Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The star fish foster home

I know this entry will appear first in the blog but it is actually part II of our trip to Xian. The first two days we spent sight seeing and the last 2 days of our trip we spent helping out at a place called The Starfish Foster Home.

It's name comes from a well known story about a man who asked a boy why he was throwing starfish that had washed up on shore, back into the ocean. The man told the boy that he could never make a difference because there were too many and he could never throw them all back in. The boy, throwing a starfish back into the water replied, "I made a difference to that one."

This story could not be more relevant to the work that is being done in the Starfish Foster Home.

When I was a missionary in Taiwan I met a lady named Amanda De Lange. She was a tall blond South African Lady teaching English in my first area. We became good friends as she helped me cope with all the culture shock. After my mission we lost contact except for a few emails. When we were preparing to move to China, a family that had lived here in China told me about a South African lady named Amanda who started an orphanage in Xian. I knew immediately it was the same Amanda that I had met in Taiwan. Right then I knew that if we ever visited Xian, I would make sure we went to her orphanage to see her and the babies.

The time came for us to go to Xian, so I called Amanda and arranged for us to meet at church and then go over to the orphanage. Going to church on a trip is always an adventure in an of itself. As our taxi drove up to the university where the branch in Xian meets, Chris recognized it as the place we went to church 11 years ago. At the entrance we met up with two other families with children, one we knew well from Shanghai but were now living in Beijing, and the other family was from a city near Shanghai called Ningbo. With our three visiting families, including 11 children among us, we outnumbered the the Xian branch members. The branch president and his wife were so happy to have us all there but were taken by surprise to have so many children.

There was no primary so we had to do an impromptu primary. The mom from Ningbo took the reigns and did a great lesson on pioneers for the class lesson, then we played hangman "guess the song," for sharing time and singing time. The kids had a great time and even learned a few things. There was a great feeling at church with such a small group of people gathered together. There was only one deacon that passed the sacrament and it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

After church Amanda took us over to a place to eat where she got to indulge in some western food including a bunch of deserts. There she told us a little bit about the foster home she is running. There was an article recently about her work in BYU magazine that gives a much more thorough explanation than I can give on this blog but I can give the short version. Essentially, she was teaching English in Xian a few years ago and spending time at the city orphanage as a volunteer. After 6 months she got so tired of seeing the neglect and abuse the babies were having to endure as well as the donated supplies being stolen by the care takers, that she almost gave up going any more. She said it was just to depressing and heartbreaking to watch. A friend of hers that had gone to the orphanage with her asked her if she could start her own orphanage would she ,and the answer was a resounding, "YES!" She got a call that week from that same friend telling her the orphanage wanted to work with her and let her take an unlimited amount of babies who needed special medical care. 3 months later, after all the legal papers were signed, she went to the orphanage and picked out 6 babies from their dying room and took them home. She laughs at her own ambition. A single lady taking care of 6 malnourished babies, some needing to be fed with a dropper, all on her own. She knew she couldn't stop at just six so she hired some help and from there it just grew and grew. She hired more help so she could go and get more and more babies and now she has two large apartments housing 51 babies and 26 nannies. Most babies have cleft lips and palates, while others have heart conditions. Amanda, in all her spare time, also fund raises for the babies to have surgeries. She has been able to raise funds for about 25 surgeries I think. There was a team of Dutch doctors that came two weeks ago and did 9 surgeries on babies with cleft lips.

After lunch she took us over to her foster home and what an experience it was to be there! The sheer number of nannies and babies overwhelms you right when you walk in the door. The smell of that many diapers and spit up rags also hits you as you walk in the door. In a nutshell, it was pure chaos. It made Jon and Kate plus 8 look like a walk in the park. There were a lot of volunteers there as well trying to feed and play with the babies so it felt really crowded. Our kids were a little overwhelmed by all the commotion but eventually they both found babies to play with. Emily and a little 2 year old girl name Antonia bonded very quickly and played together for most of the time. We were so happy to find out she was going to be adopted on Sunday by a family in Canada. Gabe was a little slower to warm up but found a little boy with a cleft palate about 18 months old named James who would clap at everything Gabe did. Who wouldn't like that much applause? The nannies at one point put Emily in charge of feeding the babies in the high chairs. They handed her a spoon and a bowl full of rice meal something and down the row of high chairs she went giving a spoonful to each hungry mouth as she passed. Sara and Anna just hung out and played with the toys lying around. Chris' lap was occupied most of the time as well by a cute baby boy.

