Colonial Williamsburg-I’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

The last time we’d visited Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown was six years ago, both in the lovely state of Virginia. What used to be a quick five-hour drive was now a whopping twenty from Minnesota!

I used to be crazy over Williamsburg, even had a dress made to wear when we visited. Everything about the place used to make me giddy-the cute historic taverns, the educational component for the kiddos, and I even decorated our bedroom in the lovely blue and white toile Williamsburg design.

Katerina was excited to pack her bag for our Spring Break trip. One peek inside revealed her precious 7-year-old heart-four of her My Little Pony toys, broken crayons, scrap paper, Chapstick, one pair of undies (not sure of they were clean), a flashlight, and a miniature clock tower.

Elizabeth had a dance competition the first weekend of break, so we waited till Sunday evening to leave. As always, we couldn’t make up our minds where we were going. Nikos even suggested Arizona. Finally, we decided on Virginia, with Williamsbug and Jamestown in mind. I’d love the notion that we’re all cool and spontaneous, rather Nikos and I are two dummies who can’t make up our minds even over a stupid box of cereal at the store.

With museum stops, rest areas including vending machine binges, two of three kids almost puking from car sickness and Nikos being a huge grump the entire way, it took a freakishly long time to get to the “VA is for lovers” state.

I’d found a terrific deal at the Powhatten Resort, and it was worth the squabbling dysfunctional car ride, just to stay in that luxurious place! Our suite had a deck that overlooked trying to bloom trees, and we’d two bathrooms. Sorry, but I’m rough around the edges apparently, because I’ve never stayed in a hotel equipped with TWO bathrooms before! More toilet paper-Katerina yelled out, “Mama, here’s a present all wrapped just for you!” Only a few will get that if you’ve been reading my blog for years.

I wanted a quick start to experience the full day at Colonial Williamsburg, hastily rushed the kids through breakfast, all good until Nikos lurched to a stop in front of Duck’s Donuts. All hail to the homemade, dripping with frosting, so freaking yummy donuts! I was dancing in the donut shop-couldn’t help myself! We ordered more for the following morning.

The line at Colonial Williamsburg took a solid hour. I’d instructed the kids to sit in the adjacent room on a bench, but they kept coming by to tattle. My very mature kids also have a problem with voice volume, so that the other tourists were staring and undoubtedly judging, likely praising God that they never had such terrors for kids/grandkids. Elizabeth walked up and whined, “Mama, why are you forcing us to go to this stupid place? I can’t stand it here!” I gave her the trusty You have one second to get out of my face before I go mama crazy on you! look, the one that turns my eyes yellow, and she left in a jiffy, along with snickers from bystanders.

Here’s my omission and I’m sorry. I must be going to Hell, but I told the lady that Katerina was five. She’s the same size as a 5-year-old, and I already had to pay $135, with Katerina being free, and my discount for having a teacher’s license. Okay last one I swear, I said that Nikolas was twelve. He was four months ago-sheesh!

It was hot, and we weren’t used to the high eighties just yet. It snowed seven inches in Northfield while we were gone just to further explain why the heat was an adjustment. Nikolas and Elizabeth got in a fight just as soon as we’d begun the walk, a full blown brawl, and I regretted forgoing the shuttle bus.

DSC_0065

While chewing out the kids for their atrocious behavior, and consoling Katerina that she truly looks her age as well as apologizing for being a terrible example (I’m even a Sunday School teacher!!), some 18th century dressed dude sauntered up and announced, “Welcome to Colonial Williamsburg!” Oh crap, that started it, Nikos’ horrible British accent for the duration of our visit!

Katerina was thirsty. The quaint trading post style stand sold bottled water for $3.50-nope! We walked around looking for a water fountain-nothing. We bought one, then Nikolas drank it all, had to buy a second bottle. Elizabeth grabbed the bottle first, claimed she was scared of germs, and poor Katerina only got a smidgen. We were forced to buy yet a third bottle. This was payback for my sin, I just knew it!

The wait for Shield’s Tavern was supposed to be forty-five minutes, turned two hours. we tried to tour buildings, but they were all so crowded, and we didn’t want to miss our place in line.

It was close to two till we sat down to eat, and our waiter was such a trip! He’d inevitably been told that he resembled Johnny Depp, yet the hot factor seemed to flounder, especially when he spoke in his fake accent and swagger just a bit much to make me suspect what he was growing in the tidy little garden out back.

We emptied the pewter pitcher of water twice. I ordered pasties, forgotten how to pronounce the word, and I guess I was due to receive what some ladies wear in obscure places. Johnny Debb wanna be smirked and corrected my pronunciation. Nikos got some sandwich that looked no better than what I make for the kiddos for any given school lunch.

