That just downright embarrassing. I even forgot I had a blog. Life of an expat mom. Wow!
Is anyone out there? Is it worth resurrecting? It is now 2017 and I wonder if people still read blogs. I have lots I could say. Should I share it?
That just downright embarrassing. I even forgot I had a blog. Life of an expat mom. Wow!
Is anyone out there? Is it worth resurrecting? It is now 2017 and I wonder if people still read blogs. I have lots I could say. Should I share it?
It’s been ages since I’ve posted on here. Speaking of age…
Last night I was at the 40th birthday party of a fellow mom-friend, also American. The friend who planned the dinner party had been planning for months. It was a lovely setting! Candles, decorated tables, hot drinks, dinner, and carrot cake with cream cheese icing!! Very exciting! So, a bunch of women together talking, laughing, pr@ying together…you can imagine that…how are the kids, how’s school or homeschool going, how’s your husband’s eye problem…you can imagine those conversations.
Questions you probably wouldn’t discuss or wouldn’t be a big deal in North America at a women’s gathering…
1)”Where did you buy your cheese? And it’s yellow cheddar, oh my!”
Cheese is expensive here and not readily available. But availability is much better than 5 years ago. There are only three places in town that I know of where yellow cheddar cheese is available. The sharp version is more likely to be in stock. The three places are Metro, jinkou.com, and the hole-in-the-wall import store. Two of those places you can only buy 5 kilos at a time. White cheddar is more common and for both the most common brand available is Anchor. I believe it’s shipped in from New Zealand.
2) “Where did you get these napkins?”
The party organizer had purchased napkins with “40″ on them in the States. So when she answers, “In the States, this summer,” You just give a resigned nod of the head and say “oh”. Nope, not available here. Same goes with tissue paper used for gifts, really pretty gift bags, wrapping paper, and greeting cards. All available, but not like at your local Wal-mart or Target or wherever you prefer to shop.
3) Giving napkins as a gift. Would you do this to your friend turning 40?
One present she received was a pack of decorated paper napkins maybe bought somewhere like IKEA. Since we don’t have an IKEA the napkins get stored and hoarded. These particular ones could be used for any occasion, but most likely will be dusted off for a real special time. And if my birthday friend is like me she might even cut the napkins in half to make them last longer. The general consensus around the room was that this was a very special gift.
4) My friend also received lots of candles and an infuser-thingy. The suggestion was to put them in her bathrooms, maybe even the kitchen. Now that’s not such a crazy idea you might think, and you’d be right. BUT our bathrooms NEED candles, infusers, plugs…anything to help with the smell. On a normal basis I keep the drains all plugged and about an inch of water in the sink. The drain under the sink also needs to be carefully tied, plugged, stuffed with plastic bags, rags, whatever to keep the smell from entering through the drain near the floor. Now in the winter it’s not so bad, but the summer…beware. These were all excellently useful gifts!!!
5) “You have real beef in the crockpot?”
First of all, our friend the hostess runs a halal house which means NO pork. Also there have been a few news items recently of people who have altered the appearance of dried pork to make it look like beef and sold it to Muslim customers on the street. Not funny! Beef is just expensive in this part of the world, but our sweet hostess friend made us all real beef barbecue to eat on our baked potatoes. It was a treat; an expensive one, but a treat! Yumm! I would have expected ground beef (like taco meat) or chicken.
So, tell me, what are your dinner party conversations?
I’ve been blessed with friends. I recently went to a ladies’ weekend in another city were I met up with some of my “old” China friends; “old friends” meaning we met four years. (Note: This does not mean I never struggle with loneliness or do not go through seasons of comparing (with negative consequences) myself to these awesome friends. I am learning…slowly!)
One of the people who shared gave a picture of a what a living sacrifice might look like. In the OT, the animal of sacrifice was tied to the altar so it could not escape. Would a living sacrifice be someone willing to be ‘tied to the altar’ giving up control for the glory of Him who reigns forever and ever? The thought of someone ‘tying me down’ raises all sorts of rebellious thoughts: “How dare you…” “You can’t do that do me. I have rights.” I still need to think this through, but am convinced a ‘living sacrifice’ is the only true way to live.
