Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fall kids parties

With two parties in two days, this weekend has been full of fun, sugar, games, and exhaustion.  
We took lots of pictures, but hang in there, because I really want you to hear about the second party.   Back in Oklahoma every year, the Stokes would host this amazing fall party that included a hot dog roast, hay ride, and greased pig contest in their barn.  It was everything you could imagine in a fall party.  Jacob and I decided to host a party with the other famililes in our org. Northern China style (indoors).

Eden went as reporter Sam Sparks from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.  We made a microphone out of a toilet paper roll and ball wrapped in foil.  This summer we found storm trooper outfits this fall at Walmart for $2, and Ephraim loves Star Wars.  Last minute I threw Ephraim's pirate hat on Xavier.  He wore it for the few seconds it took to take his picture, and only because I bribed him with candy corn popcorn.

Jacob was Eden's camera man.

I wore my old pediactric urgent care shirt and stethascope.

The food thanks to my Dad who sent me back with candy corn and pumpkin cookie mix, and Jodi who made the best brownies!  My caramel didn't stick to the apples, but they were still sweet.

The friends.  Aren't they adorable?

There were so many cute little people.

Cutest and calmest dinosaur I've ever seen.

The games: we played face the cookie.  Eden's face is cracking me up.

   Even Jacob participated in pumpkin relay.

We had pumpkin painting

Kelsey was in charge of the painting station, and Xavier kept her busy!

Jacob got to help the princess punch the pumpkin.

We also had pumpkin bowling, pumpkin ring toss, and another pumpkin toss game.

This picture is just precious.

The Hunger Games crew came to help us, and they even washed my dishes and left me with a bag of reeses!

Lately I think of Xavier as my little brooding artist.  He loves playdough,  finger painting, dinosaurs, being read to, and taking things apart.  He is slow to warm up, but once he loves you, he really loves you.  He always wants to be with me, and constantly plays with my hair.  he makes us all laugh so much, and always asks why.  I joke that he's going to be in apologetics.

When Ephraim is excited or bored you know it, but when he is sad, he is so quiet.  He's my tenderhearted warrior.  He dispises injustice, and doesn't want anyone to feel alone.  He doesn't like most creamy textures unless it involves sugar.  He's solid muscle and craves movement to the point that we put it on his chore chart.  He's our entertainer.

Eden is our little poetess.  She is so good with words, and, of course, she loves to read.  She just finished Helen Keller and Anne of Green Gables.  Her heart breaks for the lost and rejoices for the found.  She can't wait to have a sister, and talks about all the things she want's to do with her.  She's having a hard time thinking about making room for her stuff, though.  Tonight she made muffins by herself for the first time.

On to the second party!  Our family was invited by someone we had never met through our teammates.  Xavier had a cough and congestion, so I stayed home with him.  Jacob's first words about it were, "It was amazing!"  This party cost $30 per kid, but ours were invited for free.  

They had Ephraim and Eden dress up.

They got to color their own masks and capes.

A large lunch buffet was included.

My kids came home with bags filled with crayons, candy and an apple.

Fashion show of masks and capes.

The memorable part to me, though, was when Jacob said the person in charge invited him on stage, and told everyone about our adoption.  They had a sweet conversation together that had me in tears when he told me.  So sweet to be so blessed by people we had never met before.

Showers of Blessing:
Making fun memories with my kids and China family
Yummy Snacks and Cider
People who wash my dishes
Seriously cute kids
Being blessed by perfect strangers
We have been gifted a DRYER! yes, really!
Biggest of all: this week has been a struggle for my family with my Dad in the hospital for heart problems, but he should get to go home on blood thinners for a month, then have his heart rechecked to see if the blood clot is gone.  We are so thankful he gets to go home.  He still has a long road ahead.  Please keep him in your thoughts.

Ephraim's 8th Birthday

LWe made a pinata for the first time for Ephraim's birthday.  It was truly a labor of love.  It took a week of wrapping a baloon with newpapers coated in floured goo twice daily, while the baloon hung from my kitchen light fixture.  However, the fun and excitement was worth it.  We filled the dinosaur egg with chocolate coins, hawthorne discs, strawberry cream candies, fruit jel filled marshmallows, and some smarties and pixie sticks I had brought from the states.  

