Friday, February 29, 2008

Kid Birthday Parties - The Seventh Circle of Hell

There are many wonderful things about motherhood. Hugs are good. Baby babbling - good. Watching your baby sleep - breathtakingly good.

Planning a birthday party? For me, that's more of a punishment for sins in a past life. I really can't stand it. Shay's birthday party is tomorrow, and I've spent the week searching Beijing for gift bags, balloons, napkins and plates. I've ordered a cake. I still have to make jello for the kid who's allergic to cake (stinks to be him). I have to go buy drinks and gift bag stuffers today. Tomorrow a.m. I have to blow up balloons, set up the room, and worse still - greet all of these random parents whom I've never met.

Shay invited 10 kids. Seven are definitely coming, but I still haven't heard from 3, so I have to track them down today and politely demand an rsvp.

Thankfully, birthdays come only once a year. It's all this mom can handle.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Aidan's Art Project

Aidan finally got to bring home the car he's been working on all week at school...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Busy, Yet Boring

I am a boring, boring person. Yet you people expect me to come up with something new and interesting for you. So I am trying. But this week, well, it's been boring. Boring, but somehow way too busy.

Bart's birthday was this past weekend. Of course, he worked all weekend, because the Secretary of State was planning a trip here. She's here now - go watch the news already - she met with family members today at the Embassy, but I opted not to go in. Too busy, you see.

Shay's birthday is tomorrow. Which means I spent today making cupcakes. Also jello dinosaurs, because several of the kids in his class have allergies. I'm also busily planning his birthday party for this weekend. It's going to be a pool party, at the indoor pool here in our complex. I'm trying to figure out who's coming so I can order pizzas, track down helium balloons, buy plates, stuff gift bags, etc.

Also, Shay's school is having their annual "2nd grade circus" next week, which means I somehow have to make or procure a clown costume by this Friday. It's times like these when I really miss my mother - she could pull something together in a snap, but her talent didn't settle in my genes. Shay is quite excited about the circus - I guess it's a whole huge production, with 2nd graders performing and high schoolers running the stage. So we'll see what that's about shortly.

Aidan continues to love school, to which I continue to drive him on a daily basis. After several weeks, the guards outside the school seem to finally understand when I tell them, in Chinese, "my son goes to school here," because they are finally letting me in without an argument.

In addition, I've hit the 30-week mark on my pregnancy, which means I have to trek into the hospital every two weeks from now until the baby decides to appear. I'm also getting rather uncomfortable at this stage - those of you who knew me when I carried Kyra know what I went through that time - it's just more of the same. The other day I tried to ride my bike somewhere, and I was my own little circus. I was fine as long as I was riding, but getting on and off the bike was a comedy of errors - trying to lift my leg high enough to get off the bike without losing my balance was quite a feat.

Tomorrow I will take Aidan to school, take the cupcakes and dinosaurs to Shay's school, pick Aidan up from school, go grocery shopping, wrap Shay's presents, make some small dessert for our family party, come up with a birthday dinner, search for a clown costume, tell Kyra "no" on 47 different occasions, break up 4-5 fights between the boys and possibly even host an afternoon playdate.

See what I mean? Busy... but who wants to hear about it?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lost Pa, Flying Poop and Other Random Tales of the New Year

Ahem… Now that I have your attention…

It’s New Year’s here, and while the fireworks haven’t been as bad as I was led to expect, they are still going off at random. The other night some nearby neighbors put on their own show just before midnight, for well over an hour. A real show, too – not just little ole sparklers. I like fireworks and all, I guess – just not when I’m sleeping.

The dog now refuses to go out after dark. He prefers to cross his paws and hold it ‘til morning, so I have to drag him to the back door and toss him out if I forget to let him out by 5:30 p.m.

Three nights ago, he refused to go out, and I didn’t have the heart to force him into the cold, explosion-filled night. So I let him hold it. The next morning, he went out, quickly peed in the backyard, and returned, looking 3 pounds lighter. I took a quick shower while Kyra roamed free, then took all three kids to a playland in downtown Beijing.

