Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More New Photos!

Hot off the presses! Here are some brand-spankin' new photos of the girls, taken to commemorate Clara Anne's second birthday. I just went to pick them up today!

It was funny, since Asianese couples usually only have one child, they weren't sure what to do with me and my two children for the photo package. In August when I took them both, they said it was fine to take both girls' pictures, separately and together, (altogether 10 photos in the cheapest package) for the same one price. This time they told me no, I should buy two packages, one for each girl. I tried to ask why it was different this time, but they seemed determined not to understand my Asianese. Finally I said, ok, I'll just buy one package then and use it for Clara Anne, since it was her birthday. But when we went upstairs to the photo-taking area, the photographer (who was not in on the previous conversation) immediately said, oh, let's take some of both of them! So here they are--Chloe too. We got some cute shots despite both of the girls getting crabby at various moments. The great part about getting pictures taken here is that they also gave me a CD of the 10 photos I chose, so I can freely share them with you all! Enjoy! Clara Anne on a surfin' safari!

Chloe, our elf-child, straight out of Rivendell

Clara Anne's efforts to make Chloe smile are sweetly rewarded

Hello? Emma? Grandpa? Grandma? Hello!

Jeans are so much better than those sleepers Mama used to make me wear!

Our fun-loving 2 year old girl!

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Dora Bed Adventure

Awhile back, John and I were discussing how to maintain some continuity for the girls as we are about to embark on 7 months of transition. One particular area I was concerned about was sleeping. Both of my girls are good sleepers and seem to need a lot of sleep. Since I know how I feel when they don't get enough sleep, much less how they feel, we were trying to figure out how to help them get good sleep while we're gone. They'll need to sleep in hotel rooms, at friend's homes, sometimes in the same room with us and sometimes in a separate room. We'll be at Grandpa and Grandma Roelofs' house for awhile, and at Grandma Wind's house for awhile. We'll be at a camp in Kentucky for several weeks, and at John's sister's home in New York for a week, and the list goes on. So in all of these transitions, how to maintain the same bedtime routine to help them sleep well?

For Chloe, it will be easy. We have a travel-sized pack-n-play for her that she has been sleeping in since she returned to our city after being born in a different country. So we're planning to take that along. But Clara Anne's situation required a bit more thought. She is 2 years old now, and potty-trained. She is still sleeping in a crib here at home, but only because we had not yet bought a big girl bed for her, since it really wouldn't fit in our present apartment--she and Chloe are in the same room and there isn't quite enough room for a twin bed.

But then someone suggested to us a toddler ready bed--essentially an air mattress which has a sleeping bag fitted over it. It is very portable and folds up easily, and yet gives the idea of a big-girl bed. "Perfect!" we thought. "We'll buy one and use it during January to help Clara Anne get the idea of it, and to train her to stay in it at night, and then when we travel she'll already be accustomed to it and it'll all be great!"

However, it wasn't quite that easy. We looked on Amazon.com and found a fun Dora the Explorer bed that we thought Clara Anne would love. (She still has only seen the show once or twice on DVD, but she loves the idea of Dora.) But Amazon wouldn't ship this product internationally. We decided it was important enough to pay shipping twice, so we had it shipped to my parents and then they shipped it over here. It arrived a few days after Christmas, but our first disappointment was that it wasn't the model we thought we had ordered! Bummer!

Oh well, we opened the package anyway and let Clara Anne see the bed and start to get excited about it. But, the very first day we opened it up, pumped it up and let Clara Anne lie/play on it for awhile, it wasn't too long when we noticed it was losing air. Bummer again!

Then, Clara Anne had her own ideas about the bed. She loved to play on it, put her dolls to sleep in it, etc, but anytime that I suggested that she sleep in it, she immediately cried and refused to get near it. I was truly baffled by this response. All of my entreaties were to no avail! Finally, since I didn't want to push it too much, I just let it go and let her sleep in her crib, where she obviously felt more safe and secure.

But the other night we had a breakthrough. As Clara Anne was going to bed for the night, she said, "Sleep on Dora! Sleep on Dora!" Seeing that she was sincere, I let her have the (deflated)Dora bed inside her crib, just so she could have the fun of sleeping on it, thinking that maybe in the future it would be an easier transition to sleeping on it alone. However, when I entered her room not more than 20 minutes later to help Chloe settle down a bit, I found that Clara Anne had gotten the sleeping bag part unzipped, climbed out of it by herself, and then proceeded to toss the entire thing over the side of her crib. Take that, Dora!

