Monday, April 7, 2014

March highlights

This is the HOT time of year. And dry. And dusty. And sticky. The kind of weather that makes you want to live in water. However, do you know what makes THIS March & April so much more wonderful than LAST year? I'm not in my third trimester! AND our power outages have been so infrequent! Amazing! All through March I was thinking, "You think this is hot, Nica? Just's not even April yet." Well, now it's April! And, it's hot. This picture makes me laugh. It feels true!

 I'm not sure if he'll hate me for this photo in the future, BUT. I AM SO PROUD OF WESLEY!!!
This has been such a month of change and development for him! I can't believe it! He's really caught on to potty training!!! No more negotiating with us for more candy. ("1 skittle if you go on the potty, Wes." "TWO candies." "Okay, fine. Two skittles." "Three candies." "You're pushing it, kid!" haha)
He now just tells us "pee pee" and we make a bee-line for the toilet!
This does, however, require Joe and I to always be on guard. For those brave times we take him out in public, we need to always be on guard for where the toilets are. When we went out with Carol (see below pics) we forgot to ask in advance where the toilet was, and when he told us he needed to go, although he was running beside his daddy as fast as his little legs would go, he didn't make it in time and he had an accident. He was embarrassed and it was SO cute. I just love seeing him grow up.
Way to go, Wes!!!

PS...sitting backwards on the toilet was Auntie Sheila's idea. It works great!

We had a friend from Shanghai come to Phnom Penh for business and we were so lucky to snag her for an evening! We met up with Carol at her hotel, went swimming, had dinner, and got a way-too-brief chance to see her again! She was a huge encouragement to me through my pregnancy with Wes, and was a big part of his first year, so she was so excited to see him again, as well as meet Briana!


It was our first time to swim in an infinity pool! So fun!


Another great way to stay cool: enjoy air conditioned play areas! This is also something that the kids and I do on Saturday mornings while Daddy studies Khmer. An activity that both Wes & Bria love! It's so cute to see them enjoying the same things! :)

We're sad, though. We went there last Saturday and they were tearing down the play area, hauling the rides away one by one. A different owner, so the toys are leaving. We'll have to find another Saturday AM hang out. These pictures are extra special now!

I noticed the ice cream horns after I took the photo. I thought it was funny!

holding Wes' ice cream cone while he played in the bouncy castle.

Sharing a ride together! --the last time they would enjoy these rides. (sob)

Of course, we always have entertainment in our home!
The boys love coming over to play with Wes & enjoy our pool.

I love watching them play together!

Some places in Cambodia make me feel like I'm not in Cambodia. 
This new coffee shop is one of them. 
A fabulous bakery, great wifi, and even a wonderful playground for kids! It's where I bought the bagels for Joe's birthday, so I mentioned it to our play group. We met here and the kids had such a wonderful time while us mommies enjoyed great coffee and bought bagels at half price! Score! Hope I can frequent this place again!

Khemrin is Briana's little play date buddy. 
They are so cute together! They both just sit there, making baby talk and stealing each others' snacks. He is also our neighbor, so we get to see him and his mommy frequently! I'm so happy to have met English speaking friend on my street...with babies the same age! God is so good!
a heart-to-heart with my baby girl.

The adorable Khemrin!

Khemrin & his mommy, my friend, Katherine.

15 years ago (yes, I'm old enough to actually say that!) I chipped a tooth playing baseball. (Never was good at that hand-eye coordination stuff.) Unfortunately the cap came off and I had to find a dentist here (the kind of thing I put off until I absolutely have no choice.) I must say, I was pleasantly surprised! A beautiful high-rise in the center of town (probably 1 of about 4 or 5 high-rises. It's not a big city!), squeaky clean offices, staff that speak English, and pleasantly affordable! One of my friends recommended I go here. She said it's the kind of place where she would take tourists who come to visit her, just to get their teeth cleaned. I don't know if I would go that far, but the dental care really was fantastic, the view of the city was pretty beautiful (as beautiful as this city gets!) and yes, if you want to get dental work done when you come to visit us, I now know where to take you. ;)

The view of the city with the palace and Mekong River in the background, taken from the dental waiting room.

