Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ice Skating

We had our first ice skating adventure with all of the kids, which I'll share more about in another blog post. But for now, I wanted to put this video up for Nana to see NOW! I have lots to share when things slow down, soon!

Friday, December 2, 2011

What a Week!

Last Sunday, I looked at my husband and expressed how thankful that I was to be feeling well. I had been suffering with a head cold that just wouldn't go away for almost two weeks and I was finally feeling energetic again. I had a productive Sunday, even finishing it off with several blog posts that I set to auto post all through the week. I went to bed, ready to take on a new week, knowing it was going to be a good one.
Monday is always a busy day here because we have class, then coaching sessions, then we head home to prepare for house church in the evening. As Monday wore on, I started to feel a bit fatigued and achy, yet I refused to believe that I could be getting sick again, so I pressed on. By the time house church was over, I made a beeline for the bed and stayed there until Wednesday, when I finally transferred to the couch. I have been so sick. I am confident I have had the flu. I literally have been surviving on Nyquil and Advil. It's been the pits. Now, I'm feeling better, but my energy level is so low and though my appetite is returning, my tummy gets very ugly every time I eat. I'm sitting here eating ginger ale and saltines for dinner because my attempt at eating a real lunch made me miserable.
Here's the thing, now it's Friday night and I'm looking back at the week and I am so discouraged, which is ridiculous. If any one of you reading this had been in bed sick all week, I would assure you that all you need to do is rest and take care of yourself and everything else will come in time. And I would mean it. Yet, looking at my own situation all I can think is how high the laundry pile is, how the groceries are low, and how I'm going to have a bunch of big fat zeros on my accountability report for the week if I don't muster some energy to stay out for a while tomorrow. It's ridiculous. Why do I do this to myself?
And my husband, my sweet precious husband has been such a jewel. He's tried hard to keep everyone fed, keep the laundry under control, complete his assignments, wrangle kids, and he's made nightly walks to the grocery store or pharmacy for the ONLY thing that sounded good to me each night. He's even spent the last hour talking me off of the ledge I've somehow climbed up on this week. Gently reminding me that people love me, my children aren't ruined, Christmas will still be worth celebrating, I haven't failed forever in the Great Commission, and my family isn't falling apart, just because I've been stuck in bed all week. Sometimes, you need to hear someone say those words, even though you shouldn't have to be told these things. He's such a keeper.
I do have to say that I did get one thing accomplished this week that I hadn't counted on happening. I made this:

It's a Christmas Countdown/Advent calendar
It has these little drawers that hold whatever you put in them.

I saw one in the scrapbooking store that I have been frequenting here, the very first time I went in to explore. While I was in there I inquired about the class they had where they were making them. They explained that the class was full because they didn't have enough kits for all of the sign-ups. I expressed my regret and that was that. But then, last week, I was in there for something else and one of the owners was so excited to show me that they had an extra kit and they saved it in case I wanted to buy it and do it on my own. I purchased the kit, which looked like this:

Can you say, "Who has time for this?!?"

I carried it home, hopeful, but knowing that realistically it might be a project for next year, when my life is not THIS insane. I set it out of the way and went on with my regularly scheduled life. Then, on Wednesday, when I started to lift my head off of the pillow, I saw it and thought, maybe I could work on that for a little bit? So I did. And little by little, over the course of a couple days of cutting, sleeping, pasting, sleeping, painting, and sleeping I got it done. I even found some wonderful mother online who had already assembled 24 scriptures to read in anticipation of the Christmas season which were already typed up in strip form so that all I had to do was print them, cut them, and put them in the correct drawers. I added a few special treats for a few of the nights, which my husband picked up at the local Dollar Store/Safeway and we had it ready before we put the kids to bed last night, December 1.

