#aphotoaday Beauty in the Morning

This is what my wife looks like in the morning.

I know, right? Even in the morning she glows.

But more than what she looks like, my wife is pretty incredible. She works hard and cares deeply. She loves me and makes efforts to show me. You can’t get better than that.

She’s stronger than me.

And she’s better than me.

And I really like her.


Bring On The Rolls

My son was born at a healthy weight of 6lbs 15oz but quickly began to lose weight, as do most babies right after they are born. Unfortunately with Lucas he continued to lose weight and at 16 days Lucas weighed in at 5lbs 14oz. Doctors recommend that babies should be back to their birth weight by 10 days! As you can see by the picture on the left Lucas was very skinny and dehydrated. It was a very difficult few weeks nursing constantly, carefully keeping track of feedings, wet & poopie diapers and weighing him every night to see if we were making any progress.

Today Lucas is 3 months old and looks very healthy (picture on right). Today he weighed in at 12lbs 14oz!! Way to go Lucas, you even have a double chin!!

Turn Up The Heat

It is said that SiChuan (四川)has the best food in China, it also has the spiciest food! Jeremy and I wanted to make sure we experienced this world famous food while we were there so for every meal we asked the waitress/waiter to give us SiChuan speciality food.

For breakfast Jeremy had boazi (包子)(top right hand pic.). It is basically a roll that has meat stuffed inside. They steam it in wooden baskets (seen in top left hand picture). We have actually had these before, they are a popular breakfast/snack food all over China. I ordered beef noodles (牛面). I have to say those where the spiciest things I have ever eat! They made my lips burn for 15 minutes after I was done eating. I loved them! (mmmm they sound good right about now.) The bottom left hand picture is strips of potatoes wrapped with a thin layer of fried bread. It was greasy but delicious!

Here we had a tofu soup, spicy chicken (bottom right) and fish (bottom left). I couldn’t eat the chicken plain, it was too spicy. I had to eat each bite with a bite of rice to soak up the spice. For both of us our favorite dish at this meal was the spicy chicken.

This meal brings back bad memories because we made a rookie mistake. When ever you are going to buy anything you ALWAYS ask the price. Often times Chinese will see your pretty white face and think to themselves “Ooo, they have money and don’t know any better, I can raise the price.” But after living in China we DO know better and we DON’T have money so we can usually get the “normal” price for things (what a Chinese person would pay). We could not believe that for a 3 dish meal they charged us 240 yuan! That is more than what we pay to eat western food! But because of our easy going natures we looked at each other, shocked and appalled, paid the bill and walked out. The meal was good but it was not worth what we paid for it.

Hot Pot! Hot pot is probably my favorite meal in China (click here to see when we did hotpot in our home). With hot pot you order dishes, then they bring them out and you cook them in your pot of water which has seasoning in it. As the dishes cook it soaks up all the flavor of the spices and makes the meat/vegetables taste delicious. SiChuan’s hot pot’s spices are suppose to be the spiciest in China. While eating it we both had to blow our noses and wipe our eyes a few times. (It was very spicy but I didn’t think it was intolerable – my breakfast noodles were spicier!) We got the pot that is split into two, one for spicy and one for not. That way if it was too spicy for us to handle we could cook our food in the non-spicy side. Again we asked the waiter what was popular and he helped up order. The majority of the things he said Jeremy understood except one. When it came we figured out what it was – lamb stomach! (bottom right) I didn’t mind it but Jeremy couldn’t eat it. We also got regular lamb meat, mushrooms, veg eatables, blue birds eggs and noodles. We also order yindubobing (印度博冰)Indian bread (that is the direct translation). This was one of our favorite things to order in Dongguan but haven’t had it here in Beijing. As we cooked each thing it soaked up all that spice and tasted so good and cleared out my sinuses at the same time. Over all this was my favorite meal!

Yummy Lamb Stomach!

