Tuesday, January 17, 2017

audio book for the win

This morning I needed to go to the traffic bureau to pay some tickets.  Laugh all you want.... in two years our car got three tickets for driving on our no drive day, one for driving through a hatched line area on a limited access road, and one parking ticket (someone borrowing our car managed to snag that for us).  [In China it's the vehicle that snags tickets, not the driver... most of the ticketing is done by camera.  We can't renew our registration without clearing the tickets.]

Anyways, I left the big kids (knowing Ayi was on her way and would be around most of the morning).  They had some school assignments to complete on their own, and they were really mostly looking forward to listening to more Johnny Tremain.  Although we are technically past the Revolutionary Way (moved on to Sacagawea) we are still enjoying a few more books and this one has been a bit hit!


So I returned home to this scene... knitting and drawing and now I know I can't pull them away for another chapter or two.

(please note: no legos in sight)

Monday, January 16, 2017

moving carpets

Last night I hit my lego-limit.  Too many legos covering too many surfaces in the living room too much of the time.  There were legos everywhere.  Piles on the carpet, creations on the footstool, lego airplanes on the coffee table and lego dump trucks on the bookshelf and lego men under the couch cushions.  We were swimming in legos.  The kids were happy.  Mama was not.

I decided something needed to change before I lost my marbles.  The legos simply must move (mostly) to the boys room. But to do that I was going to need a decent piece of carpet in their room.  The most likely selection?  the girls room carpet!  It's perfect.  Durable, low pile, and the right size.

The girls were not thrilled at the prospect but mama was at the end of her rope.  I wasn't in a position to worry about carpet-less girls.  But, ....lucky little ladies, a friend posted a message later last night that she is selling her carpet (in prep for a move) and I bought it to add a little warmth and snazz and comfort to their bedroom.

So this morning the girls woke to the news that God provided new carpet for their room, and the boys went to school with the message that "Mama was going to be re-arranging their room and the legos were moving in".

While we were moving furniture and carpet and unearthing dust bunnies (and, of course, more lego - in every corner, lego lego lego!) we decided to set up the extra little back room as a sewing nook for the girls.  It's perfect. So now the boys room has carpet, and legos, and happy children.


And the girls room feels empty without their sewing machine and the shelves of supplies.  The carpet doesn't arrive till Wednesday so it does feel a bit bare.  And the little back room is the perfect sewing nook - large enough for one girl to work easily, or two, assuming they are getting along well :).

Luke took the only photos of the finished results but I should have taken photos of the lego-less living room!  ha!


Then later in the afternoon we walked to a friend's birthday party -


where we played and ate pizza and enjoyed ourselves immensely.  and everyone was excited to come home and show Daddy our newly arranged house!  I was mostly excited to walk into a house where I didn't swim through legos!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

a party for John Paul

Well, as it turns out, delaying the birthday party by a week (so the big kids could join) amped up the excitement level and anticipation level and spread out the celebrating - perfect.


John Paul was ready for "my birthday party day" and so were the little friends.  And their older siblings.  And their younger siblings.  It was an excited crowd.


We celebrated at an indoor play area - complete with bumper cars and a kid-sized pirate ship and merry-go-round and ball pit and pretty much more noise than any one mother should endure.  But it was worth it!


It was also ideal for January - cold and wet and 40 degrees today.

After an afternoon of fun we headed to McDonalds for dinner (and to join up with Matt, and some of the other dads).


21 kids total. and this was by far the quietest table :).


Isaac and his pack of friends.


This table was a bit of a wild card - probably ten 4-6 year olds.  I only got one picture, of John Paul with his lady friends :).

And after dinner we decided it would be best to take Matt upstairs and show him the party spot - and maybe even enjoy another quick ride on the bumper cars.


Whew.  Blue Frog last night.  Birthday party and McDonalds tonight.  Tomorrow I'm ready to eat some of my own cooking and aim for something a bit more low-energy!

the 100 km challenge

We have a fire/service road that loops the outer limit of our complex (but is inside the gates, and has very limited traffic).  It's a great bike and roller blade path.

