Sunday, May 31, 2009

comings goings comings back

Its been a week of comings to the embassy. Senator John Kerry came to Beijing and then went to XI’an. Rob went to Xi’an early to prepare and then came back Sunday night with stories of his Xi’an discoveries. And after I made him promise not to show me the pictures, I couldn’t resist looking at them and asking for all the details.

Next was the Nancy Pelosi visit. This week Secretary Geitner is here, so Rob reports that there are many running about as headless chickens at the office. What would we do with ourselves if things didn’t need to be just so?

Next the goings…Monday morning my pleasure and privilege, Sam woke me up at four in the morning. It was the day of his Shanghai trip. We drove over to the school for the five-thirty a.m. drop off. It made me stop and take a breath and watch what was happening. Sixth-graders growing up.
No, Sam didn’t want me to take his picture with his self-packed backpack and suitcase and bed head and fresh, early morning excitement, in front ISB and the rest of the teachers and sixth-graders and their happy anticipation. So I gave him a quick hug and left and soon after they left for the airport. Fly there, two days exploring, take the sleeper-train home. I never went on any fieldtrip that cool.
We did get to go on a fieldtrip with Kyle. Memorial day was a holiday for Rob but not for ISB. It was nice to have Rob’s company since Kyle is at the age where he wants me to go…but really wants to hang out with his friends more than mom…understandable. I still felt lucky to be invited. We went to some kind of agricultural center. There are a lot of things in China that have names too complicated to remember. Kyle had a nice time.

Wednesday, more comings and coming backs. I was grateful for the friends who took the time to come over for my recital and grateful for the good spirit in the room. I keep a picture of Grandpa Alden by the piano. Thinking about him always makes me feel more confident. Jessie enjoyed herself.
Sam came back from Shanghai with gifts for everyone, and many fun stories. I was grateful to hear Ben’s morning prayer that Sam would come back safely and so grateful that he did.
Thursday was a day-off for everyone..Dragon Boat Festival. Olivia had a playdate to go to. Came back. Went to a birthday party. A good day for her.

Friday...just kept up with kids still off from school. Rob was back to work and I was grateful to have the ayis come back to help me with the housework. Lindsay Sevy came over with her children over to play. Gus and Danny came over as well and their mom sent pizza for everyone for lunch…Dominoes…what excitement. There was a lot of going to and coming back from the pool.

Both Sevys and kids came over for a barbecue in the evening. Willa and Sora were about as well. Sam made his fabulous home-made macaroni and cheese. I know Oprah would have loved it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

blue sky day

Rob's Shaolin temple pictures.

Wednesday and Thursday was it just my imagination or was my virtual private network being blocked?
Friday a blue sky day for Olivia, Mary, and Bethany...the Lower Elementary school field day...and out of the blue Blogspot and Youtube are working again.

Rob really doesn't travel much. Last month he went to the Shaolin temple.
This week he is in Xi'an. I said will you just please not show me all the warrior pictures...remembering my time in Firenze. Everywhere I walked there were postcards of the David. So I felt like I'd seen enough of him and never went to see him for myself.
So what is slightly more challenging than keeping up with nine children while Rob is away is all the feeling balancing....
the it feels good to manage things independently with the I miss your help...
and the have a great time with the hey no fair...
and really looking forward to a phone call but also being pretty much out of social energy.
Friday evening was dance classes for the girls and getting the boys off to the branch campout.
Just as I was tempted to settle everyone in to too much movie watching, the girls' friend came by with her kite. I helped everyone make kites out of plastic grocery bags and curling ribbon. They work great with a little wind and a little free-spiritedness. Grant was all over the field with his kite. It feels good to run with a sail.

Monday, May 18, 2009

fun funny fungus

Friday lunch pictures.

Thursday was cloudy and windy but no rain. Olivia got to go on her field trip to the blue zoo and kite flying in Chao Yang park. We were grateful for her answered prayer.

Friday had elements of fun, funny, and fungus.

First the fun. Mary’s preschool assembly. An artistic interpretation of the book My Many Colored Days. I cried. Mary was so cute…
kicking up her heels.

Then out to the track and pool to celebrate Upper Elementary School Field day with Ben and Kyle. They enjoyed most painting themselves red- their house color.

Next the fungus, black fungus and other delicious things for lunch. I love Cantonese dim sum.

Then the funny. Wednesday I started writing my morning pages, an assignment in the book I’m reading The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. In her discussion of the positive changes that occur in peoples’ lives as the start keeping morning pages she says “we frequently retrieve the parts of ourselves that we have lost.” She talks about how her students lose weight, quit smoking, change their hairstyles. So coincidentally, Wednesday, I got a call from a lady named Jessica at Beijing Kids Magazine. My friend Barbara had nominated me for a studio make-over. It was one of those do- you- know- a- tired mom things.

