Sunday, October 30, 2011

Photography Challenge

White Peach Photo So I've decided it would be fun to try this starting in November, since it has 30 days. Anyone want to join me?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Descent into Dry

I just noticed that the skin around my ring finger is flaking off (and also my ring is incredibly loose - it's cold in here!). My throat is perpetually sore. My lips are on the verge of chapping. It's that time of year again!

This is when we descend into dryness like a desert. The air outside has lost all its humidity so now it's sucking it from our very bodies. This is only the tip of the iceberg. By December we'll be buying stock in Vaseline.

This climate is by far the most extreme I've lived in when it comes to the diversity between summer and winter. In the summer, you can feel the humidity like a blanket on you (or is that the pollution? Hard to say). In the winter, we stock the house with dryer sheets to rub on our hair and eliminate the static.

So I dusted off the humidifiers this morning and set them running. Feel free to send lotion.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

So Many Reasons to Give Thanks

I know it's been a ridiculously long time since I posted a thankful list, so these go WAY back to when we first returned to China in the fall. I may have to divide this list! Here's #733-759

People at the food market remembering me
God speaking to Ethan through the youth group message
A successful pudding pie
new family traditions
like-minded friends
more friends that our kids know what to do with
my bike to replace Ethan's stolen one
the excitement of a new school year
date night
God's provision in so many things
feeling the weight of jet lag lift
the kids playing together really well
milk delivery
chocolate chips
early morning quiet house
new printer than can photocopy
clear skies
a new fun restaurant
teaching speech to the 5th and 6th grade class
answers to prayer
faithful friends
sweet times with the kids one on one
great fiction
fun fabrics at the market
on a new adventure
with great friends
settling into a routine

That seems to cover us settling back into life in China. More to come soon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


One of the down sides (for me, maybe not for other expats) of living overseas is that it's hard to find inspiration. In the States, I might subscribe to some magazines, or at least pick one up at the grocery store occasionally. Or, ok, I'll admit it, I would just be cheap and check them out from the library.

But my point is that finding a Real Simple or a Martha Stewart Living here is nigh on impossible. So where's a girl with a strong need for inspiration to go?


I avoided this for a long time because I am to my computer like a moth to a flame. But recently someone encouraged me to try it, and I've found it's the answer to my inspiration needs. It's like someone else took the time to look through all the magazines for me, and then thoughtfully organized all the cool finds into categories for me.

If you aren't on Pinterest and want to try it, let me know and I can send you an invite. If you join, follow and I'll follow you and we can inspire one another.

Friday, October 14, 2011

These Worms are Weighin' Me Down

So we thought we had managed to buy the calmest, most low energy puppy in the world. Turns out what we got was a puppy with worms, and those things will slow you down.

She's been pretty tame from day 1, but the last couple days she has not been very playful. She never ran, and would probably sleep most of the day if we let her. When she started dragging her butt around, I took her to the vet, who massaged her hind end in a way that made me immensely grateful that I did not choose to be a vet, and then gave me worm medicine. He said it was either her anal sacs (I got that from the internet - I do not, nor do I wish to know how to say "anal sacs" in Chinese) or worms. I was praying for the former.

But sure enough, yesterday morning they appeared which grossed me out so completely that homeschool was basically out the window while I searched online for what kind they were, and more importantly, the likelihood that we would contract them.

I finally walked down to the vet and asked him myself (bonus: I now know how to say roundworm, tapeworm, and pinworm in Chinese. Information I never knew wanted to have to know). He said certainly roundworms, but not to worry, we most likely won't get them. I bleached the patio anyway. We've been down the worm road before and it gives me the heebie jeebies.

A couple friends were over yesterday who own dogs and they warned me that once the worms were through her system, we'd really see what kind of puppy she is, and they were right! This morning she was mostly awake for 3 1/2 hours - her longest stretch yet. She's running, chewing, and expressing herself far more than before. Who knew worms could weigh you down so much?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Sunday, October 09, 2011

Figuring Out Puppy

So I've decided that getting a puppy (at least here in China - don't know what it's like in America) is like adopting a toddler who doesn't speak your language (so you can't communicate well with her) and immediately trying to potty train her. Except there are no diapers to prevent accidents. And there isn't really a potty, except our porch which she can't get to on her own.

I've been back and forth on the best way to do this the last few days, which I'm sure confuses our little Scout:
First, let's take her outside.
But we'll block the stairs because we don't want her going up there.
Oh, but then she can never go on her own.
Unblock the stairs. She can't climb up anyway.
Oh, now she figured out how to get up two steps, but she can't get back down.
Block the stairs.
Maybe when the vet said she can't go outside, it really means not even on the porch.
Set up a puppy bathroom in the corner with lots of puppy pee pads (do they make these in 6' square?)
Start teaching her to go in the corner.
Be stunned when she not once, not twice, but three times tries to use her pillow as a bathroom. I thought they never wanted to get their home dirty??
Order an enclosure to put around the puppy pads so she can be contained while she thinks about it
Cancel the enclosure because we decide we'll just take her out (since she'll need to be taken down in the elevator once she CAN go outside so she'll need to be used to being taken)
Rethink the enclosure to put around her crate at night so she can come out and go potty if needed
Wonder how on earth a puppy can go until 11 am and still not have pooped

I have to admit, so far the whole puppy experience is leaning quite heavily on the "work" side as opposed to the "fun" side. I don't feel like I can relax until I've shut her in her crate, which I don't want to do too much or she doesn't like it. She's happy to be in there if the door is open, but that means the second one of us moves she's inclined to follow. She doesn't seem to realize that I am an introvert who really appreciates the times when there's no one else in the room. But I have to say that, even given limited experience with puppies, I know that we have a good one. She seems to have slowed down her frequency of peeing during the day and I'm happy to say we've had no accidents today (although it's only been 4 hours!). She has periods of time when she's more active (the first hour or two of the day) but other than that, she's fairly calm. If she's like this as a puppy, will she move at all as an adult? I don't know, but I guess along with everything else we'll figure it out. 

The Run Around

I think when people think of China, they think of communism and imagine some bleak, overbearing regime. In reality, the bleak gray sky aside, most days I don't experience anything by way of overbearing.

But then, there are days. Like yesterday.

Megan's passport was expiring this month, so on September 7th we went to the embassy to apply for a new one. This process should take up to two weeks but sometimes we've been contacted only days later with a new one. So when Erik was nearing the end of his trip last week, and he realized that they had never called, we were surprised. We were also nervous, because her expiring passport meant her visa also expired October 1. Well, that was a holiday followed by the visa office being closed for 6 days. Erik picked up Megan's passport on Thursday but the visa office wasn't open til yesterday which meant I had to go. I'm not good with these situations.

So I headed down to the visa office armed with a Chinese friend. There, we had to photocopy every document we brought. We then stood in line to explain to a man why, although the new passport for some odd reason said it was issued September 7th (really? the day we gave it to you? And yet you never told us it was done?) we weren't able to get it until October 6th. Thankfully, the embassy stamped something for us that basically said it was their fault and showed the pick up date. We were sent to photocopy the pick up date. Then we stood in another line and explained the date discrepancy to another woman. She was fine with it, but pointed out that Megan's registration had not been reissued after picking up the visa.
And that's where it got tricky.

See, every time you come in and out of the country or get a new passport or a new visa you have to go to the local police and register within 24 hours. Our old district really didn't care about this. Our new district LIVES by this rule. Last time I had to write a self-criticism "I am bad person for not obeying the laws of this country" (you can make me write it but you can't make me think it).

When we went to the police and showed them Megan's passport and registration, she first pointed out that it had been TWO WHOLE DAYS since we picked up the passport. Unacceptable! Bordering on treason!! Then she saw the September 7th date and her dislike of me reached a new level. 5 phone calls and 45 minutes later, we were issued a new registration card.

