Monday, December 31, 2012

Life in this Land--Baking

I have done a lot of baking over the past month or so here.  Baking here presents some challenges, but to avoid any misunderstandings, let me first start by saying that I really enjoy it!  There is a certain satisfaction I get in figuring out a way to make familiar or fun foods here and conquer those challenges!  Some people climb Everest here.  I figure out ways to make food and home work here.
Also, I should give credit where it is due, as very few of these things are my original ideas.  I soak up every bit of knowledge my friends who have been here longer are willing to share with me--tips, recipes, where to find ingredients or make substitutions, etc.  My good friend Lizzy has a great blog she has started called Foodies in a Foreign Land, which I have used a ton or have picked her brain more about food stuff here.
And, finally, let's be honest that one of my favorite parts about cooking and baking here is that someone else cleans up after me!  Seriously!  Unbelievable blessing to have a sweet young girl who works in our home and is so patient and thorough and cleans up after my kitchen adventures!  Really, really thankful for her!

Some of my baking adventures and victories...

The green bean casserole I made last week for a Christmas Eve meal...from SCRATCH!  I grew up Mennonite, and even Mennonites don't do that!  I'm talking no canned soup, no French's fried onions.  I totally ripped this one off from Lizzy (the one she lists as "Best Ever Green Bean Casserole"), but I still felt pretty pleased with myself.

Lizzy had blogged about using a local item called chaaku to make molasses.  I have been on a quest since then to find it.  Apparently, it is much more limited as to where you can find it outside of festival times.  Shop owners would bring me charcoal or chocolate or ask me if I wanted a knife (apparently, the Hindi word for knife sounds very much like this word), and usually after several rounds of trying to properly communicate the word, they would say, "Oh, chaaku!  No, we don't have."
Finally, one Sunday afternoon, my good friend here and I headed out to explore Assan Tole, an older market in downtown Kathmandu, to hunt down some chaaku and some soap nuts (which I use for laundry soap here).  The strategy is to go and just start asking and following the pointing until you find a little shop that has the item.  It was quite fun, actually.  When we finally located the chaaku, the shop owner spoke quite good English and asked us what we were using it for, and we told him baking cakes and cookies and such.  He said that only pregnant women here eat it, which would explain some of the confusion in my search, I suppose!  (My Nepali friends here have said that many people do eat it in special dishes during festival times, but outside of that, yes, only pregnant women.)
My plunder from the conquest...3 kg of soap nuts and three 500g bars of chaaku.

I followed Lizzy's instructions to add a little water and melt it in a pot and kept thinking that it was seeming very thick.

I tried to strain it, and nothing would even go through the strainer.  I considered skipping the straining (nothing seemed visible, how bad could it be?), though on future batches you can see why I was glad I did not skip that step.  (In case it is not visible, there are quite a lot of twigs and random bits of things that look like they belonged in my yard.)

Anyway, I realized that Lizzy had probably used a 250g bar (which were also available), so I had not added nearly enough water.  I had already tried to scoop it into a container, and I couldn't even move the spoon around, so I tried adding some boiling water to it.  Plastic here is not made to receive boiling water! :(
In addition to my quantity issue, it is entirely possible that I did not have it on a low enough heat, as it is hard to get a good low heat on my stovetop...and I'm not known to be a patient person.  So, sadly my first bar got wasted.
On my second batch, I realized the quantity issue, was extra careful to keep it on the lowest heat possible, and I got a nice-looking molasses out of it.  It took quite awhile, and I knew my boys would be getting up from naps soon, so I was really hoping it would be enough.
What I did not yet mention is that what I had decided to use the molasses for was a sextupled (Is that even a word?) batch of cookies, as a few of the other ladies and I had decided to each make 200 cookies for the CloudFactory Christmas party.  That meant I needed 3 cups of molasses.  The bar yielded about 2.  Of course.  So, I melted up my third bar and even had some extra to save for a future baking endeavor. 

With my molasses complete, I was ready to mix up my cookie dough.  Martha Stewart has a recipe for chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies that I think are so delicious, so I was determined to make those.
Now, one thing about Martha is that I always think she makes things just a little too complicated, so even in the States, I often roll my eyes at some of her steps or ingredients.  Perhaps there really would be a difference if I did those things, and those who are more hardcore bakers than I am would notice, but I think the stuff comes out yummy without some of the crazy steps/ingredients, so I short cut.  And, here, the thought of "best quality" semisweet chocolate or "Dutch processed cocoa powder," or in this case even the specificity on the molasses made me laugh.  I also always skip the freshly grated ginger because I don't love super strong ginger taste, and well, I'm a little lazy when it comes to things like that!  Also, since my kitchen in the evening barely feels warmer than inside my refrigerator, I wasn't too concerned about the multiple chilling steps!
I didn't yet have an electric hand mixer (though I ended up getting one as my Christmas present!), and with 12 hours a day without electricity anyway, I started off the cookies with my egg beater.  I am super grateful that my friend ended up letting me borrow her electric mixer later in the evening as this thing doesn't really cut it when you're talking about 6 times a recipe of cookie dough!

My oven is small, so a standard cookie sheet won't fit in it, so I've taken to putting the cookies on what I assume is supposed to be my broiler pan/tray and sliding that right in one of the notches for the oven rack.  I also have a couple of round pizza pans I bought here, the largest of which can hold about 9 cookies at a time.  (Remember I mentioned needing to make at least 200?)
Ooh, another thing that was fun about these cookies is that it doesn't have any eggs in the dough, so for the first time since getting here, I could actually eat the dough!  It feels like torture sometimes to restrain myself from licking the spoons and beaters and such!
Some of the many finished cookies.  I was really pleased with how they turned out!
Once I finished the dough, I still needed to make some more cookies and figured I would make some sugar cookies for the season anyway, so I mixed up some dough to make a few rounds of those.
This is my frequent kitchen "helper."  He cannot resist being right in the mix whenever something is going on in the kitchen!  Sometimes I have to remind myself that this is valuable because he loves it and is learning and is SO adorable, but it is a bit of a slowing dynamic and adds exponentially to the mess.  But who can resist this cutie as a helper?!
I pulled out some of my grandmother's cookie cutters I had brought along with me because, in addition to just loving food, it is also usually very nostalgic for me.
I skipped the icing and just put on sprinkles (which John had brought back from New York this fall, but I also have in the past used the large crystal sugar that is the common kind to find here and colored it with food coloring, which is also easily available here.)

Last thing I made for the party was Rice Krispie treats (or "Crisp Rice" as the generic of the cereal that is available here is called).  The marshmallows we can find here are in smaller bags that are pink and white (or sometimes rhombus-shaped and pink on one side and yellow on the other).

I decided to go with the tint and make them look festive, so I added some food coloring to the butter marshmallow mixture before I stirred in the cereal.  Then I decided to top off with some sprinkles, which in the case of red sugar on green treats ended up looking like chili powder or some other odd creation, but people seemed to roll with it.

Earlier in the month, we had a little "candy cane party" with a few friends because a great visiting friend from the States brought us a couple boxes of candy canes, which I haven't seen here.  I crushed up two of the candy canes (which had already gotten broken by my boys) and put them on top of oreos I had dipped in melted white chocolate chips.  Oreos are actually quite common here, though there are some made in India (not so good) and the good ones made in Thailand.  A friend tipped me off on this info, which I believe is the critical kind of information that should be included in orientation stuff here!  The treats didn't turn out super pretty because the white chocolate chips (probably not "best quality," Martha!) seized on me.  (Learned that term from my friend when I told her about this project.)  Still tasted delicious, but not a very practical one to remake.

