Sunday, February 28, 2010

More Precious

Could I go all grandma on you for a minute while I reflect on life when we first came in 1999? I want to do this, not to garner pity or to make us look like great adventurers, but so that you can understand how vastly different life here is now.

When we first came, we lived for 3 months in a foreign student dormitory as it was illegal for students to live off campus. This dorm room was just that - one room, with a small bathroom which the housekeeping girls wanted to hose down every day (they called it "cleaning." We quickly learned how to say, "We don't need that, thank you."). We rode our $8 bikes around our campus and a bit beyond. It was exciting to go down to "Modern Plaza" where we could get cream of chicken soup and Diet Coke. Those were luxury items back then. Phone calls to the States cost 50c a minute. When we moved into an apartment off campus that November, they hadn't installed land lines yet. We had to wait in line for the phone at the bottom of our building and pay three mao per minute to call our friends on campus. We lived for someone coming from the States who could bring us all the supplies we couldn't get here.

I think about these things, and it makes me even more grateful for the amazing access we have to things now. We can call our family practically for free. We have cell phones. We'll have (by the end of this week, hopefully!) a car. I can get a diet Coke if I walk across the street. But best of all is this recent discovery of Book Depository. On this website, we can order books that are generally cheaper than Amazon and which ship for free, straight to our door here in Asia. I can't tell you how much this cuts down on what we bring back from the States!

I feel like that sounds shallow. I'm finding joy in these material things? Yes, yes I am. But I'm grateful that I've been able to be in a position where I didn't have them. I think it's given me a greater appreciation of them now. It's like the saying, "You don't really appreciate food unless you've known hunger." I'm glad God allowed us the experience of not having certain things because now when we do have them, they are more precious.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Megan's List

Megan is a writer, like her mama (see my homeschool blog for the notes she took during our science experiment). Here's a list she made back in October. My favorite is #7.

Too many flushes

Here's something I realized today that doesn't happen in the US. (I realize that's a broad statement that covers a multitude of things, but this is one I haven't mentioned before):

We have to pay for toilet water. Consider this: what if, when you go to the bathroom, you discover that you can't flush it? Why? Because the money ran out. So now it's just a bowl of water. What would happen if the toilet water card you put in the little machine in your bathroom wall didn't have any more money on it? And what if the management office where you go to top it up is closed because it's after 8 p.m.? And what if it's Saturday night and they're closed on Sundays? Think you can wait til Monday to go again? This is a strong vote in favor of getting to know your neighbors.

Thankfully, there was money on our card. Which we found out after we went to top it up at the management office and they said, "You can't put money on this card, it's already full!" So the toilets are flushing again.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dust running wild

In the absence of my maid, I have had to scrounge around in my brain for the place where "cleaning skills and know-how" reside, dust them off, and use them. In the process I have discovered some places which she has, ahem, overlooked.

Exhibit A: Under the couch. We are all familiar with dust bunnies, but to say we have dust bunnies is an understatement. What we have living under our couch are dust rhinos. I know this, because dust bunnies would never viciously attack lunge at my face in that fashion. Territorial beasts they are. I don't think they are normally this aggressive, but they have been allowed to run feral for quite some time. I managed to subdue them, but I need to have a conversation with my maid about how we shall keep the population to a minimum in the future.

A Life in Cakes

We just celebrated Ethan's 10th birthday yesterday. Yes, 10!! We were reflecting on each year last night at dinner and got on the topic of Ethan's cakes. My mom set an example for me of having creative cakes for our parties. I can't say all of Ethan's have been amazing, but it's fun to look back through and see what he liked each year. Here they are:

1st year: He didn't care, so I just made a generic cake to the feed the masses of friends we invited (he didn't care who came at age 1 right?)

2nd birthday: Ethan loved Blue Clues. This is when I first discovered the awesome time and effort saving technique of using toys to decorate the cake, rather than actually drawing something. (I'm pregnant in this picture, by the way). It's fun to see that the two kids on the right, Jackson and Emma, were at his 10th birthday party too!

3rd birthday: I'm pretty proud of this one. You can't tell much, but I dug part of the cake out, throwing those M&M rocks into the hole (if only real rocks came in candy colors). Again, Ethan's toys to the rescue!

4th birthday: I didn't want to ruin Thomas by planting him in frosting, so I constructed this, probably from a picture.

5th birthday: This one was our first in Singapore. I realize it doesn't make sense that Spiderman would be laying on the web like this, but it looked better than him doing a face plant into the cake.

