Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My 36th Birthday

 My birthday seemed particularly significant this year.  Maybe because it is because I am now officially on the downswing of the 30s, or maybe because I am expecting a baby any day now and thinking lots about birth...but for whatever reason, I was really thankful to be able to spend some time celebrating with my family and reflecting on God's faithfulness through my 36 years.  The specialness of the day actually began  the night before with the best birthday present I could have asked for--my dad sent me an email!!!!  If you've been following his story at all, you know that this is a big deal.  It has been almost 16 months since he has done this, and the email sounded just like him, with some reminiscing about the day I was born, special words of love, and even a sports report on the Twins!  I feel like our family has been given a miracle...the situation with my dad has turned around so drastically.  Praise the Lord!  I cried tears of joy to read his words and know that he has improved so much.

My birthday morning started with a special birthday breakfast--I had dough for cinnamon rolls in the frig, and made those up along with bacon, cheesy scrambled eggs, and fresh hot coffee.  Yummy!  It was worth the effort to have a great breakfast!  We ended up eating more like at brunch time, so that was helpful too--we just skipped lunch!

The girls came up with their own ideas for celebrating my birthday.  First, they spent at least two hours by themselves in the basement preparing their gifts for me--including several mosaics and a button necklace.  Then, Clara Anne convinced the other two that they should all take a shower and get dressed in fancy dresses, with jewelry, lip gloss and all, and even laid out a special dress for me to wear, so that we could have a tea party.  That is what we are doing in the picture above.  It was lovely and sweet!  I was really touched that they wanted to dress up and make such a big deal out of my birthday!  Then, they put on a performance for me...Clara Anne played the piano and Chloe sang while Christin danced to "Floating in the Water" (those of you with early piano students in the Hal Leonard method will know that one!).
 The lovely performers.

 We also took some pictures of baby girl clearly as we can see her right now...39 weeks!

 LARGE is what I would call this...but the girls are so excited and there's plenty of belly to kiss!

 Performing and taking a curtsy...

 Thankful for these three.  They give us so much joy!

 Opening gifts from the girls.
 Chloe, pointing out various parts of her drawing so that I would know what they were.

 Clara Anne gave me this lovely handmade picture.  Thanks girls for making my birthday so special!
John then took us all out...we went first to a doctors' appointment for me ("no real progress"), then to a bookstore where we had some credit to spend, and finally out for dinner to this fun, fresh Mexican place.  We enjoyed our special meal out!  Chips and salsa are my love language!

The plan originally was for me to spend some evening time at a coffeeshop, reflecting on these questions, but we ran out of time and so I spent a little time the next day doing that instead.  That evening some friends surprised me with a fun girls' night and made me feel so special!  So, all in all, it was a wonderful birthday and I am so thankful for the Lord's blessings to me!  I pray that I will use the next year for His glory!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Secret Garden, in pictures

Finally, here's a few pictures of our secret garden that we have enjoyed so much this spring and summer!  Above, the view from inside the school room, through the sliding glass doors. . . you can see it is truly a small space, and totally secret!  We also put a padlock on the wooden fence door so that the girls are safe playing out there--we do get some "interesting" traffic up and down the street on the other side of the fence, so, better safe than sorry.

 The girls love our garden space!  If it's not too hot, they can often be found playing or reading outside.  We laid the white rock, added the hanging plants, and I love the little $1 sign we found at Target that says "Welcome to my garden."
 A refreshing retreat and green space!  All the herbs and flowers smell good, too!
We're so thankful for this little space!  It's been a lovely addition to our home, and just about the right amount of garden for us.  I'm really enjoying the fresh herbs in my cooking and the girls have a great time doing the watering.  Most everything is doing well (though I'd like to see more flowers on my impatiens) except the fuschia plant...we had it upstairs on our west-facing patio, outside our front door, for a long while and I think it just got too hot.  The western sun for several hours each day was just too intense.  But the other plants are doing well and we've enjoyed their beauty, color, and fragrance.  It's a lovely secret garden!

Monday, July 23, 2012


 The baby's room is ready!  We are using our walk-in closet as the baby's nursery for the indefinite future, and I am so pleased with how everything fits well in there!  There's not an overabundance of room but it is going to work out fine, and I'll have her close at hand for those nighttime feedings initially, and during the day for her naps I think it will be separate enough from the rest of the house to let her sleep well.  Now we just need a baby to occupy that room!  Here's how it all turned out. . . 

 Showing the closet door open--the wood on the side is the large wardrobe we brought from overseas, it obstructs the doorway slightly so that the closet door doesn't fully close.  I think it will work out fine, though, and even give just a little extra air circulation.
 There's the pack-n-play that Chloe and Christin both slept in for numerous's certainly gotten its share of use!  The bassinet is handy though and will be helpful for when the baby is first born.  The changing table came from a big consignment sale I went to back in the spring.  All her little clothes are ready and waiting for her!
 There was even room for a basket of baby toys on the side!
 Ok, baby, we're all set!  Come when you're ready!  Pictures taken July 13, 2012.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Happy Haircut!

