Thursday, October 30, 2008


We dressed up tonight for a big Halloween bash at a neighbor's house, complete with a haunted house and monster cookies.

Kyra had several choices of costume: princess, lion, etc. She chose Superman. The costume was huge on her and had to be rolled up several times, but you'll see from the pictures that she was thrilled.

Aidan was ever-so-excited when a neighbor lent him an Incredible Hulk costume. Only problem: we couldn't convince him that the Hulk doesn't carry a sword.

Ainsley didn't know what was going on. But isn't she cute?

And Shay: poor Shay. He was born to a very non-creative mom, and he wasn't satisfied with any of his pre-made costume choices. But I wasn't able to help him create anything. Perfect is the enemy of good, as they say, and so he stalled and stalled until he was out of options. He finally tossed on a cape and a mask in the hope of looking like a sword fighter, but he took the whole thing off before he walked into the party. Just as well: his costume reminded me of a hilarious story his uncle tells about streaking back in the day at Georgetown.

There you have it. Trick or treat is this Saturday, so I'll try to toss up some more photos over the weekend.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Melamine

It seems that authorities in Hong Kong have now discovered melamine in Chinese eggs.

If you were paying attention, you would've heard about the scandal some weeks back when Chinese babies started dying because someone got the idea of diluting cow's milk with water, and then adding the industrial chemical melamine to the mixture in order to make it appear normal. At least four babies died; thousands more became extremely ill after drinking tainted formula. Babies and children all across China had to go to the hospital for testing. My own kids escaped relatively unscathed: we drink imported milk. But I did have to toss the yogurt, and I've switched to a more expensive organic brand.

Now comes the news that the eggs have tested positive. But no one's sure how the melamine got into the eggs. The guess right now is that melamine was fed to the chickens. Which means the chickens are poisonous, too. And perhaps the rest of the meat supply as well.

My head is spinning. There's no way out of this net, no way at all. Kids have to eat. We live in China, which means they have to eat Chinese products. Ainsley's coming up on her 6-month birthday, so it's time to introduce solids. With the other kids, I was eager to get started, but now? I'm afraid to feed her something that later turns out to have been harmful.

I could buy imported baby food, but at $2 a jar, that seems sort of crazy. I wonder: if I blend up the local fruits and veggies for her, will it be safe? Do I even have a choice?

There are so many things to worry about right now in the great wide world. I don't think I can handle any more just yet.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Shay's Soccer Tournament

On Sunday there was a city-wide soccer tournament, so we spent the afternoon at Shay's school, cheering him on. Correction: Bart cheered him on while I chased Kyra around the playground. There were 12 teams playing; Shay was excited to report that his team came in third.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Introducing Jennifer

Aidan's fabulous teacher has two travelling suitcases. Inside one is Pat. In the other - Jennifer.

Jennifer is a penguin (not a real one, silly). Pat is a platypus. Every weekend, one of the kids brings home either Jennifer or Pat. This weekend, it was Aidan's turn to bring home Jennifer. Inside Jennifer's suitcase is everything she needs for the weekend: a snuggly quilt, loads of books on penguins, a journal and an arts n crafts kit. Aidan was supposed to bring Jennifer everywhere this weekend, and read to her each night. Then, he could draw or write about their adventures in the journal.

So Jennifer read books. She watched a movie. She went ice skating, went to a birthday party, cheered for Shay at soccer, etc... Personally, I find it a bit exhausting to have houseguests like Jennifer. She's very high maintenance: we constantly had to take her picture, and remember to bring her fun places with us.

Aidan was quite proud of his new hugely-proboscised friend. I think he'll be sad to say goodbye tomorrow morning. But sooner than soon, Pat the platypus will come for a visit.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Haiku Friday

The Embassy closed.
They were supposed to move it.
But they haven’t yet.

Everything’s gone wrong.
The building isn’t ready.
Or something like that.

Until they finish,
I won’t see my husband much.
He’s always at work.

Can’t call the doctor.
They don’t have an office yet.
But the kids are sick.

Can’t mail packages.
Or pick up water coupons.
Or call my husband.

Where is everyone?
They are all moving boxes.
Back and forth and back.

It’s Haiku Friday.
In case you didn’t notice,
I’m not good at this.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

When It’s Bad For Your Country, It’s Bad For All of Us

I was in our neighborhood store this morning, and I struck up a conversation with the manager, John. I was looking for whole wheat flour, and they’d sold out, so he got the bakery folks to sell me some of theirs. I mentioned that I like baking pumpkin bread for my kids’ breakfast, because it’s a lot cheaper than buying cereal. He nodded and said “yes, yes, a lot of people are trying to save money right now. Our business is much slower than usual.” Well, I’ve never bought much cereal, and not just because my retirement accounts have gone south. But okay. Manager John continued “I hear it is very bad in your country right now.” I agreed, and he said “I think it is maybe better that you are here in China now.” Again, I agreed – it’s definitely a cheaper lifestyle here.

“I understand that in America, everybody is free,” he continued. “You are so free, you can ask the bank for money and they give it to you! Here in China, if you don’t have the money, you stay poor. You don’t buy a big house.” True, John, all true. Too many Americans bought too many houses they couldn’t afford. And now we’re all paying for it. Then he sighed and gestured around the emptier-than-usual store. “Yes, big trouble for your country. But you know – when it’s bad for your country, it’s bad for all of us.”

Gotta go bake my pumpkin bread now. My secret ingredients? Ground flax seed, cinnamon and a few shredded stock certificates.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Big Track Meet

Shay had his first real track meet this weekend.

He's been participating in a school program called "Great Wall Runners:" For the past five weeks, he's been staying after school twice a week to run laps and running with his dad on the weekends. His personal goal was to reach "ultra-marathon" status, the highest level, by running more than 70 kilometers. Sure enough, by the day of the track meet, he'd run over 80 kilometers. That's more than I've run in the past year.

The track meet was held at his school, and ten other schools participated. Shay ran with the 8-year-old crowd, which ran about a 2 kilometer race. Of the 51 competitors in his group, he placed 3rd, and he was rightfully proud of himself. He got a medal for his race, along with a medal and a t-shirt for completing the ultra-marathon.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


My daughter loves shoes. And purses. And hats. But especially shoes. She's always tottering around the house in my heels, which I don't think I've worn since before she was born.

So you can imagine the sheer joy on her face when a neighbor gave her this pair of hand-me-downs:

So sparkly! So red! So girly! No matter that they're a few sizes too big - Kyra has been wearing them absolutely everywhere for the past 72 hours. I make her take them off to get in the tub. At bed time, and at nap time, I encourage her to take them off and sleep with them beside her, which she does - but when she wakes up, she puts them back on before calling out to me. In short, she loves these shoes.

But she isn't all girl. She is also quite fond of her hand-me-down jammies. They used to belong to Aidan. They're warm fuzzy flannel with pictures of bomber airplanes all over them.

She's a fashion superstar, this daughter of mine. And perfect in every way.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bridging the Expat Gap

... and here's an article I wrote on how to experience Chinese culture while living the expat life. Again, please stumble it or digg it if you like it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

For Your Reading Pleasure

I've been telling you that I'm busy writing, with no proof of it. But the magazine I write for most frequently has been re-vamping their website. It is up and running again, so here, for your reading pleasure, is my latest column. Read it, stumble it, digg it, send a letter to the editor telling her to give me a raise..... I'll post past articles, too, as they go online. Hope you like it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Four Things

Simple Answer sent along a little four-part meme for me. She got it from American in Norway. Both are blogs I like to read, from women who are doing the overseas adventure thing. So here are my answers:

Four things I did today:

Filled out my absentee ballot – hey, I’m a Virginia resident, and we’re swinging blue this year. How cool is that?
Went to Chinese class for two hours. I’m getting better, but I’m still awful.
Took the girls to the playground.
Chopped up platters of veggies and fruit so my kids would have something to snack on while I grilled up some toasted cheese sandwiches for dinner.

Four Random Facts about me:

I first went on an airplane when I was 20 years old.
Since then, I’ve lived in Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan and China.
I’m deaf in one ear.
I have a Masters Degree in Slavic Languages and Literatures.

Four things on my To Do list for today:

Going to the outdoor vegetable market with my friend Shawna. Maybe going out to lunch with her, too.
Writing a query letter to a U.S.-based magazine in the hopes that some day they’ll hire me to write something. For actual money.
Cooking tonight’s dinner – and tomorrow’s, too. I’m feeling organized.
Making copies of a zillion dental bills to send to my insurance company so they’ll maybe pay me back for some of them.

Four guilty pleasures:

Starbucks. I’m a mocha kind of a gal.
Watching the Daily Show. Love it. I’m watching it online now as I type this up.
Reading People Magazine whenever I find it somewhere and can steal it. (or when my sister sends it to me… ahem…. Hint, hint.)
Reading just about anything, really.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Our (Wo)man in Baku

My friend and fellow writer Jessica finally made it to Baku. Ba-what, you ask? Baku, the capitol of Azerbaijan. I know, you have to look up where that is, don't you? It's actually not too far from where we were in Armenia seven years ago. If you're looking for an interesting blog, go check hers out. She's always having an adventure.

Monday, October 13, 2008


If I'm counting right, this should be my 200th blog entry. Go me!

All weekend long, we enjoyed blue skies and cool-ish fall weather. Today, though, the sky turned dirty and once again we're all hacking and wheezing. Not good.

I went to the new Embassy for the first time today, to get my new badge. Ummmm... guys? You might have wanted to actually finish the building before you moved in. Seriously. The Prez and his wife came for a visit awhile back, and they had an official ribbon-cutting ceremony. You might have concluded, if you watched the news that day, that the Embassy was open for business. You'd've been wrong.

It opens for real next week some time, but there are still wires protruding from the walls and scaffolding in the lobby and all sorts o construction craziness. And that's just the part I'm allowed to see! That's right, I can't go anywhere near my husband's office - can't even walk into his building - unless I get a job with a clearance.

We did take the kids in this weekend to check out the neighborhood immediately around the Embassy, and wouldn't you know - I forgot my camera. We took them into the shops on Ladies Street. All sorts of fish, turtles and bunnies for sale. We managed to escape without acquiring any new pets, but it was a close call. Then we dodged the cars on Super Bar Street and took the kids out to dinner.

Dinner out with a two-year-old? Really, really, not fun. For starters, the restaurant was on the second floor, and she kept hanging out the open window. There was a ledge, but still... Also, there was a darts competition going on. Darts. That's right. You would've thought they were tossing kid magnets, given the way my daughter kept hovering near the game.

At one point, she had to go potty. While I was washing my hands after helping her, she left the restroom and found the fire extinguisher outside the door. She pulled the pin and was just trying to figure out the handle when I grabbed her.

How was the food, you ask? Not really sure - I gulped mine down and asked for the check.

This all happened on Saturday. But I'm still exhausted today, just thinking about it. I'd like to come up with some clever ending, sort of tie this whole entry together, but alas - I'm fresh out of ideas. Maybe for my 201st entry? Go ahead and ask if there's something you're dying to know, and maybe I'll answer you on 201.

But for now: Good night.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Baby is the Teacher

Aidan's kindergarten class is studying how people grow, and his teacher asked me to bring Ainsley in for a real live demonstration of "the differences between babies and big kids." Ainsley was up for it, so we went in today and sat in a circle on the rug. Ainsley looked around, bewildered, while the kids discussed all of the ways she was the same, and all of the ways she was different. Example: babies have ten toes (same). But babies have little feet (different). Babies have eyes (same). But no teeth (different). Babies poop in their diapers (different). Babies drink mommy milk (different). Babies can't talk (different). Then they measured Ainsley and painted her fingers and toes to make prints on a piece of paper. They sang songs to her. She smiled at them.

We talked about how there are some things babies can't do, because no one has taught them how yet (like driving a car, or using a potty). The teacher asked the students to each think of something a baby can't do. "Walk!" said one. "Talk!" said another. "Ummmmm.... play badminton?" asked a third. True, technically.

Aidan was so proud to have his baby there to teach the class. And Ainsley seemed to enjoy it, too.

With that, I'm off to teach her the rules of badminton. Girl's gotta learn...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Day At The Market

We took the kids to the local open-air market, just to check it out and load up on veggies for a party we were planning. We took pictures of one of the vegetable vendors with her son. Also snapped a meat vendor, who then asked to see the picture on the digital screen.

This lady was one of the spice vendors. Her baby is four months old, just like Ainsley, so we chatted for a bit about our kids. Chatted - ha! All was in Chinese, so the chat was rather limited. But still.

The kids spotted the kite vendor and dragged their dad over while I was chatting up the spice ladies.

Dad was suckered into buying kites - and he didn't even haggle! - so we headed home to fly kites. All in all, an interesting day.
Please. Write your own stuff.