It snowed (下雪 = xiàxuě) all night! It's been getting colder each week, with blustery winds which makes it feel below freezing. We rolled out of bed this morning and the girls could hardly contain their excitement! Of course we put snow-clothes on and ventured out into the white powdery world!! Here are some picts of the fun that ensued.....

Asia absolutely loves laying/crawling/flopping/digging in the soft snow, and its hard to get her to come inside! She is also quite skilled at making a lovely snow angel.

Eden, on the other hand - isn't convinced that snow is fun yet. She stands in one place and just smiles. Maybe next year?

We are excited for the winter months, even celebrating our first Christmas in a foreign land. Our next goal: find a real tree, and make decorations! ...stay tuned!

gotta love this silly gal!!


turkey day??

We had such a wonderful day together - even without all the traditional fanfare, we made our own special memories and unique contributions to Thanksgiving abroad. We made pumpkin & apple pies from scratch, as well as sweet potatoes & coffee ice cream! Asia made mini-cinnamon rolls from the extra pie-crust dough. She loved that! Daddy taught the original pilgrimage story to America, and the girls listened intently. We also shared dinner with another foreign family here - which was wonderful, despite the turkey-less dinner. Our tummies were quite happy.

For a fun home-school project - we made a 'Thankful Tree' filled with all the things we were thankful for. If you look closely, you can see all the different things they mentioned! It's very sweet. They love any project with glue & scissors. Who doesn't? :)

And here is Sydney, content with a ball. She is such a joy!

We hope your holiday festivities are filled with sweet memories & deliciousness too.


where's Asia?

Can you find me? This is my 4 year old preschool class! There are 15 students now, but only one little boy. I have 2 Korean friends, 9 Chinese friends and 3 Uyghur friends. I really love to go to my class, and I love my 2 teachers. They are all very kind to me and help me learn Chinese. I like to sing & dance - and I even know a Chinese poem. We play inside now because it is too cold to play outside on the playground. I am having fun at school.


the big city

I made it home, greeted by my four girls - tackled with kisses & love. It is amazing to be a daddy. I missed them a ton...and Ali did a great job of holding down the fort without me (a large task with our three energetic ones). She is amazing. I had a great trip, and was amazed by the sights of yet another massive Chinese metropolis. Shanghai dwarfs our 3+million populated city, with over 22 million people and incredible skyscrapers, beautiful architecture & modern cosmopolitan bustle. It was also quite crowded, expensive & buzzing with energy. I got to see some of the major sites in this romantic city {without Ali, so sad!}, attended the Trade Expo & the US Embassy, and visited with a great friend.
Here I am posing near "The Bund" - an old promenade on the Huang Pu (the Yellow River) lit up by the dazzling Shanghai nightlife.
Here are some TALL towers - the one on the left was the tallest building in all of mainland China - the Jin Mao, at 1381ft with 88 stories (the 6th tallest in the world), until the one on the right was built alongside. The Shanghai World Financial Center, 1614ft, 101 stories (which will be the 2nd tallest in the world), is still under construction. Either way - they are tall. ...up in the clouds!!

All in all, it was a productive trip: I took care of my passport issues and learned even more about the ice cream business at the Trade Expo (and made some good contacts). And of course it was great to see our friend again and spend some quality time with him!
Here I am with him - saying goodbye at the train station.


as i type....

Justin is on a plane headed to Shanghai. He will be there for 4 days to attend a Trade Fair, and get his passport & documents taken care of for the business. He will also get to reunite with a great friend we've known since Jan 06, upon arrival to this massive nation. The girls call him 'uncle' as he is a precious part of our family here.

Three beauties sleep soundly. Yup, they are all peacefully slumbering (for the time being). I really hope they sleep the entire night thru, as I am not sure how to juggle A&E in one room, and Syd in our bed on my own. We shall hope for the best, as mommy needs the rest.

I am off to read a good book and sip some hot vanilla chai tea (with special thanks to our family in Durango).



we are proud to present that daughter #3 is a lover of rice.
and she has her daddy's eyes!!


a little Olympic pride.....

Living in China, you cannot miss the 2008 Olympic excitement! Only 271 days until the games begin, and there is HUGE anticipation in the air!! To adequately prepare you for the 2008 Games, we'd love to share some meaning behind the 5 Mascots that you will begin to see everywhere...

