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Our Chinese New Year Staycation

We had a week off for Chinese New Year, and while the warm sun-kissed beaches of Southeast Asia were calling our names (loudly, at times!), we decided to save some funds and have a “staycation” in Shanghai. Our relaxing week was absolutely wonderful, filled with lots of cozy snuggles and simple outings, and we relished our family time together.

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Our school had a wonderful Chinese New Year celebration on Friday, and it was such a fun and festive way to kick off the holiday. The upper and lower school students performed together in the upper school auditorium, and they did a fabulous job! This was the first time the entire school has celebrated together since we have been here, so the event was extra special. Isla joined us, and though she was feeling a bit fussy (teething- boo!), she was amazingly attentive during the majority of the 2-hour performance.150222CNYiPhone_0006150222CNYiPhone_0007150222CNYiPhone_0008150222CNYiPhone_0009Isla visited with the professional lion dancers backstage. She immediately recognized the lions from all of her Chinese New Year board books, and roared at them.150222CNYiPhone_0010150222CNYiPhone_0011150222CNY002The first full day of our break happened to be Valentine’s Day. Isaac scoured pinterest to find these delicious nutella strawberry and cream cheese strawberry french toast roll ups- YUM! Isla helped prepare the breakfast, and we popped a bottle of bubbly to celebrate. Just as we sat down to eat, Isaac brought in a small suitcase and wished me a Happy Valentine’s Day. Inside was a card detailing plans for us to enjoy dinner and spend the night at the Hyatt on the Bund with our good friends, Megan and Jamie. It was such a wonderful surprise, as Valentine’s Day is normally just a day for us to indulge in lots of chocolate and decadent foods… which we still did, of course!150222CNY003150222CNY004150222CNY005150222CNY006150222CNY007150222CNY008“Wah-er!” Isla was totally captivated by the beautiful water features in the Hyatt.150222CNY009150222CNY011150222CNY012150222CNY013Our room had beautiful, sweeping views of the Bund, and Isla intently watched the world below. She beeped at the cars and pointed out every bird she saw. Fascinated by the boats, but not quite sure what they were, she’d yell, “air pane!” each time she spotted one.150222CNY014150222CNY020150222CNY015Sweetest little valentine ever!150222CNY016150222CNY017“Ta da!”150222CNY018150222CNY019150222CNY021Isla has been going through some brutal teething and wasn’t feeling her best, but she really was quite a trooper through dinner so that we could enjoy our meal and conversation with Megan and Jamie. Isla’s wasn’t all that hungry, but she did nibble on a few “noo-dohs.”150222CNY022150222CNY023Sleep was rough (teething really is the worst!), but our morning was leisurely. The breakfast buffet was incredible and we ate entirely too much! Afterward, Isaac ventured down to the hot tub for a soak and Isla and I snuggled up and napped.150222CNY024150222CNY025150222CNY026150222CNY027150222CNY028150222CNY029Isla has always been a very loving little girl, but she has become SO affectionate over the past few months. She loves to give hugs, and now randomly leans in to give us the sweetest little kisses… melts us every time!150222CNY030Smoothies and applesauce were just about the only things that appealed to Isla for a few days.150222CNY031Isla has been perfecting the art of self-feeding. She switches back and forth between both hands, and you can see her brain busily working to figure out how to best angle her hand when scooping and bringing the food to her mouth. She is determined to turn the spoon over, which often results in slopping the food onto her tray or herself. It