Our New Normal

Honesty here – I have tried to write this post for DAYS, but when thinking of writing it, I could find myself getting choked up or upset or just at a lack of good things to say. Here is my fifth attempt….

This morning, we watched another Sunday morning worship service online from our church. In it, our pastor reminded us that God is asking us to find shelter under his wings and that he encouraged us to not only continue to live in deep community with God and others, but to also take care of ourselves. He asked us to think about these questions:

I and the girls processed this together this afternoon and a lot surfaced about how we are feeling: sad about Kinsley’s birthday party being canceled, sad about how many people here in NYC are being affected by it (current count is 9700 infected and 63 people dead and hospitals running out of room and supplies), mad about how many people still think this is media-induced hype and political fear mongering, sad about the reality that my kids will likely finish this school year talking to their friends by video chat or 6 feet away across the yard and have to endure having me as a teacher, glad that we have a job that we can do virtually and that it has actually freed our students up to connect more virtually, glad for more family time and a realization of what is important, and sad for those all around us who are losing money and wondering about how they will pay their outrageous rent or mortgage payments. The list could continue, but these were some of the things we processed.

That being said, I am encouraged by how I see our community loving on each other and caring for each other during this time. I am encouraged by how well my kids are adjusting to all the changes. I am encouraged by how well our bosses are caring for us in such a stressful time. I am encouraged by people who are thinking about not only themselves, but willing to stay inside to save the weak and vulnerable among us (not an American concept by any means), I am encouraged by the doors God is already opening for us to share with friends and neighbors about the hope and joy we have even in this situation because of Jesus. I am encouraged by ALL the work our teachers have done to switch everything virtually and support parents and students so that no child gets left behind. Again, the list could continue.

Here are some of the ways we are occupying (who are we kidding – managing our little time is probably more appropriate) while we are in quarantine:

Switching everything we do with students on campus to a virtual platform. Honestly, it hasn’t been that hard, but we are having to think so creatively of ways to increase engagement with new students – that is more of the challenge!

Stocking up on groceries (not hoarding, though when shopping for a family of 6, people do think it is hoarding). Every store now has a line formed outside due to social distancing and everyone trying to buy things. I know this isn’t a new thing anywhere across the country, other than it has been going on here for quite a while and it continues.

Enjoying all the new memes during these time – both the funny and serious ones.

Due to allergies and Covid, we have started doing daily breathing treatments for little man. To be clear, he doesn’t have Covid, but because he already has breathing issues and can struggle to breathe with a cold, we started doing them as a precaution. He has been a trooper through it all – its almost second nature to him now.

Moving EVERYTHING virtual – church small group, staff meeting, meetings with students, classes for the kids, EVERYTHING. So thankful that we were already familiar with so many platforms and that hasn’t been an adjustment. And so thankful for our staff team – so grateful for family in a home away from home.

Trying to homeschool the best we can – this was our schedule this week and it worked really well. This next week, the kids have actual work from their teachers so it will change quite a bit, but I am noticing just as much as I need and crave structure, my kids do so even more. This drawing was by Kinsley and is her self-portrait – so thankful that so many people are offering free and educational things to do during this time!

Will you pray for our family? We have no clue what tomorrow holds – a stay in place order goes into effect tonight, we have heard talks about the national guard being brought in, and we just have no clue what to expect. Even if we left NYC, we would have to self-quarantine somewhere for 2 weeks. With Ed being the NYC Crisis Director, he feels responsible to stay here and see this through for the staff who are still here.

Can we pray for you? With more time on our hands (maybe?), we would love to hear for you and pray for you with how this is affecting your family. Please shoot us a message or an email or a text or let us know. We would love to hear from you!

Covid Changes

What an insane few weeks! In addition to helping to lead our Cru Queens campus team, Ed also has another role in the city: crisis director. Mostly, this role has involved developing a protocol of what to do in a crisis, doing trial runs, and getting trained on how to handle crises while learning from the US Crisis Team. It is mostly a few hours a week job, but as you can imagine, it has blown up by epic proportions over the last week.

