Our Life in Pictures

I can’t not even believe that it is already November – and a week into it, at that!  October (or the end of it) was filled with lots of fun activities for both us and the kids. Get ready for the influx of pictures!

Emerson turned 7 years old on October 25!  She requested Shake Shack for dinner, a chocolate cake with pink and blue icing topped with Shopkins, and a family trip to Laser Bounce to play the arcade games (aka spend lots of money to get super cheap prizes). This girl is so full of fun and personality and makes friends everywhere she goes. She is good at almost everything she puts her mind to. She is also the kid that God is using the most to sanctify me, as we are so different in many ways and so alike in others (like our sharp tongue!). Even during the hard days, I am so thankful she is a part of our family! Check out the sweet, sweet card Blake made her in school (technically, he made her a card everyday for 3 days preceding her birthday) – his teacher said he worked so hard on it!

Speaking of Blake, one morning, while I was getting ready to leave for a meeting, he left me these surprise pictures on my phone…love this little guy!

Halloween was filled with pumpkin carving and painting and roasting pumpkin seeds…

Class parties and a book that Blake made in his class showing the Hetzel family trick or treating…

and, of course, trick or treating with friends and neighbors. Last year, they kids were dressed as Star Wars characters and while 3 of them chose it, we of course made Brynn dress as BB8 to complete the group. This year, she, at 2.5 years old, has an opinion, but thankfully, her opinion went along with the group and the kids, on their own, decided to be Toy Story characters. Halloween is SO BIG here, and while we aren’t into ghosts and goblins and scary movies, we do enjoy spending time with friends and neighbors and using it as a time to connect with others.

Then, to top off the weekend, my good friend Jane and I went for high tea at the Plaza Hotel. First, the hotel is so beautiful and you can’t enter without reservations or without renting a room, so it is hard for everyone to see. Then, the high tea is amazing. It is such an upscale, pampering experience and the food and champagne were amazing too. Thank you for pushing me to make time for it, Jane – so, so, so glad we did this – what an unforgettable memory! Though the caviar and liver I tasted could be forgotten, but I digress.

The day we went to high tea was also the day of the NYC Marathon. I had been watching the winners on TV earlier in the day, and I even texted Ed and said “I think I want to run a marathon.” When we left the Plaza, the race route was right next to the hotel. We went to cheer them on for a bit, and because we were at mile 25 out of 26 on the course, quite a few of the runners were limping, crying, and pain, and it was a great reminder of just how long a marathon is and how much of a toil it takes on your body. Not to mention the half marathons and marathons you run in training before the actual one. Needless to say, I think I may try a half marathon first. What a great reality check!

And finally, this picture makes me smile so much. While Blake may be the only boy in our family, he most definitely still has a best friend and buddy. He and Brynn are thick as thieves (well, most of the time). They walked to school the whole way (1/2 mile!) just like this, hand in hand. Be still my heart.

 

5 Things I am Loving – Conversations, Weight Loss, Curly Hair, and More!

When I was thinking about this blog post, there were lots of things I wanted to post that feel very random…so I decided to do a “5 Things I Am Loving” post. So without further ado…

1. Noom!!

What is Noom? It is a weight loss app I have been using since the beginning of May and I have lost 42 lbs using it!. A friend was using it and loving it, so I entered into a free 14 day trial. I then signed up and, if you sign up under a friend, they get a referral credit and I got a 30% discount (there pricing is dependent on how long they think you need to hit your weight loss goal). I have tried lots and lots and lots of diets and eating plans, and Noom is so different!

I like to say that Noom is like “Weight Watchers for Millennials”. You can eat what you want as long as you track, but it also combines a coach, accountability, a tracking system, and lots and lots of psychology to deal with not only the weight, but also the mental and motivation aspect. I love to share more about Noom, so if you want more details about how it works or want accountability if you jump on board, let me know. Here are some before and after pictures.

AND, if you want to jump on board, its a 14 day free trial before you start paying, but you have to use my referral link when signing up for the free trial so that if you continue on, you will get the 30% off. 

2. The Bronx Zoo

Have you ever seen the show “The Zoo” on The Animal Planet? It is filmed at the Bronx Zoo which happens to be only about a 30 minute drive from us. Our kids LOVE this zoo, so much so, we decide to invest in a membership (which also gives us access to zoos in Central Park and Queens and Brooklyn as well). During Halloween time, they have Boo at the Zoo, where people wear costumes, where they have Halloween decorations everywhere, where they have a candy trail for kids to go trick-or-treating. I can’t say it enough – our kids love this zoo!

