant, we drove to the coast and spent a few days in Corpus Christi.  We had such a great time at the beach and we also got to kayak and go fishing.  Yi-Han caught her very first fish!

The following weekend, at 38 weeks, we went to Austin.  We’ve made several trips to Austin this year, always stopping to visit our besties (also from China) Heather and Zach.  These guys are the best.  We love them so much.  They hosted us for a weekend while Yi-Han was still with us so that we could show her the sights and sounds of Austin.  We hit up the Texas State Capitol, Graffiti Park, Yi-Han got her first pedicure, and we ate lots of yummy Austin food!  #foodiesforlife

Among other short trips, Trent and I also went back to Austin for their annual murder mystery party.  If anyone knows how to throw a party, these guys sure do!  They always pull out all the stops and this year was no exception!  This year’s theme was “The Grand Gatsby” and grand it was!

Before our second trip up to Minnesota, we went to Dallas to meet up with all of our best friends from China. We were finally together again! Heather and Zach, Trent and I, and Justin and Catherine!!!  Zach and Heather live in Austin (as you have just read), so we see them pretty frequently, but Justin and Cat hadn’t been “home” in three years, so this was a really special time that we were able to spend together.  We were able to celebrate Eli’s 4th birthday and Eli and Jedi were able to meet in person for the first time!

Seeing these friends was an incredible blessing and we had so much fun together. These gals are truly my “soul sisters” and the time we spend together is such a gift. 

My dear friend Catherine is a photographer {Captured by Cat} and she offered to do a little family session for us while we were there, so in addition to getting to see our good friends, we also got some sweet, sweet photos of our (newly evolved) family!

While we were in Dallas, we also had the opportunity to go to LEGOLAND and Sea Life Aquarium.  Jedi is SUPER into LEGOs so that was a fun trip.  It also fell on Father’s Day, and you know that Trent enjoyed himself there too!

On the return trip, we drove through Waco and were able to visit Chip and Joanna Gaines’ silos at Magnolia Market!!!  (HGTV celebrities and my faves!!!)  It was a SUPER hot day, but we still enjoyed a little stop there!

Other notable events:

Other than our travels, the big news this year was attending Trent’s 20 year high school reunion!  We spent a weekend with his old classmates over several events and really enjoyed ourselves and the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. The first night was a family-friendly mixer out at The Well, where we ate, hung out with old friends and watched Jedidiah dance! The second night was downtown- Trent and I got to have a kid-free date-night on the town!

We walked in the MS walk like we do every year for team “I Heart Hallie” (although we weren’t the cover faces for the event posters this year).

I got to attend one of my alma mater’s soccer games while we were in Minnesota this fall.  It brought me back to my “glory days” at Northwestern College (now University of Northwestern, St, Paul), although the campus has changed quite a bit since I graduated in 2007. Even though it was a frigid night, we enjoyed watching them play. Oh, and did I mention, they were division champs this year?!? Go Eagles!

We also want to remember those we lost this year: Earl Cooley II, Betty and James Settle, Marilyn (MeeMaw) Keller, Jamin Matske and our kitty cat- Little Grey.

May they rest in peace and may we someday see them again in eternity!

This year was full of blessings, laughter, tears, and family. Wishing you and yours a happy and prosperous new year! Happy 2019!!!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Jedi’s third birthday party!

Gosh, y’all, Jedi’s birthday just crept up on us this year!  It was like 2 weeks before his birthday before I realized that we hadn’t even THOUGHT about what we were going to do!  Maybe it’s having a new baby, maybe it’s just our busy schedules, but it came fast and furious!

Jedi is REALLY into Superheroes right now.  He’s all about Batman and Superman and Spiderman… you name it… he likes it (well, except for the Hulk… he’s scared of the Hulk).  He’s also into costumes.  Nearly every day, he asks to wear one of his MANY superhero costumes.  He got a few as a reward for potty training, one was a hand-me-down, and the others we got at a garage sale (a whole box of costumes and masks, all for $5 DOLLARS!  #boymom SCORE!!!).  You can see a Stormtrooper, or Batman or Spidey strolling down Main Street or playing out in the yard on the regular.  

