Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Welcome Back to VA, Blake family!

Last night we had the Blake family over for dinner. The Blakes sold us our house back in July of 2002. They were attending Stafford Baptist at the time and wanted a Christian to have the house so they could "carry on the ministry in the neighborhood." They were serious about that, too, because they sold it to us for $30,000 less than what it was going for at the time. We would have never been able to buy a house if it weren't for their generosity (and a small loan from Pappy Garman), and we have always been very grateful for the Blakes. They moved back to Stafford this year and now have two little girls in tow. We have kept a lot of things that the Blakes left behind (our kitchen table, bathroom decor, candles, curtains, bird feeders, Haley's dresser...)so they got a kick out of seeing all of their old stuff still being used (they didn't realize that I would be too cheap to buy all new stuff). Lisa even asked if I had found a decorative saw that she had left on top of the cabinets...I went downstairs and retrieved it from the closet! I had kept it all these hoping that I would see them again. All in all, it was a great evening (sorry, I forgot to take a picture).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Princess Memory, Anyone?!

Let me begin this post by saying that in the Garman family I grew up in we learned that one never should allow a contender in any contest to beat you just because you think winning may hurt their feelings. I always thought it was a dignified maxim and I still do. When someone beats you, you want them to be able to know that they beat you at your best game, not that you went easy so it would be close.

One distant memory from my childhood that illustrates what can happen as a result of this involves one of my brothers -who will remain nameless - either throwing a punch at my Dad or locking himself in the bathroom (or both) after a friendly game of Old Maid (now that I think about it, it may have been my grandmother). Regardless, competition has a way of bringing the best and worst out of all of us.

As parents Annie and I have continued the tradition of healthy competition in our home. Haley can hold her own in a game of Princess Memory so we can often be found playing a round in the evening before the girls go off to bed. Let me just say, I cannot remember any evenings in the past where Annie has won, but if you know my wife she has a bit of an excited streak. Haley on the other hand has won a few times and is now addicted to the thrill of victory, so much so that the thought of losing can send her into a downward spiral.

So, there we were this evening. 42 cards, 21 matches available. Haley 3, Dad 5, Annie 4, Darcy 2. Haley had long since stopped cheering when others made a match and the tension was mounting. Annie's turn...................she made a match. She gets to go again............another match and an excited cheer................a third match and the excitement only increases...........From there Annie ran the whole board with the excitement increasing exponentially as the victory was secured. I tried to model good sportmanship and cheer her on, but the dam of tears just couldn't hold and Haley lost it. Ah, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Some lessons are learned easier than others...especially when you're the first born.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Some Days are Better than Others

During the early part of 2008 we have had busy weekends with the church doing UPWARD Basketball, Music Practices, and Youth Ministries activities. I love doing all of that, but I must say that today was one of those Saturdays that recharges my battery. It was a day to "nurture my vitality". After coffee in the morning with DSF, Annie and I brokered a deal to plan a family bike ride, a kayak drop-off on the Rappahannock, and a Subway Five-Dollar Footlong. As we headed for The Burg our trusty little Hyundai Santa Fe was loaded down with two bikes, a kayak and a bit of excited anticipation. We took off from Old Mill Park on the bikes for a five mile circle wrapping around the canal trail and cruising through Old Town. There's just something about four people on two bikes that makes you feel like you are really stylin'. We returned to Old Mill park locked the bikes down and headed out on the second leg of the journey. Annie and the girls dropped me off with all of my kayak gear at the Mott's Run Launch for an hour of solitude on the Rappahannock. The water was nice and moving along at great pace for a warm April day. As I made my way under the I-95 bridge and down through the best part of the rapids I was reminded for a moment just how ominous rushing water and large boulders can look when you are eye level with it all and only carrying a paddle. I made it in to Old Mill in an hour and 5 minutes, had a great workout, and felt like I hadn't remembered the rapids to be as strong as they were today. At Old Mill park Annie hopped in the kayak as I headed to the car with the girls. We loaded up the bikes from earlier and grabbed a five-dollar footlong from Subway (Thanks Jared!) as we headed to the city dock to pick up Annie. After some afternoon naps at the hacienda we headed to Wilderness, VA for an evening with friends to celebrate the 1 year arrival of Chloe to the Davis Clan. Oh yeah, and Jason and I beat Jonathan and Ammin in Bocce.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I love bike riding

We went biking with the girls last night at Forest Park and today on the bike trail in D.C. Here are pictures from our adventures along the way.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Today on Mr. Roger's neighborhood, Mr. Rogers went to a dairy farm to learn about milking cows. The girls were oooing and ahhing about it and the sun was starting to peek out from behind the clouds, so I came up with the grand idea of visiting the farm that is right off Bells Hill Road. We packed some snacks and hiked up the hill out our subdivision to Bells Hill. It has always amazed me that there is an old farm right between I-95 and Route 1 and today seemed like the perfect day to have a hands-on learning experience about farm life. If nothing else I thought it would be a good chance to meet our "neighbors." We walked up the gravel road that I had passed hundreds of times and bravely went up to the farm house where we met the hired hand, Sherman. He explained that they don't milk their cows but just raise them to be slaughtered. I'm not exactly sure what happened next. There must have been some sort of miscommunication because before I knew it he was leading us through a small hen house to the other side of the fence where he gave us permission to look for the cows. He mentioned something about being cautious of the goats, then left us to roam around the back pasture and explore by ourselves. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I said thanks and kept going.

