concrete jungle beauty

We live on the 8th floor of a large apartment building now. This brings a new perspective on the city, and if you lean off the balcony at the right moment you can see this:
We are higher than many of the other buildings/apartments on this end of town, so we can see lots of rooftops, traffic jams, kids walking home from school, snow-capped mountain silhouettes, and concrete jungle sunrises & sunsets. We also get a nice breeze - which helps....since the temps are reaching into the 90's already.

The nearest major street is called Xing Fu Lu (幸福路) which means Happy Road. Also, just last week - our business partners found out that their apartment was sold and they had to move (gotta love the last minute changes here) so they began looking on this side of town. Low and behold - there is our exact apartment available 2 doors down the hall! Long-story-short: they moved in fast....and now we have Happy neighbors too. Its a wonderful gift - they have three kids (almost the same ages) and we all share the loves of ice cream, Settlers, China and many other Californian novelties. Now we can share the woes of old funky apartments too.


renovations have begun!!

This morning - a crew began gutting our tiny shop of its old interior, getting it ready for some exciting renovations. They tore out old tiles, electrical wiring, scraped off old paint and took down the old remaining shelving. Oh, and they ripped out the entire storefront - door, windows, glass and all! We are starting with a fresh slate - ready to have it transformed into the worlds smallest ice cream factory. Well, maybe not - but certainly humble beginnings.

Renovations: Day ONE

Tomorrow - the leaky roof will get fixed, and new tiles may start going in for the floor. Electrical & plumbing fixtures will begin to be arranged too!

out on a date

We have a wonderful Indian friend who watches the girls for us every so often so we can go on a date. The girls love when we go on dates, even if we are only running errands, going grocery shopping, or to a random hardware store. Its all a 'date' to them! They have a blast with our friend - and she cherishes them! She is such a gift to us too!

Today we visited the ice cream shop - which is being gutted and cleaned out TODAY!... later walked to the bank, and to a yummy cafe for lunch. We fit a lot into three short hours, but its so nice to explore the city just the two of us. We also grabbed some sticky rice from a Uyghur vendor on the street. These ones are filled with all sorts of goodies - dates, raisins, or beans, wrapped in banana leaves. It comes served on a chopstick, rolled in sugar.


a pause to remember

China has declared the next three days national time to mourn. Starting today (Monday May 19th) and the following two days, we will take a moment to honor the memory of those who lost their lives in the earthquake. At 2:28pm everyone will stop (traffic included) for 3 minutes of mourning. In America this would mean silence, but in China this means the honking of horns and the blaring of sirens - in a "wail of grief." Buses stop along the road, and all passengers stand up. Some remain silent, while sirens at nearby gas stations blare. Everyone on the street stops what they are doing, and they take time to honor those who died and mourn the loss. Even the Olympic torch relay will stop for these 3 days.

It was just one week ago at 2:28pm when the earthquake struck, and we hear the situation is now in recovery/rebuild mode....and not so much rescue anymore. This is a hard thing for many to accept. I can't even imagine.


2 weeks old

Silly chicken is getting bigger! His wings are growing and feathers are replacing his yellow fuzz. His neck is getting longer, and he's eating more strange foods. We basically feed him our scraps & leftovers, which is nice. Tonight he had leftover beans, taco meat, tomatoes, and apple cores - along with the usual corn meal.

He still lives in a cardboard box, with occasional supervised visits on the balcony. The girls can't handle his spastic movements, and worry that he will "peck them...so usually its mom & Sydney who spend the most quality time with Silly. Yup, we know who loves him most.

See the love??

bootie Nai-nai (奶奶 = grandma)

There is a precious older lady (Nai-nai) around the corner who sits along the sidewalk to sell her random wares almost every day. She sells shoe liners, hair clips, combs, fly-swatters, purses and these sweet hand-knit baby booties. I have stopped to talk to her on many different occasions, as she is always commenting & admiring our THREE little blonde girls with blue eyes and white skin. She didn't want to be in the photo....

But on this momentous occasion - I bought a pair of her unique booties to send to my first nephew - born on May 5th in Hawaii. My little (well, ok - younger) brother & wife just welcomed their second child 13 days ago! I was hoping to have a picture to post here, but not yet. His name is Uriah Evan - and he weighed 7 pounds 14 ounces! We cannot wait to hug him in person - as we already love him so much! His big sister Arin is already three-and-a-half! We miss you all, and we hope you love your package from the Orient!


incredible connections

When the idea of starting an Ice Cream business was presented to us months ago (Sept 07) we could never have imagined meeting Mr. Millionaire (we are keeping his identity private for his sake). He's a gifted entrepreneur, wise in his business dealings and smart beyond his years.