DSC_0047

The tea house was nice, and enjoyed a most delectable thick chocolate drink, peppered with cayenne.
DSC_0046
DSC_0053

DSC_0014

Elizabeth and Nikolas were excruciatingly bored. Katerina was tired, hot and wanting to be carried. I emphatically tried to wrangle up my crew, infusing enthusiasm, yet it was futile. I surrendered, recognized my defeat when Nikos abruptly stopped with his annoying British accent. After touring the palace, and taking some lackluster-smiling pictures, I reluctantly offered to leave.

I battled tears, thick nostalgia oozed inside my soul. Memories carried me back to pushing a stroller around six years ago, seeking out a shady spot to breastfeed my little one, having three precious kiddos with years of travels to go as a family. When you have a small gaggle of tiny kids, it’s inconceivable to grasp emotionally that such precious years will be so crazy swift as a dangerous current. I knew this was the last time we’d be here as a family. Elizabeth was graduating next year, and this was it. I’d take the squabbles, erratic hormones, griping in just-changed voices, every last morsel, just so I could hold on a little longer.

Williamsburg suddenly seemed sinister, artificial, forlorn essentially. I whispered to Nikos through tear-blurred eyes that Williamsburg had lost it’s sparkle for me, had gone downhill.

Nikos wrapped his arm around me and softly explained, “Rebecca, it’s gonna be okay. Williamsburg is the same, you’re the one who’s changed. You’ve taken us to so many historic places, you now see that it’s all pretty hokey. Besides honey, you’re a daughter of the Revolution-don’t ever forget that!”

DSC_0066

BRAVE. DEDICATED TO G.W. CARLSON

It’s an honor to publish the following article, written by Shawna Horn, pastor and friend.  You can visit Shawna’s website at pastormomma.wordpress.com.

BRAVE. DEDICATED TO G.W. CARLSON

Today my second grader brought home this valentine. It says, “You are good at living with half of a heart. You must have been brave, right from the start.”

Sometimes we don’t get to choose where we have to be brave. Sometimes we just have to be brave because we don’t get a choice. My son didn’t get to choose how his heart developed. I didn’t get to choose (I mean there was a choice offered, but I didn’t choose for his heart to grow the way it did.) We don’t always get to choose if our job works out or if our marriage works out. We don’t always get to choose when we get sick or how the ones we love get sick. We don’t usually get to choose when a war starts, the rain stops, the winds come.

There are a lot of things in this life we don’t really get to choose. But these are the things that often make us who we are. They set direction. They create definition. Or they become our excuse.

I was reflecting on Moses today as I continue on this Lenten journey. Moses didn’t have a choice in the world he was born into. He didn’t get to choose that his family had to abandon him or that he was adopted by his enemy. Now he did choose to kill an Egyptian soldier – and he did choose to flee into the dessert. He used his anger and rage about his situation to make a bad choice. It was his excuse.

And when he was found by God in the wilderness, living contentedly for 40 years, Moses continued to be full of excuses. God calls to him and reveals his plan… I have heard the cries of my people and I will send you to them to rescue them.

Moses responds, “Who am I?” Why me?

God reassures him… I will be with you.

Moses responds again, “Who are you?”

God responds, “I AM.”

Moses responds, “What if they don’t believe me?”

God responds, “I will give you what you need, the tools you need.”

Moses responds, “But I am not a public speaker. I stutter.”

God responds, “I will send your brother to help you.”

Moses didn’t get to choose any of the early defining moments of his life. But there is a sense that God spared him, protected him, and prepared him for this moment. And Moses tried every excuse, but God was not going to quit on Moses. Moses, be brave.

But God. God didn’t quit. He showed him who he was. He showed him who God is. He gave him the tools he needed and the support he needed.

In our own lives, we don’t usually get to choose those things that are hard. Those things that require real courage. We don’t get to always choose when or how our life falls apart or spirals out of control.

The call to be brave. This call to trust in this God who is, who equips and provides, it has come again today. Today this world lost another incredible human being. G.W. Carlson was a friend and a mentor. And not just to me. He saw people for their potential. And he cared enough to take the time to teach them, encourage them, challenge them and lead them. One by One. Class by class. G.W. was brave enough to be honest, was brave enough to care. And all for purpose of encouraging leaders to do the work of the gospel, of sharing the Kingdom of God with the world. G.W. looked at this world and responded to God’s call by inspiring generations of leaders to live the gospel, prophetically, thoughtfully, always with humor and a bit of flattery.

And in this moment of grief, we don’t get to choose to be brave. We must be brave. Because we know, we know like G.W. knew, who we are in God. We know who God is. We can be confident that God will equip us for the challenge. And we know we are not alone.

The little boy who sent my son this Valentine, had no idea what he was really saying. But when I consider what it is to be brave from the start… Most of us are not. But we can be brave from this moment… We can choose to be brave because God knows us. God is powerful. God gives us what need. And we are not alone.

This is the journey of Lent. A call to embrace our humanity and not accept the state of it. A call to look at those hard things and challenge them, bravely. A call to embrace the hope of a God who wants so much more for this world and the people it contains.

My Funny Valentine

It’s an honor to publish the following article, written by Shawna Horn, pastor and friend.  You can visit Shawna’s website at pastormomma.wordpress.com.

My Funny Valentine

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.  And we did the typical family Valentine’s day things.  The kids each got a small box of chocolates.  They each made their own heart-shaped pizza.  Our third child, upon finishing his pizza, took one final piece of pepperoni and ripped it in half.

“It’s like half a piece of pepperoni, like my half heart,” he said.

My heart sank a little bit. We spent the rest of the evening playing games, trying to distract from all the hearts.

 

funny-valentine

 

There are a lot of reasons to struggle with Valentine’s Day. I get it.  For those who have not yet found their ‘valentine,’ for those who have lost their ‘valentine,’ for those who have broken relationships, Valentine’s Day is simply a reminder of the heartbreak in the world.

For my 8 year old, Valentine’s day is a constant reminder of his heart condition.  Everywhere he looks he sees hearts.  And it reminds him that he only has half of a heart.  Born with tricuspid atresia, his heart only developed two chambers, instead of four.  He has endured three major open heart surgeries by the time he was 3 and a 1/2 .

So Valentine’s Day, a day full of love and hearts, is a very real reminder of his mortality.

I can never know what it’s like to be a child and have to face my mortality on a regular basis.  It doesn’t seem fair, when you consider what is fair in the world.  It doesn’t seem fair in the world that children suffer at all.

And this is the journey of Lent.  It is the journey to both embrace our mortality and proclaim our hope of a better way.  It is embracing the fragility of life and at the same time recognizing that this world is the not the world that God intended.  It is about understanding that by becoming human, God was able to walk in our pain and overcome its finality.

It feels odd to have Valentine’s day during lent, but there is also something very poetic about it.  In a time where we reflect on the pain in our own lives, it is an invitation to consider the people around you.

It is an invitation to love others in the midst of their suffering.

This week as a Lenten practice, take some time to consider what it is to see someone else’s pain and then what it is to love them through it.

 

 

Mother

Mother
Elizabeth Stoufis

They say if you look into someone’s eyes

You can see their soul

Their hopes

Dreams
Regrets
Worries
But a mother’s soul
is made of love
of compassion for her children

They say if you look at someone’s hands
You can see all the labor they have done
All of the wrinkles in a person’s palm
Are to show all of their hard work
But a mother’s hands work hardest of all
They are made to care for her children
For their whole childhoods

They say if you look at someone’s feet
You can see all the places they have gone
All of the journeys they have traveled
How they stand in the world
How grounded they are
But a mother’s feet stand as strong as can be
She stands for what she believes in for her kids
Even if she is standing alone

Becasue she loves looking at the travel book with me
when I am sick
501 Places to Go and wishing we could go to all of them

She is very stubborn in her ideas
And it is very hard to change her mind

Sky blue afternoons taking walks in the park
Baking baklava
Painting the phyllo like an artist painting on a canvas
Camping with the smell of the fire
And the whisper of the wilderness

This mother is my mama
And I love her very much.

Suck it up Buttercup!

I just read yet another article, poetically drumming on about messy floors, crayon marks, spit up and puke, sleep-deprivation, clueless hubbies, wider waistbands, shirts stained with breastmilk, selflessness, whaa-whaa-whaa, and then the last three lines a sudden revelation cleverly placed to bring it all together, that motherhood is the best and the author wouldn’t change it for the world.  Hey whiny mommies, suck it up, buttercups!  Do you want to really know why I can’t stand mom clubs and groups?  I’m freaking bored out of my mind!

I’ve three kids, two of them are teens and the sweetest little first grader. Here’s the thing, your little tot of preciousness will grow and evolve into a screaming hyper-emotional teen who isn’t remotely cute anymore. If I could turn around and return to younger self, even ten years prior, I’d right all my mistakes and postpone bedtime two hours later, and be who I’m becoming now. I’d relish every second and gather my sweet babies and never let go. You’ve no idea what’s in store, the battles, control struggles, high and low self-esteem that’s always your fault. You’ll not even see straight enough to tell if there’s food on the floor or the dizzying stench emanating from your teen’s room. You’re still beautiful and safe and all that your littles know-just wait till they hate you. Fear? Oh, I won’t even begin to broach that subject; when you’ve no control and send your kiddo out,praying you’ve taught them enough.

