really living where i am

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One of the things I truly desire for my family is to engage with our community. Not only with those people who share our bloodline or our beliefs, but with those we share walls, corridors, streets and fences with. We have found ourselves, for the second time in our married life, in a duplex, sharing a wall with a friend. We also live in a community of condos, homes to people of all walks of life, and many of whom are elderly and alone.

A struggle I’ve had with the job of at-home parenting is deeply desiring to serve our elderly neighbors, but not having my act together enough to do so. Jesus made it so clear that meeting the needs of the helpless is his desire for his followers, and also giving my children the opportunity to reach out their tiny, mighty, hands and hearts to serve those who struggle with day-to-day challenges would be, I feel, among the greatest things I could do for them.

So, that nagging feeling that I have felt to challenge myself more in this area was made even more clear by this afternoon’s tiny knock on our front door…delivered by dear Ms. Helen, who had brought over a birthday card for Abby (who’s birthday it is not…but that’s neither here nor there). Knowing how much her hip has been bothering her this last year, I know what a struggle it must have been to get ready, come out of her home and down her steps, to bless us.

Now its our turn…


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another go…

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Life has settled down a bit, and I’m reengaging with blogging. This time with a commitment to posting more about the process of life, and less time spent on presenting the product. And since its really too late to write about anything that would make sense, here’s a picture of a good moment with 2 of the loves of my life…


more than fine

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So, it has been brought to my attention that many of our family members and friends are still checking the blog regularly. Oh my! I had some issues with someone hacking our blog, and haven’t felt too excited about adding to it. But, since you’re still reading, just want you to know that we are doing well, blessed beyond words, and being stretched (and prayerfully learning) in this very VERY busy season of life. I really do hope to do more posting. Its so restorative for me. But for now, this will have to do. Blessings in your new year, and drop us a note to let us know how you are.

Niños con niños

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A couple weeks ago, the kids, Josh, and I embarked on a little trip south of the border with a group from our church. Our mission was to serve at Niños de Baja, an organization that Camarillo Christian Church has partnered with for years. The main purpose of NdB is to provide care and housing for children who have been removed from their homes by the Mexican government, due to abuse, or exposure to other unsafe living conditions. Additionally, NdB has done wonderful things for the small community of El Porvenir, in Baja, including donating classroom and playground equipment to local schools, providing emergency vehicles and EMT training to its citizens, and offering safe daycare for other children in the community.

We were going to support the organization in the best way we could in the short time we had there: manual labor. How much labor can be done whilst caring for children of my own? Well, Cara (who brought her precious boys also), and I had our work cut out for us, keeping our little ones entertained. BUT, while it was an incredibly busy time for us (and at times frustrating that we couldn’t role up our sleeves to help), we were blessed abundantly with incredible lessons in humility, the value of community, and the sincere love of strangers.

Here’s our gang right before heading out.

Cara and I loaded our van down with toys, movies, snacks, tranquilizers (j/k), to keep our tiny travelers (and their mommas) happy on our day-long journey. Seriously, these kids were amazing.

We got to our "home", which was a house that NdB has set aside for short-term volunteers, rolled out our sleeping bags, and popped open the pack-in-plays. The first night was a little challenging, but from then on, the kids got the hang of "roughing it". Abby actually LOVED her sleeping bag, and at the end of a busy day, Zack would all but leap out of our arms to get into bed. My heart was full, seeing my little ones sleeping inches from one another, something they’ve never done before.

The next day, while the rest of the gang went to work, we visited to the kids at the orphanage. Our kiddos were a little shy at first, but once they got on the playground, they were as happy as they could be, playing with all the other kids.

Zack was all over the place, and he LOVED this mini Caterpiller. The little girls couldn’t get enough of the "bebe", and wanted to help him maneuver up the slide and around the playhouse. They were so sweet to him.

Once Abby got her sandbox-legs, she loosened up, and began introducing herself to, well, anyone who would listen. "Hola, mi llama Abby" and then when they or she would turn away to leave, "Abios!"

(I was pushing Abby and Sarai on the swings, when I stopped to take this pic. Then I realized I had totally left them to manage for themselves, and I had a little self-LOL 🙂 )

While we were meeting the kiddos, the rest of the team was erecting a playground for a local elementary school. This was a real boost in moral for the students and teachers, since they had had their electricity STOLEN from them a while back. Some members of our team also left these deserving educators with a much needed storage container.

The day after the playground was set up, the students presented the team with this beautiful poster. What an amazing gesture from a school with such limited resources.

The following day, the team laid a walkway for the NdB intern housing. It was back-breaking work . . . from what I hear 😉 .

To be honest, there were a few times on this trip when I would have welcomed the task of shoveling gravel. Turns out, Abby and her very best bud, Carter, act like quite the old married couple, while in close quarters. Feelings were being hurt all over the place and Cara and I were pretty exhausted with these two munchkins. Don’t let these adorable faces fool you . . .

