Saturday, December 17, 2011

Life now, a little different

After a little break from blogging, I have decided to start up again.

Mainly because I blogged pretty regularly when Anna was little and I'm trying to stave off that 'neglected second child syndrome' that inevitably leads to having no records of significant milestones for any child other than the first! (And on that note, my goal is to have Levi's birth story done before he is a month old. Leaving me ... 3 days. Better get on that!)

My experience recovering and adjusting this time round has been WORLDS different from those first few weeks after Anna's birth. Physically, in terms of recovering from his delivery (no time for an epidural or episiotomy this time!), but also emotionally. I feel SO much more at ease this time, despite all of my pregnant fretting that I would fall apart with two children. I distinctly remember a point in time when Anna was three months old, when I realised that I did not feel overwhelmed by my life any more (yes - three MONTHS). This time, in Levi's second week of post-birth life when Mark went back to work, I think all three of us were out running errands every day of the week! Of course, not being in nursing school is a pretty significant improvement this time, which I'm sure has a lot to do with how much calmer everything feels.

And probably because I am feeling so much more relaxed, nursing Levi is looking VERY different from my breastfeeding experience with Anna. He regained his birth weight by two weeks (rather than nearly four with Anna), and by the time he turns a month old in a few days I will have four gallons of pumped milk in my deep-freeze! He is usually only getting up once in the night, around 3:00, for which I am very thankful. He has had the occasional bad day or bad night, but on the whole he is a pretty chilled little guy.

Anna is a spectacular big sister. She loves on Levi and calls him "my baby", and says multiple times a day "Aww.... he's so tiny I just want to take him home, Mama!" (To which I reply that we are in fact AT home, a detail that remains lost on her apparently!) She developed a little 'nursing routine' shortly after we got home from the hospital, of bringing me a little pile of books to read to her while I sit on the couch feeding Levi, and has so far seemed to adapt very well to her transition from only child to big sister.

Well, that's going to be it for now. Both kids are napping, and my bed is calling my name too! (Last night was not one of the better nights; he did space his feeding times seven hours apart, but fussed till after midnight - silly boy!)

Silly ... but cute, and we love him :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer fun

Here are a few picture of what our summer has looked like so far - when we've been able to get out and about in temperatures consistently over 100 degrees! (And yes, that does mean lots of pool time!)

Ice cream picnic while we waited for the fireworks to begin on the 4th! Anna has been talking about watching fireworks ever since - good thing we kept a couple aside for the fall!

They both look pretty popsicle-drunk here - but at least they're happy drunks!!

Fun with our favourite Luu girls :) (It really is fun to see Anna making friends and specifically choosing which people she wants to hang out with!)

Mark has been SO busy since third year started - but he's gotten to sneak away for some fun now and then. Anna and I are usually at Mimi's pool on Tuesdays, and one week when Mark got an unexpected lunch break he came out and joined us for a half hour or so :) Which of course Anna loved - Dada has a little more energy for rough-and-tumble right now than I do! And he also got to spend the morning with us at the aquarium the day he switched over to working nights - love those family passes!

We celebrated our 6th anniversary in July, woohooo!! He booked the weekend off, and we found a cute little B&B to try out. I may have fallen in love with four-poster beds just a liiitttle...! (Not to mention the breakfast in bed part!)

So that's what we've been up to over the last few weeks this summer - I'm soo ready for fall to be here, but we're definitely enjoying soaking up the sun too. And I'm also trying to make the most of my last summer with only one child ... part of me wishes our kids would have been closer in age, but I am also loving getting all this time with just Anna. It's flown by and it's almost over ... and I know I will love this next chapter in our life too, but it will certainly be different!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

I am renaming my blog.

I know.

Not a very imaginative post title.

But in case any of you are like me and (sometimes) skim through your reading list without actually reading any more than post titles, I wanted you to see it and not be confused next time I post and a random blog pops up on your list!

I have been thinking about renaming this page for a little while, but until now haven't really had any inspiration. I started the blog to chronicle my pregnancy with Anna, but it's outlasted that stage of my life and a new name seems appropriate. And now that I have finally come up with one, here it is:

A Storehouse Full

This has a double meaning - first, my blog is turning into the place I store significant happenings in my life. I journal too, in a real live paper-&-pen journal, but it's sometimes quicker to just type. Even if I never end up publishing the post.
And secondly, these are lyrics to a song that I discovered a little while ago and listen to a lot. Storehouse, by Sandra Mccracken. I can't figure out how to embed an mp3 into Blogger, but here are the lyrics and you might be able to listen to the song here on Grooveshark ... maybe?! Ok, linking the URL isn't going to happen either I guess. You can look it up if you want to listen! (It's very worth the 10 seconds it will take to find it on Grooveshark.)


The first uninterrupted sleep since July
The first waves of wisdom swing like a wrecking ball
Oh, a child takes the throne, displacing us all in good time

And I give you all that I have to give
Give you all that I have to give
When I give you all that I have to give
I still have a storehouse full

This love is reciting me like a backwards rhyme
The more that you lose of yourself the more you find
Take me out of myself, and into
The Clothes of royalty
love has taken me...

And I give you all that I have to give...but I still have a storehouse full

And it's barely December and I can't remember before
So I pull back the curtains and fling open wide the doors

Oh I give you all that I have to give...
(give you all, give you all I have)
Give you all that I have to give..

She wrote the song about her son. And while I'm not advocating a parenting style that involves "a child taking the throne, displacing us all" (!), I love knowing that in those moments when I feel like I have run out of patience, love, energy, whatever ... in the arena of parenting or elsewhere in my life ... I haven't really run out. I have an infinite supply of everything I need for life and godliness, and I have the Holy Spirit prodding me to access it! Now, this is a work in progress. I'm not claiming to be good at 'life and godliness' ... just wanting to be good at it, and knowing that grace abounds in the times I'm not!

So that's where my new name comes from :)

In other news ...

  • We passed a big potty-training landmark today: first day-trip in big-girl unders! And they stayed dry! We went to the aquarium, and I packed dipes just in case but Anna sat on the potty before leaving the house, went once while we were there and once when we got back, and not a drop in her unders! This is one proud mama.
  • The big-girl bed is going well too. She will get out every once in a while, but so far it's only been once on any given occasion. She's been waking up earlier in the morning that when she was in her crib (or maybe it's just that in her crib she would wake up and just lay there, quietly trapped!), but I have been waking up early too the last week or so, so I don't mind much!
  • Mark's car is in the shop. And will only come home to us after a few thousand dollars of maintenance :( The a/c had been making noises for a few weeks apparently, and then gave up the ghost a week or so ago. Which is more or less unacceptable when the high is over 105 every day these days...! And then a bunch of smaller stuff too; new water pump, belts, compressor... after eating through this much of our savings, this car had better make it through Armageddon and still be running!
  • Our "tiny baby", as Anna has named it, is definitely going through a growth spurt. I had only gained under 10lbs total at my last OB appointment, but since then I have been eating pretty much the whole time I am awake. I can feel that my little kicks and punches and squirms are getting a lot stronger, and can see the baby moving really clearly under my skin. I haven't had my official GTT yet (the test for gestational diabetes), but I think I probably have it again. I have really been able to feel when my blood sugar is soaring and then crashing - especially after breakfast. And if I have a high-protein breakfast, I feel a lot better throughout the whole rest of the day. I am also a lot less comfortable than I was with Anna at this point. I think I just got bigger a lot faster, and my skin and back and general musculoskeletal structure are struggling to keep up! I had a little scare last week - it turned out to just be the heat and dehydration, but I had a couple hours of contractions that were every 7-10 minutes. Everything checked out fine on my NST and ultrasound the next day, but I am definitely taking things a little easier and drinking more on days that I do have to be out and about!
Well, that is it for me for now. It's 11:30 and bed is calling!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Time flies...

... whether or not you are having fun, apparently!

It really bugs me when I get behind on blogging, because I feel like I have to come up with a huge catch-up post (or posts, if I'm really behind) and I just don't have time for that right now. However, you'll be pleased to hear that this time I will condense the last two months of our lives into bullet points and not slam you with a huge mega-post :)

So - since getting back from PNG at the start of June, here's what's been going on in the Crouch household:

