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! 


Happy Chinese New Year: Year of the Monkey!

I apologize for this post being late.  Between visitors, apartment problems, school break, and new baby I have not had a chance to publish this post about Chinese New Year.  Technically the Chinese are still celebrating even though work and school have started back up.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy:

Happy Chinese New Year!!!!  We celebrated the Chinese New Year at the Renaissance Hotel (our home away from home) thanks to another leak in our apartment.  We actually had a pretty dang good view of the fireworks from our executive apartment.  There were fireworks going off all night, starting early in the evening and waning during the early morning hours.   Fireworks are rather inexpensive here, so as you glanced out over the city skyline you could see many large firework displays at one.  Some were rather close to the hotel and would go off right outside the window.  I’m not sure I have ever seen so many fireworks in the air over such an extended period of time.  Unlike the Fourth of July in the States where towns put on large firework shows, businesses and individuals light their own fireworks.  Also unlike the States fireworks are lit off in the middle of streets.

This morning after breakfast, the hotel hosted traditional Chinese dancers to welcome in the New Year and bless the hotel (or bring good luck in the new year with lion dancers paying homage to one of the gods and warding off bad spirits and giving blessings to the hotel, staff and visitors).  It was fantastic to watch.  We had the opportunity to ask Fiona more about it.   The large gold boat looking object is actually a representation of what the Chinese currency used to be.  Depending on status and wealth the ‘boat’ could be gold or silver and it could also very in size (the larger the heaver and more valuable).  This would also denote class as rulers and upper nobility (per say) would have gold, business and trade smiths would most likely be able to obtain silver, and peasants would use coinage.  The character at the hotel represented good fortune and wealth to be spread throughout the hotel.

This past Friday we visited the Ancient Chinese Culture Street in Tianjin.  Walking down Culture Street right before New Year reminded me of the festive atmosphere surrounded by the anticipation leading up to Christmas.  Street vendors were out selling their wears.  You could purchase small animals made of bent palm branches, carved whistles, paintings, carvings, tea pots and tea sets, hats, scarves, toys, Chinese New Year decor, and much much more.

Ancient Culture Street Tianjin

It was rather chilly, but still enjoyable as we strolled along the street.  We came to a cross roads per say and there was a massive area set up with vendors selling New Years items including lots of signs and cut outs to hang in doorways and windows.  There was also a sugar artist creating different Chinese characters out of melted sugar.  The creations were amazing! This was a high light for the kids (both Chinese and my own).  According to Fiona this very traditional and the Chinese children look forward to having a sugar sculpture made for them each year.  We got a panda and Bear was lucky enough to have a small bird made just for him.

We also tried a traditional Chinese dish from a street vendor.  It was recommended we try this particular type of dish by one of JD’s colleagues.  I wish I knew what the proper name of it was.  It was served hot (which was nice as it was chilly) and it was almost like very sweetened finer porridge.  A few of the things I could pick out in it were dried fruits and sesame seeds.  I’m so glad we tried it – it is hard to describe but interesting all the same.

trying a traditional dish

Sky, Grass, and Smog

So I know it has not been that long, but Bear gave me something to blog about today.  I love that little guy! His actions today gave me something to ponder…..

We have been fighting smoggy weather for a while.  If you read my last post, you will know how much I dislike it, but let me just say it again.  Smog sucks – I do not like to use fowl language, but if I simply said smog stinks I would be stating more of a fact than an opinion.  We miss blue sky. For those of you at home and have seen a blue sky in the past month please know that we are envious over here.  Take time to appreciate the joy of throwing your head back taking a deep breath of fresh air, enjoy the sent, and soaking up the warmth of the sun on your face! We have had friends show pictures of their house back in the States and they had their Chinese co-workers ask if the sky was photo-shopped!  All the crystal clear sky pictures you see in books of the major cities in China are photo-shopped.  

This morning was a rather clearish morning.  There was some haze, but no where near what we have now (see picture).  I decided to take the kids out.  We have been having some serious cabin fever around here.  As it looked decent enough to play outside for a little while, we left our Newbie with ayi and seized the opportunity to burn off some energy.

smoggy day

Both kids were excited to be outdoors.  When we got to the play area, they went wild!  As a mom looking at the play equipment, I cringed.  It was disgustingly dirty.  Okay – so no fingers in the mouths and we can stay outside and play.  Then when we get back in the kids are immediately taking off shoes (which is custom here) and pants and washing their hands until they are good and squeaky clean.  Normally it is custom to remove shoes when visiting any home in China.  We have certainly come accustomed to it as our shoes immediately come off when you step inside the door.  Smog is why.  Smog makes everything outside dirty, dusty, and nasty.  You do not want it dragged through your home.  It is also why ayi washes the floors every day.  It is the reason why we spent a small fortune on air purifiers.  There is no longer a five second rule at our house.  If food hits the floor – sorry – you are out of luck.

