Monday, May 08, 2017

The (Elder) Rosenbergs Visit!

We had the privilege of welcoming James' parents, Joy and Dave, to our side of the globe this April. It was their first time in Asia and only our second time to host family! After a few days in Beijing, they spent two weeks with us exploring our home, nearby cities, and the mountains where we live.

A rainy day selfie with Lugu Lake in the background.

Dave examines the exposed engine of a loaded truck.

The vegetables from these local minority ladies' gardens made a delicious salad!

Joy examines a tiny teacup at a market stall.

 Dave & Joy check out produce at the open market.

The temple in Shangrila's Old Town.

We spent one afternoon in a Tibetan family's home. 

 Owen, as well as the grands, had their first tastes of yak butter tea, barley cake, and yak meat.

 Joy, Owen, and Dave stand before Haba Mountain.

It was a wonderful visit. We so appreciate their enthusiasm for all we shared with them, their generosity in all that they shared with us, and their affection for Owen. They are much missed!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Owen's First Birthday

On April 14, our baby boy turned one! Where has this year gone? Before he was born, I felt like we were waiting for him to join our family for ages. But since his arrival, it seems like life has been in fast-forward. James and I wish we could freeze time so we could enjoy these moments forever, yet we can't wait for each new day with this kiddo.

We celebrated in a typical American fashion by filling his crib with orange balloons, throwing him a polkadot-themed party, presenting him with a sprinkles-covered smash cake, plopping him in a homemade ball pit, and smothering him with even more kisses than usual.

Owen in a crib full of balloons.

The first birthday in China is traditionally celebrated at one month with a naming party. The parents hold a feast, a patriarch or village elder announces the child's official name, and friends and family come with gifts of money in red envelopes. Or, many Chinese families celebrate on their baby's 100th day.

For Owen's American-style party, our house was full of friends, both local and foreign. Our Chinese guests were especially entertained by all the decorations, our menu of pizza and salad, and the games we played. Recognizable western traditions like singing "Happy Birthday," and not so recognizable ones like blowing out candles and a smash cake were an absolute fascination. Many of our friends were experiencing "firsts" alongside Owen! It was just too much fun.

NaiNai and Grandpa with the birthday boy.

His grands (James' folks, Dave and Joy) were in town too, which made the festivities even more special. They came bearing a suitcase full of gifts, helped hang steamers and blow up balloons, and Dave engineered the ball pit from old cardboard boxes. They had questions about the Chinese practices that punctuated Owen's birthday too.

He wore silver bangles on each wrist that were given to him at his birth by one of our old Chinese language teachers. We explained that bracelets like Owen's are worn every day by minority babies in our area and believed to protect them from harm. Though James and I do not believe the bracelets have any power and trust God for Owen's safety, we wanted him to wear them to show our appreciation for the costly gift and to display our desire to be parents who care for our child's welfare. Another deviation they noticed was that we saved the presents guests brought Owen and didn't open them until after the party. It is considered poor manners in Chinese culture to open a gift in front of the giver and even worse to have gifts "compared" by opening them in front of a crowd. Living cross-culturally frequently means accepting new ideas and adapting our own!

Looking dapper in his blue polkadot bow tie.

Owen having a ball.

Smash cake!

Owen shares a handful of cake with Daddy.

Owen and Mommy on their way to the sink.

We missed our family and friends back home, but felt so blessed by all the sweet birthday wishes you sent! Wish you all could've been here with us.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Baby in Asia

Since being back, Owen has been the talk of the town. He draws a crowd wherever we go. Folks will literally stop in their tracks and gasp in admiration at our "foreign baby." In laughable and often cringe-worthy predictability, everyone admires his white skin and big blue eyes. (Read on for why.) Owen has taken all the attention in stride, and happily goes to the strangers who want to meet, hold, and photograph him. 

