May 17th

May 17th, besides being my 17th birthday, was the seven-day mark of my coming back from almost three months in China.  This trip was amazing in so many ways, a time of learning, serving, a time of growing closer to God, to the many old friends I met up with again, and new friends I met for the first time while I was there.  In addition, it was the first time I’ve ever lived away from my family.  (And consequently the first time I ever had to learn Beijing street names, call a driver, hail a taxi, order food, do my own grocery shopping, and so much more!)

Goodbye dinner at the Muslim barbecue restaurant on one of my last nights there. Yes, that’s Daddy in the back, he came to pick me up!

One of the most encouraging, definitely-God things that happened to me while I was there occurred right after getting off the plane in Beijing.  Despite daily study in the US, I wasn’t at all sure I would remember how to speak Chinese, at least not well.  However, I found myself able to say anything and everything I needed to say, including words I’m not sure I even reviewed!  Add to that the fact that I hadn’t slept for about 20 hours, and all I can say is “God is good!”.

Since coming back from China, the questions I get asked most are, “What’s next?” and “Will you be going back?”.  In answer to the first question, this August I will be going to Grove City College, where I will be majoring in Special Education.  Will I be going back to China?  Yes, definitely.  God has taught and shown me so many things during the time I was there, one of which is that after college, I am going back (permanently, I think) as a Special Ed teacher.  I hope to go back again sometime between now and then, but I don’t know when.  For now, although it was hard to leave, I’m just glad to be back home.

Winter Memories

Since moving back to sunny South Texas, we haven’t had much in the way of cold weather.  The winter temperatures here are mild, the wind-chill factor unimpressive.  While temperatures like this are certainly far more comfortable than the frigid air of a Beijing winter, Gloria and I were reminiscing happily about the fun we used to have playing in the ice and snow.  Remembering it was such fun that I decided to post it here, on my seldom-used blog.

We lived next to a river in China.  The river was pretty gross normally, but when it snowed it looked beautiful.

We built this snowman right after moving to China, during our first week there.  It was the first time any of us Texas-born kids had seen snow!  (Except for Peter, who went on a trip to Maine with Mommy and Daddy when he was a toddler.)

The picture actually doesn’t show all of the kids who built the snowman.  This was only some of us.  Snowman building is a team effort!  (Especially if you want the snowman to be taller than you, because that bottom ball cannot be moved by only one person.)

Snow-fort building is a team effort, too.  Unfortunately, only one person can get in it at a time — unless you want to get really serious about dragging snow from all over the place to the building site.  This was in 2012.

What do you do when you’ve heard about how sledding is so much fun and want to try it, but lack a snow-covered slope and a sled?  Why, you make use of an old metal dustpan and the ice-covered parking lot, of course!

All snow must be played in, of course, but powder snow doesn’t pack well (unless you have some slush handy, as Elisabeth and I figured out…).  What could you do with it then?

My guess is that you wouldn’t have thought of what the boys did …neither did I… but their solution took the form of a miniature golf course.

And finally, sometimes in the winter we would get to go chair skating on a frozen lake in Houhai.

You could ice skate too, but usually only Gloria did that.  Chairs were more fun anyway.

There are lots more winter memories, but I’ll leave you with these.  Which is your favorite?

Family Pictures

Peter was home from college to visit over the weekend, so on Sunday while we were all dressed up I made him take some pictures of us so you can see how much we’ve Daniel has grown!

Daniel is taller than me now!

Daniel is taller than me now!

I confess the boys were less-than-enthusiastic about it, and only posed because Mommy wanted them to.

I look so tall standing next to Mommy and Gloria!

I look so tall standing next to Mommy and Gloria!

We got a picture of girls and one of the boys…

…but when I tried to get a picture of me and Peter together, this was all I ended up with:

Me being angry at Peter, who refused to smile

Me trying to be angry at Peter for not smiling, but obviously having a hard time not laughing!

And so ended our family pictures.

Entering the World of Chicken-Keeping: Part 2

In the post prior to this one, I promised a part 2 that would be posted “soon”.

Clearly I have a heavily flawed definition of “soon”.

In fact, my definition of “soon” is so flawed that I have waited for months to even begin writing this post.  It’s a little shameful to admit.  Not to mention, this post was supposed to track our chicken’s development from where I left off in the last post until the present.  But as present became ever-farther from the date of my last post, and young chickens continued to grow, I hadn’t a single picture on my camera that accurately depicted how the chickens really look in the present.  This lead to me having to take more pictures, which meant more photo editing and uploading, which means posting would take too long, which means I continued to procrastinate.  Yup, just a little bit shameful to admit.

Anyway, long-awaited as this post has been, I figure I should stop apologizing and start updating!  So, where was I after last post?

Ah yes, the chickens had just moved into their coop permanently.  Well, here’s a picture of them when they first did that:

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s a picture of them now!

Clearly, they haven’t been wasting any time growing into their adult feathers, or growing up in general.  Also, we’ve officially confirmed that all of them are hens!  This is great news for us, because roosters are not ideal neighborhood pets… for obvious reasons.  A hen can and will lay eggs without having a rooster around, so we were delighted to learn that all the six chickens we bought would grow up into egg-laying, non-crowing hens.