This is how dirty Bear's hand got just from playing on the play equipment!
This is how dirty Bear’s hand got just from playing on the play equipment!

Back to Bear! The kiddos played and played, ran and ran, and then Bear did something that I almost stopped him for.  He went to play in the grass. Our apartment complex generally frowns on not keeping to the paths -there are signs posted in Chinese and English everywhere to stay off the grass.  The security guard was even eyeing me pretty hard.  As I was opening my mouth to say something to him…a little voice inside said, no just watch.  Bear played by running around the grass, going from tree to tree – hugging each one as he went.  Then he sat down and ran his fingers along it, pulling at it, feeling/remembering what it is like to simply feel grass.  He was on the grass side of the play area more than he was actually on the playground.  Please note this grass is grass in winter – rough, dry with very few truly green patches.

Bear outside 2

Bear outside Vantone

Living in the U.S., we took clean air, blue sky, and nice grass for granted.  We miss the ability to go outside, take your shoes off – to feel soft, green grass between your toes, the smell of leaves in the fall, cut grass, birds chirping and singing.  Sights, sounds, and smells that you do not think much about until they are gone become sorely missed.

Home Sweet Home and Pregnancy in China

We are finally home!  We were able to move back this past Saturday.  We were extremely happy about being able to move back.   It is never easy to pack and unpack so needless to say we are not completely unpacked yet.  The kids are ecstatic to be back.  We were not sure how the adjustment home would be, but I think they have settled in nicely.  Bear has been excited to play with all the toys that were left behind.  Now all that is left is for our sea shipment to arrive – we are keeping our fingers crossed for the end of the week.   I’m really hoping so – as it would be nice to finally be completely settled.  Now if we can just get our shipment unpacked before this little one arrives!

Now onto being pregnant in China.  So I have no idea how many times I’ve been asked if I’m having this baby in China.  At this point, I feel like I’m starting to feel sarcastic…I know I shouldn’t but come on.  I’m past the point of flying  anywhere.  I think the icing on the cake was when my own Dr. in Tianjin asked me if I was planning on delivering the baby at the hospital there.  No…I thought I would get on a plane when I went into labor and shoot for popping this kid out over the International Date Line.  But I bit my tongue, smiled and told her well, yes I’m planning on having the baby here.

The fact that I have two little light haired babes and am very noticeably pregnant draws all sorts of attention.  People will stop us and point out to us that we are having three kids.  Then there are the Chinese moms and grandmothers at school:  I cannot begin to tell you how many times I explain that I am 9 months pregnant with my third or how many times my belly is rubbed or touched.  I have also been blessed to be told how lucky I am to have two children with a third on the way.  I can only imagine all the attention that this new little one will get when he arrives.



UN Week at School

This past week has been a rather busy week for us.  It was United Nations week at school.  On Tuesday all the students were encouraged to dress in their home countries traditional clothes/outfits.  Which is harder than you may think coming from the United States.  I do have patriotic T’s for Sis but they are….in the sea shipment.  Luckily we have awesome neighbors and Sis was given a patriotic dress that no longer fit our little neighbor. (I found the clip on hat in Beijing at a Halloween shop.)

Sis on UN Day
Sis on UN Day

Anyway, Sis’ teacher asked all the parents to prepare a 20-25 minute presentation on our home country as well as fix a snack that is considered traditional fair.  This posed a little bit of a challenge as most of our books are in our sea shipment.  So Sis and I finally decided that I would read a Mercer Mayer Little Critter book about going to the pumpkin patch and she could show pictures of her actually going to a pumpkin patch this past September.  This is something that we figured is unique to the U.S. as it has become a family tradition each fall.  You can find pumpkins here, but they are very small and rough, not like the huge smooth, jack-o-lantern type we get back home.  They are also rather expensive here.

