Thursday, January 31, 2008

Arty Party

That's what Kid's Gallery, the place we had Madelyn's birthday party last Saturday, called it. I've never done this kind of thing before where we just go somewhere for a birthday party and someone else does all the work... it was pretty nice! The girls had fun decorating Chinese fans together at Kids' Gallery, and then afterwards we walked over to Ice Season (a gelatto place) for treats for the girls. There was kind of a private area at the back where we were able to sit after the girls had their treat to open gifts and sing to Madelyn.
Enjoying gelatto at Ice Season... it was a pretty cold and wintery day, and I had thought maybe I would get the girls hot chocolate or something else warm, but they all thought the gelatto sounded good!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Recipe

This afternoon the kids and I found ourselves in a small restaurant in a museum in Puxi. I thought I would get them a little treat at the end of our afternoon outing. We looked at the menu and found that "Banana Split" was offered in the dessert section. The consensus was that we would get three banana splits to share among the five of us.

Of course we assumed that this ice cream treat would look the way it always has before~ a scoop each of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream; chocolate, pineapple, and strawberry toppings; whipped cream, nuts and a cherry.

This is not what was delivered to our table. These desserts had no whipped cream or cherry, no chopped nuts or chocolate topping. No topping of any kind. Each one did have two scoops of ice cream, a chocolate and what we think was peach. Caleb declared that the peach ice cream tasted how girls' perfume smells. There was banana in these desserts, several slices of banana around the ice cream. And, there was also cantaloupe. Large slices of cantaloupe where the banana halves should have been. There was chopped apple and pear in place of the chocolate, pineapple, and strawberry toppings. That's it.

Apparently a Chinese banana split is ice cream and fresh fruit. Nothing wrong with that. Seems like it might even be good, if you were expecting it. It isn't what we were expecting.

Expectations. They'll get you every time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Annual Event

Every year around Seth's birthday I have taken his picture in this stocking. This is the stocking that the hospital put my Christmas baby in after his first bath. Just his little face was peeking out of it when they wheeled him into my room. The next year he was sitting in the stocking and it came up around his chest, with his arms and head out, but with plenty bunched up around him. The second and third years he stood in the stocking, with it easily reaching somewear around his middle. Since then, the stocking seems to be rapidly shrinking.

This was the eleventh year after that first time in the stocking. He is still able to get two feet in it. I'm not sure how much longer that will last. But Seth and I have agreed that we'll keep taking his picture in the stocking every year.

Family Membership

Today the boys had a snow day, due to the couple inches of very wet snow that fell between yesterday afternoon and this morning. It's the most snow that has been on the ground in Shanghai in fourteen years, and with no snow removal equipment, the city was in a tizzy trying to clear snow with garden shovels and brooms. With this unplanned day off, we decided to gather some friends and go to the aquarium. It is a beautiful aquarium here in Pudong, just a few minutes from our house.

The girls and I first visited the aquarium early last fall, and I remembered from that visit that it was a bit pricey. I decided I would buy a membership today if they were available. I have found museum memberships to be a terrific deal in the past, usually they are more than paid for after only two visits. I've loved the freedom of feeling like we can go for an hour if we want to, not needing to stay and "get our money's worth" like I would if I had just paid for the day. I asked about it at the ticket window outside the aquarium. It took a minute for the clerk to understand (I think she was phased by the fact that I had told her I was there with seven children, whom I had sent inside to wait for me) my question, and she had to consult with another clerk, who also had a limited understanding of English. She asked how many children I had- she couldn't imagine that the seven I had brought with me were all mine. When I told her I had four children, she told me what the aquarium membership covered.

Want to guess how many admissions a family membership to the Shanghai Aquarium covers? Unlimited admission for one year for.... two adults and one child, of course. After all, that's what Chinese families are made of.

