Turning the Big 4!

Blake man is now 4 years old!  I seriously can’t believe how fast time has flown and that he is now 4. This kid, our miracle baby, who had so many issues in the womb, when he was being born, after he was born, and yet has survived it all. This kid, who melts hearts everywhere he goes and causes people to just gravitate towards him. This kid, who for all the drama his sisters bring, just goes with the flow and is so even keeled. This kid, who has such a sweet, soft heart that anytime he does something ugly towards you is quick to apologize and say how sorry he is. This kid, who talks and talks and talks just like he is 8 years old, and is so smart that he makes doing school with him a breeze. This kid, who is a spitting image of his dad and couldn’t be denied if he tried. I am so sad that he starts 4 year old preschool next year and that I will lose him being with me all day. I pray that his heart is captivated by the One who created him with this sweet and magnetic personality and that God uses that magnetic personality to turn people to Jesus. I can’t wait to see what God does in his life – it is such a joy being his mom!

For his birthday, he chose to go to a bouncy house and eat Shake Shack for dinner and have a chocolate cake with red icing topped with Chewbacca and Kylo Ren. So that is what we did. Enjoy the onslaught of pictures 🙂

Here is a video of him doing the zipline at the bounce place. He is a super cautious kid so I am a little surprised he even did it, so its not shocking that his face looked like this. Funny too!

And here is one of Brynn doing it – she even held on until the end. She is adventurous just like Emerson and Ed!

Blake had a blast celebrating his birthday (and the other kids did too!). Because Ed was out of town taking a seminary class in Boston on his actual birthday (Wednesday), he got to celebrate a little on Wednesday and then have his big celebration on Saturday, so his birthday lasted even longer!  On to the next one in February – Brynn’s birthday!

New Years Resolutions

2019 came in with a bang…literally. As we lay in bed at our hotel in Baltimore after an exhausting day staffing a conference for around 1000 college students, we heard the fireworks going off over the Baltimore harbor. We got out of bed, looked out the window for a few minutes, gawked at the people watching from balconies, kissed the obligatory “welcome to 2019 kiss”, and went back to bed. I still love watching fireworks and celebrating the new year, but I also love my sleep, which due to 6 people sleeping in one room at a hotel, wasn’t hitting a home run in previous nights. Here are the kids having fun in Baltimore and in the conference rooms at the hotel.

Here is a photo of some of our students (and 1 of our staff) who attended the conference from Queens. Kseniya (far left) is from Belarus and Sam (third from left who lives in NYC now) is originally from Jamaica. I met them at Queens College last semester during a meeting and have enjoyed getting to know them better.

But back to the whole New Years and resolutions. Do you set resolutions? I am not one who normally does. However, I am a Type 1 on the Enneagram, an Achiever on the Strength Finders, a S and J on the Meyer Briggs – and basically, all that leads to this – I love setting goals and achieving them and I have no lack of anything in my brain at any given time that can’t tell you something in my life that I could do better at or want to grow in. So, I set goals and tackle them with ferocity.

Here are some things I have been working on or what to achieve/grow in this year:

1 – Continue learning Spanish and maybe, just maybe, become fluent. I learnt a little Spanish in high school, a little in college, can read a little, speak a little, and hear a little, but it is hard to imagine me being able to just rattle it off and converse with someone well. Well, friends, that is my goal. Any Spanish speakers are welcome to take me on as their challenge 🙂

2 – I want to learn how to do lettering. My mom is phenomenal in calligraphy, I have friends who make beautiful notes and signs, and I want to know how to do all the things and make all the things pretty.

3 – I want to become a better mother. Yes, yes, I know most people strive for this and I know there isn’t a standard to get to because everyone is imperfect, and so on, and so forth. But, I do want to trust Jesus to help me be more patient, kind, even tempered, compassionate, and trust Him more in my parenting instead of trusting in myself or my own feelings or instincts. I want to stop yelling. I want to speak kinder to them. I want to talk about Jesus more with them through the everyday struggles and successes. I have been through a journey this year where God has shown me how great my sin is and how weak in my parenting I really am, but how through His strength, I CAN do better…its not about trying harder myself or reading all the books or having all the self-care time, but its about trusting Him and walking with Him as he uses me to disciple my littles.

