Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

~With love from the Liptak Six

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ice Skating In Central Park

So fun to skate in the park with Uncle Justin on Saturday! Gwen's choppy way of skating/walking-on-the-ice-as-if-she-was-about-to-fall cracked us up. All those hurried little steps. :-)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Traveling Home

It's just after 6 AM and the girls are happily watching Tom & Jerry cartoons, having waited kind of patiently in bed for the last 40 minutes or so until we said it could officially be wake up time. We're in a hotel room in the heart of NYC, our body clocks still on Shanghai time. Uncle Justin and Aunt Mary live here now, and we're so excited to have the next few days here with them before heading on to Cleveland for Christmas.

We flew in last night with a magnificent view of Lady Liberty and all the glittering lights of Manhattan. I had already shed a few tears as we were landing in Chicago after the first leg of our trip. Even after all the times we've done this trip, coming back to the US never fails to evoke emotion. The immigration procedure video that American Airlines shows on the flight even brought a few tears to my eyes, with it's "Welcome the the United States" message. But the view of New York- spectacular! What a welcome!

The last week in Shanghai was packed full. Basketball games, small group Christmas party, youth Christmas worship night, our own family Christmas celebration and all that entails, studying and final exams, and taking care of little Michael in addition. Michael left for his holiday healing home on Wednesday, and then we were all about packing and all the little details required when leaving the country for a couple of weeks.

Can I admit that I actually relish the "long plane", as Gwen calls the Shanghai-Chicago flight? There's something about settling into the seat that will be my home for the next 13+ hours that is satisfying, probably because of all the effort that comes before finally coming the the point of actually being able to sit there. This particular flight yesterday was especially good... it didn't leave until around 6:30 in the evening, so we all ended up sleeping the better part of the flight. Piece of cake, this trans-Pacific flight. After taking it nearly 30 times, we've got it down.

Our cab driver from La Guardia into the city was from Bangladesh. Only been in the US for a handful of years. He was a friendly guy, chatting us up in pretty good English about life in China and what we liked about it. I loved that he was from Bangladesh... isn't that just like America? A land of people from everywhere.

Sure feels good to be sitting on this hotel bed, waiting for the sun to come up over the city. Looking forward to all that's coming over the next few weeks in America.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Some Christmas Photo Attempts...

We had fun last weekend trying to get a family portrait for Christmas cards. Seth had about five minutes to spend with us before he needed to be somewhere else, so he didn't do anymore than the bare minimum whole group shots. Don't you love his attempt at a creative pose in the photo below?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

His Plans

I had several errands on the other side of the river yesterday. I ended up eating lunch at a restaurant in the complex of the hotel Scott and I stayed in when we first came to Shanghai to consider the possibility of moving our family here. We had eaten our breakfast in this place our first jet lagged morning.

Here I was again, only three months shy of four years later, dining in this same establishment. Shanghai is a different city to me now than it was then. No longer foreign and unfamiliar, it is my home.

There was something even more striking to me in that lunch yesterday, more than remembering my first meal in a new city. I was not eating alone yesterday. I had a little companion, one I couldn't even have fathomed joining me had I considered it four years ago.

I've mentioned the Baobei Foundation, the organization I volunteer for that provides surgery for orphans with nuerological and gastrointestinal birth defects. A big part of Baobei's process involves placing these babies in foster homes among the expat community to gain strength and heal post surgery.

Well, we had a little guy arrive in Shanghai recently with a medical need that requires surgery, but he was so tiny our doctor recommended he put on some weight first and we plan the surgery for January. I had helped arrange a foster family for him, but they weren't available to take him until mid-December.

Well, you can guess what transpired. The girls have been begging to get to take care of a Baobei baby in our home. Scott has been quick to remind them that that isn't part of my job with Baobei. But this time we knew it would be short, only a couple of weeks...

So this little one has been with us now for nearly a week. I had forgotten the physical effort required to care for one so new... but what I didn't forget is the time cuddled together on the couch, with the Christmas lights twinkling beside me, feeding a baby. Having a baby forces you to slow down, to leave other things undone, to sit, to rock, to look into little eyes that stare back unblinking. I remembered this. I wanted to have to slow down and sit, especially at Christmas.

