Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Johnsons!

This year marks our 4th Christmas we have celebrated together. I think we must be growing up or something, because our gifts to each other were very mature. For Christmas this year, we bought dressers for each other. Very useful, needed, wanted, pined for, and finally owned! We bought them on sale at IKEA--which means two things: decent price; assemble on your own. As Adam was working on putting together our new pieces of furniture, he commented, "IKEA is for the lego generation". And it's so true! I had to laugh, because with this new perspective in mind, Adam looked a lot like a little kid putting together a lego project or knex creation--all the pieces spread around him--following the picture only directions.

I think he had fun putting the dressers together--and I am so thankful that he enjoys this type of job because it looked way too complicated for me to figure out.

Christmas Eve!

Because we did not buy any small gifts for each other, under the tree would have been a very bleak place if not for our families. The Johnsons, Kangs, Hinzes, and Koedykers are very generous when it comes to sending packages to China. This Christmas we received 7 packages! We had so many thoughtful gifts under the tree this year! I can't remember the last time I was given so many gifts for Christmas!!! We were truly blessed by our families who have used the US post office as an avenue of love and thoughtfulness. The last of the packages arrived just in time too--Christmas Eve!

Look at all those presents!

Adam's brother, Luke, sent him an interesting wardrobe choice.

Looking at a little book of cookie recipes...thinking about what ingredients I have on hand.

My mom sent a murder mystery dinner party game--this will be the 4th one that I've gotten to participate in, and the 2nd that I will get to host! Adam already knows which character he wants to be--the WWII fighter pilot. It's set in Paris in the 1940's--so it should be lots of fun!

I'm also really excited about this gift--it's a shower curtain!

Adam's Grandma sent us several fancy soup and dip mixes--we're excited to eat these gourmet foods! :) Nothing like this in China...

The aftermath of opening our gifts...Thank you family! Your gifts were so great, we loved them all! Thank you for remembering us and making us feel so special and loved! :)

However, the greatest gift of all, and something that Adam and I are extremely excited about, is something that has made me pretty sick the last several weeks. Our family is growing, and this will be our last Christmas as spoiled, boring adults. Our baby will be joining us in July 2011!

Here is a picture of my baby bloat. That bump is not really the baby yet, but I'm growing a lot. I wish I could say that I was sticking my gut out for this picture. Apparently, I have no where to grow except out--and I am very thankful that all the maternity clothes I ordered from the Gap will fit me! Thanks for sending those, Mom! I'm feeling a little better lately, and very thankful for the break from teaching. The baby is quite well--we just had our 12 week check-up and everything is progressing nicely. Ok--the weird thing about my recent appointment was that I hadn't gained a single pound since my 6 week check up--looking at my is that possible?

12 weeks

Not a very clear picture--the ultra sound machine is not the best--but you can sort of see the baby!

Merry Christmas to you all!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Banquet

This year's middle school Christmas Banquet was quite impressive, and probably impossible to top. This could be due to the location, a swanky hotel called the Crowne Plaza, or maybe it's because the hotel's manager has two kids in SYIS' middle school. Regardless, it was a fun night for the students, as well as the teachers. I think everyone was shocked by the splendor that awaited us. First of all, the Christmas tree lighting ceremony was going on in the lobby downstairs--carols could be heard from the balcony where we were being served appetizers, and cocktails (sparkling apple cider in champagne glasses). The students looked so cute! The guys were dressed up in suits and ties, while the girls were wearing dresses with fancy Asian accessories and clutches. It was funny to see some of the 6th grade girls wearing mascara and lip gloss. While we were still enjoying our "cocktails", the students had an opportunity to get their pictures taken--at the end of the banquet, the hotel staff gave us printed copies of all the pictures they took at the beginning. What a sweet idea!

Because Adam is the sponsor for Student Council this year, he had a front row seat of all the planning that went into this event. He helped his 6th, 7th, and 8th grade representatives meet with the hotel manager and staff to set up the details of their banquet. He sent out the invitations, permission slips, and made the seating chart. He did a good job promoting the event, while allowing the StuCo kids feel like they had full control of the event. It was precious to watch the StuCo kids manage the banquet--the staff went to the kids if they had questions or instructions to pass on--they felt very important and responsible! They looked so grown up, giving announcements, and discussing behind-the-scene details with the staff--decked out in their dry-cleaned suits. So cute.

Some of the yummy delicacies---very seafood themed, unfortunately for me. I don't like my food to have eyes or raw parts. It's too fancy for me.

Some of the middle school teachers that Adam works with, getting the picture taken.

More fancy appetizers. I was unsure what half of the options were.

Inside the banquet room, we took our seats as the live band began to perform Christmas music. The band is a Filipino group, that is very enthusiastic about dancing while singing. They were able to get several of the students onto the dance floor to dance--which was hysterical if you knew how shy and reserved 100% of the students are.

