Wednesday, September 3, 2014


How do I even start this post? Do I even want to write about it? Or admit it?

Well yes, I do.

Because someday, I'll look back on this time in our lives and miss when my kids were this little.

So, here goes.

My perfect angel has turned into a two year old tornado. Some call it the terrible twos, but he's really not terrible--he's just in need of guidance. And consistency. And love. And the word "no!" on repeat. I'm not one of those parents that is against using the word "no". It's totally in my vocabulary. I use it sparingly, but lately, it's the number one word in my exhausted body's vocabulary. Sometimes I just don't want to redirect or manipulate the situation with my words. I just want to say no and have that be it.

We had a situation this week where he clocked Carla in the eye with a wooden truck. 


She now has her first small shiner.

              [ Carla's shiner]

My immediate reaction was to yell "what were you thinking?!" Even though my rational self knows he isn't capable of explaining why he did it.  He could see my anger, and immediately started laughing, and went to hit her again. My go go gadget arms swiped the truck from his hand in the nick of time, saving her from another blow, and making him switch from hitting her to crying, "my truck, my truck!" because I had taken it away. I explained why I took it away, but he didn't want to apologize to his sister, so the truck became mine and lived on a shelf up high where he could see it but not touch it for the rest of the day.

That night, I refreshed my mind on two year old behavior and development, and realized that the hurting of his sister is because he may feel threatened by her, uneasy about changes to family life, or feel neglected for attention. 

I vowed to make some changes with our morning routine, so I could spend some one on one time with him. Not just side by side, or in the same room doing different activities, but actual sitting down and doing something he chose for us to do together. His sister has just started pulling to a stand (everywhere!) so he most definitely feels her presence as a threat much more than before, and uhm, hello....we're moving and preparing for transition home in the next month.

Suffice to say, I've got the trifecta of toddler stressors all on his little shoulders.

I am still quite frustrated and often want to yell when he hurts Carla, but I also feel quite sympathetic to the trials and tribulations he's undergoing these days. I wish I could have an extra set of eyes or predict his behavior so that I can trust him around Carla. I can't leave them alone together and this makes me sad. Some friends have suggested giving him big kid jobs, but he really doesn't show much interest in doing anything to help with his sister the majority of time. He just wants to sit/lay/push/poke and prod her.

I'm hoping this is just a phase, and that with consistency in discipline/redirection, he will grow up to be a protective brother. With just two years between them. I was hoping for a close relationship between the two, as so many of my friend's kids have. 

If not, we may need to build a home with two different wings and lockdown cells. 

Just kidding.

Sort of.

Please tell me it gets better!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Soaking it in

I announced in my previous post that the kids and I are homeward bound exactly one month from today. Since then, my head has been spinning and I've been bouncing from closet to closet (luckily we only have two closets for four people!) cleaning my excess stock of medicines, toiletries and the like out so that I can have my ladies over to pillage through them.

It's like a right of passage here, the cleaning out of cupboards and inviting of friends over to snag your imports. I've scored quite a few things as my friends have left..from clothes, to hair dryers to vanilla and koolaid. Now it's my turn to pass on my beloved overstock of items. The excess. The stuff we packed like drug lords into our suitcases hoping customs didn't confiscate on our way back to China. I'm telling you, had they opened the twenty packets of cheese powder we seperated from the boxes of macaroni cheese and brought over, they'd be stumped! And I'd cry. That Mac and cheese powder has served us well...but note to self, twenty packets is excessive. We love Mac and cheese but not that much. Now, hopefully my friends will enjoy the fruits of my smuggling capabilities. 

                      [US visit, October 2013: packing suitcases bound for China]

I've gone through my clothes. I've parted ways with a bunch, because well--they're all at least three years old and my body has changed a ton since moving here. Two babies have done a number on my once flat stomach and I've got a ways to go before I will feel comfortable, or like "me" again in tighter fitting clothes. Instead of giving to friends, who can all afford clothes, Sal helped me seperate and pack my shirts, dresses and jeans into boxes to take down to our communal trash area. We opened the lids to the boxes, and left them on the ground so that anyone passing by would see that they contained clothing and take them. I've done this a handful of times and I've never passed back by and seen my box of "donations" sitting there. I've even had a lady take it from me and I was setting it on the ground. There are a lot of people less fortunate than me, and it makes my heart feel warm to see my clothes go to people in need. Plus, it lightens my suitcase for the trip home. Double win.

We will sell the cribs and changing table, pots and pans and appliances after the kids and I leave. I've contacted my friends with kids and given them dibs on some of the toys we will be leaving behind. It's amazing the amount of primary colored plastic crap that accumulates over the course of two years. We have way too many toys, and I've already forewarned Sal that not all of them will get to come home with us. His biggest concern is that he be able to bring his "construction night" (Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site) book home with us. I assured him that all of his books will get packed carefully by his dad and shipped home. 

