Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ballet & Box Armor

Molly really enjoys ballet. She is able to attend a class near our home with her friend from preschool, whose English name is Kari. She is to Molly's left, in the pink and white.
The class consists of 22 girls from age four to six.
Molly was among those who needed some steps to reach the bar.
She was excited to do leg lifts; as soon as she got home later, she showed me how she did them.
Unfortunately, Molly caught a cold, so she wasn't able to attend ballet this week. Instead, we made armor out of USPS boxes. Put on the full armor of God!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Spirit

Christmas is two weeks away, and this year, it truly is a white Christmas. Temperatures have been below zero. So it's a little cold and a little slippery, but we are very blessed.
We started celebrating a little early this year, since my (Kevin's) parents were able to join us mid-November. Almost everyone who comes to our apartment comments how warm it is. It's comfortable whether wearing short or long sleeves.
Many of the artificial trees for sale here are gold, red, blue, hot pink or white, but we were so thankful to find a vendor who sold us a green Christmas tree. The kids were really excited for us to put it up as soon as we brought it home.
We were able to buy some ornaments here; my mom helped the kids make more. My parents brought the children's nativity set, which is to the right of the tree. The nativity is fun for the kids, and it's also a great conversation starter with friends who come for a visit. Also, the organization we're with performed a drama about the first Christmas in Bethlehem. Many people know about Santa Claus and Christmas trees, but few know the true reason for the holiday.
Hudson and Molly made quite an impression as sheep. I played the role of Gabriel; I opted to forgo the halo.
It was hard to keep a straight face when I startled the sheep with good news of great cheer, but Hudson was very gracious. He told me later, "You were a good angel, daddy." Well, they did an even better job as sheep.
I was glad to be able to share more about the good news of great cheer at the end of the drama. For many in the audience, this was their first exposure to Bethlehem and a baby born in a manger.
Like kids in America, our kids can't wait for Christmas. All and all, they are doing very well. They have won many hearts here in China.
From our home to yours: Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Family Visit

Kevin's parents arrived this morning, and we are loving the time together! We bought a Christmas tree yesterday to decorate together this week, and Molly and Hudson have already been making ornaments with Gram. I'm so blessed to have a mother-in-law who brings crafts and paint and beads for them to enjoy. (They packed two 50-pound suitcases entirely full of gifts and goodies for us and put their clothes and toiletries in their carry-ons. Amazing!) 
After eight months of virtual visits, it's fun to watch Molly and Hudson read books to Gram and Granddad, show them all of their favorite toys, and run over for hugs. We have so much to be thankful for this year.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sea World, China style

Just like China itself, Saturdays for us are very diverse. At times, we've been able to visit an orphanage. Other times, we've celebrated a birthday or ventured to a shopping center and eaten at McDonald's or Pizza Hut. Still other times, we have met homeless people with special needs, or on a recent Saturday, we were invited to go to our city's equivalent of Sea World.
Because the invite came after Dayna was already out shopping with friends at Wu Ai, the largest market in Northeast China, it was just me and the kids. We missed her, of course, but Molly made sure we took lots of photos and videos so Dayna could take part in our day. And amazingly, our friends paid for everything. They drove us, treated us to lunch at KFC and took care of our admission to Sea World. It was quite the day!
Molly and Hudson were eager to start our sea world adventure. The dolphin show was first.
For days, Hudson and Molly talked about these dolphins. They absolutely loved the show.
Hudson wasn't too sure what to think about the seals swimming overhead. They definitely had his attention.
Usually, it's Hudson on my shoulders and Molly in my arms, but this time, it was the reverse. But I think I liked the penguins more than they did.
 Indeed, it was a great day!
And Dayna had a great day, too! Among shopping for winter clothes with our friend Cathy, they were each able to find a great pair of boots for $10. So it was another memorable Saturday in our memorable life here in China. We have been blessed in so many ways.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Short-lived Fall

Fall in our city is the most beautiful time of year -- unfortunately it's also the shortest season. The evenings and mornings are cool but the afternoons are usually sunny and beautiful without much wind. You can tell fall is here because everyone begins stockpiling cabbage and leeks and other vegetables and drying them outside. While our friends in Oklahoma and Texas are posting cute photos of kids at the pumpkin patch, we found our apartment complex turned into a cabbage patch!
This photo above is the wider view from where Molly and Hudson were sitting. Our apartment playground was the perfect place for many neighbors to dry cabbage.
At least they left two seats open for people enjoying the fall weather! :)
The two photos above are of the the courtyard directly in front of our apartment door. And the two below are just to the right of our door. Leeks and green beans are hanging.
Practically every space around the complex is utilized.
I believe after they're dry, the veggies will be stored in barrels like this one below for the winter. (This neighbor is making good use of barrel space while drying cucumbers on top of it.)
Autumn in northeast China is also marked by the countdown to getting heat in apartments. Toward the end of October, the weather is a little unpredictable. We had a few days of snow flurries and high temps in the 30s. Thankfully those days were followed by sunny afternoons in the 50s and low 60s. The cold started to settle in the concrete apartment walls, but everyone who came over talked about how warm our apartment was. We are thankful for many huge windows that give so much natural light and sunshine. We have no control over when the heat is turned on (by Nov 1) or off (by April 1) and can't increase or decrease the temperature. This year, our apartment's water radiators began to heat on October 27. We are very comfortably warm now.
Happy Autumn, everyone!

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Our family had the privilege of visiting the local orphanage. This was Molly and Hudson's first time to go to an orphanage.
When we first arrived, Molly and Hudson were shy, unsure what to think of their new surroundings. However, they soon got over their shyness. Molly especially reached out to the kids.