FU 福 (happiness, wealth, good fortune) + WA 娃 (child)
The FUWA were designed to express the playful qualities of five little children who form an intimate circle of friends. They embody the characteristics of four of China's most popular animals - a fish, a panda, a Tibetan antelope, a swallow - plus the Olympic flame! Each character has a rhyming two-syllable name - (a sign of affection for kids), Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, Nini - and when read together say "BeiJing HuanYing Ni" which means "Beijing Welcomes You!" - which is their goal as young ambassadors for the 2008 Olympic Games. They also embody the landscape, aspirations and well-wishes from the nation of China. In their origins and their headpieces, you can see the five elements of nature - the sea, forest, fire, earth and sky - all rendered in ways that represent the traditional influences of Chinese folk art and ornamentation. Their work is to unite the world in peace, friendship & harmony with the Olympic spirit.

Let us introduce to you these cute characters, each corresponding to one of the five colored Olympic rings.

Beibei - In China's rich culture of art, the fish symbolizes prosperity & harvest. Beibei carries this blessing of prosperity. A fish is also a symbol of surplus in Chinese culture, another measure of a good year and a good life. The ornamental lines of the water-wave designs are taken from well-known ancient paintings. Beibei is known to be gentle & pure. Strong in water sports, she reflects the blue Olympic ring.

Jingjing - a sweet panda to bring the blessing of happiness & harmony between mankind & nature. He has a charming naivety in his dance, and optimistic outlook on life. As a national treasure and a protected species, pandas are adored by people everywhere. The lotus designs in Jingjing's headdress, which are inspired by the porcelain paintings of the Song Dynasty (A.D.960-1234), symbolize the lush forest and the harmonious relationship between man & nature. Jingjing represents our desire to protect nature - and to preserve this gift for all generations. He is an athlete noted for strength who represents the black Olympic ring.

Huanhuan - A child of fire, representing the bright Olympic flame, is regarded as the older brother of the five, expressing the Olympic spirit, and the passion of sports. Be brings a blessing of passion - to run faster, jump higher, and be stronger. He is also open & inviting - sharing warmth & a welcoming spirit. The fiery designs of his head ornament are taken from the famed Dunhuang murals - with a touch of China's traditional lucky designs, which is also fitting with his red color. Huanhuan is outgoing & enthusiastic. He excels at all the ball games and represents the red Olympic

Yingying - The Tibetan antelope is fast & agile, and can swiftly race across the earth. He is a symbol of China's vast landscape, and carries the blessing of health & strength of body. Yingying's flying pose captures the essence of a species unique to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, one of the first animals put under protection in China. The selection of the Tibetan Antelope reflects China's commitment to a Green Olympics. His head ornament incorporates several decorative styles from the Qinghai-Tibet & Sinkiang cultures and the ethnic designs of Western China. Strong in track & field events, Yingying is quick-witted & agile, representing the yellow Olympic ring.

Nini - The swallow, brings the blessing of happiness & good luck. Chinese children are known for flying beautiful kites, decorated most often by a golden-winged swallow. Nini's golden wings symbolize the infinite sky. Swallow is also pronounced "yan" in Chinese, and Yanjing is what Beijing was called as an ancient capital city. Nini is innocent & joyful like a swallow. She is strong in gymnastics and represents the green Olympic ring.

We hope you enjoyed reading some creative meaning behind these cute creatures, and that you might even have a favorite! We like Nini the best (because we have a joyful friend named Nini). Hi Nini!


we all scream for ice cream!!

We are gearing up to launch our first EVER business endeavor - to open an Ice Cream shop in downtown Urumqi!! Yup, we are so excited - and we think {hope} this city will savor every scoop of creamy delicious-ness that we serve!!

It will be lots of WORK to get prepared to launch by Spring, with heaps of paperwork, applications, and licensing to be legally ready to open - but its a huge learning process, and we are eager to see it all unfold. In the meantime, we have been perfecting recipes for our basic flavors, and experimenting with new ideas - in hopes of tantalizing taste-buds across the globe. We are also sharing our ideas with friends, and any/everyone we meet to see how we might improve upon the idea. We are very close to revealing the NAME of our shop. Stay tuned!

We also have a wonderful business consultant helping us navigate this process, and she has been a HUGE help. She knows exactly what step comes next, and she helps with the paperwork, and all the official documentation - which minimizes all the uncertainties. J got his medical approval (an in depth-physical), and now he is working on authenticating his passport, along with many other details. He will be taking a short trip to Shanghai this month to visit the consulate, and also a nifty hospitality Trade Fair that offers lots of networking with supplies & ingredients & machinery. We hope its enlightening! :) There is so much to learn as we prepare to be entrepreneurial in this adventure!!


laundry love.

