Hard Adjustments

It has been a difficult journey for our family ever since returning from vacation in the States over Chinese New Year.  Our trip home was great and time truly flew by.  Yet as great as our trip was, there are times that we question if we should have even gone home at all.

The night before we were supposed to fly out Bear made himself physically sick with anxiety about returning home.  Then upon actually returning to China his behavior and demeanor changed completely.  It was as if he was losing his spirit.  He refused to eat and barely ate anything for an entire two weeks.  He would scream and break down at anything or for seemingly nothing.  He spent a lot of time hiding under his bed.  He has always been highly sensitive to change and any change positive or negative stresses him out.  There were several points where as a parent, I knew if things didn’t change quickly then we were going to be looking at hospitalization and in more trouble than we already were in regards to Bear’s health.  It is heart wrenching watching your child spiral down a downward path and feeling like there is nothing you can do to help him.

After a lot of research and reading online we discovered that the trip back caused Bear to experience a downward spiral into a major depression.  Once we put words to what is going on with Bear we could work to figure out how to best help Bear out.

We first tried to contact SOS International – a health organization tailored to expats.  In our little neck of the woods, our community is only able to support a small clinic serviced by doctors on a rotating basis.  So if you need anything serious done or major help, you have to go to the SOS in Beijing.  I tried to make an appointment with a psychologist there but they responded that the doctor was completely booked with patients and we could try and get on a waiting list.  Next we tried to get Bear seen at the clinic here and have the doctor here push through a recommendation.  Even though the doctor agreed to push Bear though to a specialist, it never panned out.  You would think when a mother of a three year old has asked for help multiple times – someone would listen or help.

Next I contacted the United Family Health Care in Tianjin.  They had a psychologist who was finally willing to meet with us only after I explained our situation.

While we were waiting on professional help, we worked really hard on trying to have good moments and good experiences for Bear.  Maybe it was special pool time with dad or getting to run an errand with me.  We took time to celebrate little wins and little victories of happiness in his upside-down world.  Little by little, day by day, Bear started to come out of his depression.

The day that Bear and I met the doctor, Bear was actually doing pretty well and on an up swing.  The doctor asked us if we played with Bear – which of course we do, but instead of helping facilitate play to take a step back and listen to his play.  Other than that the doctor said he showed no signs of anxiety while we were there – which didn’t help much, but he gave me his cell phone number so that I could text him when something was up with Bear.

The next day at home I sat next to Bear and just listened.  I was completely taken back by what I heard.  Everything he played with, be it cars, his castle, his pirate ship, rearranging blankets in our bedroom in a house, or rearranging the couch cushions for play, shared the central theme of house.  I knew he played house with the blankets and couch, but it didn’t resonate with me until I sat down and counted how many times we had played house in an afternoon.  A sense of home is obviously extremely important to Bear yet somewhere and somehow we have failed in keeping his world safe and secure to him.  And as I reread the previous sentence all I can think of is ‘well duh we moved to China!’

I don’t think living here is home to Bear.  This whole ordeal has been heartbreaking, but to realize that Bear doesn’t truly feel like this is home is eye opening.  So then comes the question – how do we make this place home for Bear?  How are our actions and words reflecting in his attitude to living here?  (which is an immensely important question as living here is challenging for all of us!)

We are still working on the answers.  One thing in which every professional (pediatrician, SOS clinic doctor, and psychiatrist) we talked to recommended was putting Bear in kindergarten/preschool.  Unfortunately this has proven more challenging than ever.  We keep having set backs out of our control and it has been frustrating trying to get Bear into school.  This school we picked is the perfect fit for him which is why we have not enrolled him in another school.  Fingers crossed and prayers that things get worked out soon!  Bear is actually looking forward to school and cannot wait to go.

The reason why I wanted to share this with you is that it was completely eye opening having a child with depression.  We did not understand what Bear was going through was depression until we were desperate, trying to find help for him.  Depression is diagnosed in 2% of toddlers and is unfortunately on the rise.  Unfortunately there is not a lot of research out there yet.  I have a couple of books on the way that explore the topics of expatriate living and the struggles that children face in an expatriate situation as well as a couple of books on childhood depression, and a book for siblings that help explain what depression is and why it looks like we are treating their brother differently.

Transitions and life changes may always be a struggle for Bear, but we as his parents are more prepared to help him through these changes.  Yes, we still question whether or not we should visit home this summer or how he is going to be when he actually gets to start school, but we will try to make each new change as positive as possible.  We are very aware that something can trigger another depression in Bear, but next time we will be more prepared to help him.

 

A Birthday Party fit for a Princess!

Our beautiful little girl turned six last week and we had an amazing time celebrating.  I admit, I may have gone a bit overboard, but I think it was well worth it!

Birthday’s can be a bit challenging for the kids as they are so used to celebrating birthdays in the US.  When you are used to celebrating your special day with your extended family by your side, it can be a bit bittersweet when they are not able to be there to celebrate with you.  Fortunately for my brood, we have an amazing group of expat friends that have grown into our family here.  But enough of me rambling, on with my Belle’s big day!

Last summer (yes I plan that far in advance) I asked my daughter what she wanted her birthday theme to be…she answered Beauty and the Beast…unaware that there was a new movie coming out.  It was fabulous planning a Beauty and the Beast themed party with the movie excitement going around.

With help from our agent, I was able to order candelabras from Taobao.  Taobao is a wondrous website unto itself, but you need someone fluent in Chinese to effectively navigate and help purchase.  Think Amazon.com meets Ebay.  You can find anything and everything on Taobao and for the most part you can get whatever you purchase shipped to your door within a day or two.  I have often learned to not be surprised when items arrive.  For instance, this is how the candelabra arrived:In a lot of pieces with no instructions.  They turned out beautiful but took what seemed like forever to assemble them.  We also ordered the table cloths, happy birthday banner, candles, table runner, and wooden flatware from Taobao. 

My amazing friend helped me immensely by making the felt rose balls.  Again,  I’m so glad for such great friends to help.

Here is how the overall look turned out: 

Yes, I spent an entire afternoon glittering and hanging 36 wooden pieces of flatware from our dining room lights!

Last but not least was the cake.  Cakes are a challenge here.  Luckily my cakes came out – all six layers managed to  come out of the oven and act as they were supposed to.  (I don’t know how to explain baking differences here.  I don’t know if it is an unusual oven, minor differences in ingredients, different quality in the ingredients I can get my hands on here or what, but I always pray that whatever I’m making turns out and meets my expectations.)  Our own Belle had chosen the birthday cake she wanted out of my buttercream bible.  I sort of put my own spin on it to make it fit more of the Beauty and the Beast theme.  I think it turned out pretty well!  In closing, I feel like our own little Princess had a pretty special day.  My friend helped me decorate the dining room while my husband took the kids out of the house before the party in order to make it a surprise.  It was priceless to see the look on her face when she saw the room.  Happy Birthday love! 

 

Ramblings….

We have been on vacation at home in the States.  It was really weird to just type that – on vacation at home in the US.  But alas it is such a true statement.  We have been enjoying being back on US soil!  Yesterday the boys even got to go sledding and enjoy beautifully white, clean snow!!!!

Being in the US has been and is great and much needed for our spirits!  Yet I am troubled by all the news I see and read.  I don’t want to turn this into a political post, but I do want to share a few of my moral and ethical thoughts.  We as American’s have such an amazing lifestyle that we take for granted everyday.  We should be thankful that we have freedom of religion, free speech, a right to vote, etc.  So many people in the world do not share or enjoy the many freedoms that we are so fortunate to have access to.

I currently live in a communist country where media, internet, and news sources are very censored and controlled.  A country where people do not enjoy the same rights and freedoms we hold so near and dear.  A country where almost all women give birth by C-section, abortions (wanted or unwanted) are extremely prevalent, and there is no freedom of religion – but rather an atheist society – where mannerisms toward others and the environment leave much to be desired.

My point is we are fortunate.  So whether you are liberal or conservative, republican or democratic….know that you could have it much worse.  Be thankful for people in your life that show compassion to you and to one another and strive to show compassion to others in your daily lives.  Count your blessings and be grateful you you have something to be thankful for.  No matter what tomorrow brings or next week, or next month, or even next year there is still hope and there is still God.  Hope for each of us, hope for our country.  Remember the power of faith in God, God’s love and providence in the world, and the power of prayer!  God bless you and may you be filled with God’s grace!

What – A new blog post?!?!?

It probably seems like have fallen off the face of the planet.  It certainly feels that way to me when it comes to blogging.  So much it seems has gotten in my way of getting my thoughts down.  Between teaching English to kindergartners five days a week and suffering from our second major computer malfunction, and life with three kids in general, I’m ashamed that I’m just now paying attention to my blog.

We had a pretty good Christmas and New Year – and I’ve slowly started taking Christmas decorations down.  We had a pretty busy December, Newbie celebrated his first birthday and was finally baptized, my in-laws visited, not to mention partaking in holiday festivities.

Anyhoo,  as it is way past my bedtime, and I am just happy I remembered how to log in,  I’m going to leave you with my New Year’s Resolution to be a better blogger!  So belated Merry Christmas and I hope you have a very wonderful and blessed 2017!

Sugar and Spice

I was flipping through one of my favorite cookbooks this morning in search of a dessert to take to a dinner party on Friday night.  This particular cookbook is priceless to me as I have so many notes and additional recipes in it that I would be lost if something were to happen to it.  Anyway because the cookbook was published by our Church a few years ago, it also contains many family favorite recipes.  So in glancing through the dessert section, I happened to stumble upon one of my Grandmother’s Spice Cake recipes.

As I am half a world away from the place that I truly call home, every once in a while something will strike me as ‘home’.  Today it was this recipe.  As soon as I saw it, I knew that I had to bake my Grandmother’s spice cake.  The funny thing is, is that I cannot even remember having my Grandmother’s spice cake that she made.  The simple fact that it was her recipe made me have to have it.

So as I sit here writing and eating a delicious spice cake cupcake, let you me tell you about the remarkable women that was my Grandmother.  If there was ever a human being that could encompass the essence of the word home it was my Grandmother.  No matter what was going on in my life and from a very young age my Grandmother always provided me with the warm cozy feeling of being at home.  She was always warm and welcoming and she would give you whatever she had.  My grandparents never had much money, but they certainly made up for it in love – in fact I think my grandmother perfected that notion.  I believe in her kindness she was rare.  I can only aspire to be the kind generous person she was day in and day out of her everyday life.  She always knew just how to make anyone feel as if they were important, special and oh so loved.

My birthday is at the tale end of May.  Growing up with a teacher for a mother and a welder for a father, I often spent my birthday at my grandparents house as both of my parents would be working and I would already be out of school.  Upon arrival, my Grandmother would make me lie down on the sofa and shut my eyes, and before I knew it I would be awoken to scrambled eggs and crispy bacon (my favorite).  Then throughout the day my Grandmother would make me an English tea ring – which would turn out to be one of the best birthday gifts I received each year.  When I was younger my Grandmother would make it while I napped so it would be a surprise.  As I grew up, I started to catch on to her and I soon started to request, nay beg, to let me help her make my tea ring.

I can still remember watching my Grandmother take ingredients and without measuring, mix them all together.  It was if by magic they would create an incredibly tasty birthday treat.  I loved helping kneed the dough, then Grandma letting me use her rolling pin (which is now one of my treasured possessions), would help me roll out the dough so it was the perfect thickness, then spreading the butter on and sprinkling it with cinnamon and sugar.  We would carefully roll up the dough and shape it into a ring.  Usually when Grandma made a tea ring, it was  frosted with white icing and adorned with red Maraschino Cherries, however my favorite colors are purple and green – so for my birthday I always received a frosted purple tea ring with green Maraschino Cherries.  There are so many days in my life that I wish I could be back by her side, still trying to master baking skills, sharing smiles and nods of encouragement.

Back to today…

There was something about seeing a recipe from my Grandmother that brought her here to me today.  Even though she passed away years ago, today it was as if she were right beside me measuring ingredients and mixing away.  It is comforting to know that by drawing upon old memories and recreating certain smells – it’s almost like I can still feel her love.  No matter where I am in the world, I am able to find a way to feel home.

So for your pleasure, I thought I would share:

Grandma’s Spice Cake

1/2 C. Crisco or shortening (I use butter)

1/2 C. Sugar

1 egg, beaten

1/2 C. light molasses (I used dark because that is what I brought from the States)

1/2 C. Strong hot coffee

1 1/2 C. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon (I used 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice)

Thoroughly cream shortening and sugar.  Add egg and molasses, mix well.  Add coffee and mix.  Add sifted dry ingredients; beat until smooth.  Pour into waxed paper lined 9×13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.  While warm, frost with confectioner’s frosting (I made my frosting with left over coffee from the recipe).

 

 

 

Fresh New Start

We are back in China.  We flew back about two weeks ago and this is the first chance I have had to sit down and blog – on my new laptop – so yay!!!!

I have to admit that I was really hoping and planning on blogging this summer.  Unfortunately, Newbie (who goes by Peanut now) got extremely ill – as in we are lucky he is still with us ill.  He managed to contract a bacterial infection from his older brother and that infection moved into his blood stream.  Thankfully he had a fabulous team of doctors and nurses and is fully recovered, but I was not anticipating having sick children for over half of our summer home leave.  Thankfully we are all healthy now!!!!

Anyway,  I must admit, I truly was not looking forward to coming back to China.  After all the trials and head aches last year, I was not feeling up to the challenge of life here.  Not to mention that after a week and a half hospital stay, I was starting to feel like we were just not catching a break.  Did I mention that while I was home in the States with a super sick kiddo, my poor husband was back in China having to move out of, nay getting kicked out of our old apartment for a third water leak.

So now we also have a new apartment, Sis has a new school, and we are starting out with a clean slate.  I must say I really like where we are living now.  We have a full kitchen that actually feels like a kitchen.  The kids each have their own rooms with space to play, and the out door areas are fantastic.  We are on the second story instead of the 22nd – which I like much better as there is a tree right outside our kitchen window – so you look out and no matter what the weather, you see green!

Today we visited Sis’ new school.  I think it will be a fantastic choice for her.  Bear is really wanting to attend school too – so hopefully later this month or next month he will be starting.

As I sit here typing…I feel like everything will be okay and that with these new changes we will have a better year – maybe it’s just the chocolate and night cap talking, but right now, I’m looking up!

Update!

Our computer is toast, as in no more!  Right now I’m borrowing a computer just to give a quick update.  Ever since our computer decided to up and crash, I have not blogged.  Believe me not blogging has caused some major withdrawal, yet in the same breath it has been a little bit nice not being plugged in.

We just got back from vacation in Sanya, China (Hainan province).  Hainan Island is known as the Hawaii of the East due to the vastness of tropical plants and flowers.  All the tropical flowers at our resort were truly amazing.  It was awesome to be lounging by the pool and all of a sudden experiencing a fantastic tropical fragrance as a breeze swept across your face.  And oh, the fresh air was truly wonderful!

Taking a vacation has done wonders for my spirit.  There for a while, I was feeling down – as if there was a heavy force pushing me down.  I think it mostly had to do with trying to obtain a teaching job.  In retrospect, I’m not sure why I struggled so hard with it.  I think God was telling me all along he had different plans for me.  I just did not want to see it.  There has been a lot of good to come out of all the strife.  Lucy will be attending a much better school that will fit her needs.  I think I found an awesome German based kindergarten for Henry to attend next year.  I have also had several other possible work opportunities open up.  I needed to remember how much letting go and letting God is truly freeing. I feel happier now than I have actually been in months.

I have actually started a gratitude log.  I’ve had people tell me for years how wonderful it is to write down three positive things about your day.  Previously I always thought the idea was great, I just never gave it enough time or energy.  That all changed with a gift I received for Mother’s Day.  My lovely friend, Cami, gave me a little Mother’s Day bag with some chocolate and a key ring loaded with blank cards on it.  Cami’s thoughtfulness made my day – it made me smile.  In wanting to capture the feeling, I decided to write down the positives of the day and Cami gave me the perfect place to do it.  I can carry my gratitude log with me, it is actually quite small and now I don’t have to worry about a journal here, a piece of paper there, etc.  I have started ending my night writing down three things I am most grateful for each day.  I have even noticed that I am starting to look for good things that occur throughout my day that I might not have noticed before.  It helps when life can seem so difficult to look back and see that there were actually good things that happened today.

Lastly,  I will be resuming the blog after we arrive home this summer, as we will not have a replacement computer until then.  Don’t worry, I have saved some pretty good posts and some pretty awesome pictures to share!  24 days until we set foot on US soil, but hey we aren’t counting or anything 😉  TTFN!

Our Help

Ayi and kiddos
Ayi and kiddos

Our Ayi: Ayi Zou

We switched ayis mid-December.  We hired a new full time ayi to help out with kids and cleaning around the house.  We hated to see our old part time cleaning ayi go, however as Bear still ran and hid every time she walked in the same room as him, we could not continue with her employment.  Our old ayi came on just a little too strong for Bear’s comfort and with Bear having trouble adjusting to different situations as it is, we felt we could not keep subjecting him to an unnecessary level of discomfort caused by an ayi in his own home.  So when our current ayi became available for full time employment with an expat family’s return to the States, we snatched her up – and I have to say we are so happy that we did.  I will say that having an ayi certainly spoils us!  She currently works Monday through Friday from 9 to 5.

So you may be wondering about the role of our ayi.  Our ayi cleans our apartment daily, washes dishes, does laundry, irons clothes, changes sheets on our beds, dusts, vacuums, cooks dinner three nights a week, watches the kids when I have errands to run, and grocery shops for us. She is amazing and I do not know what we will do without her when we move back to the United States.

As a person she is amazing and very caring – you can tell by how she interacts with my kids.  She builds Bear a fort out of the couch cushions almost daily or takes the time to build a train track etc.  She is just as eager to snatch up Newbie and change his diaper, rock him to sleep, etc.  Some days she picks Sis up from school and is always eager to teach the kids and me Chinese.  Bear is even starting to respond to her in Chinese!  Even though she works for us she feels like a family member.

Mr. Xu
Mr. Xu

Our Driver: Mr. Xu

We are not allowed to drive ourselves in China (thank goodness).  JD’s company does not want the liability or headache if we should get into an accident and possibly end up in jail.  With the way cars are driven over here it would only be a matter of time before we were in an accident if we were driving.  Therefore we have a van and driver.

Mr. Xu is an amazing driver.  I cannot begin to tell you how many times that we were in the car and I think “thank the Good Lord Mr. Xu is driving and not me!  We would have been killed if it were me and not him in that situation.”  Mr. Xu navigates traffic like a pro and seemingly with ease.  He is defensive and extremely alert.   I’ve been in the car where he has done a three point turn on a busy street with lots of traffic and was amazed by his ability to maneuver  the van.

When Mr. Xu drops us off somewhere, he will often park himself as close as he can so that he can readily see us to pick us up.  That way we do not have to text him to come fetch us (not all drivers do this).  Mr. Xu also keeps the van incredibly clean inside and out.  There have been times that I have felt terrible when we are picked up after letting the kids play and sand falls out of pant legs or shoes.

Most importantly Mr. Xu is great with our kids.  When I was 9 months pregnant with Newbie and had a hard time walking Sis up three flights of stairs in the morning for school, Mr. Xu would walk her in.  He would also pick her up in the afternoons from her classroom.  Now in the mornings, I leave Newbie and Bear with Mr. Xu as I walk Sis in.  When I come out, I often find Mr. Xu sitting in the back seat trying to comfort Newbie or chat/play with Bear.

Fiona
Fiona

Our Agent: Fiona Xu (no relation to our driver)

Fiona is hired by JD’s company to help us out with living in China.  I would honestly hate to have her job.  She works very hard and tries very hard to keep us happy, which can be very difficult when things seem to constantly need fixed.  Not to mention she takes care of a lot of expats here.  She is constantly running to assist people.

We met Fiona back in March when we first came over here to see if we would or could make a go of this work experience.  Fiona showed us around as well as took us apartment hunting.  We spent two days just looking at apartments (yes it was like being on House Hunters International).  She negotiated our lease with our landlord as well as helped shop for furniture we requested/needed for our apartment.

She loves to shop – which is awesome as there are definitely times where you want her along to help translate and negotiate.  JD and I often say that we get the ‘pale skin price’ around here simply because vendors know we do not know enough Chinese to understand what is being said to our faces when making a purchase.  It is hard for us to negotiate, argue, or even return items.  So when we shop with Fiona, we actually feel as if we are getting a better deal!

 

Strawberry Picking

We went strawberry picking this last Friday.  Like all things to a Westerner living in China it was an adventure like never before.  I’m sure most of you have visited a farm or an orchard and maybe even been strawberry picking yourselves.  Get that picture out of your head and let me paint for you a picture of this experience:

Excitedly we get in the van, stocked piled with snacks and books to keep the kids satisfied as the strawberry picking place is an hour drive away.  Everyone is settled in and the adventure has begun.  Ayi Zou is sitting up front, conversing with Mr. Xu, the kids each have a precious beef stick in their hands and are as content as can be so the focus goes from them to out the window.

As we drive along all you see is a grey, dull landscape – and I truly mean grey and dull.  You will have never seen anything as grey or as dull as our area in China.  Even on a clear day the sky and landscape are dull and grey it truly makes you think wasteland, as if you are driving through doldrums.  Driving out of the city you will find random high rises that have popped up here and there without a real sense of belonging – as everything around them seems extremely baron.  You would expect to see villages but you do not as towering high rises have taken their place.  There are small crop fields scattered around, a small house/hut here or there, and more out of place high rises clustered at random places on the horizon but not much else.  So as you are driving there really is nothing to see, but you cannot keep your eyes from looking out the window as it is all still completely foreign to you.

About forty-five minutes later, it is evident that we are starting to get closer to the strawberry patch as the roads we are on become much more narrow and poorer in quality.  The baron land makes way to small walled structures and all of a sudden we are driving around an actual village and not just a random cluster of high rises.  The poverty and living conditions are astounding as you can see each dwelling is an extremely modest rectangular house with maybe two rooms.  Trash is everywhere, it is already everywhere in China, but you notice much larger piles of it as we drive along.  Stray cats and dogs are prevalent and what I can only assume what are irrigation ditches are littered with trash and discarded concrete and building material.  On the edge of the village are many elongated greenhouses with large rectangular concrete entry ways, that I must say are as much lacking in aesthetics as they possibly can.  The roads are down to one lane now and it becomes clear that our driver, Mr. Xu is unsure of where exactly we are going.  Luckily for us, Mr. Xu is excellent and when I sent him the business card for this place, he programmed the number in his phone.  So Mr. Xu got on the phone and got directions to the exact place where we were to pick berries.  This may raise the question of where the heck did I get my hands on a business card as such?  Most all information is passed down from expat to expat here.  From what I gather there may have been a school trip in the past which is where the card was obtained.

Soon we are on the road by a lady on a scooter.  Mr. Xu rolls down the window and I can only assume directions are being communicated.  We follow along for probably two or three more kilometers and stop just beside her greenhouse.  We all excitedly hop out of the van and prepare to pick strawberries.  As we enter the green house, we are given Styrofoam containers to pick berries.  The smell of strawberries is in the air and we begin to pick some of the most beautiful strawberries I have ever seen.  It does not take long to fill two containers, between the kids, Ayi Zou and myself.  The boxes are then weighed and paid for, and this is where it stung.  Strawberries are extremely expensive here.  In the stores you will pay around $3 for 16 strawberries.  Here I got two nice sized containers for about $40.  So as I’m reveling in the sticker shock of this little adventure, I start to notice that Ayi Zou has found celery and is excitedly picking stalk upon stalk of celery.  Meanwhile the lady that owns or operates the green house is neatly arranging a box of strawberries.  Not thinking much of this, I round up the children and head towards the van.  Mr. Xu at this time is holding and playing with the Newbie at the van and Ayi Zou is still in the green house picking celery.  So we finally get settled into the van and get ready to start the journey back and Ayi comes up with two arm fulls of celery, and communicates to Mr. Xu to go to the green house, in which he comes back to the van with the box of strawberries that was being prepared by the strawberry lady.  It then hits me.  We paid the Western price – Mr. Xu and Ayi Zou were getting compensated for us paying the Western price (insert mental note to self to negotiate next time).   In all honesty I am very grateful that Ayi Zou and Mr. Xu were given the celery and berries as I’m sure I paid for it, and if it were not for either Ayi Zou or Mr. Xu our lives would be so much more difficult than they already are.  We pay the ‘foreign’ or ‘Western’ price on many items here.  It is widely known that we get charged much more for the same goods and services received by locals – but hey what are you going to do?  It is not like you can complain, nor put strawberries back on the vine. 

Anyway, we finally get back on the road and start for home.  Only now, as we are trying to get back to a main road there is a cement truck parked at the next intersection and cement is being dumped in a huge pile on the road.  We are not able to go anywhere until the cement truck moves, so to Bear’s delight we get to watch cement being poured.  While all this is going on a worker moves beside the van and relieves himself for all to see.  And the only thing you can do is shake your head and mutter the words, “Only in China.”  Finally the truck moves and we start back.  Except this time Mr. Xu is taking us home a different way.  We turn left instead of back right.  This is no big deal except as we travel along we run out of road, and from what I can see Mr. Xu is trying to get us from the back roads to the main roads quicker.  And as we have run out of road, we just keep driving, much slower as to avoid all the pot holes and dips in the dirt/gravel.  We cannot turn back as this is clearly the way to go as there are semi trucks ahead of us, behind us, and on both sides of us all trying to drive the same direction.  This goes on for two to three kilometers and then miraculously a four lane highway appears.  Half an hour later we are safely home with our berries and Ayi’s celery.

Off roading in the van!
Off roading in the van!

Clearing my head!

I should be getting to bed, but my head is awake.  Awake and thinking.  So I figure if I type and get my thoughts out of my head and onto digital paper I will be able to go to sleep.

JD and I finally booked a trip to get out of Teda for a week.  This may not seem like a big deal but believe me – after living here so long, one needs a break.  Julie always tells me that the best advice she ever received was from a previous expat who told here that you need to try to escape here every three months for your sanity.  I believe every word of that statement.  Between smog, general stresses and confined city living – where it is hard to even go on a simple walk, you need to escape and refresh.  We have been promising the kids a beach vacation for a while and in may we are going to go to Sonya – the Hawaii of China.  We actually thought about stopping in Hawaii on our return trip to the states, but after seeing it would mean two bad days of travel instead of just one, we opted to just fly home.  I think this is for the better for the kids too.  I cannot tell you how excited I will be to see the Midwest again!

My kids have been asking to go to a beach for a while.  Bryan jokingly told me the kids are young enough that we could just take them to the Teda beach and they would not know the difference.  (insert smile and wink) Thanks but no thanks – Teda is a port town and just let me say there is a reason we do not eat the local sea food here.  You just don’t know what has been leaked or poured into the water.    Anyway, there are sand pit areas at school and every time we walk by both kids want to build a sand castle and ask when can they get to a real beach to do so.  And after these past few months a week on the beach sounds amazing.

I’m in the middle of trying to nail down a teaching job.  I think this is probably what has been weighing on my mind the most.  When we toured Teda International School back in March on our exploratory trip over here, I wanted to know more about how they got teachers to even come to Teda.  So it was soon discovered that I am a certified teacher.  The next day while we were touring apartments, I got called in for an informal interview (even though I really wasn’t looking for a job).

When we arrived home from our trip, I sort of mauled the idea around in my mind, but soon found out I was pregnant with Newbie and soon put the idea of teaching out of my mind.  Then there have been a few times when I was dropping Sis off at school that the principal sought me out to ask if I would be interested in teaching.  I stayed at home with both Sis and Bear and I guess I thought it was just a given that I would stay home with Newbie as well.  This was all before our new Ayi came into our lives.  Ayi is amazing with my kids and I trust her completely with my kids.  She has fun with them but also knows when to put her foot down and discipline them.  I trust her with watching Newbie during the day while I’m at school – where my older two kiddos will be.

All that is left is to work out my teaching contract which I hope will go smoothly, fingers crossed!