Pics from the East


Our Last Night in Apartment 28-12

For the past two years, we’ve lived on the 28th floor in a 90 square meter apartment. Tomorrow, we will transition to a friend’s place while our new apartment receives some much needed attention… the concrete walls are finally straight, but the kitchen is not installed.

I find myself feeling very bittersweet about this transition.

Squeezing 6 people into a two bedroom apartment has been hard at times, but it has also given us plenty of opportunities to be unselfish with our space and our things.

This will be the last time that Schäfer shares a room with his sisters. In the new apartment, he will have his own space.

I’ll miss the chatter.

I’ll miss their natural togetherness.

This morning, over breakfast, I told the kids that I was sad that they would no longer be together. Schäfer asked if they could have slumber parties on the weekends. His sentiment warmed by heart.

Top 5 Things I’ll Miss

1. The lighting. Our living room and dining room have floor to ceiling windows – as do the bedrooms. We never turned on a light here. Our days were flooded with natural light. So much light that my books faded and we had to get an additional set of blackout curtains for the kids bedroom.

Hubs: We live on the 28th floor with a pretty amazing view of the lake and mountains. I’ll miss incredible sunrise devotionals from my couch and eating dinner to sunsets framing the mountain range.

2. Across the street is a small track that is open to the public if you wear sneakers. Years ago while running down a public street, I was bitten by a dog. I have loved having a safe place to run. This spring, I ran off 4 sizes. Bye Bye baby weight.

3. Once we get to the first floor, we are only a 1 minute walk from the second largest open market in our city. So at 4:30pm, I could literally go downstairs and figure out a plan for supper.

4. In this kitchen, we had our first ever bar space where the kids could sit on stools and watch me cook. I loved having them close enough to lick the spoon, but not right next to me – though sometimes that ended up happening too.

Hubs: The new apartment has a bar too. :)

5. Of course, I’ll miss having the kids all in one bedroom. There’s just an innocence and sweetness to childhood.

Top 5 Reasons I’m Glad We’re Moving

1. Our current apartment is laid out almost like a small condo with the bedrooms upstairs. Unfortunately, when the apartment was designed they did not cut out a large enough area for the stairs so they are quite steep. (Hubs: Like Navy ship steep.) Most children fall down them when they visit.

2. There’s isn’t much space for the kids to have a quiet place to play. If Selah is in the kids bedroom with her Little People spread out, then Schäfer has to take his Lego to our bedroom. That leaves Sianna downstairs with Senna who mostly takes things apart.

3. We do spend quite a bit of time waiting on the elevator. Our building has three elevators, but it can get really crowded – especially when school is in session because all the kids come home for lunch. The new apartment is on the first floor. No elevator.

4. Our new apartment has some grass and a space for the kids to run. At present, when we exit our building we are in an urban downtown center. There is no place for the kids to ride bikes or run.

5. We currently live next to a hospital: the ambulance sirens and congested traffic honking is non-stop.

I’m off to pack another box.

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

[Continue reading 12 years in :: 12 years out]

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

[Continue reading Creating a Summer Bucket List]