When I surveyed the scene I noticed a college age boy volunteer sitting on the couch trying to feed a 1 year old with a bottle. The baby kept arching his back and wouldn't take the bottle. I thought to myself, "That kid's got a major burp in there." I asked if I could hold him for a sec and after a few minutes of holding him upright he let out a huge belch. It's amazing how nice that sound is even when it's not your own baby. It's the sound of no more fussing! This little guy was dripping with sweat cause he had a fever and they had him in winter clothes eventhough the temperature outside was 90 degrees. I just held him and stroked his hair as I blew on it to cool him down. After a while he wanted to get down and play so I picked up another little guy who was just laying there on the ground.

This little guy, James, looked like he was in bad shape. He was covered in mosquito bites and his mouth had a hint of dusky blue around it. His teeth also had the tell tell signs of malnourishment. He was moaning in such a pathetic way and every once in a while would wince as if in pain. I found out after talking to the nannies that James was actually 2 years old. He had the body of a very small 5 month old baby. He had a severe heart condition that would require 2 major surgeries in the states, which he most likely wouldn't get. He was also born with his bladder on the outside of his body which would need surgery to repair as well. He didn't have the energy to play so I just held him.

We stayed there for a couple of hours and then headed out. All that night we thought about that experience and the impression it had made on all of us.

The next day we went to a big store called Metro which is similar to Costco, and loaded up on baby supplies for the foster home. We bought diapers, wipes, toothbrushes, band aids, diaper cream, tissues, etc. We only had a taxi to take the stuff back so in all of our enthusiasm, we still had to consider how much stuff we could actually carry. Chris took Sara and Anna back to the hotel for naps and I took the stuff with Emily and Gabe over to the foster home. It was not quite as shocking walking in the the second time around. Emily and Gabe felt comfortable enough to go find their little friends they had made the previous day and I took the baby items to a storage room in a newly acquired apartment for the foster home on the 1st floor of the apartment building. In this apartment I found some volunteers sorting summer clothes. There were bags upon bags of donated summer clothes that had to be sorted and folded so the babies wouldn't be dripping in sweat anymore. I put the baby items away in the storage room and then sat down to help them sort the clothes.

As I got talking with the other volunteers, who were three women from the Netherlands, I found out that they were the ones responsible for the medical mission that did the recent 9 surgeries. I guess they came and helped out at the orphanage 1 year ago and fell in love with a tiny newborn named Tina who had a cleft lip and palate. They went home to the Netherlands and started the Tina Foundation to raise money and recruit a team of doctors and nurses to come and do these surgeries. They raised several thousand Euros and recruited a medical team. This time the surgeries would be done in Xian for the first time. All the other surgeries had been done in Shanghai or Beijing making them more expensive because of the traveling. The hospital in Xian had been reluctant in the past to let foreign doctors come and do surgery because of the liability, but they finally gave consent this time.

Everything was set for the medical mission and then the volcano in Iceland erupted halting all flights out of Europe. The medical team couldn't get out of the Netherlands. Everything for the surgeries had to be timed just right and time was running out. Once the skies were open to flights the women from the Tina Foundation got on the news and begged people to donate their tickets to china for this medical team and they got a great response. The team made it to China! Originally they were going to do 14 surgeries but ended up only being able to do 9 because of time issues. The hospital would only let the surgeons do 3 a day and with so much time lost they could only fit in 9 children. What a miraculous story though! These women are so dedicated to this cause. The two of them even stayed in the hospital to care for the children after their surgeries because Chinese hospitals do not provide recovery nursing care, only the bed. In China Families are expected to take care of patients night and day in the hospitals. The nurses only take the patent's temperature and do shots or IVs. These two women provided all the food and diapers and cared for these babies night and day for 3 days.

