Easter Pictures At the Park

April 6th, 2015

Catherine looking at flowers Catherine looking for eggs Nathaniel, Catherine and Ethan Still looking...

This year Easter coincided with the Tomb Sweeping Festival, which is a one-day holiday which means that we got a three-day weekend and there was no weird scheduling (ie. working on Saturday to make up for having Tuesday off). I had arranged it so that I wouldn’t teach this weekend and so we had a pretty nice weekend with all of us home. Nathaniel spent about 5 hours each day doing homework and studying ahead in his Chinese book, so it wasn’t all relaxing and carefree but we managed to get to a newish park each day.
Saturday we had a picnic of snack-ish foods and some yummy banana-cranberry-chocolate chip muffins (thanks Marlys!). We went early in the morning and came home after lunch for naps. Everyone slept, even never-takes-a-nap Nathaniel and that night we watched a movie on the wall with this projector that Santiago bought. It’s kinda like the movies, only more convenient and comfortable!
On Easter we invited Santiago’s sister and her son to join us. We bought food at KFC and then waited for them to arrive, only to wait another 30 minutes while she talked to some friends that she ran into. Hence all the pictures of the kids with flowers and playing with dirt. Since we ate late, we did the egg hunt late and didn’t make it home for naps. When we did get home it was too late for Catherine to sleep so I played with her and Santiago taught Nathaniel a new Chinese lesson. Sister invited us to dinner but Catherine was very fussy (she’s been battling a cold since Friday, so coupled with no nap it was no surprise) so I made her and I a simple dinner. Then I fed her in the kitchen while sitting on tiny stools so that she couldn’t hear the guys leave! I got her in bed around 6:30 and she was out almost instantly.
Yesterday was cold but Nathaniel wanted to return to the park to try his hand at selling bubble wands. There were several women selling them for 5 yuan each, but a store by us was selling them for just 1.5 yuan. He bought 10 and hoped to make a nice profit, but his lack of selling skills coupled with the weather meant that he didn’t sell a single one. He did enjoy trying and we’ll go there again for the May holiday and give it another try.

Nathaniel and Daddy Climbing on Daddy     Nathaniel hunting for eggs Nathaniel is amazed at all the eggs Ethan found! Catherine and Daddy Catherine and Mommy Nathaniel on his pogo stick

Unusual Compliments

August 6th, 2014

Being the lone white skinned, blonde haired person in a city of nearly a million, I’m used to the comments, criticisms and compliments that I get. There’s the usual, “Oh, how beautiful, your skin is so white!” and “Is your hair real?” and curious kids who ask “Why’s your nose so big?” or “Why do you have two eyelids?” and the old ladies who poke my belly and pinch my arm flab to get across the point that I could stand to lose some weight.

But today I was at the store and hear a new one. As I was heading back from the cashier to pick up my things from the counter, I overheard two clerks talking about my “socks.” Apparently the one gal is looking for socks that have open toes so she can wear them with sandals. And mine fit the bill. Unfortunately, they’re probably not in her price or comfort range.

They’re compression socks to keep my vericose veins from getting worse. They are neither comfortable (so darn hot in the summer!) nor cheap ($16 a pop on Amazon, if you’re in the market for a pair). But these 40-something women thought they were the coolest thing and asked me all about them.

While I feel self-consious wearing them, and make sure to wear long skirts to ensure the tops of the socks remain hidden, Santiago doesn’t seem to think it’d be a problem to wear them outside with shorts. Case in point: The other day he noticed that I’d cut a pair of workout pants into shorts and wanted to know why. They had holes and the bottoms were frayed.  Plus I wanted another pair of shorts for around the house. I didn’t bother to hem them becuase it’s a knit material and they’re just for around the house. He said they looked okay and that I could wear them outside. Uh, no!

School’s Out

June 23rd, 2014
It’s finally summer vacation for the kids in our town…and a week and a half early, at that! Usually exams are held the last couple days of June, but this year they were suddenly and unexpectedly moved up ten days. Kids and teachers got just five days to prepare for the final exams. The reason for this sudden change in events: school renovations. Since there’s only two months in which to complete this work–on more than a dozen schools–they have to gain a little extra by ending this year early and starting the next one late. The estimated start date is mid-September to mid-October. Then they’ll go six days a week to make up for lost time. Plus all the teachers will be giving plenty of extra homework during the summer. 

I’m still unsure how I’m going to arrange my classes for the weekends, since I’ve got a very full schedule with four classes on Saturdays and five on Sundays. My first thought was to create some online course; but a good number of the parents claim to be computer illiterate and online learning isn’t as popular here as it is in the US. I could combine a few similar level classes, but Santiago thinks that parents won’t like that. But it seems to be that or just not teach the kids. 

Putting a Wrap on Preschool/Kindergarten

June 20th, 2014
Today Nathaniel had his final exams in math and Chinese. Last night was the first time he didn’t have homework, um, maybe all semester long! We didn’t make him do anything either. We went outside and played after dinner, something we haven’t done in ages.
It turns out that there was a parents meeting after the exam, but Santiago missed it because he doesn’t check in with the online group that the class has. Anyway, Nahtanile got a 96 in math and 95 in Chinese. For Chinese, he simply didn’t answer four of the questions though he couldn’t give us a reason as to why he didn’t. But I was stunned; I was sure he’d have a score that was closer to the age of one of his grandparents!
For the summer he’s doing an online summer math program from Amazon. He’s done a few lessons already; they’re nice and short. Even with me reading all the questions and answers to him it takes less than ten minutes. At least what we’ve done so far have been like that. I have to change out the names because he gets hung up on understanding just who is “Miguel” or “Kareem.” I just use his name of those of his cousins. Not sure what we’re doing for Chinese besides playing with the pin yin game I made for him. Maybe I’ll dig out my character cards and he can learn to read more of those. And then there’s English. His speaking is quite good now, so I want to finish Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (we left off a little more halfway through) and the BOB Books that I’ve got.

Counting with Catherine

June 18th, 2014
She’s a very verbal child; at just over two years old, she’s far ahead of where Nathaniel was at that age. She knows to talk to mom and American Grandma in English, Chinese Grandma and Grandpa in Chinese and that she can speak whatever she wants to Daddy and Nathaniel! But she doesn’t respond well to outsiders’ requests for her to “say something in English.” Honestly, I still get the deer-in-the-headlights look when I’m mid-conversation with a Chinese person and they ask me that same thing. It’s as if I loose all memory of the language! I try to explain, though I probably just confuse them, that she’s doesn’t yet realize she’s speaking two languages, it’s just normal to speak one way to Mom and another to the black-haired family members.
Back to the title…her counting! In English, she counts “one, two, seven” and in Chinese she just says “liang ge” (two). Whenever you ask how many she wants–grapes, crackers, pieces of meat–it’s “liang ge.”
She’s also almost got the alphabet song down. And she loves “Jesus Loves Me” and “Five Little Monkeys”–both are required singing before bed.

And She’s Two…

May 7th, 2014

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She’s an energetic bundle of joy; can’t get her to sit still–not even for some chocolate pilfered from her dad’s stash!
After the guys left for work and school, we finished making her cupcakes and then went on the bus to find her a balloon.  Every night, for the last month or so, she asks if she can go on the “bus (with) daddy (to buy a) balloon.”

We didn’t find anyone selling balloons; probably because it was a weekday morning and not many kids were out and about. But she did get a balloon last week when she was sick (bought by daddy), and one yesterday (just a cheap one that a store was using for decoration, given to her by some of the ladies that work there) when we were out shopping. I took her to play at KFC and we had ice cream before coming home to frost the cupcakes and go to grandmas for lunch.


Happy Birthday Grandma!

May 5th, 2014

Happy Birthday American Grandma!

“I wouldn’t cooperate and sit still for a nice picture, but I did eventually smile. I love you, Grandma.” Catherine

So pretty when she smiles!


Happy birthday Grandma!

Happy birthday Grandma!

Other side of the airplane

“I drew this paper airplane for you. It’s you sitting on the plane when you come visit me.” Love, Nathaniel

Made by Nathaniel

Made by Nathaniel

School: Take Two

March 6th, 2014

After becoming a kindergarden dropout in November 2012, Nathaniel’s back in the classroom. He didn’t return to the kindergarden, where he would be in the “da ban” (big class, or level three); he attending a private class that’s held in the fromer art classroom the elementary school. Guess art isn’t important. Anyway, he’s in the xue qian ban which is a level between the da ban and first grade. Not all kids attend it, some take it as a summer course. He’ll be in it for just a sememster.

Chinese New Year Fun

February 13th, 2014

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Seriously, Mom. You want me to sit with these two?

Seriously, Mom. You want me to sit with these two?


This year Santiago’s younger sister came back here (a two-hour train ride) on the first day of the new year. That’s pretty much unheard of around here; usually families stay with the husband’s parents for the first three days. They left the in-laws back at their house and came here for a few days. The kids really enjoyed it, and Catherine got to finally make a connection with Xiang (just 8 months younger than Nathaniel) since we hadn’t seen them since last New Years.

New Year’s Clothes

February 7th, 2014

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Most Chinese rush out to buy new clothes for the New Year, but we’ve never done that. Two  years ago, I started a sweater but come New Year’s Day, one sleeve was still not done. I finished it last year and Nathaniel’s worn it all year. I whipped up a dress for Catherine last year; I think it got left in America for baby Morgan to grow into. This year I had the best intentions to knit both of them sweaters, but I only got Nathaniel’s done…around 11 pm but I only weaved in ends that would be noticeable! The rest remains to be finished.

Again this year we were scolded by Santiago’s parents for always forgetting to buy new things, so a week before the holiday, I ran out for a quick shopping trip. I was certain I’d get his sweater done, so I just bought him some jeans. For Catherine I ended up buying her a cute floral shirt and paired it with jeans she had. I also put in the zipper on a sweater my mom knit her. While it didn’t match (no biggie…we’re in China where red, pink and orange can always be worn together!), it was cute.

Her red jacket and his blue sweatshirt were gifts from older aunt. Her hat was actually given to Nathaniel many years ago by Santiago’s coworker. She doesn’t have a child and apparently didn’t realize that it was more suitable for a girl. Glad no one else had a girl to pass it on to; it and the scarf are quite cute on Catherine.

    About Charlotte

    I'm a wife, mom and freelance writer in small town China. My two kids and I are three of the dozen foreigners that live here, though we've yet to meet them.

    We're near enough to Beijing to visit occasionally, but far enough away to make it a bit of a hassle since we don't have a car.