Monday, June 28, 2010

Celebrating Chloe

Chloe turned four on Saturday. Yes, my "World Cup Baby" is already four--as highlighted by the fact that everybody's excited again about the World Cup happening now. John and I watched many a game during those weeks in Thailand waiting for the baby; usually they were on late at night and we would sit and time contractions while John rubbed my feet. (I had lots of pre-labor.) Then when I was actually in real labor, at one point John had to run to the nurses' station to have them come and check on me again since things were progressing, and of course, what did he find but all of them gathered around a small tv, watching the World Cup! So hearing about the games this year has brought back lots of memories!

But back to Chloe! She had a wonderful birthday this year, and it's not over yet as we will be celebrating with some other June birthday kids tomorrow! Her day on Saturday was a fun one, though. It started out with a card that arrived in the mail from Auntie Sarah! How fun! Chloe was so excited to get mail and this card was extra-special--had five small doors for her to open up. She wanted to have her picture taken with the card, then wanted to take the card with her for her naptime. Love it! We hung a banner. . . (you can see the card is still the object of much attention!)
And decorated a cake! Wait til you see the inside of this six layer cake!
Christin was pretty excited about the birthday festivities . . .
And Chloe was thrilled to use the special plate and mug that are only for birthdays. The mug is huge; practically as big as her face!

Supper was homemade macaroni and cheese with a veggie tray and of course, cake. Fizzy juice (a family favorite) made things extra-special! (Simply 7-up or Sprite with your choice of juice.) Clara Anne was happy about the birthday fun, too, she even got to wear the dress that our helper, Lou, gave to Chloe.
Now it's time for cake! Ooh, pretty! And lest you think I can't count to four, the fourth candle small candle is hiding behind the big four. :)
Blow, Chloe, you can do it! I love her puffed cheeks in this photo!
The special birthday girl with her big smile and big cake! Here she is, enjoying a slice of rainbow cake. It was a six-layer cake with each layer tinted a different color; didn't it turn out pretty? This is the most professional any of my cakes have ever looked! (That's not saying much, I know, but still, I was pleased with it!)
I found a recipe online and adapted it to use only one white cake mix and a smaller, oval pan, rather than the full two mixes, round pan, and *gasp* FOUR packages of cream cheese that it would have used in the icing! Yikes! We didn't need 16 servings so I halved everything and baked it in the smaller pan; it worked great! Thanks to my friend Amy for loaning me her decorating equipment!

Clara Anne loved the blue layer, of course, and insisted that I take this picture. Since I had it, I figured I might as well post it. Just keeping things real!

No complaining from Christin about the cake, either!

Next Chloe/Clara and Chloe opened some gifts. They were really excited about this puzzle book from dear friends Emma and Samantha!

And we finished off the evening with a special prayer time for our sweet Chloe. At four years old, she is a delight to our family. She loves to sing in a super-high voice, an octave above everybody else. She dances beautifully in her own style without caring what the other girls are doing. She is quite athletic and despite some lingering pigeon-toed-ness, she runs fast and stays very physically active. She loves to ride her bike really fast! She is excellent at puzzles and loves to play with her sisters and the "Arielle dolls." I think she sometimes feels overshadowed by Clara Anne, but we try to affirm her unique qualities and are careful not to compare the two. Chloe is a great snuggler and is very physically affectionate--she's known for her long, loud kisses! She has grown so much in her verbal ability in the last year or so, too. She loves to help me in the kitchen! Chloe can be quite the charmer and yet also struggles with moodiness sometimes. We have seen growth in this area though in the past year. I am so thankful for our Chloe Rachelle! She makes us laugh and plays so well with Clara Anne (usually!). She is a precious gift to our family and is beginning to grasp more of the gospel. How we pray that the Lord will redeem her and she will become His true child!

Happy Birthday Chloe! We love you so much! You bring us so much joy. May the Lord bless you for His name's sake all the days of your life! And may you walk with Him forever.
Love, Mommy and Daddy

Working Hard

Intense concentration this morning. . . completely initiated by Clara Anne--so I didn't interrupt to "do school" but let them keep on working. They completed this 86 piece puzzle in about 20 minutes! Way to go! That's some hard work!
And we did get to our math and reading lessons this afternoon! We are also in the midst of a read-aloud fest; after John read the whole of the Chronicles of Narnia, the first two Little House books, and Dangerous Journey (Pilgrim's Progress for kids) in the last year or so, we started a new book last night: Heidi. I barely remember this story from my childhood so it'll be fun for me too! (Especially since John reads so I can sit back and relax!) In home school time we're currently reading The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff. Great story; Clara's been on the edge of her seat!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Christin is Two!

