Friday, July 24, 2015

Goodbye to our First China Home

It's 10:30 PM. The house is still and quiet. And full of boxes. We're moving tomorrow.

The water filter is washed, the last suitcase sitting open ready to load in the hanging laundry (really hoping it dries by tomorrow morning!), and I just had to sweep the kitchen floor one last time. Thankfully, though, I don't have to worry about cleaning too much, as we have until next week to return the keys. So though tomorrow will be a goodbye of sorts, I will see this place again, mop in hand!

Baby girl kicked me around 10 PM, reminding me that usually at least by then I'm laying down so she can do her bedtime party dance. I know, little one, I should be in bed... But with all the adrenaline that comes with packing, while my body is exhausted, my mind is awake. Writing is always a good wind-down for me.

Ryan and I are opposite in this - packing fires me up, while just the thought exhausts him! We make a good team, though. I do the organizing, he the carrying. :) And while he looks at me incredulously when I declare, "I LIKE packing!" - I mean, who wouldn't like organizing chaos into neat, stacked boxes?? - we are grateful we balance each other out. And when he takes his little girl out to play while I get more boxes packed after supper, we're both happy.

It's here. We've put so much time and effort into getting here. The thought of moving has been around for months, the actual application of it rolling for a few weeks. Some things worked; we've accomplished cleaning and getting some things fixed, as well as multiple trips to IKEA for new decor and useful items. Others, like painting, didn't happen. Try as we might to get it painted before moving in, due to miscommunication (which is hardly surprising, considering the language barrier!) what we thought was a guy starting last Monday to paint turned out to be this Monday. By then it was too late for us to consider painting it ourselves (probably a good thing!) so we'll have moved in when the painting begins. But, with the hassle it is to go back and forth to let people in and answer questions, it will probably be easier in some respects to be living there. And with safe, low VOC and odorless paint bought, all should be well.

Though we're just moving 5 minutes away by taxi - 20 if you walk it - there's still a lot of lasts we've been realizing. And while we're happy to finally be moving, and I can't wait to be able to just roll the stroller in and click a button to go up instead of either lugging a toddler and a bag of fruit while climbing, or going at a snail's pace holding her hand (and a watermelon or jug of water in the other!) while she takes each stair carefully... We will miss this place. It's been a good apartment, surrounded by great people. And those stairs? Well, they taught Hadassah how to count in Chinese...

I looked up the Chinese for "I will miss you" to tell the vegetable stand workers when I bought my last eggs from them this morning. I tried to explain where I'd be moving to, but the name of our new apartments in Chinese is so long I have yet to remember it, and they didn't quite understand my pronunciation of the road name. It's still so hard knowing people yet not being able to really actually communicate with them. But while I've never exchanged more than a few words with them, I WILL miss them. They always knew how many eggs to count out when they saw me coming, always had huge smiles... They watched Hadassah grow up, and though she started refusing to let them hold her months ago, they always greeted her with excitement and often had little treats to give her.

The familiar paths hold a lot of memories for us. Hadassah learned to walk here. She learned to run. She knows the way to the slides and the way to the "ruff ruff doggy" we used to check on every morning. She also knows the direction we go to the "ca-caw!" (eagle statue on campus) and suggests we go there almost every time we leave our building door.

I took her to the playground one last time in the late afternoon. She was amazing playing while I packed for quite a while, but little ones still need their time to run around and the break did me good as well.

 And run she does! Down down down the ramp of this building near the playground, then up again. I'm happy to say our new place has one of these right outside of it!

 When I ask her to smile these days, more often than not, she'll give me a face like this... I think she knows she's cute. ;)

And of course, she had to go many times down the slide! I'll miss this play area, in it's shady, breezy spot.

 But there are some things I won't miss about it, like the almost rusted off poles at the top of the stairs. I often put my hand to guard it as she climbed, as her foot often got so close to getting caught and scratched. But, with likely the last climb done (unless she plays here when visiting friends), I can breathe a sigh of relief. We survived without any nasty scrapes.