4 – I want to lose this stuck-on-like-glue baby weight that never went away from Babies 1-4. Again, another area that Jesus is revealing just how weak I really am and how much I desperately need His help. I think I still want a quick fix, a diet pill, a no-pain workout, but really, I have to hunker down and do what I know I need to do and settle in for the long haul. Ugh.

5 – I think of Kysenia above, of Sam above, of other girls I know on campus, of women in my small group, of moms in my neighborhood, and I know there are so many women that God could use me to disciple and pour into. But heres the thing….my time is so very limited…and in an effort to use that time well, I have done a whole lot of praying about who to invest in and not a whole lot of investing. So, this year, I want that to change. As my kids get a little bigger and life becomes not so overwhelming in NYC, I want to actually begin to pour into girls/women.

6 – My heart since we moved here was to find women who don’t know Jesus and become regulars in their lives and trust Jesus to use me to show them that He is the way, the truth, and the life. Again, another area that I know my time was limited and kept praying about who to invest in, and never actually invested (other than surface relationships). Jesus, use me to actually make more of an impact here and show me How you are working and I can be a part of it.

I am sure there are more (like I said, no shortage of things to shoot for), but these are the things weighing heavy on my heart and mind going into 2019. What are your goals for 2019 (goals and not resolutions because resolutions is a thing you promise to do and drop after January)?

 

 

Missing in Action

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t done a blog post since December 9. For me, this is a big deal and I usually never go that long between posts…my goal is to write once every week or week and a half. So what happened?

Christmas chaos, sickness of all kinds for just about every member of our family at some point (including a nasty upper respiratory infection and cough that I am still battling), and if I am honest, lack of inspiration about what to write about. A friend once wisely told me that if I didn’t feel inspired to write a post and didn’t have anything to say, that I just shouldn’t say it. And so I haven’t. Not that we haven’t had lots of fun things going on and not that I haven’t had lots of soap box moments that I could have shouted about on here. But I have always felt the need to cut some things out in the midst of focusing on Christ this season and battling not feeling well, and blogging has been the thing I have had to say no to so I could say yes to other things. But, the good news? I AM BACK.

I have had our website pulled up on my screen for the last week wanting to find the time to write a post. Its not a super spiritual post about Christmas. Its not a ministry update for the semester (though that would be a fun one to share soon as I was super encouraged by all God is doing as we recapped the semester with our team). I honestly just wanted to do a life update and highlight some things we have been doing the last few weeks. So as I sit here in our hotel room in Baltimore (we are here for our annual winter conference we staff and put on for the college students in our region) watching my 4 little kiddos sleep, I am going to just lay out the pictures that describe our December. If you want a ministry update or super spiritual post, come back next week 🙂

We attended winter concerts and campus parties and class parties and church small group parties and birthday parties. So many parties. This is a picture of one of the girls’ winter concerts. The lady pictured is a dear friend that I met when we lived in the same apartment building and had kids riding the bus together to the same school. She is from Indonesia, her husband works at the UN, and though we don’t talk as much as we used to since we moved, I have loved getting to know her better. I even got the opportunity to share with her about having a relationship with Jesus and what that means to us. She moves back in June :(. The last pic is a Christmas party with our St. John’s Cru students (missing quite a few!).

We got to love on sweet Esme so her parents (friends that are in our small group) could go on a date. She was so good and sweet and I got my baby fix. I also learned that while she was adorable and all and we handled it great because Ed was home to help, I for sure couldn’t handle 5 kiddos by myself. 🙂

We loved having Ed’s parents visit and then later, opening presents from Grandpa and Nona (Ed’s parents). The kids are thrilled about their new Kindle tablets and Brynn finally has her own dress up dress!

Going to see Christmas Lights in Dyker Heights has been on our bucket list since moving to NYC. It required a car as it is pretty hard and time consuming to get to by the train, so we had to wait to rent a car or until we got our own. It was well worth the wait! We went on a weekday night which was awesome since the crowds were way down. They say some of these people spend up to $10,000 in light bills in December and after seeing it, I believe it!

We have done lots and lots of baking!

