Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wicked Wednesday...Don't make me look!

Z was NOT happy that we wanted him to just look and not touch!


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Newest member of the pack...

Meet Oogway our new little tortoise!  I want a dog....I love dogs but living in an apartment with  a toddler is challenging enough, the thought of potty training a puppy from the 8th floor did not appeal to me.  So a tortoise is a good fit for us. Z isn't too sure about him yet, mostly he just asks about him and then screams if I suggest he touch him.  Hopefully we can get it all figured out and Oogway will be happy in his new home.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Venus....Grateful Heart

Where do I begin...this girl is such a blessing to us.  Living in a foreign country, thousands of miles from everyone you know and love is tough.  It would be tough if we only had ourselves to consider, but we have the Tiny American to think about as well.  When we first moved here the company kept telling us we needed to find a nanny so that we had someone to help with Z. I thought this was silly, I was a SAHM back in Texas and did just fine.  And then the reality of our life kind of set in, I would need some help.

When we first arrived we had someone who worked in John's office with him that also worked as our driver and translator.  I really liked him and what's more Zane liked him.  He wasn't babysitter material but he helped with so many other things, namely getting me places that I couldn't walk to and helping me communicate with locals.  He was a great help.  When Eric would come to the apartment or had to take us somewhere Z got so excited.  I told Eric I needed a nanny that would get the same reaction from Z.  He knew someone.  He planned an introduction and immediately we knew she was perfect for us.  Z crawled in her lap within the first 5 minutes of her being in our apartment.

Venus started coming twice a week just to hang out with Z and give me a chance to do a few things without his help. Shortly after she started Eric quit leaving me feeling very lost.  In our current life routine and familiarity, even more than normal, is so important to me.  John and I talked about our options and really only one seemed good to me.  We asked Venus if she would be interested in working a little more for us.  I feel really silly saying that I have a personal assistant, I am a SAHM, but that is really what she is.  She helps me make appointments, answers questions when I am not sure of things, she drives me where I need to go.  She still comes over to play with Z twice a week, she babysits at night if we have a dinner that we need to go to.  Honestly she takes care of all of us.

In the last month or so we have had family visiting and they have all fallen in love with Venus. We consider her part of our family.  She fits right in!  She is learning the meaning of sarcasm and able to give it as well as take it from the leader of our pack. When my nephew fell in love with dumplings while he was here, Venus is the one who taught him how to make them so he could have them at home. It was my niece and nephew that introduced her to brownies which she now loves and wants to learn how to bake.

I would be lost without her.  I don't say that lightly, she really was a gift. I am so grateful to Eric for his brief stop in our life because without that we would have never found her.  We are blessed by her sweet, funny, kind spirit. I am grateful for the love she shows the Tiny American. I am blessed to call her my friend. She will forever be a part of us....whether she likes it or not!

Grateful Heart w/ Ember Grey
Our Three Peas

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Unexpected Challenges

Having grown up in Taiwan and travelled here as an adult, I think Laura and I were fairly well prepared for what it might be like to live here, and for the most part that is true.  What I'd like to talk about here are the things we didn't expect or see coming that have turned out to be somewhat challenging for us.  Taiwan has one of the friendliest and most helpful cultures you could ever want to be around.  That being said, here are a few things that completely blindsided us.  I'm certainly not implying that the Taiwanese are wrong and we are right, just that these instances demonstrate some of the vast differences between our US culture and their Taiwanese culture.

The Concept of Time and it's Value
We often use the phrase "time is money", primarily because we put a lot of value on it.  We want to do things quickly and efficiently, usually so we have time to do something else.  Personally, I'm a big fan of this.  I think you should do things right, but you should also get them done NOW (or completely procrastinate and don't even start).  Not the case here, the national past time seems to be waiting in line.  People happily wait in line for just about anything and everything.  Throw in something free (and I mean any cheap, worthless thing) or an opportunity for a discount and the lines get amazing.  Generally this isn't a problem for us as we just don't get in the lines for those things.  Occasionally we have to wait in line for something we need or want to do, but it's not a regular problem.  Where we (particularly I) struggle is in restaurants and retail stores where VIP cards or special sign up offers can get you a discount.  The concept that I am not willing to spend 5-10 minutes signing up for a club that will net me a 5% discount at a place I frequent twice a year is just baffling to the people offering the discount.  I still haven't discovered the right way to work through this without seeming rude, but I'll keep trying.
Rain or Shine, Lines are the Rule

