Sunday, May 31, 2009

Friday Night Terror

Friday night I was home alone with the three kiddos. Benjo and Karis were already down for the night so I was sitting in the rocker holding Dan-the-man and rocking. I heard a funny noise but thought it was Cristy coming home as the dog began barking rather loudly. Then I looked at the clock and realized it was too early for her to be home but that she should arrive in about 10 minutes or so. Then I heard the noise again. And again. Realizing that it was coming from the back yard and thinking it was an animal (possum on the roof?) I ran to the kitchen and peeked out the door. Oh. My. Goodness. No, it is too big to be an animal and it is in the backyard, whatever it is. I quickly locked up the house and turned off the lights in order to see better. I realized that something was landing on the dog-house that was out of view behind the shed. Was somebody jumping the wall and landing on the dog-house? Are they about to try and rob us? Then I saw a head pop up over the wall. It was a guy with a baseball cap. Ok, this is serious. I have no way to get in touch with Cristy. The dog was on the chain (barking up a storm) and any minute she'd come home. What if there was a whole group of robbers hiding out around back when she drove up? I quickly called Jonathan's cell phone praying he'd answer. He did. "Some guys have jumped the back wall and are hiding out behind the shed. Cristy is gone and I'm afraid she's going to drive up any minute. Have Erik call her and tell her not to come home alone!" He gave me a few pointers (yell at the guys to let them know someone is home. Afterall, they probably think the house is empty since the truck is gone). Just as we hung up Cristy pulled up. Before she had time to get out of the truck and close the gate I yelled through the window "Cristy, get in here now! Leave the truck and come inside." Poor girl. I think that scared her a bit. When she came inside I explained what had happened. We called Jonathan back and he said a man from church was coming over. At that point there had been no more noise and none of the guys had come into sight so I was pretty sure they were gone. Actually, because there are some banana trees back there I had even convinced myself it was a group of teenagers stealing bananas when they thought nobody was home (they sure didn't try to be quiet about it!) After we hung up with Jonathan the man from church drive up. Soon to follow were the police. I stayed in the living room while Cristy went out explaining to them what happened. The police had their guns drawn, asking who it was they saw in the house (me). They were very serious about their job, which was very comforting. By now there was quite a crowd lingering around wondering what was going on. The neighbor walked over to Cristy and the police (who he knew personally) and asked what happened. Cristy explained and he said "oh, that was me. I was unloading a bunch of stuff behind the wall. She probably saw my head and heard the noise as I dropped stuff." Yes, that's the end of the story folks. I didn't sleep so well that night but it wasn't out of fear. It was out of embarrassment. How can one person have so many embarrassing moments in one lifetime? I have probably had enough in my lifetime to cover all of you who are reading this (you're welcome.) I'm just glad I get to leave in a week. Poor Cristy has to stay. I did give her permission to blame it all on me once I leave....the "silly sister-in-law."

Ok, let's move onto something more positive. How about pictures of some cute kiddos....

On a good day they get along 90% of the time. On a bad day, 10%. Unfortunately this fluctuation that takes place day-to-day is a result of my daughter's behavior.

Silly girl.

The cousins. Daniel looks comfortable.

Karis was SO proud to beholding a REAL baby, for the first time!

Ducky and Froggie towels. I love this picture :-)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sweat babies and sweet babies.

After three days of being on the road we arrived at the armpit of Brazil! Just kidding, it's a nice little town, actually. Just a little hotter than what we're accustomed to. I was a bit worried about adjusting to the temperatures but so far it's been just fine! I may sweat off a pound or two but that would be marvelous.

I need to backtrack to last week to show a few pictures. During the school's field day they held a race for preschoolers. I stood with Karis at the starting line and explained about 21 times what she needed to as fast as she could to papai as soon as the man said "go"! I think she understood just fine the first time and as she began running and seeing all of the people smiling and clapping (I'm sure she thought JUST for her) she soaked up the attention. She loved it. And we loved it. And then we were both so very frustrated that neither of us had thought to bring our camera. And then a few days ago we received some pictures from Grammy-Tammy (I like the sound of that) that she took of Karis during the race. Wow, we are so happy she did!