Adam, making sure everything is set before sitting down. He loved how the hotel's staff went to the StuCo kids to discuss details and timing.

Our first course--some type of fancy salad, which included a ton of beef.

I didn't get a picture of our second course, because I was distracted by the entertainment. I laughed so hard that I cried, watching the middle school students dancing to Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, and that Beiber kid...they were singing and dancing and looking so awkward, precious, and funny at the same time.

Our third course included cranberries, roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and brussel sprouts. Everything was tasty except the sprouts--I'm not a fan of those tiny cabbages.

The whole room was decorated in blue and silver, at the StuCo kids' request.
Some of our middle school teachers dancing.

Our dessert! Look how creatively our mousse was presented to us.

After the gift exchange, we passed out the pictures from the beginning of the banquet, grabbed our coats, and boarded the school bus. What a fun evening! The kids felt so grown-up and special--and it was a privilege to attend. On a side-note, Adam had to help the 6th grade boys know which utensils to use--they were very confused by all the silverware! :)


Comfort Food

In the Fall, it's cold outside. It snows sometimes. We want our comfort food. For Adam, this means anything with a lot of meat and mashed potatoes. Currently, we have a plethora of gravy mixes--this is a good thing. Thanks for the candy-corn, Joanna! Look, the baby pumpkins from the Johnson's farm are still so cute and fresh!

Grilled sandwiches and broccoli and cheese soup!

Meat loaf and mashed potatoes...with gravy...and carrots!

My Mom sent us some pepperoni--which is a genius idea! Adam and I feel a little pathetic when making our pizzas, since we share a pan. We have way too much fun adding the toppings to "my side of the pizza"--we need to come up with a better way to remember which side belongs to which person...



This and That

Some pictures from the last month. November was not a good month for blogging. My lap top died in October, and I could give it to our school's tech guy so he can fix it, but I'm just worried that he wont be able to--plus I keep forgetting to bring it to school with me--so I've been sharing a computer with Adam lately.

The next three pictures are from last week when I was helping a friend organize costumes for the elementary Christmas concert--we were left at the school (the bus left without us) accidentally, and so found our self walking in the pitch dark of the industrial roads, finally catching a little rickshaw, riding it to the main road, where we stood for ten minutes or so trying to catch a taxi. I got home and Adam was really worried because he didn't know where I was, and I should have been home a while before.

Some guys who live in Shenyang from Papua New Guinea, telling us about their homeland and culture. The people in PNG are really interesting, and it's hard for me to wrap my mind around it. All three of these men come from such a small place geographically, but they are from different tribes--which means they have different languages and customs. It's mind boggling to hear how many tribes there are in PNG that are still intact and separate from the rest of the tribes.

One of our P.E. teachers is from Fiji--so he presented about his nation at International Day. It is very interesting to hear how he grew up, and the things that people do in Fiji still today. They go spear fishing for their dinner, and live in small huts where the children sleep on mats woven from coconut tree branches. Boys learn to climb coconut treas and weave baskets, and women wear dark charcoal on their body for sunscreen. Such a different culture, it's hard for me to even understand it, but it sounds peaceful and very tropical. Dealing with barracudas, sharks, and tourists....

Getting ready for some solution and suspension experiments.

Creating clay creations to teach about the writing process. Students make something out of clay, then add something, change something, remove something, and change something again. They give it a title, and then pass their plate around to get comments and questions from their peers. This is supposed to be a model for how students should look at their writing process.

I wanted this book for my classroom so badly. I even looked for it at book stores this summer. I remember reading it, and having it read to me by Mrs. Nozime, when I was in elementary school and thinking what a powerful story it is. Plus, Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite authors because her stories are so rich and inspired by true events. Her illustrations are great too. Anyway, one of my student's parents is working on college course right now, and she had to order "Pink and Say" for a project. She knew that I like this book and loaned it to me so that I could read it to my students. Of course, I cried and cried at the end of the story. One of my tough boys, who understands the most about the Civil War also shed a few tears. The pictures are sad.


Our Second Thanksgiving in Shenyang

This is a very food-centered post, but while living in China, I feel like most of my concerns and triumphs are food related. My cousin, Joanna, sent us ingredients to make a pumpkin pie (along with other yummy gifts) so that we didn't have worry about trying to make one by scratch. Pumpkin pie tasted delicious, after not having had any for at least two years. Thanks for the thoughtful package, Joanna! :)

Our teeny-tiny-toaster oven.

Ingredients to make a lot of yummy corn souffle.

The best-looking sour cream I've ever made.

Our Thanksgiving family-away-from-family. We had a large group of about 18 adults/teenagers and a few babies as well!

The lovely, and very festive, autumn decorations! Although at this point, I think we had snow outside...

Lots of scrumptious food, prepared and eaten with such thankfulness and gluttony. At this point, the turkey still had not arrived. Yes, you can buy turkey at one of the stores in our city!