Monday, January 26, 2015

gray skies (what pollution does to a skyline)

This winter our AQI (air quality index) numbers are gross.  Just. plain. gross.  There are some days (many days?) when I wish I didn't know the number.  But it's not like the number is my only clue.  Anyone can look at this sky and realize that something is bad wrong with the air.

Grossly high AQI numbers make me grateful for our air purifiers.  At least we spend most of our time most of our days inside a home where the air is clean.  (Matt also runs a smaller unit in his office, and wears a mask when he bikes.  We haven't taken the plunge into masks for the kids.  yet.  but we do try to limit - somewhat - outdoor activity on bad days.)

On the worst days you can smell the air - it smells like burning chemicals!  (told you it was gross!)

This isn't the happiest post, but if this blog is a place where I record bits and pieces of our lives... well, this can't be left out.  It's not our favorite, but it's part of our reality.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

winter break

The girls are officially done with the fall semester at local school!

Even though we've been school-ies in the local system for a while this feels like a big achievement to me!  We did it!  One entire semester of local elementary school!

The mantra continues to be: not easy, but worth it.  We - not just the girls, but me, the rest of the family - we all learn so very much from our foray into the local school system.  In recent years it has been, without a doubt, the biggest hardest learning curve for me, and it continues to give me glimpses into life and culture that I'm not sure I would have gotten elsewhere.

So we'll press onward.  The spring semester starts up on March 2nd, and we will be there, uniform on, backpack full, ready for whatever the spring holds.  We're gearing up for Isaac enrolling in first grade this fall at the elementary school, and starting to talk to the preschool administration about starting the little boys a few mornings a week in March.

And for now?  It's winter break!  Still homeschooling, but with more time to cover our bases since the afternoons are free.

I love this picture of Lydia running towards Grandpa on the last day of school!  She always runs to me, curls flying and backpack bouncing!

common views

Steamy restaurant kitchens.

Sidewalk restaurants.  Sidewalk kitchens.

Roasted sweet potatoes.  The best way to warm up cold hands.  

The roasting barrel, perched on a three wheeled trike, parked in the shadow of multi-million dollar commercial development.

How's that for a view?  We live three or four blocks on the other side the overpass. This is our 'neighborhood'.  Today we ate lunch in the basement cafeteria of the big mall on the left. (those are office building high rises towering above the mall.)

This gorgeous building is not quite open ... notice the construction wall.  It's right by the girls' school and we think it's such a great blend of western and eastern architecture styles.  Still haven't been able to figure out what the building is for.

and blue skies!  this winter has had particularly bad pollution days, too many hours of too many days where we hover in the 'very unhealthy' and 'hazardous' range.  but the day of this picture (Sunday) was just beautiful!

Walking home.  This green area is set back from the sidewalks and stretches almost all the way to our apartment.

And another walk, on a different day.  Matt dropping Isaac off at school.

These are common views, things I see often, but sometimes don't think to photograph!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

new camera eyes

Grandpa's got a new camera.  It's new to him, and gets nice clear shots with a  big zoom.  It's also new to us, since he captures scenes that we would never think to photograph.  It's definitely safe to say that Grandpa's camera sees the neighborhood with different eyes than I do - in a really cool way!  [Some of those photos coming in another post.]

But in the meantime, here are a few of my favorites he took of the children our first few days together....

Isaac at his school gate.  He wears this jacket, hood up, all the time.  I look at this picture and think "that is totally Isaac".

I love this next one for lots of reasons, but especially because Grandpa caught Luke with his arm slung around Isaac's neck.   A classic Luke pose!  He'll wrap that arm around your neck in a heartbeat, especially if he cries out in the middle of the night and you go to comfort him..... he'll hook that elbow over your neck and never let go!

And this next series is just plain fun.  The girls asked for a shot of them jumping...    and John Paul wanted in on the action.

This sequence is just good for the laugh -

girls on the upward journey (John Paul pre-launch)

girls at the peak (little bro almost ready)

girls heading back down (and John Paul is soooo close!)

and he's finally airborne! Just as the girls feet touch the ground! 

We continue to enjoy our days together.  Today (Wednesday) we played hooky from home school and Chinese school so we could visit a nearby mall.  A great indoor play land and western food lunch - everybody happy :)  And sleeping well tonight!  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

our first days

Grandma and Grandpa are here!  They arrived safely Friday night and it's been barrels of fun since they walked off the airplane!  The girls were thrilled to 'stay up late' and meet them at the airport.  The boys had to settle for sleep and a warm hello Saturday morning.  