Since then though, we've had one successful nap on Dora outside the crib, and one night on Dora inside the crib. Maybe we're making progress! Tonight, though, Clara first wanted to sleep on Dora, then after I had gotten it all arranged she tossed Dora overboard again, and then cried for the Dora bed to be put back! Good grief, make up your mind, Clara Anne!

Since we only have a little more than a week left at home, the day is coming when Clara Anne will have no option--it's Dora or the floor-a! But we still haven't found the leak! I guess we'll add that to our list of to-dos before we leave! Until next time . . .

Sunday, January 28, 2007

New Pictures!

To all of you faithfully checking my blog during the post-earthquake days, here's some pictures to reward you, now that our internet is working again. This first one shows you what a good little helper Clara Anne is in the kitchen--I was making banana bread and she mashed the bananas for me! Can you see her cute braids? Her clothes look like they could be out of the Brady Bunch 70's flower children days!

Here's a family photo from a few weeks ago; January 14, 2007. Almost everyone is smiling!

I have mentioned my house helper so many times, I thought I should show you all a picture of her. Here she is, chopping vegetables for our lunch.

Actually, that day I had taught her how to make my mom's famous Broccoli-Cheese soup, and also gave her my recipe for Buttery Breadmaker Rolls. It was a Thursday, and that means "play day" so you can see us all gathered around the table in my very small dining area. We are being a bit silly--many of our Asianese friends like to give the "peace" sign when taking pictures, so we thought we would do it for this one as well. We look a bit goofy! Maybe we were just excited to eat Western food that we didn't have to make. Mimi did a great job following my mom's recipe and resisted her Asianese impulses to approximate ingredients , so it truly tasted just like my mom's. Yum, yum!
And one last picture: story time with Emma and Clara Anne on my lap. They do love to read stories together!
And stay tuned until tomorrow, to find out how Clara Anne really feels about sleeping in a big girl's bed!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Could it really be true?

Is it possible? Can it really be that our internet, after an entire month of slower-than-molasses-in-January-connections is finally fixed?

I don't want to jump to conclusions, but the fact that I successfully logged into blogger tonight for the first time in a month gives me that impression! Yippee! We did learn how to deal with the internet as it was, but I cannot deny that our life will be easier with a faster internet connection. Thank you, all you hard-working people on ships fixing underground cables in the ocean!

Well, it's Friday night and the whole house is settled in for the night. The girls are fast asleep, the house smells lovely after a round of chocolate cupcakes were baked in my oven, and all the toys are picked up. My house helper was here today so all my dust has been temporarily managed (it will reappear again tomorrow). I even did the dishes after supper tonight (ok, I confess I sometimes stack them for the morning if there aren't many or I'm too tired) so my kitchen is all sparkly.

However, I have a confession to make: I am officially the mother of a toy-snatcher. In case you were under the impression that sweet, gentle Clara Anne would never do such a thing, I am very sad to disappoint you. Clara Anne and Emma have had lots of opportunities to play together recently, and Clara Anne has decided that whenever she wants something that Emma is playing happily with, she will simply grab it out of Emma's hands. We have even had some situations where Emma, in pure and simple self-defense, runs away from Clara Anne, but usually Clara Anne just runs after her, trying to get the toy.

I don't know why, when there are a zillion toys to play with, that Clara Anne must have the one that is already being played with! After Christmas and New Years, there were even more toys available at both houses but that has not seemed to help the problem. We are trying to address this issue with Clara Anne but it is truly a heart issue: greed leads to grabbing, whereas we want her to have a generous spirit, giving Emma free rein to play with her toys, and especially letting Emma play with Emma's own toys!

So I've decided that the memory verse for this next week is Acts 20:35 "It is more blessed to give than receive." A few weeks ago, we were working on part of Acts 5:21 "We must obey God." Clara has that one down pat now and it is great to hear it coming from her mouth at random occasions--even teaching it to her Doll! I hope it can really be true that this next memory verse will sink down into her heart and help her have a more generous spirit!

