Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shopping with the car-cart

I'd like to talk about something that is a new experience for me since we came home on furlough.  It's the "car cart" at the supermarket.  You know, the shopping cart with the cute plastic car attached to the front for the kids to ride in?  I don't bring a camera with me to the grocery store, but I went online to find a photo, just in case some of you don't know what I'm talking about.

Of course these have been around for a long time, but I never had the need to use one before this year.  Today I was on my way to the grocery store when I realized that I had forgotten the baby carrier.  Usually when I'm shopping I'll put Caleb in the front pack and put Greg in the shopping cart.  I had a choice between two grocery stores in town, and I decided that I would go to the one where I had seen the car carts.  Surely Greg would enjoy it, and it would keep him contained while I shopped, since Caleb's car seat would be occupying his usual spot.  (It was either that, or run the risk of turning loose a two-and-a-half-year-old boy who has a major obsession with supermarket donuts.)

At the store I loaded up Greg in his little car, and everything was just peachy for about 20 seconds.  Then I realized that before I could reach the produce, I had to navigate through the floral department.  The store designers had decided to weed out the weak car-cart drivers right at the beginning by littering the entryway of the store with islands of precariously arranged potted plants and bouquets.  As I bravely stepped forward, I realized that the car-cart contraption is about as easy to steer as a piano in a wheelbarrow.  And there wasn't even a straight path.  I had to slalom through the little displays, bumping flowers along the way under the disapproving stare of the floral department employee.

Once I passed that minefield, I thought I would be ok.  I gamely pushed my cart forward - and went sideways instead, right into the apples.   By the time I reached the broccoli, Greg started asking if he could get out.  (Maybe he didn't realize that he was getting into a bumper car!).  At this point a middle-aged woman commented sympathetically, "Those are hard to steer, aren't they?"  I started to reply, but another mom (obviously a professional), glided by easily with her own car-cart and said, "Oh, you get the hang of it."  I wanted to shout after her, "I'm new!  This is my maiden voyage in a car-cart!"

In the next aisle, Greg started to stick his head out the window of his car like a dog going down the highway.  He is lucky he didn't lose it as I wove from side to side in a generally forward direction.  In the third aisle I realized that the aisle is exactly as wide as the car-cart is long.  Thus turning the contraption around is an exercise that requires intense concentration.

On the bright side, this was turning out to be a nice workout for a cold and rainy day when I didn't get out for a walk!

When I reached the check-out, I discovered another problem.  With the plastic car sticking out in front, I wasn't able to reach the items in my cart from in front of the cart.  There wasn't enough space alongside the cart for me to stand next to it while I unloaded it onto the belt.  So I had to park the car-cart farther back from the belt and walk back and forth until I had unloaded all my purchases, then push the cart through, trying to reach the card-swipe thingy while not allowing the nose of the car-cart to protrude too far into the exit aisle to trip up the customers leaving the store.

I visited the site of one of the companies that manufacture these delightful contraptions.  This is what they say:

"Shopping with kids can be a challenge. That's why we offer Bean child carts to make shopping safer, easier and more fun for your customers. With kids sitting pretty in child carts, mom and dad can focus on shopping and spend more money in your store. In fact, child carts have been proven to increase sales up to 20% per trip. Kids are able to have fun, mom and dad can focus on shopping, and when your sales are up, you'll be feeling a lot happier."
More fun?  I'm not so sure on that one yet.  I don't know that I'll be trying it again.  Before we went home I had to make one more stop at another store.  As we crossed the parking lot towards the front doors, Greg looked hopefully up at me and asked, "Have car cart here?"

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


So... I almost messed up.  You see, there is this outfit in Brian's family that used to belong to Brian's dad, and Brian also wore it when he was a baby.  I took a photo of Greg wearing it, and it has been hanging in the closet until I could find time to take a photo of Caleb wearing it. 

Today I looked at the little outfit on the hanger.  Then I looked at my not-so-little son.  Had I waited too long?  I started to panic.  I decided that I absolutely must take a photo today, before the chance was gone forever.  It's a good thing I did too, because once I squeezed Caleb into it, I was pretty sure he was going to pop a button if he flexed his little baby muscles.  But the historical documentation disaster was diverted, and here is a lovely collage of photos for you:

(Caleb left, Brian center, Greg right)

Before you say that Greg just looks like a little elf baby over there on the right, I have to add a disclaimer that he was only about 6 weeks old in his photo, whereas Caleb is nearly 12 weeks in his.  And I'm guessing that Brian is closer to Caleb's age in his photo.

Still, you can't deny that Caleb is the chunkier baby.  Here they both are at about 9/10 weeks.  (Greg left, Caleb right)

And here they both are at about 10 weeks (Caleb left, Greg right):

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Here are a few photos from our Thanksgiving celebration with Susan's family in Colorado.  We are so blessed!

