Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sisters at the end of Summer

 It's hard to believe summer is nearly over. September is upon us. Thankfully that means a little cooler weather. Recently our daily walk (to the play ground - sometimes three times a day!) has been more breezy and beautiful lately.

 This sweet black cat is always happy for a pat from a little girl.

 Every now and then the light is just right and on the 10th picture both girls smile at the same time. This was the perfect background too...

 ...even if it was a big machine! :)

 This is where I buy our fruit. Somehow I don't always notice all the Chinese every where. It feels like home.

 The stacks of steamed buns with a puppy dog toy... they're the sites of daily life one day we'll want to have recorded (thanks to Ryan for thinking to capture these!).

 The sidewalks and roads have been in upheaval lately as they replace pipes. It's amazing how quickly a team of men can fix things though. Sometimes I bike by as they take their after lunch nap, laying on a piece of cardboard, their head propped up on a brick. Makes me realize how much I take comforts for granted.

 Walking back home, you've got to love how the huge machine has a spot for the simpler tools.

 This little one always enjoys a chance to feel bamboo leaves...

 And when this one never falls asleep for a nap, what with a lingering cough and growing up and skipping sleep every now and then, somehow I can't be too upset when once I finally let her out of her room, she wants to put on her ballet stuff and says "give me a ballet lesson, mommy!"

Amid the daily grind of hanging laundry, sights like these make me pause and give thanks. Wherever we go, Lord, let them always be friends... sisters standing side by side.

 Our photo book for this year is going to be full of sky pictures. But the best canvas is the sky...

 We literally watched the sun go down, seeing it sink before our eyes.

 And when an airplane adds to the peaceful beauty, we take a moment to enjoy it and kiss, though the background sounds quickly turn to some whines and crying. The moment passes, we go to help the littles, but we have the photo to always remember this sky's particular beauty.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

These Full Days

It's funny how these days seem so full. Looking back, they may seem the slowest, simplest days of our lives. After all, we have hardly any "must-be-there" places to go all week! But, with two little ones, the days seem full and, often, tiring. And yet, full of joy. Sometimes I just have to look beyond the crumbs and chores and seeming chaos to see it.

 Recently I've been busy planning a "Letter of the Week" kind of play/preschool for this one. She's full of imagination and often comes up with creative things to do (like wearing her baby while doing a dance in her favorite dress up dress!). Yet, during the 1-1 1/2 hours her sister is napping in the morning, having crafts and activities planned will, I hope, keep her occupied and enjoying learning. The letter of the week is more for my organizational brain, as it's fun to find crafts, games, songs, verses, and activities that all start with the same letter. We'll see how much of it we do, and I definitely don't plan to push things (she's only just-about 3 after all!) but I've had a lot of fun planning things. It's just taken up all of my "extra" time so things like blogging hasn't happened lately!

 This one is growing up way too fast and having fun doing all the things I never thought to do with Hadassah at her age (like somersault off the couch onto pillows - big sister was doing it, so with mom's help she got to too!). She seems to have no fear and giggled the entire time!

 We had a dear sweet sister in the Lord stay with us last week, Wednesday through Friday! It's always such a blessing to connect with her and be mutually encouraged! The girls love her too. Ellie, who almost never lets anyone she doesn't know hold her without protest, willingly leaned against her and let her hold her! She could feel the love too. :)

 Hadassah loves to run. Like majorly. She definitely takes after her cross-country-running Daddy! The other night she ran 2 MILES to a mall area again, with the promise of an ice cream at the end. She really wanted to run, and she made it! We are realizing it may be better not to let her run such long distances at this age, but she's always telling me, "Mommy, can I run a whole mile??"

 When you live in an apartment and swimming pools are hard to go to with two littles and cost money, sometimes you spend a Saturday morning "swimming" in the bathtub. I let her take her dolly in for a special treat. :) It allowed me to get some ironing done while I kept an eye on her. :)

 Ellie can walk quite steadily with the walker now, and stand for a few seconds alone. Our little baby has grown up!

