Wednesday, July 25, 2007

From Here to There and Back Again

The past week and a half has been filled with many miles, lots of time in the car, and numerous special events! In fact, we've put more than 6,000 miles on our car since we left Louisville in mid-June! In case you are misled to think (since I have not updated my blog) that we are still hovering around Chicago somewhere, I thought I'd better give an update today.

From Platteville and Ethan and Heidi's we drove to Waterloo to see John's brother and family. Thanks to Robert (just call him the "chronicler") who took many pictures, here's some picture highlights of our visit! Here's Andy, Laurel, me and the girls enjoying nephew Julian's Little League game.
Laurel has a friend who just started her own dessert business, so Laurel thought she would support her business and celebrate my birthday by ordering this fabulous cake! It was vanilla cake layered with raspberry jam, raspberry buttercream frosting and fresh raspberries to garnish. It was as delicious as it was beautiful! (And went perfectly with a cup of Starbucks, of course!)
We spent an evening at the park and Chloe had a great time climbing up the slide!
We also had fun putting together an Asian feast. With Robert's indispensible help, we made four dishes: an eggplant, potato and pepper one, a stewed cabbage, pork and noodles one, a mushroom, egg and spinach one, and finally the one you see below, strips of pork in a tasty brown sauce (the sauce brought from Asia) with leeks, eaten by rolling up in very thin egg pancakes. It was great fun to make and I'm proud that it turned out so tasty! I couldn't have done it without Robert!
A fun family photo. Can you tell that John and Andy are brothers?! After leaving Waterloo, we spoke on a Sunday at a service nearby (we've logged more than 35 speaking engagements so far!) and then traveled back to my parent's home. Here's some photos of the homecoming!
Grandma and Clara Anne admire Grandma's pretty flowers. See Chloe crawling on the sidewalk? When will she learn to walk?!
No, Clara Anne, don't pick the flowers! The easel behind the flowers is a new garden decoration-Mom had one made for each of us kids with our names and a favorite verse. Dan's is behind Clara Anne--"Give thanks in all circumstances."
Grandpa and Grandma have a pretty deck and a prettier backyard. I appreciate the green in ways I never thought I would after being in Asia!

Clara Anne loves reading stories with Grandpa!And here's where the pictures will have to end, because I'm running out of time, and probably (if you've made it this far) you're running out of interest!

We had three days with my parents in Rock Valley, of which the third was my birthday. It was so special to celebrate here! My mom's birthday is the 21st, so we celebrated hers as well. What a fun, festive occasion! There were lots of balloons, a wonderful meal was shared, and there were even Dora paper plates and napkins to use for dessert!

On Thursday we got on the road again, to travel up to Fergus Falls MN and stay with John's mom. We enjoyed going to the county fair, where Clara Anne seemingly had no fear and rode all sorts of rides, some by herself! The next morning, after a traditional breakfast at the Viking Cafe downtown Fergus, we traveled down to the Twin Cities in order to see John's sister Sarah perform that night in "Oklahoma!" She did a fabulous job and it was a great time!

Saturday the morning was spent in nostalgic reminiscences as we took Robert around our alma mater, Northwestern College. So many memories . . . that is where John and I met, started dating, got engaged, etc. It was really neat to wander around campus again.

Saturday afternoon/evening we drove down to Cedar Rapids, IA, where we were the guests of the Schumacher's and spoke in their services both Sunday morning and Sunday evening. We enjoyed our time with them! Monday morning, however, was bittersweet: we brought Robert to the bus station where he would then travel back to Louisville. We will likely not see him again for three or four years, so it was sad to say goodbye even as we had had such a great time together.

Where in the world are we now? Back in Rock Valley again with my parents. I can't say that I was sorry to unpack and stay in the same place for a few weeks! Our next travels don't start until August 11, (except for a family reunion in a neighboring town next week), so we will gladly have just a bit of routine for the next little while. Whew!

In the meantime, Clara Anne and Chloe are loving being at Grandpa and Grandma's house. There's lots to do, including a $5 swimming pool on the back patio! And sweet corn to eat every night . . . life is good. We're thankful for safe travels and only two car repairs, both at times when they could be handled with a minimum of hassle. But it's great to be back, from here to there and back again!

Sunday, July 15, 2007


On our way to our friends Ethan and Heidi's home, we stopped in Chicago for a very brief visit. John had carefully planned out our whole route--how we would get into town, where we would park, where we would eat, etc. We arrived
downtown and ate at a famous Chicago-style pizzaria called Giordano's. It was fabulous! The menu said their pizza served 3-4, so we ordered an appetizer to make sure we had enough. However, 40 minutes later, when the pizza finally arrived, it was enough for a small army! We ate it for supper on the road, too.
Next we walked down Michigan Avenue with the rest of the downtown crowd (our stroller was a bit out of place) and admired some of the architecture. In the picture below, the Michigan Avenue Bridge is in the foreground and the Chicago Tribune building in the Gothic style is the main building in the picture.
We then walked out to the Navy Pier, an amusement park-type area along Lake Michigan where we could get a great view of downtown Chicago. Here's one photo.We took a ride on a huge Ferris wheel and enjoyed looking over the beautiful lake and the city skyline.And we couldn't pass up the carousel, which Clara Anne calls a merry-go-round. Fun times!A view of the Ferris wheel from the ground.We walked back to our car along the pier and enjoyed the view!

We all left Chicago feeling like we could have spent 3 days there instead of 3 hours, there were so many interesting things to do. So though we felt somewhat rushed, it was a great stop! Plus, if we had stayed much longer, it might have broken the bank--just our parking alone for the 3 hours was $17! We finished by driving out of the city past Moody Bible Institute and then joined the thousands of other cars trying to leave the city. It took a good hour and a half to feel like there was some space on the freeway again!

Hope you enjoyed the pictures of Chicago!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Just like an old pair of jeans

We've been in the lovely small town of Platteville, Wisconsin these last few days, visiting our friends Ethan and Heidi. Though we've been out of college for 8 years now, we've kept in touch through emails, pictures and the occasional visit. It's been a joy to celebrate with them as they moved to Platteville into a ministry position, gave birth to their daughter, then added a son a few years later. We share lots of memories together from our college days--choir tours, music theory classes, a very memorable camping trip to the North Shore of Minnesota, etc. So it was extra fun to make some new memories with them these past few days! We enjoyed their gracious hospitality, many wonderful meals and of course, Blue Bunny Ice Cream. (Not Blue Bell, Blue Bunny which is made in Ethan's home town of LeMars, Iowa. It is wonderful!)

It's really special when old friends, like an old pair of jeans, fit so well that it is immediately comfortable to "slip them on" again--share, talk, laugh, and pray together. That's what our time with Ethan and Heidi felt like. It was almost as if no time had passed! But then we looked around at the four children in the room and realized that yes, time had passed and many things had changed. What a tremendous blessing and encouragement to have friends like that.

Enjoy these pictures from our time in Wisconsin! (Yes, we did manage to eat some great Wisconsin cheese curds when we were there!)
John and Chloe enjoyed the swing set and the perfect weather.
After seeing the fields of gorgeous corn and the bright blue sky, I told Robert, "Ahh, we're in God's country now!"Fun with bubbles!Swimming--and look Mom, no floaties!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Really, Really Fun Week

Our week in New York has already flown by! We had such a great time, I wasn't ready for it to end. John's sister Beth and her family were wonderful hosts, giving up their beds for us, playing with our kids, taking us interesting places in Rochester, and even treating us to a scrumptious Italian meal on our final evening there. The week held plenty of physical activity: we did some pool swimming, dipped our feet in Lake Ontario while the guys played football on the beach, and I went running three mornings along the Genessee river which flows into the big lake. And it was a rare moment when there wasn't a game of ping-pong or badminton going on. John's sister Leah and her children were able to join us midway through the week, bringing our family member count to 13! Our friend Robert, an Asian studying in Louisville, is traveling with us on our trip and he had a great time as well. Many beautiful memories were made!

One of Robert's great qualities is that he, like most Asians, loves to take pictures with his very nice digital camera. So not only do we have lots of beautiful memories of the week, we have the photos to remind us! So courtesy of Robert tonight, I have several for your viewing enjoyment.

This first one is not in NY--but was so cute I couldn't resist. It was taken outside the home where we stayed the previous weekend in Indiana. And here we are on the beach of lovely lake Ontario! It was a perfect evening! Chloe enjoyed the sand too, and didn't seem to mind the texture or taste, since she kept putting her wet, sandy fingers in her mouth!Clara Anne loves the water and had a great time at the pool with her new floaties that were purchased because I was convinced the old ones were lost. Of course, you can guess what happened: literally, within 10 minutes of returning from the store with the new ones, the old ones were found, in a bag that was right next to the pool the whole time. How dumb can I be? Clara Anne really enjoyed the slide and swings in the backyard, even in her pajamas one evening!Here's the whole crew before eating some incredible antipasto. Fun family times!

It's blueberry and cherry season in upstate New York. We stopped at a roadside stand on our way to Niagara Falls today. The bing cherries we bought were at the peak of perfection, as were these blueberries, as you can see from the photo.

Niagara Falls was a fun adventure for the whole family! We took a ride on the Maid of the Mist, which lets you ride in a boat right up close to the falls. It is a wet and wild ride! The "Horseshoe" Falls are right behind our family. (And see both girls with their heads cuddled on Daddy's shoulders! They were a bit alarmed at all of the spray!)

Simply gorgeous. What an amazing Creator we have! The "American" falls are in the foreground, with the "Horseshoe" Falls back on the right of the photo.

So tonight we're in Toledo, OH, heading for Platteville WI tomorrow to visit some college friends. We plan to stop in Chicago for lunch! The girls have done pretty well with all of the recent travel and transition, but I think Chloe is getting a bit tired of it all. Hopefully she can rest well tonight.

Good night!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fun new photos!

We have arrived safely in Rochester, NY! We're already having a fabulous time. It took Clara Anne about three minutes to warm up to her cousins, find the swingset in their lovely backyard, and then discover the dollhouse and train set upstairs. She's going to have a wonderful week! I've been happiest, though, to see John really relax and have fun. This is the break we've been waiting for! A badminton game started up in the back yard within minutes of our arrival, and since then almost every minute has been jam-packed with fun activities! Ping-pong, a trip to an amazing Children's Play Museum, and tonight a classy picnic on the beach of Lake Ontario, followed by walks (football for the guys) in the sand and dipping our toes in the surf. Happily for all of you, I do have pictures of our fun day. . . but they will have to wait until tomorrow to finish uploading them.

[note: this blog was written on Tuesday but I couldn't get it posted due to inconsistant internet access. Finally I'm posting it today, Thursday!]
But, I wanted to update you all just on a few cute, random pictures from the past week. Here's Clara Anne in her pretty purple dress and purple Dora sunglasses in our cabin at camp:

This is a picture of Chloe, the day after her birthday. I was reading a story to Clara Anne on the bed while Chloe was playing on the floor. All of us sudden I looked up, and she had crawled all the way up onto Clara Anne's table! Yikes! She was pretty happy about it, though!Here's that one I promised you of Clara Anne signing autographs! Funny!And for those of you who were looking for a picture of me . . . bonus! Here's the whole family!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Our International Girl

With all of the traveling we have been doing recently, it’s not surprising that our girls have gotten really used to packing up and moving, sleeping in various places, meeting and making new friends, and adapting to new circumstances. Overall, they are doing well with this, which makes me very thankful. Chloe, of course, is so young still that she is fairly clueless. As long as we are nearby and she has her pack-n-play to sleep in, she does quite well. It has been interesting, though, to see Clara Anne in so many different locales. Perhaps sometimes she is wondering, “Where am I from, anyway?”

Clara Anne was born in Hong Kong, and at only 6 weeks took her first international flight. More than 35 flights and two years later, we arrived in the States and had to send her passport in to get extra pages added—it is completely full. She has been to several Asian countries, some several times, and then lived briefly in Iowa at Grandpa and Grandma’s house, and then in Louisville. She remembers several homes: our home in Asia, Grandpa and Grandma’s house, but I think after our two weeks at camp, Clara Anne’s heart is truly at home in the woods of Kentucky.

“Why?” you ask. Well, I don’t think I had quite realized the impact the counselors had on Clara Anne. All in all, the majority of them were Kentucky girls, and they spent a fair amount of time watching Clara Anne while John and I were busy these last weeks. They loved playing with her and chatting with her, and she loved playing with them too! It’s not hard to have fun when someone plays with you constantly! The reason that I say that Clara Anne’s heart is at home here, though, is the ease with which Clara Anne picked up the Kentucky accent.

Yes, it’s true, Clara Anne now is speaking as if she was born and raised in Kentucky. Words like “fan” and “again” have added a syllable (“fa-yan” and “uh-gay-an”), and she has started saying “y’all” just like a native. Oh my! It only took two weeks!

Well, Clara Anne, don’t get too comfortable speaking “Kentuckian!” After a two day stay this weekend in Indiana with the wonderful folks at CrossRoads, we are off to Rochester, New York, in the morning. John’s sister Beth and her family are there, and we are looking forward to a week with them, celebrating the Fourth of July, going swimming, visiting the zoo, and maybe even catching a baseball game. It’s going to be fun! (After we make the long drive, that is!)

So leave that accent behind, Clara Anne! New York, here we come!

A Whole New Level of Stardom

These past weeks as we’ve shared with the girls at camp, they are always so amazed to realize how popular Clara Anne and Chloe are in Asia. They can hardly believe how everyone in our city in Asia wanted to hold the girls, touch their fair skin and hair, and take pictures of them. Last week, however, Clara Anne’s fame rose to a new level.

At the end of the second week of camp, at the closing celebration, John and I were busy signing autographs for dozens of eager 3rd-6th graders. So many girls were asking for us to sign Clara Anne’s name that finally some young girl just gave Clara Anne paper and a pen to let Clara give it a go herself. John and I could hardly believe our eyes as Clara Anne very solemnly took the paper and pen, bent over and scribbled in one place for a moment, and then gravely handed the paper and pen back to the girl as another girl took the first one’s place. Clara Anne was kept busy in this manner for a good 5 minutes! Every time she signed her name (scribbles) in all earnestness, then gave back the paper and pen and took the next one. John and I laughed so hard to see her very adult manner, signing autographs of all things!

Enjoy this picture—you can’t see the crowd of girls pressing in around her, but you can see her signing her name. Her fame in Asia never got to this level! Clara Anne, the star!

(The picture won't load right now . . . stay tuned!)

The Bag Balm Incident

In Clara Anne’s fairly short life, there have been a few truly memorable moments. Some of those have been memorably good, but unfortunately, the one I have to share with you today was more infamous than memorable.

It all began a while back when John was on his 10 day speaking tour in Tennessee. Someone gave him a large tin of “Bag Balm” which is a product most commonly used on cow udders. That’s right, cow udders. Since we have no personal contact with cows, at first I was not sure what to do with this gift. However, the giver assured John that it was also excellent medicine for cuts and scrapes, slight burns and the like. It has a petroleum jelly-like consistency, very thick and greasy, seemed like heavy-duty stuff. So we stuck it in with our other medicines for future use.

Then, during our first week at camp, Clara Anne got two nasty scrapes on her leg—one happened when she was doing her version of “jumping” into the pool. The sides of the pool are a bit rough, and she didn’t jump far enough, but instead sort of slid awkwardly into the water, scraping her leg as she went. It didn’t look bad at first, but the second day was quite red and getting scabby, so we used some of the miracle cure Bag Balm on it. Then Clara Anne tripped over her own feet and fell on some gravel, scraping the same leg in a different spot. Bag Balm to the rescue again.

Last Wednesday, John and I were rushing around, trying to finish the final preparations before leading another activity period relating to our life and work in Asia. It was time for the girls to have a nap, and I put Chloe down in her crib, and then put Clara Anne down in our bed. I was afraid that if they were both in the same room and not yet asleep, they might be tempted to play together (it happens sometimes) and I wouldn’t be around to deal with them. I reminded Clara Anne that she needed to stay in her bed and go right to sleep, as usual. But unthinkingly, I left the 99% full container of Bag Balm on the bedside table.
An hour later, we arrived back at the cabin and asked the counselor who had been staying there with them how it went. “Chloe has been quiet,” she said, “but Clara Anne was talking to herself for awhile. I went in once and then she seemed to go to sleep.”

We cracked the door open slowly to see if, indeed, Clara Anne was asleep. Instead, the sight that met our eyes was almost unbelievable. Clara Anne was sitting on the bed, with John’s shirt on, her hands covered in yellow goo . . . Bag Balm. Bag Balm was smeared all over her legs, there were great glops of it on the sheets, John’s shirt was nearly covered in it, and Clara Anne’s shirt (which she had taken off) was also a total mess. Clara Anne’s Blanket had escaped her ministrations, but Doll was not so fortunate: Bag Balm had been rubbed into Doll’s feet and hands, all over Doll’s face, and down the front of her dress as well.

John and I were almost speechless . . . but only for a moment. Then our first instructions were for Clara Anne to sit perfectly still as we tried vainly with paper towels to wipe up the goo. Clara Anne immediately knew that she had done wrong and even as we looked at her with astonishment, asking her what she was thinking to do such a thing, she said in a pitiful voice, “I’m sorry Mommy! I’m sorry Daddy!”

You might guess (correctly) that the rest of the day was not a very pleasant one for Clara Anne. Not only did she have an encounter with the Sad Stick, she was not allowed to go swimming, her favorite thing, which made me sad because I would have loved to take her and have a fun time. She also was not allowed any more movies the rest of the week. (She had occasionally been watching a Dora episode or a Veggie Tales sing-along while we were busy and the counselors were with her.)

Both her shirt and John’s shirt were too far gone to save, but I did try to rescue Doll. I wiped off all the gunk, sprayed her down with laundry pre-treatment spray, and then tied her inside a pillowcase to wash her. She came mostly clean; a few grease stains remain on her clothes but I did the best I could. Doll is really fraying around the edges, so I was hesitant to wash her, but I truly had no choice.

I think it’s safe to say that Clara Anne was in the most trouble of her life after this incident. But hopefully a lesson was learned—both by Clara Anne and by Mommy. We had a serious talk with Clara Anne about resisting temptation, and perhaps I learned a little something about not leaving temptation right in front of Clara Anne. I think Clara Anne also learned that though forgiven, there were still consequences for her actions, which hopefully will help deter her the next time!

So though most of the Bag Balm was wasted, I pray that it served a better purpose than even healing Clara Anne’s scrapes, that it was a lesson to her heart as well. For that, I guess I should say, “Thanks, Bag Balm!”

Chloe Turns One!

This past Tuesday, June 26, 2007, was Chloe’s first birthday! She had a really fun time celebrating with about 75 “older sisters” since we were in our second week of camp. The camp director, Mrs. Stacy, had arranged for a little party at lunch, with cupcakes and fun party hats and banners! Chloe ate almost two whole cupcakes herself, with great gusto. We opened gifts after lunch and she has since gotten attached to a small fuzzy puppy that says “I Love Cedar Crest” (the name of our camp). Fun times!

It’s amazing to think that already a year has gone by since Chloe’s birth! I’ll never forget the doctor looking at her on the birthing table and exclaiming, “Wah! Big Baby!” . . . and she was, weighing in at 9 lbs and 13 oz. Her size was a good indication of her healthy appetite which has not diminished whatsoever since. I love her big smiles, her dark blue eyes and the blonde hair which is now starting to curl a bit above her ears, giving her blonde “wings”! She has already been such a fun companion for Clara Anne; I’m sure Clara Anne cannot imagine life without Chloe. She is our dancing baby, loving to move to any type of music, though is taking her sweet time with walking and talking. She’s not without vocal expression, though, and keeps us amused at her variety of oohs and ahhs, exclamations and squeals. She loves to play in the water now (has totally forgotten about that time I took her swimming in Asia at about 4 months old) and has really enjoyed our recent swimming outings. She does have some faults, though—she is extremely impatient at the dinner table (often eating as fast as I can cut it up and put it on her tray!), and lately I have been trying to break her of her tendency to shriek when she doesn’t get her way. We’ll be working on those things!

Chloe, you are a blessing! We love you! Happy First Birthday!
Want some cupcake?