Check out our future athlete in her first race ever....

All of the kids who ran got a first-place ribbon. Karis has no idea what a ribbon is or why they gave her one but we made a big deal about it so she is quite proud of it herself.

Ok, back to our travels. The first day of traveling we woke up at 4am to leave by 5am. We wanted to drive for about 7 hours so that we could stop for lunch at a water-park on the way. It isn't the most fabulous water-park in the world but since it cost less than $5 for all three of us to get in, we have no right to complain. And we won't. Karis had a blast and got out lots of energy as she went up and down two kiddy slides for 2 hours. It was great.

The one picture we took just before we left. I needed a new facebook picture so I asked Jonathan to take this one (well, about 10 of them but this one was the best.)

Some of the scenery on our trip. Besides sunflowers we saw acres and acres of cotton, sugar cane and corn. We only took pictures of the sunflowers. You're welcome.

If you're planning on traveling in Brazil you need to get used to traveling amongst many trucks. And if you're married to a man who loves buses and trucks you must get used to seeing your life flash before your eyes as he tries to drive and take pictures of them at the same time. And if you're still alive to tell about it then...well....kudos to you.

A big "bwazeel fwag"

One of my all time favorite things to experirence when traveling here is going through a "boiada" (a cattle drive.) We went through the biggest herd of cows ever on the way here! It was really almost felt like it would take an hour to get through all of the cows. But I loved it. I love looking at cow's faces. They have such cute faces.

Here is a picture of one of the cowboys at the front of the cattle drive. They always have one that goes a ways ahead of the others to warn oncoming traffic. Then they have several direclty in front of the herd and a few in the middle to get the cows to move for the cars and then a few in the back to keep some from straying.

I took a short video to try and share what it's like driving through cows.

This is what Karis was doing during the boiada.

Since my batteries in my camera died and I want to make sure I have plenty of bloggy material for this week I'm going to show just a few pictures from yesterday....

The two cousins playing in the water. Trying to stay cool and wearing themselves out in order to take a good nap for their mommies!

My 2nd newest nephew (by a day!), Daniel. It's fun to be around a newborn again. Makes me wish I could spend some time with my newest (by a day!) nephew, Rowen.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

On the road again (the elephant-sized pot-hole-filled road, that is)

Just a warning, this post will not have any photos. I know, how am I to keep up any sort of a readership without pictures? I don't know but I've already learned a valuable lesson. If you want lots of people coming to your blog and commenting all one needs to do is write a controversial post! How many comments did I get? 20 something? Either way it was really fun to hear everyone's thoughts on the issue. I'm sure more can be said but I'm going to wait 'til I'm feeling desperate for a post that gets more than 2 comments before I expound anymore on that topic.

We've been on the road for 2 solid days. Karis is doing amazing, which is a huge blessing. She took a 4 hour nap yesterday afternoon and then surprised us by doing the same thing today! The only down side to that is that when we finally arrive at the hotel completely exhausted she is ready to run a marathon. Last night wasn't bad though, I fell right to sleep. I guess I don't really know if she went right to sleep or not...I think I was too tired to be awakened. Maybe that explains the blue toothpaste I found all over the pillow this morning? Or the lip stick on the walls? Just kidding...whatever she did while I slept soundly wasn't destructive.

I also received word last night that my grandma passed away. A lot could be said about that. Even though I'm grieving now I know I won't be able to really deal with it 'til we go there in August, I walk in the door to their house and only my granddaddy is there to greet us. This is definitely one of the most frustrating aspects to living overseas.

Well, I think I better put a leash on my daughter and run her around the building about 25 times.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Family Planning - A Godly Act?

