Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Man, I Needed That

So in my last post, I said that there weren't any present under our Christmas tree.  Let me just go ahead and clarify, lest you think we're anti-presents (we're not).  It's kind of hard to time international shipping, so sometimes the boxes come before Christmas.  Sometimes they don't.  This time they didn't.  My parents are waiting to do Christmas presents when we're back in the States in February.  As for our family...well, I'll just give the excuse that the boys are still really little and don't really care much about presents.  In fact, their favorite toys recently are my dryer (which, yes, resides in the living room) and my broom.  I'll just go ahead and let them entertain themselves with the free things we already own than stress out over buying them new stuff.  For now, at least.

But back to Christmas presents...I found out a few weeks ago that some of our favorite people of all time, Brad & Carrie V, had to make a trip up to Beijing to renew their son's passport.  Since we're but a short train ride from Beijing, I created a master plan for a rendezvous.  I pitched my plan to Kevin sort of like this:

Me: I know what I want for Christmas.
Kev: You don't get a present this Christmas.
Me: Ha, ha.  No, really, I know what I want.
Kev: No, really, you don't get a present.  Do you remember your expensive new lens you got for your birthday?  You said it would count as your birthday & Christmas present.
Me: Drat, that does sound like something I would say...

Nevertheless, we decided it would be worth it to spring up to Beijing for less than 48 hours to hang out with these rockin' folks.  We stayed at some Beijing friends' super-fancy apartment (seriously, it's like Pottery Barn fell out of the sky in the middle of China) and ate some pretty tasty Tex-mex.  I know what you're thinking...decent Tex-mex in Beijing?  Well, it is true that I'm not the best judge since I've been away from Texas for quite some time and didn't even really care about Tex-mex while I was there, but I will say that this preggo tummy was very happy indeed.  Plus, they sell Diet Dr. Pepper, so what could possibly be wrong with a meal like that?  

And oh how glad we are that we went!  These are the kinds of friends who ask questions.  Real questions.  And don't let you get away with anything but honest answers.  These are the friends whose family convinced us that we could take the first step toward adoption.  These are the kind of friends whose intentionality about life makes you think twice about the decisions you're making.  These are the kinds of friends who make you want to love Jesus more.  These are the kinds of friends who make you laugh until you might cry.  These are the kinds of friends that make it worthwhile to drag two babies along on a multi-hour trip and not regret it for a second.  So very thankful for friends like these!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Our Merry Christmas

I wish I had some festive pictures to post of our Christmas, but it didn't exactly go as expected.  We had originally planned on joining some of our dear local friends to celebrate Christmas morning and then pass out some goodie bags to our market & street seller friends.  But after a week jam-packed with parties, events, and lots of people, both boys woke up a sneezy, snotty mess.  Not only that but Kevin had some serious stomach issues (probably because he ate a chicken head the night before).  So our Christmas morning merriment involved my husband comatose in bed, my two sick babies (one of whom has decided he'd rather not take a morning nap anymore), and five loads of laundry that needed to be done for the college girls that are visiting this week.  To add insult to injury, a good friend of mine butt-dialed me (you know, when you accidentally bump your cell phone and inadvertently place a call), and I could hear her merry voice on the other end doing the exact things that I wanted to be doing at that moment.

But God is good.  So very good.  Instead of wallowing in a "failed" Christmas, He reminded me of that little baby in a manger.  The one who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  On Christmas, I got to share in the heart of Christ by serving my family & our visitors.  There wasn't a present under our tree this year but this sweet reminder of Christ & Christmas was quite enough for me.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Micah's 2nd Birthday

November seems to be the month of birthdays for our family.  Micah turned 2 on the 19th.  Equipped with my boxed cake mix and can of icing from America, I actually managed to put together a cake in the near proximity of his birthday.

I'm not exactly sure why but I attempted to make a layer cake.  For most of you, that's not a big deal at all, but for this pastry-impaired mama (as if you could even call boxed cake a pastry!), it's a pretty fantastic feat.  No one in my family particularly likes icing so why I deemed it necessary to add an extra layer of the sugary glue in addition to an extra layer of hard work still remains unclear.  The truth of the matter is that I wanted to put a little bit more effort into his cake rather than just dumping the mix in a 9x13 pan.  And this is what I came up with:

Yes, the cars most certainly came straight from the toy box in an attempt to cover up the crumb-filled icing and uneven surface.  But you can't even tell the difference, right?

