Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Glimpse of Christmas, 2007

Here's a peek at our Christmas celebration--it was a wonderful time! I had low expectations this year, since the past two years very little has gone as planned, (including sudden illnesses, over-busyness which led to tiredness and bah-humbug attitudes, and fussy children). However my low expectations were happily surpassed and we really enjoyed creating some new traditions this year. Christmas Eve found us eating some special food which John and I chose together--we decided on Marinated Chicken Wings with a Mandarin Orange and Carmelized Almond Tossed Salad. I served the wings with rice and it was a very tasty meal! We then lit candles, sang carols, and read the Christmas story before inviting the girls to open some new gifts. This year our plan was to buy the girls a toy kitchen--one big gift that they would both share. However, due to various factors (that's a whole other story) it didn't work out, so we ended up with a bunch of small (read: cheap) toys, including several sets of little dolls and doll furniture, similar to the Polly Pockets. The various parts have already been scattered hither and yon, but since they were very inexpensive I don't mind too much.

Clara Anne's third birthday was also a very special celebration! We began with a special birthday brunch (we had let the girls stay up until 11pm the night before, playing with their new toys--a late-ness record for them--so breakfast was also quite late). We were then able to chat with some family via the internet, which was so special, and then in the afternoon Clara Anne got to take out her new bike for a spin. She did great on it! I think she will really have fun with it, especially when the weather turns a bit warmer. I did make the requested homemade pizza for her birthday supper, and we enjoyed that with some birthday cake. Wow, it's really amazing how quickly the time has gone by--it seems just a short while ago that we were looking forward to the birth of our first child, and now we have two big girls with another babe on the way! We are thankful for our dear Clara Anne and the three years God has given her--and we pray for Him to give her many more! It has been especially encouraging to see how she is understanding and growing in more and more spiritual knowledge--memorizing Bible verses, learning to pray by herself, knowing the gist (and details!) of many Bible stories, and just generally comprehending more of a spiritual nature. I pray that this next year will bring even more understanding to her heart.

But on to the pictures . . . Here my little elves are helping to bake some cookies, several days before Christmas. (Licking the beaters is helping, right?!)

Opening gifts--the girls received some really fun book/CD sets from my mom and dad. Tubby the Tuba has been requested several times a day since then!

Chloe gets excited about some plastic kitchen toys.

I'm not sure what this look means! But Chloe is really enjoying her new doll, named "Zipporah" by Clara Anne. (At her request, we've been reading the Exodus stories over and over recently.) The birthday girl at her birthday brunch, wearing a birthday gift--a new princess bib.
The brunch spread: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls, an Egg-Bake with some leftover Christmas ham that we had ordered through an import store to share with some other Americans, and fresh strawberries, which are now in season. And don't forget the cup of Starbucks Decaf Verona! The birthday girl on her birthday bike! Such fun!

Happy Third Birthday, Clara Anne! We love you! (This was not the requested "green cake with blue candles" since some friends unexpectedly gave us a cake. We still managed the blue candles part, but Clara Anne didn't seem to remember that she had wanted a green cake, so happily ate this one--the frosting first, of course!)

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Little Christmas Cheer

We've had lots of fun getting ready for Christmas this year. Perhaps it is because Clara Anne is now almost 3, and so realizes more of what's going on, but it has been a true joy to share
with her about Christmas--the TRUE story, the songs, and the festivities. Of course, Christmas is extra special to her because it is also her birthday, but she hasn't yet seemed concerned about the fact that these two special events fall on the same day. It's funny, some people have seemed disappointed for us (or for her) that she doesn't get her "own" special day, but we think it is very special that she was the Father's gift to us on Christmas Day.

So what have we done to get ready? Well, there's been lots of talk about preparing our hearts for Jesus, and looking forward not only to celebrating his birth but also anticipating his second coming. We've been enjoying putting a small figure on our Advent calendar each day after morning devotions. Also, singing Christmas songs has been a big part of this year's preparations. My mother gave us a Kindermusik CD called "O Come, Little Children" that both of the girls just love, and it has helped them to be familiar with lots of different Christmas songs. One of their favorites is "The Friendly Beasts" which has verses for the various animals that were (perhaps) present at Jesus' birth and the gifts that those animals gave the newborn King.
Look Mommy, I'm helping to trim the tree! (Taken the day after Thanksgiving.)

