Life

“Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God.” -Jim Elliot

Eloise’s 3rd Birthday

Eloise had a great birthday! It started on Friday when JK and I brought in cupcakes to share with her class. 

She had fun handing them out to her classmates. 

A couple days later on her actual birthday she got to go to a water park. And then that night she had some friends over. 


It’s hard to believe our little girl is 3!

Dragon’s Head. Where the Wall Meets the Sea.

Recently, on a trip out of town for a training, we got the opportunity to go to the furthest point East of the Great Wall. It’s where the “dragon’s head meets the sea”. 

It’s not our favorite part of the wall that we’ve seen because there wasn’t much wall to walk on, but it was still pretty cool. 

Flower Face

 #

Last week we had to end the work and school day early because we had imposed traffic regulations because of a major sporting event in our area. 

We took advantage of the time and got together with friends outside. One of our friends brought out the face paint. Each of the kids got something. The boys got fire drawn on their arms. 

But this was by far the cutest:

Don’t tell jokes while driving

Here in China, just like everywhere else, they place important messages on street signs to remind you of driving safely. These messages are about driving after drinking, talking on your cell phone, or driving while drowsy. But the message Jacquelyn and I recently came across made me double back to make sure I read it right. 


It says this, “Cracking jokes while driving endangers safety.”
While my kids might agree that listening to my jokes is dangerous, it’s not usually limited to the car. 

So, keep the roads safe, people! Don’t drive while joking. 

Ode to Brown Leather Belt

You have served me well, brown leather belt.
You’ve been hugging my hips for a long time.
You definitely hold a record for longest lasting belt – at least in my life.
Although you were distressed from the years of use, you matched almost everything.
You never got mad when I occasionally wore a black belt. And we won’t even speak of the time I tried to wear the fabric belt.
When you broke the other day I was heartbroken.
I can’t bear to part ways with you yet, though I’ll never use you again.

IMG_9071

Ghost Festival

IMG_9064

It’s quite common practice in China to burn fake money to appease or give money to ghosts or ancestors in the afterlife. Lately, I’ve noticed alot of people burning piles of stuff in the streets. It turns out we’re in the middle of holiday called the Ghost Festival.

Going to a market near our house, many people were selling decorations for the holiday.

Fixing a Bike

The nice thing about biking in China is that it’s very common. On the one hand there are a ton of obstacles to go around as hundreds of bikers maneuver around traffic, but on the other, it also means you’re never that far from a bike repair cart set up on the side of the road. When I blew up Jacquelyn’s bike tire today, I just walked it over to the old man at the cart and he hooked me up with a new inner tube and tire for only about $8, or ¥50.

Lunch at School

Having my office at the school building means I get to see my children periodically throughout the day. I don’t get to my oldest as much any more because, now that she’s in middle school, she’s on the other side of the building. But, now that my 3rd is in elementary, I do get to eat lunch with both him and my 2nd!

IMG_9047 (1)

Welcoming New Staff

On Saturday we held our annual Welcome Dinner. It’s a time that we kick of the year with a party and especially focus on getting to know our new staff.

This year we played a gameshow-like game and gave out lots of prizes. It was quite fun.

IMG_8984 (1)

Meanwhile, the children played on a bouncy castle and did crafts and other fun things.

IMG_9017 (1)

IMG_9004 (1)

Helping Make Oatmeal

Micah really likes oatmeal. He would eat it everyday if I let him. Well, actually, he would eat cereal everyday, but he knows I won’t let him do THAT, so oatmeal is his secondary pick. So, he really wanted to learn how to make it, so that I can’t use the excuse of not being able to because I don’t want to cook it.

Afterword, Lucas also wanted to know how to make it. (Or maybe I just wanted him to learn to make it.)

IMG_8898

First Day of School ’17 #2

FullSizeRender 3

Today was the first day of school for the rest of the children. Each one was excited and seemed to fit right in with their classmates. It’s kind of a milestone for us. All of the children are in school now!

The photographer at school got a really great shot of Anna and her friend. 

First Day of School ’17 #1

Our youngest started school today! She’s starting in the school’s ECC program. We’ll probably send her 3 days a week. We’re excited for her to go, but we’re expecting some separation anxiety.

The other children will start tomorrow.

Shopping

Shopping in China is always a challenge, but add 4 kids dangling from each of your appendages and it makes it even more fun. 

Today we grabbed a few things, mostly yogurt, from the store. But the boys were most excited about getting super hero tissues. Tissues are very important here (I’ll have to post about that another time), so, might as well have as super hero tissues. 