They’re not quite there yet, though.  In the mean time, it’s lots of fun to watch them grow.  Wanna see some more pictures?

This is Autumn, an Easter Egger chicken named by Gloria.

This is Merry Poppins, a Barred Rock pullet that Mommy named:

Nellie, our other Easter Egger, was named by John.  Don’t you love her bright orange feathers?

This is Mumthers, a Buff Orpington pullet.  Daniel named her after a character in a book who could cook anything, and make it beyond delicious.  He reasoned that with a namesake like that, his hen would lay the most delicious eggs of any of them!  So far, she seems to be pretty food-savvy; she sticks around us even when the other chickens are off playing, hoping to get treats!

Sunshine, also a Buff Orpington pullet, was named by Daddy and looks a great deal like Mumthers.  Her feathers are a slightly lighter hue, pretty much the only indicator we can use to tell them apart.

And finally, this is my hen, Bobbles.  She, like Merry Poppins, is a Barred Rock pullet.  She’s also a big eater and the fattest hen of the bunch!

Having chickens has been a blast so far.  And now, having fulfilled my blog-posting duties, I’m heading outside to go feed them!

Edit: I wrote this post a long time ago and only just now bothered to post it, so the chickens are actually even bigger than you can see from here.

Gloria Broke Her Finger…

Yup, you read that right.  Gloria has officially become the first person ever in our family to break a bone.  Although that’s not typically the type of record that you want to set, doesn’t she look proud of her cast?

So, how did she break it?  That’s actually kind of interesting; it appears that she was playing outside with Daniel.  They had been pretending to be Indians, and were hunting while acting as animals, in order to get the animal powers (I’ve no clue where they came up with that!).  While pretending to be a lion, crawling on all fours, she stepped on her hand — resulting in a broken index finger.

She says that it doesn’t hurt anymore, which is good.  The cast will probably be taken off in a couple of weeks, and until then, she doesn’t seem to mind not having to wash her hand, not having to practice piano, getting helped with everything, and being allowed extra-large helpings of dessert.  Yeah, I’m sure she’ll be just fine.

Entering the World of Chicken-Keeping: Part 1

As of 5 weeks ago, we have some new pets.  (And they are most definitely pets, not future dinner!)  We have entered the world of backyard chicken keeping, and are enjoying it immensely.

Our chicks are growing up quickly, and due to posting-lack-of-frequency, I’ll only show you their first days here.  For bigger chicks, more recent pictures, or simply a continuation of their overwhelmingly adorable cute-ness, check out Part 2!

Our chicks started their life in a hatchery in Ohio, and spent their first day traveling the 1,000 something miles between there and Texas.  While they made the journey, we waited anxiously at home for our very own “peeping package”.  Though we were worried that they might not make survive the trip, every one arrived alive and healthy,  and were soon introduced to the brooder; a strange, newspaper filled place that was to be their home for the next 3 weeks.

First came a drink of water…

…then their first taste of food…

…and finally, some cuddles.

Also, a great deal of sleeping, which I didn’t take a picture of.  After eating, sleeping, drinking, and being cuddled for three days, the chicks were ready for some adventure!  After all, they had crossed the country during their first day of life, and though the brooder and its heat lamp were more comfortable than that journey, they were not nearly so exciting.  Mumthers, a little yellow chick named by Daniel,  thought that maybe we would let her out if she gave us her “cute face”:

And she also tried to get all the others to join in!

We understood what it was like to have cabin-fever, and accordingly introduced them to a gigantic place called “backyard”.  Though they weren’t too sure about it at first, the bolder ones soon took a liking to it, and helped their friends to overcome their fears.  It wasn’t long before some of then began to enjoy sitting on the grass, taking a dust bath, or scratching at the ground.

After 3 pleasant weeks, they moved into their permanent coop and run.  How did they adjust?  Take a look at Part 2 to find out, coming soon!

In the Treetops

Do you remember the tree I mentioned in this post here?  Well, those guys have improved on their climbing skills since then, and have reached the treetops!

The branches aren’t as thick up here!

They weren’t the only ones, however.  Upon reaching those lofty heights, they discovered that something else — something creepy — had made it there before them.

A not-so-friendly-looking couple of caterpillars were up there, and they didn’t seem too happy to be disturbed. Daniel and Gloria snapped a couple of dead twigs from the tree’s less-healthy branches, and carefully shoved the caterpillars off the tree. The little creatures had a strong grip, though, and didn’t yield easily. Back on the ground, Daniel and Gloria inspected them more closely. To their surprise, the white and gray, camouflaged topsides were not all there was to the caterpillars; they both sported brightly colored, striped undersides!

They’re a very pretty pinkish-purple underneath.

A couple days later, after getting over the initial “danger in the tree” paranoia, John, Daniel, and Gloria ventured up the tree again.  I learned why shortly later: they had bought another new rope, and had been busy improving their safest spot in the tree, Comfy Cradle.  It was so safe, they insisted, I could climb up there effortlessly, fall asleep once I was up, and still wake up perfectly fine.  Their argument was very convincing, so I decided to see if I could get up there. Apparently I could!

