Reverse Culture Shock!

Posted by Jill,

After 24 hours of travel (including 3 flights and one car ride) we arrived home Monday afternoon from Beijing!  The kids and I arrived safe and sound, with few incidents, and are very grateful.  The kids are excited to be here at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Thanksgiving, and we’re working on overcoming jet lag.  We’ve already played outside, run barefoot, baked cookies, etc.  Life is good!

It’s amazing what you forget, or get used to, after 2 years in a foreign country.  We’ve been back in the States for just over 24 hours and here are a few of the things we’ve already been surprised by, or reminded of:

  • English!
  • customer service!
  • napkins in a restaurant!
  • free refills!
  • ice in our cups!
  • clean bathrooms!
  • clean grass!
  • clear skies!
  • drinkable tap water!
  • soft, squishy beds!
  • flushing toilet paper!
  • cooking spray!
  • regular sized ovens!
  • big baking pans!
  • enormous cars!
  • enormous shopping carts!
  • big people (meaning tall and …uh…big)

And “the walk.”  I couldn’t list this without explanation.  Many Americans (youngish males in particular) have a “walk.”  Some would call it a strut.  It bugs me.  Anyway, I noticed it when I was at the store today.  It’s interesting how culture permeates everything, even down to the way we carry ourselves.

And for those who haven’t been to China it might be good to clarify a few others items on the list.  About the napkins, there are “napkins” in the restaurants in China, but they’re really just tissues.  Thin, flimsy, tissues.  I never did find regular napkins in the stores in China.  And “clean grass” means grass without human excrement.

Well, that’s all for now folks.  :)

- Jill

Curry! Sort of.

Posted by Jill,

I was feeling creative in the kitchen tonight, and I had some limp spinach that desperately needed to be used.  I hate throwing things away.  I had planned on making curry for dinner, so I’m combined the two.  I put the spinach in the blender with some plain yogurt and used that to color the dish.  Here’s the recipe I came up with.  (I’m writing measurements to the best of my knowledge, but this may need to be tweaked because I didn’t measure as I cooked.)  Oh, and if you’re looking at the title and thinking, “No way!” it may help to know that my spinach-hating kids rated it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. :)  [Picture coming soon!]

Chicken Spinach Curry


  • oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp curry powder (possibly more?)
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder (add more if you like heat)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2-4 tsp salt (not sure how much since I just added as I went along)
  • 2 chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 large potato, diced (I dice them small so they cook faster)
  • 1 large carrot, diced (same here, dice them small)
  • 1-2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 (or 2) cups plain yogurt
  • 1-2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1-3 tbsp water


Saute onions, garlic, and spices in a little oil until onions are translucent.  Add chicken.  (You may want to add a little water as you cook.)  When the outsides are no longer pink add the carrots for a few minutes.  Add potatoes and a little more water, and don’t forget to add some salt.  Cover and simmer over medium heat until potatoes are soft, 5-10 minutes.

While potatoes are simmering, blend the yogurt, spinach, butter and flour in a blender.  When potatoes are soft, add spinach/yogurt mixture to the curry mixture.  Heat thoroughly.  Add some water or yogurt if it’s too thick.

- Jill

Coming Home

Posted by Jill,

A piece of Beijing: rickshaws and drivers

It’s hard to believe I am writing this post!  We initially planned to live in China “for about 3 years, give or take a year or two.”  (We said the “take” part mostly to comfort our shocked friends and family.)  To be completely honest, we thought it would be at least 3 years, possible a year or so longer.

So we are coming up on 2 years…and we are moving home to the U.S.  I am torn.  We know it’s time to come home, we know it’s what is best for our family right now, but it’s still hard to think about it.  Since we made the decision back in September I have tried to focus on all the things I’m excited about (to keep from crying).  I’m not good with change.  It takes me a while to warm up to new ideas.  So now that I’ve been digesting this one for over a month, it’s feeling pretty good.  And now that I’m writing this, only 2 1/2 weeks from boarding a plane with a one-way ticket, I’ll try to summarize what I’m excited about, and what I’ll miss.


Things I’m am EXCITED to come home to!  (Not in order of importance.)

  • Second-hand shopping–garage sales, thrift stores, etc.
  • Activities for the kids
  • More friends for the kids
  • Closer to family
  • Having our own vehicle
  • Dishwasher
  • Clothes dryer
  • Going barefoot outside (in the summer of course)
  • Cooking American food–casseroles, cheese, pasta, baked goods, grilled food, etc.
  • Being able to read the labels and trust the products I buy

Lotus flowers, another bit of China

What I’m going to MISS.  Again, in no particular order.

  • Smog.  Just kidding.
  • The nice walk to the “little store”
  • All the fresh produce everywhere
  • Old people dancing outside
  • Street food
  • Feeling safe outside
  • Friends
  • The Beijing Branch–our church family here, full of the most AMAZING people
  • Being called “ayi” by the children
  • Speaking Chinese everyday
  • My simple life here (Note, “simple” does not equate to “easy”)


- Jill

Major Upgrade

Posted by Jill,

If you’ve been following our adoption blog you know that child #6 will be here shortly!  (We can’t wait!!!!!)  And you’ve likely also read that he’s 13.  And did I mention he has the typical appetite that accompanies this age?  Not to mention, Michael and Jasmine can do some serious eating themselves.  So after 18 months of living here, we felt this upgrade was necessary to keep up with demand.

PS  Todd got a steal of a deal on taobao!  Ahhh….I love a bargain!

- Jill

Happy Dragon Boat Festival

Posted by Jill,

…Which seems like it might be a bit of a misnomer around here since we have yet to see any dragon boat racing.  Based on how I’ve seen people celebrate, I think it might be more suitable to say, “Happy Zongzi Eating Festival!”

Borrowed zongzi picture. Wrapped and unwrapped.

This is a zongzi.  It’s a glutinous/sticky rice ball filled with something yummy, then wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed.  Spencer and Jasmine like them.  The other kids, not so much.  In the north of China they’re generally filled with something mildly sweet (red bean paste, dates, dried fruit, etc.)  In the south they typically have savory fillings.  We like the pork best!

And this is the zongzi eater.

Serious eater.

Serious eater.

Happy eater.

And one more pic...just because he's cute.

- Jill

The Girls’ Surprise

Posted by Jill,

Apparently I need to check the girls’ bathroom more often.  It’s upstairs, in their room, and they’re the only ones that use it.  I rarely go in it, maybe once every other week or so just to make sure it looks okay.  (Don’t worry, our ayi at least checks it/cleans it once a week.)  Anyway, I went into the girls room  a few days after we returned from Australia…and found this!

SURPRISE!!!  I have to admit, the LAST thing I expected to find was that the bathroom sink had become this cute little guy’s new HOME!  Yes, he was living in there and the girls (I should say, Kaylee Ann) had been feeding him live beetles everyday.  (Found a tupperware full of those a bit later.)  When we first came home Kaylee Ann did mention she had caught a toad…but I guess I was tired enough that I missed the part about his living quarters.

- Jill

Happy Belated Birthday, Jasmine!

Posted by Jill,

10 years old!  Being the FABULOUS parents that we are, Todd and I both ended up being gone on Jasmine’s birthday.  So we promised to bring back a gift from Australia and celebrate as soon as we got home.

She saw this cake MONTHS ago at the bakery and declared that this was the birthday cake she wanted. Wish granted!

- Jill

Bye Bye Warmth! :(

Posted by Jill,

The tell-tale gurgling sound has begun…

One interesting thing about living in Beijing (or northern China in general, I think) is the heating.  Each room has a little radiator on the wall and hot water is run through these to heat the apartments.  It actually works really well!  During the coldest time of the year here it doesn’t get above freezing for weeks, yet we haven’t had to use space heaters once this winter.  And a lot of times the kids run around in shorts and no shoes in the house.  It’s that cozy.  (Did I mention our electric bill is next to nothing, too?)

The interesting part is that we don’t have any control over it.  It’s turned on by city on October 15th (or is it November…), and turned off by the city on March 15th.  But…as of 5 minutes ago, I heard all the water draining out of our radiator.  Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle.  Somehow we got lucky, and it’s just being turned off today, the 19th.  4 extra days of toastiness this year.  And it snowed yesterday.  Looks like we’ll finally have to turn on those space heaters.  As I think back to last year, I remember that the first few weeks with the heat off felt like the coldest part of the year.  That was when I started doing all the kids’ homeschool reading from under the blankets on my bed.  It was too cold to do it anywhere else in the house!  At least this year I know we have space heaters.  Last year I thought they were air conditioners only, so I never turned them on.  Ha ha!

- Jill

xīn nián kuài lè!

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HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!!!  The year of the dragon. :)

It’s just after midnight here.  Thought I’d write a quick blog post since none of us will  be going to sleep any time soon!  The fireworks are so incredible!  Constant–literally CONSTANT–popping, bursting, crackling, and whizzing of fireworks.  Not even a fraction of a second between them.  For hours.  And to look out our windows in every direction and see streaks of light and bursts of color over and over and over…is amazing.  You’ve never seen fireworks until you’ve experienced the New Year in China!  Loving it just as much as last year. :)

And for the grand finale, a VIDEO!  I hope this conveys a teensy bit of what it feels like to ring in the New Year in China. :)

- Jill

Reading List 2011

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I have trouble keeping track of things.  If our reading list for 2011 is in the “cloud” I can’t lose it, right?  It won’t be another list on a piece of paper that sneaks under the bed, only to be found next year.  Since we’ve started homeschooling our reading list has grown quite large–which I love!  Most of the books are part of our curriculum.  (If you’re a Sonlight family you’ll recognize lots of these titles. :) )  We read lots of short books, too many to list, so I’m only including chapter books which are now read by all but two in our family now.

Books Read as a Family:

  • Walk the World’s Rim
  • Red Sails to Capri
  • Witch of Blackbird Pond
  • Ginger Pye
  • Gladys Aylward
  • Johnny Tremain
  • Little Pear
  • Strawberry Girl
  • Magic Treehouse–lots of them.

T, 6-7 years old:

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (at least 4 of them)
  • The Long Way Westward
  • Prairie School
  • Riding the Pony Express
  • The Secret Valley
  • 3rd Grade Detectives #1- Clue of the Left-Handed Envelope
  • The Chalk Box Kid
  • The Paint Brush Kid
  • 3rd Grade Detectives, 2 or 3 of them
  • The Littles
  • Brave Kids – Cora Frear
  • The House on Walenska Street
  • Viking Adventure

K, 8-9 years old:

  • Harry Potter, books 1-6
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (at least 4 of them)
  • The Lewis & Clark Expedition
  • The Cabin Faced West
  • By the Great Horn Spoon
  • Om-kas-toe
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret
  • Plus many of the books on T’s list…not sure which ones

M, 10-11 years old:

  • Harry Potter, books 1-7
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (at least 4 of them)
  • Sign of the Beaver
  • The Lewis & Clark Expedition
  • The Cabin Faced West
  • By the Great Horn Spoon
  • Om-kas-toe
  • Robin Hood

Me (older than I was last year):

  • The Connected Child-Karyn Purvis (in progress)
  • ?

Todd (same age as Me):

  • Stand for Something – Gordon B. Hinckley
  • New Terry Brooks book

- Jill