Tuesday, December 27, 2016

First Christmas in Wamena

A few days ago we celebrated our first Christmas in Wamena! We forgot to take a cute family photo in front of the Christmas tree, but here are the kids:

Ariella enjoying homemade peppermint stick ice cream.

Zoe eating it too! A friend brought us candy canes from the US to put in it!

I forgot to take a picture of Zach eating ice cream. Here he is with his hands in bandages and socks with thumb-holes (for sucking). I'll explain in a bit why his hands were bandaged...

A note about firsts...
I have had "first" Christmases for quite a few years now:
2015 First Christmas in Nampa, Idaho, waiting for Zechariah to be born.
2014 First Christmas in Nashville, TN, waiting for my nephew David to be born and then actually being present for his birth.
2013 First Christmas in Nabire, Papua, Indonesia, in our new home there with 1-month-old Ariella.
2012 First Christmas in Sentani, Papua, Indonesia, where we were living temporarily. 1-year-old Zoe was oh-so-cute that year. Earlier that month I miscarried her younger sibling.
2011 First Christmas in Salatiga, Central Java, Indonesia while we were in language school. This was Zoe's first Christmas and I made cookies to bring to our neighbors and went to the city-wide sunrise service.
2010 First Christmas in Apple Creek, OH (not Daniel's first Christmas there, but mine). We celebrated with Daniel's family and had so much fun picking out a tree from a Christmas tree farm while it was snowing!
2009 First Christmas in St. Louis, Missouri. We were there preparing to volunteer at Urbana. This was also our first Christmas married.
So I have to go back to 2008, when Daniel and I were newly dating, to have a Christmas in New England. Time is just flying by! Every year since getting married I have celebrated Christmas in a different place!

And back to this year...

We had a quiet Christmas, mostly at home, after poor Zach burned his hands on the oven door on Christmas Eve (when we had friends over for dinner, of course). He was doing so well that we did venture out of out house to the afternoon Christmas service in the little building on our housing complex. Here is a photo I took after church...we have 6 babies (age 1 and younger) in our expat community right now. Zach is the 3rd oldest, the biggest/heaviest, one of 4 boys, and one of 2 Americans. Here they are with their dads:

babies from L to R: Marie, Melody, Marc, Brett, Zechariah, Jesse.

Christmas morning I enjoyed re-reading the Christmas story from the Jesus Storybook Bible, opening gifts (especially watching the girls open their gifts), and FaceTime with extended family. And we played with new games and started reading new books. It is easy for me to romanticize the Christmases of my childhood, and long for the excitement that I felt about Christmas as a child (and having other people do all of the cooking, cleaning, present-buying and wrapping, etc). Now at Christmastime I think a lot about how Mary may have felt, as Jesus' mom. And I think of the fear and awe that the shepherds felt and how truly good the news was that the angels proclaimed.

"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you; You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. ...Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." -from Luke 2:10-14

Christmas is about so much more than my family, my community, and the place where and ways that I celebrate. I need this good news of great job more and more each year. And this Savior is for all people! He is for me and for you, for the people who are easy for me to love, and the people who I struggle to get along with, for those who are generous and those who take advantage of others... He is for all the people. And I am grateful and filled with awe that God chose to enter my world-our world- as a poor and helpless baby.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Zoe's first Christmas play

Zoe was an angel in her first-ever Christmas play tonight! Kindergartners and other homeschoolers were invited to participate in the play (even though the school here is grades 1-8). This meant that Zoe got to attend rehearsals for the last couple of weeks. She was so excited to be a part of the play—I wish I had a video of her smiles and giggles. And she swayed/danced to the music during most of the songs. It reminded me of how I bobbed my head to the beat during school music performances at Zoe’s age. Ariella and I sat in the front row right in front of Zoe. Ariella enjoyed watching and being bounced on my lap during the songs. Daniel, Zach, and some of the other babies were in the back and the nearby hallway. I think this was a great introduction for Zoe to the school where she will attend starting in August! We had lots of yummy food to eat outside afterwards, and the neighbors even set off some fireworks. What a fun night!

All ready to start!



Zach is on the right, friends Brett on the left and Marc in the middle.

Baby fun area

I love my girls! :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

11 months old already!

Eleven months is getting very close to one year! Zach now pulls up on everything, and can walk along the couch holding on. He likes to pull things off the Christmas tree, crawl all over the house, and crawl right out the door. He says "uh oh," "da da," "ma ma," and "hi." He also may have said "rice" when we were eating that the other night. He imitates lots of sounds, yells, laughs, and generally enjoys life.

Look what I found!

Yum! Strawberries!

Story time before bed.

Standing up in bed.

Pulling flowers apart outside. "Zachy, those are flowers, not food." (Ariella)

Look who is escaping while sister dances!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Giving Thanks

Well, Thanksgiving Day has come and gone here, and the next day has too (though my friends in the US may be just starting Black Friday shopping).

