flower girl

Asia was asked to be in a wedding! This is her first debut in any wedding in her 5+ short years of life, and she is VERY excited. She gets to wear a white dress, and stand near our friend (the bride) while tossing flower petals from a basket. She's quite giddy over the idea.

One afternoon, Asia & I joined the bride in search of her wedding gown. It was a fun outing!! Asia loved all the sequined dresses and lacy tresses. She tried on a cute white dress, and gloves & tiara's while the Chinese ladies gasped and giggled over her. She even managed to smile for a quick cell phone picture from one of the ladies in the shop (this is a big deal!!).

This opportunity has given her a chance to grow thru some cultural challenges too. Our girls receive large amounts of attention when we go outside (and that is being modest). Most of the attention is challenging to deal with on a daily basis, and some of their responses are quite merited (rude faces, yanking away from pokes & or people grabbing their arms/skin/hair, and sometimes screaming). The girls have gotten so much better in the past year, but this is part of life in a foreign country. Anyhow, I began prepping her for the BIG wedding day, knowing that she will receive even MORE attention than usual - since she will be wearing a beautiful white dress!

Here are some things she is working on:
1. Smiling at people wherever she goes.
2. Responding to people when they speak to her, with a kind 'hello' or 'thank you' - we don't require her to speak in Chinese, but that is encouraged.
3. Using respectful responses if she is not comfortable with a situation, or asking for our help.

Being in a wedding here is a BIG choice for her, because it puts her in the center of attention (even more) in a sea of dark hair and dark eyes. Having blonde hair and blue eyes kinda sticks out!! ....She's a beauty, that's for sure!! I am constantly amazed at her maturity and ability to handle hard situations. She is such a gracious little girl, with a heart of gold.


water problems..............................

We have been living in our "new apartment" for just over a year now! It's an old building - but we love this place. Its amazing in so many ways. We've had visitors from 4 countries, and its a wonderful place to entertain. My only complaint (which I never do, HA!) is the lovely water issues.

Depending on the day, there is not enough water pressure to pump UP to our floor. This means that dishes, washing fruit/veggies, laundry, baths for the kids, etc - are all on hold until the water pressure builds up again. Weekends and evenings are the worst times! The wait can be hours long, and even DAYS. Everyone underneath us has water, but we are left high and DRY. This causes a few rational responses:

1. Go out to eat for every meal so that dishes never pile up.
2. Eat finger foods all day long, which saves on dirty dishes too.
3. Wear the same clothes as long as possible.
4. Heat drinking water on the stove for baths in a storage bin. The kids LOVE this! (too bad we don't fit)
5. Good excuse to stop shaving for a week, and work on my Uyghur beard.
6. Get angry at the Maintenance Office for not fixing the problem (c'mon - it's been a year!). Call them multiple times a day to share my frustrations.
7. Laugh at the funny ways we cope with our silly problems, realizing there are far worse things to be annoyed over. Laughter is the best medicine!


helmets are COOL

I remember when I was little that I didn't like to wear my helmet when I rode my bike. A first it just didn't feel quite right, and when I was older - suddenly they didn't look very trendy (somewhere during those years I grew self-conscious). It was embarrassing to wear those bulky things when everyone could see me. But I am glad my mom insisted. I do the same thing as a momma. My kids heads are just too precious. I am so glad the girls like wearing their helmets (for now) so much that they wanted to wear them indoors during breakfast. Maybe we've convinced them of the importance, or we brainwash really well.

p.s. I learned to make bagels!


early birthday gifts

Asia & Eden both have birthday's in the next 6 weeks! We knew that we wanted to get Asia a new bike, and Eden a scooter...so we decided to get them early, so we could enjoy them during the entire Spring and Summer weather....before winter hits! Also, we would love to see if Asia can learn to ride a bike without training wheels this year. Eden might try it too? There aren't a ton of opportunities to learn these skill here, as much of the "open space" is congested with moving vehicles (which isn't so safe). We have a cemented area outside our apartment, which will be our testing ground!

Anyhow, all that to say: They LOVE their gifts! We also got butterfly helmets that they LOVE as well. Eden asks us multiple times a day if we can go outside to "ride bikes." If we can't go outside right away, she will wear her helmet inside instead.

Here is Eden on her blue scooter. She loves that she can carry it downstairs by herself, and she is getting quite coordinated as she pushes herself along. She is such a beautiful and amazing almost-4-year-old!

Asia picked out this blue bike! The height adjusts, so she can use it for awhile. It has a nifty basket on the front, and sturdy training wheels too. It even folds up, if you can imagine. She is getting much more coordinated with steering and using the hand-breaks, so we are working up to the training wheel removal....slowly! I can't believe she is almost 6!


the orphanage.

Hmm, I have hesitated to share much about my first few visits to the orphanage – because I wasn’t sure how they would go, but after the first 2 weeks – I am in love. I only go once per week, for 2 hours to teach English. The kids are about 3-6 years in age, and the first week we had a 2 year old (who reminded me of Sydney so much!). Many of them have physical & mental disabilities, but some are very hard to distinguish. All are precious, beautiful and have stolen my heart. The orphanage is immaculate for Chinese standards, and the staff does a great job giving the children attention and loving-care. The kids are always clean and smiling huge. This particular place has a great physical therapy area, a “spa” area for showers & massage (I think) and wonderful employees at every turn. I haven’t met many of the children, since they are all in class when I come. I have been told there are about 400 kids in this place, who live on the 2nd floor. Their classes are above on the 3rd floor.

