Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Christmas Day

In the morning we opened gifts, skyped home, and enjoyed hanging out as a family.

Keira got the book, "We're Going On A Bear Hunt."  It's one of our favorites.
Kalan got new Greek textbooks.  (If you think that's nerdy,  just wait...)
I got materials to make my own laundry detergent and face wash!  
 Keira also gave Kalan and I a wonderful present: she slept 7.5 hours straight on Christmas Eve!

In the afternoon, we had a Christmas party with our church small group.  We ate pizza, exchanged gifts, and played games.

Especially at Christmas, we miss our family and friends in the States.

Yet this time of year also reminds us how thankful we are for our church "family" in Taipei.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 Christmas Caroling and Baking

On the Saturday before Christmas, we did some caroling with our foreigner friends  to promote a new community park that our church is building.
Keira and I made my grandma's famous buckeyes, my favorite holiday treat.
Then we wrapped them up and gave them to our neighbor friends.
A new thing I tried making this year was homemade instant hot chocolate, using this recipe.  Yum!
Caty and Dillon had us over for their annual Christmas-cookie decorating!

Keira loves these two.
With real American chocolate chips.  Mmm...
Smiles all around.
Cookie-decorating masters. 
Keira, want to try a cookie?
Merry Christmas from the Spencers!

Christmas Day pictures coming soon...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas as an English Teacher

When Kalan became an English teacher, he had no idea that his job description would include things like writing and directing original Christmas performances.

This year Kalan's boss told him that the play had to be Christmas-themed but based on a traditional children's fairy tale.  Thus, last night we got to enjoy his kindergartener's performance of "Jack and the Giant Christmas Tree."

The kids were glad when it was over because they got presents from Santa.

Teacher Kalan was also glad when it was over...but for a wholly different reason.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Heart of Heaven

While hanging laundry on our rooftop, I was wonderfully shocked by this beautiful rainbow.  

It reminded me of the story of Noah and the Flood--a story which I understood better after recently reading it in our children's Bible.  

In the days of Noah, the world was filled with hate instead of love.  God knew He had to stop people from destroying themselves, each other, and the world.  So He sent a great flood, but saved Noah and his family.  God promised he would never destroy the world again...

"And like a warrior who puts away his bow and arrow at the end of a great battle, God said, "See, I have hung up my bow in the clouds." 
And there, in the clouds--just where the storm meets the sun--was a beautiful bow made of light. 
It was a new beginning in God's world. 
It wasn't long before everything went wrong again but God wasn't surprised, he knew this would happen.  That's why, before the beginning of time, he had another plan--a better plan.  A plan not to destroy the world, but to rescue it-- a plan to one day send his own Son, the Rescuer. 
God's strong anger against hate and sadness and death would come down once more--but not on his people, or his world.  No, God's war bow was not pointing down at his people. 
It was pointing up, into the heart of Heaven."

--Genesis 6-9, as told in The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Baby's First Hike

"Elephant Mountain"
At the trail head
A sunny, warm December
Two months old...gotta start 'em young.
She fell asleep on the bus ride to the trail head and didn't wake up til we were back at home.  

A side trail.  I love that mountains surround our city.
A small temple on the side of the mountain
My best friend.  
View from the top.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Our Neighborhood Celebrity

Keira is the new neighborhood celebrity.

We have to allow extra time when we go somewhere to accomodate all the people that stop us to marvel at our baby...and to offer us advice (which Taiwanese grandmas love to do).

The top ten comments we hear:

10. Is that your baby?  But you're too young to be parents!
9. She's too hot!  Take off her sweater.
8. She's too cold!  She needs a winter coat.  (The temperature in Taipei has yet to drop below 60).
7. That sling isn't good for her spine; better carry her in your arms.  
6. Are you sure she's only two months old?
5. She looks just like her daddy.
4. She has such a tall nose!
3. Wow...her eyes are so big...and they're blue!
2. She looks like a doll.
1. She's so cute!  她好可愛!

When I was pregnant I wrote about how that opened doors to new relationships, and now that Keira's here that trend has continued.  We try to go visit her Taiwanese "aunties" every day (a few of our market vendor friends down the street).  First we practice Chinese with the sweet "umbrella lady," and then we pop into the adjacent bedsheet store to visit Waverly (who speaks English--hooray!)  Sometimes we eat an afternoon snack there and help her daughter finish her English homework.

