Friday, August 31, 2007

Happy Birthday our beautiful, sweet-cheeked niece, EmmaClare! We miss your stunning blue eyes and pretty smile. We can't wait to see you walking when we're home with you at Christmastime! Happy one year and one week, Big Girl!
Love, Uncle Scott & Aunt Lynne

A Little Chinaman

I met this little guy on the street yesterday, hanging on to his grandmother's leg. No matter how many times I said, "Ni hao" and reached out my hand to him, he would not smile. I'm sure I looked pretty strange to him.


This is officially my 500th post since I began blogging in August of 2005, while we were waiting for Gwen's referral. I never imagined that the blog would continue like it has, let alone that we would be continuing Now We Are Six having returned to live in the place we were so longing to reach when the blog began. Thank you to all who have been a part of this journey... it's so very good to have friends and support along the way!

In other numbers, I realized today that we really do not live on the 48th floor of our building. Yes, our apartment unit number is 48G, but the Chinese seem to have a thing against the number four so they avoid it whenever possible. This means that our building does not have a fourth floor, but skips from the third floor directly to the fifth. It is funny to watch the numbers climb on the digital display in the elevator. We skip 4, then go on to 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13... aha, there is no 14! The pattern continues this way. There is no floor number 24, no 34... but then we get to the forties, and apparently it's just a little too obvious to skip all ten of them, so they skip only the double, floor 44. So I figured today, skipping those fours, that we actually live on the forty-third floor of our building. Does this really matter? Not in the least. I just found it funny!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Upturned Faces

Upturned Faces.

That's the name of the new link I'm adding to my sidebar. My sister Sarah has re-entered the blogging arena after much battery from me. :-) I am so glad to have her... it means I get to see pictures of and hear cute anecdotes about my neice and nephew on a regular basis. Besides, Sarah has some really good thoughts about how parenting mirrors our relationship to God.

Go check it out. I know you'll agree that the kids are adorable!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Boats on the River

Watching the boats on the river is one of our favorite passtimes. Whenever there is an especially large or colorful or unusual boat, I run for the camera. I can't promise I won't post more boat pictures from time to time!

One thing I've noticed and wondered about... aside from the small pleasure boats that cross from one bank to the other, all the boats on the river head one direction at one time, and then when I look later, it seems that all the boats are heading the other direction. Is there some kind of river traffic control? Must be!

Can you see the golden dragon heads on the front of this boat?


Love in any language...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Just the Facts

Gwen: Where is our old house?

Mom: In Chicago.

Gwen: I want to see it.

Mom: We can't see it right now, it's too far away.

Gwen: Then I be sad.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Heavy Load

Mr. Wu and I had a conversation last week when I was in the car alone with him. It's not quite a conversation when you have to communicate one word at a time through an electronic translator, but sometimes when it's only one word chosen to express an entire thought, it comes across that much more poigniantly. Mr. Wu actually has quite a few English words, but he resorts to the translator when he gets stumped. I am no help, with my minimal Chinese.

Anyway, he started telling me about what life is like for Shanghainese people, and he was trying to explain (I think) the financial strain that it is. One of the words that came through translator was loan, when he told me about his house. I told him I understood, we have a loan for our house too. But the word that got me was when he said, "In Shanghai, man, work..." and then through the translator came the word, "Burden."

It's a huge responsiblity to provide for one's family, one that I know I don't fully understand. I know Scott does, though. He is glad to do it, he's told me, and is thankful that he can.

Apparently it's a heavy burden for Mr. Wu. When I first looked at that word, burden, I felt for him, but I also thought, if only there was a way for me to communicate to Mr. Wu about the One who said that His yolk is easy and His burden is light.

That's my burden. And I guess also my challenge... can I learn enough Chinese to communicate deep truths like faith? I'm a little doubtful that I can. I've prayed that Mr. Wu and Mrs. Shi and other people we connect with, the people Scott works with, would see Jesus in us. Even if our words can't express Him. But can words ever adequately express Jesus anyway?

In church a couple of weeks ago it was mentioned in the sermon that God did not call people of faith to be "a house set on a hill", but rather "a city set on a hill." In order to be light to others, we must be a united community of believers. We can't go it alone.

Because doing life alone... that would really be a heavy load to carry. Find someone to walk with you. The load will be so much lighter!

On the street between the two sections of our complex, a man pulls a load of lumber slowly toward its destination. Note the cloth strap tied to the wagon underneath the bundle that comes up over his shoulders and around his neck. This is a very common sight in Shanghai.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday on the Street

All of these pictures were taken on the street that runs along one side of our apartment complex. Sunday is a quieter day on the street, but you will notice that many shops and vendors are open for business. If you look in the top left of the above picture, you will see part of one of the buildings in our complex.

A view through the fence that divides the courtyard of an apartment building from the sidewalk.
Lots of vendors cook from little stands set up on the sidewalk. Note the baby in his father's arms... split pants and no diaper, a very common sight.
A little one waits patiently.
The parking lot outside the Chinese grocery store. I don't do my major food shopping at this store, but we often walk over here if we need milk or eggs or ice cream.
This is usually a street barber's stand. You can see the mirror leaning against the wall, set on a stand with his tools. Today is Sunday, so I guess he gathered his cronies to play cards instead of cutting hair.

I bought apples and peaches here today.
A typical shop, tiny and packed full of odds and ends.
This vendor had four ducklings and five or six tiny turtles for sale. Gwen and I stopped for a few moments to watch them.
Sunglasses for sale.
Another fruit stand. We got mangoes, grapes, and apples here last week.The first time I walked down this stretch of road, I felt very conspicuous and not very safe. Now that I've been up and down the street many times, I know I am still conspicuous, but I feel completely safe. It's funny how the unknown and different seem scary at first.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Happiness Is...

Scott came out of our bedroom yesterday to find the girls up and playing dress up together. He said it doesn't get much better than this!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Another Shanghai Sunset

Perhaps you think I post too many pictures of this view, of the boats and the buildings and the Huangpu River that divides Shanghai. I'm sorry, I can't help myself. I love this view. I love the changing sky, the boat traffic, the now familiar buildings. I love the lights of the city at night. Already I know that this view is something that we will all miss when we are gone from here.

Lovin' the Pool

We have enjoyed the outside pool in our complex so much on the hot summer days here. It's a fun pool because it's so wide and relatively shallow, and is graded out like a beach. It also has waves for 10 minutes or so every hour.

Girls head out together!
There is a sandy area with a big round baby pool. The sand has been a source of many cakes, deep holes, and even a sea turtle Mom created one late afternoon.
The little gazebo area looks like it would house a hot tub, but it's just part of the pool. The kids love to play Marco Polo in this area. You can't see too well in the picture, but there are sort of rounded bench type seats in the water around the gazebo. These are fun to jump off of!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

First Goodbye

I had heard about the nature of expat relationships, how people are in and out of your life as assignments begin and end and families move on. The side benefit of this fact is that it makes expatriates as a whole more outgoing and willing to pursue relationships. They (we) need friends to help them (us) make it in a new and unfamiliar environment.

So yes, I knew that good-byes would come in a hurry, but I didn't expect it to come so soon. But Kevin, Kate, Tyler and Alexa left Shanghai today. Already some good friends are gone. We shared lots of pool time, Polly Pockets, badminton, board games, shopping tips, a sleep over, a museum trip, a go-carting outing, wine and cheese, a sewing project... and all this in just one month. It was a lovely time.
Goodbye, friends. We miss you!

When Life Gives You Boxes...'s a good time to create a fort!
Of course I'm about ready to ship the forts out the door. We've had our fun for a few days, and I think I've seen enough boxes now for a while!

Mr. Wu

A photo of Mr. Wu has been requested... here he is in our kitchen last week with Gwen. He was in our apartment for several hours that day, helping me with the sea shipment. He ate lunch with us, and I snapped this picture as he and Gwen were finishing up some grapes at the end of our meal. Mr. Wu is great with our kids. He know bits and pieces of English, not a lot, but enough to communicate some basic things with us. He loves to joke around with the kids. He has a PSP, which he plays games on and watches movies on when he has down time during the day. He will often let one of the boys play on it while we are in the car together. When he comes up to our apartment to get us, he will play little games with the girls. He is in his early thirties, married with a little girl about a year old. We like him a lot!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Time with Mr. Wu







And so it went... I was haltingly practicing telling time in Chinese in the car with Mr. Wu tonight, as he drove me home from a meeting at the boys' school. Every time the digital display on the dashboard changed, I said the time again, and Mr. Wu would prompt me, correct me, or nod his approval accordingly. Amazing how one must revert back to the most basic of tasks when learning a new language.

Note: The words in quotes are not necessarily spelled out in correct pinyin, just phonetically!

Monday, August 20, 2007

New Link

I've added a new link to my sidebar... Joy in the Journey. Scott's sister Mary and her husband Justin are living in Hamburg, Germany this year. They were our Chicago buddies, and actually left the country for their adventure the same weekend we left for Shanghai. They are experiencing a totally different culture than we are... it's been fun to compare through our blogs. Check it out! I think you will enjoy getting to know them.

Lost and Found

Last weekend I left our stroller in the trunk of a taxi. It's just an umbrella stroller, but it has a sunshade and a little net bag on the back for storage, and it's the only one I have. I have used it here for Gwen quite a lot. I was so disappointed to lose it.

Three days later, when the boys and Scott were walking out of our building to the boys' bus stop on the first day of school, Seth glanced over at the gate leading into our complex and can you believe, he saw our stroller! It was leaning up against the gate.

I was so shocked! That the cabbie remembered, days later, where he had picked us up, was the first surprise. That he would care enough to return the stroller was even more surprising.

It was like a gift for me, to see the kindness of a Chinese cabbie. Would that have happened in the States? I hope so.

Elusive Fountains

These very cool dancing fountains are in one of the little parks in our complex. We had noticed them a month or more ago, but had never seen them turned on. A couple of weeks ago we happened to be out in the park around dusk, and low and behold, the music was playing, the colored lights were on, and the fountains were jumping and dancing! The kids were thrilled, and jumped right in to play in the streams of water. We went back at the same time the next night, this time with bathing suits, and it was fun again... since then, however, it seems to be hit or miss. Some nights they're on, others not. We can't seem to figure out the schedule. I guess we'll just be surprised!

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Did I tell you our house has rented?! The family moved in this weekend. I'm so glad there are people in the house... now it is alive again. :-) Hopefully my flowers are giving them a warm welcome.

Also, our white elephant Yukon finally sold. It's not easy to sell a big boat like that when gas prices are as high as they have been the last six months, but a friend of a friend finally did it for us. Many thanks!

So glad to be out from under these two things!

Curled Up With A Good Book

A Good Game

This afternoon the girls were up on the top bunk for quite a while, playing with stuffed animals and dolls and other assorted girl stuff. I peeked in at one point and overheard the object of their game, at least for that moment. They were packing to go pick up their babies in China.

Love that.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Asleep at the Wheel

How tired do you have to be to fall asleep standing next to your chair at the dinner table?

Digging Out and Looking Up

Our long awaited sea shipment arrived yesterday!

We are so happy to have our cozy couches here to flop onto... the ones that were in our apartment looked chic and all, but they were sort of like sitting on bricks. Not quite the cozy factor.

In addition to our couches, several other important pieces of furniture were in the shipment. Dressers! We have been making do with two very shallow (maybe four inches deep!) drawers in the closet of each room... not quite adequate for two people to share. So the dressers' arrival was a good thing.

We had a lot of books arrive in the shipment, which I have been busily arranging on various shelves, in the kids' rooms and in the living room and office. We have More Books Than I Realized. They feel like friends, though, and I am happy to have their company again.

Our bikes are here, and for the time being they are in our round front hall. This is not their permanent home, thankfully. The only trouble is that we're not sure where their permanent home will be. We have a small room, a little larger than a twin bed, behind the laundry room. Hoping that magically all five bikes will fit in there. It's more likely that we will end up locking some of them in the hallway outside the main elevator... we shall see. I am quite anxious to have them out of the main thoroughfare of our home!

Also in the shipment came coats and winter clothes for six... hmmmm. With no coat closet, and no extra storage, I wonder where I will put these? Perhaps the small room behind the laundry room? No, bikes are going there. It is definitely time to get creative!

Various items from our playroom and the kids' rooms also arrived. I was kind of liking the streamlined life we had here, less is more and all that. Well, that is no longer. I truly did get rid of lots of things before we moved, you remember my posts about the fully loaded Yukon going to Goodwill. How did I end up with some of this junk to sort through today? I let you in on a secret I'm not telling the kids... I made a few trips to the large garbage can in the back hallway outside our unit this afternoon. But there are still dress-up shoes, doll clothes, etc. to find homes for... I made great strides in the girls' room today. More to do tomorrow.

All of Madelyn's school things arrived in the shipment, the books I had ordered and received before we moved. I got excited as I organized them this afternoon... there are some wonderful art books in the lot that I am anxious to dig into with her, as well as fun literature.

I forgot what it's like to find new homes for things after a move. This one is easier than our last, because many of our things did not make this move but are safely stored away. But it's not a task that can be completed in an afternoon, like I was thinking yesterday. This morning, faced with the chaos, I was pretty overwhelmed and even discouraged by the job ahead of me. I am learning slowly that my ability to relax and have a good attitude cannot be based on whether or not everything in the house is in order. I think I have made progress out of this faulty self entrapment. But when there's a job looming like the one I saw in every room of my house this morning, it's easy to jump back into that line of thinking. I literally had to drag myself to a place of joy and thankfulness today.

Now the house is dark and the kids are sleeping. It seems peaceful. We left for a while this evening, had a yummy Chinese dinner at a place called "Queen", and did a little grocery shopping. It was good to get away from the stuff, the stuff that doesn't matter anyway.

Gwen used to ask me to sing the "Many Matches" song. It refers to the verse in the Bible that talks about how Jesus is preparing a home for us in heaven (thus, "Many Mansions").

I'm looking forward to that final move... and there won't be any unpacking!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Authenticity Test?

Tonight Scott and I went out to dinner alone (hurray!) and afterwards stopped in a little shop on the street that was selling assorted classic Chinese collectibles... tea sets, chops, a variety of statues and carved pieces, and jade jewelry. We were browsing the jade bangle type bracelets, and the shop keeper did an unexpected thing to show us that it was real jade... at least I am guessing that's what he intended to show us. He pulled out a hair from his head, wrapped it around the bracelet, and then held the flame from his lighter up to the hair on the bracelet. Nothing happened, which I suppose proved his point. Does anyone know why he would do this? He repeated it on another piece of jade jewelry we looked at... we were laughing out loud by the second time!

Sometimes the language barrier makes things very interesting... keeps us guessing, anyway!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

First Day Photos

7 a.m.~ Seth and Caleb, with lunch cards in place around their necks, are ready to head out the door to the bus!
4:30 p.m.~ The boys are home after the first day, decompressing... seems like it went well, they had lots to tell about! Can you tell Seth was pleased with his first ever school day?!
Caleb exploring his new laptop... from 7th grade on, all Concordia students have personal laptops that they will use for most of their classes. One day down, 179 to go!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Caleb's Birthday, Part 3~ Glowing Accessories

We took glow-in-the-dark glasses, bracelets, and earrings for the kids at Caleb's birthday party Saturday night. Amateur photographer that I am, I was unable to find a setting on my camera that showed the glowing capabilities of these accessories, but believe me when I tell you how funny it was to see the glasses and earrings walking through the darkened room, with the people they were adorning nearly invisible in the dark!

I think Gwen's look was enhanced by the fact that everything seemed even bigger on her, with her small stature!
Lance has got it all going!
All the girls!

The birthday boy has a double frame look! Goes with the shaggy hair, don't you think?!

