December 23, 2011

A rare moment - sitting together with both of my brothers.  Hooray for Christmas togetherness!!!

Every Christmas my dad gets a cake.  A few years ago he wanted a cake that said, "Happy Birthday Jesus" and instead it came out "Happy Birthday, Red".  Last year he asked that "nothing" be put on the cake.  So they had a cake with "Nothing" in nice red letters.  This is what he got this year:

Dad said he wanted one word to encapsulate our Christmas this year, and this was it.

I guess it is a little chaotic, but it sure is fun.  The kids are running around like crazy, the kitchen is overflowing with good things to eat, and my brothers are keeping us entertained on piano and guitar.  

We spent a few days in the country with David's family, having Christmas with them.  It's so peaceful where they live; I took several walks around their property to soak in the quiet. 
The kids enjoyed time with their grandparents, making cookies, and checking out library books.

Zoe, accommpanied by her very musical grandmother, sang "Away in a Manger" for us.

Last week we took Carter and Grace on a field trip to court to see their grandfather in action.  We watched as he weighed evidence then made decisions as to whether young offenders had to stay in detention until their trials, or if they could go home.  I think it was sobering for C and G to see kids - some who were their ages - come shuffling in to the courtroom in shackles and handcuffs for their hearing.  It was heartbreaking to hear the proceedings for one boy who had served his time, but had a mother who said she didn't want him, and no one else who could take him.  I couldn't see his face, but I could tell from the slump of his shoulders that he felt no one cared about him.  I almost stood up and shouted, "We'll take him!" as he was taken back into detention to await a foster home.

Another field trip we were able to do recently was a tour of Savannah.  I forget that my kids haven't grown up here, and don't know all the history - the city's as well as our family's history, so we started at Bethesda, where D's family served as house parents, then went on to see our various homes over the years, and the Baptist Center, where my grandfather pastored.
The Indian chief Tomochichi's grave
Then Aunt Mary came to town, and her visit included a trip to one of our favorite places, the Tea Room.
This furlough the kids have really enjoyed taking part in children's activities at church.  Zoe was able to dance as an angel in the Christmas program, and she loved every minute of it - especially wearing a costume.
A few random photos:
Recently we saw this white sparrow - which is apparently quite rare - at my parents' bird feeder.  It made the kids miss our little canary that we left behind in Indonesia. 
Oh, the love of a grandmother, that would allow a granddaughter to go crazy with the face paints.

Today we had to stop by Wal-Mart and it was a complete zoo. I couldn't believe all the masses of people, and all the masses of stuff the masses of people were buying.  This is the part of Christmas in America that drives me crazy, and makes me yearn for our simple Christmases in Indonesia.  

But there are definitely aspects of Christmas here that we love, the first thing being family.  Other things that come to mind are cooler weather, fun Christmas activities in the community, and ready-made eggnog.  

My computer keeps crashing, and I am taking it as a sign to finish this and get to bed so I can get up early to be the first to say "Christmas Eve Gift!" (first one to say it gets a gift - so goes our family tradition).  

Merry Christmas, dear readers!  May you be blessed beyond measure this Christmas season.

December 05, 2011

A Birthday, A Race, A Tree

Last week, we celebrated Luke's birthday .  His requests were simple: dinner at Chik-fil-A, a visit to Monkey Joe's (an indoor playground with huge inflated slides), and dirt cake.  

Luke is a serious Lego builder, and spent several happy hours putting this jet together. 

Later in the week, I got sick.  It hit me quickly.  We were having coffee with some supporters, then an hour later I was standing in the Kroger check-out line, simultaneously shivering and blazing, with a basketful of meds and teas, my favorite of which is ThroatCoat tea.  If you've never tried it, I highly recommend it for sore throat.  

Anyway, once we got home I went straight to bed and stayed there for several days, feeling so incredibly bummed out.  Not just physically, but emotionally, as I had been planning to run the Savannah Bridge Run with David.  We'd been training for several weeks, and despite the fact that I am a WLE - Woman of Low Energy (thanks to a bout of mono several years ago which seriously messed up my immune system), I was ready for this race and looking forward to it.

Race day rolled around and despite my cold, I forced myself up that bridge and met my personal goal of running the whole thing and not walking.  

My dad is a runner, and has several marathons and half-marathons under his belt.  I never quite understood his fascination with running and races, for to me running has always meant pain.  

But while David and I stood at the starting line with thousands of other people, waiting for the race to begin, I got it.  I realized why Dad gets so "geeked" about it (to use his terminology).  Fun loud music was playing, and while it was cold, the crowd buzzed with energy and anticipation.  It was like a big party.  And then after the race there was more music, and snacks.  What's not to love?

