Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Touch of Home

Can you believe we are watching Seinfeld reruns here tonight? 11 pm, time for Seinfeld, just like in Chicago. The same old episodes, as funny as always, and in perfect English, with all the Seinfeld-isms.

The only difference is the commercial breaks... the commercials are all Chinese.

Monday, July 30, 2007


The girls wait for the elevator come up so they can head to the pool. This elevator is in our entryway, right outside our front door.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Chinese Mayo

I actually found regular Kraft mayonnaise at the City Shop the other day, but I had already purchased this at the Chinese grocery store, so I thought we'd give it a try. It's sort of like a glue consistency, and pretty sweet. We used it to make tuna salad for sandwiches yesterday... it's not my favorite, but then I'm not a mayo person anyway.

Playing the Gwen Guitar

She's just the right size!

Sorta Like It Here

Caleb just told me that he sorta likes it here. What does this mean, I asked him. Well, think of all the things I've gotten to do that I wouldn't have done if we were still in Illinois. Think of the friends I've met.

Think indeed.

We've had a great weekend.

This afternoon at our church service the person making announcements in the service had people who were there for the first or second time stand up. As we stood and looked around, we saw no less than a dozen families standing, in this smallish church. We are not alone in our newness! After the service we met several other families- one of whom adopted their fourth child from China a year ago... they offered to have us over for dinner soon. Amazing. We spoke to another man who told us about the small group they belong to, one that has a number of families with children of all ages... right up our alley.

After church we went to dinner with another new family that we met after the service. They've just arrived here in Shanghai, more recently than us. They have two boys who love skateboarding and will be going to Concordia, where our boys will attend. They have a three year old daughter. Their boys told Caleb and Seth about the biggest skate park in the world... it happens to be here in Shanghai, and they've been to it twice already. Caleb was hooked. The dinner and subsequent hang out together time after was just what he needed. I enjoyed Marybell so much... she has such a tender heart and is excited to see what God has planned for their family in bringing them to Shanghai. It was so neat to hear their story... we agreed to get the kids together later this week. Amazing...

Last night we invited some other new friends from our complex over for a glass of wine. They are the ones who will be here for just one month more, and then will return to the States. So this friendship is a very short term one, but a pleasure none the less. The boys played Clue, the girls played beauty parlor, the adults chatted. Amazing... we had real company at our new place. How does God put this together?

We also had good relaxing time with our family this weekend. Some time at the pool, guys working out, Scott and I out to dinner alone, walking to the store for milk, playing a board game together, reading, pedicures for Madelyn and I (Madelyn's first!), no yard work (apartments are nice that way).

So many good things... and then there is the news this morning of little Nathaniel's birth, a miracle baby that we have prayed for before his conception... he's far away in the Midwestern US, but God is there, and here... and everywhere.

I guess I'm a little overwhelmed tonight, as I think about it. Caleb's comment set me off... he sorta likes it here. Is this the same kid who had a wave of discouragement about our move wash over him last night at bedtime? From him, the "sorta like it" is the same as a resounding, "Hurray! I LOVE it here!" from someone more demonstrative.

I'll take the "sorta" and run with it. God is a big God...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Small World

Tonight before bed, Madelyn and her friend Emma (who had just gotten up for the day in Chicago) played and talked on the phone together for nearly an hour. They were playing Webkinz, a game based on a stuffed animal you buy that has a special code attached to it that allows you access to a website chock full of games for kids. You play as your animal, which in Madelyn's case is a white kitty named Muffin. Madelyn and Emma, each on their respective computers, half a world apart, were able to virtually visit back and forth in each other's Webkinz homes, buy things for each other from the Webkinz store, and even play checkers together online as their Webkinz characters. I tried several times to gently end the call, but Madelyn was giggling and chatting away with her friend as they "played together" and I didn't have the heart to insist too firmly. At one point I gave her a couple minute warning, and she said, "But Mom, we're having SOOO much fun!"

Amazing, that Madelyn and Emma could have a playdate today, even though we're in China and Emma is in the US. It's a small world, after all.

Sunset Over Shanghai

No Carolina blue skies here, that's for sure, but the sunset is pretty in sort of a muted way. There are lots of smoggy days in Shanghai, but we've actually been able to see the moon in the late afternoon a couple of days this week, and it's been visible at night as well, so there are clear days, too! When it is clear during the day, the sky is very slightly blue, just a hint of blue, really. I haven't seen a single star at night, but that could be because of the city lights. Chalk up deep blue sky on a sunny day as something pretty special... not to be taken for granted!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Afternoon Train

Playing in the living room in the late afternoon light.