I'm not totally satisfied with the center. I would like to add a bit more dimension to it, but it will work for this year. And maybe the next 16 years. We'll see. It's done. We have a simple, functional way to recall the scriptures behind the story, and I'm very excited to take it down to the corner and show the ladies at the store my finished product. Because the middle of their sample did not reflect the same aspect of Christmas that mine does. And I'm hopeful that it just might give me one more opportunity to share a bit of truth with my friends down the street!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Mail Must go Through

We got our first packages last week! They were supposed to be for my birthday, but the Canada Post apparently doesn't get in a hurry. Or maybe it's USPS, I don't know. At any rate, we were happy to get the packages, even if they did take 2+ weeks.
The best part was, my sweet mother thought she'd send me some cream cheese brownies, because they're my favorite. And, according to her, she knew they'd stay fresh because it's cold between NC and Canada in November, right? Well, here's what happens to cream cheese brownies after 15 days in a priority mail box.

Why yes, that is green fuzz. Which is a shame because she individually wrapped each brownie!
Fortunately, she included other goodies with far more preservatives and they made the trip just fine. Palsie's Popcorn, how I long for thee!

Ryan's parents sent me some new UK pajamas, which I will use lots. Being good grandparents, they also threw in some new tukes for the kiddos. Let's see if you know your Canadian vocabulary, what is a tuke? These pictures should give you a clue!

By the way, if any of you were desperately wanting to send us something, you can do that! Our address here is: 4516 Frances St., Burnaby, BC, V5C 2R7. However, I suggest you avoid cream cheese brownies, even though it is a bit colder in December!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stepping Back in Time

One thing that I know I'm going to love about Vancouver is all of the cool Christmas activities available to us. That's one thing that I always complained about in Raleigh. They just don't have all that many special things to hail the Christmas season. Maybe that's because everybody is too busy putting on Christmas Cantatas?

Anyway, my point was, there are so many options for Christmas festivities here and I know we won't get to try them all, but we're going to give it a shot. This weekend, we visitied the Burnaby Village Museum which is a living history museum set in about 1912. They have it decorated for Christmas and they had all sorts of festive things for the kids to do. The best part was that gate admission is free this year because they're celebrating their 40th anniversary! Here are some pictures of our fun (and rainy) day.

About to board the restored tram car from the line that made Burnaby into it's own little city
Abe and I, sitting on the tram. Who knew they had rattan seats?
Amazing balloon man
He made these cool creations, a snake, a pig, and 2 monkeys
Here is Lily with Father Christmas. He let her write her name on the "nice" list.
Isaac loved the old truck. Boys and their toys!
My favorite was the school house. The teacher did a great job of telling us about the school of the era. Let's just say the kids aren't in any hurry to go back to that period!
Cool globe in the school house. We found our country, but alas, our new city is not listed on there.

Our time at the village ended with a ride on the 1912 restored carousel. Honestly, it was the fastest carousel I have ever ridden. I was worried Abe might fall off!

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It's Christmas time, which I love. Of all of my worldly possessions, my Christmas decorations are among my favorites. In fact, I love them so much that I didn't purge very many of them when everything else went. Instead, I put them all on the crate. The crate that we'll see who know when? So, this year, we have none of our traditional baubles. But, that's okay because that means we'll have them all next year (we hope!)

That means that ingenuity is required to make our home festive this year. We inherited a 6 foot Christmas tree from someone who took a turn in our house some other year, so that was a good start. Then, Ryan suggested we make salt dough ornaments. He and I had done that our first Christmas and we actually treasured them and used them until they were ruined in a basement flood a few years ago.

Last weekend he and the kids cut out the dough while I ran some errands. Then, after baking all afternoon, they were ready to paint. Using paint and brushes purchased at the local Dollar Giant, we set to work!
Everybody took part in the painting!

Here are some of them drying.

This weekend, we tied ribbon through the holes and prepared to hang them on the tree.

Here they are, on the tree, along with the paper chain we made. Notice that the ones in the picture spell out CAMPBELL. Abby thought that idea up.