So the day after Halloween, we happened to be in Wal Mart grabbing some essentials, and saw the clearance rack full of costumes.  So I sent Trent to check them out to see if there was anything Jedi would like that he didn’t already have.  He came back with 4 Incredibles costumes… they just happened to have one for each of us in all the appropriate sizes (well, mine was a bit on the small side, but close enough).  Now what are the odds of that?!?  It seemed like it was meant to be!  So we bought all 4 costumes for 20 bucks.  The only problem was that we knew that the baby’s costume wouldn’t fit him next year, so we decided to wear them this year, even if it was only to put them on and take some fun family pictures.   Then an idea was born…

I realized how close Jedi’s birthday party was and we decided to do a DRESS-UP super hero party, with us, as your INCREDIBLE hosts.  🙂

Over the next few weeks, we threw together a party- we sent out invites and started getting things together.  Pinterest became my best friend (oh, how I’d missed you!) and my creative side began to thrive!  We were super busy leading up to his party (aren’t we always), so there were a lot of late nights spent getting things ready.  But here is how it all came together!

Games:

We had a few “formal” games and then some other games that the kids could just do on their own.  I found some cute printables that inspired me for some games, others I just added a little Superhero “twist.”

Game number 1: Pin the star on Captain America’s Shield

I bought some red, white and blue poster boards and went to work making Captain America’s shield.  I scoured my home looking for the right sized bowls/cups, etc to make the concentric circles, and then used a star cookie cutter to trace and cut out the star in the middle as well as the stars the kids would later try to “pin” on the shield.  Then I wrote one kid’s name on each star and put them in a bag.  Voila… done with that one!   All I had to do was hang the shield and hand out the stars.  Easy peasy! 

This game was a big hit!  The only thing I would have done differently is hang the shield a little bit lower… as you can see, the little kids all put theirs too low.  I had the kids all line up from youngest to oldest and, as I put tape on them, the birthday boy helped me pass out a star to each kid.  I had the little kiddos just close their eyes (or I covered them for them), the older kids got a blindfold.  I used a scarf I had given my grandma before she passed away earlier this year.  It had butterflies on it- her favorite.  So even though she couldn’t actually be here, she was still here in spirit.  ❤

Game number 2: Hulk Smash

I saw several different versions of this game.  Most used Hulk hands to smash ice cream cones.  We didn’t have Hulk hands… soooooo… I changed the game up a bit.  I had seen somewhere else online that you could blow up black balloons and pretend they were “bombs” that needed to be destroyed in order to save the city.  The kids could pop the balloons however they wanted- with their feet, hands, whatever!

The kids went nuts for this game too.  I did have to warn the little ones that it might be a bit loud.  But even the little ones got into it… just with their ears covered.  

The “Supers” even cleaned up after themselves and all picked up the balloon pieces when they were done.

The other games we had were just for fun and we didn’t do them formally.   These were simply a part of “Superhero Training Camp!”  The kids played these as people arrived, mingled, and ate.

Game number 3: Avengers Throwing Practice

For this game, I bought a 4 pack of thin, red plastic plates at Wal Mart for $.97 cents.  I used paper and that same star cookie cutter to make these plates into Captain America shield frisbees.  Then we used cans and decorated them and stacked them for the kids to knock down with the frisbees.  I got the sign printable free, but added a little extra flare with some clip art from the internet… and because I’m a nerd, I laminated it all.

Game number 4:  Cornhole

I didn’t have to do much to make this game superhero themed.  I just printed off some superhero logos, laminated them and slapped one on each side!  The kids loved playing this!  Grown-ups too!

Game number 5: Ping-pong toss

This game was also very easy.  I just printed off different point values and put them on several buckets.  (I was a teacher for YEARS, so I have all sorts of these things still sitting around.  I used to use them for different learning centers).  Then the kiddos had to try to throw the ping-pong balls into the buckets for points!  The closest bucket was worth 1 point, the second one was worth 5 and the farthest one was worth 10.

We were going to have another “game” but it was a flop… literally.  We have this cool blow-up Captain America weighted punching bag that one of our friends was thoughtful enough to give to Jedidiah after his baby brother was born… but it had a hole in it somewhere, so literally… it was a flop.  This wouldn’t have been so much a “game” as just something fun the kids could have done.

Other than the official games, my mother-in-law (who graciously hosted) had a swing-set and this awesome car roller-coaster type thing (for lack of a more official term).  That was a HUGE hit, especially with the older kids.  They LOVED it! And of course, Jedidiah loved it too.  He pushed it back up after EVERY. SINGLE. TURN. (his or anyone else’s).

