Friday, December 30, 2011

the snail's pace

With so much going on, putting the finishing touches on our little house has taken the back burner. However, call it what you will, third trimester nesting is going into full gear in the boys' room. Last night I painted this little snail to hang over Jude's bed. He loves it:)



I'm embarrassed to write that I got the idea while looking at pictures of Princess Kate online. Yeah. I waste my time doing that sometimes. She painted something similar at an inner city art project. I added a few lines of a good old hymn to mine:)



Next on my list? A large alligator wall hanging to go over the crib:)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

wankaya

The color purple here is the same word for eggplant. It sounds like wankaya. We've been eating a bit of wankaya lately, so I thought I'd share my love for it with you. I first braved cooking eggplant when I lived in Africa. It was cheap and accessible. To my delight, it is here as well.



Our favorite way so far is a shortened version of eggplant marinara. Crushed cracker crumbs mixed with basil and oregano, eggplant dipped in a little egg, fried in a tablespoon or so of light olive oil. Serve with marinara and noodles...and even hubs admits to preferring this dish to meaty spaghetti.

Try it. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

tension

I've been thinking this week about an aspect of life here that I find immensely uncomfortable.

Beggars.

Children stand in the middle of insane traffic jams and reach into the rickshaw to touch my arm and put their hand to their mouth. But they don't want the food I offer, they want money. A few weeks ago, a 5 year old came holding a baby of 8 or 9 months. The baby had already learned to stretch out his hand. Old women with deformed legs sit outside the supermarket and reach up at me when I walk out with bags of groceries. Women my age push their little ones in front of me and sing loudly to draw attention until I reach into my pocket and pull out coins.

Earlier this week, a child of around three stood in front of me for an extended period of time while I tried to explain that I'd already given all my coins away to another girl. All the while, I was feeding Jude pricey goldfish crackers from the import store. When it finally occurred to me to give her some crackers, her mother came back to ask for more "chocolates."

I would love to portray a really godly picture of myself in the midst of all of this. But that wouldn't be true. It is a struggle for me. Sometimes beggars make me sad. Sometimes they do evoke compassion from me. But very often, they make me angry.

I want to tell that 5 year old to return to her mother or whoever sent her into the middle of a dangerous intersection with a baby on her hip and report that I will not reward such foolish manipulation. Her life is at risk because someone else wants money. I won't support it.

I want to tell that woman at the train station that loud music to embarrass me will not force me into giving to an able bodied woman who is using her children as a pawn for gain.

And I want to bend down to that elderly woman begging outside the super market and tell her that she is worth so much more than a few coins and diverted eyes. She shouldn't have to be there at that stage of life.

Let's be realistic, though. These are complicated situations in a society with complex poverty problems. I don't speak the language yet. I don't understand the in workings of the culture. But day after day I am forced to deal with the individual situations. It presses me. It builds a tension within me. It provokes a lot of thought on issues that I should be thinking about but would rather not. The situations themselves require a response...whether or not I feel prepared at that moment to give one.

I had a conversation several years ago with a very wise man who had spent a number of years living in a third world country. His words were less clear cut than what I was hoping for. But when is it ever clear cut when a hungry child is begging in the middle of the street?

He told me that for him feeling tension in the midst of the situations was a sign that he was not calloused to the suffering. I should feel the pull of...this should not be/but it is, so what does a Christ-like response look like? The tension is good and right. I am feeling the tension these days, and am learning to give thanks for it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

pharmaceutical sweets

People are always feeding Jude in public places. If I turn my back in the hallway, the guards put a cookie in his hand. Our landlord stuffs chocolates in his pockets every time he goes into her apartment. And our language teacher brings him traditional sweet rice and dosas all the time. It's a good thing the kid doesn't have any food allergies.



Today we stopped by the pharmacy for a minute. On the way out, unable to resist an opportunity to bestow something on the little man, the pharmacist gave him a Halls cough drop. We just smiled and said thank you....what on earth?

