Monday, September 24, 2012

Getting Dialed In

I feel like I've been living in a bubble. New words buzz around: Pinterest, Groupon, Scentsy, Stroller Strides, and others I haven't yet heard enough times to recall. But I'm getting dialed in.

I started pinning a few days ago and have done two of the activities I pinned (all artwork involving baby hands and feet, yay!).

I used packaging paper because I figured the project would be a bust.
We haven't had much luck with handprints. But it turned out so cute.

Emaryn and Milo are pretty crafty little ladies.

Emaryn's "heartwork" The image on Pinterest was of hands,
but Emaryn isn't too keen on opening up her fisties, so we used feet.

I also joined Groupon and bought my first one: a photobook at Picabo worth more than the cost. I've compiled the photos I want to include (Emaryn of course), but I haven't started working on the actual pages.

I was stoked when a woman at Stroller Strides asked who wanted to check out her new Scentsy catalog because I'd been wondering what the heck people were talking about. But I was underwhelmed with the products. My space is quite full with baby gear and toys. I can't imagine adding overpriced candles to the mix.

I saved the best for last: Stroller Strides. My friend Stefanie first mentioned it a few months ago when I said I wished there was an aerobics class that incorporated babies. I'd been attempting to follow an aerobics DVD while entertaining Em. I usually ended up with her in my arms. The extra weight was good for my workout but not quite what I was going for. A few weeks after Stef told me about Stroller Strides, I met an avid Stroller Strides participant at a party at my friend Colette's house in Temecula. I was able to ask a bunch of questions and get pumped about trying out the class. Grant the Manimal passed the next day (8/19/12), and I lost momentum. Then I got a Meetup notification about a Stroller Strides class in another city and chose to surf the SS site. Em and I went to class the next day and haven't missed a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday since. We even bought all the gear, including an amazing BOB Revolution SE jogging stroller.

Em fell asleep during her first stroll in the BOB.
I wheeled it into the house and let her sleep.

I still have a way to go before I'll know what all the buzz is about. Instagram? But I am coming out of the dark (communist China blocks all the cook Internet gadgets). And I like it =)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Grant the Manimal, my faithful buddy for the past 8 1/2 years passed away on 8/19/12.


I adopted him on January 31, 2004 from Escondido Humane Society. They thought he was about 1 or 2, so he was about 10 when he made his way over the Rainbow Bridge. I'm not ready to recap our times together; this is just a short tribute that I committed to getting down this month.

Grant had been living the good life as an old man the past two years with my parents and their two dogs, while I was in China. I had the good fortune to be here with him his last 2 1/2 months. And my baby girl got to spend time with him too. My babies had fun getting to know each other. I thank my parents for capturing the last photo of Grant earlier this month - my favorite picture of him...

My Babies

Grant went quickly. He stopped eating and after a few days, communicated with me that he was ready to go. I didn't want to put him through unnecessary suffering at the vet, a place he never enjoyed. My family and I struggled with my choice, but we made the call a few hours after we realized it was time to fight for his life or help him go. I called Peaceful Passing on Saturday night, and a husband and wife team came to the house the next morning. They sedated him and gave me time alone with him to say our last see-you-laters as he fell asleep. Then I hugged him one last time as they administered the shot that ended his life.

This past Monday, I got a package in the mail of his pawprint in clay. I am so grateful for the surprise gift.

Peaceful Passing and Peaceful Paws, thank you for making the end as smooth as possible for Grant and his family.

Grant, thank you for picking me to be your person. I love you forever.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Emaryn's 100th Day Celebration

A few weeks ago, my husband called from China to tell me I had to throw a party for our daughter's 100th day. He is in China working while Emaryn and I enjoy a long vacation (all summer) in San Diego. I did the math; I had a week. Other than telling me it had to be special and to spare no expense, he didn't give me many details. Thank you Ben Berners-Lee! My mom and I googled our way to a minimal understanding about Chinese babies' 100th day celebrations.

One hundred days is considered significant because surviving them shows it is likely the baby will have a long life. The party gives parents the opportunity to celebrate their baby's survival and wish her long life.

