Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A few birthday pics

Emphasis on "few."

Funny how that works...over 100 pictures of Christin's birthday, several hundred of Chloe's party, and then Mama's birthday rolls around, and hmmmm, let's see...yes! We have five pictures, three of which are postable! I think it shows who's usually behind the camera!

Anyway, I was "cleaning out" the camera tonight in preparation for a photo shoot with the girls tomorrow (we're going to a local park in their pretty dresses and I'm going to try for some good shots!), and I found these pictures from my birthday. Here's a glimpse of the 33rd!

The lovely cake. It came with this paper crown wrapped around the outside. Why not? Clara Anne was so pleased that she could read the characters written on the top of the cake. Can you? (I bet you can guess what it means!) Remember I said that the candle (included) was more like a torch? Take a look! Had to take a good singer-breath in order to blow that out!
WHAT?!! You're thirty-three????

We had a fun time that evening with our friends--I think everyone wore the crown at some point, and shortly after the cake, the girls and their friend started a jump-fest on the couch. Making memories for sure! And there went the 33rd birthday!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cookout Fun!

There is a small grassy area behind our apartment building that we have now claimed as "our backyard." True, it is interspersed with these strange metal posts, but overlooking that, it's a fun place to go and play! We have had many a badminton game out there, and now in the past few months, several cookouts as well. Daddy and Clara Anne. I was trying out my camera on the "A" setting--can you tell? Notice that lovely bokeh!
We purchased this small grill last summer, and only cooked on it once. That one time was a bit of a fiasco--the fire was way too hot and burned the sausages to a crisp, melted some paint off the lid, and all of this happened in the rain! This year we ventured to get out the grill again and give it another try with some friends. We had some precious imported Johnsonville brats (hand-carried in from the capital city!) on the menu, as well as these lovely skewers:

The men manned the fire, of course. Look at them in action!

Meanwhile the girls relaxed on the blanket and waited patiently.
I had made potato salad as well and had some cold watermelon available. A yummy meal was enjoyed by all! Can you believe it? We had a cookout! A real, American cookout in a place which is definitely NOT America! It was truly lovely and relaxing to be out in the sunny weather--it almost made me think that we actually had our own backyard. Almost. Then people going by stopped to stare and I remembered where I was.
Perhaps the highlight of the meal, though, was a lemon granita that I made using a recipe from It was simply lemon juice and pulp, water, and sugar that was frozen in stages. I froze the empty lemon cups as well and we ate the slushy out of the cups . . . until we all got too impatient and just scooped it up directly from the pan. It was delicious--icy, tart, glittery, refreshing! Perfect for the end of a picnic!
Since these pictures were taken in June, we've had several more cookouts including a huge one on the fourth of July! It's been a really fun family activity, and we don't even have to take a taxi to get there! The only bummer is having to clean and pack everything up at the end and haul it back upstairs (somehow taking it down isn't so hard...packing it up is not as fun!). I think we've found a new family summer tradition!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Exactly WHAT is going on here?

I have a simple request for you all tonight: give this photo a name! I'll let you discern exactly what is happening and come up with a catchy title. Uniqueness of this magnitude needs expression, don't you think? Help me out here! Just leave your suggestion in the comment section. Have fun!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In No Particular Order

I have a bunch of bits of news floating around in my head, and since it's already past 10 pm, I'll just share them in no particular order. (you know, so I don't have to think too hard!)

1. Christin is finally feeling better after an entire week of crankiness. She ran a fever almost all of last week, and by Wednesday night/Thursday morning I realized that she had some sores in her mouth. As best as we could tell (from internet research) she had Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. Her hands and feet were fine but the fever, followed by the mouth sores, seemed to point to HFM. Since it's a virus, there wasn't anything we could really do for her other than to give her something for the pain. She ate yogurt like a crazy fiend and otherwise was just pretty cranky. Friday morning we had to go to the police station to renew our visa, and just as we were putting on our shoes, she threw up her entire yogurt and mango smoothie breakfast all over my house helper! Argh! Ick! Monday morning when I looked in her mouth to check on the sores, I discovered yet another source of the trouble--two new teeth! They are molars, near the back--I had no idea she was cutting them! Thankfully she really seems better this week.

2. Christin again--she learned how to dance today. Previously she has only "chair danced" where she bops about while in a seated position. Today she discovered that she could turn in a circle to the music and feel like she was dancing. Turn. Giggle. Turn again. Chuckle. Repeat. Fun!

3. Monday began our English camp for 3rd-5th graders and I've been in charge of food all week. It's been a bit of a bigger task than I realized! First there was the shopping, (not my favorite task anyway and even less so when I have a lot to buy and carry home in a taxi or on bike!), then there's been the organizing and preparing. Everything has gone well so far, thankfully. The kids and teachers have liked the food (I think) and today we had homemade pizza! I got up at 6 am and began making pizza dough, and finished at about noon with 10 large pizzas. And we had already made the sauce, shredded the cheese, and cooked the meat yesterday! It was quite the project.

4. In other food prep news, I set a new personal record for amount of stuff personally carried on my bike after a trip to a grocery store the other day. I had two large bags, one over each shoulder, a HUGE bag partially fitting into my bike basket (that had 3 jars of peanut butter and 4 jars of jam inside--heavy!), and then 30 pound Chloe on the back of my bike! That was a slow ride home!

5. Coming close to that record, yesterday afternoon I carried home in my bike basket a 25 pound watermelon. I kid you not. I don't think I'll do that again.

6. My girls have some CDs of Asian kids' songs that they occasionally listen to. However, we are still at the "getting to know you" stage of the songs, they haven't all gotten memorized yet. That didn't stop Chloe, though. Later today, she was singing (and I quote)"qing ting qing wah-duh-wah-duh wah-duh qing ting ting." Uhhhh-huh.

7. There was a solar eclipse today! And I saw it! In the midst of my pizza marathon I rushed to the window and caught the last bit. How great is our God, who flung the planets into space and arranged the entire universe to operate in such an amazing and orderly way!

8. My birthday was lovely, thanks to all who sent birthday wishes. I made a blueberry coffeecake for brunch, had a nice time talking with my parents on the phone, went for a foot massage by myself in the afternoon (blessed quiet--I read a book and drank a coke zero! Hooray for coke zero!), and we had friends over for a spaghetti dinner. Their son is only 9 days older than Clara Anne and it seems their personalities are very similar. He and the girls had a really fun time playing together! It was great to see! The dinner ended with a (almost literal) bang--I had been given a birthday cake that came with a large candle. The candle had 8 flower petals which were folded in toward the center, each with a small candle on it. When those small candles were lit, they lit a central torch and there was literally a HUGE flame! Then, the candle/flower/inferno started playing "Happy Birthday to you!" It was funny at first until it wouldn't QUIT playing it, finally we had to kill it by finding the battery and taking it out, only after laughing ourselves silly at the thing. Our friends left late, I finished the day with a phone call from a dear friend, a mountain of dishes, and a bit more Sherlock Holmes before I called it a day. What a lovely birthday!

9. It has been incredibly sticky, humid, and stagnant outside. I've never been so thankful for air conditioning. On a related note, our elevator. Have I ever mentioned how thankful I am for the elevator, especially when I arrive home with 25 pound watermelons?

10. Christin can eat a whole package of blueberries by herself in one sitting and ask for more. Ok, there's only 3/4 of a cup in one package, but still!

11. Clara Anne is doing SO well at her kindergarten. Her teachers say that they always use the local language to speak to her, and she understands everything and responds appropriately. Way to go, Clara Anne!

12. I think I'm officially out of news. That probably means it's time for bed. Good night!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Yes, it's True.

As of yesterday, I am thirty-three years old.

Does that mean I'm in my mid-thirties? Am I officially ancient? Does it seem strange to you that I have known John for fifteen years?

It never ceases to amaze me how the time flies by. Wasn't it yesterday that John and I were walking the halls of Northwestern College, singing in the choir and going for canoe rides on the lake? Weren't we just getting engaged and married and setting up house and scraping by as I finished school? I thought we just left Minnesota a few months ago! Three years in Kentucky made a HUGE impact on our life but went by like a blip on the screen. Moving overseas seemingly just happened a year ago! Wait, didn't we just have a brand-new baby girl? My oldest baby is already four and a half! And what happened to Chloe? It seems like just a week ago that we were wondering if she would ever talk, and now she says things like, "Mama, look at this mess. Clara Anne do'd it. I need something to wipe my hands on. " And Christin, well, it seems like I was just recently nursing a newborn, not watching a toddler walk all around the house.

C. S. Lewis, in talking to a seeker, made this observation which I think sums up the issue for me:
"Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time. (How time flies! Fancy John being grown-up and married! I can hardly believe it!) In heaven's name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal." (quoted in an excellent book, A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken).

The truth is that we were not made for this temporary world. Time passes, and we mark it, but in fact we were made for eternity, and so we will never feel fully comfortable in time. It seems to move slowly when we are waiting for a big event, and quickly when we are enjoying ourselves. I'm sure I'm not the only one that has noticed that the weekend, or the special party, or that precious time with family, tends to fly by!

Anyway, another birthday holds no fear for me, thanks to the power of the Cross. I don't need to be afraid of growing old, for with age can come wisdom and maturity, according to the Word. I understand how people want to be thought of as "young" or "in the prime of life", but I think it's a little silly to always pretend to be perpetually 29, or some such thing. It's funny, too, how our perspective changes; isn't it true that those who are just slightly older than us are still seen as "so young!"? Whether you're 33, 44 or 66, those in your peer group seem ever-young.

As I was celebrating with our family and friends yesterday, I will admit that it crossed my mind several times how my brother Dan died on his 33rd birthday. In the Lord's eyes, Dan's race was complete, finished. Of course I am thankful for the years the Lord has given me, but there is also just a tiny bit of envy in my heart that I still have more race to run! May the Lord continue to sustain and use me and my life for His glory!

Here's a prayer penned by Betty Scott Stam, missionary to China, (she was later martyred there):

"Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to thee to be thine forever. Fill me and seal me with thy Holy Spirit, use me as thou wilt, send me where thou wilt, work out thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever."

That's a great prayer to pray on your birthday, or any day! It is my prayer for this coming year. Thank you, Lord, for 33 years of life!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Keepin' It Real

The other night John sat down and actually read my blog. Yes, I know, this may not be surprising to you, but in reality, he NEVER reads my blog. He says that he already knows what happened, experienced it and even saw the pictures, so why should he spend very limited time on reading something he already knows?

But he read it the other night. As he often does when he knows I am looking for his opinion, he offered a sweet compliment as well as some constructive criticism. The compliment I will keep to myself, but the criticism? Simply this: maybe if you weren't here and didn't see our life from day to day, only read the blog, you might get the idea that our life is one big party and fun event after another, and we all always get along, and nothing is ever difficult, challenging, or stressful.

Well, I hope I am a bit more transparent than that in my writing. You all have heard plenty, especially if you've been reading my musings over time, about the challenges and difficulties of life over here, parenthood, etc. However, I do have to keep my thoughts here about our work rather general, and sometimes don't talk about it at all, but that's not because I wouldn't like to share.

Anyway, in the interest of "keepin' it real," and following my husband's advice, tonight I thought I'd share with you some things that have been challenging lately and ask for your prayers on the matter.

One challenge that is somewhat all-encompassing is that these last six months have been more busy than I ever could have imagined. We have moved to a level of busyness that we've never known in our 12 years of marriage. John has taken on some new responsibilities and though he has been cheerfully serving with a humble heart (from my perspective), I have sometimes had a hard time with his increased workload which has meant long, long days for him and oftentimes, late nights as well.

As a wife, there is a temptation to want John's help when he gets home--can you take the kids for a moment? Can you do this thing or that thing?--rather than always seeing myself as HIS helper, looking to meet his needs when he walks in the door. There's also a temptation for me to be dissatisfied with the amount of time he is able to give to me and the kids. Even when we plan special family times, or take time to go out together, I can tend to think "it's not enough," rather than being grateful for what we have! I am learning, slowly learning, to be content with our family times and not make family time into an idol, but it is hard sometimes! Do any of you wives with busy husbands out there relate to this struggle?

Also, there's just the fatigue factor. It is tiring to be busy all of the time, to always feel like "I MUST keep doing work tonight or I won't get things done by the time they need to be done!" The tyranny of the urgent has been the rule, rather than the exception, lately. And that gets tiring. It's a challenge when you don't see any light at the end of the tunnel! Or, the tunnel seems so impossibly long that you're not sure you'll ever make it out!

But, the good news is, we do see a bit of a break coming. The bad news is, it won't be for another four weeks. The next four weeks are packed solid. Packed with good things, to be sure, but packed nonetheless.

So, thanks for your prayers! Father is always so gracious and provides all we need. And I feel better already having "confessed" to all of you! Ahhh . . . thanks for letting me be real!

Monday, July 06, 2009


June 26, Chloe's birthday, encompassed several rather significant "firsts" for us here in the W household. Consider this: we have never had a birthday party for any of our kids that involved inviting others outside our family. This year, we blew that out of the water and invited 10 little Asian friends and their parents to our (relatively) small apartment! It was fun to throw such a big, fun event!

Then, another important "first": I made a cake! Not just a "baked-in-the-bundt-pan-with-some-candles-stuck-in-the-top" cake! I was inspired by my friend Amy, who loves cake decorating and does a beautiful job with it. Last Christmas, at Clara Anne's birthday, Amy and her family hosted my girls for a meal and Amy had made Clara Anne a cake that had her favorite color (blue) icing and had butterflies on it. Clara Anne frankly remarked lately, "Mommy, that cake that Aunt Amy made for my birthday is my favorite one ever. I liked it better than the one you made me." The one I had made her was a breakfast cake, the blueberry upside down cake that Chloe also had recently, so I'm not surprised that she liked Amy's cake better!

So, after seeing pictures of a cake that Amy had made before she even knew anything about cake decorating, I thought, "I could do that!" So in the midst of a crazy week, I undertook this cake. Amy loaned me her decorating book and provided moral support. I bought all the candy and made the frosting ahead of time. I was ready!

I decided to tease you with pictures of the cake before posting the rest of the party pictures. In case you aren't sure what it is (remember this was my first attempt at a decorated cake), take your clues from the princesses out front. The cake was a family project--John helped with the construction and did some of the icing, and the girls put most of the candy on for decoration. We had fun making it together, despite the cake decorator's curse: crumbs in the icing.

So, without further ado, here is the cake! Ta-Da!

I have to say, it wasn't a professional cake by any stretch of the imagination, but it was fun. And, it was tasty! The recipe involved doctoring a boxed mix with dry pudding mix, sour cream, and chocolate chips. It was moist and lovely! And happily, after the party, most of it was gone so I wasn't tempted to eat cake all week. So, my first attempt at making and decorating a fancy cake was a success. It was fun! I may even be persuaded to do it again!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Party Time!

[Warning: the post below has the most pictures I have ever put in a single post! Sorry about that! I just had so many great pictures to share from Chloe's party and couldn't NOT post them. Proceed at risk of boredom!]

I mentioned previously that John really helped with icing the cake. Here's proof! I was ready to call it quits and he insisted that we could use more cake and make the cake more impressive. I let him take over! Working carefully . . . the cake was so soft and moist that there was almost NO way to keep the crumbs out of the icing. We did the best we could to cover it!
Admiring the finished product.

Chloe was already excited!
The next day. . . here's the table, set for 12! 10 friends plus my two big girls. We just pulled out the coffee table so that parents could sit behind their kids and help out if necessary. It worked great!

At the swimming pool--everyone had fun! It was too humid inside to take many pictures, though.
Clara Anne played some with her friends and some by herself.

This little girl is named (I kid you not) Ping Ping. In fact, the whole doubled name usage is quite common among small children in this country. It's more of a nickname which they usually drop as they grow older. Our party included Ling Ling, Jia Jia, Zhan Zhan, Tian Tian, Tong Tong, Cong Cong, the list goes on. Other than my children, whose Asian names are not doubled, there was only one other little girl who didn't have a doubled name!

Chloe and her cake with the gift bags for the kids in the background. We found some stickers, notepads, and erasers all with verses on them in the local language, and added some candy to make the bags extra fun. Glad for the opportunity to share a bit!

The ladies congregated in the kitchen, as usual. Though my kitchen is small, it always seems that when we have a group here there are lots of people hanging out in the kitchen!

This is a sweet friend, with her son--the only boy who attended. He didn't seem to mind at all that he was with a bunch of girls! He and John had lots of fun playing games in the pool together.

Getting the kids seated. Can you see my blonde-headed girls?

Even Christin got to wear a princess crown! I talked a bit before we cut the cake how those who believe in Him are TRUE princesses--daughters of the King!

This is my great friend and former house helper, Mimi, with her husband. PingPing is their daughter. Putting it all together yet?

Here they are together, enjoying the pizza!

My helper, Lou, (wearing my old Starbucks apron, of course), and another good friend of ours. Singing "Happy Birthday" and blowing out the candles!

Two of Clara Anne's good friends from kindergarten.
More gifts! This is the part of the party I wish we could have skipped. I wanted to tell the parents NOT to bring a gift, but Lou felt if I were to say that it would be seen as a subtle reminder TO bring a gift. But we didn't have the party in order to get a bunch of gifts. Know what I mean? She already got several gifts for her birthday, truly didn't need anything else, but . . . . oh well, she got a bunch more! Of course she thought it was great!

Excitement over a new dress-up doll! This picture was too funny not to post!

Ling Ling with his gift bag. (the bags came from America, by the way.)

Chloe and Mommy, three years later. I'll never forget your birth, Chloe Rachelle! I had two weeks of prelabor contraction, one false alarm at the hospital, and finally, right as all of Thailand was watching the World Cup, you decided it was time to be born. Then it went fast and we were only at the hospital about 3 hours before you were born! As soon as you were out, the Thai doctor exclaimed, "Wah! Big Baby!" And you were--9 pounds 13 oz, much bigger than those tiny Thai babies he was used to seeing. You were pink all over and healthy, and since things went so well we went home that afternoon, less than 12 hours after you were born. We were so glad to have you join our family, and Clara Anne called you "Ko-Ko" since she couldn't pronounce your name. We love you, Chloe!
Partying Prince and Princesses, minus Christin who already went down for her nap. Happy Birthday Chloe!
I promise, this has been the last post about Chloe's birthday! But thanks for joining us vicariously as we celebrated!

Candles and Gifts Galore

Chloe's birthday celebration continues! We ate noodles for her birthday lunch, since that is traditional in this culture. The length of the noodles is to express wishes for a long life. In the summer we eat fresh noodles cold, with sesame paste and soy sauce, water and vinegar mixed as a dressing, minced salted vegetables added for flavor, and topped with shoestring-cut cucumbers. The creamy dressing with salty veggies and crunchy cucumbers make a perfectly delicious combination, wonderfully refreshing in the summertime!

Here's the birthday girl! We saved the special birthday cake for the day of the party, so she just got some candles stuck in a brownie for her birthday lunch. She didn't seem to mind--after the breakfast practice, she blew out these candles in record time, so we let her do it again! Why not? It's fun, after all!

Then it was time to open gifts, thanks a bunch to Grandpa and Grandma! (all of these things had been stashed away in my closet after my trip to America!) Fun times!

A magnetic dress-up doll! Hours of fun ahead!

I read Chloe the card from Grandpa and Grandma while Chloe opened another dress-up doll, one for her and one for Clara Anne.

Lou gave a gift too and some birthday love...

And a new game from Mommy and Daddy! Everyone was interested in Bop-It!

All of the girls were thrilled to get new dresses from Grandpa and Grandma! Christin looked so sweet toddling around in her full skirt!

The three princesses took a few practice twirls to try out their pretty dresses!
Just lovely!

Chloe didn't waste any time playing with her new doll--she chose the boy doll and gave the girl doll to Clara Anne.

The whole family--Happy 3rd birthday Chloe!
Next: Party pictures!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Birthday Blowin'

Chloe's birthday began with a special birthday breakfast. Here is our traditional (ok, I've only made it twice now) birthday breakfast cake--a blueberry pineapple upside down cake. Isn't it lovely? Oooh, and there's nothing better than getting to blow out candles right away at breakfast time! What a delightful thing!
Except...except...there were some technical difficulties.

Take a deep breath, Chloe! Like this, see?

Hmm, not working. Ok, get a little closer!

Yeah, like THIS close!

Right here, Chloe! Aim for right here!

Yay! She finally did it! Whoopee!

Let's eat! Birthday breakfast fun after all that hard work!