I really struggled with snack.  I would have loved to bake something but did not feel up to it.  Most of our baking items are still in the sea shipment and half of my consumable goods that I carried over in luggage are still at our apartment.  Sis and I finally decided to make ants on logs.  Celery is easy to find and we used some of our precious stash of peanut butter, topped off with Bear’s raisins.  When the teacher saw what we had brought, the first words out of her mouth were – how American!  So I guess we hit that nail on the head ;-).

Ants on a Log
Ants on a Log

Happy Halloween!

Oh how I needed today to be a good day and I firmly believe with all of your prayers and with the grace of God it was truly a good day!  This morning we woke up and decided that since we were all up, we would go down and have breakfast together at the buffet.  It was wonderful to start the day off together as a family, even if it meant that it caused us to be in a mad dash to get Sis ready and dressed in her Halloween costume and off to school on time.

Last night Sis and I worked very hard to make witches hat treats for school:

Sis helping make witches hats.
Sis helping make witches hats.

So after dropping her off at school and returning home, I accidentally called our neighbor (in the Vantone apartment) Julie.  I am still trying to learn my new phone and I have no idea how I even managed to pull up her number (I think God had a hand in this one).  After talking for a few minutes she asked if I wanted to go out for lunch.  This was something wonderful for both Bear and I to look forward to!  So to kill a time before then, I took Bear to play in the kids club room.  We both had a wonderful time.  The hotel keeps a staff member in the room while we play and I must say this particular staff member takes very good care of us.  She had bottles of water waiting for us, tissues to wipe Bears runny nose, and was ready to sit and play with Bear too.  She kept saying how lovely of a child he was (which makes this mama smile).

As we were getting ready to leave for lunch, Ayi Jo helped wrangle the Bear into shoes as well as remembered to put my phone in my purse so I would not forget it! As Bear and I headed down to the lobby to wait for Julie, I received a text message from our other neighbor, Heather.  Heather said that she was going on an unexpected trip to the U.S. and had lots of empty space in her luggage to bring things back.  If I get my list to her by Monday she will bring items back over for us.  So believe it or not we are excited about the prospects of getting our hands on a few boxes of mac n cheese!

Julie greeted us with treats for Bear – fruit snacks and animal cookies!  Needless to say this made him content.  We walked to a western pub where I had pizza and she had homemade mac n cheese.  Bear ate like a little bear.  Not only did he have almost two slices of pizza (small 9 incher), he also mooched cheesy pasta from Julie.  It was wonderful to sit and talk about everything and nothing at all.

Before we knew it, it was time to go to school for Sis’ Halloween party.  Bear and I took in the witches hat treats.  I think our driver Mr. Xu was rather disappointed that he did not get to go to Sis’ classroom to pick her up today.  (Because Bear has been so stressed he has not wanted to walk very much on his own.  As pregnant as I am, I just cannot carry a 30 pound bear cub up and down three flights of stairs.  Therefore, we have arranged for our driver to go all the way upstairs to Sis’ classroom to pick her up – and I’m pretty sure he loves every minute of it – he will not even let her carry her own back pack).  The party was fun with lots of treats for the kids.  Bear was even included and given a homemade cookie, drinkable yogurt, and crackers.


Tonight we had an amazing dinner compliments of Ayi Jo.  After dinner we went to the pool to play and relax a bit before bed.   Again I cannot reiterate how wonderful it was to have a good day – such a blessing!  The Lord is so very good!

The ups and downs…

Sorry it has been a while.  I really wanted to post last week however we were without internet for a couple of days and then it seems like it has been one thing after another.  Unfortunately this past week it seems like the downs have greatly outnumbered the ups.

Sis caught a cold late last week.  Thankfully no fever, but she did sound pretty rough.  Thursday was the first ECA  (Early Childhood Academy) assembly, and she refused to miss that.  During the assembly all the ECA students put on a small show of the songs that they were learning.  I have to say I was rather impressed with Sis as she had just started on Monday and the show was on Thursday.  She did pretty well.  Her class got up and said their numbers in Chinese and sang a song in Chinese (she didn’t really sing, but she stood there, smiled and did the hand gestures).  Needless to say I was pretty proud of her.  Then her class sang two songs in English.  (added update: She seems to be making friends and absolutely loves school – so yay!!!!).  Anyway, after the assembly I took her home to rest the rest of the morning and then whole family got to go to the immigration office in Tianjin for paperwork and photos for our residency visas.  I kept her home on Friday to rest and to hopefully nip her cold so it would not get worse.

Thursday night rolled around and Fiona, the Chinese person hired by JD’s company to help the expats in the area, came over and explained that we were going to have to move out of the apartment because there was a leak in the apartment below us and the workers were going to have to tear up our floor to find the leak. We knew about the leak from the previous week when we had a worker in our apartment for 8 hours trying to find it.  We did not hear anything more until now, but noticed that our water kept being shut off at night.  This notion of moving out did not set well with JD or me, but like many things in life there is nothing we could do about the situation.  We really did not want to move out of the apartment because the kids had just started getting settled into our new lives.  Bear had finally stopped crying each time we came home to our Vantone (name of our complex) apartment.  Previously he would break down when we told him we were going home because home to him meant home in Iowa.  So the plan was to move out on Sunday.  We have a wonderful landlord who was willing to put us up in a three bedroom executive apartment while our apartments’ pipes were being fixed.  All this is supposed to take a month (we have our doubts).

Saturday I was in Beijing with our neighbor and I got a text from JD (who was home with the kids at the time) saying that our water had been shut off and that we had to move out Saturday instead of Sunday. I guess the small leak got so bad that it was as if it were raining in the apartment below ours.  As I was in Beijing, and being as pregnant as I am, there was really no need  to rush back, because there was not much I could do to assist.  Thankfully we have the most amazing neighbors who came to our rescue.  We had someone to watch the kids while JD, Fiona, and our Ayi (Auntie in Chinese) and driver packed and loaded the van for two trips to our new temporary place.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that our shipment which got delayed due to bad weather at sea was supposed to arrive in port today.  With customs we would not have access to our shipment until November 13.  So this left us with the question of what were we going to do with our shipment when we would be out of our apartment.  Luckily the moving company has agreed to store our shipment in one of their warehouses until we get back home.  This also poses challenges for us as there is a great many things on that shipment that would make our lives easier (i.e. toys, baking supplies, pots, pans, warm clothes, coats, etc.)  Thankfully one of our neighbors has a little girl older than Sis, so were able to barrow a heavier coat for her to wear to school.  Bear’s birthday is in early November and unfortunately with this new life challenge, we will not be celebrating until we are back in our Vantone apartment building.  I am so glad that he is young enough not to know the difference.

So now we are living in our new temporary place as we have only been here for two and a half days now.  I can tell you it has not been easy.  Poor Little Bear cried all last night, he was so upset, just repeating home.  I have not seen a child so stressed out.  It breaks our hearts.  Sis is stressed to the max too, but at least she has school as a great distraction.  Last night was so bad that JD stayed home most of the morning with Bear and me just to help settle him down.  As this apartment is completely furnished, there are three large beds in the bedrooms.  JD has been sleeping in Bears room to help comfort him.

One of the upsides to living in the Marriott Executive Apartments is that our Ayi, hired to do most of the cleaning at our Vantone apartment, will now have time to help with Bear as well as do most of the cooking for us (the hotel staff will take care of the cleaning).  You may ask yourselves why we would need help in these two areas so I will explain.  It has been a lot harder to keep a high energy child like Bear content, especially for as stressed as he his.  With me being well into my third trimester, and also stressed and not sleeping well, I do not have the energy or ability to completely keep up with him.  Thankfully we found out today that the hotel has a kids club room tailored to toddlers.  There is a slide that lands in a ball pit, small swing, and many large foam building blocks.  Bear was in heaven for about an hour.  When we were in Iowa it was much easier to keep Bear occupied as we would bake, play outside, go for long walks, run errands, go to a park, etc.  All of these things are much harder and much more difficult to do here.  Currently no shipment = no baking equipment, play structures at parks are much to be desired here, and we have to rely on our driver to go pretty much anywhere, and going for walks is not as much fun as there is so much traffic and people. Now on to the cooking.  Grocery shopping here poses a major challenge to us right now.  There are many items in the store that we have no idea what they are, and as I mentioned previously as stressed as Bear is, it is almost impossible to take him to a grocery store.  He almost cowers because the experience is so overwhelming for him (just to give you an idea – think normal size Walmart crammed into half the size of the store on black Friday with twice the amount of people, not to mention the store is kept around a cozy 75 degrees).  So when you are at the store it is very hard to think and to find all the items on your shopping list as quickly as possible.  So to help alleviate this stress this month, our Ayi is going to do the shopping and the cooking for us.  This also gives me the added benefit of learning what items she uses so when I go to the store in the future, I know what I am looking for.  She will also start teaching me how to cook in the the next week or so.

