Thursday, March 27, 2008

I've angered the WASP community...

and not the two-legged Protestant variety. I'm convinced that I've singled-handedly ticked off the entire wasp population at our end of the street. These ugly creatures come out this time of year trying to find a place to build nests. For some reason the exterior of our house draws a lot of attention. It just so happens that Caroline is terrified of wasps to the point of hysterics and hyperventilation.

Being the Mama Bear protector that I am, I have made it my mission to make our little piece of Arkansas as least traumatic as possible for Caroline and kill 'em all. Over the past couple of days every time I see one I simply take my can of Wasp and Hornet spray with the 27 foot spraying range and very stealth-like sneak outside and take them out one by one. I've considered creating some kind of holster for the spray but I think it would just slow me down. These wasps are a hardy bunch and despite the spray's claim to kill on contact they sometimes require some brute force with the bottom of my shoe. This plan has been working great until today.

Today, there were so many wasps out that I had one can of spray strategically stationed at the back door and one on the front steps. I think the survivors were coming and looking for their friends. So I did what any self-respecting momma would do and I became a one-woman killing machine! I even killed one without the spray, using only my foot in what could best be described as karate-style kick upside it's beady little head. (Um, Alex, I think your headlight is ok). Now I know I like to exaggerate for effect but I must tell you that my house was actually dripping with Wasp and Hornet spray. This is NOT an exaggeration. After about an hour of battle and probably six kills (who needs Halo 3) and almost two full cans of spray, I went out to check for survivors. And I kid you not, one of the little suckers dive-bombed me and actually made contact with my arm. At this point I began frantically spraying in circles leaving myself in the middle of the "spray fall-out". All that was left to do was scream like a little girl and run inside.

I then decided to impose a cease fire for the day and barricade ourselves inside until we needed to leave for soccer. Now night fall has come and the troops are asleep (mine and theirs). I'm gearing up for battle again tomorrow. This is a battle I will win!

Simply stated: I need more Wasp spray.

Worker bee...that's me!

After being a work-at-home mom for the past 5 years, it's time to re-enter the workforce. Partly due to necessity...partly due to choice...probably more necessity.

There are so many changes in the air. It seems like for so long we were in a holding pattern of waiting. Now Maria's home and the employment restrictions with FamilyLife are no longer an issue and well, I just feel like possibilities are busting out all over. So here's what we've done.

We traded in the 1996 Suburban (a.k.a. beast, tank, camel) for a smaller, more fuel efficient 2004 Honda Pilot. I don't actually have possession yet, that happens tomorrow when Don gets back in town. We're hoping that the savings in gas will help to offset the car payment. And to be perfectly honest, I wanted a new car. Is that so wrong? I don't know. I'm kind of struggling with it. I'm a mess aren't I? I whine when I don't get what I want and feel guilty when I do.

Speaking of car payment. That's where the new job comes in. I'll be working part-time at Hobby Lobby and I'm really excited about it. I'll actually be working in the scrapbooking department. How perfect is that?! It will just be Monday evenings and Saturdays for now but when school starts (and if the job at Little Rock Christian doesn't work out), it sounds like I would be able to work more hours. I've felt for a long time that Hobby Lobby would be a great place to work. I hope this is where God will use me outside that Christian "bubble" that I've found myself in. I start Saturday!

Part of me feels a little off balance by all of these choices. Freedom to choose can be quite heady. Don't get me wrong, we loved every minute of our time at FamilyLife. However raising support did make us accountable to a whole group of people for how we spent our money and in many ways our time. It's rather refreshing to only be responsible to ourselves (and of course God, but that should go without saying).

Oops. Time to head off to soccer practice. More later!

Simply stated: I'm bringing home the bacon, baby!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter "Fun" 2008

Easter Sunday brought a visit from the Easter Bunny. Or was it the Easter Ferret? Dude, what happened to your ears?! I quess that's what happens when you spend the other 364 days of the year stuffed in the back of a '98 Jeep Cherokee.

I'm not sure which was funnier...Alex as the Easter Bunny (complete with bowling shoes) or...

the paparrazi taking pictures to use as blackmail at a time and place to be determined.

The day before Easter Maria got to decorate her first batch of Easter eggs. I was so glad Don made it home to help with this. Mommy doesn't "do" eggs or jack-0-lanterns.

Here's a picture of the "pro" getting it done!
It was a great weekend with everyone home. I realized recently that I was so concentrated on my men all being home that I'd forgotten that Maria is "home" for the first time this year. In some ways it seems like she's always been here. The pain of bringing her home is quickly becoming a distant memory.
So the whole family was together for Easter. Even better we all sat together at church. There aren't many things that make me quite as happy as when we all sit together in the same pew to worship our Risen Savior.
Simply stated: He is risen indeed!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mother of the Year I ain't!