Food:

For “thematic” foods, again, Pinterest for the win!  Some of my favorite touches were the “Thor hammers” (pretzel sticks and little blocks of cheese) and the Captain America shield fruit platter.  My mother-in-law prepared this one and it looked superb!  I saw several versions of this online- I went with the marshmallows because they were easier, but you could do bananas if you wanted something a little more healthy.  You could also use cherries or raspberries as one of the other red circles on his shield.  I used that same star cookie cutter to hold some vanilla yogurt in the center for dipping.  We also made green “Hulk” Jell-o cups and simply drew an angry Hulk on the clear plastic cups (you will likely notice that my artistic skills do not extend to drawing…).

Some of the other little things we did were simply a matter of presentation.  We had applesauce pouches that I put out in a Batman shoebox (from his superhero shoes that Nana gave him).  Spidey held the napkins, we put silverware in those inexpensive plastic superhero cups you can get at Wal Mart or HEB and of course, we decorated with some framed art as well.

Then we just put out some sandwich and veggie trays and we were all set!

The food table looked great!

For drinks, we simply had bottles of water and little juice boxes for the kids in a cooler.  I printed off a little sign for the lid that said “hero drinks.” 

I also made some “Hulk punch” using equal parts of Sprite (or 7-Up or any sort of lemon-lime soda) and “Green Berry Rush” Hawaiian Punch.  Then I added a couple of scoops of lime sherbet on top and voila!  Hulk Punch!  My pic isn’t awesome… I didn’t even realize my decorative Hulk had toppled over… but the punch was a big hit (pun intended). 

For the cake we ordered a chocolate cake from Costco without any decorations on it.  They didn’t have any Superhero themed cakes, so we just decorated it using his own Superhero action figures.

Photo booth:

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE taking photos.  I’m not an avid photographer by any means, but I sure do enjoy it!  So, of course we had to have a photo booth!  My mother-in-law found this awesome backdrop on Amazon and ordered it for the party.  I bought a cheap pack of cardboard superhero masks at Wal Mart and the rest of the props we either had or I made.  Thor’s hammer was simply a box that I covered with tin foil and the handle was an old wrapping paper roll that I had cut down to size and reinforced with some tape. 

Then I made sure to take photos of each family as they came in.  For thank you cards, I will simply make prints of these and write a short thank you note on the back.  🙂

Decorations:

We tried to keep the decor simple.  We had two signs as people came in. “Superheroes welcome” and a separate sign that Nana made.

Because of my son’s affinity for costumes, we decided to use these to decorate!  We hung them along the fence and trellis as people came in.  They ended up looking pretty cool!  

We kept the other decorations pretty simple- we taped a superhero emblem on each table- the picnic table where people ate, the gift table, the entry table and the kids table.

The entry table was Batman themed.  I used an old coffee can to create a city scape and added the Bat-signal to the top.  I also added one of his stuffed Batman toys, a photo of Jedi and his brother wearing some “super” shirts that one of Trent’s students’ parents made.  Beside that is a little frame that says “Little boys are just Superheroes in disguise.”  Then I just printed off some blank superhero logos and put out some pens and instructions for our friends to leave a note for Jedi and left it at that!

The gift table was decorated with what used to be Trent’s classroom treasure box- a cool Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle chest that we got for 7 or 8 bucks years ago at Ross.  Black Panther held a little “Gifts and cards” placard.

Goody bags:

Well, goody cups, in this case.  We set up a few party favors- superhero stickers, a Batman pencil, Bubbles, a few starbursts and these super cool snap bracelets that Nana found on Amazon.

I printed off little “POW” emblems and put them on the bubbles.

Then Nana set them up on the way out so all the kids could grab one!


That was it!  We opened presents and the kids wrapped Jedi up in a big group hug and then people went home.  

We want to give a very special “Thank you!” to Nana and Popo for helping with the food and decorations and for letting us use their backyard.  It was a wonderful party and Jedi had a SUPER time!

He’s got the best Nana and Popo!
 
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Posted by on November 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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On to new(ish) adventures!

Oh, y’all… I type blogs and don’t ever get around to finishing them… and then they sit here until I come in again and realize that I never finished/posted them.  This is one of many that are/were half-written.  Sooooo… as you can see, I penned this MONTHS ago, but here it is!  Our new(ish) adventure!

