Saturday, July 31, 2010

Vacation Pt. Deux....

For the second half of our Oregon getaway, we headed to the Oregon Coast. On the way we stopped by our old stomping grounds, OSU, to show the kids the campus. It had been nearly 20 years since I had been there, so some of the campus had changed much, yet some stood still in time.

We met up with Mike's twin brother Pat and his family in Waldport, Oregon. We rented a beach house that was the perfect setting for us. The front door view was of the Alsea Bay Bridge and blue sky, while the back view was all beach, overcast skies, and the beautiful Pacific Ocean! In between was sand, and I mean lots of sand! We had snow shovels so that the sand could be moved off of the driveway, and there was literally a sand dune right next to the house. As the kids ran, jumped, and boarded their way down it, I was sure one of them was going to come straight through the window! I have tried several times to post video I have of this, but for some reason it is not working. I will try and post it later as its own entry.

Our days were spent kite flying, rock hunting, exploring tide pools, playing in the sand, wild adventures that made moms nervous, and just plain chillin'. Oh yeah, maybe some swimming in skivvies and a little shopping too! Nights were spent around the campfire, and staying up late watching movies (the teenage boys, that is).

The Oregon Aquarium was entertaining for all ages. The sea otters and the shark tunnel were favorites.

We finished off the week by visiting old friends (I say that lightly) from our Navy days, the Whitehursts. Another family from our Navy days also happened to be in the area at the time, so we had a wonderful evening together eating great BBQ, reminiscing of days gone by, and catching up with family life. Was a great way to wrap up the week!

If you noticed that Kellen is missing from the coast pictures you are very observant! Following the tour of OSU he headed out on his first road trip to Sacramento to see one of his good friends. I am happy to say he has made it home safely, and although he was missed by us, he had a good trip of his own. Of course, he forgot to take any pictures!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Wedding...

Remember the engagement I wrote about a few months back? Well the big day was finally here, and it was memorable! Tiff and Nate got married under a tent on his Grandma's property, surrounded by farmland. Thank goodness for the breeze, as it was in the 90's that day! The bride was gorgeous, and a good time was had by all. Other highlights were: Grandpa Inks, at 91, dancing with Jaelyn, Kaia getting into quite the tug-of-war over the bouquet (and not crying when she lost), the girls spending the evening taking turns playing photographer (took quite a few of the photos below), and the entire Crebbin Crew cutting it up on the dance floor!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Can You Help Diana....

Diana is a 16 year old orphan who shares the diagnosis of Type I Diabetes with me, so I have an extra soft spot for her. Diana lives in an orphanage in Kazakhstan where they don't have the finances/know-how to help her get things under control. She is now too old to be adopted, but has an opportunity to return to the United States (she got some care in Texas awhile back, but the doctor then said she needed more help) to get care. The medical expenses and a host family have been arranged through the Antares Foundation, but help is needed with her travel expenses, which will be around $5,000. You can go to The Crab Chronicles to see a picture of this beautiful girl, as well as find out how to contribute and possibly win a Russian Nesting Doll for your efforts. Thanks for considering how you can help this young lady live a healthy, full life!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chaoyang Video...

Here is the video we just made of this year's time at Chaoyang. I actually can take some claim to making it this year (or blame), as Mike showed me how to do some of it myself. The song Follow You is by Leeland, and Brandon Heath, whose song we used on the 2008 video, sings on the track too. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Grandma Great, a GREAT Grandma...

One of my recent posts was titled Still Processing, and one of the things that has been on my mind is my Grandma's death while I was in China. Where I have been very emotional in leaving and remembering the kids in China, and Yung Yung's mom, I have not cried about my grandma at all. It' not that it hasn't affected me, but my recent tears have been sad ones, knowing the kids are still without families. My grandma lived a completely different experience....she was raised in a wonderful family herself, married to my grandpa for over 50 years (can't remember exactly how many before he passed in 1995), and was a wonderful mother, loving grandma and great-grandma. I can only remember happy thoughts when I think of her, and knowing she is living life fully now with her heavenly father, I shed no tears. That may change when I attend her memorial tomorrow, but for now I smile.

