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Monthly Archives: September 2015

A visit to the Huadong-Parry Chateau and Winery

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One of the cool parts of living in Qingdao was the opportunity to visit all kinds of cool things, even sometimes things that you would never expect to find in China, let alone in the “small” town of Qingdao (only by China’s standards… there are well over 8 million people living there). Now, being the end of September, reminded me of this little “getaway” just over a year ago…

Some of our best friends had previously visited a local winery and had talked about what a nice time they had. So when September rolled around, I suggested that we spend an afternoon at the Huadong-Parry Chateau and Winery celebrating the birthdays we all shared that month. Trent and I are both September babies, born 6 years and 10 days apart, and two of our closest couple friends also have birthdays in September… in fact, back-to-back birthdays. Justin’s is on the 27th and Zach’s is on the 28th. The three of us couples (Trent and I, Zach and Heather, and Catherine and Justin) decided on a Sunday afternoon, the 21st of September, to visit this place.

Trent and I had a hell of a time trying to get there. After church got out, we grabbed some fruit and cheese to share and headed outside to wait for a taxi. We waited… and waited… and waited… to no avail. We walked to the next street up, hoping that the change of scenery would gain us luck… not so. So after about an hour of waiting, and me VERY anxious to get there, we decided to get our scooter. We hadn’t wanted to ride it since we knew we’d be drinking wine and wanted to be safe, but after waiting for so long, we decided it was our only option. Trent headed back up to our apartment (which is no short trip) while I waited in the hopes that I would still catch something. Nearly 20 minutes later, I did manage to catch a taxi, but now the problem was how do I tell him to wait for Trent??? I told the cab driver in my (very) broken Chinese “hiyo yiga ren,” which meant to me, “There is one more person coming.” He must have understood me because he waited while I called Trent and he ran the half mile back down to where I was. In fact, this driver was very kind. We’ve had all sorts of interactions with drivers and most are grumpy and impatient (I guess who can blame them?), so this guy was a pleasant surprise. When Trent got there, we began driving. The next problem… the driver didn’t know where we were going and since we’d never been there before, neither did we. I called Justin and Catherine, who had already been there nearly an hour and a half by this point, and they put him on the phone with someone who worked there. Thankfully they were also very helpful and about 20 minutes later, we were making our way up this beautiful driveway in the mountains to the chateau. We thanked the driver and paid him and then got out to meet our friends.

We opted out of the actual tour of the grounds, on account of how much time we’d already lost, and made our way to our friends instead. They had already found a cute little pagoda and set up shop underneath it. They had brought in bottles of wine (you are allowed to do so as long as it is their wine- Huadong), cheese and fruit and nut platters that we would all enjoy together. Baby Elijah was comfortably laying on a blanket in the grass. Behind us were rows upon rows of grapes, many of which had just recently been harvested.

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Catherine and baby Eli

Catherine and baby Eli

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We enjoyed some time just hanging out, eating and drinking wine, and taking in the scenery around us. Somehow, being here didn’t feel like being in China. It felt like an escape. With the mountains behind us, and grapes and greenery surrounding us, the chateau seemed like a romantic diversion from the normal grind of Chinese life.

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After a while, we decided to go explore and wander around. Catherine hung back to feed Elijah while the 5 of us wove our way through the endless rows of grapes… sauvignon blanc, merlot, chardonnay…

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After a while, we wandered over to some statues…

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I think this one may have had too much to drink...

I think this one may have had too much to drink…

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…and subsequently up some stairs to another gorgeous trellised walkway where we had a clear view of the whole grounds including the iconic chateau.

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While we were up there, we had a lot of good laughs and lots of great photos.

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The view from up here was great too! There was a small lotus pond and it was quiet and serene.

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The guys even invented a game… grape bowling. Yep, using our *now* empty wine glasses, we tried to roll grapes down the walkway and into the cups. It was harder than it might seem to get the grape to roll over the lip of the glass instead of bounce off of it.

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As we were making our way back, the owners came to tell us that they were closing up, but we weren’t quite ready to leave yet. Fortunately, since Zach and Heather had been here several times and had good rapport with the owners, they allowed us to stay and pack up when we were ready. We stayed and hung out with baby Eli while the boys chatted.

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As the sun was setting, we packed up and then wandered back down the road in search of (several) taxis to bring us all home. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long and were on our way back to reality.

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We really enjoyed our time at the Huadong-Parry Chateau and Winery. We recommend it as a getaway for sure! Their wine is good too! We had a great time!

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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“Bumpdates:” weeks 30-31

Week 30:
Wow! We are three quarters of the way through this pregnancy, which is so exciting, but 10 weeks still seems like a long way to go until we get to meet our little man. This week Jedi is the size of a cabbage. He weighs nearly 3 lbs and is almost 16 inches long. His eyesight is continuing to develop and he’s taking up more and more space in my uterus. This week we had lots of rain, so we took advantage of the rain (and my cute rain boots that I hardly ever get to wear) and took some fun pics!

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This week was significant because it was my birthday week! 30 years old, 30 weeks pregnant. Trent got me a cute little crown and flowers and a card that says, “Life begins at 30.” This is funny because Trent ALWAYS says that about himself… that his life really didn’t begin until 30 (because that’s when he met me). And it is true for us in the sense that 30 is when we will start our family!

We celebrated my birthday a bit early over the weekend and went and saw the movie “War Room,” which we REALLY liked. It is so good… lots of truth in that movie. It was also a good reminder to us to continue to pray for each other, our marriage, and our baby. I totally recommend that you go see it! It’s definitely worth your while! We also went out to eat on my actual birthday at the Cracker Barrel with Trent’s family. I love the Cracker Barrel… so yummy! It was a really nice evening and it was fun to celebrate together. Thank you to everyone who called, texted, sent cards or messages on Facebook! Now only 10 days until Trent’s b-day!

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My free peach cobbler for dessert!  YUMMY!!!

My free peach cobbler for dessert! YUMMY!!!

Everyone being silly ;)

Everyone being silly 😉

On Sunday evening, we celebrated another baby who’s coming soon- our friends Laura and Nathan’s little Rowen. We enjoyed food and fellowship at their place and had a really nice time seeing some old friends. She’s just about 6 weeks ahead of me and will be welcoming their little guy in early October.

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Sadly, this week we found out that another one of our friends, Kelly Kravitz Graham, passed away. She is one of Trent’s friends from way back in High School and I didn’t meet her until she volunteered to be our wedding planner almost 5 years ago. She had wanted to start her own business but she needed practice and references, so she did it for us for free. She helped make our wedding day beautiful and made one of the most wonderful days of our lives very special. She had been suffering for a while from sickness that was controlling her body, so in a way, it was a blessing for her… a release from the sickness and hurt of this world. We went to her viewing and then I attended the funeral (it was on a school day so Trent couldn’t go). One of the only bright spots in this dark time was that Trent got to see a bunch of his old friends from High School. We all went out to eat together and it was a really nice time to catch up (and to meet Van and Kathy’s little man, Declan).

Every time I remember our wedding, I will remember Kelly.

Every time I remember our wedding, I will remember Kelly.

Kelly and Raul (the photographer)

Kelly and Raul (the photographer)

Symptoms this week: I’ve had a few headaches this week- nothing that was too bad or that didn’t get better with a bit of peppermint oil, but annoying nonetheless. I’ve still been pretty tired, but with bursts of energy that keep me busy.

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Week 31:
Jedidiah is the size of a coconut this week! We could only find small ones in our grocery store, so I’m pretty sure that the pictures aren’t actually accurate to his size, but here they are nonetheless. This coconut has nothing on some of the coconuts we’ve had in the Philippines! He weighs about 3.3 lbs and is just over 16 inches long, but he will be rapidly growing in these next few weeks. He is fattening up for birth and is moving around quite a bit.

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This week we had a baby shower for Jedi’s auntie Katey and the little girl she and Nathan are expecting. It was a nice time to catch up with some mutual friends and to see family at a celebration (instead of a funeral). We had a lovely afternoon, Cohen and I hung out at the park when the party was over and we had a long talk about whether Jedi is a boy or a girl. He told me “She can be a mommy when she grows up.” To which I replied, “Well, Cohen, you know that Jedi is a boy, right? Boys can’t have babies.” He said to me with the utmost certainty, “I said SHE, didn’t you hear, she means it’s a girl, HE means it’s a boy.” I told him I’m pretty sure that Jedidiah is a boy, but he remained unconvinced. Silly kid. He will find out soon enough!

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Sunday was a very productive day for us. We got a lot done around the house, yard and garden. It feels good to check things off the “To-do” list (My nesting phase may also play a role in things).

Other than that, we didn’t do anything major until Wednesday, when we went in for an ultrasound. We went voluntarily. We hadn’t had one since we found out that Jedi was a boy at 18 weeks, so a lot had changed in the 13 weeks since then! Jedi looks healthy but not only were his hands in front of his face the whole time, his feet were too! We only got a bit of a profile shot during a moment when his little face wasn’t completely covered up. She confirmed that he is in fact, a boy, and he has hair… lots of thick hair, she said (no surprise there). The only thing that was strange is that he is measuring much further along than we think he should be… the technician put him at 35 weeks… nearly 3 weeks later than we thought we were. She said he weighs about 5 pounds 1 ounce, which means that if he gains another half a pound every week until his due date, that we are going to have one BIG baby! And he measures long. So now we’re trying to figure out when our ACTUAL due date is… whether it is November 19, like we thought, or whether it is November 1, like the ultrasound says. Who knows… but we better be ready for him… he could be here even sooner than we think!

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Symptoms this week: I have just been pretty tired. I have a hard time getting up in the mornings, even after I’ve gone back to sleep after Trent leaves. I’m still having Braxton Hicks contractions, and I’ve been having more cramps in my hips, especially at night when I’m sleeping. It’s also getting harder to move around- especially to roll over in bed!

week 31

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Preparing our hearts…

Preparing our homes and our hearts

As we have been getting closer and closer to Jedidiah’s arrival, we have been preparing our hearts and our home to welcome him in. We’ve started attending natural childbirth classes, have his nursery mostly set-up and we’ve been reading TONS about sleep training, breast feeding… you name it.

So when a friend asked me two questions the other day, “What are you most afraid of?” And, “What are you most excited about?,” I was surprised at how unprepared I was to answer. Casey always asks questions like this, he’s very inquisitive, and they really made me think.

What am I most afraid of?

I think I’m most afraid of how the birth of Jedidiah will change the dynamic between Trent and I. I love my husband. I love the time we spend together. Now that he’s back at school, I don’t see nearly enough of him, and I treasure our limited time together. When we add a baby to the mix… one that has a lot of needs, I worry about balancing our needs as a couple with the needs of our baby and family as a whole.

I guess that I’m also worried that the birth of our baby boy won’t go as I had planned. I have this grand idea of me in the birthing center, totally zen, rocking birth out like nature intended it to be rocked. Trent at my side, with the time and freedom to birth the way my body needs me to. But then I picture some sort of crazy complication or premature labor that would force me to have a hospital birth instead of the birth I have planned for myself. I picture myself out of my element and panicking, pressured to make decisions that I don’t want to make. This scares me. C-sections scare me. Not having control over the situation scares me.

What am I most excited about?

Honestly, I can’t wait to see Jedi. I want to know what he looks like and what his personality is like. I can’t wait to see which traits he exhibits of ours and who he takes after in different ways. I am so excited to meet this little genetic mixer of Trent and I!

I can’t wait to hold him in my arms, instead of just in my belly. Don’t get me wrong, I love having him in my belly. I love his little kicks and love punches, his movements that let me know that he’s there and doing alright. But it will be so different to actually hold him, caress him, kiss his little cheeks! I also can’t wait for Trent to be able to hold him and kiss him and get a chance to bond with him.

I am also super excited to see my husband as a father. Trent is so great with kids and he’s so excited about this baby. He tells me all the time. He loves to lay on my belly… just him and Jedi. I can’t wait to see their dynamic in action. Trent’s going to be such a good daddy and I am excited to see him tackle this new role!

Yet, as I was pondering these questions, I also started to think about something else. Trent and I have been preparing our hearts for the coming of this baby, but I wonder, do we prepare our hearts the same way for the coming of our Lord? Babies take 40 weeks to grow and develop and we know (relatively) when they are coming. There are lists and blogs and countless articles about how to prepare for a baby… but what about for Jesus? The Bible tells us that his return is imminent, and judging by all the different prophesies being fulfilled, he will make his return soon. How soon? Maybe today. Maybe next week. Maybe years from now. But are we ready? Have we prepared our hearts to welcome Jesus back? The Bible warns us to “Keep watch” because we do not know the day nor the hour, but to recognize the signs. “Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door” (Mark 13:29). My prayer today is that I would not only prepare my heart to meet my baby boy, but that I would prepare my heart to meet my savior who came into the world as a baby boy 2,000 years ago. My prayer is that as I prepare to hold Jedidiah in my arms, that I would also be prepared to behold my savior when he comes again in glory. My prayer is that as excited as I am for this little bundle of joy, that I would be even more excited to meet my Jesus face to face. What about you? How are you preparing? Will you be ready for him when he comes?

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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SHOWERed with love (part 3)

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After spending three weeks in Minnesota visiting my family, we finally made our way back to our “home,” Texas. It took us a while to get moved in and settled, for Trent to start working and for us to feel “normal” again. Once we had had some time to settle in, we were thrown another baby shower!

This time Trent’s parents put it on. They suggested that we make it a “Welcome back from China” party AND a baby shower combo. They thought we might like a low-key event where everyone could socialize and where we could see a bunch of our friends, all at once. We set the date for Saturday, August 29th, and sent out invitations.

At this baby shower, I was 28 weeks pregnant… just beginning the third trimester!

Baby Jedi sign facing side

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monkey and Jedi

The big day came and we headed to the Olympia Hills Club House that people in their neighborhood can use for parties and such. Mom, Dad and my sister-in-law Katey had spent the previous night setting up all the decorations and getting everything ready. It all looked great! There were drinks on one table, food on another, the cake and some decorations on the third, and the Beehive, book and gifts on the fourth. That’s right, we got to use Catherine’s beehive again! After this round, there’s hardly any room left for more thumb prints! Sadly, I think most people overlooked the guest book, as only a few people wrote in it. Mom had also set up a special area for the kids with a bunch of toys so that they would have something to do too.