Now don’t be too impressed by my decision to climb the tree again, the boys offered several other arguments and I was quite the scaredy-cat all throughout the climb.  It turned out to be so easy, however, that I plan on doing it again, this time without nearly and hour of  constant urging.  They even tied special knots in the rope at just the right spots for them to act as handles!  Yes, they are pretty serious tree-climbers.

Camping at Enchanted Rock: Part 2

As promised, the second part of the post, detailing the second day of our camping trip! Yippee!

After surviving our night of peril fright in the wilderness with coyotes, (read the last few paragraphs of Part 1) we packed up our tents and sleeping bags and hiked back down by a different, longer route. The terrain was actually much smoother on this other trail, however, so the fact that it was an extra mile didn’t bother us. And it, like the hike in, was filled with amazing views and great scenery!

Gloria standing on the top of hill, with lots of trees behind and below her.


Some neat scenery on the hike.

Some neat scenery on the hike.

After making our way past the grassy, cactus-y hills, we ventured back to the land of boulders.

Close-up of Gloria, John, and Daniel standing in front of a boulder.

Close-up of Gloria, John, and Daniel standing in front of a boulder.


A non-close-up so you can see the boulder better!

A non-close-up so you can see the boulders better!

We came across some small, mostly muddy rivers from time to time, and this being Spring, there were wildflowers in these damp spots!

The hiking wasn’t so hard on this trail, so we soon made it back to the car, where we dumped all our excess stuff in the trunk. Relieved of our heavy load, we then set out to hike to the top of the mountain! (Okay, so it was more of a steep hill, but it was pretty hard going.) We eventually made it there, and the view — and wind — was breathtaking.

It was hard to stand up in the wind!

It was hard to stand up in the wind!



You can see a pretty amazing view behind Gloria in this picture!

You can see a pretty amazing view behind Gloria in this picture!

We stayed up there and played or, like me, just jumped into the wind, for a while. After we came down, we got into the car and went to get Dairy Queen, and pick up the new Disney princess movie “Frozen” as well! All in all, it was a pretty spectacular day.

Camping at Enchanted Rock: Part 1

Interesting title, don’t you agree?  Last week we did, in fact, go camping at a place called “Enchanted Rock”.  So, you may ask, why am I reading this post today instead of a week ago?  Why does it take Julianne so long to write new posts?  Why am I reading her speculation about my thoughts?  Well, as to that last part, I really can’t say.  As to the taking a long time about writing new posts, it does take a while to sort through the many, many pictures I took.

So, enter first of many, many pictures.
IMG_1675 This one was taken shortly after we arrived at the park, when we still had a hour-long hike to our campsite ahead of us.  Notice all the sleeping bags and assorted “things” we’re carrying?

And this one shows us taking advantage of a nearby boulder (not pictured) to tower over Daddy!

The hike to the campsite featured some interesting, erm, boulders and other rocks (it was a mountain of pink granite, after all).

After we started to get over the mountain and into the valley, the hiking got more strenuous and I stopped taking pictures in order to focus on not falling and dying.  Below are a couple of the pictures I took after we exited the valley and got into a flatter area.

Taking a short break in the cave.

Daddy standing just outside the cave we found.

After we got to our campsite and set up the tents, we explored and played for a few hours. We also kept our eyes open for forked sticks that might serve as potential skewers for our hotdogs and marshmallows later!

Cooking up some dinner!


Good, safe cooking methods were demonstrated by Daniel.

Good, safe cooking methods were demonstrated by Daniel.

After the dinner we ate more snacks and played some games in the tent, before finally dropping off to sleep, something which turned out to be more difficult than I would have imagined, due to the coyote pack that saw fit to howl loudly throughout most of the night. Creepy and noisy, but also sort of interesting due to the novelty of it!

That’s it for Part 1 of this post! Check back tomorrow for Part 2!

The Season of Lizards

The season of lizards is early spring through late fall. A long season, at least around here. But for the past month or so, the wild lizards that can typically be found around our backyard have been inactive. As a result, there have been no new additions to Daniel’s collection of reptiles. That lizard-less season has come to close, however, and both he and John caught a Green Anole!

One of these Green Anoles is looking greener than the other…

Those aren’t the only new lizards, though. Toady, one of Daniel’s three Texas Spiny Lizards, (named for her extremely fat physique, giving the impression that she’s part toad) was looking much slimmer the other day. A quick investigation of her cage gave the explanation: 19 newly-laid eggs! The picture below is the bowl full of warm soil that they’ve moved the eggs into.

We had actually been expecting this for while, but we weren’t expecting 19 eggs, nor the knowledge that they’ll take 2 to 3 months to hatch.

Honestly, having lizards in the house wasn’t always pleasant for me. I didn’t always appreciate the spiky, scaly creature that leaps out of Daniel’s hand and into my hair when we’re trying to watch a movie. But seeing how much excitement and happiness they bring to Daniel and Gloria makes up for that. And you know what? I’m looking forward to having 19 baby lizards in the house.