surprises her every time, and with eyebrows raised she exclaims, “Uh-oh!”150222CNY032150222CNY033A love for art runs in her blood and it has been so fun to watch Isla develop an interest in coloring and painting. She asks to “cuh yer” several times a day and we have been letting her experiment with watercolors. She is beginning to have a pretty good understanding of the process (dip the brush in water, dip the brush in the paint, put the brush on the paper), and she is obsessed with dipping the brush in the water!150222CNY034I discovered that I could pop the individual paint pods out so that I could limit the colors Isla used. With each new paper I change out the colors so she can experiment with different palettes.150222CNY035She experimented with a little finger painting as well…150222CNY036150222CNY037Isla’s first water color painting experience was a few weeks ago, and I did not post the photos earlier, so I thought I would include some favorites here…150222CNY038150222CNY039150222CNY040150222CNY041150222CNY042150222CNY043150222CNY044“Ooooh!”Someone is pretty impressed with herself.150222CNY045150222CNY046150222CNY047150222CNY048The weather was quite mild for most of the week, and we enjoyed numerous walks around our compound.150222CNY049150222CNY050We spent one morning exploring the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium. Above were a few of the only photos I was able to take with my camera before the battery died! Watching Isla’s sweet face light up with wonder was absolutely amazing! She excitedly pointed and said, “Oooooh!” at the very first tank we came to, and her excitement grew and grew as we explored further. The aquarium was a beautiful building and housed many interesting exhibits. Sadly, several of the enclosures were far too small for some of the larger inhabitants (the very unfortunate case with many zoos and aquariums!), but otherwise everything seemed to be well cared-for and clean.150222CNY051New Year’s Day brought brilliant blue skies and incredibly clean air… amazing how the environment changes when everyone is off on holiday and the factories aren’t chugging out smog!150222CNY052Isla proudly wore her qipao for the day. She loved the silky fabric and said, “soft,” as she rubbed her belly.150222CNY053150222CNY054150222CNY055150222CNY056150222CNY057“Fow-er”150222CNY058Isla did her best to lure this neighborhood kitty over for a hug, but apparently hugs just weren’t his thing.150222CNY059150222CNY060150222CNY061150222CNY062We made several trips to the neighborhood park, and Isla worked up her courage to slide all by herself. Hooray, big girl!150222CNY063150222CNY064150222CNY066We enjoyed a very special visit with our dear ayi, Sue. Earlier this month Sue was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and has had to undergo surgery and begin chemotherapy. We are just heartbroken that she has to go through this scary ordeal, and that she can no longer care for Isla. She has been like a second mom to our sweet girl, and Isla absolutely adores her! Even after not seeing her for a month, Isla went straight to Sue as if no time at all had passed. It was a joy to watch them play together.150222CNY065Our friend Lisa joined us for the visit and she gave Isla her first hong bao! Thank you, Lisa! Isla was very excited. Lisa also helped Sue pick out this wonderful book for Isla. It is filled with beautiful artwork and tells the true story of a young Chinese girl who longed to go to college when higher education was not common for women. We love stories about strong girls!150222CNY067150222CNY068Sue’s husband has a bird and Isla was completely tickled watching it. She would giggle, point, and say, “Teet! Teet!” (tweet, tweet)150222CNY069This image absolutely melts my heart! We love, love, love our Sue… and it’s clear she loves, loves, loves our Isla.