It's common that our neighbor boys show up just as I'm preparing dinner. 
Sometimes they find what I'm doing SO intriguing that they can't help but want to help me (like making tortillas) and then I laugh as they try. This boy, Ratanak, told me as I was showing them how to roll a tortilla, (he speaks some basic English), "Everything you do is different!" haha, I suppose that's true! He also remembered how to use my garlic press and was proudly showing the other boys how to use it, too. He said, "You have everything to make it easy!" I guess I don't realize how true that is. Even though my neighbors would be considered middle class, they often surprise me with their limited knowledge. 
One day I came down the stairs to my office to find a neighbor lady looking through my refrigerator. I thought it was so strange that she would be looking at our food, and I asked my housekeeper to tell her to please stop. I found out they don't have a fridge, and she wanted to see what one looked like on the inside and how it worked. THAT'S why they always have meat drying on chairs and tables outside! I just don't think about these things. They still use flower-pot-style clay pots and charcoal for cooking. They burn rubber tires to get the fire started. Yes, it smells terrible! This is what they are used to, and this is what they still do. No wonder they look at all my fancy kitchen gadgets (oven, fridge, even a garlic press) in wonder. It's moments like that when I stop and thank the Lord for blessing me with SO much. Maybe not a lot in comparison with North American standards (no shiny red Kitchen Aid, no bread machine, no dryer.) But the simplicity of these beautiful people have me thanking the Lord for beginning to mend this war-torn country and raise up a generation that won't need to live in fear of poverty, death, starvation, or illness. It's a long process, and these things are still rampant, and yet we are moving forward. One garlic press at a time. haha

Here is Ratanak feeding Briana. He was one of the first people we met on our street when we moved here! He is a special boy! Pray for him, that the Bible stories that he sees in English on our TV (and he translates into Khmer for his friends) will become true in his heart and that our resurrected & living GOD will stir within his heart a passion to know Him, the same GOD of those stories, personally! He is a natural leader.

My baby girl...8 months old. Such perfect posture!

Take baby to work, day! :)
Bria was helping me prepare for a meeting and I had to take a picture. 
So grateful for my online job that allows me the flexibility to work and be a mom at the same time!

We have a lot of these little guys around our house.
Wes is very intrigued by them and loves to try to catch them.
I caught one on film, getting rid of a little bug for me!

So, thanks for praying with us through this month, and not forgetting about us! :)
We love you all and think of you so often. Looking forward to seeing you this summer!

Joe, Nica, Wes, & Bri

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Happy 35th!!

I count down the days till Joe's birthday. I can't wait to celebrate him! I carefully plan to make sure everything is perfect, I secretly prepare little special surprises for him and do my best to keep them secret. It's difficult to plan anything without him knowing, but I do my best. I was determined that my secret gift would not backfire like it did last year.

(Last year Wes and a pregnant me escaped via tuk tuk to purchase some potted plants that would be delivered to our home, carried up to our roof, and arranged to begin what we were hoping would become a small oasis on our roof. My plan was to bring Joe upstairs to surprise him with the beauty of my creation when he came home from work. However. The tuk tuk was in an accident on its way to our home and by the time my plants were delivered, there were broken branches, clay pots, and dirt everywhere. The driver was so apologetic. I gave him money to go buy more clay pots and we began the process of salvaging and transplanting in our driveway. By the time Joe came home, the plants were still being carried up to our roof, trails of dirt left all throughout our house, and the PPBS faculty were scheduled to arrive in just a few minutes for a fun evening together, which just happened to fall on Joe's birthday. Joe walked into the house and said, "What is going on?? Isn't everyone supposed to be here soon? Where's the mop?"
Yes, that birthday gift, although appreciated later, was a bit of a flop.) Not to mention that the power was going out 5-7+ hours a day last year. Try baking a birthday cake that way. Not an easy task.

THIS year, I planned ahead, had my gift ordered in plenty of time, managed to take both kids out shopping without Joe knowing, and we were ready. 

However. The morning of his birthday:

- The refrigerator broke. I had to call the repair guy.
- The internet went out. I had to call the repair guy. 
- Both repair guys showed up at the same time, at which time the power went out, at which time the baby work up from her nap, at which time Joe called to see how my day was going. 
- The repair guys FINALLY got our generator going when the power came back on and they had to turn it off.
- The fan in the living room broke. I had to have it sent out for repairs.
- The power blinked out 3 times, making baking the brownies a challenge.
- The company called me to say that they made the wrong beanbag chair that I had ordered. Did I want to wait a few days for them to make the correct one? Or have them bring the wrong one?

