Language School. Check.

Language school is done. Maybe you read that sentence with a sense of hebetude, but please don’t allow yourself to be fooled for those four simple words have left me nothing but elated as I transfer from a life of chaos and survival to a life of quietude and thriving growth.

Two and a half years have passed since we landed in China. We spent two months trying to establish our home and become familiar with our surroundings before language school were to begin. Not long after moving into our home, the courses began and I, completely oblivious to the heartache to come, was chomping at the bit to get started. The first few weeks of language school give a false sense of confidence as one breezes through characters and learns the simplest of words and phrases. Although simple, however, those very words are the words that transform a person from being a captive, tied down and trapped by a lack of understanding, to being a free and functioning member of society. “Free” and “functioning” are relative terms. Beginning as someone who comprehended zilch to a person who could buy their own vegetables and say “good morning” can indeed be defined as “freeing.”

Those weeks of bliss come to a grinding halt as that first semester reaches it’s halfway point. All of that confidence and energy turns into self-doubt and weariness. The Lord’s strength is truly the only thing that can help to maintain any amount of sanity during the three and a half semesters to follow. God knew I would need a good husband and cute kids to pull me through. Every time someone would kindly “correct” me or giggle at my mistakes, I would try to remind myself that they were helping and that this was all a part of the process. Just keep trying Beth. Practice makes perfect. Laugh at yourself. It’s ok! When my little pep talks didn’t work I’d wait until I had a private moment with Neal and I would pour out my frustration. He was always kind, patient and as understanding as a “half-Chinese” person could be. My other resort was to spend time with my girls. They always brought smiles and helped me to forget my language struggles.

The final stretch of school concluded as I walked down an empty hall, listening to my boots click on the tiled floor and watching the lights flicker on as I walked along. The classroom was empty as I had arrived thirty minutes early for my last. exam. ever. I sighed and thought, I won’t miss this. Students wandered in, the teacher arrived, we wrote our test and then it was over. One final flurry of characters, sentences and racking my brain for the right words came and went. The other students worried about their grade, talked about their plans for the break and took pictures with each other. I gave a little squeal and might’ve jumped up and down for a second as I kissed the work, pressure and tears of the last two and a half years goodbye. No one understood my relief, nor would I have expected them too. It was my private victory, a small part to a bigger plan. It was the breaking down of what had been the largest hindrance to our ministry in China. It was getting to spend all day every day as wife and mom.

All of that behind me, I am officially, by definition, a stay-at-home mom. Last Thursday was the beginning of this stage of life, a stage that I pray will last a long, long time. Friday Lois jumped up on the couch with me. It was ten o’clock and we were still in our pajamas because we had nowhere to be. Nowhere to be? Whaaa?` She looked up at me, blanket crumpled in her arms and asked, “Mommy, will you read me this book?” My throat expanded as I unhesitatingly replied, “Of course!” Oh, the beauty of a peaceful moment at home reading books with my babies. How I’ve longed for this time. How I’ve longed for these moments. The last week has been a giddy time for me. Every morning I talk with my girls while enjoying a cup of coffee. I always laugh at their silliness and soak up their soft little cuddles.

Lois is learning and growing faster than I can blink. She “translates” for me, herself and anyone who cares. She listens and remembers everything. The other day she was sliding down her indoor slide (that her daddy bought for her that I was totally not as enthusiastic about) and after climbing up the two rungs of the slide she looked at me, grunting and breathless and said, “I’m just working on my motor-skills.” Apparently she’s heard me tell people that Lois has good speaking skills and Abigail has good motor skills and she decided to close that gap! She tells me at least ten times a day that I’m beautiful and her favorite thing is to be chased by mommy. She doesn’t very well like my “zombie” impression though.

