Saturday, September 22, 2018


Unfortunately, two years have slipped by - undocumented - in this little online diary of mine. And so much has come to be. Our family has moved on and grown, our careers have changed, our lives have become busy, sports and activities have taken over, and truly ... some days have been easier than others. Many times I've reflected on this outlet and wondered if I should pick up the laptop again, and begin sharing our life. Then something comes up and I don't. But today, as I read back through the many blog entries, I smiled; because without this... All the Fine Points become forgotten so easily. And I looked at my world and thought about the mom groups that I'm a part of and how much I love to share our stories - good and bad. And I thought about all the amazing family we have living other places in the country who only see the upbeat tid-bits shared on Facebook or Instagram, and I felt moved to share more.

So, here I am, hoping to catch up on some of my favorites from the last two years and hoping to capture a little of the coming two years. Because then, my friends, I'll be hitting 40 with 4 children between preschool and high school, and I'll most likely be wondering how I ever got there.

Stay tuned 💜

Monday, September 19, 2016

Shang-high Days

Being an expat, you often hear about the highs and lows of living abroad, as if we are all on a never ending, unexpected roller coaster. Some days run you ragged and you can barely keep your head above waters, wondering how to survive in a community where you cannot communicate, being forced through four different grocery stops just to prepare one nights dinner, or having to find alternate transportation from a personal vehicle because someone else in the family needs the van, the driver has the day off, or frankly - it's just easier.

In the last 2.5 years here, the highs, for me, have never really been highs. Yes, I've loved living here, experiencing all there is to see and do on a daily basis. Don't get me wrong... I'm more than appreciative for this opportunity. But to really feel a "high" off of this lifestyle - to truly feel it's better than home - it just doesn't happen frequently.

But today was truly a Shang-high day. Just when something started to go in the ass-backwards-typical-China-fashion, I was pleasantly surprised with the culture and freedom that we have here....

To start, I've been on the hunt for a crib for the new bundle that is around the corner. Jarin and I have agreed that spending $1000+ on baby furniture is no longer of interest to us, so we went the second hand route. Meaning, I bought a cot off a Facebook buy & sell page. It's from Germany, it's basic, it's used, it was delivered for free to my door, and it was a decent price. But there was no mattress. Low and behold, I found a mattress for less than $10. Perfect. So the girls and I assembled it all last night...

Well, not so much... Off to IKEA I went to figure out a back up plan -- I now have a mattress that fits.

... I just so happened to also come home with a shower curtain to cover the random window in Alayna's shower (weird, right?!?!) and a huge piece of unfinished fabric to create an oversized runner for my kitchen table. Without a handy bone in my body, I wasn't sure how I would make either work, so I stopped at my local friend's alteration shop to get assistance. This sign was on the door... so I assumed that reads she is closed.

Without any Mandarin skills, I couldn't call her, so I just hauled my stuff back through the migrant village, with resident after resident staring at me.  I charaded to Wu, my driver "méiyǒu work", to which he figured out that she was still off for the Moon Festival holiday. Wu pointed to his hem on his jeans and said the few words he knows in English: "same, same. I know." And so I got back in the van and patiently waited as he drove me to an uncovered-by-expats-community.

We walked up the 2 flights of stairs (which he was very concerned that I'd be unable to do pregnant), stepped over a few kids eating noodles, rounded carts in the middle of the aisles, and ignored the jackhammering happening above us. Until we reached this woman...

She sat in the back corner of a shoe store that is no bigger than a standard walk-in closet, and worked between 5 various sewing machines. We threw our projects down on the shoes which were for sale, and then when she was ready, I did charades a bit more until she really understood how I wanted the runner framed, how much to cut off the shower curtain, how I was annoyed with the unfinished cuff on my maternity denim shorts, and my frustration with a new shirt that already tore on the seam.

Wu monitored her work, and I waited patiently as bits from the ceiling fell atop of me from the jackhammering.

 After about 25 minutes, she had all 4 projects finished, and when I asked "duōshǎo qián" she told me 30RMB. As in less than $6.00. I was floored! And look at how great the projects turned out.

 Then, for the last few days, Paisley (yes, my 3-year-old) has been asking for her toilet to be cleaned. Granted, there was a growing ring around the interior. But let's be real, I'm pregnant, I fired the ayi, and we just got home from vacation. So the reality of it getting done last week or even in the coming days was slim. So before going to bed last night, she says, "tomorrow you have two jobs mommy: find my purse and clean my toilet."

On it. So a new ayi started today.

I was skeptical as I've been with all four of the previous ones I've had. Some have spoke slight English, some none at all. Some have been good with babies, some not so much. None have been good at cleaning or ironing, and that's kinda the point.... so they haven't stuck around. 

But this one... amazing. She even cleaned the floor in my laundry room. Even changed the garbage without asking... all on day 1.

So, here I am today, living the Tai Tai life. All the good falling into place -- my driver rocks! I have an ayi who actually knows what she's doing, and above all else, I used the local services for a fraction of the cost and with great success! Days like this make it fun to live in Shang-high!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bedtime Routines

Every night I have the joys of tucking my three precious babies into bed. It's different for each of them.... With Cade we chat a little on his futon before he climbs up his loft and then leans over the side to give me kisses. Alayna snuggles in tight and I sit beside, rubbing her back, while she shares her feelings of missing family back in Iowa or the excitement she has for something happening at school the next day. But for Paisley, we still get full cuddles in the rocking chair, singing lullabies, reading stories .... And most recently, talking. 

She is nearly 3 1/2 now and full of conversation. Tonight as I reflected back on the last week I've had with her home and the older two in school, I told her how proud I was of her good behavior, and I genuinely shared with her how much fun I've had hanging out. 

She proceeded to ask about whether daddy and I like snuggling with her - a clear connection to my previous statements. I followed along with her train of thought, and confided that it's some of our favorite moments, but that I was feeling sad with how fast she was growing. I told her I was proud to be her mama and watch her grow big. And I explained that sometimes it hurt to know she wasn't my little baby anymore. 

And with that, she pulled her thumb from her mouth, looked up at me and said: "I'll always have time for you, mommy."

{sigh} I hope so, sweetie. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Sign from God

Our foster/adoption story is one that has been an emotional road for our family. Finally coming to terms with all that has been weighed, and then our final decisions, has been more than difficult. Here's a little insight to the raw emotions and feelings that we've battled as individuals, soulmates, parents and a family.... 

Within just a couple months of taking in Liam, we learned a lot about our family and the connections built around relationships. Relations that don’t have to be blood, marriage or ancestral, but instead focused entirely around love and genuine caring. Fostering does that. It allows you to engross your mind and heart into the guts of human nature. To truly feel a love and a connection to someone that God hands you in a totally different form than your biological children. 

And that happened with Liam in our home. In less than three short months, our discussions moved from fostering to adoption. What would it cost us? What does the process look like? How long will it take? Is this the right thing for our family? Soon, we were attending a class about submitting a dossier, and it was then, March 16, that I verbally committed - aloud - in the presence of others, that we were beginning the adoption process. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

What a summer to remember! It was the last one on this journey around the world, and now in the recent days we have begun our final year here in Shanghai... one that I know will not be forgotten.

But before we begin all the hype that is ahead, I need to document some of the best moments from the last two months visiting friends, staying with family, loving up on cousins, and enjoying time together.

While living, pregnant, with three children in your parent's basement isn't typically one's idea of fantasy, I know how blessed we are to have this time together. To laugh, listen, and live together, under one roof, with all the greatest blessings around the dinner table each night. My children will remember these summers for the rest of their lives. And I will be eternally grateful for all that our parents do for us each and every time we come home.  Until next time.... we'll miss you all.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Most Difficult Good-Bye Yet

The string of good-byes continued through the weekend. Four nights of dinners in a row with amazing family friends who were planning repatriation. Each night we left with a “see you tomorrow” because no one wanted to actually say the words “good-bye”. But, as expected, the night came, at a great dinner-out-spot, where we spent over 3 hours chatting around the dinner table, before paying our bill and following each other through the high-end shopping center. Finally we reached that point where we were required to part ways - hugging endlessly, high-fiving, waving, blowing kisses, and walking backwards until we one of us turned the corner. It was less than glorious and a moment I’ll probably never forget. 

But, we’ve promised to rekindle somehow, sometime, someway. We have that power to ensure it’s not the end. Maybe we’ll some day live nearby, the kids will visit, or our anticipated annual girls weekend will come to fruition.

Unfortunately, the ending wasn’t the same with our recent farewell to Liam. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My People

Two years ago, we left Cedar Rapids, Iowa for this journey around the world. I recall bawling my eyes out, wondering why in God's name we would ever choose this path. I was saying good-bye to my family, my best friends, a career I loved, and a neighborhood that fit us all too well. I felt like my world was coming to a halt and I had no control... yet we were choosing this for ourselves.

After just 6 months, we watched the first wave of friends leave, but we were continuing to explore this life that I never knew existed, watching our children blossom more than ever possible if we remained in our hometown, and routinely traveling the world and visiting "home". I've now grown accustomed to our life in China. We have adapted to not being available for every family event, catching up through video calls with crappy internet signals, and appreciating what our home country has to offer. We've learned to love the people within our four walls stronger, and we've become patient with the differences among cultures. We've toured and learned ... truly learned ... the whys and hows that people were raised and what they believe.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Experiencing the Local Healthcare

Medical appointment after medical appointment... I can tell you that one place that I don't favor in China is the local hospital. But before I share my story, know that this entry is not about a bash on the system here. It's a different way of payment. A different way of healthcare. A different way of governing. More than anything, it has made me grateful for the system and parameters we do have in place in America. My story, below, is a cry out for the people that have to walk the local process without a choice.

Our little guy has been going through serial casting since Jan, to assist in the range of motion in his knee. For me that means taking him to a local children's hospital every week to have one cast removed, and another put on. The process isn't so simple though.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Xin Nian Kuai Le!!

Happy Chinese New Year! Which means a lot of red, many fireworks, and an abundance of celebration around Shanghai. This festival allows the Chinese to start fresh with new fortune and wealth. They clean away all the bad, by literally floor sweeping homes, and thus allowing good luck to be brought in. Following the lunar calendar, each year is represented by a different zodiac sign; and 2016 is the year of the monkey! I'm a monkey child too, meaning I'm smart, witty, and confident, but stubborn. Hmmm, I am sure some of that might be true!

As part of the festival celebration, Paisley's preschool put together a program parade at a local hotel. She was a little timid walking the red carpet with the many attendees watching over her, but as soon as she found her sweet little friend, it was all smiles!

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Decision

The fostering process happened rather quickly for us once we met with a couple different medical foundations. It was clear that the need was there, and we were ready; but the questions became real. We were "choosing" a child. And against all that I am, and all that I believed in, I found myself really, truly "choosing" one child over another. Whether based on the sweet smiling (or screaming) faces peering back at me, the medical condition in which they've been diagnosed with, the rehabilitation phases that were to come, the orphanage or province in which they came from, or the behavior and interaction between our kids... I began analyzing so many factors that played a role in the selection of a child.