Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Flying and Felt Projects

It's time to fly.

But leaving home for 2 months? It's pretty crazy. Especially when you consider that we're going to have a baby while we're gone. Not being in my own home while giving birth to a baby was never on my list of things to do - I'm pretty sure it would have been high on my "never do!" list. But being at a dear friend's wedding and being with family and having a home birth in the comfort of familiarity... It makes you change your mind.

But it still seems crazy. And I'm realizing that this place really does feel like home. I'll miss it. I'll miss the friends God has blessed us with here. We actually really have friends here now.

And yet, I look forward to reconnecting with so many friends in the states. Two months hardly seems like enough time to spend with all of those we know and love so well.

I'm up late again. It's the night before we leave. Finally, the bags are almost all the way packed and weighed, I've made endless lists of things to buy in the states and more, and the washing machine is humming. I couldn't bear to leave towels wet for two months. And yet no dryer means I have to hang them up and ask a friend to come up in a few days to take them down and close the windows. But, I have friends to ask to do that so it is a blessing!

The days and evenings have been full this week. So much to do to prepare to go for so long! And to leave for so long... We've stayed up late and worked together, but every night after Hadassah goes to bed, we've enjoyed a slice of pumpkin pie. I finally got an oven that really seems to work and celebrated by making this fall-time favorite. No matter how busy, relaxing with my husband and this and a glass of milk for 10 minutes on the couch was always rejuvenating!

We're traveling as light as we can. But planning to bring quite a bit more back! Mostly clothes and shoes... It's still hard to figure out sizing and quality differences here, and I don't feel too bad when a mom who has lived her for 12 years says she still buys most of her 5 children's clothes when she is in America. But I've tried hard to keep carry ons especially light. We've learned our lesson trying to cart too many heavy bags on our backs around airports. And besides, having a young one means very little time for ourselves to read or do anything - the most important things are activities and snacks for her!

I've researched tons of "quiet" activities, and thought I'd share a few in pictures. A friend from church gave me colored felt scraps a while ago (after an online ordering fiasco left me with just gray and blue!) and I've been wanting to make some things I'd seen for quite a while. And when my hot glue gun malfunctioned after I'd cut almost everything out on Friday, with no where to buy one locally that I knew of, a friend from church came to the rescue bringing hers on Sunday for me to borrow...

Flying for 14 hours gives the perfect excuse to make something new, not to mention how handy these will be for other things for a toddler  to sit through, like church and a wedding!

None of the ideas are mine. A friend's pinterest board and blogs gave me most of them, though I made some design changes. :)

Butterfly foam board to lace, a color wheel to learn to clip and unclip little clothes pins (matching colors on the handle) and a tube with letters written in sharpie to stick the matching letter sticker to!
This idea looked like too much fun: a traveling, roll up doll "house"! I added making little food, as Hadassah loves "feeding" anything these days!
The doll house rolls up and ties so nicely with a ribbon, and I had fun making the "Popsicle pack" on the right!

This summer Hadassah discovered the wonderful joys of a cold Popsicle, and also loved helping me make them with the homemade holders I got. She also is fascinated with putting things in and out, so sliding these sticks in and out of the popsicles (and back into the packet) kept her fascinated for at least 10 minutes when I tried it out on her during church. :)

With felt boards like these keeping Hadassah quiet and happy during long church services for the past 6 months at least, it was time to make more, especially as she's able to do more. :)

Some are pretty simple, some more elaborate and requiring my help, but we'll be sitting right there with her on the plane, so no problem if we need to help a little bit! ;) And I am amazed at how quickly she catches on to things these days...
I was a paper doll addict when I was little, so this felt "paper" doll was so so much fun for me to make!
It's amazing how much joy I got out of designing the little clothes and accessories, and a very very crude version of this has kept Hadassah very happy for the past weeks at church, so I'm excited to show her a prettier version. :)

So, we're ready to fly.

