29 October 2013

Fall Break: Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

It's hot here.

Oh. I've mentioned that before?

The boys had off from school for fall break so we headed up with some friends to where the air is sweet and fall-like.

We wore long sleeves, ate strawberries and drank hot chocolate, hot tea, and hot coffee. (except for me, coffee = no go Joe. Too bitter. Sue me.) When you're there, it's nearly impossible not to completely buy into the feeling that it IS, in fact, October. I've even been in April before and totally thought it was October.

The Cameron Highlands.

Hats off to you British Army. Before air conditioners existed to make the equator somewhat bearable, those Brits carved out a road through the rainforest mountains to create this little reprieve from the heat.


It's about 3 hours from Kuala Lumpur. 1.5 hours TO the mountains, then an hour plus UP the mountains.

{tap tap tap...is this thing on?} Special announcement. Bring the Dramamine. More on that later.

Yes. That is a long sleeve pajama shirt under the Spidey-T. 

It's happened every time we've come up here. That night-before while packing and it dons on me, AGAIN, that my children only have shorts, tshirts, and flip-flops.

"Just how high is too high?"  I think to myself holding up the 3T pants I inevitably have to pack for my 5 year old.  I may not be posting photos of the highwaters, but I sure enough made them wear them. Ankles out, yo!
Among the delightfully tacky strawberry-themed roadside "attractions" in the highlands, there are tons of produce and flower stands. We embrace it all. It's a little bit of heaven I tell ya.

Especially when the hubs surprised me with these gems.
It's a good man who knows when to go for roses and when to go bigger.

My knowledge of these and my interest in them is totally and completely 100% Pinterest-induced. 
True story.

Seeing as how the Highlands is in the middle of a rainforest, it'd be silly not to at least make a stop by the mossy forest on Gunung Brinchang (Brinchang Mountain).

...even if your kids wear flip flops to do so. (Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye...I swear we packed sports shoes for the boys, they just refused to wear them)

Our friends' son. I include this because 1. it's a great photo of an adorable kid and B. it's proof that we're not the only ones who send our kids hiking in non-hiking clothes. Prep School or North Face Ad... I can't decide what this photo wants to be. (except a pic of a cute kid. See point #1)
This place never fails to look like a movie set.  If New Zealand is all booked-up for the next Tolkien movie, I know where they can find a really moody forest. Its practically a character itself.

Then there's the crown jewel of the Highlands.

 Which speaking of Tea and British things and Pinterest....

Ahhh, history jokes. The fact that we bought our first kettle only after moving to a country in the former British Commonwealth, makes it even funnier.

Ok, ok. Real pics only from here.

Where were we?
Ah, yes. Americans in tea plantations. The BOH Tea Plantation  is a great little place to spend the morning. Not only do you walk through the tea to get to it, they ACTUALLY process the tea right there and you can walk through the center and see it in action. Then grab a cake and, you guessed it, a hot cup of tea, and have a fantastic tea time on the covered area overlooking the plantation (above Birdie's shoulder in the pic below).

One of the things we love about our life overseas is the people who become "family" when ours is so far away. We are blessed indeed to have friends like these out here.

Also, I love it when kids get outside. You know things are going well when kids start picking up sticks. Sure, it'll probably result in injury at some point, but that's ok too.
I'm fairly sure our friendship is strong enough to endure me posting these basketball pics...goodness I hope so. We relax hard AND play hard in the Highlands.

 I mentioned Dramamine earlier.

About that.

Y'all, Zayah has an easy gag reflex.
Did we remember the motion sickness meds the last time we went to the Highlands? No.
Did we remember them on that boat ride in Bali last summer? No. 

Consequently we have a pretty honed skill of avoiding getting puke on ourselves and cleaning it up off various surfaces without attracting too much attention.

Don't count me out y'all. This time, I thought I was Mrs. Motherhood.  I remembered going up AND going down...even remembered to make him take it over an hour before hitting the mountain road.

Back story:
About a third of the way up the mountain road there is a huge waterfall. Parts of it are concreted over and there are roadside stalls selling handmade items to tourists. But its huge and we take a family photo there every trip. On the way up we didn't stop. So we did on the way down. Just as we park the car, Birdie pukes.

Oh stank. I know. So sad.
Lemme top that sadness with a parenting fail: we didn't give her dramamine because the dosage said not to give to children under 2 years of age. Have you seen this post?
The one where we celebrated our HomeBird's SECOND birthday?
It's one of those memories you laugh about later and tell to your parent-friends as an hilarious anecdote.... in years to come that story will finish with "....but she WAS 2! We BOTH totally forgot!"

Just after cleaning up Immanuelle's breakfast off the carseat and changing her clothes, a group of women surrounded the kids and wanted pictures. It happens a lot actually. And the younger and blonder the foreign child, the more likely they'll be asked to take a picture. Birdie was NOT in the mood. But Isaiah was! HA!

Photo-op with locals done, we took the traditional photo, and then some, by the waterfall.

I'd like to title this family memory, "THE SUN HURTS MY EYEEEEESSSS!"

Isaac couldn't not get in the water.  Right on, son! The part right after where he sat down and got his pants all wet we could have done without, but the enthusiasm to get in and live it up is applaud-able regardless!

And that was our fall break.
If you made it to the end of this post tell us what you are loving about Autumn this year? Ya know, whether you actually have an Autumn or just do something to pretend you do, like us.  Leave us a comment!

18 October 2013

Naming a baby...

"D/O" = "Daughter of." No one ever asks the name of the baby in the hospital. Interesting, huh?
It's always interesting to me to hear how parents come up with their children's names. You'll very rarely hear that it was super easy to choose or if it was, the reason and meaning behind the name chosen. The why's and how's of getting to just the right one are different for everyone and important to every parent.
We had our "requirements."
1. Had to be an "i" name - the boys were a coincidence. Isaac and Isaiah were our top two boy name choices. But then once we found an I-name for Immanuelle, we couldn't NOT give one to #4. Who wants to be left out??  There are actually LOTS of I-names out there...we just had to find the right one!

2. Couldn't be an adjective or noun because our last name is a noun- "Peace Rivers" (I hear all y'all from my hometown chuckling from here!), Indiana, Rocky, Icy, Blue, Glory, India, Italy, Jordan, etc etc.

3. We tried to find a Malay-word or name-  but the one I LOVED for a girl ended up making a rule of it's own. "Indah" means "Beautiful" in Malay. It's easy to pronounce and doesn't sound TOO foreign. But "Indah Rivers" (ie- "In The Rivers") would never get through childhood and her teenage years without hating us. In case you are in the market for a pretty little girl's name, I highly recommend it. Other contenders were Iskandar- the Arabic form of Alexander and Istana- the Malay word for "Palace/castle."

4. There had to be a family or heritage element- 
Isaac JOSEPH- named after Anthony Joseph and several men on both sides.
Isaiah KINGSTON- Isaiah's birth father's family is from Jamaica where the city of Kingston is the capital.
Immanuelle MARIE- gets her version of "Mary" from Anthony's Mom and Grandma.

 5. There had to be a biblical element- Our faith is an essential and everyday part of our lives.  I don't think a biblical name makes the name more important, but I do love that my kids have all heard a part of their name as we've taught them from the Bible.

6. It couldn't be too popular- Immanuelle and Isabelle. Don't those sound lovely together? Isabelle is popular for a reason...it's a gorgeous name. And "Isa" is Arabic for Jesus and "Belle/bella" is "beautiful" in French. "Beautiful Jesus." It was hard walking away from that one, but I just couldn't let her be Isabelle #12 in her class. Plus, she has a cousin with that name.

When all was said and done, here's why we chose our daughter's name...

* First, there were no (normal-sounding) little girl names starting with "i" left in the Bible. We checked.

* Second, before she was even conceived, we had joked if #4 was a girl we could call her Ivy because the Roman numeral for 4 is "IV." That's how we roll. History jokes. So in a way, it started as a nickname.

* Third. Going from the "IV" thing, I thought it would be nice to maybe name i4 after my sister Veronica (who passed away 10 years ago and was also an October baby) if she were a girl. The only problem was finding an I-name that worked with Veronica. VERONICA. It's got presence that's for sure. It's no wallflower of a name. But nothing sounded right with it.  Maybe because we speak English?  If we spoke Spanish or Italian the names we found would sound good together ...say these with your best Antonio Banderas voice-
"Idania Veronica"
"Illiana Veronica"
"Isla Veronica"... nice, no?
Now go back and read them again like Susan Serandon, Homer Simpson, or any of the cast from Duck Dynasty. Sounds more like a clucking hen, doesn't it?
So making her initials be I.V. was a no-go. Oh well.

* It should be noted that Ivy is actually a popular name right now in Australia.  Those Aussies. We like 'em and actually run into them a whole lot over here.  Also, because I take care of little people all day (sometimes not showering til mid-afternoon <-- real talk) and don't follow celebrity news, AFTER we had settled on Ivy, I found out Jay Z and Beyonce named their daughter Blue Ivy. {sigh} SO, though it's no Isabella, I have wondered if we have the first of many Ivy's to follow? Immanuelle is used in France regularly...so maybe my girls' names will both keep to their "foreign" country boundaries? Fingers crossed! (or "thumbs tucked!" if you're South African)
* The more we looked for alternatives to Ivy, or fillers for I.V., the more and more we liked the name Ivy itself. It's got spunk in an earthy sort of way.  Once we paired it with her middle name, it was the winner.

* My Great Grandmother was Rachel Louise (Louise has already been taken by another cousin). I actually have lots of memories of my Great Grandmother and am thankful to have known that generation of my family. She was a classy lady and a gifted musician...maybe our Ivy will inherit that gene!?

* My Grandmother is Rachel Ernestine. Neither of us were too keen on the Ernestine part...but love that the Rachel is repeated in her name. Grandmother has been a huge influence in my life.  If I ever write a novel, she will be a character in it.  I am so glad to get to honor her by naming one of her Great Granddaughters after her. It's a privilege indeed. Our first 3 phone calls from the delivery room to announce her arrival were Anthony's Mom, my sister, and Grandmother. "Oh, I'm so tickled y'all would name her that!" was every bit the response I wanted to hear.

* Rachel is also a biblical name and her story is told in the book of Genesis in the Bible.  It's quite the soap opera...but I love that aspect!  That the Lord works in our lives for His glory despite our shortcomings and circumstances.  She was the favorite wife of Jacob, Mother of Joseph. She was beautiful enough that Jacob considered her hand in marriage worthy of 14 years of labor working for Rachel's dad, the price named for her betrothal.  The name means "Lamb" which is a lovely nod forward to Jesus who is known as the "Lamb of God" who takes away the sins of the world.

So there you have it. Our Ivy Rachel.

15 October 2013

Never Two Late for Birthday Pics

Our "Special Rivers of the Day"
 Mark it down y'all.

We lasted approximately 9 days before having to use the, "We'll be 15 minutes late. Getting four kids out the door isn't easy!" excuse.

Anthony said we're gonna have to go easy on that one or it won't draw the sympathy you hope for in a good excuse. He's right.

Should I mention we were late for Immanuelle's birthday party?

As in, we invited some friends out for pizza and cake, gave them a time to show up, then failed to arrive on time ourselves. 


However, the friends we invited all have small children and they were all running late too.  Probably scrambling to Toys 'R us for a gift because I had given them less than a day's notice about the party. (and specifically told them not to get gifts) The one family with 'big' kids showed up on time and got us all a table.

Not gonna lie, it was nice not to be judged on our first outing as "6" and instead get sympathy and even some mildly-impressed raised eyebrows because that day, Saturday, was her ACTUAL birthday.

This picture is included so I could bring up the fact that we "did what we could" to document the evening, but the flash had to be used (bleh) and NO editing was done to these. Like, not even red-eye reduction y'all. This gem here is how you take a photo of the back of everyone's head.
It was also nice when my friend Jenny laughed heartily when Ivy peed on me later in the evening while I changed her diaper on my lap.  She didn't even flinch y'all.

People with little people know about these things. 

Like when none of us blinked when Li and Jane's 2 year old son didn't quite make it to the bathroom and the incident went un-gawked at by, well, all of us....Good times, y'all.  Good times.

Our late start mostly happened because of the Pinterest "Ombre Petal Cake" I made for our Birthday Bird.  Y'all, I have no clue how to even SAY "ombre" but by-golly, my Ellie Bellie was getting a purple version.  It was literally melting as I put the icing on it.

It's funny how when folks make those tutorials they completely leave out the part about "if you live on the equator, consider applying the frosting in your air-conditioned bedroom. Or move, so Pinterest tutorials will never bug you again."

Equatorial Tutorial Caveats. Is that too much to ask, Pinterest?!

Moments to spare and praying that the sparkly glitter sugar on top would sorta hold the land-slide together, we dashed out the door.

Birdie giving the candles the stink-eye because they were hard to blow out.
We didn't even have to tell the big brothers to help her.
 We ate pizza, we sang, we ate cake, we opened gifts - which is NOT the Asian way...the polite Asian way is to save them for later...wouldn't want to open them and be disappointed and therefore shame the gift giver, but how can Hello Kitty and pretend plastic fruit ever bring shame? It can't!- the restaurant staff gave all the kids water sports bottles (?), and the background music the entire evening was a  pleasant mix of American classics.

Real men right here, y'all.
The closest thing I have to all of the kids in one photo.
For a party we decided to throw 24 hours before it was thrown, I'd call it a success!

Birdie Bye you are such a delight. You scare me a bit with how smart and socially capable you already are at just two years old.  I pray often for you about everything you can ever imagine a daughter would ever need prayer for. I pray too that your Daddy and I would have the wisdom to teach you and that you will listen. I hope you will grow to be as beautiful on the inside as you are on the outside...those ringlets and big brown eyes will only get you so far!
We love you Immanuelle Marie!
Happy Birthday Sweet Love!