We'll definitely be back to the area. The hardest part about leaving this apartment is leaving our neighbors, who have been such good friends and such amazing help to us our first year in China. It is sad to think we won't be just across the hall. We said goodbye of another kind to one of them, though; he's going to America for a year, to do research at a university there. She may join him, at least for breaks, but will likely continue working her job here. It's not uncommon in China for spouses to work in different places without anything wrong in the marriage, and I can tell they will miss each other. And we'll miss visiting with them together, the guys carrying on long conversations about anything from politics to religion while we gals watch the kids play and compare notes of how they're growing and changing. We're promising ourselves to make sure we come back to visit often and invite her and their boy over to our new place, but I know it won't be the same...

And yet, there are new friends. We already know almost as many people almost closer in our new place than we do in our current complex. It's a good move. But still hard to say goodbye, even to just the guard gates who give smiles and waves each time we pass.

I'll also miss the shops just outside the gate. Our new place is a little more isolated, though still not a terrible walk from a fruit stand. But after a year I finally decided to really embrace having a corner bakery, with croissants that make the best chicken salad sandwiches, so I will miss the convenience of picking up fresh baked goods for a meal whenever I want!

Ryan had to take a picture as we put Hadassah to sleep in this room one last time. We've made so many memories cuddling on the big bed as she drinks her milk, giving kisses and a family "squeeze!" hug each night. She's grown from a little 7 month old to a big girl of 21 months while sleeping in this room... It's pretty crazy how much she's changed in that time frame.

And yet, I can't wait to decorate her new room! Painted pink, with more child-size furniture, we'll make it a fun place for her to grow and play.

Funny how things can be both happy and sad to say goodbye to. Like our living room rug. It's pretty horrible quality, never fully vacuuming clean, picking up dirt easily, and shedding things that then stick to itself. I'm glad it doesn't match our new place, and will be happy to see it placed by the dumpster. But, we play copycat on it almost every night, as Hadassah makes sure we each sit in our "own" flower...

Anyways, enough reflection. I think my mind can at last wind down, I don't think I've forgotten anything major, a shower sounds amazing, and tomorrow will come too soon. At least though, tomorrow I'll get the easy job: directing traffic while everyone else carries the boxes. ;)

This whole moving process has taught me even more reliance on others. Our whole China experience really has. It's not something I enjoy doing and I'm still learning... I'd rather just do things myself instead of ask for help! But with the language barrier, we couldn't even call to hire a moving truck or even order pizza to be delivered for our great volunteers. Thankfully we have amazing friends, old and new, who always seem so happy to help with whatever. We get more community by having to ask. But it's still hard for my independent self to do. Guess God's using it all to refine me.

Until next time! It may be a while... Ryan hopes to go and get internet installed at our new apartment on Sunday afternoon. But with the last time he went to the office, just to renew internet that had been turned off, taking 4 hours, we'll see if he can get them to understand correctly that he needs new service at a new place! There are definitely adventures at every turn. But, God is faithful. He always continues to be.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Three Toddler Tips

Every now and then I run across something online that really makes sense and helps a ton in the raising of our toddler. Other times I accidentally try something that just happens to be a big hit with the little miss! Of course, there are countless other things that I try and don't really work or help. So, while I thought I'd share these recent tips that have helped me (oh, and okay, an excuse to post some cute pictures!), it's no guarantee they'll work for you... But parenting is often all about trying things until you find what works!

# 1 - Reading Time

This is my favorite new find. I've actually been able to complete a few books lately!

As a used-to-be-avid reader, I've struggled to find time to read since becoming a mom. For a while there was nursing time, but I knew with #2, that would probably be harder. Then I happened to read this post on a parenting blog I enjoy. The basic idea is that helping your children enjoy reading can be aided by them seeing you read. The mom writing the post has 4 children 10 and under, yet each day they have a time where they all sit on couches and read their own books together.

