Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Panda Pals Reunion

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After a fun morning at Old Friends, we headed the rest of the way to Sevierville, TN, where we met up with our China Travel Group. Eleven of the 16 families met for our first annual reunion. We stayed at Hidden Mountain resort which is located right in the Smokey Mountains. We rented two large cabins, one with seven bedrooms & bathrooms and one with five bedrooms and bathrooms. They had an ajoining breezeway so we could go back and forth between cabins. There was also a shared outdoor swimming pool for the two cabins as well as a large picnic area with gas grills and tables. It was an awesome place to stay!

On Sunday night we had an ice cream dessert together. Monday our family just hung out at the pool, played and visited most of the day. Steve ventured out with Noah for a bit to check out some antiques (who would have guessed?). On Tuesday, we went to see Cirque du Chine which is a Chinese acrobat show. It was wonderful. Very similar to the one we all saw in Beijing, minus the tired travelers in the audience! The costumes were great and the acrabats were amazing. We finished the day with dinner at a Chinese restaurant (of course) and visited in the "big" cabin. Wednesday was packing up, taking last minute photos, discussing several options for next year's reunion and saying goodbye.

It was so fun to see everyone again and to see the kids. To sit back and observe the way each family interacts with their own children and each other's children is amazing. There is just such a "glow" from all the love flowing around! I can't even really describe it. The joy these little ones have brought to each of us is incredible.

Honestly, I cried on our way home on Wednesday. I know, I am an emotional fool....but leaving all these families and kids is tough for me, because of the bond we share. I really hope we can have a longer reunion next year! We have all been truly blessed.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Old Friends

Before heading the four hours south to Hidden Mountains, on Sunday, to see our friends, we made one last stop, in Georgetown, KY, to visit Old Friends. Old Friends is a retirement home for Thoroughbred horses that were once race horses or breeding horses. It's really nice, because you can get right up close to the horses. The kids were able to feed them carrot chunks and peppermint candies and touch them. Caleb LOVED it!! Not sure why, but the big fun for Emma was taking gravel from the road and putting it on Steve's feet, again. Crazy kid! The masks that the horses have on are to protect their eyes from infections from all the flies. The tour guide said that as long as the horses will tolerate it, they like to have them wear them so that they don't get eye infections. Who knew that they made such fashionable and functional "shades" for horses!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Churchill Downs

On Saturday (July 19th), we visited Churchill Downs. It's funny, because I always pictured it as being out in the country, completely surrounded by green grass. It's actually right smack dab in the middle of the city! It is, however, really beautiful! We enjoyed the guided tour, but it was really HOT...97 degrees and sunny! Emma spent much of the time putting sand from the race track on Steve's feet...not really sure why.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Louisville....Loueyville...or Looovle??

We left at 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning (the 17th) and arrived at our hotel in Louisville about 3:30 in the afternoon. We made a couple of stops for gas and breakfast but skipped lunch and made ok time. Chicago was busy and backed up for quite a while.

Went to eat supper at The Spaghetti Factory and then swam for a bit before bed. On Friday we went to the Louisville Slugger Bat Company and went on the tour to see how they make the bats. Everyone that goes on the tour gets a mini slugger bat to take home.

Funny bat story... a year ago, Steve had a meeting with a potential new client, right above the Louisville Slugger Company. So, after the meeting he went on the tour and got his own little bat. For some reason, whoever made his hotel reservations for the trip, made them at a pretty yucky "motel" and Steve was a bit nervous about spending the night there....so he barred the door with a chair from the hotel and then slept with his little bat in bed with him to "fight off prowlers".

After the tour, we swam and went to Joe's Crab Shack for supper and then visited one of the water front parks. It was a "water play" park with all sorts of water sprays and fun things for kids to climb and play on.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lifest 2008

Emma and her milk
Steven Curtis Chapman
Casting Crowns
Caleb waiting for Steven Curtis Chapman to start

Now that we're home from vacation, I am finally able to upload some photos from our weekend at Lifest. It was awesome! On Wednesday night, Caleb, Noah and I saw Natalie Grant and The Newsboys. Thursday night we opted out because it rained before the good bands started and we were afraid it was going to be really wet and muddy.

On Friday night, the whole family went to see Mandisa, Denver and the Mile High Orchestra and Steven Curtis Chapman. There was a standing ovation at Lifest when Steven Curtis Chapman and his sons, Wil and Caleb, walked out on stage with the rest of their band. This was his first concert since the tragic death of his youngest dauther, Maria. For those of you who don't know who Steven Curtis Chapman is, he is a Contemperary Christian artist, who started when Christian radio was just beginning. He is kind of a pioneer in Christian music, like Amy Grant. He and his wife, Mary Beth, have three bio children and had three adopted Chinese daughters. They are big advocates for adoption and even have a special fund called Shaohannah's Hope which provides adoption assistance to families adopting from China. In May, Steven and Marybeth's youngest daugthter, Maria, was tragically killed in their driveway. Lifest was the first concert since Maria's death. It was amazing to hear his testimony and how he firmly believes that this was God's plan for Maria. You could hear how much he and the family is hurting, but how strong they are standing in their faith. Amazing faith they have! He sang the song Cinderella and there wasn't a dry eye in the house!

On Saturday, just Noah and I went and we saw Rebecca St. James & Casting Crowns. Casting Crowns was awesome!! They are a great band!

Here are some photos from the concerts we saw.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On our Way!

We are so excited...we are on our way to meet our China Travel group. We are making it our summer vacation. First stop, Louisville, KY. We will spend some time checking out the Louisville Slugger Bat Company, Churchill Downs and whatever else we come across. Then it's on to the Gatlinburg, TN area. We are meeting 11 (I think) of the 15 other families we traveled with when we got Emma. Last I counted there will be 32 children and a bunch of adults. We rented two big cabins in the Smokey Mountains for a few days. We are so excited to see our extended China family!! Our last stop will be Cinncinati to check out the Creation Museum, which is a museum that shows a Biblical view of creation and the beginning of time. We can't wait! When we get back I will post some stuff from Lifest last weekend...which was AWESOME and some stuff from our trip. Please pray for safe travels for us and all of our friends.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I've Been Tagged!

My friend, Terri, who traveled to China with us to get her daughter, Teagan, has 'tagged' me. To play the game, I need to capture my life right now in six words.

So, after thinking about it for a couple of days, here is my six word memoir:

A Woman Abundantly Blessed By God

How else could I sum up my life right now? I have an awesome God who loves me just as I am, a husband who is totally devoted to his wife and family, three awesome children that give my life purpose and laughter and the two best jobs I could ever ask for...."mom" and "teacher". Why wouldn't I feel abundantly blessed??

Now, I am tagging five more friends...


It's their turn to play and pass along the fun!