Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Christmas Memories Meltdown

Christmas.  That magical time of the year that we all love to see come, yet hate to see go. This was our reality this past weekend. Little one is three and this was her second Christmas with us and this season was filled with every bit of the awe and wonder of a child. She was engaged in every. single. moment.

The lights-

The nativity & the story of Christmas-

 Decorating the tree-
The special treats that only come at Christmas-

Dressing up for parties-

Putting out cookies for Santa- (and a large one we might add because she said Santa was a big man so needed a big cookie)

Picking out presents for others- (these were some of her choices for daddy’s gift she wanted to give him)

The Ninja Turtle ice cream bowl won and found itself under the tree-

 Reading Christmas stories-

Opening presents-

… and then it happened. 

This past weekend came, things slowed down, and we finally took down the decorations, the tree, and in her mind Christmas was now officially over - and the Christmas meltdown came.


…as the stockings were folded and tucked away for one more year…


…as her almond shaped eyes watch every ornament start to disappear from off the tree…

She loved every ounce of Christmas like no one I’ve ever seen and there was this disappointment in her tear-filled eyes that all of the glitter, the sparkle, and magic of Christmas was now over. (and apparently taking down the decorations made it official) With tears streaming down her cheeks, she held onto us and our only condolence in the matter, was reminding her that we get to decorate for Chinese New Year very soon, so she would get to help put up some new decorations again.

As we took the decorations down for yet another year, I couldn’t help but reflect on so many of the items and ornaments that have come to have special meaning as part of our Christmas. When we first married, we chose to adopt one of the traditions that I had seen in my parent’s marriage—collecting a special ornament from all of the places that we have gone together or ornaments to commemorate special moments from that year. We have a tree that is mainly white, silver and has a few accent colors.

We also have a whimsical child’s tree for Little One to collect ornaments that are special to her and also represent various memories. 
As you can imagine, you cannot always find an ornament easily where you choose to travel, but somehow we’ve managed to look for at least an object that I could creatively turn into an ornament in some way, so that we would forever remember that moment in time each year that Christmas comes along. In addition to ornaments we have collected, we have also been given some wonderful ornaments over the years that also bring back special memories of places, events or people in our lives.

As the boxes came out and little fingers helped to take each of these memories off of the tree, we reminisced of so many special moments God has given both of us in this journey of life and the ornaments that represent each of these stories and so many God moments-

Of my first trip overseas to India, meeting lepers and 600 orphans and seeing the dire poverty and conditions the majority of our world lives in…
Of a special engagement proposal from a wonderful husband who is now a wonderful father…
Of materials once hung around a wedding reception space and now gets spread out underneath our presents and draped beneath our Christmas tree…
Of an engagement ring, and trips to San Francisco and Seattle…
Of ornaments made by Nate and I in our first year of marriage on a “date night” (pretty sure he never let me talk him into that again)…
Of a special Chinese co-worker I first worked with who taught me how to make authentic Chinese dumplings and dipping sauce…
Of a nativity scene from South America that reminds me of all of the places both visited and lived…
Of wrinkled hands of a Grandma that made an angel- 
A dove that represents women and girls in Cambodia that have been victims of sex trafficking, yet have now been rescued…

Of people in Korea that need our prayers and who handcrafted stars and birds as a way to remind us to pray for them…

Of several trips to Guatemala with special friends to minister to our adopted village. Of a special trip where we found this star ornament the year we had been matched with our daughter just days before leaving for Guatemala.  While there we walked dusty roads of our rural village, built a church building, all the while wondering what it was like for our little one to have been in her village in China for a short period of time and what her life currently was like…
Of ornaments given to commemorate us being matched that year…one of which our official adoption photo given to us in China fit absolutely perfectly in.
Of items discovered in China during our adoption trip that will forever remind us of that special time…and the lady in China that gave our little one a butterfly ornament…
Of a little girl that was once an orphan, but is now our daughter. Of that moment that she became ours and changed her name & those first socks that she wore when they handed her to us- a symbol of what she would soon become ( a little star that would shine so brightly in a dark world and overcome the darkness of her story) 
Of little feet, little hands, and little fingers that joined ours that first Christmas home…
Of the first ornament she made her 1st Christmas in her class at church, after 10 very hard months of getting her to acclimate to being away from us (of which now she absolutely LOVES and can't wait to be in each week)
Of balloons and ice cream- her favorite toy her first year with us and what soon became her favorite treat later that year…
Of special Chinese wire ornaments made by individuals in China to help support their family…
Of a handmade ornament box that helps count down the 25 special days until Christmas with special family activities and Christmas books to read…
Of a fortune cookie announcing to everyone this summer that we were adopting from China again.
These ornaments and many more represent so many precious moments in life and in our family. So while the nostalgia from Christmas 2016 dies off and a new year ahead of us begins, we look forward to 2017 and the new moments, new memories, and new experiences that are yet to unfold for each of us. Memories that will somehow find their place on a Christmas tree at the end of this year.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Reflections on Easter

In the very few and far between quiet moments of our day, the pitter patter of little feet running across our bare wooden floor and an angelic tiny voice exclaiming "Easter is coming! Easter is coming!" could be heard at least several times a day in the month of March. We aren't quite sure when it started exactly, except to say that she heard us talking about Easter coming and I guess you can't quite hide from all of the eggs, giant bunnies, flowers, chocolate, and well, "all things Easter" that suddenly appear months in advance in every store where you shop. We could be in the middle of almost anything when she'd suddenly look up at us with a sheepish grin on her face to tell us, "Easter is coming!" Yes, sweet one, it's coming, but let's take some time this year to tell you what Easter truly is about, since you have more understanding. 

Easter this year was quite the contrast to our Easter a year ago. Last year we had been home only a few weeks before Easter arrived.  Little One was so overwhelmed by literally everything, that we did very little her first Easter. We were doing good just to make it to church with her at that point in time. 

[That. little. face.] 

Not a care in the world a bubble couldn't fix...except for when an animal came near.

This was the moment she saw Gram and Papa's little tiny dog coming towards her. (the second time she'd ever seen a dog) To say that we've come a very long way with animals over the last 8-10 months is truly an understatement. This same little dog, she now talks about and loves to cuddle with when she goes for a visit.

This time last year, she wasn't speaking English, she comprehended very little of what was being said, she would have ran from the Easter bunny or anything moving for that matter, quicker than lightening strikes and to put eggs in grass and ask her to go touch the grass to find them? Yeah, right. She hated grass, as in "I don't even want daddy holding me while standing in or near grass" and if she'd venture into it, it would only be for a quick second. 

Fast forward a year...

Huge smiles.  

As in, the kind that will make your heart skip a beat. 

Curiosity, joy and sheer engagement in every.single.little.thing leading up to this special week and special day...

In painting "carrots" with her feet.

(she wasn't so sure about paint on her foot at first)

In painting a cross with sponges and washi tape. 

In painting eggs with potato stamps.

In making Easter treats. 

(of course eggs, bunnies, bird's nests, and crosses were part of the Easter treat lineup; yet, the irony--she didn't like any of our Easter treats & wouldn't even come close to tasting or touching the jello! (haha)

In painting eggs- lots of eggs.

This girl has an obsession (as in a real a real obsession) with all things "egg"--plastic, play sets for cooking, real ones you eat-- it doesn't matter. Our girl LOVES eggs! It was only natural that we painted eggs. (and yes, we chose to paint them rather than dye eggs... in our opinion, way more fun and interesting-- and not to mention...

A two year old + dye + indoors = ruined things 

Eggs + acrylic paint + plastic baggies & little hands = lots of sensory squeezing fun and creativity, paint on eggs and really cool egg designs

[Please be quiet while I focus on my special design.]

We even added some letter stickers and used a realistic set of plastic eggs that were cheaper than buying real eggs - so BONUS--reusable, too!

Yes, we had to have a UVA blue/orange egg. 

In learning with eggs.

Since Little One mastered her ABC's several months ago, we though we'd move on to learning/recognition of the lower case letters, but teach these in a fun way and through playing a matching game by matching up egg pieces. We love it that she calls them the "Mommy" (capital) and "baby" (lowercase) letters. 

In the outdoors & hunting for eggs.

What? You mean I have to wait until you say I can go look for the eggs? Hmm, let me guess- ya'll need to get your cameras and videos ready, am I right?

Hmmm... can I reach that one?

Hey- this one is empty! Since I shake every egg I pick up, I am onto you if you try to be sneaky and didn't put something in my egg. 

Hey, flower and all-- you do what you gotta' do to try to get this little one to look at you and smile for a picture-- as you can see from the above, it wasn't quite working on this particular day. Nor in this picture below either…

(since this was Brielle trying to make a mean face, we captioned this- "This is our mean face because Satan thought he killed Jesus, but guess what- He's alive because Jesus wins every time!")

And of course- most importantly, the Easter story.

Since she loves eggs, we created a "toddler version" of the resurrection eggs. Short and easy so that she could learn and also tell the story through objects. 

Egg 1- A paper heart & a toothpick cross- Jesus loves everyone and died on the cross for us.

Egg 2- A piece of cloth- They wrapped Jesus in strips of cloth and laid him in the grave.

Egg 3- A stone- The put him in a grave and rolled a stone in front of the door.

Egg 4- It's Empty- Jesus is alive! He is risen!

Egg 5- Happy Face-  Everyone is happy because Jesus is alive. 

For some reason, Egg 4 she wasn't too keen on- I'm thinking because it was always empty, but she'd make the saddest face when we'd get to that one. (guess we'll have to keep working on building excitement for that one)

Once it was actually Easter morning, this was about as it good as we could get on Easter Sunday...  she was not much into smiles, but did want to stick close to Mr. Bunny and her blankie that day...

Photo Courtesy of 
Photo Courtesy of 
Thank you, Tyler Corvin, for capturing the one and only Easter shot of our family again this year at church. Apparently, we are starting an Easter tradition with a little one that's not too "into" taking an Easter picture the day of Easter. Ha!

As you can see, Easter month was a lot of fun with a toddler that quickly learned the phrase "I try I try!" "Brielle try, too!" regarding everything that was put before her. From painting, to teaching with eggs, to hearing the words "Jesus Cross" every time she saw a cross somewhere- it was a beautiful Easter season.