This has been a full week for us. On Monday we flew to Sentani and drove to Jayapura for our annual trip to the Immigration office. At Immigration we each had our photo taken, and they also like to take our fingerprints (with a little electronic machine). We each got a different amount of fingerprinting done...they didn't even try to take Zach's fingerprints (thanks!), Ariella's were too small to work (though they tried for a while), Zoe's left thumb was used for every print, after one failed try they decided that my fingerprints from last time would work well for me, and they got all of Daniel's fingerprints without too many re-tries. We actually were in and out of the office in record time! We had a late lunch at KFC. The play area was nice, and about half of the things on the menu were available. In the afternoon the girls had a fun time playing with friends who they don't get to see very often.

Tuesday was another travel day, as we flew home. I really enjoy the scenery when we fly!

Wednesday we celebrated Ariella's 3rd birthday. I host preschool at my house most Wednesday mornings, so we had cake and ice cream at preschool and invited friends over to help us eat more cake and ice cream at dinner time.

Thursday we had a non-traditional Thanksgiving. Holidays away from family are hard for me. Some people work very hard to make the same foods and to make the holidays feel familiar. I didn't have energy for that this year. Daniel took time off and we invited friends who are visiting Wamena to go to White Sands (a place with lots of....you guessed it...white sand) where the kids had fun playing and exploring while we talked. Right as we were turning into the driveway to park at White Sands, a family on a motorcycle tried to pass us on the outside of the road. I am so thankful that no one was hurt in the accident that ensued, and that the vehicles were barely damaged. Zoe is still processing with me her thoughts about what happened, how to prevent it (there was nothing we could have done!), and about the people who fell off their motorcycle. Driving in a place where there are no enforced traffic laws can be a little bit scary.

We had pancakes for dinner.

Today--Friday--we decorated for Christmas. I love seeing the kids' wonder and delight at the lights and tree! Daniel found the nails already installed on the porch for hanging lights. Zach looked pretty interested when he woke up from his nap to see the Christmas tree. This will be his first Christmas! I cooked a little chicken with some onions and potatoes in the crock pot, hoping that would feel enough like a normal Thanksgiving meal to seem special.

Tomorrow I plan to bake a pie and take it to a Thanksgiving dessert get-together in the evening.

And that is my week! My emotions have been up and down. I miss family and friends. I miss being a kid and playing games at my grandparents' houses on holidays. Being an adult is tiring and sometimes I feel like a failure at it. I also miss seasons. Fall is gone and some places even have snow, but I'm still living in eternal summer.

The inside of my house looks like Christmas. Outside the rain is pounding on green grass and flower beds filled with blooming flowers including zinnias, dahlias, cosmos, forget-me-nots, impatiens, salvia,and amaryllis. This is a beautiful place to live. I like having a slower pace of life and having time and regular interactions with my neighbors and co-workers. I love that my husband is able to provide much-needed help to people who live in hard-to-reach places and might otherwise be overlooked.

I have been encouraged by these verses from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 in the Bible:
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
I like that it says to give thanks IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances. I don't need to be thankful that I most likely won't see my extended family for at least another year. But while I'm missing them, I can give thanks for the things that I am thankful for: 3 years already with my Ariella, Zoe's growth and thoughtfulness, Zach's new things: a 7th tooth and pulling up, Daniel's partnership in this sometimes-crazy life, my God who loves me, flowers, rain, friendship, hope, health, Christmas decorations, being alive...
When I feel homesick, sad, left out, incompetent, I try to remember to breathe. Breathe in and out...give grace to myself and others, give thanks to God in the midst of my swirling emotions and circumstances...

I know that my feelings of homesickness pale in comparison to the depths of grief that some of my friends are experiencing right now. My feelings of apprehension regarding driving here (actually, I have only ridden along, not driven a car since arriving here 8 months ago) also are not very bad compared to the fear and terror that others are going through. Some people may tell you that God has caused the circumstances that are filling you with grief or fear. I am not so sure about that. I don't believe that God causes evil. What I have written today is mostly about the small details of my life and feelings. I hope that if you are reading this and are in a time of deep pain or struggle, you will understand that you do not need to be thankful FOR the circumstances that are hard. Choose instead to be thankful for something while IN the midst of your circumstances.

Something that I think will help me to enjoy these holidays away from family is to invite someone or some family over to share them with. May I have the eyes to see who else is a little bit down or lonely.

Decorating the Christmas tree with 2 cute elves.

Story time tonight.

Some of my flowers in the rain.

Birthday girl. :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

On the eve of Ariella's 3rd birthday

Exactly three years ago I was heading to the hospital to birth Ariella. It was almost 2 weeks past my due date, and I was very relieved to be finally having contractions and about to meet my little girl.

Tonight I kissed my 2-year-old goodnight for the last time...tomorrow I will kiss my 3-year-old.

My Ariella gives the squeezy-est hugs, loves to be read to, enjoys swinging, jumping on a trampoline, playing with her big sister, snuggling, painting, playing in the dirt, chasing frogs, and catching worms. She is interested in all sorts of animals. 

