Pics from the East


The America Awards 2014

We’ve been back in China for 5 months and 2 days. Part of being back has been processing all that we just experienced while spending 6 months in America.

Whew. We had some fun!

And so we present to you: The America Awards 2.0
A USDA certified organic, flax seed, omega 3, pro-biotic experience.

best chicken: Chick-fil-A
best mexican: Olivia’s
burger: In-N-Out
sauce: Chick-fil-A’s house sauce
best meat: Hubs smoked brisket
chai: Peet’s with a nod to Trabantcoffee in Seattle
best quick lunch: $1.50 hot dog + drink at Costco
most unexpected dietary love: Great Value cinnamon almonds
most unexpected deliciousness: Theo chocolates
calories I’d do again: yogurt buffet
wish we could have eaten: Hodad’s Burgers in San Diego (line was a block long)
thankfully, we did not enter: McDonalds, Burger King, Captain D’s, KFC or Subway even once.

best movie: Hubs took Schäfer to see “Planes” -  his first movie in a theater
new-to-us reality TV show: Storage Wars & Amish Mafia
also new to us: watching TV on netflix
hmmm…: Hubs and I never saw a movie together. I don’t think there was anything I wanted to see.

best airport play area: Seattle (though we would vote Singapore if we could)
place we should have gone: Mexico
so glad we: went camping at Wollawa Whitman National Forest
wish we could have stayed longer: California Redwoods
most treasured item lost: baby stroller
theme parks: Disneyland, Sea World, San Deigo Zoo & Safari Park, Legoland
total states visited: 10

items completed: March Field air museum, San Deigo Safari Park, Space Shuttle Endeavor, pumpkin patch, Oak Glen Apple Farms, hiked Mt. Rubidoux, Legoland, Disney at Christmas, ate at a famous cupcake bakery, Sea World, San Deigo Zoo, USS Martin

we didn’t get to: Sequoia National Park, the Grand Canyon, or Mexico

exciting news: the house we stayed in had a pool!
best news: the house we stayed in had a lawn service

biggest return culture shock: how many people make debt a pet
price of gas: $3.59/gallon
thing I thought I would do, but didn’t do: print photos and put together albums
biggest surprise: how many parks and events were free
best public service: the library

best generica shopping: Target
best discount: Target dollar bin at 70% off
best coupon redeemed: Kohl’s stack-able coupons
Hubs best find: jerky-gun
Sandra’s best find: craft supplies at Michael’s + 40% off coupon!
best weight saver: Kindle
best sale: Old Navy
favorite place to shop: Goodwill
new-to-me: Erin took me shopping on the last day of a consignment sale where everything was 50% off – Wowza!

best weather: August in Oregon
most anticipated event: Christmas Day
best food on Christmas day: smoked brisket
best post-Christmas event: after Christmas sales
wish we could have done…: snow skiing

Sandra: clean public bathrooms with changing tables
Hubs: Prime shipping from

This concludes our 2nd edition of The America Awards.
A low-carb, zero grams trans fat, 7 vitamins and minerals, certified fair-trade experience.


Watching • absolutely nothing. I’m ready for a new season of Downtown Abbey.

Listening • I’ve found that I like to listen to podcast when I run. I know some people listen to them when they fold laundry or do dishes, but my kids are always asking me something so running is the one time of day that I’m not needed to problem solve. Right now, my favorite podcast is from The Art of Simple.

Cooking • alot of soup + homemade bread. It’s rainy season so the July temperatures have been in the low 70′s. Last week, I made pumpkin soup and vegetable soup. Friday night, I made pizza and banana-based ice creams.

Reading • Strong Mothers, Strong Sons by Meg Meeker

Doing • homeschool in the morning. Cooking in the afternoon.

Going • to our capitol city this weekend! So looking forward to a little 3 day break. We plan on hitting up the zoo and a dinosaur park. Bonus: the hotel has a pool! The kids don’t have a clue. I love it.

Loving • reading The Box Car series to Schäfer during afternoon quiet rest. Senna’s sleeping. Sianna and Selah are playing in their room. Meanwhile, Schäfer and I are unraveling a new mystery curled up together in a chair.

Discovering • Hubs and I are in the middle of a hair experiment. We are only washing our hair with water. They say in 2 weeks our hair will be phenomenal – with a complete balance of natural oils, etc. Right now, it’s not so pretty. If my hair is not amazing by next week, I’m going back to shampoo. For sure.

