Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Great fun was had by all on the water slide at the pool... Scott and I even went down a few times, although thankfully there are no pictures to prove it!

Beach Weekend

We enjoyed a few days at Yalong Bay in Sanya, on Hainan Island in southern China this past weekend. The island is known as the "Chinese Hawaii". I've never been to Hawaii, but if it's anything like Sanya, it must be nice. :-) Anywhere there is sand, sun, surf and a pool can't be all bad! The beautiful, lush vegetation was a wonderful bonus, as we are a little short on vegetation in downtown Shanghai.
See the little plastic boat Gwen is holding in the picture below? We bought it in the hotel gift shop with a few plastic sand toys in it for the girls to use on the beach. For some reason, the girls named the boat after their friend Kylia in Chicago! It cracked us up all weekend to hear them refer to this boat as "Kylia", but by the time we left we were all saying it!

Is something missing, Caleb?!

Gwen surveys the surf from her spot in the sand.
Scott and Seth play a little beach volleyball.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008



One is on the couch with a fever, needing Tylenol and comfort.

One is needing a little extra prodding and discipline to actually remain in quietly in bed rather than calling for Mommy fifteen times with various requests.

One is seeming a little unsettled, needing extra snuggles and reassurance and back rubbing.

One wants to me to come sit with him to watch one more of his recently filmed skate videos.

You can probably peg each of my children from these descriptions of their bedtime needs tonight. How about yourself? Can you identify with the continual process of dying to your own needs in order to meet the needs of others? All I wanted to do was look at my pictures from our weekend at the beach... it took such a long time tonight to get to the point where I could. I know the day is coming where I'll be mourning the empty nest.

Or will I be basking in it?!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Some people can fall asleep in any postion... seems like people who have broken their clavicle falling out of bed should be a little more careful, though!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tom Sawyer

Last Saturday our home school co-op put on a little production of "Tom Sawyer". It was just a couple of simplified scenes, but the kids had worked on all aspects of producing a theater production to do it, so it was a great experience. Madelyn had the role of Becky Thatcher, Tom's friend. Here she has just finished telling Tom that his Aunt Polly was looking for him and he'd better get home, even though Huck is encouraging Tom to come fish with him.

All the scenery was painted by the kids, with a little adult help. Here Becky and Tom search in the cave for the treasure that they had overheard thieves discussing. Note the flying bat! The thieves are captured!
The whole cast, which was made up of all the eleven older kids in the co-op, along with Miss Kathy, the mom who hosted the co-op in her home and also directed the production of Tom Sawyer.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Park Day Pictures

These are the accompanying photos to my "Park Days" post. The rock jumping activity got the boys into enjoying the park. Both of these jumps are pretty spectacular, I think!
Gwen on the rocks where we ate our lunch... and where the shoes first fell in!

The crew (or is it Krew, as Caleb's shirt says?). Seth joins in the crowd watching a round of cards. It's not a Chinese park unless there's a group of men playing cards!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Park Days

Hanging out at a park on a beautiful day... climbing on rocks, spotting tiny turtles sunning themselves, fishing for leaves in the pond with a stick, playing frisbee in the grass, walking under towering coniferous trees on a carpet of pine needles, marveling over the colors of azeleas and the scent of wisteria, clambering up the slide and then sliding down again on your belly, swinging really high, relaxing under a tree with a good book to read aloud, picnicking in the shade, hunting for jack-in-the-pulpits and tiny striped spring beauties growing among dry oak leaves in the spring, and walking through the golden forest of yellow maples in the fall.

All these things combine to make what is for me a perfect way to spend an afternoon with my children. I have loved this sort of outing with them pretty much above all others. The problem is, spending the afternoon with Mom at the park is no longer top of the list for some of my crew. Those days that at one time seemed as endless as the sands of the sea and as numerous as the stars... well, the clock is ticking on them.

And really, I don't want to drag them kicking and screaming. Not that they would really kick and scream, you understand. But I want them to want to just hang out at the park all afternoon, like we did in the old days, when a little fish net and a bucket at a creek with minnows and crayfish was all we needed to keep two little boys happy.

Yesterday I requested that the boys give me the day. They had both Thursday and Friday off school this week for conferences, and they had spent Wednesday night sleeping over at their friends' house, and then spent all of Thursday with a group of friends. So it wasn't an unreasonable request, for them to come to check out a new park with the girls and I on Friday for a few hours. Just us, no extra kids. Sometimes I want to just be with my own children... not too much to ask, I don't think.

It was an amazingly beautiful day. We found the park. It was in the middle of the city, an oasis in the concrete jungle. It was small, but packed full of places to explore. I fell in love with it immediately. It had all the necessary elements... the pond, the rocks, the trees, the sunshine, the benches in the shade, pine needles, wisteria, a small playground, paths through tall trees, even a little turtle sunning himself on a rock in the middle of the pond. We had a lunch, books, a Frisbee... we had it all.

And the boys rose to the occasion. They were underwhelmed by the park at first, but then they saw the possibilities in the rocks around the pond. They could jump from rock to rock. Rocks that were far apart. Rocks that were dangerously far apart. Suddenly the park was a sort of okay place to be, even if there weren't any friends with us. We all climbed around the rocks for a while, ending up at the far end of the pond. Caleb asked for a drink, which I produced from my backpack. Then I suggested that maybe we eat our lunch right here on these rocks. "You brought lunch?" he asked, surprised. "Of course I did," I answered.

Don't you remember, little boy? Mom brings lunch when we go play at parks. Remember that little park with your favorite creek, way back when we lived in Ohio? Remember how we'd lunch on graham crackers and peanut butter at that park? Just something quick to eat before you had to hurry back to the water and find that elusive crawdad who hung out under the rocks.

So we ate lunch on the big rocks by the pond, and somehow during lunch one of Gwen's shoes fell in the water. It was so much fun to fish it out that it ended up in the water several more times, and then both the shoes were in and being rescued. Caleb and Seth played catch with her shoes across the pond... whoops, one is in the water again! Who will fish it out this time?

After the lunch and the shoes in the water, we walked through the trees on a raised wooden walkway, watched one of the ever-present card games found in Chinese parks, played Frisbee a little, slid down the slide, climbed on the rocks a little more, took a few pictures, smelled the wisteria, bought some Gatorade. The boys shot around a little on the basketball court, and then we were ready to go. I would have settled down under a tree with a book to read aloud, but it had been enough. I didn't want to press my luck, and anyway, it was a bit of a drive to get home and we had places to be later in the day.

I remember a time when I was in my early teens when my mom took us all to a park for lunch, one day in the summer. I remember that going to that park that day was not high on my list. We were all a little too old to really enjoy the playground equipment, but I know there was a picture taken of my sister and I at the top of the slide. I think we walked on the path in the woods there a little that day after our lunch. Even though I didn't really want to be there, I could sense that my mom really wanted it to be a fun day for us all. Now I know why. That park was just down the street from the house we had moved away from the summer I was four years old. So it was a place my mom probably remembered with fondness, a place she took her toddlers to. Back in the time when the park days were for her as endless as the sands of the sea and as numerous as the stars.

I get it now, Mom. I hope I wasn't sullen and bored that day. I hope I rose to the occasion. I hope I gave you that day.

I thanked Caleb yesterday, for coming to the park and having fun. I told him how important it was to me. Someday I think he will understand why.


At Starbucks in Shanghai, you too can have a barbequed pork scone with your latte.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Gwen's creative plea for me to purchase her one of the suckers displayed at the check-out counter at the store the other day...

"But Mom, they only cost $400 bucks".

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bird's Nest in Beijing

While we were in Beijing with Mark and Mindy, we drove by the Olympic stadium, nicknamed the Bird's Nest. Our guide stopped by the side of the road so we could get out and take some pictures. Our guide told us that the original plans for the stadium called for it to be a dome, with a roof. But as the construction expenses began adding up, they decided to make it an open air stadium to cut the costs a little.
This funny looking building, which I'm guessing is designed to mimic the Olympic torch, is just opposite the Bird's Nest. Maybe we'll see it on TV during the Olympic coverage.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

She Can Do It!

Gwen has been patiently waiting for the day when we would get out Madelyn's old bike for her to ride. I imagined that we would put the training wheels on for a while, but given her track record of amazing large motor skills, coordination, and balance, Scott thought we should just let her try to ride right away. Today was the day, and she was amazing! By the time I got in the elevator behind Scott and Gwen and got outside with my camera, she was already off and riding!

