Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas: The China side

 Yes, I am way behind on blogging. With two littles and them napping less as they grow, I have less and less computer time! Too busy living life to record it. ;)

We made it back to the US for a great just-over-two weeks last Friday. It's taken almost a week to get out of the daze of jet lag though. This one was really really bad, exasperated by Ellie's bad congestion and cough. Days I get only 2 hour segments interrupted by them wanting to play in the middle of the night are really hard. But Hadassah finally slept all night and Ellie only woke once last night, so I am feeling like a new person with so much sleep!

With traveling for Christmas, I still wanted to preserve some Christmas traditions for our little family. I don't know why, but I'm big on traditions. So, for us, the Saturday before we left was our home "Christmas."

In the weeks in December instead of letter-of-the-week activities, we did Christmas ones. I really enjoyed making this felt tree, after over 5 people shared various ideas for it with me. ;)

The girls were enamored the first morning they found it, but really didn't play with it all that much after that. Oh well. It was fun to make, added brightness to our wall, and there's always next year to pull it out again!

Dassah enjoyed some Christmas-theme free printables found via pinterest!

This cute print-out nativity set was especially fun. She even helped me attach magnets to the back.

It's fun to have Ellie more and more wanting to get in on the action of things!

Adding it to the fridge was fun for a few weeks too.

I love having little girls especially when it means I get to make such adorable things as these for Christmas presents! Very thankful for a husband who played with the girls all evening one weekday so I could get these done!

"Cozy time" by light of the Christmas tree became a favorite activity for Dassah. What could be better than cuddling up with Daddy and having him tell one of his amazing stories?

We had a full line of Christmas activities by the time we were done.

Our family Christmas Eve tradition, I've decided, is to eat out so we don't have dishes to do. So for what we decided was our "Christmas Eve" we went to our favorite Chinese Muslim restaurant.

It was extra fun to have it be one of the nights this dancer performed. The girls were in awe.

The girls also totally enjoyed dancing on the stage themselves! I love that they both love to dance.

Before bed that night, we had to take a picture in pjs by the tree!

The sparkling Christmas tree in the corner is definitely my favorite time of year for the inside.

We had a special gift for the girls this year too! It was surprisingly inexpensive, and worth getting for the next few months of needing to play more indoors!

We opened presents on Saturday morning before breakfast. This picture just seems to be the essence of sweet childhood...

Ellie could get into it this year too and enjoyed looking at what Hadassah opened too!

Ellie is way into bubbles, so we got a fun bubble set. You don't often have bubbles by a Christmas tree!

And the slide was a definite hit! Ellie especially did it over and over, as she loves to climb!

We had red and green pepper omelettes and beautiful strawberries...

And cinnamon rolls. Because you always need an excuse to have cinnamon rolls. Because my butter was frozen and it doesn't have the convenient markings for tablespoons like butter in America, I cut off what I thought was the right amount, but it turned out to be quite a bit more. But they were the best cinnamon rolls I've ever made, so I'll have to repeat that mistake. ;)

We took some over still warm to friends in our complex, and Dassah serenaded them with "Joy to the World." That's been "her" song this season.

This little miss kept happily sliding throughout the morning, and loved getting things to put down the slide in front of her too!

It was an amazing day outside, so we couldn't resist when friends invited us to go for a picnic and some rides at the park / amusement park nearby. We grabbed bread, peanut butter and jelly and biked over. What an amazing and fun December day!

When we got home it was time for me to start cooking while the girls napped! I had baked the treats ahead, and had fun making Christmas goodies for our drop-by party!

Ryan cleaned out the laundry porch and we set up a play area for the kids. Smartest idea ever! They ate out there (keeping mess somewhat localized) and they played and yelled and weren't too loud since they were secluded. :)

We had a full house! And we had 6 countries represented: China, America, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, and Singapore. I hope that wherever we go, we can stay connected with internationals. It's been neat to see how many are in the area these days. My Syrian friend unfortunately couldn't come, otherwise we would have had 7 countries!

We are so thankful for good friends.

Friends that have brightened our lives so much in this last year. So many reasons to be thankful too.

Some friends we hadn't seen for months but they made the trip out for the party, which was special!

It was a lot of work and a ton of clean up, but I am so glad we had the party. I love having the memories of get togethers and the excuse to see friends. And in the morning sunshine I always enjoyed the tree reflected on the wall!

For our last Sunday in China before Christmas, we had to wear Christmas clothes of course! It's fun how with layers, Dassah's Easter dress works for Christmas too. We're going to miss the special Christmas Eve service with our church so are praying that goes well. But we are also very much enjoying our time with family in America. Especially now that we finally seem to be getting sleep...

