Happy Birthday Jesus!!

It's not about presents, or glowing lights on the tree, or even family or yummy food. And even though its hard not to get homesick (or family-sick), I truly appreciate these foreign-land Christmases, where we can quiet ourselves and focus on the birth of our Savior, without all the hubbub, and just remember the humility, the scandal, the provision, and the beauty! To remember the poor little family that gave birth in a dirty stable, and had to wrap their baby in cloth and place him in a feeding trough to sleep. Its amazing that 1 birth + 33 years = a life that has changed this planet more than anyone. Happy Birthday Jesus! We celebrate you! May we increase your fame on this earth!


Eden's first tooth....

Right before Christmas, Eden's first tooth came out. It had been wiggly for weeks, and it hung on forever. Finally we had her wiggle it 5 minutes each night, so that it would loosen quicker. In the end, daddy finally yanked it out - without any fuss! Eden was beaming with excitement, even though she was bleeding a lot! She didn't care at all. She loves the hole in her mouth and sticking her tongue thru.... Her smile is so joyful!! She put the tooth under her pillow that night for the tooth fairy....but she/he forgot to come (we've been SO busy over here)!! We felt SO bad the next morning, that we had to distract her and sneak the tooth out & replace it with some $ and a special note. Maybe the tooth fairy was operating on another time zone?? She had to fly a looooong way!? Eden didn't care one bit. :)


december festivities

We made a Christmas movie this year - these 7 kids wrote the script, painted scenery, created costumes, and acted superbly! We hosted a "premier" with little snacks, so all the parents could enjoy the end-product! It was really great!

We've played in the snow - even though the temps hover right around zero during the day. The kids are just now getting used to the long johns, the layering, the gloves & scarves and ear muffs too. Its really beautiful after a snowfall - so white and crisp and fresh. We'd love another fresh layer so we can maybe take the girls sledding. C'mon SNOW!!

Lots of holiday baking happening around her too ~ I even made some famous cinnamon rolls to share with our neighbors. I think they love me more now.

We inherited a puppy last week. Our business partners had to return to the States last minute, so we are taking care of their little puppy, Oreo. She's not house trained, so we have to take her out 5x a day, and also clean her feet every time we come back inside. She still has accidents, which are not fun. Nor is her constant high-pitched barking. Asia has been very responsible to take Oreo out for her potty breaks, and its incredible to see her rise to the occasion. We aren't going to keep her much longer, only because we don't know when our partners will return, and puppies in apartments during the winter is insane. The girls are loving her though!!

Someday, we will have a puppy for reals. :)


making a Jesse tree

Even though it is hard to be away from loved ones over special holidays, we have really tried to embrace this cross-cultural lifestyle, and make special traditions as our little clan in this place. I am thankful that we are removed from the Christmas hype and commercialism in America, and that we can breathe fresh meaning into the holiday, on this side of the globe....even sharing it with others who have never known the reason for the season. :)

This year - I am attempting to make a Jesse Tree, with ornaments out of felt. It has been pretty therapeutic for me too, sitting and stitching each tiny piece together by hand. I just searched online for ideas, and went for it! There are about 25-29 possible ornaments that I could make...so we will see how it all turns out. The girls are really enjoying the family time at night, lighting a candle, reading and talking about each ornament, and placing them on the tree. I've only made 10 ornaments so far...but its really fun. I love having a creative outlet = it helps me to decompress, relax and fills me up too!

Here are the few that I have made so far:
Creation & the Fall

Noah & Abram
Sarah & Isaac
Jacob & JosephLight & Moses
Isn't this so fun? hehehe.


blogging is hard for me

I'm not a great writer...but really, I'm OK with it. And I am not a "current blogger" posting regularly and in a timely fashion. But neither of those are the real reasons for this blog allowing cobwebs to form and the lack of communication on here. I LOVE to communicate and stay connected to family & friends - far and wide. But right now, I am at a loss for what to write - being such a perfectionist, and not knowing what approach to take: light & fluffy, with some humor thrown in? Solemn & reflective? Mocking & sarcastic with a hint of depth? Add in some emotional family events, cultural stress, and a lot of unknowns....it just makes it hard for this momma to figure out what to say. I want to make sure I communicate things clearly, and share my heart too.