Sunset Over Shanghai

In July I posted a much hazier sunset picture. With the clearer skies we've enjoyed the last ten days or so, the sunset has been a little more colorful. I think it is beautiful! As you can see, this picture was taken right before the city lights began to come on for the night.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Growing Pains

Seth and Caleb are starting school tomorrow. We just left their bedroom, after laying out clothes, discussing what time they should leave our apartment to go to the bus stop, reviewing locker combinations, finding lunch cards, a devotion and bedtime prayers.

As I went up the ladder on the bunkbed to say goodnight to Seth, I was hit with an unexpected wave of emotion. Having been homeschooled up until now, Seth has never been gone from me at school all day. I think he is going to do just fine with this. He is a very easy going person, he has a smile for everyone, he loves to learn. But he and I had a great year together last year, and I am really going to miss him. I told him this, and cried a little.

I'm so happy for him, and Caleb too, to get to go to this international school. But being away at school all day is one more step away from home, and sometimes that makes me a little sad. I suppose we might at some point homeschool the boys again, but it's also quite likely that we won't. They are off to do and learn on their own, without me. That's very good, I know it is. But I'll miss my boys.

It's all part of growing up... for me, too.

Eggs Is Eggs

So we tried some different eggs a couple of days ago... they were very small! I wasn't sure what they were when I bought them, but we found out that they are quail eggs. We hard boiled them, and ate them for lunch. The shells seemed to be thinner, but they peeled just like a chicken egg, and if the taste was any different, it was nearly imperceptible. An egg in the mouth is worth two in the hand... isn't that how the saying goes?! I loved how the speckles and spots on the quail eggs were different on each egg. Very pretty! I would like to have a little bowl of them on display. :-)

Monday, August 13, 2007


Today was orientation at Concordia, the school Caleb and Seth will be attending this year. They got their schedules, played getting to know you games with other new students, took math placement tests, and toured the building. We bought uniform shirts and lunch cards, and had ID pictures taken. I met teachers and turned in medical forms. At the end of the day the boys participated in a basketball clinic put on by the Mt. Vernon Knights high school basketball team. It was a good day.

I didn't realize how good a day it was until Seth, who as yet has not attended traditional school, told me tonight how much he liked Concordia. When I asked him what he liked about it, he said, "Everything."

I'm so pleased that his first impressions and his attitude are so good. Wednesday is the first day of school... hopefully things will stay so positive!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Caleb's Birthday, Part 2~ The Plans He Has

Six days before Caleb's birthday we met the Allens at church. We had dinner with their family that night, along with the Hillmer family, after church. As you may remember from the blog I wrote a week ago, entitled Sunday, after that dinner all three families went to the Hillmers for dessert. During that visit, I mentioned Caleb's birthday, and Sue Allen suggested that we all do something together to celebrate. Just the fact that Sue had that idea was miracle enough...

But yesterday it all actually happened. Late morning, after our family celebration, Scott suggested that he, Seth, and Caleb go play laser tag in the afternoon. Little did Caleb know that Rich, Lucas, and Lance Allen and Doug, Matt, and Tim Hillmer would be waiting there to play with them when they arrived. Then afterwards we all met at the Allens for dinner, cake, gifts, fun and great conversation!

It was nothing short of amazing to me. When I realized months ago that we would be in Shanghai for Caleb's birthday, I wondered what the day would be like. What would we do to make it special and fun for him, in this new and completely foreign place? I guess I didn't need to worry... the plan was already in the works.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

I hope that this birthday will be a reminder to Caleb for all of his life of the way God provides for him.

Did I mention that Lucas and Matt came home with us after the party last night to sleep over? The boys stayed up nearly the whole night, having a great time together. And Madelyn and Seth stayed over at the Allens, with Elise, Lance and Tim.

Time for cake!

Gwen gets a candle to lick.
Friends... what abundant provision... it reminds me of the theme verse of Abundant Grace Church, where we attend here in Shanghai. On the front of the bulletin is the verse, "Far more than we dare ask or imagine..."
I couldn't have imagined this for all of us on Caleb's birthday, but there it was. I'm glad God's plans are so much bigger than mine!