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!!

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!!