Sunday, June 28, 2015

Recipes for the best

Last week I made pasties for dinner. I know, the name makes everyone go, "huh?" It's a traditional Scandenavian dish, handed down from my dad's parents. It's simple, really, but quickly became the favorite food of almost everyone in my family, especially my dad. It was the most-oft requested dish for birthdays and other special meals.



It's not nice to post pictures of food without sharing the recipe, so here you go:

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Pasties
Inside each pie crust:
1/4 lb ground beef
1/2 cup diced carrots (quite small)
3/4 cup cubed potatoes (larger)
1/4 cup diced onion (optional)
salt and pepper

Put in half of the potatoes, salt, half of carrots, salt, half of meat, salt, pepper, then repeat. Finally sprinkle on onions. Close crust (1/2 of pie) Crimp. Prick. Bake at 350* for 1 hour.

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We like to eat ours with a generous helping of ketchup. Some do without, but most end up using it. :) And the onions? While I was known to pick them out with a magnifying glass in my teen years if they happened to be put in my pasty (yes, you make one half pie for each person!), now I can't imagine them without the extra flavor they provide. Yes, your taste buds do grow up...

Pasties always make me think of my dad. While they're a favorite food of many of my siblings and me too, when we made them we were almost always doing it especially for dad. Nothing like meat and potatoes to make a man happy. :) And to my delight, from his first introduction to them, they became one of my husband's favorite foods too, so now when I make them I get to imagine his delight upon seeing/smelling them when he comes through the door.

It made me remember how, when I was single, I used to joke that if my husband was like my dad and brother, I'd be happy. I never realized how much God would grant that wish - from Ryan living with my brother Elijah for two years and reminding me of him in so many ways or in something he says that at times I've accidentally called Ryan "Elijah" - to the personalities and interests he shares with my dad. Now, of course there are plenty of differences, and Ryan is uniquely Ryan in the most wonderful ways - but for purposes of this post, I'll zoom in on the similarities between dad and him.

And yes, it goes far beyond the red beard, though I had not a few people tease me that I the guy I was falling in love with even looked like my dad, with his then full and red beard! It didn't hurt that he was tall like my dad too!

I can thank my dad for helping connect Ryan and I. For those of you who don't know our story, we met at my brother Elijah's wedding, Ryan, a groomsman paired with me, a bridesmaid. And my dad made sure he spent time talking to Ryan, innocently saying it was just because he'd never met him out of Elijah's housemates, but he also conveniently mentioned to the theology-buff Ryan that his daughter Anna had read Grudem's Systematic Theology through twice! Though we'd already caught each other's eyes, that piece of info definitely helped in the catalyst that made Ryan pursue me across the miles.

It's fun hearing my dad and Ryan eagerly discuss theology and various thick books. My dad came to the practice of buying multitudes of good, reformed theology books a little later than Ryan, so it made me smile when he eagerly told Ryan over skype about one he'd recently gotten, only to have Ryan already have knowledge of it. My dad told him "My goal is to one day find a theology book you haven't read!"

I admire that in both my dad and my husband: they desire to be grounded in the truth, and will put time and resources into building a good library and reading good books. They have both blessed me and helped me grow in the Lord through conversations and through reading some of the books with my husband.

They love the Lord first, and that shows. It guides their life, informs their decisions, and makes them good husbands, fathers, and employees, and friends. Knowing them encourages me to know Christ more.

I also admire the way they research and get things for a good value. From cameras to computers to cars, I've seen both of them spend hours and even days looking at the various models, comparing capabilities and prices, and finding the best deal for something that will last. They've definitely helped me make good buys since I'm usually tempted to go with whatever is the least expensive, and tire if I spend more than an hour comparing things.

Their researching strengths expand into other areas, too. From my dad's ability to look through multiple doctor-ese websites and send me helpful links to whatever medical question I have to Ryan's ability to sift through news articles and blogs to make an informed decision on current events, I reap the benefit of their research!

I am also blessed by their mild manners. I have never seen my dad or Ryan lose his temper. Never. Sure, I've seen them get irritated, but they are wise men and know how to keep themselves under control. Never have they shouted at me, never have I felt afraid around them, and never have I seen them intimidate others in that way.

They are good leaders, too. It has always been easy for me to trust their leadership, probably due in large part to how they lead gently and with understanding, not with force. Both of them always value my opinion too, and take time to listen to it, talk through things with me, and explain their reasoning too. I'm sure it's partly why I've never had an issue with the headship/submission model in Scripture, when my dad and my husband both lead and love as Christ loves the church.

