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Russia Mission Trip Adventures: Day 1

Russia Mission Trip Adventures: Day 1.


Russia Mission Trip Adventures: Day 1

Effiel tower 1

Ok, so actually we didn’t go straight to Russia. We had a teensy, 11+ hour layover in Paris. It would’ve been a sin not to take advantage of being in the city for that many hours, so off we went. Truth be told, we were both pretending to be braver than we were. There was so much to figure out, and the whole “they don’t speak English” thing more than complicated an already confusing adventure. Not being able to read is greatly hindering….it really gives me a greater compassion for those in our country where English is not their first language. How often do we hear, “You’re in MURICA. Speak American!” haha Seriously, it’s hard to learn a new language when you aren’t a toddler! I’m not advocating to change our national language or anything, I’m just saying maybe we should try walking in an immigrant’s shoes before we judge. But, I digress.

Not being able to read what was (what I came to find out) the passport control line, prompted me to speak to the irritable passport control officer about our desire to go for a short while into the city while we awaited our next flight. I made the mistake of thinking she might provide us with some instructions. She. Did. Not. Care. I think someone had been very mean to her that day. At any rate, she eyed me VERY suspiciously and said, “okkkkkkkkay.” Christine and I were unsure what “Ok” meant, but we recognized that we were being invited to stop speaking to her of such mundane matters and exit. Body language is universal.

We spent the next bit of time turning a few circles and trying to take an educated guess as to which door it would be best to exit through. Yes, it was THAT confusing. The next bit of time is a bit blurry, but it basically encompassed us trying to figure out how to get our carry-on bags checked, purchase train/metro tickets into the city, and navigate our way to those locations. I do remember stopping at a little airport market to purchase a water and pastry, only to leave the water. It’s alarming to find yourself being run after and shouted at in a foreign language—it was not to be the only time on this day. J Fortunately, this was just the kind cashier making sure my thirst was quenched. Skip to being in the city:

At this point, I was allowing Christine to fully navigate us while I enjoyed the sights and sounds of the city. Eventually I realized that we seemed to be wandering aimlessly…so I confronted my fearless navigator. She denied being lost, but wasn’t convincing! Our goal was Notre Dame so we could orientate ourselves and we somehow stumbled upon it after we got a good bit of walking in. Once we found Notre Dame, we were able to locate the main reason she wanted to go into the city: a bookstore!? Not The Louvre, not the Eiffel Tower, but a bookstore. A tiny little bookstore where people who don’t even suffer from claustrophobia might just develop it while browsing. The reader and writer in her were beyond thrilled at the touching of all the books, old ones and new ones. I enjoyed seeing her barely contained excitement, but truth be told, would’ve personally been happier at a Barnes and Noble with a coffee and a comfy chair and no one bumping into me every 45 seconds. I am such a spoiled American.

Next on our list of “must do’s” was a sidewalk cafe to have the clichéd croissant. At that point we were ready for lunch, so we ordered none other than French Onion soup, expecting it to be amazing. It was awful! How is it that the FRENCH are unable to make delicious French Onion soup?? We were almost devastated. But we still had shopping to do, which always cheers a girl up. J It was so fun buying an adorable scarf and sweater in the city of fashionistas, but I got to laughing at myself standing in line, wondering if we were at the TJ Maxx of Paris! When I wear them, I will imagine myself on a runway….lol!

After shopping we were famished, so we stopped for some pastries. J Then it was off to our fourth goal—seeing the Eiffel Tower. We had been in Paris 12 years earlier, so we had been to The Louvre and up in the Eiffel Tower, so we really just wanted to walk over to it and enjoy its beauty in person for a while before we went back to the airport. At the base of the Tower is a sweet little park, so we sat there and watched people and took pictures and stared at the magnificence of the structure that is known the world over. That was my favorite part of our day.

We decided to head back “early” to the airport since we were unsure of the amount of time it would take to uncheck our carry-on bags from the place we had left them and navigate our way through customs and to our gate. Hours early. By now we were simply back-tracking, so our time in Charles De Gaulle wasn’t nearly as intimidating. Until. We were innocently making our way to the customs line, when suddenly a police-ish guy starts hollering “STOP!!” We turned around to see what crazies were causing the commotion, and found him making his way toward US! He demanded (very suspiciously) to see our passports, and then asked if we were together. I, very confused, said she was my daughter and we were traveling together. He continued to look at our passports and eye us suspiciously for about an hour (or 30-45 seconds—whichever) and finally let us go. The man behind us had his passport ready, but the police-ish man wasn’t interested—just turned to walk away. The man commented on how weird it was and we agreed, nervously laughing and wondering what it was about US that could have possibly seemed suspicious. A conundrum indeed.

