Friday, August 31, 2012

Memories to Savor

Waaaay back in the day we received this plate as a wedding gift.  i distinctly remember registering for it in a small boutique dreaming of all the special moments and people we'd whoop it up with.  There would be celebrations, special announcements, promotions and i knew someday my future Littles would celebrate birthday meals upon its shiny redness!  i had great plans for this little plate it was going to be heaped high with memories for our family to savor!  

(i even remember EXACTLY who gave it to us: Mr. Manley, the principle i worked for my first year of teaching which also happened to be the same principle my husband spent much of his 7th and 8th grade years with (Ahem).  Thankfully i was not considered guilty by association.)  

For years it sat upon the shelf and was pulled out for the occasions deemed "Special" enough.  Four to five times a year it would be dusted off to make its grand appearance.  Oddly enough no one else at the table seemed to be as enthusiastic about it as i was. 

 Within the last few months the Red Plate has reinvented herself and here in Dubai, the Red Plate has made a major comeback.  i stumbled upon a way to force encourage our family to LOVE the Red Plate and the memories we are building as a family.  It doesn't even matter that the motivating factor was the desperate need for a clean dish 'cause in the end we have found a way to fill our home with more good stuff. And really, why let a perfectly clean plate go to waste?

So instead of sitting high on display (as there is no room around here for that) the plate gets shuffled in with the regular stuff of life and doesn't have to wait for a big special occasion to make her resplendent appearance.  Once a day whomever gets the Red Plate at meal time receives lavish praise and attention from the rest of the family on why we think they are special and what we enjoyed doing with them that particular day.  Now at meal time my kids anxiously ask, 
"Who's getting the Plate!?" 
Rather than waiting for a grand event to occur we are discovering the special in everyday.    

"Encourage each other daily, while it is still today..." Hebrews 3:13  
Because we all can use a little encouragement!

Last night at dinner back in sweet ole Dubai, after a 2 hours of grocery shopping, 12 solid hours of laundry (which is STILL not complete) and a temperature outside that clambered up to 42 Celsius (107F, plus humidity),  this Little Red Plate got me thinking.

See, we just got back from Paris where everything seems so exciting, adventurous and SPECIAL.   

Late night picnic under the Eiffel tower

Early morning climbs up LOTS of stairs

Slimy snails which the kids typically cover with salt and watch bubble and ooze in the garden magically transform into edible escargot in Paris

Art @ the Louvre

The original Nike ;-)

And the Real Deal Mona Lisa

Paris views with lots of sketching inspiration for our blossoming artist

Having this jogging path everyday  *sigh*

Past this

 Down this

To This!!

(For the record, Paris 6:30am is WAY different than Paris 10:00am!)

We were able to create some AMAZING memories that we will savor and many of them are worthy of the OLD Red Plate that sat high upon the shelf.

But the NEW Red Plate reminds me to look for the special in the ordinary.  As i have observed our kids travel to various memorable places, i realize their faces light up with the same excitement whether they are climbing UP the Eiffel Tower or racing me DOWN 44 flights of some random hotel stairwell on a dare.
They feel just as important donning an apron to help Daddy BBQ in the 107 degree heat as they do helping locate world famous monuments.

A game of  "Who Spies it First" is exciting whether looking  for the Eiffel Tower in Paris or in desperation searching for a destination in Dubai.

The most common, "Hey, remember when we first moved to Dubai..." moment wasn't their first camel ride (though they did love that!) it was the impromptu game of forehead charades played in our hotel.

While traveling we have received comments like:

"What an amazing experience your kids are having."
"Your kids are going to have GREAT pictures for their wedding."
"Such great memories for your family." 

Yes, Yes, and Yes!

But guess what memories are sticking?  
New Red Plate sort of stuff, the memories based on family time together and not location.  

So now that we are back to the dust of Dubai where my brand new dishwasher is in need of repair and it is way to HOT to run anywhere, and the Eiffel Tower is nowhere in sight, we are choosing to create good memories.

Our final night in Paris, we asked the kids what they thought the last thing was that we should do before leaving The City of Lights.  

"Play Charades as a family."

Right there in a Parisian cafe while waiting for our dinner we played charades.

Good Stuff

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Keepin' it Real

i have this great "continuous shot" function on my camera.  i hold down the shutter button while the camera clicks picture after picture within milliseconds of each other.  The beauty is it allows me to take TONS of pictures of 1 pose so i can edit out 15 horrible shots, keeping the one where everyone is smiling perfectly into the camera.  Voila' ... i appear to be a fabulous photographer capable of capturing pictures of perfectly posed kids.  The caveat of this function is i sometimes forget to turn it off when i hand the camera over to one of the kids.  Kyle especially finds it hilarious to hold down the shutter for at least 50 frames just to capture mom and sister completely annoyed and suddenly lunging at him to grab the camera away. 