Oh, my arms have ached with the fatigue of muscles that haven't been used this way in a long while. I've lost a little sleep, up in the night making and feeding bottles. But what a privilege and a joy it's been to have little Michael in our home. He has helped us all slow down, to sit and reflect by the light of the Christmas tree.

Who would have thought, on that February morning nearly four years ago, that just a few years later I would have the opportunity to love on a baby with no family? That a beautiful, orphaned boy would sit with me on my couch and listen to Christmas music with me? That we would dress him up in a little red sweater and take his picture holding a candy cane? That we and our friends would have the chance to pray over him and read scripture to him? That we would wonder about where God will place this little one, what his life will look like? I couldn't have imagined, in February 2007, that I would eat in that restaurant again with an orphan cuddled on my lap.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:11-13

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Will the Real George Washington Please Stand Up?

It's a tradition in fifth grade at Concordia that when the students study the American Revolution, a "wax museum" is held where every student dresses up like a historical figure from the Revolution and does a presentation as if they were that person. Seth was in fifth grade our first year at Concordia, and leading up to it I had no idea then what a big deal this event was! With Madelyn in fifth grade this year, I was prepared. We had a costume made at the fabric market and she became Lydia Darragh, a Quaker spy for the Patriots. Parents are invited to the big event and can walk through all the fifth grade classrooms, listening to the speeches. At the end all six classes were brought down to the gym for a group photo... I captured just a portion of them in this picture. I love all the white wigs, many on Asian heads!

Here are Betsy Ross and Lydia Darragh (aka, Caroline and Madelyn) together! Love their smiles!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas is Coming...

We attended a Christmas brunch for Baobei at a hotel yesterday... fun to dress up! I was pleased that Gwen could still wear this Santa dress for the third year in a row. :-)

Preparations~ we have our tree decorated and a pretty table arrangement of fresh pine and other greens, made by the Boy Scouts, on our table. I've shopped, both online and here in the markets. Madelyn made some cookies on Saturday and I'm going to a cookie exchange on Friday. We've talked about taking a family picture to send with a Christmas letter, but we haven't done anything about that yet. We've been playing our old favorite Christmas recording, Amy Grant's "Tennesse Christmas." The girls both have Christmas concerts in the next week, and Seth has a middle school Christmas dance on Friday. The girls and I have read some of our Christmas books and today we watched a Christmas dvd after school together. We're counting down the days until we head back to US to be with our families for the holiday break, especially Caleb, who has been working like crazy and needs a break from school!

The first Advent candle was lit in church on Sunday, and scriptures from Isaiah read.
"For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given,
And the government will be on His shoulders.
And He will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

There are so many things to do to "prepare" for Christmas, so many activities to take part in. I feel like I was good at providing meaningful things for our family to do when the children were all young, things that pointed us to Jesus, the real reason for Christmas.

Now that our family encompasses all these different ages, I'm not sure what our Advent season should look like. I can still shop and bake and play Christmas music. But how can I bring JESUS to our time of preparation?

I'd love your ideas, for all ages of children as well as adults. What Advent ideas work in your family and remind you all of the reason for the season?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankful For Friends

AAs a bit of a non-conventional Thanksgiving piece, I thought I'd post this photo from a 1920's gala we attended with a group of our friends last weekend. Such a fun evening, especially seeing everyone's period dress.

We have so many things to thank God for. Friends He has brought us to at many different points in our lives, including here in Shanghai, are high on the list!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day Trip to the Past

Yesterday I was in Henan province. It was a day trip, just a 90 minute flight there and back, and my task while there was brief. Just get one picture taken. No big deal, right?

I haven't mentioned Baobei Foundation here much, maybe not at all by name. If you'd like to check it out officially, you can look at the website, which you can find by clicking here. I have a volunteer position with Baobei that has filled quite a bit of my free time during the day while our kids are in school. I've gotten to visit lots of babies in the hospital, orphaned little ones that Baobei brings to Shanghai for neurological or gastrointestinal surgery. I've cuddled infants who couldn't eat all day before their surgery. I watched IV lines started and checked out healing incision sites. I've helped settle these little ones post surgically into foster care with expat families. I've visited these families, gone to physical therapy appointments, searched through Baobei's stash of equipment and clothing, and had meetings where we discussed new children coming and who will next care for the ones we have in Shanghai now.

But a couple of times now I've been privileged to be a small part of one of our Baoebei babies being adopted. Yesterday was one of those times. I traveled with Lily, one of our local Chinese Baobei staff, and a toddler Baobei who is about to have his adoption into his expat foster family completed. We had to return to the city he came from to have his picture taken for his Chinese passport, one of many steps leading up to finalizing his adoption. The actual taking of the photo took only a moment, but we carefully brushed his hair over beforehand, having had to wake him from a sound sleep on my shoulder. The photographer called to him, he looked, and the camera clicked. Then we stood in line for a turn to sit at the police counter with him on my lap while they looked at him and stamped and signed various papers that would ultimately release him from the jurisdiction of the province and allow him to be adopted. Of course everything was said in Chinese and only interpreted to me here and there, so I was just a warm body to hold this Baobei and carry him from place to place, comforting and entertaining on the way.

By 8 PM last night we were back from the day of travel for the photo, and our Baobei (did I mention Baobei means "precious child" in Chinese?) was safely back with his foster family, soon to be forever family. I was left to wonder who took Gwen to get her passport photo taken before her adoption. Did she fall asleep on their shoulder on the way to the police station? Did they smooth down her hair? Did she wonder what this outing from her regular surroundings at the Yibin Social Welfare Institute would mean?

As I look at her little round face on the Chinese passport that she left China with in December 2005, I wish I could read more in her face. I wish I knew more about what came before the day we met her. At least now I know how one more piece of her story happened. Someone dressed Gwen, who was then Wang Yu, in a bright red jacket that day. They took her to the police station. They held her up on the little stool, reaching over to keep her balanced in view of the camera, but with their own body out of the photo. They waited with her to sit at the police counter. Was she a wiggle worm, a ball of energy? Unless she had just woken from a nap like our Baobei yesterday, I'm sure she was!

The look on her face in this little passport picture looks uncertain, her eyes are looking off to one side. Was she wondering what was happening, what was about to happen?

I'm going to show her this picture when she gets home from school today. I don't think she'll remember a thing about it. But I know just a little bit more than I did before, and I kind of like that.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Morning In the Temple Garden

This shot was from my photography walk last week. Loved the lighting in this picture, which I took in the garden of the Buddist temple where we ended our walk.
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Fall Photos

Every now and then I find among my children a willing model... such was the case with Gwen a week or two ago, and low and behold we actually had a few moments before church where we were both put together and had time for me to get these shots. I love the missing two front teeth look, and as there's no sign of either tooth making an appearance any time soon, it may be Gwen's signature style for a while. I don't remember the other kids having both teeth missing at the same time like this for any length of time. Cute, cute. :-)

Friday, November 12, 2010


It's Friday night in northeast Ohio. Varsity basketball in the high school gym. Cheering, foot stomping, clapping, yelling with the crowd. Seems like the whole school is here- teachers, parents, students. Middle schoolers huddled together on the bleachers and elementary children running back and forth from the concession stand. Watching my boyfriend driving down the court for a break away lay up.


It's Friday night in Shanghai. Varsity basketball in the high school gym. Cheering, foot stomping, clapping, yelling with the crowd. Seems like the whole school is here. It's my son driving down the court. My boyfriend is my husband now and we're in the crowd on the bleachers, cheering for the varsity team.

Twenty five years later- can it be? Here I am, back in the high school gym on a Friday night, watching a guy I love play basketball.