The final one I'll post for now was English muffins!  Isaiah LOVES them and misses them, and one of John's favorite foods is Eggs Benedict.  Thankfully, my supplier (aka Lizzy) gave me a recipe to make them!  On Christmas morning,  Isaiah said to me, "What are those things that Grandma gives me for breakfast?  I am really missing those!"  Fear not, little buddy, I'm on it!
I had to plug in one of our electric space heaters (during a stretch we actually had electricity) so that the dough would rise.  Yeast is not any more fond of the cold than I am!

I made them too small and will use something other than our drinking cups to cut the rounds next time.  They didn't really have the nooks and crannies of Thomas's, but the taste was there, and Isaiah (well, all of us) gobbled them up.

And, thanks to a Hollandaise sauce packet (a little wimpy about making it from scratch, though all ingredients would be easy to get here to make it) sent in a care package from my mother-in-law, we had Eggs Benedict for Christmas dinner! :)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Our Life in this Land--Staying Warm

I have not kept up with blogging lately, and my emotional and mental energy is a bit low to write anything terribly reflective, so I thought I'd start a series of posts on some basics of life as we experience it here in Kathmandu.  I'll call them "Life in this Land."  There are many things that are different for us here than what we are used to.  Some are exciting, and some are a bit more challenging.  John and I have spent the last 12-13 years in Southern California, so the cold here is one of the things that we are definitely not used to.  During the day it is quite pleasant, even warm usually, in the sun outside.  But nights get quite cold.  And buildings here are all made of cement or marble, so even during the day, it seems to always feel cold inside.  It is a bit of a flip to go outside to get warm.  Even in places we've lived (and I grew up) where winters are really cold, you go inside to warm up.  So, we are trying to gather tips from people around us and build our arsenal of defenses against the cold here.  
One of the things we do is to put hot water bottles into the bed at night.  This is perhaps not foreign to many, but I had never done this before.  We boil water and then pour it into the bottles.  This has become John's job mostly, as I seem to have a knack for getting the boiling water on myself or dropping the bottle or other such things.  If we slip them into the covers we bought and then tuck them under our blankets, they actually stay warm until morning.  

Several of my friends suggested putting some flannel over the sheets on the boys' beds, as it feels more comfortable and retains heat a bit better than just laying right on the cold cotton sheets.  You can find flannel here in many little fabric/clothing shops.  This is the least "busy" pattern I have seen, and Isaiah actually really liked it.  There is a word/phrase in Nepali "rangi changi," which I love to say and means multi-colored (or many colors) and describes most things that are available here.  But, when you're cold, who cares about color overload?!
As you can see in this picture, Ezekiel also always sleeps on top of a quilt Grandma made for Isaiah when he was a baby.  It is soft and warm and cozy, and Ezekiel totally expects it now.  We drape it over the side of the crib closer to the wall to also help try to block some of the draft.

This is a space heater that we purchased to use in Ezekiel's room.  There is no central heat in homes here, so space heaters are the option.  There are larger gas ones that are much more efficient, but they are also much more expensive, and they are fairly dangerous, as they literally have a gas tank just setting on the back (think propane tank like you use for a big grill in the States), and you can't leave them running while sleeping because of leaking gas.  The downside of the ones like we have is that they are electric.  That seems good, but we are up to 10 hours per day without electricity, so that limits things notably.  And, they are bright!  So, it's pretty much like leaving the bedroom light on in Ezekiel's room.  But, it seems to help take the chill out of the room.

I didn't take a photo of it, but we have also tried to cover one of Ezekiel's windows with a big piece of plastic that we got when we bought some cushions because his one window felt as if it might as well have just been wide open.  The windows in general here in our home don't quite close tightly or fit quite right, so we are thinking we'll try to follow up on a tip to get more big sheets of plastic to put up on other windows, but Ezekiel's room was definitely the worst.

"Chinese" blankets.  These seem to all be imported from China, and they are big and fuzzy.  Again, they are nearly always very rangi changi, so in spite of the funky velour pattern look to this, it is the most mellow one I could find.  It is barely wider than the top of our mattress, so I recently bought a second one, as I was often waking up with the blanket all piled on the other half (um, my husband is a sound sleeper and a blanket thief!).  I actually found one that was all brown!  Those of you who know me can imagine my excitement! :)

We wear a LOT of layers and much of the time have our coats on in the house!

They make these great felt slippers here.  This is a picture of Isaiah and I showing ours off after we bought them a couple weeks ago.

Perhaps my "favorite" thing that is a new experience here (not specific to winter but used more frequently now) is lighting my oven.  I've taken a little video to let you in on this little task of mine.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I spent 7 years before my boys were born teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  There were so many challenges and so many joys in it.  I met some amazing fellow educators committed to the lives and minds of those who come through their classrooms.  I also came face to face time and again with limits of what I and others could do in the lives of the students, no matter how hard we worked or how committed we were.  I taught middle school, and while I loved that age and the subject matter (math), it was really hard for this introvert to filter around 180 students through my room in a day, having each of them for less than an hour a day!  The more scripted the curriculum became and the less freedom there was to really be creative and use my skills and insights as their teacher to adjust to what they needed, the more draining it felt.
Since I left teaching the year before my son was born, people have often asked me if I miss it, and it was always hard to answer that question.  I very much missed the idea of what I wanted teaching to be, but the gap between that and the reality was one that made me feel constantly dissatisfied, discouraged, and drained.
This isn't a comment on public schools.  That is another debate for another time and place.  This is about an unexpected blessing and delight in my journey as mom and educator.  I never expected to homeschool for many reasons, though as the time was drawing closer for my oldest to enter school, figuring out good school choices felt daunting.  Right at the start of this school year (with my oldest just turning 4), we arrived in Bhaisepati, Kathmandu, Nepal.  I had decided that, for the time being, I would homeschool the boys.  My oldest is just at preschool age.  With an August birthday, it might even be two school years before he would start kindergarten in the States.  My youngest isn't yet 2.  So, even the term "homeschooling" seems funny to me, as I never went to any sort of "school" until kindergarten.  There is a good international school not terribly far from us, and I have had in the back of my mind that once my youngest is school age here, perhaps I would teach there in exchange for some of the tuition for the boys to attend there.  I don't know what will come next or how long we'll do this homeschool thing.  What I do know is what is right now, and that is that teaching my boys here in our home is a huge blessing and so much fun for me and has rekindled my love of teaching!
Obviously, the more important question is whether this is good for my kids, and for now, it seems to be really good.  The oldest is loving school and loving learning and needs a transition point before jumping into something bigger in such a new and different place, I believe.  The little one is wanting to do what he sees big brother doing and wants to do school, too! :)  We are able to use the things they are interested in as vehicles for learning, and we can adapt easily to what they need to work on.
I don't know how long this will be a good plan for my boys, but I just know that I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to do it now, and I'm realizing that, selfishly, this is an amazing fit for how I use my time and energy and passions!  I love learning, and I love teaching.  I have two boys to guide through exploring and learning and foster an excitement for learning and a curiosity and wonder for the world around them.  Two.  That is an introvert's dream.  Heck, I could take 5 or 6 and still be well within my "zone."  I love being able to be creative and decide on interesting ways to meet our goals.  I love searching and thinking and planning.  I get so excited as I put together our plans for the day or week.  I love to see them enjoying learning and thirsty for more!  I love the ability to adapt and spend more time or less time on what is working or not working or what is connecting with them or not.  I love being able to share my passion for learning with these two precious boys who are totally different from each other in ways that connect with both of them, and I just feel so privileged, for as long as it lasts, to be able to be the one guiding them through this stage of their education and watching them develop into what will hopefully be life-long learners!

