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!
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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.
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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. :-)

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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. :-)
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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!

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