But really, under the circumstances, all the kiddos did so well. It helped, too, that while we were at our "home", there were a whole lot of wonderful "sitters" around to lighten our load, and bless our little ones with hugs and giggles.

At the house, we ate really well (thank you Justin!), played hard (hard core games of Banana Grams, that is), and had some wonderful time of worship. Here’s Donald leading with Josh . . .

The most meaningful times on our whirlwind trip were our evenings with the kids at the orphanage. One evening, we brought dinner, and shared a meal. Abby, Zack, Carter, and Abbott made themselves at home with the rest of the kiddos.

Abby loved eating and socializing with the kids, and (I’m still in shock) ate an entire cheeseburger! This is NOT like her at all. Guess we all do some crazy things . . . when in Rome 🙂 .

We got to play and snuggle with some amazing children. Obviously, Jacky is one of the less camera-shy. Pretty certain we would have made her a Williams if we could have.

Had to steal a kiss from this guy . . .

We were SO BLESSED by our time in Baja. To all of you who were praying for our safety and sleep, THANK YOU! It could not have gone more smoothly. My kiddos have shown themselves to be incredible travelers. Even more incredible, is the joy I felt, watching my kiddos interact with the children of Niños de Baja. All of them trying to communicate the best way they knew how, free from judgment, and unaware of labels. It was a simple, beautiful picture of how I want to be. How God desires for ALL of His children to interact. I pray for many, many more opportunities for my kids to see the great needs of the world, and the chance to interact with an even bigger God who made it.

(And back home we went. Tell me, is there research done on why it takes SO MUCH LONGER to return home, than it does to leave home? The long border wait was NOTHING compared to LA traffic . . .

. . . and had the kids looked like this most of the way, then we would have been just fine . . . but they slept just long enough to snap their adorable pictures. Well, such is life 🙂 )

happy halloween

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Our Halloween was one to remember this year. While it was a Sunday morning, Josh was off for the weekend and the kiddos still had runny noses, so we had in mind to just take it easy. It started off pretty well . . .

Josh picked up an aebleskiver skillet and recipe from our little trip to Solvang, so Abby got to "make" her own.

Things got a little rocky when Zack took a little tumble and banged his head on a magazine rack. The blood started pouring and we were off to the ER. He was no worse for wear by the time we got there, and a little champ while the nurse was cleaning his boo boo. He even serenaded her with a couple rounds of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" while he was getting fixed up. Abby was also an angel in the waiting room, with a little help from some of Daddy’s iPhone games.

We were in and out of the ER in a flash, and Zack was able to get away with glue rather than stitches for his head. When we got home, we resumed our family time with a little pumpkin carving . . .

Abby wasn’t too sure about getting messy, but eventually got the hang of it.

Zack offered to help out a little as well . . .

Since the day we picked out our pumpkin, Abby has said that she wanted it to have a "little face". So she and Daddy got to work . . . 

She told Josh where to place the shapes, and she designed her her little face 🙂 .

It was a busy morning, and all of us were in need of some serious naps. After naptime, the kiddos were magically transformed into Tinkerbell (with the help of some Aqua Net) and little Pooh (which, judging by how much he loved his costume, he may feel compelled to run up to Winnie on our next trip to D-land, and punch him square in his fluff), and we were off to visit our families. We started at Grandma Dell’s house. Abby LOVED trick-or-treating . . .

. . . and how fabulous she looked.

We’re pretty certain Zack was pretty miserable, with a cold, a headache, cutting more teeth, and having to put up with his ridiculous headpiece (his Mommy insisted that he wear the same adorable costume his sister wore 2 years earlier), but he was such a sport.

Josh offered to take Zack’s burden from him, but he just couldn’t pull off the look . . .

We knocked on Gigi’s, Aunt Marianne’s, and Uncle Phil’s door also, and this is who answered 🙂 Groucho also sent us home with some delicious homemade caramel apples . . . SCORE!

Before we headed to our next stop, we tried for one more little photo shoot. What could possibly be running through their minds?

Off to visit more family!

Next, we stopped off at Grandma Soni’s, Grandpa Don’s, and Aunt Tami’s house. (We didn’t snap too many pics, but I love how the one’s we did take turned out. Almost looked like Abby went in, stole some candy, and left before anyone noticed 🙂 .)

After this visit, we popped by to see Uncle Cam and Aunt Lacy, and were later visited by the Gin and Cook fams, and their precious Buzz (Carter), Mickey (Abbott-who liked his costume about as much as Zack liked being Pooh), and the cutest little newborn monkey (Evan). Then, much later, we opened the door to some Gorilla (my mom) and Devil (big Sis), and got to visit with them for a bit.

Whew! What a crazy, fun, busy, memory-filled day! There is something so special about having family around to share in the excitement (and silliness) of Halloween, and this year’s was a blast. Till next year . . .

