Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween 2014

I think Claire's biggest worry about coming to China was missing Halloween.  I mean, what ten-year-old wants to miss a day like that?  Thank goodness that the good old "Trunk-or-Treat" tradition is alive and well in our branch (church) here in Shangahi.  

These two little girls were in hog-heaven about that fact.  Fortunately for them, we have some friends with some great outfits they borrowed for the big occasion.


Luckily I happened to be at the big whiz-bang private school the day before helping with the international fair (which was amazing BTW...crafts and food from all over the world), and I was able to snag a little Egyptian headdress from the Egyptian craft station for Claire to color to go with her outfit (she's some sort of Egyptian queen).
At first she was a little hesitant to wear paper on her head for a queen, but hey, beggars can't be choosers and it she colored it so well that it turned out perfectly.

She was most excited about the make-up.

By the time Grace came out to the car, we were all in there waiting for that girl, and then we scattered once we got to the park so I never got a pic. of them all together.  Darn it all!   But here's our "explorer."
Grace is past the caring-too-much stage for Halloween but we brought her friend along who was dressing up too (and who I also didn't get a picture of...double dang!) and she wanted to come up with some kind of idea.

When we got to the park my friend brought over the extra part of Claire's outfit:
...didn't realize there was a head-dress too, man alive we hit the jackpot!!  (although I was a little sad to see the paper crown go :)
Trunk-or-treats always make for a good time I tell you.  I mean, what's not to love about going around collecting candy?

Where, you may ask, were Max and Elle?

Well, they were at the most fun place you can imagine on a Halloween Trunk-or-Treat morning.

They were taking the ACT test.  

Max was taking it for his last time, Elle for her first.  

One of my favorite parts of the week was listening them sit at the computer together talking through practice tests.  It made me wonder what Elle will do without Max next year.  Then it made me wonder what ANY of us will do.  And then it made me want to crawl into the corner and cry so I decided to think about something else.  

Which wasn't very easy.

As those two walked out the door that morning I had a million things I wanted to say.  "Focus," "remember what you've studied!," "a lot is riding on this! (Max)," but instead I bit my lip, gave them hugs and told them they would do great.

How great we won't know for a while, but all I know is that Max was talking about how his brains was hurting when it was through.  

We are not the most amazingly talented test-takers in our family, dang it!

In other Halloween news, we lucked out and got to take some tiny pumpkins home from the Trunk-or-Treat, which we carved up in the midst of a little bit of chaos last night.  It was one of those nights where not everyone could be happy at the same time.  Everyone had to take a turn to get a little sensitive.  Oh boy.

I reminisced how I carved an apple just to be creative one Halloween growing up.  I guess that's a tradition since the kids reminded me I tell that every year.  Claire did her own little apple carving...


It was definitely far from our usual carving hoopla, but then again, so is everything here.

Today for Halloween in second grade at school, instead of having a Halloween parade like they do in the states, they had a "crazy hat" parade.  Everyone had to make their own, as creative as they could.  Lu and I came up with this one.  
I wish I had better pictures of the side view and back...it made us all crack up.  

I couldn't believe the creativity the oozed out of the parade at school.  Wow, these kids were decked.




 That was a whole Barbie land up there above.

 And then there was my little rainbow dog.

Tonight, for real Halloween, we will be on a high speed train heading up to Beijing, me and the kids.  Dave will meet us there en route home from a business trip he's been on this week.  And we are all so excited.

I promised my girls who are so sad to be missing the real trick-or-treating deal that they could trick-or-treat around to the group of us on the train...how fun will that be?  Ha!  I'm off to figure out some good "treats" to stick in their pockets.

I'll admit, I'm kind of with them on the missing trick-or-treating thing.  The last couple years I've been kind of boo-hooing Halloween a little bit...it's so much work.  But all that work makes for some pretty fun hoopla.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

end of September little things -- new friends in a faraway land

Speaking of friends, (back here), we are so grateful for the new ones we've made here in China.

On our way home from walking the kids to school on the first day we ran right into this super smiley man walking out of our complex.  He stopped us with a big smile and in a French accent asked if we were new to the area.  When we told him we were, he told us to go right over to his house to meet his wife.  So we did.  Her name is Olivia and she is wonderful.  What a great couple.  They have two kids who attend the French school close-by.  

A week or so later they invited us along with another family we met over to a "dinner soiree" at their home.  We sat and talked until late into the evening about everything from schools to religion to weddings (they had a traditional African wedding and I loved looking at the pictures and having them re-live it a little bit as they explained it to us), to different cultures (he's from Africa, she's from France, the other couple is from the States and Hungary).  
We love that through living in Shanghai we not only get to meet those who are native to this area, but we've also been able to meet so many people from other cultures as well.

