Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve

Unlike most of the millions of people in China, I had Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off work. It was such a treat to have a little break in this very busy season. For the second time since I arrived here in China I parted with Abbey for a few hours and left her in the care of my friend Emily, where she got to play hide and seek with her friend Helen and bake Christmas cookies. I went to the orphanage to help with their Christmas party. The children acted out the Christmas story and sang Away in A Manger. I was so happy to see them doing that. They played games at little stations like pin the star on the Christmas tree, face painting, the fishing game, all with "I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy" playing as the backdrop. Finally they got to break and eat all the Gingerbread Houses that were donated from our school. They were really excited to do that. I got to give and receive many hugs with these little ones. Later we snuck upstairs to say hi to the babies. I have to tell you that part of my heart is still in that room. The little faces that were peeking out from under those bundles of blankets have been in my mind ever since. Several of the children had serious clefts, but their eyes locked with mine and they cooed and drank up the little bit of affection we could give. There was one baby whose cleft and facial deformities were so severe that I don't think any number of surgeries could ever really repair things...and yet that little heart of humanity was just longing for some love. What life for them? What hope for that one? Thank goodness I know Someone who will make all things new, who says that the last shall be first and the least shall be day.
If you are a waiting or prospective adoptive parent I just have to say, let nothing stop you. It's such an incredible heartbreak to see these children with no parents. Don't give up, COME!
Is there someone out there thinking you might have room for one more child? DO IT!

My Not So Easy Bake Oven

This is a taste of things to come. In January I want to begin to share with you some of the challenges we've faced living in China, and the kitchen could definitely be one category. It's the size of a match box and thoroughly equiped with one item, a wok. Evidently that is the only piece of cookware you need in China. If you have that, a wooden spatula, chopsticks, and a flame, you should be good to go. An oven is pretty unheard of. Why would you need an oven? No one bakes anything. Fortunately my housemate, Gong Ping, has invested in a toaster oven and I use it all the time. My friend Emily has a real oven. A few years ago she was thrilled to find a frozen turkey at Thanksgiving at Sams Club. She had to have an oven shipped in and special people brought in to install it (since no one here knows of such things) and by the time she got that all done and went back to Sam's the turkey was gone. My friend Chana tried to cook a ham for Thankgiving this year and could not get it in her toaster oven at all. So baking is a little bit of a challenge here. But you know I like a challenge. I managed to get some little muffin cup liners at the tiny American imports store and my friend Amy gave me a little silicone cake pan that her mum sent her from England. I decided that we were having a birthday cake for *youknowWho* for Christmas, since it is His birthday and all. I had learned from all the cookies I baked at Thanksgiving to use the top and bottom heating elements so that one or the other parts aren't raw, but it is still very uneven heating and quite tricky. I found some little silver tart tins at Metro and used those to support the liners, but then had to take them out once they firmed up so that the bottoms would cook. But it worked, and we had our cakes! Abbey loves baking and when we made the royal icing for her gingerbread house she got her first chance to lick the beaters. Gong Ping also ordered a mixer off the internet and another friend here had her husband bring her one from America, so we have access to two of those! We've made lots of muffins too. It really does feel like an Easy Bake oven size wise and I am always on the look out for small pans, but when I check every two minutes and shuffle the pans around, easy is not the word that comes to mind. I trust that you are all feeling grateful for your granite counter tops and Kitchen Aid mixers. And this brings me to a blog that has been so encouraging. This gal amazes me with what she does with her little toaster oven in Siping and I love to read about her work with the orphanage there and her love for the people of China.

Shining on Stage

Olivia, Helen, and Abbey

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On December 23 our school had a performance outside the Starbucks in Shekou. Abbey was Thrilled (with a capital T) to be on stage, she just loved it. They sang Away in a Manger and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Some of my adult friends sang pieces from Handel's Messiah and I loved hearing those words go out over China. It was a great opportunity and lots of fun, but very cold!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Party Time!