150222CNY070Cal, Sherry, and Lucas spent the weekend at the Kerry Hotel in Pudong, so we joined them for a very fun day! We went swimming, ate lots of delicious food, enjoyed happy hour, played a little pool, and ate some more. I was so thrilled that Isla still fit in my favorite of her swimsuits.150222CNY071150222CNY072Isla loves Lucas’ doggy, and I’ve been told she is the ONLY person he will willingly share it with… young love!150222CNY073150222CNY074Perfect piggies!150222CNY075150222CNY076150222CNY077150222CNY078Isla was eager to look at the water, but immediately wanted out once we put her in. We tried our best to encourage her to swim and play, but she would just shake her head and say, “No.”150222CNY079Even sharing a floaty with Lucas wasn’t enough to convince her.150222CNY080So, we snuggled instead. That was just fine with me.150222CNY081150222CNY082150222CNY083Hey, buddy.150222CNY084I absolutely LOVE watching these two together!150222CNY085150222CNY086150222CNY087Isla really loves Doggy!150222CNY088150222CNY089150222CNY090150222CNY091Speaking of stuffed animals, I must acknowledge my new favorite plush pals, Rat and Piggy. They have been absolute life savers this week! We tackled the challenge of sleep training over the break to help Isla get used to sleeping in her own bed all night AND falling asleep by herself. I think Rat and Piggy were key players in our success. Isla started sleeping through the night at 9 weeks, and we thought we totally had the sleep thing down. Then at 10 1/2 months she began teething and we experienced sleep regression. Since then we have had forward and backward progress, and Isla has only slept through the night a handful of times. Take away point: we are tired. Really tired. Neither of us could stomach letting her “cry it out,” but we were all exhausted and we knew something had to change. I have been reading more and more articles that say you need to stick with the method for at least three days to build a habit. So, we thickened our skins as best we could and let her cry. The first night was nothing short of brutal. Instead of holding her until she fell asleep, I put Isla in her crib and she screamed hysterically. After nearly two hours of trying to comfort her, singing to her, and rubbing her back, I finally got her to go to sleep. She was up every hour or so after that. Isaac would go down to her room to check on her, and stay with her until she fell back to sleep. She made it through the night in her own bed, but I don’t think any of us slept more than a few hours. The next attempt was during her nap. I put Isla in her crib and again it was instant waterworks. After a few minutes I handed her a little stuffed rat that was in her crib and she hugged him. I have tried this attempt with stuffed animals before and she has always batted them away. Encouraged by this change in behavior, I quickly grabbed the first stuffed animal I could reach off of her shelf, which happened to be the pig, and thrust him into her other hand. She snuggled Piggy and Rat tightly into her chest and stopped crying. It took a while to convince Isla to lay down, and again I had to sing and rub her back, but this time it only took around 45 minutes before she drifted off to sleep. That night she quickly accepted Rat and Piggy and snuggled up with them. She fell asleep fairly easily, but woke up three times throughout the night. Isaac went down to check on her the first two times, and the last time he called down to her from our room and reminded her to snuggle Rat and Piggy. We hovered over the monitor to watch her reaction, and after about a minute, Isla sat down, looked around, scooped up the stuffed animals and curled up with them. Biggest collective sigh of relief ever! Each nap and bedtime has become easier, and while Isla still cries as we leave the room, it is very brief. Last night by the time I went straight to our room and turned the monitor on she had already gathered Rat and Piggy and was laying down, drifting off into dreamland. Even more impressive is the fact that we’ve had fireworks and firecrackers being set off right outside our house for the new year celebrations (the windows were literally shaking from the booms!) and Isla has slept through all of the noise! When retrieving Isla from her crib we cheer for her and reiterate what a good girl she was to sleep in her own bed with Rat and Piggy. She snuggles into me and grins with pride. It is the cutest! When we have told others about how well Isla is doing sleeping on her own, she knows what we are talking about because she immediately starts clapping and says, “Yay!” just as we have been doing for her. We are feeling encouraged with her sleep progress, and are very thankful to Rat and Piggy for their snuggly assistance!150222CNY093Our mornings have been extra special now that we are all feeling rested. They are filled with lots of happy snuggles, kitty kisses, and the cutest baby bedhead- the sign of a great night’s sleep!150222CNY094150222CNY095150222CNY096150222CNY097150222CNY092