Monday, December 26, 2011

skinny version

Our courtyard held a little fun for Jude last night.



But you don't sit on his knee here...just the standard handshake for kids.



It was the first suit I've ever seen where boots were substituted with sandals:)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

a merry package



Thursday night we received a package from our SS class that weighed about as much as Jude...it was full of the most amazing American foods. I don't know how they knew what to send...but it was cram-packed with comfort foods that we'll be enjoying this Christmas Eve. David unwrapped, Jude started eating before it was even unpacked, and I sat on the couch crying because it was really that sweet.



Jude's favorite part? Candy canes. We haven't seen them at all this year...not even at the import stores! My favorite part? All the handwritten Christmas cards they tucked inside. What a gift!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Safari



We took Jude to the zoo yesterday to enjoy the perfect 75ish weather we've been having this week. It was quite a bit wilder than the good ole Memphis zoo. More open spaces, less cage between us and the animals, and a lot fewer rules about feeding those animals, etc.



He loved every minute!



No wonder, right? It was pretty up close and personal. Please note...this guy is pacing about 2 feet from where we're standing, separated from us only by a chain link fence and bit of over fencing for good measure. Here's a group of school kids peeking in his cage:



Ok. So it might not have been those most wintery activity we could think of...but it was definitely a hit with little man!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

3am

It's 3am and I'm sitting in my moo-moo on the couch looking with love at my flashing Christmas lights. I've been eating some delicious berry Tums...because I'm 6 months pregnant and probably shouldn't eat pizza for dinner any more. But I forgot that in the moment of deep enjoyment at Pizza Hut around 6pm.

I've been reading blogs (yes, I really do read...I just don't comment:) when I had every intention of doing something more productive...or at least picking up A Christmas Carol because somehow it seems better to read Dickens than cooking tips and household details. I decided last year to read dickens every Christmas. I think it's going to be worth it.

This is Christmas break. And I love it!

Christmas Break

Today we had our last language lesson with our tutor until after Christmas. By the end of class, we felt like 5th graders the day before school gets out. Jude's excited about it too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

gift giving


I read a fantastic article the afternoon on Nancy Wilson's blog on gift giving. In case that frustration that always pops up when you're pressing through crowds and fighting traffic about this time in December is making you ask the question "why am I doing this?" Here's an excerpt:

Here’s why we Christians can celebrate Christmas like no one else on the planet. We really do have a reason for all this.

First, the Magi brought Jesus gifts. And they brought Him expensive gifts. Matthew calls their gifts treasures. So gift-giving has always been associated with the story of the Incarnation.

Second, the overwhelming message of the New Testament is that God gives to us so that we can give to one another. The two commandments to love the Lord our God and love our neighbor are like two parts of a whole, like a violin and a bow or a lock and a key. We don’t just love God in our hearts; we love Him by loving our neighbor. These two things are connected. These two commands are a unit. Freely we have received; freely give!

Of course there are ways we can sin in the gift-giving. One way is by being grumpy about it. Or we can sin by giving to our neighbor instead of giving to God, and we can sin by giving to God instead of giving to our neighbor. The Pharisees did this when they didn’t give to their needy parents because they had given the money to God (Mark 7:11).

Christians can buy into the heresy that material things are bad in themselves. This can be a trap for many Christians, because it can sound “spiritual” to say that you are not going to participate in the crowds and the materialism and the crazy gift-giving of Christmas. Some say it isn’t about Jesus at all, but simply about commercialism. So they don’t celebrate Christmas at all. Their kids get no gifts. Instead they say they will give a gift to the poor in lieu of gifts for the kids. This sounds super-spiritual, but it can be just like the Pharisees who called the gift “corban.” Remember the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? When she interrupted the animals having a little Christmas celebration, she called it gluttony and extravagance.

Our relationship to God is mirrored in our relationship with our neighbor, and our family is made up of our closest neighbors. The state of our marriage, our relationship to our kids, and our relationship to our friends and coworkers all reveal the condition of our relationship to God. If we are serious about loving God, we must be serious about loving our neighbors.


