Monday, May 30, 2011

Emma and Erin...Keepin' Busy

There are definitely times when the girls long for our Arizona home - they miss family, non-scary/stinky/squatty toilets, drive-thrus, and Target (they are, of course, MY children - and I mall those same things). I truly hope and believe that they will one day really appreciate this experience as something super special. In addition to the travel and culture that they are exposed to, they have also had the opportunity to try a few activities that they may not have been able to do so easily in the states due to lack of time/money/resources. Here are some pics of them exploring their talents:

Emma takes a Chinese painting class from a local art teacher. This is one of our favorites - we also had it matted and framed because custom framing is CHEAP!

Erin also takes an art class from a (different) local art teacher. So far she has worked with oil pastels and clay.

Both girls have been taking piano lessons from a friend in our neighborhood. Here they are in front of our building just before their "recital" in the gym.

Here they are with their teacher, Michelle. She is wonderful and we are going to MISS her when she leaves for college this summer.

Emma really wanted to learn to play guitar but I couldn't find her a teacher so she decided to try piano and loves it!

Erin loves any chance to be in front of an audience - if you'd like to see her "live" performance check our website. I will post the video soon!

Here is Erin enjoying an after school activity - Irish dancing which was taught by someone actually Irish from Ireland!

Emma is also getting some babysitting experience. She watches our little friend Julie (and sometimes her brother Nathan) - Julie is two and just adores Emma. I (or Julie's mom) are always in the neighborhood just in case, but Emma has done a great job showing responsibility and has quite the knack for nurturing.

Last fall the three of us girls bought rollerblades so we could have some fun outdoors together. I do okay unless I need to stop - then I am rather terrified. I have discovered that the older I get the more frightening the idea of falling becomes. I told the girls I will practice without them so I don't have to worry about their taunting. I do have the medical clinic on speed dial...

And to conclude I will leave you with a typical Erin farewell:

Friday, May 6, 2011


Okay, so there is definitely some irony in the subject of my last post which is entitled "Distractions". My sister, Jessica, lovingly pointed out to me that I am in the midst of a six month DISTRACTION since my most recent blog was in November. What can I say...

I am not sure how I will catch up on six months worth of life. To be honest, most of it is just that: life. The daily stuff of school, work, shopping, making dinner - definitely not blog-worthy. Here is an abbreviated version of the highlights - November thru now. (Except for Spring Break - I will do a separate post for that...someday).

In school, as a vocabulary review activity, Emma had to "be" the word examine. This is one of the things I love most about living on campus and not working full-time - I can be at school for the girls for every 30-second presentation.

Thanksgiving 2010 was spent in Hong Kong - lovely weather, good food, and Starbucks with Chai lattes! It's a great city!
We spent the day at Hong Kong Disneyland - it's a much smaller park but still feels like Disneyland. How cute is the subway that took us right into to the park?

Erin celebrated her 6th birthday in AZ with her cousins.

Celebrating Christmas and catching up with cousin Jacob.

We had the pleasure of spending another Chinese New Year in Dalian - friends, time off, and plenty o'fireworks! Mike got to help launch this show right in our neighborhood - 45 minutes of spectacular explosions.

This was part of the festivities downtown - we stayed at one of the hotels with a big group of friends. You'd think they would shut down the streets during all of the exploding extravaganza, but nope, cars were driving by and little girls were out in the streets (just for a quick photo op, then she was on the sidewalk with me!)

Erin making dumplings - a major Chinese tradition for this time of year.

In February, Mike went to Vietnam on a business trip. I flew out at the end of the week and we spent the weekend exploring Ho Chi Minh City - there are NO WORDS to describe the sheer volume of motorbikes on the road. I loved the energy of it all but was glad I didn't have to worry about the girls being mowed down by a scooter!

We took a tour bus out to the Chu Chi Tunnels where the Vietcong lived and fought during the "American War" (yes, I was confused too - to them it is the American War, to us, it will always be the Vietnam War). The Vietnamese people are SMALL - I could barely move in the tunnel and can't imagine making a life inside that sweltering and dark space.

My baby girl lost her first tooth!

Well, it's not much but it's a start! Hope you feel a bit caught up! I do!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


So how's this for being easily distracted? I typed in the title of this blog and then got up to go fix myself a cup of coffee...seriously, what is wrong with me? I am determined to sit in this chair until I have completed and posted an entire read-worthy blog. This determination comes in spite of the fact that the girls are busy playing with a friend and it has been almost 48 hours since I have watched an episode of Grey's Anatomy...

To begin, I must apologize for all the times I rolled my eyes in the teacher's lounge when all conversation came to a standstill so that my colleagues could dissect the latest episode of Grey's. I never could commit to watching the weekly show - I think it fell on my karate night for one, and for two - I just couldn't imagine being that obsessive about a TV show. Now I am currently on season three and having to force myself to slow down the viewing because I think I will literally grieve when I am all caught up! The pull to watch - commercial-free, one episode after another - is some ways I am grateful that I am able to watch without having to wait a week in-between but now I realize how much I missed out because I was not part of the lunchroom chatter... Now, I watch ALONE - sometimes I bore Michael with some crazy emergency room drama or I talk to my girlfriends who were fans before but are not currently caught in the web of McDreamy, McSteamy, and McDrama galore.