6th birthday: Dinosaur! I wish I had a closer picture of this one. This was my first shaped cake. Notice the "rocks" on the table - chocolate pieces I found at Mustafa! The palm branches are courtesy of the courtyard. Ah, the tropics!

7th birthday: I'm not sure why Ethan wanted a Superman cake. I think he requested superheroes in general and this was the easiest. That red frosting was so potent the kids' mouths and hands were stained for days!

8th birthday: What do you do when your son asks for a "Lego Star Wars" birthday. Not Legos, not Star Wars, but Lego Star Wars. Call in the toys! There's a stormtrooper riding that green animal, and some other figures scattered around.

9th birthday: Ah, possibly my biggest challenge yet: a Bakugan birthday. Thankfully, these little toys are round so I suggested cupcakes. I then spent a night creating frosting in the various colors of Bakugans. After all my work, I was informed by my son that they were not quite the right colors. Because it was his birthday, I let him live.

10th birthday: Camouflage! Good thing I stocked up on all those different food colorings at the baking store in Singapore. This required brown, black, and two shades of green. My fingernails are still stained. As are some of the boys.

There it is - a life in cakes.

25 more

What am I thankful for?

101. Meaningful times of shepherding my kids' hearts where I've seen the light go on
102. I found my Hobby Lobby gift card! I thought I'd lost this in the States and then it just appeared on my dining room floor here.
103. Cars to borrow
104. I learned new vocabulary in Chinese this week
105. I set a reasonable and motivating goal for running
106. Megan has made a new best friend in our city
107. I have the challenge of teaching drama to kids in our homeschool co-op this spring
108. Friends over for dinner
109. a new grocery store
110. We're closer to getting our car!
111. Opportunities for my kids to see that I fail
112. Good talks with old friends
113. Seasons
114. A predicted high of 61 today so I can run outside
115. book depository
116. Tao Bao
117. Crystal Light
118. My kids are funny
119. God has shown mercy to my friend Lynn in ending her pain
120. He is showing His grace to her husband John
121. Our kids got really dirty on Sunday! (that means they had great fun outside)
122. Our helper, Su Jie
123. Our son has reached the ripe old age of 10
124. I have been married to the same wonderful man for 12 1/2 years, and he cares enough to celebrate each month of it with me (150!)
125. We had great celebrations of both yesterday!

Monday, February 22, 2010

A tribute to my friend Lynn

This morning I ran on my treadmill with Chris Tomlin worship pushing me along. As I listened, I thought of my friend Lynn Chynoweth, who went home to be with Jesus on Saturday night. I tried to wrap my head around the idea that what sounds like beautiful worship to me from her perspective now probably would sound like an old phonograph in a distant room. As I listened to Chris sing, "Holy, Holy, Holy" I thought of her standing by the throne, singing that with the multitude. It's an amazing picture.

It comforts me to know that she is free from pain. Lynn battled cancer for a long time. When I saw her in December, she was doing well. In fact, she'd just had good news that things were looking up. We lamented not being able to have time together then, but talked about seeing each other this November when we're back in Orlando.

Last week, Lynn experience pain that took her to the hospital. Her doctor told her she had 3-6 months. God, in His mercy, decided to take her sooner.

I met Lynn when she and her husband John worked with us in Singapore. They brought years of experience and wisdom to our team, and they shared it with us humbly and graciously. Lynn was a woman with a gentle, listening heart. She invited me into her life and our times together were marked by her joy and acceptance of me. She and her husband John have always been examples to us of how to walk faithfully for the long haul, but their faith and commitment to God on this painful journey has been unbelievable. I pray that I can be the kind of person who glorifies God like that in my life. She ran the race well, and I grieve the loss of her. May we all strive to be such people of faith!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How many people CAN fit on the subway? Maybe just one more

Sometimes I think that I have become so accustomed to the culture here that it doesn't bother me anymore. Then I remember that it's more because I don't put myself in the most frustrating cultural situations on a regular basis. For me, these mostly involve public transportation, shopping in markets, and tourist locations.

Take yesterday, for example. I rode the subway down to a place called Wang Fu Jing pedestrian street. I was fine for the first 16 stops. Then I had to take one stop over on line 1 - the original subway line, where you are within suicidal distance and potential of the oncoming train. There was a good number of people waiting when I arrived, so much so that I was unable to board the first train that came. Probably about 10 other people shouldn't have tried to board either, but they did manage to squish their bodies in enough for the doors to close. It was at that point I realized it would have been faster to just walk the last stop above ground. But if I had, I would have missed the sensation of not holding onto anything on the subway, yet being completely immovable due to the crush of people. If you haven't experienced this, you really should put in on your bucket list.