Night Bedroom

Not quite in focus, but I thought it was a neat effect.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Post Script

Oh, I forgot to mention the flavored coffee creamer... French Vanilla. City Shop had that, too. Mmmmm.

Heaven at City Shop

I was nearly weeping earlier today. It wasn't because I was homesick, or frustrated, or someone had gotten hurt. It wasn't because I was overwhelmed or confused, or unable to make myself understood by a Chinese speaking person.

No, it wasn't any of those things that brought tears to my eyes today. The tears were because of food, and they were happy tears. Today I finally made my way to a wonderful store, a store I had been told about by several other expatriates. It sells common US grocery products, along with some European foods. It's called City Shop, and today it almost seemed like heaven.

At City Shop I found baking powder. I found brown sugar and maple syrup. I found dryer sheets and bug spray, muffin mixes and frozen broccoli. I found Grape-Nuts and Corn Pops, ranch dressing, honey mustard, brown rice, taco shells and taco seasoning. I even found very small bags of chocolate chips! I couldn't believe my eyes.

It was such a wonderful, safe feeling to know these everyday items are available here, just a short drive from our home. I reminded myself as I walked the aisles, "I can come here again, tomorrow if I want to! These things are stocked in this store."

It's amazing that coming up on just three weeks here in China without these ordinary items brought about such a powerful reaction in me. Food is something I generally take for granted, but somehow it brings such security. I know Jesus said we do not live by bread alone, but I guess having the things I'm used to meant more to me that I realized. I think I was doing okay without the things I found at City Shop today, but I am pretty thankful that I found them, and I'm thanking God for City Shop. :-)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Posing with the Stars

We had a fun little outing today, and it wasn't really anything that enriched our knowledge of Chinese culture, unless you're counting Asian pop singers. We went to... Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. Be forewarned... there are quite a few pictures here! But that's what you do at Madame Tussauds... you take pictures with the stars.

Apparently, Seth and Caleb are among the stars. Not just a few school age Chinese girls at the museum wanted pictures with my boys! It was really funny... one girl asked me if she could take a picture of my children "because they are so beautiful". I know Chinese people like to pose in pictures with westerners, so I obliged. But I quickly saw that the cameras were aimed just at the boys, and that was just the beginning! They had quite a following as we walked through the exhibits. Must be that long hair...

Three great looking guys!
MJ & the girls.
Caleb and a Chinese pop star jam a little.
A table for two with George Clooney... of course I have my own Clooney at home!

Everyone knows Yao Ming!

Caleb and I tried to make our best Rocky faces.
Okay, so he's got a good smile. You can give the guy that much.

Cuddling up to Elvis.

Me with my beautiful girls and the "Pretty Woman"!
Madelyn and Marilyn hold down their skirts.
Don't get too close to the Terminator.
What are you thinking, Einstein?

Caleb advised Tiger on how to make the putt.
Blocking Yao Ming is a tall order! Having breakfast at Tiffany's!
Got him covered, 007!

An Old Post... Reposted

I wrote this the day after we moved into our apartment, which is nearly two weeks ago now. I was unable to post it because we didn't have internet access yet, and Scott attempted to post it from work, but with all the Chinese symbols in place of English, it didn't happen correctly. Tonight he is in Hong Kong, and low and behold, he can view blogs there! He looked back through old posts and realized this one hadn't made it. The day I wrote it was sort of a pivitol day for me, as you will see, so I am trying again with the post!


I've been wanting to post for several days now, but have been without internet access since we left our hotel. Now I am trying to quickly write something that Scott can post for me from work tomorrow. Hopefully our internet access will be up and running by the weekend.

We moved from the hotel into our apartment yesterday afternoon, even though we don't have our air shipment yet. We decided to try to "rough it" without kitchen stuff, toys, etc. We did get some plastic silverware and one cheap cooking pot to use until our things arrived. Also picked up an inexpensive set of dishes from IKEA the other day. It's great to be here, lots more space than the hotel and the kids are enjoying arranging the few things they do have here in their rooms.

The big news is that we found some friends today! We ventured to the outdoor beach/pool this afternoon, and within 10 minutes Seth and another boy were chatting. Caleb joined them in the sand a bit later. Finally my curiousity got the best of me, and I went over to say hi myself.

"Mom, this is Brandon. He lives in building 2, and he's going into 5th grade at Concordia."

I could hardly believe my ears! A fifth grade boy, living a couple of buildings over from us, attending the school our boys will attend this fall.... has made friends with my fifth grader.... 24 hours after we moved into building 6? God is amazing.

But it gets better. A little later I figured out who Brandon's mom is, and I went and thanked her for Brandon's friendliness. She started a conversation with me right away, and we ended up talking for quite a while. Her name is Paulina, and their family moved to Shanghai from Oregon a year ago. She also has a seven year old daughter... like us. She had a rough start when they first moved here, but loves it now, and was full of stories and encouragement for me. When we parted ways to head home for dinner, she gave me her number and said she'd love to have the kids over to play, and would love to get together, and that I can call her for anything.

I clutched the scrap of paper all the way back to our building and up the 48 floors to our home. Paulina may not end up being my best friend, or even a close friend... but she reached out, smiled, spoke English, and offered her phone number.

It's a huge gift, and I am so very thankful.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Random Thoughts

I feel like I have so very many things to tell about every day. I really don't know where to begin. I guess I will just share a few miscellaneous thoughts tonight before I go to bed.

I mentioned before that the yogurt here is mostly the drinkable variety. It comes both in individual sizes and in quart bottles. Today I got two new flavors. One is cucumber kiwi, and we really like it! I know it sounds like an odd combination, but it's very refreshing. The other, which we haven't tried yet, is honey flavored. I'll have to let you know about that one. Of course I'm only going by the pictures on the bottles, since I can't read anything on the label!

We went to our new church this past Sunday afternoon. This church, which I mentioned in a post several months ago, after our first visit, is called Abundant Grace International Fellowship. It meets in a Chinese congregation's building, and so the service is at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, which is when the building is available! I met a woman in the nursery who was very friendly. She and her husband and two children have been here about 15 months. They moved here when she was 7 months pregnant... talk about having to navigate the health care system! We enjoyed the service so much, especially the worship. It's so amazing to worship with a group of people you've never met, and feel a connection because of our common bond, the One we are there to worship.

We were at the pool/beach in our complex this afternoon. The kids were all occupied, so I sat and just listened and observed for a bit. It's not the first time I've noticed this at the pool... there are definitely more languages than Chinese and English being spoken. I know I heard Spanish, and I think German too. I'd love to know every one's story....

We have a wonderful lady helping us at home. Her name is Mrs. Shi. Yesterday she took us to a local market, just a couple of blocks from our complex. We all walked there together, and were definitely a spectacle! In the back alley leading to the main part of the market, we saw all variety of creatures for sale. Madelyn thought perhaps they were for pets... but I know otherwise. Just a little frog-scorpion-eel-turtle soup for dinner, right?! Mrs. Shi was choosing ingredients to make dumplings for dinner. She told me that we wouldn't want to get any produce in the supermarket because it isn't fresh there. She bargained with every vendor, and walked away if the the price was too high. We got onions and garlic from a vendor who had them spread on a blanket on the sidewalk. I think we paid 1 yuan, total, for three large onions, which is about 12 cents. The dumplings, which she filled and carefully folded in tiny pleats before boiling them, were delicious!

We realized today that now that we have Vonage hooked up, with our old Chicago phone number, that we will still get US solicitors phone calls. I got one tonight at eleven p.m. local time. When I told him he was calling Shanghai and that it was eleven o'clock at night, he was very apologetic!

Gwen's clavicle seems to be nearly completely healed. It's only been ten days! Thank you to my friends and family with medical expertise who assured me that kids heal so quickly from this type of injury. Although I know it's supposed to be a couple more weeks until the bone is completely fused, she doesn't have pain from the fracture anymore. She does hold her right arm more still when she runs, rather than swinging it wildly like the other one, but even that has lessened in the past couple of days.

I've met a another friend here in our complex. Her name is Kate, and she is here with her husband and two children (who just happen to be roughly Caleb and Madelyn's ages) for 8 weeks this summer. The kids have gotten together several times to play, and Kate has led me to the nearest dry cleaner and helped me communicate "heavy starch" with her pocket translator, told me where to find nail polish remover, bought chicken breasts for me at the Western grocery store, walked me to the nearby Chinese supermarket and showed me the brand of ice cream bars her kids like best, and shared some good conversation. The bummer is that she and her family are only here for four more weeks. But as an experienced friend told me tonight on the phone, such is the nature of expat friendships. People are in and out of your life quickly, as assignments end and families move on to a new country or back to their home country. I guess that's part of the package of being here, not holding on too tightly to relationships. What a lesson....
I guess those are all my thoughts for now. Thanks for listening, and good night! :-)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Laundry Room

The slow tour of our apartment continues... here is our little laundry room. I stood in the kitchen to take this picture. There is a door to the laundry room from the kitchen, which is open. There is a window on the wall the laundry machines are against. At the back of the laundry room there is a door which has a small room behind it. We will probably use this room to store our bikes, once they arrive in the sea shipment.