Here's a recent photo of Clara Anne with some of her friends who are generously overlooking her toy-snatching tendencies. Aren't they cute?!
And now it's Chloe's turn to have a moment in the limelight. She has been an absolute doll baby lately; eating like a horse and sleeping a ton, and smiley, giggly and talkative when she's awake. She loves to say "da-da-da" in a soft little voice and especially loves being tickled and held up high in the air. She is growing so fast, and getting to be quite the little chunk to carry around. She still has a rather egg-shaped head, and not much hair yet, but we still love her! We are loving watching her learn how to "scoot" (we can't really call it crawling) from one place to another. She manages to get where she wants to go! It's fun--some of Clara Anne's first words in the morning are usually, "See Chloe? Play Chloe!"
Of course, just as I was writing that, Chloe decided to wake up and cry (very uncharacteristic of her--truly!). So I'd better go and convince her that nothing is wrong and she should go back to sleep.
But hey, now that the internet is working again, I can post again soon! Thanks for hanging in there with us during the slow stages!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

And the Clock Keeps Ticking. . .

Lately I feel a bit like my life could be that show, “The Amazing Race.” I have only seen the show a few times (reruns on Asian TV when we were traveling) but the idea seemed to be a sort of gigantic scavenger hunt with many challenges thrown in, where working together as a team is really important. The clock keeps ticking and the teams can’t make up for time lost; they just have to keep on trying to do better during the next portion of the race. Our life has looked somewhat similar lately! The clock is ticking on our leaving date: only 13 days! We are trying to use our time well and accomplish each day’s tasks, but it’s taking all of our combined effort and energy to do so.

It’s strange, because I don’t remember feeling so pressed for time before we left the States initially. That might have been because we didn’t have two children! We also had quite a long time to prepare and leaving was literally leaving behind lots of precious people and things and venturing out into the unknown: a huge adventure! Now the tables have turned: instead of venturing out we are returning to the familiar. And yet, so many things have changed in the past three years! The most obvious, adding two daughters to our family where before there were no children, has been a huge change. Welcoming our daughters into the world, caring for them, praying for them, seeing them grow, playing with them . . . all of that has changed our lives and our family drastically.

But John and I have also changed. We’ve gotten used to the crazy traffic, the low prices, the smoggy air. We eat Asianese food pretty much every day. We speak Asianese every day, and sometimes I dream in it! I am also happily accustomed to my house helper making lunches, doing my laundry, mopping my floor, and washing my dishes several times a week. I also can now tell the difference between 3-4 different types of Asianese rice. (They truly do look, smell, and taste different!) I have even grown to like some types of fish (which is served whole) and seafood, which I never thought would happen. [Though, as a sidenote, yesterday I was at the grocery store and wandered past a section of seafood—a huge display of octopuses artfully arranged on a pile of shaved ice. Oh my, the slimy squishy yuckiness of it all…rest assured that I was not tempted by the sale price or the “attractive” display!]

I hope it doesn’t seem somehow ungrateful or anti-American, but I have recognized lately that I am sad to leave for so long. We will be gone from our home here for seven months, and I am a little sad to have to say goodbye to friends, stop eating yummy Asianese food, and be away from our home for that long. It is kind of like a chapter of our life is ending, since we plan to move from this apartment when we return, which is a little sad. On a lighter note, I even feel a bit concerned that I will miss the food so much that I have been asking my house helper to tell me how to make certain foods so that I can try to make them in the States. Actually, I am SURE that I will miss the cheap prices on fresh, fresh vegetables, just as an example, yesterday I bought a package of two red and two yellow peppers for about $.60 USD. You can’t beat that!

On the other hand, there are lots of things I’m looking forward to about going back for awhile. Topping the list is seeing family and friends, and introducing everyone to our daughters. I’m so excited for Clara Anne and Chloe to get a chance to spend time with Grandpa and Grandma Roelofs and Grandma Wind. We also are truly excited to share with many of you the wonderful things happening here on this side of the world. Other random things we’re looking forward to: eating at Cracker Barrel, taking road trips (of which we have several planned!), which means driving—something we haven’t done for 3 years! I am super excited to take Clara Anne to the library to choose some NEW books to read (boy am I tired of reading the same books to her over and over! I think I can recite some of them. In fact, she can recite some of them!). I’m also eager to do some shopping in a land where I am a normal size and not the extra-extra-large gigantic size that I need in this country of thin, willowy Asian people. My cupboards also need some restocking so it will be great to just go to the grocery store and be amazed at the variety and selection! And one last thing: speaking English! Hearing English spoken! Everyone else speaking English! Though I will truly miss speaking Asianese (I do think it is a beautiful language) and I feel glad about how much Asianese I can speak, I am really only at an intermediate level and so still only understand about 60-75% of what is spoken to me, and that’s on a good day. So it will be truly wonderful to be able to hear, understand and communicate freely.