The ladies and I talked about their experiences while we folded clothes for about 2 hours. Chris in the mean time, had brought Sara and Anna back to the foster home and was busy carrying boxes and boxes of diapers from one apartment into the new apartment storage room and then spent time organizing all the stuff in there. The Dutch ladies continued to tell me about their plans. They told me they plan on staying to help take care of the children until August of this year and then go back to the Netherlands to raise more funds for more surgeries and make arrangements for another medical mission next year. It was very inspiring to listen to them. One of them is a retired nurse so she will go with Amanda, as she has in the past, to chose more babies from the dying room at the orphanage next week. Since a few babies are being adopted this week they have room for more babies and Amanda is bound and determined to save as many as she can. We left there that day feeling good about what we had done but realizing how much more work there was left to do.

The whole experience has been a bit haunting. My mind just can't let it go. The faces of the children covered in mosquito bites, seeing them reaching their arms up to be held, the sound of them crying, watching the nannies brush several children's teeth with the same toothbrush and feeding several children with the same bottle. Watching them be bathed in little tubs as if on a conveyor belt and fed in their high chairs the same way. The hardest part too think about is that these babies have it good compared to the babies in the state orphanage who have it worse...........much worse. This foster home may not be a place where the children are pampered but Amanda is saving their lives and giving them a chance to be adopted. She is truly a hero. She lives in one of the apartments that houses 26 babies. She is never alone and constantly taking care of babies or having to deal with the endless problems of managing 26 nannies who don't have medical training or basic hygiene training for that matter. Her work is endless but she keeps on going and keeps rescuing as many babies as she can. She keeps throwing starfish into the ocean knowing she's making a difference to those she saves.

We left Xian Tuesday morning and on the way home the kids said it was the best trip we've taken so far.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Trip to Xi an

This past weekend was labor day weekend and the city of Shanghai gave an extra 2 days off of work and school. We decided last minute to quickly put together a trip to Xian. ( pronounced "She on") This is where the Terracotta Worriers are located. Chris and I taught English there almost 11 years ago right after we got married and we thought it would be fun to take the kids there. We also planned to visit a friend of mine who started a foster home in Xian 4 years ago for orphaned babies needing surgery.

We caught a flight early Thursday morning and got to the hotel around lunch time. We just hung out and went swimming the rest of the day which was really nice.

We had rented a van and driver to take us to the terracotta worriers on Friday morning specifically NOT including a tour guide. We've done the tour guide thing a few times and we just wanted to do our own thing this time. After breakfast Friday, we went out front to meet our driver and who should meet us at the car?.......Bruce, our tour guide. I guess the hotel lady who booked our driver misunderstood me when I said, "I absolutely do not want a tour guide." Bruce was all jazzed up and ready to go and I just didn't have the heart to tell him we didn't want him to come with us. (big Mistake) I need to get a different heart in those situations.

Once on the road, Bruce began his "lessons" which the children gave a big rip about. Bruce was bound and determined to give us these history lessons including several out of focus picture cards depicting maps and dates and stuff. His English was OK but not good enough to keep the kids attention. He just kept talking and talking and talking............. and talking. Chris finally told him, "look Bruce, make it simple cause the kids are really bored." Then Bruce explained where we were going that day which included a lot of stops that we did not want or hadn't planned on. We told him that we didn't want to go to those places and he said that we had to because he had contracted with these places to bring tourists. That's when Chris said, "We're the ones paying you so you take us where we tell you to take us!" This is exactly why we didn't want a tour guide in the first place.

We ended up going to one of the "stops" before the Terracotta warriors because it was a place that showed how the worriers were made and we thought the kids would like that. It turned out to be a small shop where they make terracotta items and then about 4 huge stores where you had to walk through each one to get out. We beelined it through and off we went again. We had another irritating 30 min of "lessons" before we got to the worriers but we eventually got there.