  • Mark got swallowed by the hospital in June since he'd been out of the call pool for about 4 months, ouch!
  • He has been named one of the two chief residents for the upcoming academic year - a huge responsibility and privilege. So proud of him! We attended a somewhat fun conference in Dallas for incoming chief residents of the regional residency programs more or less as soon as we got back from PNG.
  • Image Summer Retreat! Lots of planning and organising for both of us this year, since Mark is chief and I am (surprise) chief wife! There are a couple events for spouses at the retreat every year, which I and the other chief wife Josephine were coordinating. Kind of stressful ... not so much a 'retreat' for either us or our hubbies, who were also presenting their research projects that they'd spent all year working on!
  • Planned/ hosted a couple of brunches & baby showers
  • Finally got in to see my OB, after 2 1/2 months of us being gone/ him moving offices so his scheduling system got all crazy. I have only gained about 8lbs, but my belly is EXPLODING. By the time I turned 20 weeks (yup - just the half way point), I am having trouble eating anything more than a large snack at one time, I'm struggling to breathe well, my skin doesn't want to stretch one more millimeter, and I feel symptomatic of gestational diabetes again. And this child is WIGGLY!! We had a little scare the other day; I had a bunch of sporadic contractions during the day, and then a couple hours of contractions every 7-10 minutes during the evening. It turned out to be nothing more than dehydration and tiredness, so I'm trying to drink a ton and take it easy ... but in our 3rd week of temperatures above 100, it's not easy!
  • Image moved hospitals! Hillcrest, the hospital the residents had been based out of for the last 10 or 15 years, decided their budget wouldn't sustain the residency any more. So after meeting with several other hospitals in town, we moved to St John. This is a HUGE transition - both for the hospital and us!! And, being a chief, a lot of the responsibility of making that go as smoothly as possible on the day-to-day front has fallen to Mark (especially since he's running the hospital service this month).
  • We celebrated our 6th anniversary, woohoo!! Left that little girl of ours at Mimi and Papa's for the night, and went out for dinner and a B&B. Mark had the awesome idea of taking me to a culinary supply store called The Stock Pot, which offers cooking classes every couple of weeks in addition to having an incredible array of kitchen supplies. So we got to have a class with the executive chef of one of the really nice restaurants in town, and learned how to make a 4-course meal using only locally grown foods from the farmers market - and of course got to eat everything we learned how to make, and took home a bunch of new delicious recipes! I will be trying them out at home shortly, so I'll share the recipes as I make them :)
  • I am potty training Anna, and moving her to a big-girl bed. Simultaneously, which definitely wasn't the plan, but is just how it worked out! I was going to move her bed first, but she started talking about potties and going pee-pee before I had her bed all refinished, and then it all kind of happened at once. Tomorrow night will be her first night in the big-girl bed (we're doing it cold turkey - moving her crib into the new nursery so there's no going back!) - again, I will keep you posted on how it goes! On the potty training front, she gets a tattoo for every time she goes pee-pee on the big girl potty, and she's been nicely tatted up ever since we started :) We've had a couple accidents, but on the whole it's going really well! Can't believe she's big enough for any of this...

So ... most of that has been fun, some of it has been draining, but all of it has flown by! And that is all that I have the energy for tonight. I am going to go brush my teeth, snuggle with my massage pillow, and hope that Mark's cholestasis lady's induction doesn't take all night.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hello and Goodbye

That is kind of how this last month has felt: "Hello PNG ... oh - our month is up. Goodbye, I guess!"

It has been a fast, fast month. I am sitting on our couch looking at our suitcases stacked by the door (I triumphed over our packing yesterday and managed to stuff everything we brought here into two checked pieces, one carry-on, a purse and a back-pack) and wondering how we are already leaving. I am sad, but I am thankful to be homeward bound. Although even as I write that, I feel I am being disloyal to our little yellow Papua-Guinea House, which has definitely become home away from home.

I have two lists in my head. Things I'm looking forward to that I've missed doing while we've been here, and things I've gotten to do in the last month that I am about to start missing. Some of the items or experiences that showed up on each list surprised me. Without further ado ... here they are!

Things I'm looking forward to about going home

  • spending time with family and friends
  • owning a car
  • being able to go outside on my own after dark
  • grilling (ok - eating what Mark grills)
  • my bed
  • having the option of not-from-scratch cooking
  • our church that is in English and where people don't stare at me when I walk in
  • wearing shorts
  • not hearing the unearthly sounds that cicadas make - at 6am, very faithfully, each day
  • 21st-century internet speed ;)
  • things outside of our home/immediate surroundings that I can take Anna to do. We are not normally stay-at-home kind of girls!
  • getting things ready for the baby. I have begun mentally nesting :)