(Most unflattering but i agree funny.)

Scrolling through the many "outtakes" in my camera, i was deleting the bad shots to make room for pictures of our time in Switzerland.  It got me thinking about the real part of life, the part that is easy to edit out of a blog. 

Although, i've always preferred to drink from a glass half full than to one that is half empty, i also want to be REAL and not EDITED. 

i will be the first to admit we are blessed beyond measure to be able to have this opportunity to travel as a family.  Thankful, thankful we are!  But in all honesty we aren't always cheery faces set among varying backdrops.  There are lots of shots in our life are less than perfect.  We struggle, make mistakes, lose our temper, cry, miss trains, have to go days without our luggage and generally have hard days.   

My kids still argue and spill cereal all over the kitchen floor, except it happens while i am trying to figure out train tickets to our next destination which is in a foreign language on a computer i FINALLY got connected and i'm staying in a house that isn't mine so i have no idea where a broom is to clean up the mess.  Let's just say i'm not going to post pictures from my less than patient response. 

The water and swans are so accessible along the steep, slippery and rocky bank.  Although beautiful, it has resulted in an unplanned plunge into the water and squishy sneakers right before our dinner out.

There is a backdrop of loneliness that has settled in even while exploring the beauty of Europe.  Internet, Facebook and Skype have been our lifeline but it is difficult to transition from curling up on couches with our friends and family and conversing face to face to now having to schedule Facetime a few days in advance.

Burnett fact: self timed family photos rarely turn out and believe it or not we fight and argue.  Sometimes we spend too much time together in close quarters and sometimes not enough.  We can be short with each other and expect too much.  Emotions run high when we have been apart for 4 weeks.  Reuniting is sweet but can also be challenging as we try to readjust to our roles while balancing life in yet another new location.

Being in Europe, one would think Chris and i would get at least a few fleeting moments alone in romantic settings.  We are not the typical tourists, Chris is here for work so the majority of time we get with him is in the evenings and weekends.  Pictures of just the two of us only occur because Thing 1 is snapping our picture and Pink Thing 2 is running around in circles behind us.  

i know right?!  What could possibly go wrong in a setting like this? 
This twirl-a-whirl allegedly cause a MASSIVE injury to a certain one of my Little's Funny Bone.  (And for the record the unnamed victim says it is definitely NOT funny.)  To add insult to injury a few steps away from this hazardous spinning toy is a WURST truck which is the Swiss' perfect echo to the Taco Truck. 

The plump juicy brats (sausages, not kids) are delicious unless of course they end up in the dirt on the playground and not in a hungry tummy.

Random Fact:  Sometimes kid meltdowns are quickly followed by parental meltdowns.

Since gentle brown cows greet us with their chiming bells as we exit the gondola, it would be easy to think we have stepped out of reality and into the Sound of Music.  
Wandering green hills with goats, sheep and cows all within an arms reach, it's difficult not to let the thin Alp air get to one's head and break out into a Rogers and Hammerstein melody while running across the open landscape.  Reality sets in though when a little animal loving girls leans over to feed an already grazing animal.  Even though she has been forewarned...!!ZAP!!
~Experience is the best teacher ~
 When friends and acquaintances comment on our new traveling lifestyle, it usually will pendulate between,
"That is Crazy, i would never do that."
"You are so lucky, what an amazing experience!"

i would agree to both and say our life generally falls somewhere between crazy and amazing. 

We get to experience a bunch of amazing together but our breakdowns can feel more fierce.  This experience is bonding us together as a family as the last 81/2 months of our life have been lived completely out of our comfort zone.  The crazy is we often don't know the basics of language, money, food, directions, and at times we can't even plug in simple appliances.  It makes for some very exhausting and trying moments.  Daily i am reminded of my weaknesses and shortcomings and i will tell you, if i had to do this adventure in view of all my shortcomings i would be a complete mess on the verge of a breakdown.  Thankfully, i know where my help comes from.  My help comes from the Lord, maker of  heaven and earth.  He lovingly provides the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control that i so desperately need for each day.   

It doesn't matter where you find yourself, life is real and can't be edited to perfection.  Unfortunately, even if the background is amazing sometimes the only thing "in focus" is the messy stuff of life that's out on the table.

But thankfully even then the glasses can still be half full