Scott taught the other three kids to ride on the baseball fields near our house, and liked that method because it's a softer fall than concrete. The field outside our apartment has very short grass, so it worked well for Gwen today.

There is a slight grade to the lawn, so big sister helped by running the bike up for Gwen to ride down.

She's pretty pleased!

After a while on the grass, she was anxious to try on the concrete. She had no trouble, and was happy to have all of us there to watch her.

Success... how sweet it is!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Important Question

I knew it was coming. The question had arisen on several other occassions, and I had let it pass because there were too many other people around.

Last week when Gwen and I were discussing some past event, the question came again. This time the situation was right to answer it.

"Where was I then, Mom, in your belly?"

"You weren't in my belly, Gwenny. You were in a Chinese mommy's belly."

"What's her name?"

"I don't know her name. But God does."

"Where is she?"

"I don't know. God's plan was for you to be born to a Chinese mommy, but to be in our family, so Daddy and I came to China to adopt you. Remember?"

It seemed like enough. The moment passed, our car ride ended and we had to get out. She hasn't asked anymore about it since then. I am working slowly on putting together a book for her that will help to explain some of her life story. It's not easy to explain. There are parts that may be sad for Gwen, as she comes to understand them. I pray that God will give us the words to express the story in the way she needs to hear it.


Gwen is definitely in the questioning stage. I have a very hard time answering all her "Why?" queries. Frankly, they exhaust me. I usually try to answer the first few of a series, but as the "whys" continue, I tend to start just answering "I don't know".

This morning she was on a "Why?" rampage. I answered a few, and then I said, "I don't know all the whys." She was right back at me with this question, "But what are you going to do with all the whys?"

I don't know what to do with them. I am hoping that some of them will come clear on their own.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Strawberry Farm

This afternoon the girls and I visited an organic strawberry farm with some homeschool friends. We were happy to find all the plants were in greenhouse tents since it was a pretty rainy day. The strawberries are a different variety than I've seen before, called Zhang Ji in Chinese, and referred to as "milk strawberries". The biggest ones were elongated rather than plump and round. They are juicy, but not quite as sweet as the strawberries we are used to in the US. They were easy to pick, being in raised rows, and the berries hung down below the plants, so they were easy to see. We quickly picked a large pan full, at least ten pounds... and as I write this tonight, a full third of those have been eaten up!
Madelyn loved this little tiny berry she found!

As is to be expected, Gwen ate most of what she picked. I think she had three berries in her basket when we were ready to go.

Be Careful Taking Off Your Socks...

... or you just might rupture the tendon in your finger. Caleb did this over the weekend. Yes, he severely ruptured the tendon in the middle finger of his left hand, taking off a sock. This, after a full day of skateboarding and baseball, activities where it would seem injury is lurking at every turn. He was removing his baseball sock at the end of the afternoon, and something went wrong. He ended up with the middle finger bent at the last knuckle at a 45 degree angle, and was unable to straighten it. End of story, the finger must remain in a splint for six weeks in order for the tendon to heal and hopefully avoid surgery. The middle school basketball season started today... baseball has several more Saturdays to go... and although skateboarding doesn't use the hands directly, it is fraught with opportunities to bump a healing ruptured tendon. Where does this leave a thirteen year old boy?

Being taught patience, I suppose. That's what I'm praying for, anyway.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Chinese "Hacky Sack" at the Temple of Heaven

We call these things Chinese hacky sacks... not sure what they are really called, but they are used much the same way as a hacky sack. They are a small bundle of colored feathes standing upright in a stack of metal rings, with a flexible plastic base. The rings sort of clink together when the toy is kicked and when it lands. We first discovered them on our adoption trip and brought a couple home for the kids to try. They were being sold in the Temple of Heaven park last week very inexpensively, like two for 5 RMB, which is about 65 cents. The kids bought them and had fun with them throughout the day. Here they are playing at the Circular Alter area. Somehow it didn't seem irreverent since they were a Chinese toy, and sold inside the temple park. Our guide, John, couldn't resist putting on a little show for the kids, demonstrating his superior skill with this little bunch of feathers and rings!