Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Lou!

This year AGAIN Lou's birthday snuck up on me!  She mentioned casually one day that the next day was her birthday and I kicked myself, wondering how I could forget.  As I was exclaiming over this important event having slipped my mind, I asked for clarification again on her actual birth date.  As it turns out, she doesn't know her birthday by the western calendar, only by the lunar calendar; i.e. the twenty-seventh day after the new year.  So by our measurement, her birthday changes every year.  Aha!  Maybe there's an excuse for me after all!  :)

But, the late notice didn't stop us from having a fun party.  We invited some friends and got the wok fired up.  In America this would be very bad form, but here it's perfectly normal: I asked her to make her own birthday lunch.  We had stewed ribs (a treat, they're more expensive), shredded spicy and sour potatoes (her favorite childhood food), a cold cucumber and mushroom dish, marinated in a vinegar and sesame paste sauce (my girls' current favorite), stir-fried broccoli, and fresh noodles.  The length of the noodles is supposed be good luck for a long life, so is a traditional food on birthdays.  It was all delicious!
A tradition we have at our house is at someone's birthday, we all go around the table and say a few words of what we appreciate about the birthday person.  It was a blessing to Lou to hear everyone's comments!  Even my girls participated.  (The food that Lou makes may or may not have been very high on each of their lists!)

It was a wonderful party time together, with only a slight shadow over it since this may be the last birthday I get to share with her for a long time due to this news.  But we had fun, I made a fantabulous apple crisp using the Pioneer Woman's apple pie recipe (just skipped the crust) and it was so amazingly good.  We couldn't do candles since it was hot, but we ALL enjoyed that wonderful dessert!

And then, I let her do the dishes.    Ha.

 Lou is a true gem.  She has been a blessing to me in a thousand ways.  It's been 3. 5 years now since she's worked for us, and we truly count her as part of our family.  She is fun and outgoing and regularly makes me laugh.  She has her own funny quirks and habits, and yes, I still frequently find dirty dishes in my cupboard because she washes them at lightning speed, spraying water all over the kitchen in the process, but I still appreciate that she's there to do my dishes at all!  Lou is my dear, dear friend, my sister in Him, and such a big help to keeping things going around here.  My girls love her dearly and regularly pray for her.

Here's a few funny stories in bullet-point fashion from my years with Lou. . .

The first time I ever left my children alone with Lou for a more significant period of time, they were extremely naughty and she was at her wits' end with them.  In that one notable day, Clara Anne colored on the wall with a marker, Chloe found her baby book in a drawer and systematically ripped it to bits, and Clara Anne climbed up onto the piano and then dropped something hard and heavy onto it, causing a ding in the piano's lid.  They also drank approximately 11 yogurts in one day.  (I am not making this up.)  We began to teach Lou the art of saying that simple word: "No."

On another notable occasion, the girls convinced her that the vitamins in the drawer were candy and they could eat as many as they wanted.  When we came home and I noticed that Chloe's pee was electric greenish-yellow, I was understandably concerned.  Then the whole truth came out as Clara Anne confessed.  Lou felt terrible when she discovered there was actually some danger in allowing them to consume all those vitamins (thankfully they had no iron), and we kept the girls up late having them drink water and go to the bathroom. 

When Lou first came to work for me, she had no idea how to do anything around the house.  I had to teach her everything from "This is how you wipe the table," to "This is how you wash the dishes."  Actually, the dishes how-to has been repeated several times.  And yesterday, when I pulled no less than FIVE dishes from the cupboard and discovered that they were all dirty in one way or another (stuck on egg-yolk, greasy film on the back of the plates, etc), I determined that the dishes training shall be offered again.  :)

One time I heard a rumor that there were fresh blueberries for sale in town at a supermarket.  I thought maybe there would be fifteen or twenty boxes so gave Lou very specific instructions.  "When you get to the supermarket, look on the bottom floor in the special imported produce section for the blueberries.  If you find them, buy them all."  Well, when she got there, there was a huge floor-to-ceiling display of fresh blueberries.  (Not imported, grown in this country and so the volume was much greater and the price much lower!)  Still abiding by my original instructions, though, she asked the man working in that section how many boxes of blueberries he had.  He estimated numerous hundreds, maybe even a thousand.  She then mentioned to him that she was supposed to purchase them all.  "You'd better hire a truck to get them home, then," he said, matter-of-fact.  Did Lou call me to confirm, "Do you really want them ALL?"  Oh no!  She simply bought as many as she had money for.  I had a good laugh when she got home with 37 boxes of blueberries, and I still have some frozen in my deep freeze, waiting their turn to be folded lovingly into baked oatmeal, made into luscious blueberry yogurt muffins, combined with batter to make blueberry coffeecake...mmm.  And Lou had the last laugh on that one, too...after that the blueberries disappeared and haven't been seen since!

Ok, there are too many funny stories about teaching her to cook western food to share here; the biggest obstacle is always that the recipe needs to be followed EXACTLY.  Asian style cooking never measures anything.  If you like your veggies salty, add more salt.  If you like vinegar, add some.  Pour on the soy sauce or oyster sauce or use the dried peppers or fresh ginger or tons of fresh garlic if you like it.  No matter, your food will still be tasty!  But in western cooking, especially baking, you cannot alter the ingredients, the amounts of the ingredients, or the process of making it without some serious consequences.  She is still learning this principle...still.  She can make tons of great stuff now though, so it's been worth it!  Her homemade bagels, tortillas, and homemade chips are wonderful.  She's a pro at granola, several of our favorite cookies, pie crust, and muffins. 

My girls also love that she loves to do their hair.  She's always inventing new hairstyles and figuring out different ways to make their hair look fancy.  I love it too, since I have very little creativity at hairstyles and would just do simple braids everyday for time's sake!

I have been told that I have an accent to my Asianese speaking which is, um, not quite like the city we live in.  Just a little bit off.  But when I share that I spend a big part of every day speaking with a person from a nearby city, many people nod their heads knowingly.  "That's it!  You sound like you're from there!"  I've never actually been to Lou's hometown, but apparently I sound like it!  :)

I love my dear friend Lou and thank the Lord for her everyday.  She has been a huge part of our work here in the past few years, in that she has relieved my domestic burden considerably as well as being willing to watch our kids.  We've been able to do a lot of teaching and things that we would never have been able to do if Lou hadn't been willing to be with the girls, even overnight.  I so appreciate her helpful willingness and overall attitude of wanting to be a blessing to our family!

And did she ever get better at dealing with naughty girls?  I'm happy to say, both she and the girls have made significant progress.  For many months now, we've been able to leave the girls with her and know that there will not be any disobedience issues.  And if there are, (including a notable exception where Chloe threw a fit at naptime and actually hit Lou in the face) Lou is doing much better at handling them.  That time with Chloe, she required three things of her:  1. You will say you're sorry.  2. I will have to tell your mommy and daddy and they will punish you when they get home.  3. You still have to take a nap.  At that point, Lou gently but firmly told Chloe to stop crying, go get on her bed, and go to sleep.  And Chloe did it!  I'd say we've come a long ways from the children drinking 11 yogurts "because they wanted to, so I couldn't stop them!"

I praise the Lord for my dear friend Lou!  Happy Birthday to you!

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I love all your stories about Lou! I have some of the same ones with training our househelper in watching our children. She has been with us for almost 5 years and I am also happy and thankful to say that we trust her with our children. She has learned the art of saying "NO." Blessings to you all!