That's where my gracious Chinese friend took me home while he went back to the visa office to show them the new registration. Then today we get to go back to the police to show them the new visa and get re-issued another new registration card. Then for some reason really not clear to me, we'll have to go back one more time. Maybe that's just to remind me where I live.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Thoughts about a new puppy

In the quiet hours of the morning, with our new acquisition viciously attacking a tiny treat, a bone, and two rope toys, I ran through the thoughts I've had about her in the past 18 hours. It was something like this:

We should get her up from her nap so she sleeps through the night
I should go to to bed now because who knows how much she'll be up
Is that her? What is that noise?
Ok it's midnight and she still hasn't made a sound. Is she alive?
One in the morning. Is she alive?
Three in the morning - ok, I hear her sniffing. I should take her out.
4:45 I think she's still awake, though thankfully not whimpering (she only did that for 2 minutes after I put her back in her crate at 3)
She really likes the mat by the door - note to self: buy a mat she can actually claim as her own
She likes licking toes. Yeah, we're going to put the kabosh on that too
These puppy pads are worthless
Is there anything cuter than her attacking that tiny meat treat?
Yep, her climbing into her crate on her own and falling asleep!


Ethan: Mom, I don't like living in China.

Me: (pause before entering what could be a very deep conversation) You don't like being in China? Why not?

Ethan: Legos are too expensive here.

I realize this bothers him greatly, but I have to say - whew!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Our New Baby

Meet Scout

Could you have resisted this face if she stared up at you from the pet store floor? No, we couldn't either, obviously. We went to the market this morning to pick up some supplies for "future puppy" - bowls, a collar, a leash - and came back with "puppy." 

She's only 6 weeks old and if you know anything about dogs, you know that's too soon to be taken from her mother. But the reality is that in China they are convinced that one month is sufficient. It's surprising she's still around. We came to the realization that if we waited for the ideal situation (a puppy who had been with her mother until 2 months and had also had all her shots, but none of them before one month) we'd wait forever.

So why this one? Well, according to Mr. Dog Whisperer, it's best to choose a dog with medium energy who shows curiosity but isn't hyper. Check. I also was hoping for a girl because she might be less likely to want to be the alpha dog. Check. Finally, we wanted the kind of dog best described as "nong cun" or "pu tong" (country or ordinary). Basically, a mutt, but the kind of mutt that will grow up into a certain kind of dog. Check. 

It's a good thing we don't have much going on in the next few days because we're already discovering that a puppy is a lot like a toddler. Quick, she's sleeping - what can we do? She looks like she's going to pee - quick, get her to the toilet! No, don't chew that. No, go under there. Shh - don't wake the baby!

Sunday, October 02, 2011


I realized last week that our kids have never seen The Wizard of Oz. I know, a gross oversight on my part. So tonight we rented it from Apple TV. We've only just arrived in the Land of Oz and already the kids have commented about how the view from Dorothy's window is so obviously a video screen, how the Land of Oz is completely fake looking (I told them it's not supposed to look real) and have had a debate about whether the Munchkins are children or not. Ethan's a little hung up on parts that look fake.

Granted, these are kids who have been fed pretty high tech media, but I'm hoping they can just enjoy it for what it is. Or at least not ruin it for me. :) I have to admit it's interesting to watch it through an adult's eyes.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Beyond Survival

We are at the tail end of a 9 day Erik absence, and I've gotta say, we're doing ok. I mean, granted, we miss him like crazy and we can't wait to have him back (especially with the approximately 100 pounds of stuff he's bringing back for us - yay for Elite status on United). But we've survived. In fact, I think we're actually at a place where we can go beyond surviving when he's gone.

This wasn't always the case.

Back when the kids were little and Erik would travel a few days at a time, I would tell myself that I had to wait at least a few hours after he came back before I dropped the kids in his lap and ran. Since then, I've built up my single parenting muscles a bit. But more than that, it really does get easier when your kids are older (as long as you don't keep having kids. For those of you who keep having them, I make no promises).

We managed to not only do school this week, we really enjoyed it at times. We ate meals that didn't involve me looking in the refrigerator and wondering what I could do with 2 eggs and a cucumber. We actually ate balanced meals! With vegetables! We went to the park with friends and I had adult conversations while the kids played. I got up almost every day and prayed and exercised before the kids got up. I went to a party by myself. I hosted a gathering at my house. The kids played outside for hours and I stayed at home and did things I wanted to do. We read and played games and enjoyed each other. More than once I thought how great it is that I get to be home with my kids.

So all in all, it was a pretty good week. This is a gift! I'm so glad we've come to this stage in life. Now if I could just get my husband to stay and enjoy it all with us.