I'm not sure if Sal really knows what's going on. I've been trying to talk about us moving back to America and hyping up the things we will have/do when we are home, but I actually (seriously) worry a little bit about how he will react to not having construction vehicles to watch 24/7. That's one thing about China and living in a high rise-- my kid is entertained all day just looking off our balcony for the construction vehicles going by. With so much new construction, we are never at a shortage for dump truck/excavator/front loader/cement mixer/forklift sightings. I may have to search out sites in California and drive him there for his fix. The kid is nuts for job sites. 

                                   [ Another bus adventure with our Michigan friend ]

                         [ Our afternoons at the playground with our friends from Spain]

Aside from parting out our worldy possessions this month, I'm making a conscious effort to do more with my friends. I'm doing coffee dates, (attempting) lunches and afternoon play dates. Just as many of my friends are returning from summer holiday spent in their homelands, this girl and her family are preparing to leave. It makes me sad to think of leaving them, but most of them understand my desire to be back stateside sooner than later. 

It's so surreal to say out loud, "We're going home." 

I guess I'll just sit back and let it all soak in. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mama, I'm coming home...

I've started to draft this post for a few hours now, and keep writing, erasing, writing again, and erasing again. I don't know where to start, other than to say, "Mama, I'm comin' home." 

My one way ticket has been booked on a flight from Shanghai to California. No return ticket for the first time in two and a half years. I can already picture my children and I walking down the familiar jetway amongst a few hundred of our closest Chinese counterparts, boarding that plane, and taking one last flight home. When those cabin doors shut, I'll probably cry. I'll probably start thinking about my friends I'm leaving behind, and the way that living in China has changed me for the better. I'll get all sentimental and sappy realizing I won't be playing frogger everytime we cross the street, nor will I be smelling stinky tofu in the afternoon market or dodging poo piles as we walk our daily errands.

 I'll actually miss that stuff.

I've bitched about it, sure. But man....China has really been something else. It's hard to describe. I think when I attempt to tell people back home about it, it comes across as though I've had a negative experience. 

This is not the case. 

I won't lie. I don't love China, and never will....but I will miss the friendships and village that lent support during the good times and bad. The friends who witnessed the crazy stuff with me, and could back up my stories that start with, "remember, that one time in China?...." . I'll miss the women that shared this experience with me, and understand what living here is all about. I'll miss getting lost on bus rides with friends, play dates and coffee mornings. I'll miss sharing and laughing at cultural slang and mispronunciations and learning about my fellow foreign friend's homelands. 

I'll just plain miss them.

But, uhm....did I mention.....I'm moving back to my family, friends, familiarity and paradise !!!!!!!

See you next month, California!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Carla is 7 months old

Carla's seventh month has been a fun one! 

She still has no teeth, and no hair (but she's working on both), but she has really figured out how to get from point A to B. She has been army crawling, and is practicing getting up on her hands and knees and rocking. A little more upper body oomph and she will be full fledged crawling. She also loves to pull herself up on our pool that I've filled with balls and reach over to grab the different colors. 

My favorite thing about her this month is her sweet babble. Carla has turned out to be a Chatty Cathy. A few days ago, NZ was changing Carla and she was talking to him..we know it was probably pure coincidence, but she definitely said dada. I shrieked, "Did you hear that?! She just said dada!". Of course he heard, he was right there. Lucky guy.

Carla generally sleeps through the night, with occasional wakings in the late evening, and naps twice a day for an hour each. She still loves sleeping in the ergo if we are out and about, and often ambushes her afternoon nap by falling asleep in it before we get home from morning errands. It makes for a long afternoon when that happens, but what can you do?

She's willing to eat just about anything, although I learned the hard way that cherries are a bit hard on her tummy. We spent a few late hours bonding this week after I treated her to cherries. Lesson learned. She added pumpkin, green beans and papaya to her pallette this month, and I look forward to trying some pinto beans with her next week. 

She's started drinking formula, although I still nurse her when she wakes and before nap and bedtime. My supply plummeted a couple of weeks ago, and despite drinking water and eating oatmeal, I just can't seem (or have the energy) to get it back up. Five and a half months of being exclusively breast fed will have to be good enough. I didn't make it past the first few nights with Sal before supplementing with formula, so I'm actually proud that I stuck out those first few weeks with Carla to get as far as I did without supplementation. 