The computer is also a source of distraction for me but not because I am emailing long lost friends and family...not because I am spending hours catching up on Facebook....not because I am working on a novel or organizing my life in photos...NO, I spend hours looking at bedroom furniture or remodeling ideas for the kitchen. We may be completing our relocation assignment this summer or we may be completing it next December. We just don't know for sure at the moment. I guess I have been a little homesick because I have been obsessing about what's to come for us. What school the girls will attend, what car I will drive, what color I will paint the bedroom. It's a major distraction...but, it makes me happy and Mike is great about humoring me and joining in the search for the perfect refrigerator.

I wouldn't say part-time work necessarily qualifies as a distraction but more a time-consumer. Since August I have been job sharing a part-time position as an instructional assistant for a first grader at the school. It's only a few mornings a week and it only requires me showing up (no planning, grading, etc.). But the fact is, here in China you can't get much done in a half day so on my non-work days I shop and catch up on things (not my blog obviously) but on phone calls, reading, and Grey's Anatomy. Also, I have added to my resume proofreader/, if you talk to my mom, she'll tell you I have been in the proofreading/grammar correcting business since I was about six years old. My mom may also tell you that at times this was a gift (in school) as well as a curse (I never missed an opportunity to correct her pronunciation of a word or her incorrect grammar). Anyway, for the past year a fellow expat who is from the Czech Republic has been working on her doctoral dissertation and I have been helping her with her English in all phases of its publication. Most recently, her 157-page draft to be presented this month. I did not edit for content or formatting - just proper English. It was a challenge but I think we were both pleased with the final outcome.


In other news, I can now buy turkey breast - this is HUGE! Any kind of deli meat has been non-existent here and there are days when all I have wanted was a freakin' turkey sandwich. Now all I need is a good avocado - and by "good" I mean one ripe to perfection and under $8.

Later this week we are off to Hong Kong to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family away from family, the Flennaughs. We will hit Disneyland one day and eat great food every day. I am very excited :)

The girls received their report cards this week and I couldn't be prouder - Emma got her first report card with grades and has all As and one B+ in Science. She has had to work really hard this year - about an hour of homework a night and every weekend. Erin has just taken off and loves to read and write (so much in fact that she has gotten in trouble for writing on walls, on floor mats, in books - never a problem when she was two but now, when she's almost six!). Her teacher also says she has an "aptitude for math". She doesn't get that from me...

Whew! This is a long one! Thanks for hangin' in there! Now I am off to reward myself for finishing what I started...Grey's Anatomy and a turkey sandwich - McYummy!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Just Another Day in China...

Every now and then we get notices about upcoming power outages or the water being turned off in our area - these are the good days - because we actually get some notice. There are other days when the faucet doesn't produce water and the refrigerator goes eerily may last 10 minutes, it may last a few hours. It's all good times.

Last week we received notice about an upcoming 12-hour water turn off (8pm-8am). Now this is inconvenient - my morning shower is non-negotiable on most days, especially when I have to go to work. *Quick note: My "work" is at the school - I am a part-time aide for a first grader with a learning disability. Just a few mornings a week...more on this later.* Anyway, yesterday the timing of the water turn-off was changed to be 24 hours beginning this morning at 8am. So, the bathtub is filled, we have plenty of drinking water and the girls and I have an unexpected Tuesday off because you can't have school without being able to flush a toilet or wash grubby little hands.

In other news, the weather is chilly (about 46 degrees) and rainy and winter is moving in more quickly than anyone around here would like. My mom and Jessica visited us for a couple of weeks and we dragged them all over (during a crazy Chinese holiday no less). If you haven't checked our website lately, there are new pictures and a link to a youtube video that Mike put together ( We've been busy and I know I need to update my blog with all of our goings on. Who knows, maybe today, my random free Tuesday, will be the day when I catch up...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What's LOFE got to do with it? My Life as a "Trailing Spouse" Installment 2

Ahh...lofe, it's a beautiful thing... and no, it isn't a Chinese word or some newly discovered foreign delight. Let me put it in context: It's All About Lofe Between You and Me.

One of my favorite pastimes here my world of chopsticks and Chinglish is making observations and performing mental edits on signs, in menus, and especially on clothing (which is where I found lofe...). When out with a friend we even went so far as to purchase a shirt for another friend because it read: New Maxico State. I can't even remember how badly they botched the word Albuquerque, but trust me, it was comical. I have had discussions with my language teacher about this topic - why would people wear clothing with English words on them without knowing what exactly it said? I have seen a guy wearing a shirt that said '100% Girl' in blingy bedazzled lettering and a girl with the word 'Blondie' on her shirt though I'd be hard pressed to find a blond Chinese girl. The truth of it is, according to my teacher, is that young people really love all that is American and they see English writing and want to show that they are modern, hip, and fashionable. I appreciate this, I do. I just wish the people producing such garments would enlist the help of a native speaker of English. Then again, if the world of signage was all made right, a favorite pastime of mine would disappear. I think for now I can safely say that this Amerikan Gril can sit back and Injoy Lofe.

