Thursday, May 31, 2012

Moab 2012

We just got back from our annual Moab trip, and it was so much fun! We were brave and decided to do an 8-hour road trip with a baby. She did great except for about 1 hour of the drive. During that one hour of unhappiness, I swore I'd never travel again, but once I got in to beautiful Moab, I forgot all about the crying.

We didn't do much after we arrived; just took a stroll around the neighborhood and ate some pizza. The next day, we hiked up Negro Bill Canyon to the end, where there is a large bridge (a kind of arch) called Morning Glory. It's one of the first things I ever did in Moab years ago, and one of my favorites. You're under tall canyon walls, and it's so lush and cool down by the stream.

After our hike, we took Alexandra to her very first swimming pool. When she first got in the water, she didn't like it, but once she got warmed up a little and we put her in a floaty device, she loved it. The beginning of many fun years in the water.



That night, Mike and I proved our true stamina with three desserts - milk and Oreos followed by ice cream cones in town and shave ice from a truck. Quote of the night: "Even hobbits don't know about third desserts."

On Tuesday, we went to Sand Dune Arch where the kids played and we continued on to Broken Arch, where I conquered the arch. (My feat looks much more impressive than it actually is.)



Then yesterday we drove far, far out to Klondike Bluffs and hiked to Tower Arch. If you have been looking for a place to die where no one will ever find your body, this is the place to do it. That night we went to Slickrock to watch the sunset. My other favorite.

On this trip, Alexandra had many firsts. She got her first tooth - hooray! She got her first sunburn. She waved for the first time. She ate meat for the first time. And she started babbling.



We were a little worried about how she would handle all the action with her five cousins, but the verdict is she loved it. She was excited and happy the whole time she was with them. Now she's back home with her two old introverted parents and bored to death. I guess we better have another kid!


Friday, May 25, 2012

Of On-Ramps and Genies.

I'm scared of merging onto highways. From the time I was a teenager and first learning to drive until now, 18 years later, my knuckles get white and I have to stop any conversation going on in the car to concentrate while I pray, "Please, God, don't let me die!" It's pretty silly.

Now that I often have Allie in the backseat, my prayers become even more fervent, "Please, God, don't let Alexandra die!", which I noticed last night as I drove us back from a baby shower in Denver and repeatedly turned to prayer.

But driving home last night, I noticed a tendency I have when praying like this - a guilt creeps in and says, "You shouldn't only be coming to God with your requests and making God your genie." I've heard so many sermons on prayer and how we ought not turn God into our genie - only ever approaching him with our grocery list of requests and not also and first approaching him with praise and thanksgiving.

I think it's very true that our relationship with God shouldn't be one-dimensional; it shouldn't only be us asking and asking and asking for what we want. But now I realize that my brain has taken this advice and applied it to the extreme - feeling guilty for turning to God in prayer when I am scared and vulnerable.

Lately, I've been reading through the book of John in the Amplified version. Every time Jesus says "believe in me," which is a lot, the Amplified version also says "cleave to me." Every time I read "cleave to me," I think of the cover of some adventure/romance novel with a girl clinging to the chest of a Fabio-esque man and one leg popped behind her. I'm fairly sure this is not the exact image Jesus had in mind. But all the same, it's the picture that keeps flashing in my head each morning.

The covers of romance novels make me want to puke. But sometimes I think I could use a little more of the helpless heroine in me. I'm quick to be strong and independent and loath to be a clingy sap. But in prayer, we aren't strong and independent. In prayer, we are acknowledging our true state - in need and helpless before God.

And so many verses come flooding into my head about how God really does hear our prayers. "Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice." (Psalm 55:17)

David was far less scrupulous about making God a "genie" than he was simply desperate and in need and fell before God for help. That is who I want to be like. Not a strong, independent woman too proud to admit need, and not a legalistic Pharisee, stopping up prayer if not done in the "proper" way. I want to have hold of my true situation, in need of God at every turn in life. And so, I will keep my on-ramp prayers and maybe even pop one leg behind me.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Neighbors

A little encounter with our neighbors on an afternoon walk.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Shower for Jett

This weekend, my sister and I threw a shower for our other sister in honor of our new little nephew from Korea who will be coming here later this year. It was so much fun, and now I'm only sad it's over. My sister loves all things Asian, so we decided on a Korean tea theme.

Alexandra got all dressed up for the occasion.


I put on my dress which I like to pretend is from Korea but is actually from Macy's.


I let out my crafty side and made this diaper cake, which says "love" in Korean.


We hung roughly 2,432 lanterns from the ceiling (or, 25 to be exact), and I made a garland with Jett's name for the mantel.


 We gathered up all the random Asian-esque things from our possessions to decorate.


We made pretty little tea favors for the guests.


We served tea that had been flown all the way from South Korea for the occasion.


We ate lots of food, like sushi, kimchee dumplings, and of course, cake.


We made a wishing tree for everyone to hang their wishes for Jett on.


We played silly shower games, shared why Tara will make such a great mother, and opened lots of presents.


Now we just need Jett to get here and play with Allie!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wanderlust: Kenya, Maasai Mara

*Although I'd like to take credit for all these photos, they were taken by our trip photographer, Louis Batides. 

On the last two days of our Compassion trip to Kenya, we got to go on a safari in the Maasai Mara of southern Kenya. It was wonderful. It was amazing. It was breathtaking. It was far and away one of my favorite things I've ever done. I only wish my husband had been there, and it's one of my life goals to go back to the Maasai Mara or to Tanzania with Michael some day.

First we flew from Nairobi to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in this little plane. I remember looking out over green bumpy lands that looked completely different from anything I'd seen from a plane before.


We checked into Kitchwa Tembo, where we were staying, and it was brilliant. We slept in tents, but it's still the nicest place I've ever stayed. Here's a little view of one of the tents from below...yeah, you can't even see the tent. But trust me, it was amazing. Hot water bottle placed at the foot of your bed right before bed, a beautiful stone shower, and elephants nibbling at your toes in the morning.


Here is our jeep we took out to see all the animals. See me there in the front seat? Don't I look like a natural? Don't you think I should move here? I could be just like Meryl Streep, "I had a farm in Africa." 


We saw pretty much everything but a rhino. My favorite were the cheetahs.  They would sit in grass tufts with their babies and look at us with lazy yet alert eyes. I wanted to hug them.


Newsflash! I forgot something very important: While we were still in Nairobi, I pet a cheetah. We went to a wildlife park with sponsored children who were meeting their sponsors. Not having a child I sponsored, I was wandering around the park alone, when a sinister man from inside an enclosure started calling me and gesturing me into the pen. I was skeptical and kept walking. But later I saw two other intrepid travelers ducking into the cheetah exhibit, so I followed. And here is what ensued: 


They were like big kitty cats.  They purred when you pet them and rubbed against your legs. I want a cheetah.

Back to our regular programming: We also saw gazelles. My other favorite, since my grace has often been compared to that of a gazelle. Also, my big dewy eyes are rather gazelle-like, or so my husband tells me.


We got to drive behind herds of elephants. There is something so magical and grand about an elephant on the plains. It was like we'd driven right into a nature documentary, and it was hard to believe we were really there. 


We saw cute little jackals. I wanted to hug them too. 


I never realized how beautiful zebras were until I saw a herd of their black and white zig-zags on the plains. There seems to be no reason for them to look like this other than God's caprice.


We even saw lions. Lions, Gandalf! They were lying around in the shade, sleeping, like any good cat would be.


And I was surprised at how cute baby hyenas are and almost started to like them. But not quite.


The giraffes were majestic and as hard to believe in as the zebras.


And then there were the hippos. 


Hippos terrify me, and rightly so. We stopped for lunch at a spot above the river, looking out over the plains and down on a large herd of hippos in the river. I remember the bagged lunch dazzled me with how extravagant it was. (Brown bag lunches and tents. I'm easily impressed.) Anyway, we were sent off to relieve ourselves after lunch. I found a nice bush, but no sooner had I prepared myself for the relief of nature that I heard ominous grunting. Loud ominous grunting. It sounded like ten hippos were just yards behind me and about to bite my butt. It's irrational, but I was terrified. Can't-move-my-body terrified. My terror stifled my other natural impulses, and I was rather uncomfortable the remainder of the trip. 

