Tag Archives: China

House of Mephibosheth- Da Dian, China

So we came to China, as we go everywhere, with a purpose: we came with the desire to love people, to help where we can, and to leave it a better place than when we arrived.  However, even with our best intentions, when you can’t speak Chinese, it is extremely difficult to connect with local needs (because we can’t UNDERSTAND the local needs).  So when some friends of ours mentioned a special needs orphanage in the Shandong province that may need assistance, we jumped on board and asked to go along on a small, reconnaissance- type mission trip that they were going to be taking.

We met up with Dave, Bruna and Frank, the driver they’d hired, early Thursday morning.  Being a Chinese holiday, we didn’t realize how much that would already affect our morning, but since there were no taxis, we had to take a bus and walk half a mile to get to them.  Then we set out for the small, rural city of Da Dian which was not too far away- only a three and a half to four hour drive.  We got to cross a bucket list item off our list on the way there… crossing the longest sea bridge in the world. The Qingdao Haiwan Bridge, going from Qingdao to Huangdao, China, spans a whopping 42.5 kilometers!!!

Traffic proved to be much more problematic than we had expected.  Since it was a holiday, not only were many more people on the road, but there were many more accidents.  We hit one stretch along this seemingly never-ending bridge and we saw no less than 7 accidents: some small fender benders, others affecting 3-5 cars.  Needless to say, the trip there took longer than expected. 

Finally, after driving down tiny dirt roads through fields and pastures, we arrived at our destination.  Just through the gate on our right side was the greenhouse, blooming with green, color, and produce; on our left were chickens and baby chicks running around squawking loudly; as we pulled around to park in front of their home, wild goats roamed and children played.  Welcome to House of Mephibosheth.

Why Mephibosheth, you might ask.  In the Bible, after King David’s (crazy) father-in-law Saul and his best friend Jonathan (Saul’s son) had been killed, he looked for a way to show kindness to their family.  He asked around to see if there was anyone in their family who was still alive. By chance, there was one son of Jonathan remaining- his name was Mephibosheth.  He had been crippled in both feet as a young boy and cast aside by society, but David took it upon himself to restore his father’s land to him and he promised to always let him eat at his royal table.  In the same way, House of Mephibosheth was formed to look after those who were abandoned by the world and to give them a chance to eat at the table of a king (Jesus) forever.

After eating lunch with Steve and his 8 children (both adopted and natural), he showed us around the complex.  Steve and his wife Xinwei had built this complex from the ground up (with actual planning and design assistance from the kids).  It had taken nearly 8 years to construct, but what a place!  Their vision for House of Mephibosheth was to make it a sort of play-land/ theme park for children with special needs, a place where these children could realize who they are and what they are really capable of, and where they could see themselves for their abilities, not their disabilities.  We walked down to the house where their 8 special needs orphans live and watched as they were gently fed and cared for. 

While we were on this first initial visit, we were astounded by one thing over and over again- people kept on coming; people from the village where they lived, people who had heard about their ministry and others who they had never before met.  When we were down there, there was an elderly man who had come to make an offering and he held Steve’s hand and cried because he felt so honored to give to such a wonderful ministry.  It was beautiful.  That was the first time the tears started falling, but it wouldn’t be the last.

We spent the afternoon with Steve’s kids Faith, Ben, Helen, Azariah, Zuriel, Rain, Cocoa, and Raymie.  There were more visitors in the afternoon.  One large group came and brought toys for all the kids so we spent lots of time reading, playing with play dough, doing puzzles and coloring with the kiddos. 

As the afternoon wore on, we jumped on the trampoline and watched the kids play in the water hole, making an imaginary boat out of a storage bin and playing “pirate” with each other.  Zozo (Zuriel) caught a fish, the boat capsized with Cocoa onboard, and the boat was pelted with “friendly fire” of pebbles. 

Then Steve sat down with us and showed us a documentary that the local CCTV (China) station had done on their ministry.  We heard the adoption stories of Ben and Faith, both with cerebral palsy and of Helen, who had a cleft lip.  We watched this mixed family interact and laugh and love each other and it was beautiful.  We sang hymns before dinner and then went to bed early after a long and exhausting day of travel and play.

The next morning we woke up to breakfast made mostly of things from their greenhouse, along with some fresh goat’s milk.  The boys (6 and 8) took us out for a run around the village.  We fought the wind, uphill and down, through fields and along the back roads of the Chinese countryside.  We encountered working farmers, toothless old men, lots of graves, and lots of smiles.  I’m sure they were all wondering who these foreigners were!

After our run, we decided to go into the city to buy some fruit as a special treat for all the kids.  We hopped in the van and went to a simple street market where we loaded up on cherries, strawberries, watermelon, apricots, mangoes… you name it! 

We went back and made a big fruit salad and cut up the watermelon and brought it down to the kids.  What a fun time!  Watching these precious little ones enjoy the sweet fruit with juice dripping down their chins while begging for more was so cute.  Little Moses especially made me smile… he LOVED watermelon… a baby after my own heart.  Shawn too.

We were able to spend a lot more time with the kids this time around, and especially with a little guy named Tian.  This little guy was born with deformed feet and had been discarded multiple times before Steve and Xinwei got to him.  They paid for him to have a surgery where they literally cut his feet apart and put them back together correctly.  But now he is able to walk and pull himself around.  He loved to come sit in my lap and have me carry him places.  He showed me the greenhouse and all the plants, he showed me the new buildings that were still under construction, he convinced me to let him jump on my bed (I couldn’t resist), and I pushed him around on a trike for a while.

These precious, precious feet!

Later in the afternoon, Steve finally put us to work.  Bruna and I offered to help Xinwei, Steve’s wife (who has cancer) but ended up staying back with the special needs kids and his kids (they always play together and his kids are very helpful).  We watched them play with the baby chicks and go down the slide. They were loving it!

Sweet baby Moses!

The boys helped do some random house things- fixing doorknobs, doors, and then the big project, trying to help fix Ben’s “quad.”  Yes, that’s right, Ben has a little four wheeler that he can drive and ride.  He had told his dad when he was younger that he wanted to run fast, but since that is impossible with his condition, he decided to build him a machine that could give him the same effect.  He is planning to make a Segway for Faith as well because it is her dream to dance.  It is amazing the things he creates! And all out of scrap pieces that he just puts together! What imagination!!!

Look at that expression! That, right there, is WORTH it!!!

What I love about Steve is his practicality.  His kids want something, he will make it happen.  He sees things in them that others do not.  Take Shawn for example.  Shawn is an adult, Shawn is mute.  Nobody thought Shawn was capable of doing anything… but Steve did.  Later he found out that he was completely of sound mind, he just couldn’t talk… but he sure can text!  So now Shawn has a phone and texts what he wants to say.  He helps take care of the other orphans.  Not only has Steve given him a job and a purpose, but he has also given him a voice.  It is a beautiful thing. Not only that, but Shawn is so full of JOY!!! He is such an inspiration!

That evening, we sat down and chatted. The kids showed us some blueprints for things that they were thinking of making… and we watched parkour videos… random, I know, but they loved them! We simply enjoyed our last evening there with this inspirational family. It was a beautiful time of love and laughter!

The last thing I want to share about our time there was a private time when just Bruna and I were chatting with Steve.  A family came in (one of MANY groups who came through there during our few day stay) and sat down with him to talk.  The old man and his daughter were believers and they brought her husband along, who had a bad drinking problem.  They asked Steve for help.  So, as we watched, Steve talked with this man, using Ben as his translator (Ben is BRILLIANT), and you could see that the walls that this man had put up were beginning to come down.  We watched this man come to Christ right there in his living room.  It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever had the privilege to see.  The honesty in this man’s voice as he clearly recognized that he was a sinner and that he needed help to stop drinking was heart wrenching and as he poured out his heart to the Lord, I swear I could hear the angels rejoicing. 

Our time there was such an incredible blessing! We spent one more morning around their table and it was such a perfect picture of what our Lord invites us into. We have nothing in and of ourselves that qualifies us to sit at the King’s table, yet he invites us, he clothes us with righteousness, and he showers us with kindness, blessings and undeserved love.

After breakfast, we hopped on one of several buses that would take us back to Qingdao. Bus riding in China is always an experience… because in China, there is no such thing as a “full bus” or “personal space.” So when the bus filled up, people began to fill up the aisle and sat on the floor or stood. One guy even whipped out a stool to sit on! Dave ended up with a Chinese man sleeping on his shoulder. It was a hot, sweaty ride, but it was the end to an experience I will never forget!

I wish I could say that I know how they are all doing now, several years later. I do know that Xinwei has since passed. I have no idea how Steve and all of those kids are doing, but I do know that the Lord is faithful and that He WILL continue to provide for them!

The four of us with Steve, Xinwei and their family
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 17, 2019 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,

Ushering in the Year of the Monkey

As most of you know, our baby Jedidiah was “made in China” while we were there on a two year stint (teaching at an International school).  We used this tag line in announcing our pregnancy (read about that here:  Anyways, my husband and I picked up on many Chinese traditions while we were there and we wanted to keep some of them going once we got back to the States.  Celebrating Chinese New Year was one of them.

Our son Jedidiah was born in the year of the sheep/ram, just like his daddy.  According to a website I found, this means that he is:

“…tender, polite, filial, clever, and kind-hearted. They have special sensitivity to art and beauty and a special fondness for quiet living. They are wise, gentle and compassionate and can cope with business cautiously and circumspectly. In their daily life, they try to be economical. They are willing to take good care of others, but they should avoid pessimism and hesitation.”  (

  • Strengths
    gentle, softhearted, considerate, attractive, hardworking, persistent, thrift
  • Weaknesses
    indecisive, timid, vain, pessimistic, moody, weak-willed

Not that I put much stock in what these things say, but if he’s anything like his daddy, I’ll be one happy and proud momma!

Anyways, when he was born we tried to get photos of him with a stuffed goat/sheep/ram we’d been given in China over the previous New Year.  These photos didn’t turn out very well at all (see below).

So, we decided to do a second take over this 2016 Lunar New Year celebration which took place on February 7-8 (the 7th was Chinese New Year’s Eve and the 8th was actually the beginning of the new Year of the Monkey).  We were given several special gifts for baby Jedi before we left and so our little Jedi donned a special Chinese outfit for this photo session. Look at the details of this adorable traditional outfit below.

I absolutely love the photos we got of him.  We’ve always been keen on monkeys and we call Jedidiah our “little monkey” so it only seemed appropriate to bridge the transition from goat to monkey with some adorable shots.  Here they are… prepare yourselves for cuteness!!!

We’ll start with his sign- the sheep/goat/ram.



Then we decided to do a few with both the sheep AND the monkey…

We had so much fun, I just couldn’t stop!  Our ayi (our housekeeper) while we were in China had gifted us some baby shoes and so I decided to throw those in the mix as well.

And finally, our “Little Monkey” with just the monkey, ushering in this new lunar year.


There were a few more shots that I just HAVE to share… he looks like a little Samurai warrior in these!  Ready to fight!

There were countless others… I went a little bit crazy with all the photos, but I just LOVED his little outfit and, well, let’s face it, my kid is adorable!!!  Happy Year of the Monkey!

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 25, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , ,

Down the Rabbit Hole… a murder mystery

Last Halloween, in keeping with a tradition started by our friends the Mosbys, we had another murder mystery party around Halloween time. The hosts, Zach and Heather, remained the same, but the theme this time around was “Alice in Wonderland.” (If you want to read about the last murder mystery party, you can read the post A Halloween Harry Potter Murder Mystery). Now I’m not the biggest fan of “Alice in Wonderland.” Ever since I was a kid, the movie freaked me out, and even as an adult, Trent and I tried to watch the newest version (with Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway), but I couldn’t get through it. Even so, that didn’t stop us from having a great time at this party!

Much like last time, Heather sent out our character descriptions a few weeks before the party so that we could begin preparing our costumes. Trent was going to be the white rabbit, and I was the rabbit’s maid (thanks Heather for always giving us “couples” roles). The night of the party we got dressed up and headed out to find a taxi to get to the Mosby’s apartment nearby in Qingdao (I always wonder what the taxi drivers must think of us crazy foreigners all dressed up).



As always, their setup was amazing! The decorations, the food, their costumes… it really was quite the wonderland!







Everyone else arrived in their costumes. We had the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts (our host and hostess), Alice and Cheshire (our friends Kelly and Antonio from work), The White Rabbit and his maid (Trent and I), the Duchess (who literally “borrowed” our friends’ baby Elijah to use as a prop!), Tweedle-Dum (Matt, another friend from work), the cook who loved pepper, and three detectives (friends from work and church).

Here is a group shot of all of us and a few others of the different characters.


Our wonderful hosts!

Our wonderful hosts!

Trent and I

Trent and I

Antonio as the Cheshire cat

Antonio as the Cheshire cat

Kelly as Alice

Kelly as Alice

The duchess (Nicole) and the Queen of hearts

The duchess (Nicole) and the Queen of hearts

Tweedle-Dum (Matt), Valerio as a detective, and the Mad Hatter (Zach)

Tweedle-Dum (Matt), Valerio as a detective, and the Mad Hatter (Zach)

Trent and I with the "borrowed" baby Eli.  Pretty shortly after this, Catherine and Justin came to get him (they lived in the same apartment complex)

Trent and I with the “borrowed” baby Eli. Pretty shortly after this, Catherine and Justin came to get him (they lived in the same apartment complex)

Erik as one of the detectives and the cook who loved pepper

Erik as one of the detectives and the cook who loved pepper

Heather ordered my costume on Taobao, which is China’s version of Amazon, and I think Kelly and Antonio also got their costumes on Taobao. I also know that Heather used it to order lots of the props for this party.

We sat down to dinner and began to let the mystery unfold. As usual, the scripts guided us along, revealing different clues along the way. I have to say that Trent did an AMAZING job acting his part. He kept freaking out and pointing to his clock (which was our bathroom clock that we attached to him with an old chain) talking about the time. The other actors were excellent too. This was one of the best parties as far as acting went! The wine and food were great, as always, and the night unfolded wonderfully. We laughed and laughed! These parties are so much fun!!!















Towards the end of the evening, we broke out the Limoncello, from Italy, brought by the one and only Valerio. Heather even got these cute little cups for the Limoncello shots. Her attention to details is amazing!




After dinner we headed back into the living room to make our accusations and have dessert- Zach made pie!!! I won’t tell you who did it, but I will tell you that I didn’t guess right. I guess that’s why I was a maid and not one of the detectives!









Afterwards, Zach and Heather tallied the votes for the evening’s awards. Trent and Zachary both tied for best actor of the evening, so they decided to each take half (literally) of the award. Trent also won the award for Best Improviser, which he indubitably deserved!

Tallying up the votes

Tallying up the votes


The best actors of the evening- The Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit

The best actors of the evening- The Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit


We hung out the rest of the evening, talking and laughing and enjoying the camaraderie. Heather and Zach throw the best parties!!!

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 29, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

Jimo Hot Springs


This post is a throw-back to last September, between Trent’s and my birthdays.

Several of our friends at QISS (Qingdao No. 1 International School of Shandong) had mentioned some hot springs not too far north of Qingdao in Jimo.  So for our birthday celebration (our birthdays are 10 days apart), we decided to go up and enjoy the hot springs for part of the weekend.  We asked our classroom assistants for help getting tickets and booking a hotel for the night (the websites needed to book said tickets are all in Chinese…).

Our plan was to go up after school on Friday and come back sometime Saturday- late afternoon or evening.  The hot springs are attached to a beautiful hotel where we intended to stay… until we saw the prices!  Yikes!  Grand Metropark Hotel was well over 100 dollars just for the one night, and that didn’t include our admission to the actual hot springs.  Luckily our old principal, Alejandra, who had been there several times before, came to the rescue.  We gave her a call and she put us in touch with a “friend” of hers that she met the last time she was in Jimo.  He told us that he would help us to find a hotel for the night and that he would pick us up and make sure that we got to the hot springs.  It turned out that the availability in the big hotel was very minimal and extremely expensive, so he ended up making arrangements for us to stay at another hotel only a mile down the road, which also had some “hot springs” inside.  He also offered to pick us up from the bus stop when we arrived in Jimo.