And one lap around the complex is almost (but not quite!) 1 kilometer.  So we act like it is 1km, because life is hard enough already and why not?

And this fall we challenged the big kids to run the loop 100 times before Christmas Day.  100km (almost!) = 60 miles (almost!)

The kids made 10x10 charts with 100 blocks and they made one for me too.  And every time we ran a lap, or three, by ourselves, or in a group, we wrote the date in one of the blocks.  The blocks slowly filled, and by early December we decided that we would run the last 5 laps all together, as a family, on Christmas Eve.


The little boys rode bikes while we ran.

And the big reward for completing the challenge?  Heading deep into downtown to the hippest shopping and restaurant area in our entire city, for dinner, at a super popular burger place.


Blue Frog Burgers has BOGO on Monday nights, and you better believe we showed up on a Monday :)


The burgers are huge (and a bit pricey) but such a fun treat!  And on BOGO we managed to feed everybody for the price of two burgers (and an appetizer) - ha!. It won't be long before every kid at the table can down an entire burger that size, so we'll enjoy these years before our food budget hits the roof!


So we ran the laps, and we ate our burgers, and I'm thinking about making our spring challenge a huge 10x10 poster with 100 blank boxes we can fill in with "100 reasons we enjoy our siblings".....  something to counter act all the squabbling around here would be a nice change of pace!


After dinner and heading back to the subway entrance we passed this amazing fountain with lights and spray choreographed to classical music.  We could have watched for a long time! It was mesmerizing.


A super fun night on the town with our crowd.  and worth all those laps!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

two littles, three bigs

We added to the family in a bit of a rush in 2012 - after three years with just Julianna, Lydia and Isaac, Luke (March) and then John Paul (August) joined the clan.  And pretty much from the get-go, we called them the bigs and the littles.  {of course, at the time Isaac was only three years old.... so big! - ha}.

At some point in the next decade or so, I wouldn't be surprised if both of the littles surpassed all three of the bigs in actual size!  but for now, and maybe even then, we are still calling them the bigs and the littles.

so here they are, some photos of the littles, and the bigs.

It's only 22 months between Isaac and John Paul, but those months have been exaggerated.  First, John Paul's profound speech delay made him seem so much younger.  And the way we've chosen to start school has put two "grades" between them.  So during the day there is definitely a 'big kid schedule' and a 'little kid schedule'.

And so they show up in different pictures!

These three finished another semester of local school - what a big deal!  {proud mama alert!}


They've been wearing masks a lot this winter as the air quality gets worse and worse.  These past week it's been off the charts terrible!  ugh!


And then the littles - The influence of an older sibling is so powerful!  These guys think they are a big stuff to get to lay in bed and read before lights out :)  And I know exactly where they got that idea from!


Luke is a very attentive daddy to Boy Baby (there in the bed beside him).  Lydia made the blanket for Boy Baby as a Christmas gift for Luke.  A few days later Luke requested a pillow too :). He's hard to say no to, and a bit spoiled by a sister who sews-to-his-request!


It's the end of week one in our 4-week "J term".  Four weeks of home school before we fly.  With the bigs done with local school we will definitely enjoy more free time, but I'm still motivated to get through a bit more content before we call it quits for a month!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

to be a SIX year old boy

I'm only four days in to John Paul's sixth year and I'm thankful for another 361 days to enjoy this guy as a SIX year old!  Maybe I feel a bit more bold bragging on this son since I've no genetic claim to pat my own back when I'm telling everyone how awesome he is.  

He came out of his bedroom ready for his big day.  We started with a scavenger hunt (he can read his own clues - simple stuff, of course!) and he was crazy excited.  He opened the first box - containing only tissue paper and a short clue written on yellow construction paper - "Oh, I LOOOOOVE it!" he said.  



Two December birthday bikes!  Julianna knew she was getting hers, but John Paul was quite surprised.  so fun.

