West Meets East

Brotherly Love

The boys have had a special affection for each other recently that totally warms my heart! Levi thinks Hudson is incredibly funny. Hudson can get Levi giggling and smiling in .001 seconds and Levi has won a very special place in Hudson's heart too. Hudson is TOTALLY into protecting him and helping him or helping us help Levi. At the age of 3, he watches out for him the way a big brother should. :)
Rockstar Friends!
LOVED having our friends come back to visit us for a few weeks. Lots of fun memories made and friendships renewed. Looking forward to the next visit!

My Love-Hate Relationship with "The Circle"

I hate "the circle" today. It's just a painful reminder that I have SO far to go to adapt to this culture. I feel like a square peg being shoved into a round hole when I go to "the circle." Let me stop and explain what "the circle" is. The circle is literally a circular park like area that is open inside "the circle" but has trees and flowers and benches for socializing that surround the outside of it. It is usually cemented so it can be used for a variety of activities. Every complex I've ever lived in here in China has one. It's the "center" of social activities. It's where the kids all meet after school to play, where kung fu is practiced in the cool of the mornings, where bikes are ridden, soccer balls are kicked around, kites are flown, where the old ladies meet to gossip, and where lovers meet at night to make out (seriously). And it's where I go to learn more about this culture as well as to learn about myself and where, each time I am painfully reminded that I have not completely adapted yet. I leave the circle angry sometimes, frustrated some time and like a picked on 8 year old, saying to myself, "I hate the circle and I'm never coming back here." But, I secretly love the circle. I can not believe I just used the word "love" and "circle" in the same sentence, but it is the truth. I love the circle. I love that it brings to the surface cultural differences between my home culture and my host culture. As painful as those differences are. I love that I'm learning. I love that it's a tangible place for me to see how ethnocentric my own heart is. I love that it's a place to have my world broadened that there is more than one way of doing something and there are pro's and con's to my way as well as to their way of doing things. I love that it reminds me that I live in China. And most importantly I love that it reminds me that I am NOT home yet! This country I live in is not "home", nor is the country I came from. I am reminded of these things each and every time I go to the circle. So, even though I leave the circle every time saying "I'm never coming back here!" I do. I continue to go back and dialogue with the ladies who are "helping" me to become as Chinese as I can become considering that I was born and raised in Minnesota. See, I know it's a love-hate relationship because we live directly across from the circle. In fact, I can see the circle (all of it) from my kitchen window. So, I often times will stand at the window and the part of me that has learned to love Chinese people and the part of me who longs to build community in this culture gets excited and goes through all the trouble that it is to get 3 kids 5 years old and under ready to go outside (socks, potty time, shoes, bikes, potty time again, trikes, sidewalk chalk, sunscreen, last potty call, stroller, etc) so that I can make it to the circle before the sun gets too hot and everybody goes inside. And I am usually genuinely excited to see my "friends" when we arrive. But somewhere between when we arrive and when we leave this relationship goes sour. Either myself or my kids unintentionally culturally "offend" somebody or we are offended and it usually spirals downward pretty fast from there. I think by definition it is a "dysfunctional" relationship and pretty tumultuous at best. I can LOVE the circle and do all that I have to do to get us there and within 30 seconds after arriving be so incredibly fed up with the circle that I take my kids and go elsewhere to play. On the good days, I can listen to what comes at me and sift through it for truth and apply some changes. . . but on bad days I just gather up my flock and go somewhere else to play. Whether this be right or wrong I don't know but it's my way of coping. So, today we started on the outside of the circle and all was well. I even had the thought, "I love bringing the kids to play in the circle." But we sort of worked our way (with bikes and bubbles) from the outside ring of the circle towards the center of the circle. We were doing great "the circle" and me until the kids and I reached the center of the circle. This is where there were some older ladies practicing their dancing. They had flags and drums and there were some other kids playing in the center area too. It was here in the center that our relationship took a quick turn downward today. Hudson was culturally offended by a kid and in return he offended the grandfather who was caring for him. Then the grandfather offended me. . . all the while I was trying to teach Hudson how to interact (and not offend) Chinese playmates. About that time. the dancing ladies turned up the music L-O-U-D so that they could "perform" for those watching from the outside of the circle. I almost said outloud (but I didn't) "I HATE the circle!" As I was leading the kids out of the circle and putting a "healthy boundary" between the circle and me. . . I realized that the circle is my best place of cultural emersion and I learn the most, offend the most, and am offended the most the closer and closer I get to the center of the circle. So, dysfunctional relationship or not, I will keep on spending time in the circle and hoping and praying that we work something out that is a little less up and down, the circle and me. I love/hate you today Circle.

