A Beautiful Story

From my mom:

Forty-two years ago today, I said “yes” to John when he told me he loved me and wanted to marry me. No regrets! I look back on a couple of young adults, a first year teacher and a guy working 42 days @ 7 days a week, swing shift followed by one week off. Little did we know that Uncle Sam would have a letter in the mail a few short days later that would draft him into the military service. In spite of our plans to have maybe done it differently, the Lord guided in all things and we were married in June of the following year. It was a blessed privilege to be his wife. We have been thankful for our 4 children, 3 of whom we were blessed to raise. I’m thankful too for the grandchildren God gave us, 12 of whom John saw. I am grateful for the nearly 37 years we had together, for the love the Lord gave us for one another and first and foremost for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us, and for that blessed day when we will be forever with Him. I’m glad I said “Yes”!

Y is for Yosselin and Yessy

Y is for two special little girls whose names start with Y; Yosselin and Yessy.  Yosselin came into our lives in 2006 when we saw her picture at a Compassion International booth.  Her birthday was the same month as our own oldest girl and so we picked her to sponsor.  She lives in Honduras.

Yessy we came to know more recently.  Last fall we took Button and Winnie aside and let them each pick out a little person to sponsor.  Button picked Thea, a little girl from here in the Philippines and Winnie picked Yessy, who is from Nicaragua.
Compassion International is amazing.  They partner with local churches to bring the children the eternal solution to poverty, as well as ministering to their unique physical and emotional needs.
From their website:

Sponsoring children in need is breaking the cycle of povertyCompassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.

Founded by the Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952, Compassion began providing Korean War orphans with food, shelter, education and health care, as well as Christian training. 

Today, Compassion helps more than 1.2 million children in 26 countries.

Although we sponsor through Compassion Canada we were able to tour the main office of Compassion Philippines and I was so impressed as I saw the thousands of letters being processed and the effect that has been made on the children.  

An effect has been made on my children too!  Every night we pray for ‘our girls’ and as we talk at the end of our day my children sometimes wonder aloud what their girls have eaten that day, what they are doing at that time, etc.  Their pictures are up on the wall in their room so we are reminded of them, and sometimes I get them to help me write the letters we send.    
Lives are truly being changed through Compassion.   Maybe you would like to be a part of it?  

X is for X-ing

When I was in kindergarten I remember watching flabbergasted as my teacher demonstrated how to jay walk.  She walked across the middle of the road at an angle, then crossed back and proceeded to tell us all that doing that was against the law and that we shouldn’t do it.  We should always cross at the corners and if possible, use the crosswalks.  Even my five year old mind knew that something was wrong with demonstrating the wrong thing to do!

Now I’m actually really glad I know how to jay walk.  This talent has served me in good stead in a place where it is really “to each his own” when it comes to space.  Crossing the street here takes some steel nerves and it took me several weeks before I attempted it on my own.  I’m good at it now- and have almost been hit only a handful of times.

Here’s a video I found on youtube of crossing the street here in Metro Manila.  No joke, I’ve done this a hundred times now.  Exactly like this.

Thank you to the video owner (I did not take this video)!

V is for, well, V!

I have always loved the letter V.  How could I not, with a name like Valerie Van Essen?  It seemed like my very own letter and if anyone else had a V in their name it was usually just one, so I definitely had claim to the letter in its entirety.

Now I have a few kids who have the same sort of infatuation with their own letters so I’m relieved to know that it is somewhat typical to feel that way.

Growing up, I never knew another Van Essen outside of my own family.  But when I moved away from Nebraska to Ontario for college I started getting asked if I was the daughter of two people with the same last name as me that I’d never heard of.  So that’s how I discovered there was another family with the same last name as me.  They spelled it the same way, with a space and a capital letter on the second half.  It turned out that they were really nice people and we had lots of mutual friends and contacts and I actually didn’t mind at all that people wondered if I was their child.  I hope I didn’t cause them to get a bad name either!  (Nothing like a 19 year old you didn’t raise running around with the same uncommon last name as you!)

When I got married I dropped one of my V’s but of course I still consider it my favorite letter.  🙂

U is for Umbilical Cord

I almost forgot about blogging today, and of course it had to be the day with the letter U.

So I will just tell you about a little trick I like to play.

When our second daughter was born her little cord stub fell off one day while we were out.  I didn’t know what to do with it, so I put it in a small zippered pocket in my purse and forgot about it.  I like to change purses quite a bit so I didn’t run across the little thing for awhile.  And when I finally did I decided to just leave it in there for some reason.

So occasionally like once a year or so when I use that purse I like to find that little stub which is of course all petrified like a little rock now and put it into Dennis’ hand to watch his reaction.  Really, it’s the reaction that compels me to place it back into the zippered pocket for next time.

A Date with Daddy

Dennis likes to take his girlies out on a date every so often. Now, when I take the girls on a date we usually just go and have a little treat while I go grocery shopping or something. Daddy is definitely the better person to date because not only does he buy them a treat, they often manage to come home with a little present too. Oh, spoiling daddy!

