Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Turkey Trot reminder

We are so grateful for all the people working their tails off for this event back in the desert TOMORROW:

So grateful for the funds it will put toward helping BBS families.  It means so much to us.

And I don't know a better way to start off Thanksgiving than getting a good run in which contributes to help kids through Brain Food and through the BBS Foundation.

There are already almost double the sign-ups from last year....exciting times!

More info. is HERE.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I am grateful for Activity Days, family trees and thankful trees

When girls turn eight in our church they get to start going to "Activity Days," (they get to meet with all the other girls in the congregation and do activities based on ideas from the Faith in God program here.  It's a pretty darn fun way to learn how to strengthen their testimonies, serve others, study the scriptures, etc.).

So as Lucy neared her eighth birthday she looked at me with those pretty blue eyes, long eyelashes fluttering, and asked who her Activity Day leader would be.  Knowing full well she had looked forward to this for a long time, and also that our branch is so teeny here they don't have Activity Days, in desperation to appease those blue eyes I proclaimed "I get to be your leader!"  Claire and Lucy both looked up at me so incredulous and delighted it made me want to be their Activity Day leader to the end of the earth.

But I'll take a couple months in China while I can get it :)

Our first activity consisted of learning about our family tree and having gratitude for the great ancestor stories of people we are actually related to.

At first Lucy started pouting.  She was thinking this would be more of a butterflies and rainbows type thing, but she warmed up to the idea pretty quick.

I loved telling them a special story about their Grandpa Dean and the family their Grandfather grew up in with all the animation I could.

I figured our "craft" could be whipping up our traditional "Thankful Tree" (back HERE) Chinese style:
(Yes, I'm aware that couch needs a little help...)

We added the names of the people we had just learned about first, as well as a big leaf for "Grammie Camp" since that's where they learn so darn much about all the great blood that runs through their veins.  (more about this year's Grammie Camp over herehere and here on my Mom's blog)

The girls did their own "family trees:"
I loved Lucy's subtle message that to get a dog would lead to family love.  See the arrows?  Oh and if we are really good, maybe a packet of cookies will grow by our family tree...

The girls wrote notes to grandparents as the ending activity.  I'm going to post them here since it will take three weeks to mail them and it's way to tricky to get to the post office.

I think it's safe to say our first activity was a hit.

Last week for Activity Days I adapted some ideas from Pinterest (I wish I could find the link to share!!) that Lucy's Activity Days group was really doing the same day back in the States.  I wrote a variety of different things on little papers (i.e. "no right arm," "can't read," "can't talk," "can't bend elbows," etc.) and we each picked one out of a cup and had to try to help make dinner (I'm a big believer in multitasking!) without that "ability."

We would try for a few minutes, then put our papers back in and try again with new "disabilities."

Here's Claire with no sight (perhaps a little too close to home) and Lucy with her left arm taped behind her back trying to make our black bean soup:
The hardest rotation was when I couldn't see, Claire wasn't supposed to be able to read, and Lucy couldn't talk.  Made it a little difficult to follow the recipe...

They were over-the-moon about this and wanted to keep doing it at dinner (which we didn't because the older kids weren't too hip on that grand idea).  When we were done with a few turns each, we sat down and talked about how grateful we are for all the things our bodies can do that we so often take for granted.

So grateful for this little serendipitous adventure of Activity Days and the chance to have some constructive fun with these two sweetie pies I adore.

Monday, November 24, 2014

October little things

It is getting cold here in Shanghai.  We have been bundling up and scraping by for enough sweaters and jackets.  Coming from the desert we're a little wimpy I must say.

We just finished a one-day weekend since we had Saturday school again.  More on that later but for now I'm trying to catch up on the little things that happened in October before November comes to an end!

Back in September proclaimed that I would do my "little things" posts in smaller increments because so much happens all the time, but I can hardly keep up with doing them monthly so never mind about that little idea.  