We really enjoyed Sichuan cuisine and I am ready to go back for more.
Yeah Sichuan Food ~ Bring on the Heat~
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Chengdu 成都

This past weekend I “surprised” Jeremy with a weekend away to Chengdu, which he has said he wanted to visit for over 2 years now, to celebrate our 4 year anniversary. Our anniversary isn’t till June 28 but this was the only weekend that Jeremy didn’t have assignments due for his MBA and before he starts his new job (which he won’t be able to take time off). I arranged for our friends Lee & Becky to take Anna as we flew to Sichuan province Friday night returning Sunday afternoon. It was our first time to be away from Anna over night but we all did really well. I think Anna didn’t even miss us! Unfortunately I had some problems purchasing the tickets so Jeremy knew we were going but it was that thought – right?!

Chengdu is famous for being the home of the Giant Panda, tea capital of the world and having the best food in China. I found that the people were the friendliest there. Our Chinese teacher, Francis, said that is because Chengdu is self sufficient and therefore very relaxed. Chengdu is in the valley of mountains and supplies their own food . . .etc. . . so they are good all on their own.

The trip was short and not without some kinks but we still really enjoyed ourselves. I wanted to make sure we experienced the food, we walked around city, went hiking, drove through the country side, saw rice fields being flooded, visited the pandas and enjoyed each others company. We both really enjoyed walking around the city because we live out in the middle of no where and don’t get to experience China night life like we did in Dongguan.

The next few blogs I will go into more detail of what we did. Please enjoy!

To Shanghai and Back Again…Now Repeat

We knew for quite some time that our daughter, Anna’s, passport and visa were going to expire soon. We planned to go and take care of it as soon as our son Micah was born. After all, he would need a passport and visa as well. We might as well take care of it at the same time. Plus, Jacquelyn was really in no shape to travel being as far a long as she was.

We Pause now for a Context Explanation: In order to get a new passport for a 5 year old, both parents must go to the Embassy or one of the Consulates and show a photo for every 6 months of life of the child proving that the 5-day old picture of your child on the old passport is the same child 5 years later. Also, before we could get a passport for Micah, we had to get a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) – which is like the equivalent to an American birth certificate for us Expats. Again both parents must go and show their marriage certificate and passports along with the new baby’s Chinese birth certificate (which is a rather interesting process in and of itself…I’ll share that another time, I guess.) In both situations, it takes about 10 working days to process the paperwork, make the new passports in the US, FedEx them to China, and, if you do it in Beijing, they’ll mail it to you!

So Micah comes and we’re extremely happy just enjoying our new treasure. Micah was born on a Thursday and the following week was spring break…great timing for a birth, actually. I still had several paternity days, which we were planning to use to go take care of the passports.

During this pre-paternity-days spring break I went online and scheduled the earliest appointment available at the Beijing Embassy. The appointment is 1 week before the Anna’s passport and visa expire. I’m not too worried about it, though. Surely, as long as the passport is being processed, the visa can go over a couple of days. After all, the Embassy could provide proof that the passport was being processed. So, on the first day back to school I check with our visa liaison to make sure this was okay. It turns out that my assumptions were wrong. The visa-processing-people would not be able to accept that the passport was being processed as, “there was no policy for this situation”. If Anna overstayed her visa, we would be fined 500 RMB (75 USD) for each day overstayed…plus she would have a “bad record”. I’m not sure what a bad record means, but I do know overstaying your visa accidentally or otherwise is not something you want to do. You can end up in jail in addition to the fines and bad record.

This was not the news that we wanted to hear. So I get on the phone with Jacquelyn and talk about our different options. We could try to go to Beijing and just do a walk-in appointment, but there was no guarantee that we’d be able to see anyone.

Context Explanation: The lines outside of the Embassy are tremendously long. Of the 1.3 billion people in China, about half are trying to get a visa to the US…okay, not half…but the line seriously snakes around the block for along way. Being American citizens, we most definitely probably wouldn’t have to wait in that line…but still, the thought of being in any line that resembles that one scares me. I actually have a recurring nightmare about such a line.

Another option was getting to Hong Kong. Although the Consulate down there didn’t have any appointments available either, we don’t need a visa to be in Hong Kong for like 30 days. But that would have been ridiculously expensive. Finally, we came up with the idea of going to Shanghai. Shanghai’s Consulate had appointments right way. Jacquelyn finds tickets online for that very evening and books them! We’ve got plenty of time. I can go home from work at 4:30, eat a nice dinner, pack up clothes and head out the door for a stress free trip to Shanghai.