Hadassah used to sit at her shelf and literally "read" all the books for 30 minutes at a time, but lately that's lessened - perhaps because she got tired of looking at the same ones over and over! Having an excuse to sit down and read myself sounded pretty good, so I thought we would give it a try, thinking it would be a stretch for her to not want me to read TO her instead of next to her.

To my surprise, she immediately loved it! She even brings it up "reading time?" herself sometimes, and always makes sure I have my book before starting on hers. It's also helped teach some good things, like instead of her dropping her books on the floor when she's done (a bad habit she'd had) she's learned to carefully put them in a pile or give them to me if they're too big. I'm also teaching her to put them away when we're done, by having her carry at least one or two to the shelf while I do the others.

She usually easily lasts for 15 minutes (though there are rare cases she doesn't want to sit very long), and it's been really nice for me to actually get to read books I've had on the shelf for a while. It's really sweet to have that together time, too. It often calms her down, too, as we try to do it after her afternoon nap and snack. She doesn't always wake up in the best mood, but this time on the couch often helps restore the happy Hadassah. :)

I am careful not to let it replace the time I spend reading to her - nothing beats the feel of her curled up in my lap, interested in a story. But, all-in-all, this has been an awesome addition to our day!

#2 - Let her help

Dassah loves to help. If she sees me doing something at the counter these days, often she tries to push a chair over to stand up and help. Often that just means she wants to try and taste whatever it is I'm making, but I am trying to let her help when it's not dangerous or I'm not needing to finish quickly. And when getting chores done doubles as time together and "playtime" for her, it's a huge win all the way around!

I have to remind myself to keep trying again for things that were once impossible, as her abilities and understanding is increasing. There have been breaks in helping with dishes, for example, when every time it seemed to turn into a battle with her trying to hold the spout and spray water everywhere. There still are with cooking sometimes, when all she does is grab pieces of dough to eat (every now and then we have victory in her restraining her hands, at least for a few minutes!).

With the summer heat and the amount of times her clothes would get wet even with an apron on top, we just go with the diaper look for dishes helping. Her current like has been filling and pouring, be it bowls, cups, or spoons. She also has observed how I take things out of the big bowl of soapy water to rinse them, so she now often does it herself. Hasn't quite caught on that I usually scrub them before taking them out of the bowl, but so it goes. ;)

Snapping beans is one of her very favorite chores to help with. She will often go to the fridge and say "snap beans?" She's done it for months now, and will snap the whole bowl (I snap off the ends and then give them to her to break in half). I think it plays in to a toddler's love of taking things apart and tearing things up. ;)

She's very proud of her accomplishment when done, too. She'll pick up the pan and give them to me, saying "boil?" I've always loved snapping beans for some reason, and doing it with her just makes it more fun (not to mention gives me time to prep other food while she's finishing up!).

#3 Steam lettuce

This is her happy face after eating her third whole leaf of Romaine lettuce, torn up and lightly steamed! "More lettuce?" she kept saying, so I told her I'd be sure to make more for her next time!

She always really likes the Chinese lettuce we've eaten, but raw lettuce is never that appetizing. While I do want to make Chinese lettuce at home, Ryan and I eat salad daily. I try to steam vegetables for Hadassah (she's great at eating and enjoying most of them!) so decided to try throwing some spinach in for the last minute one time. She gobbled it down. I tried it with lettuce the other day, and she loved it!

Super easy to add to the end of what I'm already cooking, or to just boil water in the water boiler and pour it over lettuce, letting it sit for a minute. I'm happy to find a way that Hadassah can eat and enjoy these good-for-her greens!

So, there you go. No guarantee any of these suggestions will work for you, but I'm enjoying the happy toddler they (usually) help us have! Life with a toddler is (again, usually!) such a joy! :)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Racing a Typhoon

The title is somewhat deceiving, as our experience is not nearly as dramatic as it suggests. ;) It was just too good not to use!

