Monday, August 29

hanging out with amanda

while we were in china, we were blessed by being able to see our great friend, amanda. seriously. she is wonderful. we met at camp barnabas and have kept up over the years, so it was so fun to actually see her and not just read emails.

she lives in the same apartment complex as marty, so we got to hang out a few times. we walked around the city a little, ate some wonderful ice cream, got blind massages, and at the famous "13 flavors".

i didn't get any pictures at the ice cream place, but it is called "happy heart ice cream". which i thought was a totally fitting name. i was happy to eat real chinese food, but i was also happy to eat real american ice cream.

blind massages are apparently a popular thing among the foreigners. they are massages given by blind chinese people. it gives these people real, meaningful jobs as a way to support their families and be a part of society. and it gives me a good way to relax. i really wish i had taken pictures. i didn't want to be tacky, so i didn't. it was about as different from a massage here as you can get. first, there were four beds downstairs and a few more upstairs, all in a row. you don't take your clothes off, you don't get a nice fuzzy blanket, you don't get hot oil and soothing music. you just lay down and get a full body massage, mostly on pressure points. who knew that i had so many pressure points in my skull? as different as it was, it was relaxing and i had a huge kink in my neck that was completely gone afterwards.

and then on to 13 Flavors. that is the name of a restaurant that we heard a lot about. and i would say it was worth the hype. pretty dang good.

plus, we got to hang out with amanda and catch up on life while we ate there, so that made it pretty dang great.

Sunday, August 28


we're back home and trying to adjust to real life. it's a little rough. between jet-lag, stomaches that are still a little bit off, and kids who are used to grandparents - well, you can imagine. but is good to be home. it was good to be gone, good to get away, good to see marty and yaqin, good to see amanda, good to have a vacation good to be travelers. but it is good to be home.

so. a quick re-cap isn't really possible. so you'll have the privelge of reading several posts about the trip, complete with pictures. so first - xining.

xining (pronounced she-ning) is the "town" that marty and yaqin live in. they say town, i say metropolis. it's about 6 million people, which in china qualifies as a town. i tried to explain to yaqin that little rock, which is a capital city, has about six tall buildings downtown. just a little different.

we spent the majority of our time here. we didn't really do anything particularly exciting, but rather lived life with marty and yaqin. we also got to see our dear friend, amanda, who lives there too. our days basically revolved around eating and sleeping. we'd all sleep in (well, except for jason. i think he was annoyed with us most mornings), then we'd have lunch with friends and dinner with more friends. the in-between times included a lot of walking around, shopping at various markets, sometimes visiting people, and cooking.

and man, was the food good! i was a little nervous, because i'm not a super adventurous eater. i like american chinese food, but i knew ahead of time that is not what we'd be eating. and thank goodness that's not what we were eating. because the food was a kazillion times better. yaqin is an excellent cook. we went to several great restaurants as well and even hole-in-the-wall places were delish. so it worked out well that food was one of the main themes of our time in xining.

coming up: fun times with amanda, the adventures of buying train tickets, how to survive a 24 hour train ride, beijing and beyond, and the most awesome picture from our trip.

Saturday, August 20


being in china has been an adventure. xining, where marty lives, has
about 400 foreigners in a "town" of about 2 million people. so not so
many people speak english. the only english on signs often doesn't
make any sense or is simply a transliteration of the chinese words
(which is very helpful....). so just being here has been an adventure.
walking down the street, going to restruants, going through the
markets, taking taxis or busses. we have had marty or yaqin with us
for pretty much everything, but it's still been a little crazy.
but yesterday, we had a real adventure. we were going to go up to a
village in the mountains to visit some friends of theirs, eat the
iftar meal with them (the meal that muslims eat to break their fast
during ramadan), spend the night, and come back to xining today. on
the way to the village, we drove through another little village and
there was a tibetian archery competition going on. so of course we
stopped to have a look. because really, how often do you see a
tibetian archery competition in a little chinese village?
so marty let us out, found a place to park, and we watched for about
ten minutes. i took some pictures (including pictures of people taking
pictures of me), we had our pictures taken with random people, because
we are foreigners, we listened to some really loud, slightly obnoxious
tibetian singing (which was actually sung by a muslim who was not
tibetian). then we headed back to the van.
and when we got to the van, i noticed something was a little off. like
we were missing a window. yup. we got robbed. fun times.
actually, we didn't get robbed. i had my purse with me that had my
passport, money, and camera and jason had his wallet. marty had his
wallet, yaqin had her purse, so whoever broke in got a bad deal. they
dumped all of our clothes out of our bags and did take the bag of a
girl who was with us, shelly, but all it had was clothes and a bible.
so the little thug (who we assume was a boy) just got a bible and some
teenage girl clothes. probably not what he was expecting when he broke
into a van that had foreigners in it.
so instead of going to the village, we got to spend the afternoon
waiting for the police to show up, waiting for the police to take
pictures, waiting at the police station for them to take our
statements, waiting for the computer to work right so they could take
our statements. the police were actually really helpful - much more
helpful than i anticipated. they were sooooo embarressed and
apologitic for something like this happening in their city. they made
the case a priority case and were very nice. but, still not the way
that we wanted to spend the day.
but there is some silver lining. i was so close to taking our computer
with us so i could use it to charge our camera and put pictures on if
our memory card filled up. but i decided that i didn't want to carry
it around. it would hav been in the van, which would have made the
whole thing way worse. marty and yaqin now have really good standing
with the police in that village, so if they ever want to go there to
share Jesus, it will be a lot easier for them to do.
so all in all, not our favorite day here, but not as bad as it could
have been. plus, i feel like every trip has to have some story like
this, so at least we got it out of the way.

