Sunday, January 31, 2010

chair skating

Saturday, January 24, the branch met at Houhai for chair skating. We love Houhai in the summer and winter. When it's warm we bring our guests here to tour the nearby hutongs by rickshaw, then we have lunch by the lake and rent a boat to tour around on before we head home. When the lake freezes over, it becomes even more popular as a natural ice skating rink. The chair skates make it easy to bring small children and to relax by the "food court" in the middle of the lake for people and animal watching. This is the first time I remember seeing goat-drawn sleds or lap dogs riding by.

We brought our friend Patricia and her son Luke. They lived in Portland, Maine before China.

Patricia and the Sevys

Caitlin wasn't sure she liked the chair skating, so I promised we'd all get cotton candy before we left. Just five kuai and they were enormous!

Monday, January 25, 2010

pancake face

More happy thoughts about Saturday, January 16

-William's chocolate chip pancake face. I used big chunks of dark chocolate, which I won't do again. The other kids thought they were too rich. Maybe William did too.

-Caitlin's first Primary activity. All the Primary kids got to skate free at the Ice Zone. Caitlin loves to iceskate. She uses the big orange cones for support.

-Our "cast party" after the final performance...a late night McDonald's run with icecream included, take out of course. Sam had to get back to see the The Day the Earth Stood Still. I'm not such a fan of anything with Keanu Reeves.

Sunday, January 17, Rob invited some professors from BYU over for lunch. They were in China filming a documentary about a children's choir from Inner Mongolia. They are planning a joint concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. One of the professors was a co-founder of the Sundance Film Festival. He was very kind. I had Sam show him some of his latest short films.

Sam had fun making these on Christmas morning. He used ideas from a book we gave him called Tricky Video.

Monday was Martin Luther King Day. Thai lunch and webchat. I was grateful to spend the day with Rob.

Thursday, Jessie came back. She has been in WuHan for several months. She will be heading home to Guangzhou for Chinese New Year. We may plan for a recital in March, if I can find a good place to hold it.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

in curtains?

Our business with BTV began in December. Rob works with an FSN who was familiar with my recordings. She was working with BTV to find foreign singers, musicians, etc residing in Beijing who might be able to take part in the BTV Chinese New Year Global Gala, a televised variety show that happens every year. BTV brings in performers from all around the world, but they look locally as well. When she suggested that they listen to my recordings the asked if I would participate in the event. And since China is fascinated with big families, and in love with the movie The Sound of Music, the directors wanted us to perform Do-Re-Mi.

When we talked with the kids about it, they were all fairly open to the idea. We were concerned about the time commitment, and of course, the unpredictable nature of three, five, and six year-olds, but we decided to give it a try. I think we all felt a huge relief Saturday night when we finished our final performance and recording. The kids had been good about an intense week of rehearsal. I was grateful that most of our commitment consisted of that short time period.

The show will be aired on the fifteenth of February for Chinese New Year. After the fifteenth, I'll add the recording of our song to the play list. Here are some pictures that Mary wanted to take backstage.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

the dress rehearsal

Friday, January 15, Michael Jackson's back up guys ate next to us in the cafeteria. The buffet was especially delicious. Sam and I enjoyed the fried cod. Bethany and Olivia particularly liked the little white cakes. They were good, with blueberry topping. We were a bit rushed. I think Jane was more nervous than all of us combined.

Friday was a filmed dress rehearsal with an audience. As soon as we finished eating we changed into our costumes and went to the make-up room.

I was pretty excited when Michael Jackson sat down next to me in the make-up room. Who knew he spoke Mandarin like a native?

After the make-up room Jane led us to the second floor to a hallway of broadcast waiting rooms, like green rooms. Fortunately, we had our own, or the kids would have driven someone other than me and Rob crazy, spinning around on wheelie stools.
We practiced a bit, argued a bit, played a bit of poison handshake, then it was time to go downstairs to wait backstage.

It was exciting to see the performers gathered in groups backstage. There were the Russian dancers, with their dramatic eye make-up and sparkling red sequined dresses, the Mongolians in long white, gowns and mysterious hoods, the two Canadian Eskimos, who surely belonged to the igloo from the night before. The kids did their best to jockey for a good view of the show, while I tried, in vain, to gather them back around me. Jane said "Please don't let your kids run wild." I think she was remembering Grant and the igloo.

This man is Japanese African-American. He sang a gorgeous, soulful ballad about his mother. Take note of the bubbles.

When the Japanese man started to sing Mina told us we were next. Now I would see if I could really get all the little girls to go on stage. Mary started to protest. I told her the spirit of Miss Mary would go with us. When they announced our group everyone went on happily.

We got off to a great start and I was feeling relieved to be half way through, with everyone having a good time on stage, when the music stopped. Okay. We all just sat there. Then I saw the bubbles on the floor at the front of the stage. A crew of men ran out with mops and we watched, relieved that we hadn't tried to march through the slippery bubbles.
The director came out and asked us to start again.

I was glad to see the kids still had enthusiasm. As we marched forward in the last verse, the audience clapped to see all the kids lined up in a row. I was relieved that they enjoyed our act. The kids ran off the stage, excited about their performance. Just one more night to go.

shunyi trees

Thursday, January 14 Rob came home early so he could drive us to BTV. We gathered the kids up at ISB, grabbed some bagels from Tasty's and headed in to Beijing.
When we were on the third ring road I asked "Who can be the first one to see the pants building?"

Olivia said "What's so great about the pants building?"

The pants building is the CCTV tower. Here is the hotel built next to it that caught fire last Chinese New Year. People are not sure what to do with it because it is on the same foundation as the CCTV building, so it cannot be razed. The fire was caused by CCTV's fireworks display. The hotel was empty, but at least one firefighter died.

Here is the BTV building. BTV is the second largest TV station in China, Rob believes, perhaps tied with Shanghai TV.

Our schedule was supposed to be rehearse, dinner, talk show. The talk show people wanted us to bring Grant and William. They were impressed with Grant when they met him at our house because he is "very active." Exactly why we wouldn't like to bring him to the station, but we did anyway. Jane escorted our group of big feet, little feet and strollers through the cold hallways and up and down stairs to the auditorium.
We sat down and and she told us that the schedule was "too tight" to practice on the stage that night. Maybe it was because we had arrived late and she didn't want to appear critical. But nevertheless, I told her if we couldn't practice on the stage then we couldn't perform in the show at all. Our blocking involved the stairs and we needed to feel more confident moving on them before we performed in front of an audience Friday night. We told her that we could skip the talk show, but not the rehearsing. I didn't want to go on TV talking about an act I didn't feel good about.
We reassembled our group, met up with a beat box/ cello group and moved again to the cafeteria, still not sure that we would be able to practice. The cafeteria was already packed. Kyle reported that there was one table available, "until Michael Jackson took it."
We ate at some tables in the hallway. After dinner Jane took us to the backstage in the auditorium. We hoped that was a promise that we'd be practicing next, but soon Jane returned and said, "Okay why don't we go upstairs now?"
"No," we said. "We'll wait here until we can practice."
Aside from my needing to manage Grant's interest in an igloo backstage, the kids were good about entertaining themselves while we waited. Sam found this Chinglish sampling.

Here is the American cellist that we met. The man in front with the microphone is a famous Peking Opera singer. He sounds just like a high soprano. I really enjoyed their cello, beat box, Peking opera fusion. Caitlin was dancing along backstage. William listened from his stroller.

We were glad that we insisted on practicing. After the fusion group, no one else was waiting. We took our turn. We all felt better about the act and we still had time to make an appearance on a studio audience talk show that was being filmed on the second floor.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

i spy

Wednesday, January 13, a driver from Beijing t.v. came to pick us up after school. More four o'clock traffic. The kids have come along way. Ben, Kyle, Caitlin, and Bethany rode for an hour "squozen" four in row in the backseat of the minivan, without a single elbowing incident. Mary and I shared a bucket seat and played I spy for the entire ride, at Mary's insistence. Ben joined in the game.

"I spy something that starts with global and ends with warming." He said.

Mina met us when we arrived at the enormous BTV building... enormous and cold! The bottom floor has the auditorium and dressing rooms. It was our first night to practice on stage, and to really get some direction on our act. Up until now, its only been me, tyrannical stage mom, directing. How I wish I had more experience, knowledge, capability, in this situation.
Mina led our wide-eyed group through the backstage to the auditorium. I guess she was giving us a chance to soak in the atmosphere. Either that, or she thought the stage would be available and it wasn't. Here we are enjoying the Michael Jackson impersonator.. amazing dancing, though fewer gestures would be appreciated.

After Michael finished Mina and her assistant Jane asked us if we wanted to have dinner. I felt unsure how to answer because we had just arrived, and I thought we ought to do something before we took a break, but in China you have not understand a lot of things. The kids were apprehensive, because they distrust Chinese food, but we all agreed to eating. They took us on another journey through the cold halls, down an elevator, through a parking garage, up another elevator to a hallway of pleasant restaurants. We stopped in a sort of banquet room that was empty when we arrived, except for the staff and a long table of food. The room filled up quickly with BTV staffers, workmen in black parkas, and other groups of performers must be dancers, with yellow t-shirts and tight, pulled back hair-dos, as we ate.

We know that a free, surprise buffet is dreamlike to me. The kids were pleased with the food, which smelled and tasted delicious. Here's Kyle at the buffet. It's not a great picture because I was trying to be subtle. I do have some dignity.

After dinner we changed in to our costumes in the bathrooms, avoiding the perimeters of the squat pots as much as possible. Only one pair of changed-out-of-clothing emerged submerged. Here we are, most likely in the middle of discussing the stage business, (which kept changing,to the kids' frustration) looking a bit scraggly.

How will we shape this up? Prayer? Intervening angels? I know they are among us! That is why we persevere.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

the recording

Saturday, January 9, we drove in to the city to record the music for the talent show. We will be singing along with our pre-recorded music on the night of the performance. Thankfully. I appreciate any degree of predictiblity in this situation.

Ben usually gets a bit grumpy about car rides and Saturday committments, but I told him he would love the recording studio, and he did. Here we are outside.

This project is a bit overwhelming, but we're taking it step by step, and sweetening the deal for the kids along the way.
I forgot to mention another Sam kitchen creation in my last post. We recreated his famous Fanta float chocolate sundaes as a reward for a good rehearsal last Tuesday night. (That stuff is so sweet it makes my head spin!) I am putting all my faith in bribery and "pray always."
I think Grandma will be pleased with the outcome. I could tell the kids felt good about what they'd accomplished Saturday because they didn't complain when we hit Beijing four o'clock traffic. Our stash of Fritos and Poptarts helped. More deal sweetening.
I was grateful we had this opportunity. It was a fun way to spend time together.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

to the kitchen with sam

Monday, January 4, Rob went back for his first full week of work since Christmas Eve. The kids started in to their third week of winter break. One more week to enjoy late night movies and sleeping late mornings. I have been grateful that the kids have been so content to have no plans at all. I guess the influx of neighborhood kids has kept the dynamic sufficiently stimulating.

I was happy to hear Sam say that he was looking forward to his new semester classes. He has always needed a schedule and specific tasks or activities. This week Sam kept busy cooking. Monday he made New Orleans style beignets for desert. Tuesday he made Emeril's Alphabet soup and three loaves of Sandra Lane's recipe whole wheat bread. They were perfect together. The bread was delicious for breakfast too. I am going to miss these lazy mornings.

Thursday Sam had planned to make roast chicken and mashed potatoes but the Craigs invited Sam and Ben to go skiing with them, so I took over. I hear skiing just outside of Beijing is a great deal compared to the states. I'm sure the natural setting can't compare to Utah, but the kids had a great time anyway. I sent about two hundred kuai per child along, about 25USD. That included all the rentals, extra clothing, and lunch. It was Sam's first ski trip. Ben and Kyle went skiing with the Carrillo family last week as well. Wish I had pictures of the ski trips!

Friday was more cooking for Sam. I should mention that the kids and I have been asked to be part of a kind of talent show. More about that later. So, Friday afternoon Beijing TV came to our house to put together an interview segment, not sure what to call it, about the family. They found out that Sam loves to cook, so they asked him to make something so they could film him. I intended to take a picture of the crew with Sam. I'm sad that I forgot. I was too eager to eat a chocolate chip cookie. Wish I had one now. The crew was very nice, fun company.

Friday evening Rob went back in to a reception with Chinese bloggers. The kids and I ordered pizza from Tasty's. Caitlin and Olivia were fighting over Sparkle and Harley. (Life was easier when Caitlin thought she didn't like dogs.) I tried to end the disagreement with a doggie photo shoot.

Can you see that Harley has a problem with his right eye? The vet gave us some eye drops and said he may need a little surgery on his eye. Kyle has been our dependable doggie nurse this week, giving Harley his eye drops three times a day.