July was a slow month for us- no big adventures out--it was just too hot. We spent afternoons at the playground, took a couple of bus rides and one day trip into Shanghai. She's at an easy age right now, where everything is new to her every few days, so I rotate toys around and she is totally content playing at home. Wish I could say the same for my two year old. 

I'm looking forward to month eight and what she has in store for us. More giggles, babble and maybe even pulling herself up to a stand. This girl is tenacious and has a lot of willpower. There's nothing she can't do. 

I'm so proud to call her my own.

Dump truck babies

            Sal has a thing for all things construction related. Excavators, dump trucks, bulldozers, grading name it, he loves it. I was going through my photos the other day and showed him this picture from his newborn days. My sister brought over my brother in law's original Tonka truck so I could try and recreate a pinterest inspired "baby sleeping in a Tonka" picture. 

The original? Awesome. Mine? Eh..not a fail, but not as successful as I had hoped. 

There's a reason people hire professionals for newborn photos. Lesson learned.

                                               [ Sal at a couple weeks old]

                                           [ Sal at a couple years old]

After convincing Sal that it was actually a picture of baby Sal, and not Carla, he ran to his wannabe Tonka and pretended to sleep on it, "yike baby Sal". It was too cute not to snap a quick picture. These days ALL of my photos are blurry. The boy does not sit still. 

Who knows, maybe I'll pull his Tonka out at high school graduation and make him try to recreate it again. 

That wouldn't be embarrassing or anything.

Stay small, Sal. Stay small.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hit me with your best shot

I've got to start off by saying that we are really proud of Sal and his eagerness to potty train. Granted, he's been working on it since last summer and we are still slapping diapers on when we leave the house, but really--he's how shall I say? House trained. Public toilets in China are high on ick factor and I've got no problem letting him finish out our time here in diapers to save myself and him from dry heaving in the public restrooms. 

That aside we've got issues. 

Specifically, aiming issues. 

He's a big boy. He stands like "da big boys do, right dad?"

Problem is, mama doesn't like cleaning up the walls and floor around the toilet every time he stands like the big boys. A stool helped temporarily. Then he decided to put one foot on the stool and one on the floor to pee--which then caused my bath towels to get shot. 

I tried Cheerios. I ended up with a bowl full in my toilet and a toddler telling me we need to buy more. 

I shared my woes with my family and this is what my sister came up with. She used her silhouette cameo to cut out vinyl adhesive excavators and cement mixers to adhere to my toilet bowls. 

He was pumped to pee on the cement mixer and our overspray rate has decreased considerably. 

I'm guessing bathtub decals would suffice as well if you don't have a crafty sister like mine. Just clean and dry your bowl, then adhere. I've cleaned over this one with no issues so far. 

Fingers crossed this works! 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sink or float?

The dog days of summer are loooong.

Wuxi sunrise happens at 5:14am. That's early.

You know who else rises at 5:14am?

This girl.

I'm not complaining because she does sleep through most nights from 7:30pm to sunrise, but I'm looking forward to the later sunrises and cooler weather that autumn will bring. If I could fast forward through China's summers, I would-- and I wouldn't even feel bad about it. 

Not one bit. 

In an attempt to keep Sal from parking himself in front of the tv for Paw Patrol/Team Umizoomi/ Dora /Diego/ Mighty Machines, I've been channeling my inner preschool teacher and trying some simple activities with him. I know its hot out, but he can't watch tv all day to pass the summer away. 

Because seriously, if allowed, he would totally watch tv 24/7. I'm cool with tv time--but watch too much tv and your brain will rot, right?

Our latest activity has been "sink or float". 

I filled a clear rice container with water and gathered some items we had around the house. My collections included a coin, Duplo block, matchbox car, balsa wood peg, house key, golf ball, ping pong ball, Pom Pom, wooden block, rock & sponge.

We sat next to the tub, and I demonstrated the difference between an item floating on top, or sinking below.  I suggested he choose an item and test it to see whether it sinks to the bottom, under the water, or floats on top, above the water. He guessed that everything would sink, but that's okay! He's 2.5, and the exposure to this kind of experimenting is enough. He played with dropping things in from various heights and even though all of his predictions were that things would sink, he did shout out with excitement when some items actually floated. 

After a while of experimenting together, I retreated to the air conditioned living room, and he sat on our patio plunking items in and taking them out over and over. I overheard his chatter while playing, and he was still using the words "oh you sinked! The rock sinked" or "it's foating. The sfunge (sponge) is foating". 

I honestly think that kids learn best through play. I especially like activities that can be teacher/parent led, but also allow for children to experiment on their own without help. I feel like this activity is a wonderful way to introduce science and related vocabulary with toddlers. I also really just love the way Sal says, "mama, I have an idea. Let's do a speramin (experiment)".

I mean, how can I resist this kid?