Friday, January 30, 2015

Indiana with Ryan's Family

With January nearly over, it's high time we got photos from our trip uploaded and done with, and as today is Ryan's mom's birthday (happy birthday!), it seemed like good timing. :)

After a day of driving from Atlanta, we arrived in Indiana the evening of Monday, December 29th. The next afternoon, we drove across the river to Louisville to see a cool light exhibit.

 There was silk and lights combined to make many different things, including a whole exhibit with different scenes of Scrooge from A Christmas Carol!

 Hadassah really enjoyed looking at everything, the big teddy bear being a favorite :)

 Another exhibit had a lot of different Christmasy scenes. Hadassah makes a really cute princess!

And we made a family of elves together!

 After the exhibit, we picked up Hadassah's "Aunt Gabby" who had flown in from Idaho to see us! 

 Though she's not blood related, I count her a dear sister of the heart. She was only with us for a day and a half, but it was one of the most relaxing time for me of the trip. We talked a lot, went out to dinner (just us and Ryan - the grandparents were great babysitters!), sang and prayed in the New Year, went shopping, and just relaxed. It was such a blessing to have Gabrielle come.
Thursday night was a late Christmas party for the Sunday School Ryan's parent lead for College & Career young adults. We had a fun time of fellowship, and Hadassah loved all the snacks that come out at parties!

Ryan's sister and her family joined us on Friday, and it was fun to see the cousins enjoy each other some more.


Grammy has a lap full of love!

We did family Christmas with them, and by this time Hadassah had opening presents more than figured out. A stocking full of little things to pull out was a toddler's dream come true! ;)

Grandpa and cousins... those two are going to be best buds one day hopefully!

 It doesn't get much better :)

 Saturday was the annual Wolfe family Christmas, with Ryan's dad's side of the family. All 6 of his siblings plus some cousins and children were there! It's always a lot of fun. :)

 Hadassah was handling large groups of people better by this point, but she still needed some down time. For one of those she disappeared with Grammy, who took her to her room, set her in front of the big mirrors, and fancied her up. One of her first experiences playing dress up and she loved it!

We had managed to do most of our shopping and packing on Friday and Saturday, so Sunday afternoon and evening was spent relaxing and enjoying time with the grandparents Hadassah kept pulling off the Santa hat the moment we put it on her, but we managed to chase her around and get a picture.

 Since Hadassah didn't want the hat, Daddy wore it!

 Stair climbing was her favorite activity all week...

 There were sweet moments of spontaneous snuggles...

...and enjoying the finger plays Grammy taught her.  To this day if I do them, Hadassah says "G'ma!"

The next day it was time to leave... The airplane travels will be covered in another post. :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Micro-blog, pollution

Ryan here.  Not on Romans.  Just a micro-blog to capture some stuff on pollution.

(1) Fertility.  This article is sad, but cracks me up (read its first line...).  By the numbers: 33%, the number of Shanghai men whose s. banks meet the WHO standard.  3 and 12.5 %.  The infertility rates in China in 1992 and 2012 respectively.  (Confirms this article.)

(2) Life expectancy. This article perpetuates the research that 10 microns improvement in a city's AQI adds 0.6 years to its inhabitants life expectancy.

More to come: Heart disease and cancer.  Will find scary articles later :) ...

A Date that worked and a Date that didn't

Finding babysitters where we live is hard. But for our anniversary, we wanted to celebrate in some way alone. We brainstormed, asked some friends, and planned for last Saturday as our two-in-one-day anniversary dates.

Xujiahui was our first stop. An hour by taxi through traffic and we arrived soon after noon. We fed Hadassah her lunch in the taxi, which worked well as it gave her something enjoyable to do so she didn't get stir crazy. She's also enjoying watching the cars and scenery more. If all else fails, we just sing endless verses of "the wheels on the bus go round and round." :)

Our friends had a room all ready for us to set up our pack 'n play. They have 3 children, so they know what's needed. They kept the house quiet, had white noise going, and Hadassah went down pretty easily. We were off!
It felt so amazing walking down the street hand in hand without a stroller or baby in the ERGO. Not that we don't like being with our daughter - we are so thankful for her! But, Ryan and Anna came first, and we will always enjoy the time it's just us two!