A typhoon was scheduled to hit Shanghai over the weekend, with Ryan's co-workers warning us to not even go outside, as the wind would be strong enough to knock you over, or things might be flying and hit you in the head. So, we were prepared for the worst, and decided our plans to go look at paint on Saturday morning probably wasn't the best idea.

Ryan came home Friday just as I was about to cook taco meat for supper, saying "Do you want to leave and go now?" Thankfully I had a few leftovers I quickly heated and packed, and we supplemented with McDonalds from the subway station, packing and leaving as quickly as we could. We've learned it's impossible to get taxis on a Friday evening around supper time, so did a quick 20 minute walk to the station, about keeping up with the stop-and-go traffic anyway.

Hadassah handled everything extremely well, as supper was delayed (other than a few bites popped in her mouth while we walked) until we, thankfully, got seats together on the subway. Eating really does occupy her while traveling, so the trip didn't seem too long to the end of line 5. The rain had started, complete with wind, by the time we were walking to the mall B&Q was located in, but we thankfully have invested in large umbrellas after learning our lesson with small ones no match for Shanghai gusts.

The store was deserted, we quickly found the paint friends had told us about, took pictures of the different cans and supplies to decide what we needed to buy later, grabbed a color sample sheet, and headed out. Things aren't regulated in China much, and especially not nearly as much as in the US (living here has definitely taught us to appreciate most US regulations!) so we were thankful for friends who had researched and found a good, safe, lead-free and low-VOC brand of paint. A little more expensive than some, but worth it health-wise.

Ryan let me look, while he took care of Hadassah. We didn't like having to drag her out on the subway and to a store on a Friday night, but when you have a daddy that dances in the aisles with you and then sits and plays copy-cat (cutest site ever!) you have a fun time no matter where you are!

We also picked up a cold treat (amazing mango/watermelon and chocolate popsicles!) and trekked back to the subway. The wind and rain had picked up, so we really did feel like we were racing the typhoon! It turns out chocolate wasn't the best choice for a treat to eat on the subway, especially when two of you were wearing white and it had partially melted by the time you ate it, and the subway was so crowded, we had to stand.

Hadassah decided sitting at Daddy's feet for a while was preferable to being up where she was surrounded by people staring at her!

We dutifully stayed inside most of the day Saturday, though Ryan took a restless Hadassah out twice with an umbrella, as the wind and rain wasn't nearly as bad as predicted. Thankfully the typhoon stayed more out at sea than originally predicted, so other than some cool wind and a few small branches down, we didn't see any damage. We also enjoyed seeing our neighbors more that day, going over in the morning and them coming over in the evening, which helped both restless children a lot. We will definitely miss them when we move to our  new place...

The typhoon seems to finally have gotten rain out of the weather's system, but now it is just hot. Super hot. Combined with a slight cold for me and a slight fever for Hadassah, indoors with A/C is definitely preferred right now. But we may need to go out and get a treat sometime too...

This is from a while ago, but Hadassah sure enjoys when we splurge on a 50 cent strawberry popsicle. Mommy likes it too, and ends up eating most of it, but don't tell her! ;) We were celebrating that day because she was finally better after a week of diarrhea. I love my little companion!

Falling asleep during room play time... shows me she's definitely not feeling well!
 This week marches on with trying to get the new apartment painted, cleaned, and ready to move in. Today is a quiet at-home day, though, where I'm hoping we get over our slight sicknesses soon!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

An evening at the playground

Hadassah loves this spot. A sure-fire way to cheer up a grumpy attitude and provide endless play and energy releasing time for her is to say "Hadassah, let's go to the slides!" Though there are downsides to living in an apartment instead of your own house (with a back yard!) a definite plus is having a playground just a few minutes walk away.

 Talking with Mommy on the way...

 Her "excited hands" pose :)

 She has mastered climbing the stairs alone, though we usually stay close in case of a slip.