The terracotta worriers are in a covered excavation sight about 1 hour outside the city. There are about 4 different excavations pits at this sight. The first pit is really amazing. It's just huge and there are just rows and rows of these clay worriers that go on and on. It's really mind boggling to think about how they made all these 2,000 years ago.

As we rounded the back of pit #1 there was a small 3 foot iron fence keeping people out. To get a good picture we sat the kids on the fence for all of about 10 seconds. The security guard came over and told our guide that we couldn't sit there and he replied that we were just taking a picture and were done. That "argument" from our guide is of course not tolerated among the holy order of security guards and we were then "detained" until his supervisor could come and assess this "unruly" group. We did our best to convince him this was no big deal but to no avail. There is a sign there that reads, "no admittance" and when the supervisor came over the guard told him that we were trying to get inside the fence because Gabe had touched his foot on the ground on the inside of the bars. He pointed at Gabe and immediately Gabe melted into tears thinking that they were yelling at him. Was this really happening? Were we being punked or something? The supervisor was as big of a jerk as the guard and made Bruce produce his "tour guide papers" for inspection. Gabe, in the mean time, was crying even louder. I was ticked and told the guy, "Thanks for giving our family such a wonderful experience! You're a really great guy!" It's just one of those things that you have to accept in China. You don't question authority and if you do they make you pay. They "flex their muscles" to keep people in line. It's like, "sure, welcome world to spread um!"

Once Sara began crying and the crowd staring at this spectacle swelled to about 50 people the guard finally let us go. Gabe was really shaken up so we went out side the building and sat on a ledge in the shade to wait for our guide who was still being detained inside. We were all really upset and to top it off all the people coming out of the building stopped to stare and take pictures of us. Yeah! 10 min later Bruce came out and we went on to the other excavation pits. The rest of the day turned out to be really enjoyable despite the rough beginning. They even had a Subway restaurant there which was really good. Then we took some fun pictures in costumes and stuff.

The next stop of the day was a place called The Wild Goose Pagoda. It was a pagoda set in a beautiful temple. We hiked to the top and got a bunch of cool pictures and explored the temple grounds. It was dinner time by the time we left so we got a quick dinner at KFC and headed back to the Hotel. Bruce, of course, talked the entire time, but we just zoned out and let him go on and on about whatever. The day really was fun even with the "guard" incident and good ole' Bruce talking our ear off all day.

The next day we headed into the city to do some more site seeing. Our first stop was the ancient city wall. Xian was the first capitol of China for about 4 dynasties and has a really cool restored city wall that dates back to the Tang dynasty about 1000, years ago. We rented a tandem bike at the top and took turns riding it around the top with Emily and Gabe. No bike accident, thank goodness! It was getting hot so we grabbed some ice cream and sat down in the shade for a bit which always turns out to be an event out in public. People are just shameless about walking up and pointing and staring and getting pictures. Sara has her "You don't exist face" down pat. Everyone wants her to smile and act like she just loves them in their pictures but she's so not playing that game. Grumpy face it is! and they can take it or leave it. We don't even try to get the kids to smile any more cause it's so uncomfortable for them. We try not to be rude but after a while we have to tell them to stop pointing in Anna's face and asking why she looks Chinese and to stop grabbing Sara cause she's scared of strangers.

Being a holiday weekend the city center became more and more crowded as the day wore on. We grabbed some lunch and luckily found a table. It wasn't quite noon so the hoards of people gathering in the city hadn't made their way inside to eat yet. When we braved the streets again there was hardly any space on the sidewalk to move. We eventually got to another historical spot called the Bell Tower smack dab in the center of the city. It too is from the Tang Dynasty and contained the city bell to warn of intruders. We went to the top and looked out where you could see all four gates in all four directions into the city down the 4 main streets. What a sight looking out at all the crowds of people down below.

