Thursday, May 31, 2007


Language, my friends, is a very interesting thing. One of the beautiful things about living in Asia, especially after some other Americans came to live in our same city, is the way that we fell into speaking an interesting mixture of English and Asianese. After a while, we would really get going and have a great time with this mixed "third" language. I think that we all just found that some words in Asianese expressed what we meant better than the English words.

A case in point is the word "mafan." Literally translated to mean "troublesome" or "hassle," the actual meaning is much more fluid. "Mafan" is when your shower head clogs and you buy three new ones that all break in succession. "Mafan" is when you are told by one authority to come back on Tuesday to renew your visa, and when you make the 45 minute drive back over there, the person you need to see is out of the office and you'll have to come back the next day. "Mafan" is when you are in another Asian city and have forgotten your passport and must travel back home to retrieve it since no respectable hotel will allow you to stay without your passport (this happened to us). "Mafan" is when you are out of the country, trying to apply for a visa to get back in, and the school where you study gave you the yellow sheet, not the white sheet, and so the visa officer will not accept your application (this also happened to us). And now, though I thought that America was always the land of convenience, ease and quick communication, I have found that "mafan" is dealing with health care in the US.

I hate to admit it, but a series of events over the last few weeks has led me to apply this word to the US health care system, as a very broad generalization, of course. The advantages in the US are many: excellent health care which is on the cutting edge of science, given by people who are knowledgeable and caring, specialists for unusual problems and even public health care for those who cannot afford it. But there are also some disadvantages: insurance nightmares, coverage issues, malpractice lawsuits which have forced every doctor and hospital to give disclaimers upon disclaimers in regards to care, and lots of red tape and "hoops" to jump through, even to get a basic procedure done.

Let me just share our story as an example. Before leaving Asia, all of our family was required to have our blood screened for heavy metals--lead, magnesium, chromium, arsenic, etc. Because of the pollution in the area we live, it was deemed necessary for us to have this (very expensive) test. We were tested, and Chloe actually turned out to have a slightly elevated arsenic level. We wondered how this could be since when we left Asia she was only eating a few simple vegetables and fruits in addition to nursing. But her age range is the most vulnerable for something like this, so though the rest of our family was in the normal range, our doctor wanted us to follow up with her. We thought it would be a simple matter of a repeat blood test, but unfortunately it wasn't quite that easy.

I called a pediatrician's office to schedule an appointment, hoping to cover this issue and a couple of others with one doctor's visit, like we would do in Asia. The doctor's assistant had many questions for me, and we were doing well until I explained what I needed. She then kindly informed me that they could not do a blood test for arsenic, but that I would have to go to a hospital lab for that. They also could not assist me with several immunizations that Chloe needed, since Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies (while common in Asia) are considered travel shots in the US and not at all standard. I would have to go to a Travel Clinic for those shots. And they also could not do a TB skin test, that is only given at one place in this entire city (it would seem) and I would have to make a separate appointment for that. So as it turned out, there was nothing that doctor could do for us! We didn't even make an appointment with her!

Oh dear. We then spent some more time with the Yellow Pages trying to contact these various agencies to get this medical work done. We found out where and when the TB tests were given and chose a date to go there and get that done. We called the outpatient lab of a local hospital and tried to determine what they would need in order to get the blood work done. We also researched online to find a different place to get the "travel" immunizations, since those immunizations are all a month long course of three separate injections, and we won't be in Louisville long enough anymore to accomplish this. In addition, the Louisville Travel Clinic wouldn't take any insurance, only cash. So we'll wait and do that when we're back with my parents in northwestern Iowa.

Then, this morning, the adventure began. We left our house shortly after 10 to go to the TB clinic, hoping to accomplish that fairly quickly, with a quick trip following to the hospital lab, and then home by lunchtime. Both Clara Anne and Chloe needed the TB test, according to our doctor, although they both also had the BCG at birth. The BCG is an immunization that is supposed to prevent TB, and since it is a live virus a child who has had it will (should) test positive for the next 5 years, though they do not have TB. Previously we had not given them the skin test, but then our doctor informed us that the BCG only "takes" in about half the cases so it was necessary for us to have them tested now. When we found our way to the clinic, however, we were told they only do the injection between noon and 3. We were also told that if the girls do show positive, they will have to have a chest x-ray to make sure they do not actually have TB. This is "mafan," exhibit A.