Some things I will miss

  • spending time with our new friends who have become like family already
  • the view from my living room
  • eating fresh fruit and vegetables from Dr Bill's garden just across the yard
  • Mark's lunch breaks every day
  • taking Anna for walks outside that are punctuated every minute or so by a cheerful "gud mohning", "apnoon", or "gud evening" from Papua New Guinean people wandering around the station
  • being able to send Anna outside to play with the neighbour kids!
  • listening to the heavy tropical rain fall on our roof while I go to sleep
  • hanging laundry on the line
  • going to a church where I don't understand most of the words being said or sung, but still see love for Jesus on the faces around me
  • a gas stove!
  • being forced to slow down the pace of life
  • talking to our neighbours over the fence (or across the path, or through the gate, or while our children climb to various heights in the tree)
  • the feeling of community; fellowship found in sharing a purpose and ministry here away from all of our homes

Neither of these lists are totally exhaustive. But ... it is time to get this little girl fed and dressed, and start loading up our suitcases!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Confessions of a recovering performance-aholic

The last week or so has been an exhausting one. Not because I've been out and about doing more than usual ... but because this baby is sapping my energy! I was bone-tired all through my first trimester with Anna, but by about 14/15 weeks I'd gotten my energy back and felt GREAT. This time round? I got past the 12 week point without feeling super tired; more nauseous than last time (which is a good sign that I kind of welcome!), but all of a sudden I guess it caught up with me. Or the baby had a growth spurt, or something. (I have felt it move a few times, which surprised me since I'm not quite 13 weeks yet. But hey - not complaining!)

All of that to say ... sorry for the absence of updates recently - my usual me-time while Anna sleeps has been spent napping and not blogging :)

We are in our last week in PNG (we leave on Sunday morning). It is hard to believe. It will be a sad day; while this has by no means been a vacation, we have certainly been blessed to spend a month surrounded by so much beauty - in the people we are living with, and also our surroundings. I have been reflecting on the last month and some of our experiences ... thinking about what to include in our update letter when we get back ... and I have found myself struggling.

Mark's 'role' here has been very well defined. He is a doctor. He works in a hospital. He delivers babies, performs surgeries, sets bones, sutures bush-knife injuries, performs manual life-support for patients who should be on ventilators. He has cared for many patients in the last month that would totally overwhelm other residents at his level, and he has done it well. (Not that he hasn't ever been overwhelmed; he just copes with it well and doesn't panic!)

That is Mark's part of our update letter. My part? Well .... I've spent a month cooking and cleaning....? Hmm.

When I was in nursing school in England, I was enrolled in a very unique undergraduate Masters program that was being piloted by the University of Nottingham's nursing department. That sounded pretty impressive when I got accepted. When I was in nursing school in the States, I was on an accelerated 14-month RN-BSN program that had a crazy drop-out rate because it was so intense and difficult ... but I did it - pregnant, and then with a newborn. I have never really struggled with the idea of being a stay-at-home-mom, and have never felt like I "just" stay home with our daughter or that I should be using my nursing license or building my career. But I think that somehow my education and recent school accomplishments still validated me. I have only been out of school for the last two years of my life (except for a couple brief interludes when I met Mark and when we got married), and I guess being in the academic environment and getting my RN and degrees was recent enough that I could still bask in their glow.

Here, though, I feel so far removed from any of that. This is a world governed by rainfall and harvests and hardship and superstition and manual labour and great physical (and spiritual) need. And it sounds much more worthwhile to say that you are stepping into that need as a physician, than it does to say you are keeping house all day! The myriad of simple acts that comprise keeping a family clean, clothed and fed take so much longer here than at home, and I have realised that even if I'd transferred my license and worked as a nurse during this month, I could only have worked a day a week without our home falling into total disarray.

I have been encouraged by a couple of things, though. The first is the affirmation from other wives that it takes everybody longer to do things here, not just me! I am not the only person who begins dinner preparations at 4:30 in order to have a meal on the table by 6:30!! When a family moves here long-term, they either agree that one spouse will work full-time while the other stays at home full-time, or they hire house-help so that both parents can work - and even then, they may both only work part-time.
The second thing that has encouraged me is the fact that as this slower pace, I am able to spend more time just being. Being - with Anna, but also with myself. I can't fill our days with little errands and playdates across town and library trips and aquaruim trips and going to the park and house projects and extra trips to the grocery store to pick up things I forgot and ... and ... And! So we play. Together. We pretend that the part of the living room between the door and the couch is the beach. We have picnics there. We cycle our fruit and vegetables through their two sinkfuls of water - together. We make stories out of the Thomas-the-Tank-Engine-themed playing cards. We make banana-leaf umbrellas and chase lizards until they escape through a crack. And I have journalled, and blogged and read books.