Well, two months later and I'm finally posting pictures of Christin's birthday! It just so happens that yesterday was sweet Chloe's fourth birthday; so maybe I have birthdays on the brain! Or maybe I just need to catch up on posting pics! At any rate, here's a glimpse of Christin's birthday.

We were so excited to celebrate the day with the Carini family in Rochester, New York. Beth Carini is John's sister; she moved from Minnesota to New York to go to college in the 80s, then met and married an Italian New Yorker, and they've lived there ever since. And Rochester is only about a 12 hour drive from Louisville, so it worked out great to go and visit them!

On to the pictures of Christin's birthday. . . here cousin Amanda and Clara Anne are getting in the birthday spirit! All the girls put on their special party dresses and birthday hats! Christin wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but thought it was fun anyway!

I had to post this next funny picture of John and Uncle Steve, they weren't too manly to be afraid of wearing these hats!

Here's that sweet, blue-eyed, wispy blond haired, two year old!

She thought the princess plates and hats were lots of fun!

Aunt Beth made her a special lamb cake which made things so special. Blow out those two candles, Christin!

What a fun gift from Uncle Steve and Aunt Beth--a set of three princess outfits! The girls were so excited, they could hardly wait to get the clothes on!

Unfortunately the lamb met an untimely demise. I think John looks a little too gleeful with that knife, don't you?!

Christin had a great birthday, surrounded by family, with some special times to honor her, and much love given her on her second birthday! It's hard to believe she's two! Was it just two years ago I was wondering if I would be the world's first permanently pregnant woman? Hah!

What is Christin like at two years old?
*she loves to be a helper. She's my best table clearer, and usually gets things back into the kitchen without dropping them!
*she still loves to suck her left thumb while fingering the ear of her bunny head blanket lovey that she's had since birth, called "wa-wa" because that's the name for doll in the local language. Oh, that thumb is precious to her, especially at the times when she wants to fall asleep.
*Christin loves to be doing whatever Clara Anne and Chloe are doing. That's probably typical of younger siblings, but it is so true in her case as well. Whether it's freestyle ballet in the living room, singing in her high voice, playing with the "Arielle Dolls" (polly pocket-style princess dolls), doing a puzzle, playing with play dough, picking flowers, you name it; if the other girls are doing it, she wants to be doing it too!
*she loves to eat, especially summer fruits like blueberries, cherries, and watermelon. Drinkable yogurt is also a must every day!
*Christin has the funniest sidelong glance that she loves to do. She can be a bit sly and keep her thoughts to herself, then suddenly she'll give you this look out of the corner of her eye and a mischievous little half-smile--it's totally Christin!
*She is getting more and more independant. More and more, she wants to do things for herself--and actually can!
*She will still cuddle with me at times of her choosing.
*she's really talking a lot! Some favorite phrases include "Oh my!" and "Yeah!" Around the time of her birthday, she was using the phrase "Ice Gum" to denote anything sweet. "Mama, ice gum, ice gum," meant "Mama, could I have a treat?" It sounds like "ice cream" of course, but she also meant any kind of cookie, candy, or even chewing gum. Yes, my two year old has had chewing gum. I guess this is what happens when you have your third, you relax the rules a little! Oh well, I figure if she swallows a piece of gum every few weeks or so it's not going to hurt her!
*Actually at this point Christin can really communicate just about all of her basic needs and wants using words that sound pretty close to the real thing. She's doing great!
*It has melted my heart lately to hear her pray. She is just imitating what she's heard the other girls and Mommy and Daddy do, but still. . . hope there's something real going on in her heart and mind!
So, Happy Birthday Christin Arielle! We love you so much, sweetheart, and are so thankful for the Lord giving you to us. We pray that He will watch over you, bless you, and work in your heart so that you will soon come to know Him and His amazing love for you. May you be a bright light shining for Him in this world! May He use your life to bring Him much glory. We pray that your heart will soon be softened to the truth of His word, and that you would respond to Him in faith and long to serve Him all the days of your life. We love you, Christin!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Home School Game Plan