Here's our mantel, ready for the holiday!
Our humble, but precious tree.
It's our tradition to put up our tree on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and we always eat what my kids call "party foods" and watch a movie as part of the festivities. The last few years, the movie of choice has been Elf.
Ready for bed, but not before some Christmas tree silliness!

Giving Thanks!

Thanksgiving is the only holiday that we've always done the same way since we got married. Christmas and Easter have varied, but Thanksgiving has always meant a trip home to KY for an amazing spread of ridiculous amounts of food. Ryan's family likes to eat and they like to have fun, so it's always been a great time.

This year, for the first time in 17 years, we haven't been there. I guess that we might as well start our time away with the one holiday that is most engrained and get it over with, right? Anyway, regardless of the big change, we had a great day and we have so very much for which to be thankful.

We love to entertain and the fact that we're the largest family in our training group means we have the largest house (please understand, large is a relative word here.) Anyway, those two factors meant that we got the pleasure of hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house this year. We actually got the day off from class, even though it was not Thanksgiving here in Canada. So, the 9 other couples in our group along with the 16 children we share, came to our house for a yummy time of fellowship. It was tight, but the company was good and the food was delicious. Someone had even brought us a TV this week, so we were able to watch football. All in all, it was a great first holiday outside of the States.

It was a bit of a challenge securing some of our typical recipe items, but I'm sure it was nothing compared to next year's Thanksgiving. One of the many things I'm thankful for is that God has allowed us to have "step-down approach" to moving overseas. I think he knew I'd need to be weaned off a little at a time!

Most of the food, spread out down the hall. Isn't that your normal serving spot?
Abby wanted to make a dessert and she picked these cute pumpkin cupcakes.
Not to be outdone by her sister, Lizzy made a chocolate cake and iced it all by herself!

I love being married to a man who can take a $3.99 bag of pumpkins and use them in a dozen different ways to make our home seem festive. Even in the humblest of homes, he always makes things look nice!
Most of the desserts

My first attempt at one of those cute pennant banners

Isaac and one of his friends helped with a clean-up project and as a reward, I gave them some of those plastic "hillbilly teeth." I caught them in the bathroom a few minutes later checking out their new look.
Should I be worried that we don't get dental coverage until our first year is complete?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

In Recent News...

Well, it's cold. It's rainy. It's cold and rainy. They warned us it was coming. I knew it was inevitable. I'm thankful for the month we had that was a little milder. But, I'm pretty sure we have officially hit the "rainy season."
Most days, I can tolerate it, but today has been one of those days where I just wanted to take my toys and go back home. I woke up not feeling so great. I think I'm "trying to catch a cold," as my daddy always says. However, it's Wednesday, the day that I'm supposed to be intentional about getting out and trying to meet folks here in our neighborhood. So, despite the rain, I spent 5 hours out with Abe, looking for opportunities to converse with people. Because it was so yucky, I decided to take him to the local mall to play on the indoor playground. I waited for 25 minutes at the bus stop (they're supposed to come every 8-9 minutes.) Then, when one finally came, it was too full for us. By that time, I had already chased Abe's umbrella out into the road once, so what did it matter if we waited for the next one, right?
By the time I got to the mall, the last thing I wanted to do was talk with folks about spiritual things. However, I was able to engage two ladies in conversations that led to the main thing. Actually, truth be told, one of them engaged me. In fact, she informed me that despite Abe's color, he would probably be pretty smart because his head was so big that he had room for his brain to grow. And, how do you respond to that? She also expressed her opinions about kids and the large volume of plastic toys they have available to them as well as how they eat too much junk for breakfast and how a diet of oatmeal and raisins is what they really need. I won't even get into her explanation about why African men, um, shall we say, "have more needs," than white men, making the African orphan population so high. Thank the Lord that Ryan and I had agreed to meet up for lunch, so I was able to excuse myself after a while.
By the time I got over to the restaurant and finally met up with Ryan, I was soggy, frozen, and traumatized from another bout of chasing Abe's umbrella along a much busier traffic route. (Yes, I learned my lesson, took away the umbrella, and let him get waterlogged instead!)
By the time we finally got home this evening, I was DONE! My husband sent me to bed at 6:30, and after a 5 hour nap, a blog post seemed like the right thing to do. Now I just pray I can sleep again after this brain dump!
On a more positive note... we had a fun day last Friday. It was Canadian Remembrance Day, which is taken very seriously here. Nearly everyone has the day off, they all wear red poppies on their coats, and ceremonies abound. However, the ceremony that we planned to go to was scheduled outside, right in the middle of a freezing, wet morning. So, we opted out and stayed home for a couple of hours before heading out to explore.
The kids wanted to take us over to Lonsdale Quay (pronounced Key.) They'd been there on a field trip and thought we needed to see it too. It proved to be a neat place. One of the highlights of our day included riding the seabus, which is part of the public transit system here. Because it was Remembrance Day, the mounties were out and the kids got to finally see them! They were able to have their picture taken with these two.

Then, we explored the Quay, which is basically a cool market. The kids were really hoping to show us an octopus, which they'd seen on their previous visit. They were not disappointed. One cool thing was, we were spending the day with one of the TCK consultants from our company's main offices who had come to visit the training center here for a few days. She has actually served overseas in a place where octopus was not unusual, so she was able to tell us about the taste and texture. However, at $16.99 a pound, we opted to take her word for it.

The kids wanted to make sure that we ate a beavertail while we were there, which was delicious. It was a lot like an "elephant ear" only shaped like a beavertail. I'll just be honest and tell you, I have a real weakness for any type of fried dough. That's where I always spend my share of the snack money at the fair! So, I was happy to cave to this request.
Here we are, at the Quay, looking back across the inlet at Vancouver.
Here's the Lego Orca that sits on the Vancouver waterfront, Isaac loves this guy!
Vancouver is filled with these random sculpturish thingies all over downtown. The kids thought this raindrop was cool. Wonder why they chose a raindrop?!?

On Saturday, Abby and I went to a popular Christmas Craft show that is done here every year at the convention center. Let me just say, it was SO different from a similar type of event in the Southeast US. In 400 vendors, I never saw one piece of polka-dot grosgrain ribbon. Nor, did I see personalized, monogrammed goodies. No appliques and no ruffles. I did, however, see no less than 1,000 hand knit hats (priced $55 and up), tons of handmade jewelry (mostly silver), bushels of handmade soap, and an entirely different color palette than you would find back home. There was also an abundance of free gourmet food samples. Apparently, Canadians love fruitcake, salmon preserved in all sorts of ways, and berries covered in a variety of chocolates.
Monday was my birthday, and I had one of those "pinch me" moments. When I was growing up, I was a part of an organization called GAs and later Acteens, which are ministry programs that educate girls in SBC churches about missions. One of the things that we did, all through my growing up years, was pray for Ms on their birthdays. We had a little prayer calendar time where we read their names and prayed for them. I remember hearing a M speaker say once when I was young, that many Ms use their time very intentionally on their birthdays because they knew that literally 1000's of people would be praying for them on that day.
These days, the company uses e-mail to distribute those names and I get the list in my inbox each morning. So, Monday, when I opened my e-mail and saw the list for the day, my name was at the top! After years of praying for Ms, I was the one being prayed for! It was one of those, "I can't believe this is really my job" moments. By the way, if you're interested in subscribing to some of the prayer threads our company offers, you can do that here.
My sweet family gave me several gifts. My favorite was having Sunday "off." We went nowhere and they did all of the cooking and cleaning for the day. I will forever be harassing my husband about the Hamburger Helper he made for my birthday dinner!
Seriously, he made up for it in many other ways, not the least of which was walking in the rain to get a yummy chocolate cake from a bakery I've been eyeing since we first discovered it on Halloween. To make the gesture even sweeter, he even made sure it had orange icing, which has been a running joke between us for years. Actually, since the year that he totally tanked on my birthday, dealt with my wrath, and ended up buying me a birthday cake at Food Lion at 10p.m. when nothing was left but one with some hideous orange icing. That was before orange was trendy. Let's just say that since that time, he's done significantly better at the birthday thing.