Then we made our way to the hospital to get Chloe's lab work done. However, unlike in Asia, the US labs cannot do anything without a doctor's order. You can't just show up to the lab and say you want to be tested for arsenic. So, en route we were in contact with our doctor (via cell phone) and he told us that he had not yet sent the order for Chloe's work to the hospital, and that it wouldn't be as simple as a blood test. Because of the way that arsenic settles into the body system, it isn't always present in the blood. So a urine test would be more effective, he thought. How are we going to get an 11 month old to give a urine sample? Mafan, exhibit B.

However, the good news is that the doctor was going to order a "spot" test which meant only one urine sample. His first inclination was for a 24 hour collection, but when he realized her age, he said that a 24 hour collection would have meant a hospitalization with a catheter. I certainly didn't want to have to put my little Chloe in the hospital, just for this test! That would have been extra-super-duper mafan! I was very thankful for the spot test option.

We took several wrong turns trying to find the hospital, and then several wrong turns trying to navigate the parking lot and find the main entrance. (This is mafan exhibit C of living in the US. At least when you ride in a taxi the driver usually knows where to go!) After the usual rigamarole of registering Chloe as a patient, (I think we have hospital cards from at least 5 hospitals around the world!), some more mafan of contacting our doctor again, giving him the lab's fax number, the assistants in our doctor's office not being able to find the diagnostic code (no surprise since probably your average American doesn't need to be tested for arsenic very often!), and then finally the fax coming through, we attempted to proceed.

Now the only trick was to get Chloe to pee. We stuck a little "collector bag" on her and I nursed her and then slowly gave her almost 10 ounces of apple juice. Her diaper, which had not been changed since 9 this morning, was dry, and so I figured it was going to have to come out sometime! But stubbornly she held it . . . and held it . . . and finally, an hour and a half later, I was about ready to give up when in a moment of fussiness she let go. Hallelujah! The bag leaked some, so I had a good-sized wet spot on my leg, but hopefully they got enough to do the test.

We thankfully left the hospital and then, since it was past one, headed back downtown for the TB tests. After only minor mafan there, which mostly involved parking and broken meters, both of the girls got pricked. We'll have to go back on Friday to have them read and see if we need the chest x-rays or not.

At this point it was 2:30, the girls had eaten every snack in my bag (raisins, goldfish crackers, a granola bar, and some cheerios), and we finally made our way home. I guess it's all about expectations: I thought that taking care of these things in the US would be much easier than in Asia, since there isn't the language barrier, etc. But despite the fact that there was some mafan, hopefully it will all turn out all right and the girls will both be given a clean bill of health, which we need before we can return to Asia.

To those of you who made it all the way to the end of this long post, Congratulations! Hope I didn't bore you with the endless details! Or, as we can say in Asianese, (apologetically) "Mafan ni le!" meaning, "I have caused you such trouble. Sorry about that!"

Sunday, May 27, 2007

How Times Have Changed

It hit me the other day how much my life has changed since the last time I lived in the US. Four years ago, John and I lived in a tiny apartment, drove a Geo Metro (its outside metal only three sheets thicker than tinfoil . . or so I heard!), lived on a very tight budget since we were both full-time students, and of course, the obvious one, had no children.

Now I could almost be the poster person for "suburban mom." I drive a minivan (THANKS to Brad and Amy), strap my kids into carseats, go to play at the park or the zoo rather than going to movies, since it's more fun (and easier!) for the kids, and . . . well, I guess we still live in a small apartment. We still try to stick to a budget, but have a bit more flexibility, as is evidenced by the Blue Bell ice cream in my freezer--an unheard-of treat in our previous life. [To all you Texans out there: Ok, so maybe you had something to brag about. That Blue Bell is pretty good! Though I think it still rivals my all-time favorite, Blue Bunny Ice Cream made in LeMars, Iowa, the Ice Cream capital of the world, from Iowa cows eating Iowa corn! Blue Bunny's Homemade Vanilla is excelente!]

Since this is my first time experiencing what it is like to have kids while living in the States, all I can say is that it feels a bit surreal. Is this really me, driving around in a minivan and taking my kids to the zoo, playing with other kids in their backyards and going for picnics? Weirdorama. Somehow it doesn't feel real yet. Maybe that's because we're going back, and so I know we'll soon be saying goodbye to the minivan, the swingsets, and the zoo, and saying hello to taxis, busy city streets, and a foreign language being spoken around us again.