Family Meals with Western Kids
This probably goes back to time; and again is my issue to adapt to the culture here, but took me several outings to understand that this is just how it is.  Eating out here is a regular thing and quite often becomes and event in and of itself.  There are really 3 types of meals that are popular here, two of which we will discuss.  I'll leave out the night market dining as that deserves it's own space in this blog.  Let's discuss Set Meals and Individual Meals.  Set meals tend to involve multiple courses brought out one at a time over several hours and be family style or course by course.  For those who have spent their lives eating this way, it doesn't seem to be a problem, but for us....let's just say it doesn't work too well with a toddler.  A two hour meal just isn't in his wheel house and we got locked into a couple of these without knowing they were coming before we realized we needed to look into how the meal would be served before committing to his highly desired presence.  Individual meals offer a different challenge and that is timing.  Individual meals here are brought to the table when they are ready without  much of an attempt to get everyone's meal done at the same time.  If the place isn't too busy, we can usually get through this without too much issue (the boy likes his food).  The ideal order for us is Zane, Laura, Me (evidently this is a good excuse for me to eat fast).  If there is a large gap and he needs to wait a long time after he is done or his food comes last and ours isn't really appropriate for him....well let's just say it can be interesting.
Typical Multiple Course Family Style Meal

The Catalyst
Now you might ask what got me thinking about writing this article, surprisingly it was The Minions movie.  Seems innocuous enough, which is what I thought.  Evidently not.  Last weekend, we decided that it would be fun to take Zane, whose attention span is increasing to see the movie.  And what better show than the family friendly Minions who he really likes.  We planned it out and told him we would go see the Minions and he talked about it pretty much all morning.  First snag came when we went to get tickets and the line (see the first challenge above) was gigantic.  I'm talking 300 people in a single file snaking line.  We decided a quick change of course to another theater where we could get lunch and tickets for a later showing after Z could have a nap was in order.  Amazingly, almost no line this time.  Zane and I got to the front and told them I wanted to buy tickets for the show, they asked how old Zane was and I told them not quite 2 (thinking he might be free).  They informed me that he could not see the movie until he was SIX!  Surely I must not have understood them even after we discussed it for a bit.  Unfortunately I had this confirmed, because the movie is rated P (similar to PG) kids under 6 are not even allowed to see it with parents.  I wasn't trying to get him into Planet of the Apes or 2001 A Space Odyssey (both of which he COULD go see as they are rated G) this is The Minions....completely blindsided again.  Thankfully Zane didn't know the difference between seeing it at the movies or watching Despicable Me at home.

At least they don't market The Minions to kids here ;-)

Granted this might not get a G rating today, but if it was here, Zane could go

I am sure this is easier to explain to Zane than the violence in Minions

Fewer and fewer things surprise us here, but it still happens.

My View

We live in a city of 2.7 million people...I choose not to drive so that means that most places The Tiny American and I go we walk.  Honestly with the traffic here it is faster and easier to just walk to most of the places that I go. During the cooler months we walked ALOT, right now with the heat we aren't out as much but when we are this is my view.

You Baby Me Mummy

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cinnamon Toast

Z LOVES his toast in the morning.  For the longest time all we could get him to eat for breakfast were mini frozen pancakes.  Now the minute he wakes up he asks for toast.  He is a creature of routine for sure.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Sushi Deconstructed

I love sushi. By that I mean I love a good California roll, add some cream cheese and turn it into a Philadelphia roll and I'm pretty happy, happier still if you add some spicy seafood sauce.  According to my husband and evidently all of Asia this is not sushi.  His definition involves raw fish, sometimes things are still moving, and not a bit of cream cheese to be seen. SO what does a white girl with chopsticks do?  I've made California rolls at home and it's messy and frankly a lot of work but recently when I was cruising pinterest I came across a recipe for a California roll bowl. Brilliant!

I took the recipe I found and tweaked it to fit my taste and what I could find.  You would think sushi in Asia would be easy...nothing is easy.  I will share the basic recipe and then you can make it yours, that's the best thing about cooking, it's not an exact science. So with no further it is!

Deconstructed Sushi Bowl

8 oz Lump Crab Meat
1 Avocado
1/2 Cup Carrot match stick sliced thinly
1 Cup Cucumber
3Tbsp soy sauce
2 cups of Sushi Rice
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 Tbsp Sugar
5 Tbsp rice vinegar
Nori cut into thin strips

Rinse the rice in cool water and put in a pot with 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and cover for 15 minutes.  Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes. In the meantime bring 3 Tbsp of rice vinegar to a boil, remove from heat and stir in the sugar and salt until dissolved.

In a bowl mix the veggies and the crab.  Once the rice has cooled down pour the vinegar mixture over the rice and toss.  Divide the  rice into 4 bowls and then top with the veggie/crab mixture.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Mix the remaining vinegar and the soy sauce together and drizzle over the bowl. sprinkle the nori strips on the top.

**This recipe makes 4 good sized servings.  I was the only one eating this when I made it so I  only cut up part of the avocado so that I could save the rest and not have to look at a brown avocado. I also did the soy sauce a little different...I put a little soy sauce on my rice prior to topping it with the veggies.  I also made some  spicy seafood sauce (recipe to follow) and drizzled that on top.   I didn't do  it, because I couldn't find any, but some chunks of cream cheese would be yummy mixed in as well.

Spicy Seafood Sauce

1/4 cup of mayonnaise
Sriracha to taste...I like it pretty spicy so I add a lot, but whatever works for you.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.  I would love to hear if you tried it and what you changed to make it yours!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

What Are We Reading

Z LOVES to read ( or be read to).  John and I both are avid readers and we started collecting books for Z before he was even born.  We each bought some of our favorites from childhood, gathered up some of the older boys favorites  and also found some new ones that we hadn't heard of before.  One of the best gifts we got when he was born was a big box of books from Ken and Virgina Pickle and Melissa Pickle Taheri.  I think this is an awesome gift idea for new parents, they said that they have a list of books that they love to give.  There were some books I  had read before and some I had never heard of.  One book in particular became John's favorite book to read to Z before bedtime, It is by Nancy Tillman called On the Night You Were Born.  The story is simple, about how nature reacted to the child's birth, the wind whispered, "Life will never be the same."  The pictures are amazing, soft and detailed telling a story even without the words.  We read this book at least once everyday, usually more.  We don't always read all the words, there are details in the pictures on each page that Z gravitates to.  The Moon on the first page ( he loves the moon), the frog, the ladybugs.  He does this funny  UH OH every time we get to the page with he picture of a tree who's leaves are falling off. The familiar cadence of the words lets him know what is about to happen.  He has other favorites, I have taped and retaped the spines of several books that he has "loved" too much. We have bought several others by this author and while they are sweet and he enjoys them, he always comes back to On the Night You Were Born, it holds a special place in our nightly routine.

Does your child have a favorite book?  Do you remember your favorite from childhood?  I would love to know what they are, we are always looking for a new story.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cooling Off

I am so grateful that we found a great indoor playground close to our apartment.  The heat and humidity here make it impossible to have Z outside for very long  and makes for long days. This is a great alternative.

You Baby Me Mummy

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Boys

This is The Tiny American.  At not quite 2 Z is a bundle of Energy.  He is loud, curious and all boy!  He tags along with us on this crazy adventure every step of the way. His fair skin and silly attitude make him a rockstar in our new home.

The Brothers/AKA the Big Boys

T and T are our 2 older sons.  They live in the States.  Taylor will start his Junior year of college this fall and Tucker will be a freshman.  Leaving behind a big chunk of my heart in the U.S. was the hardest part of this adventure for me. We miss them everyday.


Laura And John

I am Laura mom to 3 boys and wife to the love of my life.  In January 2015 we moved to Taiwan For my husbands job. Read about that here I am a SAHM to the Tiny American.  I love to scrapbook, cook, read and see new places.  I am happiest when I am with my boys, add the beach and I'm in heaven! Through our blog I enjoy sharing this amazing journey with our friends and families and anyone else who might stumble across us.

My Husband is John, the leader of our pack.  The locals think he looks like Colonel Sanders, I think he is super handsome.  He works hard so that we can play hard.  He will blog from time to time when he has a thought he wants to share.


New Look

I am so excited about our new look!  The next few posts are basically some housekeeping type things just to get things in order.  I want to add some new information about who we are and what we are doing.  There are still a few glitches, like the Facebook link not working just yet, but we will get that ironed out soon!  Let me know what you think and if you are interested in a blog makeover check out Tiffany


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Different Kind Of Fourth

I LOVE the holidays!  I especially love summer holidays...Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day.  Summer holidays mean family and food, swimming in the river and smores.  I knew these would not be big celebrations in Taiwan and I knew I would miss them.  For the 4th Katie and the kids were here.  We had seen an advertisement for an American Fourth of July Celebration put on by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taichung.  Our day was already going to be short because John and I had a wedding to attend in Taipei so we needed to start early. 

The event was scheduled to start at noon, PERFECT, we could go have lunch, listen to a little music, let the kids hang out in the kids area  and play some games and still be home in time to head to the wedding. I don't know what I expected.  Well that's not totally true, I expected to walk through the park amidst smells of home.  Hamburgers and hotdogs cooking on a charcoal grill, maybe some potato salad and corn on the cob. I saw nor smelled any of this. I was hoping for some county music playing on the live stage, I would have been happy with any live music playing on the stage....there was none. I think the music started later in the day as well.  In typical Taiwan fashion being late is the norm even if it's an American Celebration.

There were some vendors with booths set up.  None of which scream America to me.  TGI Fridays was there selling beer and I think they eventually sold some food but not before we left.  A few people were wandering around  but certainly not creating a celebratory mood. 
I ate a Gyro purchased from a Turkish vendor, it was delicious, but not what I had in mind.

When we were getting ready to go to the event I asked everyone to wear something patriotic in color so we could get a picture, this is what my husband chose to wear.  He does not wear loud clothes, khaki is normally his color of choice.  When my nephew made a joke about them his response was...I asked your Aunt Laura to move to Taiwan and she did, if it makes her happy for me to wear these shorts I will. He is not perfect (he might argue), he has his faults, but he loves me and will do anything in his power to make me happy even if he is slightly uncomfortable.

So there were no hamburgers, no hot dogs, not a diet Dr Pepper in sight.  We saw no fireworks, heard no country music but we were together.  Happy Birthday America and thank you to all those we have sacrificed so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have.

My sister and nephew and niece


Thursday, July 09, 2015

The Tiny American

One of the first things people ask us when we tell them we live in Taiwan is, "how does Z like it?" My answer...."he's great!"

The Tiny American celebrating Chinese New Year
Z doesn't know any different.  We moved to Texas when he was only a few weeks old and the first year of his life we travelled the 5 hours back and forth to Oklahoma ALOT!  He had a room in Oklahoma and he had a room in Texas.  He easily adapted to sleeping in a hotel or someone else's house when we travelled to other places.   He is a goer, relaxed and flexible.  He flew for the first time when he was only 4 months old and had logged 10 flights by the time we went international. 

Moving to our new house in Texas

Sleeping in another hotel

View of his new city

When we decided to move to Taiwan of course I worried about how he would adjust.  But I knew he would and he has.  We laugh that unlike most almost 2 year olds vocabulary Z's includes words like airplane, airport, suitcase, and passport.  

Depending on how long we stay (there is always differing ideas on this) he may or may not have solid memories of this experience but it is shaping him into the person he will grow up to be. There are some things I hope he takes away from this adventure.

I hope he is never afraid to follow his dreams.  Geography is just that, don't let it keep you from doing something. 

Take chances, what is the worst thing that can happen?  And taking chances often leads you to discover new things and maybe things you didn't even know you wanted.

The beach in Hulien

Be flexible.  This one is so important and something that I have had to learn to do here....I can't always find exactly what I want or need for a project.  I can't always do things as quickly and easily as I can back in the States, but I am learning to be flexible.  I make other things work and have discovered that there is more than one way to do things. 

Don't be afraid to try new things. Sometimes it's scary, sometimes it's gross, but sometimes it pays off and you find something new that you like to do or eat or  you make a new friend.
Not everyone is the same. I think this is one of the most important things he can learn from living different places. 
There is beauty everywhere. I hope that he learns from us to look for the beauty in everything not just what he sees immediately or on the outside. 

Enjoying the surf in Malaysia

Hanging out with Daddy
 So far he is super flexible.  He is rarely afraid and he has never met a stranger.  He is almost always happy and eager to go!  I hope that through our example we can teach him to live life to it's fullest and to give back to whatever community he is living in.

Seychelles Mama