Click here for full article. So thankful for her thoughtful article on this topic that is helping me center my heart more on Jesus this Christmas.

Explanatory note: Just in case you're wondering...the elf picture was primarily for grandma-enjoyment. I don't advocate elf-wear or Santa hats as Christ centering paraphernalia, generally speaking:)

Monday, December 19, 2011

my moo-moo & me

I can already tell that our second born will have a lot fewer milestones marked off than his big brother. I 'documented' that first pregnancy a little bit closer...so in an attempt to catch up, here are a few tidbits as I enter the 3rd trimester. (I can hardly believe I've reached the 6 month mark!!!)

1. Marble is very cheap here compared to the states. Thus, it's not uncommon for a building to have all marble floors. Our apartment is no exception. And they are beautiful....but hard. Asians always remove their shoes when indoors and I've been following the practice. Recently though, I decided that my crocs have to be my indoor shoes...to be worn at all times. The marble is killing my preggo feet!


2. My sleeping habits are beginning to reflect 3rd trimester. No more sleeping through the night....for the next year? :)

3. I miss good cheddar cheese so much. It was 50% of my diet with Jude. It's available here...but about 4x as expensive:( The unfortunate substitute for my craving has become lays potato chips. This little guy will be very health conscious, right?

4. After visiting the hospital, I decided to change doctors. I'm now scheduled to deliver at a hospital that has an "executive" floor with a few more western options and amenities. I'm feeling better about the decision.

5. Regardless of the choice, I'm feeling more and more nervous about the possibility of having a C-section with this little guy. Somehow when I tell people Jude's birth weight and that fractured clavicle detail...they don't seem too hopeful about a normal delivery. I'm going to have my old roommate and now-doctor, Tamara on speed dial to plead my case:) Ok, Tamara?

6. My language teacher told me last week that it is perfectly acceptable for me to wear the SA equivalent to a moo-moo all day in my house. She said I can answer the door, receive unexpected guests, etc...all while wearing my cozy moo-moo. I promptly went out and purchased one...somehow I feel doubtful that I'll be wearing it every day though. I wouldn't exactly call it flattering.



7. A neighbor informed me that at this stage of the pregnancy, it is customary for women to go home to their mother, sit on the couch all day, rest and eat while their momma takes care of things. I'm thinking about it:)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Man Gift



I made a quick and easy man gift this afternoon. Thought I would share in case any of you are starting to feel desperate in your shopping endeavors! Inspired once more by pinterest, I found a recipe for a brown sugar meat rub here. What man doesn't like to put something on the grill occasionally, right?



As for Jude...he made a few gifts himself. It wasn't quite quick and easy though:)

m-o-u-s-e



Random things happen here a lot. Last night our neighbor called to tell us Mickey Mouse was in the park outside our apartment. Maybe he didn't look exactly like Mickey....but it is South Asia after all.



For the most part, Jude was scared. I guess he wasn't particularly interested in any cheek pinching from a large furry mouse. But when we came back upstairs, he repeatedly pointed to the balcony and cried "mouse." Love from afar?

We learned two things about our complex recently that makes all our wonder at the unexpectedly well run, clean, timely facility make sense.

1. Our landlord's wife is apparently an interior decorator. Hence the absence of usual tackiness in lieu of muted colors.

2. The developer of the facility is a German. Enough said, right? What could be expected from a German but a well-run machine....even in SA.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baking Bliss


Today is our day off from language study. We try not to make any plans on Thursday besides family fun. Today our activity of choice? Peanut butter balls! (It was actually decided before the homesick post from yesterday.) David's mom makes them every year, and for David...they are integral part of the holiday season.



Jude sat on the counter watching the progress and tuning in to the claymation version of Rudolph...which we actually own:) David initiated him on beater-licking and other essential baking fun.



I wore my cute new Christmas apron that Grammar and Pop sent Fed-Ex for our baking endeavors! A little time consuming...but every bit worth it!



Aunt Pam’s Peanut Butter Balls

18 oz. creamy peanut butter (462g jar = 16.3oz)
2 sticks oleo or butter (113g = 1 stick)
1 ½ boxes powdered sugar (3 3/4 c per 1 box)
Mix well with electric mixer; roll into balls.
Melt 1 lb. (453 g) of Hershey’s candy bars in double boiler. (Can use chocolate chips instead).

Add 1/3 stick paraffin (optional). Stir well.

With toothpick in a ball, dip balls into chocolate…..keep chocolate over boiling water so that chocolate stays good for dipping. Makes many!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

homesick


December is a hard time to be away from home. I admit to a little homesickness this week. I miss eating Peanut Butter balls at David's parents house. I miss that spectacular tree my mom puts up in her den...that's so tall it almost pushes through the ceiling. I miss hearing Christmas music in the stores. I miss cold weather. I miss Jude in fleece pajamas.

And most of all, I just miss our family.

I've been thinking about contentment this week. For me, there is a direct connection between contentment and gratitude. When I give thanks for what has been given, it's hard to wallow in discontent. It makes the discontent seem ridiculous.

So, here I am in 85 degree South Asia, giving thanks for the birth of a baby who gave up much more than peanut butter balls and the familiarity of home. He reminds me of a true home, the one from which all my longings really stem. He is the deeper source in every season...at home or away.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

messy is more fun


Last time I tried to finger paint with Jude, it was disastrous. Green paint in mouth. I had to call for reinforcements in the end. (i.e. hubs to the rescue.) So, when I saw a cute picture on pinterest for finger painting in a plastic bag....I thought it was the perfect solution.

The only problem?

It lasted about .5 minutes. Apparently, Jude knows when I'm taking the easy way out. Oh well.

In other news...we found a delightful tree at the local mall and even a few decorations:) It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...at least in our little house!

Monday, December 12, 2011

learning what is good


Lately, I've been feeling pressed and prodded a bit more by life here. That sweet little toddler of mine doesn't have much sense of personal space. He climbs on my stomach, tugs at my hair, and just generally invades any boundaries I might have...all day long. Add to that a few bumpy rickshaw rides a day, and the general bustle of life in a foreign country and by the end of the day, I'm spent. This morning I felt certain I was going to go into early labor on the road outside our apartment...just from hitting too many potholes.

Cultivating gentleness is hardly what's going through my mind in the midst of most of these days.

For the past few weeks I've had this on my iPod to listen to in my spare time (aka when I chase Jude around the playground). A free 8 part download by Carolyn Mahaney on the Titus 2 mandate to "teach what is good" to younger women, I am finding the simple reminders of truth to be very helpful.

Just in case you're looking for something to plug in on a car ride across town or as you do a few loads of laundry:)

Click here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

spa date


A sweet American couple lives in our apartment complex. They've mentioned a few times that they miss their grandkids and would be happy to watch Jude so David and I could go out on a date. It just so happens that we're missing those very willing grandmas in Memphis who gave us regular date nights. After the third offer, we said "Well, if you insist" and headed out on the town.



David gets an A+ for creativity on this date. There's a spa in the mall that has a fish pedicure...yeah, the kind where fish eat the dead skin off your feet. Apparently, it's a great foot softener. I can't say it was the most relaxing experience..but it was fun. In a weird sort of way. For a mere $6, those fish ate and ate. And I have to admit, my feet feel pretty great today.




So for all those visitors who are coming to visit Silas...I can go ahead and set up an appointment now if you're interested.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

a small tragedy



The smallest of our fish died. One minute we were showing him to the little boeving girls on Skype, the next time we walked into the kitchen, he was floating.

David felt the tragedy keenly. He's been googling fish care since we brought the little guys home, worrying about whether there was enough oxygen in the water, and reminding Jude and I not to over feed them in our excitement. It was our first family pet.