"Red" eggs should be out on the tables because eggs' smooth oval shape symbolizes perfection. I was excited when I read "red;" I had visions of a big pot of hard-boiled eggs bathing in red dye. But my husband corrected me; "red" eggs are really brown eggs. I argued the merit of having brighter red eggs, but he responded with a determined no. He said Emaryn would look back at the pictures and begrudge my blunder. So brown eggs we boiled. I came up with the idea to make one for each person and write their names on them as place markers, and my mom had the wherewithal to YouTube search origami egg holders. We made the holders red, pink, and a few green to match the cake. The eggs were a big hit as many people ate them upon arrival. 
Thanks to Ashleigh, Emaryn had a cool dragon coin with her egg.

Another fact that we latched onto was that the guest of honor wears a silver "longevity lock" around her neck and special engraved bracelets. Thanks to my colleagues at Beijing International Studies University, we have both! The guest of honor wears a red dress and the other guests wear their Sunday best to show that they wish the baby a long and happy life. 

Ashleigh also gave her the jade dragon necklace.
It is very special because Emaryn was born in the year of the dragon.

We read about a lot more significant things to celebrate a baby's 100th day, but Tiger wasn't familiar with them, so we went with the eggs and jewelry. I also gave her flowers because I read that flowers are important on a few websites. And I love flowers. We held the party at P.F. Chang's in Carlsbad because it's Chinese and delicious. Their patio is the perfect size for a party of 18. 

I was and always will be a proud mama.

When Emaryn wasn't sleeping, we passed her around, and she charmed everyone, as usual. 

Emaryn and Ashleigh

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The New Center of Team Forever

Made in China

This is not a rant about buying American. This is about my babyyyy! And she could wake up any moment, so I better get right to it.

First, I do not recommend giving birth in China. Unless you have an amazing insurance package that covers international hospitals or you are fluent in medical Chinese, just don't do it.

I have good connections, a necessity in China. The mother of one of the boys I tutored set me up with the director of the OBGyn department at Beijing Hospital. I didn't stand in lines, and I could call my doctor's cell with any questions or concerns. We went out to dinner a few times. We were tight. And she made promises. Important ones. I was to have an epidural, a luxury that usually only hospital staff receive. My husband was to be allowed in the delivery room; Chinese women give birth alone. I was only to have an episiotomy if the baby was in danger. I was to hold my baby for 30 minutes after delivery before she got wisked away.

BUT I delivered 10 days early, and my doctor was out of town. So I did not get an epidural, my husband was not allowed in the delivery room, I was given an episiotomy (with absolutely no pain medication), and I did not even get to glance at my baby in the delivery room. My only instructions during delivery were, "Push like take shit" in strongly accented Chinglish. It's funny now, but it wasn't then. Doctors and nurses kept shoving pieces of dark chocolate in my mouth. Granted, I was starving and exhausted, but I kept spitting and barfing chocolate.

Once I was sewn up (still no pain meds), they (I use the pronoun without an antecedent because I have no idea who "they" were) wheeled me into my room, and my baby got wheeled in shortly thereafter. Yay! I will save the delighted mommy stories for a happier post.

I was in the hospital for 4 miserable days. Chinese tradition dictates new moms and babies must stay warm, avoid wind, not eat fruit, and a bunch of other uncomfortable crap. The baby and I roasted. When I ventured out into the hallway toward an open window, nurses, other new moms, visitors, and their cousin's friend's brother's teacher yelled at me. I once opened a window in my room and ate an apple when my "aiyi" was having lunch. She came back just as I was closing the window and had an apple core in my hand. She gave me holy hell.

Enough complaining for now. My baby is healthy and happy. But I will not have a baby in China ever again. I haven't even mentioned the difficulties we went through to get her American citizenship and the fact that the Chinese government doesn't recognize it...

