Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

China Trip: Meet the Team

I feel bad for not posting more about the trip, but things have been crazy at our house lately, so not much computer time.  Here's a post about our amazing team.

Okay, so left to right, we have our guide, Steve, a member of the orphanage staff, Shannon, our team leader, Tina (who was only with us the first couple days, as this was her adoption trip), me, Annette, Laura, Jenny, Rachel, and Morgan.

It was an absolute honor to serve alongside these neat people and to watch them love on all the kids we met.

This was during the big kids assessments in Chenzhou.  Steve was so patient, translating our instructions as we tried to get kids to do things they might never have been exposed to before.

Morgan.  :)  Morgan was a gem.  She was adopted from Beijing as a teen, and still speaks Mandarin.  Although she was quick to point out she was not a translator, her help was so valuable!  In some ways, she reminded me of my daughter, Brianna, in other ways, she was so very Chinese it made me smile.  She was an amazing fit with the blind boys in Hefei.

Shannon, our team leader.  God has His hand on her ministry to Chenzhou, and she is an incredible woman.  Two of her kids are from this orphanage, and she has spent the last 5 years building a beautiful relationship with the staff and children there.  It was because of her work that we had total access in this facility--an incredible rarity in a Chinese orphanage.

Marilyn!  You may recognize Marilyn from last year's trip to Beijing.  She wasn't able to arrive when the rest of the group did, but once she was there, she jumped right in.  Marilyn has 4 Chinese daughters, and one daughter from the Philippines.

Rachel has a huge heart for the forgotten.  She's been to Chenzhou with Shannon's teams before, and she knew the kids well.

Jenny was energetic and had lots of great ideas from her years working in children's ministries for her church.

Laura, who has a Chinese little boy at home, and is hoping to head back for a sibling next year.  She fell in love with sweet Nellie, who was a preemie.

Steve was the world's most patient guide.  Totally unflappable, even when I spilled juice all over him at lunch one day.  We came up with some crazy capers, and he mostly just rolled with it.  I think it must have been like trying to herd cats.

Although many parts of the trip were sad or difficult, overall, it was a lot of fun, and I have to credit that to the neat people on the team.

When you travel together, you really get to know people, even if it's only for a short time.

And you have a lot of laughs together.  I was totally dancing to the theme music from Elmo's World when this picture was taken.  We had so many hilarious moments together, and funny little sayings ("Find a baby, feed a baby!") that made us giggle.

Part of what's difficult about coming home is missing your new friends on the team.  There's a decompression time, where you unpack physically, but also mentally and emotionally.  Jet lag, missing your team, missing China, survivor's guilt, it weighs on you the first several days.

Heading out with the little kids and some of the staff in Hefei.

Out with the big kids and some of the staff in Hefei.

In our team t-shirts again, in Guangzhou, with Lynne and Michelle (Madison staff).  I ended up having the hotel in Chenzhou was my travel dress and team t-shirt, and the hotel in Hefei wash my jeans and my travel t-shirt, since we wore the shirts once in each province.  I washed my unmentionables in the bathtubs.

An amazing time was had by all, and I cannot wait to start hearing about matches for the precious children that we met.

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Our Week with Lots of Games

This week has been light on schoolwork and heavy on play.

Playing Blokus, one of my favorites.  Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.  Thanks for your support.

Playing football, as the last game of the season happened.

Playing tic tac toe.

Playing Uno.

Playing Yahtzee.

And playing dominoes.

We decorated the Christmas tree.

I may have bribed rewarded the teens with chocolate pie if they would put 10 ornaments on the tree.

We seem to be missing a box of ornaments, because some of the special ones for Hannah and Katie haven't shown up this year.

I really need to go through all the ornaments and sort them by child, but UGH, that does not sound like fun.

Using the pouch lids to decorate the felt Christmas tree.

When we decorated the tree, I realized I haven't updated on Luke for a while.  He's doing well in his new family.  He's going to school.  There's an appointment scheduled for January, after which his family should be able to get a court date to finalize his adoption.  I got a very cute picture of him at Halloween.  If you see me in person, ask to see it on my phone.

When Eli was a baby, Paul used to do clapping push ups with little Bubba on his back.

I reminded him of this, and he decided to prove he could still do push ups with big Bubba on his back.

And he can do clapping push ups with Katie on his back.  I'm very impressed.

This, of course, led to all sorts of demonstrations of manliness from Josiah, Sam, and Eli.

Taking advantage of holiday hours, we stopped at Toys R Us one morning after taking Eli and Brianna to school.  One of the staff thought the girls needed birthday crowns.  Okie doke.

The girls' new legs arrived by mail when I was in China, but neither is quite right.  We're going in to Shriners this week to get them adjusted.  Poor Katie's doesn't fit at all, and Hannah kept falling down at first because the knee wasn't locking when it was supposed to.

I've decided to let this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas be a more relaxed time of enjoying one another's company and less about pushing to get a set amount of school work done.  This is hard for me, right after the kids doing "light" school work while I was gone in China, but the reality is, with the exception of spelling, we're doing just fine on meeting our year goals.  I need to just chill.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Our Before and After China Weeks and Thanksgiving

We managed to do school work right up until I left for China.

Jack and Hannah, working on Geography.

We're 21 weeks into a 36 week book, only 13 weeks into our school year.  I have no worries about finishing this one, despite them taking time off from Geography while I was gone.

Our last Art project prior to the trip was Lonely Highway from the 4th grade Home Art Studio DVD.

As you can see, it was about perspective.  They used sharpie and watercolor pencils.  Interestingly, we see a view much like the top picture every year when we drive to Nevada in the summer.  Except there are no power lines.  Or anything else.  For miles and miles.

Our first art project after the trip was also from the same DVD.

This project was about differences.  The difference between organic and geometric shapes,

and the difference between warm colors and cool colors.

Miss Katie hit a milestone this week!  Remember her phonics program?  She's done with book 2 now!

We'll be starting book 3 next week!

Really, I promise we do more than just art in our homeschool.  But who wants to take a picture of kids scowling at a math book, right?

The camera comes out when they're making things.

Like this 3D sculpture, which, honestly, was kind of a flop project.

Still, there's value in experience and following directions.

Hey, look!  It's Josiah!  While I was in China, he got injured at boot camp.  The army sent him home and said he could try again in 6 months if he wants to.  Both boys' cell phones needed fixing, so we took a trip to the phone store.

Brianna did a mini masterpiece on black canvas with the Kwik Stix.  

Silly panorama shot of everyone at the Thanksgiving table.   I thought about trying to get an actual picture picture of everybody on Thanksgiving, but without Zach's family and Annaliese here, I guess my heart wasn't really in it, because it never happened.  

I printed some Thanksgiving coloring pages, and we colored between the main meal and the pie course.

I teasingly said we were going to have a coloring contest and the winner was going to get the biggest piece of pie.

They took me seriously and did their best coloring.

Eli even brought out extra light.  Plenty of pie was had by all.

This guy totally beat me at Star Wars Battleship.

Still getting over jet lag (I'm up at 4 most days), still trying to process my experiences in China, still working to get back into the home and homeschool routine.  But I'm pretty excited to be at my lowest weight in at least 2 years.  I'm almost at the 40# goal I set for myself in June.

Now comes all the Christmas shopping, crafting, and preparations.  I think most years I see the holidaze as an interruption to our structured world.  I'm hoping to embrace the chaos this year and be more relaxed about what gets done and what doesn't.  It's been a long time since I've really enjoyed Christmas.

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