October was a big one.  We started out in Cambodia:

...and Vietnam:
(more HERE)

....and then there was my sister's wedding (HERE) all of which I just finally barely finished posts about.

Dave and the kids didn't sit around and mope while I was gone :)
(more about that and autumn hikes and my dad's birthday in the last post I just barely posted right before this one HERE)

"The Voice" of China

The day after I got home, Dave's business partner Kevin had received a call from a friend that they needed some American "extras" to do a special on one of the top five in winners in "The Voice of China."

It was during a school day and the big kids were needing to be at school (still catching up after Cambodia), so we snuck Claire out and headed on over.

In my jet-lagged state I didn't ask many questions...just figured we would go and be in a big crowd there, but when we arrived they pulled us right in to do our hair and make-up and we realized we were "the show."

A little bit horrifying for me, a little bit exciting for Claire, and somewhere in between for Dave.  Here's the girl who was in the top three:
She was darling and helped us through it.  We were supposed to be her "good friends" visiting from the states and she sang to us and we had to sing to her.

Yes, I'm serious about that.

I am the furthest thing from an actress and even further from a solo singer.  Dave, Claire and I had to sing a song for her, and in our dumbfound deer-in-the-headlights stupor we chose "Give Said the Little Stream" of all things.  Then Dave and I had to sing a song to each other.

See why I'm saying I was feeling a little bit horrified?  Ha!

Everyone was so nice though, and totally helped us through it.

After our on-camera "reunion" and singing, they interviewed Dave since he can speak Chinese.
Here he is all set up for stardom:
Apparently 5 million people (and counting) have watched that interview over here in China.  (Kevin was so excited when he showed us the count the other day...Dave was a little mortified.)

It all chalked up to an experience I'm sure none of us will ever forget.
**post edit note: my nephew Rob (who has lived in China) found the link for us (thanks Rob!)  Luckily they were smart enough to cut out most of our singing (maybe because I was just about to cry at the end there when I realized they honestly wanted me to sing a solo)...hallelujah!  Here it is:

Grace made the soccer team and loved her season (although we all agreed it was way too short).
So proud of that girl.

A night out on the town (our little neighborhood) to go watch volleyball at the school:

Max, after a brief flirt with the idea of never cutting his hair while we are here, finally begged me to chop it off.  He went from this:
 To this:
 ...lickety split.

Claire is excelling in Chinese.  She LOVES it and tries to practice with everyone we come across. Taxi drivers, cashiers in stores, random people on the metro, you name it, she's got a smile and a few Chinese words to practice.  I LOVE it.  Here's her latest Chinese test:
"Mei Gui" is her Chinese name.

Lucy, on the other hand, didn't want to touch Chinese with a ten-foot pole in the beginning.  But with help from her sweet tutor (who is helping me a ton too), she's starting to get some of the key concepts and can answer her teacher's Chinese questions in Chinese.

I sit in and listen on the lessons, taking notes as fast as I can.  It's such a crazy language and even when you write the words in Pin Yin (which is supposed to be phoenetic), the sounds of each letter are completely different.

My walking-home from school buddy:
As we walk, we keep watching for any turn of the leaves since it's starting to get so cold, but they are staying green as can be:

 Big kids walking into school:

Sports Day was back HERE.

The people next door are remodeling their house.
And when I say "remodeling," I mean breaking it down to the bare bones very, very loudly.

That thing is a SHELL I tell you! ...I don't even know how it's still standing up after all the commotion they've made over there knocking things out.  There is a new huge pile of trash and debris outside every day.  (Makes me sorry for our neighbors back home...sorry Daltons!)

We haven't been in town many weekends, but there was one when we went into an area called Xian Tian Di.  It's kind of a hip, funky area in the old "French Concession" section of town where there are cool tree-lined streets and ancient sidewalks.

It just so happened that it was "Fashion Week" and there were all kinds of photographers mulling around where we got lunch.  A few stopped to take pictures of the kids, and then a whole hoard of them started going at it when we got closer to the event.  I wish I had been quick enough to capture a picture of them swarming around taking pictures of them at the entrance to the actual fashion show.  It was hilarious.

