A trip to remember.

The week my parents made their trek back across the ocean, the girls and I were supposed to meet them to say goodbye.  However, in an unfortunate turn of events, we didn’t get to say goodbye.  We didn’t get one last hug or one last moment.  Instead, we got a cab full of vomit and eyes full of tears.

As I cleaned like a mad woman (because, if you know me, you know I cannot leave my house overnight without it being sterile), packed the bags, and prepared for 5 days in the beautiful, sunny, Maui of China, my heart was beyond excited.  The girls and I had been home alone for 8 days at this point while my parents and Cam were in Sanya.  We were impatient to get there.  When I picked the girls up from the bus stop, Ellie said her belly kind of hurt but that she had just drank half of Gracie’s water bottle on the bus.  When we came up to the house and Ellie passed on a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie (because of course I made two different kinds of cookies to take to the friends in Sanya who had been living on Chinese food for 8 days), I should have known.  

We hailed a taxi and headed to the airport.  As the driver was pulling up to the curb to drop us off, I heard the sound that every mother dreads…the sound of your baby puking in any place other than a toilet.  As I began, in very jumbled Chinese, trying to explain to the driver what was happening, he turned and saw.  His whole countenance changed and steam began to come out of his ears.  I told him I would give him some money, and he quickly agreed (of course).  I owed him 62 kuai and had handed him 70.  As I tried to give him a 100 and take my 70 back, he yanked the 100 and the 50 and began yelling at me in rapid-fire Chinese that I didn’t understand.  That means this cab ride cost me over $30usd.  It should have been $10.  At this point, I didn’t care, and truthfully, his cab was FULL of vomit and he was not going to be able to pick up any more passengers.  It was nasty.  And I will admit, part of me was very thankful it wasn’t my car that had just been tainted.

I unloaded our bag, and turned to see how Ellie was faring.  She was covered.  It was dripping from her backpack, and her pants were soaked.  In China, the bathrooms don’t have toilet paper or paper towels.  So, like any sane person would do, I threw both her panties and her pants in the garbage can, then bathed her in bubblegum antibacterial hand gel and put her in clean undies.  The next stop was a shop to find plastic bags to catch the next round, if there was one.  Then I had the decision to make of whether or not to cancel our flight.  If I canceled, we would have to endure another 45 minute cab ride home and we would miss seeing my parents one last time (knowing that we wouldn’t see them again for at least a year).  As I began to think aloud, Gracie started crying.  She misses family the most.  She struggles the most.  She needed this goodbye.  

Ellie seemed great.  She said she felt great and her tummy didn’t hurt.  We still had more than 2 hours before out left left, so I took them to McDonalds to test out the belly.  The way I see it, if you can stomach McNasty’s, you can’t possibly be sick.  And stomach it she did.  An hour later, I decided she was fine and that it must have been motion related or something.  We got in line and began the process of getting our boarding passes.  As I was about to take the tickets and hand over my bag to be checked, I looked over and Ellie was ghostly pale.  As my shoulders sagged and tears welled in my eyes, I told the clerk that my daughter was sick and that we couldn’t go.  She canceled our passes and with heavy hearts, we went about the process of canceling the actual tickets.  In Chinese.  As I was crying.

 I won’t lie.  I was done at this point.  I was going home to pack, and we were heading back to the land of Chick-Fil-A.

I dragged the bag and my sad children to hail the second cab of the day.  As I approached the first guy, he looked at me smiled and asked where to.  I told him and he quoted me a price almost double what it should be.  I told him to use his meter, and he replied that it was broken. I said no and went to the next in line.  As I was walking, that cabbie called the one I was headed to and told him to say the same price.  We went through the same conversation, with the same result.  Three times.

With crocodile tears and anger at the entire Chinese race, I stomped away.  Finally, I found someone who would use his meter.  He was so kind and helpful and made me feel a little bit guilty about my hatred.  I let some of it slip away and started up a conversation with this nice man.  When he asked where we had gone, I started crying.  Then Gracie started crying.  And Ellie just sat there holding her puke bag under her face (that she had not had to use again thankfully).  