*On a completely unrelated note, I have a word of personal advice when internationally traveling. If you find yourself right outside the customs line of, say, Charles De Gaulle airport, and make the mistake of transferring goods (even simple souvenirs) from one piece of your luggage to another person’s luggage, then trade bags with said person, don’t do that. And don’t then get in the customs line. It may possibly come across suspicious in nature.*

We made it through customs without further incident, then went to have a leisurely dinner (or lunch or breakfast—our internal clocks were good and messed up by now) and then have a nap before boarding the plane to Moscow a few hours away yet. Turns out that even being a part of the military community for over 20 years, a person can still read military time wrong if they are really, really tired. I added instead of subtracting (for those of you who understand military time) and we almost missed our flight. Christine happened to notice they were boarding just before we were going to find a quiet corner, and it was final boarding at that!! Whew!! She was smart and alert! Glad someone was! This is not really the end of day one because we were traveling opposite of the sun, but I will resume another day.


Mission Trip Adventures: Just a little teaser post

PermPerm mission

Christine (our 18 year old daughter) and I returned from a 12 day mission trip to Perm, Russia  on July 4th.  My husband and I decided when she entered high school that before they left our home we wanted to take each of them, individually, on an international mission trip to help combat the typical American egocentrism and give them a chance to share the love of Jesus outside their own little world.  It took us longer than we expected to save the money with the whole all four kids want to eat 3 times a day. 🙂 If our van wasn’t  breaking down, a kid got their license and we found ourselves in the market once more. This actually happened 3 times with 2 old-enough-to-drive kids because our oldest son’s truck engine was on fire when he left work one day.  But I digress.

God’s perfect timing is always…perfect. We were in Perm right when He wanted us there, and it was a beautiful, life-changing experience.

It was Christine’s first time in Russia, but not mine. In fact, it was my third trip.  Over ten years ago, my husband and I searched the world over for our two youngest kids and found them in Perm, Russia. A 3 yo boy and an 11 month old girl.  A.Dor.Able. Love at first sight. For real. The worst part was having to go back to the States for two months while something as inane as paperwork kept our family apart.  We went back in February of 2003, got home a month later in March of 2003, and movers came 3 days later to move us across the country. The baby cried the entire four day drive.   When we got to our new home in the middle of a California desert, the Air Force didn’t have a home on base for us like we expected.  So with a toddler who spoke only Russian, a Diva baby who seemed outraged that she had been adopted to a family with siblings, and a 6 and 7 year old who missed their friends, home, and parent’s undivided attention, we lived in a hotel. And then temporary base housing. And then a hotel. And then a rental house. For like 12 weeks.  Yeah.  I would love to say it was easy, peasy and we all gelled like a Dr. Scholl’s insert, but that wouldn’t exactly be true.  What IS true is that the baby had double ear infections and I had no idea because I didn’t know her well enough to know the difference in her cries.  I got strep throat that made me want to crawl in a hole and die on the day the movers were moving us into our rental house.  In the rental for six of those weeks,  the boxes were piled to the ceiling and I was constantly digging for a pot or a pan or a spatula.  And I had to call my mom and dad to drive (PLEASE!!!) all the way from Alabama to California because It. Was. That. Bad. I have no idea how we made it that first year except Jesus. And grace.  Loads of it.  We had been really, really awesome parents and overnight we sucked.  Seriously.

Fast forward 10+ years to my oldest and I embarking on a God journey last month to the birth city of my youngest two.  The agenda? That part was a little foggy—we didn’t go with a team. The two of us just went where we knew God was leading us to go.  I really wasn’t even sure why—I just knew I felt compelled. Beckoned.  Almost being pulled by the ear for you moms that might be reading.  I didn’t know what He had for us to do, but I knew that top of MY list was to love on me some caretakers.    Possibly (probably) not the same ones that took care of my babies.  But close enough. I wanted, needed, them to know how important and thankful I was for all they did.  A really thankless job.  They see a good bit of death.  A whole lot of sorrow.  But no money.  The ones at my children’s baby house worked four, 24 hour days a week.  For the equivalent of $50 a month.  Seriously.  The fact that it was more than a job, but a calling, was evident while we were there.  When I brought over a storage container of clothes and diapers on my second trip, they literally squealed with delight, grabbed my daughter, and begin dressing her befitting her Princess status. During the two months that we were away, they would sit with my 3 year old each day and go over the photo album we had left him, pointing out his new mom and dad that would soon return, (da, they are coming back!), his siblings, and his pets he could soon torture. When we got home, their ability to love and receive our love made the caretakers care and attention even more evident.  A person needs that always, but especially those first years.

