A quick reminder:
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10 August 2016 -
Woot! Woot! Woot!
Thirteen cheers for Annika....she's now a TEENAGER!
We celebrated her birthday with family in Michigan before we returned home to China.
We even had Aunt Karen and Uncle Chuck join us for the birthday celebration! Also celebrating with us: Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle Ray, Aunt Beth, cousins Lily, Gregory, and Henry; Ava and Mark (who flew in to be with us for entire whopping TWO DAYS).
By any chance, have you noticed a theme to this birthday celebration? If not...do you recognize this?
I'll give you a hint: it's supposed to look like Captain America's shield. Who is Captain America? All I know is that he's a Marvel comic book character and he's part of The Avengers. For more detailed and accurate information ask any of the kids who attended this birthday celebration. :-)
Annika showing off one her birthday gifts (The Avengers t-shirt).
Another new development this summer, Annika started proper archery lessons under Grandpa's guidance. They bought her an absolutely beautiful bow (I think it's a 30-lb bow) and she practiced shooting it (with Grandpa standing) nearly every day, sometimes even twice per day. She asked Grandpa if he'd teach her how to shoot with a bow and arrow this summer and she is really enjoying the challenge!
Grandpa (and Grandma) gave Annika this quiver:
PS. A quiver is the portable thing holding all of the arrows. ;-)
Family watching Annika shoot (while holding her new quiver):
And here's Ava! She's sporting her new glasses (her right eye is -1.0 but her left eye is still 0.0), a cute short haircut, and a Spiderman t-shirt (because certain comic book hero movies are ALL the rage in our family)...oh, and I almost forgot...she also has braces:
Annika, the kneeling archer (taken on an earlier day):
Happy Birthday Annika!
Never stop reaching for the stars!
We love you!!!
8 June 2016 -
This time of year brings with it a tremendous mix of emotions from one of the spectrum clear to the other side. I'm both ecstatic for summer to arrive. The kids, teachers, and parents are all ready for the drudgery of school and homework to be done for the year. However, as an expat, we also have to say good bye to droves of families and friends who are either moving on to their next destination or returning to their passport countries. It's tough to say good bye.
As an expat living in a location with constant turnover you have to learn to make friends quickly. So it's tough for someone like me - introvert and shy - to take the initial step of making friends. By the time I finally get brave enough to talk to someone, it's nearly time to say good bye.
Sadly, it also means a time of regret - wishing I'd taken the time to get to know someone, inviting friends into my home, exploring Tianjin, and just enjoying life in Tianjin. I feel a sense of "would've, could've, should've".
I shouldn't be too hard on myself. This year I did volunteer in the library and I also helped with the school musical. I finished a teaching English as a foreign language course. Yay! The certificate is on its way to me! I stepped outside my comfort zone and started exploring Tianjin via the Metro (subway). I hope to do more of that after our return. We also took opportunities this year to visit Vietnam, Thailand, England, and Bali. We enjoyed having our Kiwi friends visit us during our winter break as they were making their way to New Zealand after an expat stint in the USA. We had fun visits and get-togethers with our Chinese friends and their families. Oh! I also attempted a few Chinese watercolor painting sessions. (turns out, I think the art supplies they use for Chinese watercolors are beautiful BUT I don't have much patience to be so precise and careful when it comes to the actual painting. I felt like the poor painting teacher was gritting his teeth every time he saw me painting. LOL!)
I think the girls would say they had a great year...and now we've got a 5th and an 8th grader!!! Hooray!!!!
Have a great summer!
6 June 2016 -
This morning was the nail biting IST Secondary School's 2nd Semester Awards Assembly. Students had opportunities to receive awards based on most improvement in a particular subject, outstanding achievement in a particular subject, honor roll, or high honor roll. Sometimes even a combination of the above!
Do you see Annika up on stage with her other Grade 7 classmates?
How many certificates do you think she got today??? One? Two?? Three???
I realize the photo above shows only five certificates - she received Outstanding Achievement in Integrated Humanities, Science, Music, PE, and English A (I think that's the upper level English class).
She ALSO received a certificate for being on the HIGH HONOR ROLL!!!!
Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!!!! Three cheers for Annika!
1 June 2016 -
Annika, you continue to amaze us with your athletic skills and your leadership skills. Most of all, we're impressed with your "never give up" attitude. We love how you're willing to go out on a limb and try new sports (this year you added basketball to your sports repertoire). You're a real Go-Getter!
So, while we know that sometimes things might not always go your way ....but I hope you don't ever stop!
Annika and her THREE 2016 sports awards:
Funny, she doesn't look happy in the photo, does she? Someone who has just received several awards for her hard work and diligence should be THRILLED and ecstatic. Oddly enough Annika felt sad and perhaps a tad awkward as she received more awards than some of her friends.
20 May 2016 -
The IST Spring Formal (for all secondary students) was held at the very elegant and history-laden Astor Hotel.
Annika went with her friends - Mimi, Simon, and Wenbo (don't know Wenbo? That's ok, this is the first time we've met him and I think we managed to scare the wits out of the poor boy. Unintentionally of course!).
We bought Annika's dress and shoes last summer and we're darn lucky they still fit (she's grown taller for sure!).
Posing with Super Star, Ngufan (Mimi's older sister):The kids all seemed to have an enjoyable evening at the Astor Hotel. Mark and I dropped them off at the hotel and then we split ways. Mark and I enjoyed an evening out at 1308 (a German restaurant that serves really good food, beer, and schnapps).
May 2016 -
With Mark out of town on a business trip I had figured that we wouldn't be celebrating Mother's Day but the girls had other thoughts!
While I was still fast asleep (no, I didn't hear them at all!) they were busy in the kitchen, preparing a lovely and thoughtful breakfast for me. It was waiting on the table.
The girls actually went out for a walk with me! (Perhaps you can tell but that's becoming a rare event these days). We strolled over to a new international grocery store (of sorts) that opened up recently in our housing complex. We found this hilarious booth...a little out of place, don't you think???
Roses in my back yard. I planted four roses last year. Sadly, while they look pretty they have no discernible smell. I've been watching these plants like a hawk - from leaf budding to flower budding as tiny green aphids seem to also love crashing my rose growing party! I was pretty excited to finally see them bloom!
Climbing roses in our complex....and these do smell heavenly!
Thank you girls for a wonderful day!
25 April 2016 -
Water park seems to conjure up images of water slides, games, and loads of kids (and parents!) having fun.
This is NOT that sort of water park.
This water park is really a big garden surrounded by a man-made pond. It's a lovely place to go - as long as you don't mind sharing the space with LOTS of people.
The colorful flower displays are created with hundreds of flowers in kept in their tiny pots. That way it's easy to change out the flowers once they're past their prime or re-arrange the flowers if you get bored with the design:
I had intended on going on a solitary walk through the park - alone with my thoughts. That's when I bumped into an elderly gentleman who started talking to me in English. All right, I didn't literally bump into him (I did watch where I was going!). It's fairly common for Chinese to say hello and try out their few words of English with the Westerners. However, this gentleman spoke nearly fluent English. I tried my Chinese and he practiced his English. It turns out that he was more than 80 years old and that he had a son and daughter living in the USA. He spoke a little bit of his grandkids and the fact that he was a retired traditional Chinese medicine doctor.
We ended up going our separate ways...with me off in search of the peony garden.
30 April 2016 (long weekend)
In my last post I mentioned that Mark is off to the USA on a business trip. Since the school has Monday off, the girls and I have decided to take a mini-break from Tianjin and head to (much) warmer climates. To Sanya!
(Do you remember our first summer here in China? That was ...what?...four years ago? We visited Sanya. It's a subtropical island off the coast of southern China. It's part of China. And, best of all, it's only a four hour flight away (and direct from Tianjin!). That makes it a nice destination for a relatively get-away. I've heard some Chinese people refer to Sanya as the "Hawaii of China" but in all fairness, it's not at all like Hawaii. I mean, it's nice and warm but it's not Hawaii.
Last time we stayed at the Marriott in Yalong Bay. This time we're staying at the Hilton. And, as I found out by accident- they're right smack next door to each other! (I think I like the Hilton a wee bit better than the Marriott in this case).
In the pool. Or next to the pool. It was absolutely blissful not going anywhere or doing anything. Just swimming and drinking fresh coconut juice out of green coconuts. Both girls repeatedly thanked me for taking them here. That's got to be a good sign, right? That down time was just what everyone needed - in particular Annika who was feeling very low and down on Friday. By Saturday afternoon she'd perked back up and was her usual funny self.
29 April 2016 -
This is a VERY special morning ...Ava is participating in the It's Speaking Time at IST (speech recital and speech competition). As a matter of fact, we'll see her on stage three times:
Poor Professor Frimpinsock!!!!
"Strange Professor Frimpinsock invents some odd creations,
No matter how much he's prepared there's always complications.
His Integrated Doodad just exploded on the floor,
And his Automatic Whachacallit smashed through his front door!
His Neo-Fibric Widget, well that didn't even start,
And his Wonder Dingbat Grabber quickly stopped and fell apart!
His Super-Tensile Jigger scared away his faithful dog,
And his Futuristic Dingus filled the neighborhood with fog!
His Frimintensil Hoo-hah burnt a whole straight through his chair,
And his Special Reading Gadget went berserk and singed his hair!
Now poor Professor Frimpinsock's at present out of action,
As his last invention ran amok and landed him in traction!"
©2005 Gareth Lancaster
The judges deliberated and decided that all the Grade 4 and 5 Finalists should receive Gold Medals for their speech recitals! All the kids really did put in many hours of practice. They also brought something unique and different to the speech competition - they all had a unique twist or take on the same poem.
WOW, Ava!!! Congratulations on the Gold Medal! You certainly deserved it as I know you put in many hours of practice and thought into your various recitals. I'm really proud of you!
And what a great way to start off our long weekend holiday! (Kids have Monday off....but sadly Mark is in the USA on a business trip. Does that mean we'll sit at home and sulk??? Ummmm.... NO!)