So, with an overnight bag packed, we headed to the bus stop about a mile up the road from our school.  We walked there, and caught bus 617 just outside of Ocean University (also knows as Haida).  By the time we actually got on the bus, it was already getting dark.  Honestly we were a little nervous about knowing where to get off the bus and about getting where we actually wanted to go this weekend.  Things are always a bit of a toss-up when you don’t speak the language well and you don’t really know where you’re going.  About 40 minutes later on a very crowded city bus, we arrived at the correct stop (we thought).  Luckily it was- we’d been talking to our friend several times throughout the journey trying to coordinate everything.  He helped us to get off in the right place.  He greeted us as we disembarked and told us about this other hotel.  He wanted to show it to us before he booked it, to make sure that it was up to par.  So we climbed in his car and chatted with him a bit while we drove the 5 minutes to the hotel.  Now, for the life of me I can’t figure out which hotel it was (sorry), even with all the help of the internet and Google maps… I have no idea what the place we stayed at was called.  When we arrived, we were given a quick tour of the rooms available and we decided that at only about 250 Yuan, this was a much better and more affordable deal.  He also got us into the hot springs that they have inside the hotel for a discounted rate, and he got us into their dinner buffet, which was already closing up.  We paid for the night and said goodbye to our friend for the evening before practically running to the buffet (not because we were excited about the food that they had there, so much as excited about food in general.  It was already close to 8:30pm and we were starving!!!).  We didn’t even drop our stuff in the room!  As we got a few plates full of semi-warm food, the atmosphere was boisterous with lots of very drunk businessmen (this is very common in China).  We ate while watching the spectacles they were making of themselves, all the while gambei-ing (gambei means “bottoms up” in Chinese… so essentially taking shots… of beer) each other in toast after Chinese toast.  We finished up our food as the help was cleaning up and watched a man run down the hallway to projectile vomit in the men’s room (gross…).

Then we headed to our room to drop off our bag and to check out the hotel’s hot springs. After changing into our bathing suits, we headed downstairs and paid for our entrance.  They gave us each a wristband that gave us access to a locker and then Trent and I met on the other side of the locker rooms.  I have to say, I was impressed with how nice they were, and clean too!  On the other side of the doors, we found several different pools, each with different temperature readings.  It wasn’t a huge area, but it had several options, and after the long day (and week) we’d had, we just wanted to soak and relax!  It was kind of awkward though, because even though we were the only people in there, the guard/worker on duty stared at us shamelessly the whole time (which, quite honestly, we should be used to by now).  We didn’t stay very long- maybe 40 minutes.  We took some photos of the inside.








After heading back to the room, we were exhausted! We both took quick showers and then headed to bed! Our friend would be picking us up at 8:30 the next morning!

The hotel, which I think was actually more of a business training center, was comfortable enough. The bed was still very Chinese… meaning extremely hard. But we slept well (that happens when you’ve had a full week of teaching 3-6 year olds). When we woke up, we got our first glimpse of really where we were. It was light outside and it was very beautiful. We enjoyed the view from our window until the grumble in our stomachs told us we’d better get a move on!




We headed back downstairs for breakfast. Again, it was very Chinese, but at least they had some hard boiled eggs, fruit and bread. Somehow, fried sprouts and other hot foods are not what my body wants to eat for breakfast.

Then we headed outside to meet our ride. Somehow overnight he had changed cars and came rolling up in this Pepto-Bismol pink car, with a big ol’ smile on his face. Trent has picked up on the Chinese way and is now unashamed to take photographs of the things we would consider ridiculous, this being among them. For your viewing pleasure…


He drove us to Ocean Springs Resort, which makes it sound like the springs are from the ocean… they’re not. We didn’t learn until later that these “springs” are just man-made ones (despite being RIGHT NEXT TO the ocean…). The place is beautiful, as is the hotel that we initially wanted to stay at. Here are some photos.




The inside of the Ocean Spring Resort was beautiful and very fancy (we would expect nothing less).


Then we made our way to the counter and showed them our tickets (which our assistants had been kind enough to help us order and print out). They gave us each a wristband that opens a locker containing flip flops, a robe, and a towel. Tickets were about 200 Yuan a person (about 40 bucks). We changed (in front of a million watching eyes) in our respective locker rooms and then headed to the springs. When we entered, Trent started snapping pictures, but about 2-3 shots in, he was told by one of the staff members that photography inside the hot springs was not allowed. Boo on you. Here are the few shots that we got.





The inside was HUGE. It was all in this massive dome-like structure with lots of natural lighting. There were tons of little pools, each labeled with their temperature. They had different themes, there were some with games in them, others with waterfalls or fountains, and there was a huge one for the kids with a massive ball pit in the center! There were hot springs in the “ruins” of an old ship, and all sorts of other cool pools. Trent and I made our way around the different pools enjoying the people watching and relaxing. After a while, we decided we needed a break. We were able to snap a few winning shots without detection…



We went back through the locker rooms and got these clothes that you are required to wear if you leave (kind of “scrub”-like) and then met upstairs, where someone had told us there were snacks! Indeed there were, but many of them were not necessarily appetizing to us. We stuck to fruits that we knew and recognized, and drank some juice while watching others playing in the springs.



After we’d rested sufficiently and eaten enough to tide us over, we changed and went back downstairs. This time, we decided to try out the outdoor springs. Here there weren’t any people watching. The weather was getting cooler, so there weren’t many people outside at all! We busted the camera back out and took some more photos out here where nobody seemed to care. You can see the ocean from some of the springs, although the view isn’t the greatest. It is through a chain-link fence that kind of detracts from the natural beauty. The hot water and the cool air were the perfect combination, and we spent the rest of our afternoon out here.








When we were sufficiently pruned up, we decided we’d had enough and we went back inside to change our clothes. But we’d seen how lovely the outside was, so we decided to go on a little walk. We ended up walking by the HUGE hotel we were going to stay at, and their lovely grounds, as well as out along the ocean. It was beautiful!







We figured out how to catch the correct bus back to take us back into Qingdao and enjoyed a lovely sunset on the bus. It was a great “end” to a great birthday weekend!


Overall impressions and suggestions:

It was definitely worth going to.

We know one person since our going who came back with an awful rash. Be careful!

You could easily make this trip in one day if you left early in the morning and came back in the evening. One day of hot springs is enough!

I would suggest staying at the hotel that is connected, simply for the reason that the hot water makes you tired, and it sure would have been nice to go back to our room to chill for a bit between our times in the different pools.

Book online for cheaper entrance! Most of the websites are in Chinese, but you can find a friend to help you!

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 7, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , ,

Chinese National Day- 2014

National Day

A year ago yesterday we celebrated Chinese National Day… in China. This holiday is always celebrated on October 1st and it commemorates the formation of the modern-day Central People’s Government. It was first established in 1949, although not on that very day, that the People’s Republic of China was born. Now, they celebrate with a week-long holiday called “Golden Week.” In addition to big parades and lots of extravagance in the capital city of China, there are LOTS and LOTS of fireworks… all week long, at all hours of the day and night (so much so that we may never be excited about fireworks again).

At QISS (Qingdao No.1 International School of Shandong), we got a week off for this holiday, and although I had DESPERATELY wanted to go to the Philippines with some of our best friends, the flights were way too expensive and we ended up staying in Qingdao. Golden Week is a huge time of travel for the Chinese, and therefore, prices for flights were SUPER expensive. Thankfully, we weren’t the only ones to encounter this problem. Several other families from our school also ended up staying in Qingdao for this holiday. Our friends, the Matthews, called us up and invited us out to Shilaoren beach (very close to our apartment) to set off some fireworks in celebration. We were excited to join in the festivities!

That night, we headed down to the beach. The weather was cool, but not cold and it was a bit windy; the tide was high. Piers and Lizzy brought sparklers for everyone, and the kids particularly loved these (“big” kids too). They also brought a HUGE box of aerial fireworks to set off. Piers took some cool time-lapse photos with his camera using the sparklers and we all had a great time!

A- sparkler

sparkler t


T sparkler

Trent and I

Now one thing about foreigners on the beach is that we tend to draw a lot of attention… People always stop and ask to take photos of us or simply stand uncomfortably close and stare unabashedly. This night was no different. Even on our tiny corner of the beach, we drew lots of attention. There was a family that stopped by and ended up basically handing me all their kids for a couple of photos. One moment we’re just having fun with sparklers on the beach, the next, we’re in an impromptu photo shoot. It doesn’t bother me so much, but it sure does make me shake my head…

all the kids

random people

A random baby that was thrust into my arms...