 She will pull up anywhere, especially if she senses that food is nearby! And especially when big sister has been known to give her bites. ;)

 Dassah came down with a terrible cold on Friday, and for some reason (related or not), Ellie threw up 5 times on Friday, and Dassah once on Saturday. Dassah's finally better but for a hacking cough, but Ellie has all the congestion and running snot now. So it's been a tiring week, as sick little ones need more distraction, sleep less, and don't allow you to get together with friends for risk of infecting them. So the last two days I've REALLY not felt like making dinner, when Ellie wakes early from naps and the lunch dishes aren't even done! But I've learned just taking another step, doing the next thing, turning on music and putting chicken in the crockpot.... You get through it. And the husband's delight in home cooking makes it worth it. Plus the knowledge that there is hardly any healthy, fast, Western style eating out options helps make sure I keep cooking even when I don't feel like it. Thankfully I usually do!

 This little noodle babe is pretty much the cutest thing around anyway. :) And eating at home is so much easier with babies too, since many out-to-eat local places don't have high chairs.

The beautiful skies continue. A blessing to see. And Ryan has blessed me by taking charge of the girls so I can get the dishes done early. After a long day with littles, once they're in bed it's such a blessing to be able to enjoy being with my man. Last night we played a game and laughed a lot, and though Ellie woke up all congested and needing to nurse again half way through, for 2 hours I forgot most mothering duties and just enjoyed being Anna with my Ryan. Times like that are so good for the soul.

God is good.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Shanghai Sky at Sunset

These past few weeks, it's felt like we've been living in a different country. I mean, the sky has looked like the above picture almost every day!! It's amazing how much more uplifted I feel when the sky is blue, and how the city and everything else seems cleaner and happier. They say because there is an upcoming G20 Summit in Hangzhou in September, 225 factories have been closed to ensure clean air for the visitors. Another 150 factories in Shanghai have reportedly been closed or moved to make sure that visitors to the new DisneyLand have blue sky for their time at the fairytale haven. After all, fairy tales don't have gray skies, right? Whatever the cause is, I am just so completely grateful. This is the sky Shanghai is capable of without excess pollution. Let's hope it stays!

With clear skies during the day, we have also been able to see beautiful sunsets at night! The sun does set in Shanghai... And living on the 14th floor allows us to see it above the buildings!

 View from our kitchen window. My new favorite time to do dishes is right after supper... to watch the sky is a treat!

 The best view is from our washing machine balcony, but if I lean forward every now and then at the sink, I catch glimpses of the sun's beauty.

 Every now and then I stop to think about how MANY people live in buildings in view of our place. And this is just what we can see from one of our windows. We are surrounded with people. People who need the Lord.

 And right now, His majesty is on display every night in the heavens.

 Sometimes bright, sometimes muter tones... Always beautiful.

 Sometimes we go outside to the playground as the sun sets. You can't see it as clearly down there, but the winds kick in for a refreshing evening breeze, and from the playground you can see the sky definitely painted, by a Master Hand.

 One night when when Ellie had to go to bed early (not long enough nap earlier!) I biked with Dassah to campus for a twilight mommy-daughter time. I didn't have my camera, so had to use my phone and try to capture the beautiful dark night blue.

She wanted to go to the lighted up gazebo - a truly beautiful site against a darkening sky. We sat and talked and did one of the games ("round and round teh gazebo") that we used to do before I had another baby!

 It was a truly beautiful night to be out... We stayed out a little longer than usual but bedtime could be pushed back a little later for sights like these! ;)

"The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork."

"Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world."

Psalm 19:1-4

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Peddling to a Post Office

Given the post office escapades I've been on since moving to China, I wasn't really surprised when we showed up at the post office and found it closed. I mean, I think in the entire two years of living here, I've only mailed a letter on the first try ONCE. So this time, I just laughed...

 But Danielle's mom had requested a picture of her in front of a Chinese post office, so at least the sign was still there even if the doors were barred! For when Danielle was a mere 8 years old, she had declared she would one day live in China to share God's light, and have as her job working at a post office and delivering mail on a bike. ;)

So it was only fitting that Danielle biked to a post office while she was in China. :) Her direction in life has changed from her 8 year old dreams, but it will always be cool that she was able to spend 6 weeks in this country!

