Treadmills and other realizations

Sometimes I have these realizations of being…less than I think I should be.  I have standards for myself that truly aren’t attainable, and frankly, I care about what people think a little (a lot) too much.  Then something happens that knocks me on rear (sometimes literally) and I realize that, WOW, I am full of pride.

This week I got a new tutor.  You see, when you remain with the same tutor you start to get a sense of how awesome you are and how you totally have a handle on this crazy hard language.  Not that I ever really and truly thought I was good.  Or even okay.  But I digress.  My tutor came and I couldn’t understand her.  At all.  I thought that maybe she was joking and was really speaking something other than Chinese.  Then I understood a sentence.  A sentence about how I should be talking a lot better than I am.  I’m not gonna lie.  It stung.  A lot.  But then, I really thought about what she had said, and it is true.  We use a method unlike anything she has taught with, so I shouldn’t be up to her standards, but I should be better than I am.  

My pride has stunted my growth.

I told my coach I didn’t want him to come.  Because, well, because it was hard when he was there.  It was embarrassing.  It meant I couldn’t cheat and speak English.  It meant he might judge me.  Then he came after months of not coming because he had no choice.  My tutor needed to be trained and helped.  And, honestly, my coach is really good at what he does.  He knows this language, and he knows foreigners and the ways we try to cut corners.  So he came, I took a deep, cleansing breath, sent him to the corner chaise lounge where he was not in my line of vision, took another deep breath and tried my best.  When I was freaking out inside, about to cry, I asked him what I was supposed to do.  And guess what?  

He helped me.

Imagine that.  It was freeing.  I emailed him an apology because I was so wrong.  I am sure that learning a foreign language should teach you the foreign language, but I feel like I am learning much, much bigger lessons.

And then, because apparently my pride was out of this world, my gracelessness reared its humiliating head.  I had afternoon class one day this week due to scheduling conflicts , so I decided to exercise one morning.  As I was jogging on the treadmill, I was praying because this was the day that my new tutor and coach was coming and my insides were threatening to come out of my mouth.  Well, I was really talking to Jesus earnestly and my eyes closed as I sent Him pleas to calm me down.

I fell off the treadmill.  For the second time in not so long amount of time…

If that won’t refocus your thoughts, I’m not sure what will!  Laughter usually makes all things seem a little less serious, but I would really prefer to laugh at someone else tripping over their shoelaces than it always being me who can’t walk and chew gum…

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Looseleaf, how I’ve missed thee!

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I never jumped on the recycled paper bandwagon.  Don’t shoot me!  I remember when I was young, and it was just becoming a big deal to have recycled paper.  I remember it being thin and soft and slightly brown.  I wanted nothing to do with it.  I like my paper bright white, crisp, with beautiful blue and red lines.  Now, I realize, the recycled paper looks the same, and I am great with that, in fact, I gravitate towards it.  I didn’t realize I would miss “normal” paper.  Don’t get me wrong, we can buy paper here.  It’s just…different.  They don’t have notebooks with perforated pages.  In fact, most of their notebooks are staple bound and you can’t even remove the pages!  It’s a travesty, really.Image

Oh yeah.  Paper.  Packages and packages of looseleaf paper AND construction paper.  There will be some crafting going on at my house!

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I see lots of chocolate.  And PopTarts.  The chocolate chips may have been in a liquid state, but what better excuse do you need to make ganache?!  I have a friend who is a master ganache maker here…she may have to help me out 😉

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I love it when Cam smiles so big his eyes crinkle.  I’m not sure what caused it, but I love it nonetheless.

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Maybe it was the pop tarts that made his eyes crinkle…or the Oreos.  Or maybe the princess fuzzy kit because we all know Cam loves to be dressed up his girls…

 

 

 

 

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And just look at that sweet little puppy playing in our box.  Packages truly are a family affair!  Lots of thanks to our Lane Prairie family for showing us love.

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Where did she come from??