So please pray that we are able to move back sooner than later and that our whole family finds that we can settle down and get back into the swing of things.  Our motto is life is as adventure, but I think we have had as much adventure as we can take for the time being 😉


Adjustments and Jet lag

TEDA night pic
TEDA at night

Oye… We are trying to get adjusted to life over here.  It has been a long, slow process.  Jet lag hit us extremely hard.  Our travel day was so super long. We left Dubuque at 6am on Wednesday morning and arrived in TEDA at 7:30pm (6:30am U.S. time) on Thursday.  The kids and JD were able to sleep  on the plane and unfortunately I was having enough Braxton Hicks contractions throughout the whole flight that I was unable to rest.  Poor Bear was hit the worst.  Last night was the first day that he actually slept fairly well.  Before he wanted to sleep for hours upon hours at nap and then would be wide awake at 3am.  Sis seemed to take the time change the best.

Finally after one week we are starting to feel like ourselves.  Yesterday I went to the grocery store with our neighbor.  It has been interesting to see what we can find in grocery stores – (but more of that to come in a later post).  I figure next week will be much better for shopping with a clear head and as Sis will be in school so I will only have a Bear to wrestle with when going out.

It has also been difficult for us to adjust to the sounds of city living.  We are not used to the night lights, car horns, train whistles, and many other sounds of living in an apartment building.  Needless to say we will be truly missing our backyard: green grass, wild life, and fresh clear air!

Forest Gate wild life
The backyard we left behind.


The moving process…

Hello all!  I’m so sorry that I have been MIA lately – we’ve just been super crazy busy.  I’m no stranger to moving – this is move number six for us in the past ten years.  However, I think this move to China has so far been the most difficult of them yet.  We have been planning, buying, planning, deciding, and more planning for months.  I have already decided that if we have another international move – we will not do it the way we did it again.  How could it possibly be that difficult you may say?  Well…I will give you a rough idea:

  1. Most things (western things) in China are more expensive.  Take diapers for example.  A small box of diapers over here is about $60 compared to a large box in the U.S. (approximately $35).  So when you have one child not yet potty trained and another along the way – it is more cost effective to buy diapers in the U.S. and have them shipped (in your sea shipment) to China.  In case you were wondering, here is what a lifetime supply of diapers looks like:Henry and diapers
  2. Personal items (i.e. soap, shampoo, tooth paste) are different here.  This is okay, except if you are accustomed to a particular type.  Not to mention that as Asian hair is different than Western hair – some products are just not the same.  So we stocked up enough for three years on bar shampoo (we were not allowed to ship liquids), tooth paste, and body soap.  All of this we had to best calculate how much we will go through in a month (times 36 months).  For example.  I go through about one tube of tooth paste a month – so that is 36 tubes, etc.
  3. Toys.  Toys for kids and toys for gifts.  Let us start with the kid’s toys.  It has been a challenge and I’m thankful the kids have been wonderful about deciding what toys to bring and what toys to keep in storage.  We simply could not bring them all.  Now onto gifts:  when JD and I visited in March, we walked through a toy store and noticed how unbelievably expensive toys are over here.  For example, I bought Sis an $8 Barbie doll and found the exact same Barbie doll over here for the equivalent of $32.  So needless to say I have Christmas and birthdays planned and bought for for the next two years.  I will buy for the third year sometime when we are on home leave (but with the kid’s changing interests as they grow, I did not want to take any chances).
  4. Items to make our apartment more like home.  This was one of our biggest mistakes when we moved to Germany.  We did not bring enough items that made the apartment ours – to make it feel more like home.  As this will be our home for three years we felt this is extremely important – especially for the kids.  So we have spent time, money, and energy trying to figure out those special items to make our apartment home.  We were told to bring rugs, as our floors are mostly stone.  We spent hours trying to figure out which would be best to bring.  Next, we wanted the kids rooms to feel like theirs, which meant finding wall decals and decorations specifically for them.  Bear was easy – we found a road rug for toy cars, and will use many of his toys for decor as well.  Sis wanted a princess room so we found princess wall decals, a bed spread (custom made Frozen quilt by mom and grandma), as well as a few special pillows, etc.
  5. Clothes and other necessities tops off list.

We were allotted a 4×4 foot container for our air shipment and a 20 foot container for our sea shipment.  Needless to say we put most of our items in the sea shipment, and toys, diapers, and fall clothes make up our air shipment.  Hopefully we will get our air shipment next week and the sea shipment by the end of October.

Stay tuned…the move details to come!!!!