My parents and brother, sister-n-law, and my niece and nephew traveled to NYC to spend Christmas with us. We had a great time touring the city with them and spending time with them. There was lots of noise, lots of laughter, lots of tears, and lots of memories made. Here are a few pics of our travels with them – and yes, when you see the sea of people outside Rockefeller and Times Square, the pictures don’t even describe the chaos it was. Seriously insane madness. NYC is beautiful at Christmas time but apparently everyone else thinks so too and wants to see it.

On Christmas Eve, we went to the Candlelight Service at our church. This is always such a highlight for me and the kids have grown to love it as well. Here are the pictures of the night as well as our friend Fady that is in our small group as he read part of the story of the birth of Jesus in Arabic.

Now, we are at a conference in Baltimore with around 1,000 college students from our city and neighboring states. It is going to be a busy week with lots of meetings and late nights and balancing the kids and work demands…but, we are excited to see our students and to meet so many others and to pray that this conference changes them the way one changed Ed’s life many, many years ago! Here is the picture from our hotel room – nice view and I am loving the skating rink on the top of the building next to us:)

 

Christmas Traditions

What are your Christmas traditions? This was the question a mom asked at our mom’s group this past Wednesday. Growing up, I can very vividly remember our Christmas traditions – getting together with my dad’s side of the family on Christmas eve which meant a big meal, opening presents, and seeing family that I often didn’t get to see (and sometimes a visit from the big man himself which usually meant my dad is costume). Christmas day was spent eating a big special breakfast consisting of a breakfast casserole and monkey bread followed by opening presents at our house and then visits from or around to different family’s houses to see what they got and to see them. I am sure there are more but its funny what sticks.

When Ed and I got married, we took turns visiting our families at Christmas and fit in to their traditions. When we started having kids, and especially as they got older, we started evaluating what our traditions would be for our family – we came up with a few new ideas and a few ideas from our families. We have change it a little over the years and I am sure we will continue doing that, but here is the jist of our traditions:

  • The weekend after Thanksgiving, we decorate the tree and house together.

  • Before Christmas, we surprise the kids later one evening by having them change into their PJs, having them find a golden ticket that grants them admission into the car, and telling them to get into the car. We give them popcorn and hot chocolate and then we ride around to look at Christmas lights on our own “polar express.” We haven’t been able to do this tradition the past two years since moving to NYC and having no car, but we are hoping to pick back up on it this year.
  • We always take one trip to visit Santa somewhere – the first year in NYC, it was Macy’s. The second year was Bloomingdales, and this year, we went back to Macys.
  • On Christmas eve, we attend a Christmas Eve Service where we remember what the season is all about, and then we head home to eat appetizer foods (chips, dip, wings, meatballs, other dips), and the kids get to open their gifts from each other.
  • On Christmas morning, we start the morning by eating a big “special” breakfast (usually homemade cinnamon rolls, crock pot grits, and/or monkey bread) and then reading the Christmas story in the Bible. We love doing this and slowing the kids down to think about Jesus instead of just rushing into the gifts.

What are some Christmas traditions you have with your family? We have heard of everyone getting new Christmas matching PJs, Christmas caroling together, and the Christmas pickle. We are always open to adjusting ours so I can’t wait to hear!

 

 

And the answer is…..

Well, I survived…I made it through the panel. All in all, I thought it was very good and I loved hearing everyone talk and learning from them and getting to know them. If you are interested in listening for yourself, check out this link:

http://newlife.nyc/sermon-archive/?enmse=1&enmse_am=1&enmse_mid=87

I learned some very important lessons through this experience:

1 – Our church has three services on Sunday mornings and I learned that I have major respect for all those who stand up and do this every Sunday – the worship team, the choir, the speaker, the people sharing announcements, and so on. It is absolutely exhausting to do it three times and by the end of the day, I was worn out. God sustained us while we were doing it but whew….

2 – Wearing a skirt while sitting on a stool on a stage is not a good combo. If I ever do anything like this again (beyond just standing on stage and sharing at a church), I will think harder about my outfit selection. I thought for sure I was going to flash everyone there.

3 – If I ever have extra to give to the church, I will make sure it is designated for better chairs for panel members to sit on. I told Ed at one point “These chairs aren’t made for people with big butts” to which he replied “These chairs aren’t made for anyone at all.”