As a review, here is the timeline up to this point:
-Monday 7am – find out we need to get the passport sooner than expected
-Monday 8am – talk to the embassy on the phone and try to figure it out
-Monday 9am – panic
-Monday 1pm – purchase tickets to Shanghai

I get home as planned and have a nice dinner. Just after finishing, I go to the computer and check online to make sure that we have all the documents needed as requested by the Consulate. Marriage Certificate – check; Anna’s age progression photos – check; current passports for the whole family – check; Anna’s CRBA – not with the other stuff. Hmm, okay, the search begins…

Remember, the CRBA is the equivalent to an American Birth Certificate. We cannot update Anna’s passport without it. We tear the house apart looking for it. We can’t find it. I have this faint idea that it is in a green folder. I had to use it to apply for Anna’s SSN like a year ago. Oh, no. Does that mean that I left it at my office? So, I pack several days worth of clothes, not sure if I’ll be matching in Shanghai or not and head out the door to my office. Jacquelyn continues looking for it at the house just in case it’s not at my office.

The taxi driver is not the best driver. He’s one of those drivers that can’t seem to figure out how to slowly press the gas, gain speed at a steady rate, and then in the smooth and calculated way press the brake when needed. If you’ve ever ridden with someone who rides the brake, you know what I’m talking about. We’re a block a way from the house and I’m already car sick and contemplating if it would be too rude to ask to get down sooner than what I already told him in order to change taxis. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time for such luxuries. But one things was for sure, I was not going to ask him to wait for me at my office to take me home. I’d try my luck at finding a different taxi – even though taxis aren’t as frequent out at the office.

I finally make it to the school and look everywhere for this thing that I think should be in a green folder. It’s not there. I run up to my storage room in case it inadvertently got moved up there. The lights don’t work in the room, so I’m using my cell phone as a flashlight. It’s not there. It’s got to be at the house. This is not good. I’m 25 minutes from home not helping in the search and just wasted about an hour going to the office. We need to be leaving for the airport in about 45 minutes. There’s no point in going to Shanghai if we can’t find this cursed CRBA. Can we get money back for the tickets that we purchased?

In the taxi ride home Jacquelyn and I go over the places that she’s looked and she starts re-looking in those places. We say a panicked prayer to God asking for help. She opens a backpack – somewhere that she’s already looked – and locates a green folder. Inside is the CRBA! Tears of frustration are replaced by tears of joy.

Update on Life in the USA

We’ve been back in the States for about 3 months now. God has blessed us in many ways since being back. The biggest thing has been His providing of a job for me. For the last month I’ve been working as the Webmaster for a family-owned chain of grocery stores here in the Hudson Valley of NY. I love the work and the people there are great.

Additionally, I’ve started working some freelance web-design projects. I just finished the first project and am quite happy with it. I’ll be writing another blog about it later.

Jacquelyn has adjusted pretty nicely, too. It’s been tough on her as she’s had to adjust her routine to me finding a job. Am I there all the time? Am I working on freelance projects? Do I have a job? Now that I’ve been working for a month, though, she’s finding her stride. Even though we’ve only got one kid in school, it seems like there’s already a bunch of running around to do.

Anna is attending the same school that her mother attended when she was a little girl. We’ve seen her shine so much since starting school. She was definitely ready for school! She’s reading very well. Jacquelyn is giving her piano lessons, as well, and Anna is doing EXTREMELY well with it. She’s got such a high aptitude for learning. She’s still having some hearing issues, but we hope to get our insurance situation worked out shortly and we will be visiting an ENT to get it fixed soon.

Lucas has taken a bit of time getting used to things around here. It took about a month of tears every time we left him in nursery at church for him to finally embrace it. But he’s such a fun and easy-going kid. He’s now loving being there. We’re also thrilled to report that He is now peeing and pooping on the potty! Woo Hoo! We’ve had a few accidents, and will probably a few more in the future, but he’s basically got it down.

Micah is super-cute. It’s hard to have a bad day when he’s around with his huge smile and crazy get-up-and-go crawling and attempts at walking. He’s very much like his big sister and the opposite of his big brother. When he and Lucas get older, I think it’s going to make for a very interesting relationship.

Some Observations about the Party Scene

For JK’s birthday I thought I’d take her out on the town. There was a band in town called Immaculate Machine. (I forgot the name, though, and kept telling people we were going to see the Immaculate Conception.) The band was from Canada. What they were doing in China, I have no idea. Their music was quite good. I always wonder what motivation rock bands have to go out on tour. This band didn’t seem to be in it for the party scene, or money, or hookin’ up. They seemed genuinely interested in the music…which is nice. Overall it was a good night. We had a fun time together.

While talking together, we made the following observations:
-Neither one of us have really experienced the party scene before
-Neither one of us particularly like it
-Both of us think it is quite smoky
-We both enjoyed the music
-We’re usually in bed by the time the headline band hits the stage
-I think we’ll do it again, sometime

Immaculate Machine’s website:

Wax Berry?

I have seen this fruit many times when I would go to the market and buy my fruits and vegetables. But being a unadventurous person I have never had the courage to buy it. I showed it to my friend the other day and asked if she knew what it was. She said she didn’t and I thought that was that. The next day when I was over her house she had bought some! She told me I had to try one and I instantly fell in love. This weird berry thing tastes a bit like a cherry. It looks and fells like a hard ball. There is a small cherry pit like seed in the middle.

My friend did some research on the Internet and found that they don’t have an English name but is most commonly called a Chinese wax berry. So whatever this fruit is it has made my top 5 most loved fruit!

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With June comes . . .

During the month of June the roses begin to bloom; trees are blossoming and these fruit (pictures on right) are ripe and ready to eat. The first city that we lived in here in China, Lechee would practically grow wild. We could just pick them off the the trees ourselves and eat them. That is where I first fell in love with this refreshing fruit. The outside is a hard spiky shell that you peel off to reveal a white fleshy “meat” inside. You bite into this sweet but not strong refreshing flavor. The inside has a good side pit.

I would eat soo much of them and our Chinese friends would worn me and say that a person should only eat 10 of them a day or it would cause the body to have too much riqi (pounced houqi here in QingDao). I didn’t care – I would eat as many as I could.

Lechee is famous for growing in the south but is only in season for the month of June. The emporer way back when also had a love for these fruit and would have them brought up over the rough roads of the day to be delivered to him.

After two years of eating them while living in Dongguan I was delighted to see them in Beijing while we lived there. When I went to purchase them I was shocked at how pricey they were, but I knew how much I loved them and it was worth the price. I was greatly disappointed when I got home and they were not very good. Because lechee only grows in the slow this fruit was imported making it so expensive & not very fresh.

Since moving to Qingdao I saw my favorite fruit out this past June but was very hesitant buying it since my horrible experience in Beijing. I don’t know what changed my mind but I decided to give it a try and boy was I glad I did. These lechee were very delicious! I have been reminded how much I love this fruit . . . . I think I might go and finish the few we have left.

3 years have past

My baby is no longer a baby. A day does not go by with one of us saying “You’re/I’m not a baby any more, you’re/I’m a big girl!” She has changed a lot these past 3 years.

Here are some things she has accomplished since turning 3:

  • Potty Trained (yeah! no more diapers!!)
  • English language: she is able to express herself using words but still struggles with distinguishing when to use his/hers & when speaking about time she always uses yesterday
  • Can be polite when she wants to be: “Excuse me mommy” my favorite is when she spontaneously at the table says “Thank you mommy for making dinner, thanks daddy for making the bread”
  • Can sit through a whole movie (as long as it interests her
  • Writes both a capital and lower case “A”
  • Draws a face
  • Colors in the lines (most of the time)
  • Loves to dance
  • I think she is a little lonely, she gets upset when I’m not in the mood to talk back to her. She looks at me as says “Mommy, talk! Use words.”
  • She is very excited about mommy having a baby – she talks about it everyday, for awhile there I think she really thought she was pregnant to

It has been a great adventure raising a 3 year old, many tears, laughs, exiting times & dull times. I am so thankful for all those times. I look forward to many more years!! I love you Anna May, Happy Birthday!!