We continue to covet your prayers as we move forward in our work here. We now have a group of folks meeting in our house each Monday night. Right now, there are just folks who are colleagues with our work, but we're very hopeful that soon it will include other folks who want to hear more about God's word.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

So, we've finished week 3 here in Canada and we're getting the hang of many things. The transit doesn't seem so overwhelming and we're even getting braver with navigating different routes and venturing out to new places. Grocery shopping is still different, but I'm getting into a new stride. I was chatting with a Canadian lady today about a few items that I still haven't been able to find and I mentioned sliced pepperoni. She asked why I wanted it pre-sliced, she thought that was odd. I just don't think I would enjoy it as much if I had to take that big tube and slice it myself. I'm sure that soon that will only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to groceries!

Last week we did the normal class routine. We had presenters in town from Calgary and Ryan and I each had a turn to go out with one of them and practice what we're being taught. It was neat to talk with them and to be challenged to apply what we're learning.

I hit a little bit of a slump last week. I think the finality of our decision comes in waves and last week, I had one of those waves. I think that seeing photos and posts from everyone back home having fun together for Halloween while I'm here in this massive city wandering around and trying to find someone to do community with just seemed a bit overwhelming. But some time in prayer and in God's word, along with trying to see my situation through the perspective of truth, helped me to work through the funk. I'm sure it's not the last time, but I'm glad to be seeing the glass half-full again.

The weekend came with two beautiful days back to back. We had planned to spend one day playing and one day working, but it was too beautiful to do chores and errands, so we played both days! A friend here encouraged us to get outside since the dry sunny days left in the season are going to come with increasing rarity. We had a great time enjoying this glorious place.

Saturday, we visited Lynn Canyon where we were able to tromp through a gorgeous forest. The claim to fame there is a suspension bridge that spans the canyon. I made it across, but I preferred the hiking to the bridge crossing. The forest is what is called a temperate rain forest and it was so beautiful. Ryan kept saying that he felt like he was spending the day in a postcard, the kids decided it was just like Narnia in the summertime.

Crossing the bridge
The view from the bridge. Although I'll admit, Ryan stopped to take this photo, I just kept on trucking across.
The stumps were as much fun as the rocks!

Beautiful view # 197
Enormous old growth forests
Can't you just see Mr. Beaver running across that path with Edmund or Lucy?

Beautiful girl!

On Sunday, we decided to go downtown to Stanley Park and rent bicycles. Everyone has been telling us about this amazing bike path that goes along the seawall which circles the park. It's a very "Vancouver" thing to do. And it was very cool, but I must admit that 1/2 way in, I was wondering what in the world we were thinking. I'm not the most confident bike rider, so at those points where the path was narrow, the "real bikers" were zooming by, and we were trying to keep five children all on the seawall and not in the sea, I was questioning my sanity. But, 10 kilometers later, when we were returning the bikes, I was glad we'd done it. The bike rental employees could not believe that Abe rode the entire loop on his own. He was one tired guy, but he did it!

See why we couldn't stay home?
Away we go!

Pit stop #1. The kids loved this slide.
Gorgeous views!

Pit stop #2, it's not everyday you see a 1/2 dozen totem poles off to the left.
Have I mentioned that I love this city?
You can barely see it, but Isaac loved the Chevron station out in the middle of the inlet.
Look at that line-up!

Abby felt like all of that peddling deserved a cupcake. That girl and her cupcakes!
Waiting at the bus stop. Two tired kids.