So Friday, after the school activities, we took the little ones back home and Rob drove me in to Beijing. We found the photography studio in a pleasant, middle-class apartment complex. The owners are a Russian man named Mishka and a Chinese woman, his wife. They have a beautiful, round cheeked little girl, named Sophie and keep a rabbit and two ducks on their front steps. Meili, from Hawaii, the make-up artist went for the “glamorous look.” Sometimes its just funny to find yourself in unexpected situations.

When we lived in Guangzhou, we loved to eat at a restaurant called Dong Bei Ren, which means East North people. It's cheap, home-style noodles, dumplings, and breads. It's a chain so we couldn’t wait to find one here. It took us months. Rob happened upon one last October. I had asked Xiao Chen and Lao Tien to stay late Friday, so we took the chance to have dinner at the Dong Bei Ren and wander about the neighborhood.

Saturday is always a bit of a frustration. There’s not much structure and I feel like I can’t see what I’ve accomplished. So in the midst of my frustration, I took Grant out to swing on the swings and had one of those just-take-a-breath-and- enjoy-it moments. All my big kids and their neighborhood friends were out on the little soccer field, with who knew there were that many light sabers in River Garden, playing a full-court game of The Empire Strikes Back. I had to laugh at how quickly a generation passes by.

Sunday I confirmed that Blogger was really being blocked in China, so I was probably more productive in other areas.
Monday I got kids ready for school, went to the bus, played with the little ones at the clubhouse, bought flowers for a baby shower, ate too much of Julene Martindale’s delicious bread and doughnuts at the baby shower, found that Blogger was still down, practiced singing and made dinner simultaneously instead, took the kids swimming, called my mom, had dinner together, family home evening, then bed time.

Today, Tuesday, I felt so blessed to have friends. Emma Bagwell’s mom called to tell me that dance is cancelled, in case I hadn’t seen. I hadn’t. And Alison told me how to download a virtual private network so I could access Blogger. I am grateful for friends.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

they're not bugs

Wednesday pictures from Bethany's field trip to the Beijing Natural History Museum.

Back to Monday. What I love most about the Beijing International Branch is how much we enjoy being together. Monday night we were all gathered in the playground right outside our house to celebrate that Griffin's adoption will be finalized in Guangzhou this weekend. Its been a unique opportunity to watch a shy nine year old boy, who spent his life with baby girls in a Chinese orphanage become, not just a part of his own family, but a sweet addition to our branch family. We love him.

It felt so American. Hollee MacKay opened up the tail of her Suburban and we layed out all the cupcakes and cookies and Nan's famous chips and Salsa. All the Mormon kids playing together into the night, letting lots of mosquitoes in the house, pounding on our drumset, Kyle showing off his haunted house in the garage, everyone have a great time of it.

Tuesday. A blurr.

The ayis arrived early this morning so that I could take the bus to school with Bethany. After their morning routine we loaded back in busses. The ride there took an hour and a half in heavy traffic. None of us moms knew to what part of Beijing we were headed. It turned out to be near Temple of Heaven. I enjoyed talking with Emily's mom about our life experiences. I love meeting moms from all over.

It was great to watch Bethany in heaven among the insects, "not bugs."

I think I could write a chapter in my book of experiences called "Creepy Aquariums around the World." Rob will remember the first creepy aquarium of our married life was in Morro Bay, California...the very sad octopus. Sounds like Eric Carle. There was the aquarium in D.C. I'll always remember because we walked and walked around it the day before Olivia was born, and Sam got his finger caught in the security x-ray machine's conveyor belt. It's creepy and not so much for the nation to boast about.
Now aquariums of I said before, the Blue Zoo is pleasant, but the Natural History Museum aquarium goes in the creepy chapter. Old soggy sea monsters in too small murky tanks.

But Bethany and her friends spent a surprising amount of time down there (I hate acquariums in basements) among the fish. While they were examining things I chatted with a mom from Korea. She is expecting a baby soon. She told me that she is afraid she didn't make the right decision to have another baby. I told her I don't think she will worry about that after he is born. She told me she is afraid she won't have the patience for three children. I told her she probably won't. Don't we all lack patience?

Patience comes in unexpected bursts like a cool gust of wind on a hot day.

I am grateful when little things work out. Jessie called me to change our music time to tomorrow right when I was wishing I had brought her phone number along. It was nice to enjoy my time with Bethany without having to worry about getting back by two o'clock.