A random baby that was thrust into my arms…

After all the sparklers had burned down, we set off the big box of fireworks. The kiddos covered their ears while we watched firework after aerial firework shot into the dark sky.

me and the kiddos

After we finished, we all said our goodbyes and headed back to our respective homes. This, having been our first experience with Chinese National Day, was a fun way to celebrate with friends! Thanks for inviting us, guys!

whole group

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 2, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

A visit to the Huadong-Parry Chateau and Winery

winery cover photo

One of the cool parts of living in Qingdao was the opportunity to visit all kinds of cool things, even sometimes things that you would never expect to find in China, let alone in the “small” town of Qingdao (only by China’s standards… there are well over 8 million people living there). Now, being the end of September, reminded me of this little “getaway” just over a year ago…

Some of our best friends had previously visited a local winery and had talked about what a nice time they had. So when September rolled around, I suggested that we spend an afternoon at the Huadong-Parry Chateau and Winery celebrating the birthdays we all shared that month. Trent and I are both September babies, born 6 years and 10 days apart, and two of our closest couple friends also have birthdays in September… in fact, back-to-back birthdays. Justin’s is on the 27th and Zach’s is on the 28th. The three of us couples (Trent and I, Zach and Heather, and Catherine and Justin) decided on a Sunday afternoon, the 21st of September, to visit this place.

Trent and I had a hell of a time trying to get there. After church got out, we grabbed some fruit and cheese to share and headed outside to wait for a taxi. We waited… and waited… and waited… to no avail. We walked to the next street up, hoping that the change of scenery would gain us luck… not so. So after about an hour of waiting, and me VERY anxious to get there, we decided to get our scooter. We hadn’t wanted to ride it since we knew we’d be drinking wine and wanted to be safe, but after waiting for so long, we decided it was our only option. Trent headed back up to our apartment (which is no short trip) while I waited in the hopes that I would still catch something. Nearly 20 minutes later, I did manage to catch a taxi, but now the problem was how do I tell him to wait for Trent??? I told the cab driver in my (very) broken Chinese “hiyo yiga ren,” which meant to me, “There is one more person coming.” He must have understood me because he waited while I called Trent and he ran the half mile back down to where I was. In fact, this driver was very kind. We’ve had all sorts of interactions with drivers and most are grumpy and impatient (I guess who can blame them?), so this guy was a pleasant surprise. When Trent got there, we began driving. The next problem… the driver didn’t know where we were going and since we’d never been there before, neither did we. I called Justin and Catherine, who had already been there nearly an hour and a half by this point, and they put him on the phone with someone who worked there. Thankfully they were also very helpful and about 20 minutes later, we were making our way up this beautiful driveway in the mountains to the chateau. We thanked the driver and paid him and then got out to meet our friends.

We opted out of the actual tour of the grounds, on account of how much time we’d already lost, and made our way to our friends instead. They had already found a cute little pagoda and set up shop underneath it. They had brought in bottles of wine (you are allowed to do so as long as it is their wine- Huadong), cheese and fruit and nut platters that we would all enjoy together. Baby Elijah was comfortably laying on a blanket in the grass. Behind us were rows upon rows of grapes, many of which had just recently been harvested.





Catherine and baby Eli

Catherine and baby Eli


We enjoyed some time just hanging out, eating and drinking wine, and taking in the scenery around us. Somehow, being here didn’t feel like being in China. It felt like an escape. With the mountains behind us, and grapes and greenery surrounding us, the chateau seemed like a romantic diversion from the normal grind of Chinese life.






After a while, we decided to go explore and wander around. Catherine hung back to feed Elijah while the 5 of us wove our way through the endless rows of grapes… sauvignon blanc, merlot, chardonnay…







After a while, we wandered over to some statues…



I think this one may have had too much to drink...

I think this one may have had too much to drink…


…and subsequently up some stairs to another gorgeous trellised walkway where we had a clear view of the whole grounds including the iconic chateau.




While we were up there, we had a lot of good laughs and lots of great photos.



DSC05238 2



The view from up here was great too! There was a small lotus pond and it was quiet and serene.







The guys even invented a game… grape bowling. Yep, using our *now* empty wine glasses, we tried to roll grapes down the walkway and into the cups. It was harder than it might seem to get the grape to roll over the lip of the glass instead of bounce off of it.



As we were making our way back, the owners came to tell us that they were closing up, but we weren’t quite ready to leave yet. Fortunately, since Zach and Heather had been here several times and had good rapport with the owners, they allowed us to stay and pack up when we were ready. We stayed and hung out with baby Eli while the boys chatted.




As the sun was setting, we packed up and then wandered back down the road in search of (several) taxis to bring us all home. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long and were on our way back to reality.





We really enjoyed our time at the Huadong-Parry Chateau and Winery. We recommend it as a getaway for sure! Their wine is good too! We had a great time!

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

SHOWERed with love! Part 1

SHOWERed with love! Part 1

I have been lucky enough to have 3 baby showers thrown for me and baby Jedidiah (maybe a fourth to come with my old co-workers, too).

The first baby shower I had was while we were still in China. It was towards the end of our time there, but the timing of it all was quite tricky. Nearly every weekend for months before we left was taken up with school stuff or other plans, and all of our friends who worked at ISQ (International School of Qingdao) got out a week before we did for the summer break (which also meant that they would be leaving or travelling sooner). I also had some close friends leaving China (permanently) before school got out. When we considered all these things, we decided that it would be best to have the shower on a weeknight. We chose Wednesday, June 3 as our date. I would be 15 weeks pregnant and we had hoped to find out the sex of our baby before the shower (so that it could be a “reveal” party too), but the doctors said that it was still too early to tell.

The host was my wonderful friend, Catherine. She booked an upstairs room in one of the most popular downtown restaurants, The Canvas, for the evening (which is a restaurant that one of our student’s parents own and operate). We decided on a “Mommy to BEE” theme.


As the date drew closer, I got more and more excited. It still seemed awfully early for a baby shower… none of the typical “bump” games could really be played (since my bump was still very small), but at the time, it was “now or never” and I really wanted to celebrate with my friends in China before we left (for good) to come back to the US. Catherine had been planning for weeks but had warned me “not to get too excited”… after all, we were in China and access to hobby stores or craft places was nonexistent… even Pinterest was sometimes hit-or-miss.

When the evening came, Trent and I took a taxi to Canvas right after our weekly staff meeting. We cab-pooled with some other co-workers and headed downtown. When I arrived and went upstairs, I couldn’t believe my eyes! There before me was the most magical set-up, with lights, decorations, everything! It was gorgeous! Catherine had clearly spent many hours on all the little details. She (and her husband Justin) had hand-made little bees out of pipe cleaners and honeycombs out of Popsicle sticks. She had printed off all these cute little sayings and put them in some photo frames on the tables. Even the water bottles had cute little bee labels on them!

set up


gracious words are a honeycomb

pollinate the world with the love of Christ


Thanks for buzzing by

water labels

the whole setup

She had hand-drawn a beautiful bee-hive for “Baby L” where people could put their thumb prints (in yellow, like little bees) and their names. She had also made a beautiful book for people to sign and write special notes in- just like a scrapbook, with pictures and everything!

Baby L beehive

After I composed myself and picked my jaw up off the floor, I went into the bathroom to change, and Catherine dressed me up with a little bee headband. Then I came out to greet my friends.

cat and my belly


Kelly and Alexa

me and Liz


The beginning of the shower was very relaxed- people came in, we chatted, they ordered dinner and we all just socialized for a while.