They know how to laugh too. To this day I love watching certain movies with my dad because of how I love to hear his laugh, and Ryan's quick and genuine laugh was one of the first things I noticed about him. Life is so much easier when you live with someone who doesn't take things too seriously, and who makes you laugh and lighten up too.

They don't complain either. "Long-suffering" describes them both well, as I've seen them first-hand walk through trying and painful things. They inspire me.

And I can't forget the carrots. I can't remember a time my dad didn't eat a whole, large raw carrot a day. So when my new husband wanted snacks for work, I started packing him a whole carrot. Though he now prefers his sliced, he still eats the whole thing each day, and misses it on the days we're out of them. I'm sure it contributes to them both being quite healthy! :)

They're both always ready for a good time, too. From camping to strategy board games, they enjoy similar things. And they're both willing to dance with me, from dad good-naturedly dancing with me for ballet recital dad & daughter dances TWICE to Ryan taking ballroom dance lessons while we were courting because he knew the girl he was going after had dancing a big part of her life.

I was so blessed to have a dad who spent most of his free time with his family. He was involved in our lives, taking us on memory-making long car trips, semi-annual camping trips, always there for our sports games or recitals, and there pretty much every evening to play a game or watch a movie or go for a walk... He was available, not off pursuing his own hobbies. I see the same in Ryan, as he makes it a priority to be home for meals, to spend time as a family after supper, and to really know Hadassah, doing crazy, exhausting things to make her laugh.

I could keep thinking of things for paragraphs more, but those are the qualities that first come to mind. Although Father's day is past - and I meant to write this post way sooner - it's never not a good time to honor great dads.

So, there you have it. Recipes for the best: the best, hearty meal, and qualities of two of the best men I know.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Visit to the Shanghai Aquarium

With rain scheduled for Saturday (though in reality, it only rained an hour here and there), we decided to make the trip downtown to the aquarium. While it feels like recently we've taken quite a few trips out and about to see things, we're also realizing we need to seize the time. Hadassah is at a golden age of being more interested in things - like the whole hour-long taxi trip there, she was happy watching and pointing out cars and dump trucks - and with just one afternoon nap, it's easy to take the whole morning to go somewhere. Pretty soon we'll add a tiny one who needs to nurse and nap, and going anywhere with two, while not impossible, will be a bit more challenging! 

The first exhibits with exotic fish were really cool!

 This was called a "scorpion fish" - seems like it could sneak up on you easily!

 Hadassah was thrilled to sit next to one of her favorites: turtles (and these were albino turtles)!

 We set Hadassah down and took a picture of her next to a large window seeing fish, and as we turned to go, first two and then three children were put up next to her as their parents eagerly snapped pictures.

 The Shanghai Aquarium is set up really well, with a lot of big exhibits and places you can watch lots of fish, as well as cool architecture and interesting facts (if we took the time to read them!)

 It also had touches of Chinese decorations and architecture, which was fun.

 More turtles! Some friends have small turtles Hadassah has been able to hold, so she was especially interested in all she saw here, though a bit disappointed she couldn't touch them!

 There were quite a few tunnels where the fish swam overhead. Way cool! I think I've been spoiled... no aquarium will be as cool without them, I'm afraid.

 We really liked seeing the swordfish!

 We got to see the penguins at feeding time, which was fun. Hadassah calls penguins "waddles" :)

 There were also fun things for kids, like the big penguins (that Hadassah spent time hugging each one) and a huge starfish to sit on!


 It's hard to see, but the fish behind us were so pretty... pinks, blues, and yellows all together! Though, I admit, by the end, I was kinded of "fished" out. ;)

 These were creepy... and awesome! HUGE spider crabs!

 The jellyfish exhibit was Ryan's favorite. The lighting was perfect and their were multiple huge tanks with tons of jellyfish. God's creation is so amazing!

We then went through the "world's longest aquarium tunnel" and saw tons of sharks! We'd been promising Hadassah we'd see sharks all morning, so she was thrilled!

 I loved the underside of the rays - the mouth and nostrils looks like a cute face. :) Hadassah also talked about these most after we left. They were bigger than her often, so must have left an impression!

She also has a "fish tales" book put out by DK (their 1st reading level real-life books are perfect for Hadassah, as they teach her about real things), so whatever was in those books and we also saw in real life was especially neat to her. I love watching her brain expand in wonder!

