Monday, December 13, 2010

pajama day!

Some times you just need a pajama day. Every once and a while we plan a pajama day.  This is a day where we stay in our pj,s all day long!  Last Friday we had an unplanned pajama day.  Thursday afternoon we got a package from Poppa and Granny.  They sent the kids matching warm pj's.  It is a Christmas tradition.  Friday morning after the kids had dressed, they decided that they needed to try the pj's on "to make sure they fit".  Once they got them on, they did not want to take them off!

In the package there were also some comics.  The kids spent at least 5 quiet minutes looking at the comics.  It was very peaceful!

I did make Hallie put on her regular clothes to go to Chinese class, but when she got home, she put her pj's back on.  We had the kids put on long johns on ( some older matching pj's) under their pj's and we went out to eat.  We had to walk to the restaurant.


The kids thought it was great fun.  No one blinked an eye at what the kids were wearing. You see it is not uncommon to see people out in their pj's.  We see it all times of the day.  We once asked a Chinese friend about this.  He never thought about it being weird at all. We see it most often on the weekend, but it can be at any time.   See?
When in Rome...  The kids are looking forward to their next pajama day!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


We had planned to have our big Thanksgiving celebration the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is not a Chinese holiday and most people had to work.  I had originally planned on making some chicken and dressing for our family.  I ended up inviting 3 other people.  We dined on chicken and dressing mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans, corn, rolls, and pineapple upside-down cake.  It was delicious (if I do say so myself).  Afterwards we played charades and laughed until our sides hurt.

Saturday we had our BIG celebration.

 We got a turkey.
We had so much food!  Heather brought black-eyed peas!  BLACK-EYED PEAS!!! We were very excited.  They were so yummy.  Everything was so good. 

We all ate as much as we could.  Some of us were miserable.  It was a  nice time to be with Americans and eat some good Western food.  After everyone left and took some food away, we packed the rest up and put it away.  Our refrigerator was stuffed.
For supper that night, Jon made some sandwiches with left-over turkey and rolls.  I had a little taste but was really still too full to eat. 
We ate left-overs for at least 3 full meals.  There are a few things still lurking in the fridge, but  finally our fridge is back to normal.
We are truly blessed!

She baked a cake!

Recently we have been talking about the fact that Hallie needs to learn to cook.  She loves to help me in the kitchen.  I started thinking about what she could cook by herself.  I thought that she could try her hand at a cake.  She has helped and watched me enough that it was not that difficult for her.  It was hard for me not to jump in and help her too much. A few times, I just left the kitchen and told her to call me if she needed help.

She did wonderful!   She made a pineapple upside-down cake (from scratch).  We served this cake for dessert on Thanksgiving day.
Beautiful and yummy!  Way to go Hallie!

Hallie's 10!

November 9th was Hallie's 10th birthday.  It is really hard to believe that she is 10.  It seems like just yesterday she was a baby.  We gave her a cell phone for her birthday this year.  She was thrilled!  I actually wrapped the empty box and we hid the phone behind the pillows on the couch.  We were going to call it when she opened the present.  However, Jon had entered her number in his phone incorrectly.  It would have been funny to have the phone ring.  Oh well.  She was still very excited!  Now she has a new way to tattle on her brother and sister.  We went out with out the kids (the ayi stayed with them) and she texted us to tell us something the younger ones had done.

Hallie picked this butterfly cake out of a decorating book that we have here.  She really liked it, and enjoyed helping decorate it.

The weekend after her birthday, she had a slumber party.  She invited her BFF Bliss and another American, Michaela.  Bliss lives near us.  Michaela is from the Chicago area but lives here in Hangzhou.  She goes to Bliss's school and Hallie met her at the Halloween party.  They were instant friends. 

The girls watched movies, painted their nails, ate more cake, and played on the computer.  They also stayed up until past 4:30!  I know because their giggling woke me up again at 4:30.  Poor Bliss had to get up and leave a little past 7.

They had a blast!!