4 – If God calls you to do it, he will provide the words, courage, strength, etc. to do it. I felt so very unqualified to be up there, but I trusted our leadership and that God had something he wanted to share through me.

In other news, remember me sharing about the girls’ school collecting items for the community to help others for November? They shared today that they were able to deliver to PS 446 (the school with a large number of kids in shelters) a total of 13 bins with coats, clothes, winter wear, and toiletries, collected 400+ hats for Ellie’s Hats,  5 boxes of toiletries for Coalition for the Homeless, and 800 socks for Socks in the Box. Isn’t this awesome?  Major props to the parents and children at PS101 – they showed up to give to others in a big way!

Also, since this post is full of random things anyways, let me say this: I love Christmas in NYC. People are genuinely more happy, beautiful decorations are everywhere, and there are so many fun things to do this time of year.

Today, we took the kids to Macy’s Santaland. Two years ago, we went and ended up waiting for hours to see Santa. They started a new reservation system last year where you have to register for a time so it will cut down on wait times. The kids wanted to go see Santa so we decided to give it another try. We took the Long Island RailRoad into the city, which the kids have never ridden before, and they loved seeing the conductor punch people’s tickets just like they do in the Polar Express. Then, we only had to wait about 20-25 minutes to see Santa which was not bad at all. The kids were so excited to see Santa, and Brynn did great until we actually reached Santa and then she wasn’t having it.

Then, we traveled to Grand Central Station to see the train exhibit in the Transit Museum. It was crowded but the little kids LOVED it. I think they could have stood there and watched the trains for hours.

Then, we traveled home and got to enjoy a visit from my brother and Tim. We enjoyed some good Chipotle and Martha’s Bakery and fun conversation. It has been a while since we have seen them so it was so good!  I don’t think I have shared on here that I have a brother who lives in Manhattan and works as a kitchen designer with Lowes. He moved here about 10 months before we did so while he works crazy hours, it is really fun to see him when we can.

Hope you are enjoying your weekend like we are enjoying ours!

 

 

Behind Bars

Friends, I have so much to share in this post. But, first things first. Can you tell from my title what I am going to tell you?

YES, they caught the guy and the girl who stole my wallet!! A miracle, right? Two Wednesdays ago, I got an email in the middle of my mom’s group from the Queens County DA titled Order of Protection. At first, I wondered if it was a scam, but after reading, it was apparent that it was an order of protection protecting me from a guy named on the paper. I quickly forwarded to Ed, former police officer, and he said it seemed to him that it was indeed real and he thought they had arrested the guy who stole my wallet. I tried calling the detective to find out “Is this a normal thing or does this guy have a rap sheet and I need to be careful?” but he wasn’t supposed to be in until the weekend. Ed was on campus that night and I have to admit, I was a little jumpy. But, thankfully, I got a call from the detective the next day confirming that they had arrested a guy and a girl. He had an warrant out for his arrest from violating parole, had also stolen another lady’s wallet, and was at Rykers and would be going away for a long time. She posted bail and doesn’t have any priors. I am sooo impressed with the NYPD and I can’t believe they really arrested someone. So grateful they won’t be doing it to someone else.

We also had our first snow storm…in November!!!! Ahhh!  I hope its not an indication of the kind of winter it will be. The kids had a blast playing in the snow (they called for some flurries and it ended up being 3-5 inches!) and building a snowman with Ed when he came home from St. John’s.

I love our girls’ school for lots of reasons but one of them is what they do in November. Instead of a class party, they give the classes a choice of 4 charities and they let the class choose a charity that they will adopt. This year, they could choose between Ellie’s Hats (collecting hats to benefit kids that have cancer), Socks in the Box (collecting socks to benefit kids and adults living in homeless shelters), Adopt PS 446 (this is a school in Brooklyn that has over 25% of the kids bussed in from shelters all over the city – we collect coats, toiletries, food items, etc. for them), and Coalition for the Homeless (collecting toiletry items for the homeless).

Kinsley’s class chose to adopt PS 446 so we read a book about homelessness, wrote cards for the kids at the school, and are collecting items to send to them. Emerson’s class chose Ellie’s Hats, so we read a book about a tree being sick, losing his leaves, and needing medicine to make him better, wrote cards to the kids, and are collecting hats to send to them. I love that they focus on giving to others who need help or don’t have as much. Here is a picture of the card Emerson made.

One of our favorite things to do in the city in the winter is to go ice skating at Bryant Park. If you have your own skates (which we buy cheaply online), you can go for free!!  Here is a pic of our family at the rink the first time. Blake LOVES that he can actually skate this year. Brynn stood at the entrance to the rink the whole time, wishing she could join them.

Check out my pretty Thanksgiving nails I put on to celebrate courtesy of Color Street nails. I love them and we even had enough in one pack for me to do each of the girls.

Thanksgiving was very restful at our house and we had a great time eating with our friends and teammates. I think I literally watched the parade in my pajamas until 12. We debated about going to see the balloons the night before like we do every year and we even thought about going ice skating in Bryant Park during the parade so we could see the balloons floating by, but it was the second coldest Thanksgiving parade in NYC and we didn’t want to take Brynn out in that. So, we stayed in, stayed warm, and enjoyed it from our couch.

While I enjoyed the restful pace and the company of our friends, not being with a whole hoard of family is still hard for me. Growing up in a small town surrounded by lots of family, holidays ALWAYS remind me of big family gatherings and lots of fun. Yes, we could have driven or flown, but for various reasons, it just wasn’t in the cards for us this year. Thank goodness for FaceTime to make it a little easier, even if it doesn’t completely fill the void.

Black Friday in my book is normally known for shopping, but with online deals starting earlier, and being able to get most things online, and with NYC not being the easiest place to navigate with shopping, Black Friday became “put up Christmas” day in our family. Before we began decorating, I envisioned putting up decor together, smiles, goofing around, singing Christmas songs, and lots of fun. Let me just tell you…sometimes what we envision IS NOT reality.

Instead, it was lots of “don’t hang 3 ornaments on the same branch” or “Brynn, don’t touch that one…its very breakable” or “Ah man, who dropped the surfing Santa on the rug where dad stepped on him and broke him?” and lots of “Calm down and quit acting crazy”. Needless to say, our house is decorated, all our kids survived (and only a few ornament casualties and one that was saved by hot glue), and we all celebrated by watching our first Christmas movie of the season “The Polar Express”.

Tomorrow, Ed and I are speaking on a panel at our church and I am super, duper nervous. I am fighting all kinds of “I am not qualified” and “I have nothing to say thats worth hearing” thoughts tonight, so will you pray for us?  And thank you to Gina for bringing our kids home so we can stay for the other services…it takes a village and we are so grateful for our village!

Times Square, Karoake, and Lasagna!

I know, I know..Times Square, Karoake, and Lasagna have nothing to do with each other. But, they do describe different parts of our last few weeks. I wanted to share a few highlights through pictures, since pictures speak a thousand words.

Our students at St. John’s planned and executed an outreach on campus completely on their own!  Ya’ll, this is HUGE!! We dream that we can equip each of our movements and train the leaders to where they will plan, lead, and reach out on their campus all by themselves, leaving us to go and launch at new campuses. So, the fact that not only do we have students at St. John’s, but that they are planning and doing an outreach, nonetheless, on their own, is monumental. They packed up about 90 bags of candy and handed it out in exchange for students filling out a survey. For many of our students, this was the first time they were initiating conversation with strangers. I was so proud of the boldness and willingness to trust God to do something with this. We now have tons of new contacts to follow up with and hopefully share the Gospel with!

Then, this past week, all of NYC joined together at NYU for a night of fellowship, worship, and prayer – for their own lives, for this great city, and for the world. It was an hour trek from our students from Queens so we weren’t sure how many would come but 11 made the trek down together!  They prayed together, worshipped together, sat together, and then went to eat at Chick-fil-a together afterwards.

Then, on Monday after Veteran’s Day, the students didn’t have school, so they traveled down to our house and had fun playing games and hanging out. It also helped that we provided a delicious lasagna dinner…college students are always down for some home-cooked food!  Our kids also loved hanging out with them and we love that our kids get exposed to college students who love the Lord!