 They had a moving sidewalk in the long tunnel, which was great for being able to just look up and watch (as well as take pictures!) without having to watch your step, or block people behind you. With as many people as there are in Shanghai, it was ingenious to have so there wouldn't be jams in the tunnel!

 The aquarium was right next to the Pearl Tower, so that was fun. So tall, it disappears in the clouds...

 Thankfully the rain held off so we could walk to lunch. The restaurant we thought was close and wanted to go to we couldn't find, but it was nice to get in a walk outside and eating at Element Fresh was a special treat! Hadassah - and us all! - really enjoyed the avacado coconut smoothie!

We took most of the food to go, to eat in the taxi. We still had to fight some traffic, but thankfully books kept the little miss who was getting tired and sweaty in the taxi entertained. And the face? Got to make a good "Cock-a-doodle-doo" when reading about a rooster!

It was the perfect family day. Hadassah got a good nap (which she really needed, as she was just more subdued, having had diarrhea randomly for a few days) and Ryan and I got to catch up on reading articles and Facebook together online. Then when he laid down on the couch and was reading to me, I tried out the huge pregnancy pillow a co-worker gave him to give me. It's so big in a U shape I don't really want it to take up our bed, so we have it in the living room for Hadassah to enjoy jumping on for a "pillow mound!" Well, it was more comfortable than I thought... his reading and it put me to sleep for a good nap as well. :)

A family walk between rain showers, leftovers for supper, and a happy girl playing in the living room made for a good rest of the day. Some days just "work" and this was one of them. Thank you, God!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

20 Weeks Pregnant and a Change of Doctors


 We're half-way there! Over half-way now, since I'm a week late in writing this post, though the pictures were taken last week. ;) It's crazy in two ways... one, it feels like I've been pregnant forever, so it feels like I should be way more than half-way there! On the other hand, time has flown so quickly, and I know that it will fly so much more, so now at 21 weeks pregnant, the thought of only having 19 more weeks (give or take!) before welcoming our little one and having TWO tiny ones around is both exciting and a wee bit terrifying. Mostly exciting - I can't wait to meet this precious baby!

An umbrella seemed fitting for this month's picture, given all the recent rain! The umbrella definitely has it's own story, too... I bought it 3 years ago for our engagement pictures, never dreaming that I'd be using it in pictures for my 2nd pregnancy, living in China! It's battered and on it's last legs now, but I couldn't help but get it in a picture one last time.

Baby seems to be doing great, being quite active with little kicks and rolls, even making my belly move a little sometimes. He/she likes to kick especially when big sister is sitting on my lap, leaning back. Trying to interpret it as little love taps and not indication of some future sibling rivalry. ;)

I definitely have a bump now, and have almost fully made the switch to maternity clothes. They're just so much more comfortable, as most of my normal things are getting short and/or tight! It makes me feel and look more pregnant, and I like that, instead of feeling like I just looked like I gained tummy weight. The other day a friendly lady that guards our apartment gate even asked if I was pregnant (thankfully I understood - though I didn't understand all of her Chinese words, if you point to a belly and say "baby" it's pretty understandable!), and she beamed when I confirmed that I was indeed. People here definitely love babies.

With baby the size of a carrot now, as the body lengthens and the features develop even more, it's pretty exciting to think about! He/she can also likely hear us, which is fun. There have definitely been times he/she seems to respond to Daddy's voice especially.

Hadassah continues to love all thought of baby. And as she is more and more interested in babies that we see, even going up to strange babies to smile and talk to them when she doesn't usually approach strangers, I get all the more excited about the thought of her with her own little baby to help care for. She truly has a gentleness with babies and animals, so though I know I'll have to watch every minute, I think she'll be a big helper when it comes to caring for "our baby" as I tell her. She continues to like to "see" baby, often wanting me to lift my shirt so she can "read" to the belly, and copying daddy when he puts his mouth up to my tummy to talk to baby. She then has her precious lamb do it, which is the cutest thing ever. It's fun to see her personality continue to develop (even doing fun picture poses with mommy!) and exciting to think that our new baby will have his/her own unique personality... We can't wait to see what it is!

As the title implies, we are also changing doctors. While Peace Maternity is professional and took care of things, it was increasingly frustrating the lack of English on forms and in being able to ask questions of the people running most things, since you only saw the doctor for the last few minutes. We were going to stick it out, though, since it was the only "VIP" (foreigner) place our insurance did direct billing for, and the least expensive option.