A large strip of restaurants and cafes has opened on Xiuyan Lu, just a short walk from our compound. On the final morning of our holiday we ventured over to Zoo Coffee and enjoyed some yummy waffles. Isla loved her “vah fohs” and was eager to help Daddy blow on them until they were cool enough to eat.

Our Chinese New Year staycation was just the right mix of getting out and about and relaxing at home. We returned to work today feeling refreshed and ready to tackle our final four months of teaching and living in Shanghai. While I know saying goodbye is going to be incredibly painful this week off gave us a delicious taste of what life is going to be like when we get to spend all of our days together… we are very excited!

Shanghai Ocean Aquarium

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We are enjoying a leisurely week off for the Chinese New Year holiday and relishing our family time together. This morning we decided to visit the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium. Taking Isla to an aquarium was one of those “first milestones” I’ve anticipated with great excitement. I could not wait to see her light up with wonder as she came face to face with schools of colorful fish, playful seals, and graceful rays. Determined to capture the magic of these moments, I brought my camera along only to have the batteries die two minutes after walking in the door. Argh! My camera has become such an extension of myself, and it affects how I experience the world around me. Taking photos heightens my awareness, allowing me to focus intently upon and preserve details that I never want to forget. While I was disappointed to have my good camera out of commission on my baby’s first trip to the aquarium, I still had my trusty old iphone 4, albeit slow and grainy, to help me capture our experiences, and I couldn’t love these images any more…Aquarium002Aquarium003Aquarium004Aquarium006Aquarium005Aquarium008Aquarium007Aquarium009Aquarium010Aquarium011Aquarium012Aquarium013Aquarium014Aquarium015Aquarium016Aquarium017Aquarium019Aquarium018Aquarium020Aquarium021Aquarium022Aquarium023Aquarium024Isla was completely captivated by her surroundings and loved examining each exhibit. She excitedly waved to the fish, pointed at the massive sharks in wide-eyed amazement, and giggled as the seals examined her shoes through the glass. Her greatest thrill, oddly enough, seemed to be perching herself along the ledge of each tank. She was absolutely tickled to find so many perfectly-sized seating options everywhere we went!Aquarium025Aquarium026

Our Chinese New Year Staycation » Wayfarer Family - February 23, 2015 - 7:47 am

[…] mild for most of the week, and we enjoyed numerous walks around our compound.We spent one morning exploring the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium. Above were a few of the only photos I was able to take with my camera before the battery died! […]

A Sunday Stroll With Our Baby Bear

A beautiful Sunday stroll resulted in some of my favorite photos of our baby bear to date!

150208Isla001150208Isla002150208Isla003150208Isla004150208Isla006Oh, that sweet, happy face!150208Isla005Some large trees near our house drop small dark blue berries all over the street. Isla is obsessed with them! She is very observant and has incredibly sharp eyesight, so every time we go out she immediately finds the tiny berries and stops to pick them up. While she has never put the berries in her mouth, that is always a concern for us, especially since we have no idea what they are or whether they are poisonous. We scramble to clear the path in front of her, but the mass of berries littering the ground is too much for us. Every walk goes like this: 2 seconds after we step outside Isla spots a berry and picks it up. We tell her, “No, no. Put the berry down, please.” Isla puts the berry down, wags her finger at it and repeats, “No, no.” Then she promptly picks up the next berry she spies. Again we tell her no and ask her to put the berry down. This cycle continues, no matter how many different ways we try to approach the situation. So, on this particular Sunday we set out to find a location in our neighborhood that wasn’t absolutely covered in these  berries. This proved to be a little more challenging than we had anticipated, but we finally located a relatively berry-free patch of ground along a little waterfront boardwalk. Isla’s attention turned to the water, and she happily entertained herself peering through the railings at the pond below.

150208Isla007So in love with this image. Cannot wait to have it printed for the house!150208Isla008150208Isla009150208Isla010150208Isla011150208Isla012Isla and Daddy began singing a popular children’s Chinese New Year song, Gong Xi, and Isla enthusiastically clasped her hands and motioned them up and down along with the chorus.150208Isla013150208Isla014150208Isla015150208Isla016Love this little face!!!

150208Isla017150208Isla018150208Isla019150208Isla020150208Isla021150208Isla022150208Isla023150208Isla024On the hunt for more berries as we return to the house!150208Isla025A little post-walk snack…150208Isla026Isla Grace, Noodle Face!

This girl loves her pasta and has recently broadened her palette to include stir-fry noodles, or “nood-oh’s” in Isla language.150208Isla027

Aida Tabshouri Laubach - February 16, 2015 - 1:51 pm

A D O R A B L E ! ! !

