Saturday, September 26, 2009

huangya mountain villa

Can you tell that these pictures are from last year? This year our camera ran out of batteries before we had a chance to take pictures of the huangya villa, so I decided to include some from the Beijiing International branch Great Wall excursion of September 2008. I thought the kids have grown so much over the year!

Last year the boys left Friday afternoon, just like this time. They camped with Rob and the other scouts on the Great Wall. We met them Saturday at noon.

I love the huangya mountain villa. It is the perfect place for a large group function like this one. We eat family style in the cafeteria, westerner friendly chinese food. They put on a bonfire and dance for us on Saturday night. This year's bonfire even included a fairly terrifying fire works display. On Sunday morning we had sacrament meeting together in the grass area surrounded by the rooms.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

good morning great wall

Sam looks happy, despite what must have been an uneasy night's sleep on a cold and hard, but historical bed.
Here's a shot of the scouts' Friday night campfire.

and their Saturday morning hike.

That was Ben in the black shirt, underneath the smudge. Rob was using an old dinosaur camera. Sorry the pictures are a bit blurry. Thank me for losing my good camera in the U.S.

Hunter was showing off his new sword. The boys all had 20 kuai weapons before the day was done. Everyone returned with vision intact. Thankfully.

So I was back in Shunyi getting the younger kids packed up to meet the
bus, so I can't explain about this pig.

Or these spiders. Maybe they are Charlotte and Wilbur. I'll have to ask Rob when he gets back.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

if not Spock then

These are my Thursday, September 10 pictures. My friend Xochitl hosted playgroup outside at the park. Xochitl lives three houses down from us now. Our boys are so happy. They play together everyday after school. Xochitl prepared a feast or us! There were delicious empanadas from her home country, Mexico.

Caitlin and Grant were having fun with the other children on the spinner. The boy next to her is the one she always refers to as "her friend named Andrew." She tells me everyday that she is going to marry him, if she doesn't marry Spock.

Friday I spent the afternoon baking cookies and preparing a dinner-to-go for the three older boys and Rob. They were heading to the Great Wall with the Scouts for a campout. The girls and I had a "girl party" with pizza and soda and cookies, of course we didn't exclude Grant and William.

Saturday morning, we packed up and headed up to the front gate where we met the rest of the Beijing Branch and the big tour buses. We were also heading to the Great Wall for the annual Beijing Branches/ BYU alumni, I'm not really sure what it is officially called, overnight activity. It was a great time. I have more to write about that next time.

It's Sunday night. Rob had to pack up quickly when we arrived home this afternoon. He left for a conference in Thailand. We all agreed that he is too lucky. We had a great time in Thailand in May of 2005. Maybe I'll post some of those pictures this week, if I get a chance.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

if I had a hammer

Rob gave Grant a new haircut. He seems happy with it.

Saturday September 5th, Rob and I drove in to Beijing to Xin Jie Kou, music street. We had to get the trumpet repaired so Kyle can get started on it. We also needed a chin rest for the littlest violin, Olivia and Mary have been begging to play it. We had lunch at a so-so kosher restaurant, not as flavorful as authentic Chinese Muslim food. The trumpet needed to be left off, which meant we would need another afternoon to retrieve it.

Saturday evening, River Garden hosted a Resident Appreciation evening. I was cynical when I read the invitation. It was more about H1N1 than hospitality. But, when I saw all that was going in to the preparations, I knew the kids would want to be a part of it. Besides, I always show up to a free meal.

It seemed like the whole community turned out. There was an international buffet, cotton candy, bouncy house, entertainment. Here's a picture that Sam took. I hardly recognize the club house.

The next day was the first Sunday in September. Sometimes the boys get a bit grumbly on Fast Sunday. The easiest way to get Kyle out of bed is to remind him what's for breakfast. That's not an option on Fast Sunday. Kyle started into his moaning. I reminded him that we were fasting for Grandpa Bob. He had a good attitude the rest of the day. There was a very nice spirit in our home all day, even until bedtime.

Sunday afternoon we watched Pete Seeger The Power of Song. It's my favorite documentary. We all can't help but love Pete Seeger. He is such an endearing man and a man of principle. He reminds me of Grandpa Alden, something about his frame and his eastern mannerisms. Did you know that he quit performing with the Weavers because the other band members wanted to sing for a cigarette commercial? He spent his whole career singing for school children and he didn't want to set a bad example for them. One of his grandchildren tells the story of a time when a man came up to him after a concert and said "I came to kill you tonight." It was during the Vietnam war, which Pete Seeger opposed, of course. Apparently, his wife, Toshi, told him to go talk with the man. He told Pete that his brother had been killed in the war. They sat and sang "Where have all the flowers gone" together. The man said he felt healed.

Monday was Labor Day. Rob had the day off. The kids had school. The trumpet was ready so we drove back into Beijing. We wanted to have lunch somewhere too. We walked in to several hole-in-the-walls but none looked good. I get spoiled by all the places that cater to Westerners. When I go to place that doesn't have pictures, English, or even Ping Ying I lose my courage. We ended up at a noodle place called Old Beijing. I wish I had had my camera to take a picture of the only dish I've seen Rob balk at eating in four years of life in China (excluding the silk worm congee.) This looked like a grey jello mold, topped with dry red pepper. It was some kind of tofu creation. Thank goodness there were two KFCs on the block, they had ice cream.

Tuesday I went to ISB to help Mary give her All about Me presentation to her kindergarten class. Check out the picture I took on the bus. ISB runs a fleet of tour buses. It's impressive to see them lined up together.

After we got off the bus, I went in to Jenny's and bought the girls some two kuai ice cream, actually I think we splurged on the five kuai kind. I heard someone singing "If I had a hammer." I looked around for Joan Baez. It was Bethany. I was so proud.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"trustful surrender"

August was a rainy month in Beijing. When we arrived home from the airport, in the rain, Lao Tien was there by herself to greet us. She said that Xiao Chen had stayed home "with a very bad wasp bite." At least, that's what we understood. Xiao Chen came to work the next day limping, but she told us that she had fallen on her bike in the rain. Lao Tien said "it's because young people aren't careful."
Xiao Chen limped about her work for a while before I told her that she looked too miserable to be working. She spent the next week resting and going to the doctor for 'massages.' At least, that's what I understood from Lao Tien's gestures. We never really learned what the injury was.

By the time Xiao Chen returned to work, it was Lao Tien's turn to look miserable. I said "please don't come to work tomorrow, you look like you are going to die." It is hard for me to be emphatic and polite at the same time in Chinese. Lao Tien took a week off to rest, then decided that she needed to retire. We agreed. Lao means old and Tien means sweet and heaven and day,and probably a hundred other things. We miss Lao Tien, but Xiao Chen is doing fine on her own and only paying one ayi will help us save money for a house.

We spent our evenings at ISB last week, three nights of Back-to-School Night. I remember Back-to-School Night at Patrick Henry in Tulsa,where I attended all seven years of Elementary (unimaginable to my children.) I remember the teachers preparing the displays of our art work and my spiffing up my own desk to show-off to my parents. Back to School Night at ISB is disappointingly power-point-presentations-about-curriculum focused. But, this is my third and last year here, so I'll keep my thoughts to myself, my blog, and all the friends to whom I grumbled. I just go to breathe in the aroma of crayon wax and pencil lead, and because Olivia asked me five times if I was going because she left a note for me. I wouldn't have missed it, even though it meant enduring 'curriculum.'

On the second evening, I skipped out of the first hour of power-points and took a moment to read a magazine while I waited to meet Kyle's Chinese teacher. It was Yoga and Joyful Living. I read a segment of a lecture by a man named Rolf Sovik. He was speaking about "trustful surrender." He said, "This practice means that you do everything that you possibly can to grow and be happy, but also accept what is, and embrace life trustfully."

I've thought about that throughout the last couple weeks. Grant and William and I managed to take over Lao Tien's dog walking routine, at least a few days last week. One morning as William enjoyed his bottle in the stroller, and Grant and Cindy explored the bushes, I also took a moment to be grateful to be exactly where I was, looking at a pine tree, though not sniffing it, as Cindy was.
And other experiences brought the mantra "trustful surrender" back to mind. I felt happy about hunting down the source of the cat pee odor in Sam's room; the bean bags. So I took off the covers, not knowing that there was a hole in bag. The styrofoam beads fell everywhere. And, as I was 'surrendering' to the moment, Grant 'embraced' half the beads and scattered them to and fro, and poured milk over the others. I spent most of the day restoring the beads to their proper place, but, at least Sam's room smells nice now. It was a humbling experience.
Anything having to do with technology is humbling in China, living with internet censorship, praying that the virtual private network will work, running back and forth to the computer store with another virused computer, just deciding that working on the computer wasn't meant to be today, all those things help grow my humility and "trustful surrender."
Being a parent, but stepping back and letting kids grow the way they want to grow is also humbling. Sam and Ben had been wanting to audition for the middle school musical since last June. I was impressed when they started to sing along with my Brett Manning CDs. They both decided to sing "So Long and Thanks for all the fish" for the audition. I thought it would fitting since the musical this year is Seussical. We were all excited when Sam came home with the lead and Ben was cast as a Who. Sunday night I found Sam, upset in his room. He was uncomfortable with the part for several reasons. I told him he could make his own choice. Of course, I was a bit disappointed. By Tuesday, Sam and the teacher had arranged for him to switch parts with an eighth grader from our branch. Sam was happy and relieved. He still has a part that will give him good on-stage experience, with less pressure.
Last Saturday we took the kids to the embassy for a meet-and-greet barbecue with Ambassador Huntsman and his family. The new Ambassador is very kind and was gracious even when Bethany refused to shake his hand. We can't surrender to everything. Rob informed Bethany that she won't be invited to the Obama meet-and-greet if she doesn't learn better manners.

In other news, Tuesday afternoon, Mary decided that it was time to ride a two-wheeler, so refusing any more help from me, she hopped on the torn seat of the little lavendar, rusty-chained, girl bike that we inherited from the Goldrups, and rode down the street.
William pulled himself up to the car bed Wednesday night, making his own milestone.
Sam made an amazing batch of homemade pasta.

I think I've caught up to today, Friday, September 4. It's raining again today, a lot. I was grateful to spend this morning at ISB helping Kyle make paper-mache treasure boxes. Caitlin is playing with her friend Amelia. Grant is watching Barney and saying "Mommy, I cookie." William is playing with Sam's electronic drumset, so I should move him before it falls. I made pizza dough and snickerdoodles (Marion Pride's recipe.) It was a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon.