Monday, December 28, 2009

Sledding, and a whole lot more

Last week before Christmas we were able to snatch some precious time with the Stevensons. We see these dear friends so rarely... whatever time we can spend together is a gift. Rebecca is the wordsmith among us, so if you'd like to read her description of our eight hours together, click here. For my part, I'll say that it was so great to do again what we always do when we're together... play, eat, and talk~ about jobs and kids and parenting and movies and God... and everything else we can squeeze into our too infrequent visits.

The playing this visit took the form of a sledding venture that was enjoyed by us all!

Our crew together... how did we end up with all these big kids? We're just four college friends who laughed and talked into the night and dreamed of what it would be like to grow up some day... look what happened!
We love you, friends.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy 13th!

I took the annual photo of Seth in his stocking at home before we left Shanghai... but yesterday was his actual birthday, so I must post it now. Thirteen years ago yesterday, one hour old Seth was wheeled into my room at North Fulton Hospital tucked inside this stocking with only his little round head peeking out the top. Thirteen years later, he can still get both feet into it, but it only comes up to his knees. My Christmas boy!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 18, 2009

Home For Christmas

This is meeting time again. Home is the magnet. The winter land roars and hums with the eager speed of return journeys. The dark is noisy and bright with late night arrivals- doors thrown open, running shadows on snow, open arms, kisses, voices and laughter, laughter at everything and nothing. Inarticulate, giddying and confused are those original minutes of being back again. The very familiarity of everything acts like shock. Contentment has to be drawn in slowly, steadyingly, in deep breaths- there is so much of it. We rely on home not to change, and it does not, wherefore we give thanks. Again Christmas: abiding point of return. Set apart by its mystery and magic, the season seems in a way to stand outside time. All that is dear, that is lasting, renews its hold on us: we are home again...

From Home For Christmas by Elizabeth Bowen, 1899-1973

Thursday, December 17, 2009


There are five tenth grade boys hanging out with the PS3 and 2K10 (a basketball Playstation game, for the uninitiated). They have been in roughly the same position for the last five hours. Madelyn and I have taken food in to them at various points, apparently aiding their long period of relative inactivity. But they haven't been quiet. Oh no, quite the contrary. They're very much into their game, alternately shouting and jeering at one another's virtual basketball skills.

Finals ended today. Christmas vacation starts tomorrow. I guess I'll allow my son and his friends this indulgence for once.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chirstmas Baking

Can you read the only English on this bag of brown sugar? It says, "A woman in childbirth brown sugar". I thought for sure it must be another one of the many hilarious mistranslations we've seen, but when I asked my Mandarin teacher about it, and she read the Chinese characters, she said that this brown sugar must have extra minerals that make it healthier for pregnant women.

Really? I have to say I'm skeptical.

On a side note, I used the brown sugar to make gingersnaps last week, and it worked just fine.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Little Family Magic

Guest posting by Seth

Hi, my name is Seth Liptak. In school, and at home - just fooling around - I've learned a lot about making movies and special effects. This is a short video I made while babysitting my sisters, Gwen and Madelyn. What I did is really quite simple, and I bet you will be able to figure it out. My intent isn't to fool you, just to amuse you.

It is amazing how easy it is to do these kinds of things on macbooks. Now, for old people (or PC users) like the people who are probably reading this, it might seem that these type of effects would take great skill and many hours to create, but believe it or not, this took me only a few minutes.

Now also, for most of the people who are reading this, I'm also going to be visiting you this Christmas. I would be glad to show any of you exactly how I made the video, I'm sure you will understand it, and maybe even want to convert from PC to mac! Uncle Justin and Aunt Mary, I know you guys have a mac. As a matter of fact the first time I EVER used, or even saw a mac was a day about four years ago after we had gone to the Ohio State vs. North Western football game. Afterward we went back to Mary and Justin's. They had a mac. That was my first time.

The next year we moved to Shanghai. I started school at an international school, a mac school. In every class 5th and 6th grade class room there are 9 iMac computers. Everyone in grades 7 and up have their own macbook computer. So as you can see I have been using macs pretty much every school day for the last 3 years. Making movies is a large fraction of the projects we've done on computers.

Well, my mac story is over, hope you liked the video.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gotcha Day 2009

December 12... Gotcha Day!

Can't believe it's been four years since this little girl in a puffy pink corduroy outfit, squeaky panda shoes, and a fish shaped hair clip walked into our lives. What a different life we would be leading if it hadn't been GWEN!

We had a a low-key day today as Gwen is a bit under the weather, with a hefty cough and intermittent fever. We did manage to enjoy her life book (mostly completed now but not quite) and have this fun beauty shop session. I had never put curlers in her hair, so she thought that was a big deal. While we were at it, she painted her toenails. :-)

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Boy in a Bowtie

A shot from Seth's Christmas choir concert last week... I just loved the bowtie! The music was pretty good, too. :-)

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Yesterday at church Gwen's Sunday school class got to sing "Away in a Manger" on the stage in front of the whole church. The kids were dressed as various parts of the nativity, and she got to be an angel, complete with feathery wings and a gold tinsel halo. I curled her hair for the occassion, something I don't do very often. Unfortunatley we weren't able to get any good pictures during the service, but Scott did snap these couple at home before we left for church. She was SO excited about her curled hair! She liked the look so much that she asked for me to curl it before school this morning, too. :-)
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Christmas Shopping

When Caleb and Seth were preschoolers, I took them to a "Christmas shopping for kids" shop that was set up in a nice department store downtown. They were each assigned a helper who was dressed like an elf who would take them around to the tables of items, help them make selections, wrap and label their gifts with them, and handle the purchasing of their items with the money we had given them. It was a great thing for them, to feel like they had done their own shopping and had surprises for their family. It was all a very neat and tidy process.

Yesterday afternoon I took Gwen to the 2 RMB store in Yuyuan to do her Christmas shopping. Kind of the Chinese version of the dollar store, but even cheaper. No neat and tidy process here. It's an open booth, so it's quite chilly. No specially selected items for children to choose from, but rather lots of junk to sort through to find anything resembling a treasure. Lots of people in bulky coats pushing their way through the small shop. But Gwen was in her element when she realized she was going to get to actually choose these gifts herself. Quickly she was boldly making choices for her cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, siblings and for Daddy. She changed her mind a couple of times, but had everything decided in the space of about 15 minutes. She proudly marched out of the store with her two plastic bags clutched in her arms. After we got out out onto the sidewalk and I congratulated her for her great shopping, she was nearly bursting with joy. Seth took her back in to choose something for me, and she was so tickled to have a secret from me, too.

When we got into the car, I called Scott to let him know we were heading home. Gwen had to get on the phone to tell about her shopping experience. She wanted to tease Scott about what she got him, so she said, " I got you a potty, Daddy." Peals of laughter followed this statement, and then she said, "No, I got you a bracelet!" More laughter... then, because secrets are so hard to keep, she said, "I didn't get you a ruler, though!" She had gotten him a measuring tape, which she called a ruler. Just couldn't keep from almost telling, silly girl!

This morning Gwen is chomping at the bit to get her gifts wrapped, so after our scrambled eggs we're going to have a wrapping session of the treasures from the 2 RMB store.

I love the excitement she has about the gifts she is going to give. :-)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Large Leaves

The streets outside our compound are lined with trees that are now dropping these giant leaves! Seems like we should be using them to make hats or clothing, or something!

Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 30, 2009

In Qibao with Pa and Nannie

Last Friday we visited the ancient town of Qibao with Scott's parents. It is on the other side of Shanghai from where we live. It has become pretty commercialized, with many shops and food vendors and some little museum type exhibits. But the canal and boats felt authentic, and the smog in the air that day lent an ethereal feel to our photos!

We were wondering how the little 90 pound, older Chinese lady would do rowing our boat of eight passengers, but she didn't seem to have any trouble.
I love how the reflection of this style of bridge makes a perfect circle.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Another Haircut

Seth's new look... can't believe my boys are going back to short hair! Love it.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

So thankful for all of you... with love from Scott, Lynne, Caleb, Seth, Madelyn, and the resident turkey, Gwenny!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 22, 2009

They're Off!

Scott left this morning to take Pa and Nannie and Uncle Ken and Aunt Nadine to Beijing! So thankful for the sunshine that is predicted there this week. Today they will go to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tomorrow, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall and the Olympic venues... more to come on Wedesday.

Seth took this view of the Forbidden City from up above last month on his seventh grade trip to Beijing. It was taken in Jingshan Park... a place I haven't been, but Scott's parents and Ken and Nadine will get to go to this week, and maybe take a similar picture. :-)

Calling Adoptive Parents

If you have adopted a child, can you check out the recent post on my sister-in-law's blog, Pre-Loved, in my sidebar? Click here to read it. She had an issue recently with discriminatory word choice in a radio broadcast she heard, and would love some feedback from other adoptive parents about how to respond to this kind of thing. Do we educate those who don't know? Do we let it go? How do we pick our battles?

Thanks! Mindy and I will both appreciate hearing your take on this situation.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dakota Dan, the Law Lovin' Man

Last night we got to witness the exploits of a sheriff from the days of the Wild West, Dakota Dan. Seth played the part of this law lovin' man in the 7th & 8th grade drama production at Concordia. His job was to fight that cantankerous cactus of a villan, Russell Herd. He and his trusty beast, Magnum the Wonder Horse, rescued the children from the silver mine and saved the day, all while winning the hand of Miss Penny.

"Seems every day there's lots of things to make a cowboy blue...", sings Dakota Dan.
Miss Penny fears that Dan's heart is lost to her because of his love for Lady Law. Dakota Dan and Magnum the Wonder Horse pose for us after the show.Part of the cast poses with the director and writer of the show, Mr. Tovar.
Seth's photo and bio from the display in the theater lobby.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Any Guesses?

One of the places we took our visitors the other day was a local pet market... not to be confused with a pet store. We found these trays of tiny dishes for sale at the market. Do you have any idea what pet might use these? No, it's not birds.

Crickets. This market has all variety of the long legged bugs. But these crickets aren't just food for some other pet. No, they ARE the pet. But not just a pet to look at or play with. They are sold as fighters, and the best fighters fetch astronomical prices, and then can be matched with other fighters for competitions. The fights are televised and bet on.

Who knew?!
Posted by Picasa

Feeding Frenzy

Madelyn and I have been busy this week taking our family visitors, Scott's parents and his aunt and uncle, around to our favorite places in Shanghai. The weather has been questionable, unseasonably chilly, but we've managed to bundle up and get out and about. Part of our day today included the garden at Yuyuan. Madelyn had fun feeding the coi fish in the garden the remains of one of our purchases from a street food vendor earlier in the day.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Want to say a big thank you to my friend Carol, mama to one of Gwen's China sisters, for giving my blog a much-needed update! Doesn't she do amazing work? Thanks so much, Carol!

Friday, November 13, 2009

State of the Union

This morning we had homeschool co-op at our house. The older kids were doing a writing workshop today, so I was entertaining the younger ones. Towards the end of the morning, I got out a snack for the little girls and put on a "Wee Sing America" cd for them to listen to while they ate. Interspersed between the patriotic songs are quotes from famous Americans. One of them was JFK's famous line from his inaugural address, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

After the quote was spoken on the cd, Anna, who is six years old, looked at me and solemnly said, "It's the opposite now."

Out of the mouths of babes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hole in the Kitchen

Princess and Percy are finding the hole in our kitchen floor to be quite interesting. We've been without the use of both our dishwasher and the kitchen sink for a week while the landlord has tried to figure out what to do about our water problem, that is the water that seeped out from under the island and spread all over, soaking the 6-8 towels we used to sop it up. The consensus today, after two days of sawing and chiseling through our marble floor, was that the pipes were "too small." Hoping that the ones that the workmen replaced them with today are big enough to handle the flow of water in our kitchen.

Also hoping that my kitchen is put back together before Scott's parents and aunt and uncle arrive on Sunday! Can't wait for them to be here with us, hole in the kitchen floor or not. :-)
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

So Help Me...

... if I hear "Billy Jean" being played in the import store one more time. All the Chinese workers park in front of the screen in the dvd section of the store to watch Michael Jackson dance his way through what was once a big hit. Wasn't that twenty-five years ago?

No disrespect to the King of Pop, but can we be done now?

Or at least play a different song at Pines Market.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

Caleb noticed tonight that when he opened his laptop to do homework, he was suddenly on without knowing how he got there. Seems that he instinctively types that address in. It's like a reflex, no thought required.

I remember another high school boy who's mind operated in a similar fashion. No, there wasn't a website to access then, but the sports section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer was read on the school bus every morning without fail.

What Time Is It, Miss Pumpkin?

Gwen loved the role of Miss Pumpkin at the fall party we attended last week. Here she is whirling around to catch those who were creeping up toward her turned back, a few steps at a time.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 08, 2009

She's a Natural

I took a series of pictures of Gwen trying to hula hoop the spring she had turned three. Although the pictures were adorable, (click here to see them) she wasn't very successful. Now she's a natural!

Not that she has any hips to hold that thing up...
Posted by Picasa