Enjoying • watching the kids eat popsicles for afternoon snack. The kids think popsicles are incredible. If I make a smoothie, I fill the popsicle’s first then serve the smoothie. I’ve also made popsicles out of lemonade.

Thinking • about Senna who is in the Great Age of Discovery where she is into everything. It’s so hard right now. And she’s not sleeping very well at night. But she’s growing up so very fast. I don’t remember it being this fast.

Feeling • really thankful for SK6. For Hubs who is working hard to make our new apartment livable… dare I say even a little comfortable? And for these kids. These kids! They are so amazing and little and trainable. There are so many good days to come, but I’m especially thankful for the right now.

Starting • to purge. We are moving across town next week and with that task comes the necessary truth that I must touch everything we own in order to get it in a box. It’s been a while (2 years?) since I’ve tackled a major purge. It’s time.

Playing • board games after supper. Sometimes, I take all three girls up for a bath so Hubs and Schäfer can play Catan. Other times, I take Senna for bath while the kids play Pinkalicious or High Ho Cherry-O.

Planning • a monthly menu + once-a-month batch cooking. Our new apartment will have space for a small freezer so Hubs really wants us to give batch cooking a try.

Working • on getting organized. Tossing the unnecessary. Filing the important.

Thanking • God for summer. For slower days. More sunlight. And a desire to be still.


Movie Stars for 10 minutes

On Tuesday, we went down to the police station to renew our residence permits. When we returned home, a friend called to say that the police station is making a movie on Friday and they wanted our family to be in it.

Hubs politely declined since he had an important appointment on Friday afternoon. Our friend told us that this was one of those times that we could not say, “No.”

Apparently, all we was wear Senna in the Ergo and look lost in Old Town. A kind policeman would tell us where to go.

Simple enough.

This morning, we were told to be ready at 9:20. At 10am, the police came in a van that seats 50.

We all went to the police station to sit for about 30 minutes while everything was arranged.

Then, we drove 30 minutes to Old Town.

It was 11am.

(Hubs was guarding the time. He had a 1 o’clock appointment.)

They gave Hubs a backpack, a map, and told us where to stand.

Then, the S.W.A.T. arrived with two drug dogs.

“Hubs! What if there are drugs in the backpack they asked you to wear? What if this is a showdown on what happens to foreigners who use drugs in China?”

No. Not so exciting.

After filming the S.W.A.T. team’s grand entrance, we began our scene:

A S.W.A.T. team member came up to crazy foreign family looking lost while reading a map. Then, we asked the policeman a series of questions until the director was happy:

Where are we? “Here”
Where is the lake? “Down this road.”
Where can we go to climb a mountain? “Go to this gondola”
Where are the best restaurants? “Along the river.”
Where is the famous church? “Um. Down this road.”
Where are the Terra Cotta Soldiers? “Beijing.” (Colleague elbows him and whispers, “Xi’an!”)

And cut.

That’s a wrap.

We took a group photo and then…

all went out to lunch.

The kids begged and begged for more fried pork rinds.

Hubs made it to his 1 o’clock.
Senna made it home in time for a nap.

Bonus: we made 2 new friends who work in the visa office.

12 years in :: 12 years out

If someone were to ask me where I was from, I would say, “Arkansas.”

I lived in Arkansas from 5th grade through college graduation.

I haven’t lived there since.

Recently, I realized that I’ve lived in China for 12 years.

That’s the same amount of time I lived in Arkansas, but I don’t consider China my home. Sure, the food is great. The people are nice.

But it takes .2 seconds for me to walk out my door to have locals pointing and proclaiming, “Foreigner!”

No matter how long I’ve lived here, there’s always someone in the market or on the street corner who needs to verbally confirm that I am, indeed, foreign.

Tonight, as I ran around the track a Chinese boy, probably age 8, decided to run beside me and yell, “Hello Foreigner! Hello Foreigner!”

The welcome never stops.

Creating a Summer Bucket List


Today, I felt summer passing quickly.

Maybe it was when I made our 439th strawberry/mango/banana smoothie. Or when the kids starting playing “Galapagos Marine Iguana” again.

Today, I knew these easy, slow days would not be ours forever.

Summer has been awesome so far. In June, we went to the beach, rode

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Writers Block :: Get Thee Behind Me


I stopped blogging in April 2012.

I’ve basically had writers block for 2 years and 3 months.

Yes, there was an occasional post there and there, but it was forced. There was no natural flow.

I asked Hubs to take down the blog. I told him I was done.

He told

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