We traveled into Hells Kitchen for dinner with some friends and ministry partners that were in town. Because of it getting dark early, our kiddos asked if we could go see Times Square at night. Locals to NY (and I consider us this now!) HATE Times Square – like, I think all of them literally. But, they asked nicely and we like our kids to be reminded of this fun city we live in, so we ventured into the madness. And then, they asked nicely to go to the Disney Store, which we agreed to. So, this is our kids loving the Star Wars part of the Disney Store.

In the South, when you go for karoake, you go to a restaurant and you sing on a stage in front of tons of people. So, when I went to do karoake with some friends from my mom’s small group, I was so shocked that we had our own room and could sing at the top of our lungs and no one knew we were off key except those in our small room. It was so much fun!!  We also ate dinner at a Korean-style BBQ restaurant, which was so, so yummy and quite an experience. I am so grateful that there were women with us who spoke Korean and knew exactly what to order – it definitely made the experience much more enjoyable. I will be doing this again soon….so good!

I have some new developments in the case of my stolen wallet, but I am waiting to hear from the detective so I will share more soon!

Clean Bill of Health

This has been a full and fun past few weeks!  I will share some more pictures to tell you more about our last week, BUT before I do, I want to share about the clean bill of health we received.

As some of you know, Blake had a lot of problems in utero but then when he was born, they diagnosed him with Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). which is essentially a hole in his heart. It wasn’t big enough to cause problems or require him to take medicine, but it did require an annual cardiologist appointment to make sure it wasn’t getting bigger. They were hopeful that it would eventually close on it’s own, but some kids live with these holes forever. Last year, at his appointment, they thought that maybe it was closed but they still heard vibrations and he wouldn’t sit still enough for the echo to tell for sure.

This year, he sat SO still and let them do a very thorough echo on his heart. Then, the doctor came back with the good news – the hole is officially closed!!  He still has an innocent heart murmur which is what the vibration is, but we are done with cardiology appointments!  Praise God for how he has continued to see Blake through all the medical stuff and that Blake is a healthy, happy little boy – he has come so far given all his medical issues! And we couldn’t imagine our family without him!

The rest of this pictures are a smorgasbord from Emerson’s birthday, Halloween, and fun times around the city while my mom was in town. Enjoy the MANY pictures (I am so impressed I have actually taken some)!!

This sassy, smart, friendly, overdramatic, excitement about everything in life little girl turned 6!  She wanted an oreo chocolate cake with Star Wars on top, so that is what she got!  She talked about her birthday for weeks before. We also took cupcakes to celebrate her in class.

For Halloween, we celebrated with pumpkin carving, Halloween parties in both girl’s classes, and trick-or-treating.

Ed carved the ghost and I carved Sleeping Beauty (I think thats who she is? I am out of practice with my princesses). Confession: This is my first time actually carving a pumpkin. Ed usually does them as one of us is usually doing the pumpkins and one of us is coraling the kids. This year, the kids helped us and played together so we could both do them. Ed was a little skeptical that I could do the princess since she was more intricate but look at that – she turned out pretty dang good. Go me!

I never got an actual picture on Halloween of the kid’s outfits but here are some separate ones we took the night before when they were trying on their outfits. Imagine the girl’s hair up like their characters and shoes on 🙂 . Another confession:  I have never even watched Star Wars and barely know the characters. Ed has introduced the kids to them, though, and they love all the movies and characters. They ask me questions about the movies and I just say “Ask your dad.” I guess one of these days I need to get on board?

On Halloween, the teachers at the school always dress together in one theme. One year it was the Minions from Despicable Me, last year it was Toy Story, and this year they were all bees. The head principal was the queen bee (she is missing her big blow-up butt she had on that morning) and the assistant principal was a beekeeper. So cute!

It was so fun that my mom was here this year to experience Halloween in Forest Hills, It is so insane and I can’t describe to people how much this is true. Adults dress up as much as kids, adults give out big goody bags to trick-or-treaters, houses decorate more than they do for Christmas, and lines on Burns Street to get candy are so long. People come from all over the city to go trick-or-treating on Burns Street – this year, even Neil Patrick Harris and his kids were there. Here is a picture of a house that was decorated on Burns Street.

