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This post is long long overdue, but I thought I’d try to squeeze it in while it’s still 2016. So I said awhile back that I’d post when #3 was born? Well, he’s here! Ezra Timothy Chen arrived on October 24, 2016, four days before his due date. He came out fast and furious, sporting a full head of hair, much like his two older brothers. I’ve been a mother of 3 for all of two months now and so far the transition has been okay. We were only able to survive the first few weeks because of so many dear ones who were there to help. Big shout outs to all the people who brought us food, watched our kids, did school pick ups and drop offs for CC and Turner, and got us enough diapers to last the rest of this year and beyond. Big big shout out especially to my awesome mother-in-law, who stocked our freezer with meals, entertained the boys with science projects and Chinese lessons, and made sure I didn’t have to cook, wash dishes, or do laundry for two and half weeks. If I was too sleep deprived to tell you all a proper thank you at the time, please forgive me. Every act of kindness to us, big or small, was much appreciated and our family of five couldn’t have navigated through these last two months without them. So I’d like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

I had hoped to get my act together in time to send you all a nice family photo card, you know, the kind you start getting from people right before Christmas. Every year, when I start receiving those cards in the mail, I tell myself, next year we’ll take a nice family photo and send one back. But every year without fail I forget and before you know it, the year has ended. I was really hoping to get some photo cards printed in time for this year, but we have yet to take a family photo of all 5 of us that I feel is nice enough to print copies of. But then again, who says family photo cards can only be sent out in the month of December? I might still try to get some photo cards out, so don’t be surprised if you receive one from me sometime in March that says, “Happy New Year from the Chens!” (I’m half serious, so if you’d like one, email me your address!)

In the meantime, you’ll have to settle for some pictures from my phone. Larry got me a new iphone for my birthday, so I finally got around to uploading all the pictures from my old phone to the laptop so I would have space on the new phone. The boys and I sat down and looked through all the pictures and videos from this past year and it was fun reliving all those memories. So in lieu of our family photo card for now, please enjoy some of the most recent pictures from my iphone photo dump.

Happy new year from the Chens!

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I know I said I would try to blog more this summer. Yeah…that didn’t quite happen and now it’s October?!? Just to give you all an update on how the prego and cripple are doing –the cripple is now not so cripple and the prego is very very prego. Larry’s ACL surgery in June went well and with regular physical therapy and the exercises he does at home, he’s pretty much back on his feet. It’ll be a while before he can be back on the ultimate field, but at least now he can manage to walk quickly after our two boys on their scooters. The one highlight from his whole recovery process was that he was able to get a temporary handicap parking permit. It was nice to be able to park in those nice big handicap spots and at any meter without having to pay for as long as we wanted. We got spoiled all summer driving to the library instead of having to limp and waddle there. But alas, the permit expired at the end of September, and now all I can do is look longingly at those handicap spots as we drive by looking for parking.

As I said, the prego is now very prego. I’m entering into my 37th week, which is when the baby is considered pretty much close to full term. Turner was born at 37 weeks, and if what they say about each kid coming out faster and sooner is true, d-day (or should I say b-day) can be any day now. We have diapers and clothes and dug out the bassinet and the car seat, so I think we’re ready. I’ve been trying to remember what labor is like. It’s funny, a mom asked me how I’ve prepared for this delivery compared to my previous two and I told her with CC, Larry and I took an 8 week Bradley class. Every Thursday we would gather in our teacher’s living room with 4 or 5 other couples and do relaxation exercises and I would visualize my beautiful natural birth. With Turner, I think I managed to dig out my Bradley method workbook and actually went over my notes. With this pregnancy, the extent of my preparation has been watching the entire season of Call the Midwife (haha just kidding, I think I already watched the whole season before I got pregnant).

So I thought I’d crank out this post before baby #3 decides to come, because you might not hear from me for awhile after he shows up. Truth be told, I’m starting to get pretty excited. Excited to not be walking around with a bowling ball in my tummy. Excited to eat all the carbs and sugar I want (With this pregnancy I technically did not have gestational diabetes, but “gluclose intolerance.” Not sure what the difference is, but I didn’t have to prick myself 4 times a day, which was fine by me). But most of all, excited to meet this new addition, whose arrival I believe will bring about a sense of completeness to our family, at least for me. Maybe I’ll try to blog at least one more time, just to let you all know when he comes. So stay tuned!

Here are some random pictures from our summer –

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Driving down to So Cal right after Larry’s surgery. We took the middle seat out so he could stretch out his leg.

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One of the reasons we went down was to be able to see my sister and my nieces and nephew!

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Whoa, it’s March? How did that happen? It can’t be possible that we’re already three months into the new year! Back in January I designated March as a time that I would check in with how my flight plan for this new year is coming along. (By the way, thanks to all of you who commented on that post with encouraging words!  It makes me realize that I’m not flying solo!) Anyways, as a way to keep myself accountable, I’ll share with you all how I’m doing so far.

Speak more kindly to my family

This one’s still a work in progress, but I must say that being more conscious of how I speak to my husband and children has made a marked difference in the atmosphere in our home. There has definitely been less yelling on my part. It has also engendered some good conversations between CC and me about how we should speak to one another. Sometimes he’ll remind me to say please or tell me he doesn’t like my tone (oh these kids!). The shouting matches of old have now become more like spirited debates, so that’s a good thing.

Learn how to study the word

So far I’ve been pretty consistent with my two Life-study messages a week. I’ve designated Tuesday and Thursday afternoons when Turner’s napping as my “study time.” I actually really look forward to that one quiet hour when I can sit down with a cup of tea and my Bible. I’ve definitely felt more spiritually supplied this year as a result of these weekly tea times with God.

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Make plans to travel

Larry and I had big plans to go to Europe in May, but after talking it over we’ve decided that trip might have to wait until the summer of next year. So I’ll be putting that in my flight plan for 2016. That doesn’t mean we won’t be doing any traveling this year though. In a few weeks our family will be embarking on a grand road trip to Phoenix, AZ with a whole bunch of college students. And this summer my in-laws are spoiling the boys (and us) with a Disney cruise to Alaska! We’ll leave from Vancouver, so the new passports we got for the boys for our Europe trip will come in handy after all.

Start a regular neighborhood children’s meeting in our home

This one has been the most challenging item for me this year, but also the one I feel like God has blessed the most so far. I started a time with my boys once a week on Wednesday afternoons. We sing some songs, I’ll tell a short Bible story or character lesson, and then a simple craft. A friend o f mine started coming with her toddler son, and even though he was a little young to understand everything, it was nice to have more people come. CC started asking me why more kids didn’t come and so I started to pray with him at night about it. We’d pray for the Lord to bring his friends (and for his mom to have the boldness to invite them). After a couple months of it just being the three boys, I started to get a little discouraged, but a sister who had already established a meeting like this in her home just encouraged me to keep going. Two weeks ago I happened to bump into the mom of one of CC’s classmates when I went to pick him up at school and she and her son and baby daughter ended up all coming over to our place for an impromptu play date. We talked over tea and I told her about this weekly time I have with the kids and asked if her son would like to come and she said yes! So for the last two weeks I’ve been picking CC and his friend up at school and bringing them back here to have our children’s meeting. I still need a lot of help in learning how to get rowdy boys to sing and listen, but at least they all seem to enjoy the time. My faith was strengthened when I prayed with my son last night and he said, “Thank you Lord for answering our prayer and bringing Jakob to children’s meeting!”

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Speak the gospel to at least one person

This hasn’t quite happened yet…but I’m learning to just speak to people. The other day I struck up a conversation with a woman behind me in line at the grocery store, who also happened to be a stay-at-home mom. I ended up giving her a ride home because she didn’t have a car and we found out we had a lot in common. Anyways, I’m learning to step out of my shell and open my mouth more. Although I haven’t spoken the gospel ‘per se’ to anyone yet, I feel like there has definitely been opportunities when I’ve been able to speak my enjoyment of the Lord to others. The year is far from over, so I’ll still be praying for this.

