Monday, June 29, 2009

Memory Monday and More

More back-in-the-Omro-days photos:
slimmer versions of ourselves, and a toothless one of little now-Americanized Leah (actually this may be her kindergarten photo)

Not much to add this time. But Leah and all who have memories of those days may add comments below. That would round out this post as I don't have time to do so this week nor will I have access to internet.
Tomorrow we are all (us two + Amaia, Kayla, Skye) leaving for Cornerstone Festival in Illinois. Others in our family circle are attending as well. Sam & Kristie begin work at the World Coffees tent. Stephan and Karen will arrive a couple days later as he has been sand sculpting in Niles, MI all weekend.
This happens to be the week that my devotions appear in the Light from the Word
I will surely miss reading your thoughts!
¡Hasta entonces, amigos!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Project 365: Week 26

Amaia Week

Anticipation and Arrival--that pretty much sums up our experience.
For four days I worked steadily on all fronts: sprucing up the outdoors, planting flowers; sorting through piles and boxes, throwing, recycling, rearranging STUFF; preparing the rooms; planning. When I went to write this post, I could not believe there were NO photos on my camera for the beginning of the week. Maybe I felt like I had done something because in the midst of it all, I was working on old photographs for a memory post. This paragraph will have to suffice to document those days. Never fear, the other days' photographic contribution more than make up for the lost days, at least quantitatively.

My first break, it felt that way, came Thursday morning when I met a former colleague for breakfast at Cracker Barrell. That seems to be a very convenient way to connect with friends from near and far as we live close to one of the restaurants and it is next to a major state highway. My all-time favorite menu choice is Uncle Herschel's breakfast with the grilled catfish!

That evening we were off to the Fort Wayne airport to pick up our Basque teen, Amaia.

The next day was spent getting better acuainted and experiencing new things.
We looked at her home town Hondarribia on Google Earth and also our house in the woods.

Mike took the girls for a tour of the land on the four-wheeler.

After the welcome dinner at the church that evening, the young people played a fun game called Signs.
The night was still young, so Mike had the girls attempt a pottery creation.

Saturday was equally full. In the afternoon we all went to Malachi's last baseball game where he made his first hit of the season and Amaia met Sam's family. We took dinner to their house after and there Elijah showed her his room and arranged a photo op.

The day was not yet over, on the way back we came across more learning opportunities for our young visitor--a cruise-in, miniature golf, and ice cream place all on the same corner, called Vanilla Greens. We had to check out all three, of course. If you happen to be in the area, take a look at the art on the wall--wooden sculptures of nature themes--incredible!

Finally, we were ready to call it a day.

However, I cannot close this post without mentioning our own local ice cream shop of international fame. We took Amaia there the first day, how could we not! A few years back I was asked to write an article for the paper. Here it is, our own Ivanhoe's! If you are in our area, it is a MUST! Let us know, we might take you or meet you there!
And you blogger friends need to go visit Sara's circle this week, and see how many have made it to this very important milestone, the half-way point of the year!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Fun with Amaia!

Yesterday was a BIG day, the Basque teens arrived to spend a month in our area!

Originally we thought we would be support-family-members, like grandparents (a role we already enjoy) or aunt/uncle. But as plans progressed, a host family was needed and we said yes. So last evening, a busload from our town travelled to the Fort Wayne airport to welcome our new family members. Our granddaughter is staying with us these weeks to be like a 'sister' to Amaia. They are both dancers and seem very well matched.
After almost 24 hours of travel, Amaia was ready for a good night's sleep when we arrived. She's been wide awake and taking it all in since 8 o'clock this morning!
We decided to go to the 4H Fair thinking it was the last day and probably the only opportunity to experience that aspect of American life.
I took my steno pad along where I keep a list of the new Euskera words I am learning. My accomplishment of the day includes katua, untxia, ardia (cat, rabbit, sheep) because those are the animals we saw. In fact, we arrived in time to watch a bit of the cat show and came away convinced that Brutus, our cat, would never cooperate for any judge.
Michael's word for the day was bustina as he was kneading it, the clay, getting ready to throw another pot or two. And that is what he is teaching the girls to do right now as I write!
Another new experience of the day was riding around the trails on the ATV.
We've been sharing photographs and telling family stories. We looked at each other's towns and homes on Google Earth.
Amaia brought us the most perfect gifts! For Kayla and I, silver jewelry bearing the traditional Basque cross, the Lauburu. Mike is thrilled with his orange Basque cycling team jersey, the Euskaltel Euskadi .