Sometimes with Ellie, you just have to accept the situation and not ask why…

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I was sitting on the floor with my back to Ellie last week, and when I turned around, this is what I saw…

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I really have no idea…

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Then, we went to Subway and this is what she did…

She was stuffing her sandwich in so she could eat her cookie.  The odd thing is that we told her she didn’t have to finish the last bite…but she was concerned she may get hungry later. I’m sure that last bite really staved off the hunger pains 2 hours later…

ImageI prefer to just remember her like this…

 

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We are so BORING!

Cam and I had a rare opportunity to go on a date Friday night.  My friend asked if the girls could come for dinner and late night swimming, and who are we kidding?!  I, of course, said yes, wishing she would have invited me as well!  Instead, I found myself alone with a man.  We kind of stared at each other, not talking, because let’s face it.  We don’t talk.  Usually we have earbuds in streaming Chinese stories into our overworked brains, and sometimes I think we forget that the earbuds are gone, and it takes awhile for us to snap out of it and actually be together.

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Or sometimes are are sitting side by side and one of us falls asleep and the other cheeses it up because she can’t stop laughing and takes a picture to share with the world.

Back to the story.  There is a store here in the city that sells all sorts of amazing import items, or so I had been told, so we decided to take a trip there.  It isn’t really the type of store that you would want to take the children to unless their grandparents were here to even up with the owner, if you get my drift.  It had so many things that I didn’t even know I missed!  But before we get into the store, let’s just talk about how we got there.

We took off on the scooter, wind blowing our (my) hair, a cool breeze on our faces.  Oh wait.  It was hot.  As in the steam from the street may cause second degree burns and the exhaust from the many buses feels like a wall of heat hitting your face.  And Cam was driving like a maniac so safely.  At one point I told him that next time I think I would prefer a taxi.  When he asked why, I replied that I didn’t want to die yet.  Because I thought I would.  On multiple occasions.  Then, when we were at the turn to get to the wonderful import store, Cam said the words that all women riding on the back of a scooter in the middle of a huge city in a foreign country dread.

We have a flat.

You have got to be kidding me!  Cameron asked a nearby scooter driver where a tire repair guy was (in reality, Cameron pointed at his flat tire and shrugged his shoulders.).  She pointed him back in the direction we had come from, and I took off on foot in the other direction to find the glorious store.  At this point I have to admit that my attitude needed rehauling.  I wanted to leave, and thought about hailing a taxi and leaving Cam there alone.  I didn’t really want to come in the first place…I wanted to make pizza and sit on the couch watching tv.  Glamorous, I know.  By this time, my stomach was grumbling and I was parched.  I saw a little cart/store thing selling something with ice, so I went and chose the first thing that seemed familiar…mint soda water.  When he handed me a drink the color of the Hulk, I was a bit skeptical, but it was full of ice (per my request) and since ice is hard to come by, I took a big ol’ chug-a-lug.  To my great surprise, it was fabulous!  It wasn’t minty at all…so I’m thinking the translation was a bit off, but it was good.  Finally, after walking twelve miles (not really, but did I mention the heat?), I arrived.  And my attitude was better.  A little.

The store was small, but in every square inch there was goodness.  Tostitos, cherry coke, snapple, wheat thins, cereal of every variety, my favorite pizza sauce…and the list could seriously go on forever.  I walked around the store as slow as humanly possible touching all the wonderful items, with ingredients listed in English and words I could read, not once, but three times.  The cashier must have been used to awestruck foreigners because she never batted an eye.  I carefully made my selections (nothing exciting because well, those wheat thins were almost $10 a box!  And the cereal was over $10 a box.  And I just couldn’t do it.) and made my way back to Cam.  The tire repair man was older than Santa and slower than Christmas.  Granted, the tire tube needed 7 patches (it really needed a new tube but he couldn’t get the old one off), so 90 minutes later, we were back on our date.

ImageDid I mention that the tire repair guy was on the side of the road under an umbrella?  And that Cameron caused quite the scene with the security guards when he walked up?  And that the tire master guy’s shorts were really loose and he kept hiking them up making me jerk my gaze away for fear that I would see something that could damage my retinas?  Yikes.

