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. 

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.

Twenty Months

February 5th, 2014

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Belated, as usual, but well worth the wait, I think! They are from her 20th month, though. She’s a little fashionista in the making; each time she goes out to play, she has to inspect each of her three pairs of choose to select the pair that she wants! She can say “piao,” which is part of the Chinese word for “pretty,” and uses it frequently!

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Chinese New Year Children’s Book

February 2nd, 2014

Here’s the cover of a short children’s book that Nathaniel and I wrote about the Chinese New Year. It includes a several pictures of him celebrating the Chinese New Year througout his five years of life.

Spring Festival Letter 2014

January 22nd, 2014

Due to the chaos that occurred at the end of 2012, I never got around to sending out a Christmas letter…and I just realized that I never even sent out an email after Catherine was born in May. So I guess the whole year was chaotic! And now it’s nearly a month after Christmas and this is still waiting to be sent out. It’s now the Spring Festival letter.

Here’s a few stats about our quick and crazy, but well thought out, decision to sell the house which we’d put a down payment on back in 2009 (and in November 2011 we got to choose the house that we wanted):
  • 7 the number of days our landlord let us believe her apparent lie that she wasn’t planning to sell the house (though we’d heard via her mom that she was planning to sell)
  • 4 houses we looked at over Thanksgiving weekend 2012
  • 3 days it took to sell our other house (which wouldn’t be completed until 2014…maybe…and not in a livable condition until 2015…maybe!)
  • 1 the number of kisses I got from the wife of the couple who bought it (awkward! She would have been an interesting neighbor; now they own two adjacent houses so that one set of parents can live there to take care of their son)
  • 2 offers we placed on “secondhand” houses, but one was rejected because the husband’s parents didn’t agree with the couple selling the house so that ended their decision to sell
  • 90 minutes spent negotiating the price of house #2 with the couple and his parents; a lot of yelling was involved (by the two other women)
  • 22 days to get all the paperwork completed
  • 2 days to clean it since they seemed to go out of their way to trash it before leaving
  • 1 sink and shower we had to buy since they took them with
  • 1 trip made by the moving truck (so glad we paid to have help this time!)

So by 2013 we were settled into our new-to-us spacious 116-square-foot house on the 6th floor of a community just across the street from our old one (and Santiago’s parents). Here’s a bit of what happened in 2013:

  • 10 months spent trying to get approval for me to have a working visa to teach English at the local oil refinery
  • 1 trip to the USA to get the visa
  • 10 hours spent working before losing the job due to the president of the company losing his job, supposedly on corruption charges
  • 60 days Nathaniel, Catherine and I spent in America
  • 5 carry on bags I toted around with a stroller and two kids for five hours at O’Hare
  • 3 hour flight delay which netted us $20 in food vouchers which were promptly used on a coffee and snacks to keep the kids busy on the flight
  • 7 of Catherine’s teeth broke through, pretty much all at once, while we were in America
  • 85,081,500 the approximate number of steps (per person, excluding Catherine) climbed going to and fro our 6th floor house since we moved in last Christmas
  • 6 the number of months Catherine has been climbing all 105 steps up to our house
  • 5 minutes it takes her to walk up all the steps
  • 50+ words that she speaks in English and Chinese
  • 2 “babies” she sleeps next to at night
  • 276,079 approximate number of words I wrote in 2013
  • 60 students I tutor on the weekends
  • 1 tooth lost by Nathaniel on December 22
  • 3.45 minutes it takes Nathaniel to go through his addition flash cards (he loves graphing his time to see if he’s getting faster)
  • 9 weeks he went to his second year of preschool before being a “preschool drop out” due to him constantly getting sick and being home
  • 7 glasses of cocoa he drinks each week (the only way to get him to drink milk)
  • 27 the number of work related phone calls that Santiago got while on his three day vacation
  • 3 the number of times he’s had to go inf during the last 8 days of said vacation
  • 4 boxes of dried dates his suppliers have gifted us with in the last two months
  • 1 time a month that he takes the kids to an indoor play area and gets scolded by old women for “perming and dying” Catherine’s hair which is totally natural

 

So there you have it; a small look into our pretty average life. 

    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.