But I did get a pic. of Claire doing her "pose."

We tried to get into the fashion show but it had already started. Dang it.

We have been turning into pros. at the subway system and there's something so invigorating about that.  I love the subway!  So much better than fighting traffic in a cab.
Our closest subway stop is about 10-15 minutes walking from our house and some of our best conversations happen on that little stretch.

After Xian Tien Di we headed to Yu Yuan Gardens (which was a total flop this time around...wrote about that with more pictures over HERE)

These kids continue to be my heroes.  
They are stepping up to so many things here.  One Sunday the youth were in charge of sacrament meeting at church...which means these three plus three others were the "show."  Max and Elle spoke and did such a great job, and Grace sang with them.

Some of Lucy's cute classmates and wonderful teacher:

I still have to sit and be mesmerized by the tanks of sea life at the grocery store each time I go.  Looks like these guys sure want to escape:

This is not a storm or a cloudy day:
It is pollution.  And we have had a whole bunch of it lately.  Lots of medical masks being worn all around.  Maybe we better invest in a few of those puppies.

My sometimes-work-out partner:
Never seems to be a day where we can all go together, but we try.

College prep night at the school:
They are really great at college prep here.  They visitors from universities all over the world who come talk about the schools they are representing.  This night was a parent's night to be informed on things like how Harvard turns away 95% of applicants and how many schools you should apply to.  We made Max and Elle come with us because hey, they are the ones applying.

Love any chance to go on little dates with those two.

Our friends Kevin and Tammy's daughter goes to nearby "Disneyland" International school.  (If you could visit the school you'd understand why we refer to it as one of the "Disneyland" is amazing.) Tammy is Chinese but gave birth to her pre-schooler in the states.  Because of that, she can attend this great school that only kids with foreign passports can go to.

They had an "International Day" where she needed to make some American treats.  She knew where to come to ask for help ;)

She sent her ayi over and we whipped up some cookies and brownies together.
...while discussing all aspects of the Philippines and the U.S.  Fascinating discussion.

The next day I went to part of the festival with them.  It was quite exceptional.
My friend Tammy with her cute daughter Olivia:

There were food booths from all over the world, and the food was SO GOOD!
(So many countries are represented at that school.)

I went on a little outing here:
(an antique market)
With these two great ladies:
..and with some other girls another couple's such a great place to go.

I keep trying to find a time to bring my other kids back.

The view from my taxi one day:
Seriously how do those things not fall off?  Well, they often do.  There are spilled goods from trucks every now and again floating over the streets.

Love to go in Claire's room and find this:
She is so into Harry Potter right now...she's currently on book #4.

This cute family has taken such great care of us:
She works for a hotel and got us the coolest room to celebrate Dave's birthday early while my brother was in town.

Love this bridge, because it's cool:
...but also because it leads us to the Fabric Market.

And thank Heavens for that because didn't bring any winter Sunday clothes, and it's cold.

Thank Heavens also for good friends who happened ot be at the Fabric Market at the same time when we could not, for the life of us, find a taxi and Elle had a babysitting job we were scrabbling to get back to.  They drove us to the other side of the bridge to grab the metro there.

Dresses and a suit from the fabric market:

This is how we have to get on the internet here:
And half the time it doesn't work...especially at night when kids need to use it for homework projects.

Elle was contacted to help spread the word about these cool t-shirts from Olive Lane:

So she did a few photoshoots for them.

We took Lu's baptism pictures.  These were my favorite out-takes:

The high school did this "last man standing" thing where they had to try to eliminate people they were assigned to with squirt guns.
Max and Elle stuck in there for quite a while before they got taken out :)

I always have my iPhone with me when we're walking home from school and sometimes I can't resist snapping a picture of these girls.

And then it was Halloween...with "Crazy Hat Day:"

And then we were off on the high speed train to Beijing.
...for another great adventure.
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