Saturday, December 29, 2007


We all struggled with jetlag for many days on this trip. This picture was taken mid-afternoon on one of the first days we were back in the States... Maggi is laughing at Uncle Scott as he snoozes.
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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dress-Up with Cousins

It takes a little effort for a girl to get ready, but once she has her ensemble in place, the results are stunning!
So good to be together again!
Madelyn, Meredyth, Gwen and Maggi.
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Merry Christmas!

From China, with love from the Six.
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Friday, December 21, 2007


Nearly two years later to the day, we made it through immigration and customs at O'Hare airport, returning home from China just days before Christmas for the second time. I realized it as we walked down the same corridor tonight, that it was just this time and place two years ago that we were about to introduce Gwen to her grandparents and siblings who were waiting anxiously to see her face.

This time, the feeling of returning home from China was different. Our family was together, coming off the first 6 months of a different kind of adventure than the adoption one had been. Because this time China isn't just the far away place we went to get our daughter, but rather it's our home, at least for a time. A home that we've grown familiar with at least a piece of, and that we've grown to love.

But China is still a foreign place to us in many ways, a lot because of the language barrier. One of the things I was most looking forward to about being in the US again was understanding everyone, not just a select few. At the O'Hare airport I went into a newstand to look for some contact solution, which I had forgotten to buy before we left China. I walked right in and asked for it, and the women working at the counter found it for me, just like that. I almost cried with the ease of the transaction. No fruitless hunting on my own, unable to communicate my needs. Just ask.... ahhhh.

Everywhere in the two US airports we were in tonight I could read all the signs... again, ahhh. In the airport restroom, Gwen asked me if I had tissues. "We don't need them," I answered her. "In America they have toilet paper in the bathroom for you." Ahhh, the comforts of home.

As we left the airport in our rental car, all the streets were familiar. The short way we traveled to Scott's parents' home felt like going back in time. They are streets we've driven hundreds of times, since our childhood. Are all these places still here? Even after we've gone far from them, they waited for our return.

And then we pull into the driveway, the familiar driveway. Snow covers the grass, and the Christmas tree lights shine in the front window. Inside, Nanny waits for us. There are cookies in a tin on the kitchen counter, and milk in the refrigerator waiting to be poured. It's nearly 1 a.m. local time, and we are home.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Home Is Where the Heart Is

It's beautiful day in Shanghai. Sunshine, high 50's. The maintenance crew in our complex planted hundreds of pansies this afternoon, in deep, jewel tone colors. My girls climbed little trees out behind our building with a friend, and the boys skateboarded in their shirt sleeves. I relished the time outside, watching the kids and visiting with a neighbor in the adjacent building.

But actually, this isn't what I'm looking for right now, nice as it is. No, I'm dreaming of colder weather... perhaps even a white Christmas. With the weather the U.S. Midwest has had over the last few days, the chances of a white Christmas are very good.

Because tomorrow we're leaving the 60 degree weather that's forcasted for Shanghai, getting on a plane for the long trip towards that snow in the Midwest... home for Christmas.

That's where half our hearts are, after all.

Shanghai Christmas Morning

... just about a week and a half before Christmas Day! We celebrated with just our family here last Sunday morning.
Thank you, Sethy! Caleb and Seth bought each other very similar hats!

Madelyn was pretty pleased with her ballet outfit and shoes... lessons coming in January.
Orange crocs!

Monday, December 17, 2007


The threat of a monetary fine has amazing effectiveness in helping boys remember to pick up clothes and towels from their bedroom floor.

Adoption Day Pictures

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Reason We Went

Saturday evening in Hangzhou we visited the largest church in China. It was amazing, nearly breathtaking to walk in and see the sea of black haired people, all there for this service. The auditorium was packed, with people standing in the aisles and along the back. People insisted on giving up their seats for us. Luis Palau and his son Andrew both spoke through and interpreter. It was comical for us because we were the only ones understanding the message in English, so when Luis or Andrew said something funny, we were the only ones that laughed... the rest of the 8000 people laughed ten seconds behind us when they heard the interpretation! At the end of the service when the invitation was given, it seemed to us that half of the congregation responded. We found out later that nearly 800 people had... right here in China. It was truly a privilege to see this, and to hear the sincere worship in a language that we could not understand the words of but could truly sense the spirit in which it was offered... we longed to join in, but could only do so in our hearts, tears on our faces. The Father heard and understood! Praise Him for the work He is doing in hearts everywhere!

More Hangzhou

Seven centuries ago, Marco Polo pronounced Hangzhou "the finest, most splendid city in the world... where so many pleasures may be found that one fancies oneself to be in Paradise."

I think the modern day city of Hangzhou is fairly ordinary, but the beauty of the lake and mountains surrounding it were surely beautiful. We so look forward to going back and exploring Hangzhou further... who will join us?!

I loved the color of this tree we saw by West Lake! I really missed the beautiful fall colors this year that we normally experience in the Midwest. There are still many trees (I use many loosely, as there aren't really many trees overall... we live in the city, after all!) in Shanghai that are fully green~ I don't know when their leaves will fall! Some trees have lost their leaves here, but not with the flaming colors of the maple trees I am accustomed to.
Strolling along the causeway.
Scott and the girls posing under this cool archway... I waited and waited, but these other people would not move out of the way!

