Author: Kimberly Wheeler

But What About Christmas?

While packing up our house, it was inevitable that we would find some things that would give us pause. Things like Christmas decorations. Ornaments, stockings, twinkly lights and singing animals.

 

Some of Spunky's favorites.
Some of Spunky’s favorites.

 

Yesterday we came across the kids’ personal ornament collections. Everything from Baby’s First Christmas to a tiny ballerina that was given to Giggles the year she was an angel in the Nutcracker.

 

And then there was the question I had been waiting for. What are we going to do about Christmas in Thailand?

 

So we talked as we packed. We talked about the smell of evergreen trees and gingerbread cookies. About caroling with friends and making salt dough ornaments. And snow! The first snow. Snow forts. Sledding. And then it hit me, maybe for the first time: my kids are far more resilient than I was giving them credit for. They don’t need us to bring every bit of Christmas memories in our suitcases, they just need to know that it will be here when we get back.

 

And I’m so grateful God gives peace not just to Ethan and I, but to our kids as well.  It may not always be easy, but we have Him and we have each other.  And maybe . . . maybe we’ll even light up a banana tree this year.

And Then There Were Eight

I grew up in a small-ish family: Dad, Mom, one sibling.  When I met my husband’s family it was a little like a scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  I was overwhelmed, but I liked it.

 

We became parents in 2003, in our third year of marriage.  Our oldest quickly picked up the nickname of Spunky Quagmire for reasons unknown.  We knew immediately that we wanted more kids.

 

2004 followed, and with it came Giggles.  She is 22 months younger than our oldest and they love sister time.  She was followed all-too-quickly by Bubba, in the summer of 2006.

 

Three kids three and under!  It was a glorious time of lost sleep, first steps, and baby toys everywhere the eye could see.

 

In 2008 we learned we were expecting another boy.  “What a perfect family!” was the comment we heard over and over.  “Two girls, two boys . . . . just perfect.”  And it was in my eyes.  On August 19th, our baby boy went home to be with Jesus.  It took me a very long time to come to terms with the fact that “perfect” did not have to mean two girls and two boys.  “Perfect” families come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

 

Our sweet Calico was born in 2010 and completely filled in the chairs at our dining room table.  (Oh, and she was sitting at that table in her Bumbo chair just as soon as she could, even when all we could see was the fuzzy top of her head showing above the table!)  Since 2010 it has been the six of us, living and growing together.

 

In this last month we’ve added two new family members.  First came Miss Kaneda, our live-in aide to Bubba.  What a girl!  She’s raising her own funding to come serve our family as we serve with Destiny Rescue.

 

Hanging at the bowling alley with Spunky and Giggles.
Hanging at the bowling alley with Spunky and Giggles.

 

The next member of our family is Greta.  She’s 120 lbs. and lives to work.  Meet our new service dog:

 

Greta Girl
Greta Girl

 

So yeah, we are a going to be a bit of a circus act in Thailand.  Seven farangs and a beast of a dog.  I can’t even imagine.  I’ll write more in an upcoming post about Greta’s duties and how she works with Bubba.  But for now, that’s our family.  Big, crazy, very not-perfect . . .  and we love it!

Painting Lauburus

God always gives us the neatest opportunities when we ask.  I was looking for a way to earn a little extra money towards our trip . . . something besides (or in addition to)  selling everything we own.  We have some close friends who own a thriving sign business.  They are preparing for an upcoming Basque festival, called Jaialdi, here in the Treasure Valley.

 

 

So I asked if they needed any extra help preparing, and I now have a stack of wood waiting for some hand-painted Lauburus.  What’s a Lauburu, you may ask?

 

 

A Lauburu, or Basque cross, is a symbol of the Basque country and the Basque people.  It’s generally used as a symbol of prosperity.

 

This is one of the many beautiful signs our friends have produced.  I wish them the best of luck selling at their first Jaialdi!  Thanks for giving me a creative outlet in between the packing and cleaning.  Love you guys!

 

 

Being Stretched

“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” — Luke 17:6

Faith like a mustard seed.  It doesn’t seem like much, but sometimes I have a shockingly small amount.  I feel like I am faith-filled but God stretches me and shows me where I am lacking.

Lately I’ve had some anxiety over how we will pay for this . . .  airfare, immunizations, suitcases, visas; the list goes on and on.  Trying to make sure our fundraisers are successful, looking for the rock-bottom prices on everything we have to purchase, worrying.

Then there was the dream last night.  Have you ever had a dream that was so messed up that even in your dream-state you knew it was ridiculous?  This was one of those.  It was August and we were about to leave, only we were woefully short financially.  So I decided to sell . . . my eyes!  Yep.  And even while I was dreaming this I remember thinking I’m probably going to need those later . . . right?  When I woke up this morning I could only laugh about it along with Ethan and the kids as I realized that I just need to let it go.  Remember that it’s not going to be through my feeble efforts at all, but God’s divine provision.