Saturday, November 6, 2010


First of all, let me say that I am happy living in China. I feel this is where I am supposed to be right now. I feel very strongly that we were called here and God worked things out to get here. I feel a sense of purpose and I do love it here. But it is not always easy living in China. Some days are harder than others. but then again, I could say the same of living in the US. When I have a bad day here, I can always blame it on living in China. But really it could just be a bad day.

When we moved to China, someone told us that there seems to be a bigger culture shock that happens the third year. Many people go home after their third year. Guess what, this is our third year. We went into this year aware of this theory. But we felt energized by our visit home. We were ready to get back to work and get our routine going. We were really excited about the year.

We are not as excited anymore. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about that. Good things are happening with the WORK. We are engaging new people, we have started some new studies, old friends are branching out. Things are happening the way they are supposed to. But I am still having a hard time shaking the blahs.

This semester has been really hard on Jon. His work load has increased and work stress is bad. That always spills over a little into to home. So we all feel his stress.

I have had a hard time with dental work this semester too. It has been painful and frustrating.

Jon's grandmother passed away a few weeks ago. That was really hard. It was hard because we know we are going to miss her. Grieving is weird when you are away. You grieve for the deceased but also that you can't be with the rest of the family. You feel a little left out. My grandmother died in January. I grieved some then, but had another period of grieving when I went home and visited family.

This time of the year is hard on us too. I sometimes think that Halloween and Thanksgiving are as hard or harder than Christmas.

So the question is, is this that terrible "culture shock period" that we have heard about? Or is this just life?

Teachers have bad semesters, and bad years. I could have dental problems in the USA. MawMaw would have died if were were living in Henderson or in Hangzhou.

So what do I do? I just have to keep looking at the positives, and our blessings. And there are a lot of those!

I also enjoy baking and being domestic. If things start getting to me, I can straighten up the living room, or bake some cookies. That makes me feel a little better and maybe slightly more peaceful. If that doesn't work, chocolate usually helps.

So keep us in your prayers, and send us some chocolate!

**I actually wrote this back at the beginning of November. We are still somewhat stressed. This is just a bad semester. With the holidays coming up, we have fresh bouts of homesickness. I also feel a little guilty that my mood is so terrible. But, the semester is almost over. Hopefully we can have a good break and have a better semester next year. In the mean time, keep those prayers coming!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


In 1974, some farmers near Xi'an were digging some wells and found some pottery fragments and bronze weapons. What followed was probably one of the largest archaeological finds ever.

People knew that Emperor Qun ShiHuang Di the first emperor of China's mausoleum was nearby, but no one knew that more than 1,000 terracotta warriors and horses guarded it. The statues were buried for more than 2000 years.

Emperor Qun is credited for uniting China. He conquered the six other states that existed in ancient China. He implemented a standardized system of weights and measurements for the country. He is built the Great Wall. Well, actually he connected several smaller walls that were already there. He died in 210 BC. If you like history, you should look him up. He was and interesting character.

These terracotta warriors are all different. They have different hair styles and they say that no two faces are alike.

At one time all of these statues were painted. You can see a little paint on a few of them.

They are still unearthing relics from this active archaeological site. There are three main pits where the warriors, horses, and weapons were found.
We know where Emperor's tomb is but it has not yet been unearthed (that is another story).

This is the farmer that first discovered the warriors while digging a well. Now he signs autographs and poses for pictures.

After this picture was taken, he shook their hands.
Eryn was too shy to take this picture, but she did say that we should say "xie xie" (thank you) for finding the warriors.
*Before we took this trip the kids kept saying that we were going to see the "teriyaki warriors".

The hostel

While in Xi'an we stayed at the Shuyuan Youth Hostel. A hostel is usually cheaper than a hotel. This hostel had some private rooms that had attached bathrooms and some rooms that shared a bathroom. This is one of the things that make it cheaper. Often times travelers can book just a bed in a dorm room. This is a really cheap way to stay. I booked us 4 beds in one room. The bathroom and showers were shared for the whole floor.

The atmosphere of this place is really nice. It was clean and really pretty.

This was our room. It was cozy. The third night the air conditioner started dripping. It woke us up that night. It dripped from then on. We told them and they kept saying they would fix it "tomorrow". We only paid $200 yuan a night (less than $30). The location of the hostel was fantastic too. We were in walking distance of several tourist attractions.

It was good that the hostel was cheap because we could not get tickets to come back to Hangzhou when we wanted to go. We ended up staying an extra 3 days in Xi'an than we had originally planned.

This was one of the residents of the hostel. He was really lazy. The kids were okay as long as the dog did not bark. He only barked when he saw another dog. The kids only got scared twice.
Another good thing about staying here so long is that the kids got really good at using a squatty potty. The bathroom on our floor was a squatty potty. The western toilet was downstairs.
We have lived in China now for more than 2 years. The kids could use a squatty, but I still had to hold Hallie's hand (so she wouldn't fall) and most of the time, Eryn had us hold her over the potty (which is hard if she is going to be there for a while!). Now the girls are pretty good at it and do not need my help. Yes!!
Of course, we still prefer good ol' western toilets, but we are more versatile now.

train trip

At the beginning of October, Jon had more than a week off due to the National Day holiday. We decided that it would be a good time to take a trip. It was a good time because Jon did not have classes, but it was not a good time because most other Chinese were also off of work and could travel as well. We had a hard time getting tickets. We did get train tickets to Xi'an. We had "hard sleeper" tickets. That means we did have a beds but they were in an open car. There are 6 beds in each compartment and several compartments in each car. It is not as nice and comfortable as " soft sleeper" but it is not bad. The train to Xi'an from Hangzhou is about 24 hours.

This what the train looked like from my bunk.

What do you do on a train for 24 hours? Well, you sleep some... you eat some play cards...

You play video games....

You read.... You stare out the window....

The country side on the way to Xi'an is very beautiful! I enjoyed just watching it all go by...

Train travel is one of the ways to really see China. We love traveling by train (it's cheaper than flying too).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Pumpkin or nan gua is easy to find in China. But what the Chinese call pumpkin we would probably call squash. There is no different name for pumpkin or squash, it is all nan gua. The big one in this picture is not really carvable. We did find a small regular orange pumpkin. A lady was selling them for decorations Most of the ones she was selling, had Chinese characters on them. Unfortunately this one grew too many gross black moldy spots before we could carve it for a jack-o-lantern.

We did however cut up the big "pumpkin" and made a bunch of pumpkin puree.

We baked the pieces in the oven for about an hour (until soft) then we took the peel off and ran it through the blender. This pumpkin yielded at least 6 cups of puree. I have already made 3 batches of pumpkin muffins and one batch of pumpkin cookies. I will need to get another one before Thanksgiving. We love pumpkin!

Since we could not carve pumpkin this Halloween, what did we do?
We carved orange candles! I brought these from the States this year. We "carved" them with tooth picks and then colored the carved spots with black marker (Jon did not color his).

These won't rot or get moldy!
Update: I saw two orange pumpkins at the market today. Where were those 2 weeks ago?!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Our apartment is on the corner of two pretty busy streets. We hear all sorts of comings and goings. Many times I hear people yelling but when I look out I can't tell if anything unusual is going on. Today was a little different. I heard some yelling and looked out. There were a few guys around a cart on the far side of the street. One guy was on the ground (maybe sitting) and another it looked like, was under a cart. Another guy was yelling at him. He was dragged out from under the cart and they had his hands behind his back. The guy that was sitting was handcuffed too. I guess I missed seeing the actual arrest. Three or four guys put the two handcuffed ones into the back of a silver mini van. Then they took the less cooperative guy out of the van (the one that was under the cart). They brought him to the side walk. They were not gentle with him at all. He was not fighting them but they were pretty mad at him. They slapped him some and I even saw a few kicks thrown in. We watched it some, and then decided to video it. I am not sure why. We did manage to get a few still pictures but you can't really tell what is going on.

The guys doing the slapping and arresting were wearing plain clothes but we think that they were police because they had real handcuffs. Normal citizens do not have handcuffs in China. Eventually some uniformed police came in police cars and took one "criminal" away. They also videoed and took pictures of whatever was inside his cart.

It was really weird . As an American it was disturbing to see the guy getting hit and kicked but he was caught
doing something bad. The criminal justice system here is very different than in the States. There are no Bill or Rights, Miranda Rights, or Innocent until proven guilty. But we really feel safe here. I don't fear for the kids like I sometimes do in the US. There are few repeat bad guys here. Bad criminals (murders, rapists, drug dealers, corrupt government officials) don't get second or third or fourth chances.

We enjoy many rights and privileges as Americans. Sometimes we forget that other countries do not share our views about what rights people should have. Today was a reminder that this is NOT America and this country can be VERY different than home.
This is the cart that was involved some how. There is a box in the back that they opened and took pictures of.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New Snacks

One of the things I love about living in China is all the different foods we get to try. I miss many snacks and foods from the US, but there are some great snacks here.

We ate all our Chinese snacks before we left for the US so we needed to replenish our pantry. I saw these cracker/ cookie things and thought I would give them a try. There were a couple of different varieties. I chose these because I thought they were grape flavor from the picture.

I tried one. They are a little sweet, but those are not grapes on the package. They are green peas! The kids won't even eat these! I admit they are pretty gross. I won't buy this again! Oh well! It is a learning experience.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Public Bathing

Man, it is HOT! It is strange though, no one really knows how hot it is. You see, in China when it gets above a certain temperature ( I think it is 40 degrees C. or 104 F) then people don't have to work because of the heat. But it NEVER gets above 40 degrees. It is amazing how hot that 40 degrees can feel! We are VERY glad that we have air conditioners. However, to go anywhere you have to get out in the heat. It is not the same as in America. In the US, you have to walk in the heat to your overheated car and then blast the AC until you feel better, then when you get out, you have to walk a minute or two and enter an air conditioned building. Here, we have to walk to the bus stop or at least to the gate of the apartment complex to get a taxi. Then the air in the bus or taxi may or may not work. Then we get out in the heat again and walk some more to the store or where ever you are going. The AC here is not as cold as in the US. Also it does not really cool down that much at night here. I think it is because we live in a big city. All the buildings and stuff just hang on to the heat.

Our apartment complex has two swimming pools. We heard that they did not open until 4 in the afternoon, but when Jon and I were out the other morning we saw that the gate was open and there were people swimming. So we decided that we would go swimming after lunch. The kids were really excited.

I smeared them all with sunscreen, we grabbed towels and floaties and were off. When we got to the pool, the gate was closed and locked. But there were people swimming. So a little locked gate didn't slow us down much ( it was only two feet high).

The people swimming were really just three little boys, and when we got closer we realized that the boys were naked as jaybirds!

Their clothes and house keys were strewn about on the steps of the kiddie pool. They were also using the lifesaving rings as their personal floaties. They were having a great time.

After we were there for a little while a couple of guys showed up and then 3 teenage girls. Then one boy about 9 or so yelled something at Jon and he answered. Jon thought he asked us if we paid and then when Jon told him, "no" the kid jumped the gate and started to strip out of his clothes. I wondered if he really asked if Jon was wearing clothes or not....

That kid jumped in naked and started having a conversation with us. He wasn't shy at all, on any level. We only stayed about an hour. The water was really very warm. Then we came home, took showers, and had a long nap! We will go swimming again, soon, but probably in the morning when the pool is really open. Maybe everyone will have their clothes on then.

P.S. Just for the record, all of the Hardins were wearing bathing suits.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Hallie went to MSYC for the first time this past summer. She was a little nervous, but she had a great time! She really wants to go back again next year!

This is what 9 year old girls look like after a week of camp!

She really had a GREAT time and I know that she made some great Christian friendships that will continue for the rest of her life.

hair cut

Two years ago, Hallie decided to cut 11 inches off her super long hair and donate it to Locks of Love.

She decided to do it again this summer.

Then Mrs. Brenda measured her braid just to make sure....
Snip, snip, snip

Ta Dah! She loves her shorter hair too!

And mom is very proud!