Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Two very different weekends

Just to give a slice of life...

Two weekends ago was perfect. We were sitting in the living room after breakfast around 7:30 AM (no sleeping in when you have a little one!) trying to figure out what we wanted to do that day when Ryan said, "Let's go to the zoo." Me: "Like, now?" One thing I love about Ryan is that he's able to be spontaneous and it makes us all have more fun!

So, 15-20 minutes later we were out the door. After all, you can't forget diapers, sippy cups, books for the way or snacks when you have a little miss!

 Hadassah's face at the first set of monkeys made us so glad we decided to come. It was a beautiful day and see was enamored once more by her favorite furry friends.

 It was beautiful weather - the jacket only lasted the first 10 minutes - and it just felt so good to be out and be a family. We're a family. Such a beautiful word.

At another monkey exhibit, Hadassah turned into an even greater attraction to a crowd of older people standing close by. She tired of the attention, and acted shy. We're kind of glad when she does, because it means whoever is holding her gets a rare few minutes of sweet snuggles. :) Whenever I would try to lift my head, she would use her hand to pull it back down to hers.

 We couldn't leave the primates area without visiting the gorillas - Hadassah loves imitating them.

 She loved being able to "ride" a giraffe! More attractive to her than looking at the real things. :)

 This brown bear with his own ball looked like he was having a good time.

 Hadassah offered her crackers to the peacock, who would have been glad to take them had the glass not prevented it!

 The Shanghai zoo is beautifully landscaped and maintained. It was such a completely lovely day to be outside too! The exhibits are a bit spread out, but with such nice weather we didn't mind and all the walking felt great. Much better than hanging out at home!

 The best investment? 3 kuai (50 cents) for food to feed the goats in the petting zoo. Hadassah's face and expressions were priceless!

 I don't know who's more excited about another piece - the goat or Hadassah!

 She tried to sample it too (I quickly stopped her) - I guess she thought the goat liked it so much it must be tasty...

We were home in time for a great nap on Saturday afternoon, then went to some friends we've gotten re-acquainted with who live just a 20 minute walk away for dinner. Sunday we enjoyed fellowship with our church family, another lovely afternoon nap, and then time out at our favorite spot on campus where there's a big field of grass. Hadassah had a ball with the dandelions in a secluded area. She picked and tried to blow and picked and had us blow and picked and picked... So wonderful to see the delight of a child.


Last weekend was vastly different. Probably couldn't have been more different.

We did start in a relaxing way, with pizza by the river at a place near Ryan's work. It's always delightful to eat outside in the breeze...

But Ryan started having back pain on Friday afternoon. Whether it was him going for a run and not stretching properly afterwards, dancing with Hadassah and lifting her in the air without protecting his back, sitting weird at work, or just stress and not enough sleep, he was in a lot of pain as he left work. Nothing seemed to help.

Saturday and Sunday he mostly spent in bed. We had to cancel on plans to play Ultimate Frisbee with friends - first time it had been scheduled and we had been looking forward to it! He wasn't even up to going to church on Sunday morning, which really isn't like him - he usually won't miss for anything! So, the days were spent like a normal weekday, for the most part, for Hadassah and me, with the addition of trying to care for my husband as best as I could. I hated seeing him in pain, and wished I had more time to be at his side, but we both knew the easiest way for him to rest and recover would be for me to keep Hadassah occupied so he could rest. So I cooked and cleaned and took her outside as normal, missing the time we normally had together as a family. It also gave me a new appreciation for how much Ryan helps with Hadassah and relieves me on the weekend and in the evenings... I truly don't know how single parents do it.

He felt a little better each day, but still had a lot of pain when he moved certain ways, but he managed to work part-day on Monday and a full day on Tuesday, though he laid down as soon as he got home both times.

This morning he woke up (after 11 hours in bed!), got out of bed and said "It's gone!" There is still a little pain and discomfort, but he feels like whatever was causing the problem has gone back into place. Much to our relief... we really weren't sure what to do or where to go if the problem continued. We still appreciate prayer that he will fully recover and not re-injure it, but we are praising God and thankful for the prayers of friends in how well he's doing now.

So, there you have it. Two very different weekends. It's how life is sometimes!

Monday, May 25, 2015

16 weeks pregnant and...

This month's post was going to say "and a gender reveal!" but unfortunately, that is not to be. :( More on that later!