china is awesome!

so china is pretty awesome so far. we havne't done much except walk
around and lived life with marty and yaquin. we have met a lot of
their friends, ate a lot of food, walked a lot, rode in a lot of scary
vehicles, seen a lot of cool things. it's been fun.

unfortunately, the internets is a bit on the slow side, so uploading
pictures would take approximtely one hour. for real. so those will
have to wait till we get home.

last night, we had some of marty and yaquin's friends over for dinner
and i taught yaqin how to make american food. we made hummus (which
isn't american) and alfredo (which isn't really amerian either). it
tunred out pretty good, which is amazing since i made it using woks
and chopsticks. for real.

Tuesday, August 16

we're in china!

i know this post title is a little ovbious and not clever, but we are and it's still hard to believe we are actually here. it was a very uneventful trip, no major kinks. it's great to be here. but more on that later. here are some thoughts from our trip over.
*traveling without kids is so extreamly different and easier than traveling with kids. we got to sit in our own seats, eat our own food, watch movies, sleep, get up and go to the bathroom, not push a huge stroller through the airport, not pack an embaressingly large amount of stuff, sleep. jason says it was like the difference between walking and driving across the country.
*bringing my own pillow on the plane was probably the best decision of my life. well, at least in the top ten. jason told me i would be annoyed at having to carry it around everywhere, but it was not nearly as annoing as it was awesome to have it to sleep with. it was even more awesome because my husband is wonderful and let me lean on him and take up half his seat due to the lack of children traveling with us.
*when we pack, perhaps it would be helpful to check the weather in the place we are visiting, not just assume it will be the same as where we are coming from. i mean, i guess i didn't really assume it would be the same, but i didn't think that through real clearly. a jacket would have been a good thing to throw in my suitcase.
*suckerpunch may be the dumbest movie i have ever seen. and i've watch all three twilight movies, so that's saying something.
*when we were traveling, we saw things that made me think "oh, that's fun. hiba would really enjoy that. we should have brought her". and then i missed my kids for a moment and then remembered the seven hours of sleep i got on the plane.
*chinese fashion sense is awesome. we saw so many wonderful outfits in the beijing airport. i wanted to take pictures, but i thought that would be rude. i also wonder if the people who make shirts with english writing on them know what they are saying and just enjoy putting random words together for other people to wear.
*chinglish signs are also awesome. i have started taking pictures of those. which i know is what everyone does, but they are still funny to me.
we walked around xining (the city that marty and yaqin live in) today and we'll probably go out again this afternoon so we don't fall asleep. so hopefully tonight or tomorrow i'll write a little about that and put up some pictures. so stay tuned!

Friday, August 12

these are a few of my favorite things....

so it's friday morning and we leave for china on sunday at 6:30 a.m. the kids go up to my parent's house tomorrow. have i packed? no. have i done laundry? no. have i finished cleaning the house? no. have i gone shopping for things i want to take? no. have i.....well, you get the picture. so instead of actually doing any of those things, i am drinking coffee and blogging. it sounds like a good plan to me. i'm hoping that while i am writing this, all of the other things will just get magically done. hmmmm.

anyway, i had a realization yesterday that i am going to miss my kids when we are in china. i knew that i would miss them eventually, and that i would be really happy to see them when we get home. but i didn't think it would be hard to leave them. it wasn't hard to leave them when i went to the bahamas. it's never hard to leave them over a weekend. but two weeks? that's a long time. so, i thought i'd write about them today.

(also, just now, hiba started throwing a fit about something completely ridiculous. maybe she senses that it will be hard for me to leave her and is trying to make it easier....)

hiba and matthias are at a really cute stage in life right now. granted, it is also a very annoying stage of life, but really they are cute so much of the time. they're at the point where they can talk to each other, play together, make up games. hiba's not too old for everything she says to be over matthias' head (although i am pretty convinced that most of life is over matthias' head) and he isn't too young for her to just get annoyed and ignore him. this also means lots of fights, lots of yelling at each other, lots of hitting....BUT when they play together, it is so fun to watch. so here are a few of their favorite games.

