Monday, February 29, 2016

Finding the First Blossoms

I'm what you could call a winter wimp. I like about one, maybe two months of coldish weather, and then I'm ready for spring. ;) So it's with great excitement that I notice the blooming of flowers each year. Combined with recent sunshine-y days and each week usually bringing one day that touches 70 degrees and let's us go without heavy jackets, I've been telling Hadassah "spring is coming!" as my heart sings with joy.

Though I've learned by trial and error not to assume it's going to be warm after one day without the heavy jacket. Even the evening of a warm day can bring gusty, cold winds around here! 

Last Thursday it was a pretty nice day. It was still chilly, but the day was clear and Ryan called to say he'd be home early so we could go and see the blossoms on campus.

I love any excuse to have a little extra time with my love!

Hadassah also loves any chance to be outside! She found some nuts and said "I found nuts to feed the squirrels!" Though Daddy quite willingly acted out being a squirrel for her, she was pretty disappointed when I told her I didn't think there were any squirrels in China... At least I haven't seen any here!

Sites like these never get old!

Daddy and daughter. She has a smile even bigger than this every day when he gets home from work. :)
Our Dassah Daisy! Such a big little girl she is now...


Winter cuteness

Pink against gray... contrasts.

Since Ellie was napping in the ERGO and we were actually outside, we delayed supper a bit and visited our favorite gazebo on the hill. Hadassah had a pretend picnic of nuts and pansy petals :)

Little girl in tall gazebo... I remember when I had to help her up these steps and on and off the stools, and now she does everything without problem!

With a sleeping little one close to my heart... I enjoy it when I can walk just me (I forget how "light" I feel!) but it is such a blessing to have a little one to snuggle so close

Walking home, it was a blue sky and fluffy clouds late afternoon... Such a good day to be alive!

These are blooming right outside our apartment building, bringing happy spring-ness feeling every time I walk outside, which helps when the wind blasts into me despite what shouldn't be a too cold day, as we live in a wind tunnel!

Ryan played with the girls as I made quick quesadillas and salad. It was a late supper, but we were all energized by the beauty God has made outside.

Thank You, God, that spring is coming...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Cool Connections

11 years ago, Ryan first came to Shanghai. He did a study abroad program at the university across the street. Who would have thought that, 11 years later, he'd be sitting in our living room  - IN China - talking to guys from his same university in America, doing the same study abroad? Like-minded men, interested in being a light, curious how it works overseas, and all the options there are when you think of living abroad.

I love hearing my husband sharing what he's learned, and answering all the many questions they have. And, ever since my brother was a guy on his own, I love providing a good home-cooked, American meal (fajitas with amazing chocolate-brownie pudding for dessert!) to college guys. Especially when they've been mostly eating Chinese food for a month!

Thank You, Lord, for times like these... connections we never ever thought we'd have when we came over here.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Our Chinese New Year

Every year around this time, China has a national holiday. Though business operates by the same calendar as the rest of the world, they also have a lunar calendar that determines the dates of holidays. The "Chinese New Year" or "Spring Festival" is the biggest one, where almost everyone goes back to their hometown to celebrate the new year with their family. Others take it as a time to see the sites or go to a nearby country for tourism. Other friends go to conferences, so Shanghai kind of empties out.

So, we planned to make the most of it in a more-empty big city. Ryan was really sweet, wanting to give me the week "off" as much as possible from chores and cooking and dishes. So, we planned to stay downtown for a few days in the apartment of friends who were out of country, order in or go out for most of our meals, and see friends almost every day. We also planned to go to as many parks and zoos as we could with Ryan's week off of work!

What actually happened couldn't have been more different. ;) Ryan came down with a really back cold on Sunday. Hadassah and I got it Wednesday. It wasn't just the type that was annoying and was past the worst after a few days... We're STILL dealing with it over a week later. It settles in your lungs and gives you a hacking cough. It also depletes energy and just leaves you feeling pretty miserable. Not exactly our idea of a relaxing time off - when the week was over, we felt like we needed a vacation! ;)

But still, it was a good week. We grew closer as a family. Instead of traveling miles all over, we hardly left a one-mile radius of our home. But, we enjoyed those familiar things and all the extra bonding time.

