Friday, March 30, 2012

Circa 2012

I thought of entitling this entry something like, "Willow's Crib"--but I'm not nearly ghetto enough, and the joke might get lost on the fact that this is literally Willow's crib.

I'm going to be posting pictures of our home as it is set up currently. I haven't done that in a while, and it's always nice to have a mental picture of what a place looks like (since most of you have never been to our home). I am not posting this because I am particularly proud of our apartment, although I do have a special place for it in my heart. This is our first home as a married couple, and it is Willow's first home too.

We did not pick out the apartment. We didn't even know what it would look like until the moment we walked inside. Our boss picked us up from the airport three years ago and dropped us off at this place. It was furnished, but overly so. There was a ton of furniture in the living room. There were beds, but they were rock hard. There wasn't any bedding. It was hot (extremely hot and humid) and we had no air conditioning (wimps!) or FANS. We slept on the wood floor because cool air is closer to the ground. We were that pathetic. In the first few weeks of living in China, we began to amass our household: bedding, linens, kitchen tools, drying racks, appliances, and a fan. We also had maintenance workers help us out (our toilet, stove, washing machine...basically everything was out of order). So, some of the stuff we bought at the outset, I wish we hadn't. I wish we had held out for some nicer things.

We didn't choose our furniture either. It is what was provided by our company or by the landlord. This is a blessing, but it also means that preferences must be sacrificed. The one exception is Willow's room. When we first got here, this is what it looked like. Horror of all horrors! We didn't use that room for almost an entire year. Then it was a mini living room. Hence the couch. Now I regret the couch. I'm thinking of replacing it with an arm chair, but I still like the idea of being able to lay down in Willow's room. Maybe when she's done with this whole-getting-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-several-times thing.

Please excuse the crazy color scheme. It happened haphazardly, because we didn't know for sure if we were having a boy or a girl. But that's ok, this room isn't 'forever'. I'm sure it will continue to morph with time.

Hello, China! The view outside Willow's window. Those buildings across the street have been under construction since we arrived here. There are over thirty high rises they have been constructing--at a crazy fast rate.

Willow was helping me take pictures of her room. She is fun to hang out with.


Lately, I've been learning a lot. There's no way that I could put it all into words, and even if it was possible, I'm not sure that I would write about it on here. It's finally starting to hit me that I'm an adult. And maybe I will start to act like one. On paper, I'm an adult. I've finished college, gotten married, taught children, paid bills, traveled the world, had a baby, cleaned my house, took my vitamins. But there's lots of immaturity laced through me and the process of refining is painful. It's the act of ripping out that which is dishonorable and replacing it with that which honors Him. It leaves me mangled, hurting, and above all, hopeful.

Being a wife hurts. Being a mom hurts. It strikes where I am most vulnerable, most sensitive, most sinful. It attacks my pride, my self-worth, my motivation. It asks the tough questions, and leaves me with answers that I don't like. The answer is that I am undeserving of any good thing, because I am selfish, judgmental, prideful, and impatient (among other things). It brings me to my knees day in and day out.

What I'm learning is, I can't do it on my own. I really need a rescuer. The more I am confronted by my imperfections, the more I see how desperately I am in need of mercy. The more I am thankful for acceptance and unconditional love. In the midst of unworthiness, should I despair? No! I should not become discouraged by depravity, but I should rejoice because of grace. In this unbreakable promise, I can live freely. When I 'fail', it is only to my own standards, or the lies of this world. Of course, because of this grace, I should WANT to live by a higher standard. I should want to act towards others in a way that pleases Him. It is not because I have to out of obligation or payment. It is because of thankfulness and love.

I guess these are old lessons I've had to learn many times before, just applied in new ways. Being a mom is hard, and I often feel pressure to be a certain type of mom. If not a 'type', at least to be a 'good' mom. But what is a good mom? What do I think a good mom looks like? Does a good mom cook organically, clean daily, never turn the TV on? Does a good mom have supper cooked from scratch every evening, the dishes washed before dessert is served? Does a good mom find all the 'right' activities for their kids and make sure reading is emphasized in their daily schedule? Does a good mom wake up with a smile? Does a good mom remember to eat her lunch everyday? Do her children behave perfectly?

When does she find time to hang out with her friends, watch a movie, clip her nails, exercise, buy toilet paper?