Well, I started this blog talking about being pressed for time, and now here I have sat, writing for the last 30 minutes. So I shall conclude and go do some packing, or something more productive, since the clock keeps ticking! Good night!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Have You Tried. . .

Some of you know that recently I had my turn in the family at being under the weather. I just had a mild case of the flu—starting with a sore throat, then fever for a few days, and now a lingering cough. All of my Asianese friends have been very concerned and offered lots of advice. They have their own ideas about natural medicine and healing which sometimes I think have some merit, and sometimes I think sound totally crazy.

One of the basic concepts is that of “losing fire/gaining fire.” For example, in this traditional medicinal system, if you get a cold sore, you have too much fire, and you should eat various foods that are “cold” foods (not in temperature, in their system of classifying things. For example, pears are cold but peaches are hot. Brown sugar is hot but white sugar is cold…and on and on). In the past, especially after having my babies, I was told that I needed to eat lots of “hot” foods because having a baby causes a woman to lose lots of blood, which is considered heat, so to replace the heat, you should eat hot foods. Make sense? (Or clear as mud, as my dad would say?)

Not only that, but in cases like that, the folk wisdom handed down from the grandmas insists that it is right no matter the consequence. This is why a woman who has just given birth should not take a shower or “touch cold water” for 30 days because if she does, she will compound her heat loss and get sick. No matter if she doesn’t get sick for the next year, the next time she catches a cold or anything like that, the grandmas will insist that it was because of that one time, after giving birth, when she washed her hands or ate the cucumber or whatever the offense was.

You can probably guess that my Asianese friends were shocked, SHOCKED to find that I had not only showered within 24 hours of giving birth, but that I was up and around and on my feet again, eating whatever appealed to me right after Clara Anne and Chloe were born. They were even more shocked to find that I was taking care of the new baby by myself (with John’s help, of course) and didn’t have a month to rest in bed like their new moms do. No matter how I insisted that I wasn’t sick, that I felt well and it actually felt good to get up and around, they were appalled. They were also quite surprised to find how quickly I returned to my normal shape and lost my weight again! I wonder why?!

Anyway, to finally get to the point of this post, I just wanted to pass along some of the remedies that have been suggested to me in the last few days, and see if you think that any of them would be things that you would like to try the next time you get sick. Here they are:

  • One of my salon ladies told me I need to drink a mixture made from boiled leeks, fresh chunks of ginger, and brown sugar. The leeks and ginger are strained out and the brown sugar is just for sweetening. (This is actually quite good, I’ve tried it before.)

  • My other salon lady told me I definitely should not drink that mixture, it would do bad things to me, so I should just soak my feet in hot water and try to sweat a lot.

  • Mimi, my ever-resourceful house helper, made me two helpful mixtures: one was a fried egg that then was simmered in brown sugar water, (tasty but a little strange) and the other was pears, boiled and pureed with a little white sugar. The egg-brown sugar mixture was supposed to be especially great for women’s health, but only if you eat 6 of them at once. “SIX!” I said, I don’t think I could eat six! But Mimi insisted that I should try. I gave up after the third egg; we saved the other three for my next meal. The pear mixture was just fine; I’m not sure that it really helped me, but hey, it’s the thought that counts.

  • My tutor brought me a large jar of honey, saying that I should drink it in hot water. That’s a remedy we even use in the West!

  • Everyone who knew I was sick reminded me with strong words that I should not drink cold water, only hot water. The hotter, the better! They all said I needed to lose fire, and somehow, drinking hot water would make me sweat and therefore lose the extra fire. Um….ok!