Our internet VPN provider also was off that week, so we were unable to access Facebook, Gmail, Blogger, Youtube, and more. But in a way, that was nice. We didn't have social media distractions, but were able to use our time in other ways.

It means, though, that I'm way behind on pictures, so here's a long picture-y post with ones we took over our week off at home.

 Despite his sickness, Ryan was an amazing Daddy. He used his small amounts of energy to play with his girls. I love this man. :)

 And I love these sweet sisters :)

 Having two girls stacked on my lap for a story is so much fun. Every now and then I pause amid the fast pace of life and realize what a blessing it is to be living my dream as a mom...

 The weather was, thankfully, absolutely beautiful during the "Spring Festival" week. It truly was a taste of spring. Before we got sick, Hadassah and I got outside a few times, going for a walk on campus and enjoying the feel of no jackets! Though I still got strange looks to be in short sleeves, despite the 60*F!

 Me and my big girl. It was a treat to spend one-on-one time with her doing the thing we love (going outside!).
 We went down paths we hadn't gone on in months. I was literally singing and dancing down the path. I started singing a made up song with the words "Thank you, thank you Jesus..." and later on Hadassah repeated it on her own. I just enjoyed the SUNSHINE and conversation with my big girl. Memories to cherish.

 She's adventurous and fun and kind and sweet and generous. Hadassah Faith is growing into such a great little girl.

 And Eliana Grace? Full of patience and sweetness and grace for us. Her smiles are more and more frequent and such a joy to see.

 Even though Ryan was sick he was still up to go to our favorite field and enjoy some sunshine. He and Hadassah kicked a ball around the field and we enjoyed the sun going down over the water.

 Hadassah is at the age where a stick is the best toy. I wouldn't let her go close to the water's edge to throw them in, so she enjoyed dropping them in the little slats of the drain.

 There's something about a wide open field that is just good for the soul!

 And ending at our favorite pizza place (Papa John's) makes everyone happy! Ellie just laid in the booth and started at the ceiling, allowing me to eat too!

 And there'es nothing like a blue-eyed baby peeking over the shoulder. :)

 Our second blue-eyed blondie :)

 She absolutely LOVED having lots of extra Daddy play time that week too! Probably the best benefit of having to be mostly home was the bonding they got to do.

 Friday was an absolutely perfectly gorgeous day. Reached 70* F, sky was blue, clouds were white... I was reminded what sky is supposed to look like! ;) We sat on a bench on campus, field in the back, water in the front, and just enjoyed it as a family. Sick though we were, being outside can't help but make one feel better!

We are blessed. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Cardboard Doll House

I needed to create today. Like, really needed to. I was tired, brain was foggy, and I just had that restless feeling... Monday I'd thought of things that would take at least a week of uninterrupted time to do, and all I usually have is an hour or two at best when both have naps that overlap, and usually - pretty much always these days - chores take precedence.

But this week, most of our friends are gone, traveling for the Chinese New Year holidays, so we don't have any get-together days scheduled. Sure, the bathrooms I've been procrastinating cleaning for far too long and there's dust in corners that should be swept, but I just had to do something creative.

I've known I wanted to make a dollhouse out of cardboard boxes since we moved here, and planned to do one since September, when I knew my mom was buying these sweet dolls for Hadassah's birthday. But I also knew it would take a while, and long stretches of time are rare!

So once Ellie joined Hadassah in sleep-world, I raced to do lunch dishes and hang laundry, and then let myself make a mess and create. It actually only took less than two hours to do all of it, and the brain clearing and attitude lifting it did for me is amazing. I forget how wonderful creativity like this is!

