Tuesday, May 31, 2011

this week... (and the past few)


at a park in Beijing 

The end of May has been filled with a few wondrous cheers.... sweet visits with far-away friends and now Matt's parents have arrived to stay with us for about 2 weeks.  Such joy and privilege to be with some of the dearest people in our lives.

After dragging through a few weeks of all sharing an ugly cold, we got to head out on an overnight train to Beijing all healthy :).  Just making it to the train that night was grace....  and then grace upon grace the next few days with precious friends there.  

Why else would we be so thrilled to stay in a hotel??
And yes, those are shower caps on the daddys' heads.  Required... and darn good lookin', 
don't you think?!

We also made it into the embassy and after our interview there, the nice guy that swore us in told us "Congratulations, Vivian is now an American citizen."  We hadn't realized she wasn't until then.  Glad it's a done deal now!

The day after we got home, Matt's parents arrived and it's been pretty nonstop fun since then.  They brought in nearly 200 pounds of America for us  and yes, it was a bit over-the-top, none would deny, but all have delighted in their gifts still and even more in playing and simply being together with these well known, well loved skype faces!  So great to have you With Us, Yeye and Nainai!



The kids each got a beach towel and sunglasses.... ready to blow up the pool for the patio!

some great cuddles and new additions to the family lego collection

and they got goggles, books, Twins gear and.... lots.of.stuff.
This mama loved most of all the photos from friends, groceries, deodorant, and shoes for my American size feet.   Special treats for all of us from Great Grandpa and Great Grandma K, sweet corn seeds and some fun gardening bits for the kids.  Thank you guys!!!

Nap-time slumber party in Grandma and Grandpa's room this afternoon.  
We've been playing hard.

Monday, May 16, 2011

rosebuds

rosebuds and lots of bubbles...
I loved my rosebud-printed clothes when I was small.  So grateful for this hand-me-down to match my memory.  
 She started smiling for mama the day before mother's day (just after her 7 week mark) but her smiles are rare gems still- looking forward to more of them!
 Our precious girl hasn't been feeling too well the past few days.  So glad to get to skype with you, JJ, and hear your great home remedies (worked great for her eyes!)

 I just love this sweet silly look she's giving.

8.5 weeks of Vivi beauty

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Content Without

We’ve been reading Philippians 4:13 this week with our kiddos and it is such a good truth to hang our hearts and thoughts on long and strong.  Oh that we would live this truth gloriously.  
And it was sweet to look over the verse before it too this morning,  “...for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”  (Phil 4:11b- 12)
This morning, I had our big two skip morning preschool and we (mama and the kiddos) headed to the park. Yesterday was a gorgeous day:  75ish degrees, blue sky (really, truly blue, such a rare and marvelous phenomenon here!), perfect breeze.  We stayed outside as much as we could then but today-  I was so hoping it would be like yesterday- I thought we just must make it to a park.  
And I told a friend which park... “it feels honestly like a little bit of nature there.”  That was for sure the blue skies talking.  Quite unrealistically optimistic, although it is a super nice park, even while compressed by city all around.  This park far beats the rusty, trash-ladden, smelly, various shades of gray that mark most other areas of the city.  
So we got there and it was sadly more dingy with construction dust than I remembered.  And even though we skipped school (to avoid weekend madness, pressing crowds), we still did not make it more than ten steps at the park without having to answer questions.  All the usual: “are they all your kids?  FOUR!?  Aren’t you tired to death?  Did you know China only allows one child?  Oh look at their skin, so white.  Look at their hair, their eyes.  Look she’s got four.  No wait, she’s got three and she’s pregnant.” And there I must reply... “No, this baby is on the outside.  (Baby carriers like ours are quite unknown here.)  She’s our fourth gift from God that we are so glad to have.”
The crowds definitely weren’t as thick today as they would have been on a weekend.  There were fewer people but I don’t think there were fewer questions asked  because these kind, curious stranger-friends had space to follow us for long stretches of our walk through the park. 
We’ve just arrived home and the big three crashed and and my heart wants to drop about as low as their heads on those pillows...  “I don’t think I had a minute to appreciate a breath of air that was even that little bit tinged with the fragrance of grass.”  There was a lake there but between chasing my precious ones and answering every question, I don’t  think I ever looked across it.  Probably this is the way motherhood goes in these years and definitely this is the way life goes for us here.  
I wanted to tell Matt, “If you don’t get me out of the city this year, I am going to shrivel up here.”  Sometimes, I don’t even know why it would boil down to this, but it does, I feel like I can bear some of the hurts of missing family, friends and familiar things (it does hurt, and hurt bad, but I’ve always expected this and I came a bit more prepared to deal with this) but I tell myself that I simply can’t add this last silly straw and miss the bare humanness of beholding nature.  
Today is a day I must preach to myself.  I must lift my eyes!  So here are two answers for my polluted-sky, noisy, sad heart:
1~  There is still nature and other grace to behold.  We have planters on three sides of our back patio and we’ve just planted vegetables!  (That we even have a patio is extraordinary!) What a blessing and a gift it will be to see life and produce coming up from that ground!  And we have strips of grass and roses to be seen around our apartment complex too.  Deep red and fragrant, pure grace.
2~ And... “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  I can be content without.  I don’t have to lay down and shrivel for not getting my nature desires met.  (I am still attached to the True and Living Vine!)  Someday we’ll make it to 大自然 (“big nature”) and I will take it in, breath it deep, let it sink through my eyes and my heart and my skin and my ears and I will enjoy it and praise the God who made it as well as I possibly can.  And until then, I can still breath and I am still human and there is still beauty and Christ strengthens me well and his grace is sufficient to overcome this little thing and even make me fruitful for his glory here despite this “without” and every other “missing.”  
And I must add here David Livingstone’s words “I have surely never made a sacrifice.”  Jesus sacrificed his life for mine.  For me to miss these few things, is simply a lesson in lifting my eyes and lifting my hope and remembering where my home is.  This is not a sacrifice.  Oh to count it only a privilege.  
And now for a benediction...  I’m going to go cuddle Vivi and take in all of the sweetness of her scent, her soft skin, her itsy-bitsy delicate coos, her precious inquisitiveness (I love how she raises her eyebrows to look around) and all her wiggly moves.   Our Lord does make all things well!  What a good God!  This little girl surely is good medicine for my soul!  The grace of God is still so evident all over our lives, our home, our family, His Word....  
Praise, praise the Lord!
I had the camera out long enough to get no decent shots but I will say, since it was put away early, we didn’t have any splash falls into the lake.  Another great grace!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We live here

I love running our home.  I love keeping our home clean and hopefully functioning smoothly and for my limited artistic ability, I do love trying to make it beautiful.  


And recently I've been reminded of a dear friend's daughter who, when she was 2 or 3 y.o., obsessed over her dollhouse.  She would tell her mom sometimes while they were out of the house, "Mama, the doll's feet are on the floor and her hand is on the shelf and she's standing by the couch and the couch is on the bed and the bed has bananas on it."   


Now our own girl plays with her tea party the exact same way-  she set things out on the window sill and sometime serves up a ball on a cup (an ice cream cone of course) or cars in plates and bowls or sometimes we eat books.  


And no one is allowed to touch it.  She's got it just right and she has it memorized, so don't even try to budge those things one inch.  


We are trying to teach her to be generous in sharing and open-handed  in how she serves, and we are headed that direction but not there yet.  And shouldn't I model those characteristics in how I run our home?


Sadly, sometimes I act like parts of my home (actually... ours) can't be messed with one little bit either.  (There is some truth in this, but it can't be the overarching rule of our home.)  I know I have precious friends who probably cuddle their kids and laugh with their kids more than I do because I'm vainly wiping up the floor again.... and I know I'm not even as neat a neat freak as I could be.  But still...


There's a difference between these toy houses, toy tea parties, and our home, our table.  One is where you play.   One is where we live.  And while play can sometimes be messy, living almost always is.


I do believe this, and at the same time I am also deeply committed to teaching our kids to be neat, to pick up after themselves, to be respectful of others and helpful with chores...  but who am I fooling?  4 kids, 5 and under~  if our home is mostly spotless one day, I think I've probably missed out on much better things.


After sharing about her teenage son's appearance at church with mismatched shoes, my dear friend Ann wrote:


I haven’t got anything together and I can stop looking for some hidden door that’s going to someday open up to my real, perfect life and I can stop waiting and I can start laughing praise, because this wondrous mess, this is it. 


This IS it.  We live here... in this "wondrous mess."

Lord, would you make our lives full of your exuberant joy!  Please teach me to be relaxed about messiness and diligent to serve when I should.  Please help me to train our sweetheart kiddos to also be diligent and respectful and to value cleanliness and FUN in healthy proportions...  so that your joy, Full LIFE in you, might be evidently displayed in our well-lived in (and hopefully decently clean - tidy) home and in our smiles and laughter and (hopefully some) quiet pleasures every day.  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

kiddos

 Just have to post a few sweet shots...

6.5 weeks of Vivi... oh we are so delightfully grateful for this precious baby
 (don't miss the kissy lips)
I love these newborn faces!

her eyes have become quite distinctly blue but you can't see it here too clearly...



 Vivi's "Moses basket" bed is right between our bedroom window (the shelf where the herbs are growing) and our bed and Matt calls it the best location in the house.
This is my view from our bed...

I was an only child... and I'm so happy that not only do our kids have close siblings and wonderful fun friends, but both our girls also have a cousin born within a few weeks of them.   The new pics of baby Eli are absolutely precious...  can't wait 'til we get to cuddle you, Eli, and chase and play and tickle... and you too, Lilliana!

Finally, here's a good capture of the little big brother's spunk and delightfulness

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Big Red Lollipop

I've posted about We Give Books before, but I have to mention it again (we love the free library, easy read site that it is) because I especially love this book.  Honestly, I get teary towards the end every time.... Such a Sweet Story!

Beautiful illustrations.  A very regular mom who's trying her best and missing the mark a bit (I can identify well) and cross-cultural complexities that endear me to her too.  Best of all, I love the sisters in the story... how they learn and love, forgive, grow, and come together.

Click the image to go straight to the book... but if you haven't already, you'll need to sign up so that when you've finished reading the book, you can "give a book" to the charity of your choice.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

this week

(warning-  LOTS of photos here)


her first Easter

in the taxi on the way home from church- it's already getting hot here
(but truth be told, it really doesn't have to be hot for John's cheeks to light up like Rudolf's nose)

 Our good friend came for a visit from the capital

 For Easter, we had a few friends come for dinner, the Easter story, and lots of play... (these sweet friends were neighbors who joined us at Reading Night at our old place).  These lollipops maxed us out on our artificial food coloring limit for the year... at least.  


love, loving a snuggly cuddle


 These artificial flowers blew onto our patio and lit up our big girls' heart and smile



 Vivi is 6 weeks old already... and filling fast with chub (and ever increasing sweetness)


our big guy finished the week a little bit ill...  nothing serious, but you can see the 
beginnings of it on him here

We watched the first part of a wedding day as a neighbor bride and her groom left her parents home this morning- as fanciful and decorated as can be!  These guys had at least 15 cars following them in their wedding caravan.