Abigail is 18 months and speaks a handful of Chinese words and a handful of English words, none of which are especially articulate. She seemingly understands everything that we say to her. I asked Neal if there was anything I should do to help her speed up the speaking process. He said, “She’s a kid growing up with two languages. This is normal.” Normal. She’s processing a lot in that little brain and she always prates in her own dialect while I answer back in English. We understand each other. Abigail is a joy to be around. She has a smile a mile wide and when she hears anything that resembles a cry her brows etch deep into her face and she points in the direction of the pitiful sound. Sorry for the character sketch, but I’m loving my babies!

I have a lot to look forward to and I can do it with the ability to speak to people and understand what is going on around me. I’ve put in my time and there is nothing more rewarding than confidently following my husband toward what the Lord has called us to. Goodbye language school. Hello to the rest of our lives!

 

Ordinary Days

Days pass here. It’s just like anywhere in the world. They come with frustrating moments and mundane tasks. I spill nail polish remover on my dresser and burn my clothes with the iron. I teach a two-year-old how not to pick her nose and remind her every day that God made her and that He loves her. It’s nothing out of the ordinary or surprisingly different. We still face the same challenges and responsibilities that we would if we lived in North America.

We also have the oridinary “china” days. The other day I rode my bike passed an old man just as he was putting a finer on one nostril and blowing hard out the other. A large “wad” flew out and onto the ground. He proceeded to wipe his nose with his sleeve and kept on walking. I turned my handle bars just in time to miss the slimy present he left in my path. My first thought was, “winter’s here”. Somehow, the whole scene didn’t even phase me. It was just another ordinary day.

I have crying days too. I caught myself choking up while I was talking to my parents the other day. Dad was talking about his recent trip to Costco and mom went on about all the presents she had to wrap. She showed me her pile. I’m a solid witness… it was huge. They rambled on about their toasty fireplace and early morning coffee. All at once I wanted to be there. I wanted to feel my toes warming up on the warm bricks of the hearth. I wanted to curl ribbons with mom and try peeking in all my boxes. I wanted to walk up every aisle of Costco with dad and just be together. I quickly turned my iPad camera to face Abigail while I wiped tears off of my cheeks. I put my brave face back on and continued talking.

I was asked recently what it was like when Iam with all of my siblings. I replied, “It’s like there’s only one person in the room. We don’t explain anything. We can finish each other’s sentences. We find the same things funny and sometimes laugh when there’s nothing to laugh at.” I was thankful. Thankful and homesick. The ache just comes. My mother-in-law recently told me that when I got engaged to Neal, my sister, who was in China with us at the time, said, “This is the best day of my life.” I smiled, knowing it was just like my sister. All I could think to say was, “I miss her so much.” The words “so much” came out painfully and diluted with tears. I knew I was blessed to have a sister who thought my engagement day was the best day of her life. It truly is a hard time of the year to be so far away.

I recently face-timed with my family as they celebrated my nephews birthday party. Everyone was there. Everyone but us. Lois couldn’t get enough of it. She kept saying, “I go your house?” to every aunt, uncle and grandparent. She couldn’t handle being on the wrong side of the iPad. I watched her little face stare at the presents and food and family and wished I could put her there and let her be a part of it.

These moments are hard and yet, for every hundred of these comes a moment that takes your breath away as you watch God work and move.

One evening we had some friends over at our house and they brought a couple of young ladies with them. They were Christian ladies who wanted to learn and grow. Neal talked with them for a while and I listened quietly. He began talking with them about the Bible and soon retrieved one from his office. They had read the Bible before, but they’d only been in contact with the government-church produced Bible. Neal soon placed his Bible in the hands of one of the young ladies. She took it carefully. Her eyes lit up as she gently slid her hand over the cover. She scooted to the edge of her seat and began to flip through the pages. She couldn’t drink in the words fast enough. Her eyes darted back and forth as she read as fast as her eyes would allow.  I was moved as I watched her cherish the Word of God. It was so precious to her. It was so powerful. It was the essence of the reason we are here. It was a moment worth every tear that ever slid down my cheek.