Canvas workers

church and small group


my table

QISS table

Each person also added their thumb print to the beehive and wrote in my book. Another thing Catherine had them do was to write me a message on some newborn diapers so that when Trent or I are doing late-night changes, we can read messages of encouragement or laughter from our friends.

book, thumprint, diapers

late night diapers

Meanwhile, Trent was downstairs hanging out with “the guys” and the kids.

the guys downstairs

Justin and Eli


the kiddos

When everyone had pretty much finished eating, we began with some games. The first game we played was merely an “ice breaker” where we all had to go around and find people who matched certain criteria and write their names on the appropriate number. This was a good game since we had people from several different areas of life… some from QISS (where we worked), others from church (Laoshan New Spring), and others from our “rival” school ISQ. Some people knew others, others did not. The game got people chatting and introducing themselves. The first person who finished won a prize.

game 1

get to know you game

During the second game, I stood up at the front of the room with my back to all of my friends. Everyone began standing. As I read from a list of criteria, if anyone met it, they had to sit down (i.e.- if you are wearing red nail polish, sit down). The last person standing also got a prize.

second game

game two

The last game, to me, was the most fun. Catherine had e-mailed Trent’s and my parents (sneaky girl!) and had asked for stories about our infancy and childhood. Our parents responded with several facts and stories to share. Catherine read each of the stories out loud and then everyone, myself included, had to guess whether it was Trent or I who had done it. I got all but 3 of them right. It was pretty funny to hear some of the stories that were shared. I believe Kelly Pinyan won this game.

guessing game

guessing game me

After the games, we had cake. Haekyoung, the owner of the restuarant and the mom of one of my 4 year olds, had generously donated my favorite Canvas dessert, carrot cake, for the party (Canvas has DELICIOUS carrot cake). Catherine had made a cute little banner to go across the cake too. It looked almost too good to eat! In addition to cake, there were also cupcakes that Catherine and her mom Charmaine had made. They had cute little “Welcome Ba-Bee” toppers. Both desserts were wonderful!

carrot cake


me and cupcakes

Finally, after cake, was the last part… opening presents. Trent came up and took photos (he had actually been taking photos all night, but had also been hanging downstairs with all the dads and kids while me and the ladies were doing our thing). Trent and I got a lot of cool things for baby Jedi and in some ways, it made the pregnancy feel real. Other than our “Made in China” onesie that we had bought for ourselves and some cute little Chinese shoes and a “100 day outfit” (In China, they celebrate the baby’s 100th day of life) from our ayi, we really hadn’t bought anything for him yet. We had requested that people get things from our registry or that they ship gifts to our home in Texas so that we wouldn’t have so much to pack when we moved countries a few weeks later. We got lots of great gifts, cute outfits, cloth diapers, a jogging stroller and all sorts of other goodies. We are so blessed to have such awesome friends!

gift time


jogging stroller

socks from Raden

Spurs onesie

At the end of the evening, people started to head out. Catherine had made the most adorable shower gifts… little honey facial scrubs (fitting right in with the bee theme). She put them in little jars with bows and labels… they were perfect.

facial scrub sigh

facial scrub

We said our goodbye’s and then Trent and I helped Justin and Catherine take down all the decorations. Baby Eli was there too, in his own little bee costume.

kisses for Eli

Trent and Eli

I can’t even tell you how grateful I was for this amazing shower! Catherine really did an amazing job. I was totally blown away by how much love and time she put into everything and was truly blessed by all that she did. I am so thankful for a friend like her!

Cat and Eli

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 21, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , ,

30 years old… 30 weeks pregnant… 30 things I am grateful for!

30 years old… 30 weeks pregnant… 30 things I am grateful for!

Well, today marks 30 years in the books for me! The big 3-0. In some ways, 30 feels old, and in other ways, I feel my life, even at 30 is just beginning. I was feeling reflective today, so I wanted to write 30 things I am thankful for (in no particular order, except for number one and two).

1. My God. He is bigger than I could ever hope or imagine and his outpouring of grace in my life has been incredible. Every time I think about what he’s done in me and through me, I am amazed that he would use someone insignificant like me for his glory.

2. The cross. This Roman symbol of torture and punishment now stands for life and hope because the cross wasn’t the end… the resurrection was. I am thankful I serve a Lord that lives and that has defeated the grave forevermore! I am grateful that by his wounds, we are healed and that his righteousness is now our own. God’s plan of salvation through the cross is beautiful.

30 things I'm thankful for

3. My husband. God’s grace has never shone so bright in my life as when he brought me Trent. So much healing happened through him and I have been so blessed by him. I love my husband and am thankful for every moment we get to spend together!


4. Our baby. Trent and I are so excited to be parents and we can’t wait to meet baby Jedidiah! What a blessing pregnancy has been for me. We’ve loved every stage, but are anxious to meet our little guy soon!

photo shoot

5. Family. We are super blessed to have two incredible families here who love and support us. But family goes deeper than blood. We have been a part of many “families” who have loved us and taken care of us over the years. I had many host families when I was traveling abroad in college and we certainly had families we were a part of in China. I am thankful for ALL of our families.

My side of the family.

My side of the family.

Trent's side of the family.

Trent’s side of the family.

6. Travel. We have had so many opportunities to travel in the past several years, even before China. My country count is up to 17 and I think Trent’s is up to 12. We’ve also had the chance to travel a lot around the states and to visit many cool places.

7. Friends. We have been so blessed to get to know and love people all over the world. We have friends and loved ones in so many different places and we are so lucky to have so many great people in our lives.

family and friends

8. The Church. When I say this, I do of course mean to include the church we attend, Revolution Church (in Selma, TX); but I also say it to include the entire body of Christ found all around the world. When we were in China we had the opportunity to be a part of a house church that in so many ways, represented what we will see in heaven before the throne of Christ: people of every tribe, tongue, and nation bowing before the throne. It was such an intimate group of believers who studied God’s word together, held each other accountable, met each other’s needs, and lifted each other up. It will be hard to find that here. That being said, our church (Revolution) is so wonderful and we are so glad to be back there! God speaks in powerful ways and is moving through our church. Lives are being changed and people are being saved. Thank you God for what you are doing through Revolution Church!


9. My Small group. Ever since I moved to Texas 7 years ago, I have had the opportunity to meet with the same small group of girls every Tuesday night. We share a meal together (we take turns cooking) and then dive into the Word. We lift each other up, hold each other accountable, and challenge each other to go deeper in our relationships. I am so blessed to have these ladies in my life!

This isn't all the girls, but here's a few of us.

This isn’t all the girls, but here’s a few of us.

10. Living debt-free! Our two years in China allowed us to pay off ALL of my student loans (about $40,000 dollars) and both of our cars. We had to be very intentional about paying down those loans, but now our house is the only thing we owe on. Thank you Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University! I’m so glad that God put it on our hearts to attend this class just at the right time to make things happen for us. Living debt-free is awesome!

11. Being able to take a year off of teaching. So, BECAUSE we were able to pay off all of our debt, now we can successfully go down to one income. With Jedi coming in just a few short months, this is a huge blessing for me. If we still had debt hanging over our heads, there is no way that I could go without working, but since we don’t have almost my entire paycheck going to pay off these monthly bills, we are freed up for this! I get to have the best job ever (next to teaching)… I get to be a stay-at-home-mommy! This means more time with Jedi, a higher likelihood that I’ll be able to breastfeed longer, and no paying for expensive childcare! Praise God!

12. Being a teacher. Now, just because I’m not working at a school this year, does not mean that I’m still not a teacher. I have been so blessed by the kids I’ve gotten to know and to work with. I really enjoyed my time with my Somali kids when I was doing ESL in San Antonio, and I also had really awesome kids at QISS in China. I can honestly say that this past year was my best year to date of teaching. I had great kids, great families, great co-workers and we had SO MUCH FUN!!! I feel good about taking my hiatus now and leaving on such a high note!

The Somali kiddos I worked with in SA before we left.

The Somali kiddos I worked with in SA before we left.

Our last class at QISS.  This was on one of our fun Fridays.  :)

Our last class at QISS. This was on one of our fun Fridays. 🙂

13. Clear skies! After spending many a polluted day in China, we no longer take clear skies and fresh air for granted. There are many days as we walk outside that we simply marvel at the sky. It is blue! We can see clouds! We can breathe! Ah, the little things in life.

14. American food. I never thought I’d say that, but after living in China for two years, I love the variety of foods that we can get here! It wasn’t that there wasn’t any good food in China… we ate a LOT of good Korean food, but more so that we never really knew what we were going to get. It felt impossible to know where our food came from and if it was organic or not. There were a lot of food safety issues and quite frankly, the food in Shandong is notoriously bad. At least here we can go to HEB (our local grocery store) and know what we’re getting. Being pregnant, this is a huge relief for me!


15. Technology. Cell phones, maps, translating apps, Skype, WeChat, blogs… you name it. We’re grateful! Living in China, we had a lot of problems with technology… Skype would cut out or the sound or picture quality was terrible, Google was blocked, we had to use VPN’s (when they worked) for nearly everything (Facebook, blogs, Shutterfly, YouTube, etc.). Don’t get me wrong, I’m still thankful for what we had! I imagine people who traveled abroad 10 years ago when they could only send snail mail back and forth to family and loved ones; we were definitely lucky to have been able to Skype or e-mail or chat on Facebook once in a while. But being back and having high speed internet that actually works at high speeds (imagine that) and not having to worry about different things being blocked has saved me hours and hours of my life. Posting blogs or photos to Facebook takes only a fraction of the time, we are able to access things like Pinterest or YouTube for teaching resources, the list goes on and on… thank you Lord for technology!

