Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Aleah B______ Ransom

After only one month on the waiting list we are the proud parents of a 7 month old girl. We are so honored and humbled to be blessed this way.

She is perfect…since this is a public blog I can not post her picture, but feel free to email us and we will pass it on!
She is healthy, and basically on track for her age. Honestly, we are not exactly how old she is so considering that, her development is fine! She is a happy girl, and honestly the most beautiful baby you have ever seen! 

We prayed that we would get a child that looked similar to our boys, and she honestly does. They have the same nose, eyes, eyelashes and lips!

Her Ethiopian name (we cannot post it) will be used as her middle name, and her English name will be Aleah. But her Ethiopian name compliments her new name perfectly. She is everything we have prayed for and more. Our FATHER is so faithful!

Since we cannot post her picture, I am posting some pictures of the furniture we bought for her room. Right now, Grandma is living there, but she will return to America in a few days and we will make it Aleah's!
The next step is to buy her first stuffed animal, one that we will give her when we meet her. We did this for the boys, and its their most prized possession. We got the boys at Build -A-Bear, but I don't think we can find one here, but it will still be special!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mundane to exciting all in 20 minutes!

This afternoon something very exciting mundane happened.  We had to go to the plumbing store to by new shower heads. Okay Josh. I realize sometimes you may be hard up for new blogs, but a blog about new shower heads? Really? Have you sunk that low....possibly, but thankfully there is more.

Now in the words of Paul Harvey, "the rest of the story"

As Renee and I (the kids were with Grandma) ran to the bus with our new shiny shower heads, we saw some people using Chinese Sign Language! We instantly got nervous, and ended up on the same bus with them. They sat across the aisle from each other, and were signing non-stop. Renee and I were watching them, and actually understanding quite a bit. We waited and finally they took a break! I took a deep breath, and asked them their names!

There eyes got as big as the UFO's that are always spotted over Chengdu! We were able to actually have a conversation about going to the mountain, what our job was, and why we know sign!
It was an awesome step in the right direction...and all because we need some new shower heads! Isn't life amazing that way!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


One the way home on Sunday, we went by a carnival type thing by the river. So of course we stopped and the boys had some fun.....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A New Opportunity...

The kid in the blue jacket is the one the final story is about
One of the things that I love about China is that something new happens all the time. It may be something as silly as tearing up the parking lot they finished the day before, or something as serious some new rule or regulation that makes life harder...

Today we had something new happen, and it was great! For a while, we have been talking with our sign language teacher about another deaf school and a special ed school that are here in the city. We have been wanting to be introduced (in China you must be introduced into something new by someone you know), and today we finally were.
As we took a tour of this school, we were again struck by how great the need is. This school has even less than the other one we work with! There were no toys, no fun games, no pictures and paintings. Nothing. The few kids that did not go home for the weekend were gathered around a TV, while outside Changsha is having some of the best weather I have ever seen!

We were immediately given a burden for these kids and this school. We talked to the main teacher, and she was very open to us coming on a weekly basis, and just doing whatever the school needs.
We are so excited about this opportunity, and how doors seem to be opening more and more into the humanitarian aspect of the deaf and hard of hearing community.

One thing that struck me, is that this school focuses on speaking rather than sign language. Renee and I have been working on our Chinese Sign Language, but they asked us not to use it. Yet there was one boy who was using it. We asked, and were told, that he was too old to learn to speak, and they were giving up. He could use his sign language. We only spent a few minutes with him, but just in that time you could see the anger and frustration in his eyes, and how angry he is at life. As we were leaving, he saw my hearing aid. When the kids see it, they always get excited as they see that I am "one of them", yet this guy did not. In sign language, I told him that I am deaf on one side, and that we are the same. He got this strange look, and then signed back, "We are not the same!"  My heart broke, because we are. We both have the same struggles and same issues. His are greater than mine I am sure, but I can identify with him. I can't wait to see what our Father will do in his life!

We also got an introduction into the Special Ed school that is close to our house. We will be going there  once a week for some more things. I will give you more details later, as we have not worked everything out yet! But it was a good day, and we are so excited to see what Father has in mind for us and those new opportunities. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Conversation With a Friend

Sunny (AKA "the friend") with someone famous that I don't recognize.  I think it's someone from American Idol.