I truly appreciated everyone’s concern for me, and have actually tried all of these things over the last few days. But the “creeping crud” is still in residence in my chest, so I shall have to continue my at-home remedies. I am thankful to have my energy back and hope to get rid of the cough soon too.

In the meantime, I’d better go mix up another batch of the leek-ginger-brown sugar brew! Cheers!

Rock-n-Roll, Baby!

On Sunday morning we were gathered with some other American friends for our special “meeting.” It’s always a bit challenging organizing this time, since there are just as many children among us as there are adults. There’s no nursery care for this gathering, though! So we try to involve the older girls, but they are only 2, so they still have some difficulties with paying attention for longer periods of time and sitting still. Usually our plan has been to have them participate in the initial singing, praying, and reading of the Word, and then during the discussion of the week’s passage they either lie down to rest or watch a praise video. So far it’s working all right, but now the younger girls are getting older and presenting their own challenges since they just don’t sleep as much as they used to! Last week we joked that perhaps we need to have our gathering at 8pm since at that time, all the little ones are in bed!

It has been sweet to see, though, how our older girls love the singing. We have some shakers and a small tambourine that they can use to participate, too! John often plays a small bongo drum set and with the piano or guitar going, we definitely make a joyful noise. The older girls love to shout “Hallelujah!” at the ends of the songs, and shake their shakers wildly. It’s truly wonderful to see them be a part of it!

But last week was special. The little girls, who are showing more and more of their own personalities, were also in the room during the singing (neither of them were sleeping yet). I was playing the piano, John was bongo-ing on the drums, and Clara Anne was shaking her shaker. And Chloe…Chloe was holding her shaker, and literally rocking and rolling to the music. She was sitting up on the couch, and every time the music started she would start rocking back and forth, moving her little torso forward and back. Whenever the music would stop, she would stop too. It was precious!

I promise it wasn’t just a fluke—several times this week I have either been playing the piano or playing music (this morning it was some Mozart orchestral music) and she responds the same way. I think I have a little music lover on my hands! It is especially fun since Clara Anne reacts so differently to music. When she was younger and we would listen to music together, she would go very still without any particular facial expression, and then at the very end she would say, “More?” Only then did I know she liked it! Chloe is showing us with her whole body how much she’s enjoying it! It’s good exercise, too!

So Chloe girl, we’ll keep on playing and singing the music, and you keep on rocking and rolling!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Misadventures of Doll

Here is a glimpse of a recent event in our home, exactly as it occurred:

Clara Anne is playing with her Doll, who is in her stroller. Clara Anne crosses the room, then says in a serious voice, “Doll, come here.” Doll, of course, does not respond.

Clara Anne says again, “Doll, come here right now.” When again Doll doesn’t respond, Clara Anne climbs up the piano bench to reach the “sad stick” which is stored on top of the piano. She gives Doll two flicks on her bottom and says “No-no, Doll. Naughty. Disobey.”

Doll, instead of looking sorry or sheepish, just continues smiling. Clara Anne then hugs her and says “Be happy, Doll.”

Good job, Clara Anne! But next time don’t give Doll a second chance—she should respond right away! Remember, to delay is to disobey! Too bad for Doll, she truly couldn’t help it. Maybe the training we’re doing with Clara Anne IS sinking in a bit!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Holiday Highlights

Happy 2007, everyone! Thanks to the assistance of the lovely Angela, I am now back online. I’m not sure why this method (of sending her my posts and having her post them online) didn’t occur to me earlier, but I’m glad that it seems like it will work so I can share the family news with you all again. Warning: this post is long and includes lots of details! Extra points if you get all the way to the end!

Christmas this year was really special, after lots of thinking and planning. It still feels like John and I are trying to settle on our own family traditions. In the past, in the States, we usually tried to spend time with both families during the holidays, just participating in their traditions as we had opportunity. On John’s side, that meant church on Christmas Eve, opening presents afterwards, and eating lots of John’s mom’s homemade goodies. On my side, that meant getting together with extended family, playing lots of games, eating Chex Mix, and the annual Christmas Bowl family football game. (Played in the yard, not watched on the TV!)

So for us, the first Christmas away from our families was at the end of our first year in Asia, 2004, and that’s the day that Clara Anne was born! Exciting, but not a tradition to repeat every year! And last year, though it was Clara Anne’s birthday, we were super busy giving tons of outreach Christmas parties and had two parties scheduled for Christmas Day. Plus, since it was only Clara Anne’s first birthday, she was pretty clueless of her special day and actually a bit crabby since she had been sick earlier that week. In fact, last year, when John and I went to get Clara Anne out of her crib on her birthday, we sang “Happy Birthday” to her excitedly, and all she could do was cry in a pathetic voice (read: whine) for me to pick her up. We got it all on video—I like to call it “Bummer of a Birthday.” So we wanted this year to be different!

In talking through what we wanted Christmas to be like, we decided to strive to keep the idea of Christmas as a time to share Christ with others. It is all about Him, truly! But also, since it is Clara Anne’s birthday, we wanted her to feel like it was her special day. So John suggested this idea, borrowing from his parent’s Christmas Eve tradition: we will have a family Christmas celebration, with candles, singing, and reading the Christmas story, on Christmas Eve, and then Christmas Day will be Clara Anne’s special day to celebrate her life and the years that God has given her.

So this year, that’s what we did! On Christmas Eve, we spent some time passing out Christmas cookies in a square downtown (see my post of Dec. 24), and then spent a wonderful afternoon singing carols around the piano with some good friends. On Christmas Day, we had a special birthday breakfast for Clara Anne with fresh hot muffins and scrambled eggs, and then a special birthday lunch out at Pizza Hut. (Don’t laugh, remember that Pizza Hut is a really nice dining experience in our city!) Admittedly, that was our choice, but as she gets older we are going to let Clara Anne choose what she would like to eat on her birthday. That was a tradition in my house growing up, and I always felt so special. Clara Anne got to open a few gifts in the evening, we took some pictures, and we all sat down together to read the Christmas story one more time. The girls experienced bath time together for the first time on Christmas night, and John and I finished the evening by playing Yahtzee—a Roelofs (my) family favorite—and of course, listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas CD.

The day after Christmas we set off on an adventure to ride as many taxis as we could in the morning hours, between getting everyone ready and coming home for lunch. We had a special gift to give to taxi drivers—a cassette tape with Christmas songs and a special presentation of the Good News. John took Clara Anne, I took Chloe, and we were able to share with more than 40 people that day! It was a great blessing and a joy to share. Although a few people looked at us strangely, it was encouraging to find that the majority received our gift with gladness.

Whew! After all of that, we were tired! But there was still more fun to come! The 28th is our wedding anniversary, and though we didn’t actually celebrate on that day, we did take both of the girls and enjoy lunch at one of our favorite western restaurants. John had a meeting in the evening, and I will confess I was a little sad and lonely by myself at home. I tried to read things on the internet—but it wasn’t working, and at the time I didn’t know why. I tried to watch a movie, and the DVD drive on our computer was acting up, which is does once in a while. I tried to call my friend Rachel, and her cell phone was out of minutes. In the quest for something to do, I finally resorted to exercise: I have some weights that I lift several times a week and also some abs exercises that I do. This wife was overjoyed to see her husband arrive home that night!

The celebration of our 10th anniversary was truly special, a few days later. In the morning, despite our awful internet situation, the connection was good enough to enjoy a long chat online with my family members, who were all gathered at my mom and dad’s for the holiday. Modern technology is truly a blessing! We were able to see and hear clearly and even sang some songs together. PTL! I think there must have been some divine intervention, since just the day before, the connection was terrible.

Then in the afternoon, we left our kids with friends (only the second time to leave Chloe with someone, the first time she was only a few weeks old!) and went out for some fun and food. There is a bowling alley in our city which seems to be imported, lock, stock and barrel from the US. The shoes are all sized like the US, the balls are weighed in pounds, not kilos, and in general everything is really nice looking and well-maintained. I won the first game, but John prevailed and won the next two, ending with an all-time personal high of 159! He did great! We spent some time browsing through a local mall (something we never do since kids have little patience for things like that) and made the find of the year—avocados! Yes, they were expensive (imported from Mexico!), but we thought it would be worth it to make guacamole for our New Year’s Eve celebration. Dinner that night was at the restaurant of a five-star hotel in our city’s downtown; they have a fabulous Brazilian Barbeque and buffet. Brazilian BBQ is where cuts of meat, particularly beef, are seasoned and then roasted over an open fire, and then the waiters come around to slice portions off the skewers for you. It’s tasty! Good beef is hard to find in this Asian country, (I have never cooked anything but ground beef at home) so every few months or so, we go to this restaurant and enjoy. A special highlight of our dinner was taking turns naming our top 10 highlights of 10 years of marriage. What a treat to sit, enjoying the food and atmosphere, (without little ones to manage) and just talk, reflecting on 10 years together—10 years of the Lord’s faithfulness. Only He knows what the next 10 years will bring!

New Year’s Eve was fun and a bit crazy this year! My friend Rachel and I had planned lots of snacky food for our supper that night: her homemade Chicken fingers, a layered bean dip that I like to make, of course the special guacamole, and then we decided to attempt (our first ever) “Bloomin’ Onion.” Neither of us had any experience deep frying, nor did we have a thermometer. The process was going well, cutting the onion, breading it, etc, until the deep frying: the oil was too hot. The breaded coating cooked too quickly, and got too toasty, while the onion pieces were still somewhat crunchy and a bit raw-tasting. Too bad! It used a ton of oil (which we saved) so we’ll have to try it again. The other food, including chocolate dipped strawberries and individual molten chocolate cakes for dessert, was all wonderful and a fun treat to eat.

The best part of the night, though, was the games. First came Quiddler, a word game that we love, and then Catch Phrase, on and on, into the wee morning hours. In fact, John and I didn’t arrive back home until 3am! I am not someone who normally enjoys staying up late (because as all mothers know, if you don’t sleep while the children are sleeping, you will cry when they are crying!) but this night was a super fun exception. We had put all the kids to bed quite early, so we had many hours of game-playing fun and conversation before we finally headed home. I’m just glad there are taxi drivers who work all night! I’m also glad that my girls seemed to sense the uniqueness of the events so that when we got back home and got them to bed, they both agreeably slept LATE the next day—Chloe got up at 10, and Clara Anne not until 11!

So our New Year was ushered in with a bang; and since then it’s been full-steam ahead. Our leaving date is rushing nearer and nearer, and there’s lots to accomplish before then!
I’m going to have to be diligent with my time in order to make good progress towards packing up our house, studying language, and my normal wifely and motherly tasks.

There you have it: you get a bonus for making it to the end of this very long post! And the bonus is a picture of Chloe, taken just today, sitting up like a big girl. Thanks for bearing with me! And Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Communication and the New Year!

Greetings from the Wind family scribe, Angela
(who is writing from the United States).

On behalf of Rachel, per her request, I am writing to the Gone-with-the-Winds (GWTW) fan-club to give an updated word. All is well! However, due to the earthquake off the shores of Taiwan on December 26, the Wind's Internet usage is virtually non-existent. I received an email from her today with a bit of information that I'd like to pass along to you.

Rachel states, "The quake actually broke two of the three major cables that connect Asia with the US, so any Internet usage which requires international connections (like me trying to view a US site) is either extremely slow or not available. The worst news is that it may be the end of January before it is back to full speed again!. . . International calls have been affected as well."

Rachel is able to occasionally view (Internet) sites in the US (she says it can take up to 20 minutes to load one single page--yikes!!), but she is unable to pull up her Blogger account, ". . . hence," she states, "no blogging!"

So GWTWers, never fear! The Winds are well--just a little out of the communication loop. So keep them in your prs. Also, sounds like they've been dealing with the flu, as well. The most exciting news is the reminder that they are busily preparing for their return to the US. Rachel said, ". . . we leave for [another country] for vacation and meetings a month from today, and then from there back to the US." Exciting times!!!

Lastly, be expecting a few more updates in the future. Until she is able to access Blogger, Rachel plans to send along those updates via email for me to post for all of us to enjoy. Thanks, Rachel, for allowing me the privilege to be your mouthpiece from Asia. I told Matthew that I now could label my time spent on Blogger as the L.d's official work! (ha)


P.S. Rachel is able to receive your comments on this blog via her email (I'm pretty sure), so don't be hesitant to leave a message on this or any future post. Email works (occasionally), just not blogger. Or, if you have her email address, she'd love to hear from you. . . just keep in mind the slowness of the Internet over there with regard to her ability to respond.