A few days ago - our business partner and I went to meet with this man to learn about future distribution and marketing. When we got there, this man had sent a car to pick us up!! That's service! He took us on a tour of his brand new 7 million dollar factory (one of four) which is a lot for a factory in these parts. Then we met in his office which was filled with hundreds of books on Western business practices. He gave us some great advice for marketing our ice cream and the market positioning we might want to pursue. He was a really nice guy and we were thankful for his advice, since we know very little about what we are doing. It was interesting to see the big business side of this place where we live. In the end, we said goodbye, talked about playing ping-pong together soon and were sent off in one of his new SUVs to take us wherever we wanted to go.


Chinglish #3 & #4

Here are a few great signs that were found while visiting a beautiful park last weekend. These are just part of the joy of living here. Gotta love the effort.

Forbid toward Hanoi (he nei=river/inside) to throw the garbage: Throwing garbage into the river is prohibited.
Forbid to fishing enter the water frolic and build a fire: Obviously, these are forbidden as well. Campfires and water frolicking don't mix well.

This next one is kinda hard to read....
No throwing away the rubbish everywhere.
No carving and drawing freely.
No spitting on the ground. (love this one!)
Cherish the communal facilities.
No carrying those that are easily burnt and bombed.
The management office.

I love their management office. They have brought so much joy to my life.

"I'm free!"

translation: I'm three!
It's incredible how fast our little Eden Sofia has grown, and what a beauty (inside & out) she has become. She teaches us so much about life, love and having the wonder of a child. This day was all about HER - the fish-themed party, the goodies, candles, puzzles, legos, cars that go vroom, octopus/ocean games, banana ice cream on a cone and (even) chocolate cereal. She asked me twice today to tell her the story of how she was born (this wasn't the first time!) and she listened intently to every detail. I love telling it to her, because she really is a miracle - and I want her to know how special and cared for she is. What a sweet gift to our family: her spunk, energy, sense of adventure, easy-going-attitude, yet unfailing determination definitely challenge our socks off. She is full of strengths and character and pure JOY that is such a delight to her fumu 父母 (parents). Happy birthday my curious monkey!


7.8 earthquake on Monday

There was a large earthquake about 6 miles below the surface, NW of Chengdu - in the Sichuan Province in China. It was felt as far away as Beijing, Bangkok, Hanoi & Taipei! The extent of damages are unknown at this point, but check Fox News for updates. There are also other great online news reports. We did not happen to notice the quaking - which happened around 2:30pm BJ time. Please be thinking of the people there!

**Updated - over 8,000 people have died and many more are still trapped/missing. Buildings in some of the rural counties near the epicenter had as much as 80% of their buildings collapse according to some reports. It is the biggest earthquake to hit China in a very long time. We did not feel it at all though we have friends in the area of the quake.


mommas day

Its so nice to have a break, and be spoiled for a day! I slept in, was greeted with homemade cards, played outside with the fam, went out to a nice lunch, had some quiet-mom-time, and my sweet husband made dinner! I hope you had a great day too!! Happy Mother's Day!!

Hiking around a big park - Shui Mo Gou (水磨沟)and across a rickety bridge.

Sipping a strawberry smoothie with my baby girl.

mom's can change the world....

Mom's are amazing, and they have the best opportunity to impact the world as they nurture & pour their love & life into the children entrusted to their care! I distinctly remember when I was 15 years old - an older woman that I deeply respected, shared with me how she was so thankful to be a mom, and to raise her kids to reflect the character and call on their lives. That was a revolutionary idea to me. I had never heard anyone so focused on the task of motherhood. Now I understand her heart, and I am inspired each day to serve & shepherd the little ones in my life - and be a mom that makes an eternal impact on this world. When you imagine all the moments and hours that are poured into these little lives, it challenges me to assess my heart - and rise to the challenge to be a mom/wife/daughter/woman that lays down her life for those she loves. My three little girls will know me better than most people on this earth, and they are my most precious disciples. I love seeing the amazing ways they have been uniquely knit together - and how their personalities and hearts will be used to make a change on this planet. I absolutely love being their momma, and I love my mom's.

Here are some ways MOM'S* can leave a lasting impact: building security, identity, compassion & empathy, selflessness, tenderness, modeling a nurturing heart, a servant-heart, responsibility, dependence on God & hearing His voice, strength & sensitivity, being adventurous, playful, creative, energetic, fruitful, productive, kind, inspiring, devoted, prayerful, gentle, exemplary, a good listener, able to smile at challenges, insightful & wise, instilling value, setting boundaries, speaking with kind words & attitudes, problem-solving, giving unending love & grace, being available: teaching, cherishing, encouraging, listening, comforting, forgiving, showing patience, & giving the best hugs & cuddles.
*Everyone can impact the world, not just momma's!

goodbye PECK.