I paid for daily admission for one adult, seven children. Thank you very much.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Night Photo

I have tried multiple times to get a good photograph of the river and city view from our apartment at night. I finally took the time to read the section on night photography in the Nikon book that Mindy (Photo Dilettante, see my side bar for link) recommended to me, and I came up with this result. Not perfect, but much better than my previous attempts.

Girls and A Box

The girls had fun with the box that Gwen's new carseat came in. We attempted to solve some of her carseat issues with a new seat... there has been a marked improvement, but it is still low on her list of favorite places. At least she is super cute in the box, with her equally adorable sister on top!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Snow in Shanghai

I know it doesn't look like much, but this little dusting of snow we woke up to this morning caused quite a bit of excitement. It had snowed pretty big, wet flakes yesterday on and off, melting immediately when it hit the ground but tying up traffic all over the city. Shanghai just isn't used to big snowflakes. Occassionally tiny bits of snow might be spotted, but big, easily visible flakes are a rarity. So the fact that there was visible snow on surfaces today was big news. It was even mentioned from the pulpit at our service this afternoon. A friend at church told Scott that in his four years in Shanghai this was only the second time he had seen snow on the ground. In children's church, the director asked if this was the first time any of the children there had seen snow, and several raised their hands.

Obviously those kids are not from the Midwest. This little dusting of snow is what we would call springtime where I grew up!

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Gift For LuLu

Guess what, Alyssa, the next present is for you!

I wonder what it could be?
Hey, keep it over here in case you need my help!I know it's getting a little past the time for Christmas pictures... thanks for indulging me!


This afternoon at the Chinese grocery store outside our complex I saw the smiling girl working at the fish counter wack a large, wriggling fish over the head with a short board. The fish gave a final flop and then lay still on the floor, where she quickly picked it up, slipped it into a bag that was not quite large enough (the tail stuck out the top) and handed it to the waiting customer.

I can't be sure, but I think I saw a look of fear in the eyes of the snakes, crabs, soft shell turtles, large frogs, and other fish that were watching from their tanks.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rock Climbing

One of our Christmas vacation activities... just a little physical exertion to work off the holiday meals! Notice who is and isn't participating... I must give credit to both my sister and my sister-in-law, who do climb but whose pictures I did not include due to the angle they are taken from. :-)

Here's Caleb, between a rock and a hard place!

Alyssa marvels at the feats of strength she is witnessing!

Caleb and Uncle Shann race each other to the top.

Look at Uncle Mark go!

I think monkey girl Gwen would have attempted the big wall if we had let her!Conquering the inverted wall!

Uncle Mark and Seth study the wall.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Seen on the Street

Another interesting load on a bike cart... yesterday we saw a man with a full sized couch. It was not fastened on in any way, but merely balancing on the cart. I wonder how hard it is to pedal along with a sofa balanced behind you? Surely one must be careful when turning corners, that it doesn't tip off.

China Ghosts

Check out the post by this title on my friend Carol's blog, Chopsticks & Tabouli, link in the sidebar. She has written a wonderful, heartfelt post about orphans in China, from the perspective of a single, adoptive mom. Food for thought!

A few notes...

Single parents are no longer allowed to even apply to adopt from China... new regulations from the China Center for Adoption Affairs, as of last spring.

The picture on the post was taken on the day she and Scott and the two other dads in our adoption group went back to the girls' orphange, just a couple of days after we met our girls. Notice the little panda shoes... Gwen came to us wearing an identical pair.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Yesterday we had our first day of a homeschool co-op. I have been a part of a co-op before, but it was on a much larger scale where there were multiple classes going on at once and I pretty much just had to show up. This one that started yesterday is a gathering of of six families and we are meeting in one family's house. We will meet from 10-4 every Monday for twelve weeks. There are eleven students in the 8-12 year old range, and a smaller group of younger ones. I will be teaching for an hour each week about various great artists. Yesterday we studied Henri Matisse and did a project based on the type of works he created in the last twenty years of his life. The other classes include science, literature (where Tom Sawyer is being read aloud), 30 minutes of math drills and games, theater (where the students will work towards producing a short play consisting of several scenes from Tom Sawyer), and a PE class taught by some coaches that we've hired. The younger children had an art time, story time, lots of play time, and also PE with the coaches. We all had packed a lunch and ate together, and then the kids all went out to play for the rest of the lunch hour. Madelyn had really been looking forward to this first day, and I think she was really pleased! She even volunteered for and got the part of Becky in Tow Sawyer... a big deal for her as it has quite a few lines. Gwen did much better than I anticipated, even participating in the PE class. It was a positive day for us all.