But, then my parents unexpectedly offered to cover the cost insurance didn't cover for us to go another place that we would be more comfortable at, as there are many good, English speaking options available in Shanghai. My mom gave birth to 7 children in 7 different places (5 in a hospital, the last two - including me! - at home), and is a big advocate for how wonderful a birth in a place you feel comfortable can be. She also had an international birthing experience, where she gave birth "in French" as she puts in, with the doctor completely disregarding her wishes when she was in labor (after agreeing with everything before hand), breaking her water and using a suction when things didn't proceed quickly enough for him, and then my sister being put in the NICU because she was "so big" until my mom literally got out of bed and walked down the hall to find her. Not saying my experience at the hospital we were at would be like that, but it is definitely harder when you have barriers in communication. So, although we feel kind of weird having them pay so much for us, we are taking them up on the offer. And such a relief I've felt...

We did some research and talked to friends, and got good, personal recommendations for American-Sino OBGYN. Looking online at the bios of the doctors, I found one that had "natural birth" listed as her expertise. When a friend said she'd met the doctor and that she seemed kind and warm (though she had been assigned and used another doctor), that confirmed it for me. Thankfully, even though I'm later than most booking their first appointment at this place, this doctor still had an opening. So, this Tuesday morning we'll be going for our first appointment there. Everything both of our friends who have birthed there multiple times have said has been positive, with one saying they pretty much let her do whatever she wanted during labor. They also reported that all the nurses speak English, at least well enough, and all of the doctors do. I am looking forward to our first visit! As Ryan reminds me, we're still in China so they still will do things differently, and we're still going to a hospital instead of midwives at home like we did with Hadassah, but I am much more encouraged and excited at the thought of this place.

Thankfully, this place should be covered 60% if we file for reimbursement with our insurance, and since we were co-paying 20% anyway at the other place, and this place costs a bit less than other, larger, more popular Western hospitals, the extra cost shouldn't be too big.

AND, both friends have confirmed that they tell you the gender of the baby without problem. Since I canceled my 20 week appointment at the other place, they said they'll be doing an ultrasound this visit. So, providing baby cooperates to give us a peek, we may have a gender announcement coming up! I'm trying to not get my hopes too high, as often things don't turn out as planned, but I am hopeful and excited. Preparing for this one's birth will be so much easier and have more peace of mind for me if I know whether I'm preparing for a boy or a girl. :)

So, I am thankful. For the little life continuing to grow and make him/herself more known and visible, for good health for me, and for the blessing of being a mother. I am definitely feeling the heat more, though... realizing being pregnant during the summer in Iowa and being pregnant during the summer in Shanghai where I have to walk everywhere is two very different things! But, I am thankful for pretty good A/C corner units and lots of water, and the occasional real-fruit strawberry popsicles I found at a local convenience store for just 50 cents each! 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Father's Day Weekend

With an almost entire week of rain past, and a week of rain in the forecast ahead, we decided to seize the day on Saturday and get out as much as we could! Ryan was great in taking Hadassah out on a few different outings in the morning, as I was just a bit more tired and had a hard time getting going. Then, after her afternoon nap, we headed out to visit a nearby park.

"Park" here usually connotes a lot of sidewalks with some gardens, a few grassy areas they probably prefer you don't walk on, and often a mini amusement park for children. But, it's still nature and a place to walk and let Hadassah loose to get energy out!

 In the garden area there was a pretty place for a Hadassah picture!

 But then when we turned around after a few shots, we were surrounded - and I mean surrounded! - by a group of people also trying to get pictures. We weren't sure where they all came from, because it was a fairly uncrowded area! Hadassah smiled for a few (I think she thinks it's just part of life now) but then was soon "all done" and we headed on.

 There were many types of roses in bloom! Our camera's auto setting makes taking pictures of them entirely too easy... just hold and click!

 There's beauty even in the dying ones...

 Hadassah soon wanted to go over to the rides area, since she knows what rides are now! Her biggest entertainment was watching people fish for goldfish though. She watched for a good ten minutes as people baited and caught fish fairly quickly, wanting to catch fish herself, and then wanted to go back to see it as we were getting ready to go. The little one likes little creatures!

 We splurged and let her do one of the rides, and her face made it all worth it. :) It was a cool boat that you operated by turning the wheels with your hands.