After a glorious time at the foreign bookstore, I headed to an indoor market which caters to foreigners, to find party supplies for Ethan's 10th birthday. There I was reminded how much I want to host a "market vendors convention" during which I instruct them that foreigners do not appreciate it when, a) the vendors scream, "Hello lady, I remember you!!", "Hello hat!!", "C'mon lady wanna buy some t-shirt?" or variations thereof, or b) the vendors physically pull them into a stall, or c) the vendors hovering and pointing out every item they are selling. It's a fine line for me between politely acknowledging their antics and simply getting what I need and getting out.

It may sound like I had what we call a "China day" when the culture just rubs you the wrong way, but I actually didn't. I think because I don't often put myself in this kind of situation I can be somewhat amused by it, and that's what I was yesterday. Just one of those "shake your head" kind of times when you're thankful you don't have to experience that all the time every day.

I declare spring!

I used to think that our city didn't really have spring. I mean, it had about a month, between the end of March and the end of April, when the winds picked up and told the pollution to take a hike for a few weeks, and the weather was balmy. Then it hit hot.

But today I realized something huge. Spring isn't shorter here. It just starts earlier. See, for Minnesotans, spring comes mid to late March ("in like a lion, out like a lamb" is what we always said for that month). But I'm staring out at 57 degree weather right now, and it's going to be at least near 50 for the next 10 days. The normal average right now is about 45. When we ran the half marathon in October, it was colder than it is today.

So may I officially declare it spring here? I know you southern born folks are shaking your heads and will continue to wear your long underwear, but I am rejoicing in the fact that we DO have spring! I'm off to enjoy it with a celebratory run. (no, not in shorts and a t-shirt like we ran the 1/2 - too many stares from the locals!).

Friday, February 19, 2010

And a few more . . .

Megan decided to get down on the floor to do Wii Fit with me yesterday. As she did she commented, "Ok, let's get this DONE!"

Today as she sat on my lap, she grabbed my sweater and said, "This is a mammal! It has fur!" Don't worry, it's not that our science curriculum is lacking. She just knows how to say something that will crack me up.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kid quotes

The kids have been shooting out the classic quotes lately. Or at least I think so. Overhead at the Butz house recently:

Ethan, "Let's hope the Korean falls, perhaps." This said as we watched an American compete against a Korean in the 1,000 meter speed skating heat.

Megan, "I'm all milky!" after consuming a little box of chocolate milk in one go.

Ethan, "Mom, I think I've outgrown coloring." Ok, good to know.

Megan, "Mom, what's the key to life?" I think she got this from a movie. I hopefully supplied her with a better answer than the one the cartoon animals gave her.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Now where was I . . . ?

Being thankful. And the list goes on . . .

76. I have not been awakened or kept awake by the war zone like fireworks which have happened every night this week due to Chinese New Year. This is nothing short of a miracle, as I am a light sleeper.
77. Our children have also not been awakened or kept awake.
78. Despite the close proximity to the fireworks, we haven't had any broken windows (this happened to some friends of ours, so we know the possibility is real!).
79. God is revealing some significant things in my heart
80. He's also giving me hope that said things can change!
81. We had fun with our kids and their best friends at the temple fair yesterday
82. Erik is home for three days!
83. We got our Wii Fit Plus DVD back which we left in the States
84. We can look forward to a fun dinner out with friends tonight
85. Valentine's Day was a joy with a little foresight to bring back things like conversation hearts and heart shaped confetti. My family enjoyed their heart shaped breakfasts.
86. The weather is getting warmer each week!
87. I had a great time of prayer this morning. It just starts my day right.
88. We're still learning and enjoying much about American History in homeschool.
89. There's a Subway opening three blocks from our house!
90. Our kids are really good eaters. I can feed them almost anything.
91. I have a husband who is gentle and patient with me.
92. Long underwear.
93. Heat lamps in the bathroom (I know I said it's getting warmer but I'm a colder than average girl!)
94. We can watch the Winter Olympics on TV and our computer - we don't have to miss a thing!
95. Coke Zero
96. oatmeal. It's my breakfast every morning.
97. Tulips! I found some at the grocery store the other day.
98. The beautiful colors of my living room bring me joy
99. My brother has a wonderful wife who is an answer to prayer
100. Facebook - seriously! I keep getting reconnected with old friends. Very fun!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gold Digger

I was delighted recently to find both Glee season 1 soundtracks at the DVD store. We've been listening to them in the car on the way to the north part of town and back. One of the songs is a cover of Kanye West's Gold Digger. As we were driving home the other night it was playing, and Megan piped up, "I'm digging for another kind of gold!" Said with finger up her nose. Nice.

Thoughts on pouring myself out

One summer back in my days of angst, I camped out in the book of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes, with all its "life is meaningless"talk is perfect for angst). I spent a long time in, and even wrote a poem about, chapter 11. The gist of it is, "You don't know what God is going to do with your life, so let Him fill you up and then pour yourself out and see what He does."

I've been thinking about being poured out lately. Now that I'm settled into life here, I hear God calling me to give of myself - who I am, what I have, what I can do. This thought was further reinforced when I read this post at Donald Miller's blog this morning.

So now I'm asking myself - what is my field to plow? And am I plowing it well? Good thoughts.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Surprise date

I love surprises. Really, honestly, I do. Surprise me sometime. As long as it's a nice surprise, and not anything embarrassing.

Erik surprised me this week with a special date. He told me that we were going to have family night on Thursday, but that morning announced that we were leaving the kids behind. I was told to wear something nice, that our helper was staying late to watch the kids, and we were leaving at 5. I figured there must be entertainment involved, and I was hoping that we might be going to Riverdance. I saw advertisements a long time ago and wasn't even sure when it was taking place, so I didn't hope TOO much.

We drove downtown and parked near the "Moscow Restaurant." That's where the parking attendant unintentionally let the cat out of the bag by asking if we were there to see the Riverdance performance. Yes! Even though it was only 5:30, the wait for the restaurant was ridiculously long. We had waited 1/2 hour when some of our friends happened to show up. One of them had been helping the Riverdance crew with translation and finding local musicians. We ditched the Moscow Restaurant and went with them to Big Pizza instead. Yeah, I know that sounds like a big step down in dining, but I'm all about a place where I can have a salad bar without waiting. What can I say? I'm a cheap date.

Well, for dinner anyway. I'm sure that 18th row tickets weren't cheap. But what was priceless was that our friend took us backstage with him where we witnessed the dancers warming up. I have this to say about what I saw back there: I'm no professional dancer, but it just doesn't seem like McDonald's and a smoke should be part of the warm up routine.

It didn't seem to bother them though - they put on a great show! Me, I'd have been shooting french fries into the 5th row with all that bouncing. I think my favorite routine was the Trading Taps one. I don't feel like going into detail. Just trust me that it was really good. A woman behind us was so moved she repeatedly cried out, "Duo hao kan!" during the last number. Duo hao kan indeed.

Happy New Year!

The window seat in our master bedroom is proving a good vantage point to witness the New Year celebrations. These consist of entire boxes of fireworks being lit in the street while people stand an unsafe distance away and watch. Many of the fireworks are simply noise and serve only to set off the car alarms nearby. Some of them are actually pretty though, and would be enjoyable if I wasn't thinking that maybe we shouldn't all be quite so close.

The only other time we have spent the New Year here was our first year, back when fireworks were banned. Generally we spend this time of year vacationing in a tropical location. Or actually living in a tropical location. So right now this is novel. I'm sure at about 2 a.m. it will have crossed the line into irritating.

O Canada!

You can learn a lot about a country from how they conduct the opening ceremonies. And from these opening ceremonies, I have learned that in the fall Canadians like to do punk rock style tap dancing. Who knew?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Things that are bringing me joy today

You might think I keep doing lists of 25 things I'm thankful for because I'm a little too structured. But you would be so wrong! Actually, you'd be a little right (ok a lot right), but really the main reason is because I like to stretch myself to think about more things. It's easy for me to think of 10-15 things, but I'm trying to dig a little deeper these days. So here are another 25 things I'm thankful for, on my way to 1,000:

51. I made progress on a project
52. beautiful snow
53. A warm Monday
54. Extra time with good friends this week
55. I've been up early every day this week
56. white cardstock. In China!
57. The book When the Soul Listens
58. Full cupboards
59. My jasmine plant is blooming
60. I have a big refrigerator
61. I have an 8KG washer! That's HUGE by China standards
62. I have a dryer too!
63. I haven't been awakened by any fireworks yet
64. Quiet time in the morning
65. The kids played spontaneously and well together several times this week
66. The local swimming pool
67. A great run along the canal on said warm Monday
68. Friends over for dinner (two nights in a row!)
69. Eating at other peoples' houses for dinner (two nights in a row!)
70. Fun time talking with my helper. I even made a joke. In Chinese!
71. The fun ages our kids are
72. I had a good run on the treadmill this morning
73. productive homeschool days
74. God answered a prayer above and beyond what I asked
75. The first thing our son does in the morning is find me and give me a hug