 After years of cutting John's hair, I finally dared to give my girls a little trim.  All of them were looking a bit scraggly and I figured I couldn't go too far wrong!  Even if I did, there are plenty of hair salons nearby that could fix it if it was truly terrible.  But, I'm happy to say they all turned out just fine!  Not great, perhaps, but good enough for now!  The girls did a good job sitting still and thought it was fun.

Chloe and Christin posed for an "after" picture...with Chloe's new bear, Cuddly, that she got for her birthday!  (wearing a paper bonnet, made by Chloe, of course!).  Happy Haircuts!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cooking for my Freezer

With the baby coming soon, I have been extra-productive in the kitchen, trying to prepare some meals to just make life a little easier when she arrives.  I basically spent two full days cooking, one day one week and one day the next week, and was so pleased with how much I was able to prepare in that time!  Why don't I always do this?!  It worked so well and now I have many meals in my freezer prepared and ready to go.  Though hotdishes and soups aren't exactly ideal for the hot summer weather, it will still be preferable to looking at the clock at 5pm and wondering what I am going to feed the family!

I thought I'd share some of the recipes that I prepared--maybe it will inspire you to prepare some meals for your freezer too, for busy days ahead!

First, Barbecue Chicken (this could not be easier):
Rub 4-6 chicken breasts with a prepared spice rub (I happened to have some in the cupboard).  Place chicken in crock pot and cook on low until chicken is tender and can be shredded with a fork, about 6 hours.  Add bottled barbecue sauce (I used about two bottles).  Now it's ready for sandwiches!

Corn Chowder with Chilies:
This is a great recipe from the Pioneer Woman.  You can find it here:  I usually use three cans of corn instead of fresh, and also I just add chipotle powder instead of the chilies in adobo sauce, so that it doesn't get too spicy for my kiddos to enjoy.  It's delicious!

Turkey Wild Rice Casserole
This is an easy, filling, delicious meal and this recipe makes a large batch.  Perfect for eating some and freezing the rest for later!
You will need: 4 cups cooked, chopped turkey (or chicken)
2 boxes Uncle Ben's Original Wild Rice
1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter

Cook the rice according to package directions.  Add the turkey, soup, and sour cream to the rice.  Mix well.  In a separate pan saute mushrooms in butter until cooked.  Add to the turkey mixture.  Transfer to a large baking dish and bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
I love this recipe because the soup is a basis for all sorts of fun toppings: sour cream, diced avocado, pico de gallo, grated cheese, or fresh cilantro.  As well, we love to eat it with chips!  You can't go wrong!  Here is the Pioneer Woman again and this home-run of a recipe:

Simple, Hearty, White Chili
Again thanks to the PW, here's a hearty, filling, delicious soup recipe that can easily freeze for busy days ahead.  It's great with garnishes or without and is quite economical as well.  Give this one a try!  I made mine with turkey this time because after roasting a whole turkey, that's what I had on hand.  I also used the turkey broth to cook the beans.  Yummy!

Butter Chicken
We love this Indian-style dish that is just a little spicy but so very delicious over some basmati or jasmine rice.  You can find the recipe here:  It's a hit with all my kids too!  (and there's actually not that much butter in it!)  The only change I make is to cube the chicken before marinating so that the pieces are much smaller...we like them to be bite-sized and distributed through the sauce more.  They also seem to absorb more flavor that way.  Love the lime, cilantro, tomato and cream flavors here!

Banana Oatmeal Raisin Muffins
After having each of my babies, I remember times during those first few weeks where I was just HUNGRY. Nursing 7-9 times a day and caring for a newborn can just make you want to eat everything in sight!  When Chloe was born in Chiang Mai, my friend Germaine brought me a still-warm batch of muffins very similar to this...hearty, tasty, healthy, and delicious.  Ever since I think it's the perfect gift for a new mom--easy to make and easy to eat between meals when you're desperate for some real sustenance that won't cost you a bunch of empty calories.  These mix up so quickly and are a snap to make.  Enjoy!

So there you have a list of the things that are waiting in my freezer right now.  Hope you find a recipe or two that strikes your fancy!  Happy cooking!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

A Very Historical Fourth of July

 We had a really fun and history-rich Fourth of July this year, thanks to my insightful husband who gets the vision for these things and carries them through!  (If it's me as a mom who makes birthdays "happen," it's definitely John as a dad who makes the historical holidays "happen"!)  The day began with John reading the entire Declaration of Independence to us as a family at breakfast.  I think it has been since high school government that I read that document!  I completely did NOT remember all the list of grievances in the middle of the Declaration, which did require some explanation from Daddy since it uses words like "perfidy."  Great little history lesson over breakfast!

Then, John had seen online that a famous historical home in our area, Locust Grove, was offering free admission on the 4th.  (I still cannot believe the fun family activities you can do for free in America!)  So we braved the heat and went for a visit.  It's only a few miles from our house and was truly fascinating.  George Rogers Clark, the founder of Louisville, spent his final years there since it was the home of his sister, her husband, and their large family.  The family often entertained guests of distinction, including several presidents, John James Audubon the naturalist, and others.  There was an interesting (air-conditioned!) museum section that we all enjoyed and then we were able to tour the house and meet various historical personages (two pictured above) dressed in their period costumes and interacting with the guests.   It was really fun!  Even for me, who doesn't get as excited about history and was tempted that morning to just stay home in the cool and read a book, I really enjoyed it!  We visited the museum, toured the house, and then the girls were delighted to find drawing paper and pencils for sketching while sitting outside on the back porch.
 John and I enjoyed looking out over the grounds and the beautiful gardens there before we all traipsed out to have a look at the outbuildings.  The stone building directly behind John was the kitchen.  Can you imagine carrying pots and dishes of food to the house and dining room in all sorts of weather?
 We came home for a brief rest and then went to join in on a fun party at our friend's the Kimbell's home.  Could their baby J be any cuter?!  She's a doll!

The kids had a great time eating and playing together...and evidently so did I since I neglected to take any more photos the rest of the evening!  It was a great evening of fellowship and good food--everyone brought something yummy--and fun to have time to sit and talk.  My girls played so happily that at the end of the night, we had to go because I was tired, not because they were done!  

But the day wasn't over yet.  We actually managed to see several really fun neighborhood fireworks displays as we were on our way home, so much so that at two places we actually stopped and parked for a minute to watch!  Then, after arriving home and as the girls got ready for bed, John selected three fun books to read as a final celebration of the Fourth of July.  One was an elaborately illustrated picture book with all the verses of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" and so he sang it to them, which they thought was so fun.  The next was another great picture book with Longfellow's "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" which he put his best dramatic voice to--"One if by land, two if by sea!"  And finally, we ended the evening and the holiday by singing "America the Beautiful" together  (we also have a picture book of various American scenes with that text.)  What a fun way to end the Fourth!

Happy 236th birthday, America!  How thankful we are for this country; though certainly not without its flaws, we are humbled and grateful to be born into this place with its freedoms.  I enjoyed our historical Fourth of July and look forward to learning more about our nations' history as I study with the girls in the future!  Hope you all had a safe and wonderful Fourth of July celebration!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Chloe is SIX!

We had a wonderful day on June 26 celebrating Chloe's sixth birthday.  It was a hot, sunny day--perfect for summer activities--and very reminiscent of her birth in Thailand six years ago!  The day began with our traditional birthday breakfast, spread out above--Pineapple Blueberry Upside down cake, cheesy scrambled eggs, and sausage.  Yummy!  We pulled out the same decorations we've been using for the last few years--the girls don't seem to mind always seeing the same paper banner and happy birthday confetti; they think it's fun!
Chloe had requested "A cake in the shape of a rainbow" so I started with a funfetti cake mix baked in a 9x13, trimmed it to resemble a rainbow, and then topped it with icing and fruit of the colors of the rainbow!  Strawberries, peaches, pineapple, blueberries, cherries, and blackberries!  (I meant to add kiwi for green but forgot to buy them...and as it turned out the cake had no space anyway!)
We had a few structural difficulties since the fruit, with its moisture, wanted to slip off the edges...but boy did it taste wonderfully!
Happy Birthday sweet Chloe!
Now you are six!
Our funny girl with her funny faces!
The girls had been begging to go to the splash park at the zoo as a special outing, and it seemed like Chloe's birthday was the perfect day for it!  There were lots of kids, but it wasn't totally crowded, and the girls had fun trying out the water.
There's my birthday girl!
Clara Anne can model for the camera too!  She was whooping in delight at the variety of ways the water was splashing her!

However we forgot one crucial element in planning this outing--none of my girls like to have water splashed in their faces!  After some initial delight, the splash park became not as fun as it could have been and we decided to cut our trip short and head to the pool next time.  :)

The day ended with a special birthday dinner and watching a movie as a family at home (we had happened to borrow one from the library called "In the Womb" which seemed appropriate, both for Chloe's birthday and the upcoming baby!).  It was a great day celebrating our sweet Chloe.  
It's hard to believe that this cutie-patootie little blonde baby is now a tall, curly headed six year old, but that is what happens to babies--they grow up!  We are so thankful for Chloe and who she is as a person.  For a long time she really struggled with her emotions--being sensitive, getting moody and sad over small things (like who got the green cup at lunch), and getting upset at her sisters.  But over the last year or two, through prayer and training her, the Lord has really helped her improve!  She is still sensitive, but often turns that sensitivity towards others--i.e., is aware of others' needs and desires and quick to meet them.  Instead of struggling with moodiness or melancholy, she is now my most cheerful, willing, sweet helper.  She has an adorable giggle and a generally sunny spirit which is a joy to be around.  We love you Chloe and are so thankful for your life!  May Jesus keep you close to Him all the days of your life, and may you find great joy in serving Him!