It's hard to discreetly snap photos of funny shirts, but here are a couple of signs for you to ponder...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Here We (They) Go!

Not sure how this happened, but my girls are now in third grade and kindergarten. They have been back in school for a week and they are both thrilled with their teachers. And because there are only two classes per grade level, they see mostly the familiar faces of friends. It's all good!

There is something bittersweet about sending them off to school for a new year. Ahhhh...the peace and seemingly constant declarations of "I'm hungry" or "I'm bored" need to bust out my referee gear or to find creative ways to get out of playing Barbies (let's face it, the only thing I'm good for in the Barbie world is hairstyling and finding a random shoe that they have looked EVERYWHERE to try to find). At the same time, each new school year means they are growing up. I am so grateful that they are growing up healthy, happy, and even though we are so far from home, they have love and support from so many great people. You know who you are...thank you!

Here are a few pics to enjoy...

Emma, my third grader (gasp!), and Erin, my kindergartener (sob!), ready for their first day and second year of school at Dalian American International School.

I really have quite a collection of photos of Erin and her larger than life smile. Someday, I will compile a book...graduation from high school or for her wedding perhaps.

The kids don't know who their teacher is until the day school starts. The specials teachers wore funny hats that said, "Ask me" and they got to deliver the good news. This is Ms. G - she is the EL teacher and works in Emma's class every day.

Emma is all smiles waiting in line. Her teacher, Ms. Hunt, is there in the blue shirt.

The first day was too crazy to take photos of the girls and their teachers so this was day two. Mr. Krumtinger is about 6 foot 10 and the kids ADORE him.

Looking forward to a great year and lots of growing (sigh...)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer Highlights

After a canceled flight in Korea resulted in a 40+ hour journey back to China, we are finally "home". While in the states, I did a rather admirable job of stimulating Arizona's economy (you're welcome Starbucks, Kohl's, and Target). And after unpacking all 360 pounds (yes, Mike did the math) of goods, I am feeling somewhat settled back into my China life. The girls and I had a glorious five weeks of life in America and Mike joined us for three of the five. Here are some of the highlights...

Less than 24 hours after we touched down in Phoenix, we were at the salon visiting our good friend Shelly and getting Emma's hair CHOPPED. With my Starbucks in one hand and camera in the other, we bid farewell to her beautiful braid....

...and we couldn't be happier! How adorable is she in this cut? Thanks Shelly! Way to go Emma!

If you haven't read the previous blog post about Emma's remarkable hair growth and her plans for her braid, be sure to check it out.

We met our new neighbor! Payton Rae was loved and adored by all - Emma has already figured out that Payton will be four when she is able to babysit. (And she's already begun negotiations for a cell phone and her own house key as part of her babysitting repertoire.)

My baby girl celebrated her 8th birthday in patriotic style on the 4th of July. Thanks to Grandma for the festive cake(s) and thanks to Elisha and Jeff for hosting!

The girls spent lots of time with their cousins, Griffin and they are just before the REAL fun began...

Oh YEAH!! A little slip-n-slide...props go out to Uncle Neal and Aunt Jess for joining in. What great memories for the kids (and really, for the adults too, who lived through you vicariously). Good times...

Just had to include this pic of my brother...there is also a video floating out there I said, good times!

Dinners out, swimming, and attacks by Wolverine and his pirate-mutant sidekick. Here is Mike valiantly defending himself against the dynamic duo.

Mike and I took a little side trip toward the end of our home leave. We headed off to San Francisco and Las Vegas to spend some time together and to visit with friends.

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Coming soon...a pic from our Vegas trip...hopefully one prior to my (four? five?) Cherry Limeades :)
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We sure miss having weekends away and nice dinners out - our China life is not so conducive to that kind of thing. It was a great time - fabulous friends, delicious food, and foreigners at every turn - gotta admit, I love NOT being a foreigner. Blending in = Bliss

Here we are as we began our journey to our China home...the girls and I were upgraded to first class for our flight from Phoenix to San Francisco. We were super excited but unfortunately not excited enough to stay awake - we slept the entire flight!

After five weeks in our home state - despite temperatures of 110 degrees - it was tough to return to China. I love America for its civilized drivers, its beautiful bathrooms, its well-lit, well air-conditioned stores, its unending restaurant choices, its limitless TV channel options, and most of all for its proximity to our family and friends. I am sincerely grateful that we are able to make trips home as part of this overseas assignment - it really makes life here better when you have a home leave to look forward to. And something else we look forward to? Visitors! My mom and sister (aka Aunt Jess) will arrive at the end of September and we are counting down the days!

And once again, I find myself at the conclusion of a blog with a photo that really doesn't have a place or a purpose but it's just so stinkin' cute...