Thursday, March 29, 2007

Home... and a New Home

We made it home yesterday afternoon, and woke up today at 10:15! Wow... I can't think of the last time I slept that late. Now we are repacking our suitcases to go get our girls from their grandparents and stay there to visit for a couple of days.

The big news is that we did find a new home in Shanghai. It's quite a departure from any other place we've ever lived. For starters, it's on the 47th floor! It is a new apartment building in a complex of what will be seven buildings when they are all finished. It has large windows in every room, some of which look out on the river, and skyline of Shanghai. There is even a river view from the bathtub! Even though it is essentially downtown, the complex has really nice grounds, with gardens, a lake, fountains, pools, a playground, etc. It is about halfway between the boys' school and Scott's office. The school provides a bus that will pick up all the kids who live in the complex and take them directly to school, no other stops. There are 40-some kids living in the complex this year that attend the school.

So the apartment is reserved for us, but typical of how differently things are done in China, we won't know the final package for what we'll pay for it for perhaps a month. We obviously have a ballpark figure, but our relocation agent will be negotiating for us for "the best deal". We'll see what comes of that!

The apartment also comes fully furnished! This is normal for expatriate housing in Shanghai. We will probably bring some of our own things and use some of what is provided. We were shown a model apartment with the standard furniture, but it was not the same size or layout as ours, so there are some pieces we have to guess about.

Here Scott and the boys check out the view from the dining room... I'll post more pictures later!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Monday Morning in the Park

Yesterday morning we walked down a few blocks from our hotel to a park. It is actually quite a large park for being in the downtown area. The scene for a Monday morning was something I don't think we would ever see in the States. People , mostly retirement age, were everywhere, and most were engaged in something active. At the entrance to the park were these ladies pictured below. They were quite a large group, and provided their own music with the drums around their necks and a cymbal player. Theirs was an intricately choreographed dance that was facinating to watch! Further into the park their were blooming trees everywhere. The park has a hill of sorts in the middle, with rock outcroppings and stone paths leading to little secluded areas and small caves. There is a lake in the middle of the park where we watched tadpoles swimming, and Caleb caught one in his hand. At one place towards the top of the hill there was an open area surrounded by small trees. In many many of the trees hung beautiful wooden square bird cages, each with a noisy and active bird inside. Each cage had two little blue and white ceramic dishes inside, presumably for the food and water for the bird. We moved closer to try to see the bird better, but a security guard waved us away. From our vantage point Seth thought the birds appeared to have silver glasses on, and their markings really did look that way. Along every path and in every clearing there were people exercising or doing tai chi. Many were in groups and had brought a speaker for music to move to. It was so interesting to watch! I can't imagine this scene in the U.S.! As we left the park the boys wanted to buy drinks from a small stand. They had their first experience with the reality of the language barrier... after much pointing and gesturing, we managed to convey our choices to the vendor!

In Shanghai with the Boys

Caleb enjoying his noodles at the Japanese (yes, Japanese!) place we ate lunch today.
I had a long post with more pictures ready to go, but with blogging instructions in Chinese characters here, I did something wrong and lost it all. So, the short story is that we arrived safely yesterday, rode the MagLev train (431 kilometers per hour!), then slept on and off last night, with our bodies still on central time. This morning we had an early breakfast, then the boys and I enjoyed all the dancers and blooming trees in the park a few blocks from our hotel while Scott got some work done. We met our relocation agent in the hotel lobby around 9:30, and went first to see a medical facilty for expats that was wonderful, esp. compared to the children's hospital we took Gwen to in the first days we had her. Next we went to the international school the boys will be attending in the fall. We had a wonderful time there, and the boys got to meet their principal, several teachers, and even another student who moved to Shanghai from Houston last summer! Both the boys were really excited about the school after our visit. :-) The balance of the day with our relocation agent was spent looking at housing, some we had seen on our last trip and some new. After some discussion this evening, we are close to a decision that seems right. We will have more news tomorrow! Much love, Lynne

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Off Again

The boys' passports arrived at our house last night just before eleven, just in time! This morning the four of us are off to Shanghai for a short few days to make a housing decision. Seth is so excited that he woke up at 4 a.m. and came into my room to tell me he couldn't sleep! We'll keep you posted on what we find! Love to all, and thanks so much for your prayers.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bubbles!! Family Foto Challenge

Bubbles!! I took one of these pictures today... and one a year ago! I'm sure you can tell which is which! Gwen seems to have the hang of actually blowing bubbles now a little better than she did last year, when she was just getting a soapy mouth!

Thanks again to Donna at 2happy.typepad for another fun challenge!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Secret to the Elmo Cake

Somehow the ping pong balls with black Sharpie pupils that made the Elmo cake come alive don't look quite the same on Seth!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Robin Hood

"Robin Hood, friend and helper of the oppressed and the unfortunate, and the enemy of all proud tyrants!"

Last weekend Seth and Madelyn performed in the Greenhouse's Medieval Festival, taking part in the performance of Robin Hood. Seth was actually Robin himself, and a fine one he was, I must say! Even he said later that he thought he actually looked like Robin Hood in his costume. "Acting the part" comes naturally for Seth, and he loves to do it. This type of performance was new to Madelyn, but the part of a village child on the street of a medieval town watching the performance was a perfect introduction to the world of theater for her and the other kids her age who joined her. Both of them did such a wonderful job... it was a "merry performance carried out in the livliest fashion"!

By my faith, 'tis Robin Hood and his band of merry men!Robin Hood battles the Prince of Aragon... soon the foe will be vanquished~ victory is imminent!
Madelyn and her friends, Marta and Devlyn, were peasant children who watched the performance of Robin Hood being acted out on the street of their medieval town.
"This is a time for music and dance, not for evil words and bitter speeches. Strike up a merry tune and we shall dance to it! Ay, that we shall!"

"Robin Hood, this true English hero- a protector of the poor, a foe to the tyrant, brave, gentle, and chivalrous, a man after the English peasant's own heart."

And the Cake was Elmo...

...and the Girl was Pleased!

Gwen's favorite song has been "Happy Birthday" since last year,on her second birthday, when she wanted us to sing it over and over and over. Scott and I have sung it to her many times since then, but today it was the real thing, and she loved it!

Is there anything better than a birthday?!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Abundant Grace

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

This is the first verse the Lord used to encourage me about a potential move to China, way back when we first heard about the possibility at the beginning of last November. I was actually preparing for a preschool Sunday school lesson that incorporated this verse the day after we first got the call, and after I had actually finished the presentation of the lesson, the full weight of the meaning of the verse for me personally hit me and I began to cry at the faithfulness of God. How He put this verse in my path right when we were starting to mentally walk down the road towards Shanghai... amazing. He would walk with us, not just wish us well as we went. He would be making the way, heading out ahead of us on the journey.

Seth and Madelyn and I learned this verse and the one before it as well, saying the verses to each other during our Bible time. I had printed the verses out and hung them in several places in our house to remind us of the precious words of encouragement.

Three weeks ago today we were worshipping at a church in Shanghai. We had set out from our hotel in a taxi, with only a scrap of paper with an address that had been hastily translated into Chinese characters by the concierge. The taxi driver dropped us off in front of the church and we made our way through the doors. We began to look around at the displays of the different programs and ministries the church offered, but not a minute had passed before a friendly woman about our age, whose name turned out to be Victoria, greeted us and engaged us in conversation. We told her why we were in Shanghai, and found that she and her family had been there for several years, having come from somewhere in the States. She told us all about the things going on at the church and introduced us to several people. What a gift, to have that kind of welcome. The service began with worship songs we knew... amazing to find this familiar praise being offered to the Lord, half a world away.

I was already in tears from the gift of the welcome from Victoria and the worship time that felt so much like home, when it came time for baby dedications in the service. The families who had brought children to dedicate to the Lord that day had been encouraged to share a scripture or prayer for their babies. The first family had a scripture... their young son began to read it aloud in a confident voice. It was Joshua 1:7-9. I wept again to hear the familiar words,"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." It made God so BIG, to see Him alive and being proclaimed here in Shanghai as He is at my church in the Midwest, and with the same scripture, no less. He is real, He is alive, He cares for me!

Was this not a gift, to have this encouragement from God reiterated to me in this church on the other side of the world? Definitely it was a gift to my heart... and that's what grace is, a gift, the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.

Did I mention the name of this church that will likely be our new place of fellowship in Shanghai? Oh yes, I did. Abundant Grace.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cake Preparation

More pictures from Gwen's birthday~

I'm getting everything ready to make my birthday cake... cracking the eggs is one of my favorite parts of this job! How is that batter coming, I wonder?
Now my cake is all baked and cooled, so I can frost it. Look at this great red frosting! I wonder what my cake will look like when it's finished?

Family Fun Foto Challenge... FEET!

Madelyn and Emma Grace had silly feet fun together when our two families shared an all-too-short weekend together in February.
Thanks to Donna at Double Happiness for another fun foto challenge!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Birthday Balloon

Gwen woke up to this balloon in her room yesterday morning, for the start of her thrid birthday celebration! When we were out in the morning, she told everyone she met that she got a balloon for her birthday. Later at home, she carried it with her as she rode her tricycle on the patio.
She even fell asleep for her nap holding her balloon... this is how Caleb found her when he went to get her up for me, two and a half hours later!
More birthday pictures coming!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What's Going On Here?!

Caleb had had the hiccups all day, he claimed. Seth had tried repeatedly to scare them out of him during dinner... I find the repeated scare tactic is no longer very scary by the third or fourth time! By early evening he was desperate for a cure. I suggested that he hang his head off the couch and take deep breaths, something I just kind of made up on the spot. The girls quickly joined him, making for a pretty funny scene.
Caleb's self portrait in the upside down position.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Shanghai Street Scenes

The old and the new coexist!
A typical tiny fruit stand, on a busy city street. Local people often hang laundry on these racks that extend out from the window. This one just happened to be across from Scott's office in Shanghai.
Papa John's pizza delivery method fits in well with all the other bikes on the road!

We found this street scene, just one block off of Nanjing Road, which is known as the "5th Avenue of Shanghai". Pretty big difference! Nanjing Road is lined with high-end designer shops and fancy malls and office buildings, very modern and "western" looking. Here, one block away, it looks like old China. On this back street many types of unusual looking foods were being cooked. Here something is being cooked inside half an oyster shell.
I wasn't sure what these were at first, but I realized after seeing them several times that they were some type of flower bulb that was cooked for food. The dark outer skin peels away to reveal white sections inside, somewhat like the cloves in a bulb of garlic.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sleeping with Suess

Gwen's cousin Maggi was visiting a couple of weeks ago, and slept in her bedroom with her. Maggi is a book lover, and taught Gwen about taking books to bed! Every morning now I am surprised to find what books joined her for the night. :-)

Friday, March 09, 2007


As I pondered pictures of hands for the Foto Fun Challenge (see Donna's blog, at this week, I found many that I thought I might use. But when I came to this one, I felt like it deserved a spot by itself.

This photo was taken last summer, when our family went to visit my grandmother, my only surviving grandparent, who is now 98 years old. It was the first time she and Gwen met. When I took this picture, Grandma was reading Gwen a story, cuddling her on her lap.

What a miracle, to see these two sets of hands together.

My grandma has been blessed with a miraculously long and healthy life. I consider it an amazing privilege that each of my children has gotten to spend time with her and be the recipient of her fervernt prayers to Almighty God on their behalf.

Gwen, by the will of God, was chosen for our family. Chosen to be in the family that has as their matriarch an aged woman, full of wisdom and fun and faith. What a miraculous road led them to be in the same room at the same time, having story time together.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Taken a few weeks ago, in these pics Seth and Madelyn scheme a little indoor winter day fun!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Mid-Day Prayer

Dear Jesus,
Please bless big giant, not hurt little kitties.

This prayer of Gwen's came all of the sudden, when we were reading stories before her nap today. It seems to be a combination of the non-fiction book on the growth of kittens we were reading, and her oft-requested favorite Bible story, David and Goliath, which she calls "Big Giant".


There are Polly Pockets swimming the bathroom sink right now, left abandoned in water that has cooled. There is laundry folded on the family room floor, waiting to be taken upstairs and put away. There is a bank statement, checkbook, and receipts waiting to be reconciled on the kitchen counter.

I think that things like this will stay the same, wherever we live, be it in the USA or the PRC.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Madelyn & A Friend

Hats and ponchos for both made for some fun pretend time today!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Grocery Shopping in Shanghai

Check out the rice in mass quantities... and the price is less than you think, as it's in yuan and not dollars. It's the equivalent of about 14 cents per 500 grams... which is what in pounds?! Dragon fruit! It has a similar taste and consistency to kiwi, but is white inside instead of green. We saw this many times peeled and chopped small on the hotel buffet when we were here before, but I had never seen it whole... now I know why it's called dragon fruit.

Yes, it's chicken. Whole chicken, heads and all. Kind of reminds me of the Christmas Day dinner in the Chinese restaurant in the movie, "A Christmas Story"! Apparently the breast meat is removed, then the remaining chicken is salted to preserve it... and it somehow ends up sort of flat. too!
Sign on the way out of the grocery store... perhaps we are expected to shop every day? From the small size of the refrigerators in the housing we saw, this may be the cultural norm.

One of the things our relocation agent in Shanghai did for us last week, besides showing us housing options, was to take us to several grocery/department stores close to wear we may live. She wanted to orient us to the type of stores that were available, and show us what was inside. One of the stores we visited is called Carrefour. We had gone to a Carrefour in Chengdu several times when we were in China 14 months ago, getting Gwen. I actually felt quite homesick for the other folks in our travel group when we went into the store... it didn't feel quite right without them!

But this time not only were we missing our travel companions, we were seeing the store through the eyes of residents, not visitors. We weren't just looking for a few snacks and some bottled water to take back to our hotel room, we were looking for what "real", recognizable food was available. I actually felt a little despair and even panic at one point when I realized that besides some (emphasis on some) of the meat and produce, I didn't recognize much else. Fortunately the signs above the isles were in English as well as Chinese, but then the things I found in the isle were not at all familiar. Although the isle signs were English, nearly all the packaging is Chinese, unless the food is imported. So there is no checking the ingredient list or nutrition information, no decipherable directions to follow for how to prepare anything.

We were able to find a few things that gave me comfort... peanut butter, with a label that although all in Chinese characters, appeared to be Jif; canned tuna; canned Progresso beans, both black and Great Northern; butter, although that was in different sized sticks than we have in the U.S.; cheese, to my great relief, and that was in the 8 oz. Land O' Lakes bricks. That was about the extent of the packaged goods that I am familiar with, and Carrefour is a Very Large store.

My neighbor, who is from the UK and has lived here in the US for a couple of years, told me that food was the hardest thing for her to adjust to here. When she told me this a few weeks ago, I scoffed to myself. How hard could it be, esp. from the UK to the US? But now I see why it is, because even if I had been able to read the labels at Carrefour, like my neighbor can here at our local grocery store, the food would not be any more familiar, and Food Is Comfort. When even that one familiar comfort is no longer familiar, perhaps one feels bereft for a while.

We will have new things to learn in China. Eating differently will be a big one.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Red Lanterns in China

While we were in Shanghai last week, we saw so many red lanterns decorating the city for Chinese New Year. I loved these long strings of them hanging in a multi story mall where we had lunch one afternoon. I visited Jia-An park, just a couple of blocks from our hotel, by myself one day. Lanterns lined the main walk...
These lanterns were also in Jia-An Park.
Isn't this huge lantern amazing?

At first I couldn't figure out why all the Porky Pig figures were everywhere... but it's the Year of the Pig in China!