Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fall is in the Air: Apple Dip

One of the aspects I love about the country we live in is that all of the produce is super fresh. It is picked the day before, or even early in the morning the day that it is brought to market. We tend to eat vegetables with the seasons, since whatever is available and freshest is what we buy for lunch that day. This is true in America to some extent as well, but it's not quite the same since produce comes in from all over and if you are willing to pay for it, you can buy good quality fruits and vegetables even in their off season. In this country, no one stores much food (as opposed to Americans who tend to stock their pantries quite well). Instead, what is needed for that day or two days is bought, cooked, and eaten. (This is also why the refrigerators, freezers, and kitchen cupboards tend to be quite small or nonexistent! But I digress . . . )

Now that fall has arrived and there is a definite chill in the air, it's apple time! Apples are being sold everywhere: on the street corners, in the usual fruit stands, from the backs of pick-up trucks, you name it! We've already enjoyed eating some fresh apples in hand or baked into a crisp. But tonight I wanted to share with you a super-easy apple dip recipe made with an unlikely ingredient: cream cheese.

You will need:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Mix these thoroughly with a hand mixer until smooth and lightened in texture. Then serve with fresh apples. It's easy and delicious!


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Half a Year! (Already?)

It seems truly hard to believe that Christin is celebrating her six month birthday today! Time passes so quickly! I thought I would mark the day with a few pictures and words about Christin at this stage in her life. We already marked the day this morning by giving her a shot--another round of immunizations! She didn't cry a bit, brave girl! (The immunization was bought when John was out of the country recently, kept refrigerated and given to her this morning by my house helper, Lou, who used to be a nurse. I prepped the site and she did the injection. That's what you call taking personal responsibility for your children's health!)
Some unique things about Christin:
  • She loves to "mmm" and "hummm" over her food, low in her throat. Lately her feedings (even nursing) have been pretty noisy!
  • Her nose is almost perpetually red for apparently no reason. We've been calling her Xiao Hong Bi (Little Red Nose)!
  • When she gets excited over her toys, she flaps her arms up and down while gumming on her lower lip.
  • Clara Anne can get her to laugh faster than anyone, usually at the time when I'm saying, "Gently, gently, Clara Anne!" Christin just laughs it off!
  • So far she really enjoys rice cereal, pureed pumpkin, carrot, apple, and pear. Corn and beans were also tried and eaten fairly willingly. The latest addition to her diet is yogurt; she likes it but a tablespoon or two usually satisfies her.
  • Christin will play well by herself, especially in the corner of the couch, sitting in the booster chair on the kitchen counter watching me at work, or playing on the bed in the girls' room. The bright quilt there seems to captivate her.
  • She's at the age where everything she manages to grasp goes directly into her mouth! Lots of drool everywhere!
  • Her laugh sounds more like a chortle, deep in her throat; it's funny!
  • She seems tall for her age; I only know that because most of her 6-9 month pants are too short!
  • Christin is still my good sleeper girl. I'm thankful for her willingness to sleep long hours at a time!
  • Unfortunately she has had several illnesses in her young life. Nothing serious, but I will be happy when she's 100% well and I'm not wiping her nose all the time anymore!
  • Lately Christin often tries to "kiss" me when I'm holding her by looking at my face and then putting her open mouth on my cheek or chin. Either that or she's really not getting enough to eat!
  • She responds to her name really well. If I call to her from across the room, she'll search around until she finds me and then she'll smile and flap her arms with excitement.
  • Christin isn't babbling any syllables yet, just doing a lot of humming, squealing, and other vocalizations.
  • She loves to stand on my lap and jump/bounce up and down--good exercise for those little legs!

Christin is a sweet blessing to our family and we are so thankful for her. She still fits in my arms like a precious little bundle and I love the baby smell of her. She's in that golden stage of babyhood where she sleeps a lot, eats a lot but less frequently, smiles a lot, but isn't mobile yet!

Thank you, Lord, for Christin Arielle! We love her.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Moments to Melt a Mother's Heart

It can be easy, as a mother, to only remember the stressful moments or the difficult moments at the end of the day. (When John comes in the door, and asks, "How were the girls today?" I have a bad tendency to tell him the bad stuff first!) But when something happens that just melts my heart, I've resolved to remember those moments and be thankful for my children in a new way. Recently I've had a few "melt-your-heart" moments with my girls in the past few days and just wanted to share! The first happened with Christin last Thursday morning. She was sitting on my bathroom rug, waiting for me to put in my contacts, brush my teeth, and finish getting ready for the day. She was happily occupying herself, and when I was ready to leave the room I held out my hands toward her, and for the first time she held up her arms by herself for me to pick her up! The innocence and trust in that simple action truly made my mother's heart melt! What a sweetheart!

I've been somewhat concerned about Christin's health--after that week where she had roseola, she seems to be struggling with another cough/cold and perhaps an ear infection. It is really common in babies, and perhaps more so in a baby who has a sister who is going to kindergarten every day, bringing home germs from who knows where. So I've been giving her some tylenol and getting lots of snuggle time. Her appetite has still been quite good, so that is a blessing. And this week she's been fairly happy as well as sleeping well, so I'm thankful for that, too. Last night she slept 11.5 hours straight, a new record for her! (Usually she goes around 10.5 to 11). She probably needs the extra sleep to help her get over her sickness.

That's where my moment with Clara Anne came in. Tonight we were finishing up supper and I was feeling so concerned for Christin, so I was trying to find more information online about ear infections. Clara said, "Why are you so sad, Mommy?" I told her that I was sad about Christin not feeling well and not sure what I could do to help her. Clara Anne slipped out of her chair, came up to me and gave me a big hug around my middle. "Don't worry, Mommy, Jesus can heal her!" Out of the mouths of babes!

Chloe also had a sweet moment late in the evening last week. We had a group of friends at our house, and when I put the girls to bed they were given strict instructions to go right to sleep and not play, fuss, ask to go to the bathroom again or anything else. But about 10 minutes after I had tucked them in their beds, I heard a voice from inside the room, and it sounded like singing. I went in to investigate, and asked, "Who is singing?" Chloe readily said, "Me!" I quickly reminded her that she needed to be quiet. Then she said in the sweetest voice, "Mommy, I sing Jesus!" (Whether she meant a song about Jesus or a song to Jesus, I don't know!) I couldn't resist that and so told her that then she had to sing so softly that I couldn't hear her outside the room. I certainly don't want to discourage her joyful spirit!

It is such a honor to be a mother, and a joy to see my girls growing and maturing. They are sweet gifts from God, and moments like these make me realize it anew!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

And Yet Another Language Gaffe

So what did I say this time? (Friendly reminder, I have been living in this country for almost five years now!)

My helper, Lou, and I were talking about the differences in American homes and homes found here in this country. She was saying how amazingly clean, bright, beautiful, and lovely American homes look to her. She had seen some pictures of my parents' home in Iowa, and was truly amazed at the greenness of the backyard, the cleanliness of the interior, and the sheer beauty of a home nicely decorated. When I told her that my parent's home is a nice home, but certainly not exceedingly large or expensive by American standards, she could hardly believe it.

As we flipped to the next page in the picture album, I said, "Oh, yes, this picture was taken in my parent's . . . (thinking hard, oh what is that word for basement?!) . . . hell." "WHAT?" she said. I said, "I mean, you know, like where our storage unit is . . . in the . . . " and she finally took pity on me and helpfully filled in the word, "Basement!"

We had a good laugh over that one! I think I scared her a little bit!

I have only some pathetic excuses for this ridiculous misuse of language. The only reason I can think that I managed to mix up "hell" and "basement" is that they both start with the same initial word but the ending words are different. As well, I've been studying a lot of spiritual language recently and so I guess that other word was on my mind.

Oops! Keeping me humble, that's for sure!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Testimony time

I learned early this week of a testimony from a friend who had attended our Saturday night meeting, and it encouraged me so much I had to share it with you!

Our meeting went very well, despite myself. I will say that in the afternoon I was a wreck. I know there is a Battle going on, and I certainly felt it that afternoon. I felt so discouraged, so unprepared, and so unworthy to teach this class which it seemed would end up being more about a woman's role than just a house-keeping class. John tried to comfort and encourage me, and all I could see was the pressure of the clock, the needs of the children, and my own disordered spiritual state. Finally, I had a moment to sit down and take some time with Father as well as prepare, and--I'm not kidding--three minutes later, Christin was awake and asking for her next feeding. I share all of this not to incite pity but to say how all-sufficient and merciful our Father is, for, despite the fact that my daily duties did not ease (John had guests on Saturday afternoon and so he was occupied and couldn't help with extra things), I was able to stop crying, gather my thoughts, plead with Father in prayer and finally come to a place of quietness and rest, trusting Him.

And of course He is faithful! We had a wonderful turnout and great discussion. My fears about not being able to express myself in the local language were assuaged, and it seemed that everyone talked and shared freely. We began by looking at what the woman's role is, according to the Word, and why she is responsible for the management of the home, even if she also works outside the home. It was a blessing to talk through these things with fellow sisters!

One particular sister came to the study with that very question: why, when both she and her husband work outside of the home, does she need to come home and cook, clean, and do the laundry while he sits on the couch and watches TV or plays games on the internet. In the past it was hard for her to understand this and she felt it was unfair. She would often scold him for being lazy or get angry with him, telling him to get up and help her, complaining that she was tired too. If we're honest, ladies, perhaps we have all been there!

Anyway, she sat and listened on Saturday night. Didn't say much, but was just quietly listening. However, when she went home, she had a changed attitude. On Sunday, she was bustling about their home, cleaning, organizing, and getting things done with a markedly different cheerful heart. Her husband, impressed with how hard and cheerfully she was working, offered to help her. (!) She said, "No, no, you just rest. I'll take care of this." He was so impressed with that, he again reiterated what a hard worker she was and later that day, when they were out running an errand together, he offered to take her out for lunch, which she happily accepted. They hadn't had a "date" like this together for a long, long time. Wow! What a difference! Instead of complaining or scolding him, she did her work--her responsibility--cheerfully, and her husband was so pleased, lots of other good things happened! What a blessing!

I was so encouraged when I heard this, and I hope you will be too. This brief example shows me again what good things happen when I choose to obey His plans with a happy and thankful heart. Be encouraged, wives! Your work is that of serving Him by serving your husbands and families. It is vital work and when done well, it brings glory to our Father. Blessings to you as you do housework, shop for groceries, read to your children, and change diapers for His glory!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Just Sittin' Around

Our sweet little Christin is growing so fast! Sitting up by herself has been her newest acquired skill. She had a rough week last week with some illness; had a high fever for a few days and then broke out in a rash. I was actually a bit perplexed by Christin's symptoms and fussy behavior until my friend Amy suggested roseola--it turns out those are classic symptoms of the virus. There isn't much to do about it except increase fluids as needed. My other two never had it; I guess there's always something new to learn as parents! Anyway, I finally got my happy baby "back" on Saturday morning when she woke up from her nap, cooed and smiled at me and then was content to play for a long time after her lunch.

Here are some recent pictures of her sitting in style!

The high chair is becoming a favorite perch. Look at those toes curled for balance! (And yes, she has found her thumb. The paci is now passe!)

One morning she was happily sitting up on our bed, what a big girl!

I never seem to capture her at the good point of her smile, but the picture is cute anyway! Sitting on the couch is really fun too!

Love this overbite!

"Sure, Mom, I can do this anytime! I don't need all those pillows anymore, I'm a big girl now!"
It always amazes me how quickly these first few months with a new baby go by. Christin is already almost half a year old! It's probably because new ones take so much energy and keep their parents so busy that the time just seems to fly. We love our Christin and it's so sweet to see her interact with the other girls. Clara Anne continually thinks up new names for her (tonight it was "Chrisssy" and "little girlie") and Chloe's favorite time with Christin is waking her up in her crib when it's time for Christin to eat. She'll run in and climb up the sides to lean over and gleefully shout to Christin, "Awake, Kiss-tin! Awake!" We reserve this activity for when Mommy is also going into Christin's room so that Chloe doesn't get overexcited and scare Christin too much!
It's the big news this week, but the growing doesn't stop with her sitting up skills! Before I know it, Christin will be starting to crawl. But I hope she waits a few months for that. I'm not ready for such a mobile baby quite yet!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Verbatim, Part 2

"God, Thank you, my mommy, my daddy, my ayi, my blankie, my Peter. Amen."


Remember her constant "where's Peter?" of a few weeks ago? Well, I guess he has made his way into her heart for good. He is now "hers" whether he likes it or not!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Famous Last Words

"You'll hear from me early next week." Um, right. Guess I have to eat my words on that one!

This week came in with John's happy and safe homecoming, (Whew! It's good to have Daddy home again!) and is going out with a flurry of activity. Tomorrow is a big day for me since I will be teaching a class on housekeeping. Yes, that's right, housekeeping.

The issue came up among some of my women friends here who have never really been taught the art of housekeeping. Instead, from a very early age, they have been told, "Study! Study! Just study! Get good grades! Test well on exams! Study, study, study!" Many women who do finally test well and beat the odds to attend university end up suddenly moving out on their own with very few life skills. Washing clothing, keeping their rooms clean and organized, managing their money . . . many young women are just completely inexperienced in these areas.

I am happy to say now what I complained about as a young woman: my mother was very diligent about teaching me the arts of homemaking. She consistently taught me not just what to do, but how to look ahead at what would need to be done, not just how to do things but why to do them. My mom had great methods of keeping house that made sense and now I find myself passing on her requirements to my house helper! I have also already started working with Clara Anne and Chloe on basic things like putting toys away neatly, learning to put their dirty clothes in the hamper themselves, straightening their clothes drawers, etc. It's just as easy to put things away and do things well as it is to throw things on the floor where you have to pick them up later, or end up tripping on them, or whatever! As well, my girls are already learning that it is more fun to play with things that are organized and sorted well. If we want to get out the tea set, but half of it is missing or scattered under the bed, it's not so fun. But when we want to play with the tea set and everything is in the basket where we usually store it, we can sit down and play, having a good time right away without having to search for things. And that's just one example!

My mom's methods and requirements didn't always sit so well with me, however. I can remember one distinct conversation where I was airing my grievances (read: complaining) about having to do yet more laundry, while my brothers got off scot-free with no laundry chores to speak of. "Mom, why don't they have to help? And I already know how to do laundry, I've done it a thousand times!" Her response was clear, "Well, Rachel, you will be running a household some day and they will not. It's good practice for you."

Well, Mom, you were right. Now I actually really enjoy the tasks of keeping our house clean and organized, finding that it makes our home more comfortable and usable. I also now see more and more scriptural principles to apply in this area. In fact, the title of my class is: "Keepers of the Home: A b i b l i c a l Approach to Housekeeping."

So tomorrow night about 15 friends will be arriving, ready to hear what I have to say (in the local language, too yet)! Oh my, talk about out of my comfort zone! But addressing this topic is meeting a real need and I am excited to do it.

Lots of other news and pictures to share, but they'll have to wait until next time, since the night is already getting late! By the way, the meeting is happening at our house tomorrow night--partially because I have a feeling that everyone wants to actually see if I practice what I preach! No pressure there, ha ha!