Yesterday, June 21, was Clara Anne's first official day of kindergarten. Actually, I didn't make such a big deal of "the first day of school" since I feel like she's been engaging in learning activities for quite some time now (the Charlotte Mason people would say "since birth"!). And other than letting the girls use their celebration plates for breakfast, I didn't talk up the start of school too much. I think my approach is more going to be along the lines of working in some home school here and there between other fun activities; keeping the girls busy with play as well as reading aloud to them every spare moment.

Well, let me back up a little. I've been anticipating home schooling practically since Clara Anne was born, since that is really our only option for her education in our location. So I've been looking forward to it and gaining some ideas from various sources for a long time now. I have friends who are in the midst of this process (and doing very well at it!) but until fairly recently, I still was struggling to get my mind around exactly what I would do with Clara Anne when the time came. There seemed to be so many choices and options out there for homeschooling--different approaches, different methods, TONS of different materials, it all seemed great! How to choose?

Thankfully, John and I had the opportunity to attend a home schooling conference in Illinois just a few days before we came back to Asia. We left the girls in the excellent care of my parents, Grandma Ann and Auntie Sarah, and John and I went to the conference and soaked it all in. Finally I got a better understanding of the various methods and philosophies of home schooling, and sorted out a bit where I thought my ideas, and John's too, about home schooling fit in the big picture. We browsed through the enormous vendor hall and looked at various curriculums, products and tons of books. We had plenty of time to talk and discuss home school philosophy as well as curriculum choices. It was wonderful! I'm so thankful for that time which allowed us to make some major decisions about the future direction of our girls' training and development.

So, just for fun, I thought I'd post our home schooling game plan. Generally in the next year or so I am going to try to spend about two hours a day with Clara Anne doing "school work." How will we use that time? Here's a brief breakdown:

Bible--reading a devotion together, reviewing memory verses, singing the song of the week, and prayer. We will soon begin working through a more clearly laid out catechism in our evening family worship, but in the mornings I will just do the above activities with the girls.

Reading Aloud--This is where I read some great stories and even classic literature aloud for the girls. I'll probably allow Clara Anne to color quietly or do something else with her hands as long as she can show she's listening. I'll use some simple methods to ask her to retell the story and test for comprehension. I have some excellent books on my list; some purchased from Vision Forum that are meant to teach character (we just started The Little Medicine Carrier and it's excellent!) and some that come from the Sonlight Kindergarten read aloud list.

Math--we decided on the Right Start Math Curriculum. At this point I can't even tell you exactly what makes Right Start different from other math methods, but all I know is it looks FUN. It teaches math concepts in a concrete way and uses lots of games, activities and manipulatives to accomplish this. We've done the first two lessons already and Clara Anne just thought we were playing a game, not that she was doing a lesson! (I'm sure it won't be all fun and games forever, but for now we're off to a great start!)

Reading/Phonics/Language Arts--We are going to be using the Scaredy Cat Reading System by Joyce Herzog. It is a very hands-on approach to learning reading, where the phonics rules are woven into a story that uses songs, games, activities, and a "fun pack" of cards to teach reading. There are four basic steps to teaching reading in this program: 1. tell the story (teaching the phonics rules). 2. Sing the songs (reinforce the learning). 3. Do some games and activities (learn through doing). 4. Test for comprehension (a one minute test to see how much the student has learned). This method makes so much sense to me! I like the story/song aspect of it, but more importantly, the goal is teaching comprehension and building the skill of reading. I simply continue to teach on the same topic through games and activities until I feel Clara Anne has mastered it (using the one minute test to see for sure) and then we move on. There is no set number of lessons to check off without knowing if she is "getting it" or not, and so I can feel free to use the curriculum to encourage learning until I see mastery of the topic. Spelling, word usage, and sentence structure are woven in as well. I'm excited about using this method! Joyce Herzog, the curriculum's author, was at the home school conference and I went to several of her seminars. So, when Sing-Spell-Read-Write wasn't available at the conference (what I had previously decided on), we decided to change to this and I'm so glad we did! Clara Anne is enjoying it too!

Those four subjects are going to comprise the main part of our homeschool day. But then, I have some other subjects that we'll cover once a week:

History--We were so impressed with The Mystery of History. It teaches history chronologically from a biblical perspective, combining ancient biblical history with history in other parts of the world. Studying history this year will mostly just be me reading aloud, but I'm sure we'll look at some maps and throw in a few activities occasionally, too. There are coloring pages, etc. that came along with the book.

Music--this happens in our house every day no matter what! We're always listening to music and talking about it, but we will be continuing to study it a bit more formally for a half an hour once a week using The Story of the Orchestra by Robert Levine. It's a (very) basic history of western music's famous composers with a CD that includes selections from their compositions. I also am going to be requiring Clara Anne to practice the piano for 5-10 minutes a day; we'll try to make some progress in piano skills as the year goes on.

Ballet--the girls have shown SUCH an interest in ballet over the last few months! We bought some books on ballet, we have some ballets on DVD, and we even have a "Baby Ballet" DVD that the girls can do some ballet exercises along with the dvd. We also hope to enroll Clara Anne in a class, just for fun, if we can find one that's appropriate.

Science--this year science is going to be very low-key; doing an experiment, helping Mommy cook in the kitchen, looking at some nature books, that's going to be about it. I did buy some Usborne books of science experiments to do at home, we'll pull those out every few weeks or so.

Art--Drawing with Children is a book that came highly recommended. I think the main idea is to teach an "alphabet of line" so to speak--to break down the things we see into various types of lines so as to draw them more accurately. I have to do a bit more reading and prep in this book before I'm ready to have the girls start it, but this is really just for fun. They're constantly doing art projects anyway--painting, coloring, using markers, chalk, etc, so this will just give them some new ideas.

Wowza! So there you have it! I also should mention that I do plan to start Latin with Clara Anne once she is reading fluently. We will be beginning a very gentle approach to Latin with Prima Latina when I feel Clara Anne is ready for a new challenge. We'll see when we get to it!

So there's the home school game plan! Can you tell I'm excited about it?! It feel so wonderful to have finally actually decided what to do, now I'm just eager to spend this special time with Clara Anne and flex my teaching muscles a bit. (It's been awhile since I was teaching voice lessons in the States!) I am also determined not to get too distressed if plans get disrupted, time schedules get "off", or we don't accomplish a certain amount in a certain length of time. I'm really trying to look at each day as a learning opportunity; whether that be "book learning" or simply life learning, I want to make each day count. Yesterday things went wonderfully; we did a lot and it all went quite smoothly! This morning was different--Clara Anne slept late, there was a discipline issue with Chloe and Christin that ended up taking some time to resolve, and I had an unexpected guest stop by for an hour. But, we still did most of the things I was hoping to do today! And, we baked cut-out cookies with a new bunny cookie cutter this afternoon which truly made Clara Anne's heart happy, she got to "paint" hers blue and thought that was so special.

My friend Gretchen Wright, a wise and experienced homeschooling mom, told me, "You need three things for successful homeschooling. First, a supportive husband. Second, a disciplined child. (i.e. a child who is trained in habits of obedience and will obey your commands.) And third, and perhaps most importantly, a disciplined mom. (Especially in terms of her use of time!) Wise words, don't you think? It's perhaps the last one that hits home with me the most!

So, off we go on this brand new adventure! Though I certainly sense the weight of being responsible for my daughters' education, I am so very thankful for the opportunity to influence them; to raise them up to be women and homemakers who know and serve the Lord, and I am so eager to spend this precious time of their youth together. May the Lord grant wisdom, strength, and a humble dependence on Him as I seek to teach my daughters!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Where do I keep my glasses, again?" and other musings on returning to cross-cultural life

We've been back in Asia for more than a week now, and are unpacked and settled in, adjusted to the time difference, and generally going full-speed now in life here. But it was an interesting transition this time; some things were different than I expected them to be, so I thought I'd share a few thoughts about it here.