This girl has cerebral palsy. Molly is helping her play with a stuffed animal.

Molly invited this baby girl to stay with us.

This teenage boy suffers from fluid in his brain. His body cannot support the head weight, so he has to lie down all of the time. There is no medical treatment. However, he had an amazing attitude. He was very excited to talk with us. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Anyang Clinic and Orphanage

Last month, I (Kevin) traveled south to the "small" town of Anyang to work with the GHO clinic. The service and medicine provided to the patients were free of charge. In addition to the clinic, I was also able to visit an orphanage. The following photos give a glimpse.

This was the GHO clinic team. Although I served in the medical community for several years in Waco, this was my first time ever to wear scrubs. The young man to my left is Nathan, whom I roomed with this week.

These orphaned toddlers were eating snacks, seemingly having a lot of fun.
This teenage girl has Cerebral Palsy; her favorite thing to do is study. She loves to learn about anything and everything.

These were but a few of the babies delivered to the orphanage by the police. The babies had been found abandoned in trashcans or alleys.
This was our triage station. My job was to help organize the patients as they waited for their turn. My Chinese was not good, but at least I could tell the people where to sit and when it was time to see a doctor. Still, I long for the day I can have deep conversations without needing a translator.

The team was surprised when first arriving to this hospital. It was much more modern than expected, but the patients who came were from the surrounding counties. Most were very poor; few were educated. I spent time with those sitting in the chairs behind the triage station. All and all, it was a great clinic.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Happy birthday, Hudson!

Hudson's birthday fell on a Sunday this year, so we were able to celebrate with our International Fellowship friends instead of having a party in our home.
We started off the day with a birthday doughnut before fellowship. (Note the "3" candle in his favorite doughnut, strawberry frosting with sprinkles.)
Then friends joined us for lunch at our favorite Korean BBQ restaurant right beside our apartment. I picked up the cake from the bakery across the street and brought it in to show them -- cute little sheep!
After lunch, Hudson took a long nap. Molly has a sweet friend from preschool who lives in our apartment complex, and she went with their family to the park for the afternoon. By the time Molly returned and Hudson woke up, it was already time to get ready for dinner. Hudson had requested Pizza Hut, so we walked to our favorite location that's connected to a nice supermarket. After eating dinner, going shopping and walking home, it was already time for bed. We had given him our gift and a few cards from friends that morning, but we decided we'd save the rest of his gifts and his cake for the morning -- I'm sure this is the last year we'd be able to get away with that!
We are very thankful for the cards and gifts Hudson (and Molly) received from friends near and far. Because we waited until Monday morning for him to open most of them, we were able to Skype with our families and they could see him with the presents they sent (still Sunday night, America time). Also, Kevin was home from work since it was the beginning of the week-long National Day holiday, which continued the celebration feel.

If you listen carefully in the video below, you can even hear Kevin's parents chiming in with the song and birthday wishes. Thanks to technology, they were Skyping right there on our kitchen table and saw him blow out his candle and eat cake. Amazing! We love sharing these special moments with our family even from half a world away.
Hudson, you bring joy to our lives every single day. Your smile absolutely lights up your face, and that is contagious to all those around you. We are so thankful to be your mom and dad, and we look forward to watching God unfold His great plan for your life. 我们爱你!

Happy birthday, Molly!

September was a fun-filled month for us! Molly turned 5 on the 7th, and Hudson turned 3 on the 30th. It felt like we spent the whole month celebrating and opening cards and packages from friends. :) Thank you very much to all of you who made our children's first birthdays in China so special.
Every other week we gather with a few close foreign friends at our friend's home for a specific time to pray for the nations. We started off September by celebrating Molly and our friend Teshuah, who turned 4. Aren't those little cakes cute? They have peaches and cherries on top -- it is quite common for Chinese cakes to have fruit slices and cherry tomatoes on top.

Molly's birthday was on a Friday, and we had a fun day together with pancakes for breakfast (thank you, import aisle!) and bean burritos for lunch (we actually found flour tortillas). The day before at preschool, I taught a birthday-themed English lesson in all the classes and Molly brought Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies to share with her class. We held a small party for six of her friends at our apartment Saturday morning. Hudson was so excited before the guests arrived!
I couldn't resist ordering this panda cake for Molly's first Chinese birthday! There is a small bakery right across the street from us called Bread Garden, and it was so convenient to pick it up Saturday before everyone arrived. (Here's one perk of not having an oven -- no stress over baking a beautiful birthday cake by myself!) It was chocolate inside.

Cakes are very common here, but cupcakes are not. I went to three bakeries in our neighborhood before I found what I was looking for -- cupcake-shaped muffins! The import aisle had Betty Crocker chocolate frosting, and my mother-in-law sent sprinkles. Decorating the "cupcakes" was a hit!
My mother-in-law also sent most of the decorations and the crafts. Party products are available here but hard to find. A country of 1.3 billion people has to conserve on paper products wherever possible, so wrapping paper and coordinated items like Tinkerbell plates, napkins and tablecloths are very rare.

We had a craft table for decorating bookmarks and doorhangers with stickers.
Dance party! We played some of Molly's favorite songs and paused them randomly to watch the kids freeze mid-dance. It was hilarious! (And we completely copied the idea from Abby Carver's 5th birthday party.)

Happy birthday, precious Molly Renee! We are incredibly blessed to be your parents and thankful to see your progress adjusting to life in China. This has been a year of tremendous change, and you are doing so well. 我们你生日快乐!