Friday, October 30, 2009

Swinging Donuts

This was a favorite game at a fall party we attended a few days ago. The elusive donut on a string! Which angle to attack it from seems to be the question... and then if it's just hanging precariously like this, couldn't I just use my hands?Gwen was thoroughly befuddled by the swinging pastry. It looks like she hopes it will just swing into her open mouth on its own.Swinging nearby... but not near enough to snag a bite!
The grin of victory!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Born to Ride

One of the things we've noticed living in Asia is that safety regulations that would be firmly in place in the US are either fuzzy or nonexistent here. This was the case on our last day in Vietnam. On that morning, our scheduled activity was to ride motorbikes around the island. We weren't sure who would get to ride their own... turns out all the kids but the little girls could... even the twelve year old boys! Since none of the kids have a driver's license, this was a definite step of faith for the parents. Gwen rode in front of Scott, Madelyn rode behind me, and Elise was with her dad. As you can see, these bikes weren't motor scooters, but smallish motorcycles. They had some power!
We had to hold the kids back from speeding off into the sunset! They were all thrilled with the speed and the freedom of "owning the road." The reports of "Mom, I got up to 110 km an hour!", when the best I could muster was 80 km, made me realize how fearless they are. Here Stacia and Seth blow by Scott, who was holding the camera. I love the wind-in-the-face look Seth has. We made a couple of stops on our ride to walk through caves. One of the caves had been converted into a hidden hospital during the Vietnam War (or the American War, as they call it in Vietnam). In this photo we are hiking up to the entrance to the cave.
Not exactly plush conditions in this hospital. We were amazed to realize the amount of work it would have taken to haul concrete up into this cave to create the structure hidden inside.
This large room in the hospital cave was used both for drilling troops and showing movies! Not sure how they pulled off the movie thing.
Our crew outside the hospital cave. Notice the small entry door.
The rest of our ride, after the cave stops, consisted of riding both through small villages and along the amazingly beautiful coastline. Here we stop for a photo op. I wish the bright sunshine hadn't washed the background so much... it is gorgeous!
I don't know what kind of face this is that Caleb is making... in case you can't see it, his mouth is wide open and his tongue is out. What a goofball! All I can say is that it must be a look of exhilaration... we didn't hear the end of how much the kids LOVED this! I am so glad they thought it was such an amazing adventure.Part of what I was so grateful for on this trip was that the kids got to take risks and did so well... and the fact that we all came home in one piece was a blessing, too. :-)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Missing Autumn

Where is fall?

I just put Gwen on the bus. While she ate breakfast this morning, we sat out on our little deck in short sleeves and shorts, reading library books. The sky is a beautiful Shanghai blue (not to be confused with a Carolina blue) today, and the sun is warm. It's been this way for weeks, just gorgeous weather. Mid-seventies during the day, sixty degrees at night. Lovely, really lovely. But something is missing.

There's not a maple tree to be seen in Shanghai, aside from the occasional small Japanese maple with it's lacy little leaves. There are some big brown leaves that we crunch through on the sidewalk outside our compound. There are some tiny red leaves falling here and there. But the majority of the trees around where we live keep their green leaves much of the winter. There isn't one brilliantly yellow, orange or red maple.

A few days ago I got an email from the property manager for our home in Chicago. He sends us updates from time to time and takes care of issues with our renters. This time he included photos in the email of the yard and house, highlighting various points of interest for us. As we've had some concerns about the life left in our driveway, there was a shot of the asphalt, strew with maple leaves. They were the leaves from the tree on our tree lawn, which I used to hate to rake up because their colors were so beautiful they looked like flowers. I clicked on the driveway picture to enlarge it and get a closer look at those beautiful leaves.

My mom took some fall photos around where my parents live and emailed them to me this morning. I literally gasped at the first one, featuring vibrantly colored maple trees.

Autumn in the Midwest is a stellar time. It may be brief, only a few weeks, really, of clear skies and amazing color, before the weather turns towards winter and cold, gray skies. But those October days are golden.

I haven't forgotten. :-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Madelyn Stuff

Madelyn is taking a tap dance class this fall for the first time, spurred on by the fact that we found tap shoes on clearance at Walmart last summer. No, really it was her idea. :-) Last weekend she got to perform with her class at an outdoor festival.

Our monthly homeschool group had a book report day last week. Madelyn came up with this visual for it herself, recreating the cover of the American Girl Addy book she read out of colored modeling clay.


A poem she wrote for fun last week~

Animal Favorites

Lions, tigers and zebras, too
You can find them at the zoo
Hamsters, cats and dogs, of course
And please do not forget the horse
There is no time for any more
So please go out and shut the door.

By Madelyn Liptak

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Finally Out!

Last night after dinner Daddy pulled out that little bottom tooth that has been hanging by a thread for a couple of weeks. Gwen was so surprised to have it out! Once the tiny bit of bleeding stopped, she couldn't get enough of putting her tongue in the hole and talking about how surprised her friends at school would be.

The tooth fairy, who's identity she wondered at greatly last night ("Is it a doctor, Mom? I think it's small. Maybe an angel or a fairy."), came clear to her this morning when she looked at the little bitty bag under her pillow containing 5 coins, a few fake jewels, and one tiny seashell, then looked at me and said, "Is it you, Mom?"

Yep, it's me, I admitted. But later today she asked why the tooth fairy couldn't come and I had left the little bag of treats for her! I guess I thought she had figured out more than she had. We had a good discussion about how fun it is to pretend there is a tooth fairy, but that it's really Mommy. We'll see what she remembers about our conversation when the next tooth falls out!

Late Afternoon Pastime

Recently the girls and I made our way back to a little park I described in a post about a month ago. This time I had a camera! As before, the park was alive with activity. I especially enjoyed the scene of all these older gentlemen looking into the sky at their kites. What are retired men in the USA doing most afternoons around four o'clock? I'm guessing not too many are flying kites... but who knows, maybe it will catch on. :-)

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gwen and Sophie, Soccer Sisters

Gwen and our neighbor, Sophie, who also happens to be in Gwen's class at school, are on the same soccer team. They have the same haircut. Their teacher at school calls them twins. :-) Scott got these great photos of them together on the soccer field last weekend, wearing their new and way-too-big, green uniforms.
I wish I knew what they were talking about!
A kick...
...and then a high five!Going for it together!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Chinglish" Sign of the Week

This notice is posted on a large, sturdy tree in our compound.

My neighbor suggested today that perhaps we should cut some tear drops out of blue paper and attach them to the tree. :-)
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Day on the Water

One of our favorite days in Vietnam was the day we spent on a junk boat in Halong Bay. Hundreds of karsts rise out of the aqua water in the bay, some quite small and others large. We cruised all through the bay, out to the edge looking into the Gulf of Tonkin. At several points during the day we stopped to kayak around the karsts and swim off the boat.
Passing by some local fishermen
At the beginning of the day we had several climbers with us on the boat, whom we dropped off at this island to climb for the day. At the end of the day when we went back to pick them up, the boat anchored out a ways and we swam from the boat to the beach to hang out there for a bit.
Aren't the karsts amazing? It feels otherworldly to be out among them... no one else around, more and more karsts appearing out of the mist. Beautiful!

We had so much fun jumping off the boat into the amazingly warm water!
And of course there were flips...
Gwen was her usual fearless self, jumping with ease off the top of the boat, egged on by the older kids.
We kayaked into several caves, all but one of which were not really true caves but rather low passageways through karsts that would be filled with water at high tide. One was a true cave that didn't have a way out on the other side. The boys forged ahead without listening carefully to our guide and ended up in complete darkness, not knowing which way to paddle to get out! They were stuck in the cave in the dark for only a couple of minutes, but they told the tale again and again for the next couple of days!

Heading through a karst to the beautiful green karst-ringed bay on the other side.
Gwen was not given her own paddle, but took a few turns with mine and was fairly effective paddling me around a little!
Heading back to the boat for more jumping off!
Nice dive, Seth!The fisherman who stores the kayaks we used at his floating fish farm in Halong Bay tugs them home at the end of the day.It was a wonderful day. :-)