And I do spend most of my day 'just' cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and fighting an eternal battle against ants in my kitchen. But when I feel mundane, I am reminded by a "big-squeeze hug" around my knees or a hungry husband who sinks into his chair at the dinner table after a long day, that what I do is important. And I am grateful that I can do it!

Our picnic lunch while Dada & Uncle Bill were having an adventure hiking up Last Mountain, details of which can be found here!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My best girl

Here are a couple of her two-year pictures ... enjoy!

(As I took these I was thinking back to this time last year, and marvelled at how much easier it was to take this year's batch. Hopefully this bodes well for her two-year-old stage...!)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Our ordinary selves

Here is a little photo log (phlog...? Ha.) of the way we spend our time here when we're not having birthday parties or sliding down waterfalls :) It is taking about 10 minutes to upload each photo right now, so depending how soon Anna wakes up from her nap you may not see this till tomorrow! But hopefully you'll get a little glimpse into what our days look like, here in our home away from home.

Our "Little yellow Papua Guinea house", as Anna calls it

The lane we live at the end of

The bridge we drove our 4WD vehicle over to get to the nearby waterfall. Pretty unnerving, even for someone who's been in ... alternative off-roading situations ... before! But we made it and the bridge is still intact!

Checking out Dr Bill's fabulous garden while they were both off one Saturday. He grows pineapples, black raspberries, tomatoes, carrots, beans, lettuce, bananas, basil, cilantro, bok choi, green onions, corn, peas, pumpkins... Oh, and he's also a doctor on the side. Mark was in heaven!

How we get online here

How we make lemonade here

Where we get bananas

How we get vegetables (this is the market in our nearest town, Mt Hagen)

Who we play with every day - Ethan and Lexi and whatever bug they most recently caught!

What Mark spends his days doing

How we play peek-a-boo in our laundry tents

How we make new friends! Anna loves seeing all the little babies here ... and their mothers love seeing her

And speaking of seeing babies ... our newest one is looking good :) Dr Bill was my temporary OB today and let us take a little peek!

So that is what we are up to these days. There are plenty more pictures I could post, and probably will when we get back to the land of the high speed interwebs. But this post has taken 4 hours to upload, so I am done for now :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Our big little girl turns two!

Yesterday we celebrated Anna's second birthday! It is sometimes hard for me to believe that she is already two ... but most of the time, it feels about right :) Not because she is exhibiting a lot of particularly 'two-year-old' behaviour (though this is starting to make its grand appearance), but because she has achieved so much in the last year. She has learned how to explore and interact with her world in so many new ways, and is becoming very adept at communicating not just needs to us, but also her thoughts, opinions and preferences. She is learning the art of make-believe, and spends much of her playtime pretending. Which is endearing and often amusing! There is one corner of our living room here that she calls the beach, and will sit there digging in the sand or having beach picnics with her baby several times a day! She is developing a very nurturing character, and can often be found rocking her sippy cup to sleep or filling her little toy cradle with playdough grapes and singing to them. She talks about our 'tiny baby' a lot and loves to hug and kiss my belly; she seems to be looking forward to teaching tiny baby everything she knows when it's "all done hiding mama's tummy" :)

She is also developing a little social circle. She LOVES to play outside with our neighbours over here - especially the younger girl, Lexi. "Play Yexi?" can be heard many dozens of times each day in the Crouch house right now...! She of course also talks about seeing Clover again when we leave our "little yellow Papua-Ginee house", and draws lots of pictures of herself and Clover playing. I think it's so awesome that she's starting to expand her circle of important people to include more than just her parents :)

I did wonder how her birthday would go being so far away from our normal surroundings and friends ... but we had an awesome day! The night before, Mark and I filled the living room with balloons so she had a fun surprise when she woke up. And I was actually able to find some syrup at the store the last time I went into town, so I made her some birthday pancakes - always a hit :)

Add ImageAdd ImageShe wanted to put on her birthday skirt and "happy birfay hat" as soon as she woke up

I brought a couple boxes of cake mix as well as icing and sprinkles, so while Mark was at work Anna and I decorated her cake and cupcakes. I had sketched a couple of cake designs for her to choose from, and she went with butterflies :)

She was more into licking sprinkles off of the table than putting them onto the cupcakes, but she did a LITTLE bit of helping too!