Returning "home" to a culture that is not your own is a unique experience. So many things are so familiar, and yet, it is a kind of familiarity that has taken time to acquire. Traffic, food, weather, even the air and water are different. But in many ways, this was our smoothest-ever reentry. I can still remember vividly the time that we returned to our apartment after being gone for almost three months having Clara Anne, seeing my parents, and attending a meeting. By that point Clara Anne was six weeks old, and we had been in pretty constant transition. The week before we had said goodbye to my parents, and the day before we had said goodbye to dear friends. Now we were on our own with the new baby, headed back into the country with no one ready to greet us.

We arrived late in the day and toted our many pieces of luggage up the five flights of stairs. (Well, ok, John toted--I mostly carried the small stuff and the baby!) As we opened the door to go into our apartment, our eyes fell on . . . dust. Dust and dirt. Everything I looked at--the floor, the furniture, even the pictures on the wall--was covered in a thick layer of black dust. "Don't touch anything," I said to John. We carefully stacked the luggage while I went to the sink and immediately got a rag and soapy water to start washing things off. Bit by bit, we cleaned the table and other surfaces so that we could set things down, I quickly wiped down the crib and found a clean sheet so that at least Clara Anne could be laid down in a safe place, and we just kept cleaning. Finally we cleaned the bathroom and the nightstands so that we could brush our teeth and go to bed.

The next day I woke up with my first-ever case of mastitis and thought I was dying. My fever had spiked and I felt absolutely terrible. I laid in bed while John kept cleaning, and he just brought me the baby every two hours so I could nurse her (trying to nurse more, not less, to help the mastitis clear up). I sat in bed and read and re-read "The Nursing Mother's Companion" since I was convinced I was dying but had no idea how to go to a doctor here. Of course there was no food or water in the house so John had to go out and take care of that, and bless him, he did it all while I laid in bed and felt miserable. Thankfully Clara Anne was a good eater and sleeper and none of this seemed to bother her very much. We just kept on; about four or five days later I was feeling better, John had gotten everything cleaned, and our house was livable again.

That was not a happy experience, nor nearly what I had imagined for my first homecoming with my first baby, but it sure makes for a great story now! Contrast that with our homecoming on June 9 after our 2.5 months in the States:

We were greeted at the airport by friends holding a bouquet of roses and with three vehicles to transport us and all our stuff home. As we drove into our apartment complex and stopped at the entrance to our building, my house helper was waiting to take the girls out of my arms and excitedly told me how she had hardly slept last night for excitement that we were coming back! The girls hopped right out of the car and headed to the elevator, knowing exactly where to go to get home. As I got myself out, I realized that some local friends just happened to be passing by right at that moment! And, before I could even enter our building, my friend Becky ran up, shouting and ready for a big hug!

I finally made it upstairs and was greeted by a spotlessly clean house. There was food in the frig, the house was cool and comfortable, everything was as clean as a whistle! The rugs had been washed, the floor had been waxed, the sheets had been washed; it almost brought tears to my eyes! My helper had thought of everything and as I came in it was like seeing our home for the first time again. I had almost forgotten what it looked like! How wonderful to be back among the familiar--our books, our toys, our decorations on the wall; ahhh, so good to be home.

In fact, in those first few moments Becky and I were standing around chatting and I was thirsty, but had forgotten where I keep the glasses in my kitchen to get a drink of water! After looking in two cupboards I asked her! Now that is a strange feeling that has repeated itself this week a few times...I couldn't find the scissors in the craft cupboard the other day, again, just couldn't remember where I keep them. But eventually I've gotten back into the swing of things around home and in the city too.

We've passed some of the first milestones--first bike ride, first trip to the store, first meeting with lots of friends, and many of my local friends have blessed me by seeking me out this week. I really have been struck by what a true blessing it is; I am the foreigner here, I am the one who is odd and different and unlike them, but so many of my friends made an effort to seek me out and bring me gifts (usually fruit!) this past week. That really means a lot and affirms the feeling again that we are home. I've had some moments of real "I love this life we have" this week, but I've also had a few "argh" moments, like today when we drove all over town looking for a bike for Clara Anne. The first place had one that was suitable, but only had a floor model and it was dirty and dented, they didn't actually have the bike. (Why, why, why does this always happen? I can't even tell you the number of times I've been shopping, wanted to buy something and then suddenly, "Sorry, we don't have that." If you don't have it why are you displaying it?!!) We rode our bikes in the hot summer weather another 20 minutes and that store didn't have anything either. We are not talking small, podunk stores, we're talking large superstores that supposedly are well stocked! Not in girls' bikes I guess!

It's been such a blessing to be back in our home again. I also have to say that I think we're really tired. I've been catching up on sleep this week (had a couple of 9 hour nights!) and the girls have been napping well. It's been lots of activity and adreneline recently, (getting ready to go to the States, our whirlwind trip, and just the long haul of traveling across the ocean!) so it will be good to catch up and then get settled into a good schedule again. I do plan to start some home school activities with Clara Anne tomorrow; I've done some preparation so we'll see how that goes!

I praise the Lord for such a smooth re-entry into this Asian culture which is so different from our own. The girls have still been a bit shy about speaking the local language, but thankfully mine came back pretty quickly despite two months of not using it at all! I feel the Lord's grace on us as we have gotten settled back in. We are glad to be back, smog and all!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Faces and Places: Louisville Edition

Louisville has to be one of our favorite places, mainly because it is a place where so many live who are near and dear to our hearts. We were so thankful to be able to spend about 9 days there during our trip to the States, guests of the generous hospitality of our friends John and Sarah. It was gorgeous weather during our stay and we spent as much time outside as possible. So. . . let's look at some pictures! How about starting with a trip to the zoo? It was Christin's first time on a carousel. She was NOT excited about riding on top of a large animal, but was soothed by sitting on this seat with Daddy nearby. I love how her hand is resting on his in this photo. Big girl Christin!
All of the kids piled on a . . . buffalo? Yak? Actually I'm not sure what that animal is! I guess I need to go back to the zoo and check up on that!
The elephants are always intriguing.

A family photo in the lovely zoo park area.
Our wonderful hosts!
Dear friends Chip and Doris Stam welcomed us into their home one day for lunch; Chip is in the midst of a cancer battle and we were just so thankful and delighted to have some time to spend with them. We ate, we sang around the piano, we watched Chip do tricks with his dogs, we laughed, and we prayed together. And before the afternoon was over, Chip invited John to shave off his hair, which was beginning to fall out again anyway. You'd have to know Chip to appreciate his sense of humor in the situation!

After the Deed was Done. :)
Chip maintains a caring bridge site: check it out under "carl stam". Chip and Doris are precious members of the Body; we are so thankful for them and praying fervently that the Lord will see fit to prolong Chip's life for further service. We love you Chip and Doris!

Ken and Beth A, and their daughters Katie and Sarah, also welcomed us into their home one evening. What a treat to talk with them, share our hearts and hear theirs as well, and let Sarah play with the girls for the whole evening! We had a great time with them!

And here's a picture of our Nigerian friends, Haggai and Mary, and their family. We didn't have "enough" time with them but enjoyed a great conversation over a meal. Can you tell which kids belong to us?? :)
And the last picture I have from Louisville. . . early one morning my friend Gretchen and I met for coffee (what else?!) and had a great conversation. Gretchen often comments here, you can find her at if you'd like some great insights on all things bookish!
Thanks Lord for such an abundance of good friends, fun times, encouraging conversations, beautiful weather, and great food during the time we were in Louisville! Next stop: Rochester, New York! Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Hello to everyone from sunny Spring City! It's Saturday morning here and we're so thankful to be safely back at home in Asia. The girls have played nonstop since arriving late on Wednesday night, only taking brief breaks to eat and sleep. Even as I write, I'm hearing them both singing (fairly loudly!) to themselves as Clara Anne paints with watercolors and Chloe plays with some interlocking people toys. It's fun to see them discover their old toys as completely new again!

During our time in the States we were frequently asked some of the same sorts of questions, so I thought I'd try to recall some of them here and answer them for you.

Q: How long was your time in the States?
A: About 10 weeks. We decided to take a shorter time this time around because we knew our trip would involve a lot of traveling and we didn't want to be traveling forever!

Q: How have your kids adjusted to being in the States?
A: On the whole, they really did very, very well. We had looked at pictures beforehand of people we would be meeting along the way, and prepared a lot through talking with them about what to expect, and I think that really helped them. Clara Anne, at 5.5, was of course more aware of things around her but Chloe did well too. I was very thankful because in the past sometimes the two older girls have been slow to adapt to new situations, but this time it seemed like they were eager to try new things. Christin was pretty much clueless, and had a few rough days (due to lack of naps) from time to time, but if she got enough sleep she was generally pretty agreeable.

Q: What did the girls most enjoy about being in the States?
A: Several things, first of all, family! They really enjoyed spending time with Grandpa and Grandma, and Grandma Ann, and all the cousins and friends we met in different places. They especially loved that almost EVERY house we went to had "new" toys for them to play with! Also, nature! They really enjoyed being able to go in and out, in and out of the house so easily. We walked in the grass, we admired the sky, we found shapes in the clouds, we went swimming in a lake, we played at parks, we admired and learned the names of flowers blooming in Grandma's and Grandma Ann's gardens, and we played with sidewalk chalk, played in kiddie pools, jumped on a trampoline, petted the neighborhood cat, and watched the birds. Finally, the food! They loved eating breakfast cereal, string cheese, and Pizza Ranch pizza. . . and so many more things! Actually they basically liked everything they tried. (There might have been an exception somewhere that I can't remember.) They were a bit surprised to not eat much Asian food, but we just wanted to take advantage of the yummy American food while we could get it!

Q: What did you and John enjoy most about being in the States?
A: Some of the same things as the girls. High on my list would have to be seeing the girls interact with the grandparents and other family members. Webcam and email is great, but there's nothing like being together. I had many fun coffee dates with family and friends, so Starbucks would have to rate pretty high on my list too! I LOVE to sit around over a cup of coffee and chat with dear ones. We also really enjoyed our interactions with other believers in the States; that was refreshing, encouraging, and very uplifting. And I would also have to say that I have never enjoyed the blue sky, green trees, white puffy clouds, and blooming flowers as much as I did this trip. If you live in a naturally beautiful (or landscaped beautiful!) place, don't take it for granted! Truly, it's such a gift from the Lord--the heavens truly ARE telling the glory of God, it's just that living in our urban smoggy city we don't always see it! But that makes us appreciate it all the more when we do have it, either here or in the States. One last thing--John and I really loved going to bookstores in the States! We spent some significant time (and $$!) at Lifeway, Barnes and Noble, and Borders. What a delight to be able to wander the aisles and browse since everything is in English!

Q: What were some favorite foods you enjoyed being back? Do you miss Asian food?
A: Yes, we missed Asian food, especially the super-fresh stir-fried vegetables! But we totally enjoyed American food as well. Mmmm. . . chips and salsa, tex-mex of all sorts, Chili's chips and queso, yummy sandwiches with deli meat, fresh bratwurst, pretzels, meat on the grill, salads salads salads, breakfast foods at a restaurant, Pizza Ranch pizza and broasted chicken, Cracker Barrel anything, and let's not forget Blue Bunny Ice Cream! That was Clara Anne's favorite since her favorite color is blue and her favorite animal is a bunny--she was delighted to find there was a brand of ICE CREAM with that label. What could be better? :)

Q: How many miles did you travel? And where did you get your vehicle?
A: We drove about 7,000 miles during our 10 weeks, most of those in the middle 6 weeks of the trip. We were so thankful to be loaned a Suburban from a couple in my parent's church. They very generously let us use it for such a long time and put so many miles on it! It was the perfect vehicle for our travels since it could carry lots of stuff as well as accomodate all three carseats. Thanks so much to Jim and Cheryl!

Q: How much luggage did you take back with you?
A: The airlines allow 2 checked pieces per person, and we had five people (and five seats, PTL Christin had her own seat), so 10 checked pieces, at 50 pounds each. Do the math:that's 500 pounds of luggage! Then add: a stroller, two laptop computers, John's carry on shoulder bag, my red backpack, my purse, and the older two girls both had pink rollable backpacks. Wowza!

Q: Will you continue to post other pictures from your time in the States, even though you're back in Asia already?
A: Yes, I do have plans to finish (even if it's briefly) the "Faces and Places" series. I still have so many pictures to share, it might take me awhile but I'll try to do it as I can!

Q: How long does it take to get back to your home in Asia?
A: It was about 29 hours, door-to-door, for us to return home here to Spring City. We are so thankful for the Lord's protection and mercy to us as we traveled--the girls did absolutely wonderfully on the trip. I don't think I heard a whine, a whimper, or a cry from ANY of them during ANY of our flights! They were positively angelic, so lots of you must have been praying. John and I slept a fair amount too on the various flights and so didn't feel too bad upon returning home.

And we're glad to be back! We did the bulk of unpacking the first night and now have been sorting and putting things away bit by bit. I still have some homeschooling materials to organize and shelve, but basically everything else is done, even the laundry! We're all slowly adjusting to Asia time again; yesterday morning everyone was wide awake by 5am and today by 6am, but that should gradually improve as long as we don't nap too much during the day!

So, if I didn't cover "your" question regarding our time in the States, leave a comment and ask it! Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Faces and Places (part 6 if you're counting!)

Today we'll start out in Princeton, West Virginia, where we spent a brief weekend in April. This location happens to be a Mexican restaurant! Thanks Kevin and Sue for your hospitality! Next, we visited New Bern, North Carolina, where John's sister Leah lives. The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed lots of time outside, including along this lakeshore.
We couldn't pass up the opportunity to have some authentic North Carolina barbeque--tangy, vinegary, and YUMMY!
Hush puppies are pretty tasty, too! (And what IS Clara Anne doing there in the back?!)

The azaleas were in bloom and everywhere we went I meant to get pictures...finally the last morning we took some family shots in front of these beautiful blooms. The cousins had such fun together!
It was great to spend some time with Kyle and Leah again. Thanks for opening your home to us! We really had a great time!
And . . . several hours later, we arrived in Laurens, South Carolina to visit some who are near and dear to our hearts since they visited us in Asia last year. We had a great reunion meal together at a fun seafood restaurant.

Precious ladies. Not sure why Chloe wanted to be in the picture and then didn't smile! Also at this meal I learned that you are supposed to spread sweetened butter on hush puppies, that makes them even tastier. Yum and double yum!

Josh and Dianna lead the flock there in Laurens; it was so great to visit with them and their sweet boys. Josh had just returned from Lousiville and the Together for the Gospel conference that day, and to top it all off, it was his birthday! We sang and ate birthday cake before parting for the evening.
Still in Laurens, we reconnected with some friends that we met in 2007, now serving good to see you Eric and Courtney!

Dianna and me, the final evening. I wish we had had more time to spend together! At this point our friendship has to take place through cyberspace. But that's better than nothing! We're thankful for the time we got to spend in Laurens. So good to be with you all!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

This is our life...but not for long

It only seemed right, after spending hours upon hours (I didn't add them, that might have been discouraging) over about 7,000 miles on the road in 7 weeks, that I should include some pictures of the girls in their carseats. Carseats were a new experience for my girls, since they are non-existent in Asia. Since we don't have our own car, there really wouldn't be any practical way to carry a seat around as we go from taxi to taxi.
Plus, we also spend a lot of time on our bikes, with girls sitting in a (somewhat precarious) metal seat where it is up to them to hold on. Christin is usually strapped into a baby carrier, but the bigger girls have to just sit tight and hold on.

So I'm thankful they took to their carseats as easily as they did. We talked it up: new, Special seats with FLOWERS on them! How pretty! How fun! Cupholders on the side! Yippee!! And the girls did fine in them. Though note in the picture above...there were some crabby moments. That's only to be expected on long road trips! John and I were often talking so we had lots of "quiet time" for the girls and they actually napped quite well in the seats. PTL!

Probably one of the biggest difficulties was that Christin was in the middle and therefore able to pester each sister equally--an Equal Pestering Opportunity. She was fond of snatching toys, crayons, or whatever from her sisters and then smirking naughtily. Good thing she was within my reach if I twisted around in my seat--she certainly received her share of punishments as we drove 7,000 miles!
All in all the girls did great in their seats and were excellent travelers. It got to the point where a trip of 4-5 hours was no big deal! They're experts now. PTL for His traveling mercies--we never had a breakdown, never had an issue with the car, and arrived at our destinations safely every time. That is a significant grace we are very thankful for! But I have a feeling the girls won't be sorry to say goodbye to the carseats when the time comes. And perhaps, neither will I!