Dinner with Susan's parents and brothers' families.

Thankful for time with grandma 

Cousin Madi spent the night, and enjoyed her time holding the baby

Uh oh!  While Brian and I went out to see a movie, grandma and grandpa let the kids 
go wild jumping on the furniture!

Thankful for grandma's amazing Lego collection!

 Are you sure he's only 10 weeks?  He seems a lot older sometimes...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Seven Weeks (and Halloween)

It's true what they say about the firstborn child getting more pictures taken than then children that follow.  I haven't been that good about taking photos of Caleb.  He's seven weeks old today (how did that happen so quickly?), and I found a few minutes when he was happy and Greg was napping - the perfect opportunity for a few photos.

Wide-eyed wonder

You can't hide from me, mom.  I know you're right behind that camera!

 An almost-smile

Enough pictures already!

And here are a few photos from last night (Halloween).  Greg wore the pumpkin costume that Uncle Darin and Aunt Becky gave him.  He had a marvelous time walking around the block and getting candy.  He would say "Trick-or-treat!," and then after he grabbed a few pieces of candy and shoved them in his sack, he would tell the person "Thank you.  Bye-bye.  Shut the door!"  Then as we walked down the sidewalk he would squeal excitedly "Another house!  More candy!!"

Yeah... I think he grasped the main concepts about the holiday.

Ready to find some goodies.

 My two little pumpkins.  (Yes, Caleb is still wearing the outfit from last night in the photos I took today.  It was still clean, so why change it, right?)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Checking things off the list

This post is mainly photos (yay!).  I haven't had time to think about writing much in the way of riveting blog posts.  But in an effort to think of a theme for these random photos, I'm going to call it "checking things off the list."  That is, the list of things that we dreamed about doing when we were still in Papua New Guinea, thinking about coming back to the States for a year.

Top on the list of things to do was of course to spend time with family.  We've been spending a ton of time with Brian's family since we arrived, but in September my parents came out for a long weekend.  (Mom wanted to meet Caleb before the "new baby smell" wore off).  We had a great time with them.

Caleb and Grandma Kathy.

Brian and my dad aren't too cool to hang out at the park.

While my parents were here, the Freys hosted a baby shower for me.

Greg got to ride a carousel for the first time.

Another thing that we really wanted to do was to go camping.  By the time Caleb showed up, it was getting to the end of camping season, but we did manage to fit in a short trip with Brian's parents and brother to camp at Suttle Lake.

This was my first time camping in a yurt, but let me tell you - if you are going to get up to feed and change a baby in the middle of the night, it's awfully nice to have a wood stove in your yurt to keep you from freezing!

Greg wasn't too excited about the actual fishing part, but he did like it when grandpa made the boat "go super fast!" 

Camping and little boys go well together!

Another thing Brian wanted to do was to go to see his old high school football team play.  So on his birthday we went to a homecoming game, where his school totally stomped all over the home team.

One of the things on my list was to go to a quilt show.  I got to go to a show in Salem with Brian's mom and grandma.  Even though I still haven't received the call to let me know that I won the new sewing machine that they were raffling off, we had a good time.  I got to try my hand at using a long-arm quilting machine, and we ended up bringing home a whole box full of quilting magazines to split between the three of us.  I've been having fun dreaming of projects, but of course I don't actually have time these days to do any quilting...

And of course there are the simple pleasures in life.  Brian was really looking forward to getting a newspaper while we're in the States.  Greg always asks to see the car ads when we get a new paper.

And here is a wide-awake photo of Caleb from about a week ago.  I can't believe that he's a month old already!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More baby photos

We've been pretty busy at our house lately, but here are a few photos of my boys:

Love those chubby cheeks!  Caleb has been gaining weight and is already almost back to his birth weight.  This makes me extremely happy, since we had a rough time getting Greg to gain weight in the first few weeks.

 Sleeping again.  He does occasionally open his eyes, but we have yet to capture it on camera.  I made a few of these muslin swaddle blankets a few weeks ago after seeing them in stores, and I love them!  The little guy likes to be swaddled, and these blankets work great.

 A lot of people have been asking how Greg is handling the transition.  For the most part, pretty well.  He gets very concerned when he cries.  He likes having baby Caleb around, and likes to "play" with him...

 ...but we have also felt a bit like referees as we hover over the two brothers to make sure Greg doesn't get too.... um... enthusiastic in showing his love to "our baby."

And right now as I write this blog, this is what I am looking at.  I love my boys!