It’s been fun preparing each week, deciding what & how to teach them English. I have been starting out slow with the ABC’s, some familiar greetings, and colors. We try to incorporate games and songs throughout the visit, and using art to keep them attentive, while helping to connect the words with their meanings. It is very challenging to know the best way to teach (and love) these children, but I think that just being there with them, holding their hands and praising their efforts is a huge encouragement. I am still getting to know each child’s personalities, dispositions and trying to keep them engaged for 2 hours. They are all so funny and want to be my shadow when I come. I wish I could share pictures, but I don’t think that would be good. Either way – they are beautiful faces, with dark brown eyes that sparkle and arms that reach out to be held and loved without fear. I hope my heart continues to be strong each week, as I would bring them all home with me if I could.


my fruit+veggie market helpers

We got up this morning with our fridge bare. So off to the market we go! The girls enjoy getting out early, and helping me choose the best apples & green beans from the local carts down the street. We are a SIGHT!! ....and we draw a bunch of attention as we walk holding hands, momma and her 3 little chickadees. I really love that we can easily walk 5 minutes down the street for almost any fruit/veggie we might want. Everything is seasonal, so we enjoy things as they come & go. Right now broccoli is getting more scarce (and more expensive) and pineapple season is almost over - but we can find asparagus, mangoes, watermelons and (soon) lots of grapes! We get great produce here, and the girls are enjoying more and more veggies as they get brave. It's wonderful!
Next trip I will try to take some pictures of our favorite veggie stalls and the people we visit almost daily. We really love the family that makes the Uyghur Nan bread for the neighborhood. They are so kind and love to chat.

The weather has been amazingly warm, tho we've been having quite a few dust storms as well. We also enjoyed a few days of rain in the past 2 weeks, which is always a welcome break from the dry weather. I am not sure when Summer will officially hit, but we are definitely enjoying the changes that Spring brings!


the neighborhood chicks

In Spring of '08 we attempted to raise 2 baby chicks in a cardboard box, but that didn't last long. We lost one early on, and the 2nd one we released after 4 weeks into the bushes. I like to think they had a great life, but that's debatable. This Spring we are content watching others' raise their chicks from afar.
The mechanic up on the corner has 6 baby chicks that roam his "yard" while he welds and fixes old taxi's. They eat leftover rice and other scraps that he throws along the sidewalk. I guess it's not a pretty sight, but the girls LOVE visiting the chicks each day when we flag down a taxi on the corner. It's kinda like we have pets without the responsibility. I think Justin is quite happy about that too.
Gotta love the little Spring chickens!!


yogurt lips

I know this post comes from a completely biased standpoint, but dang! This girl is irresistibly cute. She knows exactly how to melt my heart - and she's growing up so fast! She's full of spunk, humor and keeps up with her sisters in grammar & vocabulary!! The amazing things that come out of her mouth don't seem consistent with her age. And here is her favorite snack at the market downstairs - Strawberry Yogurt with a straw (1.5 kuai = 25 cents).


egg-dying bonanza 2009

We searched high and low for some white eggs this year. Most of the eggs we buy here are all brown - so when Justin located an entire box of 48 White eggs, he bought them! We split the box with some neighbors, so it we weren't stuck with a months' supply. Right after the girls posed for this picture, they dropped the heavy box. Amazingly, nothing broke!! They were SO excited to begin the egg dying bonanza....so I began to boil those little white eggs.

Color your eggs with crayon... and pose for a picture
Mark them with an "E"
Choose your favorite color and plop the egg in.
Patiently wait, while you look irresistibly cute.
So many beauties.
Happy Easter!!


making jiaozi .....again!

This week we decided to make some more delicious jiaozi (饺子) - with chicken & veggie filling. We wrapped about 200 of them - and saved them in the freezer for a quick lunch. I guess the process isn't "quick" but well worth the 4 hours of prep time!!

First we chop....chop....chop
Then we knead the dough for the wraps.
Then we roll, fill & wrap for awhile!!
Then we gaze at them with anticipation.
Then we (boil first) devour them with soy sauce & chopsticks!


a walk downtown....

Da Bazaar (大把扎) is the Uyghur centre of our city & a must-see for all visitors!! This part of town is so diverse, and very different from the more central cities of Mainland China. It is the largest retail & wholesale market of ethnic goods too (in Urumqi). The market is always bustling with energy - as people sell handicrafts, food & souvenirs. This market has served as a trading hub for goods across Central Asia for many years. Bargaining is to be expected, and all prices are negotiable!

You can find grilled mutton kebabs, polo (zhua fan 抓饭), hot nan bread, fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice & sliced melons all over. Restaurants & street vendors spill out into the streets, so the smells of food are always wafting your way (which we think is a good thing!).

You can also pose with a native Bactrian Camel (the ones with 2 humps) or take a ride for a small fee. The camels are quite ornery, and are known to bite and spit. This one is still wearing his winter coat.
At many spots along the sidewalk you can find underground walkways that lead to MORE shopping areas below. Wherever we go - we must watch our pos
sessions with care. I hope that won't keep you from visiting tho!!


Chinglish #7

Red Mountain park is the green home of every boby.
Just gave me a chuckle.


Hóng Shān = Red Mountain = 红山

We enjoyed a wonderful visit from friends from America - for an entire week! The kids played for hours upon hours, and we got to share some highlights of our beloved city with them. Despite a nasty stomach flu, the visit was sweet + amazing!! (I think we are all-too-familiar with being sick)
We took them to one of the highest parks in the city - Hóng Shān (Red Mountain). It is a historic park that overlooks a panorama of the city - and it was great weather! The mountain is made of aubergine rock, hence the name Red Mountain. We hiked the stairs, explored the pagoda, and the kids had many pictures taken of them by locals (without many smiles).
All week the kiddos enjoyed exploring, reading, imagining, and bonding with their buddies since birth. I have known J since I was 16, I believe - and now our children are buddies too! I have way too many pictures to share, so here are some highlights:

...and my personal fave....