Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Caleb is Home

A few photos from Caleb's trip...

Caleb returned home from his interim trip yesterday afternoon, tired and full of stories. About an hour after he walked in, I went looking for him, wondering if he had fallen asleep in his room. I found him and Gwen stretched out on his bed, awake but resting quietly together, not talking. I asked Caleb if he was tired. He shrugged. Gwen said, "Mom, Caleb missed me and I missed him."

Of course. I'm sorry I interrupted. :-)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Yuyuan Garden

We are finally experiencing some weather that feels a little like fall. Yesterday was so pleasant, around 75 degrees, we thought we needed to do something outside to enjoy the day. We ended up at Yuyuan Garden, where we have been several times before. Scott and Seth hadn't been in the garden proper, however, so we did that and all enjoyed our stroll through this traditional Chinese garden, with all the little ponds, rockery, traditional Chinese buildings, and flowers. We talked about the next time we will visit this garden... when Brad and Sarah come in November! We have been discussing our plans for their visit here a lot... Yuyuan Garden is definitely on the list of activities. Hurry up, you two!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Caleb Again

Ah-ha! I just got a phone call from Caleb, from Gulangyu Island.

It's 10:15 at night, and he wanted to tell me that they were in the middle of a rainstorm, trying to camp with very wet gear. Of course there isn't a thing I can do about this from here, but I listened to his tale of woe, and then he said he had to go and I told him to have fun.

I am smiling. :-)

With Andrea

Here's a shot of Madelyn's room, at least one view of it. These photos make us a little sad, because Andrea (pronounced On-dray-uh) was still here in Shanghai with us when they were taken. We miss you, Friend!
And here is a more recent shot of the girls in Madelyn's room... last weekend when the bed turned into a fort of some kind!

Update from Caleb's Interim Trip

Scott texted Caleb last night, asking "How's it going?"

Caleb's reply, "Tiring."

Scott texted back, "Hope you're having fun."

He answered, "I am."

That's all we got. It's good for now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Don't you love the delicious looking little entree featured on the box my new baking dish came in? Large prawns, I believe. Somehow they didn't strike me the right way.

Loose Change Update

Two days ahead of schedule, Mr. Wu got a call yesterday morning that the coins he took to the bank for me last week had been counted and the cash was ready for pick up. 574 RMB it was. So glad to find that this sketchy process works.

My friend Lisa, who lives here in Shanghai in Puxi, on the other side of the river, commented that she has been able to get coin wrappers from her bank. So... I guess it's just the bank I use that is the problem!

Interim Trip

With only a backpack on his back, Caleb left this morning for a seven day trip. Along with two teachers and a group of twenty-some other high school students, he will be spending the next week on Gulangyu Island, off the coast from Xiamen, a city in the southeast of China across the bay from Tiawan. They will be participating in an Outward Bound adventure consisting of high and low ropes courses, GPS orienteering, river treking, and hiking, while cooking for themselves and camping at night. They will be doing a fair amount of journaling during the week, to be used both for personal reflection and also for presentations after the trip.

I can't wait to hear about it!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Small Change

We collect change in a jar. We've always done this. At some point when the jar is nearing the top, Scott and the kids will spill it out on the table or floor and sort it all, piling each denomination of coin into piles of ten to see how much is in there. I'm sure you've all done this. Isn't it surprising to see how much it amounts to?

Here in China we seem to accumulate change even faster than in the US. It may be because the largest coin, 1 RMB, is worth only a fraction of what a US quarter is worth. Or it may be because we're not that good at using our Chinese coins... it seems easier to just use paper currency to pay. In any case, we have accumulated several jars of coins since we've been here. So far we've used them for special fund raisers at school, or offerings at church.

But just recently we filled our coin jar, and I decided we would just have it changed into cash at the bank. Scott and Seth had counted it several weeks ago, and it was more than 500 RMB, which is a fair amount of money. Since then we have added more, and by mid-week last week the jar was literally overflowing. I brought the jar out to Mr. Wu in the car, intending to have him take it to the bank for me. My first chuckle came when he saw the jar and said, "Oooh, many money." Yes, yes it is many money. I explained the errand I wanted him to do, and he seemed blank. "No do this in China. Boy, girl play with this money."

What? This made no sense to me. Does he mean Chinese people don't use change? Or that they would never accumulate this much? Perhaps the few coins they might have in one place are given to children to play with.

I explained the machines we have in the US that you can pour your loose change into and bills will be spit out. No this in China, he said. I told him about the little coin wrappers we can get from the bank to roll our coins into specified amounts to take to the bank for bills. The answer was again, no this in China.

Hmmm. There had to be a way to do this. Mr. Wu and I were both kind of laughing about the situation... finally I just asked him to take it to the bank and try. "Bank people in China no like to do this," he said. Please, just go try.

Fifteen minutes later, as I watched the girls on the little playground in our compound, I got a call on my cellphone from Mr. Wu. He was at the bank. He had had to speak with the bank manager to see about accomodating this "special request." It was going to take a week, he said. Did I want to do it? He would leave his name and phone number, and the bank manager would call him when the long and arduous job of counting my jar of change was accomplished.

I was incredulous. In this city of millions upon millions of people, has no one ever asked for this before? Have coin wrappers not been introduced here?

I decided to go for it. Let them keep my coins for a week. Let's just see what comes of this. Hopefully Mr. Wu will get a call mid-week saying that my 600-some RMB in paper currency is ready to be picked up. If not, well, then lesson learned. Spend your coins in China. Don't save them in a jar.

Gwen and Chinese Parasol

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008


If you read the post requesting prayer for the family who is in Kumming to adopt their daughter, you might want to check back at their blog here. This little one is still hospitalized, but is doing much better. Please continue to pray for them.

Remembering Summer

I took these pictures about a month ago, when our days were not so busy with school and all the activities that come with it. On this afternoon, Gwen and Madelyn enjoyed playing out on our deck (you'll get another little view of our outside space here) with their friend Jacelyn. They were supposed to be filling the baby pool, but I don't think much of the water went in it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pray, Please

This family needs your prayers. They have come to China to adopt their daughter, and when they arrived they discovered that she is very, very sick and is not receiving the type of care she needs. They are trying to expedite her visa and the adoption process so they can have custody of her and quickly get her the medical care she needs to survive. They are believers and are trusting that nothing is impossible with God!

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's About Time

I am pleased to report that I am finally working on a scrapbook/life book for Gwen. I had purchased some supplies before we moved to Shanghai to start working on this project, but got hung up when I realized that I really wanted it to be more than just a photo album of pictures from our trip to get her. An adoption life book is intended to tell the story of the child's life, which in Gwen's case included twenty-one months before she joined our family. I wasn't sure how to address the whole issue of her birth parents and why she was in an orphanage... we don't know the reasons ourselves, we can only speculate. So, I got stuck. I did the front page and that was it.

Early last spring I got inspired to finish the book in time for Gwen's 4th birthday. I did a little research on the internet about life books, and looked at some sample pages that helped me create a couple more pages that told about her birth in China, and the fact that she grew in her Chinese mother's belly. I was really pleased with these pages, but couldn't come up with what came next... why her Chinese parents' couldn't keep her.

So the book sat. For six months, I have done nothing. Then the other night, when Scott and I were riding our bikes through the dark streets of Jinqiao to our small group meeting, I thought about it again, and I had some ideas. Scott and I talked about them a little. When we got home some hours later, I sat down at the computer and typed out my ideas. I showed Scott and he said he he wouldn't change any of it.

So now I've been working again. I've spread scrapping supplies out on the table, and I've churned out the tough pages and even moved on to the really fun, easy pages with pictures of the day we met our girl. Gwen has seen what I'm doing, and is telling everyone that, "Mom is making a book for me."

Whew. It feels good to be working on this. I am so thankful that God has given me the words to say in this book, this account for Gwen of His plan for her life. I'm not finished yet, but now I know I can do it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Half Birthday

Today as we were walking to church we realized that it was Gwen's four-and-a-half birthday. We used to celebrate our kids' half birthdays when they were younger, by going out to a neat 50's style hot dog place for dinner. They served chocolate milk there that had whipped cream and colored sprinkles on top... the kids thought that was such a special treat! In recent years, half birthdays haven't been much of a big deal. But I guess the youngest child so desires to be catching up to her siblings... when we told Gwen that it was her four-and-half birthday today, she was really pleased. We went out for dinner after church with several other families, and with so many other people around we all forgot about recognizing this milestone. But Gwen remembered as we walked in the door at home, so I scrambled around the kitchen to create a little something to put a candle in. Madelyn sent Gwen to the dining room and instructed her to cover her eyes until she carried in the yummy creation and set it before her. The birthday song was sung, the candles blown out and licked clean, and dessert was enjoyed by all.
Happy Half Birthday, Half Pint! You're on your way to 5!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Extreme Thirst

Seth and his friends Kevin and Lance were so hot and thirsty that drinking from a mere glass couldn't possibly provide enough liquid at once... they opted for cereal bowls instead.
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Caleb's Turtles

The day I took the kids to the bird and flower market a few weeks ago, we came home with some pets. Not planned pets.

Caleb, who didn't want to go to this market in the first place, couldn't tear himself away from the turtles once we got there. The fact that they were only 5 RMB (less than a dollar) a piece made them very attractive. He bargained for turtles, a bowl, and food. He bought three of these little tiny guys.

We had another stop to make after leaving the market, so we left the turtles in Mr. Wu's care in the car. When we got back to the car, he told us that one of the turtles was crippled, and he thought we should take it back. Caleb had already phoned his friend Lucas to tell him of the fantastic deal turtles were, so he wanted to return to the market anyway to buy turtles for him. We did round #2 at the market, bought more turtles, exchanged the bowl for a cooler tank with a little hill in the middle, and in the end decided to keep the crippled turtle... shouldn't we be the ones to care for it?

Here he is, grinning about the possesion of these pets. Fast forward a couple of weeks... the turtles sit on the desk in Caleb's bedroom, climbing on top of each other to get closer to the light he has shining over their tank. Every morning before school, Caleb calls to Madelyn as he's heading out the door, "Can you change the turtles' water and feed them for me?"
How handy to have a younger sister to pass that task on to.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More First Days of School

Caleb and Seth humored me last Monday by posing at our gate before they made the two minute walk to school on the first day. Don't you love their fresh haircuts (ha,ha!)? Madelyn created a little desk for herself on our first day of homeschooling, at the end table in the living room.

Since then, we've often moved our school space out to the table on our little deck. It's been unusally cool for this time of year in Shanghai, making it pleasant to work outside.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

It's Good

Have I mentioned that I love where we live now?

I most definitely miss the wonderful river view from our 48th floor apartment. I miss the boats, the city lights at night, the feeling of being in the heart of real Shanghai. It was really cool to experience city life for a year.

But as Caleb said last spring when we were contemplating moving, "We've done the apartment thing, now we can do something else." And we are. It is so very different, in some really great ways.

I love being so close to school that the boys can run back over later in the evening if they forgot something there.

I love seeing people I know from church when I'm at Carrefour.

I love having friends for my kids a quick bike ride away.

I love having neighbors knock at the door.

I love walking to church, and walking to dinner with friends after church.

I love riding our bikes places... to ballet, to Starbucks, to gymnastics, to the store for a few groceries, to the pool, to friends' houses.

I love walking over to the school library with the girls.

I love sitting out on our little deck with Madelyn to do schoolwork, and to eat lunch.

I love having friends' kids come hang out at my house while they're waiting for their ride, because we're so close to school.

I don't love water dripping out of lights in the bathroom, or the AC being broken for days and days, or the washing machine breaking repeatedly, or the phone acting up all the time. But those things are worth it somehow, for the community we feel in Jinqiao. It feels like we belong, like we're part of something bigger. Somehow in our apartment, as much as it felt homey to be there, we were isolated.

So I'm glad to live here, in this place and time, and for these moments.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Getting On the Bus

Zao shang hao! Good morning!

The van stops right at the gate outside our house. There is an ayi on the bus who greets Gwen every day, helps her into the van, and makes sure she gets buckled in.
All buckled in and ready to go! Gwen is the first on her van in the morning... next stop is around the corner in our compound, where her two friends Sophie and Chloe live.
Have a great day, Gwen!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Up In The Green

Poconos 2008

These photos were taken in Bushkill Falls Park in July. We had visited Bushkill Falls nine years ago, when we were in the Poconos with Scott's family. It is so lush and green! I loved being there again.

Who are these goofballs?! We didn't plan for us all to wear similar colors... but it made a nice picture.
Mom, Sarah, Mindy and me.

Thursday, September 04, 2008