Because I'm enjoying this so much, I've decided to start a separate blog to try to record at least a few highlights of our journey with school here.  I find and use and adapt a lot of stuff from a lot of other people who are a lot more creative than I am, so there may not be much original material in the way of the activities, but I for one am enjoying the journey of our teaching and learning at home here and the ways that living in a place far from what we've known as home are affecting that, so here is a start at sharing a bit of that:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Missing Home

Isaiah has really been missing home lately.  The initial excitement and adventure of all the new sights and sounds and things to encounter has worn off a bit, and he has been struggling now with things just feeling a bit  uncomfortable.  As a mom I want to validate his feelings and acknowledge the challenges of such a transition while still keeping a healthy challenge before him to enjoy this place and cultivate a heart of gratitude (something I still need to be challenged on myself often!).

I had started writing this yesterday, and then last night Isaiah asked me how many years we were going to stay here.  I said I wasn't sure but at least 3.  I asked him how he felt about that, and he said, "I just want to go back to America," and he had a little cry snuggling up in my arms.  I fully believe that this is good for our family, and I know there are things that even he loves here, but it is so hard to see my sweet son struggling.  My heart hurts when he is sad.  So, I fight a battle inside myself--that tension between wanting to spare my children from all hurt and heartache and make them comfortable but wanting the richer and deeper and fuller things in life for them that often don't come from what is easy.

On a lighter not, since we've been talking about the things we miss from America, I thought I'd share a few of mine here:
*  milk (cow's milk that I don't have to boil myself and tastes the way I am used to)
*  cheese made from said milk
*  ice cream made from said milk (I'm a bit attached to my dairy products!)
*  friends and mentors from L.A.
*  family--while I haven't lived close to my family for many years now, this distance feels harder
(Sorry to put dairy products above people!  It's stream of consciousness not a statement of priority, I promise!)
*  fall (let's be honest, though, I missed this in L.A., too!)
*  Target (While it drove me totally crazy at times, it was so convenient to drive 2 minutes and be able to purchase nearly anything I wanted in one stop.)
*  having a car (I would never feel comfortable driving here, but sometimes I miss the convenience it brought.)
*  my comfy mattress
*  apple cider
*  clean sidewalks
*  a wide variety of tasty produce all year round (I got really spoiled on this in Southern California!)
*  Mexican food
*  our pediatrician
*  toilets that flush well and generally smoother plumbing systems
*  a clean supply of water that we don't have to worry about
*  knowing how things work and where to get things and where great places are (This is just part of adjusting to ANY new place, especially after having lived in one area for a long time before this.)

I'm sure there are more, and I have moments of feeling a bit jumbled still and missing people and things from "home," but this time has been a much easier adjustment for me personally.  I knew much of what to expect, and we have had so much help, and while I miss a lot of things, I am also really thankful for so many things here as well, so I shall make another list of some of the many things that I'm thankful for about living here:
*  amazing people (I am continuously blessed by the incredible people we meet here.  I had made some friends before who are still here, and there are more that have come, or that I am just now meeting.  There are people from so many places and so many walks of life who have come here, and I just find most of them to be really fascinating and wonderful people!  One family in particular that we had gotten to know just a bit the last time we are here are just a huge blessing and answer to prayer in friendship for us and for the kids and for just processing life with!  I'm also super thankful for my very, very dear friends Tom and Alana who we are thoroughly blessed to get to share life with in this season and place!)
*  the business and its office (We are really so thankful to be part of what we feel is a really cool vision in this business and a great role for John, and we love living close to the office and getting to know the workers and being able to share lunch there together with so many great people who work there and their families.)
*  our home (A blessing beyond what we could have imagined!  Even a yard!!!)
*  pace of life (Things take much longer here, and that can be hard to adapt to, but people just don't try to cram as many things into a day, and that is nice to have some release from what often can often feel too full and scattered and unfocused.  Life is a bit simpler here, in that respect.)
*  house help (Staying home with the boys and being able to really enjoy them and do the things I want to do with them, it is really SUCH a blessing to have someone who works in our home to keep it clean and take care of much of the daily tasks here.)
*  a new language and culture for our whole family to learn and live in
*  very kind and gracious Nepali people who are patient with our lack of understanding of their language and culture and dote on our kids and help us navigate life here

I'm sure there are more things on both lists, but those are a few of the things.  There will be ups and downs, challenges and victories.  We are learning (and sometimes more stretched than others) to make this our home.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nepal Travel Bingo Part 2

Thanks to my friend Tom, I got a few more images and inspiration for a second card for our bingo.  Isaiah already told John right away today at lunch about our plan to play our game, so everybody seems excited! :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nepal Travel Bingo

We decided that we're going to go to Pokhara this week!  It is a major Hindu holiday now in Nepal called Dashain.  It is probably the biggest celebration of all holidays (and there are many!) here.  The festival is 15 days long, and the biggest days hit this week, especially the day called Bhai Tika.  Most Nepalis travel to be with their families during this time, and nearly all things close down for several days.

With time off from the office and the weather and views this time of year, it seemed like a good opportunity to go to Pokhara, which is a place we definitely want to see while we're here, as it supposed to be quite lovely, and it is nice to get out of the Kathmandu Valley for some time.

We'll be taking a bus to get to Pokhara, and depending on who you ask, the trip takes somewhere between 5 and 8 hours.  That is long.  With a preschooler and VERY active toddler, that is REALLY long.  But, I really do not want to just plug them into some sort of electronics, as it is also a chance to see a lot of great scenes of Nepal.  So, I decided, among other things, to make a little Nepal Travel Bingo to play as we go and make a game out of the sights we'll see.

For any who might wonder what kinds of things we might expect to see, I'm attaching the card I made here.  Isaiah got up from nap as I was working on it and insisted on adding a few very unlikely items, such as a fish and a turtle, but the rest of these are highly likely for us to see...many countless times!  Enjoy. :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Days Like This

Today is one of the days that I am reminded of the challenges of basic life stuff here.  Ezekiel woke up early this morning (which is in no way specific to here, to be fair!).  It took me a few bites of my cereal with the milk I had mixed from powder to stop cringing and settle into the taste.  Then I went in to take a shower, only to discover that the cold water tank was empty, so the toilet wouldn't flush until the tank could get refilled.  Turned out that the cold water wasn't necessary for my shower since the solar panel didn't get much sun yesterday with the rain, so the "hot" water made for a rather jarringly cold shower.  I went down to the one ATM in our area that, theoretically works with our bank card, as we have many purchases to make this week for our home.  One problem after another with the ATM had led to us being down to the last of our Nepali currency.  I stepped into the vestibule to hear the ATM beeping repeatedly, and then, just as I swiped my card, the entire machine went down because of power outages.

It has been raining all day and all night last night, so I probably should have just listened to my instinct to stay home with the boys, but I got all wrapped up in how long of a to-do list we have for the week, so I decided I could/should plow through and make it work.  Despite being in a bit of a low mood already for the morning, I thought I could handle hitting the "grocery" store to get a few food items and the cleaning supplies we need to prepare our new place.  In trying to leave, somehow Isaiah got his zipper jammed on his rain jacket and then pulled the zipper apart, so we left in the full rain without a rain jacket for him.  Ezekiel really wanted to wear rain boots because big brother was wearing rain boots.  Rain boots are so easy to slip on, which is fantastic.  The problem is they also slip off really easily, and I carry Zeke when we walk on the roads here.  So, I was carrying Zeke and the umbrella and trying to get to the chowk (main intersection) to catch a taxi.  We find a taxi to take us, and I set Ezekiel in on the seat...only to see that he only has one boot.  We left a very confused taxi driver and retraced our path back toward the office to find the escaped boot.  Thankfully, our friend Mark saw us, spotted the boot up ahead, and ran to grab it for us.  Get a taxi, take two!  I didn't feel like putting up any fight, so I just agreed to the price the driver said, which was not too bad.