Joe's day was similar to my own:
- The evening before his birthday, his back pack was stolen. In it was his Greek text book for the class he's currently in, two sweaty dress shirts, and two English text books he uses to teach his ESL classes.
- He had to write a big Greek exam. He'd gotten up at 4 AM to make sure he would be ready. The font wasn't installed properly, and when his proctor printed off the exam, what should have been Greek text, was only square boxes. By the time the font was re-installed, there wasn't time to write the test. Augh!
- It poured rain that morning. It hasn't rained in months! He got drenched as he biked to school to teach.

The good news is, by the time Joe came home at 3 PM: 
- he realized he had a .pdf for his Greek text that had been stolen!
- he was able to replace the 2 ESL text books in time for the class he had to use them for
- he had written his Greek exam and felt surprisingly good about it!
- the power had stayed on long enough for me to finish all my baking!
- the refrigerator, internet, and fan were all repaired!
- the house was clean, ready for small group (which we host every Friday night, which just happened to also fall on his birthday)
- our decorations the kids and I had made were hung up and complete!
- both babies were sleeping!
- the house smelled of his chosen birthday dinner cooking! (sausage on a bun with sauerkraut. haha)
- Joe's birthday gift (the correct one I had ordered) was scheduled to be delivered after small group was finished!

So, we had a great day, after all! 
So many random things happened, I just had to write them all down. 

I love doing life with you, Joey! I'm so glad we get to enjoy the craziness of life together! :D

Here are a few pics of our day to remember those special moments. :)

I left a surprise breakfast of bagels and cream cheese out for Joey for when he woke up super early to study (I had to ask around to see if/where bagels and cream cheese were sold. I was referred to a bakery and Wes, Bria, and I slipped away one afternoon by tuk tuk to find it and sneak it home for daddy!) What a fun surprise for him...that we all got to enjoy! :)

 Here is Wes putting his finishing touches on the sign we made.
Wes REALLY wanted to put a "4" between the 3 & 5. I had to cut out a 4 as well. He couldn't understand why we didn't hang it on the wall, too. lol

Ready to dig in to yummy food!

Joe was one happy guy when he opened up Wes' gift to him and discovered his favorite: Bic pens! He had been looking for them around the city. A perfect gift for my teacher-husband! :)

I used Joe's birthday as an incentive to frame some family photos.

And here is the bean bag chair we got him! I didn't get any photos of it, but upon delivery, Wes & a neighbor boy were jumping and doing flips on was great fun! This is Wes enjoying it in a more calm state.

Bria likes it, too!

And the birthday boy enjoys his gift, too!
I moved it up to the office and transformed our office into a sort of den so that we could have a place where we can all escape the heat when we just need some good air con! I has been a perfect haven from the 40+*C (100+*F) we've been having. phew!

The next day he gave ME roses...just because he was grateful for all that I did to make him feel special on his day, which makes me want to honor him more. And the circle of love and giving just keeps going.
I'm so grateful to have this man in my life. Every day is sweet because he's in it. Every moment I'm with him is anticipated and cherished and I wish it wouldn't end. I find myself counting down the hours & then minutes till he gets home from work, and I just can't believe that I am so blessed to have him in my life and journey through the next 35+ years with him. 

I love you, Joey! Happy birthday! 


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Briana at 8 months

I love this little sweetheart SO much. 8-9 months old is special for me, because in my brain it marks the end of the length of time I was pregnant with her. Let me tell you, the months of pregnancy go by SO MUCH SLOWER than the months I get to enjoy with her in person. I love her giggles, her expressions, the way she gets SO excited when I walk into the room. She's won my heart and I see every day with her as a gift. 

You can't tell from these photos, but I felt like I had gone through a war zone throughout this photo shoot. Wes was SO hyper! Jumping on my back, in front of the camera, all over the couch, grabbing the camera, etc etc. It was really quite amusing how exhausted I was after taking just a few photos! (well, I took 111, actually. That's how many attempts it took to just get the few photos I'm sharing with you here.)

Hope you enjoy!

Think they're related?

Can't wait for you all to see her in person again! Photos are just teasers. 

Love you all!

Joe, Nica, Wes, & Bri