Monday, April 18, 2011


She took my breath away...this Lady Liberty, standing tall and proud on the water.

We climbed all 156 steps (Meya counted them outloud) to the platform beneath her feet. We looked up at the massive book, the torch, her generous hand. I tried to imagine what it was like for those thousands of people who came from all over the world, seeking freedom, and seeing her for the first time.

And I was grateful--grateful in an awe-struck way. Grateful for my freedoms and my liberties, which (though cliche to say) I take for granted much too often. I read a quote in the museum and have not been able to forget it, "Liberty is not doing what you want, it is the desire to do what you can."

The city spread out before us, the skyscrapers miniature from our perspective. And I think my children caught a glimpse of the magnitude of their incredible fortune to be born in this land of freedom.
And for that, I am also grateful.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Day of Possibilities

We purposefully left the day completely unplanned. I explained to the girls as we drove into the city, "The day is like a blank page just waiting for us to fill it up!"

With Karen's encouragement, we went on a GREAT DOUGHNUT QUEST which led us to Chelsea. I dropped off Karen and the girls at The Doughnut Plant and circled the block (I was only honked at once!) Karen came back to the car with a cardboard box holding a baker's dozen. The first one I tried (yes, I tried more than one) was their most popular creme brulee. They "torch" them so that there is a crunchy crust before the soft dough. And the filling! Oh. My.

My other favorites (yes, I tried more than two) were the coconut with coconut cream filling, the strawberry one with fresh strawberries in the frosting, and the chocolate which was like biting into a moist, chocolate cake (okay, okay, I tried five different doughnuts!).

Now I like doughnuts and have enjoyed my fair share of them throughout my life. But these doughnuts were amazing - truly. "Gourmet" doesn't do them justice. They were so good that I will go out of my way to return to The Doughnut Plant the next time I'm in NYC.

Here's Karen echoing all of our sentiments: "These are SOOOO good!"

The day was too beautiful to not go to Central Park. The girls jumped, slid, and climbed all over the giant rocks. Madi commented, "I remember them being...bigger." Ahhh, she's three years older and much more grown up. But they all managed to enjoy themselves immensely.
My wish list item? Watch the Tartan Parade on the Avenue of the Americas. My Scottish roots made my soul soar as I listened to the bagpipe music. Men in kilts - am I the only one who finds them sexy? And our favorite site...the street full of Scottie dogs.
We hadn't planned on seeing a show. But by the afternoon we decided to try our luck at the Wicked Lottery. At 5:30pm the odds were NOT looking good. There were over 100 people entered in the lottery with only 13 lucky names to be drawn. We crossed our fingers and I'm sure a couple silent prayers were uttered. Name 11 to be chosen: MEYA!! We whooped and hollared! It was so perfect that for Meya's first time in NYC, hers was the name chosen. We made a quick decision. Karen and Meya went to see the show (front row for $26.25 each!).
Which left Madi, Leasie and I with decisions and possibilities. We decided to try to find a good deal for a show. We went to three different box offices looking for last minute deals, we rushed to the TKS window, and finally with only 10 minutes till show time, we went back to the Phantom box office. The nicest man with a head of distinguished white hair, checked and checked looking for three open seats. Finally he gave me a deal I couldn't refuse...front row seats at the cheapest ticket prices in the house. Yes, on the front row, we saw the chandelier fall, we saw the tears on Christine's face, we made eye-contact with handsome Raoul, and we saw the spit fly. It was wonderful!
A couple more memorable moments/quotes:
* Madi: "We're pottying our way through NYC!" (yes, I think we visited every public restroom in the city).
* The salad lunch at Rockefeller plaza was nothing short of divine!
* Me: "Now if we could just hear the organ" (the St. Patrick cathedral organ began to play "You Raise me up"), Karen: "Now if only we could hear someone sing" (a soloist began to sing). Miraculous!
* Three girls asleep before we reached the Lincoln Tunnel.
* Karen and I sneaking a few more bites of doughnut on our drive back to the hotel.

That blank page? We filled it up front and back until there was no room left.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NYC 2011!!

Three years ago Madi, Leasie, my dear friend, Karen, and I traveled up to NYC for a girls weekend. I was pregnant with CJ and sooo sick. We basically ate our way through NYC. But in spite of the sickness, we had such a good time that we planned, saved, and determined to go again.

Here we are ready for the five hour drive. Now let me just say, the drive was great fun. Karen and I told stories, the kids laughed, we found a Panera Bread in Allentown just when we needed it, and we didn't even turn on the DVD player until the last hour and a half.