The only accurate thing that I can share right now is that our lives are in His hands. We can't control the circumstances, but He is trustworthy. I want to be honest on here, and share the moments when we are content AND the flip side when life feels out of control. Being so far from family also takes its tolls. In any given day, I both love+hate life in this Central Asian metropolis. It's true. :)

I love that life is simple out here. I love cooking from scratch, and being reminded that I don't need more things to make me happy. I love the big, fresh markets and getting out for my daily needs. I love interacting with my neighbors, and feeling part of this Asian community. I love seeing the older generations socialize, exercise, and be involved in raising their grandchild. I love that my kids are getting a different world-view, and growing up in a foreign culture. I love the parks (in summer) and finding a patch of grass in the middle of some concrete. ....but even that was a little sarcastic, hinting at my underlying frustration.

I am tired of language learning. Even after 6 years, I am not fluent or completely comfortable in this culture. I am tired of side-stepping around gross loogies spit onto the street, or to be breathing in smoke fumes in the taxi. Stinky tofu smells wafting into my nostrils make me want to vomit. I am tired of crusty, stiff, stretched-out clothes, hung on my indoor rack. I feel so lonely for deep conversations, a bosom friend, or the freedom of driving a car. And that is barely scratching the surface. It may not help that winter has officially come, and we are headed into 4-5 months of freezing cold weather that brings on a dreary feeling that zaps my joy.

Its really hard to keep the right perspective when people do things that defy my own reason, or break my hygiene comfort-ability. I have a certain patience threshold, and most days I feel like I live right at the tipping point. Maybe this threshold applies to my joy, my ability to have grace, and my ability to love....and is a good indicator that I need to rely more on the One who gives me a higher threshold. He is the ultimate patient One, grace-giver, joy-filler-upper, love-abounder. :) And this is the part of me that wants to justify and share the right things, since I know in my heart what is right and how I "should" respond when I am living fully aligned with Him. Just know that my heart longs to see this place with the right eyes, and be more fully able to love and not judge. But I am weak. So this is good for me to share & vent my frustrations so that you know I struggle and that life is not always peachy.

Eventually, I want to catch up on this blog - and fill in the gaps (mostly for myself), but for now I am going to attempt some current goings-on, so that I don't get overwhelmed and forget it altogether. :) The last few months have been a doozie - so I may not update those for awhile. I am thankful for TODAY. Today I am staying cozy indoors, recovering from a nasty cold-bug, and I might make these granola bars......and sewing advent ornaments for our Jesse tree.


Harvest Party 2011!!

This is our 3rd annual Harvest Party extravaganza...and I think we have gotten a bit out-of-control with the amount of people we wanted to invite, so we decided to ask a local restaurant to host our party this year! Thankfully, the wonderful 'Texas Cafe' has agreed to cook up an amazing Taco-bar, and let us play games in our costumes. This was the perfect alternative to having our home trampled by candy-crazed kids and messy carnival games, which isn't usually that crazy (unless you try to fit 50+kids & parents inside).  We are getting much better at planning these types of events, and we even made a fun Activity Book for the youngsters.  It has become such a fun tradition, that all the families across the city look forward to this holiday - and we've never even gone trick-or-treating!

The girls decided they wanted to dress up as Native Americans this year, which was so fun for me.  I loved finding material & creating a pattern for each of them.  We even found this incredible Kazakh ribbon that looks authentic, and bird feathers at the park too.  They each added beads to the arm tassels and a headband to match.  I just love this little tribe of mine. 

Syd (4) Eden (6) Asia (8)

 Another fun treat:  One family we know lives kinda far out in the countryside, and they decided to plant REAL pumpkins this year.  They must have brought their own seeds in, because the only pumpkins we can buy at the local markets are tiny (about the size of a huge grapefruit).  Well, somehow we lucked out - and they gave us a beautiful BIG pumpkin - ready to CARVE!! 

Believe it or not, this is the first time the girls have ever tried carving a pumpkin!  They needed a little coaxing, as the stringy pumpkin guts were not their favorite.  Maybe next time it won't freak them out so much.  My favorite part is roasting the seeds! 

the girls named the pumpkin:  PUMPY (so original)

sharing PUMPY with our neighbor friends

photo time with PUMPY

PUMPY with a candle

the whole gang!