After having a conversation with a Chinese friend that has recently moved to the US to work on her MBA, we've come to deeper understanding of the culture we love so much.  By seeing things through her eyes, it helps us to understand our culture which in turn helps us to understand the Chinese culture a bit more.
We are often asked about the differences between education in the US and in China.  There are many differences, but what our friend noticed is that the US system is a reverse of the Chinese system. In China, students study and work really hard from the get-go and as time goes on, the schooling gets easier.  She said that you have to work extremely hard to get into a school--wether it be a middle school, high school, or university--but once you get in, it's pretty easy to graduate.  In the US, it starts out easy and gradually gets more and more difficult.  It's easy to get into a school (unless you're talking ivy leagues) but you do have to work to graduate.  It's an interesting observation that parallels the Chinese mindset of work hard now so that when you are old, you can enjoy life.  On the other hand, we Americans tell our kids to enjoy life while they are young and to balance work and play.  

Another thing that she mentioned is that the teachers in the US are not responsible.  Now, before you get all huffy about this, let me explain where she is coming from.  In China, the teachers lecture.  They tell you what you need to know, and then basically say, "I've told you, so now you know it"  (or have memorized it).  They rarely give a chance for students to ask questions.  In the US, as our friend noticed, the teachers will ask if there are any questions, and if not, they assume you understand the material and move on. In other words, they place the responsibility on the students (that's why she said the teachers aren't responsible).  This, I think, illustrates the difference between the Chinese way of teaching dependence, versus the US way of teaching independence.

Not better, not worse…just different, and we love it!

Then we talked about food differences…Suddenly, she understands why we like to eat out so much in China.  She said that restaurant food in the US is so expensive and is not as good as what you can cook at home (she must be talking about the cafeteria).  In China, it's relatively inexpensive to go out for dinner, and the food is so much better than at home.  She also understands why we don't like to eat fish in China.  It's not that it's bad--actually, it's quite tasty most of the time.  It's just that in the US, the bones are taken out for us so we don't know how to eat around the all tiny bones.  

Finally, she understands why we get so tired after spend an entire day in a Chinese (language) setting.  It's exhausting operating in a second language!  And that's why we ask our friends not to call or text after 9pm.  

The highlight of the whole conversation…wait for it…wait for it…she's learning American Sign Language!  That's so awesome!  She spent quite a bit of time with us volunteering at a local deaf school here in China, and is now doing the same in the US.  Imagine that--a Chinese girl using English sign language.  Probably just about as strange as some Americans using Chinese sign.

It's so interesting to see American culture through the eyes of a visitor!

I can't wait till Christmas when she'll be visiting Josh's family.  It'll be exciting to get her insights on that experience!


Sunday, October 9, 2011


Two parts hydrogen
One part oxygen
It's everywhere
It's God's creation
I've taken it for granted
Never again

Last week, we were scheduled for some repairs to a water leak, so we prepared ourselves to go without water for about 12 hours.  No big deal--we filled a couple buckets, got our showers, and did the dishes before it was shut off.  

The water came back on at the scheduled time…kinda.  The kitchen was fine, but in the bathrooms there was a little trickle strong enough to fill one small bucket in about thirty minutes time.  We just thought that the workers weren't finished, or that a pump needed to be replaced, or something of that nature.  So, patient we were.  We could flush our toilets with buckets, so I was grateful…

Day 4-- My hair REALLY started to feel gross and funny smells were emanating from the bathroom and from each one of us.  I had my hair washed at a salon, Josh and the boys used the sink, and wet wipes became a normal form of a bath.  

Day 7--Casually mentioned the problem to the management.  It's not considered a real problem because it's not Summer and a week is not an unreasonable amount of time to go without a shower.  
**We also celebrated our Glad We Gotcha Day in a hotel with the boys, so we got a REAL shower**

Day 8--Asked management when the water would be back to normal.  They said they'd send someone over to check out the problem.  The "someone" never came.  

Day 9--Politely explained to management that this problem really needs to be corrected and that someone really needs to come check it out.  Without ever checking into the problem, they said that we needed to hire an outside company to fix our something (never learned plumbing words in language school), and that it's not the complex's problem, but ours.  I was starting to feel like I was getting what I call the "Chinese brush off".  

Now I'm starting to get upset.  We never had this problem til THEY turned off our water.  I was getting played for the "stupid foreigner."  Though playing the "stupid foreigner" card has it's perks at times, this was not one of them.

Day 9, try 2--Politely, but a little a lot more firmly, I talked to them.  "This is your problem, not mine.  You need to fix it, not me."  One unfortunate onlooker thought it would be a good time to make fun of the foreigner and mimic my Chinese…haha…Bad choice, Mister.  Apparently I gave him the look because without any words from me, he was apologizing.  After this, one lady in the office finally took pity on me and sent a worker over to check it out.  

THEY fixed the problem in about 5 seconds.  Of course they blamed it on us messing with a water valve, and when we said we hadn't, they said our kids must've done it.  We didn't even know this valve existed and there's no way the boys could've even gotten to it, but whatever…I decided it wasn't worth the fight, and I thanked them for their help.

We're still the "stupid foreigners,"  but we are now "stupid foreigners" that have water and we don't stink anymore!

AND, did I mention that the water pressure is better now than it's ever been?

Thank you, Lord for your creation, and thank you for modern amenities such as running water!  I will never again take a shower for granted!

Two parts hydrogen
One part water
It means washed hands
It means a flushed toilet
It means a refreshing shower
Grateful forevermore 


Saturday, October 8, 2011


Today was the first day back to school after National Day. Yes, its a Saturday, but the Chinese believe in make up days, so this weekend I am working on Saturday and Sunday.
I had something funny happen to me this weekend. When you read the story, remember the girl does not believe the same things we do, and I don't agree with what she did, but it was funny!

We were doing a section in my Oral English class on body language. I decided it would be fun to do an exercise where a student is given a word and has to act it out. No speaking, just using body language. The other students have to guess what it is.
We did the words "love" and "sad." Things were going fine, and the students were having fun, when I called one girl up, and gave her the word "anger." She immediately stood up, and extended her middle finger….then sat down quickly.
The class, and myself, started laughing, more from shock than anything else. I told her that may have not been the best choice, but yes it did show anger!
During the break, she pulled me aside and asked me what that meant? She knew it was anger, but had no idea what the middle finger meant. As politely as I could, I told her and she was very embarrassed! It was a great lesson for me and her. For her, to realize that just because it happens in the movies, that does not make it okay. For me, a chance to explain what something meant and why it was rude. 
Part of what I love about teaching is that it gives me a chance to make a difference in their lives, and to teach them more than just English--to teach them about life and culture and how NOT to express anger!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tradition, Tradition......

Google Image

This semester I am privileged to teach a class on "Western Culture." It's a fun class, but difficult because I am expected to cover in one week, material that could easily take a whole semester on its own.

But the last few weeks,  our subject was "Jewish Culture and the Old Testament." I was very excited about this topic as it was information I was very committed to, and we had fun with the information. I was struck by how little the students knew about this (read, nothing) so I decided to do something to expand their horizons. .

Confession...I love "Fiddler On The Roof" I have the soundtrack on my ipod, have memorized the movie, we even saw the play in London at the Savoy Theater....

So in my desire to give them a deeper knowledge of this material, I immediately thought of this movie. Chinese students LOVE English movies, so I decided to go for it. From Tyve's  opening line about "not knowing why they do something, just that its tradition", the students were hooked. They laughed in the right parts, and were surprised by others. So far we have gotten as far as the attack on the Jews at Motels wedding...but one thing that struck me was this.

The students were drawn to this movie, because they understand the message the movie is giving. The world changes, and we no longer do something just because we are told. There is more to life than tradition, and we need to be prepared to seek out the why, rather than accept it blindly.
This is something my students struggle with on a daily basis. They look at the life their Grandparents and Parents live, and wonder why. They question why the school has certain rules, and why they have to follow them. They want to understand when something does not make sense, yet they are being told, "Tradition, tradition." Chinese students are taught to stand when they answer a teacher, and I tell them they don't have to. They ask me why, and I respond with the same question. They don't know why they do something, but they want to.

Just as the characters in the movie were forced to change, kicking and screaming, my students are learning how to balance the why, while at the same time show respect for the tradition. I can tell its hard for them, they want more than this life, yet don't know how to balance the past with their rapidly changing future.
I don't envy their job. China is changing so fast its hard to keep up. Yet I trust them; there are some amazing young people stepping up. The China of 1949, is not the China of today. Frankly, the China of 2009 is not the China of today.

Tradition, tradition.....

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Two Years Ago Today

Two Years Ago Today

Two Years Ago Today We Met Our Boys For The First Time...