Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Tale of Two Tea Parties

 When you have two sweet girlies, you just have to do tea parties, right? I figure it's good to get some practice in with friends while they're young, so I have ideas to do it more when they're old enough to really help and enjoy it to the full!

 With Danielle here, it was way easier. She made almost all the food, straightened up, set the table...

 The first party was on Wednesday. Having gotten many requests to teach/practice English with kids, we asked Danielle if she wanted to do it while she was here. Just being American and a native English speaker means people are willing to pay too! She was interested, so we put out a flyer for four sessions for girls ages 6-10. But, evidently we know very few friends with girls ages 6-10! But some friends shared the flyer, and there ended up being four girls interested, but they couldn't come each of the days. So, we decided to just one special party. One girl ended up being sick that day, but we got to enjoy 3 very sweet girls for an hour!

We had a simple book about friends, with them to answer "what do you do to be a good friend?" at the end. They all spoke English very clearly, but didn't have an extremely wide vocabulary, so it was fun having various books and props to use.

 The tea party didn't take up the whole time, so after a story and songs, playing a game provided great enthusiasm and opportunity to practice colors and numbers and other English expressions.

 They also really enjoyed playing with the felt dolls, which taught them the name for various types of clothing too!

 Two moms and a younger sister came along, and they all seemed to have a good morning. Danielle did a great job too, leading conversation and facilitating everything!

 I hung out with the moms some, but if we were in the room, they mostly just wanted to take pictures with the girls or get their attention in some way. Okay for a little bit, but it got tiring for the girls after  while. ;) So I played with Hadassah in another room for a bit, and then Alex took her out to the apartment they're staying in to play when Ellie woke up. Worked out really well!

That afternoon Danielle helped me make some more felt scenes for Dassah. Mine was a garden scene. The spider looks like a crab, I know - need to make more pointy legs! ;) But the googly eyes make everything so much more fun! :) These were mostly pinterest ideas, but a lot of fun to make. And it's fun to know that what I make for Dassah, Ellie will eventually be playing with too!

 Danielle made the solar system! It will be fun to teach Hadassah about the planets, and I may have her do things like put them in a line from largest to smallest, and eventually use them to learn where they are in relation to the sun. Gives me lots of ideas of things to make out of felt for homeschooling one day!

 Summer evenings are for game nights, we've decided. We're staying up a little later these days and definitely feeling it, but it's really fun having people around to play games with, and relaxing at the end of hot days!
Thursday we had another tea party, this time for Dassah and her friends! This little girl came early as her mom had a doctor's appointment to get to, and they were excited about the food they saw getting ready! And having the parties two days in a row was so smart... Allowed us to just make double of the same foods to have at both!

 Fruit on toothpicks was a big hit! Though, we realized, a little sharp for little girls. But they handled them well!

 Mini cupcakes are adorable and made sure they didn't get too much chocolate! ;) The mini cupcake pan I bought on Taobao as a mistake (thinking it was a full size one) has turned out to be really useful!

 Chewy chocolate chip cookies, again in a smallish size. ;)

 Cucumber-cream cheese sandwiches cut in flower shapes. Because shapes make everything more fun.

 Danielle also made more of the delicious watermelon lemonade! It is so nice to have her take the time to squeeze four lemons and puree a bunch of watermelon! The girls really liked it too. :)

I told Danielle she is now certified for a tea party hostess. She's great at doing them with girls of all ages!

It is fun seeing these girls become better friends too. They all looked so cute dressed up, and they're really beginning to play together more. Dassah was very happy, said things like "welcome to our tea party!" and is spontaneously giving friends hugs sometimes. It is fun to see her growing up, and so nice to have her have friends to grow up with.

 One of the girls' moms then had us to her house for a delicious, huge lunch that she prepared. She is always such an amazing hostess, thinking ahead to have some Chinese food and some American food so there is always something for everyone to enjoy. And on hot days it's also nice to be in someone else's cool apartment with new toys for the children to enjoy.

It's been a year since we moved to this apartment complex, and we are so blessed with the community it has provided. What a blessing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Evening Walk in July...