Close to 3 weeks ago, some really good friends of ours came back from spending 3 weeks overseas visiting her family in South Korea. They self-quarantined themselves upon returning because Covid had come to their city in S. Korea in the last 48 hours they were there, and we joked about their quarantine. At the same time, Ed got put on the National Crisis sub-team and instructed to send in regular reports about how Covid was spreading in a number of countries including S. Korea and Japan. So way before it hit the US, he was watching it closely.

But then, about a week ago, the first confirmed case was found in NYC. It honestly wasn’t a shock as I had been saying for a week that I felt the virus was here and people were either not being tested because of lack of insurance or because they were undocumented or because they weren’t being given the test (YES! we heard of this happening!). But we couldn’t have imagined how it would spread. NYC has close to or over 200 cases now, including taxi drivers, bus drivers, EMT, lawyers, and a 7 year old girl. Whether people are freaking out over nothing is beside the point, but when we were joking with our friends 3 weeks ago about their quarantine, we would have no idea how it would affect our lives.

  • We had to cancel two weeks of Spring Break trips that were coming into our city from around the country. Not only does this result in lost evangelistic momentum and months and months of planning, but it results in a HUGE financial hit to our teams here in the city. Hotels don’t let you out of contracts just because of Covid.
  • Several NYC universities have closed and moved their classes online, including St. John’s University. The resulting effect is a sucker punch to the community and momentum of our movements.
  • Kinsley’s 4th grade classes have been learning ballroom dancing in class and were supposed to have a competition this week (this picture is them performing for the parents). They canceled this because of the virus.
  • The saddest thing for me so far is the canceling of the NYC Half Marathon. On a whim, I entered the lottery back in the fall for the half marathon (along with Ed and Erin, a friend and teammate – but I was the only one picked) and I started training back in the fall. Many cold, cold mornings, long runs, painful foot injuries, sore muscles, and so much more have been a part of training. I even have pushed through getting diagnosed and suffering through bronchitis two weeks ago. We found out today that they canceled the race because of the amount of people that would have been gathering and the potential for it to spread. I am so, so, so sad and disappointed and while I was not as prepared as I wanted because of the bronchitis, I was still looking forward to checking off a bucket list item and never doing it again…haha.

Will you please pray for us? For his protection for our family and friends, for our ministry as we manage the changes that have already begun in what we do, for Ed as he deals with the majorly increased workload, and for our city in general.

That time I ended up at a hookah bar

Do you remember that one time (well, maybe more than once) I said that when you have a blog and write things for everyone to see, crazy things happen to you. Case in point…

Last Thursday was my birthday. Most birthdays just feel like another day, but this year felt very different. I started the day with a nice 7 mile run (cue alone time 🙂 ). The kids were out of school because of winter break (this wasn’t even a thing in the South), so we started the day bowling with a friend and her kids at a local bowling alley. What I imagined to be a disaster bowling with two moms and 6 kids turned out really well. My friend even brought a sweet little mini cake and candle to celebrate my birthday. It was so sweet of her to celebrate my special day. Susie, I am so sorry for being more concerned with getting in trouble over a burning candle than truly appreciating your gift – it’s the rule-follower in me!!

Then, we grabbed some lunch, the little kids had naps, and we had a fun dinner of my choice along with cupcakes for dinner. The kids LOVED celebrating with me and I love that they make birthdays so fun!! Also, Ed did a great job picking out presents this year. A fun movie set AND this book about all the different people groups living in NYC (most of them in Queens!) that I had spied at a friend’s house and liked a lot. I also got a few other sweet gifts from friends and from my parents and Ed’s parents.

Then, this is where it gets interesting. Amy, my friend and teammate, went out with me to celebrate both our birthdays (her’s was a few weeks before) and she picked out this fun place in Queens called “Sugar ‘n Coal”. She noticed online it had good reviews and that the desserts looked really good. After arriving, we enter this restaurant with low lighting, a very eccentric smell, and a DJ playing music in the corner. At first, we and another couple were the only people in there (and the DJ of course who was shooting live videos and carrying on like he had a whole host of people there). When the server came to the table, she started sharing about how they make their own hookah flavors and their desserts and their Indian food they serve. We had no clue it was a hookah bar! I can say that is a first for me. Imagine these two moms of 7 kids between the two of us eating our delicious desserts in a hookah bar. It was still a good experience, but lesson learned, read further than the name and the desserts next time. 🙂

Overall, the day was really fun and I felt very loved and celebrated by family and friends near and far!!