We all came to NYC with a wish list of to-do items. Meya was the first to check one off her list: go round and round through a circular door.
The American Girl Store--ahhh the joy! The girls had saved their money and with a little extra cash from Grandma (thank you Grandma!), they ohhed and ahhed and painstakingly made their purchase choices. There were customers there who were picking out dolls and entire wardrobes for their children (it always floors me!). But I dare say, my girls were just as grateful and thrilled about their selections, if not more so.
The dinner was better than I remembered (but of course, last time I was sick!). The warm, buttery cinnamon rolls, the lovely crudite platter, the tilapia on a bed of spinach and brown rice, and the dainty dessert plate with our favorite chocolate mouse flower pot. One thing I had forgotten was the incredible NOISE level. Wow a room full of happy, squealing girls creates an ear-splitting decibel level. Karen commented, "It's like we're at a Lady Gaga concert!" Indeed!
There was only one member of our party who did not fare so well. Poor Molly. In Meya's enthusiasm for the dinner, she had difficulty sitting still. Which meant that Molly tumbled from her chair, not once, not twice, not even three times...but FOUR times. Molly ended the dinner terribly disheveled. (I laughed so hard, I cried.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Failures and Successes Part 2

A Failure...

The dirty dishes filled the sink and overflowed onto piles covering the counters. The stove. Oh, the stove. Pots and pans on every burner--one with dried sauce, one holding leftover noodles, and a third with soggy broccoli. The dishwasher was full of clean dishes that still needed to be unloaded and put away. My kitchen looked like some ghastly episode of "Hoarders." (Okay, maybe not quite as bad as Hoarders, but close.)

It was 9:30pm, and I was exhausted. That day had been a doozie. After running kids to soccer practice and music lessons, helping them with homework, making dinner, doing assembly-line style showers for the youngest three, and going to a two hour play practice, I now faced the fallout. Disaster Kitchen!

Anyone who knows me well knows that I hate doing dishes (and I don't use the word hate often or lightly). I would chose to clean all three bathrooms than face a sink full of dirty dishes. And my wonderfully faithful dish washer was in Indonesia.

But there I was...facing my failure. I should have kept up with the dishes, one meal at a time, but the priorities of the day (and my hatred for dish washing) kept me postponing the task.

So I washed. I unloaded. I dried pots and dishes by hand to make more room in the drying rack. I took out the garbage in the dark. I scrubbed the counters. I washed and cleaned for nearly 2 hours. (My friend says I need to learn to wash faster - probably true). And I cussed. (Sorry, it's true).

I collapsed in bed smelling like dish soap and feeling like a failure.

A success (or two)...

The next night, I faced another sink full of dishes. I'd done a bit better during the day cleaning up as I went, but I'd made a yummy after-school treat for the kids and brownies for dessert and the evidence of my baking episodes was spread throughout the kitchen. It was again 9:30pm and the kids were ALL still awake.

Madi and Leasie sensed my need for help (maybe it was my stifled scream that tipped them off). But boy did they rally. Leasie wiped the dinner table and swept the entire back room. Madi helped CJ get into pajamas and sat in the rocking chair reading books to her. By the time I finished the last dish, the back room was picked up and CJ was asleep in bed.

I gathered my two big girls in my arms and thanked them again and again. All three of us collapsed in our beds...but this time, I didn't feel like a failure.

Another Success. General Conference weekend (my favorite of the year). During the first Saturday session, I was at a play rehearsal with T-man, Leasie, and Meya. Madi had stayed home with CJ. She called me a little before noon asking how to watch conference on the internet. When I praised her for wanting to watch conference she said, "Of course I want to watch it...I love it!" Oh it made my heart swell.

I was able to watch the remaining three sessions over the next 36 hours. But as it turns out, Madi watched all four sessions. On her own. Without any prodding or bribing. I admire her so much. When I was her age, I'm pretty sure I did good just to watch the prophet speak. Madi's desire and example to me is perhaps the biggest success of them all!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Failures and Successes

Finally, I can write about what has REALLY been going on for the past three weeks. My husband has been in Indonesia doing a language immersion program in preparation for our upcoming move. Which means three things: 1) He had some adventures in our soon-to-be new home country, 2) I was a single parent for 3 weeks, and 2) Between the two of us there were plenty of failures and successes.

This will be a two-part post...and today I'll just focus on some of my husband's adventure. This is the view from his hotel window:

Tropical. Steamy. Jungle. I can feel the humidity just looking at this picture. It is common to have coconut and banana trees outside most buildings. It rained at least once every day (I guess I'll be taking our rubber boots), hence the greenness.
My husband rode the public transportation as he traveled to and from the college campus. One day, a woman was on the bus with her chickens. They are not dead - just amazingly calm and tame. They were going to market.

He saw crazy things being transported by moped, but his personal favorite was a fourteen foot banana tree.
Eating. Who knew my husband could be such an adventurous eater? He tried many of the local fruits: salak (a fruit that looks like an avocado), jeruk bali (a melon-sized green grapefruit), and seafood galore. One night he dined on squid cooked in its black ink.

We exchanged daily emails (I'm so grateful for technology) and they were often the highlight of my day. The kids and I laughed right outloud at some of his stories. I walked away from those emails with a mix of emotions...utter, gut-wrenching fear of what we're about to embark on, and butterflies of excitement as I imagine the adventures we'll have and the stories I'll soon have to share.

The countdown to Indonesia has begun!