Sunday, December 30, 2007

8 Year Anniversary

A few weeks after we arrived in Aberdeen it dawned on me that I had not brought any of our wedding photos with us. Our wedding pre-dated the common use of digital photography, and in the absence of our scanner, I did the next best thing, took a digital picture of a framed photo that Trey's mom has from our wedding. So pardon the muddiness, but it was the best thing I had to commemorate eight years of marriage. Yes, today is our wedding anniversary. I can hardly believe that we're closing in on a decade. I don't know where the time disappears. In some ways, I feel as though I've been married my whole life, and marrying at the ripe ol' age of 18 means that I have been married for nearly 1/3 of it. But in other ways, it feels like we just got married a couple of years ago. Time is strange. Regardless, these past eight years have been amazing. Here's to many more!

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Voice of an Angel

The voice of the angel Gabriel that is, but also, if you will allow me, the voice of my dear brother Nathaniel, who had a solo in one of the pieces sung Christmas Eve at our home church, Tenth Presbyterian Church. I have to brag a little and post the video here. He sang the second verse of a traditional Basque carol called Gabriel's Message. For those who don't know, he is a junior studying voice at Temple University in Philadelphia.

video

Dancing Duo

Well, it's been quite a hiatus. Much longer than I anticipated, but I could never have imagined how busy the last two weeks would be. They have literally flown by. I feel like I blinked and they were over. I have so much to share with all of you. Tons of pictures from Christmas. Tales to tell. Over the next few days I will start to fill in the gaps, but for tonight I had to post a video from dinner. The family all went out to Mexican, and after the meal, Addison and his cousin Matthew, who is just a few months younger than he is, hit the dance floor. They are two peas in a pod with quite a sense of rhythm for being just two years old.

video

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Farewell

Our annual Christmas letter has been written, the cards signed and addressed. We now need only fly home to mail them. Blogging carries an uncertainty with regard to readership. There are, more than likely, many faithful followers of this blog who are not on our Christmas card list and would miss out on the yearly epistle. For that reason I am posting the letter here along with the accompanying photo. If you are one of these people and would like to be included on the list next year, email me using the email link right here on the blog and I would be happy to oblige. This will be my last entry for a few days anyway. The cab comes to get us tomorrow morning at 4:30am, a truly ungodly hour I know. Pray for safety and sanity as we fly with the boys. Pray that their little ears are healed up enough so that the change in altitude doesn't create much discomfort. Pray for patience and calm and fair weather. My stomach is doing little happy flip flops every time I think about coming home. It has been nearly 16 months since we have been in the United States. Davis has never even set foot in his country of origin. Tomorrow is a big day for our family, one that I can't even think about right now without tears flooding my eyes. We are coming home!

Christmas 2007

Dear Friends and Family,

As we eagerly count the days until our return home for the very first time in nearly 16 months, it seems altogether fitting that we should also take stock of the year gone by, a year which has been full of challenge, growth, and blessing. We have visited new places, settled into a different way of life, and most significantly added to the family circle. In retrospect it’s easy to gloss over the heartache and simply showcase the highlights, but an overseas move and family expansion don’t happen without a few hiccups. Praise God we don’t go it alone. Our gracious heavenly Father loves us more than we can ever imagine. When we are weak, then He is strong. When we are lonely, He is our all, and while we were yet sinners, He sent His son to die. At this Christmas season and the whole year through may we never forget the sacrifice He made that we might taste His fullness of joy.

Davis Marischal Holloway arrived two days late in the wee morning hours of February 16th. You couldn’t have scripted a more surprising entrance into this world. I was rudely awoken to my waters breaking and a mere 51 minutes later, no time to make it to the hospital, Davis arrived in our living room delivered in God’s merciful kindness by the paramedics. I’m not sure who was more shocked by the circumstances, Davis or us, but after a brief six hour stay at the hospital and a clean bill of health, we were discharged back from whence we came, the site of the original drama, home sweet home. Despite his thrilling arrival, Davis is actually a mellow, sweet little boy whose favorite thing in the whole world is to snuggle with his mama, but don’t let that fool you. He’s also a tiny firecracker, a little chap with a booming voice and a smile that will make you melt. He is an amazing sleeper, enthusiastic clapper, and an adoring little brother. He has four teeth, which he cut with ease and grace, and although his appetite for solid food is small, he willingly tries the wide array of homemade fruits and veggies I set before him, including the local favorite parsnips.

Initiation into toddlerhood has certainly presented Trey and me patience-trying, sanity-taunting challenges, but few things have thrilled our hearts more than watching our baby Addison turn into a chattering, inquisitive, creative little boy. While initially his speaking ability seemed average, this summer it took off and almost overnight he went from simple two and three word statements to complex sentences using reflexive pronouns and the first person singular “I”. Almost every day he says something that makes us shake our heads in disbelief. He listens, absorbs, memorizes, and repeats, challenging us to be ever more aware of the words that come out of our mouths and vigilant to faithfully read with him. Of course, the most significant change in Addison’s life this year was becoming a big brother. Nowadays, the boys are virtually inseparable. There is a bond between them that will last their lifetime. Addison is attentive and gentle, Davis completely adoring. They are best friends, playmates, roomies. Second only to his brother, Addison’s next great love is his trains. The Thomas the Train fascination teeters on the edge of obsession, fueled in part by his father’s enthusiastic contributions to his expanding collection. He is also enjoying his first taste of classroom life now that he’s graduated from the church’s creche into Sunday School, and his standard reply when I ask him what he has learned about this week is “God”.

This has been a year of firsts for Trey. During the spring term, Trey was asked to serve as a tutorial assistant for European Reformations which involved leading an hour-long discussion on the class’s reading assignment. It provided excellent initiation into the realm of university level instruction because in the fall he was hired as a Teaching Fellow. This semester he’s been leading a course on the Scottish Reformation for both undergraduate and post-graduate students. It has increased his workload enormously but the benefits far outweigh it, and thankfully much of the preparation he is doing for the course is immediately relevant to his own research and writing. As if the new teaching opportunities at the university weren’t enough, Trey is also conducting online tutorials for home schooled students back home. This year he is teaching 7 tutorials stacked all on Mondays, which makes for one long marathon teaching session. His own research has continued to progress at a consistent pace and he already has a few chapters under his belt. Although much of Trey’s time is taken with either teaching or researching, we have converted the third-floor bedroom into his study and so benefit from him working out of our home. PhD aside, far and away his favorite thing to do is play with the boys. He loves nothing more than getting down on the floor, wrestling, making silly noises, or just curling up on the couch with the boys and a good book.

So what of mama? Sitting down to write the Christmas letter has gotten more difficult since I started keeping a daily blog. I feel as though my life is an open book leading to the uncanny experience of relating a story in conversation only to be told, “Oh, yes, I was reading about that on your blog.” Apparently I have no secrets left, so for my segment I will give you more of an emotional overview, the highs and lows, of this year. Oddly enough the mode of Davis’s birth was one of the highs, a gracious blessing from God. What many of you may not have known was that I had a lot of fear about delivering a baby in a foreign country, and in God’s goodness I was able to have a friend present, which I would not have had if I had delivered in the hospital, and I didn’t have to stay overnight in a shared room. While the pregnancy was truly awful at the end, the birth was quick and easy and the recovery was fast, all blessings from our Lord. The summer was a real low point for me. Our trip home felt so far in the future. The weather was cold and rainy, the rainiest in everyone’s memory by all accounts and confirmed by the extensive flooding across the UK. Many of my friends had also gone back to the States, so it was very quiet and lonely. I began to feel what I was afraid I would feel when we first arrived back in 2006, isolation, but again, God was good and it became a time of bonding for our recently expanded family unit. We took walks every day together, and as I look back now through the golden haze of autumn with our Christmas trip just around the corner, I see what a time of personal growth and expansion it actually was. Despite the darkness of those days, I think it was then that I truly fell in love with Aberdeen. It has become my second home. There is a warmth of spirit and quietness to life here which has infused my soul and which I have learned to love.

By far the most delightful part of our year has been playing host to so many loved ones from back home. By bridging the physical gap you have diminished the emotional one. Your love, support, and prayers have been felt every step of the way along this uncharted journey. Our hearts yearn to see as many of you as possible during the holidays when we return to the US, and in the meantime we wish you a beautiful Christmas season filled with laughter and life and God’s richest blessings for the new year.

With love,
Becky
(for the Holloways)

Le Petit Ark

The Noah's Ark Davis received for Christmas deserves an entry all its own. With all the toy recalls over the past few months, we have been trying to stay away from toys made in China, especially for Davis. Unlike his big brother who never cared much for eating his play things, that is Davis's primary mode of exploration. While doing research on a good, solid, safe Noah's Ark for him, I discovered this wooden one made in France. It is lightweight but sturdy, brightly colored and easy for little fingers to manipulate. It comes complete with gangway, animals, doves, and Mr. and Mrs. Noah. As an added bonus, the animals fit through the sides in a shape-sorter configuration. The company, Le Toy Van, specializes in wooden toys for children, everything from doll houses to castles and pirate ships. It is a throwback to the toys of yesteryear, and I have little doubt I will be ordering from them again.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Christmas Comes Early

This morning was Christmas in our house. With just a few days left before our departure and a limited amount of suitcase space for bringing toys back and forth across the Atlantic, we opted to do presents early this year. Addison was regaled with a seemingly endless supply of trains in the Thomas series as well as books and matchbox cars from the movie Cars. Davis received a Noah's ark, some books, and his very first Christmas ornament. We went "green" this year, no wrapping paper. While I'd love to take the credit for being so environmentally conscious, my motivation was much less altruistic. I knew Addison was just as happy to have his gifts produced from their shopping bag and Davis can't even open presents yet. It seemed like a lot of hassle and fuss when there are so many other things to do to get ready to leave. I also somehow justified it with today not actually being Christmas. Needless to say, the gifts were a big hit. Davis promptly chewed and otherwise mouthed all his presents to verify their acceptability. They passed with flying colors. Addison could hardly be pried away from his trains long enough to get a lone banana into him for breakfast before he was off like a flash to play some more with his trains. Hunger pains don't exist when there are new toys to be had. I've set up a new photo album entitled Christmas 2007 with all the pictures from this morning as well as the various other festive occasions of this season so far, including our attempt at getting a good Christmas card photo of the boys together earlier this autumn. Here is a sampling from this morning.

Sneaking a peek into the bags. Addison could hardly contain his excitement.

Waiting with bated breath as Daddy pulls out the first gift.

Davis perusing his first gift, an excellent touch-and-feel volume by Usborne.

"Tasting" his first Christmas ornament.

Davis enjoying his Noah's ark.

The boys playing together.

The Cars gang -- Mater, Sally, Lighting a Queen (as Addison calls McQueen), and Doc.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Starbucks Phenomenon

The Starbucks Phenomenon: entering a franchised, merchandised, advertised, serialized establishment anywhere in the world with the full guarantee of an identical experience in each location. I am probably in the minority here, but I am thankful that from Tokyo to Aberdeen, Deptford, NJ to Dunwoody, GA, all Starbucks are the same. Today I took the afternoon off, went into town to my Aberdeen Starbucks, ordered my very favorite eggnog latte, and knitted for a blissful hour to the strains of Johnny Mathis Christmas tunes in the background. The cups were holiday red, the drinks were frothy and warm, if overpriced, and when I closed my eyes and ignored the barista saying, "Eat in or take away?" I could have been sitting at the Barnes and Noble Starbucks back home. For the wanderlusting tourist this phenomenon is a harsh reminder of the shrinking planet, the influence of American culture, big business at its worst. For me, the expatriot, it is a comforting taste of home.

My Starbucks on Union Street.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dreich

dreich \ˈdrēḵ\ adj.\ chiefly Scottish: dreary

Like the Eskimos who have multiple words for different types of snow, the Scots have more than one way to describe all the different forms of rain that water this verdant land. A dreich day is characterized by dark, gray clouds "hanging heavily in the sky, and although there may be an all-permeating drizzle, there isn't any actual rain to speak of." (full text here) If you've ever spent a few a days in Scotland, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. It's a soaking, soul-chilling wetness that makes you want to curl up in bed with a down comforter and a mug of cocoa. After a gorgeous October, November has vascilated between sunny days, such as we're experiencing today, and cold, windy dreichness.

One of the things I love about Doric (the language spoken by the Scots) is that its words so often sound like what they mean. It is a beautifully onomonapoetic tongue.

Woodwick Candles

It has been said, "Women with candles have replaced women with cats as the new sad thing." Well, count me among the sad then. I am a true candle lover and have recently discovered the world's best candle, Woodwicks. When Lisa came, she brought with her one of these delectable treats in pumpkin butter, a scent which filled our home with the sweet smell of baking pies. These candles burn cleanly leaving no waxy residue on the jar or smokey film along the glass. Best of all, instead of a cotton wick, they have a wood wick (hence the name) which produces a crackling sound as the flame burns. The sound gets more intense as it descends lower in the jar. It's the perfect little cozy fire masquerading as a candle.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

At Last

I left you hanging yesterday about the carpets. You probably guessed from my Davis blog that illness has temporarily taken over our lives. The good news in the midst of it all is that the long-awaited renovations are finally done. The carpet installers arrived yesterday at 7:55am as promised, and in less than two hours had fitted and installed our new carpets. Our home looks amazing and practically brand new with its magnolia walls and sandy carpet. Here are the before and after pictures as promised.

The treacherously worn and slippery carpeting on the stairwell. We've had several falls as a result.

Danger no more. The stairs creak less, have better traction, and look a million times better.

The famous "Davis spot". The stain was already there before he was born, by the way, and had been cleaned multiple times since the blessed event to no visible avail.

Now marked only by memories.

Well-worn and dirty path in the hallway.

Almost too pretty to walk on.

The living room BEFORE.

The living room AFTER.

Living in a Fallen World

Davis has now been sick for the very first time. It's a milestone of sorts, not of the "first tooth" or "first step" variety, but rather a negative reminder of the sort of world we live in. No matter how sweet and innocent they seem when they are born, their lives are immediately impacted by living in a fallen world. His cold got progressively worse as the weekend wore on so I called our local surgery (doctor's office) first thing yesterday morning. They squeezed us in right before lunch and following in the footsteps of his big brother Davis has an ear infection and slight possible chest infection. The doctor thought he heard slight "crackles" but no "wheezing". Not sure what the difference is, but regardless he is now on amoxicillin. I am praying that all this illness clears up before we have to fly, especially the ear infections. Sore ears and extreme altitudes are a BAD combination.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Carpet

As I write the old, ugly, stained carpets in our living room, hallway, and stairwell are being pulled up. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, the workmen come to install the new carpet. It's been a long time coming but well worth the wait. We moved all the toys from our living room/playroom into our bedroom, and I'm holed up in there right now with the boys while our landlords and Trey work on ripping up the old stuff. Thankfully, the carpet installation is projected to be a much easier task than the painting was. I took a number of "before" shots highlighting some of the staining and extreme wear so you can fully appreciate the difference. I cannot wait to see the contrast!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Thanksgiving and the Case of the Stinky Fridge

Now more than a week after Thanksgiving, it's dawned on me that I glossed over the holiday completely. I don't think I even wished you all a Happy Thanksgiving. Forgive the oversight. It's been a whirlwind around here lately, and honestly Thanksgiving seems like a few months, not days, ago.

This year we hosted Thanksgiving at our house along with Lisa and had another family over to celebrate with us. The menu included all the usuals plus a couple new ones, turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, cornbread stuffing (which I'm still raving about and have to make for Christmas), squash casserole, buttermilk biscuits, creamed corn, and asparagus and tomato salad. For dessert we had apple pie, pumpkin ice cream pie, and Nigella's sinful chocolate mousse cake. Because we had three capable foodies attending to the feast, the meal was stress-free and truly delicious.

But the story that steals the day for Thanksgiving was the case of the stinky fridge. I went grocery shopping Monday night for the big Thanksgiving meal, and as I was putting food away I noticed a slightly unpleasant odor in the refrigerator. By the next morning the smell had gotten worse. I began to think maybe it was the cauliflower and cheese soup left over in the fridge, after all, cauliflower can have a strong smell. I wasn't convinced that was it, but down the drain the last of the soup went and in the fridge went a box of baking soda. Later in the day after Lisa had arrived, the smell still wasn't gone and we began methodically checking every item (or so we thought), particularly dairy to see if something had surreptitiously gone bad. End of day Wednesday we were certain we had found it, 2 bad onions at the bottom of the vegetable drawer. We threw them out, thoroughly washed the bin, and felt satisfied that the case was solved. Not so fast. Thursday morning at breakfast I opened the fridge and the smell was just as strong as ever. We were mystified and with a full day of cooking ahead we decided to just go with it. Well, wouldn't you know that as I got the cheeses out for appetizers before dinner, I found the offending item, an as of yet unopened package of brie, which when opened made me want to die. Thank goodness we found the culprit and didn't get food poisoning from eating the French cheese. That would have been another Thanksgiving story which we probably would've blamed on the poor turkey.