The troops needed some cool refreshment after that so we grabbed some ice cream at a Haagen Daas and luckily found a space to sit there. I've never payed so much for so little in all my life but at least we were out of the heat, out of the crowds and sitting down eating ice cream. Next we went into the Muslin district. It's basically like China town in San Fransisco but it's Muslim town and it's where you find all the cheep souvenirs. We had a great time looking at all the stuff and buying some things. We bought 6 mini terracotta worriers for 10 yuan each. The place we stopped the day before to see how the worriers were made, were selling the exact same ones for 250 yuan each. Chris and I had been to the Muslim district several times before when we taught English there so we knew where to get the cheapo good stuff.

Every city has it's own customs and such as we found out when we tried to get a taxi back to the hotel at 3:00 in the afternoon. The taxis in Xian change shifts around that time and won't pick you up because they have to go to their exchange destination. So there we were with our very tired, very hot little children standing on the side of the road with a few million other people trying to catch a taxi during shift change. After 30 min with no luck we walked the kids over to a shopping mall with a McDonalds and got.............more ice cream. This time there were absolutely no seats in the two story restaurant so we found a covered stair well on the side of the building and sat on the steps to eat while a grandma, her grandchild, and a young lovey dovy couple stared at us.

We eventually found a taxi that took us back to our hotel. He tried to kick us out of the taxi once he realized how far he'd have to drive (20 min) but we weren't budging, not with the millions of others waiting for taxis out on the street. Chris just played dumb and the guy eventually gave up trying to explain why he didn't want to take us and drove to the hotel. Ignorance is bliss sometimes, or at least playing ignorant is. It was a fun, exciting, exhausting day and we were glad to go swimming, eat dinner, and then hit the hay.

That was the first three days of the trip. The last two were entirely different so I'm putting them in a different post.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Darwin Award

We saw the funniest thing the other day as we were driving the kids to a primary activity. We were driving down the road and saw a couple having a huge fight. The lady was totally punching this guy in the kidney over and over and then she tried to strangle him. This isn't normally a funny thing but when you consider they were on a SCOOTER driving down the road at the time............. its pretty hilarious.

The lady, who probably weighed 100lbs, was sitting behind the guy driving and she was really trying to do some damage to him. She just kept punching and punching and then when she tried to strangle him, I thought, "now there's a smart thing to do. why not make the person driving the scooter pass out? That way both of you die together." I thought she'd be a good candidate for the Darwin award. (award for the dumbest death) I think Chris and I laughed the entire rest of the way to the activity.

Speaking of funny things: Children say the darndest things sometimes. Last night Sara was sitting on my lap and as we were playing around she opened her mouth and came in like she was going to bite me right on my cheek. I quickly protested saying, "Sara, you don't want mommy to bite YOU do you?" (the obvious answer being....NO!) However, Sara's face brightened and she enthusiastically replied, "Bite me mommy, bite me!" I almost wet my pants I laughed so hard.

Gabe said something pretty funny at piano lessons this week. At the end of one of his songs, he had to play a dissonant cord. The music sounded "off," but on purpose. He told his teacher that the music sounded like, "a crime scene." His teacher got such a kick out of that. He comes up with stuff like that all the time at piano. He's pretty entertaining.

Last night at dinner the kids were asking about dating and marriage and during the discussion Gabe made a funny comment. When we were discussing the kind of person you want to marry he piped up and said, "Yeah, you don't want to marry yourself cause that would be boring." We all just kind of looked at each other for a sec and then it dawned on me that he meant you don't want to marry someone exactly like yourself. He's a pretty deep thinker he is, especially when it comes to love. When a visiting author at the school gave a presentation to the first graders, she asked if any of them had ever been in love. Gabe, was the only one who shot his hand in the air to confidently declare he had been in love during kindergarten last year. After school several teachers who had been there approached me to tell me about how funny it was.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Australia and New Zealand

This trip was fantastic! It would be impossible to write everything about it in the blog so I went ahead and wrote our trip memories in a word doc. If you didn't get it and would like it let me know. Just a warning, it's painfully long.

I'll give a readers digest version of the trip here on the blog. We went on this trip during Chinese New Year because Chris and the kids had a week off school and work. We decided to spend one week in Sydney and one week in New Zealand traveling around the north island in a motor home.

Australia was just awesome! We stayed on Manly beach on the Northern side of Sydney Harbor. Our apartment was right on the beach and we enjoyed every minute of it. We got to go into the city several times using a ferry which we all loved. We saw the opera house, the Sydney aquarium, took a cruise around the harbor in a tall ship, and went to Torongo Zoo. At the zoo we got to pet a kangaroo and a baby wallaby and then got to see a koala bear up close. We bought tons of T-shirts and boomerangs and even got a didgery doo. Gabe and Emily both learned how to boogie board there at Manly beach. Everyone was very friendly and we loved hearing the Aussie accent. Although, there in Australia ,WE are the ones with the AMERICAN accent.

New Zealand was quite an adventure. Chris did an awesome job driving the manual shift motor home on the left hand side of the street through extremely hilly and curvy roads. We spent one night north of Auckland in a place called Bay of Islands. There we went on a cruise through the bay and got to see and observe a pod of dolphins. The ocean was a bit rough so we couldn't get in and swim with them as was the plan if the water was calm. Nevertheless, the dolphins were spectacular as was the scenery in the bay. Next we went to Roturua in the central part of the north island. Here we got to see a Mori culture show where Chris got to be the "Chief" of our visiting tribe consisting of our family and a giant Chinese tour group. We also got to see some thermal grounds including a geyser and a boiling mud pool. Next we went to a place called Coromandel Peninsula where they filmed the second Narnia movie. The beach is called Cathedral Cove and it was absolutely the most beautiful place I have ever been. There was no one else there so we had our own private little paradise for a couple of hours. The next day we went to a beach called Hot Water Beach to spend our last day. Under the sand is a natural hot water spring and if you dig down a few inches the hot water comes up through the sand. We had our own little hot tub right there on the beach. The whole experience was amazing.

These are just the highlights of the trip. Obviously there are a lot of details I left out but all in all it was an experience of a lifetime and we feel so blessed and lucky to have been able to go. We would go back in a heart beat!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Time seems to have been put on fast forward. I can't believe it's the end of March. In the past 3 months Chris had a birthday, Gabe celebrated a belated birthday with a "mad scientist" party, China celebrated Chinese New Year, we went on a trip to Australia and New Zealand, Sara got potty trained, we celebrated our 1 year in China March 17th and Emily had her ninth birthday.

It's been a packed 3 months.

We didn't actually spend Chinese New Year in China but all the festivities leading up to it were fun. All the commotion in the weeks prior are a lot like the weeks prior to Christmas in the US. All the stores were bursting at the seams with people getting all their last minute food and celebration items. There was a general feeling of excitement in the air where ever you went. The official celebration color of China is red so everything was decked out in red decorations. One tradition among the more religious people is to put three strips of wide red paper over their doorways. People also put the Character "Fu" on their doors meaning blessings.

If you actually need to go anywhere and buy stuff it is a really frustrating time of year because of all the crowds but if not, it's a really fun and exciting time of year. It is now the year of the Tiger so there are tiger symbols everywhere. Because Shanghai is a very migrant place with people coming here from the rural areas to work, it gets really empty while everyone goes home for the actual Chinese New year holiday. The week before Chinese New Year the freeways out of the city were jam packed. Being with family is a very important tradition. The actual night of Chinese New Year families gather for a big meal of the traditional dumplings called Jiao Zi and then set off an insane amount of fireworks. Then they do the same thing 5 days later as part of another celebration within the existing celebration. It gets a bit wild with lots of booze and millions of people setting off very large fireworks at the same time. Some friends of ours that were were here and live in a big high rise said there were fireworks exploding all night right next to their window 32 floors up. Oooooooo lots of fun!

Another and probably the most important tradition according to children, is the Hong Bao. Instead of presents the children get a red envelope full of money. Over all, this is the most meaningful and exciting time of year for the Chinese people and it was fun to see at least the weeks leading up to it.

Emily and Gabe got to join in all the festivities at school by doing some performances. All the Chinese language classes got to do their own dance at a big assembly in the auditorium. It was a blast to see all the kids doing Chinese dancing or in some cases kung fu. There were performances done by professional dancers too. Emily and Gabe got to make all sorts of New Year crafts and do New Year parties in their classrooms. Gabe's class got to make home made Jiao Zi and eat them in his class room. It was a messy, but great time.