This is us riding the tram that goes through a ton of exhibits. They also love the Carousel! A few weeks ago, a lady climbed into this lion exhibit and was taunting the lions…can we talk about crazy and a death wish? In the kid’s zoo, the kids can climb up and be part of the exhibit with the meerkats.

3. Students having spiritual conversations on campus

On campus this past week I got to see Kseniya (shown below with our kids after dinner at our house) have a spiritual conversation with a girl. Kseniya, who is from Belarus, was able to have a great discussion with Lourdes, who is Hispanic….such a great representation of the diversity here in Queens!  I love, love, love seeing these students take time out of their busy schedule to engage with fellow friends and classmates – I wish I had invested my time like this when I was a student! Please pray for Lourdes and that she continues to engage with Kseniya!

4. Our church!

This past weekend, our church hosted a parenting conference all day on Saturday (they even provided childcare so parents could attend!). We got to hear from a variety of speakers, Pete and Geri Scazzero, our lead pastor Rich and his wife Rosie Villodas, our youth pastor, and so many others on a variety of topics from discipling your child to sex to the genogram to social median and your kids. We love the investment they make in us as parents but also our kids. They had these charts up all around the sanctuary which provided great resources as to when we could/should do different things at different ages related to different topics with our kids.

5. The Curly Girl Method

I have been following this facebook group for quite a while that talks about the “Curly Girl Method” of doing hair. From what I could tell, it was a lot of work that involved investing in many products and trying different routines since different things work for people. I finally took the time to watch You Tube videos and figure out the crazy language they were using (what does plop mean? Or co-wash? or Pineapple ponytail?). I then started trying a few things with my hair that were different than normal and I have to say, I can tell a huge difference in how my hair looks. While there are still more things to tweak, it has more volume, the curls go higher instead of being flat at the top, and I am able to refresh with a water bottle and gel for a few days after washing instead of showering every. single. day. Again, here are before and after pictures. What do you think?

For the longest time in my life, I had no idea what to do with curly hair. I am so thankful for people who have shared their wisdom so curly women can embrace and love their curls!

 

 

Fall Retreat 2019!!

One the benchmarks of the fall in college ministry is reaching Fall Retreat – it usually marks the end of the first 6-8 weeks on campus and is a great connection point for old and new students to hear solid Bible teaching, experience community, and just get away during the Fall Semester.

This past weekend, we traveled to New Jersey to join the rest of the NYC campus teams and the NJ campus teams at Fall Retreat. We had 6 students join us specifically from St. Johns and Queens College (we would have had more from St. Johns if it hadn’t been the same weekend as homecoming when many of our students were required to stay – and athletes were in season and couldn’t come). Here is a picture of our trip out of the city (love the view but don’t love the traffic!) and their trip riding together in a rental van driven by one of our staff ladies.

We traveled to Camp Tecumseh for the weekend, which was filled with lots of green open space, lots of trees and woods, and lots of deer (even little baby ones!). And lots of bugs :).  It is always so refreshing for us to get out of the city.

We brought in a speaker named Tyrone who shared his life story and also more about what Jesus has been teaching him, we had seminars from everything from “How To Know God Personally” to “time management” to “authentic community”. We had mens and womens times where we had fun but also got to hear super wise staff women share from their hearts and answer questions from student women (see second pic below). We had a bonfire, talent show, and lots of free time to just enjoy the camp and each other.

The best part about it? Our kids getting to live life alongside college students who love Jesus and want to grow in their faith and impact the world. Our kids seriously soak it up.

Following the lead of another staff family from NYC who has older kids, we bought walkie talkies and let our girls go exploring with friends, students, and each other, checking in with them through our walkie talkie. They absolutely LOVED the freedom, which is something they don’t get in the city, but that we feel is absolutely vital to them growing up and maturing and establishing independence. Blake wished he was old enough to go with them, but because he isn’t quite there, he loved holding on to our end of the walkie talkies and communicating with the girls that way. And what happened when he wanted to talk to staff and students but had his hands full with his walkie talkie? Just clip on his back pocket, of course.