For one day, we just decided to forget about the pollution. No masks. They really would have ruined the mood... one day couldn't hurt too much, right?

The destination

Ryan had done his research well, and the place was amazing! The restaurant was small and very crowded, and when faced with a 20-30 minute wait or the table outside, we decided to enjoy the upper 50* F weather and be able to hear each other talk. It was really pleasant and nice to be outside, though the person smoking at the table next to us and the construction going on at the place next door did make the atmosphere a little less pleasant. But, we were determined to enjoy the day!

The food was incredible. Savory crepes, with cheese, potatoes, and meat, are unbelievable. Our taste buds were exploding with happiness! There was also freshly juiced apple juice drunk straight from a little bowl. Wow.
And if that wasn't enough, we finished off with the most amazing not-too-sweet but incredibly delicious dessert crepe. Wow.

We left our tip - yes, the amount of money you spend in RMB seems exorbitant still at times (divide by approximately 6 to get the USD amount) and headed off hand in hand to explore the French Concession area of Shanghai.

By now, we were a little cold from sitting outside, so browsing some gift shops was fun as well as a way to warm up some! We felt so carefree to be out as a couple, being able to talk like we hadn't in months and just look into each other's eyes without interruptions. We were blessed!

We jokingly remarked that everything had gone well too - something that seems to rarely happen in a foreign context. Well, we spoke too soon.

We went back to our friends house, collected a happy Hadassah who greeted us with "choo choo!" and led us over to see the cool trains she'd been playing with, and loaded up for our next destination.

A family from our church has been in the states for a few months, and had offered use of their apartment for us to stay in whenever we wanted, as it's just one subway stop from where our church meets. The time it takes to pack up and sleep in a new place with a little one has kept us from doing it, but tonight it seemed fitting. We had plans to put Hadassah to sleep and go out on the town, to the Bund - the center of romance and pretty lights and atmosphere in Shanghai. I'd never seen it with the lights, and it being iconic of Shanghai, we felt it was about time!

A sweet lady from church was going to come and stay at the apartment while Hadassah slept, but we weren't too worried. Naps can sometimes be troublesome, but Hadassah always goes to sleep without a problem and sleeps deeply for the hours before midnight at least.

Friends met us with the keys and helped us figure some things out, then we set up and fed Hadassah supper. We also spent about an hour trying to get the heaters turned on. The living room one had a sticker next to the right setting, but the ones in the bedrooms never got warm, no matter how many settings we tried. It's the downside of not being able to read Chinese characters... We finally gave up, thankful for the space heater we put in Hadassah's room and the big blanket on our bed.

But when I started gathering Hadassah's things for bed, I noticed something was missing: "Nigh-night lamb." The precious lamb blanket that Hadassah sleeps with every nap and night time. I often find her hugging it, and she's started playing with it more too, sharing toys and snacks with it (if I let her!) and treating it like her best friend. We frantically searched everything. Then again. And again... We texted our friends she'd be with in the afternoon, but they couldn't find it. I looked again...

Bedtime was upon us, so I found a soft, silky tiger in the kid's room, got Hadassah interested in it, and went through the bed time routine. 20 seconds after we tucked her in and let the room, we heard the first scream. By now the lady who was going to stay there had arrived, and I was on edge. What do we do? I tried nursing her again, going through the routine, putting her down again... same sobs and screams. Ryan described it best: "She's crying as though someone she knows and loves has died."

We gave her a few minutes, hoping she'd eventually calm down. But she didn't. The friend offered to stay and let us go, saying she was sure eventually she'd fall asleep. But I couldn't leave her. I know the time will come when Hadassah will let go of her lamb, but by then she'll be older and more able to understand. We had trained her to sleep well with her little lovey, and we didn't feel this training to sleep without it was the right time or place.