A week before Chinese New Year we did a friends birthday party for Gabe. We figured a bunch of science experiments would keep 11 boys occupied for a couple of hours. We had them all wear ID badges and gave them Lab coats (men's white dress shirts I bought for $3) The cake we made into a volcano with smoke from dry ice coming out. Gabe had been sad about his best friend moving in December and so this party helped lift his spirits a great deal. It was a wild, messy, party but I think we managed to pull it off, despite the house being a disaster afterword.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


we had a lot of fun over the holidays. We spent Christmas here at home. Chris took a couple of weeks off and we had a lot of fun doing things around Shanghai. We went to the aquarium, the science museum, fundazzle playground, superbrand mall, and went ice skating several times.

Christmas Eve we had some friends over for dinner and then all the kids did the Nativity. Christmas morning we found out that Santa even comes to China! We opened presents and then had a huge breakfast. We hung out the rest of the day in our Pajamas playing with the kids toys and just thoroughly enjoying the day. That night we had our traditional candle light dinner. (it's just left overs made special)

The next day we celebrated Gabe's 7th birthday. We went out to lunch and then he opened his presents. That night we went to a Christmas party with several families from our church and Gabe got to have everyone sing to him and then have his birthday cake. I think he really enjoyed getting to open more presents the day after Christmas, but better yet, he was the only one who got to do that.

Anna got a doll from Santa this year. I was trying to help her find a name for her doll by giving her some suggestions like Sally or Susan. When I said the name Susan she perked up and said, Oh! like Susan from Monsters Vs Aliens?" I said, "Yes, do you want to name her Susan?" She paused for a moment and the happily replied, "No..... Derek" (as in Susan's lame boyfriend from the movie) So now we have a baby doll in our house named Derek.

Sara has become quite the Character these days. The other day Gabe was saying family prayer and blessing lots of things. I leaned over and whispered to him to remember to thank also. He stuttered for a moment saying, "We thank thee for.......... we thank thee for.........we thank thee for..... and by this time Sara had had enough. She blurted out loud, "FOR DINNER!" Needless to say we ended the prayer because everyone was laughing so hard and that was that.

Another funny Sara comment was when Chris asked Sara what her favorite thing in the world was. She thought for a second and then confidently said, "ME!"

I asked her a while ago where she lived before coming to live with mommy and daddy and without hesitation she said, "at the hotel."

She has really enjoyed getting into everyone's toys and then claiming them as hers this holiday.

New Years Eve we brought in the new year with a wild game of Connect Four (the 4 player version) After a yummy dinner of home made mini pizzas, we put Sara and Anna to bed and then we watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (because Emily recently finished the book) and had popcorn and cranberry slush. Chris and I both fell asleep during the movie but Emily and Gabe were having none of that, so we brought out the games. We played junior scrabble, operation, and then we played our wild game of Connect four until midnight. It was a really fun night for us and the kids. This was the first year we've let both Emily and Gabe stay up until midnight and they were really proud of that.

Gabe had a really sad night last night saying goodbye to his best friend in Shanghai. Gabe and Mac were in the same first grade class and were instant best buddies. We had their family over for dinner last night since they were leaving this morning. When it was time for them to leave last night, Gabe melted into tears and hung on to Mac saying how he wanted to hang on forever.

Gabe had such a hard time finding a really good friend when we first moved here. Gabe felt like Mac was heaven sent when they met in class on the first day of school. Saying goodbye to Mac was like saying goodbye to everything that made him happy here in China. It was heartbreaking to watch him because it was obvious he was in so much pain. He cried the rest of the night even though we did our best to comfort him. Mac is moving to Iowa and the chances of us seeing him again are slim and I think Gabe knows that. We got on Google Earth and looked up where Iowa is and Gabe, almost in desperation said, "Iowa isn't that far from Utah right?" After putting Gabe, still crying, to bed, Chris said how he wishes he could be 7 years old just so he could be Gabe's friend. Chris plays with Gabe a lot but he knows it's not the same as a friend his same age. Friends your same age don't tell you to finish your dinner and yell at you when you tease your sisters.