 Another huge treat was seeing a bunny hoping around in a field. There was a cage and someone watching it, so it seemed like it was someone's pet that they let hop free for a while. This little girl and Hadassah loved chasing and befriending it. So sweet to see how gentle Hadassah acted around it, trying to feed it grass and just loving the whole experience!

 When we were ready to go find supper, we found a long line of people waiting for taxis. So we started to walk to find another, less crowded area to try and catch one, when Ryan saw a bus come and suggested we hop on and see if we could get to the mall area that way. I love how he's always ready for an adventure and willing to try new things! So we got on an all-Chinese bus, rode until he thought we were close, and dismounted in the middle of nowhere. But he has a good sense of direction, so we walked for a while, and when we thought maybe we'd taken a wrong turn and asked someone, they told us it was just ahead on the left. It's always amazing when random adventures work out, and fun to do them together!

After walking all over the mall looking for a new place to eat, we ended up going to a Japanese "Asijen Noodles" place we'd eaten at before. By then, we were more than ready to eat!

 Checking the weather just before bed that night made us glad we spent all the time outside that we did. We are definitely getting tired of rain!

Father's Day (Sunday) dawned, and with it Ryan was, sadly, experiencing intestinal issues. It's the third time in the last few weeks, always seeming to be sparked by eating out at an Asian place, even a better quality one. He was feeling weak and definitely not up to a 45 minute taxi ride, so we ended up staying home from church. He stayed in bed most of the morning, while I took Hadassah out as much as I could before the rain descended.

Thankfully, by lunch he was feeling better, and thoroughly enjoyed the homemade mac 'n cheese I splurged in making. Nothing like good ol' comfort food and I love to bless him any day, but especially on Father's Day! It was a restful afternoon, but he was ready to get out by the time Hadassah's nap was over, as he'd been home all day. But it was raining. And the only things I had on hand to make (since I'd only planned on making one meal that day, since we usually eat out after church) required me to be home for at least an hour to cook. We researched online to see if there were ANY Western restaurants besides KFC, McDonald's, and Papa John's around, but couldn't find any.

He knew there was a mall at the end of line 5 (about 25 minutes away by subway) so we decided to take the risk and explore. And horray! There were more Western restaurants, though still only fast food. But, Burger King was the option he decided on, and their "steak house burger" was actually quite delicious and pretty authentic tasting! Going up a few levels on the way out, we found a Blue Frog bar & grill, that would have been a better, more special choice for Father's Day, but at least now we know it's there! The mall was HUGE. Just kept going and going, with many stores like H&M, Gap, and others.

Monday was rainy, but we made the best of it, Ryan even taking Hadassah out for a long walk with a big umbrella. She came back bright eyed and happy after some puddle splashing too. Spaghetti for lunch always makes for cute pictures, as the little miss thoroughly enjoys her noodles.

Oh yes - why was Ryan home? The Dragon Boat Festival, a Chinese holiday, was this weekend, so it nicely gave an extra day off! We'd made plans to go downtown to have supper with friends, and for an even extra special treat, Ryan got to meet his friend early to see "Jurassic World" - something neither I nor the other man's wife wanted to see, so it made an easy extra Father's day gift for them to go together. :) I made supper to bring them, as they've been so hospitable to us, and we wanted to bless them without inconveniencing them to bring 3 children an hour outside of the city for supper. Thankfully the beef curry & toppings turned out and transported well, and it was a wonderful evening of fellowship, though the ride back on the subway definitely felt LONG. But, it was worth it.

So, there you have it. A great way to celebrate a wonderful husband and dad, with some things planned and some things not so planned!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Through our daughter's eyes



 As I've watched you father through our daughter's blue eyes,
I've fallen more in love - but that's no surprise!

As you give her good gifts, like sharing a treat, 
her eyes light up with delight that just can't be beat.

When  you "fly like an eagle" and whoosh through the air,
My heart soars along too, as her giggles ring clear!


"Pillow mound," Doggie, and tickle attacks,
Make her eyes shine and coos with your special knack.

You're so creative how you play with our daughter, my dear.
It makes her bloom and blossom and your love is so clear.

Your discipline, too, is consistent and kind;
You make my job easier as we're united in mind.

You show love to her as you make boundaries clear,
And show love to me as you take leadership here.

You take her on daddy-dates, with her favorite things,
And in so bless me too, with the gift of time that it brings.