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A new way of living

I never anticipated the significant impact on the buying and storing of food these things make:
1. a car
2. a large refrigerator
3. cupboards

The first time we lived in China, we didn't have a car. Our purchasing from the local store was limited to what we could carry in our two hands, or two hands and a backpack. My grocery bill was rarely highly than $25 per visit.

Our refrigerator held about as much as 3 dormitory fridges, with one of the three being freezer space. But it was double hinged so you could open it from either side which was SWEET. I digress. The point is, you could buy about a week's worth of meat. And nothing taller than a soda can.

When we moved into our first apartment, the kitchen was devoid of cupboards. We had a few made - enough for dishes and cooking stuff. We had a buffet that held any other food.

I mentioned last week's Carrefour chicken expedition recently. There's no way I could have fit the amount of chicken I purchased in our previous refrigerator. Nor would I have had any place to store the massive amount of food we bought today at Metro (like Sam's Club). And if we weren't borrowing a friend's car, I cringe at thinking about putting all of that into a taxi who would drop me off at the gate, leaving me to make about 5 trips in to my house while hoping no one stole what I left on the street.

This whole idea of stocking up - buying what non-perishable items we might use in a month - is something which has slowly left me in Asia. But we do have a car, and a large refrigerator, and while our kitchen isn't huge, there's space for food! I can't explain what a mental shift this is for me. Erik was overjoyed to see how much we bought (he really hates it when we don't have food in the house). I was feeling a little anxious. It's hard to spend 680 kuai in one place here! But I have to remind myself it isn't just for the next 4-5 days like our shopping used to be.

So my plan is that once a month I will hit Metro (for economy sized things), Carrefour (for that amazing chicken) and Jenny Lou's (imported goods - for everything else!). Then theoretically the other items I can buy weekly at local stores. It's a new way of living. I think I'm going to like it.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


So I'm really digging this gratitude list. All day yesterday I was storing things up to write down. I think the challenge is to do it once a week, but I can't wait that long. So here's what I've been thankful for lately:

26. My children had their first language class this morning and it went really well.
27. lotion. We need lots of lotion in this climate. I have lots.
28. My daughter spontaneously bursts into song often
29. We bought a car!
30. My husband is a good man.
31. homemade granola bars
32. A great Bible study with new and old friends yesterday afternoon
33. Fun dinner with friends last night
34. The use of our friend's car for the next week (ours will be ready in March)
35. Quiet time to write while my kids learned
36. The organic store at the front of our building where I bought Sunmaid raisins and flaxseeds yesterday
37. Three ring binders! In China! I know they say "it's not wrong, it's just different" when it comes to other cultures, but I think there's something a little wrong with two ring binders.
38. A day sunny and warm enough for me to run outside this afternoon
39. My helper who came at 2:30 so I had the freedom to go do said run along the canal, instead of in circles in our complex
40. Sherpa throws
41. The choices I made to say encouraging things to my family
42. The choices I made to refrain from saying something unhelpful to my family
43. Life is relaxed right now
44. Erik doesn't travel at all in February or April
45. The kind woman at the subway stop let me park the car there even though I didn't have a card, and planned to leave it there 3 hours (you're only supposed to leave it for one hour). That was a huge blessing! Otherwise I would have had to drive back home and walk all the way back, making us incredibly late.
46. God answered a prayer for peace in my heart last night after something discouraging happened. Not only did He give me peace, He helped me see good in it! That's the kind of God we have.
47. Our kids are doing really well in homeschool. Megan did an entire chapter of math yesterday unprompted!
48. I found two tootsie rolls in my backpack
49. A great talk with Megan at bedtime about why it's good to admit when we're wrong
50. Family night playing Ticket to Ride - Megan and I won!

Wow. Life is good.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Things I never thought I'd have to say

They don't warn you, when you become a parent, that you will hear sentences coming out of your mouth that were previously inconceivable to you. Ethan usually is the one who generates these phrases from me, as he is the more physically creative of the two (do you like how I put a positive spin on that?). Over the years I've been led to say things like, "Honey, it's not a good idea to free fall off your lofted bed onto the floor, even if there is a mattress there", "Great drawing, sweetie, but you can't swing your sister from your bed by a rope" (see drawing from December 21, 2004), and "Can you please stop trying to launch mini-muffins with your catapult." After awhile it becomes quite normal to say these things.