Trying his best to salvage our date, Cam took me to Papa Johns.  Nothing says I love you like cold cola and pepperoni pizza on the 9th floor of a fancy mall!  As I thought back on our date…minus the tire disaster…I realized that we are quite the old boring couple.  Wednesday will be 14 years since we’ve said “I do”, and for as many years back as I can count, our dates have been dinner and walking around Academy.  Life of the party.  I wouldn’t choose to be boring with anyone other than Cam though, and I count myself blessed to be his wife.

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I mean, what other woman gets a man with pom poms in his pockets that shake when he walks?!

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Big 1-1

I must have blinked a little too long because, somehow, on Saturday, my Gracie turned 11.  It just doesn’t seem like it has been that long since she took her first breath on this earth, nor do I feel old enough to actually have an 11 year old.  This was a much different birthday than any before it…I mean, seriously, we live in China.

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The day started with blue pancakes…topped with frosting.  Although I have to admit, the frosting and sprinkles were more for me than for Gracie.  I’m not sure she even had it on hers.  But the idea was truly magnificent (thanks Pinterest!).

ImageShe couldn’t wait to open her presents.  A box from her Nanny and Papa (Cam’s parents) arrived last week and its presence has been taunting her from the corner of the living room for daaaaays.

ImageWho doesn’t love a little cash in a card?!  Ma and Papa left this card here for her to open today because she sweet talked her way into all the other gifts from them early.  I really don’t know where she gets the impatience from…surely not from me.  Gracie has an inability to save money (must be that impatience popping up again)…so this will be gone as soon as possible.  She has her eye on a Vera Bradley backpack, so perhaps she will save a bit to buy one!

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It’s the little things.  I’m not sure Gracie knew Snapple existed before we moved to China, but now that she has discovered it, she has a craving for it.  Unfortunately, it can only be purchased on the uber-expensive import aisle.  I thought it would be fun to wrap a bottle for her, and she was SO excited!

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Y’all.  Gracie got her feet from my brother.  They are SO big.  I mean, they appear normal, but when we go shopping for shoes here, the people always say “Ohh.  SO big!!”    I realize that Chinese people are tiny little things, but really, Gracie just has big feet.  However, she is female, and as we know, girls like shoes.  She is growing to really love shoes, and I have to admit, shoe shopping with your daughter is kind of fun!

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I’m pretty sure our love of owls will never fade because part of our hearts are still in Joshua (Home of the Owls).

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

 -Winnie the Pooh

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She has grown into such a lovely young lady.  Sometimes I think she may be a little too much like me and that drives me nuts because I see all the things about me that I wish were different, but then, I think it’s pretty cool that I get to watch her grow and make decisions and become exactly who He has designed her to be…with me or without me.

ImageThat box that she’s been waiting to open all week…totally worth the wait.

ImageShe wanted Subway for lunch…again not something we ate much of in America, but love here!  I think it just feels familiar.  Well, that and the cookies.  She told me her favorite part of Subway was the cookies.  I know she gets her sweet tooth from me!

ImageShe chose to spend the afternoon ice skating.  I, for obvious reasons (remember my gracefulness?), chose to watch.  This rink had blocks of time (2 hours per block) from which to choose.  Our block only had 90 minutes left in it, but that was plenty of time to wear them out!  It makes my heart all fuzzy to see her holding her Daddy’s hand.  Also makes me fall in love a little bit more with him.

ImageI love this girl so much!  I love her smile, her love of reading, her soft-spoken-ness, the way she plays with her sisters when no one is watching, her ability to stand up for herself, her strength and stubbornness when something is just not right, her confidence.  She is a fabulous daughter who has forever changed me.

