Monday, February 23, 2009

A Unique Opportunity

In my last post, I shared how there aren't so many "typical" days in our house; well, it was true more quickly than I thought! This week I have a unique opportunity that I am excited to share with you all about!

A few months ago, my helper talked with me about a friend of hers that lives in a nearby city. This friend is a young married woman, a bel*iever, and is expecting her first baby. For some time, this young woman had been seeking a mentor, someone who could teach her a bit about being a Chr mother and wife, as well as help her understand the role of wife and mother better. My helper, Lou, talked with me and wondered if we could set up some sort of "apprentice" time where this young woman could meet with me.

After talking through lots of options, we decided that this young mom and one of her good friends would come to "work" for me for a week or two--watch me interact with my husband and children, learn a bit about the way I manage the household, and hopefully have some time to talk through some things that she has more specific questions about. And . . . we start tomorrow!

It goes without saying that despite the fact that this woman sought me out, I feel very inadequate for the task. I don't feel worthy of being anyone's example, I know my own sin too well. But, Father seems to have tailor-made this opportunity, and I am excited about it!

In the past there were times where I struggled with feeling like I wasn't doing much for "the work" since I am 98% of the time home with my children. However, this feels like Father encouraging me in my primary responsibility of home-making and using this season of life, even with small children, for His glory!

And if the ladies that come tomorrow and the rest of this week learn anything, it will be by His grace. Clara Anne and Chloe have really been fighting a lot lately; not just getting upset at each other but physically pushing, shoving, poking, pinching, scratching, and generally being nasty to one another. I cannot tell you the number of times in the past week I have dealt with this issue! So I'm sure that the ladies will get a chance to see the good, the bad, and the ugly while they're here, and see that we are not perfect, but living in His grace like all believers.

If you think of me in this next week, think about this circumstance! I do desire to be used by Him and anticipate that interacting with these ladies will take a good bit of time each day. I also need to make sure that I don't neglect the girls just because we have semi-permanent guests in our home! The women will not be staying with us at night, but with my helper, so that should help a bit. I'm sure I'll need a break from speaking the local language, too, at the end of the week!

Thanks for pr*ing!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A "Typical" Day

Awhile back my friend Kristie asked me if I could post about what a typical day looks like here on our side of the world. Well, sometimes it feels like there isn't anything "typical" about it, but there is a regular pattern and structure to our days . . . usually! Here's a glimpse for you. You stay-at-home moms might be surprised how much it looks like your typical day!

I have a goal this new year to get up at the early hour (for me) of 6:30 am. I was inspired by some of the women over at girltalk to get up earlier and spend that first hour or so with the Lord. Also, it means that I can go to the bathroom by myself, have a cup of coffee while it is still hot, and even eat a little something all before the girls get up so that is helpful! Now that I am not nursing anymore and Christin has been sleeping regularly until 7:30 or 8 I have no excuse! So I am trying hard to be up by 6:30 to protect that time with Father.

The girls are often up all at the same time--between 7:30 and 8, and then it's breakfast and getting Clara Anne ready for kindergarten on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. John takes her on his way to the office if he isn't running late. They leave about 8:30 and my helper comes right at that time as well. (Aside: It is SO helpful that John has his own office space to work now! Of course he needed it with the new business, but in the past his desk for study/emails/work was right in the family room between the kitchen and the girls' room in our old house. It was hard for him to stay focused! We are so thankful for the office where he can get good work done, right here in our apartment complex!)

Then I have the morning at home with Chloe and Christin. Christin takes a sizeable morning nap, still, so that gives me time to talk over the day's schedule with my helper, make lunch and supper plans, tell her what to buy at the market and any other special instructions for the day. I often do my exercising in the morning and then take a shower; usually Chloe likes to accompany me and sometimes joins me in my strength training exercises--I do a program of pushups, squats, and several core-strengthening exercises on a floor mat. Chloe thinks it's fun! I also try to do one special activity with Chloe in the morning--fix a puzzle together, read her some books, or play a game. She also loves to be involved if I have anything to do in the kitchen.

Clara Anne comes home from her kindergarten about 11:30 and then we often have reading time until lunch; though sometimes that gets interrupted by Christin who is awake from her nap and ready for her lunch! Just last week, though, Christin was often content to wait for her lunch until we were all sitting down together and so that helps a bit. I am finding with three children that the more often the same activities can be done by all of the children at the same time, the more time I seem to have. When they are all on different schedules that is tough! Even that slight change of having Christin eating lunch at the same time as us has helped my morning feel less rushed.

My helper makes lunch and cleans it up everyday. We almost always have Asian food. It is a huge blessing to our family that she does this! We really enjoy the food and so often find ourselves eating a larger lunch and then a much lighter supper--in fact, supper is sometimes (ok, often) lunch leftovers! That seems to suit everyone fine and saves me a lot of time and preparation. John comes home for lunch and usually also brings his office manager, a single lady, to eat with us, and on Mondays my tutor is also there. (At least she was last semester, I'm hoping she will be able to come this semester as well.) Other days we sometimes have other guests but that is our "regular" group.

After lunch the girls play for a bit and then go down for naps about 1:30 or 2. Clara Anne really doesn't nap much anymore but is happy to lie down quietly with her blanket, her stuffed Minnie and a stack of books. Chloe still sleeps hard for 2 hours or so. I often lie down with her for the first half an hour or so. The mid-day rest is a cultural tradition for many in this culture, so sometimes Lou, my helper, also takes a rest. The rest of the afternoon is spent by interacting with the girls, doing Clara Anne's reading lesson with her, talking with my helper, getting things ready for supper, occasionally running an errand, etc. Actually, in writing this I am wondering, "What DO I do all the time?" The days always seem so busy but what am I really doing??? I guess the answer lies in the fact that it takes a lot of energy and time to care for three girls as well as manage my helper, managing the household, and helping my husband with various things too. I think on average I spend at least 1.5 to 2 hours each day talking with Lou so that adds up as well. And if nothing else, I spend my time reading books to the girls, training and disciplining them and then of course picking up toys!

A special regular commitment that I have just begun is to volunteer at the orphanage in our city on Wednesday afternoons. When we first moved here, I was interested in volunteering there but from talking with local friends, it always seemed like the doors were closed to foreigners. The orphanage officials were skittish of potential foreign publicity. However, through John's English teaching business an opportunity arose that a higher level leader in the orphanage actually called us to ask if we could come sometimes--originally her idea was to teach English but that fell through fairly quickly. Now I and some American friends are going simply to hold babies and play with them--working with 6-12 month old babies once a week. I really feel Father has opened this door and am excited to be used of Him in that place. More on that in another post!

John is usually home by 5:30 and then it's supper, family worship time and bedtime routine. The girls are usually in bed about 7:30 or 7:45 and then I use my free evenings for email or internet stuff, reading, or preparations for the next day. John has a new habit of exercising in the evenings so he does that after the girls go down. Some of our evenings of the week have special activities: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are full of meetings of various sorts.

Saturday is a busy day for John since it's the day that his classes meet. He was at the office this past Saturday for 11 hours! I am able to have a more relaxing day at home with the girls on that day. Sunday we take as a family day, though it may become a good day to meet with people in the future if opportunities arise, since many people are off work.

So that's our "typical" schedule which is always open to change! If you've made it to the end of this post, way to go! In some ways my life perhaps doesn't look SO different from other moms in the US or elsewhere, but maybe it was interesting anyway. And, now, I'm off to bed, ready to start another "typical" week!

Quote of the Day

It struck me recently how Chloe really is making progress in language development. The old days of her being quick to listen but slow to speak are really and truly gone! She is now talking nonstop and narrarating her play, just like Clara Anne used to do. She's also gotten much better at conversational English and can express herself quite well. She is also our fearless local language speaker: when I ask her to repeat something in the local language she just says it straight out, unlike Clara Anne who often feels shy to speak the local language.

Take this conversation from this morning:

Me: Chloe, can you help Mommy and bring one more yogurt from the frig for Christin? I think she is still hungry.

Chloe: Ok Mommy, Yes Mommy. Does Christin like strawberry?

Me: Yes, strawberry is fine.

Chloe: Ok, do you need a spoon, Mommy?

Me: Yes, a clean spoon would be great, thank you.

Chloe: Ok, I will look for one.

This conversation couldn't have happened even a few months ago!

But the quote of the day comes from after our fun morning out as a family today. We went back to the Children's Science Museum this morning and enjoyed the play areas and the clay room. We had a fun time and then finished the morning with lunch at McDonald's. As we were getting out of the elevator right outside our door, I was asking the girls what their favorite parts of the morning were. Clara Anne liked a 3D movie she watched about a frog, and Chloe? Here it is straight from her lips:

"Mommy, I liked eating at Donald Duck's."

There you have it! Just a little brand confusion for you there!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Healthy Again!

I am thankful to report that it seems that everybody at our house is healthy again! Every year when we travel around this time it seems like we pick up some various bugs and take them home with us. This year, the day before we were supposed to leave, we spent our last evening playing in the pool with our good friends Karl and Chris. (Well, truth be told, Chris spent the evening playing with my girls in the pool while I rushed Christin back to our room with an explosive diaper!) When they all came back to our hotel room, I told Chloe to go to the bathroom in preparation for bed and she promptly threw up all over the bathroom floor. Oh my!

Unfortunately this sad scene was repeated several times throughout the night (on the bed, so I stripped the sheet and doubled over the other one, then she threw up on that so I had to improvise again!) and so the next morning, as we were about to travel, I packed a few plastic grocery bags in my handbag just in case. Meanwhile, Christin's explosive diapers continued so I was going through the baby wipes like there was no tomorrow! Thankfully we were able to reach our next destination where we needed to stay overnight enroute, and Christin took a four hour nap which helped her a lot. However, she was running a high fever which continued on and off for the next days, and last week, our first week at home, she was an absolute crank. She whined for me constantly, wasn't happy if I wasn't holding her, fussed so much she ended up taking extra naps, and just generally seemed miserable.

Clara Anne also faced her own challenges after arriving home. She went to her preschool class two days last week, and picked something up there. She woke up at night crying about a crocodile and was running a high fever. I started her on a motrin/tylenol cycle and after several of her own throwing up episodes and a few days, finally she was feeling better again.

However, thankfully, this week has seen some significant improvements! My happy Christin is back again . . . willing to play by herself, doesn't flip out if mommy leaves the room, is eating well and sleeping well again. Clara Anne is back to her normal sweet self, making up her stories and entertaining herself with her imagination. Chloe has lots of energy and is always amusing me with the funny things she says.

So I'm one happy mama! We had a fun family day out to the lake in the center of our city yesterday--despite the cold temperatures we had fun taking a boat out onto the water and later buying a balloon for the girls to take home. Then, my hubby surprised me last night with a date out; some friends offered to watch our kids so we could go out for Valentine's day. We had a really fun time bowling a game and eating kao rou--grilled meat on skewers. What a nice end to the weekend!

PTL for better health--it's always easy to take for granted, but when kids (or mommies and daddies) are sick, it's just no fun. We're happy to be healthy again!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A Day at the Beach

We really enjoyed our visit to an island beach about 40 minutes by boat from where we were staying. This beach had lovely white, soft sand, clear blue water, and yes, tons of tourists like ourselves. The downside is that you have to share the beach with a lot of people wearing very little clothing. The upside is that because the beach caters to so many tourists, all sorts of amenities are available, like comfy beach chairs and ladies walking by selling ice cream. The girls didn't care too much about the people . . . to them, sand + sun + ocean waves= FUN! They wasted no time getting sand in every crevice . . . While the men played Frisbee in an open stretch of water . . .
And the ladies relaxed with our feet up. Yes, those are my feet. :)Chloe paused her busy digging to give me a sunny smile!

And then did some floating on the waves with Daddy . . .
Christin had fun too, but apparently not as much as Clara Anne, who was often seen dancing for joy and happened to dance into this picture!

All three girls were too busy to look up and smile (and the sun was rather bright) . . .

But they did spend some time with Daddy building this sand castle! (After all that hard work, they needed a popsicle refreshment!) I think there is a main castle and then the princess' small cottage connected by a curving road. Notice the moat!

PB&J satisfied a hungry tummy--and the smile on her face says it all. We love the beach!

What a fun day! It was so fun I can't . . . stay . . . awake . . . anymore . . . . zzzzz.

Adventures in Pictures

As promised, here are some photos from our recent travels! We took this photo of Christin in the GZ airport, and it reminded us of another photo, taken of Clara Anne around the same time. See any resemblance?

It's funny to see both girls wearing the same outfit and doing the same things: learning how to pull up, stand next to things, and getting new teeth! Yes, Christin has a new tooth and another soon to break through! She also has perfected crawling on her knees; mastered it with lots of time on the carpet during the childcare while we were at meetings. She's a bit tentative still but is really enjoying getting around!

Clara Anne and Auntie Chris enjoy the beautiful pool attatched to our vacation house. What better way to spend the afternoon?!

Chloe enjoyed Daddy's goggles though she never voluntarily put her face in the water! Love that elephant fountain into the kiddie pool! (Behind her).

Beautiful girls in a beautiful setting. A word of explanation . . . those are stickers on Clara Anne, not bugs, and in the background notice the remnants of the guys' water polo combat, using our laundry baskets as goals! Fun was had by all!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Lessons from Vacation

Well, we're home again, after a wonderful two-and-a-half week trip to the sunny south. I am sorry to be so absent from my blog, but I was too busy enjoying the time away with our family and friends! The time slipped away far too quickly and we left wishing that we had another week! A week wouldn't have been enough, though . . . since what vacation really makes me long for is heaven. Though it may sound "cheesy", at moments like that, I always console myself with the true and certain hope of heaven. In heaven, we won't have to say goodbye to dear friends like Karl and Chris. In heaven, there will be no constraints on our time. We will enjoy the glorious creation of the new heavens and the new earth without any need to pack up and leave again. We won't have to take airplanes to get to air that is (relatively) clean and sunny blue skies. Edifying conversations, worship times, and the encouragement of like-minded friends will not need to end because of the relentless pressure of time. Our every need will be provided and our striving will cease. We will have laid our burdens down, to spend eternity in joyful worship. Isn't your soul hungry for that tonight?

To me, vacation is a brief taste of that. It is a coming away, a time to rest, a laying down of the concerns of everyday life in order to spend more time together as a family and more time with Him, in a beautiful natural setting. These are my ideals of vacation. In reality, there is always the next meal to plan for, the baby to feed, the children to care for, even (gasp!) children to discipline. But in as much as vacation can remind us, in a very small and feeble way, of the Rest that remains for the people of God, it is a wonderful time.

Vacation also reminds us of our human frailty and need for rest and "re-creation." We are not God. We are frail humans. We get tired. We need a break. We get sick. Our bodies need time to rest, not just occasionally but EVERY day. And sometimes we need more than just an 8 hour break, we need a week-long break. We cannot just keep going and going and going, no matter how invincible we feel.

I am thankful for our vacation. We enjoyed the pool, the time with friends, seeing the girls play happily for hours in the water, eating yummy food and being in a warm climate with the windows thrown open and feet bare. It was a truly lovely time!

I do have some beautiful pictures but blogger is not cooperating tonight. I'll try again tomorrow! We have been home for a day and a half now and my mountain of laundry is finally done; life should be settling into somewhat of a routine soon. The hardest part of vacation is getting back into normal life again afterwards!