And while I know a 5K race is nothing to boast about (I mean, really, do you ever see anyone put a "3.1" sticker on their car?), for me, as an aforementioned WLE, it was an accomplishment, and it's given me the confidence to shoot for a longer race next time.

We finished off the week with the decorating of the Christmas tree.  Does anything smell better than a fresh Christmas tree?  If I only had one scent to enjoy the rest of my life, it would be a Frasier fir.  

Mom still has many of the ornaments my brothers and I made as kids.  I made this Santa as a second-grader in Mrs. Graham's class.  Mrs. Graham, wherever you are, that was one of my favorite years of school.

My brother Jonathan, back when he was young and sweet.

My parents brought back purple Christmas balls from Germany when they lived their in the early '70s.  Only a few remain, and they get a special place at the top of the tree.

And now it's less than a month till we head back to Indonesia. I have mixed feelings, as I always do, about heading back.  We are ready to be settled in our new location, and ready to get back to a normal pattern of life, ready to get back to our ministry with MAF.  But I dread the goodbyes with our family, which have not gotten easier with time.  And there's the List that hangs over my head, of items to buy to take back with us. I am hoping to finish the purchasing and maybe even start the packing next week.

And hopefully we'll have time to take in some fun Christmas activities, enjoy tall, frosty glasses of eggnog, and spend some quiet moments contemplating Immanuel, God With Us.

November 27, 2011

Giving Thanks

There was much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday...

The eldest, who has become a Denver Broncos fan on this furlough, turned 14.  He managed to somehow fracture his growth-plate, so he has a brace to wear for the next month.  I love this kid and we are thankful for him.

Thanksgiving week also included a visit with one of my long-time best friends, Christy.  We spent several hours in Barnes and Noble catching up on the last few years, then stood outside in the parking lot and talked some more.  There was a funny moment when a car full of guys went by and hooted at us.  I yelled, "We are so old, you don't even know!" to which Christy added, "Yeah, I have an orthopedic insert in my shoe!"  So thankful for Christy, who always interjects laughter into my life, right when I need it most.

Thankful for this little beauty I cooked up and shared (sort of) with David on Thanksgiving Eve - leftover pie dough and blueberries.

I am thankful for cornbread dressing.  It always makes me think of my beloved Mamaw, who passed away three years ago.  She would be proud that I took pictures of the food.

This would be me, in the kitchen, NOT SWEATING.  As much as I found myself missing our Tarakan family this Thanksgiving, I was thankful not to be sweating buckets whilst cooking.

I am thankful for a dad who cooks.  Despite the fact that he insists upon putting giblets and other innards in his gravy, he knows his way around the kitchen.

Thankful for cousins!!!

And for good friends like Miss June.  She is a friend from our Baptist Center days, when she taught me in Sunday school.

Thankful for time in the country...

...and for a father-in-law who takes his girls for pony rides.

I am thankful, so very thankful, for healthy, strong bodies.  It was about a year ago this Thanksgiving that I started having all my stomach issues.  There's no way that I would have had the energy to do this...
eight months ago.  Praise God!  And yay for leaf piles!

November 20, 2011

Si Kecil Turns Six

Si Kecil, the little one, turned six this past week.  She's been counting down the days to her birthday - her first one in America - for weeks.  Normally in Indonesia we have a big party with all Zoe's friends, but this year we just did a family party.  And while I missed our friends, I did not miss sweating in my Tarakan kitchen, frantically trying to make a cake look like a pony's head, and scrambling to come up with a party craft.  Ahhh, a stress-free birthday.

Zoe wanted to go to lunch at the Pirate's House, a legendary restaurant in Savannah.  

We sat in the part of the restaurant that is the oldest house in Georgia.  And a real pirate came by to sing "happy birthday" to Zoe!

Here we are, making our best pirate faces.

At home, the kids whacked open a pinata from Bop, which was full of candy.

And if gobs of candy from the pinata weren't enough, I laid it on thick with a Candyland-inspired cake.  I saw a picture of this cake a few years ago, but could never get my hands on the candy needed for it while in Indonesia.  It was a big hit.

A kid's dream cake, right?

Zoe wanted two things for her birthday: to get her ears pierced, and an American Girl doll.  We came through on both counts, although she almost chickened out of the ear piercing.  Most Indonesians have their girls' ears pierced when they're infants, and I wish we had done that with Zoe.  She was all excited about it, until we walked into the mall and got closer to the jewelry store.  There were a few tears, but after it was all done she was all smiles.  

Our little one, si kecil, has brought us so much joy.  She is an energetic, affectionate, crazy little kid, who lives up to her name: life, full and genuine, which belongs to God.

And tomorrow we will be celebrating her brother's birthday.  Carter (who doesn't live up to his name - "cart-driver" - we love him anyway) will be 14.  Yep, I feel old.

November 09, 2011

The Adventure Continues

Last week we returned from our last big trip of this furlough, our Blitz Tour of New England, also titled "David Finally Makes it North of the Mason-Dixon Line" and "How Many Seasons Can We Experience in One Trip?"  

With the kids, their schoolbooks, David's sister Anna and her new-hubby Rich, Anna's wedding dress, and our winter coats all packed into the van, we set off.

Our first stop was in Virginia to see my college roommate JJ and her family.  I haven't seen JJ for about 10 years, so this visit was loooong overdue. 

Next we stopped in New Jersey for two nights and stayed with our friend Kevin.  He and his wife Linda have come to Kalimantan for the past few years to lead our MAF family conference.  Linda was away speaking at a women's retreat, but Kevin was our trusty tour guide for a whirlwind tour of New York City.

We've been spoiled by riding the immaculate subway system in Singapore.  The New York subways left a bit to be desired, but the kids loved it nonetheless.  A few blocks after exiting the subway we ran into the Occupy Wallstreet people.  Frankly, we were unimpressed.  There just wasn't much to it, at least not on this chilly morning.

We visited the 9/11 Memorial which opened in September.  The security was tight, and the mood was somber.  

We took a ride on the free Staten Island Ferry to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.

"Give me your tired, your poor, your crazy brother-in-law, yearning to be in the picture!" quoth Lady Liberty.

The weather was clear, which meant we could ascend to the top of the Empire State Building. Despite the metal fence surrounding the viewing area, I couldn't help but clutch the backs of the kids' coats, in the very unlikely event that fence should fly off.  David laughed at me, but he agreed he felt a little woozy, too.  We all felt the "tingles" being up so high - for me, it was in the backs of my knees; Grace said it was in her stomach.

It gave me the willies for Grace to put her hand through the fence like this.  But the view was amazing!

Next we went to Central Park and visited the statue of Balto, the famous sled-dog.

And one of the most entertaining things we saw was this hawk devouring a mouse in a tree above us.  The kids were fascinated.

After a stop by F.A.O. Schwartz, we walked to Times Square and sat for about an hour and just watched the craziness of New York City whiz by us.  

So much to look at...big screen tv's, Broadway musical ads (sigh...maybe next time), the Naked Cowboy (um, only a brief glance at him!), and people, people, people!  That's our friend Kevin in the picture above.  I love how we're all looking in different directions in this shot.

At the end of the day, I asked Luke what he enjoyed most about New York City.  He thought for a minute, then said, "Well, that hawk eating the mouse was pretty cool."  I just had to laugh.  So often that is how it goes with our travels.  I make plans, choosing sights that I think might interest the kids, and in the end it's the spontaneous, unplanned-for experience that they most enjoy and remember.

The next day, as we continued our journey north, it started to rain.  Then it started to sleet.  By the time we reached Aunt Mary's house in upstate New York it was snowing.  Yippee!  We bundled up then headed out for a once-every-few-years walk in the snow.

This jungle bunny was cold!

The juxtaposition of the snow on the orange and red leaves was just beautiful.

Our next leg of our trip took us to Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Together with Aunt Mary and Uncle Harvey, we toured Plymouth Plantation, the Mayflower II, and Boston.  We were going to do a whale watch, but the weather turned foul and the trip was canceled.  A historic nor'easter blew through and we experienced some crazy cold wind and rain.

Inside a Wampanoag summer home

"Good morrow, sir, how do ye fare?"
The staff at Plymouth Plantation were all in character, and it was hard not to start speaking in a British accent as they were.  

We hired Carter out to split wood.

Plymouth Rock - are you supposed to spit on it?

And I thought we were cramped in the van.  Can you imagine living in these quarters for two months aboard the Mayflower?  Yikes!

Zoe swabs the Mayflower deck.

The girls pose with the ducklings (from Make Way For Ducklings) in Boston.  I was feeling rather duck-like myself at this point.

This was the morning after the nor'easter, which blew the hotel's sign clear away!  

The last leg of the trip was Philadelphia.  We saw the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Ben Franklin's grave.  Then it was on to cheesesteaks...

David liked Pat's...

I liked Geno's.

So we're home for a bit, and as much as I love to travel, it's nice to put the suitcases away for a while.  We are enjoying time with my parents, who have been so gracious to us - letting us stay with them, taking the kids for field trips (they're out on one now), and making our time with them very special.