Plus, we had a second, identical lamb blanket at home. Thankfully we'd had foresight to get another while we were in the states, mostly so we had a spare when it was in the wash. So, we got Hadassah up, and she happily played after taking some time to calm down, relieved to be out of the dark without her "nigh-na." Suitcases, pack 'n play, breakfast for tomorrow that turned into supper for Ryan and I... all was packed and we loaded into a taxi for the 45 minute drive home.

We got home around 9 PM, 2 hours after Hadassah is usually in bed, but she did okay, as I told her we were going to get her lamb. The joy on her face as she wrapped it in her arms was priceless, and she went down in her bed without a peep.

Ryan and I turned on the heaters in the bathroom and enjoyed the warmth, hugging and looking at the finery we'd dressed in for a night on the town. It didn't seem fair. Tears filled my eyes momentarily. Things always seemed to be going wrong... but we know God is in control, and somehow there is a purpose. And as we hugged, I realized this is true love.

Going out and dates is a way to keep love kindled and fresh, but living day by day, through the joys and the disappointments and staying strong and connected... that's the love that lasts. We are parents now too, and there are responsibilities that come with it. And seeing Ryan as a loving husband and caring father has only made me love him more.

We ended the day looking at the pictures from our afternoon date, focusing on the joy that afternoon had held. Those are memories that will stay with us. And even the date that didn't happen is something we'll remember and laugh at. "Give thanks in all circumstances..." We're learning.

Monday, January 26, 2015


The pollution outside has been bad. So bad I've only taken Hadassah out to play once in the past two weeks, and only go out for the bare minimum of required food and water. On Sunday night the AQI hit a high for us being here: 410! While trying to go to sleep, we felt light headed and short of breath until moving a second air purifier into the bedroom, which helped, though by morning the HEPA filter on one was black. The AQI usually hovers been 150 and 200 lately, though... still in the "unhealthy" and "everyone stay inside if you can" range.

Ryan, though, still has to go to work. The vog masks we had, while looking more stylish, caused him to have shortness of breath, so we ordered some 3M masks:

He faithfully wore these for a few weeks, though I've only worn them a few times... I know it's vain, but it sure messes up the hair for a woman! And... I just hate that it takes away the smile. (I'm smiling in the above picture - but can you tell?) It's still the primary way I communicate with others here, especially when I see them at a distance. Every time I wear a mask, I just feel sad.

So yesterday, Ryan walked through the door looking like this:

I really did wonder if the apocalypse had come!

His company just moved to a new building, and with less regulations on building codes and materials and what's healthy or not, the first day there nearly everyone wore masks due to the horrible smells and dust, and now most of them are working at the old office until stuff settles down. A co-worker and Ryan, though, just wore these gas masks. He now wears it to and from on his e-bike, too, as he says it doesn't give the shortness of breath other masks gave.

My biggest annoyance with them? It's impossible to kiss him right when he walks in the door! ;)

Hadassah has gotten better about letting us put a mask on her, but so far we haven't found one to fit well. The vog mask for her age keeps slipping off the ears, and the child size 3M masks is too big, often creeping up to high her eyes. It's discouraging, so I usually just keep her inside unless we have to go out for a quick essential.

I'm trying to remind myself that were we still in Iowa we'd have to stay inside anyway due to the cold, but with the temperatures in the 50* F range lately, it's hard to not get the urge to get out. And a breath of that cold, crisp, so fresh air we experienced last winter in Iowa sounds rather refreshing right now!

Where does the pollution come from? This wikipedia article lists a lot of causes (and is kind of depressing to read). This article particularly looks at Shanghai air quality. A coal burning plant is close-ish to where we live, and those contribute a lot in the winter as it is used to furnish electricity to the city. Car emissions are another big factor.

So, pray. For health (both Ryan and I have gotten sick and congested lately), for clearer skies, and for the people in leadership here in China to have wisdom and the follow-through to make changes to help clear the environment. I feel so bad for the Chinese people, who live with this. Do they wear masks? Some. Especially if they're riding on bikes. But more don't. The children are growing up with greater risks for cancer and lung problems. It's so sad to see.

May spring with cleaner air come quickly...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Two Years Ago Today...

*warning* I think I'm about to break the record for the most pictures in one blog post...

January 26th, 2013. Has it already been two years?

It's impossible to capture every moment of that day. God blessed us with an amazing one. After all the planning, I was calm and enjoyed every moment, though I felt like I was floating along in a dream. But looking back at the pictures, it all comes back.

 5 months of planning... sewing my dress, ordering my shoes, finding the perfect accessories... Everything was ready.

The day was perfect. We took a risk getting married in January, but Alabama gave us a beautiful day, with blue skies and 50 degree weather.

 The "Anna" roses had come and been arranged... I had my dream of pink roses, with a white rose in the middle to symbolize purity. By God's grace, we had come to this day.

Our wedding bands were made out of the same piece of gold, symbolizing the union we were forming.

 I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror and thought, "I'm the bride??"

 After all those years of waiting my prince had come. I knew his name!

 It had been so worth the wait.

  I was surrounded by my sisters - by blood, by marriage, and by heart...

These were the ladies who had been praying with me for years about this day.

His guys were standing with and supporting him.

They were the guys who weren't afraid to have a little fun. They'd also prayed and encouraged him as he'd waited. He'd had to wait 6 years longer than me.

I didn't want him to see me before I came down the aisle...

...but we wanted some moments together before the ceremony. To pray. To say "I love you" a million more times.

We exchanged letters of love then too. And then, later on, in our starry-eyed newly-wedded-ness, we accidentally took them out of the Bible they were in and left them in a restaurant. But, as they spoke of how all the days of restraint were coming to an end, how ready we were for each other, how thankful we were God had brought us to this point... we pray that someone found them who needed to read them and be reminded that true love is out there, and is worth waiting for.

Then it was back to the room, to laugh with my little sister one last time...

To share precious moments with dear friends who had flown for miles to be there...

Music played...

 Dancers warmed up and my flower girl niece twirled...

And I twirled too, for the sheer joy of it all! I was getting married!

The chapel was filling. It was time.

 "My" girls opened the ceremony. The girls I'd spent the last 7 years of my life pouring into. It was an amazing moment, as I was able to watch through a window in the foyer.

 Then it was one last glance over my shoulder, my last moments as a single girl on my father's arm...

 The only things brighter than the lights above us were our smiles.

 He was the happiest groom the wedding coordinator had ever seen, and I was his princess.

We sang in worship, we heard our marriage charge, we held hands during "our" song, we said our vows, and exchanged our rings. But I admit a lot of what I was thinking about was: "I get to kiss you soon!"

And it was sweet.

We were married. Mr. & Mrs. Ryan Wolfe!!
We walked down the aisle amid a surprise shower of rose petals- another gift from "my" girls.

We smiled for many pictures, as we were now a part of each other's family.

And the time it took to arrange everyone onstage allowed for many sweet moments of looking up in wonder. I'm his wife?? I was hardly aware of anyone else.

Our wedding party members were from 10 different states... dedicated friends who made it there no mater what!

They made it lots of fun too :)

 We were husband and wife.

And there was no holding back any longer.

 There are no words to describe the intensity of that love. And in two year's time it hasn't dimmed. It's gotten stronger.

Then it was on to the reception. I was the bride who didn't have any idea of what I wanted. But somehow my amazing decorators (sweet women from my church) made it into something dreams are made of.

There was amazing cake that tasted as good as it looked. Pumpkin spice and chocolate peanut butter cup...

And the food! An amazing friend took some of our favorite things...

...and made them into works of art.

We were surrounded by hundreds - our family and friends, students and church body - and had a steady stream of well wishers. And while I was so happy to see everyone there, Ryan was all I could really see.

We danced our first dance... and have kept dancing. 

"All those dreams and now they're finally here..."

We did one last dance with my students too... the end of an era.

I threw my bouquet...

...and Ryan threw a frisbee, just to keep things interesting. :)

We left under a canopy of bubbles...

...and began our life together as one.

The last two years have been full of immense joys and great challenges. We have laughed a lot and cried a lot... together. I love how Ryan wants to do as much as we can together. It is such a joy to be his bride.

Special thanks to Ann Michelle Photography for taking our photos that day, as well as to family and friends who shared shots they captured!