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!