We walked down a very steep hill to a whole new world...there was a huge meadow full of buttercups, a stream lining the woods, and the buzz of I-95 in the background. It was such a different experience to be minutes from our house in this serene pasture. However, things started to go downhill fast. I was enjoying exploring, but the whole time Haley was complaining about the mud and cow pies that were interrupting her every step. "Mom, this is not good! There is poop EVERYwhere...We have to get out of here. I have to take a is TOO DiRTY here!" Darcy starts to whine and complain too. All of a sudden in the distance I noticed two goats. I tried to distract the girls from their plight to notice the animals. The goats caught our eye and began to make their way toward us. "Hi, Goat!" Darcy began calling to them. They began to pick up speed and soon the goats began RUNNING toward us. I remembered Sherman's casual warning and began to feel panicky. I didn't know what to do and the girls began to whimper as they got closer and closer. "Mom...we have to get out of HERE!" I held their hands and began to run the other way as the goats caught up to us. I grabbed Darcy as they jumped up and knocked their faces to ours. They knocked Haley over and began licking her cannot even imagine the chaos that broke out! At that moment, Sherman came down to rescue us and tried to corral the goats. I wish I could tell you that the story ended there...I was trying to play it cool so the girls would settle down. "Wow.. those goats sure liked you! They were pretty excited to see you..." They were absolutely ballistic. "Bach home...bach hooooome!" cried Darcy. I was attempting to take Darcy's advice and we were making our way back up the steep hill when the stinkin' goats escaped from Sherman and began chasing us again. The entire scenario was repeated. At this time, I picked up Haley on my other hip and, carrying 70 pounds, began to hike the slippery, muddy, poopy, steep hill to the hen house. The whole time I was praying in the name of Jesus to help me not fall backwards. Talk about adrenaline rush...I felt like I was in one of those stories where the mom picks up a car to rescue her child who is trapped underneath. Okay, so at this point I carry the girls through the hen house to the other side of the fence where we are safe from the wild goats. As I was panting and trying to catch my breath, I was in absolute bewilderment as to how this had all transpired. Sherman came up through the house and acted like it was no big thing that my toddlers had just been attacked by goats. I was trying to appear calm myself as I tried to get Haley to stop screaming. We began to converse; he learned that I was from Wisconsin and I love farms, and I came to realize that I was on the MONCURE farm. Moncure is a big name here in Stafford and there is even an elementary school here named after them. The mom was inside homeschooling her two daughters and was very nice to us. After I thanked them for their time and apologized for the interruption, they warned me on my way out of the dog who has a problem with biting people. We waved goodbye and I ran the double stroller down the driveway across the street back to our safe subdivision. The whole way home I was thinking,"Why can't I just be a normal person who does normal things?" The "Mr.Rogers learning experience" I had envisioned turned out to be a little more up-close-and-personal than I was expecting....I hope the girls aren't traumatized by farms for the rest of their lives. The End.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Real Live Gospel Heroes

Last week Annie and I were sitting at Breakfast with some of our new friends when a family sat down to join us. There we were at the cafeteria of the conference center getting to know a couple with an extraordinary story we were yet to here. Since breakfast at the conference center was served in a cafeteria; I was thinking I would get in quick, enjoy my new found excitement for Vanilla Soy Milk, eat some fruit and get to our first meeting for the day.

So, here is he story that interrupted our serene morning. The couple and their two small children were living overseas during a term of service attending to their work and serving the Lord. During a routine visit to the airport to pick-up an incoming guest they had a lifechanging experience. The plane had landed, a colleague that had accompanied them was seated at the waiting and receiving area, so the family was getting ready go retrieve the vehicle for a drive-by pickup. Just before they made their move to the vehicle and unbeknownst to everyone a bomb was placed on the seat behind them. The family began to walk away just moments before the device wreaked its havoc. Their friend and colleague was killed by the explosion and both of their children received shrapnel injuries. You can only imagine what they were feeling as they returned to the states and had to face decisions about returning for another assignment.

As time for a decision drew near they felt compelled to return and did so. They spoke passionately about how they sensed the blessing of God on the time they were there and got to be a part of a team that influenced 100 new church starts. It was an amazing story and when I left breakfast I felt like I had met some real live Gospel Heroes.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

House Church

Colby and I have a couple more stories from our amazing week to share. Our last night at the interview conference, we were instructed to gather for a church service with our small group as if we were in a closed country. The members of our group staggered in every five minutes, one at a time, to our dorm room. We gathered, with the shades drawn, on the floor of our room and began to conduct a service in a whisper. None of us had never sung in a whisper before and we couldn't help but laugh. It was humbling, however, to think of people all around the world actually having to have Bible study like that. We were only allowed to have one Bible (since Bibles are scarce in some parts of the world), and since we were all whispering you can imagine how hard it was to understand each other. We prayed for persecuted Christians all around the world and for the people we would share the gospel with in the future. It was a very powerful time and Colby and I both agreed that our church should try this set-up for a church service some time. I suggested a Wednesday night with the youth, and Colby thought a Sunday morning would be even better! I had never taken time to think so seriously about how fortunate we are to be Christians living in a free church was a great, eye-opening activity.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I miss my girls!!!

Hang on, girls...we'll be home soon!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Annie's perspective of the week thus far

When I pictured our stay here in Richmond, I imagined a conference center in the downtown region. Not so. We drove out into the outskirts of town past farms and streams until we arrived at... the compound. I was not prepared for the security guard and gate, nor for the secrecy of this place. I guess there are missionaries who serve in closed countries and they want to protect their safety; I hadn't considered that before. After I got over feeling like a "Branch Davidian," I began to take in the place. It was like stepping into a dream world. There are globes, maps, flags, and international photography everywhere. Everything is decorated so uniquely with cultural artifacts. Yes, Melissa, the food is amazing! I had a Athenian salad today for lunch. A lot of people here just look like missionaries with their cool tribal skirts or unique clothes. I feel like I'm in the cool club here.

Yesterday was a pretty emotional day. I think it became more of a reality that we are actually moving and leaving comfortable things behind. I feel like I've been surrendered to this since a very young age, but EVERYTHING changes when you become a mother. I have been very concerned about how all of this is going to affect the girls (especially my little particular Haley Jane). It got worse yesterday when I flippantly asked a mom in the cafeteria what happened with the kids during our two month training. She explained that they would be in a preschool type setting every day from 8:00-3:00 (sometimes 5:00). I started to lose it. She went on to explain that, since we'd never put them in preschool, they would most definitely scream the first day, but they would eventually get used to it. Tears were falling onto my plate of barbecue and coleslaw. She told me I didn't have to go through with this whole missions thing if I really didn't want to.

I got myself together for the rest of lunch and the rest of the regional job presentations. We then went to a session for parents of dependent children. They let us see some of the facilities that our kids will stay in and answered all of our questions. During that session I began to feel like my kids were the luckiest kids in the world. Their classrooms are so rich with global awareness, and the teachers are amazing. There are clocks set for different regions of the world, a pseudo rain forest complete with parrots and animals, and even a life size blow-up of Lottie Moon for them to "size up" next to! I cannot imagine what kind of impact this environment will have on them.

We are now about to go to our BIG interview. Apparently most people come out of it crying. Anyway, any prayers for the next two hours would be much appreciated!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Interview Conference

Well, the long awaited time has finally come. Annie and I arrived for our interview conference for overseas service. You never know quite what to expect in situations like this so I will tell what we have been up to.

We arrived on Tuesday to meet with a Counselor to talk through life situations and assess our preparedness for the field. It was an intense two hour session, but we felt very comfortable with the session and the counselor let us know that he would be giving a good recommendation on our behalf. The main portion of the conference began after dinner. There are 171 people meeting here to learn about the job opportunities worldwide and work to make some decisions about how the next 2-3 years of their lives will look. Maybe you could think of the experience as a job fair, complete with representatives for the work in every region of the world. The people gathered are either soon to be college grads and singles, young married couples, or Retirement age adults.

The goal of the conference is to help people figure out their readiness for service and connect them with regions and job requests that would best fit them.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Thanks a lot, Cindy!

A few weeks ago, Cindy Jessup was in the nursery and showed Darcy that her hair tie could also double as a bracelet. Darcy loved the concept and now enjoys taking her hair out so that she can accessorize with a new bracelet. This results in the fro (pictured here) and a really stressful meal time (especially when she pretends to be Aerial and combs her hair with a fork). I wonder if Darcy will always be a wild woman...

Three birds with one stone

This weekend (a weekend for the Garman family is Thursday night through Saturday night) we went to PA for three wonderful reasons.
1. We met our new niece, Marlee Joy Garman. Darcy was so excited to meet her and held her for nearly thirty minutes.
2. We were given tickets to Sight and Sound's presentation of DANIEL at the Millennium Theater in Lancaster.
3. We dropped the kids off so they can spend a week with Grammy and Papa while we go to our Iceland interview this week! If you think of it, please pray for us as we get grilled from Tuesday to Friday at the interview conference!

Monday, April 7, 2008

For Any of our Friends who might be Concerned

...about MRSA

Good news in this article. Alligator Blood to save the day.

Here's a tasty little tidbit and a warning:

"However, Merchant said the public should not try to create home remedies using alligator blood, as the consequences could be fatal if the blood is contaminated."

The Idolatrous Parent

I was reading an article by Paul Tripp this morning and a paragraph compelled me to take a moment and reflect on my life as a parent.

Article Thesis: While much of the advice and instruction available for Parents focuses on behavior, "The Bible says that our situations and relationships are merely the occasions in which our hearts express themselves". Therefore, behavioral conflicts with our children provide the parent with opportunities to address the important issues of the heart if we are diligent deal wisely.

Mark 7:21-22. 21 "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness."

Here is the paragraph:
I would like to be able to say as the father of four children, all of them now grown up, that the only time I got angry was when one of them broke God's law. However, what is in fact true, and I think it's true of all of us, is that often I wasn't angry because they had sinned, but because their sin had gotten in the way of something that I wanted. And what often gets in the way of parenting teenagers [or any child for that matter] is the idolatry of their mother and father.
As a father, I, too, live for comfort, appreciation, success...But they must not rule my heart. If they do rule my heart, then in a moment of teen [or any age] trouble...I'll turn a moment of God-given ministry opportunity into a moment of anger.
If it weren't for your child's behavior, you would not be able to learn their heart. Bad behavior observed in our children is not an inconvenience for the wise parent, but a much needed opportunity to instruct and serve our children. Unfortunately many parents, myself included, are too much concerned about how their child's behavior reflects on them or inconveniences them and too little concerned with patient instruction in God-given opportunities.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Haley takes some time to 'Paws for Reading'

Hats off to the Porter Library and Robin the Dog for encouraging reading!!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Tu Tierra Tasty

Before we get started with the review, I wanted you to know I have come up with a portion of the rating system. Within categories to be determined later, a restaurant can earn up to 5 Sporks for Quality. The spork is the finest cuisine assistance device known to man.

The fine Juris Doctor Pelt popped by on Monday for a pop-out lunch, providing a perfect opportunity for a new review. Tu Tierra came highly recommended from the Fauth Clan and provided a tasty experience. The experience began on the drive over as Jason and I attempted to determine whether Tu Tierra in Stafford is the Restaurant formerly known as Southern Fish and Chips or if there is a new two-headed monster of southern flavor and Salvadoran zest. The mystery continued even after we entered. But first, a word about service...

-If you ever own a restaurant...when the hostess tells the guests they can be seated wherever they like, and they have arranged themselves at a table, do not move to another table and say, "You can sit here!" just as they are about to be seated. That'll earn you a 1 Spork service rating.

As we looked at the menu we quickly realized that one whole page was devoted to fish and chips while the rest of the menu was Salvadoran. The waitress could not answer any of our questions about the status of the Southern/Tu Tierra relationship, so we did what any good patron would do and called for the manager/owner. He gave us the scoop that he had taken over the business and kept the fish fry around for Friday Nights; mystery solved. Before he could get away Jason placed his order by saying, "Bring me what you would want to eat if you were having lunch right now and...don't tell me what it is until you bring it out." I thought, "What an adrenaline rush!" and did the same.

Jason had pupusa and tamale and I was served a nice midday steak. I certainly had the thought that he brought whatever was most expensive, but the flavorful sauce on the steak silenced any of my concerns, even my fright at how incredibly thin the piece of meat was. Closing Thoughts...

- I loved the side of Fried Plantain, reminded me of Venezuela.
- The Salsa is the best tasting in Stafford, even if it is a little runny
- If you want a really good steak and even better service, let's go Outback tonight!
-If you want a great experience no matter where you go, take Jason Pelt along.

Overall: 2 1/2 Sporks

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Dirty Darcy and Hygienic Haley

I cannot believe these two children are both mine. Their opposite reactions to the playground perfectly display the different extremes of their personalities. Darcy's reaction is quite obvious based on the picture. Haley has actually gotten quite a bit better. Last year at this time, she refused to step foot on the playgroup in fear that the sand and dirt would corrupt her feet. This week Darcy broke her in and she stooped down to touch the dirt that so mesmerized her sister. Immediately, however, she came over and asked me to clean her hands. The funniest part of the day was when Haley, frolicking in the grass near the playground, found a flower and presented it to Darcy. Darcy held it to her nose, gave a dramatic "ooooo,"....and then ate it.