It's no surprise to James and I that raising a baby in a cross-cultural setting would be good for some laughs and headaches both! Here are some of our favorite observations so far:

1.) Grandparents know best. (I know, I know! Debatable about whether this is true in the States as well! Nai Nai and Nana are the best resources we have, undoubtably!) Traditionally, grandparents are the baby's primary caregiver since households are multi-generational and both parents usually work. Because of this, the older generation not only raises the children, but also instructs parents on how to parent. As foreigners without the luxury of grandparents to help, locals (often total strangers) here are quick to offer James and I unsolicited advice, direction, and even correction.

2.) Babies should be bundled up. Our first few days back in China, James took Owen out for a walk to show him off. A little while later he came back feeling discouraged. He said he got several scowls from passersby. After reflecting that the disapproval may have been directed at Owen's summery attire (temperatures that day were in the 80s F), James changed Owen into a long-sleeved onesie and went back outside. It was all smiles and exclamations of admiration from then on. I have also been chided for not putting shoes on Owen. When I've responded that he doesn't crawl yet, much less walk, folks insist his feet are cold (again, despite warm temperatures). This winter we've learned to never leave the house until Owen looks prepared to weather a blizzard in my arms.

3.) Owen is beautiful by comparison. Let me give some background. In Asia, white skin is idolized--so much so that lotions often contain bleach or other skin-whitening agents. There is a theory that beauty is linked to wealth. In Asia, the rich have secure desk jobs that do not require physical labor, while the poor must work out in the fields. Thus, white skin is desirable and dark skin is not. In America, the well-off have the means to pursue leisure activities outdoors, hence the popularity of the tan. Well, Owen is as pastie-white as can be, which is always everyone's first observation. It is meant as a compliment, but always makes me grind my teeth in dismay. Worse, people frequently compare Owen's skin color to the other children's at hand! "He's so white! Look how dark you look next to him!" It has made for countless awkward interactions.

4.) No such thing as stranger-danger. It is completely normal for a random person on the street to come up to Owen and touch him without first asking permission. When I am wearing him, people will pull back his hood or peak under his blanket in curiosity. Once when I cautioned an older man that Owen was sleeping, he stroked Owen's cheek to wake him up! When James or I allow others to hold Owen, we have to be careful to watch that they don't disappear with him. It is not considered untoward to rush off to show friends someone else's baby. There are circumstances when this is quite helpful, rather than being a nuisance. In both China and Thailand, wait staff at restaurants have been eager to hold and entertain Owen while James and I eat our meal!

5.) Parents do not accept compliments for their own children. If given a compliment here, the appropriate response is to say, "No no no," or "Not at all." I almost kicked James when he, remembering this, insisted to local friends that Owen is ugly and naughty.

This is just the beginning. May we still be able to laugh in the years to come!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Owen's Nursery

Thank you to so many who showered Owen with love. Here is a look at his nursery here:

Owen's crib.

Dresser, artwork, toy cubbies, and book rack.
Window seat.

Wardrobe and storage.

It's adorable, no? Our sweet boy hasn't spent much time in his crib, however, because he continues to struggle with acid reflux. We continue to hope he will soon outgrow the discomfort so he can fully enjoy his own room!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Back with Baby Owen

This September we returned to East Asia with our four-month-old, Owen, and my mom, Susan, in tow. What joy we experienced bringing our baby boy back to our apartment here and showing my mom around our "home away from home!"

Laura, Owen, and Susan explore a village called Baisha
on a rainy afternoon.

In Baisha, Owen and James attract some love and attention
from Naxi grandmas.

Susan, Laura, and Owen posing in front of the water wheels
in Old Town.

James and Susan stop for a photo in the streets
of Old Town.

James and Susan enjoy a glorious rooftop view of Old Town.

James shows Susan the market.

Owen, James, and Susan enjoying the springs in Shuhe.

She was the first of our relatives to visit. We are so proud of her adventurous spirit and very grateful for her help getting us settled here as a new family of three. James, Owen, and I look forward to welcoming more of you, our family and friends, soon!