On our way back in late afternoon (I remember feeling like a kid who didn't want to get out of the pool), it started raining hard. So hard that the road washed out in one spot. We watched the drivers get out, survey the roads and scratch their wet heads for many minutes. I thought it was an adventure and maybe we'd have to sleep outside and be eaten by lions and hippos...But we made it across.


That night after dinner, there was a show. The local Maasai tribesmen dance at the lodge to entertain tourists and make some extra cash. They jumped up and down, and I got to dance with the chief.


Looking at these pictures reminds me of how much I loved that safari. If anyone would like to send my husband and I and little Alexandra on an all expense paid trip, please do be in touch.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Two Things

Allie can now eat her feet.



And she's still super cute.

Friday, May 18, 2012

8 Months and Counting!




She's getting rather cute, is she not?

Beijinho de Coco


I wrote another cooking post for Compassion. It was really fun to make these little candies and our small group seemed to really like them, although they are rich and sweet. Check it out here!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wanderlust: Kenya

Growing up, I never dreamed of Africa. I dreamed of castles and European woods and French patisseries. I wanted to travel across Europe, but never once did I think of Africa. It was a blank place in my mind, roughed in only by Sally Struthers and The Heart of Darkness. So when I was able to travel to Kenya with Compassion, I was excited, but had no expectations about what I would find. What I found was one of the most beautiful and welcoming places I'd ever been.


I went on a sponsor tour with Compassion, and we spent our time visiting children's homes. 


Playing with kids who taught me how to break dance.



And, of course, hugging lots of children.


One of the first places we visited were the plains of Olontoto outside of Nairobi. It looked for all intents and purposes like the plains of Eastern Colorado but with an occasional mud home. As our bus pulled up, we saw a long line of red and purple and blue bouncing up and down. Mothers and children had come to greet us, singing and dancing. We piled out of the van and were told to great the children by bending over them and placing a hand on their forehead, saying a phrase which I've long since forgotten. It felt oddly paternalistic, but I did as I was told.

We spent the day playing duck, duck, goose and games the children taught us. Then we visited the children's homes. Their families lived on the wide plains as ranchers. It convinced me then, as I have often been convinced again, that if you must be poor, you should be poor in the country. The home I visited had a traditional home built from dung. It was about 5 feet tall inside and only hosted enough room for a bundle of sticks for a bed and a fire pit. Next to the traditional home was their "modern" home, built from corrugated metal.

We met the family's several wives, and one of them gave me a small beaded ring as a gift. The women were slender and dressed in deep blue. Their height seemed oddly accentuated by their long dangling earlobes. They were quiet with us, but kind, and I wondered at these plains that looked so much like my own Colorado plains, but were so very different.

Other days we visited other communities. One day we visited a Child Survival Program (my personal favorite), which helps moms and babies. Walking to the families' homes, we passed several opulent homes with columns and gardens. Just across a hedgerow was a slum with homes seemingly slapped together with planks and pieces found here and there. The messy streets were filled with children wearing donated clothes covered in holes and dirt. Most of us had a hard time not judging those who owned the opulent homes just next to horrible poverty. Then we found out that one of the homes belonged to a member of the church - the church was composed of some wealthy people who were trying to reach out to their poor neighbors through Compassion. It was humbling.

One day, we visited Kibera. Kibera is famous for being the largest slum in the world. We drove our van through the slum to a church. At the church, kids sang and danced for us and we made crowns together. I decorated a crown for a quiet little girl named Lavender and she made one for me. After playing with the children in this oasis, we went to visit the children's homes.

The paths of Kibera are narrow and muddy. You have to duck and leap to traverse the alleys and dodge holes, muck and stray dogs. Kibera is big, so big that the center of it is too dangerous for even the police to go to. We were only on the outskirts, but all I could think is that I wanted to get out. It was dark and oppressive. I hate saying this about anyone's home, as Kibera is filled with wonderful people as well. But that is how I felt at the time.

We had dinner under the stars outside our hotel one night with Leadership Development students, who are Compassion graduates who go to university. My table got to eat with Silas, a senior who was studying communications. He was hilarious and smart and lively, and it was so odd to think of him coming from Mathare Valley, which is like Kibera, but known even more for its violence. (That same young man is now a coworker of mine and the writer and photographer for Compassion Kenya!)

We went to church on Sunday and I got to slip out to sit with the children in Sunday school. The Sunday school buildings were not up to code. They were wood structures stacked, packed and scrunched with children. Peering in, I thought surely there was no more room for me, but I was looking with American eyes and personal space. I was welcomed in with grabbing and pulling arms of children who all wanted a chance to touch the white girl. A group of girls bunched around me as we listened to the message and they stroked my arms and patted my hair. One girl, after unbraiding my hair and feeling it between her fingers looked deep into my eyes and whispered, "like wheat." 

My overall impression of Kenya was "karibu" - welcome. We visited so many dark places.  But the people I met were the most warm and welcoming of any country I've ever visited. They were the essence of having little but loving much.

to be continued...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Success!

UPDATE: The video should now work!

After nearly two months of offering Alexandra food and having her adamantly refuse to ingest anything other than milk, she finally willingly (and even eagerly) ate food!

video

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Buena Vista Weekend

This weekend we went to Buena Vista for Mothers Day with Mike's parents. A very generous man who was familiar with my book let us stay in his cabin near Nathrop. It was a beautiful, beautiful place, up the canyon with the Chalk Cliffs where Mike and I have hiked in the past. Here's a short video from the deck.

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On Friday we drove in through clouds and on Saturday we woke up to snow! But it melted quickly and became a glorious blue morning with bluebirds and hummingbirds. After enjoying a lazy morning, we went to the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs and enjoyed the pools. They even had natural pools right down in the river!



Then we went for an afternoon stroll in Salida down by the river. We also walked around town, shopping, and eating muffins. Alexandra got these rockin' new sunglasses and was pretty happy with herself.


Then we had dinner in Buena Vista at a tasty new brewery called Eddyline.

This morning, Alexandra couldn't wait to wish us Happy Mother's Day, so she got us up at 5:40 just to say hi. She had a bit of a cranky day and was a little sick in the afternoon, so I was earning my Mother's Day stripes today. But then my husband brought me popcorn in bed (with butter!), and she does something like this (below), and it makes it all better.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Wanderlust: Edinburgh

Before I moved home from Amsterdam in January of 2003, I squeezed in one last trip with my fabulous friend Jen to Edinburgh, Scotland.

No one with an inch of sense would tell you to visit Edinburgh in January, but we were eking out our fun where we could. The hours of daylight were roughly 10 am to 4 pm...with dark, heavy rain in between. The rain and wind constantly battered our ears, so that we began screaming at each other on street corners just to be heard. Rather than brave the cold Scottish nights, we spent much of our time hunkered down in our dodgy hostel or drinking mochas in the local Starbucks. (By the way, it's a pet peeve of a Scotch friend of mine that Americans use the adjective "Scottish" instead of "Scotch." But Scotch just sounds like a drink to me, so I will continue in my ignominious usage.)


Speaking of dodgy hostels, our hostel was down an alleyway off the Royal Mile. It so happened that this alley was a stop on one of the many "Ghost Tours of Edinburgh." So one night, we were eating our dinner of Laughing Cow cheese on crackers on the floor of our hostel room (we know how to live high while traveling!), and we noticed something out the window. Looking down on the dark street, we saw a man in a long black cloak hiding behind a column of a colonnade. He must have seen our movement, so he looked up, and a scary, smiling black mask grinned up at us. As soon as he looked up, we screamed and hit the floor, giggling in fright. We felt better when we  heard screams and peeked out our window to find that the masked man had jumped out to scare a group of tourists on their ghost tours...but only a little better.



We spent our time shopping in Scottish tourist shops and visiting Edinburgh Castle, where we met and took pictures with a very cute foot soldier from Robert the Bruce's army. We visited the Scottish parliament where a very eager old gentleman told us all about the history of the Scottish struggle for representation.


We trekked to the top of Arthur's Seat, where kings were legendarily crowned and where we were nearly blown into the chilly sea below.