And the way her eyes look, after being out with just you...
You teach her true love, and make my heart melt anew.


Seeing you dance, as the song "Cinderella" plays
Makes me want to seize and hold on to these days.

But I know as she grows, our girl with the eyes so so blue,
Your love and skill as a dad will grow up with her too.

And my love is growing each day that I see
You modeling the Father's love, to her and to me.

Photos taken by William VanBuskirk

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

When it rains...

video
The video is last night with Hadassah. 2 days inside due to rain was making her go a little crazy. When I said "you're so full of energy!" she started running around saying "full full of entergy" over and over. So this morning when it was still raining, and it was in the forecast for Thursday too, I decided we'd splurge and go to an indoor play place.

Places like these are very common in Shanghai - almost every mall seems to have a child's play area. It makes up for there being no restaurants (that I know of) that have indoor playgrounds. No, not even McDonald's, though it is plentiful here, has a child's play place. These are more elaborate, and also cost... About $10 per time, a little less if you buy a card to use multiple times. So, this is only the 3rd time we've gone to one, and the first time I took her on my own (before friends invited us to join them). But when the weather is bad, a place to run around and move and climb is a blessing for parent and child!


 Hadassah didn't last long on any one thing until we tried out the big slide. We went up and down it at least 10 times, and finally I just distracted her somewhere else, because I was tired of climbing up it so much!

 After a few times of going on mommy's lap, Hadassah wanted to try going down it on her own - though still holding mommy's hand as I went down the other one for reassurance!

We ended on the merry go around. She just sat and was spun around and around, smiling with glee. I finally had to take her off, because Ryan had co-workers coming for lunch, and since this was right outside the supermarket, I decided to combine taxi trips and stock up on diapers and a few groceries since we were here. We barely made it home and got lunch ready in time - thankfully Ryan and our lunch guests were running slow too, otherwise they would have had a little wait...

It was a fun morning, though. I think I was more worn out than Hadassah. ;) But I could tell she'd gotten more energy out, which is a blessing to us both.

And, now that Hadassah is napping, the sun is finally out! So if I'd only waited... but the world is quite wet (a friend posted a video of their street even flooding in another part of the city!) and you never know when the rain will start back. People weren't kidding when they said June is the rainy month. But it's nice to have a little sun coming in for now, and maybe my 3-day-hanging-up laundry will finally dry!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Lights at the Bund

For over a year, we've been trying to go to the Bund at night. I (Anna) had never seen it with all of the lights, and Ryan told me it was the one iconic site of Shanghai not to be missed. We meant to see it our first weeks in China while downtown, but between sickness and a baby exhausted from jet lag, we never wanted to be out that late. Then we tried to get a babysitter and stay downtown go for our anniversary, but never made it out due to a forgotten toddler night-time necessity. For weeks recently we planned each weekend to go and stay at a hotel downtown over the weekend to see it, but each week it was something else: sickness, other obligations, or our passports (which you need to stay at a hotel) being in processing to renew our work visa. 

We planned to have lunch with friends and see it finally, but then found out on Friday they couldn't have lunch the next day. I assumed we'd put it off again, but Ryan assumed we were still going. So, it made for a quick packing job, but when he asked when we were leaving Saturday morning, we still managed to get out the door before noon!

 It's been a while since we took a subway selfie, so time for another one! ;) Thankfully the metro wasn't too crowded, so we got seats together that allowed us to eat lunch on the way downtown. McDonald's wasn't our first choice, but it was in the station, quick, and easy to eat on the go. We've decided that feeding a toddler while traveling makes the commute so much easier and seem quicker!

The view from our hotel, located at the People's Square stop. So many buildings (of course)!

We'd done research online that morning to find a not-too-bad (for the heart of downtown) price, and called to make sure they had room and a baby bed, and just planned to get the room when we arrived. We should have gone ahead and booked it online. When we showed up at desk, it was twice the cost of the online price! But, we didn't know where else to go, we needed to get the room so Hadassah could take a nap, and it was our one time downtown, so we went with it.

It ended up being a two-room option that they had available, which makes for a more relaxing stay for everyone. I joked that God must have wanted us to have a relaxing time, since I always say it's too expensive to pay for two rooms, but this time we had no choice. So while Hadassah napped in one room, we got to enjoy time just the two of us. It was awesome and refreshing... we'd planned on family time, but got a date time out of the bargain!