Monday, June 22, 2009

Memory Monday: Back in the USA

After ministering seven years in Eastern Europe and two children, we returned to the US to the general area of Mike's family in Wisconsin (Fond du Lac-Oshkosh). We were missionaries with no home base, not sure where to settle.

Mike's stepfather had a mobile home he was willing to let us use as long as we needed to and then he would take half of the selling price. Gratefully, we looked for the best location and chose a mobile home park in Omro on the Fox river. It was a pleasant place. Stephan still remembers playing by the water and finding dead fish, which brought him more pleasure than it did me!

In a very short time we had found a church family and felt very welcome in the community. The McMullins welcomed us into their circle in such a way that we began calling ourselves the McKochs.

We became involved in Friendship Bible Coffees for couples and for women. I was also on the board of Christian Women's Club, and Mike as always was soon busy on a design project for a missions venture. My favorite verse back then is still true today, Ephesians 2:10--God has these good works prepared for us to walk in them!

Stephan went to first grade, but never understood why the teacher had a problem with him not talking! Now he does not stop!

Leah, too young for kindergarten, enjoyed the library Story Hour once a week. She had been adopted in Germany, so as soon as she turned five, Daddy took her on an exciting day trip to Chicago to become a naturalized American. She remembers sitting in the big courtroom and that a man shook her hand.

Leah's memories, in her own words:

"I remember the river behind the trailers in the court we lived in. I caught my first fish there. I was very excited. Of course, it was dead already but Dad did a good job at making me feel like i accomplished something!

I remember there was a really bad storm and i was not feeling well , it was Sunday nite time for church but Dad stayed home with me and we sat and watched the storm the whole time.

There was a stump out in the yard and Mom you and I had a picnic out there on the stump. We had celery with peanut butter sandwiches and grapes on styrofoam containers that veggies come on. You brought out the peanut butter cause i never ate the celery just licked out the inside! LOL, a spider ruined our picnic, you did your best to get rid of it but i was too scared so Dad went out later and lit it on fire, not burned it down just made me feel better about the spiders LOL.

Stephan and I shared a room, a pullout bed under another. We fought a lot. It was always so hot in the summer. There was a bully who lived in the trailer court. I always took a lot of abuse from him, a deal I made so he would leave Stephan alone. He cut my ankle with a knife once. There was a girl with long blond hair who was my friend , her house was sad I think she got hit by her mom.

I started school there. A blond curly haired boy with bright blue eyes always sat by me and followed me around. One day on the playground he reached over and kissed me. I reached back over and smacked him...I got in one let me in trouble at home one let me talk.

I remember you guys playing cards in the tiny kitchen area. I think I loved to watch you guys play. Sometimes Dad would let me sit between you two, that was my favorite spot in the world. Going To Marlene's was one of my favorite memories. They had a dog named PB (peanut butter). I used to love the smell in their entryway before you went up the stairs to the main house, 'cause it smelled like dirt and dog food!

Corey had a ceiling in his room with purple carpet. Marlene had a stuffed dog like me, she gave me my favorite stuffed animal and when I left it there when we had to move to the ship, she sent it and it was waiting for me.

I learned to swim at the local pool...i remember i jumped off the high jump with the male lifegaurd. Well, a few memories came back to me, LOL!"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Project 365: Week 25

Home, Sweet Home

The first three days of the week I was still working in Cincinnatti, OH--AP Spanish Readings.
Tuesday evening I left the city as soon as we were dismissed and was very glad to be home three hours later.
The next days I tackled the most urgent items on my list: complete final paperwork for the job; plant flowers; clear out stuff I brought back from the classroom. I'm still working on most of these but there is incremental progress.

So good to say one last goodbye to the administration building and our weekly staff meetings.

After that I invited myself to lunch at the daughter's and admired her decorated porch.

I started with the window boxes one day, then another day spent an entire morning on sprucing up the front garden area.

Friday was Sam & Kristie's 11th anniversary. Malachi is at summer camp and Elijah spent the night here to give them a break. We had a whole lot of fun: he helped me plant some of the downstairs flower beds; we watched snails and worms; we went for a walk and picked mulberries; collected trash; and more...

Grandpa took him for a ride on the ATV he just purchased this week.

