Wednesday, January 23, 2008

We're in the Pink!

It's a girl! Today was the day of the happy scan, and the doctor knew within a moment or two of beginning the ultrasound that the baby is a girl. So much for maternal instincts, right?! (I had been thinking all along that it was a boy!) Anyway, we're excited and glad to know that everything looks very good with our little girl--the doctor was able to examine her in great detail and pronounced her very healthy. He did mention that she looks very long; but then again, she has a tall daddy!

John is really outnumbered now; we were laughing together today thinking about when all of the girls will go through puberty and their emotions and hormones will kick into high gear. Estrogen overload! In the current future, I guess that single-over-double bunk bed that we were looking at will really come in handy. All three girls may be able to share a room when the baby gets big enough.

I was also able to get some other medical issues taken care of today (tested for gestational diabetes, given the Rhogam injection, other bloodwork done, etc) and then all four of us visited the dentist this afternoon. Everyone did fine in the dentist's chair except Chloe--the dentist insisted on holding her and she was scared and screamed. He was concerned about her because of her paci use--said that she has developed an open space in her bite from the pacifier often taking that space. He recommended that we take the paci away sooner rather than later. Part of my maternal protectiveness thought, "well, that's fine, maybe after our big trip. Or, after the new baby. Or, you know, sometime in the next year."

However, he must have been a prophet. I tucked the paci away and we packed up to leave the dentist office, got on the subway for the umpteenth time today, and headed back to the center of town to visit Ikea and have dinner. And somewhere, I do not for the life of me know where, the paci got lost. It could have been Ikea. It could have been on the MTR (the subway). It could have been on the very crowded city streets. It could have been in the McDonald's. It could have been anywhere in the Toys 'R Us. All I know is that when John said to me in the Toys 'R Us, "Hey Rachel, can you get out Chloe's paci?" which I had earlier confidently reassured him was in my bag, it was nowhere to be found.

Now if there was a place to lose a paci, Toys 'R Us is the place since they actually sell pacifiers there. But none (I repeat: NONE) of the pacis they sold were the right size and shape; they were all too small. So we gave up the search and decided to head for home with two girls who were very tired of being out and about anyway. Poor Chloe, she's going to have to adjust to life without her precious paci, cold turkey. She fussed a bit at bedtime tonight, but I hope will be able to forget it soon. I guess Someone else decided for me that it was time to be done with it! We'll hope the next week goes ok!

There's the news from our house! We need to leave for the airport at 8am tomorrow so I'd better get to bed. Good night!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On our way to the Sunny South!

Yes, it's 4am. I couldn't sleep. I woke up, thinking about our lovely trip ahead, and just couldn't get back to sleep, so I thought I'd share a bit with you all.

We leave later this morning for lovely, warm weather, quite a bit farther south of here. It's been c-c-c-cold here lately, with temps in the teens and twenties, and lots of snow flurries. My kitchen, which does not have a radiator but does have three walls of very poorly sealed windows, has been literally like an icebox. I left a fruit salad out there on the counter the other night (the kitchen door closed to keep the cold from leaking to the rest of the house), and discovered the next morning that bits of fruit had frozen and then turned to mush as they thawed. Though it is strawberry season here (they're grown in greenhouses), they've been unavailable at our street markets because of the cold--they just freeze too fast. We are thankful for our government-regulated heat which has still done a pretty good job of combatting the cold. Some winters we've felt way too warm in our apartment, but this year has been just about right. One downfall--usually I hang our laundry in a sunporch (also unheated) off the girls' room, but with the cold, we've had to resort to spreading it out over our furniture to get things to dry.

So, we're looking forward to a chance to thaw a bit. We will stop first to see the doctor who assisted me when Clara Anne was born, to check up on the baby and hopefully find out the gender! I keep thinking of this baby as a boy, but we shall see! Then we'll go on even further south to a land of sea, sun and sand, spending a week of vacation with some dear friends and then about 2 weeks of meetings. International travel with very young children is always interesting, but this trip is certainly more low-key than the one we were making (back to the US) last year about this time. My sweet Asianese friends have been concerned about me traveling, being pregnant and with the two children and all (travel with small children is just something they do not do) but I told them it's nothing compared to getting ready to fly across the ocean!

It's been fun to see Clara Anne's reaction to our plans this year. She is SO excited to go swimming, to go to a big toy store (there's a Toys R'Us in our future), and to go swimming. Did I mention the swimming? She was very concerned that we remember to take her swimsuit and her floaties. The pool time will be abundant so that will really be fun for both of the girls.

So, we're packed and ready, only a few details to finish up in the morning. My helper is going to be staying at our house off and on while we're gone, so that will be great. I told her I was going to leave the breakfast dishes for her to finish up! She's really looking forward to the break, too, I know, so it'll be a blessing for her to have some time off.

Well, I guess I should go back to bed and try to catch a few more winks. 4am is way too early to start the day, eager anticipation notwithstanding! Check back in the next day or two--I do hope to put up a post when we find out whether pink or blue is coming our way. Traveling adventures, here we come!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

This is only a test . . .

There are some circumstances which seem, to me, like a true test of motherhood. People often think of giving birth as a huge test. In fact, it is, but for me, the reality and difficulty of those birthing moments are already in the more distant past. Certainly those were interesting and challenging moments, but they were over fairly quickly and soon (mostly) forgotten. More difficult, I think, are the ins and outs of daily mothering. Early mothering involves a lot of sameness of every day's basic tasks, and then the need to repeat those tasks again and again and again. Now I am at the stage where some of those basic tasks are being taken over by my children--Clara Anne can dress herself, brush her own teeth (after I apply the toothpaste), take herself to the bathroom, etc. But I am finding there are still some tests to this whole motherhood business.

The most glaring example recently has been in Clara Anne's own attitude towards discipline. Recently we have seen some moments of terrific stubbornness from her, almost unbelievable determinedness of will, as she has sought to test us and see exactly where the boundaries lie. We have tried our very best to administer discipline with love and grace, and build the bonds of the relationship as much as possible. But lately this testing, instead of coming out in one or two dramatic incidents, has been more of a daily, hourly, moment by moment resisting. This morning I had planned a special shopping trip where just Clara Anne and I were going to go. She was excited about it, but then dawdled, and delayed, and fussed about having to wear tights under her jeans (it's been really cold here), and wanted to wear two different colors of socks to which I said no, and on and on until finally the getting dressed process had frittered away so much time that we didn't have enough time to go and get back before lunch. Not being able to go on the special outing was a direct result of her not obeying quickly the first time I gave her commands. She was sad, and I was sad, since I wanted to take her, but there was nothing else to be done.

On one hand, I feel a bit frustrated at her constant testing of me. I admit that it is hard to keep my cool when I feel like my every simple command (Clara Anne, do not take that away from Chloe. Clara Anne, come here, etc.) is ignored, questioned, or only complied with grudgingly. On the other hand, it seems to be a totally natural and expected part of childhood, especially considering that every child has a sinful heart. As I lamented my fatigue over the constant battle the other day with John, he said oh-so-very-directly, "Did you really expect anything else, Rachel?" Ouch. But he's right; it's par for the course.

I've recently been enjoying a brief time of prayer right after lunch, when the girls sit down with Lou, my helper, and do a little language study in the form of an Asianese Dora video. I retreat to the bedroom and have a half an hour of precious time. Today as I went into that time I was feeling truly in need of an encouraging word, and of course the Word did not disappoint. I'm following a one year plan of reading through the Scripture, and today's reading came, in part, from Psalm 11 where it clearly says, "The Lord will test the righteous . . . " (italics mine). I felt that was a confirmation to me, saying "Rachel, this is a test, but this is only a test. Rely upon Me and I will help you!" I needed that! Whether this testing goes on for another day, or two, or a week, or two, or longer, (maybe years), I need to stay faithful to Him, loving and gracious towards my daughters, and relying on His strength for it all. A big task--a true test!

The task of training and raising children, shaping their characters for eternity, pales in comparison to the other test of motherhood that I've experienced lately--that is, cleaning up throw-up. Now there's a test! Chloe woke us this morning at 5:30 crying, and had thrown up in her crib, though miraculously missed the important items (her blanket, her stuffed Mater that she sleeps with, and her doll Zipporah). Somehow, the words of my friend Danna still ring true: "Before I became a mom, I used to think that changing diapers was so gross. But now, if my child is about to throw up, I cup my hands in front of her!" Such is the paradigm shift of becoming mothers! But, you know that you are truly a mother when you get in there and do what needs to be done, cleaning up the mess. I can say that I successfully passed that test! The rest still remains to be seen . . . but with every new day, there is fresh grace, and fresh hope. So it is with all of us on the spiritual journey. May we all persevere and someday hear the words, "Well Done, my good and faithful servant!"

Monday, January 14, 2008

Round 2

Here are the last two pictures I didn't have time to upload the other night! Chloe managed to get a couple of cute pictures, too. That's our cute Chloe girl!

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Pictures!

Today we were able to pick up the professional photos that I had done in honor of Clara Anne's third birthday! I used the opportunity to have some taken of Chloe as well, and of the two girls together. They turned out nicely, I think! It was our best photo session so far. This time, I was not afraid to tell the studio people when I didn't like something, or ask them to change a background or remove a (chintzy) prop, so that was a great improvement over my previous experiences at this place. I also had shamelessly bribed Clara Anne with a trip to KFC afterwards if she was a good girl and smiled for her photos. She was therefore quite cooperative and we were able to finish the picture-taking in under an hour!

I love this first one--she looks like a little classical musician with her velvet hat and the violin they gave her to hold!

A sweet smile from a sweet girl.
In her special Christmas dress, a gift from Grandpa and Grandma Roelofs. (She was fascinated with all of the fake gifts underneath this tree and kept trying to open them! Oops!)

Sister sweetness!I love the expressions on both of their faces in this one.
This was taken early on, when Chloe didn't know if she liked the idea of having her picture taken in this strange place with lots of people looking at her! (Being foreigners, we seem to attract a crowd wherever we go, and this was no exception--there was a family waiting to have their pictures taken and it seemed like they had nothing better to do than stare at us!) But I loved how Clara Anne was trying to comfort Chloe--she seems to have a compassionate heart (sometimes!).

Christmas girls! I have a few of Chloe alone, but they'll have to wait for another time--blogger is working slowly and I need to get to bed! Hope you enjoyed the pictures!

One Picture Says it All!

So yesterday, I was busy in the kitchen with my helper and Clara Anne and Chloe were playing happily in their room for awhile. Soon Clara Anne came out, dressed in this getup. She had on her Dora undershirt, one green sock and one pink sock, pulled up to the knees, of course, and was wearing her Dora swimsuit. She ran out to me and announced excitedly, "Look, Mommy! I look like Snow White!" Umm . . . right, Clara Anne. Maybe it was the ruffle on the swimsuit?! And what does the fishing pole have to do with it, you ask? I have no idea! That's our Clara Anne!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Chloe Speaks!

Well, actually, it didn't happen overnight. For quite awhile now, we have been wondering when Chloe was going to manage to form some recognizable words. She's had the "m" sound down for quite awhile, and used it for an occasional "Mah-mah!" or "moe, moe, moe" which meant more. But other than that, though she was and continues to be very vocal, she just isn't saying many clear words. I will admit that I was a little concerned because by 18 months (Chloe's age now) Clara Anne was saying a lot--a lot of nouns, especially, and using simple words and phrases to communicate. However some of my friends who are more experienced parents reminded me that every child is different, and Chloe will speak when she is good and ready.

We are seeing some progress. This morning after her bath Chloe saw the lotion bottle in my hand and said very distinctly, "lotion!" However, getting her to repeat something is nearly impossible--she just closes her mouth and gives us a silly smile. Of course, the minute I stop "trying" to get her to say something she is babbling on in her own language, exclaiming over this and that. For someone who doesn't say much that is recognizable, she surely can be loud!

Recently, though, I was so proud to hear Chloe put together her first simple sentence. Whenever you think about your child's first words, you always envision something sweet and wonderful like, "I love you, Mama." Is this what Chloe came up with? Not quite. She came toddling in to where I was working in the kitchen one day a week or two ago, tugged on my pants and said, "Mama, poo-poo." I checked and sure enough, she had spoken correctly. She then tugged on her own pants and looked at me expectantly.

So there you go--not exactly romantic, but functional nonetheless! She actually used language to communicate one of her needs. Now if only she would figure out that language really can help her, and it's not such a bad thing to join the speaking world! In the meantime, we'll enjoy all of the many and varied vocalizations of Chloespeak until she learns to speak English. Patience, patience!

Monday, January 07, 2008

So It's Not Figgy Pudding . . .

But this recipe for Rice Pudding is a real winner! Yes, I know some people consider pudding of any type dessert, but you can think of this like a super-easy and tasty breakfast food, making your typical breakfast cereal pale in comparison. It's got the basics--a healthy grain, milk, and is lightly sweet, similar to other breakfast foods we like. Not to mention for us here in Asia-land, breakfast foods (westerner-friendly, that is--I'm not counting left-over stir fry or rice porridge with pickled vegetables) can be difficult to come by. Our local mega grocery stores have been out of cereals for weeks now, so improvisation is necessary. As an added plus, this pudding is a great use for leftover rice, something we often have in our frig. So try out this simple recipe and maybe your kids will ask for thirds, like mine did this morning!

Rice Pudding

2 1/4 cups (approx) cooked rice (Alternatively, cook 3/4 cups rice in 1 1/2 cups water until water is absorbed) ** Do not use instant or converted rice--it will not absorb the milk properly!
1/2 cup sugar (more or less, to taste)
4 cups whole milk
1 cinnamon stick (if desired)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine the rice, milk, sugar, and cinnamon stick (if using) in a saucepan. Bring the milk to a simmer and cook gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Toward the end of the cooking time stir more frequently--the pudding is done when the rice and milk have amalgamated (there's a word for the day!) into a thick porridge. Do not overcook or the pudding will be solid, rather than creamy, when cooled. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon, if desired. Serve warm or refrigerate--it can also be eaten straight from the frig! Enjoy!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Happy 2008! (Only a Few Days Late!)

Happy New Year, everyone! Despite my best intentions, we're already almost a week into the new year by the time I am posting some fun pictures of our New Year's Eve party. We got together with some American friends and ate delicious food (wow, there's been a lot of that going on lately), played games--the kids too--and laughed and talked until late in the night. Actually it was the wee hours of the early morning. We put our kids down for bed at their normal hour (8pm) at our friend's house so that we adults could enjoy some time together, too. So since the kids were sleeping soundly, we just stayed, and stayed, and stayed! John and I set a record for being out late--I think we arrived home about 3:45am and got the girls back to bed in their own beds again about 4. Thankfully they then slept until 10! Or at least, it was 10:04 on my bedside clock when Clara Anne's calls of "Mommy! Mo-o-o-ommy!" finally penetrated my sleepy haze. Staying up that late was a really fun thing to do--once a year, maybe. Otherwise the recovery time is just not practical!

So here's some picture highlights of our party: First, Clara Anne and Chloe, my purple girls, all bundled up to go outside. It's been pretty cold lately!

Chloe and I next to our friend's lovely Christmas tree. Like my paisley prego pants??
A fun activity for the kids--stringing popcorn necklaces. They really enjoyed this as well as a Dora Dominoes game and a Colors game.

Each family also enjoyed a very special activity--making S'mores (over the gas flame of the stove), made extra-special by the fact that the graham crackers and the marshmallows have to be imported. Chloe enjoyed hers, down to the last bite!

We adults played a really fun game (after the kids went to bed) called "Apples to Apples" where we all got to know one another a bit more and laughed a lot in the process. Then we ate some more dessert (Apple Crisp, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and Hello Dollies) and laughed some more. I am thankful for these friendships and for a special evening together!

So, another year has passed. 2007 was a year of travel, transition, and many, many blessings, like spending time with so many friends and family members, seeing our girls grow and mature, and learning that our third baby was on the way! We are thankful for the mercies we've been shown, and are looking forward to a new year of His continued work. May you also see Him at work in your lives in this coming year! And whenever the calendar turns, I think--maybe this will be the year of His return! Amen, let it be so! But as we wait, Happy 2008 everyone!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Anniversary Fun!

On December 28, John and I celebrated our Eleventh Wedding Anniversary! It sort of snuck up on us this year, with everything going on around Christmas, but we managed to arrange an evening out all the same. For the first time, we left our girls for a significant portion of time with our house helper, Lou. She was so good to be willing to stay into the evening so that we could go out during the girls' nap and stay out for dinner. Our plan was to return home in time to put the girls to bed ourselves.

We decided to keep up the tradition and go bowling on our anniversary. It seems like every anniversary we've spent in Asia we have gone bowling! So there you go, in the absence of Bed and Breakfasts, we've had to get a bit creative in our choice of entertainment. The bowling alley here (the only one I know of in a city of 6 million people) is almost like bowling in America, since the bowling alley seems to be lock, stock and barrel imported from the States. It's really fun! John and I enjoy the competition, as well. I knew that my I could hold my own during the first game, but that later on, as I got tired, it would be harder. Sure enough, my predictions were correct. Here's the scorecard (all electronic) after our first game:

Fun times, even for a 6 month prego!

After John smoked me all three games, we decided to try our hands at a few other games that were in this bowling alley. We had the most fun playing this street basketball game. The machine had previously had a high record of 250--here we blew it out of the water at 292!
We then discovered that if we scored above a certain point level, it would give us yet another round, so we were able to smash our previous record and set the new high at 337! We had great fun playing this together! It was 11-year teamwork at its best.
We finished by eating at one of the nicer hotels in town that has a great evening buffet. We returned home to find everything in good order except one very notable exception: I had foolishly left on a low, accessible table Chloe's baby book, which I had been working on. It had just needed a few finishing touches and I was in the midst of it when it was time for John and I to go. Chloe found this book, and while Lou was getting supper on the table, Chloe went through and began to systematically tear pictures out and then began tearing pages out, as well as tearing those pages to bits. Lou was so apologetic, but it wasn't her fault. Chloe has had issues with tearing paper before, and though I was very sad that she had found this book, it was partly my fault as well. When we came home and confronted Chloe with the evidence, she looked extremely guilty and refused to meet our eyes. Finally after some time she said "yes" when we asked her if she did it. Her own sin convicted her! John spent about 2 hours that evening piecing things back together and then taping and taping and taping. About 8-10 pages were affected, and 4-5 of those look really tacky, but it will be a memory for her when she is older, right?
All in all, it was a lovely anniversary. We really had fun on our date out, enjoyed our dinner, and it was good to just spend some time with the two of us alone. PTL for 11 years of marriage!