How’s your flight plan for this year going so far?

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Happy December everyone! I can’t believe there is only one more month left to 2014. Crazy how the years fly by the older the kids get. When they were babies it seemed like those long days of nursing and cradling would never end and I would faithfully track their progress month by month. Now in the midst of packing school lunches, swim classes, and our busy family and church life, there never seems to be enough hours in the day. The months go by too fast for me to remember how many months Turner is, so I’ll just keep telling people he’s 2 years old until he turns 3.

Parenting in some sense has become significantly easier now that I’m not so sleep deprived. But the older the kids get, the more I feel like I’m entering uncharted territory. It has gone beyond simply caring for their physical well being and growth to caring for the people they are becoming. Now I feel like there’s so much more to worry about. When they’re little, the dangers are more obvious, like making sure they don’t put dirty things in their mouths or play with sharp objects. But now that CC is older and going to school, I worry that the dangers are more subtle. I worry that I might not be able to see or protect him from all the germs that are getting into his mind just by growing up in this corrupt world we live in.

A friend of mine once told me her reasons for homeschooling her young children – she knew she couldn’t shield her children from all the immoral germs of the world, but she wanted them to spend their formative years with her so that she could at least make sure they build up a healthy immune system. While we don’t feel to homeschool CC at this time (although that could change), I wholeheartedly agree with her about the need to help our children build up a strong and healthy spiritual immune system. I recently attended a parenting workshop and I was so helped to be reminded again that raising our children is a stewardship entrusted to us by God. It’s not just about clothing them and feeding them, but even more about caring for their spiritual welfare. As parents we will all be accountable to the Lord for how we handled our stewardship. On the one hand, how they turn out is up to the Lord’s mercy, but on the other hand, we have the responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6).

The practical point I took away from the workshop was simply that I need to spend more quality time with my children. More time talking to them, more time listening to them, more time praying with them, and more time modeling to them what it means to love God and fear God. I had the stark realization last week that CC must hear and take in so much at school, but I don’t spend the adequate time with him to help him process and even filter out everything that’s getting into him. Besides the perfunctory, “How was school today?” to which the reply is usually, “Good,” I don’t really know what happened in his day. Now I’ve been trying to practice sitting down and having more meaningful conversations with my son, REALLY listening to him, and I’ve been surprised by how much I don’t know about him. I’ve learned that sometimes his classmates make fun of him for being little and that makes him sad, and I’ve learned that his favorite activity in choice time is computers (that didn’t really surprise me). I’ve also restarted the practice of praying with him before bed, and that sweet time has also been a window into his little heart. One night he wanted to pray that his friend would like his birthday presents, and another night he wanted to pray that the new substitute teacher would know the right songs to sing. I want him to always feel free to tell not just me, but God also, all these things on his heart, no matter how trivial they may seem to others.

So instead of wasting time worrying, I’m going to use that time to pray and to get to know my children. The influence of the world might be strong, but the God who lives in me and hopefully will one day live in them is stronger. As long as we lead our children to know this one, I think they’ll turn out just fine.

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We just got back from our epic summer family adventure to the East Coast and what an adventure it was! We hit three cities, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, in nine days relying on a single umbrella stroller, an ergo, and public transportation. The last time we were out on the East Coast was more than two years ago when CC could still fly for free. I was determined that we make it out there again before Turner’s second birthday in June. We had a long list of people to see so each day we set off to visit friends and every night we were in a different home enjoying food and fellowship around the table while the kids caroused happily with new found playmates. Some days we were so busy getting from place to place, catching trains and buses, that Larry and I felt like we were competing in Amazing Race, only with kids. (By the way, I think that would be a great idea for a show – Amazing Race, Parents with Kids Edition – I would totally watch it). We managed to fit in a little bit of sight seeing, but we didn’t stress out about having to see everything, and in all honesty the kids were usually more happy to just stop at a local playground or run around someone’s back yard than walking the Freedom Trail or seeing the Statue of Liberty.

 

Swan boat ride!

Swan boat ride!

Playing baseball in the park

Playing baseball in the park

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Taking the T to Amtrak

We took the Amtrak from Boston to New York where my whole family lives and introduced Turner to his brood of cousins. I have two siblings who each have four children, ranging from 19 years old to 8 years old. It was a challenge, to say the least, to do things with a group of 10 children and 8 adults and there was a lot of chaos and noise, but it helped that there were so many extra people to take care of and entertain the kids. It was so heart warming to see all the older cousins take a genuine interest in our boys. Being with the cousins was by far CC’s favorite part of the whole trip and probably what he will miss the most.

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Our clan

 

Waiting for our flight

Waiting for our flight

Normally when we get home from vacations, I’m exhausted and happy to be home. But this time coming home was a little bit bittersweet knowing that it will probably be a while before we’ll be able to see our family and friends on the East Coast again. Instead of being exhausted, I feel like this trip has refreshed me in so many ways. Now I’m a firm believer that families should take every opportunity to travel, especially with young kids. There’s something so healthy and beneficial about seeing and being with people from another part of the country or the world. It’s also a precious time to bond as a family; CC and Turner spent a lot of time fighting, but also played together in ways we haven’t seen them do at home before. The biggest reason for us not traveling more is the expense, but now I think it’s worth it to scrounge and save to give our kids and ourselves this valuable experience.

What is your experience of traveling with small kids in tow?

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We Remember

I woke up this morning expecting a typical Saturday, which usually means sleeping in (a whole extra 15 minutes!) and chores. My mind swarmed with things I had to do that day – fold the laundry, do the dishes, go to Target, etc. To me, it was just another Saturday. It wasn’t until when I logged into facebook and saw all the status updates that I realized what day it was. I scrolled through all the updates saying “We remember,” “Never forget,” and that’s what I did… I remembered.

For 20 minutes, while I folded laundry in the living room, my husband and I recounted to each other what we were doing on that tragic day nine years ago and how the events of that day had affected us. In September 2001, I was fresh out of grad school and had just started my new job as an ESL teacher in an adult school in Boston. When the planes hit the towers that morning, I was teaching my first morning class. I didn’t find out what had happened until lunchtime, when I went into the lunchroom and saw everyone gathered around the radio. They must have seen the look of confusion on my face because my coworkers soon turned from the radio and started filling me in on what happened. One woman, knowing I was from New York, told me I could use her office if I needed to call my family.

I first called my parents. My mom answered the phone and I could hear the TV in the background. She was watching the actual footage of the crash and trying to describe it to me, but all I wanted to know was whether everyone was okay, especially my brother and brother-in-law, both of whom work in Manhattan. Thankfully they were. I would find out later that my brother had actually seen the whole thing from his office window and that it had taken him hours to get home that day.

I was supposed to teach evening classes that day, but my boss decided to cancel classes and send everyone home early. I didn’t have a TV at home, so my roommates and I tried to get as much information as we could from the radio and the internet. Then that night we went to the prayer meeting. It was at the meeting that I found out about our dear brother Alex, whom I had known from my college days at Rutgers. We prayed with a heavy heart that night… for his family, and for all the saints he had shepherded.

In the following days, there was a barrage of emails from my high school friends, everyone frantically checking to make sure people were okay. I hadn’t talked to some of these friends for years, so it was nice to reconnect and hear that people were safe. One friend emailed from Thailand, another from Australia, and one told the story of how he was supposed to have a job interview in the WTC that morning but had woken up late and missed it. Not everyone from my group of friends had been that lucky, however. Later that week I received an email that one of my high school friends, who worked in the WTC, had been confirmed dead.

It’s hard to believe that nine years have already passed. My heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones that day. I’m sure they don’t need the exhortation to remember or the reminder to never forget. For them, 9/11 will be a day they can’t forget, as I’m sure they’ve woken up every morning for the past nine years remembering the ones they’ve lost. So I said a quick prayer for them as I finished folding the laundry and continued with my household chores… thankful to have another typical, peaceful Saturday.

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