Wing Feather & the Sheriff

Little Fawn & Batgirl

Magpie & Space Cowboy

Happy Harvest to everyone!!


first snow.....and so thankful too.

Its COLD over here!! Our noses tingle when we step outside, and its almost time to get our long-johns out for the winter spell. I do love the change in seasons here, watching the obvious fade of life & green turn into brown & grey, and now covered in white.  Winter is only taunting us now, but it will come in full force very shortly. 

We will enjoy the white snow to the best of our ability, and make snowballs while we can.  Maybe next time we will wear our gloves!
thankful for:
Asia's big cursive bubbly loops
cute squeaking shoes on kids learning to walk
kids playing with yo-yo's on their lunch break
hot peach tea on my sore throat
writing a love note to my babe
knowing that You are in control and You never change
 cancer is not in control
for troubles that cause us to turn to You
for sicknesses that invite us to bring a sacrifice of thanks
for good friends in this city who drop everything to help
iphones gifted to our family!
packages from afar
the quiet of falling snow
snow crystals on barren trees
for Joe Anthony Dostalek - such a generous servant of God
the vulnerability of life 
a friend is pregnant with baby #4!
to see God's power & strength in a wind storm
God's character in a tiny intricate snowflake


favorites from October....

This month we began sewing again!  Justin found me an amazing bargain down at the Material Market, and we have ourselves a sewing machine.  Our first projects are pillows for our dolls, and Halloween costumes!  Asia is loving the hummm of the machine, and pushing the pedal to make it go!

Asia in her happy place!!

Sydney helping mom make Cinnamon Graham Bars for our snack.  
She loves her new apron that Jamma made!

Our little pre-schooler....begging us to read to her!

lots of reading going on this month...its been cold outside!

One of our last park days this year...leaf collecting & flower-picking!

practicing our lovely penmanship at home
other highlights of this month:
the heat came on October 15th!
Friday family nights @ home - games & guitar!
Asia wrote her first mini-report on Pocahontas - she was so excited!
guys camping trip in the uncharted wilderness
2 huge bins of gifts sent from America in extra luggage space from friends
Mom's faith to trust even in unknowns*

*We got a skype call from Mom this month, with hard news of possible cancer in her body.  She won't know for sure until the test results are back, but we are all asking for healing & ability to trust.  Its so hard to be away when people are hurting & struggling.  We are aching for her, but asking Dad to hold her & comfort her during this unknown waiting.... 


best friends & practically family!

These are our best buddies here in our city... 

We've known this family since April 2006...when our girls/their kids were so very young.  Asia was almost three, and Eden was barely one when we first met.  These two below have grown up together, and have such similar personalities, and only 3 months apart.  They are both strong and sweet, caring & sometimes quiet.  They love to be active, and can be very goofy too.  Its wonderful to see how they love each other.

These two are such pals.  I have loved that Asia has had such a good buddy here, and especially such a tender, gentle, and caring friend, like this boy.  They are almost 3 months apart in age too, but such close friends.  Of course they clash and have their stubborn streaks, but they always end up laughing and growing through the hard spots.  They love to scheme and laugh about the silliest things, and they can get serious and work hard together (math/spelling/writing) too.  Its so wonderful for our daughter to have such a precious friend in a boy. 

Syd & A* are two peas in a pod.  They never skip a beat.  They are non-stop laughter and goofiness.  They are both so full of imagination and energy, its hard to keep up.  They have known each other since birth, and have always loved to play together, fall down together, eats snacks, and pretend constantly.  What a precious buddy we have found in this little guy. 

We are so thankful for these wonderful friends ~ a huge blessing when we live so far away from family.  They have become family to us!!



Andrew & Asia doing Sequential Spelling
We've been homeschooling for the past 5 years....and its really fun.  But even with all the FUN, our girls still watch the clock for RECESS!!  With all the other home-schooled kids in our neighborhood, we've organized a 10:00am recess to get the kids outside and active, no matter what the weather might be.  Its a great incentive to stay focused in the morning too!!  Here are some of my favorite pictures of the kids playing in front of our building. 

 ....back to our studies!!