I've struggled a little this year with home schooling, I think in part because being in China and living in an apartment has changed the way I've always done things. I've lacked some of the motivation for special projects and activities that I had done in the past. I've loved being able to focus my attention on the girls, with Caleb and Seth at school, but having only one student has changed the dynamic of schooling for us. So this co-op, this one that I was hesitant to participate in when the idea of it was first mentioned, is a real gift. It requires me to prepare a special art project... the very kind of thing that I was not making happen at home. It provides a group of new friends for the girls and for me, to meet with weekly. It provides a break time for me while others are teaching my girls, which I used to take a walk yesterday and also to read on my own and chat with other moms.

I'm not sure what will happen with schooling in our family next year... that is in the praying stage right now. But for now, this co-op is a real boost for all three of the girls at this house!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Home At Last

Today we went to the building next door to meet Jasmine, home from the Sichuan province just one day. Madelyn's friend's family has just adopted her. She is young, just seven months. She was sleeping when we arrived, but they were all to happy to get her up for us to see. She opened her eyes and silently looked into each face gathered around her crib. Molly, her new mama, asked if I wanted to hold her and of course I did! She snuggled right into my shoulder, such a soft little bundle.

As I relished holding this sweet little girl, we sat in the living room looking at pictures from their trip to get her. It was a trip so different from our adoption trip in many ways. One of the biggest differences is that her new family has lived in China for several years already. The culture is not new to them, and they are even pretty proficient at speaking Chinese. They didn't have to worry about time differences, or major packing, or whether or not the food would agree with them. In fact, their trip was only two nights away from home. Get Jasmine, finalize adoption papers the next day, come home. All the rest they can do later because China is their home for now. They had many, many photos from Jasmine's orphanage, a bright, clean, place with far more resources than Gwen's had. They had been allowed to linger there for several hours, meeting other babies and children and looking all around the place.

But no matter how it happens, the excitement of finally meeting this person you've longed for and dreamed of for so long is the same. I could see it in their eyes, especially Jasmine's bright, silent ones when she returned her new mama's smile. Here I am, Mama. Home at last.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

More EC

I can't resist posting another series of photos of EmmaClare. Her expressive face and beautiful eyes made her so fun to watch and photograph. The night these pictures were taken she was putting on quite a little show for us!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Uncle Justin

Lest Uncle Justin feel slighted by the lovely pictures I posted of Uncle Shann, what do you know, I also found some lovely photos of him! Once again, one of my sons must have been having fun with the camera and Justin's faces... behold! Gotta love those uncle faces!

Chinese Country

Occassionally Mr. Wu will play a cd in the car. There is one song that the girls love, with a rolicking country and western sounding melody. Of course the lyrics are all in Chinese, so we can't understand them, but the music is fun. I've asked Mr. Wu what they're saying, but either he doesn't understand my question or he doesn't understand the words of the song either. He showed me on his electronic translater the word "cowboy", which made me laugh. Yes, it is cowboy music. Then he put a second word into the translater, and in English it was "busyness." I laughed again! I guess China's country music is cowboy busyness! That's certainly how it sounds.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cousins' Bath

In mid-December when Caden was talking to my sister about our upcoming visit together at Christmas, he said, "When we are at Grandma's, I will take a bath with my Gwendolyn." They did, and it was a splashing good time!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Christmas Fashion

Matching Christmas dresses for Madelyn and Nellie, created by Grandma!

