Monday, May 31, 2010

Goodbye #3...The Final Farewell

I saved this farewell for last because quite honestly it was the most difficult. Please indulge me and let me tell you a little story.

Once upon a time in a small southern town there was a little girl with dark black hair and almond shaped eyes who had just taken her first steps about a month before our story begins. There was a dinner party one evening and her little world got just a bit brighter. You see God saw fit to bring a little blond headed girl with big sweet brown eyes to that same small southern town and the love affair began at just 15 months old. The two quickly became best buds and went from playing alongside each other to being inseparable. The contrast of the two of them in pictures is just about perfect. The milestones that these two little ones experienced together can quickly take you through the life of most 2, 3 and 4 year olds but something about them experiencing them all together made them that much sweeter.

Toddling, walking slowly and finally running......only to fall and get skinned knees, flip flops, pigtails, water sprinklers and big swimmie diaper hineys.

Hand mime dances, immunizations, making it thru Sunday School and Church in the nursery because the other one was there, temper tantrums, first baby doll strollers, and birthday parties with balloons.

Moving to big girl beds ( least one of them actually moved to hers), ice cream cones, Chick-fil-a kids' meals, big girl panties, transitioning from Vacation Bible School "mascots" to actually attending....but only because the other one was there too, being silly, being serious, yucky sicknesses and countless boo boos.

Hurt feelings and kisses to quickly make up, crying when had to leave each other, squeeling with great gusto to see each other only 2 hours later, adopting each other's grandparents as their own, playdoh, puzzles, tricycles and then onto bicycles.

Big kid Sunday School and big church, footie pajamas, silly faces, and halloween april, sparklers, imaginary friends, becoming big sisters-- in their homes and in their hearts, bathtimes together and blowing bubbles. Board books to big word books and fun trips to the library.

Most of these things that these two experienced wouldn't be considered extraordinary or unusual for the normal American toddler but that is where this story is a bit different. You see these two have something very special. God chose to knit their two little hearts together as the first "bess friends" they ever had and it was a beautiful thing for those of us that were around to watch. These two had oh so similar yet different enough personalities that allowed them to play for hours and hours on end without so much as a cross word and when they did then the apologies were quick to come so that their friend wouldn't be sad anymore.

Now there is another part of this story that makes it sweet. You see the black haired little girl had a mommy and the blond haired little girl had a mommy and they became the best of friends during this story too. They walked through some pretty major milestones of laughter and rejoicing, grieving and crying, playing and praying, eating and cooking.....all while watching and praying for those two little ones as they grew. Isn't that just like God to give a mommy an extra special friend that makes play dates fun for her too. Their daddys also enjoyed being together so their families were often found eating or playing all together....they intermingled quite nicely.

Well, the story hit a bit of a bump in the road when one of those little girls had to move away from that small southern town with her mommy and daddy. They had to say goodbye and it was sad. The little girls, that blonde one and the other one with almond shaped eyes....well they haven't hugged each other in over a month now......their mommies haven't had a cup of coffee or discussed any pioneer woman recipes together either. It is sad.....but as the girls in our story know, it's ok to be sad but it's not ok to throw a fit or act tacky so ......we will move on before anyone gets into trouble.

These two little girls still get to talk to each other a bit but now they use the computer and it's just not the same. It's bedtime for one when it's breakfast for the other and bathtime isn't as fun when your friend doesn't giggle at the bubbles you blow on her nose. So for now, we will bring our story to a close, or maybe we should just pause it, as we are certain that God isn't finished writing this sweet love story that He chose so graciously to begin in the hearts of two little girls who couldn't look more different or love each other any more.

We miss you Eva!

This story was fondly recalled by the mommy of the little girl with dark hair and almond eyes and lovingly dedicated to the mommy of the sweet little blonde with big brown eyes.