Please pray. The 14 hour flight from China to the US is exhausting no matter what, but being 35 weeks pregnant adds a new set of challenges! Pray that there is little to no turbulence so that I can get up and walk and stretch a lot. Pray that Hadassah manages to sleep some so we can get some rest too! She has her own seat this time, which should help.

And pray that we get through the airport smoothly. We're leaving extra early tomorrow - 9 AM our time, although our flight doesn't leave until 4:20 PM our time (that's 3:20 AM CST so if you happen to be up in the night, pray! ;) ). Part of it is the fact that it's the first day of a week long national China holiday, so the 1 hour taxi ride to the airport may take longer. Part of it is the fact that we may have issues in the airport...

Although our airline has no restrictions on pregnant passengers flying even at 35 weeks (we called them twice to be sure!), we have been told that most Chinese airlines don't allow you to fly past 30 weeks, and so anticipate that airport staff may have questions. Ryan helped me find the best outfit to make me look more on the plump side and less so pregnant, but it's really hard to conceal a baby bump so conspicuous! So I'll be hanging in the background and playing with Hadassah, and hoping no one really cares to question. If they do, we've got some things printed (Delta's policy for pregnant flyers, a report from my doctor on Tuesday that states I have no signs of early labor), but still... Just being able to go through without issue would be the best.

Pray for health. Some friends have been sick and Hadassah showed signs of potential getting it just before bed, and Ryan's been battling some himself. Pray they are completely healthy tomorrow, and that I stay healthy. Thankfully my back/hip has been doing better - pray that it continues especially with all the walking then sitting!

And of course, pray for no early labor. ;) I'm pretty confident baby will stay put, but pray always helps! Prayers are appreciated over the rest of the weeks ahead too, as we recover from jet lag, enjoy a week's stop at Ryan's parents, spend a weekend at a friend's wedding, and then reach our final destination with my parents on October 11th.

Hadassah couldn't be more excited. We've been counting down the days on a sticker chart, and talking a lot about flying on an airplane to see Grandma and Grandpa and she is beyond ecstatic. We said goodbye to friends tonight, and when we got back to our apartment, she was upset that we weren't actually going on the plane yet! We told her we needed to make sure we got good rest before we flew, that it would be AFTER she slept... Which reminds me. Sleep. It's late and I need to get what I can. I'll likely be awake for at least 30 hours once I wake up tomorrow morning... 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Tour of Our Home

When we moved, we vowed to work really hard and get things done as soon as we could. That lasted for about 2 weeks. Then, especially after sickness and the craziness of heat, we were exhausted. So we started sleeping more and staying up late less. ;) But things have gradually gotten done, with a renewed push as we have the big trip to the US now just one week away!

So now, finally, though there are still things here and there that will always be "in progress," our new apartment has pretty much been cleaned and decorated to our liking. We actually spent money this time. Before, we were just grateful for what was there when we moved in, and to be honest, it had more things provided than this current one did! But there were also many things that made life harder or less of a homey atmosphere that we just put up with because it was too hard to find where to buy it, and cash flow was an issue when we first moved in, due to a lot of out-of-pocket costs with moving that, while reimbursed by Ryan's company, took months to go through the process for.

But this time, we decided it was important to make this place as much OUR home as we could, though it may only be ours for two years or so. But, we've learned that even just one year is a long time, and especially with winters bleak and hard to get outdoors in (mostly due to air quality), having a warm, happy, indoor atmosphere is doubly important. Besides, we both really enjoy decorating, so it's been fun! Sometimes even more so to know none of this will be our permanent home... we get to experiment with decorating and see what we like!

Most of the decor was sourced from IKEA, with as much as we could coming from the one secondhand store we know of in Shanghai (often used IKEA stuff!). We also ordered a few things off of Taobao, but being a website all in Chinese and not able to see the stuff in person before buying, it was always more of a risk.