August is here (Okay, it’s almost December…), and historically, for as long as we’ve known each other, August has also meant the beginning of a new school year.  Trent has taught for 12 years and this will be my tenth year in the teaching world. We’ve taught in all sorts of different settings, forums and countries: public schools, charter schools, International schools, private lessons, private tutoring, home school… and now… no school (at least for Trent). 

***This is no longer 100% true, he teaches Pre-K on Tuesdays for the same homeschool co-op that I do***

Normally at this time of year we’d be setting up our classrooms and having parent meetings, be attending trainings and getting to know our new students.  But this year is different. This August we are beginning a new adventure that has been over a year in the making… Trent is officially into real estate!

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This is an exciting albeit nerve-wracking time in our lives.  Although teaching is a profession which is constantly evolving, it was something familiar to us.  And, quite frankly, we were good at it. Trent has always been good with kids, in fact, that was one of the qualities that drew me to him when we first met.  He is easy-going, fun and goofy, but still genuine, hard-working and serious. His kids loved him, his parents spoke his praises, his admin relied on him… but teaching was taking too much time away from our family.  It was getting too stressful. He was doing multiple peoples’ jobs without getting paid any extra for them. He was working many Saturdays and getting home late in the evenings. There were some nights the kids didn’t see him at all.  We were locked into the school schedule, trying to schedule vacations and other things during school holidays or summer time. And for all the time and effort he put in, he just wasn’t getting paid enough.

You see, when we were both teaching and we didn’t have kids yet, we could pour the necessary time, effort and energy into teaching and still have time for ourselves, both individually and as a couple.  But when we had Jedidiah, things changed. There was a sweet little bubbly blonde-headed boy waiting for daddy to get home from work each day, and there was a frazzled, tired, hot-mess momma who also craved daddy’s time and attention.  I remember saying a long time ago that I could either be a good teacher or a good momma, but not both. And although some people can do it and do it well, I think that one will eventually suffer, and I didn’t think it was fair to the kids I was teaching or my own kids to try to split my time, energy or efforts like that.  So when Jedidiah was born, I left the public/private/charter school system and went into offering private lessons and tutoring and then I got involved in the home school community and began teaching at home school co-ops and out of my home. Now that Levi has joined our family, we are realizing even more so that Trent can’t do both either.  Even though kids instantly love him, and have often told him that they “wish he was their dad,” he’s got two boys at home who also need their daddy. And they have a daddy who desperately wants to spend more time with his family, while also striving to make more than a measly teacher’s salary.

So, for the past year and a half, he has been diligently studying and doing his classes, (even after 60 hour workweeks), taking notes and tests, making flashcards and quizzing himself all so that we can build a life of freedom for ourselves.  A life lived on our own terms, and hopefully financial freedom to go along with that.

Anywhere we’d go, I would drive so that he could study and not miss out on family time.  Every night after the kids were in bed, he would study. Early mornings, down time… any time he could squeeze it in, he did.  He worked so hard and so diligently! And all his hard work paid off!

In late July he passed his Texas realtor’s exam (on the first try) and has now signed with eXp Realty.  

We are excited for a new adventure filled with all sorts of different things- realtor trainings, open houses, mentorship, meetings with potential clients and, of course, buying and selling some houses!!!

***Update!!! Since August we have a house on contract and closing in mid-December and we will be putting another beautiful house on the market soon!***

We are thankful for the teaching journey that brought us together (we met at school), brought us to China (to teach internationally) and has now equipped Trent with the skills needed to be a good realtor.  He’s collaborative, good at communication and negotiating (often in hostile situations), organized and patient. He is genuine, hard-working and kind, he always has a positive attitude and, most of all, he has a heart for people.  He’s easy to talk to, fun to be with and just plain awesome!  You could say he’s one super dude!

If  you are looking to buy or sell, or just want to ask him some questions, please call/text/message Trent (and pass along his info- we LOVE referrals)!  It would be a tremendous help to our family and you will be getting someone who will work extremely hard to get you what you want. Also, follow us on social media- @realtlogsdon or like his Facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/RealTLogsdon/

PS.  I’m a little sad that Trent didn’t go with my favorite head shot for his business cards.  HA!  Love this guy!

