Christmas 2013


Last year, we started to “do” Christmas a little different.  Moving across the world made us really think about how we wanted to celebrate holidays.  There weren’t any parents here to have us over or for us to piggybank on.  We, as parents, got to choose our own way to do things.  It felt strange. And awkward.  This year, however, it didn’t feel so different.  It felt a little bit more normal and more our own.  Instead of waking up and diving in, we get up and slowly start the day.

With coffee.

Surprisingly, the girls are completely okay with this change.  They don’t complain or beg or whine about not getting to open the mounds of shiny gifts right away.  It feels, instead, like they are just really happy to be doing everything together.  This year all but Cam was sick, so we were really slow in getting up and around.   Once we were all up, we opened stockings.


Usually we would make and eat breakfast after this, but no one has had an appetite for a week so we weren’t anywhere near ready to eat.  Instead, we all sat together and read the story of Christmas.  Then, the sweetest, most precious part of the day occurred…each of us gave thanks to the Father for the greatest gift we have ever received.  There weren’t any requests or needs voiced, just thanksgiving.  Tears rolled down my cheeks as I listened to the hearts of my girls telling Him thank you.

They get it.

Everything else kind of paled in comparison (for me) the rest of the day.  However, we didn’t just stop at that.  I don’t think the girls would’ve been okay with that decision…


When we open the presents from us, we open them one at a time.  It is nice to get to see what everyone gets…makes you appreciate it a little bit more.  Ellie really loves this plan because she likes to be the center of attention.  She says she wants to go LAST so that everyone can watch her longer.  I am not sure where this side of her personality comes from…


Gracie got some Minnetonka moccasins…except in true Chinese fashion, they say MINNETQNKA.  Awesome.  I mean, that “o” and “q” are pretty hard to keep straight.  Ha!  Faith was thrilled with the full set of Mercy Watson books.  These are her favorite books, and she will read them over and over again.  Hopefully so will Ellie.


Ellie informed me after opening her birthday presents that “hopefully she will get what she really wanted for Christmas since she didn’t get it for her birthday”.  Wow.  I mean, can’t be more blunt than that!  What she really wanted (apparently) was “the prettiest Barbie I could find”.  Lucky for her, that beautiful Barbie was hiding in my closet.  Faith wanted a shelf for her craft supplies and a pencil sharpener.  This is after she told my mom all she really wanted was hair  mousse.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Mousse.  Maybe because my mom needs to use it to tame her wild curly mane, but us straight haired gals don’t get to use fun, foamy stuff like that everyday.  Gracie wanted the moon.  And an iPad.  And a Furby.  And some Beats.  Ummm…yeah.  She got a Furby.


NannyClaus (that’s Cam’s mama) got all the girls new shoes.  Ellie seems to be contemplating hers, but in reality she was SO excited.  So, when you see us and she is sporting sweats and pink pointy toed flats, it is not my fault.  Honestly, NannyClaus spoiled our house rotten this year.  We didn’t need Santa at all!


I thought it was funny that Gracie lined her bracelets up and Ellie lined her dolls up.  Sisters.  Faith got a new watch in hopes of mine getting returned.  My plan backfired though…Faith gave my watch to Ellie.  I tried to convince her to give her new one to Ellie and keep mine, because, well, because Faith is a little more responsible than Ellie.  I’m pretty sure Ellie will be getting a watch soon.  Ha!


Christmas without Vera isn’t Christmas at all.  She is part of the family.  They also all got these loom things…I think that a person who hates moms invented it.  They may go missing very soon…


Scarves are a necessity in this frigid place.  Texans aren’t made for weeks in a row of cold weather…we need a couple 80 degree days thrown in!  A true princess never removes her crown…and what in the world is so great about Minecraft?  I don’t get it.


