Thursday, April 29, 2010

art and celebration

Last week I was grateful for distractions.

I had a roommate in college who more than once told me "you think too much.," not about money making ventures, or a cure for cancer, or even about music, just mulling over and obsessing about life, and my being unavoidably, imperfectly human, and not sparing similar thoughts about others. So children are a wonderful distraction to me, because I now find almost everything about their human-ness irresistibly charming.

Thursday we celebrated Caitlin's fourth birthday by hosting playgroup at our home. The kids rolled out their own pizzas and sprinkled their own cupcakes. I'm a do-it-yourself kind of hostess out of pure necessity. Caitlin said it was "the best birthday party ever." Thank you Caitlin. I needed that.

Earlier in the week, back to Tuesday, I was grateful to spend the day at ISB. Ms. Noella, the art teacher, invited the moms to come in and help the kindergartners with a garbage and hot glue project, making their own inventions out of recyclables. Mary is a perceptive child, like her mom. I asked her what she was inventing. She said "I'll just put stuff together and see what it turns into." It was my third year to participate in the hot gluing. We have been blessed to have three great years of kindergarten at ISB.

After art class I had time to watch Olivia's last day of swimming class, then had lunch with Mary.

In the evening, we went back to ISB to watch the wushu film making awards. Every year the teacher assigns the students to group together and make a wushu movie. Several films were recognized in each category. Sam's film, Wushu Pianist, was recognized in the categories of best camera work and best editing. Sam also helped another group finish their editing. That film was also recognized in the best editing category. I was grateful that Sam had that self-esteem building experience.

Friday was Come and Share the Arts Day known as CASTA. I spent the whole day at school watching the kids' performances and wandering around the school to find their art pieces. The camera ran out of power before the day had finished, so I didn't get as many pictures as I would have liked to. Mary's mask is the top, center.

Bethany is performing a Russian folk dance. She's over on the right with the pony tails.

All of the children brought home appliques, is that the word, that they designed and colored themselves. I ironed them on the t-shirts that they were given to wear on CASTA day.
I enjoyed observing the children's friends' shirts, thinking about their unique personalities and why they chose to draw what they did. Sometimes I love how being human makes us all so different.

Monday, April 26, 2010

iris and buttercup

Sunday, Rob saw Pepper and Jack sleeping cuddled up together on this ledge. Of course they woke up just in time to glare for the picture.

Monday, I was grateful that Rob took the day off to celebrate our anniversary. I enjoyed our breakfast at a French bakery near BJU, the expat-hospital. After we ate we walked to the hospital for the baby's twenty week ultrasound. The's a girl!

After the hospital we moved on to the Chinese DMV where Rob needed to pay off some tickets. I said "This puts the U.S. to shame," when we walked in to the almost empty waiting room. Just one man stood at the window where we waited. In China the police don't stop people for traffic violations, they just take a picture of the back of their car with not-so hidden cameras, so they can read their license plates. So the lady at the desk was showing the man the pictures of his car on the monitor, but he still wasn't convinced of his own wrong doing. "That was my jie jie," my older sister, he said, trying to stifle a chuckle.

And there I was laughing along with him until my own husband brought me up to the desk to sign off his four of his speeding tickets, which was what he had been advised to do in order to keep his driver's license. Mine was more dispensable, since as you know, I only drive in right turn only circles.

So the man at the other window says to the lady, "Ask that tai tai how many kids she has."
He recognized us from the do re mi. "I have nine," I said, " So I'm xiao xin (careful)," and made Rob tell them the tickets were his. It hasn't been physically possible for me to even keep up with the speed limit since the day I had children. Didn't help me keep my license though. A lot of good my fame did me.

I won't pretend that didn't upset me a bit, since I'm working on the stand-by-your-man part of my personality, and not doing such a great job of it. I really do feel sorry for Rob. I have been heaping all of my what-next stress on to him. Which is why I may need to eliminate so many what-nexts from my life, for his sake, as well as mine and the kids'. So fourteen years haven't been without their ups and downs and neither was our fourteenth anniversary.

I was grateful to Rob for helping me drive all the way down to the toy market to get party favors for Caitlin's birthday party, our next errand . Then we had a really delicious lunch at Tavola an Italian restaurant by the embassy where we kept the conversation light. Rob may be surprised to know that Tuesday, despite our many intermittent, unavoidable at this point, what-next discussions, which more often than not ended in my sobbing, I still savored the memories of our day together, as I finished the last of my pesto spaghetti at lunch time.

In the evening our Family Home evening activity was look at the ultrasound and guess what the gender is. That was basically unfair since the best picture of her whole body was kind of a feet over her head yoga position. Olivia had been convinced it was a girl since the first ultrasound when she didn't see "that thing sticking out." In March she went around the neighborhood telling all her friends, and their mothers, and not sparing the anatomical details. So last night the girls erupted in cheers and the boys didn't mind, Sam said, "as long as we don't name her Iris Buttercup." That was Bethany's suggestion.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

sam's big day

This week's kitchen talk was all about Sam's thirteenth birthday celebration. Sam wanted to go see The Clash of the Titans at the Megabox. Olivia understood that we were going to see Teen Titans, and then when we corrected her it became Clash of the Teen Titans. Hopefully we won't have too much of that around the house.

Sam brought his friends Tyler and Luke.

Our whole family is blessed to have Sam as our son and big brother. We love him. We admire is persistence, his affection for his family, his passion for his interests, his dedication to completing a task. We depend upon him every day and see him as our example.
Sam wanted to have a salmon barbecue for dinner.

Luke brought marshmallows for roasting.

Sam can't wait to make sandwiches with his new panini maker from grandma.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

temple of heaven

Last week I went with Bethany's class to the Temple of Heaven. The students brought cameras to take pictures of instances of balance and motion and examples of arrays. We all stood to watch this couple play tai chi ball for ten minutes or so. The man never stopped smiling. Their movements were amazingly fluid.

Observing the local life is always the most interesting part of visiting the Temple of Heaven. It drives some of my children crazy...too much going on at one time. These ladies were line dancing to loud, popular Chinese music right next to the group below who were singing communist era songs accompanied by a brass band, and these groups were surrounded by three of four other groups involved in their own artistic expression, all of it loud.

Here are a few of Bethany's arrays. I liked the dignitaries of the Temple of Heaven Poker cards.

Bethany found a replica of the beaded hat she bought on her first trip to the Great Wall in 2004.

Bethany and her teacher. The day was windy and unseasonably cold, but here they are with at least one sign of Spring.

So I 'm a bit behind. Two weeks ago, Tuesday, Mary and I walked with her kindergarten class through the Bai xin zhuang village next to ISB to the Roundabout. They were practicing their map reading skills. Mary's teacher drew up a quite idyllic map to help them find landmarks to guide their way. This brown body of water behind Mary was referred to as "the lake." I felt sad to see the pollution all along the road. We couldn't even let the children peek behind the gates to see "the lake" because they would have had to climb over a pile of litter. For all our American whining about too much government intervention, we should be grateful that our streets are clean, and our children don't have to play in refuse. It made me sad that our ayis who work so hard to help us keep our home clean don't have a clean environment to return to.

Here we are at The Roundabout thrift store. Miss Leslie, the director gave the children a tour of the shop and took them in the back where they sort through the items. Some are to send to areas like Sichuan, in need of Humanitarian aid, some are to sell to locals and ex-pats, then the money goes to local charity. Miss Leslie is an amazing woman. She put in a plug with the kids to gather up some of their unwanted toys for donation. I was happy about that.

After the tour she fed the kids a snack. That field trip was before the Xinhai earthquake. Now I feel even more motivation to sort through and give away because Miss Leslie has started a new drive for the Xinhai area.

So speaking of sorting through and packing up that's all I have to report for myself. I've made it almost through the girls' bedroom, waiting for the daunting puzzles tubs, then I'm on to Bethany's books. We still don't know where Rob will be assigned for next year, but I have felt peace with the idea that the kids and I need to return to the U.S. Hence the packing. It is therapy for this eery anxious feeling that at some point in the summer Rob's job will end and our ex-pat world will fold up like a movie set, even ISB seems to be losing it's strength to me, fading out of what should be our present reality, losing it's pull on the inevitable, without my knowing how to replace it, so I'm just boxing and organizing, so if we should fall out of existence, at least our things would be well-managed.
All right that was a bit dramatic, speaking of ISB. Olivia's class presented Poetry Under the Stars. Olivia shared her poem about a mermaid.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

mao and friends

Rob took Kyle in to Beijing for a new pair of glasses. While they waited to have them made they went for a walk in the neighborhood. These pictures are Kyle's, from Kyle's eye-view.

Friday, April 9, 2010

must haves

Must have: black mailable bathtub pictures of every baby.

Must have: spaghetti face documented.

Must have: a list of William's first words


"toot toot" (on pitch)

and "mama" too.

Must remember: Grant's only Chinese word "I kan story."


Caitlin's theory about Twilight...."Vampires drink blood and tapwater."
Must have: a place to remind me of all I have been blessed with
a plan B when I can't sleep

Must be: grateful that my blog makes good company at 3a.m.

Must have: cinnamon rolls on General Conference Sunday, according to Olivia

When I took them out of the oven I though they looked quite baroque.

In Beijing we observe General Conference Sunday the week after so people have time to download the talks. We decided to watch at home this time, a thing I was glad for when Elder Holland's talk on pornography brought up some interesting questions. We had to put the talk on pause so I could think of some articulate responses.

Must have: a better answer next time my kids ask "What is lust?"
Everyone listened quite attentively after that discussion.

I always feel that familiar good spirit when the introduction to Conference begins and I see Temple square and hear the choir singing, and the voice of the Prophet, apostles and other leaders. Their messages always comfort and assure.

just ironic

During the month of March ISB hosted their annual visiting authors. This year they were poets. I was purposefully absent from the surrounding events, being afraid they would bring back awkward memories from our first year in Beijing...

I felt like a good mom when Grandma and I took Mary and Olivia,my then pre-schoolers, by taxi, over to the big kids'school just to take a picture of Sam with visiting celebrity Andy Griffiths. He's the Australian author of juvenille novels, The Day my Butt Went Psycho, Butt Wars-the Final Conflict, as well as his popular series of "Just" books, including Just Disgusting, Just Joking, Just Annoying.

When we walked into the room, the lecture was already in progress. Mary and Olivia settled down next to me.The librarian smiled. She'd said I could come.

We were quickly engaged, as Griffiths explained how he chose a butt as his protagonist. The children participated excitedly as he led them through his creative processes, and even allowed them to help him develop a new story line...the more absurd the better. It was a great discussion. I was impressed. When the lecture ended I took the picture of Sam and Andy Griffiths and ran home with the girls and Grandma.

All is well until Ben catches wind of the picture. He wants me to go back the next day to his lecture period with Andy Griffiths. Big problem, it's in the morning. No ayi (babysitter) for Caitlin and Grant. Second problem, could I possibly be wearing out my welcome with that librarian? Ben starts to cry.

"Okay," I say. "I'll see what I can manage."

The next day I walk in with Mary, Olivia, Caitlin, Grant, and Grandma. The lecture is already in progress. The librarian is wearing a big lobster hat, but she is not smiling. She's giving me a kind of a mix between an eyeroll and a smirk. Mary and Olivia aren't really settling down. The fourth graders are engaged in the same lively discussion as the fifth graders were the day before. Caitlin's little noises couldn't possibly be heard over their excited voices, but the librarian is distracted. I can feel her watching me but pretend not to notice.

I smile at Ben. He is happy we are there. I laugh at Griffiths' jar of homemade vomit. The librarian can't laugh at the vomit. Caitlin darts over to a window. I chase after her. Mary follows me. The librarian follows me. I sweep Caitlin up with one hand and grab Mary by the coat with the other. I'm trying to act graceful. Mary pulls away as I let go of the coat and she flies in to the wall. It is getting harder to look graceful, but I try to keep good posture and remind myself how much I enjoy public attention. The lobster is bobbing at me.

"I'm sorry this lecture is only for kids," the librarian says firmly.

"We are on our way out," I respond.

My face is as red as her lobster. I drag everyone out. Fortunately, I leave our 600 dollar camera on the floor so I have an excuse to go back. When the lecture ends I grab the camera and Ben's picture with Andy Griffiths.

That's all I needed.

I spend the day managing my embarrassment, until the morning's irony dawns on me. I may have been the first misbehaving parent to be kicked out of a lecture on runaway butts. Maybe I should feel proud.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

easter 2010

"One more picture, Mary, but smile this time." I am getting stronger. I did not even consider taking one of the free bunnies at the clubhouse this year, in spite of Bethany's pleading. Of course that was because the brown bunny had already been adopted. Everyone knows the white bunnies are "psycho."

More scenes from the River Garden Easter party. Caitlin called this "the fake Easter."
I would hope so.

The real Easter day. Oops we are late for church again, even with new stockings. This is the best picture that we had time for. I have been in Beijing for three years and these dresses are the first purchases I have made at Yashou (how do you spell that?) the western clothing market. I was quite pleased with them. Caitlin prefers old favorites and hand-me-downs to new clothing, so her new dress didn't make it in the picture.

Scenes from our Easter egg hunt. Kyle and Sam did the hiding. We need a bigger backyard. The fence on the deck added an element of challenge. No picking up dog poo William.
Then the Easter basket treasure hunt. Kyle was the author of the clues this year. Here is the finding.

Thanks to our Easter bunny grandparents!

William's first encounter with black licorice.