Two days before Christmas Eve, we flew into Xiamen, a small resortish island of 3.5 million people on the southeast coast of China.  Owing to a stunning bit of bad luck, our driver suffered a bout of Alzheimers just fifty yards outside the airport.  Imagine the odds, inside the airport he was born on the island [...]

Knockoff Christmas

Porter says “Christmas is kind of a knockoff Easter,” and he’s absolutely right.  Christ, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny all tumbling together, coated in so much sugar and glitter that it’s hard to tell which foot is sticking out of the meringue; is that a sandal, a boot or just a really long ear?  Who [...]

Big Pants

Chinese women are twigs, and I’m, um, not.  Recently we emerged from the train station into People’s Square in Shanghai and were photographed four times before we could get a single shot of our family.  It’s killing me to think how many photo albums I look fat in.  At least there’s no Facebook in China–Dude, [...]

Standing in Line

China is the birthplace of many things; gun powder, fireworks, paper, the list goes on and on.  But in all the millennia of Chinese innovation, there is one advancement that has completely eluded them, the fine art of standing in line.  I’ve been here a month, and I’m still having trouble understanding that “wait your [...]

Bicycle Built for Two

We spent the week touring factories in the south of China, and Thanksgiving morning found us in Shenzhen where we were met at our hotel by our account manager at a plastics factory, a miniature firecracker who had chosen the English name Linda.  She started calling Porter “Harry Potter” right off, which set his mouth [...]

What’s in a Name

Our family’s names leave the Chinese scratching their heads, a fact which has become more apparent since the boys started school, not that it has slowed them down any.  Chase and Porter figure they’ve already acquired a couple of admiring girls who talk to them and blush, chasing down any ratty classmate with the temerity [...]

Secret Passages

My house has a secret passage, which almost makes up for the waxed wood and marble floors that are slick as glass and require that slidey slippers be worn indoors.  Chase has banged his heel, Porter has fallen down the stairs three times and Abby has fallen four times, taking an entire flight on her [...]

The Age of the Swordsperson

Last night we were draped in the living room on a lazy Sunday evening and I asked my boys, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” a question I’m still asking myself.  Chase said he wanted to shoot guns a lot, and Porter grinned his gap-tooth grin, still wearing the bow tie [...]

Crossing the Street in Chinese

Make a will. Look both ways plus up, down and sideways. Pretend you know what you’re doing. Remain vigilant until you reach a set of stairs that will not accommodate anything with wheels. Do a dance of joy. China is seething with people, crammed into “small towns” that in the U.S. would be major cities with basketball [...]

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

Did you know that Pringles come in seaweed flavor?  I didn’t either, but they’re bright green with a tomatoish aftershock.  My husband, Seth, likes them, in fact two days ago he intentionally bought tomato flavored off-brand Pringles, offering them around as we all took a single nibble and handed them back in silent agreement that [...]