Not that any of these things are bad, but do they equate godly mothering? I read this blog post a little while ago and it really encouraged me. I've been reading this blog for six-ish years, and as I've read the writer's thoughts, so true and relevant, I really wanted to emulate her mindset. It's so encouraging, as a young mom, to be able to read words like these. There are other posts that she's written over the years that have had the same level of impact in my life. I should try to find those particular posts again; but really, I recommend her blog in its entirety. I've re-read this particular entry several times this week. I recommend it to anyone who is a mom, or will one day be a mom. It is very insightful. Here are some of my personal reflections stemming from that post:

I used to think that I had to choose between teaching and being a mom. I wanted to do both, but knew that in our current situation, it would be impossible for me. It was a difficult decision, and if not for an equally difficult year, I never would have been able to step down from teaching as happily as I did. I admit that I fell in love with being a mom. How could I not? It is a slippery slope. Soon, I was placing the same expectations I had on myself as a teacher, onto being a mom. When I was a teacher, I wanted to be a good one. I marked fulfillment on whether or not I was achieving success as a teacher. This could be done in a number of ways, and that's natural--because it was a job. Being a mom is more than a job.

First of all, it's 24/7.'re dealing with the formation of little lives. It is easy to get confused between wanting the best for your child, with wanting to be the best at raising your child. My success was in teaching, and I wanted it to be in mothering. But really, my success is in Him. And that's the bottom line. Wanting to have perfectly behaved, beautiful, talented, smart kids...that's a desire of the flesh. Of course, I want the best for Willow, but placing pressure on her to BE the best, for my benefit (to feel successful at what I have 'chosen' to do). As Willow grows up, I don't want to teach her that appearances are everything by enforcing perfect behavior. Especially in public--what does it matter what other people think? It is my tendency (as a type A personality), and so I want to acknowledge that legalistic parenting is destructive when taken to its natural conclusions.

But most importantly, I want to remember that even though Willow brings so much joy (and challenges!) to my life, she is not here for me. I catch myself thinking that all the time! She is such a sweet heart, so much fun, and I like spending time with her everyday. She makes my heart glad, I rejoice in this gift of time that I have with her. But she isn't here for me. Each day she needs me less and less, and one day she won't need me at all. I want to let go of her in a healthy way and not cling her like she is mine. She isn't mine to cling to. It is our human tendency to possess, but it is our calling to surrender. We moms are like the rich man, who could not relinquish his treasure. It is easier for a camel to walk through an eye of a needle.

What do I mean, then, when I say I want the best for her? I want her to love her Maker at an early age. I want her to never know the sorrow of a wayward path. I don't want her to fear man. I desperately want her to be in the center of His plan for her life. I want her to follow His voice. Not mine.

She isn't here to bring ME happiness, or a feeling of success. She isn't here to bring me personal fulfillment, and I want to release her from that sort of pressure. Even though I might find happiness in taking care of her, and we might experience moments of success, it isn't the point. My ultimate job is to form a genuine relationship with Him, and to demonstrate His love to this precious little girl as best I can. I need to live for him first and foremost. This is the hardest part for me! How to be in a vital relationship, consistently and faithfully, when life demands every ounce of energy and leaves me feeling like a failure--or at least like a tub of ice cream would taste lovely. How to aspire to a vibrant walk, when all I think about is taking a nap?

I'm guilty of coming off as a child-worshiper, because I write a lot about Willow on here and post gobs of pictures. Partly, it's because we're far from family and many of our friends--so I want to help them stay connected. I don't want to give an inaccurate picture of my heart, however. I love Willow. I want the best for her. She isn't my career. She isn't the marker of my success. And ultimately, she isn't here for me. She is here for Him.

In the meantime, I will love her just the way she is. I will accept her, always. And I will probably always take pictures of her, and post them on here, as long as she will let me. :)

Here is what the Little Women tickets look like. Very exciting!

It's been a while since I've posted pictures of our home. This is what our guest room looks like right now. Although, it might look a bit different after this weekend.

