new theater in town!

This week - we found out about a new Movie Theater in town, with movies in English! This is a huge novelty for us, since the girls have only been to a theater once before in America. We jumped at the chance to take them to see Cars II in 3D. Unfortunately, Justin was out of town - so I joined some friends who were also going. It turned out to be 4 families (6 adults & 10 kids!). The girls LOVED the movie, and even got used to the big black glasses they had to wear. Just look at these plush seats! I felt like I was transported to another country. I even brought popcorn & candy for snacks....

After the movie was over - we went to catch a taxi, but it was pouring rain. I forgot to bring any sort of jacket for the girls, let alone an umbrella!! Needless to say, we got drenched to the core. AND the girls were wearing very summery clothing - stink!! We wandered around trying to flag down a taxi, looking for a bus that would take us closer to home....but nothing!! I felt so terrible with three wet girls out in the freezing cold rain, without anything to keep us dry. We finally found a little convenient store and I bought the girls their first snickers bar ever, and a dinky purple umbrella to keep us from getting more wet. Thankfully their attitudes weren't too stinky, but I did have to help Eden pee in a corner while holding her over a puddle. Asia was awesome as she shielded her with the umbrella! It was an adventure.

We made it home about 1 hour later! We all got warm & toasty by drinking hot cocoa & wearing jammies. It was a day we will remember forever. Too bad dad missed it. :)

561. Salvation is a gift of grace
562. for my local friend buying me herbal Chinese medicine
563. Jenny Espe is medicine for my soul
564. A new movie theater in U-town
565. mother/daughter bonding in the rain
566. a rainy Saturday
567. hot chocolate and imported marshmallows
568. watching "Family Wipeout" together


birthday backpacking with buddies

My forever birthday wish is to go camping.
I don't need presents ever again. I will always want to take the family camping...somewhere new, adventurous, fresh. And this year, we decided to try backpacking! Even the girls carried some gear! We were so proud of them - and its incredible to see how their confidence grew as they were able to conquer something HARD. That was a gift too. Here they are...ready to go to the bus station....

It was a 2+ hour bus ride up to the mountains: this time we went to a different valley called Dong Bai Yang Gou. The bus dropped us off at the bottom, and we took a trolly car up to the trail-head. Notice that we have some brave friends who joined the adventure! Everything is better with friends. :)

As we began hiking, we realized the trail was really steep -- almost straight up, on rocky, dusty dirt. We all had heavy packs on (with tents, sleeping bags, mats, food, water, etc) so it was strenuous for the adults too. The kids were such troopers: we hiked for a bit, had the dad's run ahead with gear, and come back to hold hands and get the kids up the steep trail one-by-one. When we started out, they were all smiles:

It was a challenging hike, to say the least. Here is the slope & terrain (below), even though its hard to see completely. At one point, we were passed by a team of Kazakh shepherds on horses...which was funny! Next time we might need to hire pack mules!!

Once we got over the ridge and into the valley - the kids were loving it! There was a beautiful little stream running through the area, with rocks and boulders scattered about. We had to set up camp before the sun went down and it got chilly....so the kids were sent off to gather firewood. We set up our new 4-person tent, right next to the river. It was the only "flat space" big enough, without a lot of manure. Oh - I forgot to mention that this valley was obviously well-used by shepherds and their huge flocks (ahem - smelly!) so we had to watch our steps. :) But just to be surrounded by green and trickling water....we were grateful!

(I had to include this picture - you will know why later)

(and a special THANK YOU to our wonderful friends who brought this tent over for us! We love it, and it fits our family perfectly!)
That night we made ramen noodles and mini-chicken hot dogs over the fire. Simple is best! Later we roasted imported marshmallows with chocolate & Chinese crackers - the best s'mores combo we can muster! The kids don't know any different!

We finally climbed into our tents and sleeping bags as the fire died down, trying our best to get warm as the river flowed so loud right near our heads. **Now at this point in the trip - I have to admit that it got tough. Justin and I hardly slept all night, between being freezing cold, rolling off our mats on the sloped hillside, or the rushing river noise that made us both have scary dreams of floating down the river in the middle of the night. My hips weren't happy sleeping on the hard ground, and I ended up getting a migraine to boot. Speaking of "boots": both Justin and I left our shoes outside the tent that night, because they were caked with stinky manure. Around 5:30am, we both finally opened our eyes to welcome a new day....only to find that Justin's nice hiking/winter boots had been stolen. It seems that a shepherd must have needed them more than we did. It could have been worse though: my flea market hiking shoes were still there! As we were laying there in the wee hours of the morning, we were mad - wondering how we would ever make it out of the valley with huge packs, steep rocky trails, and a strong husband without shoes. Plus - my back was not cooperating, nor was my migraine. It was a bleak few hours.

We finally got up to face the day. I dismally made oatmeal & hot chocolate over the fire. Then we remembered a small perplexing detail: Once we hiked over the ridge (the day before) we noticed some old abandoned shoes left on the hillside. They must be the shepherds' old shoes, after they steal from unknowing campers!! It was all making sense. Sad though. Goodbye nice winter boots: we hope you take good care of Mr. Shepherd guy, and bring him warmth this winter. We finally "let go" of our frustrations, and tried to smile & laugh at our predicament. Grace.