We bought a few rock-hard avocados that were fairly expensive, along with some other produce.  The produce part is on the edge of the store, and you have to then leave that bag with the security guard, and he gives you a number to match your little wooden cubby space.  Sometimes they make me leave my backpack as well in this less than secure little area, but I didn't even pause today to ask.  Zeke was fussy, and it is always a bit of a scavenger hunt trying to find the needed items.  All the cleaning products are different here, so it is a bit hard to figure out what to get.  I chose a few things and a bunch of rags, collected most of the food items I had hoped for, and decided that, in spite of growing fussiness, we would venture up to the next floor to get a few of the needed cleaning items (buckets, mops, scrub brushes, etc.).  (Side note:  all "department" stores here have multiple floors that have to be navigated separately.  You cannot take your items from one floor to another.  You have to pay at each floor and then leave the bags in the aforementioned "secure" cubbies to go up to another floor.  Oh, and there are usually not elevators, which means you can only use a cart on the first floor.)  Ezekiel kicked his resistance into high-gear, going boneless and yelling, so I threw in the towel and headed out of the store.  When we got to the ground floor again, just as Ezekiel was cranking into a full fit for getting his rain jacket and boots on, a friend walked in with her little girl and another mom I just met at the moms' group here.  The other mom gave an empathetic nod and a word of encouragement, and they left me to try to escape the store.  That is when I realized I am a complete crazy person, as I have a toddler fighting me, and I have to reclaim the three heavy and large bags of stuff I have purchased to try to go out into the rain and find a taxi.  Thankfully, the people at Saleways were very gracious to have one of the young guys carry stuff out for me.  I think he assumed the only sane situation was that I had a car parked outside.  When he realized I was looking for a taxi, he offered to go and get one to come get us there.

Ezekiel fell asleep in the car, per usual.  The taxi driver kindly pulled into the office grounds and unloaded my bags onto the office steps.  That's when I realized I didn't have the right change for paying the taxi (a common problem, as taxi drivers rarely have much change with them, so it is important to have smaller bills for paying).  Ezekiel was asleep on my shoulder still.  One of the admin staff from the office said Sushil could help me.  The problem...I don't know who Sushil is, and I have to walk up to the next floor with two kids and into the office where everyone is working and try to figure it out.  Thankfully, John had change, so I took it down to the very patient taxi driver.  Then I trudged with sleeping toddler and preschooler in rain boots to the guest flat...Have I mentioned it's on the 4th floor?  My sweet friend Alana helped me carry the bags up.

Well, this is getting quite long, so I'll just wrap up with the fact that it was a rough morning.  I got Ezekiel settled for nap, Isaiah went with John to eat some lunch up on the roof with the other employees, and I got some lunch from the office kitchen and brought it back here.  There was this tasty soup, and as I sat down in the quiet (unusual right now around here with 9 people staying in this flat together!) with a big cup of hot tea and the tasty hot soup on this rainy day, I started to think about two things:  gratitude and grace.

Gratitude has been a big focal point for me in the recent season of life.  I am thankful to Ann Voskamp and her writing to challenge me to live a life of gratitude, to see God in the small and even difficult moments.  As that became more of a habit for me, and my eyes seemed to be refocused to see differently in the moments of life, I stopped blogging an actual list of "gifts," but today, I feel the need to write out the gifts, as it was the challenges that consumed my focus for much of the day.
*  A place to shower, no matter the temperature
*  Two healthy boys who are adapting remarkably well to this new place
*  A cool job for John, and an amazing team and company for us all to be connected to
*  A place provided for us to stay while we're moving into a place of our own
*  Rain--a tough one for me today, but I know that it means more electricity for us later and is much needed
*  Food cooked every day for lunch by the office cooks and, in particular, hot soup today
*  The kind young man from Saleways who carried our things and went to fetch a taxi in the rain
*  A patient taxi driver to wait while I scurried to find money to pay him
*  Isaiah's cooperation and help at the store and not complaining when we had to leave the store, even though he badly wanted to look around at other things
*  Sweet friends and understanding moms here who I know will not only not judge or be offended by encountering our meltdown this morning but who also understand and encourage
*  My dear friend Alana who is graciously helping me through many details and the process of transitioning to life here
*  Many kind people here at CloudFactory helping us with getting settled here
*  The amazing gift of our new home

The last one (well, I'm quite sure there are many more, but the last one I've listed for today) is related to the other thing that came to my mind--grace.  I have been learning so very much about grace the last few years of my life, and I still have so very much to learn!  One of the things that I struggle with but that God keeps bringing back to me is to accept His good gifts and not try to earn them or feel guilty for having them.  This house that we'll be moving into this weekend is such an amazing gift.  Really, all of the rest of the team here were shocked at it coming up for this price.  We weren't looking for a place like this and had actually started to feel discouraged with the places and prices we were seeing, and then the taxi driver that had been looking for and showing us places led us to this place.  We kept thinking there would be a huge catch or some bizarre deal that would pop up, but it didn't.  There is really no other way to explain it than just a really sweet gift!  But, as we signed and have moved forward, there has been a part of both John and me that we've started to feel guilty.  Living in a place where most have whole families in a fraction of the space and so many live in really poor conditions, it is easy to start to feel guilty about having a nice place.  It triggers in me some thing that feels like I should have nothing and be living in the most intense situation possible.  And, God calls some to do that.  The thing that I've had to come to terms with is that He didn't call me to do that.  I've struggled for a lot of years with feeling like I should do whatever was hardest and most intense for God.  But, I've learned that it really doesn't work out well to do things for God other than what He is asking me to do.  That is religion.  That is idolatry of self really, thinking that I can somehow perform to impress God or others or to earn His favor or something.  That is not grace.

We've been called to work here, in a place that, even in a nice house, has its challenges every day just to do the basics of life, and in the midst of that, God has given us a really beautiful gift to find refuge and refresh to be able to engage those daily challenges.  I don't have to earn it or feel guilty about it.  It's a gift.  I don't have to go chasing extra challenges or trying to be the most hardcore person.  I need to be faithful to what God puts in front of me each day.  There are enough challenges in that!  This morning I didn't do very well with that, but through His GRACE, I'll continue to grow and pray for His eyes to see the little moments here and what it means to live them, abiding in Him, trusting Him, being grateful to Him, and seeking to glorify Him. 

There will be many more days like this, but I pray to face them with more gratitude, and through His grace, I am growing to be more like and for days like this.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Journey

The last several months have been quite an emotional, spiritual, and relational journey, and I hope to write a bit more about that sometime soon, but as often happens to me, I find myself getting behind on what I want to write about, and then I get overwhelmed at where to start, and then I don't start at all.  So, I'm going simply say that it has been a season of a very complex mixture of emotions, and I'm going to jump in on writing about the most recent journey, a literal trip, from our former home in Los Angeles, CA, USA, to Kathmandu, Nepal.