I've always enjoyed little dolls. My older sister Miriam made me an amazing doll house when I was a girl (complete with an elevator!) and I collected just about everything miniature I could find. One day I want to get a more sturdy, lasting dollhouse for my girls (or even use the one that was mine as a girl), but here in China I don't want to invest in things on a larger scale, knowing we aren't planning on being here long term. And I realized that for a toddler, cardboard is great and you can do a ton with hot glue and paper and felt. Yes, she may destroy some of it, but I also saved on mess and clean up by hot gluing all the accessories to the box house. Saves on frustration too, as things don't move as she tries to put her dolls in.

 Instead of making a huge house with lots of rooms, the whole family sleeps in the same room. :) Adding trim to the blankets was a last minute addition that made them so much more fun (they were pretty bland before). The crib took the longest to make out of popsicle sticks, but I knew that as much as Hadassah enjoyed her crib, she'd want one for the baby (and I was right). :) I would have enjoyed making more furniture out of popsicle sticks but I was short on time.

And it's far from perfect. My blessing (and curse at times!) in being creative is that I'm not a perfectionist. Helps when I'm trying to finish things quickly!

 Being a toddler, I knew Hadassah would enjoy having a bathroom. And I was right. She took the little girl potty and gave the girls a bath in the bathtub together like she enjoys with her baby sister on occasion. She is so enjoying stories and acting things out these days, that it's fun to see her have a chance to do it with these dollies! Before she had a house for them, she hardly ever played with them, but now I see a lot of play in her future!

 Half of a carton that had fruit in it worked perfectly for simple couches. And felt turns into a nice rug when you make fringes! The pictures/windows are simple and hurried - I could do a lot better, but knew the wake-up time of the girls was fast approaching, and it just looked so much better when I put something on the wall!

 I didn't make chairs in the kitchen (save the bouncy chair for the baby, which Hadassah loved having!) because 1) no room, 2) saves the hassle of her trying to get her dolls to sit in them, and 3) they would have been tricky to make! So the family can stand at the table. :) Another half of a fruit carton in the back has a sink and stove, and of course there has to be a window above the sink for the mom when she does the dishes!

And I loved watching Hadassah decide what the dolls would do. :) She put them to bed multiple times. She put them all down on the living room rug to play together (as she likes us doing as a family). She even had the mom nurse the baby, then had her say, "I'm going to take you outside in the ERGO." Then there was a pause and a high pitched, shocked, "We have no ERGO!!" She got her big doll stroller as a substitute. :)

Monday, February 1, 2016

When we get outside...

 You have to bundle up a ton, but the results are pretty cute!

 It really helps that Ellie can sit in a stroller. I like the ERGO, as it's great for going in taxis and keeping Ellie asleep when she needs to nap when out. But she almost always goes to sleep in it, even if it's not a normal nap time, as she can't move or see much. So the stroller gives us hope she'll stay awake for a while, and it also leaves me more free to carry stuff or direct Hadassah. And Hadassah enjoys holding onto the stroller as we walk, getting her exercise and motivation to stay with me!

 Of course, with the wind and freezing temps lately, Ellie has to stay mostly covered up when we're out!

But she's a pretty cute snuggly buggly bear! 

These pictures were taken on Friday, as I took supper to some friends in our complex. They had been dealing with croup for two weeks as their kids took turns with the sickness, and were going out of town for a week the next day. It made me SO happy that we live close enough in community with people now that I know when they're sick and feel freedom in just offering a meal (as they gave us so many when we were returned from the US with a newborn!). 
Today we woke up to the beauty of snow outside. Not much, but it's still beautiful.

Side note: I put Ellie in the bumbo seat to watch Hadassah do puzzles and read so I could quickly blog. But I just kept getting distracted by the cuteness and had to take pictures and video! And hearing Hadassah talk to her...

 "Baby Eliana, I'm so nice to you!" Then she sees a bit of spit up and says "I'm gonna get the burp rag! Just a minute..." and wipes her chin so gently.

Then she sits next to her and says "I'm going to read you a story, baby Eliana."

I'd say she's a great big sister!