 She quickly decided her preferred method of going down the twisty slide is head first!

 One happy girl!

 We are always sad when it rains and we can't make the slides a part of her day, since she so so enjoys it!

Cute little girl-ness...

We are busy trying to get all the details sorted out for moving to our new apartment, and thankfully there is a playground there, even closer to our apartment building than this one, and it seems to have better upkeep (not so much rust). But we wanted to capture this place before we moved, as it has been one of Hadassah's favorite spots for a year now!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Changes Ahead

When God opens a door, sometimes He opens it really really fast!

With decisions made in one area, on Monday, we started looking for a new apartment. We texted a friend who has lived in China long enough to know more local customs and a lot of language, and asked if he would help us. He put us in touch with a student of his (he's a university professor) who had helped another family in the past. All of this started around 1:30 PM. The student asked for our apartment specifications, and by 4:45 PM had called us saying there was one that matched what we were looking for, and set up a time for us to see it that evening.

The apartment was nice, fit our main needs (like in a building with an elevator - I just can't imagine hauling two children plus their stuff and groceries up and down stairs as it's difficult enough with one!), was under budget, and decent enough that we'll only have to buy a few furniture items. We saw a lot of apartments in the area in our search last year, and this one was pretty good for the area we're in.

They wanted us to decide right there and then, saying if we didn't take it, someone else was prepared to, but we wanted some time to talk and think, so told them we'd call them later that evening. It happened to be in the VERY same building as our friend who had been helping us, so we called to ask his advice. He arranged to see it himself later that evening, and communicated more with the landlord as he could speak and understand Chinese. After some more back and forth, he put a down payment down for us.

It was 9 PM. 8 hours after we started looking in earnest, we had an a new apartment. After a long season of doors closing one after another, we had to laugh at how fast this one had opened! Granted, we had been talking about finding a new apartment for months, but were still amazed at how fast things moved. Everyone always told us finding housing moves very quickly in China, but our friend agreed we may have set a new record!

The next noon we visited the place again, went through some specifics of what we'd need, like bars installed on some windows that just opened easily in the clothes-drying balcony... With a toddler-monkey we weren't about to take any chances living on the 14th floor! We also got permission to paint, with the understanding that we may need to paint it back to white when we move out if they don't like the colors we choose. After 2 1/2 years of living in rented spaces with paint all one color, we are pretty excited at the thought of making this one a little more homey.

There are also other positives: the washing machine has hot water capabilities, which after a year of only cold water washing, during which towels molded and I had to stop using cloth diapers partly due to the stink that retained after no hot washes, I am pretty thrilled about! The windows also feel like they're a lot better sealed than our current ones - at least there was only one that I could feel a little air from when I put my hand up next to the edges, whereas almost all of the ones at our current apartment let in some air. So, I'm hoping the house will retain heat a little better so that this winter won't be so so cold inside!

Though it's not one of the changes we originally thought more ideal, we are excited too that God has a purpose and a plan for us being where we are. And, He has answered a huge prayer and desire of ours in terms of putting us closer to some community. Though we still feel the huge distance we are from the church we're members of, we will be living in an apartment complex with two other Christian, American families that God has recently given us more and more opportunities to connect with. Living this first year in China mostly isolated has driven home the importance of Christian fellowship, which can then inform and give energy to other outreach.

So, there is new energy and drive as we prepare our new home. Tomorrow I'll meet a Chinese friend (also living in that complex!) at our new place along with a painting company. With labor pretty cheap in China, Ryan busy with work, and it being 'nigh impossible for me to paint with Hadassah, we decided it would definitely be worth it to hire out the job and get it done before we move in. Later in the day we'll meet someone there to install the bars.

Through this whole process, we're reminded on how dependent on others we are over here. Though it is annoying to our independent spirits sometimes, it can be good at forming connections. And people, friends old and new, continue to be so helpful and generous with their time. We are blessed.