So yesterday I added to the list when the kids were eating snacks, and I was compelled to say, "Ethan, please don't try to shoot gummies into Megan's mouth with your sling shot." While I appreciate the fact that he's enjoying this simple toy, and learning to use it well, they were at seriously close range. How do you explain a slingshot/gummie induced wound?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Christopher and Rachel Brenna

Have I mentioned that my brother recently got married? When we were growing up, he had a lot of interesting theories about the kind of girl he was going to marry. Like once he had a dream he was going to marry a girl whose name started with M. He dated a lot of girls whose names started with M. His wife's name is Rachel, so scrap that I guess.

But despite theories, he managed to find himself a decent woman. Ok, that's selling her short. She's honestly everything I've ever thought Christopher needed and more. He's one blessed man. Their wedding was the most meaningful wedding I've ever attended (my apologies if I attended your wedding). I think watching my little brother get married must be a fraction of what it's like to watch your kids get married. It was seriously hard to have a direct view of him! He teared up right away, so there was no hope for me. It was a great blessing for all of us to be included in the wedding party. But words can't really do it justice - suffice to say it was a great day, I'm thrilled for both of them because they are so good for each other, and here are the pictures to prove it all.

PS Rachel I'm jealous you got my maiden name. I really want it back. :)

A change of heart

When I sat down in Dunn Bros in the late days of December to ponder my life in 2010, the phrase I walked away with was, "I want to have a restful heart that loves well and worships freely." There are many challenges to this way of life for me, first and foremost being my inclination to act like a manic beaver when I get going on life. I'm a high energy girl who sometimes doesn't know when to quit - there's just so much I love to do, on top of all I have to do! I also tend to be like the elder brother from John 15 - the diligent worker who, as Tim Keller put it, finds the Father useful rather than enjoying Him, and loves what He gives more than he loves Himself. Harsh words you might think, but I can own them because I know that God desires to answer the prayer in my heart to be this kind of woman - restful, worshipful, loving.

One of the gifts He immediately gave me (actually had already given me a few weeks prior) is a wonderful woman named Dayle who has graciously agreed to help coach me in my role here. In a conversation we had a few weeks ago, she encouraged me to "celebrate the little victories" in my life rather than looking at the ways I fall short. The next day, in my Dove chocolate wrapper (a day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine), the message read, "Celebrate the little victories!" That was extremely cool, albeit a little creepy. I took it as a sign, so I started recording my little victories in my journal.

Then today I had the joy of discovering that my new sister (in-law, but I just want to call her sister!) has a blog, on which she has been doing this great practice of sharing things she's grateful for. 1,000 things in fact. And I couldn't help but think that it would help my heart toward its 2010 desires to jump on the wagon. So here are my first thoughts of gratitude:

I'm thankful for . . .
1. Dayle, who encouraged me to celebrate my life more
2. Rachel, who inspired me
3. the funny things my kids said and did today that made me laugh
4. our electricity card still had money on it so when the meter ran out we weren't stranded without electricity until the bank opens tomorrow
5. popcorn. I had it for dinner. I love popcorn
6. My chiropractor, Mu Mu
7. The great conversation I had with Mu Mu today in Chinese
8. getting my kids through creative writing successfully today. Writing can be the hardest part of homeschool.
9. my husband ordering our new car today!
10. the choices I made to apologize for little things today that I could have let slide by
11. the best friends our kids have right next door
12. a good run on my treadmill today
13. chocolate
14. friends in far places - just saw one of them come online. Hi Wendy!
15. My brother finding an amazing woman to marry
16. The opportunity to teach my kids every day
17. The closeness I have with my kids because I am with them so much
18. My helper, Su Jie, who cleans my house so I don't have to
19. The bedding I brought back from the States. I really love it. It gives me joy every time I walk in the bedroom.
20. The opportunity to coach LEAF in March . . .
21. with Iris Lowder! It's a dream come true, seriously. I had to make those two separate things because I'm so thankful for them.
22. Warmer days lately that make our house not so cold
23. My husband, who always walks in the door with a smile on his face
24. Teaching American History to my kids today in such a way that Ethan said he was having a lot of fun. That's a huge victory!
25. a long quiet time with God before the kids got up this morning that helped me start my day with a restful heart