A Cold View

It seems that the type of cold winter weather that our family is used to has finally set in here in Shanghai, bringing with it beautifully clear skies. Last week it was balmy and so very foggy that we were literally living in a cloud. We could not see the ground at all when we looked out our windows in the morning, let alone any of the view! Our windows were a blank, white wall. But tonight the view is amazing~ the river, the boats, the Pearl Tower, and thousands upon thousands of apartment windows lit up, stretching away into the distance, as far as the eye can see.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Seen On the Street

We've lived in China for six months now. A lot of the sights on the street that were shocking or at least amusing at first are commonplace now. But yesterday we saw something we hadn't ever seen... too bad for you, Reader, that I have no photo to show you. It was a bicycle cart pulling a very large load... that in itself is very common. But the cargo being pulled, that's what was different. It was pigs. Not live pigs. Not whole pigs. It was beheaded pigs. Beheaded, but with every other external body part intact. Legs and hooves, even tails. They appeared to be frozen solid. They were stacked four or five high on the cart, with the cart's owner peddaling along like carrying a load of beheaded, frozen pigs is a normal occurance in a very modern city such as Shanghai.

And I suppose in Shanghai, where old and new coexist everywhere, it is.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

With Dad By the Water

These two pictures were taken almost exactly two years apart. One of them was taken just days after Gwen joined our family, by the Pearl River in Guangzhou. The other was taken last month by West Lake in Hangzhou. I'm sure you can guess which is which! I thought of the Pearl River picture right away when I saw the West Lake photo. I've only just now caught up to the adoption trip photos and gotten them loaded onto my laptop so that I could actually compare them.

Friday, January 11, 2008

January 10, 2000.... Eight Years Later

Happy 8th Birthday to our Millinium Baby Girl! We had a fun lunch party yesterday with some homeschool friends of Madelyn's and their moms and siblings. Finger foods for lunch and cupcakes to frost and decorate with lots of little candies, and plenty of time to play!
Happy birthday, happy birthday,
We love you.
Happy birthday, and may all your dreams come true.
When you blow out the candles,
One light stays aglow.
It's the love light in your eyes,
Where e're you go.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Uncle Shann

I did not take these pictures of my brother-in-law, but found them when I loaded photos onto the computer. I'm sure he was fooling around for Caleb or Seth. I'm also sure he'll be pleased to see that I've posted them!

Field Trip

I received an email today from one of Caleb's teachers. It was a group email, sent to all 8th grade parents to inform us about an upcoming field trip.

When I think field trip, I generally have images of zoos and museums, maybe a factory tour. Those places make great field trips.

The 8th grade isn't going to one of those places. Rather, because they are studying World War II and happen to live in China, they will be taking the bullet train to Nanjing, where they will explore the Nanjing Massacre Memorial and participate in activities at the site.

I think this is really cool.

I don't know much about the Nanjing Massacre. I do know it was a horrific part of Chinese history, where hundreds of thousands of Chinese people died at the hands of the Japanese. It's not something we Westerners focus on in our very European centered study of World War II.

I'm glad that in a few weeks Caleb will go to Nanjing with his classmates, and hopefully while they're there, that bit of history will come alive for the Concordia eighth graders.

The Miracle of Flight

Monday, January 07, 2008


It was such fun to see how this sweet niece's personality has developed since we last saw her six months ago!

Techincal Difficulties and Other Thoughts

Is anyone else having trouble posting pictures to blogger the last couple of days? They seem to duplicate themselves miraculously, causing each picture to appear a dozen times in each post... weird. It's probably one of those OIC things... you know, only in China.

Anyway, I am a little frustrated because I have photos from Chistmas to post. I hope to post them eventually!