By the way, the washing machine is behaving much better now after a visit from the repair guy here in the apartment complex. Although it is unusually noisy, at least it stays in one place now. :-)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Some Scenes From Our "Backyard"

There is a large lawn area out the back door of our building. Scott and the kids played catch here last weekend.

While they were playing, Gwen and I walked the path that goes around the edge of the lawn. It is nicely landscaped, and we even discovered hidden speakers that were playing easy listening music through the bushes!
Behind the building next to ours is this lake and fountains. The girls and I enjoyed watching both the statue swans on the side that were spitting water, and the real swans (both black and white varieties) that swam in the lake.

Apartment Pictures

Dining room in the daylight... I posted one picture of us all the table on the first night, but this shows the view during the day.
Living room at night... we love this view of the river! There is constant river traffic, between barges carrying cargo up the river to pleasure boats carrying people on dinner cruises from one bank to the other.
Living room during the day. We have our couches from our old house coming in the sea shipment, which should arrive in about a month. For now we are using the furniture the management company provides. We will contine to use most of their furniture... we have only a few other pieces coming with the couches.
Girls' room last night, after we unpacked part of the air shipment and they had quilts on their beds and stuffed animals on the windowsill! Looking forward to hanging some things on the walls.

Progress... mostly

Things are moving along.

Yesterday was a good day. Gwen had a follow-up appointment with an orthopedist in the morning, where he removed her brace and declared her to be healing beautifully. He said she shouldn't do any climbing, but other than that if she feels good enough to engage in an activity, she can. So basically we can follow her lead and see how she does. After the doctor removed the brace, right away she said,"I can go under at the pool?" Today she was still favoring her right side slightly, and winced a little when I dressed her, but she threw caution to the wind at the pool and splashed and dove and had a great time. I am soooo glad. The pool was the hardest to deal with last week, when everyone else was swimming and I had to keep telling Gwen be careful to keep her brace dry... a tall order for anyone in the humid heat here!

After we got home from the doctor, Madelyn left to go to an art class in another building with a new friend she had met the day before. They drew an underwater scene that Madelyn labeled "Sea Skwert." After the class, Madelyn and Alexa went to the club with Alexa'a mom to play badminton for an hour, and after that Madelyn was invited to Alexa's apartment to play Polly Pockets. I was so happy for her to have a whole afternoon with a friend!

While Madelyn was with Alexa and Gwen was napping, the boys and I were receiving the air shipment. I am sorry to say that our apartment, especially the boys' room, is no longer looking neat and clean. There are clothes, baseball cards, books, miscellaneous magic tricks, parts of Tech Deck ramps, lots of socks, and various other items all over the boys' room. Their method of unpacking their air shipment boxes was to empty every box onto the floor. I am thrilled, however, to have all my cooking implements at my disposal again. The movers even unpacked all the kitchen boxes for me and stacked everything on the counters. So nice to cook today... I actually had the things I needed to be effective! It's also felt good today to unpack framed photos and put them around the house, to have music to play other than the one cd we had with us, and to get bedding on our bed... I had only brought sheets in our luggage.

We also finally have our personal laptop here! There was a mix-up that resulted in it being sent to our old house instead of here, so by the time we realized and had the situation rectified, we'd lost a week. But now the desk is in place in the office, the laptop is on it, the internet is functioning, and I am actually using the computer right now! However, to my great sorrow, it appears that I won't be able to view any blogs from here, even on our personal computer. We had thought they were blocked because of fire walls on Scott's work computer, but no such luck. I was so hopeful, because we had been able to see blogs from a hotel on one of our trips here in the spring. I am hoping that maybe it's not a constant issue... maybe there are times that blogs can be viewed? Maybe some of you would paste your blog posts into an email for me... I would so love to still read your thoughts.

I've been struggling emotionally the last few days. Can't even put my finger on a specific reason. I think the lack of blog connection with friends and not having our Skype and Vonage up and running to be able to communicate with family is a big part of it. I know those things are temporary. This morning I just retreated to our bedroom for a while, feeling emotionally drained even though I had only been awake for a couple of hours. The Bible verse for today in my devotion book was Isaiah 30:15, which says, "In returning to Me and resting in Me you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength." Ahhh. It was just what I needed. The emotions bubbled to the surface several more times today... just remind me to take time alone to reset myself and receive peace from the One who can give it, will you? Thanks, friends!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Today was a good day. It included devotions with the kids, reading together, boys and Madelyn playing ping pong at the club, playing at the pool, and dinner out together at a great, cheap Japanese place that we first ate at in February when we came. A full dinner can be purchased for 16 RMB, or about $2. After dinner we shopped a little, too, for groceries I forgot yesterday and browsing around a Nike outlet.