This time it was Button’s turn. They had sorbetes (Pilipino ice cream- tastes a little different) and Button came home proudly displaying her new toy.

I took a good look at it and noticed that they had unwittingly purchased more than what they had bargained for: a bug plastered between the cardboard and the plastic. Hmm. I wonder if it is an extra peso for the bug?

The Great Flight

The night before our departure was special. Ron and Sabrina came down to the hotel we were staying at and we had a nice swim together and went out for pizza.

Then at 4 am on Wed. morning, March 10, our busy, busy trip began. We were awake a lot all the night before with anticipation. Finally when we got up we got our stuff together and got on the hotel shuttle to go to the airport.

Lots of people came to the airport to see us off. Bruce, Patti and their two girls came, as well as Grampa and Gramma, Jamie and Annette Weber (Dennis’ cousins), Annette’s boyfriend Jonathan who all managed to surprise us and find us at the airport somehow, and our friend Bill Yeo from Peterborough, who got up around 3am to come to the airport! It was so great to see all those people and so sad.

We soon realized that we had WAY too much luggage. We were well within our ticket allotment, but practically speaking it was a nightmare to wield it all throughout the airport in Canada and then again when we picked it up in Manila. Each girl had a back pack and one carry-on, which was a great idea until we tried to make exhausted children run through an airport pulling those things in time to make a tight connection. What a nightmare. Live and learn! We are sure glad to have all that stuff here now, though.
We made it through 1 million and 1 security checks in Toronto. I had just enough time to grab one last Tim Horton’s regular coffee and 12 timbits for the girls before our boarding call. The girls were really difficult and cranky in the airport and I really had to pray for patience!
When we landed in Chicago Button threw up on the descent. Fortunately we were able to catch it in the barf bag.
We barely had enough time to make our connection in Chicago. We had to switch terminals and check in with a new airline. Because it was an international flight we had to clear security all over again. Everyone was kind to us, but the girls were downright surly and uncooperative. Button was really weak and dehydrated from getting sick and wasn’t able to pull her carry-on. This did not please me.

We managed to snatch a sip from a drinking fountain before passing through yet another security checkpoint and finally boarded our Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo. This was the big one. We didn’t have time to put any of the girls toys into their backpacks from their carry-ons. That was a big mistake. Next time I will try to make sure that new toys get placed in the backpack between each flight. Accessing carry-ons in the overhead bins is not really practical.

Button fell asleep right after take-off. Winnie found a little slit in her seat cushion and sat with her legs tucked way inside and her seat belt over her lap.

This was the longest flight- Chicago to Tokyo, 13 hours. We flew over Alaska and the Bering Straight. The scenary was beautiful. Button and Winnie napped off and on all throughout the flight, but Squeaky only fell asleep finally during the last 10 minutes of the flight.

Both Squeaky and Button threw up on the descent into Tokyo. We had more security checks and shuttling at the Tokyo airport but were finally able to relax and rearrange some of our carry-ons during our 3 hour layover in Tokyo. It was the middle of the afternoon there but our bodies felt like it was 3 in the morning. The kids were nuts. Dennis found a room with padded floor and walls and the kids jumped around in there for a long time.

We boarded our final plane around 6:15 pm, local time. The girls all fell asleep while we were still parked at the gate. The last leg from Tokyo to Manila was a five hour flight. After the 13 hour flight that one seemed really short. The girls slept until 1/2 hour before landing- we were so grateful!

I managed to sleep for about 20 minutes which was the most I’d slept the whole time.

It was exciting descending into Manila. It was 10:30pm so all we could see was the city lights and the reflection on the water. We had some arrival instructions so we knew what to do when we got there.

First we gathered our stuff and our cranky girls and went to immigration. As we waited in line I was keenly aware of the amount of people crammed into that airport. It was bustling. I wasn’t comfortable letting the kids walk around with any freedom and kept harping at them to stay close. They didn’t like that too much and had some major melt downs in the immigration line-up.

When I finally made it up to the immigration officer I handed him our passports and chewed my lip as he decided our fate. Behind me Squeaky was losing her cookies into a barf bag. I’m not sure if that influenced the guy, but we were through really quickly.

Next, we picked up our obscene amount of luggage from the conveyor. A guy helped us put it on carts but I wasn’t sure if I should “tip” him or not. I didn’t, hope that was ok.

We pushed our three carts of luggage to the customs officer. I was all worried about this. The lady just looked at us and asked, “How many?” We said, “6.” That was it. Not a single suitcase was opened. We were just waved through.

Finally we exited the airport and got to feel the heat of the city. Not too long later our ride came and we piled in the back- no car seats for the girls!!! We all enjoyed feeling the wind through our hair. It was a honky and beepy ride home. We arrived at the mission guesthome around 12:30am local time and crashed into bed.