Sandy Marshall - February 16, 2015 - 4:39 pm

Isla is so full of joy and curiosity….much like her DaDa was at this age. xxoo Beautiful pictures!

admin - February 18, 2015 - 7:46 am

Thank you! =)

admin - February 18, 2015 - 7:47 am

She is his mini-me =)

A Lovely Saturday

The month of January kept us incredibly busy with returning to Shanghai, resuming work responsibilities, basketball tournaments, and weekend trips to Harbin and Beijing. We spent the first full weekend of February relaxing at home and it was wonderfully refreshing!

150207Isla001Isla sampled her first smoothie and loved it!150207Isla002150207Isla003150207Isla004150207Isla005150207Isla006We spent lots of time coloring. Isla’s interest in drawing has skyrocketed the past few weeks, and she asks to, “cuh-yer?” several times a day, at least!150207Isla007150207Isla008150207Isla009150207Isla010A few weeks ago we began to decorate some cardboard boxes that we had around the house. Each day we add a few new designs and scribbles. Isla likes to sit inside the larger boxes while she colors.150207Isla011150207Isla012150207Isla013150207Isla014150207Isla015150207Isla016150207Isla017150207Isla018150207Isla019150207Isla020150207Isla021

We ventured into the city around lunch time for a super fun lifestyle shoot and indulged in countless scrumptious xiaolongbao dumplings!

150207Isla_0032150207Isla_0033150207Isla_0034150207Isla_0035150207Isla022Later that afternoon we met up with Cal, Sherry, and Lucas for a little stroll through the city and dinner. It was the perfect way to wrap up our lovely Saturday!150207Isla023150207Isla024150207Isla025150207Isla026150207Isla027150207Isla028Lucas was completely captivated by the fish for sale in one of the alleys. We can’t wait to take him to the aquarium this summer when his family visits us in Oregon!150207Isla029150207Isla030

ACAMIS Basketball in Beijing

Less than a week after freezing our buns off in Harbin, we headed north again to Beijing for the ACAMIS Basketball Tournament. It was Isaac’s final international coaching experience (at least for now!), and Isla and I were so happy to be able to come along and cheer for Dada and his team. The tournament was exciting, we met some wonderful coaches, and Isla became even more enchanted with the game.

BeijingBball001BeijingBball002Isla would stand on the sidelines, clutching a basketball and cheering. I just loved hearing her tiny little voice excitedly shouting, “Go, go, go!”

Isla’s cheering abilities evolved quickly. At a previous tournament she overheard us yelling, “Go, dragons!” We have also been spending a fair amount of time learning about different animals and their sounds. Isla cleverly put two and two together, and at some point during one of the games I asked her, “What does the dragon say?” Expecting her to roar, as I had taught her, imagine my surprise when she promptly responded, “Go, go, go!” LOVE this girl!BeijingBball003BeijingBball004BeijingBball005BeijingBball006When Isla’s attention strayed from the games, she’d wander the sidelines, excitedly scooping up any ball she could find. “Ball! Ball! Ball!”BeijingBball007BeijingBball008BeijingBball009Isla found clappers and thought they were almost as wonderful as basketballs.BeijingBball010BeijingBball011BeijingBball012Occasionally Isla would need breaks from the games and we’d wander around Western Academy of Beijing’s gorgeous campus so she could explore and run around.BeijingBball013BeijingBball014Our little book lover!BeijingBball015BeijingBball016BeijingBball017BeijingBball018BeijingBball019BeijingBball020BeijingBball021BeijingBball022BeijingBball023Oh, that face!BeijingBball024BeijingBball025BeijingBball026

Jan Crocker LaRocca - February 14, 2015 - 5:04 am

I think these are some of my most favorite pictures. Love, love, love them!!!

A Lovely Saturday » Wayfarer Family - February 16, 2015 - 2:07 am

[…] Shanghai, resuming work responsibilities, basketball tournaments, and weekend trips to Harbin and Beijing. We spent the first full weekend of February relaxing at home and it was wonderfully […]