Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Antique" Street

One day last week I took the three older kids to this pedestrian street on the Puxi side of Shanghai. Mark and Mindy and I had gone together last spring when they were visiting, but the kids had never been. I'm not sure how much of these vendors' wares are true antiques, but it's a fun place to poke around and hone your bargaining skills! Caleb, Seth and Madelyn jumped right in and wouldn't take no for an answer to their price. They actually didn't buy much, but decided they might like to come back here to Christmas shop. Watch out, grandparents!

Notice how people gather to watch the Western kids.
I love this shot of Seth, in full bargaining mode!

Friday, August 29, 2008

End of the First Week

I installed this little clothesline in Gwen's room to display her school projects and papers.

Gwen finished her first week of school today. She said to me a couple of mornings this week that it was a "long time" until I came to pick her up at the end of the day. This tore at my heart strings, because I also feel like 9-3 is a long time for a first school experience. I plan to pick her up early here and there, but felt it was important for her to get the first week under her belt first.

By today her slight hesitation of the last couple days had escalated to full blown tears when we arrived at the school room door. The teacher first sent one of Gwen's friends over to encourage her to come in, to no avail. I reassured and reassured, but finally Laoshi Sharon, the head teacher, who is lovely, came over and got her from me. Gwen went to her and I was able to walk away, but not without second guessing myself for having her in school at all.

After school I met her for the two of us to ride the "bus" (van) home together. She could start taking this van both to and from school next week. She had been so excited to do this, especially because two of her friends from our neighborhood who are in her class ride it also. All the children were seated and buckled in first, then the moms who were there were given a place to sit. I wasn't right next to Gwen, and although she was between her two friends, my distance (I was right in front of her) seemed to set her off. Suddenly the seatbelt was all wrong, she wanted to be on my lap, etc. Quickly her behavior turned into a tantrum, complete with screaming and kicking the seat in front of her. I tried in vain to talk softly and hold her hand to settle her for the 6 minute ride home. By the time we walked in our door, she was inconsolable and I was thoroughly embarassed. We dealt with the whole scene in the privacy of her bedroom, she perked up, had a snack, and all was well.

After dinner tonight she pretended to be Laoshi Sharon. She motioned for Madelyn and I to sit crosslegged, with our hands on our knees, while she opened a book to read to us. She held it up to show us the pictures, and began "reading" in complete nonsense words. I guess that's how storytime in Chinese sounds to her so far! However, she has been able to sing some Chinese songs this week, and repeat phrases in Chinese that Seth understood and she seemed to know the general meaning of.

Tonight at bedtime she was thanking Jesus for her school, and asking when she could go again. Sigh. It seems that school may be an emotional rollercoaster for both of us, at least for a little while!

Lunch is Over

Look carefully... someone ate a whole fish for lunch... and his eye is still peering out of his intact head! We came across this scene at what is called a "bird and flower market", kind of an old Shanghai scene, with many types of pets for sale along with some house plants. More photos coming.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Making Music

Seth and & Will Stevenson compose a song together.
Durham, NC, July 2008.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Can't believe you're two now, EC. We all love you so much!

Gwen's 1st Day

"Welcome Everyone!"
This sign is on the door of her classroom. I didn't read it myself, in case you wondered. :-)
This backpack, which she picked out Friday after preschool orientation, was a really big deal to Gwen. Her first backpack... somehow it made everything official. We had several items to take to school the first day- toothbrush and toothpaste, change of clothes, inside shoes to keep at school, and an updated info sheet for the office. Gwen checked and rechecked her backpack over the weekend to make sure everything was in its place. I arrived a few minutes early at pick-up time so I could take some pictures. (I brought my camera this morning, but didn't have the memory card in it, so I couldn't take any pictures.) I found the class at circle time... I couldn't understand a thing as the whole day is conducted in Mandarin, but Gwen seemed to be following Laoshi (teacher) Sharon.

Sharon told me after class that Gwen had done really well, for her first time in school. There were no tears to start the day, which was a good sign, but I did hold my breath every time my phone rang, wondering if they would be saying she was falling apart. I was so thankful for the good report!

Notice the all the Chinese characters on the wall. Gwen's classroom!
One of her favorite activities at orientation last week was manning this little store.
I wondered what Gwen's reaction to hearing Mandarin all day would be... I expected her to tell me that she couldn't understand anything, or something along those lines. She said nothing of the sort. She produced a page from her backpack that she had done at school- it was a character that they had traced and learned today... she matter of factly named the character (I don't remember how to say it, but the picture was of a sunshine). Later today she repeated some Chinese words to me and just said, "Chinese people say this." I'm sure it will take quite a while for full understanding to come, but I expect she will learn much more quickly than I would!

She was exhausted tonight and was asleep within moments of me leaving her room. Praying for another good day tomorrow!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rooting for Brazil!

Here are some pics from the Friday night, when Scott and the these three went to an Olympic soccer match, the bronze medal game between Brazil and Belgium. They wore the colors for Brazil!

The kids were so excited that they had been on the jumbo-tron four times!
Caleb, Madelyn and Seth with their Brazilian friends.
Final score!
Olympic ticket stubs... great soveniers!

Photo Dilettante- Year Two

If you haven't been to this site in a while, go check it out by clicking here. The new pictures are stunning!

Friday, August 22, 2008


Caleb, Seth, and Madelyn just left to meet Scott after work. The four of them are going to the bronze metal soccer match tonight! A lot (maybe all?) of the Olympic soccer is being held in Shanghai. The kids are rooting for Brazil, as Caleb and Seth have good friends from school who are Brazilian. Gwen and I, well, we're going to the pool for a while. :-)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Passage of Time and Place

The other night I was thinking of other places we've lived, and I started feeling nostalgic for the locations of the past. I even got tearful, thinking of what I had then that I don't have now. Never a good idea, to start down that road.

I was thinking of the amazingly thick, lush lawn we had in Medina. The greenest lawn on the block, because Scott always watered. I thought of times when we played in the back yard on that green lawn, little boys in diapers running through the sprinkler, while I picked tomatoes and beans from the garden and Scott mowed the lawn. I could almost smell those summer evenings... and I felt cheated that I don't have that setting anymore.

I thought also of fall afternoons in the woods, when the kids would have stayed until dark if it were up to them, so intent on their little adventures with sticks and other forest stuff. I remember lying on my back in the yellow leaves, looking up at the autumn sky. I thought of baby Madelyn, sitting contentedly in the leaves, crunching them in her fists. As I remembered, I felt sad that I don't have any woods to go hang out in for the afternoon, in Shanghai.

Do you see where this train of thought took me? Definitely to discontent.

The next day, as I relived my sad thoughts from the night before, I had a revelation. The times and places I was missing were nothing more than double page spreads in my photo album. They were little moments in time when my kids were little, and real everyday life wasn't nearly as idyllic as my daydreams of the previous day recollected. They looked so good in the photos... and they were good. But they had their own frustrations, I'm sure of it. All I remember now are what's captured between the pages of my album... and that's not what reality was. Those photos show it all in the best light... preschoolers tattling isn't pictured, nor is the frustration of having to mow the lawn at the end of a long day, nor the child whining all the way home from the woods.

I'm in a different place now, literally. My kids are older. I've written here before about the "hang out in the woods with mom" thing... that time is fleeting, and even gone for several of my brood. We're doing new things in a new place.

In some ways, I'd give anything to go back to my green backyard in Medina, or my perennial garden beside the garage in Aurora. But they wouldn't be the same places anymore, even if I did. Life has moved on.

Good thing I've got those photos... moments in time captured on a double page spread. At least I can pull the albums off the shelf and remember. The times and the places, in the most positive light.

And then move on to reality, today.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I just got a call this morning that a space has opened up in a Mandarin immersion preschool that I had put Gwen on the waiting list for late last spring. There is a parent and child orientation this Friday morning, and school starts Monday.


None of my other children have attended preschool. I love preschool, in fact I directed and taught a church preschool program for the year before Caleb was born. I still have my lesson plan book from that year, tucked safely away in my files. But I didn't send Caleb, or Seth, or Madelyn. We were busy at home, learning together, and that seemed good.

Then there is Gwen. She is a full four years plus younger than Madelyn, which has made homeschooling Madelyn a challenge. I know so many people successfully homeschool a myriad of ages of children at the same time, while also keeping several toddlers busy. But I struggled with this last year. The girls had lots of fun together when we weren't schooling, but when we were, I felt like I didn't do a good job of being a kind and happy mommy and providing a good learning environment. I was frustrated often.

So I considered preschool for Gwen for this year. Madelyn and I need to buckle down and work hard on some things together this year, and I thought that maybe Gwen would do well in a different environment with lots of activities to keep her busy self engaged. Add in the immersion Mandarin... well, it may be frustrating at first, but what an opportunity for her.

But now that she's in, I'm second guessing myself. It is a lot of hours away from home. I've never done this with a preschooler before. Will it be too much for her? Will she and Madelyn miss their time together? Am I doing what's easy over what is best? I didn't expect this call so soon. I thought I had more time to consider it and prepare us all mentally.

Lord, calm my anxious heart.

Youth's Opinion

Comment from a certain son in church~

"This slow music hurts my ears."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tang-hu-lu on the Bund

These pictures were taken early in June when had a little adventure at the Bund with our dear friends the Hillmers. We all tried these yummy traditional Chinese treats while we were there. Mr. Wu told us later when I showed him the pictures that they are called tang-hu-lus. He said the fruit, which is coated in a thin candy shell, is a hawthorn. I thought hawthorn was a type of small apple, but these little fruits tasted like a plum.

Andrea gets instruction from a local woman on how to eat her tang-hu-lu. Caleb and Matt in back, Madelyn, Gwen, Andrea, Maribel, Seth.

The Pudong side of the Bund, with the Pearl Tower visible, is in the background. Our old apartment complex, Shimao, was just out of this picture, to the right.

Nice view of inside of your mouth, Caleb!
Me and my sweet friend, Maribel. I miss you!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Psalm 48:14

"For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


This morning Mr. Wu showed me some beautiful peaches he had gotten from a sidewalk vendor at the Chinese market. They were perfectly ripe, and large. Later in the day I asked him to take me to the market so I could get some. He described to me on the way there how this was just the right time of year for these Shanghai peaches. Too early, no good. Later, no good.

We pulled to the side of the road by the area where the peach vendors were. I got ready to get out of the car, but Mr. Wu stopped me. "You talk, maybe no good," he said. Now I may not speak much Chinese, but I know enough to bargain. However, it is fairly well known that Chinese people give their own a better price than they would give a foreigner.

Even on peaches, I guess. Mr. Wu brought me back two bags of peaches, about 14-15 total. I think he paid 21 RMB, around $3 USD. Such a deal. Good thing I didn't talk.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Not the first thing I would choose for my boys, but when Scott was approached in Carrefour a week or so ago by a women asking if the boys would be interested in modeling, the boys were excited because they heard $$$. Of course in this case, it's RMB, not USD. :-)

Seth had his first chance on Monday. He and our friend Lucas both modeled a large box of sweaters for the photography crew that came to our house. (Sneak peek of my living room curtains in these photos.) I was pleased to have their first opportunity be in our own home, and the woman in charge paid me a little for the use of our place! Caleb and Lucas's brother Lance really enjoyed watching their brothers get made up. The crew spent about 30 minutes fixing Seth and Lucas's hair and applying make-up. They even got their eyelashes curled!
The photographer took about 20 or so pictures of the boys in each sweater, then called out, "Change!" The crew quickly brought another sweater, the boys would change, and then the hair readjusting, fluffing, and spraying had to happen each time before the next round of pictures began.

The photographers let me take as many pictures as I wanted, as long as I didn't use a flash. This one is my favorite... how about that hair?!
The photographers knew minimal English, but I heard "Cool Boy!" a lot, apparently when they wanted a non-smiling look.
On location... at the Liptak house!

We don't know if the kids will have more chances to do this or not, but if nothing else, it's a funny China memory.

Then and Now Birthday

I was very nervous about Caleb's 4th birthday party. It was the first child's party I had planned, aside from gatherings for grandparents or church friends. This was a real birthday party, with themed invitations and everything. I cleaned the house from top to bottom. I went to several stores trying to find decorator's food coloring to make frosting for the firetruck cake really red, not just dark pink. Because it was a firefighter party, we arranged a tour of the fire station as part of the party. We had lengths of real hose for each party goer. We had red drinks to match the red frosting on the cake. I'm sure there were many other details that have escaped me in the ensuing ten years, but I know that in my mind that party was a Big Deal.

Today is Caleb's 14th birthday. Saturday he called some friends to arrange an outing to go go-carting. Scott took the six kids that went, I made dinner for the group after. Today, the actual day of his birthday, Caleb had a few friends over for lunch after their Mandarin class together. I made box macaroni and cheese, sliced some watermelon and cut up some vegges, and poured chips in a bowl. The kids sat around the dining room table together and talked and laughed.

I sat in the kitchen and compared the birthday party ten years ago with our celebration this year. I guess I've grown up a little myself.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Saturday Notes

Yesterday while Madelyn was entertaining friends in the baby pool in the yard, Mr. Wu put a couple of large, live prawns in the water. Funny, very funny. Fortunately the girls thought so!

I am getting used to the museum look of the draperies in our house. Either I no longer retain my sense of style, or they're not as bad as I thought at first. Pictures are coming soon for you to judge for yourself.

So very happy for China about the awesome opening ceremony last night. Amazing. Bonus to be watching live from the home country... no commercials in the entire broadcast.

On Friday the boys finished their first week of a 3 hours a day, five days a week, three week long Mandarin course. They admitted on Friday that it's been kind of fun. It helps to be doing it with friends. :-)

There have been several gorgeously clear, blue sky days this past week, and even some nights when we could see stars! Maybe the environmental clean-up for the Olympics reached all the way to Shanghai.

My Denial

No, he's not. He can't be. Fourteen sounds really old.

You're not fourteen, are you? No. Not until Monday. I still have a few more days with my little boy before he grows up.

Yeah right, Mom. :-)


Sarah and I had some pictures taken of our kids for my parents when we were together this summer. Here is one of my favorites, of Caden and Gwen.
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Friday, August 08, 2008

Bejing 2008

The Papa John's is here, the TV is tuned in, and the opening of the 2008 Olympics begins in 15 minutes... the world will be watching China for the next few weeks. It's a coming out of sorts, for China. May it be all that everyone is hoping for.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Guys At The Beach

Beach 2008

Three generations, Oak Island, NC.

Monday, August 04, 2008

China Sisters

On the last leg of our US trip, we visited friends in Chicago. Our dear friends from Gwen's adoption trip made a two and a half hour drive, each way, to spend some time with us there. Gwen and Kate hadn't seen each other for more than a year, but within minutes were acting like sisters. We've told the girls that the four of them who came from Yibin social welfare institute and were adopted at the same time, are "China sisters." We really want to keep this connection for them alive as they grow. It was such a treat to watch the girls interact, and to chat with Jen, Kate's mom.
We met at a park, where our Year of the Monkey girls were in their element! Kate and Gwen LOVED this part of the playground! After every turn of this wheel, they would jump down and beg to go again! Jen, Kate's mom, is pushing them around in this picture.

Monkey girls have to get as high as possible...
Sweet Kate!

We made a sign to let Kimberly know we wished she could have joined us... her momma really tried to make it happen, but it is tricky to travel from Florida to Illinois for just an afternoon. We missed you both, Carol and Kimberly!

The Monkey girls were busy with their antics up to the last few minutes before we got into our cars to part ways. The girls were pretty sad to leave each other. I lifted both Kate and Gwen up for a three-way hug with me while Jen got Kate's little brother into the car. Gwen wriggled away after a minute or two, but Kate put her head on my shoulder and gave me a good cuddle. I had a few cuddles like that from her back in December 2005, when we all first met our girls. It took me back to the hotel in Chengdu, Sichuan province, to have that sweet cuddle from Kate again! Thanks, darling girl. What a treat to see you thriving in your wonderful family. Thanks, Jen, for making the long drive. You are a real friend!