Thursday, January 29, 2009

Photo Details

Oh, what a busy time the past two weeks! We lost internet access in China for a week and then traveled back to the US during our Spring Festival school break. There was no electricity on our row for the Cathay Pacific 12 hour flight. They wanted everyone to stay in their seats due to turbulence but with no lights or TV, that is a little challenging with a three year old (who was so looking forward to watching Playhouse Disney in English for the first time in months). They gave us a big flashlight to try to hold if we needed to see something. The only open seats were center ones, where I couldn't put Abbey by herself and no one wanted to move. Given the situation I think she did pretty well. We sat next to someone very nice who didn't complain about her wiggling at all. The airline offered us a $25 voucher for duty free goods...I couldn't even respond except to say, "No, thank you." I'm now in correspondence with their customer service department.
We've been in a whirl of business that need to be taken care of here, and also trying to spend some time with family and friends. I have lots to tell, as always, but no time to write : )
I do at least want to take a moment to say a big thank you for all your kind comments here and on FB about Abbey's photo. Many of you asked for more details, so I will share a little here. I was wanting to get some current professional photos and wasn't sure how to go about that in China. I've seen fancy shops with lots of clothes and backdrops but they seemed geared toward babies. My friends had been explaining to me about having them done at a store that I can only liken to BabiesRUs (but really so wildly Chinese and different) but it sounded like quite an ordeal, and very expensive. We were shopping a couple of weeks ago at an infamous place that has 8 floors of knock-offs, pearls, fabric, etc. and were approached by a girl to have photos done. They had stopped us about a month before on our first trip to this "mall" and I just didn't have the time or energy. Abbey really wanted to do it and I thought it would be a good gift for my family. In a very tiny little shop they do your hair, makeup (that's why she looks so much older), costumes, and then take photos. The cost was 150 rmb (about $22 usd). Abbey loved having her hair and makeup done (first time) and I didn't think much about it until later. Because this was a spur of the moment thing I really didn't process it all. Looking back we still would have done the photos, but I would have put some boundaries on things. It was my mistake as a parent, I just got caught up in the moment. Abbey has the most delightful personality, and I want the focus to stay on the beauty of who she is as a person. She is still a baby with fat under her chin, wears a pull up at night, and drinks warm milk from a sippy cup. There will be plenty of chances for make-up and fancy dresses when she's much older. That being said, I do love the photos and will treasure them. I bought a disc and they made a little book that is coated with this great stuff that makes it water and fingerprint proof, it's really neat - kind of like a fancy board book with a matte coating. The disc and book were 250 rmb ($37 usd). We will probably go back and have photos done together because I want to dress up too and you can't beat the price. The ladies there really know what they are doing. We picked a Japanese outfit and a Chinese one. When I went on a hutong tour in Beijing (pre-adoption) I visited a family's home that had a special dress up photo from when their daughter was 2 yrs. old and she was now in her 30's. You could see that it was one of their most important possessions. I also have a treasured photo of my mom when she was three and was a flower girl in a wedding. So it had always been in my mind to do something like that. Now we are returning to our footie pajamas and our regular preschool appearance, I am keeping my girl in 3 yr. old mode as long as I can.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Chinese New Year Celebrations Begin!

Yoyo and Abbey

We are kicking off Chinese New Year today even though it's a week away. We had a big celebration at school with all the children performing and then a dumpling feast. Tomorrow we will have a staff New Year party, very fun!

A brief serious moment, followed by the usual joyous demeanor.

My class, ready to do their monkey dance.

And their lion dance.

And their ribbon dance.
Abbey's class singing their lantern song. Abbey and Amy, our sweet friend and art teacher. The grandmothers showing us how to make the jiaoza. They were so delicious!
Abbey and our beloved Miss Heidi.
Winding down now with her slippers on.

I don't usually let Abbey use the camera, but she talked me into it here, and instructed me to put it on my "puter", meaning the blog.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cockroach Crescendo

This post has been building since the day we arrived. I've held back as long as I can and now the truth must be told, the above creature has been one of my greatest hurdles in China. There were so many things I considered before coming, and this was not on my list of concerns, but it truly has been an issue. This morning I went in to the bathroom to brush my hair before heading out the door and what to my wondering eyes should appear? A cockroach crawling through my hair. I yanked it out with a brush, swished down the sink and plugged up the drain. I am just hoping that it was on the brush and just climbed on me momentarily, and not on me as I slept. This is an all time low point in my bug battle. We live in some of the nicest apartments in the city. I am a super clean type person. This is not okay. But this is just one of the things about southern China that I've had to adjust to. I have never had bugs anywhere I lived except for ants one time briefly during a rainy season in California. Although I keep all food secured in plastic with clips and keep everything put away all the time, they are here. Most of my friends say that they've disappeared in the last month or two as the temperatures have dropped. Unfortunately I am a baby about the cold and bought a little heater for my bedroom, something no one else does around here. And so all the cockroaches have left everyone else and come to me. I moved the heater the other day and about 6 scurried out from underneath. So...cold or cockroaches, that is the choice. Other gross outs...
They love to go under the microwave. They climb up inside it and I've seen one inside the digital clock. So now as steam is coming out the vent whenever I use it I am wondering just what all is cooking in there. Yes, there was one inside the microwave a few weeks ago. I spray Raid under the microwave and set up traps around it, and wonder what chemicals may be getting on our food. In my hurry to spray a creature I forgot about the gas flame on the stove and almost torched the kitchen. I used a bomb that worked for about a week, but that might also be what gave them the idea to head back to the bedroom.
And cockroaches aren't the only ones...the mosquitoes were a nightmare when it was warm. We have plug in insecticides and would have to cover ourselves with repellent at night. Did I mention I hate chemicals? Still we would be awakened and bitten all through the night, but they are gone now that it is FREEZING. I knew that bats were a symbol of good luck in China since the "fu" pronunciation is the same as the word for fortune, but to me they always seemed creepy. Now I understand why they are beloved. They fly out of the top of our buildings each evening at dusk and begin eating up all the mosquitoes. We are so happy to see them and it's our signal to get inside before we get eaten.
Flies were also a big issue in the summer. It was hard to even eat a meal trying to shoo them off all the time. The Chinese believe in "fresh air" at all times and continually open doors and windows. A plastic flyswatter was no where to be found, I went to many stores. Someone did sell me an electric tennis racket type thing that was supposed to zap them, but I never hit even one. I got really good with a wet hand towel though.
Now the geckos are sort of cute, but it is really yucky to find them in the sticky cockroach traps, I shouldn't even look to see what's wiggling inside, but somehow I just want to know how many bugs I've gotten.
So there it all is. You know I try to be thankful in all things and I am sure in the big picture this is all inconsequential. But I thought you all should know one of the things that's been hard. I remember Corrie Ten Boom being thankful for the lice in the concentration camp because the guards kept a distance and it gave them more freedom. Maybe there is some such redeeming factor working on my character and helping me to have an eternal perspective.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy New Year!

What an amazing experience 2008 has been for us. We're looking forward to 2009, and planning on savoring every moment.
We went to a fabulous New Year's Eve party and we both had a great time. The children were all upstairs eating pizza, sharing goodie bags, making butterfly wands, and watching Cars while the adults partied downstairs. We had turkey, champagne, and some wonderful deserts. Several of our friends performed musically and I got to have great conversations with people I've wanted to get to know better. We could not have asked for more in the way of friendships and fun experiences during our time in China, so we are once again feeling very thankful for all we've been given.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Rest of Christmas!

Christmas Eve we had dinner with friends after I returned from the orphanage. We were given way too many gifts and could barely haul it all back home, but we certainly enjoyed them! Abbey got a robe, darling kimono pj's, a roll of art paper,a Snow White book, and her favorite...a little toy MP3 that hangs on a pearl necklace. I got a very hip new red bag, a robe, earrings, tank top,
CD', very fun. We all decided to go Christmas caroling and shock the neighbors. They really didn't know what hit them. We went through 3 apartment buildings in our complex singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas and giving each family the most Special book. They were trying to give us oranges and candy and bowing...although some were a little scared. It was really fun, and Heidi's violin and Emily's Christmas candle made it even more special.
The next day Abbey and Olivia awoke to find that stockings and gifts had appeared under our tree. They were so delighted with each little thing and immediately wanted to do a special Snow White sand craft they had gotten. I don't know if they have these in the US, but they are so great. You peel off a section at a time and then there is a sticky area that you pour colored sand on. So we spent about 45 minutes doing that. Then Abbey opened up stickers and spent another 30 minutes playing with those.

And so it went, she would open a small gift and play with it for a long time, by lunch and naptime she still had lots of gifts unopened. I have a 3 gift plan, but I accidentally forgot what I was doing and got her two more. I really want to keep the meaning of Christmas in focus, and I am so happy I did. She got several little gifts from staff members at school, which was very thoughtful since they don't celebrate Christmas. She got a little jewel bracelet, a neck scarf, a set of markers, and this cute little doll in a crib.
My sister sent us a lot of wonderful gifts, this little Hello Kitty locket being Abbey's favorite. It has pictures of my niece and nephew inside.
naptime we rushed off to her final Christmas performance at the mall, and boy was it wild! There were about 500 people there to watch and TV crews filming. They had flown in a Santa from Finland who was very authentic. They had the most famous TV hostess in our area as the MC. Santa surprised us by appearing amidst fog and "snow" and disappearing in the same way he came. The kids did a great job and I was most proud of my adult friends who sang. Would you believe they were asked to share the true meaning of Christmas?! And they did, in English and Chinese. What an opportunity! We all went to Starbucks afterward to celebrate. Abbey LOVED being on stage and has been begging me to be in another show and asking me if I can get her a microphone. I think we will be having fun with performances over the next few years.
Abbey and Heidi
Our neighbor and co-worker, Jasmine.

Over the next few days Abbey slowly opened up her other presents. My three gifts were a princess watch (with different princesses you can change out), princess underwear (a different princess for each day of the week), and a princess castle (which I had to secretly buy at Disneyland and try to carry home). The two I accidentally got her were a peg board and plastic sheets of letters to trace. Her art teacher also gave her a great gift. It's an art set where you can put together different princess outfits and rub a crayon over them, she loves it. I never realized how nice the days after Christmas are for a mom with your child happily playing with new toys! Abbey has brought me so much joy, every day is a gift.