Baby is doing well, and the size of an avocado (hence the picture prop). It's pretty crazy to think there's already a baby that big moving around inside of me, and yet as I look at pictures of babies in the womb so perfectly formed at this age, I am amazed to think of baby being so small!

My belly is definitely expanding, so it's good to know there is a reason. I feel much bigger than I look to others, and haven't yet had anyone ask if I'm pregnant - at least not that I can understand! ;) The doctor today told me I had gained 2 kg (4.4 lbs) this month - "but 1.5 kg is good" - but she didn't chide me other than that, so I am thankful. I feel healthy, much more energetic (no longer falling asleep in weird places in the evening!), and hungry, so it's really nice to be in the 2nd trimester. I haven't broken out the maternity clothes yet, but my wardrobe is getting smaller as skirts keep getting too tight or shirts too short, so I know it will be soon...

About 2 weeks ago, just around mother's day (perfect present!), I felt baby move for the first time. I'd missed those feelings... they're so amazing! And they've only gotten stronger. Often, when I'm out walking baby is the most active; I guess he/she likes the rhythmic movement! Last night Ryan got to feel baby for the first time too... we were laying in bed talking and I felt those sweet tappings, and had Ryan put his hand to feel. Of course, the movement stopped like it has every time he's tried, but then Ryan said "baby!" really loud and there was a response that Ryan felt! I joked that we must be having a boy, to have such a quick, "yes sir!" response to Daddy's strong voice! :)

A few days ago, as I cuddled Hadassah on the couch while she drank her morning sippy cup of milk, I felt baby move beneath where she was sitting. And I realized this will probably be the easiest time there ever will be to hold them both so close at the same time. I'm cherishing these moments.

Speaking of Hadassah, it's crazy how not-baby and so-little-girl she is now! I'll have to do another post on her soon, as it feels like, as Ryan puts it, "her brain is exploding" as she learns new things daily. She also loves all thought of baby, often giving pats and kisses and hugs and trying to share things with my tummy to involve baby. When she poured milk in my belly button, though, that was a little too far! But she'll try to "show" baby toys, and often wants to "read" to baby. I'm not sure if it's just her way of getting me to sit near her while she looks at books, but she wants to see  my tummy and if my shirt falls down, she'll motion towards and and say "goo goo ga ga!" until I lift it to show her the belly again, so there is something about involving the baby that she likes. She's going to be such a great big sister! Though we will have to watch her pretty closely to make sure her "sharing" stays safe, at least at first!

 We had another prenatal appointment this morning. The hour long subway ride into town never ceases to amaze us when we go during rush hour. These were the "lines" of people waiting to get on at the interchange of metro lines 5 & 1. Obviously, they didn't all make it on the first train, but you'd be amazed how people can cram on. Somehow, though the car looks completely full, at each stop on line 5 at least 5-10 more people would cram in. I was thankful to be given a seat since I had a toddler!

This time, since Ryan has somehow injured his back (spending most of the weekend in bed), we knew there was no way he could care for Hadassah while I went through the check-up steps, since he can't even bend down to put on his shoes without pain, much less pick her up. (Yes, prayers his back would fully recover soon are appreciated!) So, a friend from church who we realized lived just one subway stop away from the hospital was kind enough to let Hadassah spend three hours at her apartment. Though she was sad when we left, her beloved "ni-night" helped soothe the tears and then she had an awesome time playing with our friend's little girl a year older and all of the new toys! And it was quite a relief not to try and keep her happy during all of the waiting at the doctor...

 We are always amazed at how we get through the appointment. Most everything is in Chinese, and there is only one receptionist and one nurse that speaks English. But, they keep a special look-out for us, directing us where to go. And when we can't figure out the do-it-yourself weigh-in machine, kind people look at our need (I'm pretty good at looking helpless by now!) and press the right buttons. It makes me realize I really should study more Chinese characters, since I didn't even know which button said "enter" to log in...

 Some things, like the automatic blood pressure machine are pretty cool and ingenious, as they operate without any nurses. But, when you have to take turns at each station and room for each different thing, all of the waiting really does add up, and seems to take so much longer than doctor's offices in the US...

