Thursday, April 16, 2015

departing, arriving

Matt left early Wednesday morning for a trip to the western mountains.  I heard from him yesterday and then received these two photos around noon today.  Unless he happens to cross an area with a weak cell signal somewhere back in those mountains I won't expect to hear from him again until Saturday.

This kind of travel feeds his soul.  And I know - wherever he is - there's a big smile on his face :)

There are plenty of smiles on faces around here too.  The exact same day that Matt departed.... my parents arrived!  Mom and Dad have been in Asia for four months already, so they are jet lag free and eager to join right in to all the fun.  We've had two gorgeous days, pleasantly warm and sunny.  The perfect welcome for a six-week stay here in town!

Dad is teaching basketball, Mom is teaching crochet.  They're practically on staff with our little home school :)

Perfect timing, since we could use some fresh legs here for the final laps of the race!

Monday, April 13, 2015

a picture and a few sentences

An April Monday, in the rear view mirror.

It's getting late and I'm getting wrapped up in the Narnia stories, so there's not much to say tonight.  [Matt and the big three are reading through Narnia for the 2nd time, and it got me to thinking that I might need a little run through Narnia myself.... I'm hoping to finish book one tonight!  I've been turning pages in The Magician's Nephew waiting for this picture to load.]

It's a big week for us - Mom and Dad arriving Wednesday afternoon - so I'll be back with more.  When I finish my book :)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

looking ahead (next week goals)

We really lost our home school groove during Easter.  Two field trips the week before.  Monday after Easter Matt had the day off work.  Monday night Julianna spent the night out and Lydia hosted a sleepover friend so Tuesday we just plain skipped school (though they did go to local school in the afternoon).

Wednesday we waded back in to the pile of books.  And today, again, was jumbled and cock-eyed.  But we did it.  We'll do it again tomorrow.  And maybe next week will be our week to shine?

I guess there are some weeks when perseverance is the key?

Today, instead of starting a new writing assignment we spent extra time crafting.  The boys were happy.  The girls were happy.  It wasn't a hard decision :)

We make a tremendous mess crafting.  It seems to be a specialty.  I'm committed to letting supplies fall where they may and doing a massive clean up at the end.

Our craft supplies are *mostly* stored in the bottom half of this cabinet.  I took advantage of the chaos and did a bit of purging.  Yesterday Luke took advantage of my chaos (switching the kids clothes from winter to summer) and snagged himself a new shirt.  I guess you could say both of us are looking for opportunities to turn chaos into gain :)

[His new shirt happens to be a boys size 7.  I know a loosing battle when I see it.]

In addition to getting some "groove" back to our home school days we have another big goal for next week!  Welcoming my parents!  They arrive Wednesday for a 6 week visit.  And we can't wait!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

putting eggs in a basket

Monday night, right before bedtime.

Me: "Luke, what did Jesus do on Easter?"

Luke: "Put eggs in a basket."

{Next year during Lent I'll be offering classes on how to help your children understand the true meaning of Easter.  I hope you'll all sign up.}

Looking back at all our pictures, his answer takes on greater clarity.

We did spend a lot of time putting eggs in baskets.

[Saturday afternoon, egg dyeing outdoors, at Graham and Ashlei's.]

[Easter Sunday lunch.  20 children and 11 adults.  We fed the kiddos and almost all of them headed out to play while the littlest stayed inside and the adults enjoyed a slower paced lunch.]

I used our school desks to transform our back porch into a buffet line, freeing up the bar for seating.  It worked well, and the spread was yummy (a breakfast extravaganza - sausage, gravy, biscuits, pancakes, hash brown casserole, fruit, and deviled eggs).

Later afternoon the egg hunt was on.

And we all took turns snuggling the littlest guest, four day old Addelyn.  Welcome to the crowd baby girl, next year you'll be hunting eggs with the best of them :)

Happiest of Easters.  It's joy to share celebrations with dear friends.  We have moved far far far away from our family.  But the Lord has given us a "family" here, and while it doesn't take away the sting of missing our relatives, the fellowship we share with these brothers and sisters is pure gift.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

the 2015 garden

Our fifth garden.  Not our fanciest, but the craftsmanship was totally out of my hands.  The big three did their best, and the little two proved to be a challenge.  This is still a favorite of ours - a solid combination of excitement and significance - and even on years when the clover-carpet wilts within hours and the dirt resembles rubble we are sticking with it :)

I missed a picture of praying Jesus on Thursday night, and intended to get Jesus up on the cross at breakfast on Friday.  But he didn't make it there until lunch.  {sigh}

On Friday night we read from the Jesus Storybook Bible and then took our Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in a napkin and placed him in our potato tomb.  Each kiddo contributed to the process and Julianna finished it up, working to get the big rock in just the right spot, blocking the entire entrance.