Being fresh off this weekend, I not only returning refreshed, but also encouraged by my friends, their lives, their example, and most importantly how I see their lives as living sacrifices. Here is a glimpse into the lives of women in China (some expat, some Chinese) and some of the possibilities that can happen when you follow whole-heartedly.
(Another note: I’m not giving any names. I’ve asked for permission for these examples, but can think of other ladies that could fit each category. AND if you’re my friend and you’re not mentioned, please don’t be offended because any of these examples could be you.)
My friend who decided to make an impact on parenting in this country by starting a school. Take away example: Don’t be afraid to step out in faith and do what you’ve been asked even when culture is against you.
My friend who dedicates hours to pr@y because that’s what the Father has asked her to do. In her words it doesn’t make for glamorous letters home because she’s not “getting her hands dirty”, but does it matter? It’s what she’s been asked to do.
My friend who lets her husband travel days on end because doors are opening for them to walk through.
My friend who is in the middle of packing up her home and family because they’ve been called to leave and continue kingdom work at home (for now).
My friend who loves her family and fosters babies despite spiritual attacks on their family and having to say painful good byes.
My friend who cares not only cares well for her family, but also sees to medical needs of her community. When you’re a Western medical professional in this country you get lots of calls and emails from people whose doctors aren’t close by. Advice is needed, but it can be draining!!
My friend who comes across the most bizarre and traumatic situations because Dad knows she’s willing to be used as an ambassador of mercy to those who are suffering.
My single friend who obediently left “home” without a husband and family for the sake of His glory and His kingdom. She may as well be the most courageous of the bunch!
My friend who has a heart and passion for the lowest of the low. This is not technically a caste society, but if you’re an orphan and have HIV you might as well be at the bottom. But we all know, J-man is the King of the underdogs; He is for them!
My friend who has lived here for many years and is letting (read: surrendering) her children return to their home country for study and growing up.
My friend who moved her family back to her home country because, for so many reasons, it was the best for their family health and growth, physically and emotionally.
My friend who is just learning that J-ss is really cool. And IF what He says in the Book is true than (wide eyed…shake of head) what do I do with that? Revolutionary…
My friend who lives in an isolated location; the stress that accompanies those circumstances and the grace needed to persevere.
All these women are for me examples of living sacrifices. Giving up control of their own desires and comforts for His glory, for His Kingdom. Women not afraid to be used to change their spheres of influence.
Rom twelve, one (nlt): And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to G-d because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
We are on the home stretch. Kevin will be home this week. These shorter trips are long enough to miss him terribly, but not long enough to get into a regular routine. I feel we’ve been hanging in limbo waiting for Daddy to get back. Having him back will not answer all the stress issues. In some ways it’ll create more, but at least our family will be together again.
We have been surviving these past three weeks. Not thriving, but not shriveling up and dying, either. There’s plenty to keep us busy and friends for the kids to play with. I’m so thankful for friends who come to stay with us for a few days and wash my dishes, for friends who take us out eat and fill my kids with sugar, for friends who have my kids come over for an afternoon and then feed us supper, for friends who text or call or email to see how we’re doing. Very kind friends!!
But let me be honest for a moment…adjusting to China takes a long time and is a hard process. Every day it takes a certain level (some days more than others) of surrender and humility to survive. Love is a choice, right? Everywhere I look there is something that assaults my senses. Not usually people (unless their too nosey), but the environment itself. Smog, construction, noise, dust, more dust, spitting, more construction noise, etc. If our city had sunny, blue skies every day, frequent rain, limited dirt, or dog poop our experience would be different. For foreigners used to cleaner air and more independence it’s hard to adjust. Our calling to this city is very strong. If not, there would be no other reason to live here. Just being honest…
So, with Kevin gone my normal acceptance to these differences has gone downhill, fast. My Chinese language, even for simple every day tasks, took a vacation. Simple words and grammar decided to elope. Yes, I had more on my plate with taking care of the kids, but also my mind was not in China rather back in the US with Kevin and all the experiences he was having. The funny part is when he landed in Asia my language ability miraculously returned! Everything comes in seasons. I wish the language had returned with a few more vocabulary words added to the dictionary.