Didn't even make it a week. Not even my pessimistic predictions were that bad.

We were starting to think them pretty hearty...after surviving the ride home and a small mishap the other night during water change in which they took a fall off the counter.

I guess they weren't as hearty as we thought. One remains though. And thankfully, Jude's not quite old enough to mourn the loss.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

salesmanship


South Asian salesmanship is hardly the same as what I'm used to in the States. In stores, employees walk closely behind me. They display items to me and help me select just the right purchase. The other day, I told a man I needed to think about which blender to purchase. He said ok. Then he stood beside me for a few minutes while I thought about it.

In the market, the best word I can think of is heckling. At some markets, it's almost constant. Sometimes they run after you shouting, "Madam, please. Just come and take a look. No pressure. Madam. Please. I want to talk about your family. I want to talk about your homeland. Come, madam. You don't have to buy. Please, come look."

Somehow, it doesn't usually make me want to stop in for a peek at their scarves.

This week at a market, I had a new tactic tested on me. At six months along, people are finally figuring out that I'm pregnant...not just a little heavy in the middle. A lady vendor noticed my state and shouted loudly across the market something like this, "Madam. I have clothes for baby. And very large sizes. I have shirts in very large. Nice for you."

I guess I wear very large clothes now.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

i wonder...



...where he learned to do that?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent Calendar


I spotted a very chic tree advent calendar on pinterest a week or so ago that inspired our very family oriented little advent calendar this year. Mine didn't turn out quite as chic, but I love it! Since we're so far from home, one of the things I wanted to incorporate into our nightly routine this Christmas season was a time of thanksgiving for all the family and friends God has given us to remind us of his Son, Jesus. Roughly rolled pictures, turned into trees now adorn our dining room table. We unroll the picture and give thanks for the precious people He's given us.



Each night we read a prophecy from the Old Testament, followed by the fulfillment in the New Testament. We are waiting with expectant hope for the celebration of Christmas. In a very small way, reminding us of the way that God's people waited for generations and generations for the Saviour to come.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New Additions


Jude got his first pet this week. He's enamored.



We're making longevity predictions. David, ever the optimist, thinks they'll last until Silas arrives. I, on the other hand, have given them until January 4.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Making a Merry Card

Last week, I made a little family Christmas card on picnik.com. I've used their free photo editing system for a number of projects in years past, and continue to find fun new ways to manipulate pictures. I know a few of you are probably wondering what you'll do for a Christmas card this year so I wanted to pass along a few things I learned this time.

Because there were so many sights I wanted to include (and bc I couldn't get a family pic with Jude smiling), I decided to try a collage on the site. Walgreens allows you to make great collages as well, but they are more expensive. Picnik saves your photo to a jpg file, allowing you to print as a regular pic at one of the great sale rates. (10c right now at Walgreens w/ web coupon)

To give you an example, without spoiling the surprise of our card, I made a quick collage using some pics from our visit to the Botanic Gardens yesterday! For an Asian alternative to the Memphis gardens, it was definitely worth the visit!




Tips:

A lot of printing shops (walgreens) clip the edge of pics just a bit. No way to avoid this unless you do the border on their site, so just do a trial print to check first. If they clip it too much, widen your border a little.

I found that it worked best for me to have one pic with some white space at the top for me to include a message. Look for simple photos to combine with busy photos for best results. (Not like the example I gave here from the gardens:)

How - To

1. Head to picnik.com
2. Select Collage Photo on the menu.
3. For a photo that will print well at 4x6, select the free (not premium) 4 square shape under basic options.
4. Change the proportions to 60:40. ( I think if you also widen the border slightly you won't have the edge cut quite as much as I did)
5. Insert photos one at a time by uploading from your computer. (If you register you can upload 5 at a time)
6. Hit done and then go to the various editing options.
7. Use "text" to add Merry Christmas. They have great font options.
8. Use multiple text boxes to add your name, and any other messages you want!
9. Save to your computer and print as you would any jpg file.
10. Mail or email one of those sweet cards to South Asia!!!! (umm, i'm serious.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Naming Silas


About a month before I found out I was pregnant with another wee blessing, I had a dream.