 This one was the craziest moment of the morning. I actually don't know what this form was for - the receptionist merely asked if I had my passport (yes, a copy) and marriage license (no - no one told me to bring it!) and then pointed to the spaces I was to fill out. "here, name. here, age. here, gender, here passport number, here college degree, here company, here address" and so on. Thankfully it wasn't the WHOLE form. But still, in my light-headed state from having not eaten that morning (who had the crazy idea to have pregnant women skip breakfast to get their fasting blood sugar level??) I didn't remember beyond the first few fields. We tried to ask another receptionist (the English speaking one had disappeared) but she only spoke Chinese, so while it was helpful at some points when we knew the Chinese word for "passport" or whatever, at other points we just stood in ignorance until the English speaking nurse passed by and we stopped her to ask. To top it off, the form was made to be filled out in Chinese characters, so a lot of the spaces weren't large enough to write English words in...

I can't complain too much. I know the fact that we have some English speaking care at a foreign hospital is pretty big. They are also very patient with us, as we stumble through their processes that work well if you can read Chinese. They always have someone help to point us in the right direction, or help us on our way (such as the older nurse they sent with us to make sure we got to the right floor and room to have an EKG done) and at key points, sometimes we find another patient who happens to know English. All-in-all, we're always amazed when we make it through and it actually mostly works!

After getting 6 vials of blood drawn, I was finally allowed to eat. It was 10 AM and I'd been up since 5 AM, so my peanut butter sandwich tasted like manna from heaven! It's crazy what food does to the brain too... suddenly I could think and remember things again.

 We were taken to a floor of the main, public hospital to get an EKG done (why I needed one done in the first place, I have no idea... we just go where they tell us) and told our number. I was thankful to have Ryan there for company as there were over 20 people ahead of us according to the screen. It was nice to have time just to talk without the distraction of a little one, so we counted it as a mini date. :)

The screen itself was a bit funny. There was a star symbol used in place of one of the characters of each person's name, in order to not let everyone see their identity. So when my turn came, they carefully starred out an "n" but since they called out "A-n-n-a W-o-l-f-e" and pretty much the whole name is readable in English. It made us smile.

When my number called, we walked into the room, only to have a big fuss made and us pushed out. Ryan was used to going with me everywhere, we didn't think anything of it, but then realized the propriety of it, with two little partitions for women to get EKG's done. And upon exiting, Ryan saw the character for "man" along with a few more characters that probably meant "do not enter." The blunders we make...

Everything was normal, we found our way back to the VIP floor, and waited for the visit with the doctor. Got in the room, and waited again... When she came back, it was fairly quick: measure the uterus, use a doppler to the listen to the heartbeat, tell me my test results were normal, and ask if we had any questions. She was probably relieved we only had one, given the list we had last time!

I had figured out by now that we weren't going to have an ultrasound, which was fine with me (I'm glad they don't take one every visit) but also a little disappointing as we'd hoped to find out the gender that day. I had read online in researching Peace Maternity hospital that they wouldn't tell you the gender, since it is against the law for Chinese doctors to disclose that. Given the number of sex-selection abortions that occur when the law only allows one or two children, were are thankful they have that in place. But a foreign friend who had friends deliver at Peace and my neighbor both told me if we were both foreigners, they could tell us, so we'd planned to ask. But, when I asked the doctor if we'd be able to find out next visit when she told us they planned an ultrasound to check all of the baby's organs, she said "no - it is against the law." She did say if we went to a private clinic it might be possible, but we don't want to pay the extra money.

We didn't find out what Hadassah was before she was born, so thankfully we are used to the waiting, and the surprise when baby is born is a lot of fun. This time we'd hoped to find out, since we were getting routine ultrasounds as part of care anyway, and it would just be a lot easier to plan. If baby is a girl, we'll have all the clothes and things we need, and in the right season, as this one will be born exactly the time of year Hadassah was. If baby is a boy, we'll need to get a lot of new things! But, it can be done, and the surprise of it all will be fun again. Trying to remind myself of that, instead of focusing on the disappointment, as I had been excited (without trying to let myself get too excited) at the thought of knowing, being able to call baby by name, and being able to more easily talk to Hadassah about baby. But, she doesn't understand pronouns anyway, so I guess it really doesn't matter!

Speaking of baby, the little one started wiggling again just now. The movements inside have to be my favorite part of pregnancy. They remind me that there is precious LIFE inside, a little person I can't wait to meet and already love. Thank you, God, for the gift of life!

We picked up food to go from our favorite close restaurant, Waga's, and headed back to pick up Hadassah. I was still pretty hungry, so the food tasted even better than usual. :) Hadassah came running to great us with a shriek and excited babbling and a smile that just makes me so happy to be a mama! She excitedly showed me things she'd played with, and I could tell she'd had a good time. We took the ride home on a much less crowded subway, actually getting to sit all together as a family and eat lunch, which helped it not seem so long.

We made it home at 12:40 PM, but it feels like we've been gone all day... crazy how much a trip downtown takes it out of you! Both Hadassah and Ryan went down for a nap while I've gotten to relax and write... Already the day is mostly gone and all we did is a doctor's appointment! But, Ryan woke and went in to work for the rest of the day, and I know that even if I don't have much to show for today, I have much to be thankful for. Baby is healthy and strong, I have been blessed with good health, and I have the most incredible, supportive, loving husband, and cute and sweet daughter. It's sometimes good to have a day just to think about that, even if the laundry didn't get done and the dishes from breakfast are still on the counter...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

My still uninformed thoughts on Romans 7

At one point in my life, I thought I would conquer Romans when I was 30.  Now, I think my goal is to conquer Romans when I am "30s".  This means I still have 9 years left.  Oh, what an "s" can do to schedules!

I basically stopped the regular habit of reading Romans commentaries, memorizing those verses, listening to lectures/sermons.  I just got Romansed out.  But my wife just bought me the new project by Psallos where they walk through the entire book through musical performance.  Very, very cool, and wonderful gift! Also, a perfect gift in a situation where adding another book to the library would be just one more book that we would eventually, one day, have to bring back to the States.

Romans is an amazing book, but it is super challenging.  I've heard one person refer to it as Everest.  Part of what makes it so difficult is all the available literature and history of exegesis.  Less-researched passages of scripture are easier to form an opinion on, because usually there are only a few people that I really respect and trust that have commented on the exegetical question.  Since they often agree, it's easy for me just to go along with their interpretation.

But there are many controversial passages in Romans that have ultra-conservative commentators in the exact same theological streams forming drastically different opinions.

One such case is the passage in Romans 7.  I won't do a roundup.  But the big question here is: "who is Paul referring to?"  There are 3 choices: (1) Paul, (2) Israel, (3) Adam.

Most people you read from before this century believed it was Paul.  The Puritans I read never even look at the other options.  Fastforward to the 20th century and now it's difficult to find a scholar who believes this is talking about Paul.  Some examples, for those who care: Bruce Ware, NT Wright, and Doug Moo take this as referring to Israel.  Michael Horton takes it as Paul.  Tom Schriener leans towards Paul.  But recently (last 20 years or so) more and more are adopting the "Adam" choice.  There was a PhD thesis paper that someone did at TEDS a while back that really awakened the academic world to this in a new light.  And I've heard both Tom Schriener and Douglas Moo say in their lectures that if they wrote their commentaries again, they would give this position more attention.

Why is there such a temptation to see this as referring to Adam?  First of all, you have the Adam/Christ parallel that has already been brought up in chapter 5.  Second, look at verse 9 below:

Romans Chapter 7, Verses 7-12:
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no meansYet if it had not been for the law o I would not have known sinFor I would not have known what it is to covet if p the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin q seizing an opportunity through the commandmentproduced in me all kinds of covetousnessr For apart from the lawsin lie sdead. I was once alive apart from the lawbut when the commandment camesin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment s that promised life proved to be death tome. 11 For sin t seizing an opportunity through the commandment u deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So v the law is holyand the commandment is holy and righteous and good

Verse 9 is tricky one here, isn't it? As I've already pointed out in a previous post, it's difficult to see how this could be talking about anyone but Adam.  Weren't we born in sin?  The Bible never talks about us being born alive and at some point dying.  I haven't consulted a Roman Catholic commentary on this; maybe this is support for the "age of accountability"?  I don't know.  But it's difficult for me to see how this could be talking about anyone after Adam.

