Thursday, August 21, 2014


Some pictures are most definitely worth a thousand words.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

first days

You know it's complicated when you juggle THREE different "first days of school".  Bonus if you have multiple house guests going separate directions and somehow find yourself many days behind on laundry put-away.

We are currently rocking this system where I put folded laundry (my house helper does most of the folding.... bless her!) in rows on the kitchen table, one row per child.  Girls are easy... they each put their own row away.  Lydia sorts and puts away girl underwear and bathing suits and other extras.  The boys stuff I divide each row into stacks of shirts, shorts and pjs.  Isaac also gets a pile of underwear (he and JP share).  Isaac and John Paul put away their own stacks.  Luke is "in training" - he puts away his own stacks but with some coaching from Julianna!

It only takes me a quick minute to lay out the stacks and then I'm off duty :)

{I can't even think about winter when we'll be wearing 2-3 times the clothing!  For right now I'll celebrate that laundry is an easy victory!}

So our first first day?  Home school!  We started Tuesday morning and just such a sweet sweet day!  One of our house guests stepped in and helped with the little boys which meant the morning work went super fast! Few distractions!  Great attitudes from the girls and I'm filled with gratitude for a good day.  Will be remembering this one when the going gets rough later this fall!

[no pics. whoops.  I'll get them on the next first day.]

Next up in the first day series?  Isaac's first day of preschool - he's technically Kindergarten age but in China that means it's his last year of preschool.... Isaac and Matt went to school on Sunday afternoon to finish registration.

And then started today (Wednesday).  He's now going five mornings a week (this feels like a lot to me but we'll stick with it for now).  Isaac didn't seem to loose much of his language while we were home - or at least it came back fairly quickly - but I'm still expecting him to make some big strides this year in local language.

Isaac with the sibs at pick up!  He is definitely my most likely to balk when leaving Mommy - this little guy likes to be with me!  But he did so well this morning (after a 9 month break from preschool!) and was still smiles at pick up!  whew.

And our final first day is September 1st - first day of local elementary school for the girls.  We still have some kinks to work out with the administration on their hours of attendance, hoping we can figure out a schedule that is healthy expectations for them but also smooth for the school.

In the meantime they have started working with a tutor who is drilling them through much of the grammar they missed last spring.  The girls are in a strong spot with spoken language (so thankful!) but need plenty of help with reading and writing.  Those pesky characters are just so complicated :)  I'm already encouraged by their work with the tutor (and she'll continue once school starts - moving through the school material but at a bit slower pace and focusing on certain skills while ignoring some of the other work!).

Surely this will only get more complicated as the little two get older.  We would love to start John Paul at preschool but feel like he needs to focus on English (not comprehension, but clarity of speech) for now.  He and Luke are definitely picking up some language as we settle in here and speaking a bit more (real simple stuff) but our experience shows that they will need to be in a full immersion environment before we really start to see them operate comfortably in their second language.  Thinking about starting them in the spring....

Monday, August 18, 2014

my seven year old Lydia

It's hard to believe that Lydia is 7!  {ack! where does the time go?!?!}

But it's so easy to celebrate that Lydia is 7!

I love this little girl's personality, her bubbly nature, her zest for life, the bounce in her step.

She's just plain awesome.  And so is her big sister.... who gave her seven braids for seven years :)

We are loving our current house guest Amanda... child charmer extraordinaire!  So fun that she (and a  few others) were here for the birthday.  There were John Paul tears tonight at the dinner table because he couldn't sit by Amanda - she's that popular around here!

We ate cinnamon rolls and opened presents and played with friends and Lyds got a special lunch date with her Daddy, and the icing of the cupcakes was a knife-licking-fest and then french toast for dinner (her choice) and the candle blowing (oops couldn't find birthday candles so we used votives in a pinch!) and it was a day packed full of fun.

The girl with the cupcakes is pretty big stuff around here :)  

Seriously fun.

Seven is kind of "our number"!  Should be a good year for this daughter of mine!  

We woke the next morning ready for a pool party with friends.  It was overcast and cool but not raining - how in the world we managed to schedule a pool party on the coolest day of summer is beyond me but we did it!  ha.

Matt lead some pretty rockin relay races :)  Man of many talents, this husband of mine :)

Happy 7th birthday baby girl!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

when stars align

In my dream world we have "reading time" every afternoon.

You could also (justifiably) refer to this chunk of time as "would everyone please be quiet for seventeen seconds so Mommy can regain her sanity and push through til dinner" :)

But I have bigger dreams too.  Dreams of children who learn to love books early and memories of late nights propping my eyelids open so I could finish one more chapter and hours of read-aloud and all that good stuff.

So I've pushed this one, fought hard for this one for years.  Or at least since Julianna stopped napping :)

And there are days where it seems to bomb and I wonder how we can call it "reading time" when everyone has a potty trip and complaint to lodge and a bad attitude to deal with and who knows what else.

But honestly, a lot of days, this works for us.

And I am grateful.  For a house full of little people and a quiet home and open books and little hands.  

and John Paul, who starts out reading

and ends up sleeping - {cuteness}

And Luke... my reader-to-be.  One day.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

So I just got my computer back after a bit of a hiatus.  I could actually get used to no computer :)  I mean, I miss some things.... but.... well, it's nice to be 'offline' sometimes too.

There's been plenty to do without a computer - August is a BIG EXCITING MONTH around here.  We have house guests now, and again later in the month, and I'm hoping for an official home school start this week, and Isaac will head back to morning preschool and the girls gearing up for the local elementary start date and {I'd better stop here before I think of something else to do before bedtime!}

making welcome posters for our guests

Oh, and my littlest girl turned SEVEN yesterday.  Pics and stories to follow... my head is desperate for my pillow tonight!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

keeping up (or trying to)

{subtitle: Life with four older siblings}

One of our favorite spots for a "hike"...The park areas surrounding this lake are really fun, lots of little paths and rocks and hills and places to explore.  We love afternoons when the kids can just let loose and roam - and we're left watching the crazy, and trying to steer everyone in the same general direction :)  

Times like these Luke works so very hard to keep up with the big kids.  Even though he's just 14 months younger than John Paul - 14 months is a big deal when you're only 2 years old -  Those big sibs though, so so precious, they are sweet to look back and encourage him along.

And when the going gets rough ..... well, he's most always willing to hitch a ride on Matt's shoulders!

At the end of the day, most every day this summer, it's baths/showers for everyone.  ohmyword, these kids get so dirty!

Especially the one who spends most of his day trying to keep up with the big sibs!

[Matt and I think Luke might be our most "natural athlete"... who knows what we know, but he just seems more coordinated and agile.  Relatively speaking of course :)  he he.  Time will tell.  Regardless, it won't be long before 14 months is nothing on this little boy, and the tables just might be turned!]

Saturday, August 9, 2014

counting pandas

People around here get a little crazy about the panda.  One morning while stuck in slow traffic the kids and I started counting pandas - they are everywhere!  Pandas decorate the hoods of taxis, commercial buildings, public parks, everything.

Once we started spotting pandas we couldn't stop!

This one is a personal favorite.  He's actually "climbing" up the building and from street level all you can see is the backside of an overgrown panda scaling a massive mall!

We went to dinner with a group of friends (fun!) at a burger place (yum!) on the mall rooftop.  And there was the rest of the panda :)

It was too dark when we left the restaurant for me to get a picture of the panda from street level... next time :)