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beehive

The kids' play area

The kids’ play area

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Our friends began to arrive and we were excited to see them! So many of them we hadn’t had a chance to see yet since we’d been back, so we had a lot to catch up on! We had friends show up from church, from (Trent’s) childhood, from school… even from China! We met lots of new babies who weren’t quite born yet when we were home last summer and I met a few other new people too- a friend from Trent’s childhood years, Antonio, and also one of Trent’s cousins, Maggie. It was a great time to eat, chat, and hang out.

Friends that we met at Revolution Church

Friends that we met at Revolution Church

Trent's family

Trent’s family

The preggos (minus one who had already left).  Due October, November, and December (from left to right)

The preggos (minus one who had already left). Due October, November, and December (from left to right)

Our "China" friends, Zach and Heather.

Our “China” friends, Zach and Heather.

Us with Trent's cousin, Maggie.

Us with Trent’s cousin, Maggie.

Trent's friend, Antonio, from WAY back in the day.

Trent’s friend, Antonio, from WAY back in the day.

People ate and socialized while Trent and I made our way from group to group, trying to talk to everyone. The kids were anxious for cake, so we cut our cake and we all indulged in our sweet treat.

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Then we opened presents. Our four year old nephew, Cohen, was very excited to help us out. He brought each gift over and then helped us unwrap or pull out the tissue paper from each present. We had to try to slow him down enough to at least read the cards, but it was a lot of fun, and he sure kept us from dilly-dallying! We got lots of great things for Jedidiah, and knocked off the majority of things that we really need for when he makes his arrival. My Father-in-law and my friend Heather took photos for us.

Our little helper, Cohen

Our little helper, Cohen

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opening Traci's gift

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Annika helped us too.  She kept saying, "That's so CUTE!"  It was adorable!

Annika helped us too. She kept saying, “That’s so CUTE!” It was adorable!

Mom and dad got us some handsome "church clothes" for baby Jedidiah.  Watch out Revolution, some serious swag is coming your way!

Mom and dad got us some handsome “church clothes” for baby Jedidiah. Watch out Revolution, some serious swag is coming your way!

Thank you to all of our friends who made it to celebrate with us!

Here are some other random photos of the day. Enjoy!

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Linda

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Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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SHOWERed with love (part 2)

Baby shower number2

After a wonderful baby shower in China, we made our way back to the States. We spent one short night in San Antonio, dropping off our excess luggage and saying a quick “hello” to the family, before heading to Minnesota the next morning.

I was born and raised in Minnesota and that is where the vast majority of my family still lives. Every year we try to go there at least twice (usually once during the summer and then a second time during the winter) to visit everyone. This year people were particularly happy to see us, since it had been a full year since we had visited. People were curious to know about China and how our travels had been. I also got to have another baby shower! This time, I was 21 weeks pregnant… just past the half-way point, and at least showing a bit.

This time, my sister, my mom and my Aunt Sandy threw the shower. Whenever we go home, we usually stay at my sister’s house, and she graciously offered it up to be used for the shower. My auntie Sandy lives in Wisconsin but happened to be in town that weekend.

When the day came, Sandy brought some games and her famous brownies (drool), my auntie Barb brought her chicken salad, Deb Barger brought her delicious Andes Mint cookies, and my friend Cassie brought lemon bars. My grandma had cut up tons of apples and brought her tasty marshmallow dip. My sister Christie and my mom had meatballs in the crockpot, a delicious salad and other tasty delicacies laid out for everyone to eat.

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As people trickled in, Trent and I greeted them and tried to get some much-needed catch-up time with them. It was hard to be able to talk to everyone… it felt like our wedding… we saw a lot of people at once but it went by so fast that we hardly got to really talk with anyone!

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My handsome hubby was rocking his “The Sympathetic Pregnant Husband” shirt and wandering around with the camera taking photos.

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We used the same beehive drawing that Catherine had made for my China shower and the same guest book for people to write messages in. As people came, they added their thumb prints and messages and then got food and mingled about for a bit. It was a warm day, but the majority of us ended up outside on the patio (my sister has a lovely backyard).

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As always, we had quite the mix of people there… mostly family, church friends, and school friends (from High School and College). After we ate, we did a quick round of introductions and people shared how they knew me. Then the games began!

My aunt Sandy had organized a few games. We began with a baby word scramble. I love these kinds of word games! The second game was based on the game-show, “The Price is Right,” where we had to guess the prices of several baby items and then whoever got the closest to the correct total got a prize. I did astoundingly well (probably only because I had just done my Target gift registry), at least far better than I thought I would do! Then, as part of her gift to me, I got to keep all of the baby stuff she used for the game. Thanks Sandy!

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After the game, we were all quite hot and so we migrated inside to where the A/C was (thank God for air conditioning!). Then it was time to open gifts! I passed my camera off to Jamie, who graciously took photos for us, and Trent, Christie, and I sat down on the couch to get down to business! We opened up so many wonderful gifts! It was very cool this time around because we knew that we were having a boy and everyone knew his name would be Jedidiah. This allowed for some more personalized gifts like this beautiful blanket from my auntie Sandy.

