Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ever Thought of Going 'Pooless?

About a month ago I saw a picture of a friend of mine on Facebook and her hair looked amazing, so I told her as much. She said she had ditched shampoo and was using baking soda and apple cider vinegar every other day in its place. She also gave me a link to a website for more info. I was intrigued and decided to try it out.

The gist of what I did was this:

Dissolve about 1-2 teaspoons of baking soda in hot water, use the solution to clean the scalp.

Mix about 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider in hot water, and use it as a conditioning rinse. I poured on the crown of my head, without rinsing the baking soda, so it did a mild little fizz. Then I just let it run through my hair and massaged it in a little before rinsing very well.

Generally, I wash my hair less than every other day...maybe every third day or so. I figured it would be best to continue with that schedule when I made the switch. I read that the first couple weeks could be rough on your hair while the pH level adjusts, but the first two weeks were actually not bad at all for me. My scalp felt clean, I wasn't itchy. My hair didn't feel oily, as some people experience during the adjustment period.

It was the third week that did me in. Suddenly I felt like I had a baking soda film on my hair. Then someone commented on my Facebook page that she knew someone whose hair was ruined from using this 'pooless method for a year, and that it was very drying (which is opposite of everything else I've read - most people who quit seem to do so because their hair doesn't get past the oily stage, but everyone's hair is different so you never know how yours will react!).

I was slightly freaked though, so I decided to put a small amount of coconut oil in my hair to try to bring it back around. I would say I used less than one teaspoon, and my hair was an utter greaseball. I lasted about two days with my hair in sock buns, which wasn't too bad because I like sock buns anyway. At that point though, I had to get the oil out of my hair. I had a sample of a L'Oreal sulfate-free shampoo and deep conditioner in my closet, products that I had never tried before, and decided to use those. There was enough shampoo in the packet for two washes, and then I put the deep conditioner in my hair and left it for about five minutes or so. I let it air dry.

This was Saturday. Once it was dry, my hair felt softer and cleaner than it has ever felt, ever. It's now Wednesday night and I still haven't washed my hair again. It doesn't even feel dirty yet. I use a shower cap when I shower, but I did get it wet in the pool this week. I feel like maybe tomorrow might be a pony tail or bun day, but it's still doing alright.

Now I'm left to wonder...was it the going 'pooless for 3 weeks? Was it the coconut oil? Was it the L'Oreal products? Was it a combo of all three? All I know is I want a repeat performance, so I might just do the whole process all over again. Only problem is I'm going to New York next week, and I don't my hair jacked up for my trip. So what I think I'll do is this:

Wash with baking soda and apple cider vinegar on Friday.

Skip a few days.

Condition with coconut oil on Monday.

Shampoo and condition with the L'Oreal stuff on Wednesday (I leave Thursday morning). Hopefully I can find the same products since my samples are gone! Maybe it would work with any shampoo and conditioner, but I feel like this is some kind of mad voodoo and I have to do it just right!

Disclosure about my hair: I rarely use any product in it, so that is not an issue for me. I know that many hair products can simply be rinsed out with water, but those containing certain ingredients really need to be washed out (if you know which ingredients, will please tell me in the comments?!). Also my hair is "normal" and kind of doesn't really get oily.

Have you tried going 'pooless? I'd love to hear about your experience!

What To Do With Your Exchange Students

While our exchange students have been staying us, I've been trying to do as much with them as possible to make this experience fulfilling and fun. I wrote about our first couple days with them in this post. Since then, they have done quite a bit, both with the day camp program and with us.

If you want to read more about what it's been like hosting exchange students from China, you can read all about it HERE. That post will tell you a little about the particular program we're involved in with our school district. I love the program because the kids go to day camp Monday-Friday, which includes lots of field trips. Here is a list of where they've gone with the day camp (Bethany and Connor get to go too). They still have two days left, those last two field trips are not included.

  • Patridge Creek (outdoor mall) for shopping and a movie 
  • Our city pool, x2
  • Detroit Zoo
  • Bowling
  • Roller skating
  • C.J. Barrymore's (go carts, bumper cars, laser tag, etc.)
  • Local park/splash pad
  • Birch Run (outlet shopping)
  • Michigan Science Center
  • Tour of Comerica Park (baseball stadium)
Outside of camp, some things we've done with them (some have been mentioned in previous post):
  • To the beach in Lexington
  • Swimming at my father-in-law's
  • Out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant and an American restaurant
  • Out for ice cream a couple times
  • Outdoor concert at our local park
  • Regular stuff like Kroger, the library, Target, and the local mall 
  • Putt putt golfing
  • The Heidelberg Project (outdoor urban art display in Detroit)
  • Belle Isle, where we visited the Aquarium, the Conservatory, and Dossin Great Lakes Museum
  • World of Discovery Reptile Zoo in Ann Arbor
  • University of Michigan Museum of Natural History
  • Two get togethers with other Chinese students and host families
  • A birthday get together for one of Bethany's friends
  • Dinner at McDonald's (their request)
Including tonight, we still have three nights left with them. We have plans for tonight and tomorrow night, and will probably go out Friday night as well. Everyone is tired, but hey that's what you do on vacation, right? We are sort of having an at-home vacation while they are staying with us, and this is a world wide adventure for them! Coming from Beijing, which is a city of such size and magnitude that I don't think we can quite fathom here in the U.S. (at least not in Detroit!), I am not sure what they think of things around here. But they seem to be enjoying themselves. And they are enthusiastic about every activity and outing that we suggest

As you can see, many of the things we did with them were inexpensive or even free. You can certainly go all out, but if you're on a budget, as we are, there are plenty of things that you can do that won't cost a fortune. At first I was worried that all they would see of the U.S. would be the little bit of Michigan we'd be showing them. But then I found out that they visited New York City, D.C., and Philly, as well as Toronto and Niagara Falls in Canada, before their arrival in Michigan, so I feel that their trip in whole is more well rounded than I originally thought. In a perfect world, I would have loved to have taken them to Chicago and northern Michigan, but nonetheless, I definitely feel like they have done and seen quite a bit while they've been here.

Some nights we've stayed home too, which can also be fun. One of the best nights we've had was when the girls had a little spa time, doing facials and painting their nails. The boys play video games together quite a bit. One evening we had a pizza and movie night. Although Chinese kids do get summers off of school, their school sessions are so rigorous in China that it must be nice for them to be in a more relaxed, yet still structured, environment for awhile. Knowing that they aren't used to having much free time, I have been making sure they have time to read and just relax, or to go upstairs and be alone for bit if they feel like it. I've also (cough, cough) been letting them stay up too late. But our time with them is so limited! Plus it takes awhile for everybody to shower before bed.

The point is to immerse these kids in American culture, and show them some things they can't see at home. Just playing in the backyard, walking around the neighborhood, and accompanying you on mundane errands can be eye opening and enriching experiences for kids from another country! Imagine how cool it would be to do the same in China, or any other country!

If you're thinking about hosting exchange students, but think you can't afford to do a lot with them, think again. Do a little research to find out things to do in your area that are free or low cost. Use Groupon and Living Social to get some good deals too. I'll admit that our program is pretty unique because of the day camp, and that helped out a lot. But I still found plenty to do with our kids that cost nothing or close to it. Meeting your family and friends, exploring your neighborhood, going to parks and playgrounds, free museums and concerts, nature centers, area landmarks/photo opps...use your imagination and a little help from Google and there's a good chance you can find quite a bit! You'll probably even be in my predicament, with too much to do and not enough time to do it all!
Sometimes, or most of the time, Mathilda likes to hijack photos with silly faces.

Monday, July 29, 2013

What It's Like Hosting Chinese Foreign Exchange Students

Our time with Ken and Tina, our Chinese exchange students, is going by so quickly. I can't believe they've already been with us for 10 days, and we have just 5 more days with them!

I was pretty nervous about hosting foreign exchange students. Just your basic fear of the unknown. I had a lot of questions and concerns swimming around in my mind. Will they get along with our kids? Will they like our food? Will we have trouble communicating with them? Will our family be bothered by the lack of privacy?

These are all valid concerns, but I have to say that things have been going far better than I anticipated.

They get along just fine with our kids. My impression was that most kids in China are only children, but both Ken and Tina have siblings (Ken has a younger brother, Tina has a younger brother and a younger sister) so they're used to brothers and sisters. Plus they go to boarding school, so they are used to sharing a room and having lots of other kids around all the time.

They have not turned away a meal yet. Every thing we give them, they eat. They try everything. The only thing I couldn't get Ken to eat was candy, and I'm not about to complain about that! Whether I cook or we go out to eat or have a picnic lunch, they have both been great about eating. Better, I have to admit, than I suspect my own kids would be in a similar situation.

Honestly, we have had some communication hiccups. I kind of think that us host families were lead to believe that communicating with the Chinese kids would be easier than it actually has been. The first couple days were particularly rough. Ken and Tina have been studying English for years, and with their rigorous school schedules, I'm sure that a lot is expected of them in their Chinese classrooms. But staying with a family who doesn't speak their language naturally puts things in a whole new light. Now that they've been here for over a week, things are going much better in the language department. I have made it a point to talk to them quite a bit, even when their initial response has been to clam up and keep to themselves. They are getting better and better as they adjust to speaking English all the time. We have used a translator app when needed, and that is a big help.

Both Ken and Tina like reading and often go off to spend some time alone. I have not once, since they've been with us, felt like they are in our way or interfering with our daily lives. In fact, I have had to draw them out and encourage them to hang out with us, when their natural inclination seems to be to go in bed and read or go off to be alone. Tina, in particular, reminds me quite a bit of myself as a child, because I always had a book with me. She has an iPhone, and wherever we are she can be found with her nose buried in an ebook on her phone. Since they are used to being away from home at boarding school, they are not needy or dependent. They don't get up at night and come in our room, they don't follow us around and badger us (if anything, it's the other way around!). All of the kids' bedrooms are on the second floor in our house, while our bedroom (Chris's and mine) is on the first floor, and there is a bathroom up there too for them. That has made things easier because I think they feel they don't have to be around everyone all the time if they don't want to, and no one feels crowded.

I want to do as much with Tina and Ken as we can while they're here, but I'm trying to temper the activities with opportunities to just hang out as a family, as well as time for them to be alone. I keep reminding myself that this is a vacation for them, as well as, possibly, a once in a lifetime opportunity. At the same time, they are living with people who were complete strangers just a short while ago, so I don't want to overwhelm them.

I didn't expect to become so attached to Tina and Ken so quickly! When I dropped the kids off at camp this morning, and watched the four of them walk into school together, I got a little misty eyed. I am really going to miss them. I think about their parents, and how much courage it took to send their kids to a foreign country and entrust an unknown family to care for them. I am thankful that they did it, because this has been a really rewarding experience. Hopefully we will keep in touch, and I would love to host them again if they return in middle school or high school.

From our end, we are learning so much about Chinese lifestyles and culture. My kids have impressed me with their patience and their willingness to share...their bedrooms, their parents, their time, and their home. There is more laundry and more dirty dishes, but I don't mind. Throughout the course of these past couple weeks, the world has suddenly become a much smaller place for my kids, as well as a much bigger place. China is so far away, and yet Chinese kids are not so different from American kids. Yes there are cultural differences, but they are kids. They laugh and act silly and get bored and tired and will spend way too much time with video games and electronics if we let them. We can still be friends, despite our differences. China is so far away, and now my kids have a better understanding of this far off place, and a better understanding that there is more to the world than our little pocket of southeast Michigan. Maybe an interest has sparked in them to learn more, to see more, to understand more.

Have you hosted a foreign exchange student? Or have you wanted to, but hesitated because of similar concerns? I'd be happy to answer any questions. If you have the opportunity, I think you will find it to be quite a rewarding and unique experience that your family will never forget!  I have a feeling this will not be our last time hosting exchange least I hope not!

Looking for ideas for things to do with exchange students? Read this post for inspiration!

Friday, July 26, 2013

ENDED What Makes Me Smile: A Floss and Brush #FABsmile Giveaway

As part of the Mom It Forward Blogger Network, I am helping to promote I have been compensated with product in exchange for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

I have a lot of reasons to smile. In particular, I have four little rays of sunshine who light up my life on a daily basis. Corny, but so true. They add fun and meaning to my life, and I'm so blessed to be their mother. They make me smile every single day.
My "babies" and me

To maintain a healthy smile, good oral hygiene habits are absolutely crucial. And that's where comes in. We all know we're supposed to change our toothbrushes regularly and floss every day, but how often have you run out of floss and gotten out of your daily flossing habit because you keep forgetting to pick up another pack of floss when you're shopping? And how are  you keeping track of when to switch toothbrushes? Maybe you switch every time you see your dentist for a cleaning, but even if that happens twice a year it's not enough. That's right - did you know that the American Dental Association recommends replacing your toothbrush every three months?

If you want to make this one aspect of your life a whole lot easier, has the solution. For just $1.00 per month/per family member, will send you an automatic shipment every three months with new toothbrushes for your family and a three month supply of dental floss. Easy peasy! For only $1.00 more ($2.00 per month), adults can upgrade to the Brush and Whitening Gel package. The whitening gel is meant to be used with custom trays, which are NOT included in the package, but are available for purchase at (with a 25% MichiGal reader discount code in the works as well).

The toothbrushes are age specific and quality (I received GUM toothbrushes, but I'm not sure whether they always ship the same brand); and the floss is mint, waxed, and shred resistant (60 yards per pack), made by Butler. Just a note, we haven't tried our new toothbrushes yet, but I have tried the floss. I have an abnormally small mouth, and because my teeth are packed in it so tightly, I can only use certain types of floss. I did try this one, and while snug, it didn't get stuck between my teeth like some others have. I have not tried the whitening gel because I don't have trays, but maybe I'll order some from the website.

Shipping is just $1.00 per person, but if you order three or more, shipping is free.

This is such a great idea, and I love that it's so affordable! On the one hand, it's kind of nice that it's simple and there aren't a lot of choices to complicate things, might be kind of nice to be able to choose the type of toothbrush you'd like, and a dental tape option would be great too (the tape works much better than floss in my tiny mouth). Of course adding choices would probably also increase the cost, but regardless, I think this is a very useful service.

Connect with via social media!

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Foreign Exchange Program Progress Report

Friday afternoon I picked Bethany and Connor up from day camp and brought two extra kids home with us. Ken and Tina (their self-christened American monikers) are visiting America with a group from their school in Beijing, China. Their first three weeks* in the US were spent visiting New York and Washington, D.C., and their trip culminates with three weeks in Michigan.

As part of this foreign cultural exchange program through our school district, Bethany and Connor have been attending a day camp with the Chinese students. Since our district hosts Chinese students from our sister school in Beijing throughout the year, an unused school has been converted in dormitories. The first week our Chinese kids were here, they stayed in these dorms and went to camp Monday-Friday, 8:30-4:00, along with the American kids. Friday they came home with us, to finish off the final two weeks of their American trip. During these two weeks, Bethany, Connor, Ken, and Tina will continue to go to day camp Monday-Friday.

The day camp is a fun place for the kids to learn about American (for the Chinese) and Chinese (for the American) culture and participate in many activities and field trips. They play games, do craft projects, watch movies, play outside, and more. The camp is 100% free for the American kids, including lunch, snacks, and all field trips! Last week they went on three field trips; shopping and a movie at a local outdoor mall, our city pool, and the Detroit Zoo. Another day they had someone come in with an exotic animals demonstration.  Monday of this week they walked to a local park with a splash pad, and from here on out they will have a field trip every day. Weekends and evenings the host families are responsible for entertaining and feeding the kids, but we have been provided with some ideas and opportunities for meeting up with others from the program outside of day camp.

At pick up time Friday afternoon, we had a brief informational meeting and then the whole group had a family pizza dinner at the school. It was pretty much utter chaos, but with so many people I'm not sure how it could have been done differently. Then we loaded Ken and Tina's luggage into the van and brought them home.

We spent Friday evening showing them around our house and just letting them settle in. My mom came over to meet them and brought ice cream. Pretty quickly it became apparent that the language barrier might be an issue, but from the start these two kids have both been very sweet and well mannered. They eat everything we give them, try their best to answer our questions, and are understandably very quiet. Although they have both been studying English for years (they are 11 years old), speaking in a classroom in China is quite different from speaking with Americans who don't speak Chinese. I can only imagine the relief they must feel when they call home or see their peers at day camp and can speak freely without trying to think of every single word they want to say.

Saturday we spent the day in Lexington. My aunt and cousins are visiting from Idaho and staying at their family cottage there. I wanted to make sure we got to spend some time with them, and I thought it would be cool to take Ken and Tina to a Michigan beach and give them the chance to see one of the Great Lakes. We went swimming and played on the beach, then I took them into town so they could get some candy from the General Store. Ken, as it turns out, does not like candy. He likes other sweets so I'm not sure why he was unwilling to try anything, but I find it impressive that an 11-year old kid is able to just say no to candy. Saturdays during the summer season are crazy in Lexington, but we still managed to get a parking spot and find a bench to sit for a few minutes enjoying our candy. We then drove to Croswell to the swinging bridge, just because that's something that we do while we're there. There was a festival going on, and we sort of got stuck in a parade of tractors, but the kids were able to cross the bridge and play for a few before we headed back to the cottage for dinner. We got back just in time to indulge in an American barbecue dinner that my aunt and her family had prepared.

After dinner we had to scoot because Bethany and Tina had been invited to a sleepover at another host family's house. Bethany's friend is hosting two Chinese girls who are friends of Tina's. We were told that the Chinese kids view their schoolmates much like siblings, since they spend so much time with them (they go to boarding school), and to try to let the kids see each other outside of camp if possible. Tina seemed quite happy to be with her friends, and I'm grateful for the invitation!

The kids were exhausted from our long day and passed out pretty early. I picked the girls up Sunday morning, and then we all spent a couple hours just hanging out at home before taking the kids to my father-in-law's to go swimming. We stopped on the way to pick up some Hot 'N Ready pizzas, had lunch poolside and let the kids swim for hours. Tina and Ken are both good swimmers. They told us that they swim at school, but that they mostly just swim laps and are not allowed to play around in the pool. I think they had fun just splashing around and doing whatever they wanted (without the big crowd at the city pool).

When we had had enough swimming, we went out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Our waitress immediately sensed that Tina and Ken were from China - maybe she noticed that they didn't seem to understand English that well - so she spoke to them in Chinese, which helped the ordering process. They seemed to like all the food, and when we asked them if if was like food they eat at home in China they said yes. We were surprised by this, but then they did order some different foods that we had never had. They tried everything. I am so thankful they're not picky eaters! They have been making it easy on us in that regard. After dinner we went out for ice cream before going home for the night.

Connor and Ken have been playing video games together, but Bethany and Tina haven't really found any common ground like that yet. Ken is starting to open up a little more and talk to us more, while Tina is definitely more shy and I think it will take a little more doing to get her out of her shell. I'm trying to ask them lots of questions and get dialogues going, and often times that is not easy, but we're plugging along and it's getting easier. When I hear Ken talking to his family on the phone, he sounds very animated and I hope he is telling them how much fun he is having! Tina has her own phone and calls home up in Bethany's bedroom, so I haven't heard her conversations.

So far my impression is that this is a great program! I love that the kids have the day camp to go to and so many activities and field trips to do. That takes some pressure off host families...knowing the kids have been doing fun things all day, I don't feel like we have to schedule an activity every night. Our responsibility as host families is to feed the kids breakfast and dinner everyday, drive them to and from day camp, feed them on weekends, and provide them with their own beds. Connor has bunk beds, so that was easy. I re-arranged Bethany's room a little to squeeze in a twin size air mattress, which I purchased before I knew that the school had some to loan out to host families. But that's okay, it's a nice air mattress and now Bethany can use it any time she has a friend over to spend the night. The kids have their own spending money, but we are to treat them like our own in regards to things like paying for meals out, paying their way for any activities we choose to do with them, etc. We are allowed to do whatever we want with them on weekends and evenings, with the exception of leaving the country - no trips to Canada!

I'm already feeling like I won't be ready to give Tina and Ken up in two weeks! I'll continue to update, but so far I'd say it's going pretty well!
Maybe I should consider editing my photos so my kids don't look like zombies. Just a thought.

*Actually, I'm not really sure how long the kids were in the U.S. before they arrived in Michigan. Initially we were told they would be touring the east coast for two or three weeks before coming to MI, then another host mom who is also volunteering with the program told me she thought they were here for 6 weeks total. But when I asked Ken to see his pictures from the first part of the trip, it looks like they may have only been in the U.S. for about a week (in NYC, D.C., Philly, Niagara Falls, and Toronto) before their arrival in Michigan.

Friday, July 19, 2013

ENDED Giveaway: IncrediBundles - The Ultimate Baby Gift Giveaway

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Foreign Exchange Students

We're in the middle of a pretty wicked heat wave, an 84 degrees at 2 a.m. kind of heat wave. I'll admit that I kind of love it, although we have been largely holed up in the air conditioning. We are enjoying our summer, when I'm not yelling at my kids to stop yelling (call it a parenting fail if you must, I call it being heard). Dang it but they're loud!

Bethany and Connor started a three week day camp on Monday as part of a Chinese cultural foreign exchange program. They have a very busy and fun-filled itinerary, and Friday night we'll be bringing two Chinese students home with us to stay for two weeks. This means all kinds of things.

For starters, my house is still not ready for overnight guests. So I'll be doing some mad crazy cleaning and prep work Thursday and Friday. I mean, we got home from vacation on Saturday and I still have managed to not go grocery shopping. I won't mention the lingering suitcases. Clearly I have a lot of work to do!

Then I have to make sure I'm sufficiently entertaining Lucy and Mathilda because they know that Bethany and Connor are doing all kinds of fun things all day, and it just wouldn't be FAIR* if they didn't get to do all kinds of fun things too. My bare minimum strategy is to at least plan fun outings on the days that the campers go on field trips. When we're at home, they pretty much just have to be happy trying to out scream each other and fighting over whose turn it is to choose a show on Netflix. I'll try to do better next week.
Notice the lack of SMILE.
Tuesday the campers spent the day at Partridge Creek (local outdoor mall) to see a movie and do some shopping, so after I went to the gym and got us three girls ready, we went to Partridge Creek too. The campers saw Monsters University, and while Mattie was gung ho to see it, there was no convincing Lucy that it's not strictly a boys' movie. We even had a Monsters, Inc. family movie night Monday to try to sway her, but that didn't work, so we saw Despicable Me 2 instead. After the movie, we bumped into some friends, and went over to the fountains so the girls could splash around and cool off, but that lasted all of 5 minutes. Seriously. They said the other kids were hogging the water. Whatever. Sometimes your fun plans just don't work out. Instead of joyously running around in the water as I had envisioned, they sat with me on a bench, eating left over movie theater popcorn and getting all up in my business while I attempted to have an adult conversation with my friend. I turned to Starbucks for support (it's been awhile) and appeased Lucy and Mattie with cake pops. The day was a semi-success.

Wednesday Mattie had a dentist appointment, and then a birthday party for a preschool friend. Lucy and I got to hang out at the party too, which was unexpected and fun. After that, I knew the campers would be at our city pool, so we went and did that for awhile too. Being blazing hot, it was a good day to be in the pool. Friday the campers are going to the zoo, and the girls and I are definitely not doing that in the 90+ degree heat, so I need to think of something else.
Making pizzas at the birthday party

So then. Starting Friday we will have two strange kids who are thousands of miles from home and barely speak English staying with us. And I'm a tiny bit concerned about how that is going to go. I think it will be fun, but we've never done anything like this before so I'm kind of nervous. I'm so thankful that Monday through Friday they'll be in camp all day, and all their activities are planned. (My friend has an exchange student from Spain for a whole month, with no planned group activities of any kind. She is struggling to keep him entertained.) But that still leaves two whole weekends and lots of week nights. The school gave us a list of suggested evening activities, and I think we'll do a few of those, hopefully meeting up with a lot of other families in the program. It is pretty exciting to have the opportunity to host these kids and immerse them in American culture. Haha. Hopefully they're not too freaked out by the mayhem that prevails in our house.  Because, no, really, I'm not kidding when I say my kids are loud.

Friday night all of the host families are having a pizza dinner together at the school, and then we're on our own for the weekend. I made plans for Saturday which should last all day. I'm hoping the kids click well enough that it's not just all awkward silences. When I was a kid I went to a bi-lingual school, plus lived in an apartment complex that seemed to be the meeting ground for transients from all over the world. I had plenty of friends with whom I didn't share a language, and yet we always had a great time together. I'm hoping that's a universal kid thing, and that they'll all get on fine.

I'll update, but I'm not making any promises because we all know what a slacking blogger I've been.

Oh yeah, incidentally..."Host a foreign exchange student" is on my Life List, so I get to tick that one off! Yippee!

I hope your summer is going well, and I'd love to know what you've been up to!

*Lucy is my Fair Fighter. Everything has to be fair and square or else look out.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What Does it All Mean?

Life is crazy. Life is unpredictable. This can be good, this can be bad, or anywhere in between.

Last year, my cousin was in a roll over accident, hit by someone who ran a red light. Miraculously, she walked away literally without a scratch.

Within a week of my cousin's accident, my friend was run over by a city bus while riding his bike. He's still recovering, but amazingly he lived to tell about it. His survival was a fluke...the way he fell saved him (not to mention that he was wearing a helmet!!!).

A few weeks ago, my cousin's mother-in-law had an aneurysm and died out of the blue.

Last week, my friend was driving along minding his own business when a six pound piece of metal flew through his windshield. He remains in critical condition and could really use lots of prayers and positive thoughts if you are so inclined.

Life offers no apologies or explanations. The nature of life is to NOT know. Is it all just random crap, or is there a higher purpose? Why does one person die, and another live? Why do thousands of people drive along the same stretch of freeway without incident, and one person is hit with a piece of flying steel? I'd like to think there is some kind of ultra complicated meaning behind all the madness. I'm also resigned to never knowing.

A hard fact of life is that bad things happen to good people. A million good deeds do not earn anyone immortality. Being a hardworking, loving husband and father does not mean anything to a piece of metal looking to make contact with something.

When bad things happen, people like to say "it's not fair." Fairness is an idea created and propagated by humans. What is "fair" to nature, to disease, to random freak accidents? In reality, there is no "fair." There is just life, which unfolds in its own way, in a manner that will forever be a mystery.

I don't exactly think that we're just along for the ride. We do have some control over how things play out in our lives. Every second of every day we're making choices that affect the quality of our existence. And our choices do have an impact on what happens to us. For example, choosing to get into a car or an airplane automatically increases the range of things that can happen to us. Choosing to never leave the house decreases that range.  Be safe, just in case, or be happy and live a full life, come what may. But know that even if you choose the be safe route, life is still unpredictable.

One of my favorite phrases I learned in French class oh so long ago: On ne sait jaimas. One never knows.

What I do know: Live. Now. In this moment. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. An hour from now is not guaranteed. Love. Now. In this moment. Another chance is not guaranteed.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Let Go

I know, I know. I've been so scarce lately. Summer is FLYING by. I knew it would. We've been so busy and it hasn't been easy finding the time to blog, plus we're having so much fun that I haven't tried that hard. Right now we're in the middle of vacation, and when we get home we'll be jumping right into our next adventure - hosting two Chinese exchange students.

We're doing the typical summer stuff. Going to parks and going swimming and having picnics and lots of sleepovers. Bethany had a week of basketball camp, Lucy had a week of Vacation Bible School. A little of this and a little of that. To add to our everyday chaos, Chris has started traveling some for work.

Bethany was invited to go camping with her friend's family for a whole week. We debated whether or not this would be a good idea. A week is a long time to be away from home at age 11. Plus the trip would be back to back with the vacation we had planned with my mother-in-law. But in the end we let her go. The campground they were going to was only about an hour away. Also I like to encourage independence, and allow my kids as many opportunities as possible - sometimes these include opportunities that we can't give them all on our own. I traveled with extended family and friends on several occasions as a kid, and I think being with other families is a great experience. So off she went, and I knew she was having a good time because she texted me on several occasions. Yay for cell phone service while camping.  All went well until the cell phone was dropped in the river (!!), but still the fun continued. Then on the last day she took a tumble off her bike, from the top of a gravel covered hill. Her friend fell first, at the bottom of the hill. Bethany saw her, panicked a little and tried to stop to avoid a collision, then down she went. Here is the picture I posted of her on my Facebook page:
Daughter + Bike = lots of bandages
You never actually think you're gong to get one of those phone calls, but nonetheless sometimes you do. Her friend's mom called from the urgent care center to tell me what happened, and to get Bethany's insurance info and get my permission to have Bethany treated. (Wouldn't you know they didn't take the insurance? Ugh!!) I was kind of in shock and it didn't sink in at first, but I got the most important part: the girls were fine, just badly scraped up. Chris was out the door within 5 minutes to pick her up, but her friend's mom thought it was important that she was treated right away, even without the insurance covering the visit. I appreciate her diligence, and it's probably a good thing we didn't wait to get her to a different urgent care center, because they got her cleaned up, pain medicated, and x-rayed in no time at all. I am thanking my lucky stars that Bethany had no broken bones, no head injury, and no need for stitches. Just lots of scrapes and bruises and gravel (OUCH!). The doctor prescribed an antibiotic as a precaution against possible infection.

Now that we're on vacation, Bethany is hating being bandaged up with pussing wounds while staying at a cottage less than a block from the beach. However, she is healing at an astounding rate, and I have reminded her a zillion times that she is SO LUCKY that her injuries were not worse. I'm even hopeful that she might (just maybe) get to go swimming in the lake before we head home on Saturday. Maybe I'm being too optimistic, but if we can just get some scabs on a few more scrapes...

So anyway, Bethany ended up coming home from camping a day early, which was just as well because she was able to spend a little time with Chris before we left (he isn't with us). She is still having pain and needing pain relievers at times, and hobbling along just a little bit. But since she first started crawling as a baby, there has been no stopping Bethany. The child just goes and goes and goes. This incident is no exception - a little fall of a bike will not keep her from doing anything. Except maybe going in the lake, and I've practically had to physically restrain her from doing that.

As a parent, it's hard to let go. Part of the reason it's so hard is because we're afraid of getting a phone call telling us our child has been hurt. It's scary to think of one of my kids having an accident or getting sick when they're away from us. But I also know that sickness and injuries can happen whether they are directly under our care or not. Now it's happened, my kid got hurt and I wasn't there. Luckily it turned out okay, but I know that next time it might be a little harder to let her go. But I still have to, because that is what being a parent is truly all about.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

ENDED Book Review and Giveaway: Emma's Secret By Steena Holmes

Last summer, I published a review of Finding Emma, by Steena Holmes. You can read my review by clicking HERE. Emma's Secret is the sequel to Finding Emma.

Imagine your worst nightmare. If you are a parent, I can almost guarantee that it involves something bad happening to your child(ren). When Megan and Peter were faced with the kidnapping of their youngest daughter, Emma, they found themselves confronted with one of their deepest fears. You can read about that story in Finding Emma. In Emma's Secret, we find out what happens in the next chapter of their lives.

With their daughter home safely, Megan and Peter are ready for their family to be back to normal. But soon it becomes painfully apparent that they can't simply pretend the previous two years they spent looking for Emma never happened. Megan can't relax and Peter is spending more and more time at the office. Their older daughters are struggling to adjust as well. To complicate matters, Emma holds a secret that is guaranteed to rock her family to the core.

Once again, Holmes does a great job of bringing the reader into the lives of this family whose world has been severely knocked off course. And of course it's always a pleasure to read more about characters you've become attached to during the course of a book. Emma's Secret neatly ties up loose ends and resolves questions that went unanswered at the end of Finding Emma. It is a quick and easy read, perfect for lazy summer lounging!

If you would like to read Emma's Secret for yourself, as of today it's going for only $4.99 on Amazon for the Kindle edition! AND...good news! I am giving away an extra copy! Just use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. U.S. only please.

I was provided with two complimentary copies of Emma's Secret, one to keep and one to giveaway. All opinions are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway