Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Blessings in the Gaps

first day of our fall semester and the kids school bucks
I'll be honest--we've all kind of been dreading this summer a bit.  Each of us in the Joseph family had several things that we were concerned about and maybe even a bit anxious over, and yet I am thrilled to report that rather than experiencing our worst-case scenarios, we've been blessed to see provision and joy in the midst of the "gaps"--the things in life that we thought would be missing or difficult to endure.  Here's a brief account...
So many of the kids' friends are not here this summer (in fact, literally none of the western kids within 5 years of their ages are within an hour of our home!) that everyone was thinking it could feel really lonely.  But we have been so blessed to see the provision of new friends and reconnecting with old, as well as unexpected friends who cover a wide age range.  Through baseball, the kids have met a few Korean families with kids who are also their ages, and these kids are just phenomenal!  They are super polite and respectful and fun to be around, and even though they are all in the 10-14 year age range, they are really inclusive of all my kiddos (even Noah, who has a tendency to be a BIG personality who likes to smother older kids whenever he gets the chance!).  They've also had their best local friend, Bob, home from the soccer academy for the summer, so they're getting hours of outdoor activity with this kind young man.  And it's great language practice, too!  The kids have also been able to not only serve some of the families in our community with smaller kids, but also have really enjoyed playing with quite a few younger ones--kids in the age range of 1-6 years old.  It has been an absolute delight to me to see all four of mine growing in their caretaking abilities and their desire to help out with the little ones.  There aren't many babysitting options where we are, so to be able to give parents a break occasionally by watching their toddlers is something that is greatly appreciated in this community.  I often wonder what it would be like if we were in Dallas where it seems like so many kids are only interested in playing with their peers.  Would my kids have the same willingness (and even enthusiasm) to engage with younger kids in play for hours on end?  In addition to older and younger kids, my kids have also had the unexpected blessing of young adults who have made an intentional investment in them.  There were two young men who came for 6 weeks this summer to help out with the baseball company, and then there have been several friends of friends traveling through our part of the country as tourists who we've gotten to spend time with over some meals.  It's been so fun to see our kids getting to interact with these "young people" (mainly college-aged, and I'm embarrassed to admit, are also now closer to my kids' ages than they are to mine! yikes!  how did that happen?!!!).  There are also a few younger couples here in our community who have really pursued our kids and getting to know them as the young men and women they are becoming.  One of my friends with a toddler had her husband away for business for a week and a half, and during that time Karis went over and would just hang out with her and chat it up.  When her water went out for several days, Eli convinced his friends a couple of times that it would be really cool to go over and help haul water in buckets back to her apartment.  It was pretty sweet to see the way their developing friendship with this young couple has been such a mutual blessing to both parties!
our "gym"
my boys as babysitters

When Kevin and I decided not to compete in the triathlon this year, we agreed that having a goal to work toward in our exercise was still a good thing.  So when two of our western friends here decided to start Crossfit, and when one of the husbands/coaches agreed to start a women's group, we signed up!  I convinced my three boys (who really wanted to participate) that it was okay for them to be a part of the ladies' group (and gave them permission to do regular push-ups rather than girly ones).  Kevin would love to join in the action, but with his back so messed up after years of baseball, there's really no way.  He threw it out the last time just by opening a jar of olives for me, so the straining and jarring of Crossfit is just not a good "fit" for him (haha!).  I never dreamed that we would all enjoy it so much!  The group meets 3 times a week and we love every bit of it--the camaraderie from exercising together, using new muscles I didn't think I had, meeting new local friends.  Karis is the one in our family who is much more drawn to the fine arts than she is to physical activity, so she has opted out of the Crossfit exercise regiment.  However, she has been an incredible blessing to our coach and his wife, watching their 1 1/2 year old so the wife can work out while the husband coaches in 3 languages!  Everyone wins!  And Noah has taken a real liking to this precious little boy--they even have matching Wednesday uniforms for the work out, as shown in the photo!

baseball camp in the mountains
Last summer was overwhelming with the heat.  There was a period of about a month where we just felt uncomfortable ALL the time.  We thought with the desert dry heat that we would at least get some reprieve in the evenings after the sun went down, but whether we were just ignorant or if it was a circulation problem within our apartment, I'm not sure.  Either way, we couldn't get a break from it.  There was over a week of above 100 degree temps, and we couldn't get it down below 86 in our apartment.  Couple that with it not being appropriate to wear shorts (for either men or women) or tank tops, and let me tell ya, we were feeling the heat.  I'm thrilled to share that this summer has NOT been that way at all!  There are only two days that I've accounted for the temperature being over 100, and we've actually really enjoyed the weather outside, allowing us to make full use of the freedom in our schedules that summer brings.

While last summer's schedule with baseball was grueling for Kevin, this summer was much more manageable.  Rather than doing baseball 6 mornings a week, they dropped it down to 3 times a week instead.  That, along with the cooler temperatures and the two young men who were in town to help, made the job so much less fatiguing!  Kevin's company was also able to coordinate several games with college players and alumni teams, one of which the boys were even able to play in due to a shortage of players on the field.  It made for some fun memories for everyone involved!
Hud and Trapper

Noah and Trapper--same same
Really, this comes down to just one pet--our cat, Trapper.  I know I've said it before, but I'm still astounded at the gift he is to our family.  Coming from a family of dog lovers, and thinking that cats should remain outdoors most of the time, having a cat in an apartment has been an eye-opening experience for me.  I never dreamed that these small creatures, who can be so nasty when they're "bad" ones, could be such active participants in a family's daily routine.  Trapper amazes me with his patience with the kids as he gets dragged around, used as Nerf gun target practice, and yanked on by the numerous toddlers who come through our door.  He stands at the kids' door in the morning, meowing impatiently until they are out and ready to play for the day.  He follows them around, interested in every new activity they begin.  He literally plays tag with them around the living room, darting out in sneak attack and whopping them with his paw (claws not extended), then darting away again.  Talk about a bright spot in light of the fact that our hope in coming was to get a dog, and we felt like a cat was "settling" for something much less desired.
Hud with his chicken foot

Ice Cream and Chicken Feet
green pea ice cream
This subtitle says it all.  Who would have thought that my kids would grow to love green pea ice cream?!  And chewing on chicken feet would be not only fun, but a tasty treat as well?!  Leave it to living overseas and the continual surprises that brings, but we've obviously enculturated to the extent that our diet has broken out of the typical American norm.  Seven years here and we're eating things I never dreamed we would.  Who knows how broad our horizons might expand over the next seven more!