Besides all those things, a chunk of the afternoon included two extra children at our place. Mind you, we moved in one week ago today. And this afternoon, I had Brandon and Sammi here... a friend for the boys and a friend for the girls. I walked from the boys' room where a rousing game of Sponge Bob Monopoly was being played, to the kitchen island where the girls sat engrossed in making playdoh cookies, and just marveled at what God has done. How is it that already my children have friends here?

This morning we read from Acts 17 as part of our Bible time. In verse 26 it says this~ "He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." I am blown away by how clearly this was demonstrated at my house today. God is providing for my children... why shouldn't there be friends waiting here for us? God determined that this was where we should be living right now, and He had them all lined up!


Not sure what it means, but the eggs all have this printing on them! Perhaps it has something to do with when and where they were laid? Also, one can choose eggs here based on what the chickens who laid them were fed... corn, rice, etc. The eggs seem to be less uniform in size, and are generally a little smaller.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In the Public Eye

The attention we get here by having Gwen in our family is amazing. People are not the least bit discreet about their surprise at seeing an Asian child in a Caucasian family. They point, they stare, they look from Gwen to me and back again, they discuss (in Chinese of course, so really I don't know what they are saying, but the looks on their faces tell it all), and today one took a picture of us before I realized what was happening, as we stood in the mall trying to get our bearings. It's really quite remarkable. I try not to be offended... after all, wouldn't you look twice if you saw an Asian or an Arab family with a little blonde daughter?

Madelyn and Seth both had strangers in the mall come up to them today when we were shopping and touch their hair. This seems a little strange to me, because it's not like we're the only European faces in Shanghai... there are many others. But on the whole, if you look around like I did in the mall today, it's pretty much a sea of black hair and almond eyes. Perhaps most of the population doesn't have any contact with sandy blonde hair up close. We do kind of stand out.

Gwen is oblivious to all this at this point in her life. In fact, the last couple of days when she has seen an Asian baby or toddler, she has said, "That looks like Kate." Kate is one of her China sisters. This cracks me up! Of course she and Kate share their Asian features... but Gwen hasn't yet realized that these other Asian children perhaps look a little like her.

Fish & Chips... or Not

Last week after we moved into our apartment, Scott and I grocery shopped together. He picked out a 3-pack of Pringles style potato chips, in cans. I think the brand was Lays. We realized after we got them home that each can was a different flavor. One was regular, one barbecue, and one was... crispy prawn flavor. I think prawns are sort of like shrimp, but I'm actually not certain. We decided not to open the crispy prawn flavored chips. Somehow they were not appealing.

This morning I gave Mr. Wu a little gift. I think he may enjoy those chips more than we would have.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Livingroom Window Scene

Seth practicing in a room with a view! I love how this picture ended up just being his silhouette.

Gwen (and Mom!) Update

Well, Gwen slept just fine last night. Her nanny was praying that she would! I was concerned that she would wake herself up with pain as she moved in her sleep, but it didn't happen. I think she stayed flat on her back all night. She had a rough time this morning, as she was probably stiff and sore as she began to move a little after being still all night. She was pretty grumpy all morning, not able to get comfortable and letting everyone know! But she was a different girl after her nap this afternoon. She seemed to have less pain (it's so hard to know with young children, isn't it?) later in the day, and was much less protective of her collarbone area. We have to be very careful about how we pick her up, or help her onto the potty, or lay her down in bed. One wrong move causes her a lot of pain. But I think we're all doing better.

I was feeling pretty overwhelmed this afternoon, after caring for grumpy Gwen. I was also making calls to report to the doctor and to decide with her when and where to take Gwen for her next x-ray. Things like this are just ten times more difficult to figure out here.

The devotion I read with the kids this morning was from 2 Corinthians 12:9 and 10, where the Apostle Paul talks about his weakness, and how he chooses to delight in it. How can we delight in weakness? How can I rejoice about this added complication of Gwen's broken clavicle? Well, it's not really something I feel like rejoicing about, that's for sure. She wants to swim with the other kids, but can't get her brace wet. She has to wear this brace for 4 weeks. Not a good time, in the heat of summer. But Paul says he will delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships... the list goes on. Why? Because when we are weak, then God's power shows up. He is strong when I am weak. His grace is sufficient for me. His power is made perfect in my weakness. I guess this is the perfect opportunity!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Few New Home Pics

The girls playing with playdoh at the island in the kitchen (dining room in background).
Not a great picture of everyone, but this was our first dinner in our new place.
Madelyn and Gwen arranging their hair stuff in the nifty little divided drawer in their closet.
Caleb is pretty happy with the picture collage he put up over his bed.