Then, last night, we had our team social in the city and enjoyed ice skating at Bryant Park, including time watching the bumper cars on ice, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and eating Korean fried chicken at Turntable (which had really fun jazz decor and music!). We had a great time – so, so, so thankful to love our team and enjoy spending time with them!

 

Eye Surgery, Improv, and Weird Sketches

What would you say is the weirdest place on the body to get surgery while you are still awake? I don’t know what I would have answered that question with two weeks ago (maybe my mouth?), but I most definitely have an answer now – my eyelid!

I had a mole grow on my eyelid after college (not sure when but I do know it wasn’t always there?), and my dermatologist and ophthalmologist has been watching it for many years. After concern was expressed about it growing a little year after year, they recommended that I get it removed. Of course, because it was on my eyelid, not just anyone could do it. So, they sent me to a oculoplastic surgeon – which I didn’t even know existed until now! – who could remove it with the care of a plastic surgeon. I visited him in the city and he confirmed that he thought it was a mole, not a cyst, but that he wanted to remove it to be sure. Let me just tell you – he must get paid the big bucks because you couldn’t pay me ANY money to operate on someone’s eyes.

I was a little nervous about the surgery just because I knew it was going to be a local anesthetic used but I knew he would be operating on my eye with my eye open. When I got there, they numbed it and then poked it with a needle 3 times to get the anesthesia to take – I seriously think this was one of the worst pains I have experienced in my life – imagine a needle poking that thin skin right next to your eye – ugh! Then, they lay you back in a chair, put a sheet over your face with a hole for the eye that is being operated on, and then he does the surgery while looking over you with a bright light. So, not only do you want to close your eye because he has a bright light shining into it, but your other eye is covered which makes you want to close both of them, AND they tell you to keep it open wide and look up and to the right. I had to literally tell myself to breathe and not to close my eye and to keep it open wide. I seriously hope I never have to do that again – next time, just put me under!

Here is a picture of me before the surgery (notice the mole on the right eye (my left but when you are looking at me, its on the right) and then the next picture is after he cut it. They don’t even cover it after surgery…they just let you walk out with it oozing and bleeding a little. I was so thankful Ed came home with me so I wouldn’t have to worry about navigating directions with a hurt eye that just wanted to close and that was throbbing when the numbing wore off.

In other news, we had a really fun Improv training at our house with our student leaders from Queens College to learn about listening. The students loved it and one even used some of what she learned during an outreach they had on campus today! Erin, one of the staff women on our campus, had a creepy run-in at Queens College with a 40 year old guy who approached her and told her he had been drawing a sketch of her. He also asked her what her major was and gave her his business card. So creepy!

I got the joy of celebrating a good friend’s birthday at an amazing bakery near my house. This food wasn’t on my eating plan but it was ohhhhh soooo good! And such cute decorations in honor of Valentines Day!

The Baby Turns 3

I just can’t even believe how fast time flies by – Brynn turned 3 this past week!!

I remember…

  • moving to NYC pregnant and having to learn to navigate city life with a baby on board, including finding a doctor among the gazillion that are here in the city
  • traveling to Long Island to have her at a hospital where I could have a private baby room and being shocked that private rooms were a luxury in the city that most people couldn’t afford
  • waiting hours upon hours past our “delivery time” because the hospital was short-staffed and being told by a nurse that they could tell we were from the south because true New Yorkers would have been cussing them out
  • having to call my doctor to get my medicine and vitals checked in the hospital because they had so many babies that they couldn’t handle all the demands
  • being discharged a day early despite having a c-section because there was a blizzard coming and they had to get people out or they would be stuck
  • multiple people in our family getting the flu the week after we brought Brynn home (including Ed!) and having to be quarantined in our bedroom with a new baby
  • getting a noise complaint from neighbors in our apartment complex the week we brought her home (yes, the same week as the flu – what a doozy!)
  • learning to navigate city life with a newborn and learning things like
    • where do you nurse when you are commuting an hour on a subway train and she needs to eat?
    • how do you make sure she stays warm when it is freezing outside and you have to wear her or stroll her around in the frigid weather?
    • how do you push a stroller around when there are mounds of snow on every corner
    • how do you get a baby and a toddler and a stroller up and down the subway steps by yourself or break everything down to get on a bus without people getting mad?
    • how do you keep your baby quiet when they are crying hours on end and you are trying not to get ANOTHER noise complaint?