As only a mama can do, NannyClaus gave her son underwear.  And his face was priceless.  The girls laughed SO hard.  What is even greater though, is that he really appreciated and liked them.  We also laughed when he opened his “murse”.  I have been asking him lately if he wanted one because all the men carry purses here.  Even the foreigners.  When you walk everywhere, it is really quite convenient…especially for the wife who gets man things put into her purse.  I think it is great.  I’ll take a picture of him on the sly when he has it strapped on (its cross body and sleek) and is on his scooter…

Meili got a new ball that lights up.  She was terrified of it.  Cam had to get down and show her it was safe and fun before she would play with it.

Despite the fevers and chills and overall sleepiness, we had a really nice day.  We got to talk to our family, feel their love from afar, had a good friend bring us homemade, warm cinnamon rolls, and lay around all day with no guilt.  The only thing that would have made it better would have been sugar cookies, and we got those last night…

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A big decision

Life sometimes throws you a curveball and our instinct is to freak out instead of patiently keeping our eye on the ball.  We have been patient in the midst of all our freakouts over the past 10 days (mostly).  We have been waiting on Father to direct our paths and tell us what to do, when everything in us was screaming to leave.  Leave right now!  Through the wisdom of leaders and graciousness of our company, we are heading to America on December 31.  We will spend 2 months there loving our families and calming our hearts.  Our return flight is February 26.  When the decision was made to go, an instant peace flooded our hearts.  It was an overwhelming show of how great HE is.  Not only did He grant us wisdom in making a decision, He also has given us what feels like clear direction for the future as well.  At first we were unsure if this trip home was a permanent one, and as we began to prepare ourselves for that, we felt a lot of unrest.  Then, when the peace came, so did excitement about returning.  An excitement we haven’t really felt for the past two months.  We have been in the valley, struggling to be here.  To affirm the excitement that was bubbling about the future, we got our language evaluations back, and much to our great delight and surprise, we had improved!  A lot!  As I sit here writing this, I am in awe of how loving and kind our Father truly is, and how He has proven so faithful to me in times when my doubt was big…when I didn’t deserve it the most.

Texas!!  Here we come!!!

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Chronicles of China


The unimaginable happened.  My world was rocked to its core, and I felt like I was living in a nightmare.  I am living a nightmare.

The phone rang while I was on the back of Cam’s scooter.  We took a vacation day to celebrate our “one year of living overseas” anniversary, so we had plans to eat out together and do some Christmas shopping.  My first thought was that it was my mom, because we talk every day and that morning I hadn’t heard from her.  I knew she had a party to go to, and she was probably just calling to tell me she loves me.  Since we were out, the phone was ringing from 3G and service wasn’t good, so I wasn’t going to answer, but it rang again.  Then a 3rd time.  So, I grabbed my phone from Cam’s jacket pocket and looked.  It was my brother.

Weird.  He doesn’t call me.

As the phone started to ring, my stomach started to knot.

This can’t be good.

He asked me if I was in a place I could talk.  He said reception was bad.  I told him I was in the middle of the city, not anywhere near home.  He accepted that and told me that Dad needed to talk to me.

What happened?

As my heart began to race, and worry filled my heart, I knew I didn’t want to hear whatever it was he was going to say.

And I didn’t want to hear it.  Life as I knew it had been irrevocably altered.  Questions filled my head and heart with what the next step should be.

Should we move back?

Can I get a flight today?

Can this be real?


My heart hurts.  My eyes feel like they are full of razor blades and there is a constant pounding in my head.  Pretending for those around me that I am okay is too hard.  Not letting the tears flow hurts, but I have children and life still continues around me that I must participate in.  It feels like the world is spinning…like I can’t get off.  I can’t slow it down.

I want to reverse time and prevent what would happen on December 12, 2013.  This time of testing is too hard.  Being able to hear Him over the emotions screaming in my head is almost impossible.  Choosing to have faith and follow Him when I hear Him asking me ,

Do you love ME more than you love your mom?

I’m not sure I can answer the way I know I should.  The way He would want me to.  The battle is raging and I’m not sure I am winning.