 Hadassah seems to love our new place. While I measured beds and windows yesterday to prepare to find what we need, she ran all over the place, checking out the rooms and furniture. She loved finding a closet with a door she could slide open and closed to play peek-a-boo with! She recognizes that it's in the same complex as our friends (one of whom has a daughter just 5 days younger than her) so spent some time standing at the window pretending to wave and say "hello {name of friends}" over and over.

There will be some work, like trying to tie together the colors of the above living room - it was pretty certain that the owners didn't want us to change the look of the walls too much, so we'll be leaving the orange and using their couches. But it's really fun to have a new place to dream about... my brain has been going strong with ideas for things since Monday night!

The first year in China was hard. I've heard it almost always is, in whatever place you go, especially over seas. But there were some things that made it more difficult to settle in, starting with my dad's discovery of cancer (which, praise the Lord, is currently all gone through chemo and surgery, and we are praying stays away!) and continuing through a long, cold, lonely winter. Adding another child made us also wonder whether this was the place for us. But with the decision made, we are going to do our best to really make this a home. I waited to buy many things, not wanting to waste money if we were going to use them for just a year... It got kind of ridiculous as things broke or wore out and I refused to replace them, not knowing where we'd be month to month. So, this time we are going to invest a little. Yes, we're still trying to be wise, and buying as much as we can used, but it feels good to work on really making a home.

We're looking towards other, smaller changes too. After over a year of hauling water, having to go out to get it rain or shine or air pollution, or go thirsty if we ran out while waiting for a storm to pass or a daughter to wake up from a nap, we're going to look into getting water delivered to our door. We're also giving ourselves permission to order a little more from the easy, online, expat grocery website, especially after discovering that they can give official receipts that fit the "food reimbursement" category Ryan's work provides. I'm still going to continue missing having water pressure to wash food and toothbrushes (filling bottles to pour over gets old!), but you can't change everything. :)

This feels like a fresh, new start. And it's pretty exciting to be preparing a home for TWO little girls this time! With one of the rooms already painted a pale pink, we can't wait to make Hadassah a fun toddler room and a sweet baby girl nursery. God is good.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Lyrics to Life

These past 6 months have been hard. A lot has been uncertain... the future far from known. Hopes would go up, get dashed, get changed, get re-changed, and changed again. Waiting for direction has never seemed so hard or so long, as the months ticked by and we still didn't know what where we'd be in a month, or what we'd be aiming for.

God has answered. There are still a lot of questions, but we have some direction, and that is a huge blessing. Somehow, I know that I never will be through learning this lesson of trusting God amid a lot of unknown... After all, we are looking to things that are unseen, so our vision will never be clear this side of heaven.

Steven Curtis Chapman's album "The Glorious Unfolding" has often been played these past months. It often feels like he was reading my mind with the words that he sings, and they never failed to remind me to trust the Lord even when my emotions were all over the place. I streamed it so much on Youtube they started giving me ads between every song, as they could tell I'd listened to it so many times before!

Maybe some of the lyrics will encourage you too. Below are some of my favorites, relating to the struggles of the past months.

From "The Glorious Unfolding" -

Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight;
Don't try to figure it out.
Just listen to what
I'm whispering to your heart.

Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be.
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it's just not true.
There's so much of the story that's still yet to unfold...

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding.
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed.
You've just got to believe the story is so far from over...
So hold on to every promise God has made to us,
And watch this glorious unfolding

God's plan from the start,
For this world and your heart,
Has been to show His glory and His grace;
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing Love.
And the story has only begun...

From "Take Another Step" - 
We walk by faith and not by sight, we know it's true.
We say it and sing it and love the way it sounds.
But none of us can even begin to truly understand
What it really means 'til all the lights go out.
And there we are, nothing to hold on to
But the promises God's made to me and you...

Take another step, take another step.
When the road ahead is dark,
And you don't know where to go.
Take another step, take another step;
Trust God and take another step.

If there's an ocean in front of you,
You know what you've gotta do,
Take another step and another step.
Maybe He'll turn the water into land,
And maybe He'll take your hand and say,
"Let's take a walk on the waves;
Will you trust Me either way?"
From "Something Beautiful" -
I see you sitting over there with your head in your hands
And the mess life's made of your best laid plans
You really want to shake your fist
But you don't know who to blame...

Oh, but grace has just begun.

And God's says:
I'm gonna turn it into something different,
I'm gonna turn it into something good.
I'm gonna take all the broken pieces
And make something beautiful like only I could.
So put it all in the hands of the Father;
Give it up, give it all over to
The only one who can turn it into
Something beautiful...
Something really beautiful
From "Finish What He Started" -
You take two steps forward and three steps back,
On a journey of a thousand miles.
And you cry and you pray,
But you know at this pace you never will arrive.
Well I know in your heart, you believed from the start,
God had a purpose He knit you together for.
But life has pulled at the seams
And you’re unravelling,
And you can’t hold it together anymore... 
But God will, He will finish what He started.
No thread will be left unwoven,
Nothing will be left undone.
Every plan and every purpose
That He has will be accomplished
And God will finish what He’s begun. 
And it may feel like 40 long days in a hard driving rain,
Or 40 years in a dry desert sand.
But when He’s finished we will SEE
A beautiful tapestry,
And know that nothing has been wasted in the end...

Isn't it amazing to have a God who is Sovereign, has had a plan from the beginning of time, and knows what's next even when you don't? I've discovered that I am still not good at waiting and not being able to have a plan myself, but He gives grace upon grace as He continues to teach me. He is good, and His ways are good. We can rest in His hands.

Now, go listen to Steven Curtis Chapman's album, "The Glorious Unfolding." Reading the lyrics doesn't do justice to the beauty and power of the songs!

China Cuisine and Bugs

The rain finally held off this morning. It has been raining so much lately, that getting to walk somewhere without carrying an umbrella is now a special treat! I have also missed my longer walks as it's hard to carry Hadassah very far these days, and her stroller molds if it gets wet...

So this morning I was glad for the excuse to walk 15 minutes to a nearby apartment complex, for a get-together with friends. Through the American families we've been getting to know better, I got to know a really sweet Chinese lady. She speaks very good English, having spent a few years in the states, and also stays home during the day, which is rare here. Last time she made some delicious food, so I asked if she would show me how to cook some Chinese cuisine!

 She showed me 3 dishes this morning, and then had us and some other friends stay for lunch. A happy stomach and a happy heart is what we left with. :) It is good to fellowship. The above dish, simple steamed lettuce with soy sauce, oil, and garlic, is both Hadassah's and my favorite. Hadassah isn't yet to the point where she'll eat raw lettuce - she tries sometimes, but always takes it back out of her mouth with a strange, "why am I eating a leaf?" face. But when it's lightly cooked? "More lettuce?" is what I heard over and over during lunch today!

I have been wanting to learn some authentic Chinese cooking for a while now, so I am very excited to find someone with time to teach me!

On the way home we were on a fairly empty (in terms of pedestrians) stretch when a grandma came toward us and I heard a whirring sound. She was carrying a large beetle by the wings, and stopped to show it to me, talking excitedly as if we were good friends (to my knowledge, I have never seen her before). I didn't understand most of what she said, but as she held the bug out to me multiple times, I recognized the "want or don't want?" phrase. "Don't want" I told her a few times, but she kept insisting.

So... yup, those are my hands. I am definitely not a hold-a-bug kind of person, but I didn't have much of a choice! ;) Hadassah was interested, as long as it didn't get too close to her. She has a healthy fear of bugs too. So when the grandma was far enough away, I asked Hadassah "should we say bye-bye to the bug" and she smiled and said "Bye-bye bug" so I let it go and it flew away.

Life in China... You never know what you'll run into while you're out!