Fallen off the edge of the earth?

Since I haven’t posted in weeks, I am sure you assume I have fallen off of the edge of the earth.  Nope.  Just traveled around it and we are now heading back again!

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At the beginning of July we flew to the States with the main goal of getting Little Man a new prosthetic leg made.  (Totally need to blog about that process, but we will save that for another time.)   He now is proudly cruising on new toes!  Mission accomplished, but that isn’t the whole story.  The side benefits of needing to come stateside for medical reasons – well they were numerous, to numerous to list, but I might give you a few of the highlights.

  1. Little Monkey got to see the Great Wall for the first time on our way out of the country.  She had mentioned the grievance that the Chinese members of our family had not seen the Great Wall.  A day hiking the wall was our remedy and it was all she had hoped for and then some.

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2. Hang’n with the grandparents was a highlight for all of us.  Being spoiled with favorite foods, riding four-wheelers, tagging along “helping” and chattering non-stop makes for some great summer memories!

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3. The beach.  Nothing else needs to be said.  No photo needed since I was in a bathing suit! 😉

4. Connecting with friends.  I can’t tell you how many times I was in tears this summer over the joy of friendship.  You can’t beat good friends who support you, love you and pray over you.  We are blessed.  Here are two examples – great friends I was in Bible study with 10 years ago!  The sweet fellowship continues.

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5.Simpson Park Camp meeting was a time of peace and renewal for me.  The few days we camped there were filled with such sweet times.  Love that place.  Every furlough should include some time soaking in the goodness of a campmeeting!

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6. I met my new niece!  The one weekend we were around and this sweet, obedient, little one arrived as if on cue! Okay, her mom might not say that, but her Aunt was thrilled by her delay!   Thank you for coming into the world just in time for us to welcome you, precious!

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7. Making it to the Hurley family reunion.  It was so fun to see cousins that I hadn’t seen in years and years and then to watch as our children became friends.  Priceless.

8. Worm guts, blue gill and gnats usually wouldn’t make any highlights list, but enjoying the great outdoors in the country – well I needed that!  I am ready now to go back to our city life after soaking in some country.

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Thinking I should make this a good top ten list, but then who can stop at ten?  It has been a great summer, but we are now ready to return.  Looking forward to a new season.

Pizza Party Good-bye

There are moments when you know you have come a long way (and that there is so much further to go…Amen?!)    I had one of those moments as I talked to one of the teachers at the orphanage.  They had planned a pizza party for our last Friday class together as a way to say good-bye for the summer.  My heart was so warmed!

I have been hoping for deep life-giving relationships with the workers at the children’s home.  I volunteered at the orphanage for a year in the past and never really was able to build relationships with fellow workers.  I still am in awe over the open doors and how favored my time at the children’s home has been since our return almost a year ago.

 

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They bought all the ingredients for the pizza and set it up in the orphanage “apartment.”  One of the classrooms is set up like a home, full kitchen, living room and bedroom, to teach the kids what a home is like.  Both of my classes crammed into the tiny apartment and with remarkable attention watched as I mixed the dough and made pizza for them.  I looked up from kneading the dough to their sweet faces starring at me – it felt like we were a family.  I love them all so much, at times I feel like I could just burst.

 

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We were using the common oven you can find in these parts; they are the size of a toaster oven.  There was a lot of waiting as we baked the dough, put on the toppings, baked again.  The pizzas were very small so we went through this process four times.  The kids waited patiently and entertained themselves by looking at photos of themselves as I took them.

One Chinese teacher carried the first pizza over her head and exclaimed to the kids – “Your American pizza party!”  It made me laugh as I took in our small square treat.  They had decided to top the pizzas with Chinese hotdog (it is like spam in my opinion) mutton, carrot, onion and tomato.  I did put my foot down and told them I would bring the pizza sauce.  “No, ketchup is not what we use in the States as Pizza sauce!”  HaHa.   So “American pizza” is a term I would use loosely when describing what we ate…but the kids sure did enjoy it.  The beauty of these kids, they are honest.  So I know they weren’t pretending to like it!

 

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The second pizza was cut into tiny squares and carried up and down the hallway of the orphanage to be shared by the kids who are not in my classes.  It was so fun to hear the excited exclamations over eating pizza…and in between meal time at that!  We also had a steady stream of nannies coming to take a peek at the recipe which led to us planning a shopping trip over the weekend so I could introduce them to the import store where you can buy mozzarella cheese.  Relationship building at its best and I think I might just have started to become a part-time cheese supplier.  Who knew?

What a great way to end the semester.  I hate to see it come to an end; it feels like we just got things rolling.   I have high hopes that the 6 weeks we have off won’t set us back, but I will be able to pick up the relationships right where we left off come the fall.

Hmmm….maybe we will have to start the fall semester with me planning a cookie party for them at my apartment?  Already planning and dreaming for next semester!

2.5 million people

Image 5Ever wonder how two country kids can end up living in a city of millions and thrive?

It’s true, Hubby and I both grew up in small towns and at least for myself the thought of living in a city of millions was unimaginable.  But yesterday, we laughed again how living in a large city in this culture at times can be so like living in a small town.

Little Man and I were walking back from the market.  We have learned to ignore the stares as I pull him in the wagon (Thanks to another expat friend who gave us their wagon that had been shipped over from the States.  Gotta love hand-me-downs!)  I was hauling my load up the small hill to the back gate of campus when a middle-aged man stepped in to help.  Rare!  We often get watched but don’t get helped.

I turned to thank him and a conversation began.

It started like most conversations….”So this is your son?”  We chatted about us having four kids; he has one.  I told him how long we lived in China and he told me he grew up in this city.  He asked about Little Man’s leg and the conversation turned a bit more personal.

“Oh, yeah we all know your family.  Your husband is a teacher and we see your children.  We know you live on the 2nd floor in building 5, but we do have questions?

At first this could feel creepy…..but really it speaks to the communal nature of this culture.  It might be a big city, but our little apartment complex filled with neighbors in high risers – they know each other and they want to know and understand me.

“Did your son have an accident which made him lose his leg?  It looks like you love your Chinese children the same as your birth children, but that can’t be true.  Is it?  We watch you come and go….where do you work?  Would you adopt a child from here?  What is this thing you are pulling your son in?  This is my first time seeing a wagon.  You are different!”

I answered his questions as we walked through campus, knowing he would report all my answers to his wife, a teacher along side my husband.  She is sure to tell the other neighbors.  It is like living in a fishbowl.  Maybe if I hadn’t grown up in a small town that would bother me.  Believe it or not, I welcome the curiosity of my neighbors.

As they ask questions our hope is that they see something different about our family and they will be intrigued by who makes us different.

 

Afternoon learning fun and split pants.

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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.”

What?!

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.

Yikes.

“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!