Christmas Performance

Who remembers singing "Away in a Manger" with your Sunday school class in front of the congregation, dressed in your Christmas best? I sure do. We practiced and waited in the fellowship hall in the church basement until it was time to walk up the stairs and file into church. I remember wearing a red velvet jumper. There were candy canes for all after the service. :-)

This past Sunday was Gwen's first time, and she was pretty pleased to be the one carrying a doll to represent Baby Jesus. It did hamper her ability to do the motions the class had been taught to do along with the song, but she managed to do them in miniature with just her fingers. Madelyn and Seth's group, Children's Church, sang seperately from Gwen's. Seth was on the stage at the front, but Madelyn was in the aisle, standing at the end of a pew. Children's Church, which is about a hundred kids, is too large to all fit on stage so they spread out around the sanctuary.

Here's Madelyn, singing "Gloria!"

Gwen cradles Baby Jesus!

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Yesterday was the two year anniversary of the day we met Gwen, and today the anniversary of the official adoption day. Gwen was much more interested in what it all meant this year, and watched the video of our meeting with great interest. She especially wondered about the woman who brought her in to us~ "Who is that? What's she doing with me?" She made a point today of telling both Scott and I today that she speaks English. "See? I say 'Hi, Mama.'" Not sure if that had anything to do with the gotcha discussions or not.

Watching her video carefully!When Scott and I see this video, even after repeated viewings, we are still in awe of the miracle of adoption. If you haven't experienced it, all I can say is that there is nothing like it in the whole world. If you are in the middle of what is now a very long wait for a China referral, hang in there. Your miracle is coming...

We love you all the way around the world, Gwendolyn Yu Sarah!


Posted in the stall of a restroom I visited this week:

"To prevent jam, please don't put the bumf into the closestool."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

By the Water

It was such a wonderful treat to walk by West Lake while we were in Hangzhou. The combination of the hazy sunshine glimmering over the expanse of the lake, the willows by the water, and the mountains in the distance somehow breathed life into the part of me that has been so missing wide open spaces. There are several causeways, one that we strolled and rode a pedicab over. We also took a short boat ride on one of the open boats, all with little lace covered tables between the two facing bech seats.
Maribel, Gwen, Andrea and Madelyn sat across from Scott and I on the boat ride.
Can you see the little lace covered table on the boat?

What the Boys Did

Caleb and Seth and the Hillmer boys did a fair amount of skating while we were in Hangzhou. It is, after all, one their top activity choices. In China, this type of activity tends to draw a crowd. After lunch on Saturday, the boys found a place near the lake that had long, wide stairs encircling a monument~ perfect for skating. As soon as the four of them began their skateboarding and rollerblading tricks, the local people began to gather. In a very short time, they had a crowd of no less than fifty-some people... maybe more. They ended up staying in that spot for several hours, loving the audience. At one point, Seth lost a wheel off of his roller blades, and soon the crowd was hunting for the bolt to reattach it. Once it was found, someone else in the crowd produced an Allen wrench so Seth could get the wheel back on!

Here is Seth, airborne, outside the hotel. If you look closely, you will see that he does have his mouth guard in place.

Computer Savvy

Concordia, the school the boys attend, is very much into technology. From 7th grade on, every student has a laptop that they use in class and for homework. Most assignments are emailed to teachers, homework is posted on a teacher's blog, many presentations are created entirely online and presented to the class on the large screen in the classroom. Even at Seth's level, there is a ratio of two students to one computer in every classroom, and they are used extensively. As a result, my boys are far ahead of me in their working knowledge of computers.

Tonight Seth was telling me about some new things he had learned about the computer from a girl in his class named Violet, tricks if you will. Tricks like, if you press this key and then that key, it will automatically zoom in on whatever internet screen you have up. Maybe you already know how to do this, but I didn't. There were plenty of others like it. As I marveled about all these cool little shortcuts Violet knew and taught Seth, he summed up her skills by saying,

"She's tech-y".

I guess that's one of those terms for the new generation of which I am not a part.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

West Lake, in Hangzhou

Train Trip

Saturday morning we took the train from Shanghai to Hangzhou with our friends the Hillmers. Hangzhou is southwest of Shanghai, just an hour and fifteen minute train ride. We had not been to the train station before and were pleasantly surprised. It is quite large and very bright and new. I wish I had taken a picture of the station! The Hillmers are friends that we first met at our church, just a couple of weeks after we arrived in Shanghai. They have boys roughly our boys' ages and a daughter Gwen's age. They are in our small group, and their boys attend Concordia with Caleb and Seth. We went to Hangzhou for an overnight to do a little sightseeing, but mostly to attend a service at the largest church in China, where Luis Palau was speaking this weekend.

Gwen and Andrea (pronounced the Spanish way, On-dray-a) settle in for the ride. Gwen and Andrea are fast friends. They talk about each other often and hate to leave each other! They remind me of Madelyn and her friend Livie... when they were two years old they reached for each other as soon as they saw each other, and always cried when they had to part.

Me with Maribel. We are playing with the play-doh she brought for the girls!
Looking down the aisle.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Counting the Days

-2 weeks until we get on the plane to head home for Christmas

-2 days until the anniversary of the day we left for China to go meet Gwen

-1 week until the 2 year anniverary of Gwen's adoption day

-17 days until my Christmas baby (Seth!) is eleven years old

-19 days until Christmas!

Got Yogurt?

Drinkable yogurt makes a wonderful moustache!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Seth's Music

The fifth and sixth grade Christmas concert was last Friday night. Seth is having his first experience singing in a choir this year, and we could tell at the concert that he is really enjoying it!

The beginning band and orchestra also played Friday night, but having had some years of experience on the violin, Seth is not a part of these groups. He is in an intermediate strings group that rehearses once a week after school for an hour. They will be playing at a hotel next Monday evening. I am so thankful for this group violin opportunity for Seth... somehow it makes it more "real" to be able to play with a group. He is also taking a private lesson once a week. Concordia brings in teachers from a local music studio to teach individual lessons after school.