We took my mom to the NY Hall of Science for the “free hours” and had a great time. Here are some pictures of the kids enjoying it!  My favorite part are the magic mirrors that make you tall, short, skinny, fat, etc. I took a picture of the skinny mirror for motivation in weight-loss 😉

Then, over the weekend, we traveled to Brooklyn to let my mom see the amazing view in Dumbo and near Brooklyn Bridge park, to let the kids play at Pirate park, to take our Christmas picture, and to let the kids ride the carousel. They had a great time playing, but their favorite part was visiting Jacques Torres. They like to watch “Nailed It” on Netflix, and Jacques Torres is one of the judges on the show. They loved getting to see his bakery and enjoy HUGE, WARM chocolate chip cookies. I tried the “famous” hot chocolate and I couldn’t drink very much, because it tasted like drinking straight dark chocolate. The cookies, however, were delicious.

She is all about squinting when we say to smile. Hoping its a phase 🙂

My mom flew home yesterday and while family leaving is usually really hard for the kids, it helped them to know that she will be back for Christmas and that isn’t far away. Isn’t that crazy?!?!? My favorite part of the year is right now…why, you may ask?  BLACK FRIDAY ADS!!  Thats another post for another day….

 

It Finally Happened

After living in NYC for 2 years, it finally happened. I was the victim of a crime.

When people ask me if NYC is safe, I usually yes, as much as a big city can be safe. And this is true, crime per capita here is much lower than it used to be and compared to other cities in the US. Only a few times have I ever felt unsafe while walking around or traveling around the city. I have experienced many times that people could have taken advantage of me, like when I have dropped something or left a phone out in the open, and they have always been kind enough to help instead of causing harm. In 2 years living here and being safe, it is easy to let your guard down and think it is safer than it is.

Last week, I saw a post on a neighborhood Facebook group about a guy being followed at 1 in the morning along a busy street in our neighborhood by a guy who he thinks was going to rob him. Granted, he didn’t get robbed and he could have been wrong, but when the guy said to him “Whats the matter? I am not going to rob you”, paces out front of the convenience store he went in to get away waiting for him, and walks past him and turns around to come back towards him, it makes you wonder. There were SO many comments on that post where people said the same thing had happened to them or they actually were assaulted or robbed, including one where a man said his wife was robbed at knifepoint on a street block not far from us. It definitely made me stop and reevaluate what I do (walking long stretches later at night instead of taking a bus along that same route, wearing headphones at night so I don’t hear people coming up behind me, etc.) and realize that while our neighborhood is relatively safe, crime does happen.

Then, a few days ago at a team social, the other mom on the team was mentioning to me that she was in a clothing store last week with her daughter and a cop was going around passing out flyers warning people, especially moms, to watch their bags because things were being stolen. My defenses went up even more.

Yesterday, on Emerson’s birthday, Ed was off so I went to pick the two big girls up from school and take them to Michael’s craft store (where they had been begging to go) just the three of us. We drove there and when we got to the store, I had my purse over my shoulder and we entered the store. I carried the purse on my shoulder most of the time, but towards the end, I put it in the cart and made sure to never walk away from the cart if I or the girls weren’t right there (I grew up with a mom who always had one hand on her purse when it was in the cart because she was scared of getting it stolen so this was drilled into me). When I got to the checkout a little bit later, I reached in my purse for my wallet and it wasn’t there. I know I had put it in there right before I left for Michaels, but I called Ed asking him to look around the house thinking maybe I had momma brain and totally forgot to put it in. I went outside to the car to double check for it and then came back into Michaels to retrace my steps and ask if someone had turned one in. Then, I headed home to look some more and so Ed could come back and buy the stuff that was on hold.

As soon as I got to the house and walked in, I started getting calls for credit card companies asking if I was trying to make a purchase for $727 at a Foot Locker store near us. Uh yeah, thats not me. At first, I thought maybe it was just a coincidence and that credit card may have had its number comprised online or somewhere else. But, then another card started calling, and another, and it became obvious someone had stolen my wallet. Ed and I both frantically started canceling cards but before we could cancel our debit card, they made the purchase and took our money. We will get the money back from the bank but it will take time and lots of hassle.