We ended up fashioning those old abandoned shoes into something that would work for Justin's feet. He cut a huge slit in the heel so his feet could fit into them (2 sizes too small), and used tent rope to lace them and tie them onto his ankles. He was MacGyver for sure. I wish we had brought some duct tape! He had the best attitude too. I sure love him.

After the stolen shoes - we realized we couldn't manage the return hike along that same steep slope. The dad's ventured off to find a new trail ~ seeing if we could hike down along the river with 6 kiddos + gear. They were super excited to spy out the land. :)

The rest of us stayed behind to play in the river, look for bugs, climb, and explore. It was so relaxing! I loved being able to let the girls run around unhindered, without having to worry. My migraine finally faded a bit, which was great - since I would need to hike soon. PTL!

a shepherd leading his flock to pasture: he didn't have our shoes on. :)

The boys came back in the afternoon with good news: we could attempt the river route, after they fortified the trail with extra river rocks & logs. They loved getting to forge a trail and "fortify" something. We slowly packed up camp, ate all the food we could (so we didn't have to carry it) and began our hike back to civilization. The kids were like little goats along the trail, hopping off rocks and bounding along. For the most part, they carried their own things!! It was incredible. Here we are, fully loaded up and ready to hike!

We made it! A little bit dirty, missing our beds, one scratched tummy (see Sydney), minus one pair of shoes, but fully refreshed and recharged by getting out in nature!! It does wonders for the soul.


one child? c'mon, have two!

Encouraging Story: I might (just might) have changed the taxi drivers mind. As always, taxi drivers are amazed when they see our family hop into a taxi with three little kids. Today was no exception...

"Are all three kids yours?"
"You must be tired!"
"Does your mom live here to help you take care of them?"
"Do you have a nanny?"
"You must be SO tired!"

These are all typical questions/comments we receive multiple times a day, and we realize its a huge mind-boggling thought for a young family to single-handedly raise three little girls in this country, especially in the northwest, where it isn't as modern. Even in prior to the "one child policy" grandparents have been the ones to spend the most time with the children, while parents worked to provide for their entire family (grandparents too). Two generations back, families were more likely to have 3-6 kids - but most of these parents (now grandparents) don't remember the amount of energy required to raise kids - because they weren't the primary ones doing it: Their parents did! Here's the breakdown of what its like to raise kids in China, even though this might be an over-generalization:

Parent's nowadays (23-40): They see our family, and assume we are nutty. One child is enough (energy, money, stress)! Social pressure is heavy, and there are even extra taxes depending on where you live. Parents typically don't learn much about parenting, because they rely on their parents to tell them what to do, and the majority of the parenting tasks are relinquished to them. But deep down, we sense some amazement when parents observe siblings playing, sharing & laughing together. This is something many Chinese kids don't experience at home.

Grandparents nowadays (45-79): They think we are crazy/tired, even though they had 3+ kids of their own. They never had to personally raise them. For many, raising their one-and-only grandchild is their first opportunity to "parent" a child. They care for the child while the parents work hard. They are eager to see their grandchild interact with ANY foreign kid, and push them to speak English early on. They are also somewhat protective with their grandchild, and very attentive to their needs.  Pre-school aged children are always out-and-about with their grandma or grandpa enjoying life outside.  Seeing grandparents doting over their grandchild makes me miss MY family, that's for sure! 

Great-grandparents nowadays (80+): They always smile and give us a big "thumbs up." They know its hard work - but worth every minute!

But today - I ventured to challenge this taxi-drivers' thinking, and probe a bit further to see if he could see the intrinsic value of children. I began asking him if he wanted more kids, and asking questions why he could/couldn't make this choice. In the end - it mostly came down to money. I told him he could save a little each month... :) ....and he ended up saying, he might save for 2 years - and see if his wife would agree. One life at a time, right??


amazing girlies

three girls under the grapevines

my green smoothie girl

learning to read

also learning to read - www.starfall.com (while in costume!)

my resident bookworm ~ excited about a borrowed book!

giving her Chinese Chia Pet a haircut

this is Eden's cookbook that she is making. I love her shopping list. LOVE IT.
...and I am so blessed by these amazing girlies!


anniversary trip...

We got on a bus bound for the mountains without a care in the world. Only 38 kuai ($4.50)!

We stayed at a wonderful friends' mountain retreat ~ inside this small townhome community. We were right at the foot of the NanShan mountains!

We ate outside, went hiking and played with the little ones. It was so relaxing and wonderful. Here are the 2 little Uyghur girls that I got to spend some time with up there. They are 1 & 3 years old ~ such little beauties!

We even made a huge American breakfast for the staff on our 2nd day. So funny - that while on a short vacation, we still cooked and played with kids! For some strange reason, it was still very restful and energizing. It was nice to give our minds a break! I am so thankful for this chance to get out of city with my love, and have time to reflect and reminisce and dream. We needed it!!


10 years with my love!

TEN years!! wahoo!!

‎9 homes + 8 countries + 7 cars & 7 days of childbirth + 3 beautiful girls + 4 jobs + 2 yrs of language study & tutoring + 46 flights + 2 broken bones + 15 flavors of Ice Cream + 1 scary ethnic riot = 10 years of being married to the love of my life! Happy Anniversary to us!

Let the adventure continue...

Thanks to our wonderful friends out here - we got to leave the girls at home, and take off for 3 whole days + 2 nights away! It was so relaxing & refreshing. Every year keeps getting better.....I feel so blessed.