*dora and swiper. matthias is always swiper, trying to swipe something from hiba. he either gets it successfully and laughs manically as he throws it across the room (which can be dangerous, like if he swipes a stroller) or he is fended off by dora, says "oh maaaan!" (which is actually said "oh maaaaam, because matthias doesn't say "n") and runs down the hall. they do this over and over and over again.

*baby evan. we have some friends who have a baby, named evan, so hiba and matthias like to play baby evan now. actually, i'm pretty sure that matthias thinks that all babies are baby evan. so they'll get blankets and wrap themselves up and lay on the ground/couch/bed and be baby evan. that's the whole game. they love it.

*wheel of fortune. i love this show. i know, that makes me like a 70-year-old woman, but i think it's fun. and it's sort of a life goal to be on it someday. so we watch it a lot, because it teaches letters and counting and involves clapping - which is pretty much a winning combo. so now, hiba and matthias like to play wheel of fortune, or "guessing letters" as they call it. one of them stands by our front window as vanna and the other stands by the couch and guesses letters. there are always letters. except for "r". which they always guess anyway, even though the answer is always "no r. awww.".

*working out. jason and i have been going to the gym pretty regularly lately (well, jason has and i have thought about it a lot.), so hiba and matthias like to "work out" when we are home. jason sometimes leads them in exercises, but sometimes they do it on their own. their favorites are burpies, squats, jumping jacks, lunges, and sprints. hiba can do a pretty good push-up as well. after about 2 of any given exercise, they sit on the floor or couch and say "whew, my legs are very sore from working out".

*cooking. matthias is pretty obsessed with food. real food, fake food, whatever. so they cook in their kitchen a lot. and make me snacks alllllll day. they always tell me what it is. we have some play food and then they'll just make stuff up too. matthias likes to make pizza, cookies, and soup. hiba always tries to bring me peas and carrots. i like matthias' cooking better.

so those are a few favorites around here these days. i'm sure in two weeks it will be completely different. which is good - i mean, that's the way life is supposed to go, right? but i will miss my little pat sajack and vanna white.

Tuesday, August 9

what if i just want to take a nap?

i like to help people. some of you who know me might think this is not true, but it is. i really do. especially people who are disadvantaged, hurting, over-looked. and i'm very thankful that i've found a lot of opportunities to do this in little rock.

teen mops comes with all sorts of people who need help and love. all the time. which is great, because i'm a stay-at-home mom and i have a lot of time and a relatively flexible schedule, so i can help them a lot. but i've thought a lot about boundaries lately. and i wonder how to draw the boundaries between helping and saying no because i'm really tired and need a break, boundaries between helping and enabling, boundaries between helping out of love and helping out of guilt.

Jesus told us to love others. He told us to feed the poor, clothe the naked, take care of orphans and widows. He told us to go the extra mile, to give the shirt off our back if we were asked for it. and i think He really meant those things. i want to live a life that is not attached to my things, a life that reflects a heart of service. i want hiba and matthias to see that jason and i love others with actions, not just with words or money in the offering plate. but it's hard. because sometimes i am tired. sometimes it is inconvenient. and sometimes i need a break.

there is one girl, j, who needs a lot of help in particular. she actually got a job this summer, which helped her a ton and made the requests go down, but she still always needs rides to get places, needs help getting food stamps, often needs to "borrow" money to get formula for her baby until her next wic check comes. and she never plans ahead. so this is how a phone call usually goes.

j: uh, hi. are you gonna be busy at 3 today?
me: (in my head): that depends on how you define busy. matthias will probably still be sleeping, which means i will either be watching some awesome show like grey's anatomy or sleeping on the couch and i don't particularly want to give up either of those activities, but i guess that's not really busy....
me: (out loud) well, i'm not sure. what do you need?
j: i need a ride to [insert something important here like pick up a check, go to the doctor, get food]
me: (in my head): crap. that seems more important that what i will be doing.
me: (out loud): uh, well. ok. i can come pick you up. see you at 2:45.
j: [hangs up the phone without really confirming our plans, so i'm not entirely sure what the plan is]

so now i have to re-arrange my morning plans so that matthias can go down for a nap early, even though i know he won't really go to sleep, so i can wake him up before he is ready which means he will be super cranky which means i will be super cranky which means we won't get to go to the pool which means hiba will be super cranky, but hey - i'm doing a good deed, right?

or am i? this is where i just don't know. Jesus took time to pray by himself. He fell asleep in a hurricane because he was tired (ok, maybe it wasn't a hurricane because i don't think they have those on the sea of galilee....). he clearly took time to be by Himself. which means that i should also be able to draw some lines, but saying no to take a nap just doesn't seem to be a good boundary. so where is the line between sacrificing your time and energy and saying no? or is there a line?

i don't really know where i'm going with all this. i don't have a grand point or conclusion. it's just something i've been thinking a lot about. so what do you think? what does Jesus mean when he says to serve and love others? is there room for boundaries in that call? or do we just always have to give up our nap?

Monday, August 8

saturday's a rugby day!

this weekend, we went to memphis for a rugby tournament. jason takes the summer off from rugby, which i am very thankful for. but it was fun to get in on one tournament and i know jason enjoyed playing. as an added bonus, some of our really great friends, kristina and rhys, came with us! they moved her from the UK a few months ago and rhys was going through rugby withdrawals, so they came along and he got to play some games. it was really great to see them and i was glad that kristina was there for me to hang out with.

after the tournament, we headed to downtown memphis for a night out. rhys hadn't ever been to memphis, so we thought we'd hit up beale street.

at dinner

no-teeth smiles due to the ribs that were stuck in our teeth

yay for friends!

the hampton inn in the background is where jason and i stayed on our way home from our honeymoon, and we hung out in this park while we were in memphis. awwwww.

despite the awful heat, the very early morning, and the total lack of sleep for the weekend, it was a great time. and totally worth it.

Wednesday, August 3

too hot!

yesterday was laundry day.

and surprisingly enough, i actually did all of the laundry. that's not actually that unusual, but i actually put it all away the same day that is was washed. i think that's happened, like, twice. ever. i even color coordinated my closet when putting my clothes away.

you may remember a few weeks ago when i wrote this post about how hiba is getting old enough to do jobs. like put her laundry away. and how excited i am that we have reached that point. and how she has a cute little sticker chart for when she does a job.

the problem with the sticker chart is that she finished it on a sunday. and she wanted ice cream from chick-fil-a as a treat. only they aren't open on sunday, so i kind of didn't make a big deal out of it. and then monday came and something happened so we didn't go get ice cream. and then tuesday, wednesday, yadda, yadda, yadda. so the sticker chart is still on the fridge, complete, but no ice cream yet. that was like a week and a half ago. (see, i really do never fold laundry).

so last night when i folder her laundry, i didn't let her put it away. i mean, i gave her the option, but when she protested even just a little, i did it for her. and i only gave her the option because she caught me - i was totally just going to do it. so she didn't put it away, which means she didn't get a sticker, which means she didn't remember that she has a completed sticker chart and is owed an ice cream cone, which means i didn't have to leave the house when there was a heat index of 116 to go to chick-fil-a.

does that make me a bad mom? or just a mom that is reeeeeeeeally tired of this heat?

(if the answer is yes to the first questions, it's rhetorical.)

(i think a visit to chick-fil-a is on the schedule for today.)

Tuesday, August 2


yesterday, this came in the mail.

which means, we are really going to china. not we are going to china, as long as i remember to actually get our visas before we go. but we are actually going. in two weeks. for two weeks. with no kids.

to say i am excited is a bit of an understatement. i am really, really, really looking forward to this trip. i love my children. i even love like traveling with them. we've had some fun trips. but i LOVE traveling with jason. we're a good pair. we have a lot of fun. we take cool trips. we do did in our past life cool things like quit our jobs and go on a 40 day road trip around the western US. we moved to palestine. we went to jordan. we went to turkey. and these were all trips that would not work well with kids. or at least would not work well with me and kids. it's not so much that we actually "rough it" on these trips, but we always find trouble or adventure that would not work while toting around two small kiddos.

so two weeks in china, just me and jason. we're going to visit jason's brother who is living in western china, studying chinese and living life. he got married last october to a chinese woman named yaqin, so we get to meet her. we're planning on hitting the big tourist sites in beijing, but otherwise we'll just be hanging out with marty and yaqin, seeing where he lives, meeting his friends, eating their food (well, jason will be anyway....i'm not so adventurous....i'm taking a big box of granola bars). he lives in a place with a lot of muslims and our trip falls right in the middle of ramadan. i'm looking forward to seeing ramadan in a different culture and hoping to share an iftar or two with his friends.

Monday, August 1

it's been seven years tomorrow, since we said our vows...

well, actually it's been seven years yesterday since we said our vows. but that's not how the song goes.

we celebrated with a great date night, kid-free evening, and a relaxing day. we usually go on a little get-a-way for the weekend, but we figured that our china trip in two weeks can count for that. it was a great weekend and i loved my time with jason.

seven years. a lot has happened. a lot that i did not expect, some that i did. lots of laughs, a few tears, a couple of moves, a couple of countries, a couple of kids - here we are. i have loved the journey and i really am looking forward to what's ahead. i doing life with anyone else - real or imaginary. love you, jason!