With our entire life boiled down to nine pieces of luggage and our carry-on bags, we walked out of an empty condo in Culver City, accompanied very graciously by three young and beautiful friends, and made our way through LAX.  The airport went quite smoothly, including an unexpected blessing of the airline waiving the fee for our extra piece of luggage (which should have been $150).  In spite of thinking we didn't have seats together, we ended up all together with an extra seat by us, and we were off to cross the ocean.  The first flight was supposed to be about 14 hours.  That is just plain long, but let me just confirm what we feared to be is painfully long with two young kids!  Isaiah had been looking forward to the plane rides (3 in total) for quite some time, as he was promised very little bounds on "media time."  He was all set to watch movies, and that is what he did.  Zeke actually did alright for a bit.  But, a "bit" doesn't make much of a dent in 14 hours!  The lights got turned off for people to sleep at what was about 4:00 p.m. Los Angeles time, so we held off for about an hour, gave both of our kids some benadryl, and were all prepared for a little sleep.  Well, the boys had other plans!  Isaiah wanted to lay on the floor, which seemed like a good idea, until we adjusted his "bed" of blankets and such for the 20th time.  He, thankfully, eventually did fall asleep, though.  Zeke's resistance was much stronger.  Our pediatrician in L.A. has assured me several times that I will someday be very thankful for Z's tenacity.  I'm sure that is true, but the plane ride was not that day.  For about 3 hours (during the dark, intended sleeping time), Zeke staged a revolt with full-tilt screaming and flailing and going boneless.  Yep, we were those people on the plane.  At some point, he finally gave in and slept for a little under 2 hours.  And then again later, took about an hour-long snooze.  Do the math--that is 3 hours out of 14, leaving 11 hours of high-maintenance toddler time with very little energy to match it.  I honestly thought we had made a terrible mistake and that I wasn't even sure if we were really going to make it to Nepal.

Thankfully, that flight eventually ended, and for their sake, I am glad that it didn't seem people from our flight were continuing on with us.  We had a 3 1/2 hour layover in Shanghai.  And, I have to say, that navigating airports in China with kids was shockingly difficult.  You can't take carts here.  You have to go through multiple places to get where you need to go.  You have to pick up strollers at the normal baggage claim (no gate check).  Pretty frustrating.  But, we did kick into celebrity status for the boys.  Two light-haired (and, in my opinion, quite adorable) boys get quite a lot of attention pretty much anywhere in Asia.  The cell phones come out, and the pictures start snapping like the paparazzi have found them.  Zeke loves to say, "Cheese," and Isaiah gives the affectionate big-brother choke-hold/hug and makes a funny face.  Kind of weird knowing there are pics of my kids floating all over Asia.

At our next gate, we met a very nice man from Texas who was going to be on the flight with us to Kunming.  Ezekiel finally passed out again before we got on the flight, which made it a bit difficult getting on the bus to take us from the gate to the plane and then making it up the stairs to the door of the plane, but we were all just glad he was sleeping!  He woke up briefly but then went back to sleep and slept for most of the 2nd flight (about 2 more hours).  We had a whole row to ourselves at the front of the section, which oddly enough was row 31.  Isaiah slept.  We all slept for at least a stretch.  It was beautiful.  That was about the end of the sleeping.  Mind you, we still had much of the trip left before arriving in Kathmandu.

In Kunming, we had to get all of our luggage (9 large pieces!) and check it back in.  The problem, other than navigating four carts of luggage and a double stroller through the airport to a completely different area, is that it was midnight...and the airline counters were closed until morning.  So, we made a little camp with all of our luggage, set up our Peapod tent, and hung out in the Kunming airport for our 9-hour layover!

The last flight!  It was time!  Once we were on, Isaiah protested getting a pull-up on because he was definitely, absolutely, not going to...ZZZZZZ.  Yeah.  We should have just woken him up at that point, but after the length of sleepless travel we'd had, the last thing you want to do is wake up a kid that has fallen asleep.  Zeke took a very brief snooze.  Isaiah woke up a bit delirious.  He kept giggling and giggling, and at some point, he decided he needed to use the bathroom.  So, John took him.  We only have a little over an hour to go.  The finish line is in sight!  But, then I hear John, "Rachel!  I need wipes!"  I will save trying to explain how it happened because we are still not 100% clear on it ourselves, but there was poop.  All over.  On the floor of the plane bathroom.  On the shoes.  On the shorts.  On the kid himself.  There was crying.  So then Zeke decided to join in the crying.  Two hysterical kids and poop all over.  Yep.  We're pretty confident the little slogan on the toothpick wrapper, "You are welcome to travel by our plane," no longer applies to our family after this journey.  Pretty confident we're on a list somewhere.

Since I had not packed an extra pair of pants like I had intended, Isaiah finished the flight and went through customs in Nepal in my Northwestern t-shirt.  As if white kids don't get enough stares from Nepalis, now my son looked like he was wearing a dress.  Thankfully, at that point, he was grinning from ear to ear.  Customs went about as smoothly as Nepali customs can go.  Confusion and waiting but no actual problems.  We somehow managed to get all of our luggage out and into two taxis with our dear friend Alana and the office assistant Arpan helping us.  I was sweaty and completely spent, and a noisy, dusty ride in a taxi dodging vehicles, animals, and pedestrians was not exactly what I was up for, but my boys were giddy taking it all in.  I had to stop and be thankful in the midst of all of the weariness from the trip we had just had and the less than relaxing final trek to our new home in this taxi that, not only did we make it, but my boys were happy.  Isaiah chattered enthusiastically the entire drive, mostly to the taxi driver who didn't understand a word of it.  As strange as it seemed to have just packed up and left the city that had been home to me for 12 years, and as hard as it seemed getting here, we were home.  From home.  To home.  That was our journey. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Joy Dare
May 28 to June 9
#408  I am so thankful that, while I've been getting quite behind in recording them, I feel like the practice of gratitude, of recognizing gifts in moments all around me, is taking root in my heart and reshaping me, slowly but surely!
#409  Finally out there--our amazing journey ahead--the opportunity to move to Nepal and work there with amazing people doing amazing kingdom things!  SO excited and thankful for this journey ahead for our family!!!
#410  Encouragement, counsel, and support from many dear friends and family through the process of making decisions about our choices ahead and sharing in our excitement as we now step out in these choices!
#411  New friends for Isaiah to play with that are just sweet and brave and wonderful
#412  Our dear Sara!  Such a blessing in so many ways!
#413  Dear lives who invest in the lives of my children!
#414  Good rehearsals for Isaiah's concert and a growing courage to press through things that challenge him
#415  Finding my lab work results last night (late) and seeing some small things that remind me of my own frailty; low Vitamin D means soak up more sun! :)
#416  The long slow walk to our parking spot, which reminds me over and over and over again to slow down and SEE!
#417  my two boys walking hand in hand
#418  stopping to watch the squirrels
#419  roly-poly bugs
#420  Watching my son participate in his music class concert...and seem to enjoy it!  Huge steps of pressing through things that challenge him!
#421  helicopters, planes, trucks, buses, garbage trucks, and all other big machines that amaze my little boys
#422  my baby's delight in all things musical
#423  boys covered in sand from playing at the beach
#424  seashells--my older son loves to collect and my younger one had a thrill banging them around in a bucket to make noise
#425  my boys' personalities and gifts that are so different from each other that balance and sharpen the other
#426  the way Zeke's lips and cheeks look when we drinks out of his straws
#427  the sound of Isaiah's giggles when he is being tickled or wrestled
#428  the sweet little faces I get to look on as they sleep
#429  fun for both boys at a birthday party and seeing Isaiah grow in confidence and enjoy big social times
#430  quick falling asleep for the boys after lots of jumping and running around at the party
#431  Isaiah looking out for his little brother
#432  my baby's cheeks!  so soft and sweet and squishy :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Joy Dare
May 20 - 27

