About Lonna Hill

Lonna Hill is an expat mom living in China. She writes reflections on travel, family, and the Christian life.

The Key to High Productivity

I’ve always loved exercising, but with other goals and pressures on my time, it’s often the first thing to get pushed aside. My to-do list is filled with the essentials to keep my household running smoothly, to finish my online classes, and to pursue my writing goals. By the time I check those items off my to-do list, it’s fairly easy to convince myself to save the exercise for another day.

And then I decided to register for a marathon in mid-May, and this forced me to be more consistent in my exercise regimen. My other commitments didn’t go away, which meant that I either needed to start getting up at 5:00 in the morning and exercising before my kids wake up or be completely unprepared for my marathon.

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China with Kids: A Week in Hong Kong

View of Hong Kong from Ocean Park Tower

View of Hong Kong from Ocean Park Tower

Hong Kong is a popular destination among many of my Beijing friends, and for good reason. It’s an inexpensive flight, and once you’re there, it’s an easy city to travel within. The public transportation system is extensive and easy to use. There aren’t any language barriers because so many people speak English. Hong Kong is a beautiful city. It’s clean. And there is a lot to do.

There is so much information out there already about what to do in Hong Kong and how to get around, I feel a bit silly writing about it myself, and yet, we had such a good time visiting during the Chinese New Year holiday, I can’t help but chime in and add my two cents.

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China With Kids: A Roadtrip to Hohhot in Inner Mongolia

When we returned to China in August this year, my family decided to be committed to exploring China rather than remaining in our expat bubble here in Beijing. I really did have good intentions of recording and sharing our adventures, but intentions are one thing . . . and (clearly) our actions might not match them in the long run. But now, here I am, remembering my commitment to record our adventures. The most significant one we took this year I absolutely loved, but it was ages ago, and I have yet to talk about it.

During the China National Holiday in October (yes . . . it’s taken me that long!), my children were released from school for a week and we decided to try something totally new and go on our first road trip in China to the city of Hohhot in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. We really enjoyed our time there. It was nice to see parts of China outside of Beijing where we live, and it was a trip that I would definitely recommend to other expat families here.

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You Should Read These Books

Several months ago I reviewed a couple books that I loved so much I couldn’t wait until the end of the year to talk about them. You can read what I have to say about The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin in the reviews I wrote earlier this year. I read them back in February and they brought new perspective when remembering the role my Uncle Lonney played in my own family history. These two books continue to be among my favorite reads of 2016.

I always hesitate to write reviews. When I find books that I love, I feel like I can never say enough to really encompass the many things that make them great. Writing is complex and incredibly difficult and even with the books that I don’t enjoy all that much, I usually put the book down thinking that, even if not my favorite, the author still did better than I could have done myself.

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On Drowning, Breath, and Baptism

The summer I turned eight years old I spent a day at the beach. It was supposed to be fun—a family day with my sister, mom, dad, cousins, aunt, and uncle.

I want to say there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sand was clean and white, and it flicked up behind our heels as we ran. I wish I could tell you that grit stuck to our legs, and we had enough sand throughout our shoes and clothes to build our own beach when we got back home. But I don’t remember any of that.

Maybe I was sweating and sticky and eager to cool off in the water. Maybe I lingered on the beach like I usually do now—only dipping in when my body can’t take the heat, and only long enough to take the edge off before getting out and sitting on the sidelines again.

I don’t remember that, either.

I remember the moments immediately leading up to what happened.

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A Family Adventure Gone Wrong (And Our First Trip to a Beijing Emergency Room)

In my last post, I said that my husband and I came up with the brilliant idea of foregoing weekend extracurricular activities for the kids so that we could use Saturday as our “Family Adventure Day” and get out of the expat bubble here in Beijing suburbia and explore China.

Our first attempt to actually follow through with our plan led us to the discovery of Taoyuan Valley—an excellent place to hike and get away from the crowds.

Our second Family Adventure Day didn’t go so well.

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Beijing with Kids: Taoyuan Valley Scenic Spots

Taoyuan Valley

We’ve been in China now for one year. The ease we had in returning to China after our summer break in the States shows just how much we learned during that first year. The second year in a new country is so much easier than the first.

Though our transition last year went as smoothly and easily as it possibly could have, I look back on my family’s first year in China, and can’t help but notice that we didn’t explore China all that much. For most of the year, we were consumed with finding a house, getting settled, figuring out how to get around, and helping the kids find their groove and thrive in it. For the most part, we worked hard to find our comfort zone and then we decided to stay there.

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A Confessional of Parenting Blunders (And My Love-Hate Relationship with Technology)

When my son was only two, my husband told our friends that his first child was a genius.

Okay. Maybe he didn’t say those words exactly, but he did like to inform anyone who would listen that his two-year-old son knew the whole alphabet (upper and lower case), could tell you all the letter sounds, and could count and recognize numerals as well.

Lazy mornings with the iPodDuring these cringe-worthy revelations, the realist that I am, I’d take it upon myself to divulge the rest of the story. Between the obligatory ooooh’s and ahhh’s from the poor recipient of this information, I’d fold my arms and my usually soft-spoken, barely-there voice would speak up with an uncharacteristic sarcasm. “What he’s not telling you,” I’d say, “Is that he knows all of that stuff only because we’re lazy parents who use the iPad as a babysitter.”

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You Know You’ve Returned to Redneck Country When . . . .

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a family event at a conservation club, the grounds of which had a large building, a shooting range, and a pond for dog races. Having attended several United Kennel Club (UKC) Coonhound events growing up, I recognized the use for the pond right away—at one end of the pond was a tree and at the other, a coop rigged to release multiple dogs at the same time. I watched so many dog races at ponds similar to these, looking at it evoked memories of weekends spent at the coon club watching water races or running around with other kids burying a treasure we had gathered inside an old coffee can. (If you’re curious what a coonhound water race looks like, check out this video.)

My husband and I were both born and raised in the United States but experienced very different childhoods. He also had noticed the pond—oblong, man-made, and obviously serving some purpose—but hadn’t quite figured out its use. As my dad and husband stood around outside, Hubby finally asked him if he knew what the pond was for.

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