Tuesday, March 30, 2010


This semester, Jon has no classes on Thursday. Since it is a week day, there will not be as many people out at the stores, the lake or other tourist spots. We plan to take advantage of this as the weather gets nicer and before it gets too hot.

Week before last, the weather was pretty nice so we decided to surprise the kids and go to the zoo. We packed a lunch and made the day of it.

China is not known for very good zoos... But the one in Hangzhou is pretty good, especially for China.

We even met some other foreigners while we were there. There were times that we thought we and the kids were on display, but overall it was a nice day.

Eryn poses with a tiger

There were a few kiddie rides at the zoo. Some ladies called the kids over to ride the ride, it wasn't until the ride was over that they mentioned the price of the ride. It was 5 yuan per kid. Not really that bad.

And they got to shoot guns! I don't know why there were guns on bumble bees...oh well, the kids loved it.
We had a few chips left over from our lunch, so we fed a few of the animals...

The kids posed with an elephant...

Liam said his favorite part of the zoo was watching the ducks...

Eryn really liked watching the lemurs and monkeys
Truthfully, this zoo is not as good as the Memphis zoo, but we had a great time. If you come to Hangzhou, we will take you (they do have a panda).

Monday, March 29, 2010

Baby Shower

We had a baby shower for Jason and Cecily. Our friend Heather and I had planned to have this shower right after Spring Festival and before the baby was born. Well, it didn't really work out that way. Cec ended up spending about 3 weeks on bed rest and 2 of those in the hospital before Phoebe was born.

So we had the shower on Feb 27, when Phoebe was 5 days old! We had it at Jason and Cec's house since the baby was here and so small.

Heather had to go to Hong Kong earlier in the week, but she got stuck down there and only got back minutes before the shower was to start. Heather had all the decorations with her so.......
Everyone helped with the decorations. The Chinese ladies loved it! they thought it was great fun, and we had to get them to stop trying to make bows and stuff so we could eat and Cec could open her gifts.
Cathy was also a great help to me to get as much as possible ready before Heather got there.
Nothing rarely works exactly as you plan in China, but over all I think things came together nicely.
This was the table. We had pink punch, and cupcakes and nuts. The centerpiece was a "diaper cake". ( more on the diaper cake in a later blog)
Hallie got to be the "punch girl".
The gifts! They got some really nice things.

Hallie got to hold the star of the show!

Lantern Festival

Chinese New Year is also (and often) called Spring Festival. It begins with New year's Day (lunar calender) and ends 15 days later with Lantern Festival.

At lantern festival children go out to the streets and carry lit lanterns. Now days, there are many huge lit "lanterns" on display in public areas like squares and parks. It is a time to go out and enjoy the decorations and community.

Last year we stumbled up on an area preparing for the once a year display. We came back that evening. It was crazy crowded, but really really cool.

This year we planned to go to a public area called "Season Square". A few days before we discovered that they were also preparing for a large display.

We ate an early supper and walked to this area. Wow! we were not disappointed!

This "lantern" is about 10 feet tall. Do you see the year 2010 and the tiger? This is the year of the tiger according to the Chinese zodiac calender.

This tiger moved!

I actually saw a lion dance on this night. I did not take any pictures because I really wanted to just watch and it would have been too hard to get a good picture because of the crowd. I have wanted to see a real lion dance' parade since the first time I came to China in 1998! I was so excited! Maybe next year I can snap a picture.
This is a picture of the crowd in the square. It was crazy!

We bought the kids lanterns. These are battery powered. They light up and play music! Maybe next year I can be organized enough to make homemade lanterns.
Even though we have to fight huge crowds, this is one Chinese tradition that we really enjoy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Just some thoughts

OK, I am still behind, but I will catch up....eventually. For this post, I decided to do something a little different. I am just going to share my thoughts. There will not be any pictures (sorry).
The first thing I will share that has been on my mind relates to homeschooling.
I guess I am just having doubts to my ability to do an adequate job. Hallie is doing fine, but I really think she is the kind of student that will do great no matter who the teacher is. She probably still needs to work on writing, spelling, and handwriting, but I don't think she is really behind. She is doing great in math and reading. Her Chinese is improving too, but since her lessons are now emphasising characters, she is....I won't say struggling but not enjoying it as well as she does spoken Chinese.
I am a little worried that Liam and Eryn maybe a little behind. They are doing great with math, but reading seems to be going slow. They are only in kindergarten, but.....
I want them to do great.
Lately I have been wishing I could send them to school. Sort of wishing. I also worry about them not having very many friends.
There is an international school here in town. But it costs about $20,000 (USD) per year per student. Ha! There is no way we can afford that now.

We could send them to Chinese school, but I really hate that idea. They don't speak enough Chinese. It would be miserable for them. Chinese educational philosophy is way different than the American style. It is not an environment I want my kids in all day. Also, they would still be behind in reading English. However, their Chinese would improve very quickly.

So really my only option is to homeschool them. Don't get me wrong, I really do like homeschooling. We homeschooled even before we came to China. I like spending time with them. I just wonder if their teacher is the best for them. I second guess myself. I just wish I was one of the super homeschool moms that does really neat stuff all the time and has kids that are reading college textbooks in first grade.
Sometimes, I wonder if my standards are too high. How well should kids be reading at the end of kindergarten?
I also know that research says that students that are allowed to learn to read "naturally" do usually catch up by the time they are 7 or 8 (or is it 9?)

A seasoned homeschool mom once told me that this time of the year is one of the times that parents usually get the most discouraged. Really, they kids are doing pretty well. I just need to put a little more focus on reading, and finish out the year.

One of the real reasons, I wish they could go to school is to have friends. I worry a little bit about their social skills.
Actually just a couple of weeks ago, Hallie and Eryn made some new friends. There is a family that lives near us (with 2 daughters aged 10 and 5) that lived in the US for several years. Both the girls were born in the US and speak wonderful English.

The 10 year old goes to the international school because she does not read or write Chinese very well even though she speaks it at home. It is great that Hallie can have a friend that she can communicate with. They have spent the last two Saturdays together. Eryn also plays with the little sister, and I get to visit with Jane the mom.

I don't know where I was going with all that ranting, I guess I just needed to vent.

This past Saturday, Jane asked me if we go to church. She said that she went to a Chinese church when they were in the US. Pray that we can develop our relationship and can get them to come to church. (I did invite her).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Shopping for food

While my dad and Karen were in Hangzhou, I took my dad to the market and let him take some pictures. These were taken at one of the nearest markets. We often buy veggies and eggs here.

This is an assortment of some of the fresh vegetables available.

We can buy eggs at a store or supermarket, but they are cheaper at the market. They are sold by weight.

I think these are preserved eggs. We don't eat these because we think they are gross.

You can buy meat at this market too. I think they only have pork here. I have not been brave enough to buy any yet.

You can buy fresh seafood. Here are crabs and eels. They are still alive. (that way you know they are fresh)

You can also buy a chicken or duck here too. You just pick it out, and the worker kills it and defeathers it. I don't think they gut it though. I have not bought a live chicken.

Usually I only buy veggies, fruit and eggs at markets like this, but one day I may be braver.

Usually we shop at places like this:

Yes, we have a Wal-mart supercenter near our apartment (one bus ride away).

This is actually a very nice mall with several nice places to shop.

Wal-mart does not carry many foreign goods, but this Wal-mart has a decent bakery section and good prices on other things we buy.

My Dad took some pictures of some of the things you can buy at Wal-mart in China.

Sea food....

Yeah, that is a ray.
Dried fish...

Dried Pig face...
on the back of this you can actually see teeth...gross!
You can also find packaged...um....snacks...
These are two pig snouts.
Chicken feet anyone?

We can find stuff that we do like, but still no Dr Pepper or Salt and Vinegar Kettle chips in this city. Let us know if you want us to bring you any snacks this summer!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City also known as the Palace Museum is one of my favorite places in Beijing.

For 500 years this "city" was the residence for the Chinese emperor and their court. It was off limits for anyone else. Now it is the largest and best preserved cluster of ancient buildings in China.

I could spend all day wondering around the grounds. This day we spent 4 1/2 hours there. We did not see everything.

This always reminds me of the opening scene of Shanghai Noon with Jackie Chan.

Look, she is so excited she is walking on air!
The grounds cover about 720,000 sq meters. Only about 1/3 to 1/2 of the complex is actually open to the public.

These huge vats were used to store water in case of fire.

Actually, fire destroyed large parts of the palace on more than one occasion. At least some of these fires were probably set intentionally by eunuchs.

I love the different passage ways and courtyards. I could really get lost in here.

These guys always remind me of Mushu from the Disney movie Mulan.

I love history and old buildings, so this place is great! I find is fascinating!
I was seriously tempted to buy one of the many books they had at the gift shop, but I couldn't chose just one, and they were way over priced. I think I may look on amazon or E-bay, so I can pass on even more trivia.

The first time we visited the Forbidden Museum in 1999, we took a picture here at this wall. Then again when we came in 2002 when Hallie was less than 2 years old, we took another picture here.

We searched for this wall again, and found it right before we left....

And here we are again in 2010!

Right before we left the palace grounds, we found a bathroom. It was even rated! If you have traveled in China, you know that finding good bathrooms can be tricky...

This one was pretty good. It was a 4 star!

Beijing Duck

Beijing Duck also called Peking Duck (after the old Anglo- pronunciation of the capital city) is one of the most famous dishes in China. If you visit Beijing, you really must try this treat. This is probably one of the most famous Duck restaurants in Beijing. This was Jon and my third time to eat here.

They have a window where you can watch them cook the ducks. They bake or roast them in large brick ovens.

We ordered two ducks, because we had 7 people eating. The guy brings out the duck and carves it expertly in front of you. Then he takes away the bones and makes a soup with them. The soup is really not that great, but the duck is fabulous!
Hallie enjoyed taking pictures of the process.
You wrap the pieces of duck meat in these "pancakes". They are a lot like tortillas. They are made from corn or flour. I liked the flour kind, but Poppa and Granny liked the corn ones. You can add duck sauce and leeks, cucumbers, or peppers if you like. Everyone ate well this night. The kids even liked it.
This was one of the places I really wanted to go to while in Beijing. It did not disappoint.

Tienanmen square

Another day we went to Tienanmen square. Really there is not much here, but it is the largest public square in the world.
There are now security checkpoints and metal detectors to pass through before you can enter the square.
We walked around and took pictures. There are several important and famous buildings that surround the square.
This guy was very nice. We spoke to him in Chinese (a little). He asked where we were from, and then I asked him his hometown. He followed us and talked to us a bit. His English was not good at all, but he made an effort. It was really sweet.