A friend asked me today at lunch whether I was ready to go back to Asia yet. I told her that though I'm eager to spend more time with our families this summer, I've already felt a few tuggings on my heartstrings back to our friends, work and life in Asia. I guess that's a good thing; our calling and work are there so maybe Father is helping me feel somewhat prepared for going back.

On another note, something major is changing in Clara Anne's life. Many of you know that she has loved to suck her thumb, starting at about 4 or 5 months old. She would cry, spit out her pacifier, and then suck her thumb contentedly. She usually sucks it two important times: when she is soothing herself to sleep and when she is a bit shy/scared/insecure. We asked the dentist about this at Clara Anne's two-year appointment, and she said she thought it was ok for Clara Anne to keep sucking it, just that she should stop when her permanent teeth were starting to give in. I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that would be years away and probably she would stop on her own before then.

But John read some research recently that indicated the thumb sucking could have an adverse affect on her permanent teeth even now (and it's true that her baby teeth are somewhat "bucked out" from it) and so he wanted to put a stop to it. He ordered something online from a Swiss company that is safe, but horribly bitter and sour tasting, to "paint" on her thumb. It lasts for 48 hours! The package came in the mail yesterday morning, and so yesterday at lunch John put it on her thumb. I am surprised and happy to say that Clara Anne has so far been deterred by the nasty stuff--I have only seen her attempt to suck her thumb once since then!

The only problem has been that she has had more difficulty falling asleep without the aid of her beloved thumb. She still has blanket and Doll to keep her company, but today I had to lie down with her to help her relax and be comforted so that she could fall asleep. Hopefully soon she will learn better how to relax on her own, without her thumb, so that she can get to sleep quickly after going to bed.

We've been talking about how only babies suck their thumbs or pacifiers, and so now that she is a big girl she doesn't need her thumb anymore. She seems proud to be a big girl, and was especially glad to get some candy this morning after the whole morning without any thumb sucking. I will have to watch out, though, concerning finger food--the taste of that stuff is so potent that eating with her fingers can make her food taste bad. Last night she began to eat some string cheese, but then said "I don't like this cheese" and refused to finish it. Thinking she was just being silly, John popped it in his mouth and then discovered that it tasted strongly of the nasty stuff. Yuck. That's enough to deter anybody!

So I guess the saying remains true: The only thing that stays the same is that things are constantly changing. But we think this change is for the better, both for Clara Anne's teeth and for her maturing process. Good Job, Clara Anne!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning

It's Monday morning and I'm enjoying a few moments of unusual quiet. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, I've already been running, had a shower, a cup of coffee, and picked up the house, and the most lovely of all . . . both of my girls are sleeping.

We had a whirlwind of a weekend, with a very full day yesterday. It started out early as we packed everybody up and went to speak at a gathering about 45 minutes out of Louisville, in the hills of Kentucky. We had a wonderful time with the folks there. Though smaller in number, they gave us a warm welcome and in Kentucky speak, "loved on us." It was really a blessing! The morning wouldn't have been complete without a potluck, and to my great amazement an entire Thanksgiving meal was set out for us, plus lots of other stuff. We enjoyed turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes (I couldn't leave without the recipe), gravy, rolls, cranberry sauce, and even pecan pie for dessert! Oh my! What a joy to be among all of you Mt. Eden folks. Thanks for hosting us with such loving hospitality!

It probably doesn't suprise anyone that the girls fell asleep on the way back home after a fun morning and a full meal. However, transferring them to their beds didn't work quite so well so though I was hoping for a nap, the brief hours of the afternoon were interrupted numerous times with children's laughter, dirty diapers, looking for Doll, some fussyness and finally letting Clara Anne get up even as Chloe fell asleep just before we needed to leave again. Isn't that usually how it goes, moms?