All in all, it was a great weekend. We heard great things from our students, from “I realized that I should put my phone on airplane mode when I read the Bible so I am not distracted – I didn’t even know I could do that” to “I always thought Christianity was for white people but this weekend, I realized it is for me” to “I loved being able to fellowship with students from all over the world who are living in NJ and NY and I got to see Cru as being a community in different places around the world that are all passionate about Christ.” Pray that God continues to teach them so many things now that they are back in NYC!!

What I’m Reading

As I have engaged in more personality tests, strength finders tests, and gotten to know myself better over the last year, two things have emerged or been reiterated: I love reading and I love learning. I love reading fun books that are easy and help me to destress. But I also love reading books that help me to learn.

On this blog, I used to post fun recipes I had tried and I used to post books I had been reading. I haven’t done that in a long time because, well, life, but I am hoping to pick back up on that a bit, as well as continue fun family and ministry updates. So, today, I present my first  in a very long while, and long overdue, book update of what I have been reading. I am including the books that I enjoyed or that taught me a lot, and not the duds (because I have had quite a few of those in the last few years).

First, lets start with my favorite, Dee Henderson. I love her as an author. Love, love, love, love. She is a believer, but her books aren’t cheesy “put a Scripture in here and there completely out of context” books. They are also mystery, which I love, and they usually have a little love element mixed in. If you haven’t tried her books, RUN to the library and get one!

I love parenting books, but because there are so many out there and everyone has such different opinions on so much, it can be hard to find quality parenting books. Again, you may disagree, but these two are my favorites that I have read lately. “Mom Set Free” was used immensely by the Lord to help regain perspective from this Type 1 (Enneagram), perfectionist, can tend to live in guilt and shame momma. I am so thankful for how the Lord has used this book in my life over the past year. “Parenting the Whole-Hearted Child” is another parenting book, but it does such a great job of addressing how to love your whole child and not just one area or another.

I also read “No More Mean Girls”, which is similar to a parenting book, but geared towards girls, especially in this generation. Based on the title, I actually wasn’t sure how much I would like this, but it came highly recommended. And let me tell you, I borrowed it as a library book but I am going to buy it from Amazon to have on hand because it was great. It gives so many great things related to girls specifically, from how to encourage them to build other girls up instead of tearing them down, to how to grow them as leaders, to how to help them handle their emotions and feelings. It had great practical ideas and there were already many things in the book I thought applied to my girls as well as things I think will be issues one day that I could use these ideas to solve.

Increasing our cultural competency is something that Ed and I are very passionate about, especially considering where we are living and ministering. “The Color of Compromise” was SO challenging and a little hard to read, but one that I feel like should be read by everyone. Honestly, I am still mulling over so much of what was said and wrestling with my feelings, but its a worthy read for sure.

On our team, we have been doing tons of research about Generation Z, which is the generation that is in college now and the generation that will include our kids. As we have been ministering here this past year, we are seeing so many changes in students and we recognize that the methods we have been using to minister to students are outdated and not being very effective to this generation. So, again, the learning side of me has kicked in and I have been consuming anything I can that will be helpful in understanding Gen Z. Hence the reason for the following books. All 3 of these books are beyond great, and I feel I could read them 15 times and not consume all the information, but if you are at all interested in learning more about this generation, these are a great place to start. “American Girls: Social Media and the Lives of Teenagers” scared the pants off of me and I keep telling Ed that our kids won’t have a smartphone until they are 18! While it was terrifying to read, I think every mom of girls HAS to read it to be aware of the pressures and challenges associated with girls and social media. But, be prepared….

I have a few more of my list to read this year, some fun and some spiritual and some learning, so I look forward to sharing more in a few months. I also am going to aim (noticed there are no promises here!) to share a few recipes throughout the month that are family favorites and home runs in our house….because I love taking tried and true recipes from others to incorporate into our menu plans.

And because I love my kids and have a hard time not sharing their cuteness with others :), I am going to include two pics from the last week: Blake walking to school in his small Star Wars backpack (he loves school by the way!) and Emerson enjoying a bubble tea date with Ed (the bubble tea was for her, as he hates it….its funny since we had never had bubble tea before moving here and now its a favorite of hers).

Full Swing!

Its official, everything is now in full swing – campus, small groups, school for the kids, and afterschool activities!