Another moment came just a few days ago while visiting with a girl whom Lois and I have befriended. She is someone that God just put in my path. We’ve kept in touch and I’ve never been shy or discreet about my Christian life or my belief in God. She has recently been married and she wanted to introduce her husband to me. It was a Sunday evening and the girls and I were exhausted from a long, busy day, but nevertheless, we welcomed them into our home and visited for several hours. Neal was busy at the time and so I spoke (in my very insufficient second language) for close to four hours. My brain was hurting and Abigail was especially cranky and distracting. Neal finally made it home through traffic and the six of us enjoyed a meal together. After we ate they talked with Neal about everything they had just talked with me about. This time, instead of it taking four hours, it took about thirty minutes. Neal’s Chinese is a little lot better than mine. The worth-it-all moment came when they simply and sincerely asked Neal, “What would we have to do to become Christians?” Neal began to answer them and for several minutes neither of them spoke a word. They just stared and intently listened.I watched their countenance change as they were confronted with the reality of God’s love for the very first time. I’ve never seen it before. The Word of God fell on fresh ears and instead of having that look of I’ve heard it before, they sat in astonishment as they were given the greatest news that man has ever heard.

And those are the moments we work for. Moments like these brief happenings are what make those ordinary days so worth it.

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How He Does It

I’ve been asked, “How do you do it?”

I’ve been told, “I know I could never do that.”

I’ve even been called “Strong.”

So what exactly is all this heroic stuff that we do?

It’s hugging your sister on the driveway and not wanting to let go because you know she’s the last one to be hugged. The others have already left and she’s the last one you’ll see for a long time. The hug itself is more of a desperate cling. You bury your face into her shoulder and say nothing. You simply both stand there clinging… and shaking from the sobs… and sniffling. Then you let go and silently watch them pack up the car and drive off… and you cry some more, only this time you’re standing alone with your arms wrapped around your stomach. You cry because every childhood memory plagues you at that very moment. You cry because every argument wasn’t worth it. You cry because you love your family and each member takes a little piece of your heart with them.

It’s watching your child poke and kiss an ipad as opposed to a real face. It’s watching your little girl learn “peek-a-boo” via facetime. She literally runs into the living room when she hears the familiar ringing on the ipad. She know what it means. She knows “gamma” or “papa” will be on the other end… if not one of her aunties and cousins. It’s heart wrenching at times. People tell me that “technology is so wonderful”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “just imagine if you were a missionary a hundred years ago…”. I know I know, they had it much worse than I do. I know I know, technology is wonderful. But whether a hundred years ago or yesterday, the ache is still there and I am still on the other side of the world. And so is my little girl.

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It’s calling your dear sweet friend and telling her that you wish you could be there for her birthday to make a cake for her. It’s knowing she’s spending the day aching for her husband and not being able to give a hug or take her out for dinner. It’s knowing you’re too far. Much too far.

It’s waking up on Christmas morning to the sound of car horns honking while 20 million Beijingers head to work, school or anywhere else they wish to go. It’s being the only one to stay home and dive into a stocking or pull the strings off your gifts while the special day goes over-looked and unnoticed by those around you. It’s studying for your class the next day because, let’s face it, you still have school in spite of the fact that the culture you grew up in would’ve taken two weeks off school! It’s being a weirdo with a massive tree and lights inside your house.

It’s spending far too much time and money to dig your teeth into a fat, juicy, beef burger. A manly burger. It’s even letting the juice run down your chin while you embrace the moment.

It’s watching olympic curling for four hours straight because that’s all that’s on. But, no worries, it’s all in Chinese, making it that much more thrilling. It’s turning that event into a house party and inviting your friends over for tacos and cookies. It’s waking up the next morning to find out that once again, the Chinese’ favorite olympic sport is still in session and yes, CCTV 5 has curling on… again, to satisfy all your curling needs.

It’s having a home that none of your family has seen or had dinner in.

It’s jumping in the air over a single card received because someone remembered, they remembered that you were so far away.

And how exactly is it done?

My answer: it’s only by God’s perfectly awesome amazing grace. He does it. Not me. It’s not about my capabilities, for they are few, but it is about His omnipotence and His willingness to use me. As for being strong, I’m not. I cry like the rest and probably more. I struggle and strive to learn, but still forget sometimes. I make mistakes and then spend a day moping about it. No, I’m not strong. He is. And that is how He does it.