Painting Rocks

Friday, May 21, 2010

Saying Goodbye--#2

My girlfriends.......oh my sweet, dear girlfriends. I miss you terribly every day and pray that God will see fit to give me friends here in China that would love me only a portion of the amount you all did.

I want to take just a moment to try and express what my friends in Aiken have meant to me. I know that I won't be able to fully express all that is in my heart but I feel I must at least try b/c God really deserves the glory for what He did for me through all of you. We moved to Aiken and I knew only 2 people there and He just poured His blessings on me with wonderful, Godly, women of all ages and backgrounds to surround me and love me through the 7 years we were there. I have come to realize, as I have gotten older, how precious it is to have true friends that you can laugh, cry, rejoice and grieve with. I have that in you and I'm so very grateful for that. I do not take it lightly that God allowed me to have that season of my life there with you all. It was a precious time for me and your friendships are priceless.

I was given a great going away dinner one evening in downtown Aiken at Tako Sushi with many dear friends in attendance. I had such a wonderful time and felt very loved! Thank you Danielle & Emily for getting us all together.

We laughed and laughed and then I cried a bit when they presented me with a very special gift. I have always admired my friend Emily's necklace with special little drops for each of her girls and that night I got my very own. I absolutely love it and will fondly remember that night and all that it represented with each of you being there to make me feel so special. It was really a neat evening for me as well b/c my mother-in-law, Ann, was in town and got to be part of the evening. I was so blessed to have her at the house with Xan and I for 3 weeks and I know that she fell in love with my friends just as they did her. It was just a really great evening.....thank you!!

Again....I have lots of pictures from that night so I've put a few here and a link to the rest. It was such a good evening.

Kimberly and Susan







Amanda & Teresa

Thank you so much was wonderful!

Here are the other pictures.....

Friday, May 14, 2010

Flat Stanley

Dear Kenley,
Ni Hao (pronounced Knee-How and means hello)
Thank you so much for allowing Flat Stanley to come all the way to China to visit us. It takes a very long time for mail to arrive here and return to the United States so I decided to write you an electronic letter so you would receive it sooner and be able to share it with your class.

It was a very long trip for Flat Stanley because he came all the way to Suzhou, China. That is pronounced "Sue-Joe" and is very near the large city of Shanghai, pronounced "Shong-High". It is thousands of miles between Texas and China so he flew on an airplane for almost 20 hours to get to us. Suzhou has approximately 3 million people that live here and China has over 1.3 billion people compared to the United States which has 307 million. The city of Suzhou was established in 514 BC so it is over 2,500 years old. That sure is a lot of history isn't it.

We did some fun things with Flat Stanley while he was here and should he come back he should bring clothes just like you are wearing in Gail right now. Our climate here is very similar to yours with the exception of the humidity. We are relatively close to the ocean so it is more humid here than you are used to so he would probably think that it felt hotter here than in Texas.

We took some pictures of him during his visit with us and we wanted to share them with you.

We do not have a car here in China so we walk or take a taxi most of the places we want to go. That seems very strange to you I'm sure since in Texas almost everyone has at least one car and you would never think about walking to the store or taking a taxi to eat at a restaurant. Well, it is a bit different here because everything is somewhat close and there are many, many stores and restaurants that are only a 15 or 20 minute walk away or a taxi fare of only $2 - $3. This was Flat Stanley's "car" while he was here with us. He seemed to not mind it too much and always had a smile on his face.

Now many people do have cars here in China but many more people travel by bicycle....both the old fashioned, pedal-to-make-it-go kind, and a more popular kind, electric bicycles. Some look exactly like a regular bicycle with a little motor on the back and others look more like small motorcycles. They plug them into the wall at night to recharge them for the next day and they are very quiet and good for the environment too because they don't pollute the air. We are thinking about getting one for our family but they drive kind of crazy here so we may wait a while longer before doing that. Here is a picture of the bicycles parked outside of a local bank. You can see what we mean that there are literally millions of them on the streets here.