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Baby Love turned 7

ImageLet me just tell you about this “school party”.  I have never felt more out of the loop and “mommy fail” than I did this day.  Ellie asked me to bring cupcakes to her class.  She wanted chocolate cupcakes with mint chocolate chip frosting.  So, I baked, loaded up and took the almost hour long bus to celebrate with her classmates.  Imagine my surprise when another student also had a birthday that day.  You see, there are 2 first grade classes, but they are in one room separated by a sink.  When I looked over and saw her two tiered cake with tiny little dwarfs and mushrooms crafted out of modeling chocolate, complete with candles, punch, fruit, and party favors, I felt embarrassed. Here I was with cupcakes.  Just cupcakes.  Nothing fancy or even pretty!  The other birthday girl wanted everyone to sing to her, so we all sang to her, then they all sang to Ellie.  Only Ellie didn’t have candles to blow out afterward.  Needless to say, I got out of there as fast as I could.  Ellie was pleased and didn’t care one bit that her classmate had a big, beautiful spread.  She was just happy I came.

ImageExcuse that all of these pictures are out of order.  Let your mind rearrange the sequence of events after you read through them 🙂  Ellie wanted to have a sleepover for her party this year…with an owl theme.  We had some more photo props that were, once again, a lot of fun to play with!

ImageSince it was at night, we decided to do the cake by glowstick.  All the lights were off, and it was definitely a fun way to do candles!

ImageMore fun with photo props and a little bit of a fashion show in between.  The big pink owl pillow was their party favor.  I found them online for super cheap and couldn’t resist!

ImageWe played a game that they had to act out different movies and people.  It was hilarious watching them do their best to act things out.  The two teams were neck in neck and almost tied the game!  It was close!  At bedtime, they all decided to read books.  It made my heart race to hear Ellie reading to her best friend.  So thankful.

ImagePin the bow on the owl.  I think they really just like being blindfolded and spun in circles.  We should invent a new game that only does that…

ImageThat is her owl cake and owl cookies.  The middle picture are her school friends that rode the bus home with her.  Two other friends met them at the bus stop at our house.  Ellie is one blessed little girl when it comes to friends!  The game on the right was a human web.  It was confusing and hard and the best part was throwing yarn.  You win some, you lose some.  This one wasn’t a great choice.  Ha!

ImageEllie got a box a few days before her birthday.  It about killed her to not open her presents early!!  Her cousins sent her some pictures and a little doll toy that she did get early.  She carries it around and loves it.  Christmas presents came in the box too, so our tree doesn’t look so empty now!

ImageEllie got a new baby doll that she names Julie Ranelle Strange.  Some flashcards to help her read that she loves to do.  A card with cupcakes that made me happy to see.  She also got some glittery silver Sperry’s, crafts, and a bottle sucker (this made her day!).  I’m not sure why I don;t have pictures of that, but I do know that my girls have the best grandparents around!

ImageI can’t believe my baby is 7!  How did that happen?!  Her presents looked so pretty sitting there that I really don’t blame her for wanting to dig into them early.

ImageI love to see Ellie’s surprised face.  She was very excited about this pony doll.  And the money that fell out of the card in the last picture.  Ha!

ImageThese are her friends.  They all have such unique and fun personalities!  It is great to see them interact and joke together.

ImageHer friends are a lot like her and can’t be serious.  The hugging picture is her bestie Lydia.  She is half Chinese/half English and has the most adorable accent ever.  I love to listen to her talk.  All of these girls were so well behaved and wonderful.  We had a great time!

ImageWhen they got home from school, we started with cookies and hot chocolate.  Each girl had a pink cup with built in straw and got to make their own chocolate.  Let the sugar high begin!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I usually put my tree up on Thanksgiving Day as soon as the kitchen is cleaned.  If we had plans to be somewhere other than near home on Thanksgiving, I would put it up before.  I just love Christmas decorations and twinkle lights!  However, this year, I had to wait until the day AFTER Thanksgiving.  At night.  Sheesh. ImageAs  soon as out Thanksgiving guests left and I had the house put back into order, I dragged out the decorations.  We put Elf on the tv and got into the jolly spirit of the season.