The heat index reached 124* F today. But thankfully the evening breeze still made it nice enough to go out after dinner. It's basically the only time we have to play outside that's enjoyable... Even when I take the girls out at 7:30 or 8 AM the heat is beating down! But the summer makes me thankful for Shanghai winds. Below is one such time outside last week. We'll let the pictures stand alone.

Even when the big girl runs "super fast!" then falls and trips and there are lots of tears... Times like this are moments to cherish. We are a family. A family! All the waiting and praying and hoping as a single gal, and then it seems like I blinked, and here we are! My heart is full.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

$5 Swim Suits and Saturday Fun

We went to a water park on Wednesday. It was fun, but the price may not have been the time spent getting there or the fact that with little kids, we didn't even do any of the big slides! ;) But it was a fun family memory, and Hadassah was thrilled and keeps talking about it. We also got to go with our good friends, which made it even more fun!

But while I was there, I noticed that, despite the crowds, bikinis were rare. If they did have a two piece, the bottom at least usually had a skirt, and often they had a drape over the top. The vast majority of the swim suits had skirts in some way. As one who used to hate swim suit shopping, spent big bucks to get ones with skirts, and finally just made my own because it was too hard to find one that worked, I was impressed.

On Friday night, we walked to BiJiang Guangchang for our date. Bad mistake. Despite the gentle breeze, we were soaked with sweat and I felt lightheaded by the end of our 45 minute walk. Guess that's too be expected when it's July! :D But on our walk we passed three swim suit shops all clustered together, and the insides looked enticing. 

 So this morning, we set out on a big girl shopping trip - in a taxi (called by my husband thankfully!) this time. :) My girl is growing fast, and I wanted to find her a swimsuit with a skirt if we were going to buy another anyway.

 Danielle came along - shopping is just more fun in a group! And I think it made Hadassah feel grown up to be out with the girls. :) And we found the cutest swim suit! Despite the saleslady pulling out all of the two piece ones she could, suggesting they were cute instead, she was accommodating, insisting that the ones I liked, though she didn't have a smaller size, would work on Hadassah. And since I can sew, I decided to go ahead and go with one that just needed the shoulders taken in a little.

 We even got ice cream to celebrate since we were out and it was just a short walk down the way. Dassah felt very important getting her own cone (since often as a family we just split treats three ways!) and managed to eat it all without spilling a drop on herself! Where did this big girl come from?

 When we got home we just had to model it for Daddy. She couldn't stop jumping up and down in happiness. And I must say it's adorable! And the price? Only 35 RMB ($5.23 for you Americans). You can't beat that.

 So we had to pick up another super cute one in a larger size since we were there, and it was just $5 too. I mean, it's worth having around since she's guaranteed to grow and absolutely loves being in the water!

And then, I just may have gone online and bought enough suits at around $5 each (some less!) for the rest of Ellie and Hadassah's childhood. They're small enough to bring back to the US, and finding swimsuits like these at prices like these isn't likely to happen. I had thought of eventually sewing them their own similar to mine, but the price of fabric alone in the US would be more than the cost of buying these suits here, not to mention the time involved in sewing! Plus, I wouldn't put the time in for all the cute detail you can get here!

I did a quick search for "woman's swim suit" too, curious to see what would come up. The first three results were typical one pieces. The next page was mostly full of the above - amazingly modest for the top bought suits on Taobao, used by much of China! Two pieces were a rarity. I feel like it says a lot about a culture, to see that exposing themselves a ton during swimming just isn't a big practice. And with an adult nice suit just $10, I bought one to give it a test. It would be nice to have variety, and I just might stock up in adult sizes for ten years down the road for the girls too... And yes, I am very tempted to ask friends and family in the US if they want a suit too if the quality is ok! ;) Seriously, if you do, let me know, and I just may be able to work something out.

 We came home to be there when Ellie woke to nurse and make lunch. My big helper is enjoying her new apron! I have the process started to make a matching one for me and another slightly bigger, so Ellie can grow into this one and Hadassah grow into the next size up. Hard to believe I'll have two kitchen helpers before too long! I'm just waiting on more flower detail and bias tape to come. My test Taobao order turned out well, and with the cheap prices it has, I know I'll be missing it, Chinese and all, when we're back in America.

