Sunday, June 29, 2008

30 things

Though this is many days late I wanted to share a list of 30 things I love about Katherine.

1. She is a child of God.
2. She knows how to love.
3. She loves me well.
4. She challenges my thinking.
5. She's super cute.
6. Great fashion sense.
7. Her laugh.
8. She inspires a never ending catalog of nicknames.
9. She's the fastest reader I've ever met.
10. She values productivity.
11. She is invested in making sure our family is healthy and strong.
12. She makes silly faces in photos.
13. She truly cares about her friends.
14. She's a terrific cook.
15. She's patient with me.
16. We fit together perfectly.
17. She's a wonderful mother. Beyond comparison.
18. She secretly likes Dr. Jones.
19. She grows her own food.
20. She talks with God.
21. She talks with God on my behalf.
22. Her eyes finally taught me what "beautiful" means.
23. She laughs at my jokes (especially the bad ones).
24. Buddies For Life.
25. Her desire for personal growth.
26. She's teaching me how to be empathetic.
27. Her many different and wonderful smiles.
28. Her grace.
29. Her glory.
30. Her heart.

I am BLESSED to have Katherine as my wife and partner, as the mother of my child, as my best friend and buddy for life. Happy belated birthday! I love you.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Ant (Aunt) Anna!!!

Hey everybody!!! Today is Anna's 4th birthday!!! Hurray!!!


Normally we'd call her on the phone and wish her a very Happy Birthday but we can't do that this year because Anna (along with Matthew and Fei) are visiting family in China! (And since the Chinese government blocks access to blogspot, I don't think she'll see this until they get back in a couple weeks)

So Happy Birthday Anna!! I hope you're having a good time in China and that Matthew is letting you play with his kite!! We love you!! Lyla says hi!! Have fun at Applebee's!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Still Loud

I love Bay View!!

I wanted to post more pictures from our trip. I love Bay View, our time there was great... a little emotionally overwhelming due to how much BV means in my life, my desires for it's continued importance in Katherine's and Lyla's lives, the need to coordinate between many interested people to invest in BV's future, the amount of work, time and money needed to restore/expand for growing families (our house in BV was built in 1896... that's old). Those are a few of the emotional threads that defined our trip. But I would not trade time spent there for anything.
Here are pictures:

The Schalk children and me tromping around the backyard:
Family portrait:
Lyla thinking about crawling (cute shirt Lyla!! thanks J.W.!!):
Lyla practicing standing (and giving Dad an opportunity to showcase the living room):

Lyla helping dad work:

Lyla's bathtub didn't fit in the car so we improvised:
Mmmm... carrots.... hrrummpphh. not enough teeth. dang it!
Lyla, all tuckered out after a walk:

Visiting Kevin's other family (on the left is my Aunt Natalie, she's my maternal grandmother's sister and thus my grandaunt. She and her husband, Uncle Homer, bought their house in BV in 1973 which is one block away from ours. On the right is my Aunt Hope, Natalie's daughter, my mom's cousin, my first cousin once removed and Godmother). I was really excited for Lyla to meet them because they're the closest living relatives to Lyla's grandmother and great-grandmother.

Yay Bay View!!!

More pictures of China

Hey, my cousin (who is still in Xiamen) has been updating a web album with more pictures of China. Basically, everything he shows is the same as I experienced (same host, same village, same work location, etc.). Since I did not end up taking that many pictures while I was there, this is a better way for me to show you all what Xiamen looks like.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My Father's Day

I had a very nice first Father's Day spent up here in Bay View with my family and our friends from church, the Schalks. The moms and kids let Eric and me (the dads) sleep in while they prepared a delicious Father's Day breakfast (scrambled egg scramble delicious surprise not hash) and made special Father's Day cards (Eric and I were clued in to the cards' existence by the paint that like kids (and moms) had gotten on their sleeves and faces and heads. The rest of the day was really nice, very relaxing. We spent a lot of it sitting on the porch with the kids talking.

Here are some pictures taken during the card making adventure:

Here's Eric opening his Father's Day gift:

And just for kicks, here are the kids (Abby, Lyla, and Josh) swinging on the porch swing:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


For a long time, whenever we would ask Katherine's brother David how our little niece Emily was doing, he would invariably answer "loud." When you are around a child all the time (as opposed to just seeing them for short durations) you get to know this whole other part of their personality that doesn't always come out when other people are around.

We're pretty lucky that Lyla is a low-key and content child. I think a lot of people see that side of her a lot. Lately, a different side of Lyla has been developing... the "loud" side. See what I mean for yourselves:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Off to Bay View

We're heading up to Bay View in a couple hours. Bay View is a community in northern Michigan that my grandparents bought a house in back in 1975. I spent every summer there from birth until the age of 16 and it's one of those childhood places that when I go back to I get an overwhelming feeling of being home. I'm really excited to take Lyla up there because of how much Bay View means to our family and all the great memories we have there. I really hope that it can be as special in her life as it's been in mine. We'll be there today through the following weekend so it will be a long trip. Yea Michigan summers!!!!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sittin' in the tub.

Guess who's a big girl and no longer needs a sling when she takes a bath??
Good work, baby.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Also For Grandpa:

So Lyla just happened to be wearing her "That's It, I'm Calling Grandpa" tee-shirt and was surfing the web two nights ago and (as usual) was reading the latest about her cousins on her Aunt Faith's blog.From where she was sitting it was hard to read what Emily and Allison's shirts read so she asked Daddy to help her take a closer look.
"Wha???" she thought, "They're also wearing 'That's It, I'm Calling Grandpa' tee-shirts!"
"Dad, sit me up next to the computer monitor and take a picture." she said.
Then Lyla saw something sitting on the desk next to her. What could it be?
It's a fan that Mommy got at Aunt Jess and Uncle Mark's wedding! Hurray!!!
"Look at me, Grandpa! I'm fancy!! I love you!!!"

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Big Oh Point Five!!!

Heyo, Lyla-fans. Yesterday was a big day in Lyla-land. Little girl turned 6 months old!!! Katherine took Lyla to Meijer Gardens with her friend Maddy (and Kari, Maddy's mom) and then out to lunch at Osta's (a local Lebanese restaurant). I got home from work a little early and hung out with my girls. We did not have a huge celebration, we all went out to dinner at Gaia Cafe (a health food restaurant here in the GR) and Lyla slept through the dinner. We came home and because of the nap, Lyla got to stay up an extra 45 minutes past her bedtime.

Lyla, being a selfless and caring baby, gave Katherine and I a gift (instead of the other way around): she slept through the whole night!!! This was especially appreciated because both parents had spent an hour awake with her the night before.

Anyway, I spent most the day yesterday saying, "Man, can you believe Lyla's six months old?!?!" Seriously, though, can you believe it? It seems like it's flown by. Obviously because every single moment with her is a new and special experience, but I'm just blown away by how much she's grown and changed in those six months. My cute little girl who who can roll over, remain seated upright for more than 10 seconds, smiles, responds, speaks fluent baby-talk, eats many types of solid foods, has started drinking juice from a sippy cup, laughs when you tickle her and when other kids do funny stuff, has grown at an incredible rate, has two teeth (with more on the way), is hinting at an ability to use sign language, follows Doctor Jones with her eyes whenever her enters a room, knows her mommy and daddy and looks at them in a way that just melts their hearts, rolls over and is thinking about learning to crawl, talks to her toys and pacifier, and is beautiful in ways my heart did not even know were possible is so different from the tiny, precious infant that destroyed any sense of self that I had the moment I first saw her just six months earlier. It goes fast.

We don't really have any pictures from yesterday, but here are some I took while feeding her on Tuesday. I think she's super cute. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

China trip wrap-up

The end of my trip was long and uneventful. I was scheduled to leave Xiamen Friday, May 30 at 2:15 pm local time. The general advice for international flights is to arrive 2 hours before hand. (Dad don't kill me, but) I arrived 15 minutes before my plane boarded. The challenge is the fairly rigid 12 - 1 pm lunch time that Chinese workers (at least the companies I was interacting with) maintain. Regardless of the reason, I got to the airport, checked in, rushed to Immigration only to have the police officer at Immigration take what felt like 20 minutes to scrutinize my passport. I think it is because I have a new passport and they've upgraded the design. I couldn't tell her to hurry up (both because of the language barrier and because any effort to speed up the process only would lengthen it).

Finally she let me through and I run to security. I had myself streamlined for getting through, with my laptop and toiletries at the top of my luggage, and quickly went through the security. I usually don't take my insulin out of my pocket because it doesn't set off the detector. Well, this time it did, so I had to take it out and when the security guard took of the lid her face became instantly alerted when she saw the needle. She showed it to another guard who also was alerted, then a third. Finally they go over to the guy running the x-ray machine and show it to him. Though I don't know what he said, he was non-plussed and basically told them it's both legitimate and common. So they gave it back to me and off I went to my plane.

Fast forward, slight rain delay, easy flight, land in Japan. Can't figure out where the ride I'm supposed to be getting to the hostel I reserved. Spend two hours exchanging money, asking people at different desks, making phone calls, waiting, making more phone calls, and finally getting picked up by Takashi. So Takashi is the owner/operator of:

Airport Hostel
326-6 Takada, Shibayama
Narita, Japan
Tel: 81476285875

The reason I include the address and phone number is because I strongly recommend to anyone flying through Narita. Takashi is a former backpacker (having spent 3 years traveling around AsiaPac) and really wanted to start a hostel that quite simply cost less to stay at. So that's what he did. He set his price point at half of what the other local hostels cost (~US $15 compared to $30). But the thing is he offers accommodations and service that far exceeds the other place. For one, he picks you up from the airport. He also offers rides if needed. He took me by McDonald's on the way to the hostel b/c I hadn't had any dinner. I don't know, I just liked it so much more. I also enjoyed talking to him. This is a video of Takashi and Min (a fellow returning to S. Korea from a trip all around the US) and I talking on the way to the airport on Saturday).

All in all it was just nice to spend some time with a nice guy in the middle of my trip. Especially since I was traveling alone and so didn't have anyone to talk to most of the time.

My second flight went fine, it was 11 hours long. I left Japan at 10:45 am on Saturday and arrived at 8:20 am on Saturday. Because I crossed the International Date Line, my Saturday was something ridiculous like 37 hours long. I spent Saturday (in the States) forcing myself to stay awake. Sunday I went to church and waited to be reunited with my family. Katherine and Lyla had gone to Ohio for the weekend for Katherine's cousin's wedding. They got back around 6 pm on Sunday and fortunately both of them still recognized me. They both smiled real big when they saw me.

Being away from my girls was the hardest part of the trip. Both because I missed them but also because I wanted to share all the new experiences and great conversations with them. Katherine really is my partner in the fullest sense of the word and I know that every great thing that happened in China would have been better if she had been a part of it. Fortunately I'm pretty sure the Lord has plenty of adventures planned for us, but right now I'm glad to be home.

Various photos from Japan:
Dining area at hostel:
The hostel is in a converted restaurant:
Screen in my bedroom:
Surrounding rice paddies: