A quick reminder:
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10 December 2016 -
So much has happened over the past four months. Mark and I went to India. We walked around the Taj Mahal!!!! We had a family scuba diving trip to the Philippines. We got to dive through boat wrecks. Lots of events happening at school. Cousins from Detroit popped over for a two-week visit. I got to hug a baby panda and see the biggest stone statue of Buddha I've ever seen with our cousins. I even got to spend a day at Shanghai Disney. It's been a whirlwind few weeks.....
but the biggest change of all is that we will be returning to the USA NEXT WEEK.
Please don't ask us for details. We don't know exactly where we'll be. Please don't ask us if we're excited about going "home". This is our home. We're trying really hard to stay upbeat and positive about the move but it's been a struggle.
The biggest struggle I have is that we came here with small, young girls and we're leaving with a teen and a preteen. So much has changed. They are NOT the same girls we left with. The sadness I feel is about realizing that change. Ava and Annika grew up here. Five years may not sound like a lot but we've seen tremendous changes over those past five years. Our little girls are gone. Well, not gone, they've transformed into beautiful, intelligent, caring, kind, adventuresome, open-minded young ladies. And you know what? I'm okay with that. But still I tear up thinking about all the things that transpired while we lived here. Ava learned how to ride a bike. We all learned to scuba dive. We went to countries and places I had only dreamed of visiting after reading "National Geographic" magazines. We've done so much, seen so much of the world - the good and the bad.
The world is an amazing place and I'm glad we got to share a bit of that with the girls.
PS. Just because we're returning to the USA doesn't mean that our adventures will come to a screeching halt. We certainly won't to get to run off to beaches in southeast Asia but who knows where we'll end up!?!
PPS. I WILL post photos from India, Philippines, cousins' visit to China, and various other photos soon.
15-18 September 2016 -
It seems that flying on a holiday can be fun. We flew to Guilin (from Tianjin) on Mid Autumn Festival day on Air China. The plane was decorated and the crew had several games for all the passengers to play. I won this small stuffed toy from one of these games. After the games they went around taking photos on an instant camera. Fun!
We're staying at Yangshuo Village Inn. Check out the huge moon cake the inn had specially made. By the way, Annika LOVES moon cakes.
Steamed chicken with mushrooms and red dates in a bamboo steamer:
Our dishes: egg wrapped dumplings (actually more like miniature omelets), steamed chicken with mushrooms, stir fried pork with vegetables and oyster sauce, eggplant Yangshuo style, and green vegetables with garlic.
One last look at the entry of the hotel:
I love the warm colors, dark wood tones, eclectic paintings, tea set, stone floor and fire place. I think that might be the first fireplace I've seen in China...and it's located in southern China.
26 August 2016 -
It's voting time at IST! Today the elementary students will vote for Elementary Student Council (ESC) officers. Ava is running for the communication officer position.
Here's further evidence that girls rule (literally!). Only girls wanted to run for ESC positions!
All the girls gave excellent and impressive speeches.
And to answer any questions.....yes, Ava was voted communications officer. Actually it was a tie and she shares that position with another girl.
September 2016 -
Annika's grade 8 class is off on another WWW (week without walls) adventure. They're supposed to hike and camp on an old section of the great wall close to Beijing.
She's all packed and ready to go!
Here are a few photos (not taken by me) during the week:
Mimi and Annika are picture perfect models, don't you think? They're getting ready to board the bus and head out on their week long adventure.
Looks like they had a fun time!
July 2016 -
The girls and I flew off to stay with Mark's family in Michigan for the month of July.
It was likely to happen sooner or later...Ava's first eyeglasses. This spring when the school nurse did her routine eye check for all the kids she sent a notice home with Ava suggesting that we take her to see an optometrist. Turns out, Ava does need corrective lenses for one eye. (it's a minor correction but enough to warrant glasses)
June 11-24, 2016
The girls are finished with school for the year and we're off to spend TWO weeks in Austria - visiting Opa and just breathing the clean mountain air. Oh, and perhaps taking in a few sights along the way. :-)
First stop- Munich, Germany.
Whenever you feel like you have something to share, just remember that to your family you can lay your heart bare.
Whenever you feel that life is being unfair, just remember that Mom and Dad will always care.
Whenever you face problems that you can’t bear, just remember that your parents will always be there.
Happy 13th birthday.
10 August 2016
How many candles can we fit on to Annika's lemon meringue birthday pie??? All of them!!!
Mile-high meringue! Woot! Woot! (the drat part of the pie was that fact that it didn't taste very lemon-y, thanks to Chinese lemons that I didn't realize were nearly tasteless. Darn it! At least the meringue made up for the lack of lemon flavor.)
Breakfast of champions! Birthday lemon meringue pie for breakfast. Along with the Spiderman table cloth I brought with me from the US and Avengers napkins. Have you noticed how the girls seem to be enthralled with comic book heroes?
Annika's birthday dinner request...South Beauty. South Beauty is a chain Sichuan restaurant. And it offers loads of tasty dishes. Our favorite dishes include a rib dish, deep fried green beans, and gong bao ji ding (aka kung pao chicken). We do love eating Sichuan food!
Happy birthday to our beautiful, intelligent, creative, and independent Buggy!!!
9 August 2016 -
After having a luxurious couple of summer months it's time to snap back to reality. It's the first day of school!
This is Ava's last year in the elementary school - she's a 5th grader! The 5th graders apparently "rule the school". HA!
Annika is heading off to 8th grade - her last year of middle school.
Ava and Annika. Ava is sporting her short, cute haircut and new glasses. Both girls got to pick out new backpacks this year. Annika chose an old-fashioned style rucksack (I'm sure influenced by "Captain America" movies and comics).
HAPPY FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!
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!!!