When I got back to River Garden, Caitlin and Mary were ready to be picked up from Emma's house. I pulled Grant to Emma's in the red wagon. We took Emma to tireswing park. Its a nice place to play on a cloudy day but today was bright and the hot sun reflects off the black top. I noticed a bunch of yellow wildflowers growing in a shaded green patch of grass. I was grateful for a breeze.

We went up to the bus stop to meet the big kids. Caitlin and Mary and Grant were feeling pretty squished in the wagon and fighting over a bag of goldfish crackers. Sometimes I lose it. And sometimes patience is remembering the wildflowers and the breeze and being grateful that I have a DVD player that I haven't pledged not to use.

Tacos for dinner. Yea for Jenny Lou's and their random "big Promotions." I bought six boxes of taco shells, cheaper than in the U.S.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

all the flowers

Tuesday- We followed Mary's preschool class to a local nursery. They picked out plants for their class garden. Mary chose pink flowers and a strawberry plant.
Not so many Wednesday left- Wednesdays Mary comes home early. We loaded up in the red wagon and I gave them a ride up to Pinnacle Plaza. We love the smell of the local vendors' hot plates. We like to buy egg sandwiches for lunch. Wednesday was a sun shining through particles and pollen-blowy, how-did-this-winter-desert-suddenly-turn-into-a-jungle day. The school year is winding down. I am grateful for Wednesdays.

We stopped at the big playground to play with Emma and Eli Bagwell. Everyone ate Popsicles...hawthorn flavored. They are actually quite good. Emma came back to play with us. Jessie arrived and we practiced our songs for two hours. She brought me some Chinese music. Wednesday night I felt so exhausted. I have to remind myself that moms feel tired at night. Its okay.

Thursday- best playgroup in the world.

Thursday night- We went swimming. Rob had to stay late because the new Chris Hill was in town. The kids told me I made the best dinner ever...french bread, cheese, carrots sticks, and Sprite. That was easy. I had a lot more energy. I am grateful for the next day.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

so happy about three

My thoughts about a great weekend on a crazy monday morning...

Caitlin's birthday was a Saturday-morning-with-nothing-to-do, a Tootie Frooties Marshmallow Stars breakfast, Barbies and baby dolls, warm and sunny weather, the first day of the outdoor pool, freezing and fun, the playground and two kuai icecream, neighborhood friends, McDonald's for dinner, chocolate cupcakes.

The girls wanted to 'make soup' with leaves and sticks and neighborhood friends. As the mosquitoes came out and the sky was getting a little dark, William and I, no time for shoes, followed Grant out to the playground too.
Grant's toddle does not disappoint. Its all about big eyes, bright smile, waving arms and wiggling behind.

Grant pointed to the moon and asked, "Is bee-ball?"

For Grant, all good things in the world, and now solar system, fall into three categories 'car-car','kuh-kie', or 'bee-ball'.

Sunday made five months for William and his first rice cereal face.

Everyone was anxious for Sam to be back. In the evening, Kyle stood out on his balcony on the look out. Sam said he knew he was home when he saw an only-in-a-diaper Grant running down the street, Mom and a dangling William trying to catch up.

Sam was returning from youth conference. He flew to Shenzhen last Thursday with thirty-five Mormon twelve to eighteens, mostly all from River Garden compound, and a few leaders. They took a train to Hong Kong on Saturday for a temple visit, a trip to Victoria's Peak (which now has a Burger King!!) and his favorite part, he said, splits with the Hong Kong Elders. So who would of thought...three years ago when I was on Victoria's Peak at Matilda Hospital having Caitlin, that three years later Sam would be back for Youth just never know. What a blessing.

And as for a crazy Monday morning. Rob dashed off to the embassy early in a good natured panic. He had a Beijing to Washington D.C. video simulcasty kind of thing. I forgot what he called it. Good news, he was twenty-four hours early, and not at all late. It turned out to be on Washington's May fourth, not ours...darn that International date line.

Bethany came in reporting that Cindy (our dog) made a poo on her carpet, half hard, half squishy, that looked like a giant broccoli. While I cleaned that up, a no-diapered Grant went down to breakfast and pooed (how do you spell the past tense of poo?) on one of the benches at the breakfast table. The good news, the smell of the dog poo got Bethany out of bed early and Kyle didn't have a fit about sitting on the Grant poo before he noticed it. Everyone made it to the bus on time, with only some G-rated violence.
Caitlin, Grant, dangling William, and I played in the clubhouse playroom for while, as we like to do in the mornings, then came home. There's a kind of an aftermath feeling to Monday mornings. So here I am, kind of writing about it and trying to catch up with it at the same time. Caitlin was last seen with a bottle of chocolate syrup, so chances are, it will catch up with me.