I can do all things

I usually end the year by making pizza for my students at the orphanage.  Some of the teens knew something was up when I came in this week with all the contents for a pizza party.  I explained that I needed to go to the States so my son could have a surgery.  Most of the kids simply accepted my need to go and asked if I would come back – everyone except one teen.

He is wheelchair bound and unable to use his hands well.  His speech is unclear, but his mind is sharp.  This amazing teen is caught in a body that just can’t respond.  He inspires me often.  He uses his mouth to hold a paintbrush, will encourage the other students to do their best during projects when he is unable to participate, and has used his spare time learning all of the colors (and many other art words) in English during my class.  Amazing.


After he processed that I would be gone for several months, he asked if I had an app on my phone that would allow me to call some of the local teachers.  “Then you could keep in touch.” He claimed satisfied with his plan.  I shrugged and said that my Chinese is bad and I really can’t use those apps.

He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I speak bad.  There are many things I can’t do.  Teacher, YOU can do this. Don’t say that.”  He finished his verbal reprimand saying that he would help me!

There have been several times facing this upcoming season that I simply want to sit down, cry, and tell God that I can not do this.  I can’t say the goodbyes.  I can’t travel with three kids.  I can’t face my baby’s surgery without Hubby.  I can’t be separated from half my family for this long.  Oh, my list (and self pity) could go on.

I have decided that all I need to know I have learned from disabled children and Sunday school.

Really. Who am I to say that I can’t do these things?  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  We are going to do this – one step at a time, remembering that it could be harder and that Christ will strengthen us as we go.


Not unlike my sweet student who was so willing to help his technology challenged teacher – so many of you have offered to help us through this season.  Thank you.  Every encouraging note, prayer, and gift have been deeply appreciated.  They help me to know that Father is providing for us….holding my hand every step of the way.

I have help for every leg of the journey.  A friend is driving hundreds of miles to pick us up from the airport and loan us their car.  Family is taking time off work to sit with us at the hospital.  A local church near Shriners has offered to be my community and help.  We have a furnished apartment to live in as Little Man recovers.

That is a pretty amazing list.

With each of those things in mind, I am going to say goodbyes with confidence.  I will trust that Moe will be filled with peace as we travel.  I won’t worry in the waiting room and I believe our family will thrive during this season of separation.

Through Christ.

Double the classes: Double the fun

playdoughsmileMy Chinese is still a bit rocky, but I totally understood the argument that was taking place in the halls of the orphanage on Tuesday – my first full day at the orphanage.

“She can teach art to blind kids.  My class wants art too!”

I wanted to burst out laughing at the sweet Chinese teacher who was going to bat for her kids to have art.  She and I have become good friends over the year (I taught a different class with her last semester) and now that she has moved classrooms she was advocating for me to move with her.

Only the Father could grant me so much favor and allow doors to open for me to love on the kids at the orphanage.  Teaching the three classes last semester was one of the greatest joys of my life….so I am stepping out in faith knowing 8 classes this semester will be even better.  But, I must admit (blind kids or not) I am feeling in over my head.  One of my new classes is a group of foster kids and their moms as well as community parents and their special needs children.  The special education director introduced me to the class with a smile saying, “Tammy speaks awful Chinese but she is great with our kids.”  That is a note of confidence to start a class with.  I was sweating as I looked into the eyes of the adults in the room.  It is one thing to mix up my words with a group of kids….adults make me nervous!  I soon forgot my older audience as we started playing with playdough!

The game has changed.  I now have an official printout of my class schedule just like the other teachers.  I have been invited into the break/office space the other teachers share and I am getting to know ALL of the kids at the Children’s Home.  At this rate, I joked with my husband that I will know every special needs child in our city of 2 million people!


You know what I am learning through all of this…again.  I really love kids with disabilities!  They are the best and I am so thankful that G.d is stretching me to love more fully and deeply.  But I can’t do this alone.  Double the classes means I need double the creativity and double the energy.  I already see how G.d is providing for me to do this work through a supportive husband who is taking over the homeschooling on Tuesdays.  I also am more thankful than ever for the supplies that were brought to us this spring/summer and all of the supplies and gifts given to us while we were in the States.   The older  kids loved making paperbag puppets with googley eyes this week!

Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days I could use some extra pr@yers as I strive to love the kids well and ultimately show them a deeper more eternal love.

photo 1

We are back!

The horrors of jet lag.  I swear hell might look like never ending jet lag.  Oh, so painful!   All in all our travels back east were uneventful and smooth.  There was only one moment I about came unglued.

Only a crazy art teacher would pack a good chunk of our luggage allowance full of glue, glitter, Crayola, and craft sticks.  One huge bottle of glitter would not fit in the suitcases.  My sweet son stuck it in his carry on knowing his momma can go through a lot of glitter and there is non to be bought in our city.

It is the last flight in a Chinese airport that is known for its security measures, I was prepared.  We had no liquids and confidently were waltzing through.  Then….

They took my glitter!

Hey, Hey, Hey!  That isn’t liquid or flammable I heard myself whining and then pleading with my sweet husband to come to my aid in defensive of the red glitter.  How do you explain what glitter is to an officer who  never has seen the likes of a 5 lb bottle of the stuff  before!

I promise I won’t blow up your plane with it!

Meltdown was completely unneeded.  The second round through the scanner machine thingy deemed it harmless and it was handed back to me.  I noticed them raising an eyebrow at the crazy white woman and her glitter.

Jet lag is to blame for a lot of bad behavior….my whining included.  That is my story and I am sticking to it.

We are back glitter and all so thankful to be “home.”

Now that jet lag is mostly behind us we are jumping back into life.  The kids started homeschooling today and attended Chinese classes in the afternoon.  Hubby had his first day of classes – three literature classes, two oral english classes and a weekly lecture are sure to keep him busy.  I had my first meeting at the orphanage to set up classes too.  It was a big day setting up the fall semester for the Williams clan.

One of the kids at the orphanage summed it up well.  “So glad you are back.  How about you start art class NOW.”  Love that kid!  I think he will get an extra scoop of glitter the first day of class!


Afternoon learning fun and split pants.



We have the benefit of two worlds…homeschooling and an international school.  In the mornings you will find us huddled around our coffee table learning together, but by noon the three big kids are packed up and heading out the door to the international school.  There they have Chinese classes and specials (art, music, PE, and library) plus some invaluable time with others kids who live in a culture that is not their own.  They have made some great friendships and their Chinese, including reading and writing, has improved dramatically over the year.

This past week the school hosted an art fair.  It was a great time for all….well except for Little Man.  Oh, that is a story in itself!!  I will get back to that.  Each of the big kids had projects in the fair and I loved taking it all in.  Got a few ideas for my classes too!  Their art teacher is amazing.  So appreciate her hard work!




The highlight of the afternoon was Roo winning the award for best project of the 4th grade.  She came up with this monochromatic masterpiece on her own using many different materials to show texture.  When she first showed me her piece, I again was amazed by her natural talent.  What a blessing to have our little artist encouraged by winning.  So proud of her.





While big sister was shining, Little Man was trying to hide.

Let’s start the story by saying that he has become Mr. Independent of late.  When he headed to the restroom on his own the thought ran through my head that it could be disastrous.  I should always listen to that still small mommy warning voice in my head!

He didn’t aim well.  He got wet.  Really wet.

So in the middle of the art show I was scrambling to find him a change of pants.  I found a gracious Chinese mom who was willing to loan us her son’s extra set of clothes.  I was so relieved until I noticed that they were traditional Chinese split pants.  Split pants are exactly what they sound like.  There is a split in the middle….for easy aiming, I might add, so that you don’t have wet clothes with young ones.  No pull-ups around here, young kids walk around with it all hanging out of the split.

So poor little man had to be wet or exposed.  Hard choice.  He really hates being wet.

True to his nature, he pulled those pants on and turned those cheeks towards me and shook them singing, “booty, booty, booty!”

The rest of the afternoon he spent wrapped up in my sweater trying to hide that cute little booty.

He said, “I don’t like these “showing” pants.  I might have been born in China, but I am American and we don’t wear split pants!”

For many reasons, it was an afternoon we won’t forget!

No photos of Little Man from the day! 😉

New country same foot in mouth disease

For any of you who know me even just a teeny tiny bit, you know that embarrassing moments and stories seem to follow me.  Okay, maybe I have a bit to do with it.  I really don’t mean to be such a crazy white woman, but….well, sigh!  If you consider that I live in a country that is not my own, speaking a language that isn’t easy for this blonde to grasp – you can imagine the outcome is even more hilarious stories where I am turning red and wondering what went wrong.

This is one reason I love teaching art to special needs kids.  They get me.  They show me grace when I make mistakes, say the wrong things and I can be my crazy messy white self and have no fear.  Until…..

Oh friends….

I am in the middle of a very messy paint project that included straws and my declaration that we could paint fireworks  (we did by the way.  it was so fun!)   When our classroom was taken over by some very official looking people, the orphanage director and a camera crew.  My heart stopped.  I wiped the paint from my elbow and smiled a wobbly grin as the children jumped to their feet to greet the visitors.

Did you hear my inner groan?

I knew it was even more official and the people even more important than I at first feared when the children started greeting them with practiced phrases that I really don’t understand the full meaning of.


Now, I find that I can get by with a lot if I smile and nod.  It works for me.

Not today.

I was being introduced in front of the video camera as a volunteer teacher who also teaches at the university.  They turned to ask me what I teach at the university.  Wanting to set the record straight I jumped in with my best Chinese.

“Oh, umm, my LOVER is a teacher at the university not me.”


I am not even sure why the word LOVER came out of my mouth, but it did.  (The word that flew out of my mouth is a slang word which can mean husband, but usually means, well you know.) Hubby is my lover, too much info maybe, but the truth and I am not ashamed to say it….except in front of a TV camera, in front of my class of students, and in front of the director of the orphanage.  AHHHH.  I turned four shades of pink as giggles could be heard in the class.

All of a sudden the proper word for HUSBAND came to my mind.  I stood there wanting to bang my head against the wall repeating the word over and over.  Zhongfu.  Zhongfu.  Zhongfu.  During which time I missed the second question of my interview.

Lord have mercy.

I smiled and nodded.


“How long do you plan to teach art here?”

By the time this third question came flying at my befuddled brain I was a mess.  I shrugged my shoulders and said.  I don’t know.

It was over that fast.

My lover and I are teachers and we have no idea how long we want to be here.  Who knows what I agreed to in the middle.

There you have it.

May the interview not be on the five o’clock news…that is all I have to say.


I laughed till I had tears over the whole stupid thing with a friend later.  It felt so good.  I needed to laugh at myself like that.  Some days at the orphanage, loving those kids, but not knowing how to best advocate and help them….it is intense.  I often cry.  Today I laughed.

Maybe that is why Gd allows embarrassing moments to follow me.  He knows I need to lighten up a bit.

That is my story for tonight.  Off to make dinner for my lover, oh achem, I mean husband!




Amazing, Awful, Adoption

IMG_4231I have had so many folks asking how art classes at the orphanage are going – I know this post is overdue – but I just don’t know how to put it all into words.  Shocking, I know!

I want to say they are AMAZING.  Well, because they are!  I have two classes of some of the best kids.  This week we created all kinds of magic with play dough and the next class we “painted” fireworks to get ready for Chinese New Year.  The kids thought I was joking as I handed out straws for them to blow the paint around the paper.   The first blow brought out gasps of disbelief.  So fun.  Their skeptical faces were soon transformed through laughter as they created all sorts of cool patterns.  One boy said, “It really does look like a “boom”!”

As I stood there and laughed with them, congratulated them on art well done, and watched them play with a novelty item like a straw….I thought again how blessed I am.  Blessed to have the opportunity to teach these amazing kids.   I was created for this.  Love it.

As amazing as it is…..

I also want to say that it is AWFUL.

Actually, awful isn’t a strong enough word.  How can I love on these kids for a couple hours a few days a week and then walk away knowing they are still there.  It is painful to cuddle a sweet five year old and teach him the names of the colors and realize he won’t be cuddled at bedtime.

My mother’s heart breaks for them and my heart’s cry is for them all to find families and to be given a hope and a future.

So how are my art classes….amazing and awful.  I am not sure how to reconcile that.  Well, maybe another “A” word could redeem it.  ADOPTION.

The End

IMG_6814Exams given and graded.  Class averages are now being calculated to be turned into the dean tomorrow.  Thus, completes Hubby’s first semester of teaching at the university.  (I am pretty sure Little Man was most helpful in getting all those averages calculated!)

The semester has flown by, but I think if you asked him, he is ready for the break.  It has been intense.  He has taught a lot of english, literature, and philosophy….but he also has had a lot of learning to do.  The key word has been flexibility as he has learned that the Chinese way of giving exams, planning a semester and turning in grades is done completely different than what we expect as Americans.  I keep telling him next semester it will be easier!  We shall see!

The students are now packing up and returning to their homes for Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), the largest Chinese holiday and the largest break in the school year.  The students won’t return till March. See even the breaks are opposite from the States (long one in the winter, short one in the summer.)  It takes some time to get used to.

As Hubby is winding down my art classes are gearing up.  Since November I have been meeting with folks at the orphanage getting one approval after another, submitting paperwork, evaluating children….you get the idea.  On one of the visits to the orphanage when I was trying to convince the director that the blind children could participate in my art classes…I began to wonder if my creative side that makes me think outside the box would be to much for them and we might never get things all arranged!  But, the time has finally come!  Classes start this week.

I am busy making a gazillion batches of playdough to get us started.  Nothing like playing with clay!  It is a great down the middle activity that should help me get to know the kids better.  I would appreciate your pr@yers Tuesday and Friday afternoons as i hang out with these special kiddos.  May they see the love of JC through playdough, paint, and a crazy art teacher who thinks even blind kids can make art.

Let the adventure begin!