This year, Kinsley is in 4th grade, Emerson is in 2nd grade, Blake is in pre-k, and Brynn wishes she was in school :).  We were a little nervous about how Blake would do being gone from us all day long for multiple days in a row, but after the first full week of school, he has done great – a few slow moments leaving us in the morning and holding back tears but yet wanting to go back every day. His teacher is amazing and I think that is a huge help!  As is seeing his sisters at school during the day. To be honest, I miss him being home with me during the day!  One other thing that is back in full swing – homework!  Am I the only parent who struggles with having to help her kids through every part of the homework (which is hard when you have multiple kids to help) and dealing with kids who are tired, cranky, don’t understand, etc? Man, the struggle has been real this week!

Brynn is loving time with our babysitter having undivided attention while mom and dad have meetings. She has struggled a little with being bored (“Mom, play with me! can be heard multiple times an hour) and missing her brother, but overall, she is doing great!

And campus is back in full swing now that all of our schools have started. Our days have been filled with meetings, planning, buying lots of candy/water, equipping our leaders, filling cups with candy, making flyers, creating QR codes for students to use when filling out surveys, survey tables, and lots of meeting new students!  Just this week, I, along with our staff and student leaders, got to participate in the Queens College club fair (first three pics below) and Ed, along with our staff, got to host a table at LaGuardia Community College (last pic) to attempt to see something started there. Please pray for good followup with students, that students stick around and come to events and Bible study, and that God surfaces some great student leaders. We got some rough news about St. John’s but keep praying as we think God may be opening up doors for us to go in a different direction there!

Thankfully, this weekend will be filled with rest and a much needed date night!!

 

Last of Summer Fun

Lets be honest: if you are like me, within a given hour I float between two extremes – “isn’t it time for school to start back?” and then, “but I am sad school is starting back so soon and I will miss them so much”. Given the day, I may err towards one side more than the other (I am not telling you which 😉 ) . That being said, we are trying to soak up all the fun before school starts back. With some of our colleges having started back already and some of our team spent planning with our team, they have gotten to have some adventures with babysitters, but we have still had fun outings with just our family or with friends. The kids start back Thursday, including Blake this time as a preschooler at the girls’ school!

US Open – last year, we attended the US Open’s Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day. They had face painting, balloon animals, kid friendly concerts, tennis activities for the kids, hair braiding and coloring, agility events, and people got the opportunity to see the professional players practice. We had a great time, so this year, we decided to attend again. We had a great time again this year, but the icing on the cake of everything (at least per the adults) was getting the chance to see Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic practice. In fact, the kids sat and ate lunch while we watched Novak play another person in one of the new stadiums.

While we aren’t HUGE tennis fans (my husband is way more into football, especially these days 🙂 ), it is still a great opportunity to expose our kids to another sport and to see some of the best tennis greats of all time perform. What a blessing to be so close and get this chance.

While Ed had his first day at Queens College, I took ALL the kids to the Bronx Zoo (which is HUGE!). I was only brave enough because I was meeting some school friends and they promised to help. Believe it or not, it was a great day, the kids did fabulous, I didn’t lose anyone, and I conquered driving there and back – BIG feat!  I didn’t take a lot of pictures because – well, keeping kids alive – but here are the two I did. Kinsley loves the red panda and because its her favorite, Brynn calls it “Kinsley’s bear”. Too cute.

Ed spoke about and prayed for the college students, professors, and faculty at our 3 church services last weekend.

One of the best parts about marriage (that I feel like no one told me!) was that you get to inherit your husband’s friends (and even more fun, their wives!). This past weekend, Scott and Lyndsay came to NYC to visit us (well, it was originally an extended work trip but when work was canceled, we had even longer to play). With 8 kids between us, it could have been a crazy, hot mess, but instead, it was actually really, really fun. The kids all played well together and enjoyed each other, and we had fun laughing about how we would work on arranged marriages between them (coincidentally, they have a boy 2 year old to match Brynn and a girl 4 year old to match Blake and an older boy to pair up with Kinsley 🙂 ). Even more than that, we enjoyed deep, soul-filling, challenging, encouraging conversation, and I think we loved it ten times more than our kids. Scott keeps this blog up and running, so huge props to him for that, too!

Another highlight of my week was getting to start discipleship and connect with this sweet, sweet friend. She’s always a bright spot and I am thankful for her friendship!

Meanwhile, while I was spending time with (hmmm…managing) the kids, Ed was at Queens College and lots of meetings getting things up and running. Here is a photo of them at a table at Queens College. We gave away an Amazon gift card, cups, candy, and made a donation to a non-profit local ministry when students filled out survey cards for us. We hope those connections develop into deep community and gospel conversations!