Sometimes I have dreams and I laugh about them, sometimes I have dreams and I wonder about them, other times I have dreams and I feel certain that it meant something specific for my life. It's happened on rare occasion before, and I am learning to pay attention.

I woke from the dream and remembered very vividly that I had a son, and his name was Silas.

A month or two later, I found out I was pregnant. I called him Silas from the very first day. And when the ultrasound confirmed he was indeed a little man, I couldn't think of any other name to give to him. Despite our lengthy discussions over the name of our firstborn, there was hardly a mention of another name for this little one. David agreed, he just is Silas.

In the days that followed, we happened to be reading through Acts. There we found that Paul's journeying companion as he went to foreign lands was very often Silas. Seem ironic? Maybe just providential.

We were beginning to dwindle our options for middle names when we came across the meaning of Christopher. It means "bearer of Christ." We could have no deeper hope for him.

And so, with joy, we announce the name of our second born son, scheduled to arrive this March:

Silas Christopher Dawkins

We can hardly wait to meet him.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Weird Wednesday

1. We're trying to broaden our menu to include some economical and quick local foods. Yesterday I remembered that one summer when I was backpacking in China, they served me a fried egg and rice for breakfast. It was surprisingly good. Today for lunch, we went that route...and I think it will definitely be a repeat.

Try it before you judge, ok?



2. I made the mistake of storing our tp under the sink. A leak was inevitable, right? Jude was glad to get some time to play with this oft-forbidden item during the dry time.



3. We had heard that we would probably be able to buy a tree here...but maybe not until the week before Christmas. To our delight, when we went to the mall this week, we discovered one store with a display of trees already up. We went ahead with the purchase...even though we had to lug it home via rickshaw. Now, Jude and I are working on salt dough ornaments in the evening:)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

greeting the morning


Woke up with a cold this morning. Jude's been teething. David's throat is sore. I opened that tattered 1949 prayer book that I found at a thrift store a few years ago and read these lines by Baillie:

Forbid that when all Thy creatures are greeting the morning with songs and shouts of joy, I alone should wear a dull and sullen face.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday

A few random insights into our little world:

1. I feel like we've crossed some threshold into adulthood. We decided to take the daily paper. This decision was primarily impacted by the $2 (yes, $2) per month investment. For now, we're opting for the English version...but by next year we might be reading in different script. That's pretty hopeful.



2. Speaking of language development, my brain feels fried from listening to vocabulary words repeatedly. It's recommended that we listen to each set of words 32 times before speaking them ourselves. That's a lot. Jude, on the other hand, is already saying a few words in his new mother tongue.

The dada saga continues with the little man. Now he's referring to all drinks as "cold" rather than water. The only explanation? Every time David turns on Jude's bath water, he says "cold."

3. I found a substitute for Izzy. Grappo Fizz doesn't sound quite as classy...but it's almost as tasty!



4. David and Jude are forever discovering new ways to turn household items into fun. Please don't think we're bad parents. Asian vacuums aren't as powerful as American vacuums:)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Progress


I think Jude's making progress in adjusting to super-star status. This week we went to visit the old part of our city, and when a photo session erupted, Jude just perched himself on a little bar and posed for the crowd.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving



Since we're almost a full 12 hours ahead of the home town, we've already baked our Thanksgiving delights and feasted with a few stray Americans in our parts. Jude was the primary chef in our house. (Actually, David made two fabulous rotisserie chickens since turkey was scarce:)



Even in this far off land, we weren't lacking good company....



...or delicious food...



...though it's certainly one of those days when we wish that living here didn't mean oceans between us and that family we're so grateful for in Tennessee. But here or there, our cup is overflowing.