September 29, 2008

Oh brother

Our sons have reached the age of being playmates. They are brothers. Two little voices squealing through the house, one behind the other. Two pair of pudgy hands squabbling over the same matchbox cars. They pour water on each other in the bath, make silly faces at each other at the dinner table, and every night before their PJ's go on, there are two little naked rumps chasing Dad through the halls.

Having a family has exceeded all of my expectations.

September 28, 2008

Bao Mi Hua

My greatest love on this earth (that isn't alive) is popcorn. I grew up on it. My dad would pop a huge batch many nights before bedtime, and I would curl up on the couch and scarf down. He always popped it on the stove in oil and then added lots of salt and Parmesan cheese.

Needless to say, it is my top comfort food. And in one's first few months in another country, comfort food is very important. But let me tell ya, popcorn is NOT easy to find around here. I had hunted for it for weeks at all the local import stores, but no one carried it. They had Pop Secret microwave popcorn, which I MIGHT have settled for temporarily if it weren't so expensive. The national brand microwave pop corn was affordable, but after I discovered that it was sugary sweet and flavored like milk, I determined to hold out.

So last night, at a store called "Blue Sky," I found a pile of unmarked bags of dry popping corn. I bought six of them, and carried my prize home eagerly. When I opened one of the bags, however, a very strong chicken feed smell met my nose. 'It just needs to be washed,' I thought, and proceeded to wash the kernels with veggie wash. I then rinsed them with clean drinking water, and began the popping process. I got out my wok, poured 1/4 cup of cooking oil in the bottom, fired up the gas range, poured in 1/2 cup of kernels and waited for comfort to pop.

Well, comfort tasted like popped chicken feed. It tasted like the floor of the market (not that I've ever licked the market floor, but you get my point). Imagine my disappointment! Maybe I'm too picky, but I am a popcorn expert, after all. In fact, the word for popcorn in the language here is "Bao Mi Hua." Its beautiful, isn't it? I got a lot of practice saying it as I was hunting for it from store to store. "Bao Mi Hua?" "Bao Mi Hua?" I like the sound of it so much that I'm considering it for my local name (we all have a local name, one that is easier for the locals to say). I wonder if they'd laugh to have a friend named popcorn.

But alas, as beautiful as the word sounds on my tongue, the hunt for Bao Mi Hua continues. Maybe I'll have to commission one of you to send some my way.

September 26, 2008

The D-train

No, it's not a form of public transportation. The D-train is good old diarrhea, and it becomes a regular part of life here. I'm not sure if it's the new viruses that we're not used to, or the food that we refuse not to eat, or the germs on the handles of the taxi doors. Truth is, there is no avoiding it. They say it will subside after six months or so, but for now, it comes and goes and we don't think much of it anymore. Thankfully, the kids are affected the least. Must be their young bodies adjust more easily. And please don't let the fear of the D-train keep you away. When you come visit us, you'll have such a great time that you won't even notice the extra time you spend on the John.

The good news is, I've discovered the cure for dehydration. 1 tsp. salt and 8 tsp. sugar dissolved in 1 liter of warm water. It tastes a little odd at first, but if you heat it up in a mug and sip it like tea, it's actually quite relaxing. I have grown to rather crave the stuff. Something about the salt and sugar combination helps your body to absorb the water better than water alone, and it doesn't come shooting out the second you drink it. (Lovely imagery, I know).

So, if you're ever plagued with the D-train, in the states or abroad, make sure you have salt, sugar, and clean water on hand and you'll be fine. Oh...I forgot about the most important remedy...a positive attitude. Absolutely a must.

September 25, 2008

Welcome to Our Neighborhood!

Though the video is a little low quality, we'd love to show you around our neighborhood!

September 20, 2008

Learning to live

Bright wrote his name for the first time yesterday. I was sorry that he wrote it on a dry-erase board, and not on a piece of paper that I could keep. At least we got a picture.

Speaking of pictures, here is one of our house helper, Xiao Fu, teaching Bright the language. He of course loves every minute of it. She is a true gift to us. Not only does she help with the housework, freeing me up to focus on the kids, learn the language, and participate some in the work at hand, but she is showing the boys that they can love and trust the people here. Their fears and anxieties are diminishing by the day, largely due to her being a part of our family. Praise be to the Father for providing in such ways.

Another gift to us is Skype. Bright and Zion LOVE to get on the computer and talk to Grandma and Gramps in Michigan, and MoMo and SueSue in Arkansas. Here are a few pictures of them gazing at their beloved grandparents. What a gift!!!

September 18, 2008

Mooncake madness

The Mid Autumn Festival is over, though I doubt we'll EVER eat all of the mooncakes in our dining room hutch. The festival is all about mooncakes. Buying mooncakes, trading mooncakes, giving mooncakes, and eating mooncakes. A mooncake is like a bloated Fig Newton, only it is rarely filled with figs. Most often it is filled with bean curd, egg yolk, sugared ham, etc. There are fruit-filled mooncakes, which are much more kid-friendly.