When I returned, Kyra needed a nap, but the dog wouldn’t leave me alone as I tried to get her settled. He was barking and poking and skittering around the house. I put him out, but he just barked to come in. I let him in. He skittered and poked. I put him out again. He barked again. So I let him in, and turned my focus to the search for Kyra’s last remaining pacifiers – apparently she’d hidden them away while I took a shower that morning.

I couldn’t find a pacifier – “pa,” as she calls it, but she needed a nap, so I tossed her in her crib and promised her I’d look for it. She immediately started wailing “pa…. pa….” The dog continued to skitter and poke, despite the fact that there were no discernible fireworks sounds. So I ignored them both and started looking through the kitchen cabinets, drawers and trash can for pa. No luck. I tore that kitchen apart, and decided to go look upstairs.

I stepped out of the kitchen, and that’s when I saw it. Apparently, Casey really did have to go the bathroom, but he was too afraid to go outside. So while I searched for pa in my kitchen, he ran back and forth from the front door to the back, poop popping out of his behind as he went. There was a trail of poop from the sunroom to the entryway where, like a pot of gold, there was a steaming pile of vomit – all of that skittering must’ve affected his stomach, too.

Meanwhile, Kyra was still upstairs wailing away.

You’re laughing now, aren’t you? Well, I have to admit, I was not laughing. Quite the opposite.

By the time I finished picking up poop and mopping the floors, Kyra was asleep. Small blessings. Of course, that was two days ago, and we haven’t had a solid sleep since. She wakes up every hour or so, crying out piteously for pa. And when she’s asleep, it’s a sure bet somebody decides to set off fireworks.

So I am tired and cranky and just a wee bit down on Chinese New Year.

The only good news in all of this is that I found a neighbor with a spare pa (nope, no corner drug store here that sells ‘em). So I hope to sleep well tonight.

Pa will never leave his crib again.

And next time, Casey goes outside before bedtime.

Back at Houhai for the Ice Chairs

I took the boys back to Houhai Park last weekend to try out the ice bikes with their friends. They were a huge hit.

That crazy thing you see in Aidan's hand, center below, is a popular snack here - it's teensy little apples on a stick, dipped into a crunchy sugar coating.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy New Year

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year. They started shooting off fireworks last night at dusk. Poor Casey was overwhelmed - panting and pacing with his tail between his legs. The kids fell asleep anyway, and so did we, soon after - I turned my deaf ear up and managed to tune out a lot of the noise.

Until midnight.

At midnight, the whole sky exploded. The noise and flashing lights drove me out of bed, and I watched from the window as fireworks exploded all around me. Really quite impressive: everywhere you turned, there were more fireworks - on our street, in the next complex over, off in the distance.

I watched in wonder for about 10 minutes, then decided the fascination was over. Unfortunately, the rest of Beijing disagreed. I went back to bed, but not even my deaf ear could save me. The explosions continued until at least 2 a.m., when I finally fell asleep. At four a.m., they woke me up again. They've continued on and off today, and I'm told they'll pick up again at dusk tonight - and every night for the next two weeks.

We went to a New Year's Temple Fair today. The Dongyue temple was decorated for New Year's, and stuffed to the gills with revelers. There was a huge firepit where you could throw burning incense, bow three times and pray for good fortune. Further in was the food court - you could buy noodles or chicken sticks or squid legs on a stick or... well, the kids just wanted the popcorn and cotton candy. Go figure. Other than that, they weren't too fascinated by the temple fair.

Last weekend was better, in their opinion. We made the drive in to Houhai Park, which has a large frozen lake in the center. We rented ice chairs - basically chairs on skates - and used ski poles to propel ourselves around the lake. The kids loved it, despite the cold. After that, we hired rickshaws to take us around the nearby hutong.

The boys are begging to go back to Houhai. Next time, they want to rent the ice bikes - bikes on which the wheels have been replaced by blades, so you can pedal around on the ice. It's way too treacherous to work in our litigious country, but it sure is fun to watch people skidding around the ice.

Ice chairs....

In a hutong courtyard...

On the rickshaw...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"Because You're a Mom"

Today was... not my best day as a mom.