Living in China has taught me a few things about making a home:
-be thrifty (except, there's no thrift stores, just markets). See my cheap-o version of a vanity? Haha. The curtains I had made at a market, as well. This room was decorated on a dime, basically.
-be sparse. We aren't living in China forever, so don't bog yourself down with possessions. Every item you purchase is something you'll end up having to sell or throw away someday. I'm guilty of buying too much, as it is.
-be unattached. Nothing really belongs to you. Not your furniture (it's the landlords, usually), not your apartment (your landlord could sell it or want to change the contract, and that usually means moving), and not ANYTHING really. I love our apartment now, but I constantly remind myself that it isn't 'mine', and I never know how long I will get to live in this place. Really, this is the mindset we should have no matter where we live. You can't take it with you. It's not really your home. Store your treasure where moth and rust don't destroy. Where landlords don't own the furniture. Where contracts don't expire.

The wardrobe on the left is where I hang my clothes. Our wardrobes don't fit in our bedroom (they can't get through the hallway). I have a little project in mind, however. I don't know why I didn't do this before! I'm going to move Adam's wardrobe where that little hutch is. Then I'll move the hutch back into the living room. I'm going to take some fabric and line the inside of the glass panels with it, to 'hide' the contents from view. I also need to fix the bottom cabinet door (whoops!). This is where we store all our medicine cabinet items and toiletries/linens. Our home is in serious need of storage, like most apartments here. Hopefully, with this move of furniture, our home will make a little more sense (Adam's clothes wont be in the living room anymore, which is a point of marital tension. lol), and we will have room for a toy box. I'll keep you posted on this change. We'll see if it works.

What a weird post! I was all over the place! I've been a blogging freak this month. I need to go to bed. My head is pounding, and I'm sure Willow will wake up at least twice tonight. She just refuses to sleep through the night! It's exhausting business, but I just remind myself that 'this too shall pass'. I'll remember these nights fondly. Someday soon, I hope. Adam will be staying up all night, his second lock-in of the semester. Which means tomorrow will be interesting (I need to work, he needs to sleep, Willow needs caring)--and tonight will be long with just me to tend to the sleepless babe. Good night moon!

Willow's Friends

The internet is being testy today. It took a lot longer than usual to upload these pictures because my browser kept crashing! Internet troubles are pretty frequent over here, though, so I shouldn't be too surprised. Today, Willow and I finally participated in a mom's group--we have never been able to go for one reason or the other. It was fun to get out of the house for a play date, and to socialize with other moms. When we first arrived I took a few pictures of Willow's special friends Madeline and Emma-Mae. She loves these girls, and will miss playing with them every week when they move back to America this summer. :(

Madeline loves to say Willow's name, and gives her lots of kisses and hugs.

Emma-Mae is such a cutie! She was cooing and smiling me a lot from her spot on the floor.

The girls look like they are shocked about something.

Willow getting some more love from her other sweet friend.

Sorry, Willow! I just had to post this crazy picture of you.

They stayed very busy the entire time. It is good for Willow to play with other kids, especially since she needs to learn how to share and to be gentle. She didn't bite anyone, which was good. She sometimes bites people when she is giving kisses. We left after Willow managed to gag on a piece of plastic and threw up. Oi. I think her ability to pick up small objects and put them into her mouth has been the most annoying skill she's developed so far. It's an important skill, I know, but it often backfires. She needs to learn what is food, and what is not food. :)


A Little Embarrassing

"You did WHAT?"
"So, then I was like, 'Please, just eat the cheerio off the floor'...And he did it!"

They have the same expression.

"Pleeeeeease. Cheerios are for BABIES. Clearly, I'm to sophisticated for this dribble."

For every sweet picture of Willow that we have, there are at least five out of focus. For every cute expression that is captured, we have at least three crazy faces. I've decided to start posting her less-than-glam looks, because when I stumble upon them every once in a while, I just have to laugh! These are sort of funny, but I promise, I have MORE (on Adam's computer) that are hysterical.

Willow was up from 5-6:15 am this morning, for no apparent reason. I finally got her to fall back asleep, but then I was wide awake. At least I don't have to stay up all night tonight. Adam has another lock-in to sponsor. Lock-ins are over rated.


Layers of the Earth

Once in a while, I like to look at the statistics for this blog. I think it's interesting to see how many people are viewing my blog, where they're from, how they found it, etc. What stands out as the most interesting, however, is the number of people that visit this blog because of the Layers of the Earth projects that I posted pictures of over a year ago. There's just a few pictures of some student work that Adam's science class worked on. No explanation. No tutorials. No DIY.

Yet, this is the hottest topic on this blog! So weird! This week, 60 people viewed that post.

The next most popular post is another group of pictures I took of some biome flip books my students worked on last year. They were nothing fancy to look at, and are not extremely creative either. It was just a way for the students to synthesize their knowledge at the end of a very long unit.

I know I am vain (isn't that the whole reason I check my stats?), so it just rubs my narcissism the wrong way when out of all the 'interesting' posts and 'great' pictures that I put forth are out-shined month after month by layers of the earth projects and biome flip books! What tripe and nonsense!

Actually, I'm not that mad about it. Not as mad as tripe. It fascinates me that the average person who reads my blog and is not friend or family, is always someone looking up ideas for a science project. These are either desperate teachers, or uninspired students. I don't know. Take that, Layers-of-the-Earth-stalkers!


Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I love technology.

Willow will grow up in a world inundated by it.

It plays games. It shows movies, and pumps out music. It keeps life organized, connected to the world. It gives news updates and helps us call family and friends. It is entertainment. It is work. It is my recipe book. Technology has replaced so much already, I wonder what the world will be like in ten more years.

In the picture above, you can see Willow on the couch. Although it doesn't give proof, Willow can climb onto the couch by herself now. Using sheer strength, she pulls herself up. Or using cunning, she stands on her baby doll's head to get an extra boost. I like her ruffle-diaper-butt.

Willow enjoys talking to family on skype while eating cheerios. She understands when we call someone that she's about to see familiar faces on the screen. She gets very excited (claps her hands, ooohs, and grins from ear to ear) and prances around on her tip toes while banging her arms against the couch.

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Although, sometimes she gets board and has to go find something else to entertain her for a few moments. She just can't sit still!


Tradition + Characters = Eternal Truth

You may know that the written language of Mandarin uses characters, and not letters, to communicate words and ideas. I've heard that you need to know at least 2,000 characters just to be able to read a simple newspaper. There are thousands more that should be studied in order to be considered well-educated. There is little phonics to be learned when studying characters. It's mostly memorization and repetition that helps to learn and understand characters. Those that have a deeper understanding of the characters, and why they mean what they do, amaze me. I was speaking with one such amazing person the other day. She wrote down some information for me, and I just had to share it.

The first thing you should know about these pictures is that they are traditional Chinese characters. Meaning, most of China does not use these anymore, and only those who live in Hong Kong or are interested in studying traditional characters on their own would have any knowledge of them. In recent decades, traditional characters have been replaced by the simplified versions--which in most cases, are much simpler to read and write. However, the rich history connected with the evolution of Chinese characters is sometimes lost in the simplified version. In ancient times, characters sprouted as a form of written language in Asia--and many of the characters resembled the thing which they represented. A form of pictographs. Ancient versions of graphics and typography. As the centuries unfolded, the characters changed as well. It's similar in some regards to the formalizing of spelling and definitions in the English language. Characters became more standard and functional, and in some ways--less like pictures. This is my very primitive understanding, of what has been communicated to me by several Chinese friends, of how characters have evolved. But if you look it up, there are sometimes dozens and dozens of examples of how one character has changed throughout history. It's neat to see the earliest version and compare it to what is used today. Sometimes there are still similarities, and sometimes you would never know it was the same word unless you saw the progression.

So, the first thing you should know is that these are traditional characters (not in usage in mainland China). The second thing is that characters are composed of radicals. It's similar to how English words are composed of letters. But it is a little more complicated than that. Each little section of a character is its own radical with its own meaning. If you know the meanings of the radicals, you can guess at what unknown characters mean based on the radicals that compose them. It's a type of "phonics". It has nothing to do with sounds, rather it is about meanings. So, the following pictures and stories are of traditional characters (that can be traced by centuries in history, or at least forms of these characters), that have been pulled apart (radical by radical) to show an interesting interpretation. Of course, I can't take credit for knowing any of this, since I am no expert in Chinese. I've had people explain other characters to me before, but these were really interesting and I didn't want to forget them.

Looooong explanation..........sorry!

Here we go!

This is a simple one. I noticed this when I first learned the character a few years ago. It's the character for "hao" which means "good". It's used in many phrases and is a common descriptive word. In fact, we live in "San Hao Jie" (literally, Third Good Street). The first half of the character (on the left), is actually a separate word when its by itself. It means 'girl'. The right half of the 'hao' character is a radical that when standing on its own means, 'boy'. So, if you put the girl and the boy together, it means 'good'. Cute!