One of my favorite memories of Grandma is taking her to the Mariner game for her 90th birthday! She was the biggest M's fan I knew, watching or listening to every game. She and I would regularly discuss individual players and stats regularly, and she knew more than I did! She had never been to a major league baseball game before, so my niece Tiffany escorted her up on the train, where we all (my parents, brother Jeff and his family, and all mine) met up, and she had a wheel chair escort to her seat. A birthday greeting was on the reader board, and she received a Mariner hat and ball. She was like a little kid in a candy shop! To top it off, the game went into extra innings, and unlike the games of late, they won!

Grandma's father was one of eleven children, and the descendants gather annually for a family reunion in Coulee City, WA. Grandma was raised there on a wheat ranch (but she was born in Mold, a town that is no longer in existence), and I enjoyed the tales of her childhood when at the reunion. Grandma was the eldest living cousin, and below is a picture of the cousins at the last reunion she attended, in May of 2005.

The photo below was taken this past Christmas, and I love it! It was taken with all the great-grandkids, whom are all wearing hats that Grandma knitted. Notice the Mariner blanket on her lap....we gave that to her a few years ago for her birthday, and she always commented how much she liked it. It was one of the few things that stayed with her to the end in the nursing home.

Grandma, we will miss you, but thanks for a wonderful example of living a loving and Godly life!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jaelyn's Tooth...

I might've missed Jaelyn's first tooth, but I promised her I would get a picture of it when I got home. Well it just so happens that today Jaelyn pulled her second tooth out, so I got a shot of Jaelyn's smile with an extra big gap on the bottom! Dad pulled the first one, so she was so proud of herself pulling this one. She didn't tell us what she was doing in the bathroom; such a brave little girl!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Still Processing....

Thankfully our trip home was uneventful, other than landing 1/2 hour early, only to be told customs wasn't open that early (5 am), so they wouldn't allow us off the plane. Oh well, after 10 1/2 hours, what's 30 more minutes?

My children were all awake (quite a feat for the teenagers) and anxiously awaiting my arrival at the front door on Saturday (Ground Hog day....we landed almost four hours before we left). It felt so good to be home and on the receiving end of so many hugs! My husband was even making blueberry pancakes, something I had been fantasizing about on the flight home, but since I already had three breakfasts, I saved them for lunch:)

However, coming home and integrating back into "normal" life is quite the process. I bawled my eyes out at church yesterday, and every lyric or word our pastor spoke would take me back to China. My mind kept wandering back to what the kids were doing at that moment....did they miss us? Were the nannies still taking the non-ambulatory kids out of their cribs? Did all the toys get put back into storage?

Yesterday we celebrated our countries Independence, which I so appreciate, but part of my heart was left back in China (again). It didn't quite feel right walking around the carnival and watching the fireworks with my family, while wondering if Yung Yung's mother was still alive. The really difficult part is that most likely I will not have answers to most of these questions that are bouncing around in my brain. Maybe I will feel better after adjusting to the right time zone, but I hope not. I don't want to forget, because the nannies, children, and China need our prayers...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Quick stop in Beijing and then coming home

Well we arrived in Beijing safely, but not uneventfully! The same thing happened to us this year as did two years ago when we were leaving the Chaoyang airport. Seems the security people have way too much time on their hands, so they check our bags thoroughly. Can you see me in the background of the photo below? They made me open my suitcase and remove my hairspray from my checked bag. Their explanation for this request is the tiny flammable symbol on the back of the can. Funny how the US and Beijing didn't care, but for some reason Chaoyang did. One of our van drivers was very eager to take the products home. His head was shaven, so must be a gift for his wife! Tracie got in trouble for snapping this photo of me...silly Americans!

We decided to eat a quick lunch at the airport so we could spend more time shopping. Funny thing is I don't even eat McDonalds at home, but a burger sure did taste great. Just couldn't resist a photo opportunity with the lucky employee who got to wear this outfit.

The rest of the afternoon was spent shopping, and unless you've been here you just can't understand it. Although it doesn't seem quite as high pressure as it was two years ago, right before the Olympics, it is pretty crazy. I haggled with the gal in the picture for two dresses for my girls. She told me that she was making "no profit" but I told her she loved me anyway. She said she did love me, and agreed to a photo.

We just returned from a walk to Tiananmen Square, and some of us decided to take a motorized rickshaw back to the hotel. That was quite the experience, but the breeze cooled us down in the humidity. Now it is after 10:00 and we have to leave by 5 am.