Holiday Specials

Carrefour has recently expanded their selection of dried meats... can I pick anything up for anyone?
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

City Cemetery

When Scott and I were in Hong Kong for Caleb's volleyball tournament, I wandered into this cemetery near our hotel. It was a massive place, built all over several steep hills in the middle of the city. I love old cemeteries, and this one was particularly fascinating because of where it is located and also because it is Muslim, which made the headstones interesting reading. I found the graves so close together and covered in sand rather than grass to be a bit eerie.
Tomorrow a friend and I are going to be a part of a photography trip to a nearby village and temple. We'll be instructed in how to take good pictures of the subject matter. Hopefully I'll be able to take some photos worth sharing here. :-)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Happy Fall

Cookie decorating afternoon with friends, and the yummy and creative results!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Behind the Wall

Earlier this week I was taking a walk down one of the main roads in Jinqiao, the mostly expat housing area where we live. I was surprised to find the wall that runs all along the sidewalk in this particular block had about a twenty foot section knocked out of it. I had not really considered, in the hundreds of times I had passed this way, why there was even a wall around this property. I had not thought about what was behind the wall, but assumed that maybe it was vacant land just waiting for another expat housing development to be built on it.

What I saw as I slowed to a stop by the missing section of the wall was this lovely garden being tended by hand by a couple of elderly people. Off to the right, outside of this photo, was a nice stand of corn, growing ten feet high. In the background you'll see what appears to be the blanket covered home of this couple. Their laundry is hanging neatly on a line in front of the house. As I stopped to take this photo, one of the two smiled and waved at me.
Now we've seen plenty of this type of living since we've been in Asia, some of it an easy bike ride from where we live. It's not that subsistence farming itself was a total shock. It's that these people had, by the look of their garden, been here for a while behind a wall across the street from a country club-type neighborhood and we didn't know it. And they smiled. They are happily working and living in a manner in stark contrast to those across the street from them.

How shall we then live? Does this change anything?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Singing with the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland

Seth and Madelyn, as members of middle school before school choirs, had the opportunity to sing in a concert at the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center with this amazing orchestra from Ireland. The Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland, which includes bagpipes and electric guitars as well as traditional orchestral instruments, came to Shanghai to perform at the World Expo. While they were here, they also performed at some of the international schools and then did this concert with a combined choir of nearly 300 international school students. So many students singing together, accompanied by this amazing orchestra and its solo tenor, couldn't help but sound fabulous!

The Concordia choir directors decided that special outfits were in order for this special concert. Here are Madelyn and Seth in theirs, right after the concert. I love their smiles!
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Any Ideas?

So the description of this bakery product reads, "Chicken tail exhaust packet." I'm a bit stumped... any guesses as to what it could be? I asked Mr. Wu to look at the Chinese characters and he was also a bit confused, said it said something about chicken tail. It's actually more the "exhaust packet" bit that has me wondering....
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

APAC Tournament in Hong Kong

Presenting the 2nd place winners of the Boys Varsity Volleyball Asia Pacific Activities Conference! We had a great three days in Hong Kong last weekend watching both the boys' and girls' teams playing lots of volleyball. The boys lost in the championship, which was a bummer, but were pleased to come away with 2nd place in the tournament.

I loved how the boys began each game with the starting players standing together, arms around each other, before advancing towards the net to shake hands with the opposing team.
No rest for the weary, basketball try-outs started Monday and went through Thursday. Found out this morning that Caleb made the varsity team! Next sport, here we come!

Monday, October 25, 2010

One Last Vietnam Post

So much for all the history in Ho Chi Mihn... we left that behind and made our way via a small prop plane to Phu Quoc island, on the west side of Vietnam. We had a couple of fun days there together, at a tiny little hide-a-way called Cassia Cottages. It was the perfect place for our group to play together.

Whiffle ball on the beach with Daddy... check out Gwen's stance!
Four Liptaks on a team for homerun derby... looks like three of them weren't talking about who should catch that hit!
Lots of football played with the dads and guys
Caleb running Jason and Gwen down the beach to get them out of the way of the football game.
The whole football crew!
A little gymnastics...
Look at this crew of our guys racing into the surf after Seth and Caleb's baptism. Love it!
Seth with two of his pals, Jack and Lance
Lovely pool water hair styles on Madelyn and Elise
Part of our crew on a motorbike outing that ended up in a fishing port of a little town.
The main path through Cassia Cottages
Some of the ladies posing at a nice dinner out at a neighboring resort.
Me and my girl!