Home sweet home

This blog post was started in June, 2017 and has sat in my draft folder since then. Taking a moment to reflect on our lives, our current “home”lessness, and the news that we have finally secured a home… I have successfully wrapped up my thoughts.

June, 2017

At least four times this summer holiday it happened again. The confusion that took over my kids’ face was noticeable. And the anxiety of watching them try to muster an appropriate response was excruciating for this parent… because (my husband and) I made this simple question a daunting one. For most kids, the question is a one word answer or a quick multiple choice. But for our kids, an appropriate response requires an essay. The question that causes so much strife in our life:

Where are you from?

As a Third Culture Kid (TCK), our children live in a world of ambiguity. They do not live in the country of their two passports (the respective countries from which my husband and I grew up in) nor do they live in the country they were born in. As a family, we chose to live and learn in different places around the globe.

Together, the kids have come up with a rather canned response, some variation of: “We are from the world” or “We are from everywhere but home is where we live now, (insert country here).”

Though Rob and I both had settled homes we grew up from, our fathers are both immigrants and may understand this same unsettled feeling. My father was born and raised in the Azores Islands of Portugal and moved to California while my father-in-law emigrated from England to Belgium. Home for them can be variable too. They both married, had families, worked, and built homes in their new countries but both men are still connected to their country of birth by family, friends, and daily news reports.

While packing for our summer travels, I was excitedly talking about how excited I was to see friends and family. My daughter asked why I was so “over-the-top-happy”. I told her it was because I was going home. With innocence she responded, “I wonder what I will call ‘home’ when I’m older.”

I. Was. Gutted.

It was this simple comment that struck me to my core. I realize that Rob and I have taken away the security and stability that “home” offers. And sometimes…our kids wonder about it. We didn’t chose to move around the world to be cruel. We made this choice with deep love for our children. But in doing this, we exchanged a sense of “home” for top-tier international education, adventure, experiences in global perspectives, and lifelong learning.

But was it right?

August, 2019

When our family is unsettled in a new country, I constantly wonder “What have we done?” and “Did we make the right decision?” This underlying sense of concern is compounded during tearful sessions at night when the kids miss their friends, are uneasy about school, or are frustrated about our lack of routine.

But as the hours turn in to days turn in to weeks, things begin to regain their shape and color. Shipments arrive and houses begin to look like a home. Strangers begin to have names. And friendships are developed. The unfamiliar become familiar as we find that we can get between locations without much thought or focus.

And the routine of life begins again: Wake up. Breakfast. School. After-school activities. Home. Homework. Dinner. Rest. Repeat. And by the time summer holiday rolls around again, we realize that things make sense again.

There are no more tears.

There is no more angst.

And we are home.

September, 2019

Though our shipment has not yet arrived, we’re starting to make this crazy, quirky, hutong house our home. Here’s our progress from weekend #1.



pooping problems

During our first few days in China, we had a family meeting to check-in regarding our initial impressions and general feelings about moving to China. Here is a (to the best of my memory) transcript of part of that discussion:

Parent: How are things going?

Child: I can’t poop.

Parent: Oh my gosh. I didn’t know you were feeling sick.

Child: I’m not sick.

Parent: But you said you can’t poop.

Child: I can’t.

Parent: Let’s go to the pharmacy and get medicine to help you poop.

Child: I can poop. I just don’t want to poop.

Parent: *blink* ??? *blink* ???

Here’s the story…

Some members of our family are having pooping problems and NOT for the reasons you’d think!

Yes, there is a lot of (rich, delicious, fried, and smothered in sauce) food here in China. And yes, for some people, that may be the reason they are having pooping problems. But for others, that is NOT the problem! The desire to poop is there but the ability to freely and comfortably poop in our temporary housing is the real problem.

You see, when we arrived in our temporary housing we had to read and sign a contract about all the things that we will and will not do in the apartment. For instance, the contract states: The tenant will not play loud music which will disturb other tenants. Or The tenant will not move furniture, paint the walls, and/or hang artwork. All of this is pretty reasonable.

But then we read this:

Screen Shot 2019-08-27 at 11.24.24 AM.png


I bet the poopy problem is beginning to make more sense now.

Because they couldn’t put their poopy toilet paper down the drain, the aforementioned child didn’t want to poop (in the apartment). So the poor kid was having to strategize about places around the town where they could “do the deed.”

Once the parental unit figured out what the real problem was, we made a compromise.

Parent: If it’s yellow… let it mellow and toss the paper in the bin. If it’s brown… flush ALL of it down. INCLUDING, but not limited to, toilet paper!

Child: *smile*


“Poop”by Taylor McKnight is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


May your life be free from pooping problems.



um… no!

(co-written by Anouk)

I have been vegetarian for most of my life. My parents tell a story about me gagging in the meat department of a fancy grocery store when I was just 6 months old. I don’t know if the story is true, but for most of my remembering years, I’ve been a vegetarian.

But being vegetarian in Beijing Is. Not. Easy!

Most foods, especially those that are packed in small bits of deliciously fried or steamed dough (read: dumplings) look rather scrumptious. But even a discerning palate like my mom’s cannot often guarantee that the minced up food inside is meat-free. So I usually have to take a hard pass!

And many “vegetarian friendly” foods in local restaurants have chicken, fish, fish sauce, or mystery ingredients that I can not be sure are vegetarian.

Additionally, I’m what my mom calls, “a lousy vegetarian” because I don’t like tofu and mushrooms–two foods that are in many Chinese dishes that ARE vegetarian.

So what is a lousy vegetarian to do?

Here are my top tips for eating vegetarian food in Beijing:

  1. Eat out with a friend who speaks the language.
  2. Learn how to say, “Is there meat/fish/chicken/pork/beef/lamb/etc.” in this?
  3. Always keep snacks on hand. If you’re going out, be sure to be loaded up with healthy-ish food that IS vegetarian because you never know what you’re gonna get.

    Quick anecdote: During the New Teacher/Family Orientation Weeks there were MANY dinners out. On a number of occasions, my meal consisted of roasted potatoes and/or white rice with a HUGE helping of dessert. There were some beautiful looking vegetable dishes that were laden with chicken or mushrooms. Um… no!

  4.  Check the menu first. With the internet at your fingertips, you can often check the menu before you decide where to go. And with WeChat’s translation services, you can figure out what most food is. (Except for my mom’s cappuccino the other day. WeChat translated it to: Cow Curry Morphine. Which I guess it kind of is– milk. Hot. Caffeine.)


Anyway, here is some fascinating food we’ve found here in China:

by Anouk and blogSignOff

P.S. the carb heavy french fry and fried egg concoction tasted great!