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Baby Fever

Someone in our house has baby fever and her name is . . .

Anna Mae! Recently Anna has been very into playing “babies.” She actually takes care of her babies very well, feeding them, changing them, putting them to bed. Sometimes they are even potty training.

Last Monday we had study at our house. There are several new babies and Anna was was right there observing, learning how to be a mommy.

出入卡 Chu Ru Ka (Exit/Entry Card)

The night before the Olympics started my husband, daughter & I had gone out to visit from friends and were returning home after dark. Since returning from the States the street that leads to our house has been closed with police waiting to stop any cars from going in. But up until now we have never had any problems just walking in. Well, we were walking past the guard and he asked for our ChuRuKa (exit/entry card). We said that we didn’t have one but that we lived right there down the road. The guard answered back saying that we couldn’t get in without an entry card. My husband & I looked at each other not knowing what to do. The police asked us a bunch of questions like how long we have lived here and what not. He then asked for identification. That night I had left the house without my purse. My husband had his wallet which only had his USA drivers license. He gave it to the police who laughed and said “Kan bu dong” (I can’t read this). Finally he let us go through with a promise that we would get a churuka the next day.
I was a little nervous because I was going to have to do this all myself since my husband had to work. I gathered what I thought was the necessary paper work and asked my helper to come along to help me. She took me to the police station and brought me to the correct desk. I showed her my paperwork and she said “where is your HongDanZi” (literally trans. red card). Not really sure what that was I said that we didn’t have one. She then told me that I had to have one of those first and pointed me to the back office where I could get one. I figured that “HongDanZi” meant registration card and called Jeremy to see where ours ways. Thinking it was as school I asked him to have someone bring it to me that afternoon. The police said that they would put me in the system to get a card but I had to bring my registration card (hong dan zi) back to show them.
As I was waiting for the woman who was supposedly bringing me our registration card I found out that we didn’t have one at all but that she was going right then to get them for us! When she returned with our registration cards I headed straight to the police department (bringing a couple of others with me to help them through the process). After arriving I discovered that they didn’t need to see my registration at all, but I was able to help the people I brought with me. The police told me to come back between 5 & 6 that night to pick up my card.
Even though it was a crazy day of running around I had fun. I ended up going back & forth from the police station 4 times (and once I had to run the whole way) by the end of the day. I enjoyed helping others out with the process and felt like I accomplished a lot by the end of the day.

The Storm

by Jacquelyn Carman

As we were taking our evening walk the wind was blowing pretty strong causing rather large waves to crash up against the rocks. As I watched I was thinking, this is exactly how I have felt the past few days. Waves tossing me this way and that . . . how can I with stand all the turmoil. Then words from the song “Beautiful Lord” by Leeland came to my mind.

When the storm is raging all around me
You are the peace that calms
My troubled sea
And the cares of this world
Darken my day
You are the light that shines
And shows me the way
Oh, the beauty of Your majesty
On the cross You showed Your love for me!

Beautiful Lord
Awesome and mighty
I’m captured by this love I see
Beautiful Lord
Tender and holy
Your mercy brings me to my knees
It’s Your mercy that has made me free
Beautiful Lord

When my sin is all that I can see
Your grace remains the shelter that I seek
And when my weakness is all I can give
Your gentle Spirit gives me strength again
And oh, the beauty of Your majesty
On the cross You showed Your love for me

And I am lifted by Your love to sing!
It’s Your mercy that has made me free!

You’re beautiful, my Lord
You’re beautiful, my Lord

Spring is coming . . .

The weather is turning from cold to warm and sunny. Last weekend it was cold enough that we had to wear our winter hats, coats and gloves. It was cold, wet and damp. I was getting depressed fearing that the warm weather would never come. Today, to my great pleasure, it was warm enough I didn’t even need a coat. The wind is still blowing pretty strong but it is not bitter cold any more. Anna & I went to beach today and were able to enjoying the shinning sun and the blue sky. Soon the flowers will begin to bloom!!

Anna’s Birthday Party

I had planned a birthday party for Anna on her birthday and a bunch of her friends were going to come. Unfortunately we had to cancel it right before because we had a meeting we had to go to at the school. I had mixed feelings about this . . . part of me didn’t really care because she is only two and doesn’t really know and probably won’t even enjoy a party. When ever she gets together with other kids she just hangs around us and doesn’t even interact with the other kids. The other part of me really felt that I should make some deal about her birthday, try and make her feel special and she would probably remember and might enjoy it even if she hung around my side the whole time.

There were not too many kids that could come due to sickness or such short notice but we had a good time with just four other kids. It turned out all right but was not really a big happen’en party. I made cupcakes for the kids and we all sang “Happy Birthday” and Anna did a good job blowing the candles out. I think it was a good first birthday party experience. I think Anna’s favorite part was the Dora Explorer table cloth.

Joy Like A Child

When was the last time that you got up on some one’s feet and “flew”? Or just went outside and started laughing at a dog or a bird? How about finding the joy in sliding down a slide or racing someone? It probably has been a long time for most of us. (probably because we are too big to be able to do any of those things)

Sometimes we can be dragged down by all the things in our lives . . . bills, appointments, sickness . . . . The Book tells us to have fth like a child, why not find joy like a child. “Rejoice in Him always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” It also says to find joy in every circumstance as you face trails of many kinds.

As many things seem to go wrong in my life I look at this happy face and listen to her sweet silly laugh and I say . . . “I want that.” I can have that, we all can have that. Find the joy in small silly things, enjoy the beautiful creation, laugh and smile together. Be like a child and have great joy!
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit drys up the bones.”

On Having a Terrible Two

I can’t believe that two years ago right now I was having our little girl. It feels like yesterday and yet it feels so long ago. I’m remembering the car ride with our boss GV trying to distract me from the pain by telling stories (but really all he was accomplishing was distracting Jeremy from helping me breath through the contractions). Looking back I laugh realizing how close we were to having Anna right there in the van – boy am I thankful that didn’t happen.

Now we have a beautiful 2 year old daughter who has brought us so much joy and laughter. She is such a delight. But I can really tell that she is two now. It kinda feels like it happened over night but we really do have a 2 year old.

There are many things about a 2 year old that can give me a headache . . . like the tantrums, wanting to do everything by herself, the tantrums, getting into everything, the tantrums, learning how to stall going to bed and trying to get her own way (I think that is another way of saying . . . tantrums).

But there are many good things about having a 2 year old . . . she can tell me stories, she responds when talked to, her attention span has increased so we can do things for a longer period of time, her smiles, her laughs (oh they just melt my heart), being silly, make up talk and songs (I could listen to her for hours) and oh so many more things. She is really more of her own person now than ever before.

Now that she interacts with me more it makes our days a lot more interesting.
Yes having a two year old can be a headache but it is soo worth every pain I have felt just to see that beautiful smile!

~Happy Birthday Anna Mae~

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Wo ai ni!

Anna wanted to thank her grandmothers for all the wonderful things they bought her. She is sending you both a message from across the world . . . “wo AI NI!!” (pronounced “whoa I knee”) . . . like her shirt says “I love you!!”
We miss you all!!!

I finally got my snow!

Monday morning I wake up to the beautiful sight of snow falling from the sky!! I thought what a beautiful way to start the week. Mondays can be so hard to get out of bed but not this Monday. I was so excited I could not get outside fast enough.
Anna really seemed to enjoy our time outside except for being cold.

Anna got to do her first snow angel. She really enjoyed doing it until she tried to get up by herself and kept getting snow in her face from her gloves. It was really funny because the more she tried to wipe it off the more she kept putting on because it was stuck to her glove. (Am I a terrible mother for thinking my daughters agony was funny?) Anna’s favorite part of playing in the snow was playing with another little girls sand toys. She loved filling up the bucket with snow, dumping it out and then “cutting” it with a shovel.

This next section is inappropriate for children, please turn your eyes . . .
People wonder how bad the smoking is in China – see even the snowmen smoke

REALLY Snow @ the Beach

Now I can say that I have really seen snow on the beach. Anna looked at it and really wanted to go down and play. I thought that cold wet sandy snow did not sound like fun at all. So instead we splashed in the slushy puddles and just looked at the snowy beach.