Friday, December 19, 2014

November little things

There are so many "little things" amidst the "big things" that happened in November.  I have already written about most of the big stuff (Beijing, Lucy's baptism, my brother's visit, Kevin's home town, Thanksgiving, Dave's birthday and Japan).

The little things filled in the gaps between those highlights.  But sometimes I think the "little things" are the best highlights of all.

Like how I found Fall in Shanghai:
Or how my kids like to point out Chinese characters they know in newspapers and it melts my heart.

Lu has begun her rite-of-eight-year-old-passage dish-doing responsibilities (although it's her day today and the dishes are still stacked in the sink...)
We have loved watching Max play basketball.  I have to do another post about that because there's too much to say.  

I don't know how the house next door is even still standing.  They have gutted it down to the bones.

...and then started on the house across the street.  It is a jack-hammer fest around here I tell you.

Smoothie mania:
...which makes me miss our Vitamix at home.

 This picture just reminds me of all the funny things we see driving around at night.  Someone just decided to have a little bonfire on the sidewalk.
People also ride scooters and bikes around wearing black clothing and don't ever turn on headlights.  Still trying to figure out why.

We have been out of town a lot of weekend, but when we're here the kids love to facetime cousins and friends.
Loved that those two cousins happened to be wearing matching sweatshirts...

Love these sweet ladies in our branch:
...and my little cooking helper in the kitchen (always it).

Makes me happy and sad at the same time:
Happy that we are here seeing so much.  Sad that it's happening.

It was Saturday school again.  But this time it was kind of cool because parents got to attend too.

Dave and I were like chickens with our heads cut off trying to get to as many different classes at the same time as we could, but we divided and conquered pretty well.
 Loved spying Lu reading in the library:
Dave and I both happened to get to go to Claire's Chinese class.  I loved it.

Dave went to Lucy's class by himself.  He confirmed that every other kid in the class has spoken Chinese before and there is not one word of English spoken there.  She is catching on better but man it is rough!

The "wet market" I frequent by our house that I love:
 The meat they slapped on a board nearby that I DON'T buy:
 More Fall:

 My walking buddies:

This kid and I worked so dang hard on college applications every other child felt completely neglected by the time we finally hit that "send" button and broke out the Martinelli sparkling apple cider.
Much more on that later but for now I will say that was no cakewalk!  And also, I liked having "date night" with my boy practically every night...even if it was in front of a computer.  Love him.

The girls spoke and sang at church in the Primary program:
I have to talk more about that later because Dave and I got to be in it too and there's some good material there.

Good friends I love at a new restaurant we tried out after going to the "Painters Street."

Love when my kids do my hair when I read to them:

Tammy took us for you think these girls were excited about that??

Afterwards Claire and I went on a little date downtown for a little quality time.
Love that sweetie.
How our house looked when we got home:
I love houses all lit up.

These three have been working their little hearts out for school.  Boy oh boy I'm still hoping we can make it out of here alive if we can make it through finals this week.  I had to capture this picture though because I loved how they were all in a tight little row just working away.
Darlings all three.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

life and a visit to Kevin's hometown -- Elephant Mountain

Why does all the crazy stuff happen when Dave is out of town?  

Or do I just feel like it's more crazy when he's not by my side to share it?  

Today I ran to pick up the girls from school, bracing myself against the icy cold wind.  We huddled together walking as quickly as we could toward home, and stopped at a little shop to try to find a book for Lucy's book exchange on Friday since the book we ordered didn't come in the mail in time.  Lucy had a breakdown when we realized we didn't have any cash to buy the book we lucked out finding.  So we were on the hunt for an ATM with Lucy wailing (she was very worried about that book exchange) when we ran into Grace and her friend who told us all the details about one of their teachers who apparently isn't too happy with them because they spoke English in their Chinese class (which quieted Lu right down since she can relate to that little topic).  We started home to change and get ready to get back to the school for Max's game, and on the way Lucy got hit by a scooter.  She darted right out in front of us to cross the street without looking and plunged right into the side of a speeding scooter (so maybe I should say the scooter got hit by her).  Lucy was fine but it was a pretty scary sight to see her all laid out in the middle of the street, glasses strewn off to the side looking up at us in shock while Grace about had a heart-attack for reals, hyperventilating like someone's head just got chopped off and Claire was mad as a hornet that the scooter lady just shrugged and drove away and people were stopped gawking because we made quite a little scene.  All of which led us to a good conversation about street safety and to look more carefully in the future.  And also a little (big) prayer of gratitude that it was a scooter and not a car and that Lucy was ok.  Oh man I'm so grateful.