We made it home before Ellie puked again, and at 3am, Faith started.  So, while I was thankful to be home with my sick babies, my heart was broken and I realized once again just how hard this life can sometimes be.

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Effie’s Hair Salon

The girls and I went on a little hair salon date last week while Cam was away.  There was a new salon opening, so they sold these cards for 20 yuan (about $3) that got you TWO washes and cuts.  Of course I bought 6 of them (they were buy 5, get 1 free too!).  Hair washes over here are something of a legend.  You can go just about anywhere and for less than $5 get a 30-40 minute hair wash and head massage.  They also blow dry your hair.  It is heavenly and perfect on the days when you just need to relax!

haircut1The girls all brought their iPods, because, well, because apparently a half hour hair washing is torture for them.  Ha!  And usually, they have a a pretty long wait after they are done waiting for me.  Gracie told that this time it was fabulously wonderful.  I’m pretty sure she is growing up and recognizing what is good.  Ha!

haircut2Gracie decided to drastically cut her hair.  I call her brave.  She found a picture and showed the man, trying to describe any changes uses gestures (remember we can’t speak to him in the same language!).  I thought he looked a little showy as he cut in his pink glittered high tops from the 80’s.  He did a truly great job, which we are so relieved and happy about.

haircut3Here is the cute result for Gracie.  She loves it!  I took this picture of Faith so you could see the poster behind her.  The examples of hairstyles and make-up in this place were seemingly from the set of Hunger Games.  The majority of stylists had pink hair…it definitely was a place for cutting edge styles.

 

 

 

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Mom and Dad

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My parents sacrificed to come.  I know it is kind of a given that if someone travels overseas, they are sacrificing something, but it is more than just time and money.  The preparations steal your time beforehand, and logistics can be a nightmare.  You give up creature comforts and enter in an unknown territory where anything can happen.games and dadThings like playing games with ridiculous looking headbands on your head in order to please your grandkids.  Things like personal space when you visit grandkids is totally wiped out.  Even your bedtime sleeping space will no longer be your own.  I know my parents would do it all again (I hope!) and that they don’t see it as a sacrifice, but I want to acknowledge that they really did a lot to be able to come here to spend time with us…to love on us…to bring us loads and loads of goodies.  And our hearts are full.

donutsOur bellies are too.  My mama and I decided we really needed some donuts, so we tackled the homemade yeast donut.  It took a few hours, but the results were amaaaaaazing.  They were like real donuts!  So awesome.

scooterThis was also awesome.  Or hilarious.  Or maybe both.  I am so shocked that my Dad was willing to get on the scooter behind Cam, not once, but multiple times!  It just cracked me up.  And the pretty lady?  She was a bride!  We went to lunch one afternoon, and the restaurant was hosting a wedding and put us at a table right behind the guests.  The bride came over and gave us wedding favors.  What was really cool about it though was these people were believers, so their music was praise and worship music.

flipflopsAnd I can’t forget another birthday present from my sister (the brother’s wife).  I really love them, and they sparkle, which makes me so happy every time I wear them!  I like them even more when I look down and see my adorable pedicure that I got with my mom.  And because she is indecisive, she changed her color choices after she saw mine and we now match.  There are so many memories we got to make with my parents, and I know that when I pass those places, eat the food, play the games, they will be remembered.  I know I am one lucky girl to have gotten not one, but two visits from my mom (and I count my dad too!) in a span of 3 months.  So thankful.

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Pumpkins, Pumpkins, yay!

Pumpkins2The girls wanted to do something fun, and I wanted it to be more like Fall, so we painted pumpkins!  We invited our neighbor and some other friends over (forgot to take pictures until they were leaving.  oops!) on Sunday afternoon to get messy and creative.  Saturday, the girls and I walked to the market in hopes of finding the perfect pumpkins.  This isn’t an easy feat in a country where pumpkins are more brown than orange and oblong like a watermelon.  We walked around the market, and just when we were about to give up, we found the mother load!  I ended up buying seven pumpkins in all, but five came from one vendor.  She asked if we were going to eat them all, with an incredulous look on her face.  I told her that we were going to paint them and have a party!  Her face lit up and she repeated “party” (there is no Chinese word for party…they just say paaa-ty).

