Monday, November 22, 2010

Newsy Bites

Monday is drawing to a close but I wanted to mention a few news items quickly tonight...sorry for the random list!

A warning to other expats who live in this country: the customs procedures of this country have been changed. We had a box sent to us from dear friends for Christmas (the sixth year in a row!!!) and it has been held up in customs. One new, more stringent requirement is for the customs slip to more accurately (not just generally) represent what is in the box. They are not supposed to open the box but if what the slip says is not plausible relating to the size of the box, the customs agents will be more suspicious of it. Also, any box over about 15 pounds or worth more than $150 is going to be held as suspicious. Our box was held up and now just today the Fed Ex representative called again and said that customs officials had rejected our box, meaning that they will just keep it. The other two options were that we could pay a 10% tax on the value of the box, which of course we were glad to do, or they would send it back to the States.

However, the good news is, we could write a letter of appeal, which John did, and he emphasized how the food items within were truly for our personal use, to help us celebrate Christmas. He told me he "laid it on pretty thick!" He even attached a picture of our family to try to get them to take pity on us and our three little girls who are waiting for "Christmas" to arrive in that box! So we shall see if they are moved by our appeal, pray that they will! I would hate for all of that time, effort, and money from our friends in the States to simply get wasted--or worse, to imagine some official eating our chocolate stars and chex cereal! Argh!

In other news, the turkey is here! I will go to pick it up tomorrow. I'm glad we'll be able to have turkey for Thanksgiving! Last year our bird came from a farm in Minnesota, mmm it tasted good! Probably nostalgia and a bit of homesickness made it taste that much better.

Tomorrow morning we're going on a field trip! There is a new history museum open in our city and we are going to check it out. I have very low will probably be freezing cold, with no signs in English, and I'm expecting dust and dimly lit, cavernous rooms. (This is from previous experience with museums in this country.) However, there are dinosaur bones, we know that, and it's free to get in if you bring your passport or birth certificate, so we really don't have anything to lose, and who knows, it might be great! I'll let you know!

To close out the evening, I'd like to ask your prayers for my friend Angie. I don't often do that here, but today I'd like to make an exception. I took Angie to Starbucks this morning and we talked non-stop for two and a half hours, without our children, which was the first time we've done that in a long, long time. Angie is facing some messy and complicated family situations and problems that are just plain difficult. Will you lift her up for a moment when you read this? Pray for grace to persevere and to love her husband with His love, to be the wife and mom that He wants her to be, and to receive His joy through trusting Him. Thank you so much!

Last time I asked you how your week was going and several of you commented, thank you! Tonight I'd like to ask how I may pray for you this week. If you feel comfortable, leave your request in a comment, or email me at jawind1228(at)yahoo(dot)com. I would consider it an honor to lift up your requests this week as well.

Blessing to you all as we get ready for Thanksgiving! May gratitude to our Father always be permeating our hearts!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just checking in

Life lately has been busy. I know, this is probably the story of everyone reading this blog too, so I know you understand. But it's been busy in a full, meaningful, joyful, special kind of way. It's been full of the precious daily joys of being with my girls. It's been meaningful as I've welcomed guests into my home, particularly my neighbors that still aren't part of the Family but we hope will be soon. It's been special as we continue to see evidence of faith and maturity in Clara Anne, and more and more, in Chloe. In many ways, I am aware that these are some of the most blessed days of my life. My girls are still at the stage that they ask lots of questions and listen intently to my answers. They want to be close to me (sometimes too close, like when they follow me into the bathroom or crowd me on the couch for reading time!). They show their love and affection easily, freely. How I love being their mommy!

Here's a few stories from recent life, just to catch you up a bit...

We've been totally interested in alligators and crocodiles at our house lately. It started through a read-aloud book, The Strawberry Girl, which was set in Florida and had an abundance of alligators. This led to a curious/fascinated/morbidly interested response from the girls regarding alligators. We did a little online research into the animals and then found some old episodes of The Crocodile Hunter which had been posted on youtube. I had never really watched Steve Irwin before but found him so engaging and interesting! He had an incredible knowledge of reptiles and other animals, too, and his enthusiasm is contagious. We've seen a few shows now and the girls are still so fascinated, especially Clara Anne. The fun thing about the Crocodile Hunter is that he is seeing animals in their natural habitat, in the wild. We've all enjoyed it!

Christin's new favorite words: "Actually" and "Probably." She uses them all the time, and in the correct context which is so funny to me! And today at lunch, after requesting repeated (small) helpings of the spicy chicken we were eating, she looked down at her bowl and said, "What?! I forgot to eat my broccoli!" All my girls love broccoli so she made sure to polish it off before lunch time was over.

So I've been trying to order a turkey from the import store in preparation for Thanksgiving next week. I've called them now several times and they have given me the classic answer "It shouldn't be a problem." Finally I had Lou (my helper) call again yesterday and ask very directly if they would have a turkey for us or not! (It has to be imported.) They assured her they would and we said we'd be there on the 23rd to pick it up then! Hope it works out!

Clara Anne has a loose tooth! She has not been too preoccupied with trying to dislodge it but it's been loose for a couple of weeks now. She is excited about this rite of passage. We will have to read One Morning in Maine again just to identify with Sal and her lost tooth.

Chloe has now, with very little help from me (but a lot of watching of what Clara Anne is doing), learned to write her name correctly and most of her other letters too. She wants to "do school" when Clara Anne and I are working so I involve her wherever I can. I am considering starting a workbox (or workfile) system--do any of you out there use this kind of organizational tool? I'd love to hear your thoughts about it!

Another funny thing about girls play "princess" and "dress-up" and "ballet dancer" so frequently that sometimes when I give them a simple instruction like "Please clear your bowl from the table" Chloe will curtsey to me as she says "Yes Mommy." It's cute and endearing! There's so much femininity around our house, sometimes the girls just float from one place to another!

The happy news for me this week is that the Starbucks in town is now open! My dear, delightful, sweet husband stopped by there one day before they opened and happened to meet the manager who happened to invite him to a coffee tasting before the store opened! Since John doesn't drink coffee, of course I volunteered to take over that difficult job. :) I invited my friend Amy along for the fun as well. We had a great time at the tasting, getting to know some of the baristas and sipping some Christmas Blend. Ahhh, Starbucks! I'll have a whole post with pictures up this weekend!

John's been busy as usual this week but we've both been feeling good about our schedules and daily routines, including exercise. Except for Tuesday. We had a little stomach bug make its way through the family, starting with Christin on Saturday night, who threw up so much all over her bed, blankets, pillow, herself, etc...I had no idea her two year old stomach could hold that much! I was up with her half the night but then she seemed fine the next morning. Chloe didn't want to eat much on Sunday but never threw up, and then on Monday everyone felt fine. We were thankful for that since it was family day! But on Tuesday I began to feel a bit queasy and sick, and then Clara Anne was too, and finally John was too! Thankfully it just seemed to be a 24 hour thing; we're all better now and I'm glad to say goodbye to the shaky tummy.

A final story--tonight at the end of bedtime routine, Clara Anne said, "Shall I give you a back massage, Mommy?" Of course I readily agreed! And she did a great job, it was actually quite relaxing! Whether this was a ploy to stay up later or an honest and sweet desire to minister to her mommy, I'll take it! Thank you, sweetheart!

Well, I'm sorry that I let so many days go by between posts, but now I've checked in and you know what's been going on with us lately. How about you? Leave a comment and tell me how your week is going!

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Blessing Chart

Recently I mentioned that our family has a system of blessings/points that can accrue for special rewards. Here's a closer look at the charts that we use at our home to motivate good behavior and discourage bad behavior; we bought them from an organization called Doorposts. [Sorry the picture isn't terribly clear!]

The first chart, the "If-Then" chart, details specific negative behavior and the punishment that will be given for such behavior. Included on the list are arguing, complaining, and whining (which in our family will earn you a timeout), direct disobedience (three spankings), defiance and disrespect towards parents (that'll get you five spankings), and the big whopper, lying, which gets the offender 10 spankings and a loss of privileges. The loss of privileges is usually something we know will be a hardship to the child--once for Chloe it meant that she could not wear dresses for a week.

On the positive side, we want to reward things like truthfulness, being quick to obey, using kind and gracious words, being diligent, and so forth. Everything on this chart is worth one point. Now this is a bit challenging because we expect our children to obey right away, with a cheerful heart, and all the way--to do completely what we ask. So that is the normal standard. This chart is for actions that are above and beyond, like volunteering to share a treasured item with a sister, hopping up to help Mommy clear the table without being asked, having a cheerful heart in a particularly difficult situation, things like that.

Recently when we've been gone overnight and the girls have been in the care of our house helper, Lou, we've also offered some bonus points if there were no instances of direct disobedience while we were gone. Last week we were out of town for two nights and almost three days, and the girls did great! Their reward was a full 10 points each!!!! So, the points go on the chart and start accruing. You can see below the various ideas we've thought up to use for rewards--mostly all things that involve special time with Mommy or Daddy, special foods, or special activities out and about. We purposely tried to keep the rewards simple, not expensive, but fun and enjoyable. The girls can choose how to spend their points, whether to let them build up for a "bigger" reward or to use them right away. In the past we've already enjoyed these rewards: used the special plate (a pretty ceramic plate that says "Celebrate Good Times"), Clara Anne chose a special dessert which was to make bunny shaped sugar cookies, each of the girls has chosen the songs they wanted for family worship, both Clara Anne and Chloe stayed up 30 minutes late one week on different nights to do my exercise with me (I was honored that they wanted to spend their points that way! yes, I usually exercise at 9pm!), and once Clara Anne chose to get her hair washed at a salon with Mommy while Daddy took Chloe to Dairy Queen to spend their points.
But today was special. We've now switched our Family Day to Monday, due to several new events being scheduled on the weekend, so today was our first day to try out the new schedule. I have to say, I really enjoyed it! The girls had points built up and so Clara Anne chose to have a special book reading time with Daddy. He read to her for more than two hours this afternoon! (Though he admitted that he was literally falling asleep a few times, so he finally got up and drank some tea, which revived him enough to keep going!). Chloe spent her points today by choosing the entire meal for Family Night. She wanted quesadillas, so my helper made the tortillas, we used my friend Rachel's awesome fajita marinade, and had a lovely meal complete with Oreo pudding at the end. Everyone enjoyed it and Chloe felt so special! I had a can of A&W stashed away in the cupboard and let the girls share that, giving a bit extra to Chloe since it was her points that got spent, and she loved that too!
You can see that even after today's exciting spending, Clara Anne still has 12 points left, Chloe has 19, and Christin is holding steady with 13. When the points on the chart are circled, that means they've been spent. So far, we've all enjoyed the blessing chart and it's been a helpful motivation and encouragement. The girls have loved seeing their points build up and the spending of them is great fun! At this point, it's all a bit over Christin's head so she's not quite as engaged as the older two girls, but even she has grasped the basic concept. Clara Anne has shown herself to be particularly motivated by the points, and Chloe has done wonderfully in doing the things that get the points! So it's a win-win for everyone. And that's our Blessing Chart!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Ice Skating Adventures

During our trip to a nearby city at the beginning of October, we had the opportunity to visit a new ice skating rink! Wow, ice skating! I have hardly been ice skating since that wonderful snowy evening when John proposed to me, fourteen years ago! But that didn't stop us. . . we all gamely worked our feet into the stiff, heavy skates and gave it a go.
Chloe had the most fun when John skated backwards and she got pulled along. She was willing to try moving her feet around a little and did a pretty good job. She fell more than a few times but always got up again. Midway through the morning she was ready to quit, but John encouraged her and by the time we were all ready to go, she wanted to keep on skating!

Clara Anne, on the other hand, tended to get set in one position and simply allow herself to be pulled along by someone else. When we first took to the ice she was pretty scared and wanted to stay right near the edge. She did make progress, though--by the end of our time she was willingly being led around the rink, even out in the middle!
Uncle Kevin and Aunt Becky, too, were very gracious to spend time skating with both of my girls. I even got to do a few rounds holding my hubby's hand, very nice.

Clara Anne also enjoyed the method where I skated backwards and pulled her along. Honestly, her posture in skating reminded me of the sailing scene in What About Bob?, where he says, "Look! I'm sailing! I'm a sailor! I sail! I'm sailing" and on and on when actually all he's doing is sitting in the boat. She let herself be pulled around the ice in one stiff position and then told us all how much she loved ice skating! Made me laugh!

Speaking of making you laugh, how do you like my attempt at gracefulness in the above picture? Nice, huh? I had fun pretending to be a good skater!

The three of us had fun together! At this very moment, Amy's and my ankles were in serious agony, showing our age; Becky, of course, felt fine. My ankles didn't recover fully for about 10 days!

Love these smiles! We all had a great time skating! It was fun to try something new and the skating rink played "we will rock you" about 75 times in the several hours we were there, just adding to the ambience of course. We made some fun memories and enjoyed our time on the ice. The girls were disappointed when Mommy and Daddy simply couldn't keep skating any more for fear of serious injury, they would have stayed even longer. I think skating worked some muscles I didn't know I had--it's harder than it looks! But aside from that, fun times were had by all!