However, we need to say that, if pressed, we could see this verse as referring to the modern experience in that, in one sense, this experience is true in our personal lives.  Every one of us, in Adam, has sinned like him.  We replicate the human story over and over again.  We weren't born into the world without sin, but we replicate Adam's sin who did that.  The commandment comes, we sin, we die.  (Much of this point and even the language used was borrowed from Tom Schriener)

This kind of goes along with something a mentor/friend of mine said concerning this question:
It seems to me that the alive and dead throughout Romans 7 are almost logical constructs about authority and control vs. Freedom. When I am alive I am free to act, when I am dead I am controlled or bound by something. So in verse 9, before I knew anything about the law I was able (as far as I knew) to do my own thing. But then when I became aware of the laws/ commands the sin that was there - but had nothing to rebel against, sprang into action. I became bound/controlled by the sin, and not free to do the right things....but I am not a theologian and don't play one on TV. Rob
We become bound by sin and the law is the catalyst to show us what not to do.  Our human natures, before we are Christians, are not seeking to glorify God - they are, in fact, actively working against that. So when the law comes, our natures are drawn to transgress the law so that we can dishonor Him.

But the harder question to answer is: Are verses 15-25 talking about the Christian life or the Non-Christian life.  Even the camp that says 7:7-25 refers to Paul are split between those who think it is referring to him BEFORE his conversion and those who believe it is referring to him AFTER conversion.  This is a touchy subject for some people.  Bruce Ware thinks the right interpretation of this passage is a really big deal.  Holding the position that this passage is referring to Israel in an unregenerate condition, he believes that many Christians are wrongly using this passage to justify defeat in their lives.

I definitely don't think it's as big a deal as Ware makes it out to be.  But I think we can agree that interpreting it correctly is important.

The arguments that it is referring to Non-Christians are compelling:

(1) Paul, in Romans 6 and 8 says that we are NOT slaves to sin.  ("The law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.")  So, how could he say here, in 7:14 that we are "sold under sin" and in 7:23 that we are "captive to the law of sin"?  As Bruce Ware points out: Paul is not talking about an internal struggle - he's talking about abject captivity and submission.  "Not the ability to carry it out" (7:18b)

(2) The structure of Romans 7-8ff indicates this.  7:5 is about the non-Christian and is parallel to 7:7-25.  7:6 is about the Christian and is parallel to Romans 8:1 and following.  Thus, 7:7-25 is referring to non-Christians.

But these arguments can be answered pretty easily I think.  As for "(1)" above, I think we can just say that this is a part of the already-not-yet in a Christian's life.  Yes, we are now dead to sin.  Yet, we still live in the period where the Old Age and the New Age overlap.  And "(2)" is just an argument from structure.  Maybe this is what Paul intended.  Maybe it isn't.  Not a very strong argument, and easily dodged.

So in the end, I don't really know.  Paul's point is that the law is unable to transform us.  Non-Christians experience this totally.  Christians experience this in-part due to the already-not-yet.

I'm happy to hold this position right now.  Tom Schriener didn't even make a decision in his commentary.  So, I'll hold out and wait and see if I form more solid opinions on it.

Really enjoy the comments on this.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Potty Training in China

We're not fully in the "potty training" phase right now, but we've been teaching Hadassah how to use the toilet ever since a friend recommended we start teaching her when she was 8 months old. As she explained what she'd done with her child, it made sense to start teaching our little one the skill, not to have her fully potty trained really young, but to give her the knowledge to be able to go and make it a natural thing, not something we have issues with her rebelling against later, or something that she's scared to do, as I've heard can sometimes happen when you wait.

Soon after we started teaching Hadassah (she looks so little!). Though we got a potty chair, she soon decided she preferred the big toilet instead.
Hadassah picked up pretty quickly and occasionally goes potty, especially if we bring her right after we've been outside or right after meals. It's pretty neat, and she gets SO excited as we praise her for it, especially when Daddy does his special celebratory dance. Recently she has even been telling us more when she needs to go, though it's very irregular. Her saying "bafroom" and doing the sign language for "potty" is always exciting when it happens. We're not going to try to get towards being completely toilet trained until at least closer to age 2, but for now she's taking steps towards her noticing her body's needs. She's even started going in and laying down to be changed when she makes a poopy diaper, so she's definitely becoming aware and likes being clean and dry!

Potty training is a challenge anywhere, but as Hadassah wants to use the potty more when we're out, I'm realizing it's a special challenge in China.

Why? Squatty potties.

It's not so much the method as the state of most public, squatty potty restrooms. They're usually pretty gross. There have been far to many misses or splashes, that the floor is sticky or yellow sometimes. The smell... Ugh. I successfully avoided them for the first 11 months of living here, but had to face them once I was pregnant, we were traveling, and it was the only option. But take my toddler in there? I don't think so!

Except... she kept asking to go the potty every week after I shopped for groceries. The mall with the nicest/closest supermarket to us doesn't have western style toilets. I brought her in once (thankfully it weren't too dirty) and showed her how to use them, but she couldn't bring herself to go, and I didn't blame her. So for the following weeks, predictably, she would ask to go after I checked out, and I'd explain that these bathrooms didn't have potty chairs, they just had "hole potties" and Hadassah couldn't use those. But what to do when she got older and had to go somewhere? I didn't want to think about it.

Leave it to Hadassah to show me she could do it, though. We were walking outside one morning, and she saw a sewer cover with a hole in the middle and said "hole bafroom," squatted, and did the "shh" sound we do to help her think to go. I asked if she was pretending to use the hole potty, and she laughed, and continued copying her ritual at every sewer cover with a hole that we came to.

The next afternoon we were out for a long walk, with no public restrooms anywhere nearby, when she asked to go. So, I decided to do something very Chinese: let her go by a bush! You see, diapers are pretty expensive here, and some people in the city (and I've heard most people in the country) don't use diapers at all for their little ones. They put them in "split pants" that have the inner seams open, so they can hold them up to go whenever they need to. I hear it makes potty training pretty easy, but I would be pretty terrified to hold a young baby that wasn't wearing a diaper, not to mention not wanting to expose my child's private parts that much in public. But I digress... Anyways, it's a common site to see young children squatting or being held in a squatting position in public, on the outside of a sidewalk, in the grass, near a bush, or even over a trash can in the store. So, I let Hadassah try outside, and she actually went! We made a big deal of it, and since then she almost always wants to go when we're outside... so much so that Ryan joked that she must think going outside is some sort of upgrade to going inside - she seems to enjoy it more!

So, the next shopping trip rolled around on Monday. Again, she asked to go just after I checked out, and this time I took her, explaining it was going to be a "hole potty." And she did it. I helped her put her feet on either side (part of my fear of taking her into them is that she'll fall in!) and she went like a pro.

Hadassah is teaching me not to be afraid to try new things. Children are pretty adaptable, and willing to do things we're not always willing to do. I'm still not excited about full potty training here, as public restrooms themselves aren't always that common (though I guess she can use the great outdoors for a while!) but a step has been taken...

And sorry if that was all more than you wanted to know. ;) It all goes along with life in a foreign country!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Happy birthday Ryan!

 Happy 31st birthday to my dear husband, an amazing leader, a loving and fun father, a wise man who puts thought towards the future yet also does knows when to be spontaneous. It's such a blessing to live life with you, Ryan!

It's crazy to think that this time last year, we were about to board a plane for Shanghai. It's been a crazy, full, hard, exciting, memorable year. Who knows what this next year will bring for you... but if it's anything like the years since I met you, it will be be full of many things in life and full of the Lord.

We celebrated by splurging on food (cheese for quesadillas, and whipped cream and strawberries to top brownies) and had two of his co-workers join us for lunch. There is no way I could ever top the cakes he got for his last birthday, so I was grateful he chose brownies instead of cake. That way, I didn't even have to attempt any decorating!

Tonight we'll have another meal splurge - over favorite pasta with bacon(!!) - and an evening as a family. Our weeks are full and life moves quickly, but we've found some of the best moments are ones we spend all together.

I love you, Ryan! May this day - and year - be blessed.

Tastes of Memories

It's amazing how one bite can bring back a host of memories. I guess that's why having those familiar foods from home are such a comfort when you're living in another country.

Tonight it was homemade biscuits, the special recipe of a long-time family of friends. The biscuit spread with jam brought me back to their large, open kitchen, sharing fresh biscuits from the oven after a fun sleepover.

Last night it was the mixture of watermelon, honey dew melon, and nectarine in a fruit salad. Somehow that particular combination of sweet and a tad tart (we're still not quite to full nectarine season!) brought me back to my family's table, eating fruit salad for a special meal.

Sometimes it's the taste of taco soup. It brings us back to our first home in Iowa, on cold winter nights playing Carcassone as we enjoyed a steaming bowl. Even to this day, it's almost a law that if we have taco soup, we have to play a game too!

Last week it was our baked potato meal. That is, crockpot potatoes (the easiest new way I've found to do "baked" potatoes!). My mom was famous for her "b" meal - baked potatoes, broccoli (or beans), and bacon. A fresh tomato always had to accompany too, so I couldn't leave it out. We didn't have the bacon (it's super expensive here - think $3 for 6 slices!) but the rest of it brought me back. I was at home in my mind.

Speaking of bacon, I splurged once a few weeks ago, and made our favorite pasta dish. Immediately I was remembering the thrill of finding the recipe and making it for my new husband. Mixed in were each of the friends I'd served that meal to... after church, right before we left Iowa, and with mentor-friends in my parent's guest house as we prepared to come here.

This afternoon with a pregnancy snack attack, it was the mixture of nuts, raisins, and a few of the carefully rationed m&m's a friend surprised us with a care package. Suddenly I was camping again, surrounded by a hundred friends and family memories.

Certain foods are tied to people too. For my sisters, it's strawberry shortcake for Maria and brownies for Miriam. For Lydia it's campfire tinfoils or their home counterpart, pasties, where we'd split the duties of chopping veggies and making crust while getting in sister talk time. I've thought of Jubilee a lot lately, as her food is watermelon... she could eat more in one sitting than anyone. As we've been eating it nearly every day here recently, she's come to mind a lot. :)

Maybe taste and memories is why the pregnancy cravings I can't have over here that have been so fierce and reoccurring...

An Arby's classic roast beef sandwich, bringing back meals after church or on road trips with my family.

A classic Chickfila chicken sandwich with those dill pickles... pretty much every memory at Chickfila has been full of the love of family!

A nicely toasted cinnamon raisin Aldi bagel spread with butter, a pretty common breakfast in our first year of marriage.

It's these that are on my mind, so close I can almost taste them, so often as I try to fall asleep at night. It's just not right!

But, wow. God was pretty amazing when he tied the senses to memories. I am so thankful for the amazing sense of taste He has given us!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Capturing the Joy of Our Family

We first met William when he showed up at church one Sunday. He was enthusiastic, friendly, and we learned about him over lunch at our favorite after-church spot: Cali-Burger. He was doing the same study-abroad program Ryan did 10 years ago, and in a month would be transferring to the Minhang Campus of JiaoTong University - right across the street from where we live!

We soon had him over for supper, and later he invited a Chinese friend over for a meal and discussion. It was so great to hear the Scriptures being discussed around our table with a curious college student. William over a few more times, rode with us to church some Sundays, and connected us with some great people, including a babysitter! He definitely used his time well on campus, too, as he naturally got connected with many local students. The semester came to an end, though, and he said he before he left he wanted to thank us for all of our hospitality with a free family photo shoot. We felt like we were the ones that needed to thank him for connecting us to many and giving us great fellowship, but we weren't ones to turn down a photo shoot. After all, we were getting a little tired of selfies!

So last week on a late Wednesday afternoon, William met us on campus with a friend named Jane to capture some of our family's joy...

I had done some research on Pinterest, to get ideas for poses (almost none of these are originally mine) and other tips. We found some great matching outfits in our closet which really pulled things together!
With a toddler, I knew a lot of "sit still and smile at the camera" pictures weren't going to work. So I found creative ways to get Hadassah to smile!
This one was all her own, though... "Are you all done kissing yet??"
Dancing with daddy... melts my heart.
Wispy with the flowers
We even got some of just us while the little one played with the flowers. Until she started running toward the road, that is...
Capturing the wonder of her favorite books...
"Where did Dassah go?" (she refused to cover both her eyes - always had to have one eye on the camera!)
"Peekaboo!" (trick to this one? Have her stuffed animal play peekaboo behind the camera!)
So thankful for a husband who leads us in devotions each morning. "Shh shh time" as Hadassah calls it.
"Squeeze!" It's crazy to think that soon we'll have two little ones to hug!
A change to blue, that brings out our little one's eyes... 
There's always something to make her smile, even when she was getting tired of pictures!
Tippy-toes :)
Flying in a field...
This is our life... enjoying moments together while trying to wrangle a toddler trying to escape ;)
I love him.
He leads me so well.
And I still get lost in his eyes...
 When the little miss was all done with photos, her favorite "ni-night" cheered her up and kept her company as she danced in the field... Totally spontaneous to have pictures with the lamb, but they're some of my favorites!

Hand in hand, with a little one following.
Dancing as the light slowly fades...

Thank you again, William, for this incredible blessing to our family!