My friends here in Shenzhen like to party and that has made our holidays very fun! We had a progressive dinner for our staff, it may have been the first one in China. It was certainly the first one for the people on our team. We went to my friend Amy's very posh penthouse for drinks and appetizers. Amy is our wonderful art teacher from Wales. She has been so incredibly kind to Abbey and I. She also volunteers at the orphanage. Then we went to Samantha and Heidi's for soup and salad. It was so awesome to have Mexican soup, I felt like I was in California. We loved all their Swedish decorations, thank you Ikea.
Next up was Brad and Emily's home for our delicious main course.
Samanta - works for Sunshine Foundation, Sarah - our ayi, Lily - our
wonderful accountant, Joy - my kindergarten assistant, Abbey, Carmen - another assistant, Joanna - our Chinese teacher
Had to take a pic of Mary's gold sparkly shoes. She rides her bike a long way to work with these everyday. This is the same gal that lives on the 9th floor with no elevator. All young ladies in China wear fancy high heels and Abbey loves them. She keeps asking me to get a pink pair, and I just may.

And finally to Sabine and Hong Rong's for some German Christmas cheer. I got a great necklace from my secret santa!

And now for some random photos...
Couting down the days and really wanting to put the Baby Jesus sticker on!

Shopping with mommy at the mall. Most of the trees are decorated with blue lights. They are saving all their red decorations for Chinese New Year.
Only in China...I had to have a picture of this strange tree made out of Heineken bottles at the gate to our church.

Someone just had to put on these miniature stockings and dance around like a little elf in them.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Diddle Diddle Dumpling

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Abbey thinks this nursery rhyme is so funny. It's supposed to be

"Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John
Went to bed with his trousers on.."

but she calls them "
crousers" and it just cracks me up.

Gingerbread Day in China!

About five years ago, encouraged by the prompting (i.e. goading) of my sister, we launched our first Gingerbread Day event at my church. It was incredibly fun and all involved concurred that it should be an annual event. We would have about 75 children each year and just go crazy with frosting and fun. As I prepared to travel to China to get Abbey (November 2006) my faithful friend took over my vision and kicked it up a notch adding more children into the party. I was so happy to know that even though we would be here in China this year the tradition lived on and they added a petting zoo, pony rides, and a bounce house this year. Those of you that know me well could probably see this coming...
When we packed for China we each brought just two suitcases, that's it. So we really took the bare essentials (basically medicine) but we had to include a can of meringue powder so that we could make a gingerbread house at Christmas. (egg whites in royal icing are not a good idea when we just recently had 90k chickens slaughtered on the border of Shenzhen and HK with bird flu). Well, when we were at Disneyland my fearless leader here in China admired the big gingerbread house we saw at the hotel and I told her about the fun we've had each year with our parties, she thought we could do it here for our school.
Let me tell you it was a new frontier and a new challenge, but we did it! Friday night we had about 200 people in for a big party and the kids really enjoyed it. It was different in that we couldn't have each child build their own house, they worked in groups on prebuilt houses that would then be taken to the orphanages. They did get to decorate and eat their own gingerbread man and I read them the story (new tale for everyone there). We had to order powdered sugar and meringue powder online and have it shipped from another city, but it worked. I just use my online converters to help me with the metric system for recipes. So our gingerbread traditions have now replicated into China and I am so happy for all the children. A shout out to Beth M, an online friend who mailed us the gingerbread cookie cutters, and also to Terri F who sent us the huge containers of sprinkles, they will now be used for the kids at the orphanages.
Funny thing - I was in ToysRUs last week and a woman (of course Chinese) came up to me and showed me a picture of something similar to a gingerbread man and asked me if I knew where she could find something like that, her daughter wanted one. I was just cracking up. I must smell like gingerbread. I think it's a wave of things to come in China.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Digging a Hole to China