 This little one had a long morning nap, but then a rough afternoon one and a pretty fussy day. She had a fever on and off for 2 1/2 days, seems to be teething again, and this morning broke out in heat rash! But she still had a super fun time playing on the little car, hitting the "beeper" over and over. We can't get over how cuddly and chubby baby she is, and yet she's growing so fast... Never happier than when she's on the go - as long as mommy isn't walking away from her, of course! ;)

Ryan got some Ellie time after naps while I took Dassah swimming. A certain way to ensure she'll wake up happy is to tell her "let's get your swimsuit on and go swimming!" She loved her twirly suit, and even twirled around and around in her swim ring in the pool. She desperately wants to swim by herself... Tells me to let her go all the time, tried to get out and go swim in the fast lane once, and enjoys being able to propel herself with the floaty. I tell her we'll get her lessons when she's four or so (and we're back in the US) and until then she hangs on the edge of the pool to do her "water tricks" or we pretend we're seals as I help her dodge all the many people (we pretend they're ice burgs and dolphins and penguins) as we go from one edge of the pool to the other. I love time with Hadassah, and I think quality time together really speaks to her. There's been a lot of adjustment with a little sister around for mommy to care for. Lots of good (she told me today that Ellie is her favorite and her best friend!) but also lots of time for some conflict. So getting away and doing something fun together is good for both of us.

 As almost every Saturday here has been with Alex and Danielle, supper found us eating Chinese food! Y was so gracious helping us find a place for them to try authentic noodles and jiaozi (half-moon dumplings). They're getting excellent with chop sticks, and it's been a good excuse for us to eat more authentic cuisine too! It tasted good, but it did leave us with just a tad indigestion...

 And despite the shade and a little breeze, a 15 minute walk made this one break out in heat rash again. Poor thing! I took her clothes off at the restaurant, we took a taxi home, and the rash died down as she played in front of the air conditioner. This same thing (fever followed by heat rash) happened to Hadassah at almost the exact time last summer, and at least I am not freaking out as much as I did with her. But still, not fun to see your baby covered in red spots!

Now it's the end of another Saturday. Ryan leads music in church tomorrow, so has been busy preparing. And it's crazy to realize that after tomorrow, we just have one more Sunday with Danielle and Alex. But we have a full week and half planned before they go!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

More Summer Memories

We take a lot of pictures. More than we put on here - and we do a lot here! Sometimes I wonder if we share too many... But it is a blessing to be able to capture these precious memories, to share them with family and friends, and have this as a record to look back on one day...

 It's hot these days. Not as much rain. But still the summer afternoons sometimes have breezes that make it bearable to bike through the mostly shady campus to our Secret Garden. It's the most sure way to show love to Hadassah too - she loves this place, and now always wants to take a picture there, especially if she has a fuzzy friend along!

 We talk a lot about God making things. So this day, as she walked, she kept asking me, "Did God make the flowers?" "Did God make the water?" and so on. "Yes, He did." Sometimes she'll spontaneously even thank God for things outside. It is such a joy to hear thanksgiving from little lips!

 Some ducks came wandering over looking for food, but instead got a conversation with a penguin. :)

We still try to get out for at least 20 minutes in the morning around 7:30 or 8 AM, before it gets too hot. But when the temps are over 100* F (with the "feels like" temp 15 degrees higher!) we often just stick to shade. Thankfully there are plenty of benches in the shade in our complex, where Ellie can practice standing...

 ...while big sis mothers her baby. Lately taking her baby doll everywhere has been quite the thing, as she's grown attached to the doll carrier my big sister made for me and my younger sister. She feels very important to have her own "baby in the ergo" and takes her out to practice walking, nurses her, changes her diaper, and so on. I call her "Xiao Mama" (little mommy) and all of the grandmas smile. Quite a few have made jokes that I have three babies. :)

 We're eating out a little more these days, as it would be a shame for Danielle and Alex to come to China and not experience the good food it has to offer! It's pretty cool that we've been here long enough to have quite a few must-tries, like this Ajisen Ramen restaurant. It's Japenese-ish food, but hey, still Asian, right?