I love how well Olivia has taken in the Chinese culture.  When I asked her if she knew where the post office was, she told me she'd take me.  She speaks fluent Chinese (studied it in college in France) and she drives, and she so kindly took me all around to her favorite spots.

This market was my favorite:
I wish I had stopped to take pictures of the little tubs of turtles and sea creatures on the sides of the road, all ready for someone to take home and whip up for dinner.

Olivia showed me her favorite place to buy Chinese dumplings and we both bought some up for our families.


Love this vegetable market.
Not so sure about the meat market...

Claire has become friends with our neighbor across the street.  She lets us borrow her ripstick and gets Claire all outfitted up for her practice.
Grace somehow got out of wearing the safety gear.

These friends are really good friends with one of my best friends from BYU days.  They took me out to show me their favorite parts of town one afternoon.
And have taken great care of me ever since. 

This "friend" walks home from school with me and we love to stop to admire the fall leaves crunching under our feet.

Max got to meet a lot of really, really nice volleyball boys during the season.  He couldn't play for eligibility reasons, but had fun supporting the team and getting to know them.  They had a great team this year...we all wished Max could be out there with them.
Now he's on to basketball which he can play and is loving it.  More on that later.

Grace is attached at the hip to this Hungarian friend she met on the first day of school.
They are so much alike it's crazy.  We love her family too.  They just had us over for Indian food the other night...one of my favorites.

The rain has calmed down, but we love it any time it comes.

Elle and I got to go on a little date to a city tennis tournament in Puxi one Saturday.
She did a great job and has since started taking lessons from this awesome guy...not even sure which country he is from, but he hits the ball hard and she's learning a lot.


After tennis Elle and I went to meet the rest of the family for our first visit to the Fabric Market.  We soon realized the madness of getting a taxi on a Saturday afternoon and even after we finally tracked one down we got stuck in that traffic jam up above.

Loved that Elle (and all the kids) have started to point out and recognize so many Chinese characters in whatever print we come across.


We met our new friend Katie at the Fabric Market with her brand new darling baby and other daughter (who's Lucy's age) in tow.  She's in our branch and she and her family are so great.  It was so fun to watch them maneuver their way around that place, they are pros.
The Fabric Market is this place with isle after isle of all kinds of fabrics and all kinds of tailors who can make practically anything for you.
We had stuff made here last time we were here (eight years ago), but everyone is different and Katie took us to her favorite tried-and-true spots.
You could spend weeks in that place.
And I think these girls would if I'd let them.  They are full of creative ideas and designs of things to make.

The next day Katie and her family invited us over for dinner at their house after church.  We loved getting to know them better...what a great family.








(Not sure what's up with Max's expression, Lucy is non-existent and dang, Katie's eyes were closed but that's the one I got.)

They made this pasta that was so good my kids came home with stars in their eyes hoping I would make it some day too, so I did, and it's now one of our favorite dishes.  I'll have to post the recipe...it's a lot of work but worth it because it's the knock-your-socks-off kind of good.

This is the view from their apartment...blurry from the iPhone but it's the Bund (back here) and it lights up all at the same moment each night.  


Love that Claire gets to have her baby-fix every now and again...

This girl pretty much does homework from the time she gets home to the time she goes to bed.  
Junior year is a killer.

Thank heavens for our homework tutor:

This is the bridge we cross over to go into Puxi.  I love that bridge.

One day Dave's business partner found out last minute that there was a pretty cool opportunity at this hotel here where his sister-in-law works.

So we packed everyone in the car speedy quick, got them going on their homework en route, and drove on over not quite knowing what to expect.
And I have to say it turned out to be a pretty awesome night.

I can't even explain this place, I guess it's built for Chinese movie stars and high-end business people, and I guess it was friends and family night.  But the whole place was pretty much empty.

They fed us an assortment of Chinese food and explained a little bit about Chinese history first.

There was all kinds of history on the wars and propaganda pictures...Kevin and Dave liked this one.
Love these two and that they are the opposite of that picture above them.

The girls and I got to get massages, can you tell how excited we are?  They gave us some super special matching outfits to wear in preparation :)
The little girls got to go swimming and loved it.

Here's the group minus the one who invited us, dang it!  I'm sure she was taking care of something somewhere.
I guess they do a lot of weddings in that little chapel.  The iPhone can't really do it justice...it was so pretty!

Lots and lots and lots of college application discussions.

The girls whipped up some awesome artwork to brighten things up around here.

Singing in the rain:
Hmmm...bare feet...

The beginning of the Lucy birthday festivities:
(didn't want to bring the rain boots gift to Cambodia...)
And then we were off on our adventure in Cambodia (here, here, here, here and here) and Vietnam which I will get to some day.

But that's a wrap for now!
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