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We had lots of beautiful hand-made gifts- gorgeous crocheted or knitted blankets, hand-made burp cloths, etc.

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We got all sorts of goodies and it was so much fun to open them. It just made meeting Jedi seem all the more real!

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Then, before we knew it, the shower was over. People began to leave and we took lots of photos. Trent and I (and baby Jedi) are all very thankful for everyone who came!

A special thank you to my hosts!

My wonderful Auntie Sandy

My wonderful Auntie Sandy

My dear sister, Christie, who was also pregnant at the time, just passing the 13 week mark!

My dear sister, Christie, who was also pregnant at the time, just passing the 13 week mark!

…and to my photographer(s).

Jamie and Trent both took over camera duties for the afternoon.

Jamie and Trent both took over camera duties for the afternoon.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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SHOWERed with love! Part 1

SHOWERed with love! Part 1

I have been lucky enough to have 3 baby showers thrown for me and baby Jedidiah (maybe a fourth to come with my old co-workers, too).

The first baby shower I had was while we were still in China. It was towards the end of our time there, but the timing of it all was quite tricky. Nearly every weekend for months before we left was taken up with school stuff or other plans, and all of our friends who worked at ISQ (International School of Qingdao) got out a week before we did for the summer break (which also meant that they would be leaving or travelling sooner). I also had some close friends leaving China (permanently) before school got out. When we considered all these things, we decided that it would be best to have the shower on a weeknight. We chose Wednesday, June 3 as our date. I would be 15 weeks pregnant and we had hoped to find out the sex of our baby before the shower (so that it could be a “reveal” party too), but the doctors said that it was still too early to tell.

The host was my wonderful friend, Catherine. She booked an upstairs room in one of the most popular downtown restaurants, The Canvas, for the evening (which is a restaurant that one of our student’s parents own and operate). We decided on a “Mommy to BEE” theme.

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As the date drew closer, I got more and more excited. It still seemed awfully early for a baby shower… none of the typical “bump” games could really be played (since my bump was still very small), but at the time, it was “now or never” and I really wanted to celebrate with my friends in China before we left (for good) to come back to the US. Catherine had been planning for weeks but had warned me “not to get too excited”… after all, we were in China and access to hobby stores or craft places was nonexistent… even Pinterest was sometimes hit-or-miss.

When the evening came, Trent and I took a taxi to Canvas right after our weekly staff meeting. We cab-pooled with some other co-workers and headed downtown. When I arrived and went upstairs, I couldn’t believe my eyes! There before me was the most magical set-up, with lights, decorations, everything! It was gorgeous! Catherine had clearly spent many hours on all the little details. She (and her husband Justin) had hand-made little bees out of pipe cleaners and honeycombs out of Popsicle sticks. She had printed off all these cute little sayings and put them in some photo frames on the tables. Even the water bottles had cute little bee labels on them!

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gracious words are a honeycomb

pollinate the world with the love of Christ

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Thanks for buzzing by

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the whole setup

She had hand-drawn a beautiful bee-hive for “Baby L” where people could put their thumb prints (in yellow, like little bees) and their names. She had also made a beautiful book for people to sign and write special notes in- just like a scrapbook, with pictures and everything!

Baby L beehive

After I composed myself and picked my jaw up off the floor, I went into the bathroom to change, and Catherine dressed me up with a little bee headband. Then I came out to greet my friends.

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friends

Kelly and Alexa

me and Liz

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The beginning of the shower was very relaxed- people came in, we chatted, they ordered dinner and we all just socialized for a while.

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church and small group

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QISS table

Each person also added their thumb print to the beehive and wrote in my book. Another thing Catherine had them do was to write me a message on some newborn diapers so that when Trent or I are doing late-night changes, we can read messages of encouragement or laughter from our friends.

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late night diapers

Meanwhile, Trent was downstairs hanging out with “the guys” and the kids.

the guys downstairs

Justin and Eli

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the kiddos

When everyone had pretty much finished eating, we began with some games. The first game we played was merely an “ice breaker” where we all had to go around and find people who matched certain criteria and write their names on the appropriate number. This was a good game since we had people from several different areas of life… some from QISS (where we worked), others from church (Laoshan New Spring), and others from our “rival” school ISQ. Some people knew others, others did not. The game got people chatting and introducing themselves. The first person who finished won a prize.

game 1

get to know you game

During the second game, I stood up at the front of the room with my back to all of my friends. Everyone began standing. As I read from a list of criteria, if anyone met it, they had to sit down (i.e.- if you are wearing red nail polish, sit down). The last person standing also got a prize.