#395  Two amazing opportunities we have been given in this season of life ahead!
#396  The excitement of adventures ahead and the peace God has given about fears
#397  Abandoning the plan when I realize my son needs something else, even if it doesn't fit my ideas of what I "should" do
#398  Good girl friends, and an evening to just enjoy time together
#399  Unexpected quiet time by myself at home when two sweet young friends took the boys out for breakfast and park time
#400  Missing my husband, and the boys missing their dad, which reminds us all what a treasure he is to us
#401  My husband returning home from his trip!
#402  Early end to the work day for my husband before a 3-day holiday weekend
#403  Really good time talking and connecting and processing life with dear friends we rarely get time with
#404  A smooth trip to get the baby's birth certificate
#405  My son's increasing boldness to make new friends and explore the world around him with a great sense of adventure
#406  A healthy check-up for the baby
#407  A really amazing physician for my kids

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Joy Dare
May 14 - 20
#375  Quick healing from hand, foot, and mouth disease
#376  My older son not catching it!
#377  Learning to understand my emotions better--a long journey but so thankful for the small growths God gives
#378  Being able to return to Mothers' Prayer Group this week
#379  Isaiah enjoying a nice walk to work with Daddy
#380  Physical protection for me and the kids when someone hit our car!
#381  My son's sweet and innocent heart that caused him to say he wanted to invite the person who hit us to his birthday party
#382  Shaved ice at the park
#383  Date night!  :)
#384  John taking the boys out Saturday morning to spend time with them and give me some extra rest--double blessing!
#385  Beautiful yellow Gerbera daisies brought home to me from my 3 guys
#386  Good time at t-ball for John and Isaiah
#387  A safe flight for John to visit some of his family
#388  Super thoughtful and generous arrangements made my John to help me out while he's gone!
#389  Isaiah being able to get to the root of his emotions, even through much muddiness and hard process
#390  Thankful we have a husband and father that the boys and I miss when he's gone!
#391  Parents who are a rare and treasured source of support and prayer and encouragement in my life
#392  Help from a friend arranged by John to allow me to get a little extra sleep to make up for the early wake-ups!
#393  Juicy, sweet, delicious strawberries from the Farmer's Market
#394  Sweet friends having the boys and me over for dinner

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Joy Dare

Monday, May 7
#348  my son seeming thankful and secure in grace after a very upsetting accident
#349  rest for my boys
#350  letting go and just picking up fast food after a rough morning--grace! :)

Tuesday, May 8
#351  starting the morning with worship songs with my boys, and my son gleefully dancing around
#352  park time to play outside
#353  snuggly story time before nap
#354  parents who listen and pray and love sacrificially, no matter how old I am or how far apart we live

Wednesday, May 9
So, as I'm sitting here at the computer, struggling through knowing how to help the baby with a sick and horribly interrupted night of sleep, I see the prompt for today's Joy Dare in my facebook feed:  Three Gifts Found in the Dark.  And I'm struggling.  I don't feel thankful.  I feel weak and helpless and frustrated and angry and a whole mess of emotions.  Thankfulness feels out of my reach at the moment.
But, I guess that's the point of it being a Joy "Dare," right?  Thankfulness isn't a feeling.  It's a choice, a heart posture.  Being joyful IN all things, not necessarily FOR all things.  It isn't just a matter of putting on rose colored glasses and imagining life to be clean and pretty and shiny or pretending that it is.  Sometimes it isn't.  But, I need to train my eyes to see the Light that shines even when the darkness seems to block it completely.  Gratitude helps me refocus my eyes so that I can SEE God's goodness, His presence there with in the midst of the dark, giving me courage and strength and grace.  So, humble my heart, Lord.  Open the eyes of my heart to see You in the midst of the dark night.
#355  choosing to be grateful and the grace for the times I so easily lose perspective and have an ungrateful heart
#356  an email from a trusted mentor filled with wisdom and counsel, discovered in the dark of the night
#357  an email from a sweet young friend offering help, also discovered in that darkness

Thursday, May 10
#358  lunch delivered from our friend
#359  my son facing fears and struggles and coming through on the other side with confidence
#360  dinner with a couple who are pastors and mentors and have been a HUGE blessing through the many phases of our journey since being here in this city and having them yet again come alongside and speak into the next phase of our journey ahead

Friday, May 11
#361  bending the naptime rules and having chips and guacamole and giggles with my son on the couch
#362  my husband graciously picking up dinner at the end of a draining week
#363  skyping with my mom
#364  a beautiful gift of vision and excitement for life ahead
#365  jumping back into our "Fort Friday" tradition and reading nap time stories in the fort

Saturday, May 12
#365  making a spontaneous "nest" for my son for nap time, just because he wanted to, and his excitement to rest in his "nest"
#366  seeing the brave explorer come out in my son
#367  my husband going grocery shopping for me
#368  my mom and a small attempt to wrap my words around the endless number of gifts God has given me through her

Sunday, May 13
#369  the single hardest but most deeply beautiful job/calling I could have ever imagined--motherhood!
#370  the beautiful lives that God has entrusted to me to help shape
#371  a slow start to the morning
#372  flowers given to the girl we see every week at the farmer's market stand where we buy tempha--stretching Isaiah to learn to give and not just to expect to get and blessing her socks off!
#373  an extra little rest before dinner
#374  delicious artichokes and a portabello grilled by my husband for dinner

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Cost of Being Mom

1000 Moms Project
You are a mom, my mom.  So much of who I am and what I've been able to do and this riched, blessed life I have is because of you.  And I know it has cost you.  Quite dearly.  I have known, but I know and I see in a new way in this phase of life as I feel the joy and the cost of mothering my own now.

You gave us good food.  The smell filled our home--baked coffee cakes or cinnamon rolls, roast and potatoes on Sundays, homemade goodies for us and for many a friend we would bring through our home who never experienced the loving efforts of such treats.  Meals required extra planning and effort.  Meals were made special for our favorites and in seasons to fit my crazy ideas of what would make me run faster at the track meet or fit my social conscious.  You honored our desires but stood firm in providing for our health and our needs--I was never allowed to walk out the door in the morning without breakfast or to sink into self-destructive patterns to match up with popular ideals of appearance.

You made our house a home.  You cared more about us enjoying our home together than impressing those around you with their ideas of housekeeping.  We had "shut the world out" days to regroup and be quiet and be refreshed.  We sat snuggled and cozy on the couch, even when the pleather cracked and stuck to our legs, reading countless stories.  Anyone was welcome in our home, and you embraced those who entered and shared a sense of home with them.  You sacrificed any plans for matching decor to proudly display our masterpieces and creations. 

You were present.  I know you have struggled to receive grace and have had your heart broken many times over responding to impossible circumstances to be all the places and meet all the needs you felt you should meet.  Things were hard, and we muddied through at times, but we were always in it together.  I was supported and encouraged in my endless pursuits of activities and interests.  

You gave of your time and talents and knowledge to teach and train me.  Multitudes of patience extended as seams had to be ripped out and tried again to finish sewing projects.  Clothes were made to fit my needs and desires.  I have never been intimidated in the kitchen because I grew up watching you pull together meals time after time as if there was just an internal, limitless cookbook to pull together a meal out of nearly anything.  I got to high school realizing that not everyone had been taught already how to research and write a paper. 

You sacrificed so much for us.  Endless nights of sleep, rarely having new or nice things you desired, running countless times to pick me up or drop me off or bring me stuff that I forgot...I can't even count all of the ways that you so often set aside yourself to give to us, to me.

You have walked with and led me closer to Jesus.  More importantly than all other things, I have know that I have been prayed for tirelessly my whole life and know that to still be true and now knowing that expanded to include my boys.  I have seen you never stop growing and learning and pressing in to know God more deeply, more fully, and be more like Him every day.  You taught me about Him, but you also led me to KNOW Him and love Him and to embrace His heart for others.  No matter what circumstances or surrounding culture we lived in, you have given me eyes and vision to see a big God and His heart for a big world!  You are a beautiful woman who reflects His love and His glory.

I love you so much, Mom, and words could never express all that you have given and all that you are to me!
I am so thankful for the heritage of women that I come from--your mom, your grandma, you.  I am so richly blessed and humbled to have been given so much and hope, by God's grace, to extend that to my children.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Joy Dare
Lost track of days a bit last week, but some gifts from the week...
#337  seeing my husband light up with excitement as opportunities stir dormant passions
#338  laying down on the couch and looking out my big window at trees filled with green leaves
#339  exploring outdoors with my boys
#340  getting the bathroom cleaned well
#341  returning to sleep routines pretty quickly after an interruption for random illness
#342  HEALING for my baby from breathing struggles!
#343  sharing a Cinnabon and a mini train ride at the mall with my boys, for no particular reason
#344  total excitement from both boys over our baking soda and vinegar volcanoes
#345  watching my baby's face light up and his "oh" expression as he takes notice of more and more things int he world around him
#346  my baby's ability to walk and his delight with his skill
#347  a party to meet many of our neighbors

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Joy Dare
Monday, April 23
#312  renewed hope
#313  growth in sleep patterns for the baby
#314  getting back (slowly) into the mode of doing activities and projects with my boys that I so enjoy

Tuesday, April 24
#315  being reminded of the rare and amazing gift I have been given in a loving and healthy family who loves the Lord
#316  time with a friend on the brink of bringing her new little boy into this world
#317  shopping disaster redeemed with my son
#318  pressing through the ugly parenting moments and seeing a beauty unfold in a child's heart and our relationship
#319  sharing frozen yogurt with my boys and seeing my son initiate sharing with his brother

Wednesday, April 25
#320  a dear friend's testimony
#321  a friend's new baby was born in the early morning, healthy baby and smooth delivery
#322  quiet evening time with my husband

Thursday, April 26
#323  a simple, only slightly messy project that completely delighted both of my boys
#324  time to connect with a dear friend and mentor and soak in the benefits of the path she's walked before me and openly shares
#325  a conversation with my husband that fed my soul

Friday, April 27
#326  my baby's love of music
#327  reminders of God's love for me being unconditional and being stretched to live that out for my family
#328  enjoying the milestone of first haircut for my baby

Saturday, April 28
#329  a "Daddy date" that my son loved
#330  time with young friends and lots of laughter
#331  running and playing with my son at the park

Sunday, April 29
#332  my son enjoying children's church
#333  holding my baby while I sing worship to God and seeing him soak it in

#334  engaging in thoughtful processes with wise and beautiful women to bless children and minister to them
#335  the chance to see friends who have moved away
#336  the delight on my son's face to burst out dancing as worship music began


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Avocado Banana Ice Cream

I had friends coming over this evening who are being especially careful with their diets, and I am trying to get back on track to healthier eating for our family, so I felt inspired to give this recipe a try:

It sounded a little crazy, but I've fed the baby avocado and banana together many times, and he's loved it, so I went for it.  I didn't end up quite following the recipe.  I wanted to go dairy-free because of one of the little girls who was coming, but I didn't have any soy or nut milk or anything in the house, so I thought I'd give coconut milk a try.
So, adjusted from the recipe, I used:
2 avocados
3 ripe bananas (cut into chunks and frozen ahead of time)
2 tsp vanilla
1 can of coconut milk
1 cup sugar (I'd be curious to play around with this a bit more.  The end product tasted really good but would be even healthier if this was cut or replaced with something.)

Then, just followed the directions she mentioned and put them all in a blender, and I had "ice cream."  To be clear, as a person unhealthily attached to ice cream, it really needs to have a slightly different expectation, but it was creamy and yummy and a satisfying and healthy dessert!

Joy Dare
Monday, April 16
#312  a quick healing for my son's cough
#313  getting to know a sweet new friend who is loving on my kids
#314  messes made in the process of creativity and fun by my boys

Tuesday, April 17
#315  a gorgeous sunny day and soaking up outdoor treasures at a park
#316  a son having an awareness of moods and emotions and a desire to process them and growing in expressing them
#317  opening my email as the chaos as mess settles for a moment for naps to find my Holy Experience email with the subject "what to really hold onto in this glorious mess"
#318  glorious mess
#319  having had a cleaning service for the season I had them!

Wednesday, April 18
#320  my baby taking a nap away from home while I needed to have a meeting
#321  good fellowship with women seeking the Lord together
#322  a comfortable home to relax in for the evening

Thursday, April 19
#323  checking out the new flower buds on the plants around our complex
#324  rest time in the middle of the day
#325  remembering once again that God knows my baby and what he needs, even when I struggle to understand him or how to meet his needs

Friday, April 20
#326  my baby's enjoyment and affinity for music
#327  a great playdate with new friends
#328  chances for the boys to get dirty

Saturday, April 21
#329  my son's first day of t-ball--so fun for all of us!
#330  new shoes for the kids have always had the shoes they need
#331  a couple good nights of sleep for the boys and the hope of new patterns!
#332  alone time for the evening

Sunday, April 22
#333  my baby enjoying worship time with us at the Vineyard this morning
#334  a few days in a row of good sleep emerging for the baby!!!
#335  a yummy meal prepared by my husband on our new grill


Monday, April 16, 2012

Joy Dare
Monday, April 9
#290  post-nap sleepy cuddle time with my baby
#291  letting go of control even when I really don't want to
#292  kids who are healthy and learning and growing so much

Tuesday, April 10
#293  taking a little extra time getting my son settled for quiet time to have some cuddles and hear his sweet, sensitive little heart
#294  spontaneous music, dancing, noise making
#295  learning about other cultures and the amazing beauty and diversity God created in nations

Wednesday, April 11
#296  new flowers around our complex
#297  hearing my son tell his baby brother that they will be friends forever
#298  a smooth and unhurried trip to the store with the boys, playing in the floor model lawn furniture

Thursday, April 12
#299  Second (and third and fourth) chances!
#300  Messy painting together
#301  My husband's listening ear

Friday, April 13
#302  Help with the kids so that I could take a rest while not feeling well
#303  Learning to be free to rest!
#304  An actual thunderstorm here!
#305  Leftovers to make dinner easy

Saturday, April 14
#306  family time at the park
#307  running and being silly with my son
#308  fellowship with good girl friends to celebrate a dear friend's birthday

Sunday, April 15
#309  skype with my parents
#310  husband breaking in our grill with delicious dinner
#311  skype with close friends in Nepal and seeing amazing things God is doing with their lives and work

Monday, April 9, 2012

Joy Dare

Ok, so another rather failed week for really tuning in and recording the daily graces (March 26 to April 1)!
One major thing stands out in my mind that I am so grateful for, and that is the Re:flect experience that some folks at our church community set up as an interactive, reflective experience around Jesus' last week on earth.  We went through it as the mothers' prayer group that meets together on Wednesdays, and it was just so powerful!  I am thankful for the time and space set aside to just be quiet and meet with God!  I am thankful for the reminder that HE is what I truly need!  And for the truth that HE (and not just more of me) is what my kids truly need as well!  I am so humbled and grateful for the amazing reminder of the sacrifice of Christ that is why grace even exists!

So, moving forward in grace from a dropped week but embracing a renewed sense of grace...
Monday, April 2
#264  A little playmate/buddy for my baby boy
#265  A peaceful going to bed for the babysitter
#266  Hard challenges pointing out weaknesses to stretch me and shape me

Tuesday, April 3
#267  Learning to let go of control; little victories
#268  My son being such an eager learner
#269  Decreasing drama for diaper changes with the baby

Wednesday, April 4
#270  An amazing spontaneous song crafted by my son about David and Goliath
#271  An honest and vulnerable testimony from a fellow young mom
#272  A quiet evening at home with my husband

Thursday, April 5
#273 Washing my son's feet
#274  Having a mini "Last Supper" with my husband and son
#275  The example of Christ to lay down His own will before the Father and the fresh chance to do that daily, even in each new moment.
#276  My son's excitement for these things, this story...Isaiah is curious and seeking to know and understand and so excited about experiencing it all!

Friday, April 6
#277  Boys catching up on needed rest
#278 Sharing a Cinnabon with my boys and remembering my dear grandma
#279  God adjusting my eyes to see hurts behind behaviors that frustrate me
#280  The sacrifice of Christ to lay down His life and take on my punishment, my burden!  

Saturday, April 7
#281  Friends to celebrate with
#282  Moments to humble me and see that who I am affects my children more than how I instruct them
#283  Perspective at the end of the day to embrace a deep, deep gratitude that Holy Week has been met with eager, lit-up curiosity by my son, so dying eggs not going well is not really such a big deal!  Letting go of the little things to see what really matters!

Sunday, April 8
#284  He conquered death!
#285  Resurrection power over the things that seem dead in our lives!
#286  Grace to be able to let go of being "right" and be restored
#287  Peace while preparing for guests
#288  A fun gathering in our home to celebrate Resurrection Day together with many far from families
#289  My whole family enjoying the party

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Joy Dare
Monday, March 19
#234  watching my fearless baby explore the world; wonderful and a bit terrifying but so very good for me!
#235  chocolate--it really is a treat and a comfort
#236  grace from my family when dinners seem like a series of flops lately!
#237  my baby's determination to make me laugh during bedtime routine
#238  a cute conversation my son had for quite a length of time with the toy lizard

Tuesday, March 20
#239  strength to navigate today when no one had much sleep last night
#240  getting a few things cleared from the accumulated clutter
#241  smooth bedtimes
#242  being piled on by two boys  

Wednesday, March 21
#243  dinner with the group that has been meeting at our home and the connection that grew among the group
#244  my husband's effort and success at fixing our oven!
#245  God's grace for a hard day

Thursday, March 22
#246  healing for the serious dizziness I was experiencing yesterday
#247  2 Cor. 12:9--He keeps pressing this on my heart
#248  a good cry to let go at the end of the day
#249  a husband who lets me just talk about the day

Friday, March 23
#250  a walk to the park with my boys on a quiet and gray morning
#251  my son's love for even the simplest natural treasures
#252  hearing my son initiating prayer for us and his brother!
#253  watching my son plop down on a bus stop bench next to a total stranger and tell me he is just enjoying the view (trees and the park across the street) of all the wonderful things God created!
#254  ice cream with my boys
#255  talking to my dearest friend across the globe and seeing how beautifully and gracefully motherhood fits on her!

Saturday, March 24
#256  my husband taking the boys out for breakfast treats--a gift to them and a gift to me of a quiet house to catch up on a bit of sleep after a rough night
#257  a God who knows my baby and his every need when I struggle to figure it out
#258  my son requesting a Daddy date to play some baseball
#259  my son's love of cuddle time!
#260  my son's excitement over "bed reading" privileges

Sunday, March 25
#261  "The riches of Your love will always be enough" (Forever Reign)
#262  my boys feeling secure in Children's Church
#263  family wrestle/play time on the bed

Monday, March 19, 2012

Joy Dare
Monday, March 12
#207  a good music class and whatever seems to have connected for my son to really enjoy that
#208  a loving friend who loves on my kids and cares for them so well
#209  my baby's love of water/baths and his boldness to experience it fully
#210  my son's excitement about "bed reading" privileges
#211  grace for the times I fail at loving well

Tuesday, March 13
#212  God's power to set free from generational sin and unhealthy patterns
#213  my boys playing outside together--enjoying each other and simple rocks
#214  freedom from anxiety over lost sleep

Wednesday, March 14
#215  overlap in naptimes to just have quiet moments
#216  fellowship with my small group at Mothers' Prayer Group
#217  challenging study and meaningful discussion with our small group
#218  Isaiah's love of "bed reading" privileges

Thursday, March 15
#219  choosing a birthday gift for John with my son and his overwhelming excitement about the surprise he has prepared for Daddy; seeing a genuine thoughtfulness develop in him to consider what the other might like
#220  amazingly sweet communication from my son and great patience from him toward his baby brother
#221  my son attempting to make jokes and keep surprises a secret
#222  sharing my food with my kids; sometimes I wish for a plate all to myself, but I'm so thankful for boys who eat well!

Friday, March 16
#223  a loving and faithful husband and the chance to celebrate his life today on his birthday!
#224  sacrificial friends who give of themselves to bless me and my family so much!
#225  a major step in releasing control and trusting the Lord with my kids--overnight away!

Saturday, March 17
#226  a door covered in toddler art
#227  a full night of sleep last night! and nap today!
#228  an oven that usually works and options for food when it doesn't
#229  an evening to quietly poke around with a few things here at home

Sunday, March 18
#230  letting go of selfish desires and fears to embrace the privilege of caring for my kids with icky colds
#231  prayer time with a friend whose mom needs a miraculous healing from God
#232  first steps for my baby!  and the chance for my parents to witness it via skype!
#233  the passion and courage I can already see in my baby that challenges me and stretches me and grows me

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Joy Dare
Monday, March  5
#179  a really fun time at music class with my son and his pleasantly surprising level of engaging the class
#180  my son's boldness to ask a girl from class to come over
#181  stretching times will lead to growth!

Tuesday, March 6
#182  strength for the day when sleep was so minimal last night
#183  an understanding friend to extend grace to opt out of our plans when I felt it would just be pressing me and the boys too much for the afternoon
#184  my son thinks cuddles are a wonderful treat!

Wednesday, March 7
#185  God providing solutions in the midst of a chaotic morning
#186  a really fun art project time with my son and watching him get so excited about creative ideas
#187  stepping back from my stress when a mess was made and watching my boys get giddy over a bag of feathers and learning to be ok with the mess
#188  sweet and smooth bedtime with both boys

Thursday, March 8
#189  enjoying a variety of music in the car lately
#190  my son's ceaseless questions--sometimes a challenge but so amazing
#191  the baby being thoroughly delighted and trying to dance in his high chair at breakfast while his brother danced around shaking a homemade shaker; a little much noise for so early but so thankful for letting it go and starting their days with such joy

Friday, March 9
#192  my son voluntarily (and gently) pulling his baby brother close to share his space in a wagon so another boy could ride
#193  my son asking is there was anything he could do to help when baby brother was crying
#194  enjoying juicy oranges straight from a friend's tree
#195  my husband's patience and gracious assistance in all things related to technology

Saturday, March 10
#196  the privilege of celebrating a new little life coming into this world soon!
#197  a sweet time of prayer with friends for a dear friend as she prepares for her 2nd son
#198  a "scavenger hunt" walk as a family
#199  a baby who enjoys food that we are eating for dinner

Sunday, March 11
#200  baby sleeping in a bit after a rough night and still being able to make it nearly on time to the worship service this morning
#201  a challenge in the message given this morning that drives me deeper right where God is working on me
#202  a nap
#203  a family trip to a park to enjoy some time outdoors
#204  God's protection for my boys when they take falls and have bumps and accidents
#205  my husband's calm when the boys have an injury or an illness
#206  my son's view of every stick and rock as the greatest treasures he has ever discovered