Yesterday Abbey and I were with her Stars Class at our little beach. It's a nice sand area for the kids to play in next to our huge koi pond. One of the things I love about being a mom is the excuse to just sit and play. Can I just say, I love digging in the sand! We dug through the dry layers and the wet layers and then hit a layer of white sand underneath. The cool feel of the sand brought me back to a childhood memory of digging holes to China. At only an arms length depth we would get so excited thinking that we that we were almost there. Sticking my hand in the sand I had the strangest sensation knowing that it's forty years later and I am on the other side of the hole. I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland. Looking back over the last five years it seems so surreal. How did I go from feeling I was at such a dead end at 39 with no hope of having a family, to being in the place where all my dreams came true? And how did I go through the dark valley of cancer only to rise again without the slightest harm, just a far greater appreciation for every blessing that comes my way? When I wake up and look at Abbey I just gasp, how did I get this amazingly beautiful creature in my life calling me Mama? Only He could do this - take the smallest, smoldering ember and fan it into a flame. My heart just shouts THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!
And thank you to everyone one of you that carried me along the way, I could have never made it without you, and I wouldn't have even tried.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

1 Fessilonians 18 and 5 and 8 (5:18)

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I have to say that this was as she was just getting started, she has since nailed it! I love hearing these words come pouring out of her little self all through the day. What's with the weird hairdo? That would be her green glitter eye mask on her head. I've decided her heart is ready to tuck some treasures in and thought that if we shared the monthly verses I am teaching her some of you might decide to get in on it with us. This one was for Thanksgiving but we are now starting R 6:23 with our little advent calendar each day, so we will share that one once she learns it.
Note the crown, which can also be worn as a belly band. All that matters is that you are wearing it somehow, at all times.

Send Me

Note the
PJ shirt that is in so many pictures, she would wear this ladybug top every moment if I let her.

These cups are so "us". Me and my coffee and her with her warm milk. We do this every morning.
I recently shared with some friends that I wanted to be "used" (in a good way) more, and they joined in agreement with me. I was in so much need when I first got here that I've at times felt more of a burden than a blessing to those around me. Things just keep getting better and easier every week and I am finally beginning to taste some of the reasons we were meant to be here for this season. At our Thanksgiving dinner I had a chance to sit with one of our orphanage volunteers and share my whole story. Those of you that know it will remember that it is quite a tale to tell, and she was very receptive. She asked for a CD and I am hoping that will sink into her soul even deeper. And then yesterday Abbey and I were out in the middle of town, far from where we live, shopping. We'd only been to this center once before and really didn't know our way around. We popped into a very crowded restaurant for lunch and as we were waiting in line I felt a tap on the shoulder. A young woman said, "I think I know you and your daughter," it turned out that she met us one day in another part of town months before. She and her boyfriend were able to get seated with us and we got to know each other better. It was one of those moments where you know, it's no accident, you are exactly where you were meant to be at the right moment. I have another friend that I get to see each week and I believe there will be an open door for more with her in the future. Oh, and I got to share the whole "reason for the season" with all the children and parents at school last Friday. Our morning circle was the Story of Christmas. Does this all sound vague? It's supposed to, and please keep any
comments in the same genre - but I just had to share these answers to our hearts desires. He is so good.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Magical Moments

Very cool Disney Metro line and station.