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*Check out my poetry page for a challenging poem by my one and only brother.

When Reality Hits

It’s not like a wave that gives you ample time to prepare to brace yourself against it. It doesn’t loom and roll and crest before making it’s final foaming crash. You can’t see it coming.

It’s more like thunder during a storm. It crashes all around you in a surprise event. It catches you off guard and shakes your world in a matter of moments.

It hits when you aren’t expecting it: reality.

The first time it reared it’s unexpected head was before we left North America. I had spent the day at the park with my sisters and their kids. I helped my niece climb every ladder to the very top rung. I watched Lois smile and clap as my sister gently pushed her in the swing and talked sweetly to her. I gave my nephew the world’s best under-doggie as only Aunt Beth can do.

As we strolled away, reality hit. I will never do this again. That had been my last time to take a trip to the park with my family. Lois wouldn’t grow up playing with her cousins as I had always assumed she would. Time with my sisters would no longer be readily available. I was leaving. Leaving for good. I put on my brave face and swallowed the lump in my throat.

The next unexpected crash didn’t occur until after we were in China. I was video-chatting with a friend about the simple things in life. I told her about our apartment and she told me about work. She told me about the bulletin board by her desk. She told me she would put our picture there and tell everyone about her friend in China. I cried. I won’t be the lunch-date friend anymore. I’ll be the picture… the one that sits on the desk and gets talked about. The face that never actually gets seen. 

These moments just hit.

I love my life here. I’m sincerely the happiest I’ve ever been. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. That doesn’t mean that I don’t hurt sometimes. Leaving did hurt. Leaving does hurt. Hug after hug tore my heart out. More than once I felt a physical pain for having to say good-bye.

These little epiphanies continue to happen as I realize my life has changed forever.

My friendships consist of smiles and hand gestures.

I have no Wal-Mart(But I do have a Wu Mart) 

Nobody even noticed that I’m wearing different make-up. 

Ground beef is a thing of the past.

Along with these moments, and in greater supply, are the moments I realize the abundant blessings we are and will be receiving. Many of them I can’t express in this blog, but they are real and worth it. Two of these blessings involve an elderly lady (who we have adopted as Lois’ Chinese grandmother) and a teen-age boy. Their “forever” has been changed for the better and that alone has been worth every good-bye, every missed birthday and every memorable moment that would have been.

So, these moments are just that: moments. They come and pass. Just like thunder, they crack and then they are over. And once gone, the sun shines again.

I was writing this blog late Tuesday night. Suddenly our internet stopped working and we haven’t had it back until today. I didn’t know while I was writing it that a dear friend of mine, Joel,  was in an accident in Holland. I did the math with the time change and realized that he probably died in the same hour that I wrote these words.

I re-read my blog post today and realized how petty it was. I came to the realization that life is short and we only get one shot at it. I scolded myself for having cried over my “problems” and thanked God for the awesome privilege of just being His child.

Joel’s wife, Collette is one of my nearest and dearest. She has stood by Joel’s side and been an example to me. She has shown wisdom beyond her years and she has encouraged me more than I’ll ever be able to express.

colletteThe reality is that she has taught and will continue to teach me. The reality is that I have nothing to complain about. The reality is that I need to stop these little pity parties. The reality is that we’re blessed. The reality is that next time a little “moment” pops up, I’ll remind myself of Joel and Collette and how much serving Jesus really matters. In light of that, everything else fades to almost nothing.

Reality is that Joel would’ve counted it a privilege to die in Holland.

Reality is that he lived his dream and today he’s in Heaven with his Creator… and that is a beautiful reality.

The Calm

Growing up with five siblings provided for a bustling home. There was never a moment when I was the only person in the house! I’ve almost always shared a room with one of my sisters. I got accustomed to being around people all the time, and I loved every second of it. If Jess and I weren’t playing dolls in our room, I was out in the backyard playing catch with dad or at the kitchen table getting my craft on with people constantly coming and going. To this day I cannot remember a spending a birthday without a bunch of family and friends around. There was always a cake with lots of candles and never any leftovers. Even last year when Neal and I were first married my birthday landed on the day that we took our annual family and friends trip to Canada’s Wonderland. It was perfect. Being surrounded by the people that I loved was the best gift of all.

This year was my quarter century birthday. We spent it in Tennessee! Dad and Mom Ray have gone back to China along with Ben and Zach. Neal and I have had the house to ourselves since we’ve been back. It was almost eerie the first day we were here. There were no doors opening and closing, no cars coming and going, no basketball games playing on the tv and no bustling in the kitchen. We soon adjusted to the quiet by running errands and getting together with friends. The most unusual feeling, however, came on my birthday. I woke up to a quiet house with Neal still sleeping soundly. Where was everyone? He fluttered his eyes and whispered a sweet “Happy Birthday” to me. Before long my Facebook page came alive with birthday wishes and ecards were sent to my email. My sister even posted a video of my niece and nephew singing to me! Neal made me breakfast and he even whipped up a cake! I was impressed. At one point he ran out and came back with a perfect purple orchid. He knows I love purple. It was special. I basically relaxed in the sun all day and checked my phone every time it buzzed with a new notification of a birthday wish. It was quiet and peaceful and completely out of the norm for me! It wasn’t bad in any way, just different… special. Next year I will have a little baby to keep things lively and loud and for the rest of my life things will continue to be loud and busy. This year was just a special treat. I spent my birthday entirely with Neal. I smiled and thought, This IS my family. My whole family is right here with me. My husband and my baby are making this day as perfect as all the rest! It was unforgettable.

I learned that although I wasn’t surrounded by six or eight family members, I was a blessed girl. Blessed to HAVE that many family members who loved me. Blessed to be sent so many hugs and notes. Blessed to have a husband who spoils me rotten! Blessed to have my own little family of three. Blessed to start new traditions. Blessed to look forward to many more bustling birthdays with my own children.

This year was simply the transition year. It was the calm that made me reflect on the blessed life I’ve had and to anticipate the blessed life I will have. It was the perfect birthday and probably the only one I will ever have with just Neal. That makes it invaluable! So this one’s going in the books as record-breaking!

And don’t worry… after Prayer meeting we had some friends from church come over to the house and help us polish off some cake and ice cream. (That was after I’d had time to conclude that this quiet birthday was one I will remember forever as one of the sweetest, most perfect birthdays ever.)

Dedicated to my handsome, loving husband who I will forever cherish.