And, my favorite, we visited Holyrood Palace, the residence of Mary, Queen of Scots. I did a book report about Mary in middle school and harbored a lingering fascination for her. We stood where she stood and even saw the blood stains where her husband was murdered in her palace.

I loved Scotland. I am a Scot of Convenience: When it is convenient in conversation, I claim my Scotch heritage (at other times, I equally claim to be Irish, French, English, German and so forth). If England felt like visiting my mythical home, Scotland felt like visiting my home's quirky cousin. Often when I am looking out over the stark, high Colorado landscape, I pretend it is the Scottish moors and I am the dark heroine of some adventure. Though Scotland was coupled with Starbucks and ghost tours, it still felt like a land of story, to which I hope to someday return.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wanderlust: England

Ten years ago, while I was living in Amsterdam, I took a trip with several friends to my wonderland: England. All the children's books I read growing up pointed back to this fairy tale home, from Peter Pan to Aslan. It was the home I had always dreamed about but never visited. And home is how it felt when I visited.

I loathe most cities that I visit. What are men to rocks and mountains? But London was the first large city I ever loved. I felt there must be stories hiding around every corner, just waiting to be discovered. Am I over-romanticizing? Certainly! But there are worse crimes.

My memories of London are an amalgam of images. The Tower Bridge straddling the Thames in its imposing manner. The Tower of London with its sinister parapets. A stream of Londoners coursing through Trafalgar Square. Peering through the bars of Buckingham Palace. Big Ben watching over all. Wandering through Westminster Abbey, where I saw the grave of Chaucer and Dickens. Sitting in Parliament, watching the House of Commons debate traffic law. Watching Les Miserables on Picadilly Circus with rowdy tourists in the nose-bleed seats.


But my favorite was Hyde Park, where I suspected if I closed my eyes long enough, a herd of the king's deer would come leaping through, followed by a fox hunt of old. To me, Hyde Park oozed story and history and intrigue.  

From London, we went to Paddington Station, which got me all tittery and looking for bears wearing rain jackets, and took a train to Dover. We saw the white cliffs and the medeival Dover castle gazing across the mist to France.


We traveled on to Canterbury, where the old stone gates greeted us with a Starbucks built into the city wall. We saw Canterbury Cathedral and gazed down at the stones on which Thomas Beckett was murdered.


We traveled on to Oxford where we saw the Bodleian Library, drank coffee in Britain's oldest tea house and attended Evensong at St. Mary's. We attended church at Christ Church College and had a cuppa at the Eagle and the Child.

I loved England. From my home, where the only history is in the rocks, the land felt rich and loamy and steeped in tradition. I reached out my dreamy, childish arms to embrace England, and although it didn't know me, it hugged me back.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Little Girls

This video is for my father-in-law who loves to study the inner workings of babies' brains and figure out why they act how they do. I love seeing how Alexandra interacts with her friend Hadassah. (Editor's note: Alexandra isn't kicking her; this is the constant action she keeps up all day. She really loves kicking her heels together for some reason. Also, she was super tired in this video - way past her bedtime - so she was a little less chipper.)

video

And this video is by request for my sister who gave Alexandra her favorite toy, Oliphant, who she goes to sleep with at bedtime and naptime. It was hard to get a video of it, but usually she nuzzles her face deep into his to go to sleep. This isn't quite it, but you get the picture, hopefully.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

My Jovial Little Girl

Someone recently asked me if we had finished redoing our bathroom. Does this peek into our den/storage facility answer your question?


In other news, Alexandra is still laughing like there is no tomorrow. She seems to be a jovial little girl. She loves to stare into people's eyes and then laugh hysterically when they look back at her. I took her shopping yesterday, and she laughed at nearly everyone we passed. I'm hoping this means she is going to be socially skilled like Aunt Krista, able to make friends with anyone instantly. Here is another clip from the vault of Alexandra laughing at dad videos.

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The best thing is the end of the video when she leans forward. That's her way of showing love - she leans forward and tries to nuzzle you, but generally just covers you in spit.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bam Bam

Alexandra's hair is officially long enough to do the Bam Bam.


The great thing is that when you take her bow out, her hair remains standing on end, like a modified Alfalfa. I can't wait to do all manner of ridiculous things to her hair.