Wow, we had an incredible time at Disneyland. The weather was perfect and there were no lines, just walk right on to the rides. It's a smaller park, which is wonderful when you have a little one. It's all new and pristine. They just built It's a Small World and this was our first time to go on that as it was closed the first time we went to Disneyland in California. Abbey loved it so we rode it several times.
We also did her other favorites multiple times. This included Dumbo, Cinderella's Carousel, and the Tea Cups.
Right when we entered the park we met up with Snow White and Cinderella at the castle. Abbey was thrilled to talk with them and they were so kind to her.
We saw several shows, the highlight being the Lion King, which was Broadway caliber. I hadn't realized that the park would be decorated for Christmas, but it was beautiful. There was a giant tree on on Main Street and all the characters and employees were decked out. The parade was "Let It Snow". It was the first day and it was fabulous. It was so amazing to be sitting with Abbey eating gingerbread man cookies, with it "snowing", and watch all the Christmas songs and dances. Afterward they has a special Holiday Ball show with Sleeping Beauty in front of the castle. It didn't officially open until the next day, but they did it as a special event for the media so we got to see the castle light up with twinkly lights. I thought about all we went through that brought us to these special moments. If we hadn't gone through all the hard things, we couldn't have experienced this, and it is so worth it. Having a precious three year old daughter with eyes full of wonder at Disneyland at Christmas is such an incredible gift. We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel which is gorgeous. It's right on the ocean and is modeled after the Hotel Del on Coronado Island.
We loved all the special Disney touches. Our bathroom mirror had Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs carved around it and all the amenities matched the theme.
The huge flat screen TV was loaded with Disney in several languages and it was so fun for Abbey to be able to watch Playhouse Disney in English!! She got to take a huge bubble bath, which was a real treat since we only have a shower in China.
The next morning we had a long leisurely breakfast on a little victorian sofa surrounded by gingerbread houses and Christmas tea decorations.
Abbey loved the buffet with imported cheeses and all kinds of nuts, two of her favorite things. I was in heaven with the croissants and coffee.
Princess Mulan came in for a visit and we also went to the playroom and did a craft.
We then headed back to the park and did all the Fantasyland rides again. After that we headed on the subway to meet friends in Hong Kong at a new mall. We were all going to travel home together but I realized I had left our passports back in the safe at Disneyland. We were so tired at that point and I had two doses of migraine med that day and decided we would just go back and stay for another night. We moved over to the Hollywood Style Disney Hotel and spent another cushie night with Playhouse Disney and a bag full of snacks and noodles from 7-11. It really turned out to be a blessing to stay longer and the next day we took the subway back to the new mall and shopped and ate all day. I was able to get several Christmas gifts for Abbey. We spent a chunk of time in a big Barnes and Noble style bookstore called Metro. It had tons of books in English and a craft area that Abbey got to color in for about an hour. It was really fun. I am so thankful to have had this very special time with Abbey, what a huge blessing.

Abbey was running around after the Golden Mickey's show with some of the streamers that fell. I caught a glimpse of her and had a flash forward to a day in the future when she may be holding a bouqet in her hand.She got out in front of the crowd waiting for the parade and put on her own little show, complete with some very funny dancing.

I am doing better with travelling. If I can't manage Abbey's stroller and the suitcase, backpack, and packages, then I have her get out and push the stroller while I manage the other things. She is a really good helper and loves to be out with people and action. I've also learned to use lockers and help desks to leave things so we aren't so burdened down. I was worried how I could even manage before we went on the trip but it really fits in with one of the life lessons I've learned in the past few years. When you are on the path you are supposed to be on you have to just step out, not knowing how you will make it work and then you will find the way. It probably sounds silly, but for me it's just more steps of walking by faith. And when I've really needed help people have given it or I've stopped and yarped and He has made a way for me. And it helps having an extremely cheerful and energetic child. Honestly, she needs nothing to be happy, she just is. And if she is given something like a straw or a napkin to write on, well that's just the icing on the cake for her. She's now ridden on a zillion elevators, escalators, and in tons of taxis, trains, and buses. To get to Disney we took a van and then to come home we took the subway, a bus, and then a taxi. Going through immigration and customs can take some time, but again, we are getting the hang of it now and it gets so much easier and more familiar each time.
We hope that all of you had a great Thanksgiving being truly thankful, as we are. We are now off today for a big turkey dinner. It's an appreciation dinner for donors to the orphanage. We made about 60 cookies today in our little toaster oven that the children can decorate (with the M&M's Kelly sent us : ) tonight at the party.
Love and hugs to our friends and family who we miss so very much,