Besides the feeling of being violated and taken advantage of, is that it is all a huge, huge hassle. I had so much in my wallet for our family, a VISA gift card with money on it, about $80 in cash that was part of our grocery budget that I am now out, driver’s license, membership cards, health insurance cards, and so on. And not to mention that I had my favorite Thirty-One wallet which is not cheap and which I LOVED! And all of it on Emerson’s birthday. So, we called the police, they came and took a report, and they even went to look at video footage at Michaels. I was really impressed with all they were doing to try to find these people (which they thought were professional given how fast it all happened) and even today, I had a detective call asking questions and going to review the footage. I think it really helps that I have a very clear, small timeline of when it all happened. Apparently, it is happening a lot around here to moms (because they are distracted with kids which I totally was) and is even ramping up because of the holiday season. The crazy part was that the police officer who came to our house was the same one that handed out flyers to my friend in Kohls.

It has been such a hassle (like my bank today almost not giving me a new debit card even though I answered every security question correct just because I had no kind of photo ID – hello! It was stolen!) but I learned some very, very valuable lessons today. Always carry a crossbody bag or a bag that is zipped up (in anger last night I threw away every bag I have that isn’t crossbody) and keep it on you at all times, be more aware of what is happening around you, don’t hang purses on back of chairs at restaurants, and never assume it can’t happen to you. It was a great opportunity to talk to our kids about evil people, sin, theft hurting people, etc. and our kids loved that the police came to our house, and I have thankfully gone from wanting to punch the people who did this to being able to pray for them.

I don’t say this to scare people who come to NYC or any other big city, because crime can happen anywhere and like I said, by per capita standards, NYC is safe, but just as a reminder to be safe and vigilant. I know I will from now on.

Our Week in Pictures

Do you know what makes me happy? Getting back to our tradition of exploring this beautiful city during the weekends. Last weekend, we traveled to Central Park (Central Park is huge and though we have spent lots of time on the south end, there is still so much we haven’t seen) and toured The Mall, Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, the Loab Boathouse, Alice in Wonderland statue, and the pond where they do model boats. Then, for good measure, we stopped by a playground to let the kids run around. It was so fun to see the place where so many movies we know have been filmed, and to see fun things like a girl taking pictures for her Quinceanera, a gondola boat ride with a bride and groom, 2 other brides and grooms taking pictures with their wedding parties, and lots of people modeling for different things. This is probably one of my favorite areas in Central Park!

Emerson’s birthday is this coming week and to stick with tradition, we let her choose the activity she wanted to do. She really wanted to ride a horse but I had a really hard time finding a place around here that wasn’t 1) too far and 2) didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I finally found a place that offered pony rides at an affordable rate at Queens County Farm out towards Long Island. We got there Saturday morning and everyone did two rides around on the ponies, even Brynn!!  The kids loved it, though I have to say I was a little disappointed with how much they rode for the price. It was $4 for a ride but it only went about 3/4 of a lap…that was enough for the kids but I felt like they could have done at least two laps. Blake was here too, but Ed had those pictures on his phone.

Saturday afternoon, we went to our friend’s daughter’s 100 day old party. The wife is Korean and in Korean culture, when a child hits 100 days, you have a party to celebrate (it is a big deal to hit 100 days in their culture because the infant mortality rate used to be so high), so we went over to celebrate with them. We have known these friends from the time they first announced they were pregnant with her, so it has been to fun to see them pregnant, see her be born, and see her grow up. And even more fun to learn more about another culture!

Then, Saturday evening, we left the kids with a babysitter and headed to the Queens Night Market with our small group from church. We love doing life with these friends, experiencing diversity and learning about other cultures from them, and experiencing authentic community that isn’t just once a week. These friends are important to us and are becoming like family in this foreign place. And what better way to build community than to chow down on delicious foods from around the world?

I also got the opportunity to go on campus this week (it has been WAY too long since I have done this) and had a great time doing some staff coaching, getting to share my story with a girl who is questioning whether she can lose her salvation, digging into scriptures, and learning more about a cult that we are running into a lot about Queens College. I am excited for more opportunities to do this and pray that God gives us/me wisdom on how to best reach this campus.