16. Photos. Anyone who knows me probably knows that I take a LOT of photos (probably too many by most people’s standards), but I LOVE being able to look back at the memories and say, “Wow, remember when we did that?” It helps me remember people, places and adventures that we’ve had all over the world. Now I just have a lot of catching up to do making photo books!

17. Being “cultured.” All the opportunities that we’ve had to travel have afforded us many opportunities. I have learned Spanish fluently and some survival Chinese. We have been able to experience many different cultures, foods, languages, and peoples. Traveling certainly expands one’s worldview and it helps you to see the world differently. I’m thankful that traveling opened up my mind and heart to so many different people, places, and things.

18. Cars! After being in China and having to take taxis everywhere (at least until we got our scooter), we are so thankful for the convenience and independence that having our own cars allows us to have. We spent so many hours of our lives waiting for taxis… sometimes in the blistering heat, other times in the freezing cold, other times with masks on to try to save our lungs from the disgusting pollution! It took so long, it was so hard to communicate effectively where we needed to go, and it cost us quite a bit of money (thankfully our school reimbursed us for most of it). I love being able to jump in my car for a quick errand (there was no such thing as “quick” when we were there). We are blessed to have our own vehicles!

19. Our health. So many people have health issues and are struggling with diseases and cancer and other things. I am grateful for every day that we are healthy and happy!

20. Birthing Centers and Midwives. After being in China and seeing how they “do” birth there (pushing for C-sections), I am thankful for the choices I have here on how my baby will be born. I am grateful that we’ve found a great birthing center with awesome midwives that we really like and trust. I’m thankful for the freedom to choose to have a water birth and to have midwives who want to honor my choices.

21. Freedom of religion. Being back is somewhat of a two-edged sword. On the one hand we can worship freely, on the other, I would still say that there is a lot of religious “persecution” even in our own country. But we can gather freely without fear and worship our God openly here. For this, I am grateful.

22. Our kitty cat. When we left for China, we had two outdoor cats that we adopted when they were very little. They were born in our backyard shortly after we moved in and they were the first batch of kittens that we had to “tame.” It was a very time-consuming process but we grew to love these cats. Several batches of kittens later, and lots of fixing of cats and adopting them out, we kept our two originals. When we returned last summer, both cats were still around, but sadly this summer when we came back for good, only one was left. We don’t know what happened to our other kitty… she was super sweet and affectionate so we’re hoping that someone took her in, but truthfully, who knows? We ARE however, grateful that Little Grey is still around. He was the least affectionate of the two before and much more independent. He would hang around but didn’t seek out human attention or affection. My how things have changed! Now that we’re back, he has been so much more attention seeking. But we love it. Every time we come home, he is waiting for us by the back door. He flops down on the ground for us to pet him and wraps himself between our legs if he feels like we’re not giving him enough time. I love our kitty cat.

The kitty I'm petting is the one that stuck around, Little Grey.

The kitty I’m petting is the one that stuck around, Little Grey.

23. Work. We are so thankful that Trent has a job! God really provided for us and gave Trent a good place to work. I am thankful for all the extra time I have had to be able to help him (now that I’m not busy doing my own work). Thank you God for provision.

24. Our home. Trent and I have lived in the same house since we were married. It was a house that belonged to his grandmother but sat vacant for years. When we moved in, we did a LOT of work on it. We put a lot of sweat, labor and hard work into it. We did a lot of renovations and painted the entire house from floor to ceiling. When we left for China, we had renters. Coming back, we had to do a lot of work again, and spend way more money than anticipated to get the house back to the way it was when we left it, but we are thankful to be back in our home. It’s not just a house to us, it is, has been, and will be our home (and we can’t wait to make Jedi a part of it!)

25. Spanish. For me, going to China was like going to a Spanish-speaking desert. There weren’t many Spanish speakers there and so I felt like I lost a lot of my verbal speaking abilities and vocabulary. But being back, I can surround myself with all sorts of Spanish-speaking friends, books, music, etc. And already, I feel like I’ve bounced back from my 2 year deficit. We’re even reading to Jedidiah at night from a bilingual toddler’s Bible. We’re certainly hoping to have a bilingual son (and his daddy seems to be picking some up as well)!

26. English books and music. Being away was hard. We had some coffee shops that had English books that had been left behind that we could borrow from, but certainly not the choices that can be found in any book store or library here. Same with music. Of course, it can always be downloaded, but we are certainly 2 years behind the times with music!

27. Air1 and KLOVE. These two Christian radio stations were a huge encouragement to us while we were away. Even though we couldn’t actually “tune in” while we were in China, we could still listen and be encouraged through their apps. They were a huge blessing to us while we were away and of course, still are a blessing now that we’re back. Trent and I made the decision a couple of years ago to listen primarily to Christian music. We realized that the junk we were putting into our ears and our hearts was eventually junk that flowed out of them. Ever since we’ve made the change, we’ve noticed a big change in our attitudes and actions and so we’ve been more intentional about guarding our hearts and minds against the “yuck” of this world.

28. China. Even though our two years living in China were full of difficulties and hardships, they were also full of joys, excitement, and fun. Trent and I grew so much more there than we would have if we had stayed here. God called us to something greater, and we followed. We are so thankful that we did! The people we met there, the school we worked for, the opportunities to travel to different parts of the country were all awesome and we wouldn’t change our experience for anything!

The Great Wall of China in Beijing.

The Great Wall of China in Beijing.

Harbin, China

Harbin, China

Qingdao, China, where we lived.

Qingdao, China, where we lived.

Shanghai, China

Shanghai, China

Suzhou, China

Suzhou, China

Xi'an, China

Xi’an, China

29. Adventures. Just because we had lots of cool adventures these past two years doesn’t mean that our adventures end there. We will very soon be embarking on a new adventure called “parenthood” and along with that, I’m sure we will continue to travel and have other “adventures.” I’m thankful that God gave us adventurous spirits! We’ve learned and grown so much through all of our cool experiences.

30. I am thankful for 30 years of life (and ironically, 30 weeks of pregnancy)! Not just any life, but a BLESSED, ABUNDANT life. Thank you all for being a part of it!

What are you thankful for today?

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 14, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , ,

Midwives vs. Hospitals: Our decision

how will baby boy make his entry

I know that China and America are worlds apart (literally) but their views on birth couldn’t be more different. In China, most births happen by C-section. The doctors there are most comfortable performing this procedure; it is faster and more predictable and so this is how births usually go in China. That’s not to say that you CAN’T have a natural birth there, but it sure isn’t encouraged!

The closer we get to Jedidiah’s arrival, the more time I’ve had to reflect on how I want him to be born. I guess I have always been sort of a “hippie” when it comes to natural things. I am really picky about foods that we eat (non GMO, organic all the way) and about the products that we use (minimal chemicals, etc), so it’s no surprise that when it comes to Jedidiah’s entry into the world, I would choose the more “natural” route (no drugs, minimal intervention, the use of aromatherapy, massage and hydrotherapy for pain relief).

The more I read and learn about midwives, the more I think that they are in an underappreciated profession. These women care deeply about the people they serve. They listen to their preferences and offer the best possible ways to have a healthy pregnancy and birth. They use simple but effective remedies to ease the pain of labor and offer the least intrusive entry into the world.

Now, I should say before I get too far in, that I know many people who have had successful hospital births and who love their Ob GYN, but I also know a fair share of people who have had horrific hospital births, being pushed and even bullied into making decisions that they didn’t really want to make, feeling like they had no other choice and leaving feeling defeated. This post is in no way to belittle the choices of others when it comes to the birth of their child, it is simply to explain our choice for the upcoming birth of our son.

Trent and I toured several birthing centers in and around San Antonio. There is one IN San Antonio, another in Stone Oak and another outside the city limits in New Braunfels. We enjoyed our visits to all three. Each of them had very nice facilities and all of the midwives we spoke with were very kind and helpful. Trent and I would like to have a water birth and all of the facilities offered this as an option and were well-versed in performing them. The more we read about water births, the more convinced we are that we want to have our baby this way. The water has been shown to relax the mother as well as reduce the pain of contractions and labor, and babies who are born in the water still get the benefits of the flora and bacteria in the mother’s birth canal. Water births increase the skin’s elasticity, thereby reducing the chances for tearing. It also increases the release of endorphins while decreasing blood pressure and reducing the release of stress-related hormones (which means that complications are less likely to arise during delivery).