We didn't bring our laptop (too fragile after the water spill) so hopefully I'll post pictures from America after our return home the beginning of January. 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Playground Fun in December

 As much as the weather can be polluted at times (though it seems better than previous years!) and the cold can be COLD, we are blessed to live somewhere where we often still get to play on the playground daily. We may have to wait until the sun comes out and the wind stops blowing (since the playground is in a pretty strong wind tunnel!) but it is possible! And for that I am very grateful.

 At just 13 months, Ellie is climbing the stairs solo. I turn around, and she's already half-way up them, though I still stay close to guard if I can!

 She goes down the slides alone too. It helps me as before I would always climb up and slide down behind her! Now she has the sweetest, proudest look as she lets go and slides down to me on her own!

 She even goes down the very fast and steep tunnel slide on her own, on her tummy. What a huge grin as she comes zooming out! And this momma is grateful to not be squeezing down it holding on to her ankles and bracing myself anymore!

 Ellie definitely takes after Hadassah... Both are climbers.

And quite daring! While I still miss having a back yard, we are blessed to live somewhere that has playground and exercise equipment (that the children use as a playground!) just a few minutes walk from our building.

 Speaking of fun, we even have our own "amusement park" type place running daily. You have to pay for each ride, but for a special family Saturday outing, it was fun! Especially now that Ellie is old enough to really enjoy them. She neighed at the horses when she saw the carousel. :)

  And Dassah absolutely loves this mini car roller coaster.

Guess going by herself makes her feel in control and it certainly whizzes by fast!

 The leaves are turning as Christmas gets closer...

And we are thankful.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Fall at the Shanghai Zoo

 It t'was the weekend before Thanksgiving (yes, I'm behind on photos!) and we just needed to get OUT. Girls were fighting colds, which were affecting their moods. I don't know what it is about sickness (okay, maybe I do - feeling awful isn't fun!) but Dassah just gets into very disobedient pattern that are hard to shake when she's sick. Getting out is a way to combat it. And great weather made for a great day to go!

 Autumn leaves are harder to come by in southern climates. Much as I find colorful leaves stunning, I'll take less of them for still having occasional 60 degree days in November and December! ;) But we were pleasantly surprised to find autumn was in full display at the Shanghai Zoo. We both had been feeling the urge to get out in nature, and this satisfied it in some way.

 There was even a perfectly still, amazingly beautiful small lake... Pictures don't do it justice.

 But a little photo editing by my amazing husband comes close. ;)

 We only had a few hours, having made a somewhat late, last-minute decision to go, a 45 minute taxi ride, and a desire to be home by afternoon naps. So we spent almost all of our time at the monkeys. They have so many different types, and are definitely the most fun to watch, especially when there were babies!

 Little Ellie was pretty fascinated!

 We saw feeding time at the Lemurs, set to the music of "Move it" from the movie Madagascar. ;)

 Some indoor exhibits where the girls could stand by the glass were also fun...

 Especially when we met this friendly monkey who was really interested in the girls!

 For some reason, Dassah showed her belly button to the monkey. And for some reason, he was extremely interested. We don't usually encourage her to pull up her shirt in public, but she was giggling so much we kept quiet. ;)

 One thing that is sad is we often see people feeding the animals, which I know is not good for them. But it's a mixed bag of emotions, because it does get the animals very close and active, so is very interesting to watch... At least what these squirrel monkeys were anxiously waiting for was just pieces of fruit.

 When we got tired of moneys, we went to our next favorite spot: the petting zoo. Unlike Hadassah, Ellie was quite content to just watch the goats after feeding them a carrot or two.

 Meanwhile Hadassah would have bought food all day to give them if we'd let her. ;) She loves feeding animals, and people come to think of it! ;)

 A new playground was a fun surprise! I used to wonder why they put playgrounds in zoos - I mean, you pay money to see the animals, not play! But now, as a parent of littles, it totally makes sense.

 We quickly walked by bears, but it was a mistake as it took us farther from the gate and the girls got tired and hungry and cranky. Running through beautiful leaves provided a brief reprieve...

 And some cute photos for this blue-eyed babe!

 Not pictured are the countless tantrums, whining, hitting, and more. This was not Hadassah's best day. We half wondered if we should have gone by the end, but knew things likely would have been worse cooped up inside. Thankfully sickness does pass, our more-often sweet girl is back, and we have memories of fall leaves to stay with us this year. :)

 In other randomness, we now have a big girl who loves playing Monopoly Jr. How did this happen??

And we have a second little girl sporting pigtails now. *happy sigh* They grow so fast!