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Caleb Robert
September 13
8lbs 14oz (4kg) - 20.5 inches (52cm)

Thanks for all your prayers.  Things went exceptionally well.  We are at home now and adjusting nicely.  Greg is very excited about his new brother-sister (that's what he's been calling the baby, since we didn't know if it was going to be a boy or girl.  We'll have to work on that one...)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Looking for a new job opportunity?

Below is a video detailing the huge variety of personnel needs for the task of Bible translation around the world.  One of the biggest things that we pray for is that God would send more workers to the field.  I know that in Papua New Guinea, many of our missionaries are trying to fill more than one role because of a shortage of staff.

This footage was shot in Ukarumpa, and we know nearly all the folks that are shown in the video.  Makes me feel a little homesick!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thomas, Bob and Light-ma-queen

I'm not sure if this is a post about the differences between living in America and living overseas, or if our return home just happened to coincide with Greg's discovery of television and fictional characters.

Two weeks before we left Papua New Guinea, our two-year-old had absolutely no interest in watching TV.  Not that we have TV per se (that would require the local broadcaster to actually pay their bills so that they are allowed to broadcast the one local channel), but we do have a dvd player in PNG.  We occasionally tried to get him interested in watching a cartoon, but he would completely ignore it, except perhaps at the credits, when he would stop playing long enough to point out the "ABCs!"

But then one day Brian decided to show him part of Cars 2, and suddenly something clicked.  He was glued to the screen, watching all those cars.  From there it quickly branched out into Thomas the Train and Bob the Builder, thanks to some friends who loaned us episodes.  Still, he didn't really identify the characters by name.  He had a Thomas the Train shirt, but when people would ask him "who is on your shirt?"  he would stare at them like they were stupid and then reply "choo-choo."  He didn't know Thomas from any other train.

Somehow, soon after our arrival in the U.S., all of that changed.  He can now name nearly all the major characters from the Cars movies and Thomas the Train.  He was thrilled when I bought him a Lightening McQueen t-shirt and a Thomas the Train t-shirt.  And then I found some Thomas shorts at a garage sale, and he insisted on wearing his Thomas outfit for three days straight, until I finally hid it in the bottom of my laundry basket so that I could wash it.
(Greg and one of his new best buddies, a second cousin who is also obsessed with tractors.  I think this was day two of the Thomas the Train outfit.)

The other day we were walking through a big box store, and he managed to point out every single Lightening McQueen he saw on packaging (and let me tell you, that little red car is selling everything from sheets to toothpaste to fruit snacks!).  I figure Greg probably would have learned the names of all these characters had we stayed in PNG, but here in America, I've come to realize just how much manufacturers take advantage of it to sell things.  I think that if we were still in Papua New Guinea, he would still be fond of Thomas and Light-ma-queen, but I don't think it would be quite the obsession that it is here.

Greg playing with Uncle Darin.  Notice the Lightening McQueen shirt and the Lightening McQueen toy in hand.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

State Fair

On Saturday afternoon we went to the Oregon State Fair with Brian's parents.  This was an American experience that we really wanted to share with Greg, since the county or state fair played such a big part in both of our childhoods (Brian was very involved in FFA, and I was in 4-H from age 8-17).

Brian's mom had a display for her dahlia business, so she got some free tickets.  Her display was definitely the best one in the flower building.

 We enjoyed free samples of Tillamook cheese.

 Greg got to sit in the "army trucks" at the National Guard display.  His uncle Tim is in the Guard, so Greg thought that was pretty cool.

Grandma agreed to "share" her ice cream with Greg, but he wasn't really in a sharing mood.  Poor grandma!

The petting zoo was a big hit!  How they get all those animals so tame that they are willing to be poked and prodded by little kids all day long is beyond me...

Greg enjoyed watching the 4-H kids exercise their sheep.

Lots of tractors to "test drive."

We even managed to find a grove of "exotic" banana trees.  Greg recognized them as "lala" trees right away, even though they didn't have any fruit on them.  A little reminder of PNG...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I can't keep my coffee pot plugged in

Whew!  Long time, no blog!

I think I said that my next post would give you an idea of what it has been like adjusting back to life in the U.S. after years overseas.  Now we've been back for more than a month, and so much has happened that if I tried to tell all, it would make a very, very long post.  So instead, I've decided to try and do some short posts that show vignettes, if you will, to give you an idea of what this time of transition has been like for us.  (And I'll try to post some photos too, even if they are totally unrelated to the story, just so that you all don't get too bored.)

First off, here is a totally unrelated photo for you:
One of the fun things about being here is that there are lots of parks to explore.  We take a walk with the stroller and have been checking out the parks near our house.  Greg has really been enjoying this, and it's interesting to see him watch other kids playing and then follow their cues about playground behavior. (Some of which is good, and some not-so-good!)

Ok - so the title of my post was "I can't keep my coffee pot plugged in."  I'm serious about this.  It's not that I've somehow forgotten how American outlets work.  It's just that Brian and I have become extremely conscious about not wasting electricity, and it's a hard habit to break.  In Ukarumpa, we paid about 40-50 cents per kwh for electricity.  Here in Oregon, we only pay about 13 cents per kwh.  That's a big difference!  In Papua New Guinea, we did just about everything that we could to minimize our electric bill.  Here in the U.S., we are both compulsive about turning off lights and unplugging things that we aren't using.

So every morning, I plug in my coffee pot, brew a cup for myself (Brian is only a social drinker, not an addict like me), and then, after breakfast, I not only turn off the pot, but I also unplug it.  If I don't, then that annoying digital clock will blink at me because I never set the time on it.  It will blink and blink and blink, and as the numbers slowly count upwards from 12:00, it mocks me, saying "I'm wasting electricity!  I'm costing you money!"

Maybe this is a habit that we will break before we are done with furlough, but I guess it's a pretty harmless one, and might actually save us a few pennies over the course of a year.  But if you come over to visit us and find us sitting around in the dark, feel free to say "Lighten up guys!  You're in America now!"

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Back to the U.S.A. - Part Two

Ok - when I decided to split the story of our travels home into two different posts, I must have forgotten the fact that by the end I was too tired to take many pictures. Sorry! 

Remember how I mentioned Greg's fascination with escalators and moving walkways?  This is how we passed the time before our flight leaving Brisbane.   

Before we left Ukarumpa, I sewed this travel organizer that slides over a seat-back tray table.  It was nice to have easy access to Greg's toys, headphones, etc. during the flights so that I wasn't constantly trying to bend down over my big pregnant belly to get things from my purse under the seat.

Greg did really well on the flights.  He would spend all the time before the flight asking to ride and airplane.  A little ways into the flight, he would tell us "all done airplane"  (meaning - "Ok, I've had enough, let's do something else.")  But as soon as we would deplane at a new airport, he would start asking to ride more airplanes again.  And he slept on all of the flights!

The hard part was the layovers at the airports.  This is the only photo that I have of our 5-hour layover at the Fiji airport.  It was not a happy layover for us:

We were there from 5pm - 10pm.  The original plan had been to leave the airport and go to a hotel across the road for dinner.  But as we faced the prospect of going through security again with our carry on bags and Greg, it just seemed like it would be easier to spend those five hours in the international transit lounge.

Brian and I were tired.  The transit lounge was extremely crowded and uncomfortably warm.  Greg had tons of energy and was not at all interested in sitting down and putting his feet up.  Brian and I took turns taking him up and down the escalator.  We took turns walking him around and around the crowded room.  We took turns chasing him when he thought it was funny to run away from us (a bad habit we're still in the process of working on).  The worst time was when he ran, giggling delightedly, straight into a big duty-free shop.  I was chasing after him when he turned a corner and started running straight towards a whole wall display of perfume.  I shouted his name quite loudly, making everyone in the store stop and stare, and Greg ground to a halt just shy of the display.  But his momentum carried him forward and one bottle of perfume tipped over.  I held my breath, but thankfully, it didn't break.  At last, they started boarding our flight.  Never did the prospect of a 10-hour flight seem so appealing!

The Fiji to Los Angeles leg went pretty well.  We changed Greg into his p.j.s, and he slept for 6 hours straight.  Here he is with some cute bed head after waking up.

I was the one who had a bad time on the flight.   With about three hours to go, something on that airplane started messing with my allergies, and I spent the last three hours sneezing and trying to manage a runny nose.  By the time we landed in LA, I looked like I had been crying for three hours!

The final flight of our journey, a commuter flight up to Portland.  I snapped this photo after waking up myself.  Soon after takeoff I think all three of us were blissfully drooling in our sleep.  And I know that all of these photos have been of Brian and Greg, but there is my big belly on the left as proof that the photographer was there too.

Brian's parents and brother were there to meet us in Portland.  Greg recognized them from photos, and remembered grandma and grandpa from their visit to PNG in November, but was a little shy at first.  On the ride home, Uncle Tim soon cemented his position as favorite uncle by sitting next to Greg in the back seat and supplying him with snacks and new toys.

We spent a few days with Brian's parents as we got over jet lag.  Here is Brian, with a big smile to be home again on the farm.

Greg loves Grandma and Grandpa's place too.   There is lots of room to run around, sheep to chase, and berries to pick.

And a shiny new tricycle with a bell!

So now we're here, settling into life in America once again.  I'll try to blog soon with some of our impressions about the adjustment to life in the States after four years in PNG.