I don't want to keep harping on the matter, but in my defense it has been a really looonnnggg 12 days without Don. I think all of us girls are getting a little weary of each other. At one point yesterday I had both of my girls in tears at the same time. Nothing says "Good job, Mommy" quite like synchronized crying.

Now, Maria is probably one of the best-behaved 6-year-olds that I know. That said, she's also a litte intense and has no idea what personal space is. Too but it mildly, she'd been up in my grill ALL day long. Finally it was 8:30...sweet, blessed bedtime. Wouldn't you know that this was the night that she pulls the old "I don't want to go to bed without sister" routine. I had two choices...let her stay up until Caroline went to bed or stick to my guns and make her go at her regular bedtime. Since later bedtimes are a privilege that comes with age, I didn't think it was fair to let Maria stay up. So the directive to head to bed was given and the hysterics began. I calmly and gently put her in bed, gave her a kiss, and left her to her misery. (Mistake #1: I decided to forego prayers because who'd be able to hear them above the tantrum.) After about 15 minutes of this nonsense I decided I'd better go in an try and settle her down. The moment I saw the tossed pillows all over I should have turned around and walked away. (Mistake #2: I went into her room anyway). Then it happened. You know, that moment when you hear the very last strand of your daily allotment of sanity go "snap." What I had intended to be calming and reassuring instead came out as what I refer to as the "crazy mommy scream". It probably measured on the richter scale. Now the poor child had a reason to cry.

I regained my composure and asked her if I could pick her up so we could talk. She sniffed a helpless little yes. (Who would say no to a crazy woman?) I explained that neither she nor mommy were getting their way and that my screaming was like her crying. Both behaviors were bad and I apologized. I reassured her that I loved her and would never hurt her. I asked if she wanted to tell me something. She smiled and looked at me through those beautiful, albeit reddened, almond-shaped eyes and said "I still love you when you scream." What unconditional love! Talk about feeling like the lowest form of life. We hugged and kissed and tucked her back into bed. We prayed that God would help both of us to act in a way that would make Him and our family happy. And that was it. She went right to sleep.

I on the other hand, slinked out of her room like the slime that I am, and berated myself for my lack of self-control. Caroline's eyes were big as saucers when I came back into the living room. I can only imagine what she thought was going on back in her bedroom.

The good news is that today is a new day and God's mercies are new each morning. Maria loves me and I love her and that's enough. God gave us to each other and hopefully in the end we'll both bring out the best in each other.

Simply stated: Everyone needs someone to love them unconditionally.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Where have all the good men gone?

I'll tell you!

Zack (oops, I mean Zak) is in Loveland, Colorado tearing up the slopes on a snowboard. He's texted me several times and it sounds like he's having fun. Even though he's seldom home, his presence is certainly missed by the Chalupka women.

Alex is back up (or is it over?) at UCA getting educated so that he can support his parents in their old age. He left to go back early this week and I have to admit it was a little lonely around here Sunday evening. Like I said before, he was a HUGE help with getting us and the Suburban where we needed to go on Sunday. I did text him last night and never heard back. O Alex, where art thou? Are you dissin' your Mom?

Don is in Minneapolis making a living so us girls can stay at home. I realized anew this morning what a luxury it is be able to be at home taking care of my family while having someone else take care of the bills and other pesky necessities. 3 more nights and he'll be home. Yipee!

So there you have it...a few good men.

Simply stated: My three men -- away from home but never far from my heart.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Telling My Story

There was way too much whining in my last post. In an attempt to redeem myself and any heavenly value that my blog may have, I'm writing this post. It's 3:00 a.m. (no more diet cokes after 6:00 p.m.!) so hopefully it makes sense.

Last week at church we were challenged by one of our pastors to share the story of how a relationship with Jesus Christ has changed our lives. I thought what a better forum than right here on my blog. I must first admit that I've been quilty of "testimony envy." Mine is not a story of a miraculous deliverance but rather one of God slowly and purposely weaving together the details of my life to bring me into a relationship with Him. Without much drama, the storyteller in me is reluctant to share my testimony. However, the challenge has been given and I can't sleep until I get it done. So, here it goes. (May God be honored.)

I come from a great family with wonderful parents and siblings. By most standards, even before following Christ, I lived a pretty ordinary and compliant life. Growing up we attended church mainly on Christmas and Easter. Those are still some of my fondest childhood memories. It was such a treat to put on our new "church clothes" and parade up the street as a family to the Baptist church that sat right in our own backyard. The best times were when I would get to sit next to my dad and play with his hands and wedding band during the service. We would also attend church when visiting my Grammy Mary. She was the one who taught me to sing from the hymnal. Hymns like In the Garden and He Lives will always remind me of Grammy. One summer we got to attend Vacation Bible school while visiting. I thought it was the best thing ever! And I can remember like it was yesterday helping Grammy prepare communion for her church. Grammy would allow me to pour the diluted grape juice into those "cute little glasses" using an old, graped-stained watering can. Although at the time I didn't realize the significance of the communion service, I somehow knew that it was hugely important. Just reflecting back on these sweet memories brings a lump of emotion to my throat as I realize how even as a child, God was drawing me to Him through those precious times spent in His house.