By this point our garden was brown and wilted and limp.  It's dreary, and the situation is not looking hopeful at all.

Which is the point.


I think we can tend to forget how terrible Saturday was for the disciples.  Sure, I can spend the day excitedly preparing for the party-to-come {I know who wins the battle, I know who walks out of the tomb!}, but those who loved Jesus on the very first Easter?  Surely their hearts were wilted and limp.

Looking at our box of brown we talked through the story again, since John Paul was concerned we were just going to leave our Jesus in the potato.  It was clear that he was trying to wrap his mind around death... and resurrection .... and the whole thing was leaving him a little confused.  Which is understandable, since it's completely NOT understandable that a man rose from the grave.

I wish I could say that I patiently explained it again, and John Paul's eyes lit up with understanding, and the whole bunch of kids sat attentively, just awed by Momma's wisdom and insight.  But reality is that I gave a half-hearted response and Luke concluded that the angels were the ones who restored life to Jesus and I was too worn-out-with-motherhood to even care to correct him.  I hurried them away from the table, eager for bedtime to be behind me, John Paul still a little perturbed that Jesus had to stay in the potato.

Half an hour later we were in the final stages of bedtime prep when Matt called.  John Paul got first dibs on talking to Daddy and he excitedly hollered into the phone "Daddy! We put Jesus in the tomb but on Easter He will come out!"

It was awesome.

And my heart lightened just a bit with the timely reminder that God is the one who changes hearts and minds.  

We finished our garden this morning, loaded up the van and headed to worship.  Afterwards, a big group of friends gathered at our home for food, fun, fellowship, and an egg hunt.  The last guests didn't leave til after 5pm.  It was a sweet day, and the camera is loaded with pictures, but they'll have to wait for another time.

Happy Easter friends!  His glory shines bright in our imperfections.  Rejoice!

Friday, April 3, 2015

starting the celebrations

Super fun start to our Easter weekend!  I took the boys to school (thankfully drop-offs are still going well!  JP just a professional school-go-er and Luke a bit teary but not distraught.. whew!)  The girls and I grabbed our bag stuffed full of supplies and hit the road, headed for my friend's private school.

A few mishaps along the way didn't set us back!  [bad traffic and Julianna puked... she woke up complaining of a tummy ache but wasn't one to miss out ... the traffic plus tummy troubles sent her over the edge but it was one of the happy "oh I feel so much better now" situations so we quickly cleaned up the minimal damage and pressed on.]

We made handprint Easter lilies with colored paper and disposable chopsticks.  And then dyed Easter eggs - always a treat, especially for kids that have never done it before!  

The school enrolls about 20 kids in multiple grades.  They have dreams to grow much bigger but for now it's a really great size for this type of morning activity.  

And while the egg-dyeing finished up Julianna, Lydia and their friend Rejoice (one of the older students) snuck downstairs to hide Easter eggs.

The grassy area outside was the perfect spot and the hunt was a big success.  The kids headed back inside to eat lunch and we three girls hurried for the van.... time to go get our little brothers!

The rest of the afternoon flew by.  Matt is on a midnight flight home and we just started a 3 day weekend (this year a Chinese lunar holiday randomly lined up with Easter Monday).  yay!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

to the panda bears, with friends

It's always special when friends from the States make it to our side of the globe.  And it's not something we take for granted!

Tim and Twyla were only here for a short visit, but it didn't take long for the kids to warm up!  Matt and I really enjoyed longer visits with them in the evening, after the little troops were in bed too.

On the only full day of their visit we knew that the Panda Research Base was a must-see.  First trip for John Paul and the first memory-making trip for Luke.  (Our last trip was spring 2012, with infant Luke and knee-deep in John Paul approval paperwork.)

These guys never disappoint.  I took disappointingly few pictures, but my hands were otherwise occupied!  After a full morning of panda watching we headed back into town to meet Matt and some friends for lunch.

Our afternoon flew by and Tim provided after dinner paper-airplane-making entertainment for everyone.  Luke is probably Tim's biggest fan :)

Twyla was a tremendous blessing, listening to Lydia's chatter, playing cards with Isaac, patiently allowing John Paul to be "on her team".

I have a group picture (with me in it!) from the panda base, but it's not on this computer so I'll have to post it later.

We are steam-rolling towards Easter.  Our dear friends welcomed a baby daughter this morning and I've already been up to the hospital for a snuggle :)  Matt is on a brief road trip and the girls and I lead an Easter activity at a local school tomorrow morning.  We started our Easter garden today too.  Our pipe-cleaner Jesus is praying tonight, and we'll move him to the cross in the morning.  [Oh, and I'm waiting til Matt is home for the egg-dyeing.  I've been pretty impatient these last few days and I'm not sure launching an egg dyeing party is gonna help anything... best to wait for reinforcements!]