Here’s the developing thought that startled me this morning. Life is a season; our preparation for eternity, right? Paul says to not give up the race. The kids and I are down to “two sleeps” and wow do I feel like giving up on this race. We’re almost there. Why do I have to keep a good attitude? Why do I have to be patient? Why can’t a just scream and yell and manipulate them to obey? Who cares? Self-righteous little me has put up with SO MUCH during this time and Daddy will be back to carry his load in a few days. So, why not loose it and freak out?
Is that the same attitude I’m going to have at the end of my life? A “been there, done that” attitude of why do I have to continue persevering? In China, people over 60 are considered “old”. Some over-60s seem to give up on life; give up living life to it’s fullest. Give up on loving and helping others, give up on being patient and mentoring the next generation. What an example to follow (not)! What will I be like? What do I want to be like?
After considering this perspective two more sleeps seems like a piece of cake!
I had to look it up in the dictionary to make sure I had the right word.
Example: that feeling of optimistic expectancy that fills theatergoers as they wait for the curtain to rise
I took this picture with my phone. Quality is horrible, I know. (Please don’t compare my photography with my husband’s. I beg of you.)
In Latin America in traditional Catholic homes a manger scene is set up around Christmas time. Sometimes they are rather elaborate. I remember seeing one as a teen; a miniature set that included a hillside with the stable at the top. The shepherds and wise men (plus a bunch of other miniatures; I think Santa Claus was one) were coming up the hill with their animals to worship the baby Jesus. Baby Jesus, though, was not in his traditional place in the manger. He is not in the manger scene at all until December 24th at midnight when we celebrate his birth. I love this tradition and I love manger scenes. So, in our house we have a manger scene with an empty manger.
We talk about the empty tomb at Easter. That IS the most important element to our faith! That’s the final statement. The empty manger represents the beginning to the end; the long awaited deliverance for humankind yet to come. Those walking in darkness had yet to see the great light. The time between the Old and New Testament was dark. We know some of the history, but it was a dormant time of people living, surviving, waiting. The beam of hope shining into darkness; the beginning of the era of grace and salvation for humankind…it gives me goosebumps. This is why I love Christmas!
In the past two days I’ve read about two young mothers that have passed away in their thirties leaving a husband and children behind. Families in our stage of life. One lost her struggle with cancer; the other died of a unexpected heart condition. I have a heart condition, next year it could be me and my family. Life is fragile. This year what will the holidays be like for these families? Will it be possible for them to ever feel whole, loved, comforted again? Trauma and other experiences mark us forever. We might walk with a limp and only the Great Comforter can make us whole.
The beam of hope penetrating the darkness. A messenger. A heavenly choir. A history changing message given to the most unlikely recipients. A manger holding a baby. A promise fulfilled. And each person who believes that promise receives salvation, freedom, peace, healing for a broken and wounded race.
It gives me goosebumps, I tell ya!
This is Thanksgiving week in the States. I am thankful for the empty manger and the reminder that our waiting has ended, hope has come. It is the beginning of the end; our expectancy for hope fulfilled.
I’ve been delighting in our children lately…
Kai’s morphing into a regular Chinese student. You should hear his very local accent! “Mom, that not’s not how you say it!” And “Mom, how do they know we’re not Chinese?” Makes me smile. A delighted smile.
Malia is the “ban zhang” of her preschool class; the class leader. She takes it very seriously! She a delightful little girl in every way; shuffling around in high-heeled shoes and princess dresses. She’s discovered how to cross her eyes (ouch). Her silliness makes me giggle, most days. And I love she’s taking seriously the message to be pretty on the inside first, then the outside.
Kian is a perfectionist and makes sure he’s not left out; it’s a stressful combination. He can sing lyrics to songs that I have hard time remembering. He deserves the nickname Mr. Smiles. He’s fun to be with. His Bucher uncles (Kenton and Kristofer) were a few years older than Kian when I first met them. He reminds me of them for some reason.
I often forget that I’m delighted in, too.
For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
I remember our first two weeks in China. It was fall ’08 and Kai was 2 1/2. “Mommy, can we go out and make new friends today?” Either he’d heard me say it before, or it was his little way of telling me he missed his friends Micah and Maddox back in Ohio. Probably both.