10842266_10153033635179286_5900241937978154781_o

I’m so over the complaints of endless laundry and time-out discussions. I don’t want to suffer through twenty more minutes of my life, pretending to focus and commiserate on a long-winded tale of Andrew’s precociousness when what you’re waiting for is to hear what a genius your 24-month-old is, and by the way-he’s 2! I can’t always do math that fast in my head-37 months-what is that?!

Here’s the truth about your chronic complaining, NO ONE CARES but you and grandma!  Your kids are fighting? You’re sleep-deprived, over-worked, unappreciated, fighting with your bestie over working vs. stay-at-home, crying in your car because the bitty in front of you at Starbucks didn’t Pay it Forward, your hubby asked what you were doing all day yesterday while gazing down at the scattering of toys on the floor, the jerk in the mom group gave the ride-on firetruck to Jack while your little Ella had been patiently waiting, the neighbor’s kids are already on level II swimming, while yours begins wailing from the car that he won’t go, Annie can sing all of the lyrics to to any given Glee rerun, meanwhile, mulling over how your Sam hasn’t yet put a sentence together, while in your mom van, podcast droning, “You can be all you can be!”, headed back to your tidy home, cupboards filled with food to feed your entire subdivision, that shares florescent chemically-treated lawns.

We all want to be appreciated and admired, crave acceptance and want our kiddos to be smart and shining.  None of us can stand the kid who knocks out the rest and hogs all of the toys in the playgroup while her mom cleverly averts her gaze and discusses her latest vacation plans.

While at a school function, I came very close to joining in on a conversation with a neighbor mom.  I was beyond exhausted, had insomnia since 3:18, and felt too lazy to mutter even, hi.  I couldn’t have felt more grateful after witnessing their conversation.

Mom #1 What did you do last night?

Mom #2 We went to dinner.

Mom #3 Dinner? Oh, how was dinner?

Mom #1 Yeah, how was dinner?

Mom #2 Dinner was nice.

Moms #1 and #3 Great! Very nice.

I swear to God’s second cousin, that was their freaking conversation!  Not only that, they pronounced the word “dinner” more like “dinna”.  Directly after their dinna conversation, they began chiming in about all that needed done, finishing the basement, in-laws stopping by for two days along with some artificial condolences.

I’ve been there ladies.  I used to be involved in everything, desperately craving an intangible mom award, balancing grad school, dinner parties, birthday celebrations, and sad that my husband never appreciated me, regardless of his compliments, help with the kids and always glad to run to the grocery store, especially because he complained that I never had any good junk food in the house.

I remember carrying a giant clothesbasket up the stairs, stomping so hard that my knees ached, deliberately passing directly in front of Nikos (hubby) expecting him to look up from his stupid phone and somehow infuse compassion into his thick head, and the realization that his wife works sooo hard.  I picked up the broom and manically began sweeping, intentionally bonking his bent head with the handle. Nikos glanced up while rubbing his head and asked, “Are we expecting company tonight?”

 If you have the time to post ten selfies on Facebook so you can hope for 210 likes, or at least ten more than Shelby got, since you really can’t stand her, the big show-off.  Additionally, if you’re blogging about life with your youngins’ and it’s the hardest unpaid job there ever was, you aren’t so bad off.

A few years ago while still in WV, we stopped (Heaven forbid!) at McDonald’s.  We’d never dined inside as a family.  I settled Katerina into the highchair with rolling wheels.  It took two seconds for her to figure out how to propel off from the table and backwards.  We ate our fake food, and all was pleasant.  An employee came over and asked if Katerina would like some extra Happy Meal toys for toddlers.  We happily thanked her, and discussed the cold subzero temperature expected that evening.

 Katerina suddenly spilled her milk all over the tray, and the employee rushed over with a towel.  Nikos and I tried to help her and take over, but she wouldn’t allow it.  She was cheerful and friendly, a shining employee.  During our conversation I learned that she only had an hour left, and then her husband would work the night shift at Taco Bell.  They had four kids, two of which had severe autism, and lived in a trailer that her uncle had loaned them.  The furnace didn’t work, so they were forced to sleep in the living area nightly with the stove burners on high, as it was their only means of heat.  The woman was kind, gracious, cheerful and filled with more integrity than any woman I’d ever met.

On the drive home as I shivered till the heat worked in the car, tears fell from my cheeks.  I instructed Nikos to locate the space heater I’d bought him for Christmas to heat the garage, which he’s never taken out of the box, and give it to the woman at McDonald’s.  He dropped us off, grabbed the box with the heater and left.

Nikos stood in line until the woman made eye contact with him.  He pointed to the space heater box on the table we’d sat, nodded to her with tear-blurred eyes and left.

Your life isn’t so bad ladies.  Suck it up already!

10974223_10153033636844286_952458003266730233_o