The best choice was painting. Yes, we'll likely have to paint almost everything back to white when we move out. But the walls were in bad shape and needed to be painted anyway, and having color just makes everything feel warmer and less stark!

So... welcome to our home. :)

Entry-way. It's nice to have space for people to take shoes off before being in the main area. It also has great built-in shoe storage in the cabinet under the cubby holes on the left. 
This is great for making faces at your toddler as she sits in your lap to put on her shoes, as well as being a place for meaningful embroideries and compartments to store keys, wallets, etc. And yes, it often gets used to just set things down right when we walk in the door, but I try to keep it clear as much as possible!
Straight down the hallway... I really had fun working on the picture collage on the left. We tried to include photos meaningful of our life, from wedding to snowy Iowa to family to moving to China. I enjoyed finding frames at IKEA and worked on an arrangement with enough but not-too-much symmetry. I like how it turned out!
Our dining room, off to the right. Doubles as an office space, since the 3rd bedroom is about to be used as a nursery!
Off of the dining room is one balcony, housing our (tiny!) washing machine, stroller, and whatever else needs to be stored. We have a nice view of... LOTS of apartments. ;) And the entrance gate, which is kind of fun.
My kitchen. Less storage place than the last one (like what's up with no real drawers?) but I feel I was able to organize it more smartly. We invested in a bigger fridge, and it's really nice to have it right there in the kitchen to grab ingredients instead of having to go into the dining room like the last place (though we also have the small fridge that came with this apartment in the dining room, which is handy for other things!). I utilized some counter storage containers and put measuring cups and salt, pepper, and oil (used daily, almost meal-ly!) in easy to reach spots above the stove. And the openness without the doors... it just feels so nice. :)
I have very little counter space, which is a challenge when baking especially, but it's also really  nice having the Berkey filter near the sink, as I'm always having to fill up a container to pour over fruit and vegetables to wash them. Though I still miss having water pressure, I am happy that I very rarely accidentally use the sink! And it's right below where we keep glasses, so handy for getting water to drink too!

And we are so enjoying having curtains. It was a recurring request from Ryan at the other apartment, but we never had the where-with-all to make curtains or even know where to find a tension rod. Here, we made it a priority to have good curtains on all windows. Because when you live surrounded by hundreds of people who could see in your windows if they wanted, sometimes you just want to be able to block all eyes out and pretend you aren't surrounded. :)
The other side. The oven fits right next to the fridge, and yes, I even store things on top of the fridge. Got to use every surface you can! 
Looking from the kitchen to the living room. Ryan took the sliding glass doors off of the kitchen the day we moved in, and it's been SO nice to have an open kitchen! Makes it feel bigger and allows easy access in and out and a view of where the toddler is playing. Though she usually wants to play right there IN the kitchen if I'm in there. :)
The lighting in this place is pretty crazy. Yes, that is a continually-rotating tiny disco ball in our main living room light fixture. There is some lime green recess lighting in the living room too. The hall way lights have little colored flashing lights, and there is blue lighting in the hallway bathroom. Very interesting. But hey, at least children enjoy laying down and looking up at the spinning, colorful flashing lights!
The living room. Neither Ryan nor I would ever have gone with either orange walls or mauve couches. But, it's what we were given to start with, and it's been kind of fun to try and make it work (adding gray walls and rug helped a lot!), while knowing we won't have an orange living room forever. ;)
The IKEA pillow covers really helped tie things together, as did the sunrise painting we found on Taobao with our very colors in it!

