Monday, May 28

Miscellany Monday 501

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! We are headed off to a church picnic in a couple hours, but here's what we've been up to:

1) We did it, we did it, yay!! (Can you tell Dora is on in the front room?)  Despite a 9-day trip to China, Tom's hernia surgery, and numerous other distractions, Linsey finished her schooling on May 11, two weeks ahead of schedule! Her final unit in science was on the human body - let's just say I don't think she'll be going into the medical field in the near future! "That's disgusting!" was a phrase I heard often, but she did learn something, because the other day she came to me with a pathetic voice, "Mom, my esophagus is hurting. I think I need some medicine!"

2) This is Nattie, my adorable, devilishly stubborn almost 3-year old. We bought her these "sparkly shoes" a couple weeks ago, and she's hardly taken them off. Actually, for the first 48 hours or so, she didn't take them off. She begged me to let her sleep in them, and I was so ready for her to go to bed that night I finally relented - the third kid will do that to you! Besides, now we can tease her about it when she gets older :)

 3) The girls, all on their own, decided to have a lemonade stand! Only they didn't want to charge anyone, they just wanted to give it away (not the entrepreneurial spirit, I know!). Unfortunately, pretty much the only reason people go down our road is to get to the high school, and it was the middle of the school day. So we couldn't even GIVE the stuff away because no one came by! They were so bummed. Finally, we grabbed a kiddie grocery cart and made a 'traveling lemonade stand.' We went to neighbors' houses, including some just moving in that day, and made a few new friends.
Love my girls and our little adventures!

4) A friend and I made our first cake pops a few weeks ago for a wedding shower! Not perfect, but definitely the most crafty thing I've done in awhile that didn't need wiggly eyes glued to them.

5) And here we all are on Mother's Day - my one wish was for all 3 girls to wear matching outfits. They made me breakfast, cards, and macaroni necklaces, and Tom grilled ribs for lunch. The best part is that nearly every day since, Nattie has come up to me, given me a hug, and said, "Happy Mother's Day, Mama!" I'm guessing they must have practiced that a lot :)

Can you tell which one keeps me on my toes??
miscellany monday at lowercase letters

Tuesday, May 22

White Girl in China: Watch Your Language!

Cruising on the Yellow River

I am a talkative person. And I used to think I was fairly good at getting around language barriers - I speak Spanish, so I can get by in most Latin-based language situations if I have to. I also know a bit of sign language and I took shorthand in college, which really has no relevance in the 21st century. Plus, we had a Korean exchange student stay with us for a year. All that to say, I had many frustrating - and humorous - attempts at expressing myself in a language where we don't even share the same alphabet.

On our first night, we took a boat tour of the city on the Huangpu River. I noticed the locals pointing and staring at us, but being a group of 34 white tourists on an otherwise all Chinese boat tour, that was no shock. (Much of our vacation locals either asked us to pose for pics with them or just took pictures of us being tourists, like this guy filming Tom hacky sack..)

You film my husband, I film you... :)

As a 6'2" redheaded Irish-American, Tom achieved a near-celebrity status. 

But I determined to make a new friend. Or even two. I was seated by our tour guide William, and the women around him immediately began staring and asking him questions about me. Was I married? Did I have kids? Would I take a picture with them? After about 5 minutes, William made his hasty escape from the female chat zone, and I decided to continue the conversation on my own. "What is your name?" I asked. Confusion marked their faces. My subconscious told me to speak slower and louder...doesn't that work in the movies? 

A picture really is worth 1,000 words! Especially when you don't understand them.

"What....your....NAME?" I asked with the speed of a snail. Still no response. I tried in Spanish, "Su nombre?" Nothing. I thought about using sign language but decided instead to flip open my Chinese dictionary app and show them the sign I thought I was asking for. They giggled.

Frustrated, I decided to try the Tarzan approach. S-L-O-W-L-Y I pointed to myself. "Elizabeth." Blank stares. "E-LIZ-A-BETH."  I thumped myself so hard I nearly lost my breath, and still they shook their heads. Then it dawned on me, Elizabeth probably doesn't even sound like a name to them! Most of their names were simple, two-syllable words. Tom snickered, "Honey, they probably think you're having a heart attack! Leave the poor women alone." Defeated, I waved goodbye (turns out that's a universal sign) and went upstairs.

It was humbling, not even being able to tell what kind of items a store sold from the outside. We went in one place thinking it was a coffeeshop and found a daycare center instead. Then when we actually found a Starbucks, the clerk, who spoke some English, asked me for 50 juan (pronounced ywon), which is their currency. I gave him 50 juan, and he said, "No, 50-juan."

Defensively, I replied, "I just gave you 50 juan!"

"No!" he exclaimed, clearly frustrated. "Not 50 juan, 50- juan!" and he held up 5 fingers on one hand and 1 on the other.

"Oh!" I said, laughing, "51!" and he gave me a resounding "Jess."

 To make matters worse, when I picked up our drink, the barrista called, "venti white chocolate latte!" Trying to be encouraging, I responded politely, "Thank you. And good English!" The guy looked at me, rolled his eyes and gave me a curt "Thanks" in a very American accent. Tom rolled his eyes too. But at least I didn't give that guy my Tarzan impression.

(To catch up on China posts, click here)

Wednesday, May 16

Girl Time= Mother Nurture

I love, love, LOVE having girls. (more posts on Girl Time here) I was never much into hair, makeup, or princesses, until I held my own little princess for the first time. I was smitten. She wore nothing but pink and purple for a year, when her white-blond hair was finally long enough for me to make a little ponytail on top with a ribbon. She carried a purse and baby doll wherever she went. Add two more princesses to the mix, and, 7 years later, my life is a flurry of braids, nail polish, and "No, you cannot go out of the house like that"s. Already.

One thing I love about having girls is that their soft, nurturing side comes out so often. After our second girl, I decided they needed some "neutral" toys, so we bought matchbox cars. No sooner had I gotten them out of the box than the girls ran to their room and tucked the cars into their beds. "There, there," they said, "aren't they cute?!" I'm pretty sure lullabies ensued.

So far we've had a guinea pig, a mini sea turtle, and a few fish, all of which the girls are sure were of the fairer gender. Whenever Natalie is looking for something and then finds it, she exclaims, "Oh, there she is!!" Even the tea. Or her undies.

Crazy about my crazy girlie!

And when I walk into the restroom, Nattie has begun to take over the washcloth shelf, making beds for her dolls:

While they have their moments, most of the time my girls adorable together I overheard my two oldest talking the other day. Hannah said, "Linsey, my heart would break if I had to be without you forever!"
Linsey patted her hand, "Well, we'll just have to live next door then!" I love it.

 This is the card Linsey, 7, made for Hannah's 5th birthday last month:

"Seeing you smile makes me so happy. Seeing you grow so tall..."

It's awesome to see their heart for other people too. Our neighbor's dog just ran away, and Linsey asked if we could take them cookies. They're always asking to have people, young and old, to our home, especially if they don't have a family. And when Tom went away overnight, the girls insisted that we make him cards. Hannah dictated exactly what she wanted: "Mommy, say 'I love you.' And make sure you use a lot of words, so he really knows I do!!"

It comes in handy for me too. The other day, I messed up trying to start a movie for the girls, and I apologized. Hannah came over and gave me a big hug. "That's all right, Mommy... you're still the best Mama for us! We love you!" And I sure love them :)

Daily snuggle time in Linsey's bed

Friday, May 11

White Girl in China: Fine Dining

Eating scorpion on Snack Street, a famous tourist spot in Beijing
  (To catch up on the other posts in this series, click here)

The food in China was amazing! We ate each breakfast at our hotel, which had everything from traditional bacon and eggs to a noodle bar and sushi. Lunches and dinners were eaten mostly at restaurants like the above pics, with 8-10 of us sharing a round table and eating family-style. There was usually an egg dish, several noodle dishes, plenty of rice, and lots of veggies.

I took pics of our last full day's meals in China, just to give you an idea of what it was like:

 Breakfast: Omelet bar, fried rice, dumplings, dragon fruit, bacon, muesli, and a noodle bar. (That would normally feed us for the whole day!)

For lunch, we were on our own because it was a shopping day in the local flea markets. There were several American chains in the city - Starbucks, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Subway, but KFC is the biggest American food chain there. After 8 days of only Chinese food, we were ready for some fries!

Dinner was a bit more adventurous that last night, as we all told the tour guide we wanted to eat like  locals. The meat in the background was a big hit, as it was the most meat we had gotten at once since our arrival. The guide wisely waited until after we had all eaten it to tell us it was donkey! Also pictured: century egg, boiled peanuts, and noodles that looked too much like jellyfish tentacles. That night we also had shrimp, chicken, mushrooms, and of course, rice :)

After dinner, we went to Snack Street, a long strip of outdoor booths that have everything from dragonflies and dumplings to shark and tarantulas to eat. They get more than 100,000 tourists daily - it was intense!

                Mr. Shark            
Ms. Seahorse

 Tom and I were fairly adventurous, we tried scorpion, dragonfly, and shark. Others in our group had sea horse and snake too, but I was shopping by then... I can only take so much adventure!

Thursday, May 3

White Girl in China - Squatters

  (For other posts in this series, click here)

Shortly after our arrival in China, I discovered, much to my naive American snobbishness, that not everyone uses the restroom the same way. It seems I had been using a Western toilet for my entire life, or a "sitter." In China, sitters are not as common as a Westerner might hope. (Neither is soap or toilet paper, our tour guide informed us the next day, but he always let us know when and where Western toilets could be found!) Hence, I opened the bathroom door at the very urban airport to find this:

No instructions. No toilet paper. Just a recessed urinal-type device. Had I gone into the men's room? Doubtful. Should I sit on top of it? Probably not. Putting my college education to good use, I surmised that I should engage in some sort of hovering maneuver. I cast a look back at the kind cleaning lady, who smiled wanly and urged me into the stall with the handle of her mop. She was obviously not going to be a help. I decided to step in and try my luck - my bad luck, that is.

What should have been on the restroom sign at the airport. 

As I carefully prepared to use my first squatter, I decided to hold on to the door lock for balance. Bad move. As I reached out to grab it, my foot slid on a slick spot on the floor and went over my head while my hand hit the lock and knocked the door open. My ummm... hinder parts went under the stall to my left, my feet slid under the stall to my right, and I found myself lying sideways in said squatter. Not at all the pose I was aiming for. The woman in the stall where my feet wound up began shrieking in rapid Chinese, perhaps surprised to have company while squatting.

The Canadian woman to my left, who was on our tour, asked if I was ok, then chuckled when she heard my uncontrollable laughter. After determining that nothing was wounded (besides my pride), I realized I no longer had to use the restroom and walked out with what little dignity I had left, my head held high. (It turns out that nicer restrooms have someone mop after each use, hence the wet floor.)

I did master this bathroom feat the following day, determined to "get back on the horse" that had so viciously thrown me off. And, just so you know that Westerners aren't the only ones who need a little help when encountering a new culture, I found this very helpful picture on a website about Western toilets:

I'd love to hear the story that inspired this little sign!!
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