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Just call me graceful

I have issues with little things like hand/eye coordination and walking without tripping.  Sometimes my mouth runs a little waaaaaay faster than my mind.  Yesterday was one of those days.  You see, there is this restaurant that we love.  In fact, it is really the only restaurant I like here, so it plays a big role in my eating life.  We call it Helens.  I don’t know what the actual name is, but the girl we met there when we first started going was Helen, so everyone we know refers to it as Helens.  Well, Helens had the audacity to go on vacation and shut down for 3 weeks, leaving me with lunch options that I wasn’t crazy about.  So imagine my total excitement when we went to lunch yesterday and the doors were open!!  I immediately picked up my phone to call my friend, who also loves Helens, to try to convince her she needed to come have lunch with us.  Here is where it gets interesting.

I have two friends with the same name.

I forgot that little detail and chose the first one I came to.  When I heard,

hello?

I immediately started talking/yelling,

Helens is open!!  It’s open!!  You have to come!!

She said, in a very confused voice,

Are you sure you have the right Josie?

Uh-oh.  Instead of realizing my mistake here, I continued.

 Helens.  It’s open!

Then my mind caught up.  Ohhhhh.  I quickly said,

I’m sorry

and hung up.  embarrassed.

Cam witnessed this happening, and said,

ummm…isn’t that the mom of the little boy in Ellie’s class?

Why yes, Yes it was.    And I really liked this lady.  I then took the easy way out and texted her about what a dork I am, but she wasn’t too offended because she replied with,

so can our fams hang out soon?  Helens must be good.  You sounded stoked.

Disaster averted.  However, the days embarrassing moments for me didn’t end there.

Later that afternoon, Gracie came in from the balcony asking me to kill a caterpillar.  Ummm…okay?  She said it flung red antennae at Meili when she tried to bite it.  I mean, seriously, wouldn’t  you fling something out at a huge furry creature trying to eat you?  But Gracie was worried the caterpillar was poisonous and would kill the dog.  After the past few nights I’ve had with the dog, I’m not sure this was a bad thing…but I went out to inspect the little green thing anyway.  Image

I wasn’t actually willing to touch this with my bare hands because creepy crawly things make me shiver, but I could sweep it into my little dustpan and toss it over the rail.  In theory.  Sadly, when I went to toss it over, it landed on the outside of the glass still in my balcony.  So, my brilliant plan was to use the broom to sweep it off.  It was a pretty good idea…or it would have been had I been able to implement it.  As I was leaning over the glass, dangling the short broom, the thought of dropping the broom flitted across my thoughts, but I dismissed it knowing I wouldn’t drop the broom.  Riiiightttt.  You can laugh.  I totally threw the broom off my 7th floor home (not the first time something accidentally flew from my hands over the balcony).  And guess what?  I MISSED THE CATERPILLAR!!

Graceful, I tell you.

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Glittery Sin

This morning, as I sat alone in the dark, quiet living room having a quiet time with my Maker, someone else’s words spoke to me about the hardest thing.  You know, the hardest part of being here, about following Him when I don’t really like where He is leading.

“The hardest part is I just get selfish and lazy…the hardest part is this world and all its glitter…the hardest part is being pulled by the temporary…the hardest part is resisting the work of the devil…the hardest part is SIN.”

Being here isn’t all that bad…until I let the desire for glitter into my heart.  Then the door opens for my enemy to rush in with doubts and longings that aren’t from Him.  Things like Chick-Fil-A and Target.  And cute shoes…definitely cute shoes.  I start to get unhappy and moody and I feel hate.  I don’t like to think about the fact that I am a sinner, because, let’s face it, we all want to be good.  So, coming face to face with the knowledge that my struggle is because of my sin, well…it kinda hurts.  First step is acknowledgement.  Right?

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This is the book I’m reading, that the quote came from.  And just to be clear, this is not what I read during my quiet time.  I read the Good Book, the BEST BOOK.  I was finished and had extra time because a cute, furry, white puppy woke me up at 5 this morning…

It’s a challenging read that won’t leave you unchanged (unless you let it) and will give your highlighter/pen a great workout!

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I was wrong.

I thought I was ready to send my mom home.  I really did.