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game two

The last game, to me, was the most fun. Catherine had e-mailed Trent’s and my parents (sneaky girl!) and had asked for stories about our infancy and childhood. Our parents responded with several facts and stories to share. Catherine read each of the stories out loud and then everyone, myself included, had to guess whether it was Trent or I who had done it. I got all but 3 of them right. It was pretty funny to hear some of the stories that were shared. I believe Kelly Pinyan won this game.

guessing game

guessing game me

After the games, we had cake. Haekyoung, the owner of the restuarant and the mom of one of my 4 year olds, had generously donated my favorite Canvas dessert, carrot cake, for the party (Canvas has DELICIOUS carrot cake). Catherine had made a cute little banner to go across the cake too. It looked almost too good to eat! In addition to cake, there were also cupcakes that Catherine and her mom Charmaine had made. They had cute little “Welcome Ba-Bee” toppers. Both desserts were wonderful!

carrot cake

cupcakes

me and cupcakes

Finally, after cake, was the last part… opening presents. Trent came up and took photos (he had actually been taking photos all night, but had also been hanging downstairs with all the dads and kids while me and the ladies were doing our thing). Trent and I got a lot of cool things for baby Jedi and in some ways, it made the pregnancy feel real. Other than our “Made in China” onesie that we had bought for ourselves and some cute little Chinese shoes and a “100 day outfit” (In China, they celebrate the baby’s 100th day of life) from our ayi, we really hadn’t bought anything for him yet. We had requested that people get things from our registry or that they ship gifts to our home in Texas so that we wouldn’t have so much to pack when we moved countries a few weeks later. We got lots of great gifts, cute outfits, cloth diapers, a jogging stroller and all sorts of other goodies. We are so blessed to have such awesome friends!

gift time

Ecuador

jogging stroller

socks from Raden

Spurs onesie

At the end of the evening, people started to head out. Catherine had made the most adorable shower gifts… little honey facial scrubs (fitting right in with the bee theme). She put them in little jars with bows and labels… they were perfect.

facial scrub sigh

facial scrub

We said our goodbye’s and then Trent and I helped Justin and Catherine take down all the decorations. Baby Eli was there too, in his own little bee costume.

kisses for Eli

Trent and Eli

I can’t even tell you how grateful I was for this amazing shower! Catherine really did an amazing job. I was totally blown away by how much love and time she put into everything and was truly blessed by all that she did. I am so thankful for a friend like her!

Cat and Eli

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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30 years old… 30 weeks pregnant… 30 things I am grateful for!

30 years old… 30 weeks pregnant… 30 things I am grateful for!

Well, today marks 30 years in the books for me! The big 3-0. In some ways, 30 feels old, and in other ways, I feel my life, even at 30 is just beginning. I was feeling reflective today, so I wanted to write 30 things I am thankful for (in no particular order, except for number one and two).

1. My God. He is bigger than I could ever hope or imagine and his outpouring of grace in my life has been incredible. Every time I think about what he’s done in me and through me, I am amazed that he would use someone insignificant like me for his glory.

2. The cross. This Roman symbol of torture and punishment now stands for life and hope because the cross wasn’t the end… the resurrection was. I am thankful I serve a Lord that lives and that has defeated the grave forevermore! I am grateful that by his wounds, we are healed and that his righteousness is now our own. God’s plan of salvation through the cross is beautiful.

30 things I'm thankful for

3. My husband. God’s grace has never shone so bright in my life as when he brought me Trent. So much healing happened through him and I have been so blessed by him. I love my husband and am thankful for every moment we get to spend together!

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4. Our baby. Trent and I are so excited to be parents and we can’t wait to meet baby Jedidiah! What a blessing pregnancy has been for me. We’ve loved every stage, but are anxious to meet our little guy soon!

photo shoot

5. Family. We are super blessed to have two incredible families here who love and support us. But family goes deeper than blood. We have been a part of many “families” who have loved us and taken care of us over the years. I had many host families when I was traveling abroad in college and we certainly had families we were a part of in China. I am thankful for ALL of our families.

My side of the family.

My side of the family.

Trent's side of the family.

Trent’s side of the family.

6. Travel. We have had so many opportunities to travel in the past several years, even before China. My country count is up to 17 and I think Trent’s is up to 12. We’ve also had the chance to travel a lot around the states and to visit many cool places.

7. Friends. We have been so blessed to get to know and love people all over the world. We have friends and loved ones in so many different places and we are so lucky to have so many great people in our lives.

family and friends

8. The Church. When I say this, I do of course mean to include the church we attend, Revolution Church (in Selma, TX); but I also say it to include the entire body of Christ found all around the world. When we were in China we had the opportunity to be a part of a house church that in so many ways, represented what we will see in heaven before the throne of Christ: people of every tribe, tongue, and nation bowing before the throne. It was such an intimate group of believers who studied God’s word together, held each other accountable, met each other’s needs, and lifted each other up. It will be hard to find that here. That being said, our church (Revolution) is so wonderful and we are so glad to be back there! God speaks in powerful ways and is moving through our church. Lives are being changed and people are being saved. Thank you God for what you are doing through Revolution Church!