The plan for her party was to have a cook-out at the bonfire pit behind our house, and then head in for cake and presents afterwards. Typically it rains here during the late afternoon and evening most days ... but not this day! We had some sprinkles for a few minutes, but nothing like the torrential downpour of the previous day. Thanks, God :)

The little bit of rain gave Erin the chance to model banana-leaf umbrellas for us!

Anna and her new BFF Lexi in their matching pink raincoats!

Keeping an eye on dinner

Dr Bill & Marsha McCoy, longtime family friends who we have the joy of living next to!

Smores for first dessert!

Blowing out her candle (with some help from Lexi & Dada) before digging into her cake for second dessert

The traditional Kudjip birthday hat

Opening presents! One of which was this adorable highland hat from Uncle Bill & Aunt Marsha. Now if only it would cool down enough to be able to wear it...! :)

I was totally overwhelmed by the outpouring of love our new friends showed us. It felt like half the compound turned up to celebrate the birthday of a little girl they barely knew, and it certainly blessed this Mama's heart! I'm so grateful for the closeness and fellowship we can share with our new neighbours, and that they are willing to invest in us and welcome us into their lives and homes even though we are only here for a month.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A trip to the market, a trip around the world

The day after we arrived here, our wonderful hosts the McCoys took us into Mount Hagen, our nearest town, to the grocery store and the market to stock up on food for the month. As can be expected, this was quite the eye-opening experience!

We are living on the Kudjip Hospital compound, which is about 45 minutes to an hour (depending on the amount of recent rain...!) outside of Mount Hagen. We used one of the compound vehicles to get into town, and took with us a Papua New Guinean man named Peter to act as our watchman and stay in the vehicle guarding our belongings while we went into various little stores. We needed Peter because culturally it is not looked down on to steal, since the stolen article/money can better one's tribal standing. If you are caught in the act of stealing, however, you bring huge shame to your tribe and you will be beaten half to death right there in the street.

The grocery store surprised me; it stocked several varieties of many items, and was fairly clean and pretty well organised. Food is really expensive since most of it is imported from Australia. I definitely spent over $10 on a box of cornflakes. Admittedly it was family sized, but still. No tasty bells or whistles - just plain ol' cornflakes! We buy UHT milk in cartons that don't need refrigerating, and mix it with powdered milk (which is better than powdered milk in the US, but still needs 'real' milk to boost the flavour). MSG is apparently considered a delicacy here, and is sold in cute little tins labelled 'Pure Monosodium Glutamate', for all the world to see. Tuna is the colour of chocolate pudding (though it tastes the same), and when buying canola oil I had to hunt through several rows of bottles to find one that didn't contain a good two inches of mystery sediment. What is there in oil that can sediment out...!? Cheese and ice cream are going to be treats while we're here since they're at least double the cost as back home, and I couldn't bring myself to even buy one little pot of yoghurt ($4 per individual pot) so Anna is learning how to eat cornflakes and berries for breakfast instead :) Overall, though, the grocery store experience was not that different from shopping back home.

The market, however, was another story. Fresh fruit and vegetables grow very well in this tropical climate, and I think I spent about as much on two weeks' worth of delicious fresh produce as on my box of cereal..! I don't have any pictures of the market since we were advised not to try to combine shopping trips with photography trips (inevitably either the camera or the food money will go missing!), but hopefully I can post some later. It is an outdoor market with a roof, but still very muddy and puddley inside. Vendors lay out their produce on tables or the floor, and splash dirty-looking water over their wares to keep it looking fresh all day. Garlic cloves are the size of large peas (VERY finicky to peel and chop, I'm finding!), avocados are nearly as big as Anna's head, small children stand behind the pineapple tables wielding machetes to lop the top off your pineapple if you want, and everything I bought from the market had to be washed once in tap water to get the obvious dirt off, and once in filtered water to get the tap water off. (We don't do anything with tap water here except wash dishes and shower. And pre-rinse market purchases!)

Mama's little helper washing off veg :) And that is not a slight of camera hand. They are green onions, and they are as tall as she is.

The lemons are the same size as back home. The avocados (our sample of which was not abnormally large compared with its peers) are not. It took us three meals of very generous avocado portions to finish off one!

After the 4+ hours we spent going between various stores to collect a reasonable pantry for our little home, we were exhausted! Partly from just being on our feet for that long, and partly because being foreigners (with a small and cute child) we were of course the subject of much curiosity and attention. I did feel under less scrutiny here than on either of our trips to Africa, though. Which was kind of nice :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The 6th Continent

As I blog today, I am looking out of my living room window across a small valley made up of patchwork little fields, at mountains. My view is partly obscured by the branches of a banana tree and some other tree that I don't recognise, but which is covered in bright red tropical looking flowers. I can hear two or three birds calling back and forth (much more musically than the robins and sparrows I normally listen to!), and the occasional whirring plunk of a gigantic cicada flying into the corrugated metal on the side of our house.

Yes, we are in Papua New Guinea! I have now been to every continent on Earth except Antarctica (and that is one stamp I highly doubt will ever appear in my passport) - I'm thinking 6 out of 7 before I'm 30 isn't bad :)

We arrived 4 days ago, I think - my sense of time has totally taken leave of me for some reason! Our flight was long, but pretty uneventful and MUCH easier than I was expecting it to be. We flew Tulsa - DFW - LAX - Brisbane - Port Moresby - Mount Hagen. Looonnngg!

Actually - I take back the uneventful part. *Someone* didn't quite notice that the travel itinerary from our travel agent included not a two hour layover in Brisbane, but a one DAY and two hour layover. Those date changes can really sneak up on you...! So as we were going through our gate at LAX, the gate agent asked us why we didn't have visas for Australia. To which we replied, "why would we need visas when we're only there at the airport for two hours?" She pointed out the actual length of our stay, and was thankfully able to issue us visas there at the gate! So when we arrived in Brisbane at 7am, we rented a car and drove to Australia Zoo.

After feeding kangaroos, watching the crocodile show and looking at all the animals Anna won't see at the Tulsa Zoo (Galapagos tortoises, Koalas, Wallabies etc), we headed to the beach! Our departure from the zoo was the only time on the entire trip that Anna cried or fussed, and that was quickly stopped with the promise of seeing the ocean shortly (Seriously. She is a much better traveller than either of her parents!). It was her first time to see the ocean, and she LOVED it. She loves looking through our Bahamas pictures and talking about oceans and starfish and sharks, so she was super excited to be able to play in the sand and look for little beach treasures. Honestly, although it was a huge (but rather amusing, even at the time) oversight on my part, our extra day in Brisbane was such a blessing. It broke up the trip, gave us a day to get adjusted to the time difference before hitting the ground here, and was really fun for Anna.

Showing off my new baby bump :)

And now, we are mostly unpacked and turning our little yellow house into our new Papua New Guinea home. Life is a little simpler here; no TV (although we rarely watch ours at home), I line-dry our clothes (we do have a washing machine, praise God - cloth diapers by hand? No thanks!), no dishwasher, internet connection speed from dial-up days (which may limit the number of pictures I can post!), water than has to be filtered before we can drink it ... but we are happy :) Mark is really enjoying working at the hospital here; he said that in his first two days, he has already done more than he would have in a week at Hillcrest. Of course, that is a mixed blessing; his patients here are truly sick. One of his pediatric patients died yesterday due to sepsis after a very third-world-rural-hospital attempt at coding him. He is seeing a LOT of domestic violence; the day before we arrived, a young girl came to the hospital 20 weeks pregnant with her membranes ruptured - from a machete attack by her husband's other wife who could not bear children. A young man was pronounced dead when his family brought him here - his older brother, furious about his marijuana use but not actually intending to hurt him, had hurled a spear at him and severed his carotid artery. Yeah. Pretty different medicine from working in downtown Tulsa ... but he is making the most of his opportunity to minister to his patients and be Jesus to them in each of their situations.

Well, it sounds like it may have started raining. We have pretty tropical weather during the first half of the day, and then it cools down and usually rains in the late afternoon. Which makes for very lush green surroundings. And also means I should go bring my laundry in!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Selfish Giant

Now for something a little different ....

This is one of my favourite children's tales. When my family lived in Nepal, my Aunt in Canada read this Oscar Wilde short story onto a cassette tape and mailed it to us so that Steph and I could listen to it. I recently remembered a little snippet of the story, though not that it was written by Wilde, and after a little searching, unearthed it online. I fell in love with the story all over again, so thought I'd share it with you :)

The Selfish Giant

Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used to go and play in the Giant's garden. It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. "How happy we are here!" they cried to each other.