Micah certainly couldn't.  My cake's less-than-stellar appearance didn't deter his eating ability in the slightest.

Another confession: we actually opened his present first and then did cake because I forgot to charge the battery for our video camera.  But I'll post the pictures as if we actually observed typical birthday party chronology. 

We're not terribly big present people in our family but I felt kind of bad not giving the kid anything for his birthday.  Kevin said he wouldn't remember but I surely know that I would.  So I gave myself a $10 budget at the Honolulu Wal-mart and was pretty pleased to find the combination of two of his life's greatest pleasures: Elmo & cell phones.

So now I've got a 2 year old, a 1 year old, and one on the way.  It's a blessed craziness, I tell ya!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Polynesian Cultural Center

Our final adventure in Hawaii was to the Polynesian Cultural Center.  I'll be honest that I was a little wary because they have places like this in China where they showcase several of the country's minority groups.  It's a little bit like a people zoo.  In my opinion, that's is weird.  

This place, on the other hand, wasn't weird.  It was beautiful (as most all things are in the great state of Hawaii) and entertaining.  The boys did great all day, even during the evening show we attended.

I've been trying to study this picture on a regular basis with Micah so he can learn the names of our family members.  (That's just one of the things you have to do when you live far away.)  At this point, however, he just wants to point out everyone's shoes.  Sigh.  Oh when, my son, will you learn the family is far more important than footwear?

So that concludes our Hawaiian adventure.  We flew out from Honolulu, spent the night in Seoul, and then made it home.  It's not America but it's still home for now.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Big Day for Big Little Brother

Around our house, we call Sami 大弟弟, which is pronounced Da Di Di and translated to Big Little Brother.  Big as in size and little as in birth order.  If you ever have the opportunity to be up close & personal with the boys, you'll quickly understand why.  Poor Micah is in the negative range for height on the growth chart, and Sam is...well, he's not a small kiddo.  

Though small he is not, he hit a big milestone in Hawaii on November 1: his first birthday.  Albeit several days late, I managed to make him a cake for the occasion (you can blame your little brother/sister for that one, Sam).  

Here's the play-by-play of Sam's first piece of cake:

The Anticipation

The Inspection

The Sampling

The Approval

The Diligence

The Reckless Abandonment

The Enrapture

Happy birthday to our big little brother!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

18 Weeks on the 18th

I have to admit that it is a very odd experience dealing with a first pregnancy that is in fact my third child.  Probably because of the craziness of having two kids, I don't think I'm very good at being pregnant.  I most likely don't rest enough, spend too much time on my feet, don't eat the protein I should, and certainly have neglected to take any belly shots until my 18th week.  Oh well.  That's just like a third child, isn't it?

But the good news is that I've reached week 18 (on December 18th no less).  Everything seems to be progressing quite nicely and I'd like to say that I've moved on from the pregnancy fluffiness to have a bone fide baby bump.  The verdict is still out when it comes to my Chinese friends though.  My butcher told me last week that I looked skinnier.  Our landlord told me I looked fatter.  Not pregnant.  Fatter.  But that's a pretty common remark from people around here.  I had to quit getting offended a long time ago.

The verdict is also still out on the gender of our Lao San (that's how you delineate the 3rd child in Chinese).  According to Chinese wives tales, if you're craving salty, then it's a boy.  Spicy means it's a girl.  Well, if anyone has ever eaten popcorn with me, you know that it doesn't take a baby to make me want salty food.  So on one hand it's a boy.  But the Chinese also say that if you have a dream that the baby is one gender, then it means the baby is actually the other gender.  My dreams would indicate I'm having a girl.  Either way, we'll be thrilled.  Our plan is to find out when we're in Thailand next month since it's not standard procedure in China for doctors to tell you.