So with the festival over with, we can FINALLY settle in to a routine around here. Tonight the kids are in bed, Daniel is out picking up milk and yogurt at the corner store, as well as bread at the bakery, so we'll have something to eat for breakfast. I am munching on some VERY sweet candy that Daniel's teacher gave him for the holiday. I know he won't eat it. My teacher gave me...mooncakes. The ham variety. They are still sitting on the end table next to our couch.

September 06, 2008

A little grace

Just as we feared, the boys are treated like monkeys in a cage. Zion doesn't mind, due to his age, but Bright has been miserable on account of it. People lean down to peer at him in the stroller and poke at him, and even when he says "NO" in their language they just think it's cute and they keep coming back for more. It is not uncommon for people to take out their phones and snap photos of the kids. We even had a taxi driver get out of his car to photograph the little white boys who rode in his cab.

So this morning, before we went to the I.F. (the "building" we attend on Sundays that requires a foreign passport for entry), we sat on the couch and cried out to Him for help. I wanted to try this and try that, but my sweet husband gently pulled me back to wisdom's side. "We can try a million different things," he said, "but nothing will work apart from His grace. If He'll give us just an ounce of his grace, the problem will be solved. We need to ask Him for it." So we did.

And then just a few hours later, after building, on our way to lunch, it occurred to me to let Bright walk beside the stroller. We had been purposely tucking him away in the back seat of the double stroller to "hide him" from all of the unwanted attention. But it wasn't helping. 'Maybe,' I thought, 'If he is walking on his own two feet, he won't be such a sitting duck.'

Amazingly, he hardly drew a single glance as he walked by my side. IT WAS THE STROLLER! The double stroller, in a land of one-child families, was what attracted every one's attention. Everyone just HAD to see what was under those double canopies.


And so we celebrated with our friends, Josh and Danielle, over fried buns with sweet dipping sauce. Our next purchase will be a single stroller for Zion...and Bright, putting one foot in front of the other, will learn to face his new world. Praise the One who does not leave us alone to fight our battles.

Back in the saddle

Today, one of the things I've been looking forward to the most occurred. In college, I had a great mountain bike and spent most of my time on it. Well life changes surprisingly quick and before you know it, the things that were such a big part of your life one moment are a memory the next. While we've had a lot of "Good byes" in the last few weeks, it was so nice to have a "Hello." Today I got my bike.

One of the perks to living here for a mountain biker is that you can get a really nice bike for really cheap. And, they custom build it for you! That's right people, I hand picked all my hardware - unbelievable. A friend translated, while Bright and I oooohed and awwwed over all the neat toys in the bike shop. The frame itself, weighs just over 4 lbs - UNREAL PEOPLE. By far, the best bike I've ever owned.

Unfortunately, while we were in the very small, very cluttered shop Bright stumbled over a rice cooker on the floor. He got a very minor burn on his arm. Normally, it would have not been a big deal except he was already late for lunch, away from mama, and half way across the world from anything normal - except for Skittles. We quickly ran to a nearby shop and bought a pack of skittles and a cold orange drink, which he didn't like the taste of but the cold bottle sure felt good on his arm.

When we got home, Kayla doctored it up with some aloe and a special band aid. This concerned him greatly until we decided that part of the special band aid package is having your favorite Thomas character drawn on it. His choice was James.

September 04, 2008

Ants in our pants

This morning we woke up on day three of our team retreat, which was a great time of bonding with our team and casting the vision for the year. About midday we headed back home. Though we've only lived in our apartment for two weeks, it is definitely home. Bright ran through the door and went right to his train set, and I headed straight for the bathroom (a place we have all gotten very familiar with lately:)

The highlights of the last two weeks in country might be (just to name a few):
-the fried red beans, a specialty in our province
-trying cow stomach, which isn't bad, by the way
-sitting in a hot tub filled with fish that nibbled away at the dead skin on our bodies (the locals were fine, but we giggled uncontrollably)
-seeing the sky over the lake outside our city, and realizing that the sky looks the same everywhere
-wok popcorn!!!!!!!!!!!!
-learning how to say our address correctly for the first time
-finding green olives in a tiny import store
-meeting new friends
-knowing we are smack-dab in the middle of His will

The low lights might be (though we don't like to focus on them)
-32 consecutive travel hours with a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old
-ants in our bed at the hotel
-ant bites all over our sons' faces
-7.2 million people that want to touch our kids
-not knowing the language (yet!)
-our Internet being down for over a week
-missing our family and friends back in the states

Overall, He has been so faithful and we are doing remarkably well. We will try to blog frequently, so stay tuned. (Daniel took this picture at a park in our city)