Thump In the Night

Last night, in the wee hours, there was a thump (that we didn't hear) and then a scream and some more screams (and more and more and more...) that we most definitely did hear. Gwen had fallen out of her bed, which is quite low, but she fell onto the hardwood floor and apparently hit in the wrong way. She cried for a long time and I sang about every song in my repertoire to settle her, to no avail. Her cries were definitely cries of pain, and so Scott began scrambling to make his way through the paperwork we'd been given about the medical system here and our expat insurance. He made several calls while she cried, but she eventually fell asleep and so we decided to wait until morning to do anything.
This morning we noticed that she wasn't holding her arm quite right, but we still weren't sure what part of her body she had injured. We made our way to the expat health clinic by late morning, where we found very helpful English speaking doctors. Gwen was not the least bit cooperative, probably because it was very painful for her to move. She did not want to let go of me, and she told me later that she was really sad when the doctor cut her pajama top off to try to look at her back. We ended up having to go to another facility, a children's hospital, for an x-ray. We had pretty bad memories of a children's hospital in China that we went to days after we adopted Gwen.... parts of this facility today were reminiscent of that visit. Loads of people filling every hallway, a somewhat dilapidated building. That aside, the doctor we saw first merely touched Gwen's clavicle with one finger and declared it fractured... Scott and I looked at each other in amazement and with kind of a "yeah, right" look between us, but when the x-ray came back, he was exactly right. Her right clavicle is broken clean through. Not only did the x-ray clearly show her broken clavicle, it also showed her wide open mouth... she was not too happy about the x-ray!

So yes, 8 days into our China adventure, we have a broken bone in our family. On the bright side, we have successfully navigated the health care system and been well cared for. Gwen is wearing a little cloth and velcro brace around her shoulders to hold the bone together, and by this evening was gingerly trying to keep up with the other kids.

Oh, and about the other kids... they did pretty well on their own today while we had Gwen at the doctor. Seth even made them all a special treat... mandarin oranges with Sprite poured over them. Can't beat that!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What Jet Lag Looks Like

In Flight Activities

Gwen was really into the headphones... of course they were way too big, so she had to hold them on.

If only there had been more of the sleeping and less of the wiggling! :-)

Before and After

These pictures were taken on opposite sides of the globe!

The first one is at O'Hare Airport last Friday morning. Both the girls look like they are still waking up... and they are justified, because we had a very short sleep the night before. It was after midnight when we finally reached our hotel at the airport the night before our flight to Shanghai. When I took this picture, we had just finished getting all ten or so of our large pieces of checked luggage up to the counter, and are ready to head through security.
This picture was taken once we made it outside at the Pudong airport in Shanghai, and were waiting for Mr. Wu to bring the car. All the kids look a little travel weary, don't you think? Fourteen hours on the plane will do that to you. Besides that, it's 2 a.m. for their body clocks. Look at all our luggage!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Got It!

Hurray! We finally have internet access at home. We don't have our computer yet, just Scott's work laptop which has all kinds of firewalls and so is preventing me from viewing any blogs... ugh. I am so anxious to catch up with all of my blogging friends... I miss you and miss reading about what is happening in your corner of the world. But I am so thankful to be able to send and receive email now (hint, hint, I'll write you if you write me!) and to be able to post again.

It is Saturday morning. It's a foggy (smoggy?) day, as it often seems to be early in the day. Hopefully it will burn off later. I'm anxious to see how much longer this rainy season lasts, and what the weather will be like once it's over. It has been very humid every day since we've been here... which I guess is a week now.

Our air shipment, which we had hoped would be arriving at the end of this week, will probably not be to us until the end of next week. Strange, as it's been in the country for several days now. We had to pay duty on several items in the shipment, including the food (which was only 6 boxes of mac and cheese and five bottles of spices). Some of the other things that duty was charged on were strange.... a small wicker chair, a plastic storage shelf. Also all the cds that we brought.

We are so anxious for the air shipment to arrive, as it has all the kids' stuff... toys, books, our music and dvds. Yesterday I remembered that the library at Concordia, the school the boys will be attending, is open in the summer. We headed over there and hung out for an hour, reading and picking out storybooks for the girls. I was so happy to be able to get books for them. The boys had brought chapter books with them on the plane, but the girls had only a couple of small books with them, and we were quite tired of those. So nice to have fresh reading material! We were actually only supposed to be able to get a total of 10 books out, 5 for each of the boys, but the librarian took pity on our situation and told me we could use her password and take out as many as we wanted.