We were invited to a cookout last night with some new friends who live a bit outside the city, and have a lovely lawn and swing set/activity place for kids to play, including a sand box! Clara Anne was in her element. It struck me as we were there what a typically "American" situation that was--cooking out in your backyard with your kids running around on the grass. It was just plain fun! We were having such a great time that we decided to put Clara Anne and Chloe to bed there so that we could stay a bit later and play some games. This is the second time in the last week that we've done this (put them to bed at someone else's house), and I am amazed and thankful that it has worked so well! Clara Anne has done well with staying in her bed, and Chloe seems to be willing to go right to sleep too. It helped that the girls were tired out from all of that fresh air and exercise! We adults had a rousing game of Catch Phrase after the girls were in bed--always a fun crowd game.

So it's no wonder that after abbreviated naps yesterday and a late night last night, both of my girls needed naps this morning. But morning is fleeting . . . and lunchtime guests are coming . . . so I'd better get going. Let's do this again tomorrow morning, girls!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Coffee, Anyone?

It is no secret that I love Starbucks coffee. I worked for Starbucks for awhile, and loved the atmosphere, the opportunity to interact with all sorts of people, and of course I loved the free coffee. During any shift, employees are allowed three drinks! Wowza! That was back in the days before I had cut caffeine out of my life, so working at Starbucks generally made me very happy--all that caffeine and sugar! I had my favorites: a steamy hot chocolate, first thing in the morning, with a mound of fresh whipped cream . . . a caramel frappucino on a hot summer day . . . an americano just to enjoy the flavor of the coffee . . . chocolate milk to go with my peanut butter sandwich at lunch time . . . and of course, the ever-popular caramel macchiato. I loved to make my drinks myself with extra foamy milk, generous portions of whipped cream and caramel sauce. Oh my, I am craving Starbucks just writing about this!

When I was working at Starbucks and enjoying it so much, [sidenote: actually when I first started there I was really nervous all of the time because sometimes the drinks can be quite complicated. I actually had nightmares of people coming up to me and saying "I'll have a half-caf triple grande 2 pump 2% mocha, light whipped cream and no chocolate sauce, please." This actually does happen! Yikes!] John decided to apply for a part-time job as well. He was hired at the same store and we really had a fun time working there together. The funny thing is that John does not like coffee. And Starbucks requires all of its employees to go to coffee tastings and be able to describe their various coffees. (Like when a customer asks about the difference between Verona and Sumatra, just to name a few.) But John, practicing a "Star Skill" which is to ask for help, just deferred those questions on to another barista while he was working. Oh, he endured through the coffee tastings, but the taste of coffee just never grew on him.

Of course, John's dislike of coffee smashed all of my girlhood romantic dreams of sitting with my dearly beloved, leisurely sipping coffee and having wonderful conversations at chic cafes. Instead, he usually opts for a coke, and I have to find other people to indulge me and go out for coffee.

Now, you should know that my years in Asia only strengthened my love of coffee. This may be hard to believe, due to the lack of availability of good coffee there. Yes, there are about a zillion Starbucks knock-offs in our city, but after trying one or two, I gave up. The coffee simply tasted bad, or at least not as good as Starbucks. When we arrived in Asia I had a stash of whole beans with me and between that and traveling out to places where there were Starbucks, I was able to have good coffee at home very easily. I also found a cheap milk frother, which then allowed me to make my own lattes, cappucinos, and even Chai lattes (teabags sent from the States thanks to my friend Doris!). I got pretty spoiled drinking my excellent coffee at home, and it just didn't seem worth going out for coffee when I knew it would taste bad. I did, however, make the switch to decaf when I knew I was expecting Clara Anne, and still pretty much only drink decaf. But that is all right--I'm drinking it for the taste and the experience, rather than the jolt.

So, back to America again. At the moment we are living in Louisville, Kentucky, where there are at least 14 Starbucks. There is also a very good local chain, Heine Brothers, which I enjoy as well--they are the one exception to my "Starbucks or no coffee" rule. But, John still doesn't like coffee! So who will be my "go to the coffeeshop and hang out" partner?

Enter Clara Anne. Since we've been back in the States, she has seen me drinking a fair amount of coffee--both what I am making at home and the occasional cup at Starbucks. I think she associates the idea of coffee with a special treat, and so she always wants some sips of my drink in order to share in the special occasion. Since I drink decaf and don't use sugar, I usually think, Ok, why not? So I've been letting her share a bit when I have a cup in hand.

Last week Clara Anne and I were out for a walk while John and Chloe were at home. My feet seemed to magically lead us towards the Heine Brothers that is only a 10 minute walk away, so since we were headed that way anyway, I suggested, with a twinkle in my eye, to Clara Anne that we go out for coffee, just Mama and Clara Anne! She immediately agreed and we made our way there. I ordered my (fairly) usual: an iced decaf americano with some half-and half. With a child's eye, she quickly spotted the crayons, coloring books, and Care Bears game under the barista's counter, and we had a lovely time playing the game, sipping the coffee, and then coloring a picture. It was a sweet and special mommy-daughter time, and the coffee was great too!

Perhaps I have brainwashed my daughter to like coffee, and perhaps that isn't such a good thing, though it was what happened to me: whenever I would stay overnight at my Grandpa and Grandma Bruxvoort's home, I would sit down and drink coffee with them at "coffeetime"--midmorning every day. Of course there was a lot of milk and sugar in that coffee, and Grandpa teased me that the coffee would "put hair on my chest," but I felt like such a little lady having coffeetime with them.

And now the tradition continues! What fun! Thanks, Clara Anne, for going out for coffee with me!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Recent Quotables and Random News

Clara Anne is becoming quite the little chatty girl. She is talking and singing her own little songs all the time now, and sometimes the things which come out of her mouth make me laugh! Here's a few examples:

"Where is Mommy, where is Mommy, get Chloe dressed, get Chloe dressed, Is she coming back? Is she coming back? I don't know. I don't know." sung to the tune of "Are you sleeping, Brother John while I had left Clara Anne in the tub and was getting Chloe dressed after bathtime

"Mommy, did you hear that noise? I heard a noise! What's that noise?" after any sudden loud noise, like a car honking outside or if I drop something in the kitchen

"Did you hear me talking, Mama? I was talking to you. . . (brief pause where she realizes I have spaced out and am not responding) . . . Why won't you talk to me?"

"I want to sleep in Mommy's bed . . . because I don't love Dora." protesting the need for her to go to sleep in her Dora sleeping bag and tent

"May I have please sing a VeggieTales song Mommy? May I have sing Happy Birthday to Uncle Josh Mommy?" requests for me to sing are a regular part of our day

"No, Chloe! Don't touch! Ahhh! Mama, Chloe's a menace!" spoken when Chloe was trying as usual to get her fingers in whatever Clara Anne is doing--grabbing the crayons, pulling the puzzle apart, etc. Occasionally John or I has jokingly called Chloe a "menace" but I can see that is going to need to stop now!

and this one blew me away, I thought she had forgotten all about it . . .

"I want to go home to (Asia), Mama. Let's go to Emma's house." this was out of the blue, we hadn't seen pictures or talked about "home" or anything

And finally: "I need help with this book! May I have to read a book please Mama?" Spoken after trying to read a book to herself and not being able to "read" it like she wanted, this is a regular occurence

You can tell that we're going to need to work a bit on grammar--the "May I have" construction is getting used for everything but usually not quite in the right way. We'll keep on top of that one!

In other news, I am very happy to report that the retraining of Chloe was almost a non-event. The first night she cried about 1:45am, and even as I braced myself for hours of crying, she settled down after about 15 minutes! The second night she woke up just at about the same time, but only took 10 minutes to settle down. And the last two nights she hasn't woken up at all. PTL!!! Maybe, just maybe, we are making some progress in a good schedule again! And of course, part of me is kicking myself for not doing this a month ago . . . oh well. I'm just glad it's working out well.

The second week of my running training is going quite well! I'm really enjoying it, which is a small miracle! The weather has been perfect, so of course that doesn't hurt! This morning was not my day to run, but it was cool, cloudy and pleasant after a rainy night, so John and I set off on a walk to the local park which is a five minute drive away and about a 30 minute walk. We managed to get ourselves lost and make it there in about 50 minutes, but it was still a nice walk. We figured by the time we got home again we had walked about 9 miles! So we'll see if I feel like running tomorrow . . .

We celebrated John's 33rd birthday on Monday with a brief trip to the zoo and lunch out. It made me think, wow, you know you are parents when you spend your own birthday at the zoo! It was fun times, though, and gorgeous weather, so was a nice trip despite the hundreds of school kids on their field trip. John doesn't care too much about his own birthday celebration, doesn't want me to make a cake or buy him a gift or anything, so we enjoyed our outing in lieu of other things. We had a nice dinner with some new friends that evening and they made brownies and sang happy birthday to him--that was good enough for him! But, I'd like to say a belated "Happy Birthday" to John's twin, Sarah--I hope you had a great day! We're looking forward to seeing you again soon!

