Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fun with Numbers

Well, the travelers have returned home . . . back to Rock Valley, Iowa, that is. We made it back about 11 last night, after a whirlwind two weeks of fun and activity with family and old friends. I don't have the energy for a long, story-and-picture-filled post today (hopefully that will come in the next few days), but just for fun, here's a few numbers for you.

Thirty-eight: Number of different places we have slept overnight since leaving our home in Asia in February. Isn't that crazy?! That's thirty eight times of taking in the sleeping gear, thirty eight times of packing it up again in the morning! This doesn't count John's trips; that would bring it to about 43, we figured.

Eleven: the number of teeth Chloe has now! I was tickling her tummy the other day and discovered three new teeth in the back of her mouth! Surprise!

Three: The number of dirty diapers that Chloe managed to produce during one day out at the Minnesota State Fair! It must have been those cheese curds . . . or the ice cream . . . or the pronto pup . . . or the roasted turkey leg . . . or the pickle dog . . . or the roasted sweet corn . . . or the mini donuts . . . or maybe just the sheer volume of food we ate! Wowza!

Two: Both of of Clara Anne's knees got skinned when she was running and tripped on an unforgiving cement sidewalk. One looks pretty much healed and the other is still all scabbed over with nasty stuff. She has been proudly showing people her "boo-boos."

10,000 plus: the number of miles we have traveled in the car since arriving back in March. That's a lot of time in carseats for little tikes! They've been great little travelers, all things considered.

Three: The number of Sunbelt granola bars Clara Anne ate on the way to Minnesota (a five hour drive) at the beginning of our last road trip. What are we going to do in Asia without sunbelt granola bars?! They are superior to other brands because they are not too sticky/messy and don't fall apart immediately like some of the more chewy types.

Four: the number of Great Lakes we've seen in our travels this summer! John and I spent a night in Duluth last week and had dinner along Lake Superior, bringing our total to four. The only one we've missed is Lake Huron.

Sixteen: the number of days left (not counting today)until we get back on a plane and travel to Asia! We have lots to accomplish between now and then . . .

Nine: the number of months Clara Anne has to be on medication for treatment of "latent TB." The doctors decided that though she had no symptoms, she needs to take the medicine because of her positive PPD test. Two pills a day for nine months. This will be fun. Although, I guess it would be less fun to actually have TB. Oh well, it must be done!

???: the number of pieces of luggage we will need to take back with us. The verdict is still out on that one . . .

I'll stop there, though I could have a few more embarrassing additions like the number of pounds we've gained since being in the States, the number of times we've been to the Pizza Ranch, etc. I'd better quit while I'm ahead! But, stay tuned for more stories and pictures from our travels in the next few days!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Checking in on Chloe

It's been a big week for Chloe! Since she doesn't talk as much as Clara Anne, and is smaller and sleeps more than the rest of us, it can be easy to neglect her news in the family blog. However, she covered a few milestones this week and wants everyone to know.

First and most exciting, Chloe decided to join the ranks of the upright humans by finally standing by herself, and taking a few toddling steps! "Walking" would be overstating the case, but Wednesday night we (Grandma Great, Grandma, Grandpa, Clara Anne, and John and I) were all sitting around in the living room when she took her first steps. She was in quest of her beloved stuffed puppy, which I was holding. Amazing what bribery can do! She's so funny; instead of pulling up on the furniture and then toddling to the next piece of furniture, she stands up alone in the middle of the floor and then decides where she wants to go. Already in the past two days we've seen her get more confidence, and I have no doubt it will be only a matter of time until she is running around. Chloe is probably motivated by the fact that Clara Anne snatches her toys sometimes, and so she needs to chase after her! Fun and crazy times lie ahead with two mobile little girls!

This past week also saw the entrance of tooth #8, breaking its way through her gums. Now we've got an even 4 on the top and 4 on the bottom, making it that much easier for her to eat Pizza Ranch pizza by herself. The other day we had "pigs in the blanket" (hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls) for lunch and she rejected the bits I had cut up for her, preferring instead to hold a whole one herself and chomp on it. One thing about Chloe hasn't changed--her excellent appetite! She eats more than Clara Anne these days.

The other semi-traumatic event in Chloe's life this past week was having to go to the doctor for more immunizations. Since she has passed her first birthday, it was time for her to have the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine and the Rabies vaccine. Both of those are necessary for where we live in Asia, but are not given in the States except to travelers. So we ended up at the travel clinic in Sioux Falls, SD, to get these shots. The doctor was initially hesitant to give them, questioning me as to why we needed them, etc etc, but when I explained and apparently seemed quite confident, he agreed they were necessary, though he said they had never given JE to one this young. He did order the shots and then asked me to wait around for 30 minutes to observe her (JE can cause an allergic reaction in some people). She made it through just fine, and thanks to short-term memory, she had forgotten all about it by the time the doctor came back to check on her. I was so impressed with this doctor, though; the next day his office called twice to check on her and make sure she was all right. The morning after the first shot she woke up crying, having thrown up in her bed, but that was the only incident and other than that was fine all week. Yesterday was the second round of the shot and we have one more to complete later in August.

A final highlight of the week: we got some family photos professionally done! Unfortunately they are not available for me to post online, like I would do in Asia, but many of you will be seeing them in the coming weeks. Chloe was an absolute angel and smiled really well the whole time. This was a happy contrast to last week, when we were trying to get a professional photo of my two girls and their 4 cousins. That photo session began with Clara Anne refusing to cooperate and instead pouting and crying, her getting "talked to" in another room and returned to try again, then her crabby spirit infecting Chloe. The latter part of the pictures, when Clara Anne was attempting to smile (under pain of punishment and with promise of reward), was when Chloe decided she had had enough and wailed. I'm sorry to say that the photo session also ended in tears--Chloe's, and mine for feeling like my children spoiled it for everyone else! But, thanks to modern technology, they were able to swap some faces so that the pictures of all six of them together look good, amazingly enough! I'm thankful that our family photo session went much better and we got some great pics. I'll have to check and see if I can share them somehow online!

On another note, today is a packing day again. We leave Rock Valley in the morning for John's mom's home and a family reunion, then a week at my brother Mark's home (including a night where they are going to keep our kids so we can go to a Bed and Breakfast!), then a weekend in the Twin Cities at the State Fair and visiting some friends there. I don't know what our email access will be like, or if I'll be able to blog. But this is our LAST road trip; we return to Rock Valley on the 26th of August and then return to Asia in September, about the 12th. Wow, PTL for His faithfulness in sustaining us safely for 9,000 miles of road trip so far--we pray this trip will be uneventful as well.

I wanted to end this post with some recent pictures of Chloe, but blogger is not cooperating. Oh well . . . until next time!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Family Reunion Fun

It's always a fun time when the Roelofs family gets together. Before I was even born, my father's parents started a tradition of taking the whole family "Up North" for a week in the summer. (That means northern Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, for all of you non-midwesterners.) At first the group just consisted of Grandpa and Grandma Roelofs, my dad and mom (no kids yet), my aunt Judy and her husband (also no kids yet), and my Uncle John, who I believe was not even married when the tradition began. The destination was always the same: Melahn's resort on beautiful Lake George, about 30 minutes outside Park Rapids, Minnesota. They stayed in cabins and fished, swam in the lake, played sand volleyball and horseshoes (Grandpa's favorite), went for boat rides and walked in the woods, looking for deer and the occasional patch of wild berries.

As the years passed, the families grew. New babies were celebrated over, hard times were prayed over, and everyone got caught up on each others' news since Judy's family was in Missouri and John's family lived in Memphis, Tennessee. Grandma kept everybody well fed and stocked with chex mix and chocolate chip cookies, Grandpa and the guys went fishing so we could have a fish fry, and everybody tried to avoid the mosquitos. Some years it would be chilly, even in late July, so we always packed sweatshirts. I can remember times where it barely got warm enough to get our bathing suits on! But no matter, then we just lit an enormous fire in the fireplace and made S'mores.

After more than 30 years, the tradition became more difficult to maintain. Our families had grown so large, with most of the cousins married and having children, that it was difficult to find space for everyone. The resort owner sold off the cabins, and though he assured us we could still come back, we would have to negotiate that with the new owners, a difficult proposition at best. As well, more and more people in general wanted to vacation up north, so the prices for the cabins became a bit prohibitive. So though the family tried for a few years to find other resorts that were comparable, it wasn't the same as "Lake George."

This last week, however, we had a taste--just a taste--of Lake George again. My mom organized a gathering at a nearby college for a long weekend so that everybody could spend a little time together again. It actually worked quite well--we slept in dorm rooms, hung out in the end lounges (a nice large one which was recently decorated to look like a lodge), and went out for our meals. We celebrated my parents' 40th wedding anniversary, we had a wonderful worship service together with some great singing, and we were blessed to catch up with family whom we haven't seen in four years, especially introducing our daughters to them! There were more than 40 people at our first meal together! It was quite the crew!

Here's a few highlights from the time together:
Seeing my sister-in-law Tammy again was a huge highlight. After my brother Dan died, she and the boys continued living in their home in Minnesota until a wonderful thing happened: she married a great guy named Scott. They then followed the Lord to Washington State, where they are now living and ministering. We are so thankful that they could come to the reunion since John and I couldn't make it out to Washington while were were back in the States. Here's Tammy with my nephew Reid at--where else?--the Pizza Ranch. These two adorable girls are my brother Mark's children, Marin (the redhead) and Annika (the blonde). Marin was only 3 months old when we left for Asia. What fun to see Clara Anne claim them as her friends and for them to play together! Here they're enjoying breakfast at my parents' house.Though there wasn't a lake to swim in, directly across the street from the campus was a fabulous indoor-outdoor pool with water slides, all sorts of fun splash equipment, and fountains galore. Here Marin, Annika, and Chloe are enjoying the water as Mark and Beth look on.
And here I am with the woman who started it all--my Grandma Roelofs. She is 84 now, and still in fairly good health. Along with our whole family, I am thankful for her godly influence in our lives. Though she misses Grandpa terribly (he went to be with the Lord in 1999), she continues on praying for all of us. She now has 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren, who call her "Grandma Great." She lives up to her name! This last week was a precious time and makes me so thankful for the legacy of faith in my family. "I will sing of the lovingkindness of the LORD forever; to all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth." Psalm 89:1.