Now it starts to get interesting. This character is for 'righteousness', (yi). Take the two portions (the top half and the bottom half) and they can actually be two separate characters with their own meanings (if separated). The top half means, 'sheep', and the bottom half means 'I' or 'me'. Thus, the Lamb is our righteousness.

Here is the character that means 'complete' or 'finish' (wan). Let's look at the bottom half first. It is composed of several features. The first being the two horizontal lines, which is how you write the number two. The very bottom is how you write the character for 'people'. And if you put those two radicals together, it means 'first' or 'garden'. Now, the top portion of the character, if written separately, carries the meaning of "home". So, if you put it together: first + home = complete. I was told that perhaps this is a link back to the beginning days, when the VERY first home, was in a garden, and there were two people placed in it; and it was COMPLETE. Probably some interesting eternal truths that could be taken from this.

Here is the traditional character for 'yuan', which holds the meaning for 'garden'. There are several components to this character as well, and if separated, hold their own individual meanings. First, there is the top portion (inside the box), that looks like a cross standing on a line. This is the character for 'dust'. Underneath that is a small square--which is the character for 'mouth' or 'breath'. Underneath that is a character that looks something like the English letter, K--which means 'two persons'. The box the encloses all the other radicals indicates the meaning for 'enclosure'. All together, these markings create the character for 'garden'. I was told that this rings true of a story, once again from those very early days. Days when a man was breathed into life from dust, when two people were placed in a safe place, an 'enclosure' that was prepared especially for them. A perfect place, a garden. I was also told that the pronunciation sounds something like the word, "Eden". Interesting.

Next up is the word 'chuan'. Translated, it means 'boat' or 'ship'.
On the left side is a radical which by itself form a separate character--when by itself, it means 'vessel'. On the top right, is the radical which stands for the number 'eight'. Below that is a small square which means, 'mouth'. Using your powers of inference, if there are eight mouths, there must be eight PEOPLE. Where are these people? On a vessel. Eight people on a vessel? Somehow this idea birth the character for the word used to describe a ship or a boat. Sounds familiar....sounds like eight people of heard of in history who obeyed a seemingly foolish command to build a boat. Even when it had never rained before. Whenever we see a rainbow, we are to remember a certain promise. Eight people in a vessel = boat. It's very interesting to wonder HOW China knew about this centuries ago. The power of spoken words, rhetoric, oral tales! It's interesting to speculate the story moving from village to village, across time, over the Silk Road...

Right away, I recognized the top portion of this character. All together, these marking for the traditional character which means 'forbidden' or 'to warn' ('jin'). The top half is actually two parts which mean the same thing, 'tree'. When you put two 'tree' characters together, it becomes plural ('two trees' or 'trees'). On a side note, when you put three of these ('lin') characters together, it means "forest". Fascinating! Anyway, here you have two trees. The bottom is the character in the abbreviated form for 'God'. Thus, two trees + a supreme being = forbidden/to warn. That should bring another tale to mind.

Almost done! Thanks for bearing with me on this long post. I also apologize for being a little vague at times, but it's due to 1) my vast ignorance on this subject, and 2) I'm a little nervous. Next is the traditional character for 'create' (zao). If broken up into it's basic components, the characters for 'speak', 'dust/mud', 'life', and 'walk' can be found. Speak something (or someone) from the dust into life and to walk with. Hmmmmm....Another familiar story.

Finally, here is the character for 'tempter' ('mo'). There are lots of little pieces in this one, so I'll just tell you what they are: 'secret', 'man', 'garden', 'alive'. If you put all those radicals together, it forms the character for 'devil' (gui). There's more! Above the character for 'devil', there are the familiar looking 'two trees'. Around these two portions is the radical which means 'cover'. A man, alive in the garden. He has a secret. Something to keep hidden. He fashions a covering for himself and his wife. They have disobeyed, and taken from the tree they were forbidden to eat from. They were tempted by the devil. Once again, this character, altogether, means "tempter". So interesting!


Trench Coat

Just a few pictures to share today. Nothing is edited, but maybe after I work on these pictures I'll have a few more to share!