God gave me a chance to do that.  We went to four orphanages, one of which was where we met our children.  We took picture books that told a little of our family story, and gave them each one to keep.  In the front of the book, I wrote to them how well adjusted our children were because of the love and care women like them gave them and that we pray for them regularly.  Our translator wrote it in Cyrillic for me underneath what I had written. As they looked at the book and listened to me speak through the translator, they cried.  We all cried.  I was surprised at what an emotional experience it was to thank someone you never imagined getting the opportunity to thank for a blessing you could never repay.

I’m certain I was blessed more that day in late June than anyone else.  My prayer and hope is that the picture books will circulate among the caretakers and others that work with the orphans, so they will be refreshed and strengthened just a little by the knowledge that they are oh, so, appreciated. Of course, more happened on our trip.  Not much of what I had EXPECTED, but I loved every single minute of it. And I am so thankful that God sometimes allows us to participate in the glory of His Work. Stay tuned if you’re interested in a day-by-day post of our adventure. 🙂


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My Favorite Poo Story: A Mother’s Day Tale

My Favorite Poo Story

In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I would post my all-time favorite Dunn story involving poo.   Of course it involves our over-achieving first child, Christine.  We had Christine in San Antonio, TX, just 3 short weeks prior to being picked up for pilot training in Columbus, MS.  Being a first time mom, I had it alllllll together. HA! I knew nothing. But I had read every book available, so I thought I was well informed.  For example, I knew that nursing her was best, and by-golly, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t going well and I was in constant pain, this child would. be. nursed. But, I digress.

The poo incident happened halfway between San Antonio and Columbus in the innocent little college town of Ruston, LA.  We stopped at a Wendy’s to have some lunch, but eating out didn’t look the same anymore. Now, we parked in the back so I could nurse (while Jimmy ran in and grabbed food) and we ate in the car. We were in a Bronco II (only 2 doors) so I crawled into the back and got my little sweetie, all swathed in pink, out of her car seat.  She seemed a little distressed, but who wouldn’t be after riding for hours all buckled in?  She ate and I sat quietly—the Princess didn’t like anything to disturb her eating.  I was trying to keep her covered, but not suffocate, with a light blanket because we were, after all, in a parking lot. I’m nothing if I’m not modest. *smile*

When she finished eating, it was diaper changing time.  I put my little bundle of love on my lap and began changing her.  At 3 weeks, she was probably weighing around 10 pounds or so.  Just a little thing.  What happened next still surprises me to remember.  As soon as I opened her diaper, she PROJECTILE POOPED more than you would ever believe a 10 pound baby could possibly possess.  Did it get on me? Yes! My top half was covered in poo! Loose, stinky, breast milk poo.  Jimmy was inside getting food (where in the world WAS he? How long does it take to get a burger??) and I needed to get her changed but had to change myself first.  But how to do that with a baby in my lap? Being the seasoned mom I was after 3 weeks, I just stripped that poo-covered shirt off and began mopping up the delightfulness of motherhood the best I could. After that was taken care of, I needed to cover myself before my man came back mortified to find me half-naked in the back of his truck with our baby–I was still trying to let him think I knew what I was doing. So, as sexy as a nursing bra and 3 weeks postpartem body is, I began searching behind me for my suitcase (just my neck and one arm because the baby is in my lap, still a mess). My suitcase was at the bottom, of course, so the next best thing was the dirty clothes bag on top. I wrestled out the first dirty, wrinkled shirt I could find, (not mine, oh well), and struggled into it.  I never thought to look around until the emergency had been averted.  Once Christine was changed and being burped, I looked to my left.  I will never forget the look on that truck driver’s face from his front row seat.  Unlike any strip show he’d been to before—I can guarantee that!

 This was my first initiation into: You’re a Mom Now: There are NO Exit Doors.

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I’m a Quitter.

Not really. I like to think of myself as a fixer.  When the seam started coming out of my dress, I sewed it up–I didn’t just continue to wear it “as is” and live with it.  If the dinner I make stinks, I figure out a way to adjust the recipe, OR, ditch it and make something else next time.  If a parenting strategy is failing to be effective with one of my children, I find something that IS effective.  I don’t just keep doing something because it was the original intention.

That being said, I’m sending Insanity back. 😦 I did it for 10 days with one rest day and dreaded every single moment of my life for those 10 days.  I would wake up in the morning already miserable, knowing what was to come.  I would dread turning it on, doing the warm up, doing the exercise, everything except the stretching.  The stretching felt great because I knew the pain was over for a moment.  But as soon as I turned the DVD player off, I was dreading 23 hours or so later when I would have to do it again. Perhaps I bit off more than I could chew.  Maybe down the road when I’ve gotten into better shape, I could handle it. But I’m telling you–Insanity is the hardest thing physically by far I have ever done or even considered doing.

The good thing is that I had a 30 day money back guarantee, so I will be returning it and ordering a different Beachbody program.  I’m leaning towards “Slim in 6”.  I finished the 10 -day  challenge I was a part of, and have started a 90-day challenge.  I have an awesome coach that talked with me a long time today about my fitness goals and helped me find something that would work better for me.  As soon as I was honest with her about how miserable I had been on Insanity, she told me to stop immediately and we would find something that I actually enjoyed–no one should dread working out as much as I have.  I was thinking everyone hated it so I should just push through and keep on going. I also have foot issues–when my coach found out I was doing Insanity with plantar fashitis, she tried to convince me to find a program that would involve much jumping. But. I didn’t listen to her because I did’t want to be a quitter. Some praying and talking through with Alyson, my coach, helped me grab a much needed dose of perspective and realize I’m not quitting, but fixing a serious problem. 

The important thing is that when I got discouraged in my program (and it was much farther than I’ve ever gotten with a DVD before), rather than throw my hands up, I got support from my coach.  And I’m finding something that will work for me.  Part of me (maybe 5 %) is disappointed that I’m not finishing it, but 95% of me is so relieved I don’t know what to do.  And I’ve been so cranky lately because of it that my kids will probably be relieved too. haha  I’m eating better and cleaner and feeling good.  I’m thinking whatever I choose next will seem like a walk in the park compared to Insanity. Please God, let it be so. 🙂  


Insanity Begins!!


Today I did my first Fit Test for the Insanity workouts.  For those of you who are blessedly unfamiliar with the Insanity program, you take a fit test every two weeks, recording your results each time to see how far you’ve come.  Shaun T. makes everything look so easy—no problem! The warm up nearly kicked my butt!  You know you’re in for a beating when you feel nauseous during a warm up.  After you finish that excruciating 5 minutes or so, the next 15-20 minutes is just 8 simple enough exercises.  No weights or equipment involved—just you and your sweat.  Each exercise is done for a mere minute (HA!), then you take a short break to “record your results”.  I put that in quotes because I was repeating my number in my head so I wouldn’t forget it while sprawled on the floor like a crime scene, waiting for the police to come do my chalk outline.  The last 5 minutes is the only good part of the workout—he stretches your abused muscles while they are still shaking in protest to the absurdity that just happened to them.  I did manage to “finish”, and eventually stopped shaking enough to fix myself a breakfast protein shake.  I didn’t look like an athlete today, but I take pleasure in knowing that I was dressed like one and I didn’t throw up.  It’s the little things…

So I guess today is day 3 of what will be a 100 day challenge for me.  My challenge to myself is to make lifestyle changes—I want to lose weight and get in shape, but I want it to become even more important to me to honor God with my body and the choices I make daily concerning it.  I’m not there yet, but I’m praying about it and asking God to change my heart.  I want Him to take my thoughts and motives captive (2Cor 10:5), even my “good” ones, and line them up to His glory.  Right now, my main motivation to get off my rear-end is the closet and the mirror.  The clothes that are in my closet don’t fit (even though I’ve bought bigger sizes) and the mirror tells me why they won’t fit.  My prayer is that my main motivation will soon be that being a healthier and more fit version of myself brings glory to God and is an example to the children God gave me. It will hopefully give me energy to have discipline in many other areas of my life that I struggle with because I’m tired.  Lack of discipline is a common denominator for me in many/most of my struggles. 

Time to go “edumacate” my chilrens. I hope you all have an absolutely INSANELY wonderful day!!



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Becoming Less of a Woman (official) Day 1

Well folks, today’s theme is baby steps. I can’t make every lifestyle change at once without blowing my mind, so I’m doing it gradually.  Its a lot about attitude right now–in fact, after last night’s post, I was so encouraged and inspired by what I blogged that when I woke up this morning and looked in the mirror I was truly surprised to see the same overweight chica looking back.  In my mind, I’m waaaaay down the road from what I look like. I’d say that’s a pretty positive change.  Maybe even half the battle.  Or a third.  The other 1/3 is eating better, and the last 1/3 is exercise.

My tapes aren’t in yet, so my sweetie and I went walking/running for 30 minutes.  The miracle here is that it happened at the end of the day when both of us were exhausted. He had a procedure done on his neck this week, so its sore.  ANd I just didn’t want to go.  Quite honestly, the ONLY reason i went exercising tonight is because I knew I’d be reporting back here. So thank you for the motivation to get off my considerable rear-end and move a little.

I didn’t blow the eating today–I actually did pretty good. Except for the two cokes I had. Baby steps. I’m focusing on a thing at a time.