When we first moved here, I really missed having a dryer. Now we are quite used to the routine, and the kids are sweet helpers!! This is how we do laundry on our side of the globe....
1. Dirty clothes get immediately placed in the washer. We have one cycle, and one temp: freezing cold. I don't usually separate colors or whites, unless I need to use bleach. Maybe I am too simple?
2. You add the powdered soap & fabric softener first, and then push 2 specific buttons, in Chinese characters. I still don't know what they say - I only know that they start the load. We have an automatic washer (so great), which can hold 5.2kg=11lbs. It takes exactly 48 minutes to complete one load (there is a nifty timer), and there is even a wonderful spin-cycle! You become extra thankful for the small things in life.
3. Remove the damp clothes & hang to dry. Here are a few picts of the girls helping? mom with laundry. Sometimes they like to hang on the bar first. If you time it right, the clothes can dry overnight - and not be decorative additions to the living room. You also get used to the stiff, crispy clothes - tho nothing ever really goes back to its original shape. But all-in-all, it sure beats handwashing everything like we've done in some areas of the world! I am so grateful for our washing-machine...and my precious little helpers!!


stay calm momma....

麻烦 máfan - troublesome; inconvenient
This word is the perfect description to many of life's challenges, especially when living overseas - and being baffled by the absurdities (nicer word would be differences) that can surround us. Here is one such example:

Thursday morning we awoke to no electricity. No big deal - its actually is a bit refreshing (we get to be more creative, right?). Justin left for class, while Ali gets the girls ready for the day (breakfast, etc). Loud, incessant pounding on door frightens everyone. Ali answers the door and is greeted by loud man dressed in camouflage gear? In slurred Chinese - he says he is here to fix the ceiling! (Ali is grateful & amazed - we have been asking him to come for 2 weeks now!). He comes in the house (leaves shoes on, tracking in grime) to inspect the job. Nine large kitchen & bathroom tiles have fallen, over the course of a few months, since the job wasn't done well the first time. He grunts & sighs & makes lots of disgusted noises, then says he needs to buy supplies. Ali hurriedly gets the girls in shoes & jackets, so they can walk to the Hardware Shop to buy supplies with Mr. Fix-it-man. She knows better than to trust him with the cash. :)

After returning home, Fix-it-man begins to prep the tiles and Ali clears out the bathroom for him to work. He does not have a tarp, so I grab some of my own material to shield the washer & toilet from his work. I know these guys can be messy. At the same time, Ali occupies three curious munchkins - as he works. Toxic glue fumes begin to waft from the bathroom, so Ali opens windows to create some draft (remember, no electricity=no heat) and put jackets on the kiddos. After 1-2 hours, I peek in the bathroom to observe this mans workmanship - only to retreat in absolute terror, as my entire bathroom has been attacked by "Flinging-Glue-Man" and is completely trashed. Yes, the tiles are almost back in place - but not without creating thee biggest disaster within. I do not have words to explain the frustration in my heart (nor good picts!).

Justin returned home from class at this point, before I had a chance to speak to Mr. Fix-it-man. Justin was even more upset than I was, which (if you know Justin) is an uncommon occurrence. I could go on to detail a similar mess made across the entire tile floor, the kitchen & counters, and ruining one of our chairs (used as a ladder). It took us about 4 hours to scrub the glue & black caulking OFF the floor with steel wool. The chair is caked in glue, and we still have to scrub the walls & ceiling, since he left marks all over the place! ...I am sure this will be an ongoing cleaning project. We were both so amazed at the complete disregard for someone's home, and the mess that was left for us to clean, as well as the lack of quality to which tasks are done. Things fall apart here more often than you'd imagine!!

After he left, Asia went to school, E&S took naps, and we scrubbed the floor with steel wool, while using flashlights to locate toxic glue droplets (still no electricity), so my baby can crawl on the floor. To lift our spirits, we went out for dinner. I think next time we need ANY repairs, we will attempt to do them ourselves! ....or have Paul Sampson fly out here. Hmmm....I really miss that guy.

p.s. We have recovered from all the máfan of Thursday, and know that this venting rampage does not fully reflect our overall gratefulness & perspective on life. We are healthy and full of joy. What's a little toxic glue anyhow?