We had the best time watching Max's basketball game (I'm not sure if I mentioned he's playing on the varsity team here and it's been such a fun thing for him...and us).  He made 32 points this game which made it even that much more fun and he had the crowd in his hand as he did some kind of funny/fun plays.  Their team is really quite good and they played against a team half their size so we all felt kind of bad about all the points but kind of happy about all the smiles on the court.  

We had an impromptu dinner with some friends we love and are going to miss so much...leftovers with funny conversation and then it was into the homework freak-out session where Max lost his thumb drive, Elle is dying over her crazy math class, Grace about hyper-ventilated again because she couldn't find her assignment (which we later found in the trash and spent a while picking off all the dried rice that was stuck to it), and the internet wouldn't work to turn in an AP Literature assignment.  
But oh how I want to remember these days!  I know they are going to fade so quickly when we wrap up this adventure next week, so I'm trying to keep a record of all we've been doing over here that has changed our hearts in so many ways.

One weekend last month we headed up to Kevin's hometown (Dave's business partner) with he and his family.  We loved seeing a part of China so removed from the hustle and bustle of the big cities.  
Love those guys so much!

There was something so calming about driving through such open countryside after so much congestion in the city.  (It took almost two hours to get out of the city...Shanghai is so darn huge.)
The roads wound around through so many of these tunnels through the mountains.  
...and then finally we arrived, to a home-made meal Kevin's mom prepared for us.  As she set more and more dishes in front of us, the table went from this: this pretty darn quick:
 Oh man she just kept piling new dishes in...SO very nice of her to feed us so well!
She fed us three meals like that...all different dishes, mostly seafood which is super fresh there where they live.

Kevin took us to a Kung-Fu master to learn a few moves.

 This guy comes once a month to teach all the people who gather to learn.
 He taught Max some moves and had him try to push him over.
 He couldn't do it, and that's saying something because that kid is pretty darn strong.

All the kung-fu guys:
They have these things everywhere so all the adults can get their exercise in.  Every time the kids saw the "equipment" they ran and got a little exercise in.

We went to check out the work of a local "root artist."  It was quite amazing I have to say.  
 This guy takes roots of all shapes and sizes and tries to determine from their shape what to carve them into...he envisions what will flow out of them and then starts to carve away.  Reminded me a little of Michelangelo who is said to have felt he was "freeing the human form trapped inside marble."
There were hundreds of these sculptures of all shapes and sizes.

We were quite mesmerized by them and then found out the artist himself was working in the back of the museum.  We were so excited we got to meet him and see what he was working on.

We visited one of the factories Dave and Kevin work with.

Here are some of the molds they use to make huge plastic parts:

Growing up we had a garden in the summers.  

It stretched out past my Grandma's back yard for what seemed like a football field to a kid like me.

Each summer we picked which plants we would "grow."  I always picked the peas or beans.  My brother Josh always picked potatoes.  I can't remember what everyone else picked, but I remember lots of hoeing and weeding and harvesting.  And I remember sitting in a circle in my Grandma's family room podding those peas or snapping the beans for what seemed like hours.  
And then we would eat them up.  Nothing so good as vegetables right out of the garden.  

My kids know nothing of gardens.  So I loved that we got to take them to this great shared garden right close to Kevin's home:

 His Dad helped the kids harvest some of the vegetables.
(and fruits)

 ...and carry them home.

It was rice harvest time as well, and many of the streets were lined with drying rice. 

We loved Kevin's little neighborhood.

Right in the middle of the neighborhood was a sock factory.

At first it looked kind of like a jumble but it was pretty amazing to watch these old machines putting socks together.

 They turn out like this.

There is a place where a lot of the famous Chinese movies are filmed close to where Kevin is from.

So of course we had to go there :)

We snuck onto one of the movie sets for a few minutes, which didn't last long.  Ha!

 Random archery practice place:

We went to this really beautiful ancient town that night.

And there, in the middle of it all, we found our much sought after "fish foot massages."  Hooray!  (I had been sad we missed these in Cambodia.)
I really wish my internet worked well enough to upload the videos of them freaking out when they first dipped their toes in.  I thought there was no way Lucy would go for it but she loved just chilling with those suckers cleaning her feet.
Poor Elle was sick as a dog and wasn't up for sharing her feet with fish, poor girl.

A little "grocery store" on the way back to Kevin's for our last dinner:

 Saying goodbye to the most kind people who took such good care of us:

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