Watching our kids say “hello” and “goodbye” is one if not THE hardest part of cross-cultural parenting. Because my experiences as a teen living cross-culturally I often wonder why in the world we do this to our kids. BUT because of the outcome of those growing up experiences I know it’s good for our triplets.
One of those sad goodbyes was a couple weeks ago. Josh and Kai have been good buddies for almost three years. They’ve had hours of fun playing Wii, Legos, Wipeout (with living room cushions), and at the castle playground. At least once a week I heard, “Mom, can I go to Josh’s house today?”
Josh and his family left end of May. They plan to be back for short trips, but the bulk of our lives will not intersect again. It is one of those friendship where not only the kids get along well, but Kev and I could sit and talk with Chris and Sarah for hours. There never seemed to be enough time.
Kai and Josh said good-bye and it didn’t seem to affect Kai too much. I’ve been wondering what’s going on inside his mind. This week he suddenly got intensely interested in snowboarding. I’ve tried to communicate that snowboarding in summer is not possible here in our city. This has not deterred his adventuresome spirit and he’s resulted to using a folding chair and “snowboarding” off the couches. Eeek! Why all of a sudden in the middle of summer the interest in snowboarding? Then it hit me.
Snowboarding is one of the links he has to Josh. Josh’s Dad is an avid snowboarder and Kai knows they would come back during snowboard season. So, he’s getting ready, a year and some in advance, to race Josh down the mountain. Kai even drew Josh an invitation to the snowboard race and keeps asking when we can send it. More than once I’ve been tempted to put a stop to the dangerous snowboarding-off-couches routine, but it’s his way of processing and not in a million years do I want to take that away from him.
The day they left Sarah posted this quote: “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore” (by an Andre Gide person). It’s true, but for those of us still standing on the shore…it’s bittersweet. Blessings of faith and grace, friends. We love you!!
P.S. For extra cuteness here are pictures of Kian and Zachary (Josh’s younger brother).
I’ve been dealing with blogger’s block. We’ve been here long enough that I begin to think that life here and life elsewhere is the same. It’s true we do the same things: work, take care of kids, shop, cook, play, relax, go to parks, etc. All it takes to see the difference are a few moments of “perspective”.
Perspective 1: I just glanced out the window and saw Huge Yellow Construction Crane #2 gliding past my window. Most of you probably don’t see that every day. It has been fascinating to see from our 7th floor view how China is built. You, on the other hand, are probably tired of pictures of construction sites and cranes. Sorry, it’s the view we have for now and will most likely have it for a while yet.
Perspective 2: The place Kevin and I met has celebrated their 60th anniversary. A friend (on Facebook) posted pictures of the event. I knew many of the faces; even related to a few of them. I understand the deep meaning, significance, and the history represented by those pictures. A history of faithfulness and truth; trials and heartbreak as well. Though many people in that community understand cross-cultural living we live in a very different world than the life portrayed in that album. A sub-perspective to this perspective, just a few years ago we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the founding of this nation. Two completely different worlds and philosophies colliding; just the thought blows my mind!!
Perspective 3: We attended a Korean 1st birthday party last week. Not something we did on a regular basis (ever) while still in the US. We daily interact with more cultures than just Chinese and our own.
Perspective 4: Sunday afternoon we had lunch with our Latin friends. The menu was Muslim-made pulled noodles with pieces of beef and cooked in broth with cilantro and green onion. Yummm! During lunch we were discussing where to hang a piñata for their son’s first birthday party. Noodles and a piñata for me represent two different worlds intersecting on a dusty street in China.
So, there’s more material than I realize. Are there any questions you have about China that I could answer in a future blog post?
The day started going downhill. I blame lack of coffee first thing in the morning. The “want to be healthy” side of me cringes at those words, but it was the truth. Kevin wanted tea; I also opted for tea. I was feeling overwhelmed up to the frizzy hairs on top of my head then decided, this was NOT going to work. Made myself a French press pot of coffee. Took my favorite purple mug off the rack and while waiting for the milk to warm up decided the attitude needed to change. (Sounds much more innocent when written like this. Anyway…)
Mid-morning, after the above said purple mug of coffee was half gone,
and Kian made it to the bathroom for his third runny poo of the morning (too much fruit),
and the bowtie noodles were boiling in the kitchen for mac and cheese,
and someone else was yelling for me,
AND M-girl was running around naked,
the doorbell rang.