There are other reasons we wanted to choose a birthing center over a hospital birth. Birthing centers are more open to letting mothers eat and drink while they are in labor, they allow women to walk around and allow gravity to assist in the labor process. They intermittently monitor the baby’s heart and don’t attach you to IV’s and machines. Because of this, women are able to give birth in many different positions. They also really encourage the spouse or partner to be a part of the birthing experience. Daddy will be able to be in the tub with me and he can catch our baby as he is born, which is another cool and exciting part that we are looking forward to. Another thing that we like about midwives is that they walk through the pregnancy with you; they get to know you and your preferences. It is much more personal.

Another thing we really wanted was delayed cord clamping. We decided not to do cord blood banking, but instead to let our baby get all of those important stem cells from the umbilical cord before it is cut. Again, this is just our own personal decision.

Another thing we really appreciate about birthing centers over hospitals is that they give us time with our baby after the birth instead of whisking him away for all their necessary testing. They allow an uninterrupted time for bonding as a family before stepping in. They do all the testing right next to us, so we can see everything they are doing (and they explain it as they go), and baby boy will never have to leave our side. There are no required overnight stays, although we are not limited to a specific time frame before leaving (we could stay the night if we so chose).

They also come to our house to check on us within 24-48 hours of leaving the center. This visit is to offer breastfeeding advice and tips as well as to make sure that the transition into home life is going smoothly. They are there to answer any questions as well. I like how personal it all is.

Anyways, after all was said and done, we chose the New Braunfels Family Birth Center as our delivery choice. Like I had mentioned before (in another post), one of my close girlfriends had her last two babies there, the last of which was a water birth. It is also the closest in proximity to our house and the easiest to get to. We felt very comfortable with the midwives there and these midwives also provide the services usually offered by a doula… double whammy! They were also willing to give me a discounted price since I was coming in so late in my pregnancy. Another thing I really appreciate is their later office hours, so that working husbands (like my own) can be there for the prenatal visits and check-ups. This way Trent doesn’t have to take extra time off of work to be there. 🙂

The day that we went for our initial visit and tour, it had already been nearly 7 weeks since we had seen a doctor (because of a lapse in insurance during our move from China to the States). The ladies there knew that I was anxious to know if everything was progressing normally and so they offered to examine me right then and there, no strings attached. “Examine” might be too harsh a word, actually. Their “exam” room, for lack of a better term, is a bedroom, decorated comfortably as if you were at home. I didn’t have to get naked and don a stupid robe lying on a cold, metal tray; rather I lied down on a comfy bed for them to check my blood pressure, uterus and the baby’s heartbeat. Everything measured well and it was a very comfortable, un-intrusive check-up. Leaving that afternoon, I felt so relieved! It was that extra step that made me even more confident in their services and we look forward to continuing to work with them! Another plus for us, is that they are Christians too, so we are coming from similar worldviews and it helps us feel more connected to them.

Now, some of you may be wondering about the cost of midwifery over hospital deliveries. In the end, when all is said and done, they cost about the same. Most insurance companies won’t cover births outside of their “in-network” hospitals, but the research is beginning to show a trend towards birthing centers and the job that midwives do is starting to get more credit and backing from medical and scientific communities. Even without the help of insurance, birthing centers offer an affordable way to give birth to your baby. They put you on a payment plan so that by the time your baby is born, you have already paid for all the necessary services. Many birthing centers also offer discounts for people whose insurance won’t cover births there (which is most of them). They are certainly an option I would encourage looking into!

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 2, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , ,

Pregnancy and Chinese hospitals: Qingdao

When we first found out that we were pregnant, obviously we were ecstatic! But later, the reality of finding doctors in China set in. What does that look like? How do things work? What the heck do we do? How in the world will we communicate? Thankfully, like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I had several friends who had already had babies in China, so they had some ideas of how to help me out.

Trent and I didn’t want to take any time off of work to visit the doctor, and for that reason, we chose a smaller clinic that is a branch of the big International Women and Infant’s Hospital in Qingdao. Both clinics are open on Saturdays, but it was anticipated that this one would be far less busy. I’d heard horror stories of people spending all day waiting at the International Clinic (because it is first-come, first-serve- they don’t really do appointments). Time is very valuable to us, especially with the job we were working at QISS… it kept us BUSY!!!

China is also different than the states in that you can go in right away, as soon as you think you might be pregnant; whereas in the States, they usually have you wait until 10 -12 weeks. I had conferred with my bestie, Catherine, who had Elijah here in Qingdao just over a year ago, and she suggested going to the doctor at 6 weeks. That is when you can first detect a heartbeat. Cat, her husband Justin, baby Eli and Catherine’s mom all met us at the clinic so we would know what to do, where to go and also to offer moral support.

That first Saturday morning Trent and I headed for Qingdao Congamarie Women’s Hospital (Marie Yi Yuan).


Most of our

Most of our “Cheering Squad” (all but Justin)

Cat and the gang were already there by the time we got there and she had already filled out most of my information for the nurses. I finished up a few small details, and they walked me up to a counter and I paid 20 yuan for the hospital card ($3). Then they had me do a urine test, which brings me to the topic of cleanliness at hospitals in China. Already you have to use a squatty potty (which makes things difficult, gross and smelly), and they don’t give you gloves or anything else while you’re peeing in this tiny, flimsy plastic cup with a sad excuse for a handle. Then, after you pee, there’s no soap to wash your hands, and you still have to carry the cup all the way back to the desk, hoping not to slosh anywhere. I was NOT impressed by the bathrooms in the hospital. (There’s also no TP… seriously, at a hospital???)

After that, we were taken into another room with what I think was the doctor and a nurse. Neither one of them spoke English, although the nurse had a bit more than the doctor did. We explained that we wanted to have an ultrasound, but not a blood test, since I already knew I was pregnant, and obviously, if for some reason I wasn’t anymore, the ultrasound would also show the same thing. One thing that always seems to happen in China is that they make up rules that don’t really make any logical sense and then they refuse to break them. So they were very confused when I made this request. Essentially the translated conversation (via our iphones) went like this:

Me- “I only want an ultrasound”
Them- “You have to have blood work too”
Me- “But I only want an ultrasound, not the blood work.”
Them- “But you HAVE to do them together.”
Me- “But why? I already know that I’m pregnant. I just want the ultrasound.”
Them- “No, they can ONLY be done together.”
Me- “Why???”
Them- “We can’t do the ultrasound by itself. Take the blood test.”

Eventually I got tired of arguing and decided just to do the dang blood test even though one is clearly not contingent on the other. They had me sit on a stool while the blood technician took a few vials of blood (without using gloves by the way!). But after it was done, I would have to wait for 2 hours for the results. Also, where you gave blood was just a few feet away from where people were bringing their urine samples back… aren’t they worried about cross-contamination???

Then they took me back to the front to pay for my ultrasound. All the while they are just leading us around and we have no clue where they are taking us… nor did we really have any idea what we were paying for. Once we’d paid, they brought me back to a room where they instructed me to take off my pants (at 6 weeks, they do the ultrasound trans-vaginally) and lay down on the bed (this took a bit of miming for me to understand exactly what the heck they wanted me to do). They wouldn’t let Trent come in the room at all, and they wouldn’t let me see the screen. Thankfully, Trent was right outside the (open) door and was able to listen as we heard our baby’s heartbeat for the first time. This made the visit entirely worth it! Now… what to do for an hour and a half while we wait for the blood work?

One of the best parts of going to this hospital was the fact that across the street was Wanda Plaza, a big mall, so we decided to take an early lunch and we ate at this amazing Indian restaurant! It was so good. I have no idea what it is called, but we had all sorts of delicious food! We spent a while there, knowing that we still had time to kill. Eventually we wandered back down the road to the hospital. They gave me my blood results and then brought me back to the doctor and nurse.

The test did indeed show that I was pregnant (duh), but it was the source of much consternation later on. The results showed levels for Estrogen, progesterone, and HcG- the three major hormones in pregnancy. All of them seemed normal, except for my HcG which was abnormally high. Instead of picking on that number, they decided that my progesterone was too low and not only would I have to take medicine, but I would have to come back the following Saturday for ANOTHER blood test. Now I know that in the States blood work is not cheap… not so much in China either. Whereas I only paid 100 Yuan for my ultrasound (like 17 USD), I paid nearly 350 Yuan for the blood (about 60 USD). The entire time we were communicating, it was through Google translate, so that made it even more difficult. Eventually I bought the dang medicine, although I wasn’t certain I was going to take it, at least not before I had done more research.