With Ellie getting older and more able to at least engage in things Hadassah does, their relationship has grown closer and sweeter. They're going to be best playmates, I keep telling Dassah, and it is a joy to watch it become more of a reality!

 This little one has creativity! We try to do something crafty at least most days, and she wanted to make a ladybug this day, so we did. :) Then she went on to cover three pages with the letter "H" - she taught herself how to write the letter of her name somewhere along the way!

Heading out with each of us having a baby in the Ergo! :) On Friday, with Danielle and Alex exploring downtown (so cool that with the subway system they can go on their own!), I decided to take lunch TO Ryan instead of him having to commute home. It was good to get the girls out of the house, but with it feeling like 118* F outside, I knew we couldn't play outside long. It was a HOT walk until we found a taxi to take us, but it was definitely worth it. We made "our favorite cheesy noodles!" as Dassah calls our homemade mac 'n cheese. It's actually a very simple and easy stovetop recipe: 2 cups noodles, 2 cups milk, 1/4 tsp salt - boil together until tender, then stir in 1 cup of cheese. We've learned to double it because it's just so good!

Hadassah was beyond excited to see Daddy's work again, and it was fun to eat in the cafeteria attached to his office, and greet coworkers as they walked by. It just may become a weekly tradition.

 On Friday evening we enjoyed a date after the girls went to bed. We were both tired from a busy week, and it was nothing fancy... A nice walk in cooler evening breeze around the lake, then a relaxing cafe. Cafe Seraphim is really pretty amazing. It's run by a Christian, and they have English Christian music playing so it is such an encouraging environment. They also have little booths with couches near tables, so it made for a perfect place to relax and talk with my love!

 On Saturday morning, rain threatened, but despite the drops I kept peddling. Dassah had requested the Secret Garden again (as I took her out while Ellie napped) and it just felt way too good outside with the rain cooling things off. What did a little wetness matter? Thankfully the rain stopped after just a few minutes anyway, and it left beautiful water droplets making flowers even more beautiful!

 Ryan was going to stay home and nap, but then decided he'd rather be with us. :) Benefit of having extra people around is that he could just leave Ellie napping with them there and chase after us! It was fun being out with just our big girl for the first time in a while.

 Aren't the raindrops on lotus plants amazing?

 Then we relaxed on a bench while Ryan told one of his amazing stories to Dassah. Simple moments to treasure.

On the way back, we stopped at this amazing site. This is usually just a normal little lake. But in this season, it is overtaken by lotus plants!

 Amazing lotus flowers...

 The complexity of God's creation is amazing!

 I made homemade pretzels that afternoon while playing games with Alex and Danielle. Doesn't get much better! And Ellie learned that if she pulls herself up on Dassah's chair while she's having a snack, she gets extra tastes! I love seeing how Dassah loves to share (most of the time!).

 We couldn't let the cooler-than-normal weather go without a trip to our favorite park by the river! There were so many boats docked there that day too!

 We discovered this place when Dassah was Ellie's age. Now we have TWO little girls standing and watching the boats passing by. Where does time go??

 And never did I think I'd be showing my niece and nephew all of these places! It's been pretty awesome having them with us for so long too!

 There are still moments when the girls just want me, despite extra arms around. And usually I make one of them go to somewhere else. But for just a few moments, holding both made for arms and heart full.

 Another little one to walk over the bridge!

Then it was out for supper with more friends! We were late as taxis just wouldn't come... Always a reality that is hard to plan for! But they were understanding and had gone ahead and ordered for us! It was another fish pot kind of place, but the taste was good! And there were extra side dishes: fried cabbage (my favorite!), rice, a cucumber dish, and little lobsters! Hadassah was intrigued and enjoyed eating them, then standing outside and watching the ones still in the tank afterwards. In one of her "sticker stories" about a store, there is a tank of lobsters, so she was pretty excited to see and eat them in real life!

Thank you, God, for this summer in China.