Random Project. . .

Just re-titling. . . or re defining my "random project". It really is not a "random" project at all. It's creative ways of expressing myself throughout the course of "life". I happen to be a pseudo stay at home mom who is living overseas so the pictures I am taking will probably reflect that but hopefully still allow me to use my photography skills weekly and hopefully some creative planning too.

Life 3:27pm

Life 3:27pm

Random 4:52pm

My Mommy Rule: Get down on the floor and play with my kids daily. . . WHATEVER they want to play with. . . how they want to play. . . and as long as they want to play with it. (last part is hard to follow some days but rewarding when I can).

Random 3:43pm

Geo-board Concentration

Random 4:59pm

Random Moments Project

As a busy, busy mom of 3 kids 5 and under I've been starving for opportunities to use the creative part of who God made me to be. I came up with this idea from someone else and then have changed it into my own idea and for my own purpose but the idea is that at least once a week I will try to use my camera and creative juices to either capture my day, my kids, or my life and then post. So, some will be wacky, some will be funny and some just plain "life". I'll title them "random 9:58pm" or whatever time of day I snap the photo. I'm super excited to have motivation to have my camera out more and to be tapping into my creative juices more often in the everydayness of my life and journey as a mom, wife and expat overseas. Welcome to my world!

My $1.47 Playground!

This week I was ELATED to find a playground that is just a short 5 min drive from my house. And once again found myself thankful for our car! Without it, I would not be able to explore this area with 3 kids in tote and would not have found this playground. I was reminded of how last summer we went back to the U.S. for a few months and how I had a blast watching my kids "catch" up on physical playground skills. Things that they hadn't had access to here, they were catching up to their peers (without any problems). It took Abby 2 tries to master the monkey bars - which she was incredibly proud of! Then I was sort of sad thinking about what they do not have being raised here in Asia. So, when I found this playground early this week, I didn't think twice about paying $1.47 per kid to get in and for the kids to play for an hour or so, until a friend posted on facebook about how playgrounds are free in the U.S. Hmmm. . .. that's right! Not only does the U.S. have lots of playgrounds (pubic playgrounds and school playgrounds) but they are both free to the publics use (the school ones are when school is not in session anyway). Here, it is not so. But I am thankful for our $1.47 playground and we will go back weekly I think!
a view of the traffic on a "normal" Monday morning
One of the local veggie markets
???? apparently delivering statues today

Flashing lights

Last night as I was driving on the interstate I had a car from behind me start turning their lights on and off. Other times I've been driving at night I've had cars flash brights on and off right behind me. In the U.S. where I come from this would be a very aggressive thing to do on the road. I might think some nasty thoughts about what they want or why they are doing it and I (more likely) might get a bit scared thinking about their intentions. But here, it is a common courtesy to let the person ahead of you know that you are going to pass them. It's a road courtesy to prevent accidents. I am hoping that I don't adapt too much so that it overflows into my stateside driving skills!

The price of Kix :)

Last night I went to the grocery store (the import one) for some western groceries. I was looking at the cereal aisle which would look skimpy in America but which actually has quite a few selections considering where I live and that they really don't typically eat cereal for breakfast - thus- there are very few Chinese options here. (so they are all imported) I had never seen a box of Kix cereal here before and there was one box on the way tip top shelf. I reached up to pull it down and saw the price tag as I was pulling it down from the shelf. $8.65 for a normal size box. Is that insane or what?! I have not bought Kix in the states (maybe not ever) in a long time, if ever. . . so I don't know what the comparison is but I'm thinking it is at least double the price right? If you live in the United States and can shed light for me on the cost of a normal (not family sized) box of Kix is I would love it!

I'll Ask My Mother. . .

Well, today my standard line of "I'll have to ask my mother about that. . ." did not work to fend off 4. .. count them 1. . .2 .. . 3. . .4 Chinese grandmothers who were ready to have my hung for taking Levi outside. Let me paint the picture for you. It was 57 degrees outside, sunny with a light breeze. I was wearing jeans, a short sleeve shirt and a spring jacket and was sweating a little bit when in the sun. Hudson desperately needed to get outside this morning for some fresh air and run around time. It was Levi's nap time, so I packed him up in his winter snowsuit and put him in the baby carrier that buckles into my sit and stand stroller. He was NOT cold. I'm positive of that. In fact, he was cooing and smiling at me until he fell asleep. One of the little old ladies came over to see him and smiled before squinting her eyes at me and in an accusatory voice told me I was really not smart for taking such a little baby outside. Then she yells at another one to come and see the "foreigner with a baby! She has him outside. .. he is way too small to be outside." To which they then both call another old lady over and this continued until 4 old ladies and one old man were all gathered around my stroller. I was blocked in and they wouldn't let me leave. I started by thanking them for their concern and that I was sure he was old enough to be outside, just please don't touch him. I want to protect him from germs. They went on and on and on. Most of which I could understand, but a lot I couldn't. They were so angry at me. . . I just kept trying to escape the situation. I finally moved my stroller away and closer to where Hudson was kicking his soccer ball around. They followed me! They told me that I needed to have him in the sun and that he was not warm enough over here in the shade. I started to explain that he shouldn't be in the sun for too long because his skin is really sensitive and could get burned and then I realized they were not listening. They were too busy talking about me to each other to listen. I was providing them with entertainment today so I finally said that I would ask my mom about that because she is in her 50's and raised 3 kids and is a nurse and. . . and the truth is they did not care. I finally told them very directly to leave me and my boys alone today. We are trying to get some fresh air and exercise and they were interupting me from enjoying this time. How is that for majorly direct? Well. . . I figured if they were going to be so direct towards me, they wouldn't be offended by my being direct towards them. I could at least be honest. It actually didn't deter them. 2 of them stayed and kept talking to me about how cold it must be for the baby. I just ignored them. I kicked the ball around with Hudson and didn't look at them even though they stayed right nearby. We stayed until Hudson wanted to leave and I was SO relieved when he finally was done and ready to find another place to play! Not an everyday occurance I hope and pray!

Life in Asia with 3 kids!

HA! Today, I took the kids to the zoo and the aquarium. It was time to renew my annual pass. During the hot months of the summer and during the cold months of the winter, we usually go once every couple of weeks or so. So, it is well worth it. The kids learn the names of a new animal in Chinese every time we go. . .so it's a double bounce. Today, I had all 3 outside (BEAUTIFUL weather) for a good chunk of time. We made our way to the Children's Zoo which has a great playground they love to play on. As we were slowly making our way to the Children's Zoo, stopping at every exhibit to enjoy the animals I noticed there was a mom, grandma, grandpa, aunt, and one child following us rather closely trying to get a peak at Levi. So, I obliged and let them look at him. They asked me how old he is and I told them just about 2 months old. They started talking in Chinese to each other (in whispers) about how he is too little to be outside, he must be cold and all of this ridiculous stuff. I just smiled and nodded and said, "Maybe, I'm keeping him warm though. He seems to like the sunshine and the doctor said it would be good for him." Then, Abby came over to me and asked if we could go to see the ostrich's. This family asked me if she was my daughter. I (again) smiled and said "yes, she is my daughter." Then they pointed to Hudson and asked me if he was my son. . ."Yes, he is my son too.". Then, in Chinese, they said "3 kids! You have 3 kids?!" "Who helps you take care of them? You don't do it by yourself do you? You have a nanny right?" To which I told her yes all 3 are mine and no I do not have a nanny. In the U.S., a lot of families have more than 1 child (1 child is the law here) and a lot of families have 2 or 3. They said again to me. . . "3 kids?! All of them are yours? What I wanted to say. . . and the next time this happens I will say is. . . " yes. and I am pregnant with #4 right now." Seriously, I am NOT pregnant with #4 but wouldn't it be funny to see the response?! Infant 2 months old and she is pregnant with #4?!

The Bird's Nest At Night

A where is Waldo moment! Can you find the whitey in the crowd?!

Happy Chinese New Year at DiTan Miao Hui
sort of like a State Fair on steroids
lanterns. . . lanterns . . . and more lanterns

You can't see this city, without seeing the Panda's

A reflective moment for my daughter at the Forbidden City

Zai Jian!

Wool Socks and Long Underwear

As long as I live here, I will never get used to having to wear wool socks and long underwear at the end of March. Here, the buildings are made out of concrete. . . all concrete. So, they are difficult to heat and have them stay warm. The "cold" factor is magnified by the fact that we are given 4 months of heat each year. The government regulates when the heat is turned on (usually Nov 15th) and when it is turned off (March 15th). Every once in a while, in the case of a winter snow storm (which hardly ever happens here) they will have pity on the "common folk" and turn it on early or turn it off late. So, even though it might be 52 degrees (f) outside today, I was able to see my breath in my kitchen when I woke up this morning and the house doesn't "feel" like it has warmed up at all. I'm pretty sure that it is actually warmer outside than it is inside my house. All in all, it's not really that big of a deal, but it's "different" to not be able to control how warm my house is or isn't. So, we will put our wool socks and long underwear on this morning and we'll take them off BEFORE we go outside today. All in the name of a "cold" spring day!