Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ah the life

The things the boys are most happy to have access to, now that we are Stateside:
Nana and Papa, Aunt Annie, Grandma and Grandpa
baby carrots
drinkable tap water
the bookstore
the library
toaster waffles
vegetarian bologna

Here is a link to the portraits we had taken on Sunday:

Friday, June 22, 2007

Back in the US, Back in the US, Back in the USA

On June 8th, Jack and Jed finished their year in Grade 3 and Kindergarten. On June 9th, the boys and I departed Beijing for St. Louis.
At the airport, a car pulled in front of our car and blocked our passage with our bags, while we were in the process of unloading our seven large bags. Tom asked the driver to move his car. The driver replied, "kuai, kuai..." meaning, "quickly, quickly." Tom became a bit more stern and insisted the guy move the car, to no avail. So, Tom proceeded to get into the guy's car and pull it up 3 feet so we could get by with our bags... Only in China!

So, after about 18 hours of travel, we arrived in St. Louis, greeted by a pair of deilghted grandparents. We are now settled and the boys are in camp every day.

Tom is busy working and will join us in about a week.

This will probably be my last post until August, when we return to China.
It's so hard to believe that we've been living in China for a year. It's great to be "home" and in addition to being thrilled to be with family and friends, we'll enjoy all the conveniences of America while we are here. I've already been to Walmart, Whole Foods, CPK, Panera and more. Next week I'll hit Target. Ah, the joy...

Have a great summer.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Jack and Jed's school

Yesterday and today I attended the end of year parties for Jack and Jed's classes at the International School. I am there all the time but I am always amazed when I go there. The first thing I noticed today was that when recess is over, rather than ring a bell or blow a whistle, they play fun rock music about party ending. It's great.

Jack's class party started at one of the Upper Elementary School computer labs. Pictures are below. The children showed off their end of the year projects. They had planted kidney bean seeds in April. They followed the progress, took digital pictures and put together a power point presentation slide show of the progress and all they learned. Next, they created claymation movies of the life cycle of a bean plant. They did all the work themselves, from making the clay models, to shooting the film and choosing the music. The opportunities the school gives the kids are remarkable.

Jed's class also did some great things with hands on learning, working with worms, giant snails and fish in the past few weeks, for instance. But their end of the year party included water play in the fabulous Outdoor Learning Environment.

When we were planning our move to Beijing, no one told us that there were any school choices other than ISB. So, I applied and registered the boys, sight unseen. Once I arrived, I learned there are actually several choices and I second guessed my decision. ISB has a reputation for being tough, competitive and cold. The other schools are supposedly warmer and more touchy feely and self esteem oriented. The things people say about ISB have some truth to them but are mostly false. Yes, the school is very academics oriented. They have an intense curriculum and expect a lot from the kids. But the teachers are as warm and caring as you'd find anywhere. The administration is very concerned with the children and the whole place works toward doing the best for our kids. Someone summed up the environments as the other schools are "touchy feeling" and ISB is "itchy scratchy". True, they do not coddle the kids, but I am very happy they go there and will not be changing their schools.

Here are pictures from the last days of 3rd grade and kindergarten.

Jack's End of 3rd Grade Celebration

Jed's End of Kindergarten Celebration

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Tom's boss, the General, is departing China for a new job. With him, goes his wife, my friend. On Monday we had a party for them and she gave each of the other wives a beautiful framed poem. I want to share it with you...

Being a part of the Defense Attache Office here in China, or anywhere, I imagine, an attache or spouse, is a unique position in an embassy. We are a very tight group because our husbands work hard and long and are away from us so much. We have to work hard too, as part of the attache community. We are away from our kids more than we'd like. We host people in our homes, put on a 'show' and often make small talk for hours on end in our homes and out. We hold down the fort in our homes here as we do when our husbands are deployed. So, we wives stick together and become a family. Our leader is leaving and we'll miss her but, as always, we'll move forward and continue the job.

Sometimes I sit here pondering
Where I might be in life
If I hadn't met my husband
If I hadn't been his wife
If we hadn't had our children
And the love just wasn't there,
How empty I would be inside
How my life would feel so bare.
If we didn't have to pack it up
Every three years or so,
If we never had to say goodbyes
Never got to say hello's,
I guess my life would be normal,
Normal I am not.
I think our life is pretty great
Just look at all we've got.
USDAO Beijing

Friday, June 01, 2007

The boys' tuxedos

What an ordeal this has been. For those of you who do not already know, my sister, Annie, is getting married at the end of the month. Jack, Jed and Huck will be in the wedding so we need tuxedos for them. I decided to have them made by my tailor, of course. I mean, when in China...

So, at the end of March, Xing Ayi, Tom and I took the three boys to the tailor to have them measured. I took a picture of a tuxedo. I explained what I wanted and Xing Ayi did the same. I even pulled out the satin fabric from her display and showed her where on the tuxes she should use that material. She assured us she knew what she was doing. She said she'd make the tuxes and shirts and bow ties for each of the boys. I was very excited about it.

A few weeks later, I asked Xing Ayi to call to see if they were ready on the day Xiao Shi had specified. They were not. She said to come back the next week. I picked up the the tuxes only to find she'd made black suits. They looked nice but they were not tuxedos. There was no satin at all. Even the buttons were just regular buttons. Also, Jack's was too long in the arms of the jacket and shirt. So a few days later, Xing Ayi and I went back to the tailor. Xing Ayi told her what she'd done wrong. We assumed she couldn't change the lapels but said we wanted her to change the buttons. Xiao Shi apologized and said she'd fix it and I should come back the following week. Yesterday I went back and picked up the tuxes. She had changed the lapels, so I was very happy about that. But the buttons were unchanged. It's no coincidence that the one English word Xiao Shi knows is "sorry."

At that point, I gave up. I had had it. BUT I got home and Xing Ayi expressed her surprise and dismay that the work had not been completed. I couldn't deal with it, though, and told her to forget it.

Then I talked to good 'ol Mom and Dad. They said I should insist she change the buttons. They said that I am too agreeable and am being taken advantage of by her. They said I should take the suits back and when I told them I had had enough of dealing with it my Mom said to have the driver do it. So, in the morning, I asked Xing Ayi to phone Xiao Shi. She was firm and insisted she do the work today. At 2:00, Xiao Shang took the tuxes to the tailor. She said to come back at 5, to which he responded, "no, do it now, I'll wait." He returned at about 3:00. The tuxes are finished, they look great. Now on to the shoes...

If only I didn't have to go back tomorrow to pick up a shirt she is fixing. It was supposed to be finished yesterday but, surprise, it wasn't.

We have a great lifestyle in China. It's wonderful to have an ayi, driver, chef, access to a tailor, etc. But, we do have to live in China to get it and sometimes we get tired...