At Jingshan Park when Emaryn was 7 weeks old

At Jingshan Park overlooking the Forbidden City

Friday, September 30, 2011

Going to the Chapel

Most little girls spend a considerable amount of time daydreaming about fairytale weddings. Not me. I was content to picture myself happily single or occasionally but always temporarily coupled up, but living in my own house and spending my own money. So imagine my shock when I found myself trying on wedding dresses! White ones! With veils!

The day after tomorrow (tomorrow in 20 minutes), I will indeed marry my prince charming while decked out in a big white dress and a veil. I happily found a white "wedding dress" that isn't all white though; the bodice is purple =) And I won't put the veil over my eyes, just my shoulders - to hide some tattoos, haha! And I won't be walking down an aisle because we'll be in a big room in a restaurant here in Dalian, China. But my dad will escort me from the door of the room to the front of the room. And a Chinese friend will read the traditional wedding vows (I hope she practiced). We also ordered a wedding cake, but I wanted it to look Chinese so we asked them to paint the double happiness characters on the top.

Some friends escorted us from our hotel to the restaurant.
The characters on the sides of the doors mean double happiness .
They are placed outside before and after a wedding.
They stay posted outside for a few weeks.

More double happiness =)

We had 4 tables of 10 people in the room of the restaurant.
All the food included seafood, so we had to get a few special dishes at our table for me (vegetarian).

This is my favorite picture of the day.
We had so much fun jumping over and over to try to get a good shot.
 Both of our parents and the man of honor (Sun from Shanghai) and my maid
of honor (Eva from Austria) helped make the day really special.

We threw the wedding together in just a few weeks, but I think we (Tiger; I've been sick and whiney) did an amazing job of blending Chinese and American traditions (at least in the planning; I can't speak for the execution yet).

We're getting married in Dalian even though most of our friends live in Beijing because we have to. Chinese citizens have what's called a hukou that says which city and province they are from. People are supposed to live and work in the same city their whole lives. Children can only attend public school in the city listed on their parents' hukou. And important paperwork, such as marriage, must be performed in that city. So, when the university gave me two unexpected weeks off, off we went to Dalian to get hitched. We did all the paperwork 9/20, and the ceremony is 10/2. My parents were already coming to China for a visit, so we postponed the celebration so they could be here with me. Yay! I will see them tomorrow!

Just Married, October 2, 2011

New Obsession: Jane Austen

In the past 2 weeks, I read Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abby, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion (not in that order). I would've reread Pride and Prejudice, but I'm on dial-up at a hotel in Dalian, and can't download it onto my nook. P.S. If you don't own an ereader (I recommend Barnes & Noble's nook), you should get one. It's so amazing to want a book, get it, and start reading it within seconds. Plus, you can carry around hundreds of books in your purse. Back to Jane: Why didn't anyone besides teachers of questionable taste tell me how fun it is to read Jane Austen? Admittedly, my friend April (yeah you, Anderson or whatever your name is now; I should know this) has professed a passionate interest in Jane Austen, but I figured the interest was academic.

I love Jane Austen! I read Emma in school many years back, but I didn't get into it at all. I did like the movie with Gwenyth Paltrow though. It was funny to see her when I was reading the book. And remember the movie Clueless with (what's her name? - the vegan who writes cookbooks)? That movie is based on Emma too! Remember the photo in the locker... the painted portrait of... I already forgot all the character names because I read them so fast. I just downloaded and watched Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet - wicked fun! I hope there's a decent film adaptation of Persuasion. I want to watch them all.

So... I guess the fact that I recently got engaged and technically married, and my wedding ceremony is the day after tomorrow might have something to do with my heightened interest in the sweet stories Austen so brilliantly unfolds. But what I love about her is how unbrilliant her characters are. They are regular people, albeit rich and kept, doing regular things. But I feel like I know them so well (okay knew because I've forgotten them). I'm glad I forgot them because now I can read them again.

If anyone is wondering why I have had the leisure to read so much in such a short time: my students just completed 2 weeks of military training (no foreigners allowed on campus, even the foreign students), and next week is China's National Day, during which the education system and most other systems (not transportation or anything fun) shuts down for a week. And I've had a nasty cold/cough. But I'm feeling much better. Thanks =)