Meet our Solar Water Heater

 …at least the digital mechanism that controls it. We’ve never had anything solar powered before. So when I went to take my first shower I was a bit frustrated to find that that it was only at 78 degrees. Surely, that’s not hot enough for a shower, I thought. I turned the water on and turned it all the way to hot just to be sure. Nope, no hot water. 

So, my first day in my new apartment I’m not able to take a shower after traveling for 24 hours. That’s a problem. And since I couldn’t find my deodorant, it was also a problem for everyone else. 

I pushed some buttons and hoped it would be hotter when I came back later. 

Nope. Still not hot. But at this point I absolutely had to take a shower. So, I just took a cold one. Brrr. 

Afterwords, when it still wasn’t reading any hotter, I called the person who used to live here and they told me that 78 was plenty hot. Oh, yeah, it’s Celsius here. I went back and turned the hot water on. Still no hot water. Then, I turned it the other way. You know, the way for the cold water. And sure enough, it was hot. 

Yep, I took a cold shower for nothing. 

Breakfast Takes too Long

For the last two mornings I’ve made breakfast. Eggs yesterday and pancakes today. When I make food, it usually takes a long time. I’m just not as familiar with cooking as my wife is. But the last two mornings took about twice as long as usual. All our stuff is in disarray. I’m not good at finding stuff in the first place, let alone when I literally have no idea where stuff is. And then, when I think I do know where something is, it turns out JK has already moved it to a new location. 

And if one thing is true about jet lag, it’s that when it’s time to eat you’re starving. But in the end, breakfast worked out pretty good once we were eating it!

img_8866

The Summer of ’17

The last 2 months have been pretty crazy, with lots of driving, visiting with family, and too many activities to list here.

It’s good to be back home in China, but it doesn’t quite feel like home yet. Over the summer we moved…or rather, we were moved, while we were gone. We moved to a different complex. It’s a great place that’s a bit closer to the school with lots of area for the children to run around, but our apartment is going to take some time getting set up.

Looking back at all the pictures from our trip, we fell blessed to be able to spend so much time with everyone. Thanks to all who made the effort to hang out with us!

Biking in the Big City

img_5958

Today we rode our bikes to fellowship. This is the second time we’ve ridden there on bikes since Lucas learned how to ride his bike. The first time we went, it was pretty much without incident. This was the farthest Lucas had gone, so he was understandably slower and got tired. But this second trip was a bit different. We had several incidents. All three of the kids crashed from youngest to oldest.

Driving in Tianjin is crazy. We’ve learned the basic biking rules of the road of a big city in China, but there are bikes, people, cars, and scooters everywhere. The good news is that cars seem to be well aware of all the bicycles, so they do well to maneuver us. Bicycles have been a big part of their culture, especially in the past. However, they’re probably not used to a procession of 6 foreigners on 5 bikes. Nonetheless, we really haven’t had too much of a problem with cars. Our biggest issue is with bikes and motorized scooters coming the wrong way on our side of the road. There is usually enough room to go around them, but it just means that you have to be aware of the traffic all the time.

Micah

Micah, especially, has caused a couple of freakout moments from the perspective of the oncoming scooters because he waits until the last second to move out of the way (something which we’re addressing). He was the first to go down today, but it wasn’t because of another vehicle. He ran into a pole because he was distracted talking to mommy about needing a water break. It wasn’t bad, but his knees hurt a little from the spill. He was a bit out of sorts this morning, so the fall seemed a bit more dramatic than it really was.

This is Micah’s rendition of what happened.

micah-bike

Lucas

Lucas, being the newest to riding a bike, has the most trouble keeping his eyes forward. I’m often reminding him to look ahead and not at his feet. Still, this incident can’t really be blamed on not paying attention. He ran into a motorized scooter carrying 3 people (husband driving, wife in the back holding a baby). The speed was quite slow for both Lucas and the scooter, but still it was kinda scary. Lucas hit the other driver’s leg and did a face plant into his arm.

I saw the whole thing from about 3 bike lengths back. It was a very busy section near a market entrance. There were bikes and food carts, pedestrians, cars and scooters everywhere. Jacquelyn was leading the procession and went left around a lady. Lucas went right. Because it was so busy, Lucas just couldn’t see the scooter behind the person. His reflexes are still a bit slow at this point, but he did try to hit the break.

There was a pretty big scene. The driver stopped and several other people surrounded us to make sure he was ok. One man in particular really made a big deal of making sure he was ok by helping Lucas to do exercises and stretches until he new he was ok. Surprisingly, Lucas never cried and jumped back on the bike ready to finish the trip. We were almost there by that point.

Here’s Lucas’ rendition of what happened.

lucas-bike

On the way home Anna also had a crash. Hers was the most surprising and the funniest. Anna is a pretty good at bike-riding, so we really don’t have to watch her too closely. I was leading the pack this time so I didn’t actually see it, but she apparently ran smack-dab into the back of a parked taxi-cab. When I turned around the driver of the car was talking to Jacquelyn and Anna and gruffly just waved them on.

She didn’t really do any damage to the car, her bike or her self. Initially she wouldn’t say how it happened. She said the taxi just appeared out of nowhere. But later on in the day I was able to get her to tell me what really happened. She was not paying attention to the road because she was watching her own shadow. I cracked up laughing about this because it made me remember when I had done that very thing when I was about her age. In my instance I ended up on top of the truck of the car and in a bit of pain.

She’s also blogged about the experience here.

And here’s Anna’s rendition of the experience.

anna-bike

Playing Chess

img_6063

The other day we went to a friend’s house and my children discovered a Lord of the Rings chess game. Anna pulled it out and asked me to remind her how to play. I coached her through a game and she did quite well. I had taught her the rules some time ago, so it wasn’t brand new.

However, what I didn’t expect was Lucas to, first of all, be interested in the actual rules of the game, and secondly that he would stay focused enough to stick with it. I mean it is Lord of the Rings themed, which is super fun, but throughout the entire game that I was coaching Anna, I was noticing that he was following along quite well.

On the way out the door, our friend decided to just give us the game because they didn’t really have an interest in it. So, as soon as we got home, Lucas and Anna played a game together. What impressed me the most was that Lucas not only understood the rules without me actually directly telling them to him, but he also understood the concept of sacrificing a piece to be accomplish a different objective. That seems like an abstract concept to me.

Later, Lucas and Micah wanted to play a game, too. Micah really just liked the Lord of the Rings pieces and wanted them to fight. It was a bit frustrating for them to play together because they kept calling to me from the other room saying, “Dad…he’s not playing right!”
Or, “You can’t do that!”
“Yes, I can!”.

On one such occasion Lucas came in and was trying to give me the full description of what was happening. I bent down and said, “Lucas, Micah isn’t really ready to play this game and really just wants to pretend fight with the pieces.” Lucas immediately nodded his head, ran back out to the room and completely switched modes to just making up rules and fighting with the pieces. I thought it was a pretty amazing transition.

At this point, both Anna and Lucas really need some coaching, but I’m very impressed at their interest in this game.

Lucas Riding a Bike

We’ve been working with Lucas for some time now to be able to ride a bike. He’s been so close! But I wasn’t willing to say that he could ride a bike until he could take off from a stopped position on by helpself. Besides internal motivation, one thing we have been struggling with is the size of his bike. Micah’s bike is a bit too small for him and the one we recently bought for him is too big, at least for someone still learning. So, we finally made it out to the bike market and spent an hour test driving bikes. We came home with a bike that doesn’t leave much room to grow on, but it’s perfect for him to learn to ride.

The same day that we bought the bike we took him outside and gave within 10 minutes he was officially riding a bike! Check it out!

Immediately after this video he said, “Can I go upstairs and play on the Wii now?”

Like I said, he’s missing internal motivation…

Selfie at a Crowded Beach

When I had the opportunity to go to Qingdao on some business recently, one of my goals was to get Bathing Beach #1 to take a selfie. This beach makes the international news every year because of the throngs of people that come to it. Though I lived in Qingdao for 4 years, I never actually saw this beach at the height of tourist season…because who wants to cramped up together with 100,000 other people? But as I see it hit the news every year, I wanted to say that I’ve been there. So, that’s what I did. I joined in the masses.

img_5752

Check out a couple of the the sites where the beach was recently featured.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2690558/Summer-Shandong-Province-Thousands-pack-beach-Chinese-city-Qingdao.html

http://www.businessinsider.com/china-public-beach-massive-crowd-2016-8

Jacquelyn’s Mom’s Visit

We’ve had an incredible visit from Jacquelyn’s mother. She joined us and helped us greatly in getting settled into our new apartment. We also got the chance to check out some of the famous sites of Tianjin!

jkmomeyestand

View these photos and more on my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/jalopyhead/

We’re so thankful and blessed that she would come out to visit us. This is the third time she’s come to China and we’ve been in a brand new city each time she’s come out.

