Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Difference Between 1 and 2

I think that anyone that really wants to know and understand their first child should have a second child.

While Elizabeth and Charlotte both have the two exact same parents, it is funny and bewildering sometimes how different they can be from each other. With just Elizabeth we took a lot of the little quirks of her personality for granted. Now I realize that a lot of those things really are quirks of her personality and not just the way that every kid is. And it is Charlotte that has taught me that.

Elizabeth is verbal. Charlotte is physical. Elizabeth is a morning person. Charlotte is a night person. Elizabeth is a visual learner. Charlotte is a tactile learner. Elizabeth likes to organize. Charlotte likes to be messy. Elizabeth is a lot like me. Charlotte is a lot like my sister. It’s pretty cool.

I’ll give you an example. I ran across this website that is full of creative ways to provide your kids with imaginative play at home. It’s really a great resource for me because we do a lot of stuff at home. One of the things she suggests is playing with shaving cream and food coloring. Fun, right? I thought so. I got it all set up one afternoon to keep the girls busy while I cooked dinner. This was Charlotte after five, wait no, three minutes.

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She loved it. Elbows deep loved it. She used all of the spatulas and whisks and cups and scooped and swirled and mixed and splatted. Just in case that one picture doesn’t give you a good enough idea here is another.

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Yes, she is using a spatula to smear shaving cream on her leg. She had a blast!

Now, for the sake of comparison I will show you the one picture that I got of Elizabeth.

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You see she has no shaving cream on her at all. Oh wait, one little spot on her side which, as I remember, was a source of great hurry to the roll of paper towels so that she could wipe it off soon after this picture was taken. She spent most of her time wiping with paper towels. You will notice that she has her foot lifted to step into the bucket. It was my suggestions and she only got that far. Then she was done with the whole activity. She would much rather sit at the table and color.

Isn’t it amazing how much you can learn from your kids? As mothers, we carried them inside of us for 9 months (or 10 months if you’re me) – shouldn’t we know everything about them? Yet every day I see a little more personality unfold as I wipe, answer questions, teach and correct. I understand a little more of how unique and individual we all are. And it makes me wonder again at God, who never makes any two things exactly the same.

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Seven

Today is our seventh anniversary. Happy Anniversary, Matt!

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In some ways these seven years have flown by, and in other ways we have done so much I wonder that it has only been seven years. We have both graduated with Master’s degrees, joined Wycliffe and done MORE school, had one precious little girl and then moved halfway across the globe to learn a new language before having another precious little girl. We have globe-trotted a bit in between and now we are charging forward in the next adventure that God has for us. Still trying to figure out exactly what that is, but we’re still charging!!

I was thinking this morning how different my life is from what I expected it to be. I remember a time in high school when I was pretty clear what kind of life I was and was NOT going to have. The list of things that I said I would never do is very comical for me to look back on.

I will never go to college for piano – now I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in piano performance.
I will never teach piano – started teaching just before college, and I absolutely love it. Really miss not having the opportunity to do that now.
I will never get married before I have my doctorate – I got married RIGHT after (like, two weeks) I graduated with my undergrad. What can I say – when you meet the right guy…
I will never be a missionary – ahem, obviously…
I will never live in a different country – also, obvious
I will never (be able to) learn a foreign language – I really thought my brain was unable. Stuck in English.
I will never live in the country (i.e. not in a big city)- we’re building a village house where there is cell phone signal, but electricity and water are sketchy. Most people that live there are subsistence farmers and fishers.
I will never be one of those crafty people – I now have a three year old, and it’s starting. Where we live, if I don’t do it, it won’t happen! Now I can’t throw away toilet paper tubes.
I will never bake stuff – I started baking out of necessity (can’t get good bread here), and now I really enjoy it. Yesterday I baked muffins just because I had a hankering to bake something.

Some of this stuff is really small, but I felt very strongly on what I would and would not be and do. Maybe I should learn not to be so opinionated…

At many points in my life I had everything planned out exactly how I knew it should be. And most of those times were when God started moving us in a different direction. It hasn’t always been easy to listen and follow those directions. Sometimes I have downright said “no” before slowly dragging my feet into sullen obedience. You would think that after all of the changes in direction we have taken I would learn not to say “I will never”, but now if I near those words come out of my mouth I start to get a premonition that the very thing I have jut forbade will soon be looming in my future.

The thing is that everything that I/we have done has been a testament to the verse that God’s plans are not our plans, and his ways are not our ways. Now, I can’t imagine a better life than the one that God has given to us. It’s not always easy, but God is always good. Every experience we have had has been used by God to get us ready for what he has next. Usually I had a totally different plan for it. But God’s plan is always better, even if it seems impossible or repulsive (or both) at first. And yes, I am slowly (s-l-o-w-l-y) learning to listen and obey with a ready heart instead of one blockaded against change.

But the best part is God gave me a partner. He gave this life to me to do with the most wonderful husband and best friend a girl could have. We love to laugh together, talk together, and just be together. I love you so much, Matthew Joseph Menger! Happy seven years!

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Crazy Pictures

Sometimes we see the craziest things here!  A way overloaded truck, 6 people on a motorbike, huge loads of stuff, perilous-looking bamboo scaffolding, and all kinds of rigged-up contraptions.  It is a testament to the ingenuity of people here; they always find a way to make it work no matter how crazy it may look to us.  Here’s a picture I took recently:

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There’s a guy up in front of all that driving the motorbike, even though you can only see his feet.  We are still learning just how much one motorbike can carry! Those are balls of plastic twine all strung together. 

As we see more, we’ll post them here.

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R.I.O. – Our Car

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Thanks to a generous gift from some friends back home, we’ve had this beast (and I mean that affectionately) of a 4×4 for almost 2 years now.  It’s not the prettiest car you’ve ever seen, but now that  we have all the important mechanical stuff fixed underneath we can take it anywhere we want to go.  The only thing I haven’t done yet is add a snorkel, but so far we haven’t needed to cross any deep rivers so it hasn’t been necessary. 

It’s a 1993 Daihatsu Hiline 4×4 with a 2.8 liter diesel engine.  The reason we went for this car is that it is a 4 door instead of a 2 door jeep-style vehicle which would be a bit cramped for our family.  With the extra benches in the back we can seat up to 12 people Indonesian-style, or 9 people American-style.

This workhorse has done about 225,000 miles, and it’s still running strong.  When we bought it, it had aged to the point that lots of things start wearing out all at the same time.  We’re still fixing little things here and there like broken door handles, A/C, small leaks, and some rattles but nothing major. 

The other thing I like is that it also has a low-range gearbox, so we can climb or tow pretty much anything.2012-05-23 12.51.20

You can see in the pictures that the back bumper is missing.  I had to take it off since the spare tire won’t fit on with the bumper in place, and given some of the places we go I’d rather have the spare tire.  Sometime soon I’m going to take it into a welding shop and have the bumper modified so it will fit. 2012-05-23 12.51.46

I was going to wash the car before I took pictures, but since it’s usually pretty dirty I decided to leave it in its natural state. 

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Pictures etc.

This is a pretty simple post: we’d just like to share some pictures we’ve been taking lately of day-to-day living and the beautiful things here. Some of these have that “vintage” look; we’ve been playing around with Instagram lately.  Although it’s probably just a passing fad, at least it does encourage us to take more pictures!  If you follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram you may have already seen some of these. 

The biggest issue for me with phone cameras is the color; they just can’t seem to capture the vividness of things.  Fun vintage filters are a way to try to get it in there, but it’s still not the same as a real camera.  Anyway, here’s our favorites:

Bougainvillea in our front yard:

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A beautiful sunset, from our side porch:

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Same spot, after sundown on a different day:IMG_20120512_211622

A very happy Charlotte:

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A view from alongside the road on the way back from the village:

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Kara’s view of the road from behind me on the bike:

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A 360 degree view of a Balinese church on our island:

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Beautiful rice paddies:

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Elizabeth and her princess castle (mommy helped a little bit):

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The End.

(As a random note, those are all phone-camera pictures with the exception of the rice paddies.  Phones have come a long way!)

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Peel a Tomato?!?!

Yes. Have you ever? I have. As of Tuesday I can now cross peeling tomatoes off my bucket list (HA!). More on the tomato peeling adventure in a second.

This week I only got to two new recipes. And I think that was the only two times that I cooked. It was a bit of a crazy week. Nothing in particular was crazy, but when you put it all together it felt really busy. We went somewhere almost every day which is not normal for me here in Indonesia.

And Friday was my birthday!! The big 29. It feels so strange to be in the last year of my 20s. I remember when my mom was 29, so now I feel really really old. Just kidding, Mom! I actually had a really great day. Matt took the day off and we just had lots of family time. I didn’t cook, and then in the evening I went to do karaoke with all my girlfriends here in our little city. It was SO MUCH FUN!! I didn’t have a camera with me, and I was really too busy having fun singing and dancing my heart out to tunes that really date me to take any pictures. Yay!

Okay, back to peeling a tomato. Do you know how? I started making this Tomato Bisque at about 4:45. We usually eat at around 6:00. After getting everything out for the recipe I noticed this tiny little word next to the word tomatoes, “peeled”. Okay…. no canned tomatoes here, so I had to figure out how to get my rather ordinary tomatoes on my cutting board naked. Quickly. So I did what every person my generation and younger does… RUN to Google! If you would like to learn how to peel a tomato, this is the website that taught me how. I also made these Biscuits to go with the soup. It was a frantic hour! Overall, Matt liked the soup and Charlotte, Elizabeth, and I did not. However, we ALL loved the biscuits. Here is a picture!

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The other recipe I made was Cheesy Spinach Macaroni. It was a really quick recipe and pretty good. I only had linguine pasta on hand and it probably would be better with a smaller noodle that could hold on to more of the cheesiness. Next time I might try adding chicken, too. I didn’t get a picture of this one so to console you I will leave you with a couple pictures of our cute little girlies.

So, have you ever peeled a tomato?

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R.I.O.–My Motorbike

One of the things I love most about living here is that one of the easiest ways to get around is to take a motorbike.  I really enjoy riding, especially since I don’t know that I’ll ever go near a motorcycle in the US.  The biggest difference is the speed: here, you are usually going somewhere around 20-30 mph, and there’s no freeways.  Although accidents happen all the time and people do get seriously injured, it is usually because they weren’t wearing a helmet.  Needless to say, I always wear mine (I have  wife and 2 kids; no way I’m going to ride around without one!).

Bikes are a lot smaller here than in the US.  The biggest you ever see on the road is 250cc (cubic centimeters), and that’s rare.  Most bikes here are 110cc-125cc, and there’s another slightly bigger class of bike that’s usually 150cc-160cc.  That sounds tiny, but considering the driving style, the road conditions, and the speeds it’s more than enough.  Here’s my bike:

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It’s a 2009 Honda SupraX, with a 125cc engine and a centrifugal clutch.  It does everything I could want it to: it’s quick around town and for weaving in and out of traffic jams, and it can go plenty fast when I get out on the open road on the way to the village.  There I can usually go somewhere around 75-85kph (47-53mph).  The bike maxes out around 110kph (68mph) but I rarely go that fast here.  Gas mileage is around 90-100mpg, so no complaints there!

Of course, I’m always dreaming and I’d love to have an older bike to work on and restore.  I saw this one yesterday and loved it (the photo has been Instagrammed):2012-05-07 10.32.20

It’s a Honda Win, 100cc.  Older bike, but classic style, reliable, and literally able to go anywhere here since it’s so light.  But that’s for me to dream about…

One more shot of my bike:

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  One of my favorite things to look for is some of the crazy things people put on the backs of their bikes here. You’ll see families of 5 (even 6!) all on one bike, a huge pile of wood on the back, things for sale, 10 foot bamboo poles, and all kinds of other crazy stuff. Next time we get some good pictures we’ll post them here.  One of the other things on the to-do list is to get some video while riding the bike to give you a taste of traffic here.  Coming soon…

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Recipes this week – and Indonesian food!

I know you are all dying to know what I cooked this week. And so rather than keep you in suspense any longer, I will go ahead and disappoint you. I did not get to all four new recipes this week. (Sad face) I only got to three. We had so many leftovers from all the yummy food this week that I decided that we had absolutely NO more room in our fridge, and that consequently we must eat a dent into the leftovers before I cook any more food.

The first new recipe I tried was a delicious Creamy Carrot Soup that my friend Meagan emailed to me. It was absolutely delicious. And easy. And quick. Did I say it was delicious already? Matt kept going on about it and Elizabeth was very excited that we were eating Carrot Stew just like the Tawny Scrawny Lion! Because Meagan emailed it to me, I can’t link you to where she got it from, but if you would like the recipe, comment or email me and I can find out where the original source was. I did serve this soup with grilled cheese because I am never sure about soup with two little ones – will they eat it or will they not? Turns out they both loved it.

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The second new recipe was also a winner. For ease and for taste. It was really really really easy. I made this Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken. The only thing I would say about it was that it was really really sweet. Next time I might try cutting back on the honey just a tad. And possibly add a bit of soy sauce? I didn’t have any chicken thighs like the recipe calls for, so I made it with chicken breasts, but it was still nice and moist. I can see how the thighs would probably have absorbed more of the marinade/sauce in the cooking process, though. All those nooks and crannies. Oh well, next time!

The final new recipe this week was also quite tasty. But LABOR INTENSIVE. Especially since I didn’t make the tortillas the day before. I spent an hour and a half making 24 tortillas in the morning, and then another hour and a half cooking everything else in the afternoon. But now I have 12 tortillas in the freezer waiting for next time – yay! Oh yes, the recipe: Baked Chicken and Spinach Flautas. I was tired by the time this meal got on the table. So tired, in fact, that I forgot to take a picture. Sorry! They were still really good, despite the fact that I dumped the entire tray of freshly rolled flautas on the floor while attempting to keep a crying Charlotte away from the 450-degree oven as I put them in. That was a low point. But rather than eat nothing, I salvaged what I could from the floor and they were still quite edible. And we are still enjoying the leftovers! Hopefully with no more dumping on the floor.

Now, I want to show you a bit of the yummy Indonesian food that we eat. My helper gets all the credit for this. She is a wonderful cook. I will try to share the recipe as best as I can. I don’t think it’s written down anywhere (in any language), so I’m going to approximate and hope for the best!

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Coconut and Tomato Basil Shrimp (I’m inventing the name on the spot!)

2 T. vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
4 small red onions, smashed
2 stalks of lemongrass
4-5 lime leaves
4-5 candlenuts, ground into a paste
2 lbs. shrimp (peeled, or whole in shells)
2 T. water
1 1/2 c. chopped tomatoes
1/2 c. – 3/4 c. coconut milk
small handful Thai lemon basil
1/2  green onion, thinly sliced

Heat oil over high heat in a large wok. Add the garlic and onions and cook until fragrant. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves. and candlenut paste and cook for about 1-2 mins.

Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp are pink/red and begin to curl. While the shrimp cook add the water to the wok to prevent the spices from sticking and to help the shrimp steam a little bit. Add tomatoes.

When the tomatoes begin to soften add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. The amount of coconut milk that you add depends on how much yummy sauce you want to be able to pour over your rice. Add the basil and green onion and cook for 1 – 2 mins., until the leaves begin to wilt. Serve immediately with rice.

Hope you enjoy this little taste of one of our favorite meals here in Sulawesi!

This is Matt’s recommended drink with this meal. Coconut water with chunks of coconut. Fresh. He loves it. I hate it.