It was the kichen cabinet fix it man. (We’ll refer to him as FIM 1.) Thank goodness!! Not perfect timing, but my dishes have been sitting on the kitchen counter for the past month waiting for the landlord to get a FIM here to fix the cabinets. (We have a good landlord. I am not complaining!)
How do fix-it appointments work in other places? Here’s how it works here. FIM 1 came in empty-handed and looked at the cabinets…hmmm…then asked me for a measuring tape. He wanted to make sure he had the right tray size before hauling up the boxes. He left and came back with the new trays; a lit cigarette in his mouth. In the meantime I moved the boiling bowties from the stove to the hotplate so we can continue with lunch plans.
Following order of events:
-I ask FIM 1 politely to put out his cigarette. There are children, you know. He does so, politely.
-I ask him if the new cabinets are better quality. Yes, of course. I think that’s what he said. My local dialect is not so good and his Standard Mandarin was forgotten for the day.
-FIM 1 asks me for pliers. Which I didn’t know the word for but got the hand motions.
-He asks me for a rag to clean out the bottom of the cabinet.
-He asks me for a screwdriver. Why am I providing the tools again?
-He shows me where we’ll need to get another screwdriver and tighten what he put in, because he didn’t have the right tool or the right angle to make it tight.
-FIM 1 does not have the right change and gives me a 10 kuai ($1.59) discount.
And another to displaying the bottom drawer and the leftover Chinese food made by our house helper. Yumm! It was still sitting out at 9 at night and I kept going in and picking at it. (Don’t tell my ‘All Things Healthy’ group…oh, HI, Sarah!!)
Same day I made a phone call to the purifier supply store. Can you bring us two new inside things (filters) for 1201 Yadu air purifier? Oh the price has gone up? Not surprising. Everything is going up. Oh, you can come this afternoon? Fantastic!! Oh and while you’re here can this humidifier that I totally fried be salvaged? It can? Oh, stupendous! OK, sure, and in our spare time we’ll look through our mountain of receipts for the original receipt because that will save us $10 on a service call. Thank you!
The filter fix-it man (FIM 2) came same day and switched out the filters for us. FIM 3 came the next day with filters for the other filter. Yes, confusing, I know, but all very convenient.
For pictures of the purifiers see our family blog
Today I got a call from FIM 4 asking if we wanted the humidifier fixed. He was on his way. I had not looked for the receipt. I had not called to remind them. He called and offered. Must have been a slow day. And it was all for free because we haven’t had it a year. Gotta love the service!
Recap of what has been fixed this week?
-New filters in all purifiers
-Humidifier (that I fried)
Stay tuned for…Window washing: China edition
Kai keeps counting down the days to spring. I think he’s imagining instant short sleeves and sandals. Not so, sweetheart! I remember one ‘first day of spring’, I was maybe 7 or 8. I dressed in short sleeves and my favorite jean skirt and went out in the driveway to shoot some hoops. After about 5 minutes, refusing the whole time to admit I was cold, I heard Mom knocking on the window. “What are you doing? Come in!!”
It’s springtime and my blog needs a thawing out. It was frozen on New Year’s; not even Chinese New Year, for goodness sake. Eeek! I’ll just admit it; my desire to write is a little cold. I do want this blog to be inspirational and encouraging, but am facing a writer’s block of ice. Time to get out the ice pick.
Things in our household continue with non-stop activity. Non-stop!! This semester feels like a reset for us. A time to be at home with the kids and figure out exactly where we want to go as a family in our continual embracing of this place and culture. The kids aren’t going to preschool. I’m homeschooling Kai. We/I have several major goals for the next few months. 1) Find out if we can enroll Kai part-time in a Chinese school this fall. 2) Get potty habits under control and be completely diaper free even at night. Whew! I’ve seen so much poop and pee from our family in the past month; it’s exhausting. You really wanted to know that, didn’t you? 3) I’m on a kick to loose 5 more kilos this spring. It’s hard work and I’d prefer just not to, but must be done.
A few pics to help thaw the ice:
Yes, he’s as mischievous as he looks! But that smile brightens my day!