The night before his birthday, Ephraim and I painted it.  While he and Xavier went to sleep, Eden excitedly stayed up to help me.  While I shaped and frosted his cakes, she cleaned the living room and hung up the signs she had made.  

How to Train Your Dragon was the theme.  

Eden made him a birthday banner.

This gift was from Eden: a bracelet, card and (my favorite) homemade flash cards in their secret language.  We got him a Captain America helicopter minion.  

He also received some cool legos, a sword, a watch, and an invitation to spend time with a friend.  

Thanks to Janice for these two bright and awesome pics. 

The pinata was a success, and after each kid got a hit at least three times, Ephraim gave the mortal blow that sent candy flying.  

Ephraim, you teach me to love in a deeper way that I wouldn't have known without you.  You make me win your heart over and over again.  I am better for it, and you are worth it.  You are strong, and love to wrestle, but so gentle with little ones.  You continue to grow in self control, compassion, and maturity, which is not to be taken lightly in these days of people never wanting to grow up.  I think and say it often: you are going to be a great husband and dad one day.  You can be serious when it's needed, but still have a great sense of adventure, which will help you accomplish great things.  I'm so thankful for the day that you were born.  I love you, and I'm honored to be your Mom.  

Showers of Blessing:
Successful pinatas
Sharing life and music with a student I got to tutor
Eden's excitement over helping prepare Eph's party
Getting to be Ephraim's Mom

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Unexpected Gifts

These days I've been more homesick than ever with all the waiting that comes with adoption, so many changes this year, and my Granny having cancer.  I'm so thankful for a Father who sees it all, who sends encouragement, who gives good gifts, and surrounds me with loving friends.  Sharing some of our gifts today.

We went through orientation with Chris and Rachel.  They lived in another city the last two years, but moved to our city this year to go to language school.  Rachel was heading to ikea with a group from the school and contacted me to see if we needed anything.   She went above and beyond: getting us mattresses, sheets, and beds for Theo and Tessa.  She put everything on the cart, asked for help to translate our address to the shipping people, save us ticket money, and even paid for the shipping so that we had a little extra for Theo and Tessa.  So awesome!

I was able to skype with my friend Kim, who moved to Shanghai.  I didn't expect to unload my tears on her while skyping, but she took it gracefully.  Then she sent me this...

and this later for Tessa.  Isn't it the cutest most girly winter snow suit you've ever seen!  I can't wait to see her in it. 

The cost of adoption can seem overwhelming, but Father is never overwhelmed.  The people he has used to provide have humbled and encouraged us.  We received our first donation from Chinese friends.  One, not pictured, contacted me and shared our story with friends.  Even though she lives in another city, she took the trouble to send her money to these friends who also donated even though we had never met them till this day.  The way that He works is just beautful!  

And today, I am away while Jacob is homeschooling the kids, which he volunteered to do.  He had already begun when I left, and he said, "I already have more respect for you."   That was just what I needed to hear.  To me it was like, "What you do is not easy, but it's important."  Tonight our teammates are watching the kids while we go on a date.  :)

Showers of Blessing:
Friends who sacrifice for your convenience
Chocolate and a rainbow of color
First donation from Chinese friends
Jacob valuing my role, and understanding my need to refuel
Finding a piano teacher for Eden
Date night!

Friends from Henan

Friends we met in Thailand last winter came to see us last week!  I can't tell you how excited we were that they came.  Christina took two trains with three kids six and under (William, Zachary, and Jacob) to come see us.  Any time someone comes to visit and stay with us, there's a bit of apprehension mixed with excitement, that, "I hope they still like us after they've lived with us a few days and see the real us."  There's also the anticipation of what am I going to learn from this.  I treasure times like these because I always do learn something valuable: something I want to incorporate into my marriage, parenting, daily life, outside relationships, etc.  This time was no exception.  Things I learned from Christina included, but are not limited to:  spending more outside time with our kids, more hands-on activities like legos and jewelry making, and that it's ok to spend a little money on things that would make life easier, especially if it gives you more time for more important things.  Hence, I have a friend searching on taobao for a second-hand dryer costing between $100-200.  I have been using two drying racks in addition to hanging things on chairs and anywhere I could find.  The thought of doing two other people's laundry this way when we get the kids was not an exciting one.  She was so encouraging.  I shared with her my desire to find a Chinese preschool for Xavier before we get the kids for 1-2 days a week.  I want to start sending him before so that he is used to it when Theo and Tessa come home.  I want it to be duel purposed.  I desire him to learn Chinese while he is young, but it will also give me time with Theo and Tessa where I can focus on our connection during homeschool for Eden and Ephraim.  She lifted that up, and stated that it might come in a form that I didn't expect.  I have a potential opportunity for that, and plan to share more later.  

All six kids on our walk to lunch the day after she arrived.  Later that night we had Ugandan food, per Ephraim's request.  The kids played soccer the two full evenings they were here.

Christina snapped this pic of us, and it cracks me up.  I look like I'm getting serious with the kids, but she liked it because two strollers will soon be our reality.  

We visited the zoo together.  William gave all the kids juice, and Xavier had his first Chinese hot dog.  He didn't like American hot dogs, but he scarfed this one down.  

Giraffes are my favorite.  We saw monkeys of all kinds, red pandas, deer, sloths, lemurs, white lions, tigers, leopards, seals, a polar bear, kangaroos, and still only managed to cover about half the zoo in four hours.  The distance between animals is quite a walk.  The tickets are cheap, and we didn't have to pay for four of the kids because they weren't 1.2 meters tall.  This is standard here, even for bus and train tickets.  

We had a picnic of chicken salad wraps and oranges, with a snack of revel (chocolate oat) bars later.  

This majestic white lion reminded us of Narnia.  Beautiful!

The polar bear swam up to Eden, playing with a tire.  

We were sad to see them go, and they still liked us after they left ;).  Christina is so brave.  She rode a 20 hour train ride back with the kids.  This is a pic she sent me.  They had two beds with four beds above them, two on each side with other passengers.  She inspires me.  I'm thankful for friends who go the distance, and see the value in relationships.

Showers of Blessing:
Great friends for my kids
A reminder of the value of relationships
Gifts of legos and rubber band bracelets, cheese and pepperoni
Beautiful white lion
The fruit lady who always gives Xavier a treat: orange, jujube, gooseberries, hawthorne, grapes
Visit with M a few days ago

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Catching up: party from last semester

In the midst of ending last semester and all the chaos that goes with it, we decided to have a class party.  Jacob had a new class this past semester, and we had not given them a party yet.

Ephraim and Xavier playing with transformers before the party.

Sweet S wanted so much to be Xavier's friend, and she succeeded by showing how to play the Chinese feather game (same concept as a hacky sack).  Jacob and I think she kind of looks like a grown up version of our little girl. :)

Further proof that Ephraim is in constant motion.

Many of these pictures were taken by the students.  Jacob had them send him their favorites, and this was one of them.  

How food for the party looks when you are getting ready to go to the states for the summer: kettle corn from the guy across the street, jello candy, packaged swiss roll treats, peanuts, apricots, green tea, pear juice, and hawthorne juice.

Another class favorite pic.

The sweet guy in the pic below on the right got all the kids dragon boat necklaces.

I enjoyed some great conversation with A on the left.

The kids are never lacking in affection or attention when we have class parties.

This class was so sweet and special that the time went by so fast at this party.  I was surprised when it was time for them to go.  Three of the girls especially are on my heart.  One, L, asked me if I would remember her.  Yes, L, I will remember you.  These students are worth remembering, and lifting, and investing in.  Thankful we are still in Changchun.  We still have the potential to keep up with friendships we have formed.  

Showers of Blessing:
Precious students that prick my heart and make me hope for their future
Sweet girl that reminds me of Tessa
Cute brother moments with Ephraim and Xavier
All the Way My S Leads Me-Fanny Crosby