December started with some hustle and bustle to get our house all spiffed up for Christmas. You can get Christmas decorations in China but it's not quite like it is at home so we opted to do a kind of "home-made" Christmas this year.
For some reason it made it seem kind of warm and cozy to get creative and whip some things up together (here). Claire really got in the spirit of things and was working hard on some things and this is what I found when I went up to tuck her in bed:
Grace did a few different final projects for school with friends.
OUR LAST WEEKEND:
Guilin was our second to last weekend in China, and during the very last one we tried to take in as much as we could in our own city one last time.
We took advantage of "family movie nights" one last time:
We finally made it to "Jing'an Temple" which I loved...this gorgeous place right in the middle of the city. It was built originally ages ago (247 AD), then turned into a plastic factory of all things during the cultural revolution, then renovated in the 80s and again pretty recently. I loved seeing the skyscrapers reaching up behind it.
Wish we did that in the states. Ha!
We went to a few museums in People's Square. We loved this one with all the old pictures of how Shanghai used to look:
We especially loved this model of the city:
Tried to get a little Christmas spirit in:
Had a fun little talk right here, right at dusk, in the middle of this once-foreign city that has become so familiar to us that I hope I'll always remember.
We took the metro over to the German Christmas Market next.
It was like swimming against traffic upstream to get in and out of that place it was so crowded but oh-so-fun to be surrounded in "Christmas" and to be with friends we love.
Last time at my favorite grocery store (Metro), in my most un-favorite place (the meat section).
Last Activity Days. The girls and I were "Secret Santas" for the family and made a special meal.
The girls made little notes for everyone when they set the table:
Let's get a closer look at Dave's:
One of Max and Elle's last early-morning seminary meetings:
A little Christmas shopping with friends:
A visit from our good friend who was in China from the desert on business. The kids were SO delighted to have him show up at our house!
One of our last walks home from school together.
Trying to get in a few last workouts...
Cleaning out all the mountains of school work:
Max's final project for Global Citizenship...I have to figure out a way to share the video he made. Loved it so much.
Teacher/administrator appreciation notes:
Christmas is really different in China, but they did have a day (our last Friday there) where they celebrated it at school and it was awesome. They had several concerts I'm posting about tomorrow, and had little celebrations in their classes.
Claire's holiday party before her portion of the concert:
...and her awesome teachers who make me want to tear up when I look at this picture. Love them so much!
Claire's best friend there:
Grace's night performance:
Elle's very kind friends:
I have a lot I could say about that picture and how grateful I was for our conversation on the walk home from school that night but I'll just say how the way she explained how she was feeling right then as we were packing up to leave that adventure filled my heart. She really got it. And I loved that she did.
Book club friends:
Claire's wall with all her art before she had to take it all down:
A trip to the Chinese acrobat show with the Bao's.
Last view of the city skyline:
Final bag packing and we were off.
Past the coast of California:
Never before have our hearts been filled with so much gratitude.
For Christmas lights and the glow they bring to your heart as well as extended family and American food and for Christmas spirit in general.
We got into town late, late on the night of the 23rd and through our jet-lag and excitement we got ready for one of the most meaningful and gratitude-filled Christmases ever.