Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Summer of Cousins Slideshow

One of the primary reasons I wanted to come back to the United States was to have a chance to see my family. I'm a family person. I love 'em. I've been an aunt since I was 11, and I positively adore being the "young fun Auntie." I've lived this strange and random life that has allowed me to live with or next door to, almost all of my nieces and nephews. I had six months after college graduation living with my sister and her boys in Medford, 9 months of substitute teaching insanity living with another sister family - this time the ultimate girly fam - in Alaska, and since returning to the US, I've been living next door to a third sister and her two kids. We're currently living in my parent's basement (yeah, I know, very glamorous to get married and move back in with your parents, but it is what has worked for us thus far) and that makes this house the ideal cousin gathering ground.
There's really nothing better than getting to see the cousins running around and having a fabulous time together. I was the youngest of five, and was not only five and a half years younger than my nearest sibling, but also about five years younger or older than my nearest cousins. I never really got to have the great bonding cousin experience, so it's so much fun to see them having the chance.
I still feel so thankful that they were all able to be present and a part of my wedding. There were moments when it looked like it wasn't going to happen, but thankfully it all worked out. This summer was just a continuation of those blessings.
In July, my Alaska nieces came down for two weeks. Well, the oldest and youngest were here for two weeks, while the Tekla got to visit a friend in Texas and only came the first week. Tyler got to stay for the second week as well, although his mom and little brother were only able to come for a weekend. What a great group of kids. I'm seriously so impressed by how great they're all turning out. You know, you dote on them and think they're the best things ever when they're little, but you just never know what kind of people they'll grow up into. All I can say is, so far, AMAZING!
We spent a lot of time at the pool. Can't say that my chlorine allergic skin was thrilled, but I did get a lovely tan, and some quality exercise, as well as great fun with the crew.

One of the funniest things ever was watching Naomi, who is super tiny, turning into the Michelin man in her swim top. We all just laughed and laughed and laughed. It was so funny that people who didn't even know us joined in.
Here are a smattering of pictures showing how adorable, and crazy, this little crew can be.

During the second week, I was able to get an extra day off from work in order to join everyone on a trip to Silverwood, the largest theme park in the Northwest, or so they say. It's not quite a Six Flags, but it had some decent roller coasters. Mark and I took the three oldest (Tyler, Haley, and Tekla) and hit up all the big rides. Having always LOOOOOVED amusement parks, I was thrilled to have this experience with them. Yeah for adrenaline in scientifically proven safe doses :)

After the girls went home Mark and I drove Tyler to Portland where Jack was competing in the Little League State finals. We had a great ride down with him, and stopped at Multnomah Falls to enjoy some of God's finest handiwork. Pretty impressive place.

The game was super exciting. It was Mark's first Little League, or really any kind of baseball, experience. Back when I lived with Janet and her family I went to a couple baseball games a week, so it was great to relive a portion of that experience with my husband.
In fact, we had so much fun that a week later when they were playing for the state championship we came back down with Mom and Dad to watch the big game. They were undefeated going into the game, so if they won it, they'd be the overall winners. Something about big game day jitters got the better of them, however, and they lost, which meant they had to play again. This time, it was all about victory. Jack was a bit disappointed that he wasn't one of the kids to hit a homer, but he did a great job, and it was so much fun to watch him play.

We had a couple of weeks off, and then my brother and his family passed through. They flew from Kansas, then borrowed my parents Pilot for a week to visit Canada, and spent another couple days with us before heading back home. During their little visit we were able to go out to Elk Creek Falls and enjoy a lovely time hiking. There was a little male bonding as well...

This is what Josh and Rowan did when I asked them to stand on the rock together and look like they loved each other. They were adorable when they got along, but most of the time they were competing over one thing or another. If one of them was successful in getting something it meant the other one didn't get it and was all upset and teary. Thankfully, big sister/cousin Emily worked wonders. So proud of how she's grown up from the little girl who would look in the mirror and practice all the different ways she could enunciate the word "NO!"

This was one of my favorite pictures from the hike. There's just something so sweet about seeing my Dad all relaxed in the grass, and Bekah sitting so nonchalant. Priceless.

Elk Creek is such a beautiful place. I just can't resist sharing a couple more shots from our hike.

It's been a bit strange just working all summer. Makes it a little hard to believe that it has really come and gone. Thankfully, we've still been having some lovely weather. I'll be sure to share some of the other things, and photos, from the past couple of months. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep a bit more up to date on things. After my heavy spring month posts, summer has been a bit of a bummer in blog land, but I do hope to make up for it.
Even as my mind wanders to distant shores and thoughts of what all I could do in foreign lands, I'm so thankful I got to make so many family memories this summer. I'm sure the kids will never forget the roller coasters, swimming trips, and ultimate Frisbee games. I know I sure won't.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Finding my place.