All three of my kids were stricken with serious cases of whininess, and by day's end, I was pretty much toast. I took them to the playground and we bought ice cream cones to celebrate Shay's last day of school - school is closed 'til next Thursday because of Chinese New Year's.

When we returned home, I plunked in a movie and ordered Chinese takeout - not usually a big hit in my family, but I was having a craving. When the food arrived, the boys had a fit. Shay said he would order pizza with his own allowance if I would just give him the number. Aidan said I was the Meanest Mom Ever. Kyra ate the Chinese food, but dumped her fruit salad into my water when I wasn't looking.

Finally, I very calmly told them that, while they could finish watching the movie after dinner, they would not be having popcorn because I was unhappy with their dinnertime behavior. I thought that was a reasonable compromise; they thought I was the Meanest Mom Ever.

I left the room. When I returned, they had calmed down and choked down their dinners. They begged me to reconsider, but I stood my ground: after all, I had a reputation to uphold as the Meanest Mom Ever. While they pitched fit #3, Kyra climbed up on the table and tossed her plate to the floor. I picked her up and dumped her on the stairs for the first timeout of her short little life. She got scared and started screaming, which scared Aidan, who started crying, which caused my eyes to glaze over with the sheer misery of motherhood.

I left the room once again, dug out the playpen and set it up behind the couch in the sunroom. I then explained to Kyra that if she continued to climb on the table or toss food off of it, she'd be spending her days in the timeout pen. She just sobbed and held out her arms, crying "carry me," so of course I had to forgive her.

I decided to take them up for a bath. Kyra splashed in the tub with Aidan while Shay showered in the other bathroom. When I took Kyra out to dry her off, Aidan decided to get out, too. That's when he discovered that his jammies weren't in the bathroom - I sometimes put them in there when it's really cold, so he doesn't have to do the naked dash to his room.

Of course, Aidan started hollering for his jammies. I hollered back that I was in the middle of changing Kyra, so he'd have to get them himself.

"I can't, mom," he shouted. "I need YOU to do it."

"Then you have to wait five minutes for me to finish changing Kyra."

"No, mom, I need them NOW."

"Well, I can't get them now, Aidan. I'm only one person, and I can't do it all at once."

"Yes you can, mom, because YOU'RE A MOM."

That one sentence, yelled from the next room, made my whole day better. I never knew he truly thought I could do anything, just because I'm a mom.

But there you have it. That's why this job is the hardest job in the world - nothing short of perfection will do.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Stinky Breath

Every so often, some parent will express surprise at the variety of vegetables my kids will eat. And it’s true: they eat all different sorts of fruits and veggies, though unfortunately, they all seem to like different veggies prepared different ways – and god forbid the vegetables touch each other.

Shay’s favorites are raw spinach, raw carrots, apples and berries. Hates bananas and cooked spinach.

Aidan loves cooked spinach, carrots and swiss chard. Hates raw. Likes bananas, but only when sliced into wheels.

Kyra likes bananas (preferably whole) and strawberries. Likes any cooked vegetable and almost no raw ones. Lately, she’s decided she loves mandarin oranges, and eats them at any opportunity.

She waits until I’m busy making dinner, then pulls a chair up to the counter and starts trying to peel her own oranges. This usually results in a sticky mess on the counter and floor, with just enough orange left over to make her efforts worthwhile.

Today, she started the usual routine, except there weren’t any oranges on the counter. So she picked up a shallot instead – a small onion.

“Kyra, put that back,” I warned, but she didn’t listen.

“Kyra, you can’t eat that,” I explained, but she didn’t listen.

“Kyra, that’s for cooking, not eating,” I tried again, but she still didn’t listen.

She finished peeling the shallot and held it up to her nose, gave it a little sniff. Then she bit into it. I dashed over, ready to pick up the bits when she spit them out. But instead of spitting them out, she popped the entire little onion in her mouth and chomped it down.


For the rest of the night, my sweet little baby had nasty onion breath. Even after I brushed her teeth, she still reeked of onion.

I’m really, really afraid to change her diaper in the morning.

But at least I’ve found another veggie to feed to kids.
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