So, Sunday afternoon, after lunch, after making Rice Krispy treats with orange sprinkles, and after sending Gracie to the store fifteen minutes before go time for paint brushes because we had none, the guests arrived.  Well, most of our friends.  Our local friend may have been more than an hour late, but we weren’t bothered too much by that because, well, because this is China.  Anything goes.  They painted, and glittered, and created, and made a gigantic mess.  Sometimes the messes are totally worth the smiles.

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The ones from whom Cam came

kelly1Cam’s Mom and Dad put together a load of things to spoil us and sent it with my parents when they came.  We have PopTarts and seasonal cupcakes and candy, and treats that we wouldn’t ask for, but make us feel warm and fuzzy and spoiled.  Cam and I got new flipflops, because, well, I guess the ground here must eat them up because this is the FIRST time we have actually needed new flipflops.  Mine are worn completely down with no squishyness under the toes anymore, only the sole.  Cam’s too.  Cam seems super excited about his shoes, and he does really like them (they are much nicer than his old ones!) but he is laughing because he was doing totally inappropriate things for the camera like some obnoxious child.  Not that Cam could ever be obnoxious.  Definitely not him…

Kelly 2Doe you see it?  It’s my favorite Oreos (well, they are tied with Christmas ones).  And you know what?  My monsters children ate all but 5 of them!  I only got FIVE Oreos out of the entire package!  And I know Kelly sent them for me.  Only for me.  I just know it.

kelly4There was also a Christmas-y smelling candle, some air freshener that I sprays and sniffed and almost died from (but I wouldn’t died with the smell of pumpkins!), and a birthday present for me.  I love birthday presents.  Have I told you that?  I also love my in-laws, and I know not everybody can say that.  They are truly great, and I am a better woman for having them in my life!

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The Pandas

We have been waiting since we got here to visit the Pandas until we could go with my mom and dad.  My dad likes zoos more than any kid I know, so we really wanted to experience this with him!pandas2Chengdu is the home of the Pandas.  There is a big reserve here that breeds pandas and is a lot like a zoo with only pandas.  It was beautiful and huge and more crowded than could ever be called comfortable.  It was the national holiday (my birthday) and unbeknownst to me it must have been the prearranged day for all people to go see the pandas.

pandas1Look at those babies!!  They were SO tiny, and well worth (mostly) the invasion of our personal space to see these precious little bears that looked like toys.  Then you see big ol’ MacDaddy chomping on his bamboo.  They actually strip the outer covering of the branch and eat the inside.  It was fascinating to see, and also fascinating to see just how fat these bears are!  You would think they’d be lean and mean with that diet…

pandas3I loved the red pandas.  They are adorable!  The one on the far right escaped from his fence and was walking around.  Look how close he is to Gracie’s shoes!  It is a little disturbing that there were signs everywhere saying how mean and temperamental these creatures are.  It said to be quiet and not to disturb them…yet we were 6 inches from one…we are choosing not to really think about it…

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Fancy Hair

There is this place that does hair in hopes that you will purchase something.  The somethings are extremely expensive, but the hairstyles are gorgeous.  The girls have been asking for months to go, but, well, it is way out of my comfort zone to go and not buy something, so I always said no.  Until mom came.  I knew it would be a good memory for them and something special, so I swallowed the gross feeling it gives me, and went.Hair1The ladies are super fast and very gracious.  They didn’t care at all that we weren’t buying things, and they did a fabulous job!  Gracie loved her hairstyle.  She kept it in and wore it the next day too.

hair3Faith reminded me of a little princess with her braid across her face.

hair2And Ellie.  Ellie was in typical form.  She threw a fit because she wanted this jewel thing they put on her.  It was $100usd!!  And because I told her no, she decided she didn’t like her hair anymore.  I thought it was adorable though.  I truly wish she would wear pigtails every day.  Or any day.  I’d even be happy if she would let me fix her hair…

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Jay.