Rev

9. My Small group. Ever since I moved to Texas 7 years ago, I have had the opportunity to meet with the same small group of girls every Tuesday night. We share a meal together (we take turns cooking) and then dive into the Word. We lift each other up, hold each other accountable, and challenge each other to go deeper in our relationships. I am so blessed to have these ladies in my life!

This isn't all the girls, but here's a few of us.

This isn’t all the girls, but here’s a few of us.

10. Living debt-free! Our two years in China allowed us to pay off ALL of my student loans (about $40,000 dollars) and both of our cars. We had to be very intentional about paying down those loans, but now our house is the only thing we owe on. Thank you Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University! I’m so glad that God put it on our hearts to attend this class just at the right time to make things happen for us. Living debt-free is awesome!

11. Being able to take a year off of teaching. So, BECAUSE we were able to pay off all of our debt, now we can successfully go down to one income. With Jedi coming in just a few short months, this is a huge blessing for me. If we still had debt hanging over our heads, there is no way that I could go without working, but since we don’t have almost my entire paycheck going to pay off these monthly bills, we are freed up for this! I get to have the best job ever (next to teaching)… I get to be a stay-at-home-mommy! This means more time with Jedi, a higher likelihood that I’ll be able to breastfeed longer, and no paying for expensive childcare! Praise God!

12. Being a teacher. Now, just because I’m not working at a school this year, does not mean that I’m still not a teacher. I have been so blessed by the kids I’ve gotten to know and to work with. I really enjoyed my time with my Somali kids when I was doing ESL in San Antonio, and I also had really awesome kids at QISS in China. I can honestly say that this past year was my best year to date of teaching. I had great kids, great families, great co-workers and we had SO MUCH FUN!!! I feel good about taking my hiatus now and leaving on such a high note!

The Somali kiddos I worked with in SA before we left.

The Somali kiddos I worked with in SA before we left.

Our last class at QISS.  This was on one of our fun Fridays.  :)

Our last class at QISS. This was on one of our fun Fridays. 🙂

13. Clear skies! After spending many a polluted day in China, we no longer take clear skies and fresh air for granted. There are many days as we walk outside that we simply marvel at the sky. It is blue! We can see clouds! We can breathe! Ah, the little things in life.

14. American food. I never thought I’d say that, but after living in China for two years, I love the variety of foods that we can get here! It wasn’t that there wasn’t any good food in China… we ate a LOT of good Korean food, but more so that we never really knew what we were going to get. It felt impossible to know where our food came from and if it was organic or not. There were a lot of food safety issues and quite frankly, the food in Shandong is notoriously bad. At least here we can go to HEB (our local grocery store) and know what we’re getting. Being pregnant, this is a huge relief for me!

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15. Technology. Cell phones, maps, translating apps, Skype, WeChat, blogs… you name it. We’re grateful! Living in China, we had a lot of problems with technology… Skype would cut out or the sound or picture quality was terrible, Google was blocked, we had to use VPN’s (when they worked) for nearly everything (Facebook, blogs, Shutterfly, YouTube, etc.). Don’t get me wrong, I’m still thankful for what we had! I imagine people who traveled abroad 10 years ago when they could only send snail mail back and forth to family and loved ones; we were definitely lucky to have been able to Skype or e-mail or chat on Facebook once in a while. But being back and having high speed internet that actually works at high speeds (imagine that) and not having to worry about different things being blocked has saved me hours and hours of my life. Posting blogs or photos to Facebook takes only a fraction of the time, we are able to access things like Pinterest or YouTube for teaching resources, the list goes on and on… thank you Lord for technology!

16. Photos. Anyone who knows me probably knows that I take a LOT of photos (probably too many by most people’s standards), but I LOVE being able to look back at the memories and say, “Wow, remember when we did that?” It helps me remember people, places and adventures that we’ve had all over the world. Now I just have a lot of catching up to do making photo books!

17. Being “cultured.” All the opportunities that we’ve had to travel have afforded us many opportunities. I have learned Spanish fluently and some survival Chinese. We have been able to experience many different cultures, foods, languages, and peoples. Traveling certainly expands one’s worldview and it helps you to see the world differently. I’m thankful that traveling opened up my mind and heart to so many different people, places, and things.

18. Cars! After being in China and having to take taxis everywhere (at least until we got our scooter), we are so thankful for the convenience and independence that having our own cars allows us to have. We spent so many hours of our lives waiting for taxis… sometimes in the blistering heat, other times in the freezing cold, other times with masks on to try to save our lungs from the disgusting pollution! It took so long, it was so hard to communicate effectively where we needed to go, and it cost us quite a bit of money (thankfully our school reimbursed us for most of it). I love being able to jump in my car for a quick errand (there was no such thing as “quick” when we were there). We are blessed to have our own vehicles!

19. Our health. So many people have health issues and are struggling with diseases and cancer and other things. I am grateful for every day that we are healthy and happy!