And then we invited them to a cookie social the following day – with lots of yummy treats and conversations!

St. John’s begins this week, as does school for our kiddos!  Continue to pray for the adversity we are facing at St. Johns, as well as momentum to be developed, great spiritual convos to be had, and students to keep coming around at Queens College!

Mid-August Checkpoint

If you are like me, I can’t even believe that it is already mid-August. Maybe time just always flies by or maybe it has flown by because we have been squeezing every little bit out of summer before campus starts. Either way, we have been busy from doing fun things in the city to having lots of play dates to hosting and attending parties galore.

We finally got to visit the new (well, new to this one location) FAO Schwartz. While they opened last year, it was too crazy with all the holiday tourists, so before the Christmas tourism starts again, we decided to give it a whirl. So fun to be a kid in this store!

After having filmed in our neighborhood for a few times, I FINALLY got to land eyes on Mrs. Maisel from “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

We have played lots and lots (and lots!) of games!

We met some friends at Domino Park in Williamsburg and I have to say, we will be going back soon. The view of the city is spectacular, the kid’s play area is so amazingly designed (and clean!), and the water sprinklers were a hit with the kids. Loved it even more since it involved good friends joining us!

The girls went to a birthday party at Laser Bounce and had a great time! Watching Emerson and her friend do the virtual reality was priceless!

We hosted a neighborhood block party (thanks Jane for all your help in planning and executing!) and loved meeting friends and neighbors at the park. Our friend, who is a professional photographer, caught these pictures and we absolutely love them!

We traveled into the city to turn in the girl’s reading logs for Barnes n’ Noble and collect their free book, but while we were there, we attended Summer Streets. For three Saturdays during the month of August, they shut down Park Avenue from Central Park to the Brooklyn Bridge and people just run, walk, bike, skateboard, scooter (and lots more!) in the middle of the street. They also have stations with fun things to do set up along the way, like this bubble station that the kids loved.

We also got to attend the 1st birthday party for some dear friends of ours. Making it through the first year with a kid is a big feat! It was also so fun to see these dear friends – Stephanie and Fady were the first couple to join our church small group and for a while, it was just the 4 of us. They have seen our kids grow over the last 2.5 years and we grew to love them just like family. We miss them so much but are so excited for how the Lord is blessing their family!

While the kids don’t start school for a few more weeks (after Labor Day), we started last week and are expecting our ‘fun in the sun’ to end quite a bit. We are excited to get this year started and see what God has in store!

July Recap

As I have mentioned before, last semester/year was a hard one and very draining – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. And so, for the month of July, we left the city, flew to SC to visit with family/friends/ministry partners/churches and traveled to Colorado for our bi-annual national staff conference called Cru19.

Thank you for your grace at my lack of posting…I wanted to pull away substantially from social media and ministry (except connecting with partners) and just take time to recharge my soul before entering into the fall semester. It was a very refreshing, encouraging, challenging, motivating, and energizing month and I am so grateful I recognized the need to “stop” doing and just “be” with family, friends, ministry partners, and most importantly, Jesus.

However, by not posting, a lot had happened that I would love to update you on. So, I am doing a July recap by pictures so you can see a little of what the Lord used to refresh us.

We celebrated 4th of July with most of our small group – it was so much fun to cook out, laugh, eat, and just have a great time! We missed the few who weren’t there!

Then, we headed to Greenville, SC to visit Ed’s parents for a week while Ed took an online class and we visited a church and ministry partners in the area. We also got to visit with dear friends who moved to the area from Raleigh, head to downtown Greenville and see Greenville Falls, and the kids got to host a lemonade stand, and go see Toy Story 4 in theaters.

Then, after Greenville, we traveled to my hometown to visit with churches/ministry partners/family/friends. One of my favorite things about my hometown and one of the places I feel at the most peace is on the inlets/rivers/waterways in Georgetown. I love going out in the boat to where the rivers and inlets meet the ocean and just enjoying being in nature and in the peace and quiet. Because you can’t travel out there without a boat, and because the shallow waters and all the small inlets make it hard to navigate unless you are a local, it is very, very secluded. On our trip, we got to see dolphins (multiple pods), minnows, crabs, hermit crabs, sea turtles, and we went fishing where we caught regular fish along with sharks, stingrays, and flying fish!  We also got to see pelicans flying right over us and dive into the water to catch their meal and fish jumping all throughout the water and white cranes standing on the edge of the water. We even get to pull up to a beach near the ocean and have the whole place to ourselves! On the beach, we got to see a sea turtle’s nest with all the eggs that had just hatched the night before and the little flipper marks where they wandered out to the water. It was such a treat to introduce our kids to such beauty in its pure natural habitat. It is so beautiful and such a reminder of all the beautiful and intricate and amazing things God has created.