In other news, our Christmas craziness officially kicked off this weekend.  My marathon weekend involved an overnight house guest, an all-morning baking extravaganza, picking up seven extraordinarily excited college visitors from the train station, helping them exchange money & get checked into their hotel, buying a block of cheese in order to break a 100 kuai bill so I could take the bus home, and then hosting a 3 hour party.  And that was just Saturday!

In classic Becky-in-the-kitchen form, I burned my snickerdoodles.  And I put too many on the cookie sheet so they all ran together and looked like squares.  I really only make cookies once a year so it shouldn't surprise me that something would go wrong.  Did that stop me from serving them? No, it did not.  Do I feel bad about it?  No, I most certainly do not.

My crowning achievement, if I may say so myself, was my Christmas tree cake, suggested by my oh-so crafty friend Rachel.  Just bake a cake, dye some frosting green, give it some sprinkle fun, and slap on half a Snickers bar for a trunk.  The cake was inhaled by our guests in about 3 and a half minutes.  I even saw one girl walk off munching on the trunk, which elicited Meg Ryan's voice from "You've Got Mail" chiding Tom Hanks at a party: "That is a garnish!  You're eating the garnish!"  

We loved hanging out with some dear Chinese friends and meeting new ones as well.

But let's be honest...the main attraction at our party had to be the boys.  Now 30 more people in our city have at least a dozen pictures of my children stored on their cell phones.  What they do with these pictures, I'm not entirely sure, but they surely do love taking them. At one point, I had put the boys to bed, turned off their bedroom light, and shut the door for them to go to sleep.  I knew that the chances of them actually sleeping was slim to none with all the commotion going on, but I thought it was at least worth a try.  About ten minutes later, mobs of party guests started parading through the boys' room for another photo opp.  Then someone just picked them up out of their beds and brought them back to the party, where they proceeded to be fed copious amounts of cookies & sweets.  If I was any other kind of mom, that would probably have driven me absolutely batty.  But I figured it was just one night, they weren't going to sleep anyway, and they really were enjoying all the friends.  Plus I think their footie pajamas are so very cute. 

This coming week will be nearly as busy, which is why I should probably end this blog and head to bed.  And so I shall!

Friday, December 16, 2011

To the Top of Diamond Head

As if our lighthouse hike wasn't enough, we set off for Honolulu's famous extinct volcano, Diamond Head, a day or so later.  This time, my brother Mark was the haas and carried Micah up the 1 km hill.

We had to share the viewing deck at the top with a group of high school kids, but that didn't ruin the beauty of it.

The house where we stayed was somewhere in that direction.

But the house where we'll stay next time is most certainly in this direction.  Right, Kev? 

More climbing, more of Sam getting addicted to the Ergo, more family pictures taken while facing the sun, more fun time with the coolest people ever that I'm thrilled to call my familia.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Most Welcome Mix-Up

My mom brought a few Hawaii tourism books with her so we could maximize our tourist time.  We decided that we wanted to take a trip to the north side of the island, which is known for its tall waves and roadside shrimp trucks.  We used her book to pick out a beach the day before, and the next morning, all piled into the car, prepared for a long drive to the north shore.  Twenty minutes later, we were there.  That was our first clue that perhaps we weren't at the north shore.

A certain member of my family (who shall remain nameless) had read the charts in the book wrong and had in fact chosen a beach for us located on a completely different side of the island.  No matter, though, since it ended up being one of the best beaches and best days we had.

There weren't really many dramatic or funny stories from the day.  Just us hanging out on the beach.  So rather than bore you with silly captions, I'll just let the pictures convey our day.

Like I mentioned before, our boys are obsessed with the water.  So much so that if we took them away from the waves for even a moment, it resulted in major crisis.  But it's hard work keeping two babies from drowning themselves in the ocean, hard work that we were not willing to exert for the entire day.  So Kevin, being the amazing father that he is, decided to build them their own swimming pools.  Dig a hole, insert floatie, fill with water, insert child...hours of fun.

My brother & Kevin spent a decent amount of time building a pretty impressive sand castle.  When they were done, Kevin gave Micah "How to Destroy a Sand Castle" lessons.  Then we let him loose.  Fun times were had by all.

And that's the story of our "North Shore" beach day.  Not quite the famed North Shore but who really wants 8 foot waves when you can teach a two-year old how to obliterate sand castles?