A Life

A baby. A perfect gift from God. I can’t explain how Neal and I felt when we first discovered there was a little life growing inside of me. We were excited. We were blessed. I was… exhausted and nauseous! The reason for my desire to sleep all day, every day became clear. I couldn’t figure out what my problem was. An hour after waking up I would feel the need to crawl back under the covers and drift off. The only comfort to feeling that sick was knowing that it was for a good cause! We booked an appointment at our local clinic and struggled to keep our secret. We were like little kids whispering back and forth and knowingly smiling at one another throughout the day. Everyone else was oblivious, but it was precious to be the only two people in the world who knew what we knew.
That first appointment came. I was lucky to have had the time and energy to splash some make-up on my face before heading out the door. We met with the doctor and our joyful news was confirmed. Our baby was already six weeks old. It wasn’t long before the doctor had a slight cause for some concern. I was sent for an ultrasound to double-check. I had no idea what to expect. I’ve never been pregnant before! Neal joined me in the ultrasound room. The nurse there was kind and she began the process. A little picture showed up on the wall and I just stared. She moved the picture around to look for any problems. I couldn’t tell what we were looking at. It was like a TV channel that had gone fuzzy. Before I knew it the nurse began to place little dots on the screen. they surrounded a tiny bean in the center of a small circle. I clued in! “Is that my baby?” She answered in the positive. I cried, “It’s so cute! It’s so small!” Again, she began placing tiny dots on the screen. This time they were surrounding a tear-drop sized circle that seemed to be moving. “What’s that?” The heart. My babies heart. It was moving and pumping blood through his (generic term) tiny little body. More tears came as Neal and I absorbed what we were seeing. I kept asking him, “Do you see it? Isn’t it cute?” Soon we heard a tiny pitter patter. It caught me quite by surprise. We were only expecting to have a doctor tell us what we already knew, but there we were in a whimsical moment drinking in the reality of our new family member. I whispered my amazement, “It’s a miracle. My little baby already has it’s own heart and blood.” The nurse never found any problems and I praise the Lord for that. We left as happy parents.
Life is a miracle. It is a gift, and it begins when that tiny bean is still inside. The Bible says that “life is in the blood.” When a baby has blood at six weeks (and even earlier), it has life. IT IS a life. I later said to Neal, “How could anyone see something like that and say it’s not a life?”
The weeks dragged on and every day was filled with nausea and exhaustion. My appetite was nowhere to be found and sleep was my best friend! I’ve never vomited, but I always feel like it! BUT, the Lord knew what He was doing. With our amount of traveling, I wouldn’t want to be vomiting in the car, on the side of the road, and definitely not in a strangers home! The nausea I can deal with. One Wednesday night I simply did not have the energy to get up out of our car. We had just pulled into a church parking lot for our final meeting in a conference, but my stomach was raging! I simply pulled a pillow and blanket from the back seat (I never go on a road trip without these key items) and snuggled up with heels and all! I slept right through that service, but I was thankful I wasn’t vomiting in the church bathroom! The Lord timed it perfectly and I’m starting to come out of the first trimester with more strength! I still haven’t been able to get over how God has blessed us. I feel my child’s personality already. Maybe it’s in my head… or maybe not. I keep telling people that my “inner woman” is telling me we’re having a boy. Neal insists it’s a girl. Again, my “inner woman” is telling me that he’s just saying that to keep me from expecting a boy. Either way, he/she is ours and we will LOVE him/her!
I’m open to advise from women who have had children. Someone told me to drink red raspberry tea! It’s supposed to strengthen the uterus and help with a smooth labour. I’ve been drinking it every day! My sister told me to use bio oil to strengthen my skin and avoid stretch marks. I’m giving it a try. (Can’t hurt right?) Also, a friend told me that she always ate sour candy to help with nausea. I tried it… she was right. Not forgetting the ginger candies my mother-in-law picked up for me to soothe my stomach. I’m learning. Learning what to eat, what not to eat, what to drink, what not to drink, what to do, what not to do and everything else that I question. One article I enjoyed was the one that said “highlighting your hair is not proven to be harmful!” I’m waiting until 13 weeks just to be safe. 😉 One article I did NOT like said, “don’t spend too much time in the sun!” REALLY?!?! That’s my favorite thing… AND we’ll be in Florida. I’m not sure if I believe that one. ANY comments? Please share your experiences with me. I’m curious and ready to learn!

Please pray for my friends, Matt, Lana and Maddison Cretzman. They just lost a precious member to their family: Azlynn. My heart has been heavy for this family. It’s hard to rejoice over my own child’s life while they’ve just lost their child. She was a precious, beautiful life and is now resting in the arms of our Heavenly Father. Please pray for this family.

We’re Family Like That

And the goodbyes are over. With a family the size of mine it takes forever to hug everyone. Today I said goodbye to each one of my cherished siblings. I love them each so much for all different reasons. For some I just hugged them then watched them drive away while the tears started to roll. Others I squeezed tight and didn’t let go until I pulled myself together! With all my sneaky “keep-it-together” tactics though, it still hurt just as much. Poor mom cried almost every time I hugged someone and was already a mess before I hugged her! I thought to myself later that it would be easier if I just didn’t love my family! After talking to myself for a while I decided that it was better to love them crazily and have painful goodbyes than to NOT love them and be loved by them. Way better. All throughout the day I was drinking in every single moment.