While Emily and Gabe were getting ready for bed Emily, extending her sympathies, said, "Gabe, I had to leave my best friends too once...........and it was really hard." Her voice was choked with emotion but it wasn't for her. I could tell she hurt for Gabe. It was a tender moment for the two of them.

Gabe is doing a lot better today and is back to begging me to go play tennis with him or get off the computer so he can play a computer game. I think Wed. when he goes back to school it will be another hard day but he'll eventually be fine. He's very tender hearted but he's also really strong so I know he'll be OK.

Hope you all had a a wonderful holiday. We miss you and think of you often.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving bloopers

There were a few funny things that happened around thanksgiving.

First blooper: A couple of days before Thanksgiving, I gave a presentation to Gabe's class all about Thanksgiving. I wrote about it in an earlier post. One thing I didn't mention was my not so PC comment. The kids were getting rowdy so I folded my arms like an Indian and told all the kids to sit down and cross their arms and legs Indian style. It just came out. Apparently, Native Americans took offense at this term and it has been considered politically incorrect for several years. I think the term used now to get kids to sit down cross legged is something like "criss cross applesauce" or something to that effect. I told Chris about my blunder and he said " so I guess criss cross applesauce, please pass the peace pipe, would be out too?" nice. I think the funniest thing about it was, as I was leaving the room, the teacher's aid, who is from the Philippines, yelled out to all the rowdy kids, "come on kids let's all sit Indian style." I looked up and there she was doing her best "Indian style" crossed legs and arms. Great job Ali.

Second blooper: The mother of one of Emily's friends invited our family over on Thanksgiving Thursday evening to have dessert. She knew we weren't celebrating Thanksgiving that day but wanted us to come over for a pre-Thanksgiving desert get together. I was excited to go and offered to bring a Chocolate silk pie. The night of the get together came and we walked over promptly at 7:00.

I walked in and immediately realized I hadn't received the, "wear your little black dress"memo. Everyone was dressed in really nice evening attire. I of course, was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. (the T-shirt had a cute little chocolate stain on it from making the pie earlier in the day) All of the sudden I was also keenly aware that my children were not only severely under dressed, but rather dirty looking. About 2 min before we left, Sara had found a marker and written all over herself. I washed off as much as I could but I had forgotten to wash Anna's face before we left which now had fuzzies stuck to the residue syrup from our pancake dinner. I almost laughed out loud at the scene. Chris was not with us because he was traveling home from a business trip. He ended up making it to the end of the party. He redeemed our family somewhat, looking unshaven but at least nicer dressed. All of my pie got eaten........maybe out of sheer pity. Rest assured next time I get invited to a "get together" I will inquire about the dress code.

Third blooper: We were going to have about 20 people over for Thanksgiving dinner so I bought two turkeys just in case we needed more food. Knowing I wouldn't have enough time to cook two turkeys on that day, I decided to cook one the day before. I timed it just right so I would take the turkey out of the oven before going to pick up the kid's friends who were going to sleep over. They live about an hour away. On our way HOME from picking them up, I realized I had forgotten to take the Turkey out of the oven before we left. I called the Ayi and asked her to take it out of the oven but it was too late. It had already cooked 2 hours longer than it should have. When I got home I opened the foil that was covering the turkey and then tried to carve it. If you've ever seen the movie "Christmas Vacation" you'll be able to picture what happened to the turkey the minute I cut into it. It didn't have the same dramatic split open as in the movie, but it totally fell apart. It was like turkey bones you boil for broth except these turkey bones still had all the meat on them. Once again I had to laugh at myself. Thank heavens it was just a trial run and I still had another turkey for the next day. I figured we could feed the really well done turkey to the kids if we needed to.

So those were my funny Thanksgiving experiences. Next year I'm aiming to watch my mouth, watch my attire, and watch my Turkey!