Thank you, Lord, for your gentle reminders and sense of humor!

Even In the Little Things

Shortly after committing to move to Thailand, we were surprised and thrilled to hear about a local event called “The Sky’s the Limit”.  From what we heard, it would be a chance for kids with disabilities to experience an airport and airplane in a low-stress environment.  We had to apply to be chosen for the program, and I waited anxiously from the time I mailed the application in mid-May to June 5th, when we would find out.  Bubba got accepted, so we set aside any plans for the afternoon of June 20th and started getting ready.

One of the organizations who sponsored the event was kind enough to write a social story about it, which is kind of like a kids book that describes what will happen and how a child should respond appropriately.  For example, “I may have to wait in line to go through security, and I will need to stay calm.”  (I was really tempted to add a page about not sniffing people in line, but we probably need an entire social story just for that.) I sat with Bubba and read the story to him on Saturday morning.  He liked it enough to read twice, and then wanted to look at pictures of the Pacific Ocean.  We let him pack his backpack and a suitcase, because this was the real deal!  He shoved his favorite blanket and the wooden boat Daddy made for him in the backpack, threw a Nerf ball into the suitcase, and called it good.

At the airport, we were greeted by a host of super friendly volunteers who checked everyone in.  We all got matching t-shirts and promptly put them on, then went to the Alaska airlines counter to check in.  They printed out real tickets and Bubba got to watch his suitcase disappear down the ramp.  We then proceeded to security.

The boy did great in security, although I didn’t feel like it was a true experience since they let us go through the employee line.  (Though I’m not complaining!)  Ethan did get chosen for the random security pat-down, so that was fun.  It gave me a taste of how tricky it could be in the future, when trying to collect my carry-on, Bub’s carry-on, Ethans’ carry-on, and shoes while getting out of the way and holding Bubba’s hand.

The Boise airport is such a breeze that from that point on it was pretty relaxing.  Well, I should say it was relaxing for me, because I wasn’t the one chosen by Bubba to go for a walking tour nor did I have to take him to the bathroom.  But I think (hope) Ethan got some relaxing in as well.

Waiting patiently.
Waiting patiently.

It was sweet watching all the kids running to the windows every time a plane took off, especially since their reactions were not the same as nuero-typical kids.  Lots of spinning, flapping hands and fun noises.  Seeing their joy expressed with no disapproving glances was beautiful.

I really should have gotten a picture of what came next, but there was a guy with a camera interviewing people so I volunteered Ethan to talk about the experience.  It was for the airline to show to their employees, so he told them what a great thing it was that they were doing.

They finally called our flight and we got in line.  One of the volunteers for the event was walking around with headphones for any kid who wanted them, and Bubba didn’t hesitate.  He put those bad boys on and proceeded to loudly announce that “NOW NO ONE CAN HEAR ME!”  (I hated to break it to the poor kid that we actually could hear him just fine, but figured for the sake of fellow passengers it had to be done.)

Excuse the poor photography.
Excuse the poor lighting.

Bubs got a photo with the pilot, then it was off to board the plane. He did great waiting until we got to our seats and buckled up right away.  At this point he just kind of took it all in and cuddled up with his blanket.

The I'm-feeling-silly face.
The “I’m-feeling-silly” face.

They did all the regular announcements and then we started taxiing.  My absolute favorite comment came from a little cutie sitting up ahead of us, who squealed, “It’s working!”  We just rolled around outside the airport for a while and I figured that would be that, but then . . . my favorite part of flying: take-off!  We didn’t actually take off but we did get up to speed.  It was fantastic.  Oh, and I think Bubs enjoyed it too.  😉

Planes are awesome!
Planes are awesome!

After that, it was a quick photo in front of the plane and then back through to get his checked luggage at the carousal.  Then our lucky boy was given a gift bag, which had a coloring book, cardboard airplane, little passport book, and more.  He had a smile on his face when we left the airport and seemed to think it was as great as a trip to the park!

When Ethan and I were talking and praying about surrendering to full-time ministry, we knew it wouldn’t be easy with a child with a disability.  We knew it was likely we would have a long flight to whatever country we ended up in, but prayed that God would show us his mercy.  When someone told us about this event I just felt God reassuring me, reminding me that He is there in the little things as well as the big ones.  We’ve spoken with Bubba’s doctors to have a game plan for the actual flight, but it was such a blessing to be able to do this practice one; to let him know what an airplane sounds like and looks like and feels like.  He did so far above and beyond what we expected.  We will still have our bag of tricks for the real flight, but we’ll be boarding the next plane with an added measure of peace.