Finally, after most of our afternoon was spent, our first visit was done. On the way home, I meticulously searched for what normal levels of Progesterone should be for 6 weeks pregnant. Every chart I found said that I was well within the “normal” range. So I decided that I would talk to my Ob GYN back home and ask his opinion. You can read all about my decision and the weeks that followed in the post {Pregnancy} Walking by Faith. Anyways, after doing some natural things to try and boost my progesterone, I went back the following weekend.

Trent and I did another round of blood work with basically the same results. My estrogen and HcG had both doubled (now my HcG levels were WAY off the charts) but my progesterone stayed the same. This time I had no “cheering squad” with me, just Trent. So when the ladies asked if I had been taking the medication, and I told them no, they scolded me in all sorts of Chinese. They told me to take the medicine this time and come back AGAIN the following week to compare levels. Now it should also be noted that each time I went to the hospital it was around noon, and progesterone can fluctuate during the day, so who knows how accurate the results were anyways.

After all was said and done, Trent and I decided not to go back until 10 weeks, at which point we would request another ultrasound (NO MORE BLOOD!).

The next time we went back it was just the two of us. We accidentally forgot the book that they usually give you for your medical records (they literally glue things in the book and write notes in it… but all in Chinese). By the time we realized it, we didn’t have time to turn back around to go get it. In China, when you have to take taxis everywhere, there is no “going back.” The hospital is already across town and it takes us nearly 40 minutes to get there. Going back would have entailed us trying to explain to the taxi driver that our destination had changed and we needed to go back to our apartment, after which we would have had to walk the quarter mile back down to the main street to try to flag another cab, just to begin the entire trip over again. It would have added an hour or two easily to our day. Anyways, when we walked in, they wanted to know where my book was. I had already prepared my translations in the cab so that when I went there, I flashed them the screen shots I had taken of “I left my book at home, sorry.” And “I am 10 weeks pregnant; I’d like to have an ultrasound.” I also flashed “I don’t want any blood work” just in the hopes that maybe this time they wouldn’t press for it so much.

They brought me in a different room this time with two different doctors and nurses. I think it was by God’s grace that we forgot the book- they simply started a new one and didn’t even argue about the blood work- maybe since I was already 10 weeks along, it didn’t matter so much. They led me around again, bringing me to pay first, then to get my official fapiao (receipt) and then finally to the exam room. Again, Trent wasn’t allowed in, but this time they just did the ultrasound on my stomach. I still didn’t get to see anything, but the picture looked like a baby (a very little one, but a baby nonetheless), and they didn’t seem to find anything else wrong. We brought the print out back to the doctor and nurses and they looked at it and told us everything was hěn hǎo and that there was only yiguo (one) baby (we wondered if we might have twins since my HcG was so high). That was the only Chinese we understood anyways.

After the ultrasound, we went back to Wanda Plaza for some more yummy Indian food- we were not disappointed! Then we wandered around the mall a bit. We ran into Baymax (Big Hero 6) while we were there and of course, Trent had to give him a fist bump (blu-ba-luba-luba-lu).


Our overall impressions of this hospital:

Less expensive
It was super hard to communicate
Not very clean
Not foreigner friendly (unless you speak fluent Chinese)
Friendly staff
A bit frustrating, not knowing what we were paying for or even what tests they wanted to run
It was more traditional and followed Chinese laws more closely. It was disappointing that they wouldn’t let Trent in the room during the ultrasounds and that they wouldn’t let me see what was going on either.

The next time we went to the hospital should have been at 14 weeks, but we decided to hold off until 15 ½ weeks, in the hopes that we might be able to find out the sex of our baby. The odds of us finding out the sex of our baby at Congamarie hospital were not very good, but some friends had found out the sex of their babies at the Qingdao Women and Infant’s Hospital. Apparently they still won’t tell Chinese women (or men) the sex of their babies (because it is against the law), but are more lax with foreigners. So we opted for a switch this time around.


We went again on a Saturday, this time even further across town (all the way by the pier), and thankfully were greeted by an English speaking nurse, who helped me get set up with a new hospital card (thankfully they are cheap!) and listened as I told her that we were hoping for an ultrasound and if possible, to find out the sex of our baby. She took my blood pressure and weight and then brought me back to the doctor. Thankfully the English speaking doctor was there that day (I guess she’s not always there). They asked us a bunch of questions about ourselves and whether we wanted a boy or a girl… I think they were trying to feel us out. After it became clear to them that we really didn’t care either way, we just were excited to know, they told us that they would “try” to see the baby’s sex. I had to do blood work again… but this time it was for a different test… who knows what for. I tried to tell them that I had already done blood work, but they said that this time they were looking for different things.

They took me behind a curtain, and let Trent come along, to hear the baby’s heartbeat using the fetal heartbeat monitor. Then they brought me, much like the other hospital, here and there and everywhere to pay and get the fapiao and then to have the ultrasound done. We paid a LOT more at this clinic (like over 1000 Yuan), but this clinic had a much nicer facility. When it was my turn, they let Trent in the room, although there was a curtain separating us. At the foot of the bed, hung on the wall, was a big screen TV where both of us could clearly see what they were doing on the ultrasound. It was the first time we’d seen our baby move around! It was pretty overwhelming seeing our baby, really, for the first time. After the technician was finished, she informed us that she couldn’t tell if it was a boy or a girl, that it was still too early and the genitalia wasn’t obvious yet. We knew that this was a possibility, since usually the earliest it can be detected is 16 weeks. But our baby shower was that Wednesday so we were hoping to possibly do a “Gender Reveal” at the same time, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The doctor told me to come back at 20 weeks, but after we explained that we wouldn’t be in China anymore (which even with English speaking doctors was hard to get across), she said that we could come back at 18 weeks, right before we left Qingdao. She told me that I would have to do ANOTHER blood test the next time (for something different again) and that I wouldn’t be able to eat or drink before my next appointment.

We left with a much better impression of this hospital. It still wasn’t the cleanest- they still took my blood without using gloves (don’t they know that it protects THEM?!?), and the bathrooms still didn’t have any soap or TP… (c’mon… soap?), but overall, we felt better about our experience there… at least we could communicate and knew what was going on!

I actually ended up going to the hospital again at 17 weeks, by myself, because I had a round of diarrhea that lasted nearly a week. I was afraid it was a bacterial infection, so I thought I had better get it checked out. You can read all about that embarrassing experience in my ‘“Bumpdates:” weeks 14-18’ blog post.

Our last visit while we were in China came at 18.5 weeks, 3 days before we left China for good. We returned to the same hospital, this time early in the morning. Even though we only arrived a few minutes after they had opened, they were already busy and we had to wait much longer than the last time. I was starving and super thirsty and I couldn’t wait for them to take my blood so that I could eat or drink something! Thankfully I only had to wait about 20 minutes or so before they got the blood work going. This time they were checking for nutrient deficiencies, I think. Anyways, they drew the blood (again, without gloves) and then brought me to the waiting area for the ultrasounds. My nurse (a different one than the last time) whispered to the technician about us wanting to know the sex of the baby and then we waited our turn. When it finally came, Trent and I again got to watch the entire ultrasound on the big screen (and Trent video recorded it on his phone). This is when we found out that we were having a BOY!!! We were so happy by the time we left, we were on cloud nine.

We left for breakfast (this hospital doesn’t have any good Indian food… just a Burger King down the road). But we realized that we had forgotten one important thing: Chinese airlines require an official, stamped document that permits you to fly when you’re pregnant. It seems kind of ridiculous, but it was necessary, so we had to go back. When we left the mall we were in, we walked out into the Chinese version of “Drum Line” except with a much older crowd. You can always find random things like this in China… people dancing to choreographed songs along the road or outside of businesses, Chinese dragons and masked actors on the street, or a Chinese drum line. Thankfully when we got back to the hospital, the nurse had our document prepared in just over an hour and then we were ready to go!


Overall impressions of this hospital:

More expensive
Much more foreigner friendly
Still dirty in the most basic ways (no soap, gloves, etc.)
I had to poop in the tiniest, flimsiest cup ever and then carry it through the “walk of shame” down a floor and all the way back to the counter (which again, was right by where they draw blood…)
English speaking nurses (Hallelujah!)
Overall, a much more comfortable experience

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , ,