Dano, Melissa, Kennedy, Ethan, Erin, Abigail, and Emily

Dano, Melissa, Kennedy, Ethan, Erin, Abigail, and Emily

26 September 2010

The Feeling I Dislike the Most

For several years I have suffered from migraines. They have progressively worsened over the past few years. They are excruciating and debilitating. However, this is not the feeling I dislike most. Most recently I have felt the many discomforts that accompany pregnancy including but not limited to sciatica, heartburn, leg and foot cramps, and swollen feet. Yet these are not the feelings I dislike most. I have experienced natural childbirth three times. But again, this is not the feeling I dislike most. The feeling I dislike most is not necessarily physical though the effect causes a terrible physical anxiety. The feeling I dislike most is being lost. With almost every discomfort or pain, you know there is an end somewhere in sight. However, with being lost, you never know when you’re going to be found or find your way out. There is a helplessness in not being in control.

I can recall several times I have been lost. The life-changing one was a few years ago after we moved to Ohio. I was trying to take the kids to school on their first day of school. My normal route was closed, but I was sure I knew an alternative route. (Keep in mind the school is nine twisty miles from our house.) Twenty minutes later when still no streets were looking familiar and the kids were ten minutes late for school we crossed a county line into a city I knew was clearly not where I wanted to be. I phoned Dano in our “emergency calling” code. He asked what my whereabouts were. Being a not-so-sunny day, all I could tell him was what town we were in and that there were fields on both sides of us. Skipping to the end: the kids eventually made it to school, the secretary answered my disheveled look with an understanding smile, and a week later Dano brought home a gift…my very own GPS! Life-changing indeed! (I had previously told him I didn’t need one…kind of like I had told him a couple years before that I didn’t need a minivan.) That little darling that sits atop my dash has kept me on the right path ever since.

So, what do you do when you’re lost and not in the car? Our trek back to Jeddah began with a stop in Washington, D.C. Dano had meetings in West Virginia so the kids and I were going to stay with my sister for a few days. So conveniently fun! On our way to drop Dano off in West Virginia, we had a little extra time so we decided to stop at Harper’s Ferry. Kennedy had been there with her leadership conference back in April and was anxious to have us visit. We followed the park ranger’s suggestion of going down to Lower Town. However, she failed to tell us there was a shuttle to Lower Town. We found the hiking trail pointing to Lower Town and with Abby on Dano’s back in the carrier, we set off on the park-labeled “vigorous” hike. The scenery was beautiful. The hike was steep with wonderful shale rock everywhere.We reached the bottom of the hill with no sight of Lower Town. We crossed the highway and picked up the faint trail. It led us to a serene river. Then the trail seemed to disappear. We forged our own trail, every now and then finding hints of what could be the actual trail. After about twenty minutes more of walking we decided we’d fare better if we followed the train tracks. Surely they would lead to the town. We walked on the railroad tracks listening intently for any oncoming trains. I could envision the whistle blowing and our family dodging off the tracks, rolling down the gravel toward the river. It seems so many of my images come from what I’d find in a movie!
We could see the highway up a hill of trees and brush to our left but there was no shoulder on which to walk and surely no one would pick up six hitchhikers! So on we blazed. At this point we’d been hiking for well over an hour with no end in sight. That terrible feeling of being lost began to set in. Finally after a family prayer and some divine intervention we decided to go ahead and leave the train tracks and head to the road. Where we had decided to pick up on the road happened to be shortly after a walkway beside the road had begun. We followed it, with many looks from drivers, for about another half a mile until we reached Lower Town.

Along the way we passed the remains of a pulp mill from the late 1800s and a wonderful old wooden truss bridge used for access to factories or to escape from floods.
Lower Town led to a point where Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland all meet at the convergence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.
Unfortunately after two hours and two miles of hiking we were all too pooped and sore (and out of time) to tour much around Harper’s Ferry. Kennedy gave us the condensed historical significance and we headed toward the shuttle, the glorious shuttle!

Speaking of this time of being lost, at least we were lost together as a family, the scenery was beautiful, and we’d been taught what the best thing is to do when you’re lost. We know that Heavenly Father always knows the way out if we just ask. He’ll direct us.

22 September 2010

All Good Things Must End

Summer came and went much too quickly for our little family. We arrived home on the evening of July 9th after a little more than 24 hours of travelling, four of which Abby slept. I was a little apprehensive taking a newly-potty-trained two year old on the long trip, but she didn’t cease to amaze. She was delightful for about the entire trip. The leg from Frankfurt to DC was long (after a six hour flight from Jeddah to Frankfurt and an additional three hours sitting on the tarmack waiting for repairs). Toward the last two hours she was done sitting in her carseat. I really couldn’t fight her on it, afterall, she had been such a good little passenger. I scanned the passengers and realized, “We don’t know anyone here. Chances are, we’ll never see any of them again. What the heck?” I unbuckled her and allowed her to stretch her little legs. She is mostly trustworthy and just visited Kennedy and Erin’s seats and then up to Dano and Ethan’s seats. Back and forth she went for the better part of an hour, not bothering anyone else, thank goodness.

Ohio had received quite a bit of rain the end of June/beginning of July so it was delightfully green – although, Phoenix might have looked green to us
at this point. Upon arrival over Columbus each of us just kept repeating, “It’s so greeeeen!” We were so happy to see our home again. It looked so beautiful. Our good friends, the Porters, had taped up ‘welcome home’ signs in our kitchen eating area which we left up for about three weeks! We had picked up a Papa Murphy’s pizza on the way home and called it an early night…though what’s early after you’ve been up for 36 hours?

The pool was uncovered the next day. Again, it could be heard amongst us, “It’s so greeeen!” (We'll spare you any pictures of the swamp!) Fortunately there were no living creatures (visible anyway). Our pool man told us it was due to the very hot, humid weather Ohio had had in May and June. It took us an entire week of chemical treatments and vacuuming to get it swimable. However, when we did, there were not many days we didn’t get in it.
As part of Erin’s birthday, we sent her off to DC to stay with my sister and her husband for a few days. I was a little nervous about Erin travelling by herself, but the flight was not long and she appeared to be calm and brave about it. She’s the only one of our children to ever fly unaccompanied…so far.
It was a very special experience fo
r her to enjoy some quality time with Aunt Jen and Uncle Chris. She brought Aunt Jen back to Ohio with her.

We enjoyed visits from family members nearly eve
ry week we were home. We had a great time hanging out with Aunt Jen and Uncle Chris when he arrived a few days later.
The exciti
ng part is my sister is due to have her first baby just four weeks after ours. The downside is…we’re going to be half way around the world. I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with this, but such is life. We’ll get through.
During their visit, my mom arrived for a two week stay. She sufficiently spoiled the kids. The
girls enjoyed pampering each other and Lindy with pedicures. We were sad that Papa could not make the trip this time and missed him.
A few days after Lindy left, Dano’s parents arrived.
During all of this, Dano returned to Jeddah for two and a half weeks. He made it back to spend a few days with his parents before they left. They taught the kids some new card games. It’s becoming fun that we are now having real card games amongst our family, including Five Crowns, a family favorite.
A day after they left my brother arr
ived. We had a super week playing with him that went by too quickly. I have no idea how we let the time get by without one picture with Uncle David. Shame on me!

t all the family visits we were able to spend time with friends, go peach picking (a favorite family event),

donate some more hair to Locks of Love,

attend a Cleveland Indians game and a Cincinnati Reds game (and make it on the jumbotron!),

devour some pulled pork and ribs, have a birthday party,

enjoy a long stint of not wearing an abbaya, relish in going where I want, when I want, and actually driving myself there, and get a hefty dose (okay, several doses!) of Graeters Ice Cream.

One final event of the summer - Dano participated with several friends from work in Columbus' Pelatonia bike ride which raises money for cancer research. Dano rode the 102 mile leg. We were all very proud of him. I'd post a picture of it, but it turned out to be a very rainy day and during our hour-long wait at the finish line, our camera became water-logged and drowned. (I guess that could explain also why we have no pics with Uncle David...) It was a great experience; one he's looking forward to participating in it again next year.

After a wonderful eight weeks I admittedly was not looking forward to leaving friends, family, Ohio, and America again. However, by the time we got closer to Jeddah, I was happily anticipating getting back and picking up our life in KSA which does feel like home. I considered that a blessing. I don’t think I can ever say it too frequently…we are so blessed with all that we have in the United States.

17 September 2010

Celebrating Erin

Seven years ago our third-born threatened an attempt to make an early appearance. Then at four weeks she taught us great lessons in faith as we watched her suffer from spinal meningitis and other health issues. Today Erin shows no negative effects from her jumpy start to life. On the contrary, she is full of bounce and life. Here are some of the things she enjoys about life and that we enjoy about her:

When Erin laughs it is contagious. She is capable of having such a riotous giggle that you can’t help but join in. Her smile lights up a room.

Erin loves to be in the kitchen and I love having her help me. She is quick to volunteer for anything of the culinary nature which makes me wish I was a better cook who could offer her a broader set of experiences. Oh well, she’s happy to settle for enjoying making baked goodies and breads (especially if they’re “Sister Dunford rolls”!)

Erin is a determined little girl and can accomplish anything she sets her mind to. The dilemma….setting her mind to it. Being in the middle has its challenges especially when you’ve put yourself in the footsteps of an older brother and sister. Erin has been blessed with an abundance of ability. She uses this to quietly overcome challenges. She is a very bright girl who has, by nature of our situation, been thrust into an educational upheaval. Though there were several days of tears, she managed to smile and push through. It’s difficult as a parent to watch your child grow through adversity. There have been times I have just wanted to remove her from the frustrations and home-school her. She finished out the school year quite well with glowing praise from her teachers and headmaster and was awarded one of three awards handed out at her grade – person with the best influence. We’re anxious to see what second grade holds in store for this little one.

Erin is a delightfully talented artist who loves to write stories, create pictures, and engage in all forms of creativity. At a recent visit to a ceramics gallery, Erin showed her gentle, patient touch by creating a clay pot thrown on a wheel. She has been improving her knitting skills, having been taught by Kennedy and my mother, and is making a wonderfully beautiful washcloth for the baby. I am amazed at how even and tight her stitches are. She is truly naturally gifted.

Erin is a true friend. She values her friendships and relationships with her peers. She is quick to notice someone left out. She is also capable of recognizing false friends, a characteristic I just recently learned about her; a trait which will serve her well throughout her life. She has taken the age-old adage to heart: to have a friend you must be a friend.

Erin is a super sister. She loves to do quiet, kind deeds for her brother and sisters. As Abby is getting older she is seeing this wonderful friend in her sister, Erin and loves to play with her. Most recently it has been music to my ears to hear her little voice call out “Ewiiiiiinnn!” As a middle child, Erin has always shared a room with Kennedy or Ethan. I love hearing the nighttime giggling between her and either of these siblings. Whether she’s role playing or just girl-talking with Kennedy or building secret forts with Ethan, Erin is a fun girl to share a room with. While we were back in Ohio this summer I think there were more nights of them wanting to all sleep together than in their respective rooms. I asked Dano why we even have separate bedrooms for them. We just need to modify what we have to make one huge bedroom for all the kids!

Erin loves little children. It has been sweet to watch recently as Erin will approach a little child at church or a park or in any setting and get down on their level and talk to them. It really makes her seem older. She is so anxiously excited about this new baby, she can hardly stand it. I know it will be just as sweet to watch her interact with and care for her new sister.

Erin is a great athlete. Again, any sport Erin attempts, she succeeds. She has been blessed with terrific speed and coordination. She has been a beautiful dancer, a soccer star, and most recently is enjoying perfecting her jumproping skills and tricks. When her year played an interhouse basketball game, it was great to watch Erin be able to shoot baskets as well as be aware of her teammates and opportunities to pass to them. She is very agile in the water and loves to swim. Watching her, I don’t know where she gets that set of lungs!

Erin is a great blessing to our little family. She fills our lives with her wonderful piano playing and beautiful singing. I am anxious to watch the next seven years unfold and mold her into an even more terrific girl.