That's it for the random news from our house tonight! Good night!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all of you mothers out there, especially expectant mothers! I wanted to send a special greeting to my own mother, Jan, who almost 31 years ago now labored on a Sunday morning to give birth to an eleven pound, one ounce baby--me! Though there were a few tense moments in the delivery room, she found the strength to push out that big baby. And she has been one of the most influential people in my life ever since. From her I learned to cook, clean, and keep house (dying arts), as well as studying piano with her from a very early age. She encouraged my musical abilities and though she did not pass to me her gift of perfect pitch, I think I did get her love of music and her desire to make music to glorify the Lord. My mom always strives for excellence in whatever she does, and that has been a wonderful example to me.

My mom has been through a lot in the past year, with health difficulties that culminated in her needing to give up several activities that she loved in order to rest more. She is still trying to regain strength in her arms and legs, which often betray her with fatigue. But I have been so encouraged to see the Lord at work in her life, helping her to find peace and rest in Him. It has not been easy, and even now is not easy. She is fighting daily to take each thought captive and trust the Lord despite her circumstances. I am encouraged by her example. She has had many, many people praying for her and her church family has been amazingly thoughtful and helpful. We do thank the Lord for his provision, even as we continue to ask Him to restore my mom to full health.

I hope all of you mothers will take a few moments today to be thankful for the gift that the Father has given you in your children, to pray for those children, and to thank Him for your own mother! Happy Mother's Day!

There's Going to be Some Crying

Chloe has a sad confession to make to you all today. That is, she is not doing so well with sleeping through the night . . . again. Long-time readers of my blog will remember that way back when, we dealt with this issue more than once. Let's see, I think there were at least four different times in her short life where we went through the whole "let her cry it out" 3-day process of training and retraining her to fall asleep by herself after waking at night. And now we're back in that place again.

It seems that through all of the transitions our family has been through, Chloe has lost that ability to soothe herself and sleep through the night. I know this is somewhat my fault, for responding to her when she cries at night (rather than just putting up with the crying and forcing her to go to sleep alone), but some of it has also been the circumstances. We have spent many nights in hotel rooms (more than a month total) since leaving our home in Asia, and with all four of us in the same room it seems much easier to just get up, nurse her a little, and put her back down to sleep. Living in Richmond for those 10 days meant sharing a quad with several other families, some of whom were trying to get some rest just on the other side of the paper-thin wall from crying Chloe. So again, I gave in to her cries and got up to feed her. Now that we've been in Louisville, we're in an apartment complex where the sound also travels alarmingly well, and while the semester was going (and hard working students trying to get some sleep just upstairs and next door) I was somewhat embarassed again to let her cry.

Admittedly, I have taken the "easy" way out by letting her get me up to feed her. I was unwilling to let her fuss, and a few minutes of nursing usually did the trick, so I didn't mind too much.

But no more.

I have resolved that we need to dive into this process once again. I cannot keep getting up at night. On a good night, she sleeps most of the way through, or all the way through, but those good nights are becoming few and far between. Last night was not a good night. She was up at 10:30, then 3:15 and stayed awake(!) until after 5am, talking and playing. I tried to feed her at about 4 and that only made it worse. I think she finally got fussy and then fell asleep about 5:30. This morning she was as happy as ever, oblivious of the fact that Mama was tired out from being up two hours in the middle of the night!

So, I'm going to start playing hardball. I am going to rigorously adhere to her bedtime, and once she's in bed and all of her needs met, I'm not going in. It may take a few nights, but I know (at least I desperately hope) that we can get to a place of her sleeping through the night again. I confess that I have some selfish motivation to make this happen, but I am anticipating that the first part of this week will be pretty bad and then maybe, just maybe, we will not have issues with it again . . . until we have to move again, that is!

I feel like I should apologize in advance to my neighbors, but there's just going to be some crying; I can't help it. Let's all pray that it will be short-lived! A better sleeping schedule will be better for Chloe and for Mommy!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I'm a Runner!

Well, almost.

Several events in my life lately conspired to make me get off my duff and start an exercise program. First, that elusive 10 pounds that every (at least most) women would like to lose is still clinging to my person. Though I am reasonably happy with my figure, I KNOW that I am not in shape and have not spent much time in exercise in recent months . . . ok, years. And that's a stewardship issue, too--trying to take better care of the body I've been given. Aside from climbing the many stairs to our apartment all the time, the closest I got to intentional exercise was doing some an abs workout as well as some free weight lifting in our home in Asia. I had managed to lose my pregnancy weight after Clara Anne and Chloe (it came off much more quickly after the first one!) but knew I had a ways to go in terms of fitness.

The Asian doctor who examined me before we came back to the States was quite blunt about my physical condition. In his words: "You are overweight." At that moment, I was tempted to justify myself and remind him of my two babies in two years, etc., but instead I held my tongue as he went on to say "You should lose at least 15 pounds." To which I thought, well, of course, I'd love to lose 15 pounds! But how to make that happen, especially as we journey back to the States, the home of lovely, fattening, convenient, tasty foods?

So, inspired by my friend Angela, who recently completed a mini-marathon (that's 13.1 miles!) though she had never done anything like that before, and by my new friend Becky, who encouraged me that anyone can become a runner, and by the website, I have now successfully completed the first two sessions of a "Couch to 5K" program. The idea is that anyone who has never run before can train to run a 5K in just 8 weeks. The real draw for me was reading on the website that most new runners lose a pound a week--bonus! Honestly, running has always appealed to me because it is something I could do anywhere, but I just never thought I could do it. But now, I think I can, I think I can!

The first week of this program is pretty simple: a brisk 5 minute warmup walk, some stretches and then 60 seconds of jogging followed by 90 seconds of walking, for a 20 minute total "run." I was so pleased to find that I could do it without feeling too tired or getting out of breath! And it was truly lovely to run out in the neighborhood around our apartment--hearing the birdsong, seeing the green grass and trees and everybody's nice landscaping, enjoying the fresh air early in the morning.

So, here I go! Maybe in a few months I can truly say "I'm a runner!"

Sunday, May 06, 2007

It Worked! Hallelujah!

Finally, after great perseverance, I have discovered the problem: our internet connection was simply too slow! Now, thanks to the gracious hospitality of our dear friends Chip and Doris Stam, I have been successful in uploading some great photos from recent weeks. Above: here's a gathering of John's family outside a restaurant in St. Paul. We had just had a wonderful brunch with literally acres of hash browns!
Clara Anne and her aunt Mary having a great time at Mary's piano!

Here's John's mom, Grandma Ann, with her two youngest grandkids!

Fast forward to life in Louisville: One of Clara Anne's favorite recent activities is to feed Chloe. She takes her job very seriously, as you can see from this photo. Chloe, my perpetually-hungry baby, is happy to eat from anyone's hand, so opens her mouth willingly like a little bird.

This was a picture from our travels--Clara Anne in her bed, all set up in a hotel room. She's wearing Dora panties, Dora jammies, in a Dora sleeping bag (previously the dora inflatable bed that wouldn't hold air), and inside her Dora tent. She's a happy girl!

Speaking of happy girls, Clara Anne LOVES to swing! There's a park a 5 minute drive away with a great kid's playground. This picture is more recent--within the last week.

Here's a photo from Cave Hill cemetary, which I have mentioned in my blog before. We went this past week to walk and feed the ducks, and got to see these newborn chicks. They were not shy at all and came right up to us to eat our stale bread! Clara Anne thought it was great!

What do you think of this double stroller?! The girls really like it and it frees me up a LOT. This was also taken at Cave Hill.
Happy times when Daddy's home!

Here's our happy Chloe, enjoying the swing too!

Clara Anne, pretty as a picture!

So now you are caught up on the pictures side of our life! Rachel, you can finally see what my kids look like these days! Hope you all enjoyed the photos!

Any Ideas?

I am having no success in posting pictures--this is the third or fourth time I've tried and it seems to pull up the picture all right, but then starts downloading and stalls out about halfway through. Any of you experienced bloggers have ideas for me? Help me out here!

Oh, the (Temporal) Joys . . .

of Krispy Kreme! Yes, I know, how shallow and unhealthy can you be, to find simple pleasure and joy in a "hot and now" Krispy Kreme doughnut! But they are SO good!

Last night we had a wonderful reunion with some people who came to visit us at our city in Asia in the summer of 2005. Everyone was there except one woman who lives in Florida (we missed you, Jennifer!), and many have experienced significant life changes since that time--graduations, weddings, engagements, even two pregnancies. It was so fun to catch up, share more about what is happening in Asia now, and see pictures and scrapbooks from that time. What an encouragement! The work that these people did is still bearing fruit, and we are thankful for that. Other than Chloe being uncharacteristically fussy (I think she is getting some new teeth--really--it's not just an excuse!), we had a great time. We also took our Asian friend Robert with us; he met these folks in our city back then and now they are really helping him as he is studying here in America.

On the way home, we decided that it would be fun to drive by the Krispy Kreme and "see if the light is on." For all of you not familiar with Krispy Kreme, their signature marketing trick is to have a neon sign in their window whenever they are making fresh, hot doughnuts. It's often in the evening as they prepare for the next day's needs, and if the neon light is on, it means that you can go in and order some of the doughnuts that were just made moments ago. When they are hot and fresh like that, the glaze is barely set and the doughnuts just melt in your mouth. There are probably only about a zillion calories per doughnut, so not to worry, right?!

Well, as you already guessed, when we drove up, the light was on. Chloe had fallen asleep, so I stayed in the car with the girls as John and Robert (still wearing their "Hello my name is..." tags from the reunion) went into the store. They came out with paper Krispy Kreme hats on and a box of fresh, hot doughnuts. As I bit into the first one, John said, "are they as good as you remember?" "Better!" was my enthusiastic reply. They were amazingly tasty--so tender and sweet without being too greasy.

So, although we will not be enjoying Krispy Kreme except every once in a great while, it was a wonderful thing last night! All good gifts come from our Father, so I can even thank Him for the treat of Krispy Kreme!

My Dancin' Girls

Many of you know that John is especially gifted at making up short, fun, and silly songs to entertain our girls. They seem to flow naturally from him, and my only regret is that since they're made up, spur-of-the-moment, these songs don't get written down or remembered for later singing. For John, who seems to have an endless supply, that's no problem, but for me, I am always looking for already-made-up material to sing to the girls.

But, happily for us, a few of these songs have gotten caught on video tape, and thus recorded for posterity. One of John's classics is "Jammy Girl" which was inspired by a white fuzzy sleeper that Clara Anne wore when she was about 5 months old. But my latest favorite is "Dancin' Girls" which he improvised one night when Clara Anne and Chloe were just out of the tub, freshly lotioned and dressed. Clara Anne was dancing around to his music and trying to hold Chloe's hands, encouraging her to dance too. This was before we really saw Chloe attempting to move to the music, which she started doing in earnest later.

In the past few weeks we have had some new music for the girls to dance to: an album called "Songs that Jesus Said" by Keith and Kristyn Getty. It is wonderful! They are all original songs based on Scripture, with lively melodies and accessible lyrics, even to a two year old. We've listened to it several times over the last weeks, and both of the girls are now pretty familiar with the songs.

Thursday morning as the girls were eating breakfast, I put this CD in to play, and immediately my dancing girls sprang into action. Chloe, who was strapped into her booster seat, started moving from side to side and front to back with her hands up in the air, and Clara Anne got down out of her seat and started "dancing" around--which her version of dancing is to run around the room and clap her hands over her head, adding in some twirls here and there for emphasis. She usually does this until she is dizzy and then falls over. I think our dancing skills need some refining!

But, if you'd like a good show, just come on over and see my dancing girls! I'll even sing John's song for you!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Daddy's Home!

Yippee! The day we had all been waiting for finally arrived . . . John got home yesterday late in the afternoon. He truly had a wonderful week of ministry, getting great responses from people and being well taken care of, but it sure is good to have him home again. There were some pretty big smiles on Clara Anne's face!

We decided to celebrate his homecoming by taking a picnic to the park . . . though once we arrived there, Clara Anne had no interest in eating and only wanted to swing, and swing, and swing. "Higher, please!" is her most common request. We stayed late into the evening (it doesn't get dark here until 9pm!) so the girls were plenty tired out from all of that fresh air and exercise. Fun times!

Ok, blogger refuses to load my super-cute pictures of John pushing Clara Anne in the swing . . . I shall try again later. And the girls are calling--time for supper! More later!