I wouldn't be surprised if I've lost anyone who might wander here. It's been a while. I'd say it's been a busy summer, but that wouldn't exactly be the right way to put it. Yes, there have been busy things. There were visits from nieces and nephews, the endless tedium of the work place, and trips around all the little villages and cemeteries that populate this corner of Idaho and Washington. But there hasn't been anything big. Nothing pressing. Nothing of the sort to call big news, or to blame my absence on.
I just haven't been around. I haven't had the moments to sort my head and get things out. Yesterday I had the day off and was able to force in some journal time. I was almost a month behind! Not even funny. It's just that nothing seems to get done the way I'd like it to.
Things I'd love to be doing:
1)Writing - this includes both literary as well as personal. Journals, blogs, books and poetry.
2)Learning Czech - this is one of those things that seems to escape me most of the time. I'll spend a few minutes going over word lists from Byki, and then I'll lose the time somehow. I know the kind of motivation I need to really study and get down to it, but there just aren't classes on Czech at U of I to immerse myself in.
3)Reading - This summer I've managed to acquire quite a few great books via Goodwill, yard sales, and even an antique store. But do I have time to read said books? Well, not nearly as much as I'd like.
4)Quality time with God - Yeah, I try to get in some spiritual reading in the mornings, and I make it to church most Sundays, but I feel the strain of living a life less passionate than I would like it to be. It's always hard when I find myself in situations where I feel so little purpose. It's in these times that I long to really life, but instead find myself waiting.
The truth is, I've done to much of that in recent years. Waiting for "real" life to start. Whether it was waiting on paperwork to come to the US, or paperwork to make it possible to leave, it seems we've been putting life on hold for a long time. A constant sense of delay before we get into something that matters, something we can call worthwhile. I took a temporary sort of job thinking it'd be a month or two. Now it's been four months, and counting.
5)Transition - I guess this sorta goes with that last thought as well. I've lived a transient life for so many years you'd think this would just be old hat. One year at a time has been the model. Free summers to visit people and have fun. Jobs that follow school years and take me to different locations. This is the last week for all the summer holiday students to be at work. They're getting ready to get back into their studies and I find myself oddly jealous. I was so happy to be done with school, and have often worried that I would have no idea what to do with myself if I went back to school again. But now I find myself missing the thrill of spiral notebooks, colorful folders and pens filled with fresh black ink. I miss the thought of entering new classrooms, trying to figure out what style will best impress the teacher and make the grade, searching for the students that connect with my way of thinking, and those that will irritate me to no end. Yeah, oddly enough, I even miss those types.
Then there's also a girl who is heading to Spain for a semester and the travel bug starts to wiggle and squirm inside my stomach. Even though I know it will happen again, I'll get on a plane and see both old familiar places and new, it's hard to watch other people starting their new adventures while I'm floundering to make it from one lousy paycheck to the next.
Living is such an important thing to do. Vital. To breath in the moments of this life. To suck the marrow out of each day as those Dead Poet's Society members would chant. Just have to figure out how to get it all done, and how to keep on living life to the fullest while I'm at it. The time is just too short to put it all off and wait for tomorrow for things to be more interesting.
I read a blog about living an authentic life. I think it's very true that we need to learn how to be true to who we really are, how to live out what you believe, and to me, a part of that is learning how to really live. It's so easy for me to get caught up in routine that I forget to enjoy, to look deeply at the things and the people that I've been blessed to experience life with, and to be thankful for them.
I noted one of the comments on that blog in which someone said that in order to be true to themselves they wanted to do things just only for them. While I believe that we shouldn't allow ourselves to be overly influenced by the opinions of others, to be truly authentic I want to be able to live in such a way that I make life better for others. Working at Mother's Choice in Hong Kong, teaching English in the Czech Republic, helping to work on a church in Italy, Bible Schools in the Pacific Northwest, these are the sort of things I've been blessed to do, the moments in time when I've been able to impact the world in my own quiet behind the scenes sort of way. I know that, when life is somehow properly lived, I can have an impact on the people around me whatever my job or locale. It isn't always so easy to see, but I know it can be done. And I honestly believe that writing here can be a part of that. I have no notions about having a massive following list or anything like that, but I hope the little bits of my life, the little deviations and thoughts and diatribes that I go off on here, will touch people in some way, make them think about their own lives differently.
I'm hoping that, as summer winds down and we're trying to save money and travel less in order to afford a Christmas trip back to the Czech Republic, that I'll have more time to keep up here. I'm hoping I'll stay caught up in my journal (once I manage to get caught up that is), and that I'll be able to solidify a few more Czech phrases in my life. I don't know if the people I hang clothes with will remember me a few years from now, but I hope that in my quality of work and the way I speak, that I will have a positive impact on them, maybe even help them to see the world in a fresh new light. This is where I am for the moment, and I want to live...