Saturday, October 31, 2009

bat and bear

Rob borrowed a camera lens over his birthday weekend. He loves photography and enjoyed capturing details with the lens.

That was Hunter's eye.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

rob's birthday

We had a busy weekend, with Maya and Asher, Hunter, and the Carrillo boys over for a sleepover on Friday night, Sam off to a boyscout campout, a voice lesson to teach, friends' birthday presents to buy, two birthday parties to deliver children to, Sam home from the campout, stuff to put away, Rob off to an embassy related webchat with Sam accompanying him for a boyscout merit badge, Rob and me off to try to buy some presents for Mary and have dinner at the Japanese restaurant before we picked up Sam and Ben to head off to ISB to see their production of Neil Simon's Fools , which was excellent, by the way.

Sunday was Rob's birthday. After church, and a quick nap, Rob spent most of his day in the kitchen cooking with Sam. Sam worked on the homemade pasta, and Rob made the icecream.

I was in charge of baking the cake. Grant was the taste tester.

While Rob was away hometeaching in the evening, the kids made "surprises" for their Dad. I was impressed by this "tribute in blocks" that our quiet creative genious, Ben, put together. The blocks on the floor spell out Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

honest kyle

Wednesday, October 21, I went to ISB to see Kyle's Chinese presentation. He was dressed as his favorite famous person, Abraham Lincoln, and giving a one minute introduction. The other classmates were presenting at the same time. You can hear them in the background. When Kyle was finished I went around to listen to the other presentations. (I've been trying to upload the video but it's been too slow...hopefully it will be coming soon!)

The ISB girls have started soccer this year. Their coaches are Austrailian. It is so convenient. They play after school and then take the after-school-activity bus home. After the Chinese presentation I watched the girls play.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I run?

Last week was getting used to keeping up with this house again...and not really keeping up so well, but loving the feeling that we were trying our best.
Wednesday was my last chance to preserve my self-respect. I was trying to have the house looking decent by Thursday afternoon, because Xiao Chen was coming back to watch the little ones. That was all about my pride, of course.
Wednesday morning some of the Relief Society sisters came over at nine-thirty to sing together. I was still trying to make the guest bathroom presentable, still trying satisfy Grant's DVD watching whims, and still wondering if I had time to provide refreshments (surely not at that point) all while attempting to be attentive to the group leader. I had to apologize for my odd behavior. "In five minutes I'm going to walk out of the house with Cindy the dog," I said.
"Is it our company?" Paula asked.
It was pet show and tell day at Caitlin's preschool. Here's a picture.

Thursday morning I cleaned like a beast, panted my way over to Katherine's house for playgroup, cried tears of joy when Katherine served real guacamole, made the kids leave a bit early and reluctantly, greeted Xiao Chen, then headed of to ISB. I don't like having time restraints on Thursday, but I am always grateful to have the chance to spend time at school. It was Kyle's music class marimba presentation. I even got a chance to play.

Thursday night the family all pitched in on the clean-up. I was walking the recycling out to the bins and looked in our big front window to see Rob teaching Mary and Olivia how to vacuum. More tears of joy.
Talk about tears. How many times have I seen the Terry Fox documentary? It still makes me emotional. I've been grateful that ISB makes it a priority to teach the kids about important causes. Last year I agreed to run the Terry Fox run with Mary, almost eight months pregnant. That wasn't a great idea. She still remembers the humiliation that we came in very last.

Here are Olivia and her best friend Sora, and another with Bethany in the stands among her classmates.

This year the run was scheduled for the last week of September, but they had to reschedule. The pollution level was too high. The second date was Friday, October 16th. I guess they decided to make it more efficient by having all the lower elementary grades run together at the same time for twenty minutes. I like it. Much less humiliating to the slow among us.
Here I am trying to pretend like I'm only slow because I'm holding a toddler. That didn't last long. Grant wiggled down and shot off like a natural.

I brought Grant because he loves to run. He ran two and a half laps with a big smile on his face. Is it just my laziness or is a half a mile plus a lot for a two year old? When the running time was up he asked "I run?"

Friday night we had a fairly successful homemade pizza making. We still need more experimentation.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

all about october

I love October in Beijing. The weather's been so pleasant and it's been big on holidays with Chinese national days and the mid-autumn moon cake festival that fell in October this year. I was grateful that Rob was also home for Columbus day too.
We don't like to travel during Chinese festivals. It's too crowded. I was happy to spend most of our week off at home organizing the garage. The kids were happy to play with friends at River Garden. We planned short outings for two days.
On Monday October 5th, we took all the kids to the plant market not far from us. They have a variety of houseplants and cut flowers and little creatures like fish, turtles, frogs, worms, even some scorpions. We bought Ben's turtle a new companion, since our replacement turtle passed away.
I've been trying to begin my morning pages with a scripture each day. It is always interesting to how the verse fits into my day. Monday I copied down Doctrine and Covenants 59:18
"Yea all things which come of the earth in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart."

I wish we had brought Rob's camera. I love seeing the children peer into the tanks at all the varieties of fish. The girls helped me pick out an assortment of flowers to make a mid-autumn bouquet for our kitchen. Here's a picture. William is peeking out behind it.

So the next day I read from Mosiah chapter 2 and recorded verse 32 in my morning pages.
"But, O my people, beware lest there shall arise contentions among you...."
It was a verse well suited for a day of travel into Beijing with a van full of children.
We were headed for the Beijing Zoo. We've been there before. The kids can't remember. It was back in 2004 when we accompanied Rob to Beijing on a TDY. I took the kids by myself. Our favorite part that day was the tropical bird collection. It's nice if you're expecting more floral than fauna, more people than animal watching, and, if you don't mind being "the watched." I knew that would be a challenge on a Chinese holiday.
As it turned out we didn't make it to past the parking. The gates were overflowing with people and the traffic surrounding the zoo was so dense, it was clear that parking would be very limited. Some profiteer motioned for us to come park with him, "just 100 kuai, same price for everyone."
To "avoid contention" we just changed our plans and headed for the Blue Zoo.
I wrote about the Blue Zoo last April. Here are few pictures from this visit.

The kids love riding the moving passageway through the aquarium tunnel. Kyle is feeding the fish through the hole in the glass. They nibble on the kids' hands.
We stopped to buy candied hawthorn on our way to van.

Everyone was ready for Kro's Nest pizza, just like last time. Only this time, since the weather was so beautiful, we sat outside. That's the best pizza in Beijing.
I was grateful to have Rob's company on Columbus Day. The big kids were all in school, of course. Rob helped me with Grant and William so I could dig my way through the mess in the girls' room. I've almost finished (two weeks later) just the puzzles left to sort through. I should take an "after" picture, since the "after" is sure to be brief.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

american messy

Monday morning pictures. The sun rises on these piles of laundry, dirty and clean. These are evidence of the big change I haven't had time to write about yet.
The Chinese government is building a commuter train out to the airport that will pass through Shunyi, so many of the locals are having to relocate. Xiao Chen, our ayi (housekeeper), needed some time off in September to look for new housing etc., but I also felt like it was time for us to transition back to cleaning up after ourselves, and time to save money for our move back to the States. I told Xiao Chen we would just like to have her come as a per-hour babysitter from now on. She was satisfied with that because she is very busy. She'll probably need to find longer hours after her move, but we feel good about having our home back to ourselves.

I don't even mind documenting the disaster.

Grant is pretty threatening with a spoonful of mashed potatoes. It's a good thing the kids love to spray windex.

So now I need a sign that says "God bless this mess." Can you order those through Deseret books?

Monday, October 5, 2009

grant's two

Thursday, October 1, was Grant's 2nd birthday. Grant will always have a day off and a big parade, as long as he's in China. It was also the sixtieth anniversary of the People's Republic. The day off made the birthday morning sugar cereal extravaganza extra festive.

Rob was off work too. He spent the morning tying a quilt for Grant, using the dinosaur material that we bought for him before he was born. The girls and I wrapped his gifts and made his cake. We played at the playground before lunch and Grant's nap.

In the evening we went to MacDonald's at Euro plaza, nearby. Hunter and Scottie MacKay came along. I love two. When we pulled up to McDonald's Grant screamed "McDon's!" He is so easy to please.

When we got back, Grant opened his presents. He was thrilled with his big stuffed turtle and the many surprises in his packages. Everyone knows that Grant loves "car-cars" and Bob the Builder. We had cake Friday night, because Grant was sleepy Thursday night. Grant wasn't too happy in this picture with the cake. His favorite book is about a house of dog firefighters, so he was afraid of the candle on his cake! Smart! We sang quickly.