Monday, September 28, 2009

Celebrating a tiny life, part 2

" O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up,
You understand my thoughts from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, you know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it."
Psalm 139:1-6

As far as I knew waking up the morning of Friday, September 11, everything with the pregnancy was progressing smoothly. In fact, the day before I had had a very vivid dream that I was pregnant with twins, and was curious enough to find out that I thought maybe I'd go by the local hospital that next day and get checked out.

So Friday morning I ventured out into the rainy streets, with Chloe in tow--first to pick up Clara Anne from her kindergarten and then to go to the hospital. We had a little difficulty en route. The first taxi driver wouldn't wait for me to go in and get Clara Anne, so we had to get another taxi coming back out from her school again, and waited awhile to get one. Finally we got in that taxi and the driver took me to what looked like the hospital, but was in fact an adjoining building and the hospital was a full city block away with lots of mud puddles in between. This was my first visit there and I wasn't exactly sure where I was going, with two young girls in tow, walking slowly around the puddles trying not to get dirty, finally arriving and asking someone where to go, only to find out everyone was out for lunch. (11:30am to 2pm, nice lunch hour!) So we slogged back out to the street to find another taxi and get home again. On arriving home I found to my dismay that I was having some spotting, more than I had ever seen in any of my other pregnancies.

John came home for lunch and we decided that it would be best for me to get back to the hospital that afternoon to get checked out. Here's where I should have gone to a different hospital in town that I was familiar with. Instead I went back to the one closer to our house, but got lost several times, redirected no less than four times, and finally, after leaving home at 1:30, was able to see a doctor at about 3:30. She was not concerned about the spotting but thought I should have an ultrasound.

Clara Anne had accompanied me to the hospital, so we sat and read from an American Girl book while I waited for the ultrasound. That experience involved a funny language moment where they were asking me about pee. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what they were saying! Finally after asking numerous questions I realized they were asking me to make sure my bladder was full--it would be easier to see the womb that way. Ahh, comprehension! Finally I was able to have the ultrasound done--Clara Anne in the room with me the whole time. She was very sweet and concerned, "Mommy, are they going to check the baby? Can I see a picture of the baby? Is there something wrong with the baby?"

After the test, the first words out of the technician's mouth were "zheng chan de." (Normal.) While breathing a sigh of relief, I looked at the picture she printed out for me. I couldn't read much of what was on the page, but she sent me back up to the doctor for more "advice."

The doctor, an older lady with frizzy hair and glasses, seemed caring enough but was bluntly honest with me. She presented three options. Based on my dates, the baby should have been about 51 days gestation, with a clear heartbeat and more development. But the ultrasound showed the baby too small for that age. There was no heartbeat, but there isn't a heartbeat for as small as my baby looked to be. So option one was that the baby wasn't growing normally, there were serious problems. Option two was that the baby had already died but my body didn't recognize it yet, which is why I hadn't had any heavy bleeding. By the time she got to option three I was emotional enough that the Asianese part of my brain was not working well, and between my emotions and her use of medical language, I just couldn't understand what she was saying. (Later, through talking with my helper, who helpfully called the hospital back and talked to the doctor directly, we understood that she was considering the possibility of late ovulation, but she wanted me to have a blood test done to know for sure.)

Suffice to say, by the time Clara Anne and I left there, I was in tears. I felt in my heart that the baby was lost, but still wanted to hold out hope, if there was any to hold on to. We had plans that evening for guests to come to our home for supper and a study time, so we went ahead with that and I was thankful for my dear friend Rachel who listened to all my wandering thoughts, prayed for me, and let me cry a bit, too.

Saturday was tough. I got clearer information from my helper as she looked at the ultrasound results and what the doctor had written, and told me that the ultrasound had placed the baby's age at 32 days. I went over and over the dates, and just couldn't see how the baby could still be alive. John came home for part of the afternoon to be with me and we decided that we would go ahead and have the blood test the next day to look at my hormone levels, and hopefully then know for sure.

Waiting in uncertainty is never fun for anyone, but I can honestly say that the Lord helped my heart to be peaceful during this time...truly a "peace that passes understanding." I had my blood drawn on Sunday morning and went back Sunday afternoon to have the results read. My helper and my friend Becky accompanied me, so that John could stay home with the girls. Becky chatted with me and told me interesting stories about her family to keep my mind off things. I went, fully expecting to hear that my levels were low and therefore confirm the baby's death. Instead, the doctor's first words were "zheng hao" or, "just right." My levels were exactly where they should be considering the baby's age.

A sliver of hope again! I had given up, accepting the likely reality of a miscarriage, and then a bit of hope was injected into the situation. Unfortunately, the only thing to do was wait. If I waited a week or so, they would do another ultrasound and see if there was growth or not.

One complicating factor in all of this is that I am Rh negative. This wouldn't be a big deal except that almost no one in Asia is Rh negative, including my husband. So with all of my babies, I had to have an injection at 28 weeks and then again after the baby was born, if the baby was Rh positive, to prevent Rh sensitization. And all of my babies were Rh positive, so I had the shot each time. As this was all happening, I was corresponding with an American doctor who strongly suggested that I travel to the capital city to obtain the injection (the only place in the whole country where it can be bought) so as to have it on hand if needed. (I.e. if I did miscarry, I would need the injection within 72 hours.)

So we made plans to travel. My friend Rachel graciously agreed to travel with me on Wednesday, the 16th. We took the early train to the capital and the latest train back home, and had a wonderful day together, especially considering the circumstances! We made lots of memories, laughed a lot, cried a little, prayed together, ate some yummy food, hit Starbucks, bought fun stuff at the import store, almost missed our train coming back, and just generally had a great time. The doctor's visit, however, still left a lot of room for uncertainty.

I had another ultrasound done, and the results of this showed that there was some growth to the gestational sac, but in the doctor's opinion, it looked "empty." Her advice was to "terminate" and she had already launched into how I could do that when I said, "well, wait a minute! How old does this place the baby?" When she responded with "about 40 days" then I declared that I was not going to do anything until I knew for sure what was happening. If there was even the slightest chance that there was still a baby in there, I was not going to take any other action. "You're right, we don't need to rush, we can wait another week and see what happens," she said. I was glad I defended my baby and didn't just agree right away to whatever she said!

I had gone to the capital city fully expecting to hear, "There's been no growth, your baby is lost." But instead, the sliver of hope remained! What could I say other than that this was the Lord's plan? We prayed for a clear answer, and He could have given it, but chose not to. So clearly, it was His plan for me to remain in that uncertainty for that time. He must have had some things to teach me, and one of them was about prayer.

After my first doctor visit in our city my friend Rachel had asked me how I was going to pray about this situation. I shared with her that until we saw clearly otherwise, we were going to intercede for this little one, that the Lord would grant LIFE, protecting and caring for that sweet little one's body and soul. We were going to plead for this life until the Lord showed us one way or another what His plan was for this wee one. So I felt that same determination rising up in me, facing that doctor in the capital city: We are not giving up yet! The Lord hasn't shown us clearly that the baby has died, so until we know for sure, we are going to plead for Life!

The doctor did, however, prescribe the Rhogam injection so that I could take it home with me and have it given here if needed; at least that part of the mission was accomplished.

Thursday and Friday passed with the slight spotting continuing, less if I rested, but still always there. Saturday morning came around and John was off early to the office. I wasn't feeling great, just felt like resting, so the girls and I camped out on my bed with a stack of books. Soon I felt too sleepy to keep on reading, so the girls got down and played Dominoes next to the bed while I dozed. I was awakened by a text message and when I got out of bed to go get the phone, I very suddenly had to rush to the bathroom.

In the next moment I knew clearly what the Lord's plan for this tiny life was to be. The sliver of hope disappeared quickly, to be replaced with tears, blood, and pain. And yet, He was with me.

"This is my plan...whatever I do is good...I love you."

I managed to call John, who came home quickly, the girls kept playing in happy ignorance, and Christin slept on peacefully. We talked together and hugged and prayed. We thought and wondered and reflected. We trusted and cried and prayed again.

The irony of the timing of all of this was not lost on us. If we considered the discrepency between my dates and the apparent age of the baby, it appeared that the baby had died right around the time that I was getting those positive pregnancy tests. And I continued on, blissfully unaware, until the spotting happened just two days after we finally told everyone. I won't deny that there was a tiny voice in my heart that said, "why Lord? Why this way? I didn't think I wanted another baby . . . then you gave me one, only to take it away, just after I told everyone about it. Why?" But I will say this: that voice in my heart was a very small one, and the Lord helped me not to give it much credit. The truth is, it doesn't need to bother me that I don't know why. I am thankful, so very thankful, that the Lord gave me a sense of trusting in Him, that there is a reason--whether I know it now, or will ever know it--and that reason is for my good. My heart has resounded to the truth that He is God, and He is good. He has a plan. He does not act in an arbitrary way. It is for my good, no, not just my good, it is the best thing for me that events unfolded in precisely the way they did. He has a plan for me, and for my tiny baby too. Thank you, Lord, for granting faith that I can rest in those truths and not be caught in the endless, bitter, recriminating "whys."

In reflection, it is a wonder that anyone ever has any children at all. The whole process is so minute, so exact, so unbelievably complex, that the fact that any person manages to conceive a child, carry that child to term, and give birth to a healthy baby is truly nothing short of miraculous. And to think that I had three of those healthy babies! No problems whatsoever! (Well, if you don't count morning sickness for weeks on end and prelabor contractions for weeks on the other end!) So the fact that sometimes there's a problem is really not so surprising.

I've also read (believe me, I did tons of internet research during that week) that because now pregnancy tests are sensitive so early, and women also are having ultrasounds done so early, that the rate for miscarraige is around 30%. In the past, perhaps women had miscarraiges without realizing it, since they hadn't taken a test and/or hadn't seen the baby on an ultrasound. So almost one-third of all pregnancies end in miscarriage--a terribly high number, now not just a number to me anymore.

It's amazing how your perspective can change overnight. I didn't plan to be pregnant, even (gasp!) didn't want to be pregnant. Then, in a matter of moments when those two little lines appeared, I suddenly wanted to be pregnant more than anything else in the world. Suddenly the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth receded far, far into the background and I felt I would do anything to protect this tiny life.

And there's the difficulty. I couldn't do anything to protect it, I couldn't stop the miscarriage from happening. It was totally out of my control. In a way, during that week of waiting, I felt very similar to how I felt in my other pregnancies: things were out of my control, I simply had to trust. While carrying Clara Anne, I had a period of time where I really was worried about the baby. There are so many terrible things that can happen and I was worrying about them all. Finally I came to a point with the Lord where I had to say, Lord, this child is yours. Whatever you choose to do, it is Yours to do. I recognized that the worrying wouldn't stop after I gave birth; there would always be something else to worry about. And not only was that not pleasing to God, it was not a recipe for a joyful life!

It's not such a bad thing sometimes to realize that we're not in control. This circumstance was a good opportunity for me to affirm: Lord, this child was yours. Your plan, not ours. In your hands, not ours. We joyfully welcomed this wee one into our family, and though the time was so very brief, we are thankful. We are changed. This little one will always be part of our family story now.

In sharing the news with Clara Anne and Chloe, Clara Anne showed a very mature response. (Actually, I was crying at the dinner table when this conversation took place.) She asked about the baby, and we told her that the baby had died and so wouldn't come out to join our family. She said, "Well Mommy, if the baby died, then that must have been God's plan." I assured her that was certainly true, but it still made me a little sad. She responded in kind, sharing that she was a little sad too. But then I told her that sometimes, it is God's plan for little babies to go right to heaven rather than joining their families on earth, and she was so glad to hear that the baby went to heaven. She hugged me several times and said, "Oh, Mommy! That is so much better, isn't it! The baby will always live in heaven with Jesus and doesn't have to live on earth where we disobey!" I think this was Clara Anne's attempt to affirm heaven's perfection against the sin, suffering, and pain of life on earth. And she's right!

As John and I have processed things since the miscarriage, we've realized that there are definitely differences in losing a child. It is hard to lose a baby at 9 weeks gestation, but it is harder to lose a perfectly healthy baby in the process of labor, as happened to my high school child development teacher. It may be even harder to lose an almost two year old through a tragic accident, like my Aunt Judy and Uncle Dave, and it may be even harder to lose your 33 year old son, married with children, like my parents did when my brother died. All life is precious, and so there is loss in each case, but it is different. That has been a helpful thought as I think through the loss of this child.

I can honestly say, as well, that Scripture has been a huge comfort to me in the last few weeks. Psalm 139: the secret places are not hidden from Him, He knows our every thought and need . . .and all our days were written in His book, before there was even one of them. . . those verses were very helpful for me. As well, I had the opportunity to study through Philippians with some American friends and it was a very fruitful and valuable study, particularly in thinking about suffering as a gift for growth in the Christian life. I'll conclude my story tonight with a verse that the Lord impressed upon me on my trip to the capital city that day--it really sums up what I want this trial of losing a baby to accomplish in me.

"Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." Philippians 1:18b-20

Amen, Lord, let it be.

[I felt in my heart that the baby was a girl. Of course, it was too early to tell. But if she had joined our family on this earth, we liked the name Charity Noelle. Charity was wanted. She was loved. We celebrate that she was part of our family, even for such a brief time. Thank you, Lord.]

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Celebrating a tiny life

"I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are your works, And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance,
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them."
Psalm 139:14-16

Another beautiful chapter in our family story has been written by the great Author, with the marks of His care, love, and creativity all over it. And as He was writing, He bound up our hearts together with His words, so that His plans became ours, joyfully at first, and then sorrowfully, but always rejoicing. Tonight I would like to share with you some details of this chapter in our lives, celebrating the tiny life that was with us so briefly. I do not want to forget these things, but rather to ponder them in my heart, so the writing is as much for me as for you. Bear with me--this will probably get fairly long!

I mentioned in a previous post that we were surprised, upon returning from Hong Kong, to discover that I was expecting another baby. John and I had talked for a long time about whether or not to try to expand our family. We went back and forth, not really sensing a clear leading from the Lord at first. On the one hand, there were some challenges to life here in our situation with more children. We live in a place where we don't drive a car, our home is limited to a certain size, we would have to leave our home and potentially the country again to have another child, and then there were the physical, mental, and emotional challenges of pregnancy and caring for a newborn. On the other hand, we love children, and love having children. A precious human life seems so much more valuable than any practical consideration. And we had always hoped to have a big family. After much consideration though, we felt that perhaps the Lord was calling us to other work at this time that didn't include another child.

So, unlike with our first three carefully planned pregnancies, we were totally taken aback by this one! In fact, I was so surprised that I took four tests over four days, just to make sure! My house helper had bought the tests for me--the first two I took only cost about $.07 (yes, that's right, seven cents!) each so I wasn't sure I trusted them. By the third day and the third positive, though, I was convinced. It happened to be a Monday morning and John was still sleeping (of course I couldn't sleep, wanting to get up and take the test), but I woke him up and his first reaction was to laugh! Simply to laugh in awe of a reality that we had not intended, in light of the Lord's plans which were different from ours, and in surpise at how our lives were going to change from that very moment. Then, as he laughed, I cried a bit from mixed emotions . . . how was this going to work out? How would I homeschool Clara Anne with a new baby on the way (and in the room where we were going to homeschool)? Was I going to have to deal with another five months of nausea and vomiting, and then another month plus of prelabor contractions, like with Christin? Oh my, the emotions were swirling!

But our third reaction was to pray. John comforted and reassured me that this was "nothing but a blessing," and we brought our joy and concerns to the Lord. He was showing us, clearly, that HIS plan was for another child in our family! And His plans are always good. After we prayed, it took me approximately two and a half minutes to get really excited about the baby. The hope and promise of new life! A sweet little floppy newborn to cuddle and love! Best of all, after looking some things up online (what did we ever do without google?!), the due date fell beautifully right in the midst of our planned time in the States next spring!

This changed everything! We wouldn't have to leave the country to give birth and spend two months waiting . . . we'd already be there! I could give birth in my hometown hospital, with my parents and other family near by! I was getting more excited by the minute. It also meant that our time in the States, which we had planned to be quite busy with lots of traveling, would now mean that I would "stay put" much more, traveling at first but then waiting at my parent's home for the baby's arrival, and then after the baby's birth I would also have time to rest, recover, nurse around the clock, and all those things that you do with a newborn--which don't include putting thousands of miles on a car crisscrossing the U.S.

So, even as we talked about and planned for this wee one, growing inside, we kept the secret to ourselves for awhile. A few weeks went by. I hadn't gotten sick yet, but that was typical for me--with Christin I was sick from about week 8 to week 20 or so, the storm of nausea didn't hit right away. So though I wasn't feeling a lot of other pregnancy symptoms, it seemed my belly was already growing a bit and I was definitely making lifestyle choices based on the fact that I was pregnant.

On Wednesday, September 9, we decided it was the day to finally share the good news. I spent some happy time in the afternoon sharing with some American friends in our city, and then we made plans to tell our girls that night. My friend Becky insisted that we do something special to share the news with the girls, so I baked cupcakes and wrote "B A B Y" on four of them. We took pictures of the fun...take a look:

Helping Clara Anne to "sound it out." Having her read the word was part of the fun!

She did it! "Baby!"

"Mama, it says 'Baby'! I can read it! What does that mean, Mama?"
My "obvious" clue wasn't so obvious to the girls; there are too many babies in their lives, I guess. There's Christin, of course, still really a baby by their standards, and then there's all the baby dolls they love and care for, so they still weren't sure what "Baby" was supposed to mean.
So, ok, Mommy is going to point to the baby. Are you ready? Look at my fingers? Where will they point to?

There's the baby! In Mommy's tummy!

Clara Anne was so excited! Look at that huge smile!

Christin, on the other hand, just wanted to eat the cupcake.

Chloe seemed a little sad. (Yes, she is wearing a ballerina dress-up dress. And Clara is wearing an adult sized T-shirt! I obviously didn't plan their wardrobes for the pictures!) Upon further investigation, she was sad because Clara Anne got to do the special activity of reading the word on the cupcakes and she didn't. But after a little talking and of course, a cupcake, she cheered right up...and even gave me a hug to celebrate.
[Christin, still oblivious, eating her cupcake with delight.]

"Christin, can you say baby? Bayyyybeeee?"

That evening was quite cool, so we got out, for the first time, the fuzzy/feetie jammies that had been just waiting for the opportunity. The girls had lots of fun romping around in their cozy jammies, getting to stay up a bit late because we had some phone calls to make!
We thought it would be fun to call Grandpa and Grandma with the news, but let the girls tell them. First up: Clara Anne telling Grandpa and Grandma R. Lately we've had fun sending lots of e-cards to them, but when I got Grandma on the phone (Grandpa was at Bible study), I told her that Clara Anne had something to say to her personally. Clara Anne dived right in: "My mommy has another baby in her tummy!"
Next up: Grandma Ann. This time we let Chloe tell the news. Here's what she said, "Hello, Grandma? Guess what! We had cupcakes for supper! Yeah, because Mommy has a baby!" The whole time Clara Anne was in the background whispering loudly, "NO, Chloe, it's because Mommy has another baby in her tummy! We are going to have a new brother or sister!" Grandma Ann didn't quite get Chloe's meaning, not surprisingly, so John had to give a fuller explanation.
What fun! We called Grandpa back a bit later, surprised him too, and finally sent the girls to bed. This was Wednesday, the ninth. On Thursday I sent a few personal emails to family and friends, and made a brief announcement on my facebook page.
To be continued...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sad News

There isn't any easy way to write what I am going to share today, but in the interest of updating you all and soliciting your prayers, I wanted to write.

I did go to the doctor in the capital city on Wednesday, and actually had a wonderful day, accompanied by my friend Rachel. I spent some good time in Philippians throughout the day and really felt the Lord speaking to me in many ways. Rachel and I had fun together, too! But my results at the doctor's office were inconclusive, again! I had another ultrasound, and it looked like there was some growth, but again, the doctor said it was too early to tell and she actually strongly advised me to "terminate" based on my dates and the fact that the gestational sac looked empty. I told her I would not do anything of the sort until I was absolutely sure that there was no hope of life for this baby.

I returned home feeling that slight sliver of hope again and determined to pour my heart out in prayer, asking the Creator of Life for His power since obviously I could do nothing about the situation.

But today, I began to have some heavy bleeding, and without going into the unpleasant details, I am quite sure that I am experiencing a miscarraige. There have been quite a few tears today (even as I write this) but I am trusting that He will comfort me and help me to trust Him more, knowing His love for me as His child and His good, good plan for my life and our family's life as a whole.

I'm sure there will be many lessons to learn through this all but for tonight, I would just ask that you would pray for this situation--for my health (I'd like to avoid a surgical procedure and just allow things to take place naturally), for our family, for my tender heart, and for the Lord to make His presence felt in amazing ways. Thank you so much, it really means a lot to me to know people are praying.

He is God, and He is good. Meditating on that tonight. . .

Monday, September 14, 2009

An Item for Prayer

I have a brief story to tell tonight, simply because I would like to ask for your prayers but I don't have the energy to go into the long story. Here it is, in a nutshell:

Shortly after returning from Hong Kong, John and I were very surprised to discover that we were expecting another baby! I took four tests over four days because I just couldn't believe it, even though they were all positive! We thought we were done having kids, but very quickly got excited about the idea of a new baby again, plus the due date fell beautifully right during our time in America next spring.

But last Friday, I began to have some spotting which has continued intermittently over the weekend and today. I went to get checked out here in our city, and an ultrasound showed that the baby was much smaller than it should be by my figuring, so small, in fact, that there was no heartbeat yet, though by my calculations the heart should have been beating for about 2 weeks already. So based on dates, I was fairly certain that I had lost the baby. But just to make sure, I had a blood test to look at my hormone levels, and instead of low levels which would indicate a miscarriage, the results were "zheng hao" or Asianese for "just right" considering the age of the baby.

So, really the only thing to do is wait. We won't know until another ultrasound is done after some time has passed to determine whether the baby is still alive or not. This week, then, becomes a waiting time. Will you pray with us for our wee one? We are praying for LIFE until the Lord shows us clearly otherwise. I will go to the capital city on Wednesday for a checkup there and hopefully get a clearer answer. Thankfully my heart is at peace, but I really would appreciate your prayers for the babe, my health, and our family.

I'll be happy to blog more details (how we told our girls and families, pictures, etc) once this waiting game is over. In the meantime, please pray. Thanks so much.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Professional Pictures, Finally

Remember the hare-brained "Pictures in the Park" that turned into "Pictures at the Photo Studio?" Well, after all this time, I finally got them back!

Since ostensibly the pictures were to mark Chloe's third birthday, let's see a few of that sweet three-year old, ok? I thought these turned out so fun, and with little to none of her usual fake-smile-nose-scrunching that she likes to pull out when the camera arrives on the scene.
I love this one of her dancing!

Next up--some other frilly pink girls. Christin wasn't in the best mood that day, but we managed to get a few smiles! Her hair is finally getting longer--it sometimes curls out from her ears in an adorable fashion!

And here's these two silly, frilly girls. Laughing away!

Clara Anne Danielle, 4.5, Chloe Rachelle, 3, and Christin Arielle, 14 months.

Here's sweet Christin, dressed in a princess dress from the studio. The blue-gray suited her eyes, I think!

Walking as quickly as she could away from the camera! (Don't mind that speck of lint on the camera lens. You're going to see it a few more times. If I was better at photoshop, it would already be gone!)

Can you get much more queenly than this? This is SO Clara Anne--her personality is showing in a big way here!

Here's princess Chloe and . . . a green apple. Hmmmm. They snuck that one past me! (If you've seen my professional photos from this studio before, you know that they always try to put cheesy props in the photos! The Christmas family pictures we took last year had a certain stuffed bear who showed up in nearly every photo!)

This was Clara Anne's absolute favorite. She loved taking the photo, she loved posing on the swing, and she was so excited that I chose it as one of our take-home photos. She's as dreamy as they come!

Sparkling sisters with beautiful smiles. Don't you love their little crowns?

I loved the sweet expressions on their faces in this one. Perhaps they're confiding their dreams to each other.

And one more of all three of them. . . Christin wasn't too happy, and didn't like the instability of the swing, but we made it work.
So, I'm not sorry I had the photos taken that day! One day we'll look back and treasure these sweet shots of special girls.

Monday, September 07, 2009

We Interrupt Your Life...

To remind you how dependent you are on that basic necessity of life, water.

Sometimes life in this country can throw some curveballs. Even after living here for five years, establishing a comfortable home, and thinking that we are usually pretty organized and have things set up relatively well, a simple thing like, um, say, the water being turned off, really can throw life for a loop!

Last week the whole week, there were random periods of no water. Most of them happened at night, so it wasn't too concerning--just the occasional afternoon when (after already having completed lunch dishes) we discovered there was no water. It was usually on again after a few hours or so, ok, no big deal.

Yesterday, however, at the height of the weekend where I had made several simple meals and dirtied quite a few dishes, (ok, ok, most of the dishes in my cupboard), we discovered the water was off again. At first I was a bit (inwardly) gleeful . . guess those dishes will have to wait! But then as the hours went by we were all getting a bit antsy. The toilets had been used multiple times and not flushed, John wanted to take a shower before we went out to eat, the kitchen was not really usable in its dirty state, etc.

We were somewhat prepared for something like this--had some empty 2-litres filled up with water. But it wasn't nearly enough to flush the toilet, do my mound of dishes, or even really bathe with. Wow, I hadn't realized how much water is used even to fill my sink halfway!

This morning my helper arrived and said there was a notice posted downstairs. (Another advantage to being able to read this language!). Apparently there is something wrong with the pipes, they don't know what it is, and they can't find the problem. The water is off indefinitely--it may be numerous days or even a week. There was a tanker truck providing water in a central location of the apartment complex if you brought your own containers, stood in line for it, and then carted it home.

My helper said, "It's a return to how life in this country used to be!" This used to be how people who didn't have indoor plumbing got their water--in a central location, carrying it home. She also said that everyone in line was really disgruntled. (She used all of our saved containers and filled them twice today.) There are 21 high-rise buildings in this complex; my helper estimated between 6,000-7,000 people. Nobody knew the water would be turned off, so no one had prepared. If I had known, I would have filled my tub with water, filled my bucket and large pot, washed all my dishes, did a load of laundry, and made sure all of us were clean. As it was, the girls and I had all bathed yesterday morning, so I'm thankful for that because it may be awhile until we get another chance!

So, such is life. Things like this really help us realize how dependent we are on water! And how much water we use on a daily basis. It really is a precious resource and I think I will be more careful to conserve it in the future! And not to take for granted that almost-miraculous instant stream of water (usually) when you turn on your tap!

Ironically, it rained all day today. Lots of water outside, but none to be had inside!

And what did we end up doing last night? John didn't want to go out being all grimy, so we ate some random leftovers from the frig, crackers and cheese for the girls with yogurt to drink, and stayed in, trying to avoid the kitchen. Thankfully, today, we did get all the dishes cleaned up and went out for lunch to avoid dirtying more. Tonight my helper will make some food at her house and bring it for lunch tomorrow to avoid even more dishes. It's the simple life for us these next days! I'm going to think of it like camping, but with the luxury of my own bed and frig. Just be glad you aren't here to smell me!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Disney Day

Our trip to Hong Kong wouldn't have been complete without a trip to Disneyland. We love Disneyland! Despite the fact that there were TONS of people there the day we were there, we really enjoyed our day and milked it for all it was worth...arriving about 9:15 am for the park opening at 10am, and then stayed the entire day until closing. I think we left about 9:30pm! Everybody did great and we have had even more fun talking about it after we came home! Here's some picture highlights:
The princesses, of course, were first on the list, and even though my girls were a bit shy, the princesses were all SO sweet to them and chatted with them, even throwing them little kisses and waves as they left. The girls were a bit awestruck!
The carousel, always a favorite! I loved Chloe's smile in this one!

Near the teacups, we took the opportunity to take some photos in the play teacup. The girls loved this!

Glee! Jubilation! Stickers all over our clothes!

Happiness times three.

Lovely Clara Anne, four and a half years old.

Sister silliness!

I thought this was a funny picture with all the action involved!

Mama and daughter. Christin, 15 months old.

The W ladies. We played here so long (obviously) that the girls were pretending the teacup was their house! Seems like any occasion is a good excuse to play house.

Later in the day, the girls insisted that they wanted to stand in the line to greet Minnie. They were WAY more excited to see her than the princesses! They hugged and kissed her and everything!

And here we are, tired, sweaty, and still smiling after a long, fun day. Don't you love the subway with the special Mickey ears windows? I have to say again how I am so impressed with the whole Disney experience. The park is beautifully landscaped, clean, and the staff really go out of their way to make the day special, especially for kids. We loved it!
Favorites this year (according to the girls): The Lion King Show! They were both totally enthralled. As well, meeting Minnie. Clara Anne also loved "It's a Small World" and would have happily done it five more times if we weren't already on our way to another show.
Favorites this year (according to Mom and Dad): Doing Space Mountain in the single rider lane, NO wait! Also, the timing worked out so that we watched the Waterworks Parade from the air-conditioned, seated comfort of our lunch restaurant window! On the downside, we couldn't find the frozen coke stand this year...bummer! The beautiful fireworks are also always a highlight.
Bye for now, Disneyland! We'll see time!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Day at the Beach

For the first time this year, we decided to visit the beach while visiting Hong Kong. A friend had recommended this particular beach as being quiet and pretty, with all the necessary conveniences (Subway sandwiches, 7-11, and McDonald's) right near by. As well, being located on an outlying island meant that the scenery was just lovely. There were mountains in the distance and the island was green and beautiful. We were thrilled that the forecast for our beach day was "mainly fine" as opposed to the rain that we were expecting, so we packed everybody up early and took the MTR to a bus to the island.

Though we were a bit disappointed that there were no beach chairs or umbrellas for rent, we made the best of it. As predicted, there was nobody there and the water was refreshingly cool after our sweaty trek out there! Look at that empty beach! How nice! Christin, however, decided that the beach was not her thing. She was tired, but sweaty and a bit uncomfortable trying to sleep in the stroller, so I ended up holding her most of the morning. Between our trip to Thailand (where she loved the sand and the water) and this trip, something must have changed in her mind. She wanted nothing to do with the sand and seemed scared by the water. I tried just dipping her toes in, but she clung to me with tenacious grip, so I gave up and we had some mommy-daughter cuddle time instead. (That's just what you always want when it's 90 plus degrees and everybody is sticky, sandy, and sweaty, right? :))

However, Christin's crankiness didn't stop John and the girls from making the traditional sand castle! This castle, made without any tools except John's hands, has a center "lake" with a retaining wall which was later broken so that Clara Anne's "princess" (a small bit of driftwood) could find her way down to the sea. Clara Anne would have been happy to stay at the beach all day. She's a beach bum if there ever was one! Chloe vacillates--she's having fun one moment and then she's shrieking the next moment, all because some flying fish landed on her shoulder! Sheesh! (Ok, true confessions--I saw the flying fish in the swimming area and thus did not venture out past a few yards into the water! The water here wasn't clear and so I couldn't see what might be nibbling on my toes! I know. I'm a wimp.)

Here's Clara Anne enjoying the castle after her princess had already been set free and floated down to the ocean.

A water wave!
We realized that we needed to replenish our sunscreen supply and it was time for everybody to get a little lunch, so cleaned up and headed back to the oceanside deck where there were lots of picnic tables. After a delicious Subway lunch (John's favorite!) we headed back down to the beach to check out a kid's carnival that had been setting up all morning while we were playing. It turned out to be really fun! There were all sorts of activities for the kids to do, set up right on the beach, and the kids could play as long as they wanted and do whatever activities they liked! Clara Anne absolutely loved this. She played and played and played with other kids and wasn't shy or scared a bit. Chloe was feeling a bit tired by then and was less enthusiastic, but Christin finally fell asleep in the stroller so we had bought a little time. Fun times at the beach carnival!

A three-inch-deep pool of soapy suds with fun animals to ride on...

Soapy suds for everyone!

Making friends and having fun!

A bounce house--look how much sun Chloe had already gotten that day! Thankfully the girls escaped with only slight redness on their shoulders. I kept slathering them with spf 50 but I guess with all the water and sun, it wore off quickly.

And here's the only picture I got of Christin looking happy that day! She had finally napped and was feeling better. On the way back to the bus, John's sandal broke a strap and so he had to go hunting for other footwear. He found a pair of cheap flip-flops and then we took a detour to an outlet mall in that area before heading home. We were going to Disneyland the next day and he didn't want to have to wear flip-flops all day! (Too-small flip-flops at that!) Chloe slept in John's arms all the way to the mall, including being transferred in and out of the stroller on and off the bus, and then slept through almost our entire shopping excursion. We finally returned home after 9pm and hadn't had supper yet! Baths, supper, and prayers happened in record time and we all crashed hard that night. Whew! A day at the beach can really tire you out! Play hard, sleep hard--that's the way to do vacation with kids!