Just reading this list makes me tired!  I don’t know how we did it, but God sustained us – that’s for sure! And it’s so fitting that we couldn’t imagine our family without her. She is sassy, independent, smart, pretty, stubborn, cuddly, and loves her siblings to death.

For her birthday, she wanted to eat spaghetti, eat an oreo cake that she saw at the grocery store, she wanted to watch a movie, and she wanted to get her ears pierced like her sisters’ ears (YES, she asked!). So, thats what we did! She didn’t even cry or tear up when they were piercing her ears – girl is tough! Now whether we will get through all the cleaning and keeping her from pulling them out will be another story.

Her birthday was actually on a Thursday but we had a staff meeting that morning and Ed had campus stuff all afternoon and then sound practice that night at church, so we weren’t going to have much time to celebrate her. So, we told everyone (our parents and the kids) that we were just going to pretend that her birthday was Friday and celebrate then. Great thing is that she doesn’t know dates or days and unless someone said otherwise, she had no clue. The kids played along and we celebrated her Friday just like it was her actual Thursday. That won’t happen again, but it worked this year!

Ears pierced √ Potty Trained √ Teething Done √ Knows how to eat from silverware and drink from a cup √ Now if we can get her to stay in her bed to sleep all night long, we will be golden. I can’t believe our last baby is SO BIG!! I find myself cherishing so many more moments with her than I did the others, because I know how quickly it flies by!

Korean Food to Monster Trucks

I can’t believe that February has already begun!!  Where is the year going? Because my last post was about my class and I didn’t include much in the way of family updates, this post will be solely dedicated to a few highlights for us personally the last few weeks.

We absolutely love our community here in NYC. As I talk to friends who have had much different experiences with regards to community than we have, I realize that we are extremely blessed. Here are a few pictures that show just two of the fun things we have gotten to enjoy with friends lately:

homemade pizza with a few different families:

Korean “bar” food and karaoke – we went out in K-town (Korea town) in Flushing in Queens (which was a new place for me) and enjoyed amazing Korean food cooked on what looked like the lid of a wok. Seriously, so much food. And its so fun that you put the meat and veggies inside a piece of lettuce to eat. And then, we headed over to a karaoke place where I discovered just how thankful I was that a few of my friends were Korean and actually spoke Korean – all the remotes and screens were in Korean. After they told us which buttons to push to enter a song, it was a blast, complete with songs, drums, dancing, and light-up tamborines!

As part of Blake’s 5th birthday present, Ed took him to see Monster Jam. He has been once before, so this time Ed splurged and got the pit pass so he could go down and meet the drivers and stand by the trucks. He LOVED it – both the show and spending time with Ed!

Blake also got to shoot a video where he did the announcements during our services at church – it was hilarious and he was perfect. Everyone kept coming up and talking to him and it freaked him out a little – he said “I am nervous that they keep talking to me.” But look at how cute he was!!

We have also had tons of doctors appointments lately – from getting a little spot cut off of my eyelid to Brynn having doctor’s appointments to see about possible tubes in her ears (due to lots of ear infections) to well doctor visits…it has been a lot!  Pray for wisdom as we navigate all the health stuff that is going on or coming up!

Answering the Hard Questions

“Is it okay to have an abortion if you were raped?”

“Should we allow immigrants if they are fleeing persecution in their country?”

“Should you attend the wedding of a gay couple if invited?”

“Should we as Christians engage in war?”

“Should we carry guns as a means of self-defense?”

“What worldview and narrative am I living from – hyper-nationalism, individualism, consumerism?”

As part of our ongoing development, and to continue receiving Minister’s Housing Allowance, Cru requires staff to take seminary level courses every few years. Ed has completed his, but because I was taking care of many kids while he took classes, I haven’t completed mine yet. This week, I took a class that is required called “Christian Worldview and Ethics.”