And I must say, the somewhat reclining couch on the right has been a wonderful treat for a pregnant momma with an aching back... Don't need to move anything to be able to put your feet up!
We finally got a canvas painting that worked really well ordered from Taobao, and the IKEA clock (thankful orange is an in color these days!) and other touches here and there help. Ryan's thinking we might put something on the left side, but we haven't decided yet. And, it's fun to have the baby swing (borrowed from friends) out as we look forward to our new little girl joining us soon and how baby things will fit in the scheme of things!
I got this table and chairs used, never realizing just how much Hadassah would LOVE them! Daily - almost hourly - she'll ask "have a picnic with Hadassah?" We'll sit and put the fake food together and then chop it in half, add our "spices" and taste the "soup" over and over. She loves it.
How we dry our laundry. After over a year of hanging everything up, I'm used to it, mostly. ;) Helps that summer means things dry in a day usually! This balcony area also doubles as storage space.
Looking across towards the other rooms
Hadassah/Guest bathroom. It's not great in terms of stained floors and sticky drawers, but it's functional!
The nursery! Will be guest room when we have visitors as well. Currently it's full of baby items friends from church have given us to borrow - we've hardly had to buy anything, and probably have more accessories than we did with Hadassah!
The wall has a picture of Ryan & me pregnant with Hadassah holding a "B-A-B-Y" block sign, and a picture of Hadassah as a baby. There's an empty frame waiting to add a picture of Eliana. :)
When Hadassah transitions to her "big girl bed" after our trip, the crib will move into this spot. For the first while, Ellie will sleep in this little folding bassinet or a pack n' play. The moon is a (yet to be fully installed) small light that will provide soft light for night time feedings and diaper changes. Like with Hadassah, above Ellie's bed will hang the "I will lie down and sleep in peace" embroidery I made. :)
The rocking chair currently in Hadassah's room will move in here, for many nursing sessions ahead! And the closest has great shelves for storing baby things, Hadassah clothes, and craft supplies.
The master bed/bath is off to the left. We went with light blue and white and really love how it all turned out!

The big picture is a picture we self-timed on our honeymoon at our cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains.... Really like how one big picture on the wall looks! The white bedding keeps things feeling fresh and is nice amid pollution around outside. The huge piece of furniture is great for clothes and storing everything from extra books to electronics...
More white touches on the dresser. Bonus points if you can spot the little girl trying to stay out of the way of mommy's pictures ;)
The white curtains, complete with a roll-down black-out shade, is just so nice! And I'm really thankful for the taller and full-size ironing board here, as well as a basket below to store clothes to be ironed (all of Ryan's work clothes since we don't have a dryer!) and the iron. I've found the little things make a big difference!
Our room has a window seat that seems like a perfect spot to make comfy for devotions, but nothing's happened so far. And... you can kind of see and be seen by tons of people if you sit in it, so who knows if it will ever really be used. Hadassah likes looking out to the play ground and beyond to where she can see the "subway choo choo" come and go.  Right now it's handy for storing the huge pregnancy pillow someone gave us (that works great for getting massages!)
Hadassah's girly pink room just makes me happy :)
The rocking chair will be moved to the nursery, but right now Hadassah enjoys being held in it for stories and playing in it other times. :) A friend from church gave it to us for free - said we are the 6th family it's been passed to. Yet it's still in great condition and super comfortable! I am very grateful.

We got her little chest at IKEA to hold clothes and toys. Fun to have little furniture!
Someone who we bought other stuff from also had this cute little wicker chair, which I couldn't resist. The box holds some books and she loves to turn her flower light on and off. Sometimes I'll hear her go back to her room and peek in and she'll be sitting there. :)
She still enjoys her crib, so she has two beds in her room for now. Eventually it will go to baby's room, and then she'll have more space for a dollhouse or something! And she likes the fun animal posters on the wall, often pointing them out.
The "big girl bed" we got used, something someone made custom. So custom that it didn't fit through the doorway and Ryan and the truck driver had to disassemble it while stuck in a doorway. ;) But it is pretty cool, with storage space underneath, a little ladder Hadassah enjoys climbing up and down, and some star cut-outs! The flower/butterfly growth chart we got free, and some family pictures on the wall make her room a happy, garden-y place.

All-in-all, we are very thankful for our new apartment! It needed a LOT of work when we moved in, but it has been worth it to have a place that truly feels like home. Coming back after 2 months in the US won't be so hard when we have such a warm, inviting place to return to!