Fast forward to high school. Let's just say that this was not a great time for me. I had no friends. Nope, not a one. I was one sad and lonely adolescent. My mom took matters into her own hands (thanks, Mom!) and had me invited to Youth Group at that same Baptist church right in our own backyard. Again, I loved being in God's house with His people. It just felt right. It was there that I met many friends (including my future husband) and best of all, my Savior. I was baptized in October 1980. I wish I could say that from that moment on I followed God and grew in my faith. Truth be told, I was too busy with the social part of church to really focus on God. Reminds me of the parable of the seeds. Even though the seed of my faith sprouted and probably looked pretty healthy for a while, there were too many years of shallow roots until finally my walk withered away all together and Don and I weren't even attending church anymore. Those lost years of fellowship and growth with the Lord still grieve me so.

But God wasn't about to let me go. He did let Don and I head our own way for a while but like any good Father He also let us deal with the natural consequences of our actions. For us this meant the loss of our business, bankruptcy, and one financial disaster after another. Like most children, when the going got too rough I went running back to the Father for comfort and guidance. That's when the roots went down deep and really took hold. I'm so grateful for those horrible, awful days! That's also when I really committed to grow in my faith and allow God to begin the process of molding me into the person He wants me to be. I haven't regretted a day since.

I don't know if others saw the change in me but in my mind it has been dramatic. I still have such a long way to go but I know from where I came. I can tell you that my faith in God has freed me from a lifestyle of worry. I know that God is in control and can handle things way better than I ever could. It has empowered me to honor and respect my husband, seeing him as God's gift for me, rather than nag and criticize him. It helps me to judge people less and love people better which in turn allows me to do the same for myself. My faith has taken me far beyond myself to places like Little Rock, Arkansas and farther still, Guatemala. It is allowing me to love my children with reckless abandon while at the same time confidently releasing them to His care and plan for their lives. My faith gives me strength for today, hope for tomorrow, and security for eternity!

I don't know what my life would look like without my faith. I can only speculate and what I can imagine is truly sobering.

Simply stated: Thank you, God!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Blogging Blues

Don is 7 days into his 12 day trip and there just seems to be no time or even more accurate, no motivation, to blog. There's the obvious time issue with myself being the sole caretake for the girls all day, everyday. And with them both being homeschooled (or "unschooled" as we have been calling it these days) there is never a break. Just a trip to the bathroom without Maria knocking on the door would be a welcome treat. Throw in the additional household chores (can I just tell you how much I hate taking out the trash. Don's going to have a cow when he sees where I put the trash cans to make it "more convenient!"), keeping track of Zack, the addition of 3 nights of soccer, hours spent updating my resume and references, cleaning out closets for spring and my usual schedule is shot.

Not to mention that when Don's away everyone is a little out of sorts. Maria says her heart feels empty. It reminds me of when you were a child and your best friend would go on vacation and you would mope around the house thinking that you wouldn't survive until they returned. I realize when Don is away how much his presence in the house gives me a confidence and a purpose that I otherwise don't possess. Is that good? I don't know. But after 27 years together it's just the way it is.

I was joking with Don's dad and mom the other day that it has been so nice that nothing had broken in his absence. Ooops, I spoke to soon. After church today the Suburban wouldn't start. Fortunately, Alex was there to get us where we needed to go and AAA was just a phone call away to have the beast towed (and yes, I checked the's fine). I want a new car! My friend Cindy reminded me that I am supposed to be content. What's up with that? I may be in the market for a new best friend!

Maybe when Don comes home on Friday I'll have something fun to say. For now I think I'll just go to bed and get ready to start another day. Hopefully, we'll make it through the night with no bed wetting or thunderstorms so I can actually sleep by MYSELF!

Simply stated: Come home, Don!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Flaming Forks!

Today was Alex's 19th birthday (Yes, we've had 3 birthdays in a week!). We celebrated with a steak dinner followed by Alex's favorite, Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. On Maria's post you got the traditional "cake" shot. Not so with Alex. Instead we have the not so traditional, or safe, or even normal lighting of the plastic fork. It was cute for awhile until little black specs of burnt plastic starting flying everywhere and landing on my light fixtures. Finally, someone had the presence of mind to voice concern over the link between burning plastic and cancer? Hmmm, notice the plumes of dark smoke...cough...cough!

I was truly tickled by the whole flaming fork thing and I thought that we may have just created the next great exclamatory remark. You could use the phrase in a sentence like..."Flaming forks, it's cold outside!" So long "holy cow" more "leaping lizards"...make room for "flaming forks!" Alex says it won't catch on. We'll see.

