Thursday, June 19, 2008

Moving, Memories and More

The day is finally arriving! Tomorrow morning at 10:30 am, a truck will be pulling up to our door and several men will be in charge of moving all of our stuff to our new apartment. I just talked to John and he said that the kitchen is almost completely ready--just a few final details to finish up (like hook up the gas, fix a leak in the hot water heater, etc.). He said it looks great! I am so excited! I can hardly believe it is actually happening!

We are 98% packed up here at our old place; so much so that I called my friend Rachel today and asked if we could spend the morning and have lunch at her place today. With everything packed, it's really not a fun place for the girls to spend much time. They're napping now and we'll just have this one last evening to spend in our place.

About a week ago, I was so impatient for the move, and feeling like saying "Good Riddance" to our apartment with its issues (dusty, a toilet that seems perpetually broken, our "shower" in the middle of the bathroom floor, the touchy electrical outlets, etc.). I shared my feelings with John (read: complained) and he said that instead I should focus on all of the happy memories that we've had in this place. I grudgingly agreed.

Last night, it was his turn. He was celebrating the fact that the girls no longer had to bathe in their tiny tub, with perhaps a touch of "good riddance" in his voice. But then I was the one waxing nostalgic about all of the memories we've made in this place.

We've lived here more than 4 years. That is longer than we've lived anywhere in our marriage. If the walls could talk, they would tell you about the births of three healthy girls, about welcoming those babies into the family. They would tell you about some tough times where we were really lonely and feeling like we weren't doing any good here. They would tell you how we learned and grew, how we made friends, how our language skills improved, how we hosted many people for meals with lots of talking and a little singing around the piano afterwards. They would tell you about the birthdays celebrated, about the over-the-top Christmas lights, and about the good smells that came from the kitchen. And they would tell you that we were happy here.

It's funny, because my girls probably will not remember this place, or only have very faint memories of it, by the time they reach adulthood. A place whose address I have said to literally thousands of taxi drivers over the years will no longer be our home.

As we've prepared the children for our move, we've talked again about what "home" means. This was a discussion we started when we were getting ready to go back to the States last year, when we knew we would be in a lot of transition, and when a simple question from a stranger "Where are you from?" was enough to make me pause and think twice. What we shared with the girls then is what I've been telling them again now: Home is where your family is. If you are with your family, then you are at home. Even more, home is where the body of Christ is. If we are together with those who also love Jesus, then we are at home. And of course, we know that actually, truly, this world is not our home. It is ours only for a brief while until we get to our true Home, which is what we are all longing for. Our desire for safety and security, a place where we can relax, unwind, be ourselves, be refreshed, be encouraged, and all of that are all desires for our true home. No home on earth can perfectly fulfill that longing.

But with that being said, we are eager to provide even a shadow of that type of home for our family to live in. We are excited about our new home. Clara Anne is excited about her new purple room with Dora sheets. I'm excited about a bathtub! But more than that, I'm looking forward to making memories in a new place, and hoping that we can live there for a long, long time. I hope it will be the place my girls grow up.

So, goodbye Jiefang Dong Lu #58-1-3-401. Hello Lu Neng Kang Qiao #12-4-502! Stay tuned . . . pictures to follow in the coming days!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

When Daddy's Away . . .

The girls will play! John has been gone so much lately, working on things at our new house, and we've also had numerous days where our house helper was at that house, helping to make the remodeling process go smoother, so the girls and I have been on our own for lunch. I know, I know, I'm really spoiled to have my helper make lunch for us every day. She is such a help to us and a blessing to our whole family!

But anyway, when she was gone, and John had other events as well, the girls and I decided to have some fun. One day we had popcorn and a movie for lunch (a rare treat!), and one day we had this lovely picnic, as you can see. The menu included peanut butter and honey sandwiches, raisins, potato chips (we can get an only-slightly-funky version of Lay's here) and as a special treat, red Kool-Aid for our beverage! It was a fun time and the girls enjoyed it thoroughly. They are still talking about it now, days later. Fun times!
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Monday, June 16, 2008

Christin Cracks A Smile!

Late last week, after a happy afternoon feeding, Christin was feeling talkative and trying out all of her smiley expressions on me. This has been a pattern recently, and finally I caught it on film! So here are some of the pictures taken that day, for your viewing pleasure!

Sweet girl! It's amazing how smiling just transforms her face. We love to see her smiles!

Our Favorite Granola

Granola has been a popular food at our home lately. It's easy to make, tasty, and serves as a good substitute for breakfast whenever rice pudding isn't on the menu. Actually, lately my girls have been requesting it as a topping on their rice pudding, which also works. I enjoy it with cold milk, but it would also be great sprinkled over yogurt or in the winter, with hot milk. Now, this is not the healthiest version of granola that ever existed (mostly because of the butter), but it is pretty tasty and makes the most of ingredients we can get locally. Give it a try!

Homemade Granola
5 cups oatmeal
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter (I use 200 grams)
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together the oatmeal, raisins, walnuts and brown sugar in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, melt together the butter, honey and vanilla in the microwave. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well. If desired (and of course, I usually desire), add 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup shredded coconut. Press into a 9x13 or 11x17 greased pan and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned. While still warm, crumble into small pieces.

Sorry that I don't have any lovely pictures like my friends Sandra or Rachel would have had with this post!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

When will we ever move?

You may remember a few months ago, when a frequent theme of my blog was "when will this baby come?". Now, however, we are finding our patience tested again as the completion date for our kitchen remodeling keeps getting pushed back. Originally it was supposed to be this past Monday, but then last week they called and said it would probably be this Friday or Saturday. So, we planned to move early next week. We even booked a moving company.

But, it seems plans are meant to be changed. We called the kitchen people again this afternoon to confirm and now they said it will not be ready until next Wednesday or Thursday. We will then need to leave a day in the middle to clean before we can actually move.

Zaogao! (That's Asianese for "shucks" or "oh dear" or "oh man!").

The most "zaogao" part of it is that we are basically packed up here at home--almost everything is already in boxes or trunks, awaiting the move that we thought was going to happen three days ago. We saved out things we still need but everything is very "luan qi ba zao" (literally "at sixes and sevens" . . . i.e. messy.) Um, is this a post or an Asianese lesson?

Anyway, it looks like we're going to have to live with the mess for a few more days. I feel at this point like I did waiting for Christin--I'm not going to believe it actually will happen until it is all said and done! No use getting my hopes up! I almost don't believe the kitchen people that it will happen next week--I should just be prepared to wait another two weeks or so.

On the bright side, the new apartment looks great and everything is done--including curtains--that we can do before moving in. Patience, patience! We'll keep you posted . . .

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A Morning Scene

Here's a snapshot of the scene at our house one morning last week. While I was sitting on the couch answering some emails, Clara Anne and Chloe found a little table, covered it with Clara Anne's blanket as a tablecloth, and set the table for tea. They proceeded, completely unhelped by me, to "serve tea" and enjoy a little meal together, as Christin looked on with interest. It was the first time they were all "playing" together! (If you can count Christin's watching as "playing.") More tea, anyone?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

We are getting there!

Progress is being made at our new apartment! Yesterday saw the VERY happy completion of all the shopping. I am not sad at all to have that phase behind me. John and I learned to be very decisive shoppers. We would go into a store, scan briefly, and then if we liked something, start bargaining for the price. Lots of these places (like light fixtures, for example) group themselves together, which was helpful in the scanning-window shopping phase. There is a HUGE light fixture super-mall very close to our city. It is three floors and then some of shop after shop after shop of nothing but lights! It's the same with furniture; all in the same section of town are huge areas of nothing but furniture stores. There are probably 30 curtain stores within one of the furniture places--all grouped together.

So, we tried to make the most of our time and I'm so happy to say that the last item on our list--a coffeetable and end table for the living room--was crossed off yesterday! No more shopping! Also, the apartment is really starting to look like a home. John set up our living room furniture earlier in the week, so at least now we have somewhere to sit down when we are there working. The table and chairs were delivered that same day, and the girls' bedroom furniture came yesterday. The bathrooms are almost complete; just some cabinets being built that will be installed early next week, hopefully.

The final hurdle is the kitchen. As soon as the kitchen is done, we can move! Right now it is an empty space with absolutely nothing inside. John and I had talked through what we wanted and then he designed it; after showing the designs to the kitchen store that we're using the manager there was pretty impressed with John's drafting ability! They are building the cabinets now and will install everything at the end of this week or the beginning of next week.

And, we had our first time of taking the girls to the house to play yesterday. One distinct advantage of this apartment complex is its beautiful layout. There is a natural spring coming up at the one end which trickles its way through the complex, with trees, bushes, and winding paths all around. The water is filled with schools of goldfish which delighted my girls. It's so lovely and green and full of places to sit and take in the view for awhile. Yesterday my friend Rachel and I met there and took our girls to play at the playground as well as the sand pit which are all within the complex. They got extremely dirty but had lots of fun! It will be SO wonderful to have a place outside for the girls to run and play--at our current apartment we were surrounded by lots of dirty concrete and pavement. I'm really excited for them about this--visions of bike rides, picnics, strolls, and fun times are dancing through my head!

I'm not the only one that thinks it's a great play location for kids--there were tons of other kids out and about yesterday! I'm hoping that Clara Anne can make a few friends, too, and we can go out and play together. It'll probably be a great way for me to make friends, too!

So, in response to my friend Becky's question about "Is it [all the remodeling] worth it?" I will have to say yes. Other than the painting, things have really gone smoothly and we are really excited to see all of our plans and long-delayed ideas come to fruition. Things I bought more than a year ago in the US for "our new house" are finally now getting to be used! That being said, though, I do hope we will not have to move for a very, very long time. Most people feel that way after moving, though, right? But especially in our situation, if something were to happen where we would need to leave quickly, we are willing and ready to leave it all behind. We hope and pray that won't be the case, however!

I sort of wish that I had been taking pictures when all this was happening so that you could see the before and after, but you'll have to be content with the after when it's all finally done! In my mind there is still a crystal clear mental picture of the day some workers were installing new tile walls in our kitchen--with a pile of cement that they had mixed up directly on the floor. A sight to behold, that's for sure! Amazingly, it did all come clean later on.

So we'll wait eagerly for the kitchen people to call, and then it's time to go! John has already done a substantial amount of packing at home so we are nearly ready to actually move. I'm happy for the progress--we'll see what the next week brings!

Burps, Blemishes and other Baby Fun

Somehow while we weren't looking, our sweet Christin has been accomplishing "firsts" like she's in a hurry to grow up or something! She is already past the one month mark and has achieved some of those first milestones. Her first smile was actually not at me, but at a brightly colored Lamaze toy that I had been holding in her line of vision. It wasn't just a fluke, either! I tried it again a day or two later and she did it again! I think she was just shy of four weeks old at that point. Not to worry, I did get a glimmer of a smile directed towards me just shortly after. Whew! It's tough to take backseat to a bright green stuffed butterfly!

Christin has also started a bit of cooing--using her voice for something other than crying. Her body is filling out a bit, too, and her eyes are less cross-eyed-looking; all signs that the newborn stage is over and she's graduated to "infant" status. Where does the time go?

Then one morning, it was as if someone had flipped a switch and she woke up with signs of infant acne and cradle cap, all in the same day. Right now she's got a worse case of blemishes than I ever had as a teenager, which is saying something! Glad I got the pictures done for her baby announcement before the hormones kicked in!

Christin is so funny--she sometimes is eating so vigorously that she doesn't want to stop to burp. She'll actually burp while nursing and I'll hear the little air bubble come out her nose! None of my other girls have tried this trick--it's uniquely Christin.

Her vigorous nursing, though, wasn't enough to keep the mastitis away. Life around here has been at a fairly high stress level, what with the moving plans, not having my husband around for several days last week, and children who have been struggling with obedience lately. (Maybe the last two go together, what do you think?!) So last week, when I received unexpected guests in the middle of a feeding and got interrupted, I developed almost an immediate plugged duct which led to a high fever only hours later. I was able to continue on with our various packing and moving chores, but at a slower pace. I am thankfully feeling back to normal now and hope that I won't have to go through that again!

Christin continues to do great sleeping. For about two weeks now, she's been averaging 8-9 hours straight with a "dream feed" (eating while basically staying asleep) either at the beginning of the night, when I wake her to eat before I go to bed, or in the morning, when she wakes up at 6. Her long sleeps do wonders for me--I'm so thankful. Clara Anne and Chloe both trained to sleep through the night fairly early, but not this early and so it feels like a miracle! Her sleeping so well has been a wonderful blessing especially considering everything else going on!

I have new pictures to post, but . . . another time! I'll leave you with a quote from Clara Anne about Christin, "Mommy, I like her! She is really precious to me!" You said it, Clara Anne!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Today my parents are celebrating 41 years of marriage! Congratulations, Mom and Dad!

I have much to be thankful for when I look at my parent's marriage. When I think of their relationship, I think "stability." Their marriage has seen the births of three children and the death of one, my brother Dan at the age of 33. They have weathered many health crises together--mostly my mom dealing with diabetes, a heart condition, and lupus, but also my dad's heart attack last year. They have adjusted as both of them have experienced a change in jobs. They have seen a lot together in 41 years. But I am so thankful for how they have remained faithful to the Lord during all of the ups and downs and LIFE that happens over 41 years!

I am also especially thankful for my parent's unqualified support of my life and endeavors. I always felt their support as I pursued music in my earlier life--even if it was operatic singing and not the piano playing where my mom shows such excellence! They came to many performances, from recitals to concerts to operas on the professional stage. Then, as John and I began to shift our focus to farther shores, they showed their support bravely though they knew we were taking their potential grandchildren with us! Now they have remained a wonderful support and even as the grandchildren have arrived, one by one, my parents have never seemed bitter or resentful that they are far away. They simply enjoy the opportunities that they have to connect with my girls--whether it be by living at their house for several months last year or getting together to chat online now. As you can imagine, this is a wonderful blessing for me and our whole family.

So Mom and Dad, I hope you have many more years together. I am thankful for the Lord's faithfulness in giving you these years! Have a wonderful anniversary and enjoy reflecting on some of the highlights! We love you and are always praying for you!

Love from your daughter,