Liability

Toy Ride

These types of toys are all throughout China. They turn and light up and vibrate and play annoying songs, like Happy Birthday, or Jingle Bells. (You can’t sing the birthday song when somebody’s not having a birthday…that’s like rule #1 of songs, man!) We never give the kids a coin to play on these toys, mostly because they’re kiddie toys…but also because I don’t really don’t want to pay for it. (Remember when your mom or dad would say they didn’t have any money at the restaurant for an arcade game or gum ball machine, but somehow had money to pay for the meal? Yeah, that’s me now.) But it turns out I was right, they are indeed kiddie toys. I know this because when my 5-year-old got on the toy, he snapped it basically in half.

The lady running the play area called me over and showed me that the toy was broken and then called her own son to come over to take a look at it to see if he could fix it. He couldn’t. I asked him if there was someone we could call to get it fixed. There wasn’t. I said, “怎么办呢?” (What do we do, then?) and he said with a hint of frustration, “你可以修吗?” (Can you fix it?). He obviously doesn’t know me very well…that fixing stuff like that is well outside of my ability. So I asked him how much it costs to buy a new one. He said 3800 RMB (USD $585). I said, maybe I could fix it after all…

I told him that I needed to go to the hardware store to get a tool to be able to take it apart a bit more so I could figure out where exactly it was broken. (Up this point I didn’t know how messed up it was.) He didn’t really want me to let me leave. How would he know that I wouldn’t just disappear? I reasoned with him that I lived just upstairs and told him my address and phone number. He was still against me leaving. Finally, the lady running the place came back and convinced her son to let me go because she knew us quite well.

I went out and was not able to find the tool that I needed at the hardware store. I started making calls to people I work with to see if we could find someone that could take a look at it. Finally, one of the guys who works with alot of contractors said he could help us out with finding someone to fix it.

This situation is pretty common in China. Liability is not something that’s taken care of later at the hands of an insurance company. I doubt very seriously that these people have insurance for this type of thing. The person in the wrong is usually dealt with right away. You see it with car accidents all the time. Often times the policeman that comes to the scene (if it ever gets to that point) is there simply as an arbitrator. Usually after a bunch of yelling back and forth the policeman suggests an amount that should be given as compensation and it’s settled and done with.

In some ways it’s nice to have things taken care of right away. In other ways it can be a bit stressful…especially for a conflict-avoider like my self. But in other ways, when your son breaks something and you don’t know how to fix it and the guy doesn’t want you to leave, it can be a pain.

In the end, after a couple of weeks, we were finally able to get the toy fixed by hiring someone to weld the piece that was broken. It cost about 30 RMB (less than $5) for the welder’s time, which is much better than $550! The lady still smiles at us as we walk by, but I don’t think my boys will be going back there any time soon. My kids are just a bit too big and wild for that place.

My New Look

I’ve developed a bit of an eye twitch lately. I’ve been trying to figure out why. Is it stress? Is it lack of sleep? Maybe it’s too much caffeine?

Stress. I don’t feel like I’m overly stressed. I mean it is a possibility, but honestly, I don’t feel too bad. I’m constantly being challenged with my comfort zone in my new role. In just a couple of weeks I’ll be at the helm of the ship as my boss and trainer is headed out for half a year. But I’m looking forward to it.

Sleep. Yeah, this one is a real possibility, too. I’ve been pushing it a bit. I want to be productive. I want to get things done. I want to be ready for my day. I want to do devotions. One of my goals in coming here was that I would create a good wake up routine. So far I’ve been able to keep up with it, but now I’m afraid I might have gone too far.

Caffeine. This one is kind of sore-spot for me. I drink about 3 cups of coffee a day. I know people who drink more than that, but still, it’s quite a bit. I definitely have an addiction to the stuff. When I looked up online what might be the cause of eye-twitching, caffeine was one of the first culprits. I quickly navigated to another website because, you know, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet (unless it conveniently agrees with your lifestyle…) But, every webpage I turned to listed caffeine high up on the list. So, much to my unhappiness, I started to drink less coffee. I’m down to 1 cup now. My eye is still twitching.

image1 (1)

Micah Taught Himself to Ride a Bike

 # #

So, all of the sudden Micah can do this…

He did this all on his own. In fact, he got upset when I tried to help him. He had been dying for a bike and he finally got one. He was riding it within the day!

The pink color and butterflies probably gave away the fact that this previously belonged to a girl, so we went out and got some spray paint and our friend helped us paint it.

Painting Micah's Bike