 And at least our morning excursion was not in vain. I decided to check the other China Post in the area on the way back. I'd seen the sign for months but never seen it open so I didn't have too much hope, but ta-da! I was actually able to mail my letter on the first day I tried. ;)

 And just look at the sky we had!! It was hot not in the shade, but the breeze makes it better when you bike. And with sky like this, I decided to just keep riding, since I had about 45 minutes before Ellie was likely to wake from her morning nap. Horray for having someone to stay home so I could go out while she slept!

 So my little backseat girl and I kept biking. One of the sweetest things about Danielle and Alex staying was that I was able to do more things with just my big girl. While having a sibling is so good for learning things and growing in character and not having everything revolve around you, it is a big adjustment. So ti was special to have more connection time and have time to focus on what a cool girl Hadassah has become.

 Since it WAS hot, and our favorite Secret Garden seems to be closed for summer break, we went to a little coffee shop on campus. I gave Hadassah the choice of which treat to get, and she picked the chocolate-iest of all chocolate treats! Girl after my own heart! ;)

 It wasn't long before it was gone! I had to eat quickly to keep up with her, so that I could eat at least half of it and prevent her from ingesting ALL that chocolate! But boy was it good! ;)

 We then walked a little around what I've deemed "Lotus Lake." Fun to be with my big girl without a baby in arms (much as I love going out with Ellie too!).

 We admired the flowers...

 And the incredible view. That sky!! Seriously, the sky has been so amazing lately! Each day it is blue is like a special gift. We've had lots of those gifts lately!

We played with a big stick in the water, then headed home. As we biked, we talked about generosity and the blessing it is. I had told her to leave her big stick on the ground to be generous to the next person who might want one, and she said "I don't want to be generous." I love being with her during the day to have these teachable moments, though. As we wrestled with scanning the card to unlock the door, trying to balance a bike with a girl on the bike and somehow manage to open a door and get inside (just to manage getting into an elevator with a bike!) we somehow got on the topic of grace and God's grace to us. It just reminds me of what a blessing it is to be home during the day, to have these teachable times to talk about character and the Lord amid the dailyness of life. Being a mom is one of the greatest challenges and biggest blessings I've been given so far. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Downtown Shanghai Lights and Sights

The weekend before Danielle and Alex left, we stayed downtown for 2 nights. We'd talked about going various other places by train, but decided to maximize our time and money by just taxing downtown for 45 minutes instead of all the time it takes to travel outside of the city. Plus, with as huge a city as Shanghai is, it has a lot to offer! It was also fitting that they saw the Bund on their first and last weekends in Shanghai. We were also blessed with beautiful weather!

Friday evening didn't quite go as planned... We got to our hotel (a "serviced apartment" with three bedrooms, so it was very comfortable for us all together!) in good time. But then we made the mistake of taking a taxi to the place we wanted to eat for supper. There went at least 30 minutes in traffic... Then the mall we were going to eat at was overrun with people going to a gaming conference next door. Each of the good restaurants were full with a long wait time. Not good when your children are already tired and hungry!

Cold Stone wasn't busy, though, so we decided on ice cream for supper! Hadassah didn't mind! ;)

We also got some savory breads to go with it, since those were a quick pick up as well. Then we had a picnic...

But OUTSIDE of the gate of the park we'd planned to walk through after supper. Despite light lasting into the evening, it seems most parks close around 5 PM here.

But while we waited for Ryan to get the ever-present need of water, it was a pretty place for a cousin picture! It's pretty cool how these cousins will always be a little closer, despite the years age gap, due to the 6 weeks together.

Our hotel had a beautiful night-light view. Ryan took Alex and Danielle to the Bund to see it all lit up after the girls went to bed, and I had a glorious, relaxing time scrapbooking with this view!

We'd planned to go swimming after breakfast, but the pool didn't open until 11 AM. Dassah enjoyed the last minute switch of Ryan taking her to ride some rides at People's Park though!

Alex and Danielle met them at a subway stop to go to the point of the highest buildings in town.