Two groups of people leave early in the morning and one in the afternoon. Our last team member, Ying, is staying in China and catching the train to visit friends. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers over this trip. It really has been amazing, and lots of support from friends and family makes it all happen.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

So Much to Say…

There’s so much to say about today that I’m not sure I can do it all in one post. I will try and keep it as short as I can, but I’m not sure that would do it all justice.

We weren’t positive the boarding school kids were going to make it today since it is a school day, but we were thrilled to see their faces as we arrived. They are always anxious to see what is in our bags, and we didn’t disappoint them with crafts, toys, and candy! The playground and padding were all up and ready to go, so it was fun seeing them put it to good use. Despite us being in yet another paper today (six photos in this spread), there was another journalist and photographer team following us around. The photographer stayed with us until the very end. In fact, we even dropped him off on our way back to the hotel.

One of the best experiences of the morning was making dumplings with the nannies! We were invited to stay for lunch today and eat with the kids and staff. What we didn’t know was that we were helping to make the lunch, but I’m glad we did. They would roll out the dough (with lightning speed), and we would stuff the circles with the pork, celery, and ginger mixture that was made, then we would pinch them closed. If we didn’t do it in just the right fashion, the director did not hesitate to correct us. He surprisingly joined in though and rolled out the dough. The nannies then cooked up the dumplings and the rest of the meal (they grow most everything there), and we were able to enjoy it with the kids. I sat with Booger and another boy from the boarding school, and he was the sweetest 12 year old I have ever met. Every time my bowl was empty he would reach to get me more food. If someone spilled, he would quickly grab for a napkin and clean it up. He also walked around the entire room and refilled everyone’s drink. This boy is going to make some husband someday!

My Polaroid camera was a hit today. I was able to take pictures of the older kids with us and leave them with them. I also took pictures of some of the men that work around the place, which they loved. Even the professional photographer asked to have his photo taken. So funny that everyone was so intrigued by the old technology.

Our tradition in Chaoyang has been to throw a birthday party the final afternoon, and we didn’t disappoint. The cakes are always beautifully decorated, topped with lotus candle fireworks☺ Throw fresh leechy nuts and peaches in the mix, and voila, you have a party! The kids had a good time, and the staff joined in. All the kids from baby to teenager wore the t-shirts that we made earlier in the week.

It has also been our tradition that we leave our handprints on the walls when we leave, and we add to them each year there are new team members. Well since they are in a new building this year, we had to start over, but didn't have time for all the fancy painting that we did previously (that's slated for next year!). We would also write our name next to the handprints, and Ying would come around to write it in Chinese. We even got our guide Steve to participate!

After the party it was time to say goodbye to the boarding school kids, as they had to go back. Not before taking some group photos by the playground though. After helping clean up we said our goodbyes to each room of kids. Lastly is the nannies, which always makes it tough to keep it together if they are crying. I almost made it this time….It made for an interesting ride though, as the reporter was in our van snapping close up shots of us as we're wiping snot from our noses! It was a bit annoying, but if us showing our hearts in these photos brings more attention by locals to the children in the Chaoyang orphanage, then it is worth it!

After dinner we surprised our teammate Marilyn with good ole’ Ding Dongs from the USA to celebrate her birthday. The staff at the restaurant must have overheard us, because the next thing you heard after blowing out her candles was “Happy Birthday to You” over the piped in music. I’m sure this was a memorable birthday for her.

Tomorrow morning we fly back to Beijing for our last day in China. It will be a busy day of some site seeing, but I will try and post one last time tomorrow night.

Not a Failure...

This post is a tribute to my wonderful husband, whom encouraged me to go back to Chaoyang again this year while he stayed home with the children. When I spoke with him this morning, he informed me he was a "Tooth Fairy Failure," because Jaelyn lost her first tooth yesterday, and the "tooth fairy" forgot to pay a visit. Thank goodness children are so forgiving:) When Jaelyn woke up she said "Daddy, you forgot to be the tooth fairy last night!" Mike felt terrible and apologized, to which Jaelyn responded "I forgive you Daddy, but don't forget tonight!"

Mike, you aren't a failure, just a busy single dad! Jaelyn, Mommy is sorry she missed your first tooth, but I promise to take a picture of you in two days and post it on the blog, just like I did for Kaia two weeks ago. See you all soon!