Grandma's sewing machine was busy getting ready for this trip!  She sewed GORGEOUS Elsa dresses for the girls!  

Just unbelievably beautiful!

And for the boys? Superhero capes and masks!  

The suitcases also revealed new UND gear for all :) 

We went for a lunchtime walk and did a quick tour of the girls school (empty, since it was a Saturday).  

We've done a lot of walking.... Sunday for a little tour of all the crazy commercial development in our neighborhood!  

A little playground antics and attempts at the "jumping pose" rounded out the afternoon.  

Yesterday and this morning (Tuesday) Grandma and Grandpa visited Isaac's school.  Grandma no longer thinks I'm crazy for leaving the little boys at home with the girls while I run Isaac to school in the morning!  

So so grateful for this time together and these memories!  

Friday, January 16, 2015

the end of the week

Wednesday morning my neighbor and decided to shake things up a bit and take our combined 8 children downtown on the subway for a visit to the Science Museum.

With Matt's full confidence (ha! he said "you are going to take who where on what?" when I told him our plans!) we headed out..... and it was a smashing success!  Thank goodness our subway system is really quite user friendly.  And the "shock and awe" factor of loading 8 white children onto a subway car tends to stun passengers into voluntarily giving up their seats so our kiddos can ride safely.

We met another friend there and the building was EMPTY!  Yay for homeschooling!  We can go to the museum when everyone else is in school!

Our children are becoming more familiar with this sweet spot in the city as we return again and again.    The water area is a big hit :)

And then I spent most of yesterday at a seminar on Third Culture Kids.  It was fascinating.  I learned so much about my children!  So so grateful for the opportunity to be there!

Well I'm off..... it seems that a few internet moments is all I can grab these days.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

two weeks in

Matt's parents arrive on Friday and we are all anxiously awaiting their visit!    

It's hard to believe that we are two weeks into 2015 already.

In China the entire calendar revolves around the biggest holiday of the year - Spring Festival.  This year the Lunar New Year starts in mid-February.  Everyone celebrates long and hard.... it's not my favorite time of year, but there are some fun things to look forward too.  The girls' classmates are busily preparing for mid-terms (our girls not so busily, we don't 'count' their local school grades although they usually score top of their class on the English exam, at least! ha!)

Matt's parents visit coincides with a five or six week break from local school.  We'll keep on home schooling for a bit, and then take two solid weeks of vacation when we travel to Malaysia (to meet my parents) in mid-February.   

So it's a out-of-routine time of year for us, and in a way that it most welcome!  

Sunday afternoon on our way to lunch we spotted a new park.  Since the scooters were already loaded in the back of the van it seemed like the perfect place to spend some time post-lunch.  

This green space runs along a river and has lots of great pathways for scooter-ing.  Even Luke is getting pretty speedy on his scooter, and it's a fun activity everyone can enjoy.  

And this last picture is from yesterday's play ground pit stop on our way home from school.  

It's hard to believe there was ever a time when these two weren't brothers.

Friday, January 9, 2015

and then sometimes we get sick

If anything, this past week makes me thankful for health.  Sounds weird, since we are all battling health issues right now..... but it's a good reminder to me - we are generally pretty healthy.  [Assuming you tally occasional fevers and runny noses as "healthy" - with five little people we go through plenty of Tylenol and snotty tissues.  That's just reality.]

So this past week hit hard.  The girls have been battling a mild flu for days.  They are old enough to pull themselves together and keep on keepin' on, but it's no fun.  Then Sunday Matt spent the night puking.  Over and over and over again.  He spent Monday sleeping which didn't help his slam packed week get off to a good start.  We've hardly laid eyes on him since.

Then the boys and I started the downhill slide.

Fevers, chills, no appetite.  All kinds of stomach issues.

We are a mess.

Thankfully Julianna is in better shape and able to help out.  I did rally the boys and we all walked to get the girls at school.  [Julianna beaming cause she had a great day!]  The walk did us in however... it never felt so far!  We didn't recover.

Last night about seven I called Matt (who is 'on a trip' but actually in town) and told him I couldn't get off the couch to get the kids in bed.  He left what he was doing and came home to help :)  I'm glad he was nearby (and my back up plan was to call our neighbors!) so God is providing for us!

A friend is getting the girls, no one is really eating so dinner will be a fend-for-yourself smorgasbord, and then a downhill coast to bedtime.  Matt will be home late tonight and then it's the weekend!   I'm looking for big recovery progress in the next 24-48 hours!