Saturday, January 17, 2009

Off we go!

Tomorrow we leave, bright and early, for a trip to Thailand. We have a week of vacation planned as well as about a week of conferences to go to. My girls are really excited! Clara Anne is old enough now that she remembers our trip last year and the fun things we did . . . swim, swim, swim, visit beautiful beaches and build sand castles, and just generally relax and enjoy family time together.

An added bonus for the girls this year is that we gave them their own little rollable backpack suitcases for Christmas that they are going to pack with their precious things (blankets, books, markers and paper, treats, etc) and carry or roll themselves. It will be interesting to see if they actually end up taking care of their luggage themselves!

We are excited for the break and time away! John's business has been VERY busy lately and he has been working very hard; I admire his hard work but he needs a break too! We're also looking forward to the warm, sunny temperatures . . . somehow just being in a warm climate in the middle of the winter is relaxing and refreshing.

In other news, Christin is now totally weaned--by her choice. She started to refuse to nurse almost two weeks ago; wouldn't take the daytime feedings but would always nurse first thing in the morning. But now for the last week she has been refusing the morning feeding as well. I think it was a combination of factors--me being gone overnight for our anniversary, her getting a bad cold and being really congested, and maybe experiencing some teething pain as well. So though it certainly was not my plan (I am kind of sad!) it may make it just a bit easier to travel. In the meantime, she is eating a LOT of other food, including a lot of yogurt! It seems to fill her tummy happily and she loves it. So far she isn't so interested in finger foods, but I'm sure that will change. These babies, they're always doing something new!

Look for future updates from sunny Thailand!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Just for You, Mom

The day before Christmas, to celebrate Clara Anne's four years of life, we went to get her photos taken, hoping to get some family photos taken as well in the process. Ever since her first birthday, I've been taking her and then the other girls, as they were added to our family, about every six months for photos. We always go to the same photography studio, aptly named "Golden Childhood." Because, you know, even if your child doesn't have a golden childhood, at least their pictures will make it seem like she did! They do a pretty good job and over the years have gotten used to my strange requests like: "Don't put that plastic apple in the picture! No, I don't want to dress my child in a cammo uniform! Please don't give her a fake grapevine to hold!" I.e., I usually like to keep our pictures simple. A plain background, a pretty outfit, and a nice smile is all I'm usually looking for. And that can be a challenge with young children anyway!
Just a few weeks ago, a teacher at Clara Anne's kindergarten had come up to me and said that she thought she saw Clara Anne and Chloe in the newspaper. She found it on her desk, and sure enough, there was a picture of the two of them from last Christmas, used in a big advertisement in one of this city's most popular daily papers. She gave me the paper to keep and I laughingly showed it to a few friends. Each time I've gotten the girls' pictures done, the studio has asked for permission to use the photos in advertising, and I've always said yes, thinking there would be no harm in that. The first time they gave me a slight discount for the advertising permission but never after that.
However, this time, all our local friends were indignant. "Look, they used such a big photo in such a popular paper! They should give you a photo shoot for free! You shouldn't have to pay for photos the next time! You are giving them a lot of credibility since they have the beautiful blonde foreign babies in their advertisements!" I sort of laughed it off, but finally one friend convinced me that we should at least call the photo studio and give it a try.
Our friend Lynn called for us (she has excellent persuasive bargaining skills) and, after about 20 minutes of discussion, a 2 hour wait, and finally a call back from the manager, we had a free photo sitting!
In the past, this photo shop always wanted us to buy a package, and we had to highlight one child. There could be a group photo of all the children, but the rest of the photos had to all be of that "chosen" child. But this time, we bargained for pictures of each of our kids, family shots, and various groupings--and they gave them all to us, 29 photos total--for free!
Photos are particularly important to my mother, who is an expert scrapbooker. Truly. Her photo albums are not only wonderful remembrance books of our lives, but are works of art. She enjoys scrapbooking so much and does a beautiful, beautiful job with it. I am so thankful that she loves to do this because beyond doing a baby book for my girls, I haven't done any scrapbooking at all. There is no Hobby Lobby down the street or Creative Memories consultant nearby, so I just take the pictures and leave the scrapbooking of them to my creative and talented mother!
So Mom, these photos are for you. Merry Christmas! And thanks again for the beautiful outfits![I will try my best to get the CD of these as well as a bunch of other current photos to you soon!]
Here's a selection from that day. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy 2009, everyone!

We ushered in the year with a bang by gathering together with some other American friends last night to chat, play games, eat, and welcome in the New Year. Or at least, that was the idea. In reality, several of our group were fighting off the "gunk" (my own term for the extremely productive coughing and runny noses that's been going on around my house as well as our friends' houses), John was delayed two hours by work that absolutely needed to get done at that moment, Chloe pooped in her pull-up, and Christin cried a good part of the evening. Good Grief!

Seriously, though, isn't that just life? It can be so easy to get our expectations up, especially around the holidays. "Oooh, we just have to have this perfect meal on Christmas Day . . . we just have to get this gift for our daughters . . . it won't feel like the holidays unless we do (fill in the blank.)" Sometimes our ideals, though important and worthwhile, can trip us up if we get too set on them. Even seeking after some perfectionist idea of "quality family time" can sometimes keep me from simply making the best of things and enjoying the time we do have!

(Aside: I'll never forget our first Christmas in this country. The very first year after we moved overseas, we were in Hong Kong having Clara Anne, so when the second year rolled around, we were so excited. We planned tons of outreach parties and events and generally ran ourselves ragged, so much so that John got sicker than he had ever been in his life with a super high fever, Clara Anne had the stomach flu for her first birthday, and all of the special menus I had planned got tossed out in favor of plain toast and hot tea. I was, perhaps unreasonably, disappointed. Thankfully I got over it, and now it makes for a funny memory!)

So, our New Year's Eve wasn't perfect, but we did have a wonderful time. We ladies had planned an appetizer meal, and so we had a variety of munchies including hot spinach and artichoke dip, queso and chips, fresh fruit kabobs (love those fresh strawberries in season!), and other goodies. The kids enjoyed playing some games together and the adults did too! Our friends have a fun game called "Apples to Apples" that is a great party game. My husband managed to pull out the win, though it was close! Fun times and lots of laughter!

The crazy fun, though, started after midnight. First of all, I never stay up that late. There's always a baby who is hungry in the morning, so only an extremely foolish mother would do a stupid thing like stay up really late, right? Knowing that her baby will need to nurse at 7 am, staying up past midnight is really a dumb decision, right?!?! But I guess you can just call me extremely foolish. Good thing I don't do this more than once a year!

After midnight our friends pulled out their "I Love the 80's" board game. We thought we'd give it a go, and spent a good part of the next few hours laughing. Was it really that funny or were we just all deliriously tired? Who can say?

Anyway, we returned home in the wee hours of the morning with children bundled up in their jammies and winter coats, and managed to finally get everyone in bed including ourselves. It was a New Year's Eve to remember!

I'm not such a fan of new year's resolutions, but I CAN see the value of taking some time to take stock of my life, look at some areas that need improvement, and set a few goals about how to improve those things. However, it will have to wait for tomorrow. As expected, Christin was up at 7:30, and when my house helper arrived at 10:30 for a shortened day of work, my brain was still barely functioning! But thank the Lord for her! She was only here for a few hours today but took care of the dishes, helped me prepare supper, and folded a mountain of clean laundry which helped out a lot!

So, though I haven't completely thought it through, one resolution I know is in my heart in this upcoming year: make it a year of rejoicing in the Lord's faithfulness and growing closer to Him day by day. Thankfully, this resolution doesn't depend on my own strength to perform--it is His strength and love which provide the power for growth and change. Praise Him for that!

Let me be (perhaps) the first to wish you a happy new year in our local language: Xin Nian Kuai Le! Happy New Year!