And finally we went to Taylor Lake, where Elijah kept saying, "Watch me, Grandma, one more time!" 30 times.
I'm a bit late to wish Happy Father's Day, but hopefully not too late to join Sara's Project 365 circle. I trust you all had a good day. I travelled to see my dad and had a sweet time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


...our dear friends, the McMullins

Three weeks ago, we were on our way to Wisconsin to celebrate the life of Randy. A little over a year ago we did the same for Marlene. It is still hard to believe they are both gone, absent from this earth. They had been so full of life. Their home always a beehive of activity, ever involved in giving to others, especially missionaries.

When I got back from Cincinatti, I found this photo. The family sent it along with a couple of documents dated June 10, 1982.

The photo was probably the last one taken together, some 10 years ago. They were passing through our area. The visit was brief, the fellowship sweet. We always shared deeply. Never even a thought of the parting to come. How sobering to look ahead and think of all the goodbyes that await us, maybe our own.

The documents we had signed and left with the McMullins on one of our short furloughs from the ship ministry, were our wills. I had totally forgotten about this step of preparadness for such an event. Our children are grown up so they no longer need to go to Nocha and Dallas if we die.

All the reminiscing got me thinking about starting the Memory Monday posts with the Omro chapter of our journey. Check out the first entry next week.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Project 365: Week 24

Somewhat Random Fun Times

The above photo may be out of sequence or may even belong to another week, but I like it. While Malachi's game was in progress, Elijah got some practice time in with Mommy Kristie.

A week ago today, was Kayla's BIG day, the long awaited yearly dance recital. She had umpteen parts in the looooong program, had to change some eight times, and danced so beautifully. We couldn't take pictures during the show, but Leah took us back to the dressing room for the last transformation from gorgeous Cinderella to wacky crazy zombie, so these are the only photos I have.

Monday Night Dinner at Stephan 'n Karen's, I love to see their cottage-style flower garden, something new every time.

And I love Indiana sunsets...

Now here I am experiencing city life, in Cincinnati since Tuesday, and leaving next Tuesday. Seven 8 hr days of work as an AP Spanish exam reader, actually listener. This time around I was assigned to Speaking.

So, what else have I done here in the city?
I tried the swimming pool one night, that was energizing, a bit cool at first.

Went for a walk with my roommate across the river to Newport, KY, to the Italian festival, and enjoyed the riverfront views and downtown Friday evening fun, music, people and ice cream.

Saturday after work I rushed back to my room because a good friend from Monday Night crowd is in the area with her family and was picking me up for dinner at their house. The elevators were so crowded that I decided to try the stairs, all 15 flights!

Needless to say the steak dinner with the McGuire family was utterly delightful! They were celebrating a family birthday and a 40th anniversary and just enjoying one another. I was so very privileged to be in their midst.

The birthday person, Gina's brother, is an editor and author. I so enjoyed reading his first children's book and admiring his art. Check it out yourself, Rainy Day Games by Andy McGuire.

And what were my little ones doing while I was gone yesterday? I received this phone message on my cell phone. Looks like they're having fun!

I suspect the rest of you Project 365ers have been having lots of fun as well. I think I'll go over to Sara's and find out!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Evening in Cinci

My roommate, who used to live here, took me on an hour long walking excursion. The weather was perfect, after a gray and rainy day. The city was alive in summer-Friday-eve style. We walked across one bridge over the Ohio River to Newport, specifically to the Italian Festival and made our way back over the Purple People Bridge. Rested our blistered feet as we savored famous Graeter's ice cream and listened to Wake the Bear on Fountain Square.

All that after a full day of work. All of us weight-conscious women are surprised at how much food we are consuming and are wondering whether we will roll back home. Why are we so hungry? Is it really true that mental concentration takes more fuel? (Please say yes!)

Tomorrow evening we will not be served a meal, but rather sent out with $25 to spend at will. It so happens that a friend from Monday Night Meals has come back to Cincinnati for the summer. She is picking me up at 5:30 to have a home-cooked meal, a birthday celebration at that. I get to meet her whole family!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

AP Here I Am!

Over a month ago, I listed all the titles rumbling around/dando vueltas in my cabeza, and until now have been crazy busy. I hope this is the beginning of near daily posts. Tonight I am tackling # 5.
AP Readings start tomorrow and I am already installed on the 15th floor of the Millenium Hotel across from the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, OH. My roommate, from NJ, had not shown up yet at 7:30 when I came down to the lobby (only place we have complimentary internet access).
Each year, an ever increasing number of high school students take Advanced Placement courses in a wide variety of subjects. ETS (Educational Testing Service) hires qualified readers to grade the 2.5 + million tests.
Spanish is one of the more popular areas. The last time I participated we (1100 graders) read over 150,000 exams. We work seven 8/hour days, always with the same group at an assigned table, following very strict guidelines and clear rubrics. It's fun to meet and share with interesting colleagues from around the globe.