And I'll pull the ornaments off as fast as you can put them on, Clara Anne!

On Wednesday when Clara Anne and Chloe got together with Emma and Samantha to play, we drew pictures of hearts and decorated the paper with paint to put under the tree as a gift for Jesus--reminding us all that Jesus wants our hearts more than any other thing. Aren't the girls cute in their (totally unplanned) matching clothes?

Clara Anne has even had fun helping me make some cookies. Peanut Butter Star cookies are some of my favorites at Christmastime, and Clara Anne did a good job of licking out the measuring cup used for the peanut butter, licking the beaters, and then placing each star on the cookies at the right time. She loves to help!

John and I have a special gift under (well, actually next to) the tree for Clara Anne's birthday this year--a small bike with training wheels for her to ride. She is so excited about it--she was there when we chose it but we are having her wait until her birthday to open the box (and have Daddy put it together). I hope it will provide lots of hours of exercise, entertainment, and enjoyment!

So how will we celebrate Christmas and Clara Anne's birthday? Pretty simply this year, I think. John and I have talked about making Christmas Eve more of our special, candlelight, family worship service with singing and the Christmas story, then allowing the 25th to be a celebration for Clara Anne. I think that's what we'll aim for this year. We'll probably have a special birthday breakfast and then we gave Clara Anne the choice of what she wanted for her birthday supper. Can you guess? It's going to be homemade pizza, with "a green cake with blue candles, Mommy." Ok, Clara Anne! I think we can do that! Here's our happy Clara Anne opening an early gift from Grandpa and Grandma.

As we have thought about preparing our hearts for Him this Christmas, we are aware, again, of how many (in our city and where you are, too) are not doing that because they have never heard of Him, or believed in Him. This has given us a renewed heart for prayer and sharing as Christmas day approaches. Let every heart prepare Him room!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Thankfully. . .

Chloe seems to be doing much better. Today she was noticeably better in mood and disposition, and a closer examination of her mouth seems to show that the sores are healing over. She is still smiling with a funny, swollen upper lip, but otherwise seemed much more like herself today. She also took a 3 hour nap yesterday and today; that can't hurt anything! (I feel certain a 3 hour nap would do wonders for me!)

Her recent trauma has brought out an affectionate, cuddly side of Chloe that I haven't seen before. I guess you could call it clingy, but cuddly sounds better, don't you think? I've gotten lots of sweet hugs and kisses from her in the last week, and now her favorite thing is to run up to me, wrap her arms around my legs, and put her face between my knees. It is a gesture that travels directly to a mother's heart, and makes me so thankful for these two little girls who somehow, miraculously, almost in the blink of an eye, are part of our family. I wouldn't trade them for anything, cuts, sores, hugs, kisses, and all!

Monday, December 17, 2007

A New Plan of Attack

So while we were on our little trip recently, I hurt my knee. I don't know when I hurt it, or how I hurt it, but my right knee has been giving me quite a bit of pain since then. It's ok if I'm just sitting stationary or stretching it out, but bending and flexing, especially to get up or down, is really painful. I've had to resort to various old-person tactics to get myself up and down--pushing with my arms, leaning on my other knee, etc. It's pretty pathetic--I'm only 31!

My suspicion is that somehow I hurt it, or strained it, during a couple of inadvertent long walks we took while in this larger city. Twice in the same day we ended up walking nearly an hour (with me carrying heavy Chloe a good bit of that time) without truly intending to. The first time was after a wonderful lunch at Outback, when we all decided a bit of strolling would do us good. But after we had strolled awhile it seemed like our apartment was just ahead, we might as well keep walking. It was a beautiful day and the walk was nice, too--just the weight of Chloe in my arms got tiring. The second time we got off the subway, thinking that the restaurant we wanted to go to was right next door, but in fact were given bad directions by the restaurant staff, even when we called back to double check. What was supposed to be "right on that main street in front of you" ended up being more than an hour of walking. I wasn't the only one feeling strained--there were seven kids under the age of six among us, so everyone was a bit burdened down for that long of a walk! (To the kid's--and adult's--credit, though, I didn't hear any complaining from anyone that whole long walk! We all persevered with good attitudes and that made our food taste that much better when we finally arrived! Hey, it was a good character building exercise!)

So my theory is that in holding and carrying Chloe so much on my left side, I somehow threw things out of whack and compromised my right leg. I had a bit of soreness and pain in that leg even as we were walking, so that's where this theory was born. But who knows, it could have been something totally different.

Anyway, my knee pain, combined with being 22 weeks pregnant, combined with the fact that despite our plans we are still living in the apartment on the fourth floor with no elevator, made me think through a new plan of attack for going out with our children in tow. I just cannot carry Chloe much anymore--she has got to be at least 25 pounds and really isn't stable enough (or quick enough) to climb up and down those 58 stairs by herself. Clara Anne does better, but still, if we're in a hurry, she usually needs to be carried as well. I'm sorry to say the double stroller, so worth every penny when we were using it in the States, has only made it out a few times since we've been back in Asia. That's because I discovered that I could not carry the stroller down the steps and supervise a child at the same time. So taking the stroller out by myself, so convenient when it was in the back of our minivan in the States, is almost impossible. I have to bring it down first, then either carry Chloe and supervise Clara Anne or make two trips to get them both down the stairs, then by the time they're all settled in the stroller it's time to get a taxi and fold the stroller up again. Finally the whole process has to be repeated when we get home! Not quite as convenient as I was hoping!

And, since it looks like we may be living in this apartment for another 5-6 months (due to various factors) and no elevator will be magically appearing, and soon we'll have three little ones to carry out, we truly needed a new plan to manage this situation! And, here's what we came up with!

My friend Rebecca (herself a seasoned mother of five) had recommended strongly to me a baby carrier called an Ergo. [Actually, Rebecca, it was your comment on my blog after our trip that made me start thinking seriously about buying one! The power of suggestion!] She has one and let me try it on this past summer when we were visiting their home. The Ergo is different from other carriers in that it balances the weight of the baby on your hips, not on your back. I did some reading online, and many mothers who had previously used the Baby Bjorn (what we have) said they just could not manage their babies after about 7-8 months. That was exactly my case. By then Chloe was so heavy, and my back would start killing me, not to mention my shoulders sinking down with her weight, that I could only wear her in dire necessity or for brief periods of time. So the Ergo is supposed to be comfortable for a child up to 40 pounds! Wow, Clara Anne isn't even 40 pounds yet! The Ergo is also a soft-sided carrier, not a framed back-pack type, so it can be folded up and stuck into a handbag or whatever. Another plus is that the baby can be worn on the parent's front, back, or hip--three positions so you can find what is most comfortable for you.

So after looking it up online, reading and researching a bit, and realizing how this could free up my arms and deal with the problem of having to carry Chloe, I made a pitch to John. The only drawback--the price, seemingly rather expensive. But I was surprised by how quickly he thought it was a good idea and that I should get it! So happily I have placed my order and it will ship to my parents' home before Christmas, when they will ship it on to us.

Part 2 of the new plan of attack involved looking for a very small, compact umbrella stroller, to use especially when traveling. And we found one! It's a bit of a cheesy design, but otherwise fits our criteria and so I think will be helpful.

Now we have some options: for now, Clara Anne can ride in the umbrella stroller and John can carry Chloe in the Ergo, yet leaving his hands free. OR, Clara Anne can walk, the stroller can stay home and Chloe can ride in the Ergo. OR, Chloe can ride in the stroller and Clara Anne can walk. After the new baby comes, I can carry the baby in the Baby Bjorn for a few months while John continues to carry Chloe in the Ergo while pushing Clara Anne in the stroller. After we move into a new apartment, with an elevator, the double stroller can be used much more commonly, but for now we thought this was a much better plan than us both needing to manage an at-loose child. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, containment is the best policy!

So, going out and about in our city, though not having the convenience of walking a few feet into your garage where you strap your child into his/her carseat and then you are free to walk around the car, load other things, etc, all only a few steps away from your home, is still workable. We just had to get a bit creative in the solution! Can you tell I'm excited about my new purchase? My days of carrying Chloe are nearly over! Now if only I could get my knee to feel better . . . :)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Concerning Chloe

It's been a rough week for Chloe. I always feel like I don't give her enough "coverage" on the blog because she is smaller, and doesn't really talk much yet, but this week she got more than her share of attention.
It all stemmed from a seemingly innocuous fall last Saturday evening. She was sitting on John's lap and we were all singing Christmas carols. Losing interest in the singing, she squirmed to get down, and John let her go. Apparently, though, she wasn't quite ready and instead of landing on her feet she fell facefirst onto our hard wooden floors, landing directly on her mouth. We picked her up immediately and saw that her mouth had already begun bleeding.
At first it was hard to tell where the blood was coming from. Did she bite through her lip? Bash her tooth up into her gum? Bite her tongue? But upon closer examination, the blood seemed to be coming from the little flap of skin that connected her upper lip to her gum between her top front teeth. It was bleeding a lot, and after deciding that we didn't think she had seriously injured herself, we cleaned up the blood, and I gave her some ice to suck on as well as a bit of pain reliever, knowing she would probably be sore.
But that was just the beginning of her woes. The sore place soon developed what looked like white, infectious spots, which we think are canker sores. Apparently it's common for canker sores to result from trauma to the mouth. So her lip swelled up, and a canker sore appeared on the outside of her lip as well as on that "flap" between her top front teeth, and her gums continued to bleed with pretty much any contact. Poor Chloe!
She was really feeling miserable by then. Four or five days had elapsed since her little tumble, and she was running a high fever, not sleeping well, not eating well, and basically being a crank. Not that I can blame her, since I have had mouth sores in the past and it is truly no fun. The worst part was that I wasn't sure how to help her! Finally after talking with my pediatrician online, and sending him a mostly unhelpful picture of the spot, we hit upon a four-pronged approach: 1. Brush her teeth with a bit of toothpaste (which always causes some bleeding, and thus a need for a drink of water). 2. Spray a small amount of salt water directly on the sore spots. (Drink some more fresh water to get that salty taste out of her mouth.) 3. Apply a bit of orajel, the stuff meant for teethers. 4. Give her a bit of children's tylenol, to help the fever and the pain. (Final drink of fresh water.)
As you can probably imagine, this was not Chloe's idea of a fun time, though she does usually feel better after we've been through the whole rigamarole. In the picture above, you can see a tiny bit of how her gum/lip right around her top two front teeth is swollen. We are hopeful that another few days of treatment will help her to heal up.
The hardest thing for me has been to not give in to her every request since I know she hasn't been feeling well this week! It's hard to punish her for whining when she's obviously so uncomfortable. But, of course, it's for her good!
She hasn't lost a bit of her cuteness, though, as you can see from the above picture. Hopefully my purple girl will not be feeling so blue this next week!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Do you think we need a new bathtub?

My girls don't think so! Photo taken this morning, December 10, 2007.

As Promised . . .

Take a look at these photos from our recent trip! Though I am never as faithful about taking pictures as I intend to be, I ended up with a few cute ones. Enjoy!

Fun times at a kid's play area!
All the kiddos lined up for a morning Advent devotional.Let's go swimming!
Two peas in a pod.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Traveling Adventures

If you read to the end of my last post, I made a comment about "travel in this country always seems to sap my energy." I had new reasons to ponder why that is so after our trip home on Friday.

First of all, John and I have learned that when traveling, especially in Asia, especially with children, that allowing extra time is always a good idea. If you have to wait a few minutes, even a half hour, on a plane or train or bus, it's better to be safe than sorry. So we have usually built into our travel day schedules a time margin for safety's sake.

However, on Friday we must have forgotten everything we've learned. We slept just a little late (love those hotel black-out curtains!), then took just a little too much time getting ready, just a little too much time eating the fabulous buffet breakfast at this hotel, and by then we realized we were falling behind schedule. The girls, sensing the time pressure, and noting how mommy and daddy were too busy to pay close attention, of course chose those moments to disobey and need punishments, which took even more time. Then we quickly packed up, did a double-check of the room, called the bellboy, and checked out at the front desk--all of which took just a little more time than we had hoped.

So our intention--to leave about 9:50 or 10 at the latest, to catch a 10:50 train--was postponed, little by little, until finally when we were all settled in the taxi and on our way to the train station, it was 10:15. We asked the driver with trepidation, "how long does it take to get to the train station from here?" "Oh, about 30 minutes," said the driver breezily. "Well, could you take the fastest route, please? We are in a hurry," said my husband, trying to be breezy but with a note of underlying urgency.

This was not a banner moment for me. I was envisioning the worst--we miss our train, there are no more tickets, we are stuck in this city, we have to take the slow bus that takes 6 hours, etc. But hope springs eternal, and miracle of miracles, we arrive at the station about 10:35.

We struggle out of the taxi, me with the dead weight of Chloe in my arms (she had fallen asleep on the taxi ride), and John trying to manage Clara Anne as well as two large suitcases, Chloe's booster chair, his computer bag, and the Pack-n-Play. A enterprising gentleman comes up to us with a dolly in tow, wondering if he could "help" us. "Hah! For a hefty fee, I'm sure!" thinks John, but then reconsiders--actually yes, we could use some help. The man immediately loads up all of the heavy luggage, and once we show him our tickets he knows exactly where to go. We make a run for it. (Well, the man runs, John scoops up Clara Anne and runs, and I straggle behind with Chloe, my purse with its broken strap, and a miscellaneous bag of snacks, books, and blankets for the train.)

We made it to the building, (the taxi had to drop us off about 2 blocks away, truly inconvenient!) through security, and then as we approached the tickets-only area we began to slow, anticipating that we would now have to take all our luggage. But even as the ticket agent yelled at the guy helping us, our helper waved him off, went right through the gate and down the stairs.

[As a sidenote, stairs without a ramp or escalator, are a really stupid thing to have at a place like a train station or airport. Anyone who has thought about it for any length of time whatsoever realizes that at a place like that, everyone has luggage of some sort! Therefore that luggage has to be lugged down the stairs and then back up to the platform. That was the case at this train station.]

There was a ramp going down the stairs, which our guy tried unsuccessfully to navigate--all of our luggage toppled off the dolly and onto the stairs. But we got loaded up again and quickly made our way through a long hallway and then faced another set of stairs, this time going up. A very kind passer-by gave our guy a hand so that the luggage could stay on the dolly all the way up to the top. We arrived at the top, breathless, and then took off running again for our train car which was quite a ways down the line.

Ah, the happy moment when we stepped aboard the train! Our guy had made it with us the whole way, and John dug out his wallet to compensate him accordingly. He first gave the man 30 local dollars, but the man wasn't happy with that and was grumbling and complaining. His next smallest bill being a 50, John just gave it to him and figured, oh well, it was worth it. 80 local dollars was a small price to pay for having made the train!

We boarded at 10:47, and the train left at 10:49, a minute earlier than scheduled. My first words to John were, "Let's never do that again!" But we were so thankful to have made the train, we just sat there in shocked relief for the first few minutes! Truly, if not for our friend, who managed the luggage so that John could carry Clara Anne, we would not have made the train, and who knows what would have happened then. If not for his help, we would have had to go at Clara Anne's pace, down and up all those stairs and through the crowds--it never would have worked.

Suffice to say, when we finally got out of the train, made it through the station, stood in line for a taxi, got all our stuff in a taxi, and made it home to our apartment, we were extremely glad to get here. Whew! I'm glad we have a few months before we need to have any more traveling adventures! The saying remains true--"East or West, Home is Best."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Fun Times Were Had By All

It's our last night on the road! Tomorrow morning we will eat the lovely buffet breakfast available at this hotel, then pack up our things and head back home again. It's been a good trip. I thought I'd share some highlights with you . . .

The time shared with our friends in the capital city was truly refreshing. We enjoyed staying together, meeting together, eating together, and letting our kids play together! It was really a special time of refocusing and connecting; I'm so glad we had this opportunity. It was especially great to have this dedicated time to meet together since our normal, once-a-week meetings are more brief and compact--in this situation we had more time to share and discuss things.

The women had a super evening out which included Starbucks and dessert at TGI Fridays, and we even found some time for shopping--you've got to hit the import store when you can! Perhaps if you've never lived outside the US you might be wondering, "What's the big deal about the import store?" Well, the big deal is that usually a good import store (and there are several in the capital city) has some items which are virtually nonexistent in our city. If I want some graham crackers or powdered sugar, for instance, I need to buy it in a larger city and take it back home with me. So here's a sampling of my purchases this time (in no particular order of importance): Dijon mustard, canned artichokes, Goldfish crackers, Spray-n-Wash laundry pretreatment, blueberry muffin mix, and the find of the day--Johnsonville Bratwurst, John's absolute favorite! We will really enjoy that treat! However, I looked several places and never found Karo syrup. The supplier for that must have run out and never restocked!

John and I have had a good couple of days investigating the possibility of giving birth here in a city only 2.5 hours from our home (by train). Yesterday we visited the hospital, and though in many ways it looks and feels like a typical Asianese hospital, (i.e. not so clean, no nursing staff to speak of, everyone crowding in to see the doctor at the same time) today we were able to meet with an English speaking doctor who allayed some of my concerns about delivering here. She seemed willing to work with me personally and said that if I called ahead for appointments I could see her and she would be my doctor, similar to what we would do in the States. She also seemed willing to go along with my ideas of natural childbirth, which encouraged me. It helps somewhat that this is my third baby, so though I have fairly strong opinions of what I want and don't want, she didn't discredit them since I obviously have some experience in the matter! So we are hopeful that it will work out to be here.

One interesting conversation came when we did the ultrasound. There were three people present--me, a nurse, and the ultrasound technician. Here's how things unfolded:

Me: I really want to find out the baby's gender. Now I am in the 21st week so I hope we can see if it is a boy or a girl.

Nurse: Yes, probably we can see clearly. Do you hope for a boy or a girl?

Me: It doesn't matter--as long as the baby is healthy that is ok.

As I am getting on the table . . .

Technician: How far along are you?

Me: 20 weeks complete, I'm in the 21st week.

Nurse: Yes, she already has two girls and wants to see if this is a boy or a girl.

Technician: (not having even touched me with the ultrasound wand yet) Oh, at 20 weeks we cannot see clearly.

Nurse: Really? It's still not clear at 20 weeks? When is it clear, then?

Technician: Well, it's hard to say. But now it's not clear.

At this point, I was inwardly quite upset at the technician's attitude. She did not even want to try to see the baby's gender, and I was really hoping to find out! I felt like saying something not so nice about the quality of the machine or how I had found out earlier than this with my other two pregnancies, but figured it wouldn't help and so just held my tongue. She rushed through the procedure and soon I was out of there. However, later I found out that because it is against the law for the technician to say anything about gender, even to a foreigner, the technician was just responding in a typical Asianese way--giving me the runaround rather than just telling me directly that she wasn't allowed to tell me. I thought that maybe since this was an international clinic, the standard would be different, but I was wrong. So there you go, we'll have to wait another 7 weeks until I have an appointment in Hong Kong. I just hope the baby won't be too big by then to get a good look! If so, I guess we'll just do what our parents and grandparents did--wait until the baby is born!

The housing options in this city also look promising, and happily, there are Starbucks within walking distance of all three potential apartments we are are considering! The hotel we've been at the last two nights has a Starbucks just a 5 minute walk away. Last night after the girls were in bed, John stayed with them and I went out for a late-night latte. (I drink decaf all the time anyway, so the time of day makes no difference). I ordered a decaf tall gingerbread latte and it was just perfect. Perfect! Just the right amount of whipped cream, foamy milk, and hot, strong espresso-gingerbread flavor. My only regret was that it was so good, I drank it so quickly! I savored every sip, though. It was wonderful! I couldn't have made it better myself!

Another fun highlight for the girls has been swimming at the hotel pool. Our first time swimming, Chloe was a bit uncertain and cried, though I held her close and we gradually got into the water, going deeper and deeper. She soon discovered the pool was like a big bathtub and started splashing around and having fun, though she didn't want to leave my arms. Tonight, though, she knew right away what to do and kept wanting to throw herself out of my arms so she could "swim" by herself! She also saw Clara Anne confidently swimming out in the deep water, climbing up and down the ladder, and playing on the steps, and I'm sure that encouraged her too. But I didn't have floaties for Chloe tonight, only Clara Anne, so I had to hold Chloe back a bit. I was surprised how quickly she took to the water! The girls looked so cute in their swimsuits too! Fun times!

So it's been a good trip. We are eager to get home, though, and back to normal life and routine again. I enlisted Lou, my helper, to get the house ready for us so we should have a sparkly clean home and dinner waiting when our train arrives tomorrow. That will certainly help, since traveling in this country always seems to sap my energy. I think the girls are ready to be home again too. I know they're tired of reading the same 8 books that I packed for the trip!

Next time, pictures from our fun times! Stay tuned!