Rest in peace little Peck.
He was only one week old, but he was loved. The girls cried when we had to "take him outside" and "let him go" this past week. He was still so small, weak and not flourishing. Poor daddy had to do the deed and put him out of his misery. We tried all we could to help him survive....but he just wasn't a healthy chick. It was a teary goodbye, but a great opportunity to talk about life & death. On the other hand - Silly is doing great. He's feisty and alert, and full of gumption! Now he's just a little lonely.


simple conversations at the playground

Across the street from where we live, there is another apartment building that has a *great playground area for the kiddos. With the warmer weather, its been fun to get out more and make new friends. One reason this playground is so great - is that it has *swings!! Swings seem hard to come by in this country. Granted, the seats are heavy metal - and you have to really watch the munchkins, but what can beat swinging high in the sky above tiled concrete? :) The girls love our daily outings. They are learning to cross the street carefully, take turns with other kids, understand more Chinese, and smile/interact with neighbors. And I am enjoying my simple conversations with the kids that crowd around to ask me insurmountable probing questions.

Where do you come from? (Mei Guo = 美国 = America)
Are these your kids? All THREE of them?
How old are you?
Do you live here?
Do you rent or own your apartment?

How much is your rent?
(this is a typical one!)
Do you want more kids?
Don't you want a BOY?
Can I have one of your kids?
(I think this is a joke, but everyone asks)
Are you afraid that someone will take one of your kids? (I wasn't, before that question)

And my favorite conversation from yesterday:

little Chinese boy: Is that one a boy or girl?
me: She's a girl. <smile & pause> Are you a boy or girl? <my attempt at a joke>
little Chinese boy: Boy.
<awkward pause>
me: (laughing) I was just joking. I know you are a boy!
little Chinese boy: he begins to laugh, then says: Look at that fat boy. He is very fat!

a girl and her chick

Having pets is so fun. Yards might be even better tho.


Visa rollercoaster

In the last three weeks, we've thought through every possible Visa option for us to remain here in our home & launch our Ice Cream business! Visa rules have changed heaps this year - so our plans have had to F-L-E-X with them. Our passports are currently at the Police Station being processed for a 2 month extension! We are hopeful that we can finish all our business paperwork and switch to long-term Visa's within this time. If not, our options shrink drastically. These "uncertainties" have become part of our normal lives, so we go with the flow. We hope the rumors are true - that all this will "go back to normal" by Fall. Until then....we continue to be diligent with our business establishment and application process! Its taken four months thus far, and we'd love to be selling Ice Cream this summer! .....we shall see.....


el pollo loco??

This might have been a mistake - but we are up for the challenge. Today as we were walking out of the park - we saw a box of baby chicks for sale. Yup, we gave in to the moment and bought 2 chicks to take home (1 kuai each = 14 cents). The girls were ecstatic and intent on their every move. Here is the box that we rescued them from. There must have been 150 little buddies crammed into this tiny cardboard home....

We made a happy home for them, complete with a heat lamp, water dish, corn millet and newspaper nest. We aren't sure how long they will get to stay - but for now the girls are enthralled with their "peeps" and watching them from above.

Asia was talking to them, comforting them - and being very attentive to their needs. I think this will be a great experience for the girls - as they learn about life, responsibility, and selflessness.

This is SILLY chick. Named 'Silly' because he likes to jump in the water dish to get a drink. This was cause for much laughter and hilariousness. Silly has a dark patch of fuzz on his head to distinguish himself from....PECK.
Here is PECK is all his glory. I think he was posing for this picture. Peck is pure yellow fuzz - and a bit more reserved than Silly. Peck got his name because he was "pecking for his food" which seems quite fitting.
We will see how long this lasts. Tonight they were acting up and being a bit rambunctious.
I will keep you posted.

Happy Labor Day (weekend)

May 1st is Labor Day across China (but we are still celebrating on the 3rd). Some people celebrate all week long, as it has been called a "golden week" to encourage people to travel during this week off. Many people take this time to visit family, museums, parks and relax with friends.

Most "laborers" get the day off work (unless they work in retail, food or tourism) on May 1st. The streets are crowded and full of life & color. All the parks officially open for the Spring/Summer seasons, and the crowds are out in full force. And yes, we decided to brave the masses - making a visit to a favorite park.

With three little girls - we can tend to be one of the "main attractions." We are constantly followed by a crowd with cameras, cell phones - all wanting pictures of the white kids. We may know a smidgen of what celebrities feel like when followed by the Paparazzi. Today - Asia was amazing when dealing with the crowds: she was determined to have a better attitude, and just ignore all the attention. I was so proud of her choices today, as she really abhors the crowds and lack of personal space.

We found some open space to run, explore and blow bubbles in the breeze, away from the majority of the crowds. We ate a yummy lunch of Polo and Kebabs - and rode on the Carousel & Bumper boats.

We also met a few locals with their precious kids while exploring the park....and the girls couldn't leave without trying the cotton candy. Happy Labor Day!