I was wrong.

You see, He has been doing a work in me over the past few weeks.  It is like everything I knew and believed came into question, so I went on a quest to discover what His word says about all my questions.  During that journey, it seems that something every single day has shown me how He is to be more important that all the things I miss in America.  That I should love Him more than I love my family or Chick-Fil-A.  That when the time comes, I must love Him more than my children.  I have been holding tightly to my timeframe of saying that when my girls are ready for college, then I will move home.  But I can’t move home until He says I can.  Until he guides and leads us there.  That I have to love Him more than I love being with my girls.  I wrestled with this one.  I looked for a loophole, but you know what?

There wasn’t one.

He wants my whole heart and all my longings should be for Him alone.  So, every time I desired something from home or cried about wanting to be there so my nieces and nephews know who I am, I laid it at His feet.  I told Him I loved Him more.

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Then I dropped my mom off at the airport.  The airport that seems scary when you are navigating it alone.  With customs and bags and no one to ask questions to.  With all three girls looking at my mom asking why we can’t all live together.  And all those desires I had laid down at His feet…I picked them back up again.  I held them in my heart with closed fists and white knuckles as tears poured down my face.  I questioned whether or not I truly do love Him more.  It’s a daily, hourly, minute by minute sacrifice in which my fingers have to be ripped pried gently away from my fleshly wants and exchanged with His “perfect for me” will.

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60 minutes of pleasure, 30 minutes of torture

Mom and I went on one last adventure yesterday before she heads back to the mother land. We went for a massage.  Massages here are a little different than they are at the spas in America.  Here are a few differences:

  • it doesn’t smell nice
  • you get a foot soak in boiling water first
  • it’s really cheap
  • the people may be making fun of you but you’ll never know
  • you don’t strip down voluntarily
  • nothing is gentle
  • cries of pain don’t change the circumstances

I am sure the list could go on and on, but I will stop there and tell you about our experience.  It started with a wooden pot of boiling water that they wanted me to submerge my feet in.  I struggled with the desire to keep the skin on my feet and letting it be melted off, but I caved into the peer pressure and sucked it up.  After the nerves in my feet were burned off (or so I thought), the torture began.  My lady started digging into my feet with steel knuckles.  Not really, but it felt like it.   I laughed and cried out in pain, but she only smiled and nodded back to me.  Now, don’t picture her as on old Chinese woman…she was young.  She most likely understood some English, but I think she found great pleasure in my yells.  After the foot relaxation was complete and my neck muscles were more knotted up from clenching in pain, they left the room.  I wasn’t sure if I got us the right package deal and they were returning, or if we were done and should leave.  So, like any normal person, we sat and waited.  We actually turned off the TV that they had put on for, well, for some reason that I didn’t understand since I literally couldn’t understand the TV, and turned on some praise and worship music on the ipod.  Then we lounged on the bed eating watermelon.  Sound like royalty, don’t we?  Lucky for us, they returned.  This is where it got interesting.

Mom likes her massages, and she was intent on getting the most out of her massage.  What that means is that she really wanted to disrobe so they could massage her better.  I, on the other hand, wanted to wear leggings and a turtleneck so they couldn’t touch my skin.  Mom may have tried to remove her shirt twice one time, but the lady kept saying no.  So, imagine my surprise when 3/4 of the way through our 90 minutes, the lady lifted my shirt (I was on my stomach) a little bit.  At first I thought she was going to rub my lower back, but then, in one swift motion, she unsnapped my bra and pulled my shirt over my head.  Where it got stuck.  So I was laying down with my arms straight in front of me (picture Superman), my bra and shirt all tangled in my arms, and she was done helping me.  So, I had two choices, remain in the highly awkward position I was in, or lift up, baring parts of me that no one needs to see to untangle myself.  I really wanted to just lay there.  But because I care about looking stupid, and was already feeling highly humiliated, I went ahead and finished undressing.  Then, horror of all horrors, she yanks my shorts down and exposes half my rear end.  Well, I never!  I thought that all my pride was stripped away after these events, but the small woman had another trick up her sleeve.  She started pounding on me, making all my, ahem, less than muscular parts jiggle.  And when I say jiggle, I mean it was so bad that she started laughing.  So then I was laughing, making the jiggles escalate even more.  It was at this point that I decided I need to make a date with some weights (as I sit here with a latte and a cookie, but that’s beside the point).  

It really was a good massage.  Mostly.  When I factor in that we paid $22 for 90 minutes of massaging, I deem it as a stellar deal!  I may not be able to move today because she relentlessly pressed on all the knots in my neck, but surely that will go away…right?!

Anyone want to come for a visit?  I promise to take you for a massage.  My treat.

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Never thought that would be us…

We have these friends, from Veribest, that I grew up with.  I went through youth group with them, watched them fall in love, was there at their weddings, when their babies were born, you know, milestones of life.  I got an email a couple weeks ago saying that they were sending us a box.  Part of me was surprised, because, well, I’m always a little surprised when someone wants to sacrifice what they do to mail us a package.  The other part of me wasn’t at all because these two ladies have always been generous and supportive.  Always.  Then a follow up email was sent, almost an afterthought, to let me know how the box came about.  It said,

 “I think I forgot to mention that instead of gifts for Karter and Lexi’s birthdays, they collected items and money for shipping.  Just wanted you to know that it was a group effort and many people helped contribute to the box. :)”

I never in a million years thought that we would be the ones people collected things for…we aren’t special.  We aren’t in need.  We aren’t deserving.  It made my eyes fill up with that familiar wetness and my heart speed up, and I was filled with a gratefulness that there are people who love us…who want to support us…who want to make happy days happier and sad days joyful.  And for a moment, albeit a short moment, I was speechless.

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This is the first time a package has come while the girls were home and we were having class.  They thought they would die having to wait an hour until our class was over!  Ha!

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 See that blur?  That’s because Ellie ripped that Barbie out of the box so fast the camera couldn’t catch it!

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They started throwing stuff out in their excitement…except Ellie.  She was working one-handed, not willing to let loose of the Barbie.

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Little bead pets!  This is so right up the girls alley, it isn’t even funny.  And look at Ellie’s legs…they look so very long and monkeyish, almost like she isn’t a baby anymore…but I am not willing to concede that truth just yet.

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They are still pulling things out…and I’m pretty sure someone threatened the life of Ellie’s Barbie (as she is now being called).

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Do you see the cuteness of these dresses?!!  Gracie has already declared hers as her “first day of school” outfit, and the other two didn’t want to take them off.  They may all be matching the first day of school…how adorable and blackmailish will that be?!!

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Somebody was really excited about iTunes.  I’m not sure what she has up her sleeve, but this is a time when I am thankful we all share an account and apps!

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I can’t even begin to express the joy it brings my heart to see Faith excited about books.  This was a long time coming!  She immediately sat down and began to read.  Love it!

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I’m not sure who is prettier…Barbie or Ellie.  She has played with her all afternoon.  Barbies just never get old!

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Let me tell you a little story.  *disclaimer…this may be waaaaay too much info for the guys*

One evening as I was getting dressed after my shower, I had this thought of needing new underthings.  Holiness isn’t a virtue in panties.  And then I thought, “hmmm…can I buy those here?  I’m a little larger than the average Chinese woman, you know.  And ugh.  I don’t want to ask someone to mail me that!”.  The next morning, an email was waiting in my inbox…the one I mentioned above…and in it she asked me if I needed anything else I can’t get here, such as Victoria’s Secret panties.  My mouth literally dropped open.  I couldn’t believe that in less than 12 hours, He was fulfilling a need I had just barely thought of.  Two needs actually, because she also asked about make-up and I had thrown my empty container out the week before.   I realize that these may not actually fall into the need category, but I would really prefer not to go without either. 🙂  I love when He shows me that He is in the business of not just providing the necessary things of life, but in blessing His people abundantly!

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