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Data, Data, Data

Disclaimer: This is another nerdy post from Matt, so for those of you who aren’t really interested in computers, data, and archiving, you can just stop reading now.

I was reading an article about the filming of the Hobbit, and it made me think about our own situation.  Peter Jackson is filming around 6-12TB (terabytes) of video per day.  And the film involves 265 days of principal shooting.  That makes the movie total somewhere around 1590-3180TB of data!  

(This is a HUGE room full of servers. Lots of storage space. Think we need one of these?)

Although nowhere near as massive an undertaking as that, one of the big issues for us working in the arts is how to handle all the data that we collect.  Since it is the arts, we end up with a lot of audio recordings, video recordings, and pictures.  For instance, I attended a church service last week that featured a gamelan, and I shot some video of them performing as well as a high-quality audio recording.  When I got home, I offloaded everything onto my computer and realized I had almost 11 gigabytes of data!  And I had only shot the video with our point-and-shoot camera, not our nice HD video camera.  Yikes.

Clearly, my laptop can’t store all this stuff – I would run out of space in a few months.  Right now we are using two 2TB hard disks and one 1TB disk to keep things backed up.  I don’t actually get 5TB of storage out of that setup – the two 2TB drives are mirroring each other (in a patched-together RAID style setup) to keep our data safe in case a disk crashes. 

What scares me is that this won’t last us much more than a year or so before I need to find more space again if we keep acquiring data at this rate.  Sometimes I think about the days when audio recordings went on cassettes, so instead of massive hard disks I would just have some boxes of cassettes, neatly labeled and organized.  Same thing with pictures and video!  Of course, on the flip side there’s a lot of advantages to having everything digital now, but that’s for another blog post some other time.

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Today…

…I put away the suitcases. We have been back in Indonesia for 5 weeks now. I unpacked in the first two days that we were back home, but just moved the 8 empty suitcases over to the side and let them sit in a pile. For a while I was leaving them out just as a visual reminder to myself that I shouldn’t expect to feel settled yet because we really did just come back. And then for about a week they were still out because I wanted to pack them up and go back to America. But for the past week they have started to bother me. Time to feel settled here, and happy here, and put the suitcases away!

There is a huge list that I made our first week back here and it includes house projects, cleaning projects, the cooking projects (from the previous blog post), and furniture that we hope to buy. Huge list. The cleaning and house projects are what I’ve been focusing on the most – when I’m not cooking. And taking care of the girls. As I’ve worked on things like updating family pictures, making a spot to store my makeup and hang my cosmetics, and rearranging small things here and there, I have been thinking a lot about why I want to make the things around me not just livable but beautiful as well. I really want to be creative and make the girl’s rooms cute and have order, creativity, inspiration, and beauty around me.

Then I came across a verse in Exodus. I started a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan in January and, yes, I know it’s May and I am just now finishing the February readings. But, hey, I’m getting there! Anyway, that’s not the point. The verse that I found was Exodus 28:2. God was giving directions to Moses on Mount Sinai for the temple and the priestly garments and after giving lots of specifics he said, “for glory and for beauty.” God is the great Creator of all things orderly and inspirational and beautiful. He wanted some of those decorations that way for the sake of glory and for the sake of beauty! As I have thought about why I want order and beauty I realized that practically no one comes in to see those parts of my house, so my sinful motivation of other people seeing what a great job I did at making something creative in the bathroom doesn’t get “fed” all that much, if you know what I mean. If I’m going to be completely honest that is usually my primary motivation. But what do I do with that? I have worked on confessing it to God and then offering up my creativity as an act of worship to Him. It is not a sin to want things beautiful and to look for creative ways to bring order to little things around my house. It is another way I can worship God for who He is.

Oh what a long way I have left to go. But realizing this has brought me some freedom in the “hum-drum” activities of menu planning, re-arranging the kitchen, and figuring out where to put toilet paper and hang my necklaces. How about you?

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