And hey, if you're ever in the area, we love to have visitors! :D

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Hallelujah Jesus!"

Ryan was a little late coming home for lunch as he finished up something at the office, so Hadassah and I ate together. Though I miss my husband when he's not there, eating just her and I gives us more time to chat. It can be anything from "'member when I fell down and got my scratches- yesterday?" (yesterday is added to denote anything in the past, be it that morning or two weeks ago!) to reminders not to put her fingers in her cup, again... Today she started singing one of her made up songs, as she often does, and some of the words were "Hallelujah! Glory to Jesus!"

It always melts my heart to hear young ones singing praise, even if they're not quite conscious of the fact that they are. But Psalm 8:2 is right... God gets praise through the mouths of children and infants! I told Hadassah it was such a good thing to sing about Jesus, since He is the Savior of the World. She seemed interested and so I went on to talk about Jesus, how He died on the cross for our sins, how He defeated death and rose from the dead, and how He went to heaven. How if we believe in Him and trust Him as our Savior, He will one day take us to live with Him forever in heaven. She responded to different things, saying "Dassah cry sometimes" when I talked about sin (how sometimes we do bad things, etc.) but she really latched on to the phrase "Jesus died on the cross" and continued repeating it, on and off as we talked, to Ryan when he got home, and even off with her stuffed animals as she played. As we sang songs and read stories before her nap, she kept pointing to the pictures in my mom's ABC song verse binder that had Jesus, especially on the cross, saying "Jesus died on the cross."

I'm not sure she even knows what death is, and I know she can't fully grasp the importance of that simple phrase and what it means for us and for her. I told her that I was praying that she would trust in Jesus as she grew. And the fact that we're now even able to have conversations about Jesus, with her but 23 months old, drives home the weight of responsibility it is to raise a young child. It also makes me so grateful that I am able to be with her during the day, to seize opportunities like this when her mind is open to talk about God's truth.

Lord, give me wisdom and the right words to communicate to my precious daughter Your amazing goodness and all You've done for us... Draw her to Yourself as soon as she can understand...

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Daddy at the Bus

It's not the most convenient time. The crucial dinner-needs-to-be-ready-soon hour. But, it also can be the child-is-not-happy hour, and getting out of the house does both of us good. Plus, there's something wonderful about seeing my love as soon as he gets off of the bus from work, and enjoying a short walk home as a family before supper preparations get crazy. Sometimes I'm ahead of the game and have things cut and prepped and ready to put the final touches on when we get home. Sometimes supper is just a little later... But we both agree that when I can, walking to meet Ryan is a good thing for us. Because if he comes home when dinner is in the throes of being made, it's really hard to stop and ask how the day was, though we still try to pause at least briefly. But when something's about to burn in the pan, it's hard to be relaxed... ;)

Besides, there's nothing like the excitement on Hadassah's face when she sees Daddy getting off the bus!

If we get there just a few minutes early, we sit on the wall and wait...

Mommy and Hadassah sitting side by side!

Her little girlness and excitement that Daddy is coming soon is too adorable.
We chat about things we see, like the fact that today only the blue dump truck was parked across the street, when usually there is a blue dump truck AND a white dump truck parked there...
"There's Daddy's bus!!!"

After waiting as ten to twenty other buses pass us by, we know the one Ryan rides 10 minutes from his work!
I hold Hadassah back until Ryan is on the sidewalk, and then let her go...

And she's always so thrilled to be twirled around by her favorite man :)
"Daddy's home!"

And Mommy is happy too - I get a kiss and enjoy my hand in my love's for at least a bit!
We usually go straight home, but today Hadassah was thrilled to take Daddy to run with her on the "pao bu path" :)
It's a lot of pictures to capture something that is just an ordinary part of our day. But somehow, those ordinary moments are the most precious ones to make sure we remember...