We got to spend lots of time with family which was so life-giving AND my kids got to have a rock painting party with my grandmother who is so very talented in painting (and patient to put up with painting with them – see my bored look at the very beginning? I was over it!). They don’t know what a blessing it is to interact with this amazing woman of God and to have their great grandmother around to be blessed by. They went downtown in Georgetown to hide the eggs after painting them and in true Brynn fashion, she couldn’t do what she was supposed to and had to go find the eggs she had just hidden to pick them up. Of course!

And, did I mention the delicious food? Seriously, guys, all the fried food!

These are from the restaurant my parent’s own.

Colorado was a great time hearing and reaffirming our vision with our national leaders and other speakers, being challenged on so many things, learning to be more effective in ministry, and getting to visit and be refreshed by great friends. Here are just a few of many pictures from the week (we left Brynn with my parents, so thats why she isn’t in them – we weren’t letting her play in the street while we took pictures 😉 )

This is the opening night fair they throw with food and lots of games for the whole family. Emerson has been begging to do these balls for a long time and was so excited to do it!

We were on Summer Mission in NYC with Madeline and Jonathan last summer and loved getting to know them. I wish I had a picture with all the other friends we connected with who mean the world to us!

We had a campus ministry dinner at the new Colorado State stadium – so fun and nice!

We joined staff with these dear friends 12 years ago!!

Worshipping and hearing from great speakers who challenged and motivated us with thousands of other staff!

We are back in NYC now and working on tying up loose ends with Ministry Partner Development and doing some other miscellaneous things before the school year kicks off next week. Thank you for your prayers for a refreshing and renewing summer…it was that and so much more! Tonight, we started the transition of taking Brynn from the crib and putting her in a toddler bed…probably my least favorite transition next to potty training…pray for us!!

 

 

Highs in the Midst of Lows

Even despite a harder semester, the Lord has provided immensely for us. Here are three big ways (and I could list so many more) we have seen the Lord provide over the last few years:

1 – School for the girls

Though we have had our fair share of drama and social issues in the girls’ classes this year, they have loved their school, PS 101, and have thrived under great teachers. The pressure on the kids in school in this city is unreal, but our kids are being challenged but also nurtured at this school. The girls didn’t finish until June 26th, so the last few weeks have been filled with an award ceremony and end of the year class parties (the little kids LOVE that they get to join in). So thankful that Blake will be going to 4 year old preschool at their school next year, even though I will miss him being at home so much!

Last day of school picture! They will miss their friends, but are so excited for the summer!

2 – Community for our family

We highly, highly value having a great community that we are like family to us, since our family doesn’t live close. Sometimes after moving, it can be so tough to find good, solid community with people you and your spouse and your kids really enjoy. We are so grateful that God has provided it so quickly for us here.

This is a picture from our last small group of the year. It was a great time of sharing what God has been doing in our lives and what we are trusting Him with for the rest of the year. So thankful for this group that feels like family.

We have found quite a few friends here whom we really, really enjoy. I always struggle with posting a picture with one of those for the fear that someone will feel left out. So, please note that this picture is just a representation of the deep and life-giving friendships God has blessed us with here. We went to the beach with these friends the other day and not only was it relaxing, but our kids enjoyed it and didn’t want them to go home!

3 – Such fun experiences

There are so many things that we love about living in NYC, but one of the things that we really, really appreciate is that there is never a shortage of things to do. Check out some of the fun things we have been able to do lately, most of which are a direct result of living in a big city that offers so much.

We went bike riding in Flushing Meadows park in Queens (remember this unisphere from Men in Black?).

My friend Amy (and teammate) and I won free passes to see a concert on The Today Show. Even despite the nasty, rainy weather, we had a great time making memories and experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime thing together.

The playgrounds and splashpads here are amazing. They are literally everywhere and it is so fun exploring different ones.

Every Saturday, in Queens, they host something called the Queens International Night Market. Basically, a bunch of restaurants, food trucks, and caterers set up tents and sell small portions of their food for a really reasonable price. They offer food from ALL over the world, and often, they are things that we have never heard of, like octupus balls, coconut pancakes, and many more things that I can’t even type or pronounce. They also have live music, a large grassy area for people to sit and play around, and merchants selling items. This was the first time we took our kids and they have already asked when we are going back.