-The Wills’

sibs

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When he’s not clinging to my leg, Zack can be a very independent little guy. But, on the walk from our carport to our condo, he has to hold hands. Abby took the lead on today’s walk . . .

. . . and he was so happy!

punkin patchin it

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This last family day, we visited the Underwood Family Farms pumpkin patch in Moorpark with Grandma Dell and Aunt Mary Ann. While the pumpkins were beautiful, they were hardly the draw for the kids. This place had so many attractions. In fact, we were sitting amidst a group of school kids who had traveled all the way from Beverly Hills to pick their pumpkins, so this must have been the ultimate in farm/pumpkin/petting zoo experiences.

It was a cold, muggy, gray day which reminded me so much of picking pumpkins in Snohomish, but it also felt like Fall to us . . . which was awesome.

 

Abby rode her first pony, and loved every second of it.

This was an adorable train for the kiddos. I rode in the car behind Zack to "spot" the little guy. The combination of the small track, facing backwards, going super fast, and being in the last car wreaked havoc on my tummy, but it was well worth the resounding applause Zack gave when the ride was over.

My favorite part of the day was the wagon ride. It took us through some beautiful farmland, and it was so cool to see Zack get excited about the "tac-to" (tractor).

Finally, the pumpkins…

blog fog

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Every day, there are about two hundred moments that I wish to blog about. Something the kids said or did, a conversation that I had with my husband or a friend, or simply some new thought or idea that stirs around in brain . . . just itching to be heard, read, or spewed out, if only for the purpose of never having to be thought about again.

Generally, I’m a quiet person, but over the last few years have come to realize that I have to express my heart, in spoken, written, or even typed words. I love to watch my world move around me, and comment on what I am seeing or experiencing. When I communicate these observations, I am healed, and my eyes are often opened to what God wants me to know about Him and His purpose.

The struggle? If I were to stop to write at the moment I have a thought or a story I want to share with the blog world, what does that communicate to my children? "Hold on sweetheart, that thing you just did was so cute . . . I must now spend the next half-hour to forty-five minutes documenting it. Oh, and can you make that face again? Cause I need to take a picture of that adorable thing you did for my latest post."

I know this is a modern day struggle, "Whoa is me . . . I have no time to blog!", but maybe this struggle is simply about not being able to find the time to capture my thoughts, and reflect on why it is that am lying on the floor, letting graham-cracker encrusted, snotty-nosed munchkins, kiss me all over my face and climb on me like a jungle gym. I am getting the feeling, from more and more moms who have waded through the murky, rapid moving waters of raising young children, that this time is the most precious time I will ever have with my kids, and possibly the most precious time I will experience as a human.

I believe this is true. And my understanding of this reality is compelling me to figure out how to allow myself the opportunity to laugh, breathe, cry, scream, sigh, and smile, alone with my thoughts, and fully present with God.

(I would love your thoughts, or the "What I Did’s" of your past. I would also love to know if you share in this struggle with me . . . please 😉 .)

buy me some peanuts

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I’m starting to feel a little bit more motivated about the blog, but I have a lot of catching up to do. I promise not to be super anal about the lack of chronological organization if you will.

We’ll start with a game. In May, my family treated us to a Mariners/Angels game. The fam was all decked out on our M’s garb (except for Zack, who was forced into a "First Angels Tee" because he had outgrown his teal onesie). The weather was gorgeous, the kids were amazing, and, believe it or not, the M’s almost took the game. We were so close!!!

Two very big floating hats.

Aunt Tami schooling Abby on the game.

One sleepy fan.

Aunt Sharon lent Abby her rally monkey. Mr. Monkey got lots of snuggles.

Zack NEVER falls asleep like this. Sweet boy.

She gave up the rally monkey for the finger.

Reading his favorite book after his uncharacteristic catnap.

This was the first game that ALL four Williams have been to (Abby and Zack have graced Safeco Field before 🙂 ), and we got to be with our family, so it was pretty special. Still, I am hoping that the Mariners can make our next trip to Anaheim even more worthwhile (the stadium’s lack of good espresso and garlic fries brought a tear to my eyes). Go M’s!

playdate

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Since we’ve moved close to our families, Josh and I are taking advantage of the extra help and rediscovering the joy of dating. When we first started leaving the kiddos on Friday evenings with Grandma Dell, Abby didn’t know what to think. The only way we could describe why we were leaving her was to tell her we were going on a playdate. One evening, she asked if our playdate was going to be at the park, so we couldn’t pass up the park when we saw it, and we had to snap a couple pics for her…

Strangely, relearning how to court one another hasn’t been easy. Our practical minds (but mostly MY practical, penny-pinching mind) tell us we can’t afford the entertainment, and there are a million other things that we could be doing with that time. Sad, huh? But, we are committed to the task, and looking forward to the fruits.

Any other parents want to share your struggle with me (and all our readers 😉 )? I would love to hear where you are at/where you’ve been in regards to learning how to date the mother/father of your children.