In other news, I am just now enjoying some Christmas cards! Before we left for our trip to the US, we had only received a couple of cards. Scott went into the office last Friday, the day after we got back to Shanghai, and he came home with our weekly packet of mail from the States. I was so excited to find a nice group of Christmas cards and photos among the usual mail. Just yesterday I hung the photos up in our kitchen doorway... I'm enjoying your smiling faces a little late, but they are all the sweeter for the wait! I'm hoping for a few more cards in next week's mail!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Seth's 11th Birthday

One of the benefits for Seth of a Christmas birthday is that he gets to have a party with our extended family, not something the rest of us get to do often. This year we had everyone over at my parents' for a taco buffet dinner. Because of a craving for wedding cake he had a couple of months ago he decided on a white cake with white frosting for his birthday. Watch out, Seth, or Maggi and Frank might eat that cake up! Frank was a birthday gift full of personality right out of the box.
Seth was so cool opening gifts in front of a roomful of people. He took his time with each gift, carefully removing each thing from the box and fully enjoying it before moving to the next gift. We remembered a birthday many years ago, I think when he was turning three, that each gift he opened he would say, "It's just what I always wanted!"

Happy Birthday, Christmas boy... you will always be my favorite Christmas gift!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Long Ago, But Not So Far Away

One of my New Year's resolutions, if there is such a thing, is to walk more. I really love to walk, and although city walking might not be my first choice, it's still exercise and there is definitely lots to see. Tonight I went for a great brisk walk, inspired by the music I was listening to on my iPod. The first song was "Grave Robber", by Petra. I know, I know, I am dating myself. But I loved Petra in high school, and I still love it now.

As I started out on my walk with "Grave Robber" in my ears, I remembered a wonderful summer evening. I think it was the night of the last day of school before summer vacation started. I was with friends at Blossom, an outdoor amphitheater in Cleveland, for a Petra concert. We sang along with every song, dancing on the lawn under the stars, giddy with the music and the new freedom of summer.

Wow... what a lifetime ago that was. But it all came back tonight, as I walked the streets of Shanghai.

Grave Robber, words and music by Bob Hartman

There's a step that we all take alone
An appointment we have with the great unknown
Like a vapor this life is just waiting to pass
Like the flowers that fade, like the withering grass
But life seems so long and death so complete
And the grave an impossible potion to cheat
But there's One who has been there and still lives to tell
There is One who has been through both heaven and hell
And the grave will come up empty-handed the day
Jesus will come and steal us away

Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite
When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night
Where is the victory, where is the prize
When the grave robber comes And death finally dies
Many still mourn and many still weep
For those that the love who have fallen asleep
But we have this hope though our hearts may still ache
Just one shout from above and they all will awake
And in the reunion of joy we will see
Death will be swallowed in sweet victory

When the last enemy is done from the dust will come a song
Those asleep will be awakened - not a one will be forsakened
He shall wipe away our tears - He will steal away our fears
There will be no sad tomorrow - there will be no pain and sorrow

Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite
When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night
Where is the victory, where is the prize
When the grave robber comes And death finally dies
Many still mourn and many still weep
For those that the love who have fallen asleep
But we have this hope though our hearts may still ache
Just one shout from above and they all will awake
And in the reunion of joy we will see
Death will be swallowed in sweet victory

P.S. Were you there with me, at the Petra concert? Let me know! :-)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

It's Home

I guess China is home, at least for now.

I had wondered how we would all feel about leaving our families and all that is familiar in the the Midwest. I am happy to say that after many hours of travel, we are so thankful to be back in Shanghai. Mr. Wu's smiling face at the airport was such a wonderful sight, as was his assistance with the 500 pounds of luggage that we checked. All the Asian faces and signs in Chinese characters even felt familiar and welcome. Getting into our apartment after so many hours of economy seating on the airplane felt so good... it was definitely a home coming. The girls were thrilled to be with their kitties again. We have massive unpacking to do, and definite jet lag challenges ahead. I have lots of pictures from our Christmas visit to post. All that will come. Sadness from leaving those we've loved all our lives many miles behind us will come too, I think.

But for now we're home again, and ready to sleep in our own beds.