Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fun in the Snow!

This week we finally got some snow. To the surprise of many I'm sure, we have not really had much snow at all this year so far. So with fresh snow on the ground we headed to the park to enjoy some sled-riding. The girls had forgotten that such an activity existed since the last time we did it was in Connecticut on New Years Day a year ago. It was a big hit and we followed it up with some Blueberry Soup, making it an all around great day.


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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dear Grammy and Papa

Thanks for the Christmas gifts...

Dear Great-Grammy

Thanks for the Christmas gifts...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Adventure We Call 2009

  Enjoy our Year in Review!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dear Brookie...

...your Christmas gift box was a big hit.

Gifts From Brooke from Colby Garman on Vimeo.

The Great Christmas Race '09

Annie made a scavenger hunt for the girls to find their final Christmas gift. We made it into a great race and included an appearance from own version of the villain Glanni Glæpur. It was filmed by Annie on our new Flip Ultra HD (Merry Christmas).
sorry for the poor video quality...still working on formats

Friday, December 25, 2009

Remembering a Year of Reading: Part 2

Here is the continuation of my memories from the past year of reading:

5. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - The word I would use to describe this book is "moving". The story is heart-wrenching, tragic, and redemptive. I was sad to leave the characters when I had finished it. It is the best of Dickens that I have read.

6. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton - For someone who spent an educational degree exploring the subject of Christian Apologetics I thought I had at least sampled all the variations on the theme that existed. When I read Orthodoxy this year I felt like I was reading something very unique and original, so much so that I still feel Chesterton has much more to offer than I understand. I plan on exploring this author a bit more in the coming year.

7. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson - A high recommendation from my mother-in-law landed this book on my list. It is really two stories weaved together chapter by chapter. It is the story of the developers of the Chicago World's Fair at the turn of the 2oth century as they labored against amazing odds to put on a display like the world had never seen. It is also the story of a serial killer that used the occasion to feed his twisted obsessions I often found myself reading this book into the early morning hours and more often than not thought I was reading a novel.

8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - Considered one of the greatest novels ever written, Anna Karenina presses the decencies of traditional Russian society to try and answer important questions about meaning in life and what our greatest good really is. The title character Anna throws away her place in society to pursue Romantic love, ultimately leaving behind her marriage and her son to for the sake of this "love" that is worth more than  everything else to her. The rest of the cast of characters form comparisons as they pursue different ends in life with differing motivations. The discussions and introspection of the characters is at times brilliant and I think the novel deserves its reputation.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ég tala Íslensku

Over the past year you have read a few stories about our chronicles of language acquisition. We have mistaken food for a foot, bought a children´s book that was really about a mole trying to find out who s#!t on his head, and told stories in language class about the abundance of sperm that Johnny Appleseed spread through the countryside of middle-America. It has not been a pretty process, but a rewarding one nonetheless. I have never learned to speak another language and at the beginning of the year I didn't really know if it was possible for me to do so. 
It is a strange feeling setting out to accomplish a task that you cannot imagine at the beginning. Imagining yourself speaking a new language is impossible if you have never actually done it. There is a certain level of faith that is exercised at the beginning of the journey, as you cannot yet see the destination that you have in mind. Rest assured there is a land that lies ahead where you will be able to understand what is being said, but there is a long walk before you start to recognize it. After a long walk in the same direction you will begin to see it. Somewhere during the past year I arrived in a land where the words I was seeing and hearing made sense. I do not know exactly when it was, but after a lot of walking I began to believe there would be a day when I could express myself and be understood. 

I still have miles to walk before I will be satisfied, but in the journey I learned a lesson of Christian discipleship. Walking by faith in Christ begins with the same sort unknowns. The direction and existence of a city other than the one we were born seeing with the physical eye seems impossible to imagine as we start out on the journey. As we take a long walk in the same direction The City of God begins to take shape, and meaning and hope spring from places we would never thought of before. Explaining this to someone who has yet to begin the journey can challenge all our categories of language and leave us speechless. But the city is there before us and we travel on beckoning those still waiting to come and see.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Remembering a Year of Reading: Part 1

Books are a lot like people to me, only a bit easier to get along with. I can never figure out what exactly I like about them, but each one offers something a bit different from the other and I find it a delight to get to know them. I sat down to write this blog thinking I would decide what were the top ten books that I read this year, but I have never been good at rating things this way. So, instead of trying go through my year in a systematic way I thought I would share the books that have left a mark on my memory and why.

1. A Praying Life by Paul Miller - Perhaps if you only read one more book on prayer in your entire life this should be it. It is probably the book that I read this year that I will remember the longest. It offered some of the best instruction on how prayer should be understood in the context of a whole life rather than just focusing on prayer as an aspect of spiritual life. It is theological, personal, and practical. As Miller opens up his life as a husband, father, parent of a child with a disability, and friend, the concepts he talks about come to life. 

2. The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis - I hesitated for a long time to read this part of C.S. Lewis's work because it often gets very mixed reviews. I think it may be because some people simply do not engage well with science fiction. I came away from reading these works dumbfounded at C.S. Lewis's sheer ability to imagine and describe a story. I was also struck by how he is able to take theoretical ideas and instantiate them into a concrete situation. My guess is that if you want to be a good writer and teacher these two skills are indispensible

3. Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis - I read Lewis's autobiographical work about his early life and adult conversion to Christianity after reading The Space Trilogy. In reading it I found his early literary education inconceivable. It was intense, serious, and obviously powerful in effect. I feel like a late-comer to literature and language and cannot believe the type of education he received at such a young age. It helped me understand where some of the imagination came from.

4. The Prodigal God by Tim Keller - Keller's insight and application of the parable of the Prodigal Son deepened my love and affection for Christ and provided fresh perspective on understanding the variations of our human condition to use God for own ends. Our preference for using God rather than worshiping Him is subtly hidden and disguised as good. Seeing through the subtleties takes skill, experience, and a good grasp of the spiritual illness of sin. Keller displays all of these in this short but powerful book. If you are a Christian I would suggest you pick it up and read it, it will deepen your understanding of the core teaching of our faith. If you are not a Christian you should also take a shot at reading it and better understand our faith.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Album: Friction Bailey - The Silent Night

I'm not going to review the album or anything overly boring like that, but I cannot help but recommend my favorite new (at least to me) Christmas music. Friction Bailey, The Silent Night, is arresting. I discovered it listening to Sufjan Stevens on Pandora. At least five times over the past week I have heard an arrangement of a traditional Christmas song that was so good I stopped what I was doing to go and look at the screen and find out who it was. Five times out of five it was Friction Bailey. Be warned, it is not your typical radio-mixed pop Christmas renditions, but instead a creative blend of male and female voice on a backdrop of traditional folk instruments. Merry Listening...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Boot-legged Blog Post

I just sat down, completely exhausted and totally uninspired to try to write something about our week.  Fortunately, Clint already did it and you can just read what he wrote HERE .  I hope this is sufficient, Mom and Dad!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

At the end of October I had a minor emotional breakdown when I began to imagine missing Thanksgiving back home.  I cried for approximately 7 minutes about how I've NEVER missed a Thanksgiving with my family and the injustice of it all....Colby listened patiently and then gently reminded me that in college I didn't go home for two years.  Okay, true.  So, I had a choice...have a pity party all November or make the best of it. got me brainstorming about festive crafts we could do, and next thing I knew, we had a 6 Americans coming over to share the meal together.  It was actually fun to not travel for this holiday and start our own traditions.  Hosting a Thanksgiving meal was very fun...especially since one of my good friends here is in school to be a MASTER CHEF.  The meal was nothing short of gourmet.  I'm very thankful for the new friends were making here and the old friends we have around the globe.  Check out some Thanksgiving pictures HERE .

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Great Cow War

On Wednesday Haley came up to me and said, "We don't have a lot of videos.  Can I make a video?"
Me:  "Make a video?  What do you mean?"
Haley:  "You know... I'll make my own video then we can watch it on t.v."
Me (trying to encourage creativity):  "Okay....I guess you could try.  What would this video be called?"
Haley:  "Oh yeah, I already know that.  It's called THE MAN AND THE GREAT COW WAR."
Me:  "That sounds interesting....Okay, well first you need to write a script."

With that we sat down and Haley dictated the script to me, line by line.  I tried to help her, but she wasn't really interested in any of my ideas.  She already knows where she wants to film it.  Maybe when Clint comes we can start filming.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Haley is 5!

I feel like I have committed a crime in the blogosphere by not blogging about my child's birthday.  Yes, Haley turned 5 last month and is now officially a little woman.  She never ceases to amaze me and I cannot get over her brains and beauty (the killer combination).   Haley has made a few friends the last 9 months and it was fun to invite them and see them all play together.  She wanted to play Go Fish and Old Maid, so those were the party games.  We made a creative, crazy crayon recipe and gave them out at the end only to find out that they don´t give away goodie bags at birthday parties here.  Instead, Icelandic birthday parties usually involve LOTS of cakes.  We only had one.  One little one.  Oh well...we´re learning.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Is there something I should know about?

It has happened to me three times now, so I'm wondering if this is an Icelandic cultural thing I should know about.  The first time, I was having a really hard day.  The calendar said it was LATE SPRING, but the weather felt like the dead of winter and every time I went outside I got grumpy.  Come to think of it, when I was inside I was grumpy too because I felt entitled to be outside enjoying warm weather.  Anyway, I was on my way home and an old man came up to me and the girls mumbling something in Icelandic.  I must have looked confused because he pulled out his wallet.  I thought he was giving me a visual clue (like a good ESL teacher) and asking me for money, and I tried to explain to him in my broken Icelandic that I didn't have any cash on me.  He kept repeating a sentence in Icelandic that was something to the effect of, "Life is hard (erfitt), but you're doing a good job."  He made it sound like he had been watching me and he thought I was handling it well here.  With that, he reached into his wallet and gave me 1000 kronur.  I tried to give it back, but he refused to let me.  I went home and told Colby that I thought I had just encountered a drunk angel.

Two times since then, two different old men have come up and literally just given me money because my girls are so beautiful.  One of them said that he really wanted to get them something, but he thought I would know better what to get them.  He made me promise that I would get them a special treat with the money (How did he know that I'd be tempted to save it?!).  I mean, I know my kids are cute, but.....I've never gotten PAID for it.  Maybe I should have some more kids and start a side business.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cultural Norm

If Finland is a spitting culture and England is a proper culture, I think I've figured out what Iceland is.  It is a PEEING culture.  I cannot tell you how many times I've looked out my window and seen someone peeing in our back parking lot or out front in the bank parking lot.  It is unreal.  I have started tapping on the window just to make sure the perpetrator knows he is spotted.  Most of the time, the criminal is unashamed.

The other day's experience takes the cake.   I was coming out of Kringlan (the mall here) and was walking through the underground parking garage when I noticed a man standing next to his car in a suspicious position.  The closer I got, the more disgusted I became.  Not only was this man peeing in a PARKING GARAGE, but his wife and kids were patiently and nonchalantly waiting in the vehicle.  I don't even know what to say.  I guess some people are more offended/disgusted by spitting in public, so maybe I should just hold my tongue.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"I want my mommy...."

The last 5 days have been a blur of fevers, runny noses, coughing, body aches and chills, and fatigue...for all of us.  Colby has gotten hit the least hard and today he commented, "I feel like I'm running an infirmary."  Haley threw up once but I think it's because she had 2 vitamins on an empty stomach.  I wonder when this will end?

Búsahalda Byltingir

The other day, I took the kids to a park near downtown to enjoy a few rare moments of precipitation-free fun.  We heard some banging in the distance, and immediately I knew what was going on.  There was really only one thing it could be.  It must be....It had to be....the Búsahalda Byltingir.

Darcy and I had just been having a wild ride on the see-saw, and I made her laugh so hard that she threw up all over the front of her coat.  It was time to leave anyway, so we made our way the direction of the banging of course.  I knew it would insight questions, but I wanted to see it firsthand for myself.  I had heard of the Búsahalda Byltingir from many sources and had discussed it in class when we studied about household items.  My time had finally come.  I was about to witness the Búsahalda Byltingir...that is... the Kitchen-Ware Revolution.

We finally got close enough to see the small crowd, each with their favorite kitchen appliance, gathered in front of what I assumed to be a very important building here in Reykjavik.  I saw one man with a plunger, banging it on a rail;  Another had a big kitchen pot and was banging it with a wooden spoon.  Most of the other people were booing and yelling as well as banging.  The chaos finally subsided when someone from the building opened the door, pointed to who I suspected to be the ring-leader and summoned the protester into his office.

There have been many protest here in Reykjavik the last 9 months.  Most of them have been in City Center which is an open green space in front of the Parliament Building.  A lot of people here are still angry since the big crisis that went down last October.  A lot of people here have lost their jobs. Iceland is changing, and it has definitely been an interesting time to be here.  If you are interested, you can read Icelandic News in English at: .

Thursday, November 5, 2009

On Reading Old Books like the Bible

John Mark Reynolds is the director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, that beloved institution where I did my MA. During my time studying there he was one of my favorite lecturers and he recently wrote this article "On Reading Old Books like the Bible". It is thought provoking and definitely worth taking ten minutes of your time to read it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Chronicles of Language Acquisition

The last 9 months of my journey learning (what is said to be) one of the hardest languages in the world...

February:  I can say my name, how old I am, and where I am from.  My Icelandic is as good as Darcy’s English (2 year old level). I feel completely overwhelmed by the complex grammar structure of this language.  There are 48 words for the number one.  FOURTY-EIGHT. Colby has studied 2 languages with similar grammar and gets it immediately.

Although the grammar is ridiculous, I am learning new words every day.  The city is coming alive…words on billboards, businesses, magazines now have meaning to me.  With each day I feel like I am adding a brushstroke of water to one of those “magic Color Wonder” pages.   

Colby and I watch t.v. with Icelandic subtitles while we work out at the gym together.  It´s a great way to reinforce what we´ve been learning in class, but unfortunately, the only thing on at that time is soap operas.  I never thought the day would come that we would have discussions about the latest plot in The Bold And The Beautiful.

March:  Not only are we taking a class every morning, but now we are going to language school at night twice a week.  Halfway through the month, I hit a wall and stay in bed for a week fighting off what I think is a virus.  After talking with our supervisor, I realize that it’s not a virus and I am experiencing physical ramifications of mental stress.  Realizing that I need to be mentally tough and fight through the exhaustion, I continue to go to class even though just hearing Icelandic makes my head spin and throb.  Can’t I just speak English the whole time we’re here?  Is this really worth it?

April: Colby’s Icelandic is flourishing and I feel like I’m losing the race.  I call Nancy in tears and she “talks me down off the ledge” reminding me that language learning is not a competition (What?!?  I thought everything was a competition!)  and it’s okay if Colby is ahead.  I’ll eventually catch up.

I can speak sentences now, but unfortunately, I start a sentence in Icelandic and at some point—without realizing it—finish the sentence in Spanish.  I don’t even know what words are Spanish and what words are Icelandic anymore.  I regret even learning Spanish.

May:  I meet Edna who is from Latin America.  Perfect.  I switch between Icelandic, Spanish, and English as I’m talking and she understands everything I’m trying to say.  We are now in an Icelandic Level 3 class.  We are reading short stories (a page long) every day.  I feel encouraged because I’m probably on a 2nd grade reading level.      

June:  I have developed a small language route—frequently visiting the same shops and practicing Icelandic.   I stop by a cozy Christian coffee shop a lot and talk with one particular generous employee.  The other day the conversation went longer than it ever had—back and forth, back and forth, just like a surprisingly good game of ping-pong.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was actually speaking Icelandic.  At a three year old level, anyway.

July:  From what I’ve heard, if you are to graph language acquisition, after a sharp spike there comes an inevitable plateau.  This month I can feel the plateau. 

August:  I am starting to wonder if we are even going to be able to stay here in Iceland.  We don’t have VISAs, and we will have to leave soon if we don’t get them.  Language learning comes to an abrupt halt.  We’re not sure if we will have to learn another language soon…sigh.

September:  We are in Finland all month.  I imagine what life would be like if we were to live there instead.  Colby found a word 29 letters long on the back of a cereal box.  We get our VISAs.   We return to Iceland on a Saturday and start another language school on Tuesday.  The new class is SO advanced and SO fast and I feel like I am comprehending very little.  I cry the entire way home from school on the 2nd day.  Here we go again…

October:  I have recruited more people to pray for me and the challenges of being here.  I am working harder than I ever have at studying Icelandic.  There are even note cards by the toilet…not a second wasted! 

I am forcing myself to use Icelandic out in public even though almost everyone speaks English.  The other day I was trying to get a library card and accidently asked the librarian if the card was pregnant (ofrisk) instead of if it was free (okeypis). 
Last week Thora told me that my Icelandic had improved since we had last talked.  It has put a skip in my step and every day I can feel things starting to click and stick.  I can feel that I’m on another spike on the graph and it feels so good.  Colby and I frequently talk to each other in Icelandic when we don’t want the kids to know what we’re saying (at least we don’t think they understand…). 

I just figured out last night what one of the “warning signs” in the gufubað is saying and realized that I have been breaking the rules for the past 9 months.  Oops.  They should have really put that in English if it was so important.

Today in class we were sharing a folktale from our country.  I chose the story of Johnny Appleseed and spent over an hour the night before preparing for my turn.  During my presentation I was trying to express that Johnny Appleseed always carried a bag full of seeds with him wherever he went.  Unfortunately, the word seed has many shades of meaning that the dictionary didn’t exactly distinguish for me… and I instead told the whole class that Johnny always carried with him a bag full of SPERM. 
Oh well.  I guess this is how you learn…

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Toby & Me

In 1990 I was 10 years old.  I can remember the day we went to the Learning Shop to buy a tadpole and a "grow-a-frog" kit.  It was very exciting to meet "Toby" and learn about his stages of development.  He was a rather easy pet and my mom gave him only the best of care.  I have memories of driving across town to get free filtered water from the Brewery for his tank.  Soon he graduated from his small cup to bowl, his bowl to a small tank, and eventually was granted the luxury of a 10 gallon tank as he morphed into a small water frog.  When I graduated from high school, he had become obese from all the pampering and earned the nickname "thunder-thighs." My trips back home during breaks were always highlighted with seeing this grow-a-frog who had endured a decade.  By the time I got married, he had developed cataracts but apparently had enough vision to spot his frog food each day.  Soon the kids came along and enjoyed knocking on the glass of his tank to see him jolt (which was the only movement he ever made).  Last week my mother emailed the inevitable news...Toby was found "belly-up."  I thought a grow-a-frog that lasted NINE-TEEN YEARS deserved a shout-out in cyberspace.  If I have any hope of ever appearing in the Guinness Book of world records, this might be it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Last weekend we saw in the news that the John Lennon "Imagine Peace Tower" was being lit up in Reykjavik.  Our friend's Dad who was visiting was CONVINCED from a distance that it was the northern lights,'s easily confused.
We went on a 5 minute boat ride to the island of Viðey (compliments of Yoko Ono herself) and walked in the utter darkness until we reached the light.  When our "tour guide" told us to all hold hands and send up our wishes for peace, I saw this picture in my head and begged Colby to climb the hill behind us and capture it.  Well done, Colby, well done.  Fully participating in the festivities, Darcy wrote a wish and hung it on the wish tree right next to everyone's wishes for global peace:  "I wish for a baby bottle so I can feed my baby." (We had a family over for dinner and their 2 year old threw Darcy's toy baby bottle off our 4th floor patio).   The whole boat ride home they played "Give Peace a Chance."  It was a fun evening that would have only been improved by meeting Yoko Ono in person.  Maybe next year.
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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Photo Catch-up

I finally put the rest of our Finland/London pictures up.  This one is my favorite!
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For the Grandparents...




You should be able to save these to your thumbdrive and then print them out at Wal-Mart.  Were there any other ones that you wanted?
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Little SpongeBob

Haley has now completely phased out of nap-time, but unfortunately I still have not.  Karen Doheney gave us a few books on CD before they moved, so I have been letting Haley listen to them during "quiet time" in the afternoons.  I didn't realize how much Haley had absorbed them until we got to Finland.  Every day we would load the kids up in the double jogging stroller and go for a run.  On distance days, Darcy would ask Haley if she could listen to Nemo, put on pretend headphones, press the imaginary button on Haley's arm and listen to this:  

We cannot get over our little sponge!  We really need to find some good literature for her to listen to now.  Any suggestions?  Colby thinks she should start listening to the Bible because--at this rate--she'll have the entire thing memorized by age 14.  Gather the kids up and let them enjoy story time!  Haley couldn't stop giggling after she recorded this and I told her I was going to post it on the blog.  She said, "I bet it will make everyone laugh!"  Leave a comment to let Haley know how you liked it (I think I changed the setting so anyone can leave a comment now).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Becoming a little child...(a continuing series)

Many months ago I wrote of some of our early language comedy as we began studying Icelandic. We have made quite a bit of progress, but I still have some stories to share from along the way. I cannot remember when this happened, but it happened all the same and was quite funny for us.

During the early part of the summer we were walking through a park near our home when an exuberant young boy peddled up to us on his bicycle. He was beckoning us to follow him and spitting out a mixture of phrases. First in high-speed Icelandic, then in muddled English. Discerning that he did not have enough English to make himself sensible I told him in Icelandic that I could maybe understand him if he were to speak slowly in Icelandic. He did so and Annie and I looked confusedly at one another and said, "He is asking us to come to his home." Not accustomed to accepting invitations home from 9 year old boys we were a bit hesitant, but his insistence overpowered all four of us and we soon found ourselves following him. I thought I heard him say something in the neighborhood of "leikföng" and quickly assumed he had some toys to show us. As we arrived at the yard outside his house there was a smattering of boys gathered around a makeshift merchant house filled to the rafters with an odd array of toys. Of the five boys a young Iceland-born son of a Saudi immigrant seemed to have the situation well in hand and quickly distinguished himself as the primary "man" of business. 

When we arrived and figured out the reason for our strange appropriation we realized we did not have any local currency. When they saw our array of U.S. and British coinage they were more than happy to oblige with the offer of a fair exchange. Being in the unusual circumstances of possessing a better control of their own language than they did of mine, we did our business in Icelandic. We picked out what appeared to be a small children's book, offered them a fair price, and prepared to leave. Before paying they began to add parting gifts to our bounty quite similar to the close of a made for TV infomercial and we left as very happy customers.

It wasn't until a few days later that one of us finally sat down to inquire further into the book that we had purchased. There was one word that I didn't quite understand in the title, but became all too clear when we finally made our way through the rest of the book. A crime had been committed and a young mole is out to find out who the culprit is. Along the way the reader discovers that it wasn't the horse, pig, cow, rabbit, or the bird. Just when it looks like the crime is headed for the cold case file, two flies come along and use their sleuthing ability and provide the information that solves the riddle.

The title in translation with the missing word: The mole that wanted to know who ______ on it's head.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Yes, it is weird.

Colby is having a "re-charge" day out of the house, so today the computer is MINE...all mine!  Hahahaha!! (insert evil laughter here).   I am feeling a lot better myself and don't think I'll even need the doctor's appointment that is scheduled for Wednesday.  The IMB nurse thinks that I might be anemic, so I will get my blood checked still.  We spent the day yesterday rearranging furniture, organizing, and I been hitting up the Icelandic version of Goodwill almost daily trying to find things to make this place cozier.

We are finally settling in.  Part of settling in for me is writing.  I love to blog and record our chronological order.  There are many blog posts that I have written in my head, but never have been documented.  One of my winter projects is to carve out time to write all the stories before they become forgotten memories.  Colby thinks that my little trick of "back-posting" is completely illogical, but someday when we go back and read our whole story (in chronological order!), he'll be thankful.  I guess I have to send links to the posts if I want anyone to enjoy them, but then again, they are not so much for an audience as they are for me.  Regardless, below (posted September 21st)  is a post from London.  Enjoy...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What is happening to me?!

I have had a really hard week.  I feel like I've been welcomed back to Iceland with a slap in the face.  I have had very little strength to face all the challenges of being back, trying to get settled in, and starting language class.  This morning I found this article that made me feel very understood.  This exhaustion is normal, and hopefully soon this too shall pass.  

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Toto...we're not in Kansas anymore."

I've always been a spitter.  Or maybe not.  Maybe I became a spitter when I became a runner.  No one thought twice about spitting during practice;  you run, you get phlegm, you spit.  Unfortunately for me:
1. This habit has been deeply engrained into my psyche and is now a knee-jerk reaction.
2. I function with a high level of phlegm.

I honestly just forget that it is not socially acceptable unless I'm in the middle of a cardio-vascular activity.  There have been many times at church when I'm walking between buildings that I'll let one fly without thinking.  In a dress.

You can imagine my exuberance when I read Heather's blog about Finland being a spitting culture .  We arrived and I experienced it for myself.  She was right.  People--young and old, rich and poor, unashamedly spitting left and right.  Oh the freedom;  oh the bliss.  I was in spitting heaven.  The other day a little girl got out of her car and hacked a big one right in front of me, luckily missing my shoes.  I wanted to hug her.

Then on Thursday we left Finland and arrived in London.  We were standing at a proper crosswalk, waiting for the light to turn.  My nose started to tingle with drippiness, so without thinking, I emptied out both nostrils with a good 'ol farmers blow.  That didn't feel like it did the trick, so I finished the job by spitting.  My head lifted only to meet the eyes of two women in front of me whose heads were turned watching me.  They stared uncomfortably as I slowly began to remember that I was not in Finland anymore.  After a few awkward moments basking in their looks of shame, I wanted to mouth to them I'm from Wisconsin (and my mom taught me how to farmer's blow) or --if that didn't suffice--I just lived in Finland.  Soon their punishing glares were over and the light turned.  I crossed the street and said to Colby, "I just got a blog post idea."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It wasn't smooth and it sure wasn't pretty...

…But we are back in Iceland with VISAs. 

Here’s a recap of what we had to go through  in the last 3 days:

1.       1.   Three hour train ride from Jyvaskyla to Helsinki, Finland.  Colby’s backpack broke. Had to shop for another one in the Helsinki mall and transfer everything into it.

2.       2.  Got to the airport.  Got into the slowest line at Czech Airlines.  Finally it is our turn at the check-in counter. We find out we are only allowed to check 80 kilos and we are required to check our strollers (which we have never had to do).  We open up all the suitcases and try to carry on as many pounds as possible.  We are charged for the extra weight.  We are NOT happy.

3.       3.  We trudge through the airport—Colby carrying a heavy backpack and dragging two garbage bags full of clothes, me -- a backpack stuffed with 20 pounds plus my other carry-ons, and Haley carrying the camera bag.  We all have our winter coats on (we had to bring them in case).

4.       4.  Arrive in Prague.  Only have 45 minutes between flights.  Run to next gate.  We look like a scene out of Home Alone.

5.       5.  Get to Heathrow Airport in London.  At Border control, Haley is nearly in  tears, frantically grabbing herself because she is about to wet her pants (we had just gone to the bathroom on the plane). Hold on Haley, we just have to answer 20 questions first.  

6.       6.  Go to Baggage Claim.  They have lost our double stroller (the double stroller we had paid 80 dollars to check).  Colby goes to try to locate it, leaves me with all the luggage, and Darcy wets her pants (she had JUST gone to the bathroom on the plane).

7.       7.  We emerge from Baggage Claim to meet someone from our company…Darcy dripping with urine, Haley upset because she had just lost her new Hello Kitty bracelet, and Colby and I with bags under our eyes.

8.       8.  One-hour drive to our hotel in Gatwick.  We arrive, take everything to our room, and then realize that we are so hungry we won’t be able to fall asleep.  Colby goes to find food.  It takes almost another hour.

9.       9.  Next morning, Colby gets up early to get directions to the Embassy.  The wireless internet isn’t working.  He figures something out, we chug breakfast,  and catch the Gatwick Express to downtown London.

10.  10.  Walk for an hour.  Arrive at the Embassy 45 minutes early.  The woman at the counter looks confused, and says, “I’m sorry.  You don’t have an appointment for today.  I have you down for Monday morning.  And today we’re packed full.”

11.   11.  Colby looks like he is about to hurt someone.  He gets assertive.  “I’m sorry, there must have been a miscommunication.  We agreed on Friday and we have flights to Iceland tomorrow morning.”

12.   12. Clerk responds (with a perfect British accent), “Ah, sh*#... (head in hands).  Okay, out of the goodness of my heart, I’ll try to squeeze you in today.”

13.   13.  Find out we need passport photos.  We get a map and run for 15 minutes until we find “Snappy Photos” where we have a quick photo shoot.  Run back and get in line.

14.   14.  They call our name.  Find out our credit card will not work and we need 112 pounds CASH.  This time Colby goes alone and sprints to the nearest “hole in the wall.”

15.   15.  Get what we need.  Go to Kensington Gardens where I lay on the grass for an hour trying to recover. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

Meet the Pauls

We met the Pauls in April of 2008 at our interview conference.  They were pure-bred Californians deciding whether to serve in Indonesia or Finland.  Since our church was doing work in Indonesia, I tried to persuade them to go to there.  They decided Finland.  We went back to our separate coasts, packed up our lives, rented out our homes, and reunited in August in Richmond at our training center.  For 9 weeks we shared meals together, sat together every day for our sessions, and bonded through the whole experience.  We said goodbye in October never thinking our lives would intersect again.  However, our surprise trip to Greece allowed us to spend a week together, and there we decided the contingency plan of going to their town in Finland if we didn't get VISAs.  Here we are.  It has been a wonderful month of doing life together here.  The whole first week, Heather and I just kept repeating, "I can't believe we're here;  this is so surreal."  Their four-year old girl, Delaney and the girls have had a blast together.  She is into princesses and ponies, so what could be better?  This has been a rich blessing to be together and we're thankful to God for this opportunity.  

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Finlandia Half-Marathon

In the spirit of Jason Pelt, here is the post race recap. After much deliberation Annie and I finally registered to run in a couple of races on Saturday (Annie in the 12K). To begin with I was really excited that the race did not begin at 7:00 AM. I have never liked the early morning start times for races and prefer to run in the early evening before dinner. Here in Finlandia we started the Half-Marathon promptly at 4:00 PM. 

Running a race in a country where you do not understand the language is quite interesting. One can never quite be sure they understand everything that is going on. For example it was not until about 1:00 PM that we realize the race was at 4:00 and not 3:00. When we arrived for the race Annie still needed to pick up her number. As we headed inside to find it there was a steadystream of people heading towards the starting line that made us a bit nervous. Of course all the time in the background there is someone speaking on the microphone in Finnish saying who knows what. After picking up Annie's number I figured it was time to join all the others lined-up in front of the outhouses and get prepared for the long run.

As the race began I pressed play on my running partner (IPOD shuffle which is affectionately named Steadman, a kind gift from the one and only Mila Thomas). I had Steadman loaded up with a great variety playlist prepared for the occasion(including Coldplay live, U2, Mewithoutyou, Shane and Shane, Fernando Ortega, Beebo, and some others).   The first part of the race was a game of figuring out a pace I could get into and keep for the entire race. I had set a goal of finishing under 1:45 and wanted to avoid beginning too fast that I would run out of gas in the end (which I did). 

Everything was uneventful for the first 14 KM. I had a good pace going and felt like I could keep it. At this point my legs began feeling fatigued and a large goup of runners passed me. I was worried that I would have to slow drastically when I was boosted with energy by a new tune from Steadman. It was the live version of Viva La Vida. I had put the song on the list because the live version contains a huge crowd of cheering fans that you can hear or the entire song. Needless to say it carried me somewhere into the 16th K where I forgot about my earlier fatigue. 

Everything went well until 19K. I was running into the wind by the lake and feeling tired, so tired I actually considered walking. As a 50 year old woman passed me I thought I should try to keep up with her to finish out the last 2K. I couldn't do it and I quickly lost sight of her and was slowing down with every step. I had no idea what the time was and became convinced I would not make it in under 1:50. I decided to relax and try to enjoy the rest of the race and managed a brisk jog to the finish line. As I crossed I was pleasantly surprised to see the clock register 1:38.27 (unofficially). Annie and Jason Paul met me at the finish area and the rest is history

Friday, September 11, 2009

13 months and 9 days...

The moment came at the perfect time.  We were at the home of Irma, an amazing Finnish woman who glows with the presence of God and who owns a lovely piece of property in the outskirts of town. We had just sat down for afternoon coffee with her and our dear friends here, the Pauls, when Darcy busted in the front door from playing outside screaming, “I have to go POO-POO!  Colby got up to help her when I heard his phone ring.  My stomach immediately dropped and the Finnish fancy cake I was chewing on suddenly made me want to vomit.

This was it.  It had to be.  We had been waiting for 13 months and 9 days to get a residence permit and today was the day we would hear the decision.  I made eye contact with Heather and we both tried to politely listen to the conversation that was happening around the table, both knowing that something monumental and life-altering was happening in the other room.   I was nauseated with nervousness. 

I excused myself and entered the bathroom where Darcy was loudly trying to get Colby’s attention because she needed to be wiped… and Colby was hiding in the shower with one hand plugging his ear, trying to hear the person on the other end of the phone.  He was smiling with a giddiness that I hadn’t seen in a long time, and I leaned into the phone just in time to hear the words, “You have been approved.”  It was almost visible—the weight that I watched lift from Colby’s shoulders…the burden that had been there for so long that I had begun to not even recognize it. 

He continued to talk on the phone with our representative from Iceland, and I made my way to the closest chair in sight and collapsed in it.  I watched him pace back and forth around the living room, laughing, glowing.  We made eye contact.  He moved the phone away from his lips and mouthed to me, “It. is. over. 

I couldn’t believe it.  I sat in the rocking chair in a state of shock for a long time.  Now that I think about it, I don’t know if anyone ever wiped Darcy.  Poor child.  All I could hear were the words, “It is over.”  All I could see in my mind was a long and painful road that we had finally--hand in hand--come to the end of.  Not just us, but many that have traveled this road with us were behind us cheering and smiling.  I didn’t know what to think.  For so long we hadn’t known WHEN this would end, WHERE it would end or if it WOULD ever end.  And now it was over.  This journey was finally over.  And it was finally beginning...



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Adventures in Scandinavia, Part 1

In Iceland, people are serious about catching rays when the sun shines.  It’s almost as if people just collapse wherever they happen to be in the summer to enjoy the sunshine.  Recently I looked out my window and saw a full-grown man lying prostrate on a piece of grass beside the bank parking lot.  I love to see people here enjoying the warmth of nature and not taking it for granted. 
Naturally, when we got to Finland I wanted to soak up every last bit of summer.  One afternoon I went outside to take the trash out and couldn’t bear the thought of going back indoors.  I laid down in a sunny spot on the grass by our parking lot.  After a few minutes, I turned my head around and spotted a man watching me from his top-floor window.  I laid my head back down and figured he’d eventually get over whatever he was looking at.  Next thing I know there is a different man looking very concerned coming out the apartment door towards me.  He was speaking very fast in Finnish and I just stared, my tired mind not quick enough to think of what to say.  Finally he paused, figured out I wasn’t understanding him, and sputtered out, “You…take…sun?” 
It finally occurred to me that lying down in a random patch of grass was rather alarming to him.  Ummm….yeah….I think so,”  was all I managed to get out.  That appeared to appease him and he went back inside.  Apparently it is NOT so normal to collapse in the sun here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gorgeous Girls

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Psalm 139

(Cuddling in bed reading this psalm to my girls in pajamas):

1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down; 
 you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Haley Jane (furrowed brow): "Well...why does He only hold us with His right hand? Why doesn't he hold us with both hands?"  

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ever After..

Today is our 8th Wedding Anniversary. It's always hard to believe we are getting older, but we are edging ever closer to ten years of marriage and that is unfathomable. These are the moments we say, "time flies" or "before you know it," hoping to capture in words our sense of the fleeting nature of life.
I must say...I like marriage. Not so much because either of us are very good at it, but precisely because we are not. There is nothing more rigorous and difficult than learning to do something that you are not naturally good at. There are also very few things as satisfying as succeeding in things you find difficult. Finishing a course of study, running a distance race, climbing a mountain, scaling a rock, learning a language, or tackling a tough project are all accomplishments that derive their satisfaction from our recognition of their difficulty. I think marriage can be a lot like that. There are enough times where you feel like you could just crash and burn to make you enjoy the moments where you feel like you are flying.

I always try to avoid describing our relationship in overly flowery romantic tones. It's not because we don't love each other or feel immense passion for one another. We often do, but we often do not. As a society we have a great deal of fairy tales portraying ideal romanticism and the picture of happily ever after.  I do not need to invent another one with our lives as the centerpiece. 

The pictures and stories we embrace to describe our lives are important, and the picture of a fairy tale fails us when it comes to marriage.  I have always loved Pilgrims Progress and its portrayal of life as a journey wrought with dangers and snares that would keep us from the joy of the Celestial City. Since marriage is such a significant part of life, the analogy serves us well here also. I often feel like Annie and I are on a journey. Signposts along the way point us in the direction of the joyful treasures of marriage. Without the signs, our untrained senses would most certainly leave us wrecked and without hope. We have, more often than we would like to admit, found ourselves with no motivation to continue except that we were convinced that quitting would be worse. The sign said joy was in this direction, so let's keep walking.

 Over and over again we have walked from a difficult path into a new, wealthy place of renewal and joy. In the process, as time passes, we have looked over at our traveling companion and found a stronger and more faithful friend. These moments are a gracious gift from God. Because of these eight years, we are learning to love the good and to become the good that we love. Nothing could be better or more exciting than that and today I am grateful that Annie has chosen to continue walking at times when I didn't deserve a friend like her (a little something she learned from following Jesus). 

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Week in Status Updates

Annie is:  amazed that all we really need to survive anymore can be packed into 4 suitcases.

Annie is:  watching a Finnish TV station with Colby who is trying to imitate the new sounds (His response when he saw me watching him:  "Oh sorry...I was just thinking about Diphthongs.")  

Annie is:  APPALLED to hear that you have to PAY to use public bathrooms here.

Annie is:  attempting to blow-dry and curl her hair in the kitchen using the reflection in the microwave as a mirror because the only outlet in the bathroom is being used by the washing machine.

Annie is:  trying to remember what it was like to have a DRYER.  

Annie is:  consoling Darcy who has slipped on the wet bathroom floor on her way to the toilet because the Finnish people have not yet discovered the wonders of a shower door.  

Annie is:  using an old cottage cheese container for a cereal bowl this morning because the "furnished apartment" does not furnish an adequate amount of dishes.  

Annie is: successful in finding the silverware drawer only after opening 11 other drawers first.

Annie is:  (don't misunderstand), very thankful for this new apartment, but has honestly never felt more uncomfortable furniture in her entire life.  

Annie is: explaining to Haley that we are not in China even though our apartment looks like it.

Annie is: running next to Colby who has taken his shirt off it is so warm...and passing people with winter coats, hats, and snow pants.  Can someone please explain this phenomenon to me?  

Annie is:  missing Wal-Mart and the dollar racks.  

Annie is:  thankful that Haley and Darcy have such wild imaginations and are able to have fun here without many toys.  

Annie is: learning the joy of simplicity and the freedom of living moment by moment.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Living on Poo-Poo

When our Finnish friend first told us, I didn't believe him.  

"We live where?"  

"Poo-poo-hoo-dante," he said again.

The girls went nuts.  

(Darcy, of course) "So, who lives on Pee-pee?"  (roaring laughter from her and Haley).

I guess there are worse things to have as your street name.  Honestly, I could care less what this thing is named...I can walk out our door and take my next step into the woods.  And then my next step is on a trail that wraps around a beautiful lake.  The leaves are changing colors already, but the air is still warmer than Iceland.  We are taking advantage of this weather and location by training for a half-marathon that is in September (although I will probably opt for the 12K). Come take a look at our new apartment.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Treasure Principle

Randy Alcorn's book The Treasure Principle is a gold nugget. It is a concise, readable, inspiring, and challenging message about the source and practice of generosity. It is full of challenging anecdotes and colorful points to ponder for anyone who wants to experience the joy of breaking free from the bondage of materialism.

Well for our faithful blog readers (actually only for those with a U.S. address) ... We have a deal for you! The first 30 people to send an e-mail with there address to will receive a free copy of the book. Be sure to include your name and put Free Book in the subject line. 

We Have Renters!

We're so thankful that God provided for our needs by sending Kara and Josh our way.  Kara is from Colby's home church in Galeton, Pennsylvania and she got a job teaching at a local elementary school in Stafford County.  Josh and Kara will be married in a few weeks, but Kara has already moved in.  If anyone wants to stop by Sunny Hill and welcome Kara to the neighborhood, feel free!     

Sunday, August 23, 2009

So…we are in Finland.

We don’t know how long we’ll be here…we don’t know much except that we are together and in God’s hands.  If you are not on our prayer team and would like to get monthly updates or weekly updates, just let us know. 

We flew into Helsinki and then drove 3 ½ hours north to a college town called Jyvaskyla.  This place is strikingly similar to where I grew up:  marshes, lakes, and HUNDREDS of trails for walking and biking.  We spent 6 hours running and walking around in the warm weather (warmer than any day we’ve had in Iceland) exploring the trails and the city.   I love seeing so many people outside exercising here.  We’ve noticed lots of people into Nordic walking here (walking with ski poles).   

The girls have done well adjusting.  For the first time in a year, the girls have separate rooms to sleep in.  Bedtime has been 75% less stressful and that is so helpful.  Of course, Darcy is going through her typical culture shock.  In the middle of the night she woke up screaming, “My leg is BWOKEN!”  and when she wakes up she is convinced she has a fever and ice cream is the only thing that can cure it.  I’m just waiting until starts telling me she has to throw up again. 

Of course, there is the drama of not having a car and always  trying to catch a bus.  Today the bus drove right past me even though I was standing right at the bus stop (apparently you have to flag them down).  A half-hour later when it returned, the girls frantically started running toward it, Haley knocked Darcy over, and we made a scene getting on the quiet bus …(Darcy, in between sobs) “NOW… I… AM …LAME!!”  (Thank you Jesus Storybook Bible for expanding my child’s vocabulary).  “Mommy…(trying to catch her breathe)….You have to get me sticks so I can walk.”  Nordic walking, anyone?


Monday, August 17, 2009

The Obsession continues...

Our teacher tipped us off where we could take the girls on a horse ride.  Darcy is now as fascinated as her sister is with horses.
See more here 

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Scarred For Life?

A few weeks ago, not long after the miscarriage, we were having a family picnic and enjoying a day of relaxation. As we were sitting around a picnic table Haley spotted this apple and said, "Mommy, the Apple reminds me of you..." I thought I knew what she was referring to, but I wasn't convinced that my four year old had the capacity for such abstract thinking. I looked at Haley, "Well, what do you mean?" She gave her classic smile of embarrasment and replied, "Oh, nothing." Intrigued, Annie and I gently pressed her to share what she was thinking about and she eventually obliged our request. Pensively she stated, "The Apple represents Mom and the scar know...the miscarriage." Annie and I shared a look of amazement and shook our heads in disbelief at Haley's capacity to see a picture of life in an otherwise ordinary object.
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Monday, August 10, 2009


Well, I think I'll put a pause on the series for now.  I'll have to wait for another season of life where I am forced to be sedentary to blog the second half of my "cute sayings" book. Here is one last personal favorite from the archives.  I am teaching an English class again and it is pretty exhausting.  So exhausting, in fact, that Colby has had to come to school with me every day to help out.  It is fun to have the whole family there and Darcy is THRILLED to be in attendance.  Since she has learned all her letters, she actually is a help during "letter time."  Whenever we ask for a word that starts with that letter, she comes up with the craziest examples.  CLASS CLOWN already!    

Sunday, August 9, 2009

"Out of the Mouths of Babes"--A continuing series

October 2007
age: 3

Haley is now in Cubbies in the AWANAs club at church.  Her first lesson was all about creation.  I thought it was an amazing lesson because they made the distinction between creating (something only God can do) and making (something we can do out the materials God has created).  After the lesson, Mrs. Driggers visited Haley in Cubbies and asked her, "Haley, do you want to come to my house this week and make cookies?"  Her response was firm.  "Yes, but we can't CREATE them."  Mrs. Driggers was confused until we explained the lesson to her.  

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Out of the Mouths of Babes"--A continuing series

June 2008
Haley-age 3 1/2

Haley got a new Ariel t-shirt recently and asks to wear it almost every day.  Even though he lets her watch The Little Mermaid, Colby isn't the biggest fan of this Disney princess because she's got an attitude with her Daddy in the movie.  So, today in Wal-Mart, an elderly man saw Haley (with the shirt on of course), stopped, bent over so he was eye-level with her, smiled, pointed at her shirt, and asked kindly if she liked Ariel.  She shrugged and responded, "Yeah... but sometimes she's a bad example to me."  His smile dropped as he look puzzled, didn't know what to say, finally stood up and just patted her on her head.  I felt bad for him.