Keira and Chang-uh Ai-yi (whom we affectionately call "The Umbrella Lady")
One great thing about living in a big city is that you don't have to walk far to find friends.  I'm especially thankful for this now that I'm the stay-at-home-mom of our little celebrity.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Celebrating Advent

We love the Christian liturgical seasons, because over the course of a year they guide us through God's story of redemption.  As a family we're trying to start traditions that help us mark time this way.

Right now we're in the season of Advent...the four weeks before Christmas when we excitedly anticipate the celebration of Christ's birth and also look forward to His second coming.

Each Sunday we have a special dinner (well, regular food but with wine and dessert--which is special for us), light our advent wreath candles, and read from the Book of Common Prayer, which includes Scripture passages and prayers.

Don't look too closely at our advent "wreath"...due to the lack of pine trees in Taiwan and my lack of preparation, ours is crafted from pipe cleaners and green paper.  Thankfully, neither the wreath nor my drying sweater caught fire.  Ha.
The language might be a bit out-dated, but I love the Book of Common Prayer because it's beautiful and so...epic!  It reminds me that we are part of God's grand, ever-continuing story...

"Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ cam to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever.  Amen."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Adventures in Cloth Diapering

Our adventures in cloth diapering have begun.  So many people kindly gave us disposables as gifts that we didn't switch to cloth until Keira was seven weeks old.

We decided to go old-school with flat diapers.  Flats are super easy to wash, even in our cold-water-only washer, and they dry quickly, even in Taiwan's humid climate.  They do require a bit more folding, which was intimidating at first.  But now I can fold a day's worth of diapers in less than five minutes. 

This was my first attempt at putting on a cloth diaper.  As you can see, it was too loose on the sides.  You can imagine what happened later.  Oops!  Since then my method has greatly improved.
These are the waterproof covers that go over the cloth part.  I love them...very light and easy to clean.
This is how we dry our diapers in our studio apartment when it's raining outside, with the dehumidifier on full blast.  On sunny days we hang them on the rooftop.
So...what do I think so far about cloth diapering?  Here are a few initial thoughts.

--Folding and washing diapers has been much easier than I anticipated.  Once I got into a routine, it just wasn't a big deal.  (And I will confess that I actually enjoy folding them.  It's one of those repetitive chores that gives me time to reflect).

--That being said, I can't deny that cloth diapers are more inconvenient than disposables.  They definitely take more work, and it takes time to adjust.

--I don't regret our decision to use cloth diapers...the extra work is worth it.   We want to be good stewards of God's world and resources, and cloth diapers are better for the environment and way cheaper than disposables.  Like any good thing, cloth diapers require a sacrifice of time and energy that is well-spent.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Easy Homemade Yogurt

Keira is six weeks old, and we're moving past that extremely-new mom stage when I felt quite accomplished if I managed to shower and brush my teeth in the course of a day.  :)

In the past week or so I've done some experimenting in the kitchen, and had some success making homemade yogurt.  I couldn't believe how easy (and cheap) it was!  Our friend Audrey inspired me when she made us a meal that included homemade yogurt. 

Here's how to do it:

1. Boil some water and let it cool.  It should be hot, but just cooled off enough that you can put your fingers in it.

2.  Mix up some milk powder with your hot water in a clean glass jar (1:3 ratio, for example 1 cup milk powder + 3 cups water).  You could probably heat up fresh milk instead, but milk is a little pricey in Taiwan--not many cows around!  For thicker yogurt use more milk powder.

3.  Add a few tablespoons of plain yogurt as a starter.  Stir in well.  If your starter yogurt is sweetened, the finish product will still be unsweetened.

4. Fill another jar or two with very hot water.  Wrap all the jars in a towel and place in a small cooler.

5. Wait 4-6 or more hours.  The longer you wait, the tarter your yogurt will be.  It also might affect the consistency...I'm still experimenting.

6.  Take out the jars and enjoy your homemade yogurt!  Don't forget to save a few tablespoons as a starter for the next batch.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Keira Meets Her Grandmas

After Keira was born, we were blessed to have both our moms come visit.  
My mom came when she was just a week old:

Three generations!
Nini and her first granddaughter
Walking through the park
Baby's first MRT (subway) ride
Out for a treat at Starbucks
(I feel like this photo sums up my life right now: coffee, nursing cover, and cuddly baby!) 
Kalan's mom came a few weeks later.  
We hadn't seen her in two-and-a-half years!  
What a happy reunion.

Meeting Grams
Riding the gondola up to Maokong
Hanging out with friends and enjoying the view
Sampling Taiwanese tea
What's out that window?
Happy to be together!
We're so thankful we had this special time with our moms.