One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. After the seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his conversation was limited, and he determined to return to his own castle. When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.

"What are you doing here?" he cried in a very gruff voice, and the children ran away.

"My own garden is my own garden," said the Giant; "any one can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself." So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.


He was a very selfish Giant.

The poor children had now nowhere to play. They tried to play on the road, but the road was very dusty and full of hard stones, and they did not like it. They used to wander round the high wall when their lessons were over, and talk about the beautiful garden inside. "How happy we were there," they said to each other.

Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant it was still winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. Once a beautiful flower put its head out from the grass, but when it saw the notice-board it was so sorry for the children that it slipped back into the ground again, and went off to sleep. The only people who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost. "Spring has forgotten this garden," they cried, "so we will live here all the year round." The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. He was wrapped in furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew the chimney-pots down. "This is a delightful spot," he said, "we must ask the Hail on a visit." So the Hail came. Every day for three hours he rattled on the roof of the castle till he broke most of the slates, and then he ran round and round the garden as fast as he could go. He was dressed in grey, and his breath was like ice.

"I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming," said the Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold white garden; "I hope there will be a change in the weather."

But the Spring never came, nor the Summer. The Autumn gave golden fruit to every garden, but to the Giant's garden she gave none. "He is too selfish," she said. So it was always Winter there, and the North Wind, and the Hail, and the Frost, and the Snow danced about through the trees.

One morning the Giant was lying awake in bed when he heard some lovely music. It sounded so sweet to his ears that he thought it must be the King's musicians passing by.

It was really only a little linnet singing outside his window, but it was so long since he had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him to be the most beautiful music in the world. Then the Hail stopped dancing over his head, and the North Wind ceased roaring, and a delicious perfume came to him through the open casement. "I believe the Spring has come at last," said the Giant; and he jumped out of bed and looked out.

What did he see?

He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children's heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing. It was a lovely scene, only in one corner it was still winter. It was the farthest corner of the garden, and in it was standing a little boy. He was so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree, and he was wandering all round it, crying bitterly.

The poor tree was still quite covered with frost and snow, and the North Wind was blowing and roaring above it. "Climb up! little boy," said the Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the boy was too tiny.

And the Giant's heart melted as he looked out. "How selfish I have been!" he said; "now I know why the Spring would not come here. I will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children's playground for ever and ever." He was really very sorry for what he had done.

So he crept downstairs and opened the front door quite softly, and went out into the garden. But when the children saw him they were so frightened that they all ran away, and the garden became winter again. Only the little boy did not run, for his eyes were so full of tears that he did not see the Giant coming.

And the Giant stole up behind him and took him gently in his hand, and put him up into the tree. And the tree broke at once into blossom, and the birds came and sang on it, and the little boy stretched out his two arms and flung them round the Giant's neck, and kissed him. And the other children, when they saw that the Giant was not wicked any longer, came running back, and with them came the Spring. "It is your garden now, little children," said the Giant, and he took a great axe and knocked down the wall. And when the people were going to market at twelve o'clock they found the Giant playing with the children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen.

All day long they played, and in the evening they came to the Giant to bid him good-bye.

"But where is your little companion?" he said: "the boy I put into the tree." The Giant loved him the best because he had kissed him.

"We don't know," answered the children; "he has gone away."

"You must tell him to be sure and come here to-morrow," said the Giant. But the children said that they did not know where he lived, and had never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad.

Every afternoon, when school was over, the children came and played with the Giant. But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never seen again. The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he longed for his first little friend, and often spoke of him. "How I would like to see him!" he used to say.

Years went over, and the Giant grew very old and feeble. He could not play about any more, so he sat in a huge armchair, and watched the children at their games, and admired his garden. "I have many beautiful flowers," he said; "but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all."

One winter morning he looked out of his window as he was dressing. He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.

Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder, and looked and looked. It certainly was a marvellous sight. In the farthest corner of the garden was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms. Its branches were all golden, and silver fruit hung down from them, and underneath it stood the little boy he had loved.

Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He hastened across the grass, and came near to the child. And when he came quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said, "Who hath dared to wound thee?" For on the palms of the child's hands were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on the little feet.

"Who hath dared to wound thee?" cried the Giant; "tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him."

"Nay!" answered the child; "but these are the wounds of Love."

"Who art thou?" said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child.

And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, "You let me play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise."

And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.

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