ImageThe girls love to decorate as much as I do, so they were all about helping.  To make it even more festive, they decorated in their pajamas.

ImageThe action packer full of Christmassy things was lugged into the room, and the excitement of revealing all of our ornaments had us all in smiles.  There is something about unwrapping our favorite ornaments that just makes family close.  Without a Hobby Lobby, we have to use what we have around the house to make things look “normal”.  So, a friend had sent me this red deco mesh that I had no idea what to do with.  The mess on top of the tree is what it turned into.  I reminds me of a gigantic tulle bow and makes me a little happy when I see it now.

ImageMy aunt, once again, had presents to start Christmas.  The girls each got a new ornament.  They thought starting the season by opening a present was probably the best idea ever.  Makes me thankful for an aunt who wanted to spoil us.

ImageEach girl worked until all the ornaments were on the tree.  In usual fashion, Ellie’s were all in one grouping.  I tried moving some to spread them out, but she went all bonkers on me because they were perfect.  I think next year she needs her own tree…

We started doing something a little different this year with our family time and the month in general.  We have a calendar that has a pocket for every day.  In each pocket is a tag that has some sort of activity on it.  Some are easy, like sharing memories, while others take more effort, like blessing someone with a treat.  We also do an advent devotion each evening as a family so we can see the progression of promises from our King.  My favorite night was when we shared our favorite memories of Christmas.  Not one of our girls named gifts.  Ellie’s favorite is putting ornaments on the tree and getting a new ornament every year.  Faith’s favorite is being with family.  Gracie’s favorite is being with cousins and grandparents.  One of them will get to experience their favorite this year, and the others will get to learn how to do Christmas with new family and friends.  And FaceTime.  We will always have FaceTime.

Christmas here is different.  It isn’t bad different, but at times it is definitely hard.  I’m not sure my heart has longed for home as much as it has this season.  But in the same breath that I say I want to go home, I am saying how great it is to share the reason for the season.  People are so open to the true story.  Transitioning into Truth is easier than it has ever been before.  We will share and praise Him through the aches of being far away.  We will press on and persevere and find joy that only comes from Above.

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Thanksgiving 2013

ImageOur Thanksgiving holiday started with presents from my aunt, Nanny.  She sent them back in October, but there were notes saying they couldn’t be opened until November.  Who knew cinnamon potpourri could make a house so homey?!

ImageWe had about 30 people in our home for Thanksgiving.  They were all Americans (except for one who claims to be Canadian, but I really think she is a Texan) and 2 local people, but we pretend they are American because they…well, because they are just like us, I guess…

ImageI didn’t really know what to expect, but my expectations were low.  I mean, we are on the Asian continent, after all.  I had thoughts of turkey that is like the beef here…thin, chewy, and barely able to call it beef.  I thought for sure the sides would be good, but not the same as home.

ImageI couldn’t have been more wrong.  It was FABULOUS.  All of it.  We had so much food that I think we all gained weight and still had to take leftovers home.  The food was seriously out of this world.  The turkey was cooked to perfection and the dressing may have been the best I have ever eaten!  That is saying a lot, because my Mama makes a mean dressing!

ImageWe didn’t have room for the desserts, so they had to be hidden away until after we stuffed ourselves.  Then, when we brought them out, we had a hard time fitting them all on the table!  There were so many.  And they were all delicious!  So delicious, in fact, that many had to be eaten for breakfast in the following days.  I mean, someone had to sacrifice right?!

ImageThanksgiving this year was unlike any we have had before.  There are so many things that we see now that we didn’t stop and take the time to notice before, that are true gifts from our Father.  Sometimes it takes leaving all the things we took for granted to realize just how blessed we are.

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