Two years ago we were in San Antonio, TX , housed on a beautiful campus, Trinity University. It was getting late and no roommate had shown up yet. I had just been through the entire list of participants and noticed the names of some colleagues from NACFLA. Just then a knock on the door and the very one I was thinking about appeared after a loooong day of travel and many troubles. Later we discovered our suite mate was another 'nacflite' friend. We had a wonderful few days sharing our lives together and enjoying the sights of that unique city.

More about AP:
Have any of you seen the film Stand and Deliver? I chose to show it to my middle schoolers on the last day, unfortunately they were way too scattered to focus on the story, even though they had requested a movie.
It's the true story of an LA high school teacher, originally from Colombia, SA. He was determined to help his minority students succeed in life. It was his idea to teach them AP Calculus! He was strict, but very caring and dedicated, and they loved him. Their AP results were so outstanding that ETS concluded they had cheated. Formerly only a 2% had ever passed. To have an entire group get perfect scores was unprecedented. Their irate teacher fought for their right to prove themselves. They retook the test and, of course, passed with flying colors. His goal was accomplished when several were accepted into prestigious universities.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Project 365: Two weeks worth of photos and stories

Birthday, Memorial, Retirement and More!

Another birthday, celebrated twice--at Monday night dinner and again Tuesday, the very day with a different crowd.

My brother and nieces converged from three different states. We all met at Dad and Mom's.
The younger generation served up a fabulous meal of milanesas, puré de papas, ensalada, verduras y postre. ¡Muchísimas gracias!

Later that week we traveled to Wisconsin for a memorial service. We spent the night in Chicago with cousin Rosie enjoying her hospitality and sharing many family stories and insights.

When we returned to the US after years of missionary service in Europe, we settled in Omro, WI, closer to M's family. The second Sunday we visited a small A of G. Visiting missionaries from Argentina drew us in that day, the warmth of the people kept us attending there, especially the family that took us into their home and heart, the McMullins.

The church is now a wedding chapel and theatre, however their loving acts live on in our hearts.
When we felt called to go back into missions, they encouraged us and helped make it possible in many practical ways. One outstanding example was when our youngest was born, just before we left to join the OM ship MV Doulos, they took their building fund and covered the cost of the Caesarian operation.
Both McMullins, our dear friends, are in heaven now, only a year apart. Another chapter closed, yet their example and legacy lives on.
An interesting side story. Soon after we met the McMullins, we realized that we shared a niece.
The drama that unfolded while we were in Europe happened this way: Mike's younger sister, developmentally disabled had married and had a baby daughter but was not allowed to keep her. They fought to challenge the system, even appeared on TV, but not even family were in favor. It was a very difficult situation. We prayed that God would place her in a good family.
Randy McM's sister was the answer to our prayers.
When we walked into the funeral home, Brenda rushed to meet us and was very emotional as she hugged us. Randy was her favorite uncle.
The memorial was a wonderful celebration of his life, remembering also Marlene who passed on last year. Mike shared a few words about their impact on our lives and ministry. Afterwards three came up to share their stories with us.
Being in the home area, we were able to get together with Mike's siblings.

We spent the night at brother Terry's new place.
Sunday was a long travel day.
Back to work for me on Monday, my last week!
Then Monday night meal...
Welcome little Alex! The family had not been back since he was born two months ago.
A funny incident:
Big sister Arya had the dominoes out, I came by and excitedly asked if I could play. She had planned to play with her mom, so she explained in her 3-yr. old way that the game was too 'delicate' and that I could go do something else!

Well, it was a busy last week, finishing up at each school and with each student, then packing all the stuff in the one classroom at the middle school that was like my home base.

As I took this world map down, it occurred to me that you might be interested in seeing where we've lived. In case you can't read the key in the lower left corner: smiley faces represent a year or more; stars, weeks or a month.
Today began with a 34 mile tandem ride. Mike was to lead the slower group of riders, the Cruisers.

Finally, after a full two weeks, I've made it back and am excited to join the photo sharing circle once again. It's been so busy, I don't even know what week we're on, but I'm sure Sara and her followers will know.