All of our kitchen stuff is also in the air shipment, so I've had to be quite creative in my cooking methods. I really wanted to make chicken soup last night because of the cough/cold crud we seem to be passing around, but I have only one small saucepan, which I picked up at the grocery store the other day. I ended up cooking things in stages and transferring the parts of the soup that I had already cooked to the one mixing bowl I have. It actually turned out to be pretty good, even though all the ingredients never got to simmer together! Seth, who is our egg making aficionado, had a similar problem this morning... how to fix eggs for six in one small saucepan? He ended up making soft boiled eggs, four at a time.

Last night I was feeling pretty melancholy, even tearful. Not having our phone (Vonage) hooked up to be able to call friends and family yet has been hard, in addition to the lack of internet. I was feeling pretty far from all of you. Part of my feeling so low was the fact that I felt physically weak, with a sore throat from all my coughing, and minor ear pain. It's amazing how quickly I dug a deep hole for myself. The view from our apartment is so beautiful, esp at night... I took some Tylenol for my physical discomfort and attempted to take some pictures of the view to take my mind off myself. Scott reassured me that we would be able to get things at least partially hooked up this weekend, and that helped too.

That's all for now... I have lots more to tell, but it will have to come a bit at a time. Hoping to have pictures posted later today!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Notes From Monday and Tuesday

It's the rainy season right now in this part of China, for another couple of weeks. The downpour for the first two thirds of the day doesn't seem to stop the bicyclers. It is the means of transportation for many. They ride in the rain, wearing rain ponchos in every color of the rainbow. I looked today... red, yellow, bright pink, lots of purples, green, blue, black, some multicolored. They all have little brims on the hood, like a baseball cap.Umbrellas also seem to be more colorful here than in the U.S. I saw a myriad of them today, moving briskly down the street.
I had a physical today for my residence permit. Scott had already done his on one of his trips here in the last few months, so he stayed with the kids and I went alone, with Mr. Wu driving me. It is very quiet in the car when you cannot communicate with the person you are riding with! I kept silently thinking, "I wish you could teach me Chinese, I wish you could teach me Chinese", but I didn't even know how to ask him anything. Finally toward the end of the ride, somehow it happened that he told me the Madarin for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I was so excited! I said them over and over, and Mr Wu seemed very pleased at my excitement. Later when we were all in the car with him, we practiced Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday outloud for him, and he taught us a few more words. I don't retain very much of it, but it's a start.
IKEA in Shanghai is pretty similar to IKEA in the States. It is, after all, a Swedish company, so it should be Swedish in both China and America. They served Swedish meatballs at the cafeteria! But there were chopsticks next to the knives and forks at the end of the lunch line, and several Chinese entrees to choose from. The snack bar that is just past the check out lines had amazing prices... just 1 yuan for a soft serve ice cream cone, which is about 12 cents! We all got one, as a reward for us all for spending far too long on our disorganized shopping trip, complete with a feverish child. Hotdogs came in at 3 yuan, or 36 cents a piece.
At breakfast this morning in the hotel, a man came around to the table where Scott and the kids were seated (I was at the medical exam... not allowed to eat breakfast beforehand). He made beautifully detailed little creatures for each of them, deftly weaving long, tough grasses into a frog, dragonfly, praying mantis, and a grasshopper. I'm sorry I missed seeing him make them... the kids reported that he did them so quickly, and to see them you would be amazed at their intricacy!
We have a rebellious washing machine at our apartment. We actually have two of them, although I only know the temperment of one so far. The machines are tiny, about the size of a small dishwasher, low and square. And they not only wash the clothes, but once the wash cycle is finished, low and behold, they morph into a dryer! Which is why it is good that we have two, if you see what I mean. So this afternoon when we went to the apartment, I brought along some of our dirty clothes to try out in the machine. Now this machine is brand new, mind you, but unfortunately for me, the controls are all in Chinese characters, so I have to guess at what buttons to press and how far to turn the dials. We also had to guess about where the detergent should go. Suffice it to say, something was not done right, because I had water and suds all over the laundry room floor two times, and suds coming out of the seams in the machine, too. It also agitated and spun so violently that it jumped all over the floor, moving several feet from its original place, and at one point pinning the door to the room closed. When I finally got the clothes out after nearly two hours, they were still soapy. Do you suppose I should ask for help with the controls?
Shanghai is a very modern city, but it's fun to find bits of what I consider Old China here and there. Today I saw people squatting on the curb, selling round melons. I saw live chickens, being held upside down by the feet, while a prospective buyer poked at the flesh under the wing to see how plump the chicken was. I saw a man on a bike hauling a load of styrofoam coolers... not a heavy load, but this pile was no less than 12-15 feet high and wide!
I don't think it has sunken in yet that we really live here. Because we are still in a hotel, living out of suitcases and eating meals out for the most part, it still seems like a vacation of sorts. I'm guessing it will feel more real within the week, as we move to our apartment for good and Scott goes back to work. The kids are doing pretty well, although they all have some kind of crud that is causing a cough and drainage. They are having fun getting things set in their new rooms, and this afternoon we explored the grounds around our apartment complex, which they enjoyed. I'm looking forward to finding a new normal, once we're in our place.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Now We Are In China