Because the course is only one week, we have lots of reading that is required beforehand and lots of assignments throughout. To say this class was interesting and challenging and intense would be an understatement. Our professor, who is a seminary professor, lectured and challenged us to think about heavy ethical questions and how we would, backing it up with Biblical evidence, handle it from a Christian worldview. We tackled immigration, race, war, guns, capital punishment, homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, and so much more.

One of the questions he raised was “It is ethical and Biblical to jaywalk when the light has a sign that is lit up saying “Do Not Walk”?” Considering it is something we do SO MUCH in NYC and don’t even give it second thought, it was an eye-opening example to realize ways we just conform to our culture and don’t even recognize that we are doing it. Hear me out, I still jay-walked throughout the week, but it was very interesting to stop and ponder it. It was also interesting considering I was raised in a Southern culture that is very pro-death penality, pro-gun rights, anti-abortion and was very eye-opening to see how many things I believe/believed just because the “culture” said something, but not because I had really thought about it.

The last day of class, we talked about gun rights and one of the ladies, who lives in NYC, was describing how she carries pepper spray because she has been harassed and followed before. Admittedly, I often walk down the streets looking at my phone or thinking about something else and paying no attention to what is going on around me. That day, however, walking home, I saw a car that went past me, pulled over, waited until I passed a block or two, then pulled past me again, and did the same thing again. It happened 3 times on my walk from the train to our house and after the second time, I texted Ed, who was home, and told him I thought I was being followed. I can’t think of any reason that guy would have to have pulled ahead and then over until I passed, and then pulled ahead and over, and to do this three times on this stretch of street. And it was in the bright of day. Thankfully, Ed met me at the corner, the person drove away before we could get a license plate, but it was scary nonetheless. When things like that happen, it gives you a totally different perspective.

This book below, which we read the entire book for the class, was REALLY good and gave varying perspectives on a variety of topics. I would highly recommend you read this – but beware, its a longer one! I would love to hear your thoughts on these issues too!

Little Man is 5

So many things these days make me feel old – talking with college students who weren’t alive for 9/11, hearing a song on the radio and realizing it is considered an “oldie” but yet you jammed to it as a teenager, explaining to your kids what a pay phone is – but nothing makes me feel older than my kids getting older. Blake turned 5 this week and I literally can’t believe how fast he is growing up!

On his actual birthday, we took cupcakes to school and read a book with his class and played fun games like limbo and the chicken dance. Then, we celebrated with a spaghetti dinner (his choice), more cupcakes, and opening presents. It was a tiring day, as evidenced by the picture of him passed out in our bed wearing his new Batman robe from my parents.

Because it is a milestone birthday this year (can we just mention that we have kept him alive for 5 whole years?!?), he got to have a party with friends. He chose to do it as Laser Bounce, where they have a ball pit area, a bounce house area, and an arcade. He, of course, chose to have a Star Wars party (the bad side of course!) complete with a Darth Vader cake that actually made the Darth Vader sounds. It was awesome!

This kiddo is such a blessing to our famiily!! He is so easy-going and wins hearts everywhere he goes. I love watching him tackle the world as he learns quickly, soaks up everything around him, and works so intently on whatever he is doing. He loves all things Star Wars and Ninja Warriors and can entertain himself for days just doing light saber battles with imaginary characters. He and Brynn have such a sweet relationship and he looks out for her and cares for her so well. Though I would love for him to be a momma’s boy, he is most definitely his daddy’s best friend (I guess that is what happens when you are surrounded by all girls in the family!). As I think of how far he has come past all his health issues and how he is truly my miracle baby, I am so excited to see what God continues to do in his life!

Where did I go?

Wow! In the many, many years that I have been blogging, I took my biggest hiatus ever last month. I usually try to post once a week or every 10 days, but this time, it was a full month. Why?

Besides the normal Christmas chaos that adds to things this time of year, I felt unusually overwhelmed. Taking on the team leader role and the extra meetings that required, taking on the role of registration and student housing coordinator at our annual Winter Conference for 900+ students and staff, organizing a Christmas party for our church’s neighborhood small groups, planning a Christmas party for our small group, being one of the class moms for 3 of my kids, reading and preparing for a seminary class I am taking this month, and just normal Christmas happenings. I am high capacity, but oh man. I don’t normally struggle with saying no or having boundaries, but I did realize in the midst of it all that I got some things put on me that I never actually said yes to. Such a great lesson to learn. And, I had really been processing with the Lord about learning how to step out in faith and do things that I didn’t know if I would excel at and in the meantime, learning to drop some balls knowing I couldn’t juggle everything. Well, He met me there. I didn’t clean my house for almost two weeks – if you know me, you would know this is for sure a dropped ball.

Needless to say, blogging was another ball I dropped. The desire was there but the time wasn’t. So, now that some things are off my plate and others have calmed down, I am going to pick back up where I left off, kind of. In lieu of making this a super long post covering the last month, I am just going to share a chunk of pics to describe our last month.

New Life (church) small group’s neighborhood party – so much fun!

Class and Church performances

Exploring the city with my good friend Ellen who came to visit us for a few days

Good friends here in NYC are hard to find. Love these ladies and all the joy they bring to me life!

Getting caught in the madness that is Rockefeller Center during Christmas with family.

Enjoying The Frozen Experience at Saks Fifth Avenue AND getting to meet Elsa and Anna at the end

Enjoying the city sights and windows during Christmas time – so beautiful and one of my favorite parts of Christmas in NYC!

This tree is probably my favorite ever!

Enjoying Christmas with family

And lastly, traveling to Baltimore for our annual Cru Winter Conference with 900+ students and staff. This is a picture of a few of our 14 students who traveled there from Queens – up from 5 last year – praise God!

Here’s to 2020 and jumping back on the bandwagon – fitness, discipline, eating right, posting regularly, ALL THE THINGS!!

It’s Getting Cold In Here

Over our almost 15 year marriage, we have lived in 4 different towns/cities. Georgetown, SC; Lexington, KY; Raleigh, NC; New York City. While we have loved different things about different locations, and there have been hard things about each location, the place we lived in that had the best weather was Lexington, KY. Why, you may ask?

SC and NC only really get three seasons – Spring, Summer, and Fall. There isn’t really a winter – at least not where snow (and I don’t mean ice) is involved. In NYC, you only have three seasons as well – but they consist of Winter, Spring, Summer (fall essentially gets skipped). In Lexington, we truly got all 4 seasons and we got them for more than 2 weeks.

In NYC, winter has hit. Again, fall lasted for about 2 weeks and then we went straight into scarf, winter hat, big coat weather. In Lexington, if we would have booked a family photo shoot in October, it would have been long sleeve weather but definitely not big coats. In NYC, when we booked our photo shoot at the end of October, what did we get? Straight up winter.

So, notice our pictures from our photo shoot. I am going to put them in progressive order so you can see the kids faces as we were out longer and as it got colder without jackets on.

Oh man, it was a rough one. That’s the thing with kids and photo shoots. You just never know how it is going to go. We did manage to get a great one for our Christmas magnet – let me know if you want one and don’t normally get our prayer letters every month!

The benefit to actually getting a longer winter here is that we get longer to do winter activities that we enjoy as a family – for instance, ice skating. We broke out the skates and went together as a family last weekend. It was a fun family filled day – complete with ice skating, Krispy Kreme doughnuts (they have one location in the whole city and we happened to be near it!), Christmas decorating, and Christmas movie watching. Yes, we did it before Thanksgiving this year – only because Thanksgiving falls late this year. It was actually Ed’s idea to do it early and usually he is the krank in our family who refuses to listen to Christmas music or entertain anything related to Christmas until AFTER Thanksgiving. So, when he suggested it, of course I said yes!

The downside to being far from family is that you don’t always get to celebrate holidays the ways you have always known – for instance, Thanksgiving meals surrounded by generations of family just don’t always happen these days. So, we surrounded ourselves with friends who have become like family from our church small group. It has been so interesting for me to learn even more this year about what our cultures do for their Thanksgiving meals (and most cultures don’t even celebrate since Thanksgiving is an American holiday). As my friend said, most cultures just do the best foods from their culture – either good foods or ones that take longer to make that you don’t normally do or ones that cost more money. So, here are some pics of our food and our friends who are like family!

And lets not forget about Black Friday shopping – we did lots of that too!  Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!!