Sunday, June 24, 2007

New Pictures!

Well, it's been so long since I posted pictures, you all probably forgot what we look like. So here's a refresher! Below: John and Clara Anne at beautiful Cave Hill Cemetary in late May.
Clara has had lots of fun with some sidewalk chalk outside our apartment door in Louisville!

This one is from our trip to Huber's family farm--John, the "big pig" and Chloe, the "little pig." Chloe's appetite lately has been enormous; she truly fits the description!

At camp: One day we put Clara Anne down for her nap on our bed, and when we went in to get her she was wearing my pajamas! We have no idea why!

Also at camp: New friend Kellie (a counselor) convinced me to try the zipline. AAAaaaahhh! Here we go!

Who needs water to have fun?! Here the girls are playing in the common area of the lodge with their fun floaty ring. Clara Anne has loved all of our opportunities to swim recently! She has had a great time in the water and can hardly be convinced to come out.

Camping in the Kentucky Woods

Our first week of camp has come and gone, and we are having a great time! The theme of our camp is “Asian Adventure” in which the girls are learning about Asian customs, making Asian arts and crafts (kites and fans), and even eating some Asian foods! John and I feel right at home! It’s really exciting to see these young girls growing in their faith and getting a vision for what is happening around the world.

Of course, they’re also doing all sorts of fun camp stuff like singing silly songs (The Little Green Frog, the Coconut Song, Bazooka Bubble Gum Song, and more!), swimming, having chapel out in the woods, sleeping in cabins, and all the rest.

But, I must say, both John and I have been somewhat surprised at the high standard of living here at camp! Things sure have changed since I was a camp counselor in 1994! (Or maybe I just went to a less-developed camp!) The main difference is that the cabins here all have air-conditioning, with showers and toilets (albeit somewhat primitive) inside the cabins. That is a luxury we didn’t have back when I was a counselor! If you woke up at night and had to go, you’d have to find your flip-flops in the dark and trek down the path to the bathroom, then fight your way through the buzzing moths around the safety light outside the building in order to enter. As well, these girls don’t have to swim in a lake with fish, watersnakes, and turtles, like we did then, since there’s a pool onsite! How nice is that!

So, though I think that part of the fun of camp in the past was “roughing it,” I’d better be careful that I don’t start to sound like those stories your grandfather used to tell about having to walk to school uphill both ways . . . in four feet of snow . . . without any shoes . . . since I don’t mind at all having some more creature comforts. It’s true that these girls aren’t roughing it too much, but I must confess that at this stage in my life, I appreciate having a few more conveniences. Actually, we have a nicer bathroom in this cabin than we had in our home in Asia, and our room here is in a lodge with a nice common area right outside our door. It’s lovely! There’s even a kitchen just for staff (including us) use where I can make my coffee in the mornings and put our family’s necessity (yogurt) in the frig. Very convenient!

There are about 75-80 campers this week in addition to 15 counselors, and since this is an all-girls camp, John is overwhelmingly outnumbered! But for Clara Anne and Chloe, it is like having 80 older sisters. Clara Anne is in her element. She told me on the first full day (after having only spent one night here) “I like this place, Mommy!” She loves to imitate whatever the “kids” (as she calls them) are doing. It’s been really fun to see her interact with everyone; they’re all lavishing attention on her and she is soaking it up. I just hope we won’t have a spoiled little girl on our hands in 2 weeks! Times have changed, though--I’ve been pleasantly surprised how well she has taken to allowing other people to watch her while John and I are leading sessions. The last few times, she has hardly even looked up at me to say goodbye! I guess separation anxiety is a thing of the past.

We’ve had a beautiful few days weather-wise, too. The mornings and evenings have been cool, and the afternoons just warm enough to make the pool feel good. What a pleasure to be out in the woods, with blue skies and green trees, in a comfortable room, with all our meals provided, with a pool just down the hill, sharing with young, impressionable girls about things near and dear to our hearts! Wow! What a wonderful opportunity! It’s great to be at camp!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Goodbye, Louisville!

Two months have flown by, and on Monday morning, bright and early, we are leaving Louisville. We go from here to a camp about an hour away, helping out there for two weeks to share with the campers about Asia. We will be living in the counselor's accomodations and eating in the cafeteria--it will be the authentic camp experience! We're looking forward to it!

Our time here, though, has been wonderful. I could summarize it briefly with a bit of alliteration:


We have had such a wonderful time reconnecting with old friends and making many new ones during our time here! We have been so encouraged by those of you who have taken us into your homes, sharing your lives with us and allowing us to share some of our stories with you. What a blessing! It's been great to talk with so many people who are interested in doing what we're doing in the future. We feel so thankful to have a church home here with such quality folks. To those of you who had us (and of course, the girls) over for meals, thanks so much! There have been some memorable moments . . . like the time when Clara Anne took a crayon and drew all over the Joachim's small loveseat (which thankfully had a washable cover) . . . Clara Anne swinging with her daddy in a wonderful backyard hammock at the Ware's . . .Chloe exclaiming over the various dogs and cats we've encountered, and trying to pet them, even as Clara Anne would get scared and try to run away . . . eating "death by chocolate" at the Aebersold's and Chloe asking for more and more . . . putting the girls down for bed at the Janke's so we could play "Settlers of Catan" . . . the Wright boys taking Clara Anne for a stroller ride which quickly turned into "Bumper Strollers" . . . Clara Anne immediately bonding with Jamie Vickers (only 5 days her senior) and hearing squeals of laughter coming from the room where they were playing . . . Clara Anne falling down the back (cement) steps at the Kimbells and now still has a little white scar above her lip . . . the girls taking naps or going down for bed in numerous different homes all across town . . . and I could go on. Lots of memories!

Family Fun

Louisville has also been a place of lots of fun family times! The zoo has been a great family outing; we were just there for the last time this past week, and had a wonderful day together. Our friend Brenda came with us and so we went all out: rode the train, the tram, and she treated us all to a ride on the old-fashioned carousel. A baby elephant was born at the zoo this spring, so he has been fun to watch each time we've visited. Going for walks also ranks high on the family fun list. With the double stroller, it's been pure pleasure to take the girls out on long walks--John and I can talk and the girls can relax and enjoy the scenery. I'll miss the beautiful neighborhood we've lived in here! Other highlights: We made a trip with our friends the Peeks to Huber's family farms; what fun that was! There was a haymow to climb in, goats to feed, a swingset to play on, and even horseshoes to toss at the farm. You can see pictures here: And finally, we went as a family to a Louisville Bats game--they're the AAA club of the Cincinnati Reds and have a lovely, open-air park downtown. We had a great time on Memorial Day Weekend, the girls lasted well through the whole game, even for the fireworks show afterwards! Ok, I have to add one more . . . taking Clara Anne to the public library to read and play (they have this great "castle" built in the children's section where you can go inside and read), as well as going out for coffee with her . . . those definitely qualify as fun family times!


Ah, yes, let's not forget the food. We've managed to hit most of our favorite restaurants, like Qdoba, mmm, love that queso burrito . . . Lotsa Pasta for sandwiches on their fresh ciabatta bread (my personal favorite is the roast beef with smoked mozzarella). . . the Blue Dog bakery and cafe, home of artisan breads and Illy espresso, one of my rare exceptions to the "Starbucks only" rule . . . Tony Boombozz pizza, we ordered a "Steak and Potatoes" pizza with Asiago cheese because it was on special, and it was wonderful . . . Krispy Kreme for that hot, melt-in-your-mouth doughnut . . . Rocky Italiano's across the river which has truly delicious, authentic Italian food and I was served an acre of lasagne . . . Blue Bell ice cream . . . and lately when I was craving Chinese we got some take-out from the Great Wall restaurant in our neighborhood . . . we've even enjoyed KFC on a couple of occasions, it really tastes different (better) than in Asia! Amazing, since I didn't think I would want to eat that at all here in the States, since it is one of our few western choices at our home in Asia!


It may be highly ironic to talk about fitness directly after talking about all of that food, but actually I think I will always remember this time as when I started running. I think that I can officially say that I am a runner now, since I'm almost finished with the 8 week program (just 4 workouts left!), and I hope to continue for a long, long time. So, in hope, I will also count Louisville as a place of fitness since this was where the running began! I am trying to strategize already how to continue this even as our lives are in transition again and we get ready to get back on the road.

So there you have it. We are so thankful for the past two months, but I think we're also ready to move on. We accomplished a lot of our packing today, and after doing some more speaking tomorrow, will load up the car and get ready to go.

Goodbye, Louisville! It's been great!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

It's Raining Books!

On Monday night, I was the excited and privileged recipient of my friend Brenda's excellent idea. She had called me up about a month ago, suggesting that since we cannot buy children's books in Asia, she would throw me a children's literature book shower! We put together a wish list; somewhat of an education for me since I was not familiar with very much classic children's literature. Brenda is an avid children's literature collector and also an educator, so she knew all of the titles and illustrators that I should get for the girls.

Arriving at her home on Monday, I was surprised and delighted to find that Brenda had transformed her dining room into a Starbucks coffee shop! She had small tables set up, Starbucks coffee on the sideboard, and a tempting array of scones, miniature brownies, cream puffs, cookies, and the like to go with the coffee. She had even prepared a quiz for us all to do, testing our knowledge of children's literature. What fun! Here's a sample (fill in the blanks): "The owl and the pussycat went to sea in a beautiful ___ ____ _____. We had a lovely time with the 15 ladies that came, drinking coffee, chatting, correcting our quizzes, and then opening piles of books.

I received some wonderful books, like the "Frog and Toad" series, several Curious George titles, several by Robert McCloskey (One Morning in Maine, Blueberries for Sal, and Make Way for the Ducklings), a few of the Madeline books, Heidi, and then some collected stories--Dick and Jane books, and an anthology of classic children's stories. We have some happy times of reading ahead at our house! We also received some gift cards which we used to complete a few sets and expand our collection.

I want to say a special "thank you" to all of you ladies who came to the shower, and even those who couldn't come but sent gifts! It was a truly wonderful evening; your generosity was almost a bit overwhelming! I am thankful, the girls are thankful, and we will really enjoy reading and rereading these wonderful books for many years. Thank you so much!

Finally, laden with many packages and full of coffee and treats, we got home about 10 pm and so had to wait until the next morning to share the fun with Clara Anne and Chloe. They already have some new favorites: The Owl and the Pussycat, in board book form with lavish illustrations by Jan Brett, and Clara Anne has sat through entire books of Frog and Toad adventures and then asked for them again. Fun times, and happy reading!

PS. The owl and the pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat, in case you were wondering.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The American Dream?

We went for a long walk in the neighborhood tonight. The immediate neighborhood around where we are staying has some nice houses; actually quite nice I think. They aren't lavish, and don't have huge yards, but most are brick with nice landscaping and are fairly well kept up. But if you cross a little bit bigger road, the houses in that neighborhood are older, classier, and more elegant; in a different league. Many of those homes to me say "old money." They seem like they could have been in the family for several generations; brick colonial style houses with gorgeous beds of ivy, white pillars, lovely windows, and generally a lavishness about them that makes me feel a bit awestruck. I am sure most of them are in the half a million to million dollar range. It is a lovely place to stroll (I've been running there too) and so we enjoyed the quiet and the scenery tonight.

But as we were talking and walking, seeing these amazing homes, it struck me that these people could be thought to be living the American Dream. We passed one particularly lovely home with a BMW parked out front, and in the back window a Duke University decal--all symbols of what many Americans are striving for: a good education, a beautiful home, expensive possessions. And yet, what does it really all mean?

Our reflective mood was also partially prompted by John's recent reading of a biography of John Adams by David McCullough. John really enjoyed learning more about Adams, from Adams' own perspective, since the book included so many of Adams' personal writings and letters. The interesting thing is that for all of John Adams' influence and shaping of American history, Adams, though clearer in his thinking than some of the other Founding Fathers, could not really be said to have a clear faith relationship with Jesus Christ. He spoke of "Heaven" as if it were a being, he spoke of hoping that "Heaven" would see his good deeds and have mercy, but the essence of the gospel was missing from Adams' thinking.

Our discussion reminded me again of the saying that I've heard John Piper quote, though I do not know the original source: "Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last." Seeing those gorgeous homes with every trapping of wealth, luxury, and status, and thinking of John Adams' life--such a key, influential person who has had a lasting impact on this entire nation--and yet, "only what's done for Christ will last." It's a sobering thought, and a fresh reminder not to get caught up in all the "stuff" of life, but to truly live with intention and discipline, not for this world, but for the next.

That sobering thought is mixed in my heart with a sense of joyful relief. What a relief not to have to strive after the "American Dream," whatever that is anyway. What a relief not to have to worry about getting enough money to be able to afford a home like the ones we saw tonight. And what joy, when we know that all things are ours in Christ, and that our reward in heaven will be more than we ever could have imagined. It's true, I have been struggling a bit lately with feeling "homeless," but even that will pass away and my home in heaven will be that much sweeter.

Be encouraged, dear ones who are living for that permanent home! "Only one life, 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last."

The Averages Prove True

Well, the results are in. I took Clara Anne and Chloe to get their TB tests read last week and sure enough, the averages that I was told about have proved true. Previously, I had been told that the BCG (the immunization against TB) only "took" in about 50% of children, and so of my children, only one (50%) tested positive--Clara Anne. It was pretty obvious; Chloe's arm looked normal and I could hardly tell where she had been pricked, whereas Clara Anne's arm had a nasty red welt at the site of the injection. So this means that Chloe has not actually had any coverage from the injection she was given at birth, and she has a scar (on her hip) for nothing. Clara Anne's BCG was effective, and thus the positive results.

So on to the next step: a chest x-ray was ordered for Clara Anne, in order to rule out actual TB. We spent a better part of the morning at a children's hospital this past week, waiting, getting registered, waiting some more, and then finally getting the x-ray done. When it was finished, Clara Anne was the happy recipient of some Dora stickers, so she thought it wasn't bad at all! I spoke with the technician and asked her if I could have some proof of the results to submit to my doctor, so that she could be cleared of this issue. However, the technician could not officially "read" the results for me, but she offered to send them directly to the doctor. Great, I thought! One less step for us! But then as I prepared to give her our personal doctor's information, she said she had to send it to the doctor who ordered the x-ray, which was a man I had never met who worked at the TB clinic here in Louisville. So I could just go and get the records from his office at a later date.

I was running out of time, anyway, that day, so I just headed home and figured we would stop by the TB clinic sometime later in the week. John did that by himself one day, as he was out running errands, and discovered that he was not able to pick up the records without seeing the doctor, and that Clara Anne would also have to be present to have the doctor look at her! Unfortunately, they told us we needed to make an appointment and suggested June 22. But we're leaving Louisville on the 18th! Finally they said they could squeeze us in on the 11th, tomorrow.

So, tomorrow we will pack up Clara Anne and trek back to the TB clinic again. This will be the sixth time we have been to their offices! It's getting a little crazy. The truly ironic part of this is that we could have taken an extra minute to have this test done during our physicals, before we came back to the States, but we didn't because the girls had both had the BCG, and so usually a child will test positive for the first five years of life--our understanding was that the skin test wasn't necessary until 5 or older. A lesson learned! But at any rate, hopefully tomorrow will close the book on this issue and we can all move on, already! However, there is a silver lining: neither of my children have TB!

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Rescue of Doll

Some of you who have been reading my blog for awhile may remember a few posts, several months back, regarding the Adventures of Doll and then the Misadventures of Doll. Well, she's been at it again! Today's story was nearly total disaster for Doll.

It happened that last Thursday, while John was away, I needed to send and receive some emails. Due to a computer problem which I shall not go into here, we have not been able to do this at home, but must pack up the computer and go each time to our friends the Stam's home. They have wireless, and have opened their doors to us so graciously and unreservedly. John has even been there late into the night doing emails! So on Thursday, when I needed to accomplish this task by myself, I had no choice but to pack up the girls and all of their various accoutrements (i.e. Doll and two special blankets) to go and play for awhile at the Stams while I worked on emails.

The visit itself had its own drama--I had some issues getting Outlook to open and then midway through sending, realized how foolish I was to send a 14MB file to some friends in Asia. I tried to stop the process but Outlook just kept freezing up on me. Argh! I wish I was more computer savvy!

Finally I did get everything to work, and as the girls and I picked up toys and prepared to go, I was in a bit of a hurry, being way past suppertime and having hungry girls on my hands. Chip helped me carry Clara Anne out to the car, we loaded up and drove off.

But unbeknownst to me, Doll, precious Doll, was left behind. We missed her immediately as we prepared for bed, but I assumed that she had gotten left on the sofa near where the girls were playing. "We'll get her tomorrow when we go back, Clara Anne. You can sleep with just your blanket tonight."

However, Doll was not on the sofa. She had been carelessly dropped as I fastened Clara Anne into her car seat, and was lying by the side of the road! Thankfully, when taking their dogs out for a walk, Chip saw what he thought was a piece of trash, so went over to investigate and discovered the awful truth . . . Doll had almost met her end. Chip rescued her and brought her, special delivery, over to our apartment the next day, and related the whole sad story.

Clara Anne still has not grasped how close she was to losing Doll. It's probably just as well. But I can tell that we're going to have to take special care of Doll from now on! After all she has been through, and all of the places around the world that Doll has visited, we would hate to lose her now! Thanks to Chip for saving the day!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Bathtime Conversation

Tonight was bath night, not because I planned it. The girls just had a bath last night, and usually I let it go a day or two before we do the bath rigamarole again. But the truth is, they both LOVE to play in the tub. And when they saw me filling the tub tonight (for myself, to spiff up for John's arrival home tonight after a 3 day stint out of town), Clara Anne started pulling off all her clothes and Chloe pulled up right next to the tub and looked at me hopefully. So everybody got a bath. Afterwards, however, as I was cleaning up the tub, a slight altercation arose in the living room over a small riding toy. Here's the conversation as it happened:

Clara Anne: No! Chloe, that's MINE! AHHH! Mommy, help!

Me: Clara Anne, you may not talk that way to Chloe. You are her big sister and you know how to share. I want you to share that toy with Chloe and let her play on it.

Clara Anne: But it's MINE!

Me: No, Clara Anne, actually it isn't yours. Mr. Chip and Miss Doris very graciously loaned it to us, but it belongs to them.

Clara Anne: It's mine. I bought it.

Me: Really? How could you pay for it, since you don't have any money?

Clara Anne: I do have some money.

Me: Really? How did you get it? Do you have a job?

Clara Anne: Yes, I do.

Me: Well, even the things we buy with our own money are to share with others, Clara Anne.

At this point Clara Anne gave up, and after a few more words from me on the importance of sharing, she acquiesced, though not with very much grace. I never did find out what job she has. Perhaps she is a professional "Scatter toys around the house" person. She has been helping with the dishes lately; maybe she thinks that's her new job. At any rate, we'll keep working on the sharing. I have a feeling Chloe will insist on it!