I snuggled little scarlet and tried to memorize the sound of her laugh.

I made Alex repeat after me our special rhyme.

James said “I love you” which he rarely says to me.

Nolan and I played “cars” on the kitchen table.

Cailyn gave me the bestest tightest hug.

Brianne told me, “I’m going to China when I’m ten!” Aunt Krista is going to take her. I heard later that she told Aunt Krista that she was going to dye her hair red before going to China so she could “Match all the Chinese people.” Oh dear. I grabbed her hands and said, “Brianne, can I tell you something?” She looked up at me. I explained, “Chinese people all have black hair. Only uncle Neal has red hair. But he’s not Chinese.” I don’t know if she gets it or not. Oh well, when she comes to China she’ll learn fast!

Krista was already planning her next trip and THAT made me excited.

Mike and Natasha are gonna get the kids to start saving now.

Jess and Shane are going to meet us in Tennessee for some hunting and shopping.

Lyle is already planning on our church in China supporting his church in Canada one day. Ok Lyle. Haha.

Emily updated me on the latest and most exciting news… like she always does.

Klara and I hugged and called each other by our cheesy nicknames.

Mom and Dad enjoyed having all their kids together and they’re the reason for us all!

It wasn’t an elaborate day. It was just us “Woods” being who we are and enjoying being together. Cuz we’re family like that.

Tuesday Truth – Bottle Blondes

Well my family is off on the annual Florida trip. Ever since I can remember, my parents packed up all of us kids and drove us to Florida on March break. We would always rent out a house with a pool and stay there for two weeks. We loved it. Travelling through the night was all part of the fun. I can remember the week before leaving, Jess and I would make ourselves little activity books to draw in. It got squishy sometimes and usually by the time we arrived, we had officially driven mom and dad crazy. The end result was worth it though!

Last year I took a phone card to call Neal on. While everyone else watched a movie, I would sit and chat with him. The best memory of that trip, however, is the hair memory. Oh yes, the hair. Emily just reminded me of it the other day. She texted me and said “You should come to Florida with us. I need a fry and burn partner.” Fry and burn are not good words when referring to hair. We know this first hand. She knew I would know exactly what she was talking about…

We had this great idea that since we were in Florida we were going to get these great tans and come home looking all fabulous. We also had the great idea that we should have great hair to go with those tans! Everyone knows that tan and bleach blonde are the perfect match. We made our way to Wal Mart and bought the least expensive box of platinum blonde we could find. We couldn’t wait to get home and get started. We got our towels out and got our potion all mixed together and set off to work. We doused each others heads with that stuff and sat there with stinging eyes while it set. We waited. Our hair started to lighten to a copper colour. Then it just went orange. The box said blonde! It also said to let it set for thirty minutes. Clearly thirty minutes was not enough because we were not seeing our white blonde yet. We waited a little more, then finally got discouraged and rinsed it out. It was orange. The next day we suffered through some family razzing as we sat there with our orange hair and pink (not tan) skin. Nothing was going right. We needed a solution fast. It was apparent we needed another box. After consulting with one another we decided we would just have to go back to Wal Mart and get another box. We tried a different brand this time. Another round of eye burning drama and we came out with a new colour. Yellow. Banana yellow. Yuck. We didn’t let it discourage us this time! We used logic and figured that if our hair went from dark blonde to orange to yellow, then we must be on the right track. One more trip to Wal Mart and a third box of platinum blonde should do the trick! Third time’s the charm right? You better believe we took another trip, bought another box and fried the rest of the life right out of our hair. In five days we dyed our hair three times with the worst kind of dye. Our final rinse looked promising. We started to see shades of white! It worked! Only slight hints of yellow showed through, but all in all, we were content. We were the cutest bleach blondes out there. Just had to turn those sun burns into tans and we would have reached our goal!

The truth is, I’ll be missing Florida. I’ll miss spending those crazy moments with family. The other truth is, Emily will have to dye her hair on her own. I’m going to Valentino’s instead!