Here’s to our new adventure… CHEERS!

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Levi Gabriel Logsdon: the meaning behind the name

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Oh, man, I definitely feel for all the second children (and third, fourth, fifth, etc…) out there.  With all the blogging I did when I was pregnant with Jedidiah, this poor baby hasn’t had a shred of blog-time.  Going from one to two has kept me extremely busy!

So, our second baby… I was sure it was a girl.  Of course, then our gender reveal showed that we were indeed having another boy and I was stumped!  It had been so easy to pick out Jedidiah’s name… in fact, I think we had his name picked out long before babies were ever even in the works.  But this time around… I’m not sure if it was because of the exhaustion or because of how busy Jedidiah kept us… but it was just harder.  It wasn’t even that there were names that we didn’t like.  There were lots of names that we liked, but we just couldn’t find the name that was the one.

I think we finally named Levi at 36 weeks, deciding on Levi Gabriel just a day or two before our two surprise baby showers (that just so happened to be on the same day).  So here’s the significance behind his name…

Levi is a Biblical name.  Levi was one of the 12 sons of Jacob (who God later renamed Israel) and the descendents of Levi, the Levites, were the tribe of Israel that served as priests.  It was this tribe that was set apart for holy service to the Lord.

I too, want my son to be set apart for service to the Lord and I pray that he would never forget his true identity in Christ:

“For you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

The Levites took care of the temple, performed offerings and served zealously in the Lord’s house.  Although we are no longer required to offer animal sacrifices to atone for our sins, our lives have now become our sacrifice to our God.  I pray that my son would not be conformed to the ways of this world, but that he would continue to be set apart and molded and guided by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God at work in his life.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

Lastly, the Levites did not have any inheritance other than what was provided by the tithes brought in by the other 11 tribes of Israel.  God was their provider and he was their inheritance; He was their portion and their strength.  I pray that my son would not rely on anyone or anything other than his creator to fulfill, sustain and provide for him in his life.

“The Lord said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites” Numbers 18:20

Gabriel, his middle name, is also Biblical.  Gabriel was a prominent messenger in the Bible and has been considered one of the seven archangels based on extrabiblical texts.  The name Gabriel means “man of God,” and as an angel he was a “messenger of God.”  He was the one who bore the good news to Mary about the coming of Jesus and to Zacharias about who John the Baptist would be.  He was a bearer of good news!

So Levi Gabrielone who is set apart as a man/messenger of God. May he always and unashamedly declare the good news of God’s grace, love and mercy!

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Levi’s birth: A photographic journey

Levi’s birth: A photographic journey

So if you haven’t read my actual birth story, here is where you can find the narrative.  Below you will find a photo diary of our sweet Levi’s birth.  I will let the photos tell the story for themselves!  Many thanks to Joy Crampton of San Antonio Birth Photography, Shelby Miller, my doula (Blooming Water Lilies), and Yi-Han, my Taiwanese “daughter” for these precious, precious memories!

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Posted by on June 25, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Levi Gabriel- a birth story

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Levi’s birth began early Sunday morning, 11 LONG days after my due date, with my water breaking.  I actually woke up to a gushing feeling at 5:34 am.  My eyes shot awake and I darted out of bed to the bathroom.  However, after going to the bathroom, the water stopped coming, so I thought, well, maybe it wasn’t my water breaking after all.  I was about 98% sure that it was a different feeling than peeing myself… but at this point in pregnancy, you just never know.  When my water broke with Jedidiah, the water just kept coming, so it made me second guess myself!  I put on an ever-classy pair of Depends flexi-fit underwear and after texting my midwife and doula that my water had *maybe* broken, I decided to try to go back to sleep.

About an hour later (6:39), I awoke again to the same gushing feeling.  Again, I rushed to the bathroom (even though I was basically wearing a diaper) and then walked to the shower to note the COAT (color, odor, amount, and time of the amniotic fluid) so that I could let my midwives and doula know.  It was all clear, which gave me the all clear.  I was certain this time that my water had broken, so I texted our birth team again and let them know that we would, indeed, be having a baby today!

At this point, I was too excited to go back to sleep, plus I was super hungry, and I knew that my 2 and a half year old would be waking very soon.  I went out and poured myself a bowl of homemade granola with milk.  I had nearly finished when my toddler woke up.  Since I was already up, I went to get him out of bed.  I told him as I got him out of bed that today was going to be the day that baby Levi would come!  Shortly thereafter, the contractions started.

6:54am- super mild contractions began, but by just after 7am, I started timing them (just to see where we were at).  I texted our families on a group thread and let them know that my water had broken and that contractions had just started to get under way.  Jedidiah’s Nana and Popo texted that they were getting ready and would be on their way over to watch him.

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Jedi was still eating breakfast and I began to have a bit of a heavier contraction- one that caused me to pause and breathe a bit more intentionally.  He looked at me, concerned, and said, “Mommy, you okay?  You okay, momma?”  It was very sweet, his concern for me.  I told him that I was having a contraction.  “A contraction?” he asked.  I told him that the contractions were how I knew that baby Levi was coming.  He seemed satisfied with that answer and went back to eating his Cheerios.

Then I went to go wake Trent up.  I wanted to let him sleep as long as he could… after all, I didn’t know what we were in for as far as labor time would go. I wanted him to be as well-rested as he could possibly be!  I went in at around 7:50 or so, and then let him know that my water had broken and that things were starting to get rolling!

It was about that same time that the contractions started becoming much more rhythmic and were coming about every 5 minutes.  When I look back at my tracking, I see some longer gaps between contractions, but most of those times, I hadn’t recorded a contraction in between.  They were lasting from about 30-45 seconds, but weren’t really intense yet.

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2nd contraction

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Trent got up and began inflating the birthing tub.  Jedi played in it for a while (which was okay because we used a liner for the actual birth).  He had his snacks in a cup and his show on and he was happy as a clam!

Then Nana showed up and I retreated to the bedroom.  I turned on my birthing playlist, got the diffuser going (with Peace and Calming essential oil), and turned on my salt lamp.  I labored for the most part standing at the edge of the bed, leaning over my birthing ball, which was on top of my bed.

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Trent came back to check on me several times and then made the (very smart) decision to call Shelby Miller, our doula.  She hadn’t seen our texts yet so we quickly briefed her on all that was happening (and later were scolded for not calling as soon as my water broke).  She had asked how I was coping so far and I told her that I was still doing okay, but I knew she had about a half-hour to 40 minute drive to get here, and that I would need her by the time she arrived.

Not too long after, my midwife, Nikki, called to see how I was doing.  I was mid contraction when she called- she told me to put the phone down so she could listen and then pick it back up when it passed.  I had two contractions during our short phone call, and as we hung up, she told me that she was getting ready to head my way, just in case.

Shelby arrived at a pivotal moment, right as things were intensifying yet again.  She came in for one contraction, talked me through it, then I had to pee, so I got up to go the toilet.  I had barely sat down before I got really nauseous and did a quick flip around so I could vomit.  Shelby came in with a cool towel with peppermint oil and wiped down my face and neck and told me that, although it didn’t feel good, it would really help things keep moving.  After that, things are kind of a blur.  I didn’t make it out of the bathroom very far before the contractions started coming in waves.  They were getting VERY intense, and I sincerely mean this… without Shelby there, I would not have coped well at all!  She reminded me how to breathe and helped me to “sink into” each contraction.  She reminded me to let my body relax so that the contractions could do their job and to envision my baby moving down to meet me.  I stayed there by the side of the bed for contraction after contraction.  Often they came without much of a break at all between them… sometimes it was 10 seconds, sometimes it literally felt like one ended and another began immediately afterwards.  I do remember one time where there was like a minute break and I turned to her and said, “Gosh, I finally feel like I got enough of a break to catch my breath.”  And then it picked right back up.

At this point Nikki had arrived (a little after 10am).  She had Trent and the rest of the crew getting the birthing pool filled up and she was listening to baby’s heart tones.  I don’t remember much, but I do remember overhearing Nikki tell the guys out front that they had forgotten to put the liner in before filling it up, so they were busy scooping out water so that they could fill it appropriately.  Nikki asked me if I thought I could give her a urine sample, so I went back to the toilet and tried to pee… but these contractions were SO INTENSE!!!  Shelby was right by my side and told me, as much as I’d want to fight it, that I needed to really sink into the toilet with these contractions.  She was right… there was nothing I wanted to do less than to sink into these extremely painful moments, but it really did help move things along!  All of a sudden, the contractions started feeling different and I realized that baby was crowning.  I think at this point, I was involuntarily pushing.  Anyways, I REALLY didn’t want to have this baby on the toilet, so I asked to move to the birthing pool.

Little did I know that it wasn’t ready yet.  They had been filling it, but with HOT water, since the hot water usually runs out and then it’s easier to fill it up with cold water at that point.  So Nikki and Shelby walked me out to the living room and I basically posted up against the couch while everyone else was trying to get the water temperature right.  At this point I was literally dripping sweat, and my legs and arms were shaking from the intensity.  Again, I involuntarily pushed, and I remember both Nikki and Shelby coaching me to let him out gently.  So I tried to reign it in and do little pushes.  I still couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t in the pool and I was near tears in asking, but I said, “Can I PLEASE get in the water?  I REALLY want to be in the water.”  I think everyone thought I was crazy at this point.  Baby was already out to his eyebrows and ears (but of course I didn’t know that) and truthfully, I don’t think anyone thought I’d physically be able to climb in the pool like that.  But Nikki said, “I try not to ever tell my momma’s no, so if you feel like you need to get in the pool, you can try to get in.”  Well, apparently I was bound and determined to finish pushing in the water, because (with Nikki making sure his little face didn’t come out) I climbed into that pool like a boss.  It still wasn’t full, but I was able to kneel in the water and lean over the side.  Then I pushed again and I heard Nikki tell Trent to “keep pulling,” and then he was out!  Levi arrived at 10:37am.  I don’t even know how I was as calm as I was, but I just turned around and reached for our baby boy!  Trent was able to catch him and he passed him into my arms.  We sat in the water for a while, talking to and admiring our little Levi.

I had realized, while up against the couch, that our birth photographer had not yet arrived.  Joy walked in the door about 4 minutes after he was born, absolutely mortified that she had missed the birth, but she was still able to get photos of us with him in the tub.  We stayed there for a few more minutes and then Nikki wanted to get me back to my bed.  So we all got up.  Trent held Levi (who was still attached to me via umbilical cord) and the ladies helped me walk/shuffle down the hallway to my OWN bed, and crawl in.  They put baby back on my chest and let us have some time to bond.  We let the cord pulsate until it was completely finished and then delivered the placenta.  Joy took some pretty cool photos of him still attached to it and then Trent got to cut it.  Then I nursed baby Levi for the first time.

In all the hustle and bustle, I hadn’t realized that Jedidiah was still outside playing with Popo.  Nana told me that he kept asking to see me, and that they were trying to keep him distracted, but he didn’t even KNOW that his baby brother was here yet!  I wanted him to meet his baby brother, so Trent went out and brought him in.  At first I think Jedi was just overwhelmed with all the people in our tiny bedroom (2 midwives, a doula, a photographer, Nana, Yi-han, Trent and myself), but then I told him that his baby brother was here.  It took him a minute to take it all in, but I saw his little lips turn into a shy smile.  He climbed right up in bed with us and looked at his baby brother.  He was so proud!!!  I’m so thankful that Joy was able to capture some of the tender moments between Jedi and his baby brother!

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After I nursed, I let the ladies do all of their weighing/measuring/testing.  Trent held the scale as they measured baby Levi at a whopping 9 pounds 14 ounces!!!  I guess that’s what being 2 weeks late will do to you!  He had plenty of time to fatten up!  He was 22 inches long and he was 14.5 cm at his head, shoulders and waist!  No wonder Nikki told Trent to “keep pulling” as he was coming out!  Normally, once you get the head out, the baby just kind of slips out… but when he’s long and the same size all the way through… I guess you gotta keep pulling!

All in all, once my contractions started, my labor was 4 hours long (5 hours from when my water broke).  I was never checked to see dilation, my midwives and doula could tell what stages of labor I was in just from listening to me and watching me.  Despite having a very large baby, I had no real tearing (two super small tears that didn’t need any repair and are already back to normal).  And, even though it was very intense, I am SO very happy with my birthing experience.  My birth team was amazing… EVERYONE was amazing!  Joy, despite being horrified that she arrived late (she’s NEVER missed a birth), captured all of the most important moments (and everyone else on their cell phones captured the rest), and I can’t wait to do a separate photo blog post when I get all of the birth photos back from her!

 

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2018 in Uncategorized