But I digress...the day started with the realization that for the first time in 19 years I didn't get to wake Alex up with a happy birthday greeting. A text message had to suffice. It made me a little sad but knowing that he was coming home for dinner helped take away some of the sting. I also think 19 sounds so old, which means I'm old enough to have a 19-year-old. (Here's where the reader should think with awe and wonder "Wow, she sure doesn't look old enough to have a son who's 19!) I have to be careful what I write here because Alex will read my post, but can I just tell you what a wonderful young man Alex has turned in to. I won't gush but I do know that this mom couldn't be more proud. Happy birthday, Alex.

Simply stated: Flaming forks! I'm getting old!

Maria's "1st" Birthday!

Maria and Caroline modeling Maria's new Curious George raincoat and umbrella.
Caroline, Maria's friend Elizabeth, and Maria at her birthday (church) dinner.
Maria with all of her Calico Critters.
Maria's 6th birthday was yesterday but since this was her first birthday with us I've posted the traditional 1st birthday cake photo. We had her birthday dinner at church where we always eat on Wednesday night (hence Maria is wearing her Awana vest) and treated all who attended to a slice of Maria's cake. The sweetest moment was when we stood her on a chair and asked our church family to join with us in signing happy birthday to her. I don't know what was going through her head but she got a little teary-eyed and seemed a bit overwhelmed. I hope what she was thinking was "Wow, this is all for me. I sure feel loved." She had so many people come up to her and wish her a happy birthday and with each greeting she would give a truly heartfelt thank you. Some of her friends even brought gifts! The snow coming in tonight could be threatening her Tea Party on Saturday but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. Either way, I think she had a great birthday.
To think, last year at this time she was having an uneventful day in Guatemala. I asked her if she'd ever had a birthday party and she said "no." So many firsts for a little person to soak in.
I actually thought that her birthday would "feel" more significant than it did. But now that I reflect back on the day, it just seemed really natural. She's just one of the gang!
Simply stated: What a difference a year makes!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What is up with the weather?

This is what we woke up to this morning. Saturday and Sunday were sunny and 70 degrees and now we have snow. This doesn't help when we're trying to explain the seasons to Maria! The powers that be didn't delay school so Zack headed of with a little peephole for a windshield and called a few minutes later to say the roads were a mess. He was stopping for gas so he could put the car in 4-wheel drive (nothing will put Zack in a bad mood faster than having to pay $3.19 for gas). He called Don a few minutes later to give Don a play-by-play description of the cars taking turns going down Chenal Hill so they didn't slide into each other. Zack went down in the grass on the shoulder. Needless to say the girls and I are staying in this morning. It should be fine in a couple of hours for our afternoon activities. If I don't get out to get my haircut I might just lose my mind! Maria is supposed to have her first soccer practice at 6:00. We'll see how that goes.

Arkansas weather is kind of like my moods these days. Sunny one minute...stormy the next. I don't know what's going on with my hormones but I think they are all over the place. At least the rest of the family has grown up with "mommy dearest". Poor Maria probably thinks..."This is NOT what I signed up for! I want the nice lady back." This too shall pass.

Simply stated: It's a good it's a bad it's a good it's a bad day. You get the picture! :)


Monday, March 3, 2008

Maria's Lifebook

I had to take a break from blogging for a few days to work on Maria's Lifebook. In the adoption community these books are a popular and helpful way to share with your child the story of how she joined your family. Most people scrapbook them but I'm much handier with a computer so I did Maria's on Shutterfly. If anyone wants the link to see it, let me know and I'll send it to you.

I think I've probably spent about 25 hours on it over the past 4 days (explains the sleep deprivation!). But it had to be done, for several reasons. First, time is flying by. Maria has already been home for 6 months. I needed to preserve the memories while they were still fresh.

Second, we received Maria's files from the U.S. immigration authories. These documents included many details of her life that we didn't know. They were heart-wrenching to read and too private to share. Some day she'll know the details. In the meantime we needed a tool to regularly and purposely shed a positive light on her journey. One that, like most adoptions, was born out of pain and loss.

Finally, our precious girl turns six on Wednesday. Although the book won't be here by then, at least the work is done. She's getting older and the questions will be coming. I hope that this book will help her realize that her story, although different from most children's, is not bad. It was all part of her Creator's plan for her life.

Maria's journey home was certainly a long and often emotionally treacherous leading us straight to the edge of ourselves. I've always thought it would be nice to have a roadmap of our journeys laid out for us. I know now that God, in His mercy, only reveals the details on a need to know basis. Otherwise, we would never leave the driveway for fear of the road that lies ahead. I'm so glad we traveled this road.

Simply stated...the journey was rough but the destination...glorious!