I apologize for the sporadic posting. I really am sorry. But my friend sent me a link to this video which has me all fired up on this subject...I just HAVE to post about it now, while the million thoughts are running through my head. If you didn't already read yesterday's post, a fluffy family post, and you're curious about our new "news" I would encourage you to scroll down and read that first. This post will be quite controversial but I'm honestly hoping for a lot of feedback and discussion! It may be a long drawn out discussion since I'm down to a few people reading a day...but we'll see. Before you read anymore please go watch this video...

First off, I need to admit something. Growing up as the oldest of 9 children and having the experience of always feeling criticized for that fact (mostly from Christians and some from non) I admit that until recently I either 1.) Didn't want the subject to come up because it brought a lot of pain or 2.) The subject did come up but I was so defensive in my response that I unknowingly brought an abrupt end to the conversation. If you happen to be an individual who experienced the latter with me, I am truly sorry. I believe I'm to the point now where even though I do feel strongly on this subject I am open and WANTING an open, honest discussion on family planning (as Christians.)

To open up a discussion I'd like to present a case for why I have come to the conclusion I've come to. And that conclusion is, in a nut shell, that more often then not God wants to bless us as believers with more than 1.8 children. He wants His kingdom to grow through us reproducing AND evangelizing the world. Because I am not spending days writing and rewriting my position I may go back and change or edit something. But again, I'm anxious to open up this can of worms while the topic is heavily on my mind!

First off I'd like to address the most common "reasons" I have been told why Christian couples choose to limit and/or control the size of their family and my response to them.

1.) "I couldn't handle anymore children."

I believe that most people who use this as a reason to limit their family size do so very sincerely. They may feel overwhelmed at home with the children they already have and feel like they couldn't do a good job if they were to allow any more little ones into their lives. I understand this as I have gone through many things in my life that if I had known beforehand were going to happen and also had the choice to opt out, I probably would have! However this is not a biblical response. If you look at any of the heroes of the faith in the Bible all were called at one time or another to do something beyond their capability. God longs to do the "impossible" through us, His willing vessels. The truth is, we don't know what we can handle. Many of us go through situations in life that we didn't know we could handle yet were brought to the other side of the bridge, by God's grace.

2.) "I wouldn't be able to properly provide for them."

Because I grew up in what was considered to be a "poor" family and because a lot of that was due to the number of children my parents had I feel like this is a very easy case to argue. Not always (so please don't feel judged if this doesn't apply to you) but more often then not I feel like this reason has roots of selfishness. Many don't want to consider what they would have to give up material wise should they have more than 2 kids. The responsibility to provide and care for several children sounds overwhelming, I know. But when it comes down to it many Christians really don't want to consider giving up their nice car or home. Or yearly vacation. Or free time on the weekend. We must be very, very careful not to make such a big decision on something that can be rooted out of selfish desires. Or fear, for that matter. You may think "we're barely making it month to month as it is, there is no way we could survive if we had more mouths to feed." I and many, many large families can testify that as the family grows the Lord provides. You have to learn to live without some luxuries, but He does take care of our needs. I have absolutely NO regrets growing up in a "poor" home. In fact, I am extremely grateful for this. Even though compared to the rest of the world we never were "poor", compared to my friends who grew up in wealthy families we were and many friends who didn't experience life like we did suffered in some ways because of it. If everything is handed to you on a silver platter or you grow up with comforts and luxuries, viewing them as "necessities" it is going to be a lot more difficult to put others above yourself once you're out in the world. I see this firsthand in some of my friend's lives. Growing up for them was about ease, comfort and entertainment. They struggle to think of a world outside of themselves. Please know that I do not, by any means, want to make a generalization that those who grow up in wealthy families are doomed for failure. I know many wealthy families who have children who love the Lord, wholeheartedly. But we must reevaluate this reason if we are using it to control our family size. Am I making this choice based out of fear or selfishness? Am I lacking faith that God can and will provide?

3.) "I've seen what can happen to large families and the chaos that entails and I don't believe that honors God. I don't want that for my family."

Believe me, I do understand this reasoning. I am not naturally a very tolerant person of chaos. Spending a day in a home that is chaotic sends me home with a head ache and a heavy heart! We probably all know at least one large family that lives in constant chaos and it overwhelms us just thinking about it. But let's step back and look at this situation objectively. Is it really the number of children that is the problem? Or is the heart of the issue something else? I have walked into homes that have 1-3 children that are loud and chaotic. I've babysat for families who only have a few children yet their daily lives are far from peaceful. I have also walked into a house that was home to 10+ children but unless you knew the family personally you'd be shocked to discover that fact! The house is quiet. The children are respectful and peaceful while in the house. It is pleasant to spend time in a home like that. With that being said, could the heart of the issue be something completely different? It is true that if you have 2 out of control children in the home it still isn't as chaotic as 10 out of control children in the home. But why not focus on getting the children under control vs. using that as a reason to not have any more? If you are one who believes that every child should be involved in extra curricular activities then the thought of running here and there taking your kids to this practice and that practice then having more than 2 kids sounds impossible. And it probably would be. However we need to reevaluate why we believe all of these extra curricular activities are so important and whether or not they are the best for our family.

4.) "I wouldn't be able to spend the individual time with them that they need."

This is a very sincere concern on the part of many parents. But again, as the oldest of 9 it comes down to the parents making family time happen. Most kids would get bored with more than 20 minutes of one-on-one time with a parent. Family activities are so healthy and SO much fun in a large family! As long as parents are available for a child when it is needing individual attention, then really that is the main thing. I never felt "attention deprived" growing up and the amount of one on one time with my parents was rather minimal. Some children may need more than I needed but overall this is a concern that parents need not have. As long as family is important to you, you will be able to spend the time with your children that they need. I spent a month with a family here in Brazil who has 55 children (53 are adopted). If you walked into their home you would not be met with sad looking faces on the children who were so "attention deprived." On the contrary, they have a family unity that is amazing and although it is rare for a child to get more than 10 minutes of individual time with a parent at a time they are very happy and content children. The family dynamics were amazing!

5.) "I've seen large families with very dysfunctional children. That is not what I want."

There is something extremely sad about witnessing a large family send several dysfunctional children into the world. Instead of changing the world for good they have only added to the problem. But similar to question 3, can we honestly say that the size of the family is to blame? Sure, it's worse to add 10 basket cases to today's population than 2 but what is the heart of the issue? Let's focus on WHY those children have issues in their lives and seek to correct it. Not use that as a reason to not have more than a few kiddos.

6.) "Having more than a few children will hinder the ministry the Lord has given me."

Being on the mission field this is a very common concern. Children take time, which takes away from "ministry." But we have to remember that raising children is for a limited amount of time. "Ministry" may have to be put on hold for a short time but in the end the world is going to receive more "ministry" when you send several soldiers for Jesus out into the world! Not to mention how having children in itself opens up doors to ministry that otherwise wouldn't exist. God may place a desire in you to minister in a certain people group in a particular way (Indians, orphans, unbelievers at work, etc) and maybe you won't be able to go at it 100% while having children at home to raise. However, that doesn't mean that one day you won't be able to give it 100%. And who knows, maybe you'll have a grown son or daughter who has the same desire who can come along side and continue that ministry even after you're gone! There are so many possibilities. We have to be very careful not to rationalize and spiritualize a decision we've made without taking the time to pray and seek the Lord's hand.

Those seem to be the main concerns presented to me by those who choose smaller family sizes. If there is another biggie that I have missed please feel free to include that in the comment section!

Before I say anymore please let me clarify that I am not convinced that God wants everyone to have 6 or more children. My main motivation for writing this out and spurring on a discussion is because SO MANY never truly sit back, pray and seek the Lord in this area. It is the norm for a Christian couple to be counseled to put off having children a few years after they are married to "get to know each other" or "grow in their relationship" before the burden of children is put on them. Trying to decide "the perfect" time to have children is a scary thought because there is no perfect time. God uses children to grow us up and mature us in many ways. I realize that isn't the only way God matures us. It just seems like God likes to use children as a tool for growing His children. Why try to prevent that or delay it?