They got to go to the very top of the tallest building in China (and 2nd tallest in the world!) - The Shanghai Tower.

The view was pretty incredible! The city is huge...

From the top, even the other two tallest buildings looked short!

Back at the hotel, I enjoyed another relaxing scrapbooking break while Ellie napped. The view with blue and white was pretty awesome too! And when Ellie woke and we waited for lunch to arrive (ordering gyros to the hotel was the best ever!) and the others to get back, I turned on Chris Tomlin music and danced. It's been a while since I broke out the old ballet moves, and Ellie laughed to see me spin and leap and dance her around. The words rang out:
"I lift my hands to believe again, 
You are my refuge, You are my strength. 
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember: 
You are faithful God forever!"

With the view of a huge city full of people, and the memories of how faithful God has been through all of the transitions and changes, and how He could use this huge city to bring His Name glory... I knelt, lifted my hands, cried and prayed. May His will be done here. And though I'm not always thrilled by the day-in-day-out discomforts of life overseas, I am thankful to be a small part of what He is doing here.

After lunch, Dassah got to do what she had looked forward to most: swim! This girl loves the water! And Ellie enjoyed her first experience in a big pool too! Since it was closed in the mornings, Ryan even took Hadassah again that night before bed. :)

While the girls napped in the afternoon and Ryan rested at the hotel, I got to go with Danielle and Alex to Yu Yuan Garden. It was awesome how, by now, after their trips downtown to see various museums in the past weeks and their recent forray to the Jewish Refugee's Museum, they knew the subway system better than I did!

There were cool rock formations...

And beautiful, artistic gates.

Small details like these make my eyes happy. :)

It is really neat that out of my side of the family, these two will forever know more about our life here than anyone else!

There were a ton of touristy shops selling things, so they were able to pick up some things for family and friends, and even try their hand at bartering!

Then, it was our turn to enjoy the town. :) It was a perfect late afternoon at the Bund, breezy, pretty empty... So we got our own space and took many timed pictures until we got the perfect one. :)

I love being out with my man, and being out with just him made me appreciate the city even more. It definitely is a fun, romantic spot to be!

And the sky... It's been so beautiful in the recent weeks!

We enjoyed delicious food with fresh bread at an Italian restaurant just around the corner. And we just talked and didn't have to get up once while we ate supper. Amazing to parents of two small children!

"Now we see in a glass dimly..." Never would we have imagined ending up here. I look forward to seeing what God will do in the years to come!

Ellie was ready for us to get back home though. ;) She had the best babysitters, but in her current mommy-clingy state and a cold coming on (we realized later) she was ready for mommy's arms!

Our bright blue eyed big girl was also glad to see us. :) But what a blessing it was to have "live-in" babysitters and be downtown so we could even order pizza in for them! Something we haven't figured out how to do way out where we live...

When the girls were safely tucked in bed, we headed out again. We were going to a hotel where there was supposed to be salsa dancing at 9 PM, but we arrived early and enjoyed chocolate. :) It even happened to be half price!

We headed up where the dancing was supposed to be, but there wasn't any going on. But we found this amazing, secluded balcony with the best view of the city. Wow.

Kissing on top of the world! It was a secluded balocny, and almost didn't seem real. The air was clear, the clouds seemed close enough to touch, and I was with the one I love most. Seemed like a dream world... Romantic outings have been harder than we'd prefer to come by in the last few years, but this was a huge blessing from the Lord to remember!

We waltzed in the clouds as we sang our wedding dnace soung ("A Hundred More Years" by Francesca Batistella) - and cried as we realized how blessed we were as...

"they can dance, under the moonlight, 
and God is smiling down on them tonight... 
And they want to stay right here, 
make it last for a hundred more years!" 

Then we went back down the spiral suitcase, back to our responsibilities, who thankfully slept soundly all night!

Before church, since we didn't have the hour commute we usually do, Ryan took Hadassah to do a few more rides at People's Park while we packed up. A ten minute taxi ride to church seemed so short. The singing and sermon were refreshing, and the potluck afterwards (since it was a 5th Sunday) delicious! A great ending to a great weekend.