We signed our family up for The Compassion Experience. To explain it concisely, they give you headphones and a phone where they tell you a story of someone overseas who is in poverty or facing helpless conditions and we walk through a model of their “house” and get an idea of what kids in our places are going through. It was very educational and eye opening for our kids and we even signed up to get a Compassion kid at the end. His name is Mario and the kids are so excited about helping him and writing him letters.

The movie that filmed on our street a few months ago returned to reshoot a scene, and they parked this fun car in our driveway. It was fun to see the shots and all that goes into making a scene, including tons of “rolling” and “cut”. It wasn’t fun to stay up until 2 am so they could use our living room, but the good outweighed the bad.

Our family also budgeted to get a Bronx Zoo membership because it gives us access to zoos all around the city. Recently, we loaded up and spent the day there, seeing the animals, riding the monorail, riding the carousel, and walking close to 15,000 steps. It is a fantastic zoo that really does so much for animal conservation. It is also fun to see the same things in person that we saw on the TV show “The Zoo.”

I am done with classes, but Ed is finishing up his reading and videos for his class next week, and we are hard at work preparing for the next few weeks in SC by lining up appointments and speaking engagements. We are excited to see family and friends and to be back in the South for a while 🙂

I Survived!

Beaten up. Exhausted. Mentally worn out. Full of new knowledge. Ready to see my family.

These are all things I felt as I returned from finishing my second seminary class in Austin, TX. It was a great class and I learned SOOO much, but it was exhausting, intense, and I was mentally worn out and ready for a break. The class was the followup to my Biblical Interpretation class from a few weeks ago, and it was called Biblical Communication. In the class, we took our passage that we studied in Biblical Interpretation and created a small group Bible study, wrote an online article, prepared a preaching message, worked on public speaking skills, and gave a message to our fellow classmates to which we were graded and evaluated. It was fun, encouraging, terrifying, informative, and challenging all at the same time. We literally worked from sun up to sun down, so I didn’t get to experience anything Austin has to offer. Next time I visit I will though.

This week, I am taking an Old Testament class, and again, I am learning so much. In discipleship this morning with a friend, I even got to share some of the things I was learning and it just reiterated again how rich the Old Testament is and how relevant it is to the New Testament and to our lives. When I finish this class, it will be Ed’s turn to complete his class! Again, because life has literally felt full with class and life responsibilities, we haven’t done a ton of fun things nor have I taken a lot of pictures. But, here are a few pictures to recap my last few weeks.

We splurged one evening and bought these cookies from Chip NYC, which has probably the best cookies in all of NYC (in my humble opinion). This is the chocolate eclair cookie. They change them everyday and only have 4 at a time. I made the mistake of following them on Instagram and it makes me want their cookies EVERY DAY when I see them posted.

While I was gone, Ed was super dad!  He took the kids to the park, to gymnastics class, to Central Park zoo and they even braved watching the 4D movie at the theater.

This picture is a reminder to me that they really do love each other and don’t fight all the time.  No, seriously, love these kids!

Ed competed in the Queens 10K race in Flushing Meadows park. This is the place where Men in Black was filmed. Recognize the Unisphere? So cool that its so close to us. Great job on rocking a fast time Ed!

The kids were out of school one day (yet again…this month, between Muslim and Jewish holidays and school work days, they have only gone like 1 or 2 whole weeks), so we met friends at the beach and enjoyed letting our kids freeze themselves in the ice cold water. It was really fun for both the adults and the kids, and it is always relaxing to me to get away from the city and experience the peacefulness of the beach with the wide open space and less people and God’s creation.

Oh, this kid. I told Ed that after 3 other kids, #4 is going to give us a run for our money. She started coloring on her arms the day before in the car and I stopped her, and she was so mad that she only finished one arm. So, on this day, she took the markers and recreated and finished the masterpiece. The joys of a 2 year old when you can’t leave them alone for more than 2 seconds without something being torn apart or written on or broken. Those blond curls and sweet, sassy demeanor make up for it though.

The kids love when Ed runs sound at the church on Sunday mornings. They love to go before church and help him set up and “work” the booth with him. What a great start to Father’s Day for Ed.

The girls have 8 days left of school….let the end of school madness begin!