Here is a little bit about her in her own words (I interviewed her this afternoon):

•What is your name? Ari-yell-a

•How old are you? 2

•When is your Birthday? My birthday is in 12, and I’m gonna get in 12 and have a number 12 because I’m gonna get 12.

•How old is Mommy? You’re uh 6.

•How old is Daddy? Daddy’s 2.

•What is your favorite color? My favorite color is is is is…pancakes. Uh I think it’s cake.

•What is your favorite food? Uh…honey sandwich and snack. Can I have a snack?

•What is your favorite book? Uh…A Snowy Day. (The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats)

•Who is your best friend? Uh, uh…Ellie Chin. (Ellie is one of her sister’s friends.)

•What is your favorite show? Super Why

•What is your favorite movie?  Super Why

•What is your favorite song? Uh, Mommy and Uncle Joy.

How does that song go? “uncle joy, mommy mommy, It goes like this.” (In a sing-song voice…first time I’ve heard this one.)

•What is your favorite animal? Shawn the Sheep

•What are you scared of? I’m scared of of of of of of of of of if there’s dark. Because you know that I wike dogs. Do you wike dogs?

•What makes you happy? Uh…Everest.

•Where is your favorite place to go? Uh, Indonesia.

•What do you want to be when you grow up? Uh, uh, use your computer.

•What is Mommy's favorite thing to do? Uh, use your computer (that’s what I’m doing now, writing her answers).

•What's Daddy's favorite thing to do? Take off the fire with Ariella. And then take off Mommy’s fire. (I’m confused about this, something about the fire place in our house.)

•What does love mean? Love means nighty-night.

last night as a 2-year-old!

Waiting with Zoe for our flight yesterday.

A little bit blurry, but such sweet smiles

 This year Ariella got to welcome a baby brother into our family and move (back) to Indonesia. Big transitions! It will be fun to see what the coming year has in store us, and how she will grow. We love her so much!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Our weekend getaway and Zach is 10 months old

Last weekend Daniel flew our family to the city of Timika to spend the weekend at the lovely Rimba hotel. This was our first real vacation since moving to Wamena 8 months ago, and it was fun to do something special together as a family. We chose to stay at the Rimba hotel because we heard that the pool was nice, and it didn't disappoint us. Zoe and Ariella loved playing in the water!

With 3 small kids, we kept our schedule very simple:

We woke up.
We enjoyed the breakfast buffet.
I went to the pool with Zoe and Ariella while Daniel stayed at the hotel room during Zach's morning nap.
Zach and Daniel joined us at the pool after naptime.
We went back to our hotel room to change out of swimsuits, and then ate lunch at the hotel restaurant.
Afternoons were filled with naptime and sometimes Zoe played outside at the playground or walked around with Daniel or with me.
After naps we went for a walk and then to dinner at the hotel.
Then we went back to our room, played games and read stories, and put the kids to bed.
Daniel and I hid in the bathroom for a while. I read while he worked on writing a novel.
And then we slept too.

Sisters "reading" together
The bathroom
I think that I would have liked to do other things (like sit by the pool in the afternoon, go for more extensive walks, etc) if I was there without my little ones, but this vacation was relaxing! And I really enjoyed the pretty flowers, butterflies, fountain and other lovely features at the hotel. Beauty is refreshing too!
"fishing" in the lily pond
pretty fountain!
I love these blue flowers (and this girl)!

Flying with Daniel to and from Timika (with stops at interior villages) was fun! Here is a photo of us at Qwijawigi.
Zach was their favorite person to meet.
Flying with my husband!

On Monday, the day we returned from our little getaway, Zach turned 10 months old. He is crawling quickly now, eating lots of food, and playing with everything. He is a champion hair-puller and loves to chase us around the house, sometimes trying to chew on our feet! Zechariah is continuing to grow, and weighs almost 25 pounds. I love how interactive he is, communicating with sounds, clicks, smiles, laughter, and hand motions. I am told that he pulled himself up a few days ago, but have yet to see it myself. He loves taking baths and playing with his sisters. I feel blessed to have had another fun month with my precious baby boy! (Though at the same time, I find parenting 3 kids to be very overwhelming!) You are special to us, Zach!
So much exploring to do!
Let's take a photo all together....

Friday, October 7, 2016

Zach is 9 months old!

It's hard to believe that Zechariah is 9 months old already! He has now spent as much time out of the womb as he did growing inside of me. He is crawling now, playing with and getting into new things each day, and trying to eat everything he finds with his 6 teeth. He still loves his big sisters and everyone who looks at him and smiles at him. He adores the lady who cleans my house and babysits him when I go running. He claps his hands (and will do it when I sing "if you're happy and you know it!"), makes all kinds of noises, and yells when he wants more food (I guess that's how you get noticed when you have a distracted mom and 2 noisy big sisters), and grabs everything. We love this chubby, sweet baby so much!