I can't quite believe it, I guess, but we are in China. The smell as we walked off the plane through the jetway to the airport should have cemented the fact in my mind. I'm not sure what it is, but the smell is distinctive. Tonight as I was running bath water here at the hotel, I caught a whiff of it again... whatever it is, it's China.

Our flight went reasonably well, considering it's length and Gwen's age. She wasn't much for wanting to sit. The cartoons offered on the plane are pretty yucky, and our laptop battery lasted only so long for her to watch the dvds I brought for her. Playdough lasted about 15 minutes. Food was a great distraction, when something wasn't being spilled or broken. She did nap for a couple of hours a couple of times... that about sums it up. But we made it! Just as we were leaving the plane, Seth got sick to his stomach, and then after him, it was Madelyn who got green and clammy and pinched her lips together to stop herself from vomiting. Customs was super quick, and our luggage was coming around just as we walked up. It took four luggage carts to get it all... we each pushed one and Madelyn pushed Gwen in the stroller. Our driver (we are not able to drive in China... too many signs in Chinese and all that), Mr Wu, was waiting for us right outside the airport doors. He is young and smily, and I want so much to be able to talk to him! He is my first motivation to get going on my Mandarin lessons. Rain poured from the sky as we drove from the airport to our apartment, blurring the view. The kids snoozed on the way, making them groggy when we arrived. It was odd to be in the apartment again after so many months... all the proportions were different that I remembered, and of course it looks different with some furniture in it. The kids perked up a bit as they explored. Madelyn and Gwen were pleased about their long awaited bunkbeds. We stayed only a little while and then headed to a hotel where we are now and will stay for several nights while we wait for our air shipment to arrive. As we were leaving the apartment, a Chinese man said something to Gwen in Mandarin, probably assuming she could understand. She looked at me and said, "What he saying?" I giggled... we'll probably get more of that.

Gwen is definitely getting some attention, being with us. Lots of staring and whispering about her, and lots of smiles, too. Several people have commented on the size of our family. "Big family, very lucky."

Last night we crashed hard, everyone was asleep by 6:30. That meant we were all awake around 2 a.m.! We managed to stay in bed, for the most part, until nearly 6, and were down at the breakfast buffet by seven. Breakfast is pretty neat... a combination of western, English, and Chinese food. Gwen had three bowls of noodles for breakfast and ate them fairly expertly with chopsticks. Madelyn ordered eggs and was asked if she wanted them one side or two. Not knowing what that meant, she answered, "One side", and got sunny side up. Seth said, "Two sides" and got over easy. It makes sense, now that we know. :-) I tried dim sum, with a steamed onion bun and egg custard, but I also had bacon and pancakes. The combination was interesting!

This afternoon we went shopping, with Vivian, the relocation agent, along to help us. She showed us the ins and outs of the grocery store (this was a Carrefour), and I'm not sure I will be very effective without her. I guess I will be able to find some basics, at least. The dairy isle is very different, and I couldn't tell what the milk was all about... everything is in different sizes than in the U.S. Butter is a different shape, not the sticks we are used to. There are so many choices in the yogurt section, much of it being far more liquid than the Dannon we bought before. I did get a couple of bottles of yogurt. We'll see how everyone likes it! The store was very crowded today... note to self not to go shopping on the weekend, and not to take the whole family, either. We were all spent when the excursion was over. We took the groceries back to the apartment, then returned to the hotel and after a bite to eat, everyone has crashed again.

Now everyone is asleep but me... so I guess that's my clue to finish this up! Thanks to all who are praying for us. It is not going to be easy. There is a lot to be excited about... but it will all be a process. Your encouragement is so needed! We love and miss you! :-)

P.S. I have pictures... hope to get to posting some soon.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

One More

I said the post last night was my last from the midwest, but this morning I was emailed this photo from our gathering yesterday and I wanted you to see it. Thank you, small group friends! We love you all.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


~Emma and Madelyn~