Jaymie3I told you I was blessed beyond measure when it came to my friends.  This is my best friend.  I have known her for almost 12 years, and we are so alike it’s scary.  She is the one I can be a complete and utter dork with and still feel cool.  See that first picture?  We have the best friend charm.  You know the one.  The broken heart.  We got it before I moved here despite the laughs of our husbands and them calling us junior highers.  We were okay with that because it is something neither of us had in junior high, and well, because it did feel like our hearts were breaking.  One of my favorite memories of Jaymie is one of us in college.  We were new friends and were in the same math class.  We stopped before going into our class to take a test, sat on a couch and prayed together.  She is the first friend I ever did that with.  I love her a ridiculous amount and am so thankful He put us together.  She continually, as in monthly, sends me boxes of love.

jaymie2This box had birthday presents in it.  It was like a new wardrobe!  I got tanks and sweaters, jeans and a scarf.  Abundant.  But that is Jay.  She doesn’t do anything that isn’t over and beyond.  She’s like Texas hair…bigger and better.  Every month there is something special for me from her.  She loves to give gifts, and I truly love her gifts!

Jaymie1Not only does Jay bless us, her club is involved.  They are excited to support us and constantly supply needs and wants that arise.  Before we came, they overwhelmingly gave.  They supplied us coats and shoes and rain gear and sheets and everything else that was on my list of things to get before moving.  It was touching.  It was humbling.  It was a true act of sacrifice that we are daily thankful for.  Northridge will always be a part of our story, and we are so thankful for their giving hearts.

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Chronicles of China

CHAPTER 7

The house was still and silent, with no one needing anything because no one was here.  My Father was beckoning me to His feet, so I went and rested there.  The music was on, my eyes were closed, and I felt Him.  It was one of those wondrous moments that I long for…that I wish would occur every time I worship Him, but they seem so few because of my own distractions and inability to truly focus.  But today.  Ohhh today, my heart was overflowing with His goodness.  I got up, feeling as though I were floating on air to start the days chores. This house was going to be cleaned top to bottom with no one to interrupt or ask for something or make a mess after I just finished cleaning something.  It was going to be magical.

As I was dusting my room, I came to my husband’s side table where I saw his journal.  I had his permission to read it any time I wanted to, but it felt so private.  Like I was invading on his thoughts and going somewhere that maybe I didn’t need to be.  I cleaned around it and under it, and then sat back and pulled it into my lap.  As the pages fell open, I felt it…

It felt like Satan had unleashed a league of demons to attack me.

My heart began to race, tears began to pour down my face, and my heart was filled with a nameless fear.  The peace that just moments before I was reveling in, was shaken.  It was fading fast and I had no idea what was happening.  I began to pray and seek His peace and comfort.  I began to ask out loud for Him to send his angels to fight this battle.  I gritted my teeth and growled at the devil that he remove his demons now.

The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.                              -Samuel Chadwick

This kept rolling through my mind, and I recalled the struggle I had in the past of establishing daily times of quiet, and my reasoning was always because the days that I made an effort, and got up early, or blocked out time, those were the days that were the worst days.  Now I see with clarity the reason my days were bad.  Satan was attacking me on all fronts because I was praying in earnest.  Today was one of those days and if it took everything in me, the evil one would not prevail!  My God is bigger.  My God is MIGHTY.  He moves mountains and the seas bow to Him…what is one little fallen angel to Him?

So I began to pray harder through the tears.  When if felt like I was running a marathon and my heart would burst out of my chest and the fears would begin to overtake me, I would recite His promises and cry out to Him fervently to send His peace.  To rest my heart and remove my fears.  Songs began to fill my heart and move through my lips, then another attack would hit.

It was unlike anything I have ever experienced, but I knew exactly what it was…

War.

As a follower of the Mighty One, I am waging war daily in everything I do.  When I am closest to Him, the war’s intensity is increased.  When I begin to share my heart, the opposition rises with newfound energy.  But.

I John 4:4 says, “You, dear children, are from God, and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 

I serve a Mighty Father who is greater, stronger, and higher than any other.  He has called me to battle and, you know what, the battle won’t be fair.  The enemy will distract me, discourage me, scare me, and try to beat me down.  But you know what else?

I am equipped for this war.

Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.

1 Peter 5:8-9

I have been warned and it is now my job to be alert.  Especially when his attacks are unexpected and come from angles that I never would have seen.  The enemy isn’t stupid.  He knows my fears and weaknesses, and he is cruel enough to exploit them.  He is cunning and evil, and he steals joy.  He steals the high moments when my feet are off the ground and I feel light and free and excited about my future in a land not my own.  He lets the air out of my balloon and snickers as I feel the air slowly leaking out, and the despondency and old fears I thought were in the past resurface.

Then he shakes with rage and trembles in fear when I call out the name that is greater than all other names.

Jesus

He pulls at his hair, stomps his feet, shakes his fists and watches, knowing he is powerless.

Jesus

I am on the winning team.

 

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Mensingers sang it BIG

Cam’s best friend got his club together and organized a huge blessing that he sent our way.  This is only part of the extraordinary amount of wonderfulness we received.  The other part is unopened, waiting for us to get it from another city, so we can open and revel in its glory.

Josh1Cameron had grand plans for the reveal of these action packers contents.  So we stood around waiting for his instruction, being impatient in the most patient of ways.  I thought it was funny that the camera captured how Cam can’t talk without his hands…goes on my list of things to love about him.  And maybe to poke fun at him for.  But not in front of anyone…except you, of course.

Josh2Ellie was thrilled to find this gigantic box of Goldfish.  If I’m honest, so was I…because Goldfish make language learning way more fun!  And I know there is blur, but squint your eyes and imagine the weight of the super heavy TORTILLA PRESS I am holding!!  This will make my life so much easier.  And will allow tortillas to make an appearance a lot more often.

Josh3Cam is ready to impress the Chinese baseball fanatics with his legit (that word is just for Josh’s benefit) gear.  And do you see what I have?  Oh yeah.  Starbucks coffee beans.  Fuel for everyday living.  And that last one…it’s Cam trying to figure out the tortilla press. I hope that means he will want to use it.  Maybe even without me.

josh4I love this top left picture…it defines us, I feel.  We are together, loving being together, but all doing different things.  Or maybe it is just me doing my own thing.  Ha!  I do love to read.  And I love to read with my loves around me.  I also love A-1.  Maybe more than reading.  But it looks like Cam might not want to share with me…there were cheers when we saw the A-1!  And notice he still has his glove on…josh6

There were so many games!  Mario Kart was a HUGE hit.  The girls have loved playing it (so has Cam!), and the gloves are beautifully pink and soft and make great face masks.  Hopefully they got hand/eye coordination skills from their Dad…

josh5See the concentration and the fun??  I haven’t played yet.  I’d hate to beat them and ruin the fun, so I will wait a little bit.  It is also the middle of the day and Ellie is in a robe…and Cam is still in an undershirt.  We may be becoming Chinese…

IMG_6686Check it out!  I had to be Chinese here too and throw out the “Victory” peace sign (we say peace sign, but they say it is a victory sign).  Love our hats!  I plan to match Cam every chance I get.  I am sure he will love it.  Really.  Maybe as much as Ellie loves her Joshua, Bruce Family, camo shirt. 😉

JoshWoohoo!!  Cam will for sure be able to run faster and jump higher in those neon kicks.  I’m actually a little envious of those shoes, but I will bake my sorrows away in…my new pan (say that like a game show host and it will sound really cool.  I promise.)!  I have really missed my mini muffin pan, and cookie racks are such a must.  I didn’t even realize I used them that often in the states, but I must have because it seems like every time I baked something, I was wishing I had these.

Thanks so much for all the love Josh, Robin, Kelsey, Katie, Zeth, and Ovilla Family!

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