I mentioned earlier that China has a whole lot of people and because of that they do many things that we would do with machines in the US with people and very basic tools. For example, there are people whose job it is to make sure that the streets and sidewalks are kept clean and swept daily. This sweet woman works near our home and we have seen her before so she was kind enough to hold Flat Stanley while we took their picture. That broom in her hand is what she uses to sweep the sidewalks and the streets every day. That would be a tough job don't you think.

Speaking of home, we also took a picture of where we live so you could see where Flat Stanley stayed while he was here. We live in a high-rise apartment building on the 11th floor. We have 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms a kitchen, living room and office.....just like houses in the US except that we are all built on top of each other. Here are some pictures of Flat Stanley pointing to our home and then looking out onto our courtyard from our balcony. We held onto him very tightly and he didn't act scared at all to be so high. He is very brave.

His left arm in pointing right at our building.

Looking out from our balcony. Suzhou is known for beautiful gardens and you can see in this that they really are pretty.
We also took Flat Stanley to our local neighborhood market where we buy a lot of our groceries, or at least our fruit, vegetables, eggs and some meat. It is very similar to a farmer's market in the US except for the live fish, snakes and other creatures. The produce is just wonderful and we have had a lot of fun picking our new fruits and vegetables to try. Here are some pictures from our trip there.

You just pick out the fruit that you want to purchase and they weigh it and then add up your total. If you need vegetables then you go to another area and do the same thing. They are usually very nice and are kind to help me understand.

We don't buy our eggs in cartons here (you can get them that way at some stores) but these are very fresh and taste very good. You just pick out the ones you want and they bag and weigh them for you. You can actually purchase almost any kind of bird egg you wish.....some are very large and others are very small. We have only purchased the chicken ones so far. The only problem is getting them home without breaking any. We lost 4 of 12 on this particular day due to an unfortunate stroller tipping incident. Xan and Flat Stanley were both fine but the eggs didn't fare so well.

Flat Stanley was quite popular at the market and several onlookers wanted to have their picture made with him because he was from the USA. We were happy to let them pose with him. Flat Stanley didn't seem to mind at all.

Now here in this market you can also purchase fresh cut meats (mostly pork), and dried beans, rice and grains too. The most interesting part of the market though is the fresh seafood area where it really is's still living. Here are just a few of the items we could have if we wanted them (but we haven't and I'm not sure we will).



We also attracted the attention of a little boy while out that day and he wanted to examine Flat Stanley pretty closely. He held him and then when I asked him to show him to us he struck this pose. I guess the language barrier is just as big for him as it is for us.

Isn't he just so cute. You know that your cousin Xan was born in China so she looks very similar to most of the people here and they are always very kind to her. The hard part is when they try to speak to her and they think she knows Chinese. She usually just smiles at them and says "I don't speak Chinese". They usually smile back and nod like they understood...we don't know if they do or not. People respond very favorably when we are able to communicate to them that she is our daughter and that we adopted her from China. We are all going to be learning the language so hopefully we will all be able to speak with these sweet people soon.

This is our friend Fu Wong (we would say Wong Fu but here in China they say the last name first). She is our ayi (pronounced "ahh yee") and she comes to our house to help us and sometimes watches Xan. She doesn't speak any English and since we don't speak Chinese yet we do a lot of communicating with sign language and a translator on our computer. You would be surprised though that a smile is the same in any language and she always has a sweet smile for us. She was also excited about Flat Stanley coming all the way from the United States.

Well that seems to be it since our visit with Flat Stanley was so brief but please allow him to return someday and Kenley, maybe you and your family could come with him. We could visit the Great Wall and some of the other beautiful things here in China.

Here is one last picture of Flat Stanley on his way back from China. He wanted to take our book with him so he could practice his Chinese but we talked him into leaving it here for us-we still need it a lot. He will see you soon and may have a little treat in the envelope for you.

Zai Jian (pronounced Zigh Gee inn)
Stan, Megan and Xan