 After her nap, we set off armed with essential supplies (note: sippy cup) to explore around our hotel.

Big, iconic buildings abounded. Hadassah wasn't up to smiling, though - she was overwhelmed by "lots - lots people!" everyone.

 Ryan had read online that there was a Cold Stone Creamery in a nearby mall. It took exploring all 7 floors, but we finally found it! And it was worth the search. :)

 Setting off to find a place to eat supper, this was one of Hadassah's favorite spots: a "tunnel" where she could walk without seeing too many people! ;)

 A downtown church building... makes you wonder the history behind it.

 We ended up going back to the mall we'd be in to eat at "Pho Asia" - a Thai and Vietnamese place. Bunny puppet kept Hadassah entertained as we waited for the food. Pineapple fried rice was a nice change, there were cold noodles with beef that were delicious, fried egg rolls, and a chicken stew that was somewhat of a strike-out for our tastes - but we've come to expect to order at least one dish that doesn't turn out as expected! ;)

 Being out with my love is such a treat. We're just more relaxed away from the chores of home, and enjoy exploring together.

 We made it to People's Square in perfect timing - just as dusk was beginning to fall.

 We took the long walk through it down to the Bund to get the full experience. There were so many lighted-up cool looking buildings. And of course, lots of people! Quite a few tried to get pictures of/with Hadassah, which was okay to a certain point. When one kept following her around as she tried to play on some steps, saying "look look" and causing her to eventually sit down and cry (as the lady continued to take pictures) we had enough of it... While we know she's a rare site, even in a touristy-area (as most people wouldn't go on a site-seeing trip with a youngster) there comes a point you just want to be a family and enjoy yourself, without your toddler being part of the show for others.

 Finding a "balancing beam" cheered Hadassah up again. She's always willing to walk if she has a ledge to walk on! Helped break up all the carrying we did that day... a stroller would have been an extra hassle in crowded, stair-prone places, and she wasn't about to walk much amid the crowds!

 The sky turned a beautiful blue - and Hadassah smiled and talked to the ducks on the building on the right :)

 We finally made it to the Bund!

 It was super crowded! It wasn't a special holiday or anything... just a normal weekend evening in the heart of Shanghai.

 THE building to see, and I now know why. It was beautiful.

We got someone to take our picture after waiting for at least 10 minutes to get right next to the water. Hadassah even hammed it up a little. :) It was already past her bedtime, but she was holding up incredibly well, all things considered!

 Lights on the water... Hadassah liked seeing the "BIG boats" as some came through all covered in lights.

 Then it was time to head back to the hotel, but not before capturing another building all lit up.

 And we had to kiss at the Bund, just because!

 We walked a lot more, and rode the subway one stop back to the hotel. Hadassah was getting more and more tired, but was at rest in Daddy's strong arms.

 We all slept really well in a such a comfortable hotel! Poor Ryan was dealing with stomach pain... Second time recently eating Asian food has given him really bad pain. At least he didn't throw up like he did last week, and this time it wasn't as painful and was gone by morning. Our theory is that it's the spice and citrus causing acid issues.

 The next morning Hadassah enjoyed exploring more of the hotel room and reading beloved books from home.

 Then we set off again: on the hunt for breakfast! Despite such an expensive rate, breakfast wasn't even included, and at $30/each for the hotel breakfast we set off for better options.

It was so easy to get to church that morning... Instead of 45 minutes in a taxi, it was just 4 subway stops away! We are always blessed by the worship and teaching. There are so many people coming now too, that the hotel meeting room is almost always full!

Hadassah was just a tad more squirmy, though, and we could tell the day before, with a shorter nap and later bed time with lots of stimulation had worn her out, so we headed home even before the after service member's meeting was done. Picked up food to eat in the taxi, and we all got long naps, which did a world of good. Then when I got up and checked texts, I realized some close-by friends had invited us to meet them at Papa John's for supper! So, we continued to fun, eat-out, no-dishes weekend just one more meal. :)

There were a few rides set up in the mall courtyard, which we'd seen the week previous. We planned to let Hadassah go on a ride like this at a small amusement park we saw downtown, but then backed out when we realized it was twice as expensive as the one more local. So when this one was still here, we couldn't resist giving her a little more fun. She loved watching the planes fly around as others rode it, but was absolutely thrilled to ride in it herself, pushing the buttons to make it go up and down and play noise, and waving to mommy with a huge grin each time it passed. :) A great way to end a great weekend!