This IS a gray area to some extent and I understand that. There is no "thou shalt not limit the size of your family" written in His word. But I believe so much of it is about our mindset. I'm not including specific verses because it would take way too long (this is already taking up my afternoon!) but if you read throughout the Bible (especially the Psalms) you will see that children are labeled as a blessing. Do we really believe that? You will also see that the command God gave Noah (and never retracted or changed) was to "be fruitful and multiply." We've seen from the video what some of the consequences are (and will be) by not multiplying. The world would scoff at this idea, I'm sure, that having children is a godly act. Remember, it's not just having children but raising and training them to love Jesus...and to share His love with the world!

on a side note...

It is interesting to go back and discover the history of family planning in the U.S. We can learn so much about a subject by studying it's history! Who pushed this idea in our country? What were her intentions?

I want to reiterate again that although I do feel rather firm in my belief on this subject I understand that others will contemplate, pray, seek the Lord and come to a different conclusion. Really, that's ok because ultimately it is between us and the Lord. My biggest desire, as mentioned earlier, is to stimulate a discussion and for those who have never taken the time to pray about this subject objectively, would be inspired to do so. Let's discuss this very sensitive topic and may the Lord be glorified in it!

Let me end with one of my favorite quotes about children....

"Children are the luxury of marital life, the treasure of the parents, the wealth of the family life. Their presence develops a great number of virtues in the parents, the father and mother: love, devotion and self-sacrifice, the care for the future, interest in the community, the art of education. Children check selfishness in parents, reconcile the contrasts, soften the differences, bring the hearts of the parents ever closer to each other, give them a common interest that lives outside of themselves, and open their eyes and hearts to their surroundings and posterity."

-Dr. H. Barinck

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nope, not preggo.

So sorry for the mean trick I played on my last post! Sort of. I mean, I'm sorry it wasn't a nice trick but I did manage to get 19 whole readers that day! And that is quite an improvement from what I've been getting the past 5 months. I almost tried to come up with another doozy for this post (sp?) but I figure I need to space those out otherwise I won't be able to accomplish my objective (lure in readers.)

Because I am a gracious person I won't leave all 19 of you on pins and needles as to what my new "news" is (and because I have about 30 pictures to put on this post so I figure 14 of the 19 probably wouldn't make it that far!) The news is....we're heading to the States the end of the summer. For how long? Don't really know. At least 4 months. It seems like everything in our lives could be drastically changing soon! We don't really know. A lot of this began with a new policy the mission passed that (as of now) we do not feel inclined to comply with (after weeks of prayer.) We need to seek out all of our options. Our options to return to Brazil with the same mission, our options to return to Brazil with a different mission, our options to possibly take an assignment with the same mission in the U.S., our options to stay in the U.S. without being a part of a mission at all and our options to possibly join a different mission and go to a different country. That's all.

In some ways it's a scary place to be. In some ways an annoying place to be (I thought life was finally going to get somewhat predictable!) And in some ways it is a very exciting place to be. I have my own dreams and desires yet I am just praying wholeheartedly that the Lord will place on our hearts exactly what and where He would like us to be. Or if there are some options that we can choose from that we will have wisdom and unity in a choice.

We will be traveling towards the end of next week for 3 weeks or so. It will be nice to get away for a little while to reflect on all that has happened the past month! Jonathan will be taking his parents and our brother in law on a village trip to distribute some Old Testament recordings. Karis and I will get to stay with Jonathan's sister, Cristy, and her two little boys during that time! I'm looking forward to it.

So that's the big news.

Now that we have finally been able to download pictures onto the computer that were taken a few weeks ago! Karis experienced her first ever camp fire (I think her first, I am not so good about writing stuff down.) She LOVED it! She's been begging us to do it again. I hope we can before we travel next week...

Prep work. Jonathan hooking up some lights for the campfire. I don't know why. I didn't even think to ask 'til just now as I'm writing this post. Why do we need lights at a camp fire? Ah well, I'm sure there's a reason.

I think that is supposed to be a smile.

Yeah, must have been. This smile is somewhat normal.

I'm sorry this picture is sideways. It takes too long to rotate it, save it and then upload it again.

It really was fun! We used to go camping all the time before we moved here.

It took a while to convince her she could cook her nitrate laden hot-dog over the fire herself!

The child who hardly ever expresses any fear was afraid of the fire. This is a good thing, folks.

Uh oh, doesn't appear to be much fear left.

And this, my friends, is why I try very hard to always keep the camera in MY possession.

Another random note. Chief beat the odds and has conquered distemper! Now if he could survive the wrath of Jonathan as he continues to sneak into the house and destroy Karis' flip-flops. 5 pairs in less than 3 weeks. Good thing they only cost $2.50!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I'm pregnant with triplets!

Ok, just kidding but I couldn't come up with a good title so I thought I'd throw that in there for fun. Sure wish I could see or hear the reaction that title may have caused. I guess I'll just have to enjoy it via my own imagination :-)

I'm losing my readership. Really, I am. Perhaps it has something to do with the sporadic manner in which I've been posting the past 6 months. Twice a week, then once a month, then once every few months, then twice a week again. I'm not sure why but I find security in knowing I write something worth reading. Even if it is just family, the oh-so-obligated ones. The truth is, life has sort of taken over. Bloggy life was naturally put on the back burner as our days filled up with....stuff. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel!

I only have a few more weeks of Portuguese class. It has been a great blessing and has jump started my language learning in a new way, which I am very grateful for. However, having 3 1/2 hour classes twice a week is something I won't miss too much.

As my pictures take 30 minutes to load I'll go off on a slight rabbit trail. A Karis story, to be honest. Several weeks ago when Jonathan was traveling I had a friend offer to watch Karis so that I could go to Bible study (yahoo!). She was watching Karis at another friend's house whose children were already in bed. As I left I told Lita that Karis was probably going to ask for cookies but that she could only have water while I was gone (thinking that the munchkin would take advantage of the situation and do her best to convince Lita she needed lots of cookies in my absense.) However, I didn't think about the fact that Karis didn't eat very much for supper and may need something else before bedtime. So after an hour or so passed Karis began asking Lita for food but Lita wanted to respect my wishes of only giving her water so she kept turning down each and every request that Karis threw her way. After 30 minutes or so Lita saw Karis go out the front door (remember that by now it's 9pm at night and pitch black outside.) "oh, Karis, you need to come inside...don't go outside, it's dark." To which Karis replied in a pathetic & whiney voice "but I have to. I HAVE to find some food!"

My pictures have finally loaded! It is 2pm and I am just now finishing this post that began at 9:15am today....

I love this picture. They were watching soccer. This is what I would be doing myself after about 5 minutes of watching a black and white ball being kicked around a patch of grass. Brazilian soccer players do make it more interesting as they are quite dramatic when somebody so much as looks at them funny on the field. Yes, I'm done now.

Technically speaking dry season should be in full swing. Thankfully, we're still getting some rain!

Karis' new favorite thing to do is to build "airplanes" in her room. This is the most frequently built airplane.

She will crawl in there and spent up to 20 minutes sometimes just hanging out! Unfortunately this doesn't occur when I'm cooking or during a time I'd really like her to hang out underneath a pillow or two, but still, it's nice she can keep herself entertained.

And because I thought I was short on pictures this morning for this post.

Yes, this was part of a dance choreographed by the munchkin herself.

And because we're mean parents :-)

We have many changes taking place in our lives. After next week we'll have more details to share about what the future holds for the Kroeker family!