We opened presents and ate French toast and then Matt took the big four to fellowship.  I stayed home with Luke, who spent Saturday fighting what I thought was a stomach bug, and he wasn't ready to be out and about yet.  [Turns out that five days later Luke is finally on the mend, and I've concluded that he had a terrible case of food poisoning.... little guy was really really sick for a long time.  He finally turned the corner today and I'm feeling hopeful that this is behind us, but he had me quite concerned.]

Later that afternoon Matt went for a run with John Paul and Isaac on bikes alongside.  This is such a fun thing for Matt and now that John Paul has a bigger bike (with gears) he is ready to keep up with Daddy too.

For dinner we had a dish of jello instead of cake!  Ha! the jello had just arrived in a package, and John Paul was eager to try it out.  He didn't like it :)


We are having birthday cupcakes at his birthday party next week, so he can recover from his jello disappointment (everyone else seemed to like the Jello ok).

With a sick Luke and Sunday fellowship and a day off for Matt on Monday we postponed John Paul's lunch date till January 2nd.  This is a hugely anticipated event for each kid on their big day!


Happy at Burger King with Daddy.  (newly opened right near our apartment!)


His birthday party is next week (December 10th) - we delayed it a bit so that the big kids will be out of local school and can participate too.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

the week between Christmas and New Year's

We took the entire week off from home school.  It was wonderful.  As much as I love schooling these kiddos, a break was just what everyone needed.  Now, tomorrow (Jan 2) we head into what Matt says I should call "the J-term".  Four weeks of January school and then we are gone for a month.

We've had several old friends in town around the holidays and it is so sweet to reconnect with them.  So much change in our transient lives and I love to re-introduce the kids to people who were important in their early years.

Matt and I have known Zhang Man for 12 years!  She was a guest at Julianna's first birthday party!


And even though we now live in different countries, she consistently finds a way to visit us.


We re-took the same pose on the same sofa :)


and a group photo too.


The day after her visit we enjoyed a "stay-cation" at a local hotel with wonderful (heated!) pools.  Hopefully this little bit of vacation will get us through the next loooooong four weeks of gray skies and polluted days until we fly south for the winter! ha!


We came back home to two more evenings of guests for dinner!  and then it was the weekend, which around here is more popular for it's birthday celebrating than any sort of New Years fanfare.  John Paul is not one to down play his birthday, and he is ecstatic for the big day!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas Day pictures

(please take note: some children slow down long enough for their photo to be taken.  others do not.  years from now when the little boys look back on these posts and wonder why so few pictures of them, well, I will not take the blame!)

Both sets of Grandparents contributed large piles of presents to our Christmas morning loot :) We were able to FaceTime with each of them and bless them with a bit of our chaos - ha!


There was a good deal of hockey-related gifts, including sticks for Matt and Isaac and John Paul, and a first set of roller blades for Luke.


Oh the crafts - these girls could open a small shop!  so fun


He realized this summer that he loves checkers.  Chess too.  Best to have several options :)


I thought this bed-top writing/art desk would be perfect for my oldest daughter.  She agreed.


A new water bottle.  This boy is motivated to explore, examine, take-apart, discover, dismantle.  His objects of interest (victims?!?!) often require some repair work.  This fall he did a little "research" into "What makes his leak proof water bottle leak proof".  After a good bit of work, his water bottle was no longer leak proof.  sigh.  {and also, I'm so curious to see where this leads him in life... he's definitely a figure-out-er.  thankful for friends that remind me that one day he won't just take apart, he will be able to put it back together!}


Lego. Star Wars.  a winning combination


more lego, more Star Wars.


outside for some pre-lunch hockey


homemade. of course.







bought the girls this puzzle - didn't realize how much I loved puzzles!  this was a fun treat and reminded me of holidays with Grandma Ruth when I would retreat from the crowd and just enjoy a puzzle and a quiet visit with another puzzle-fan.


mini-concert.  both girls played some of their favorite Christmas tunes. John Paul belts out Hark the Herald loud enough that he could lead an auditorium full of carolers with no mic :)


our Christmas lunch table


and a family shot by the tree


a gift to celebrate with these precious people.

Merry Christmas!