20. Birthing Centers and Midwives. After being in China and seeing how they “do” birth there (pushing for C-sections), I am thankful for the choices I have here on how my baby will be born. I am grateful that we’ve found a great birthing center with awesome midwives that we really like and trust. I’m thankful for the freedom to choose to have a water birth and to have midwives who want to honor my choices.

21. Freedom of religion. Being back is somewhat of a two-edged sword. On the one hand we can worship freely, on the other, I would still say that there is a lot of religious “persecution” even in our own country. But we can gather freely without fear and worship our God openly here. For this, I am grateful.

22. Our kitty cat. When we left for China, we had two outdoor cats that we adopted when they were very little. They were born in our backyard shortly after we moved in and they were the first batch of kittens that we had to “tame.” It was a very time-consuming process but we grew to love these cats. Several batches of kittens later, and lots of fixing of cats and adopting them out, we kept our two originals. When we returned last summer, both cats were still around, but sadly this summer when we came back for good, only one was left. We don’t know what happened to our other kitty… she was super sweet and affectionate so we’re hoping that someone took her in, but truthfully, who knows? We ARE however, grateful that Little Grey is still around. He was the least affectionate of the two before and much more independent. He would hang around but didn’t seek out human attention or affection. My how things have changed! Now that we’re back, he has been so much more attention seeking. But we love it. Every time we come home, he is waiting for us by the back door. He flops down on the ground for us to pet him and wraps himself between our legs if he feels like we’re not giving him enough time. I love our kitty cat.

The kitty I'm petting is the one that stuck around, Little Grey.

The kitty I’m petting is the one that stuck around, Little Grey.

23. Work. We are so thankful that Trent has a job! God really provided for us and gave Trent a good place to work. I am thankful for all the extra time I have had to be able to help him (now that I’m not busy doing my own work). Thank you God for provision.

24. Our home. Trent and I have lived in the same house since we were married. It was a house that belonged to his grandmother but sat vacant for years. When we moved in, we did a LOT of work on it. We put a lot of sweat, labor and hard work into it. We did a lot of renovations and painted the entire house from floor to ceiling. When we left for China, we had renters. Coming back, we had to do a lot of work again, and spend way more money than anticipated to get the house back to the way it was when we left it, but we are thankful to be back in our home. It’s not just a house to us, it is, has been, and will be our home (and we can’t wait to make Jedi a part of it!)

25. Spanish. For me, going to China was like going to a Spanish-speaking desert. There weren’t many Spanish speakers there and so I felt like I lost a lot of my verbal speaking abilities and vocabulary. But being back, I can surround myself with all sorts of Spanish-speaking friends, books, music, etc. And already, I feel like I’ve bounced back from my 2 year deficit. We’re even reading to Jedidiah at night from a bilingual toddler’s Bible. We’re certainly hoping to have a bilingual son (and his daddy seems to be picking some up as well)!

26. English books and music. Being away was hard. We had some coffee shops that had English books that had been left behind that we could borrow from, but certainly not the choices that can be found in any book store or library here. Same with music. Of course, it can always be downloaded, but we are certainly 2 years behind the times with music!

27. Air1 and KLOVE. These two Christian radio stations were a huge encouragement to us while we were away. Even though we couldn’t actually “tune in” while we were in China, we could still listen and be encouraged through their apps. They were a huge blessing to us while we were away and of course, still are a blessing now that we’re back. Trent and I made the decision a couple of years ago to listen primarily to Christian music. We realized that the junk we were putting into our ears and our hearts was eventually junk that flowed out of them. Ever since we’ve made the change, we’ve noticed a big change in our attitudes and actions and so we’ve been more intentional about guarding our hearts and minds against the “yuck” of this world.

28. China. Even though our two years living in China were full of difficulties and hardships, they were also full of joys, excitement, and fun. Trent and I grew so much more there than we would have if we had stayed here. God called us to something greater, and we followed. We are so thankful that we did! The people we met there, the school we worked for, the opportunities to travel to different parts of the country were all awesome and we wouldn’t change our experience for anything!

The Great Wall of China in Beijing.

The Great Wall of China in Beijing.

Harbin, China

Harbin, China

Qingdao, China, where we lived.

Qingdao, China, where we lived.

Shanghai, China

Shanghai, China

Suzhou, China

Suzhou, China

Xi'an, China

Xi’an, China

29. Adventures. Just because we had lots of cool adventures these past two years doesn’t mean that our adventures end there. We will very soon be embarking on a new adventure called “parenthood” and along with that, I’m sure we will continue to travel and have other “adventures.” I’m thankful that God gave us adventurous spirits! We’ve learned and grown so much through all of our cool experiences.

30. I am thankful for 30 years of life (and ironically, 30 weeks of pregnancy)! Not just any life, but a BLESSED, ABUNDANT life. Thank you all for being a part of it!

What are you thankful for today?

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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