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 machines....you 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?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Evaporated milk ice cream

A few weeks back, I made coconut milk ice cream for our Friday night dessert. I don't have an ice cream machine, and it was labor intensive. Lots of timers being set, scraping sides and re chilling until set. And well....it was really icy and more of a sorbet texture than ice cream. Plus, I could still taste the coconut, and I am NOT a coconut fan.


My friend Barb also has a recipe for non-icecream machine ice cream, but she was out of town and I didn't want to hassle her for her recipe but I knew it required whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk. I pulled up pinterest and searched for SCM ice cream and found this recipe at Cookies & Cups. I checked my pantry and had both ingredients. Heavy whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk. 

Or so I thought.

I whipped my cream in the chilled bowl and opened the can of sweetened condensed milk. Something didn't look right. It must be old. I checked the expiry date. 7/2015. Still good. Hmmm. It's runnier than I remember SCM being. 

And then I re-read my label. 


Evaporated Milk.


I'm not exactly a good recipe follower anyways. I usually try shortcuts and substitutes that fail more times than not, so today was no different. 

I scrambled and searched google for the difference between evaporated and sweetened condensed. Both are made by heating milk until liquid evaporates, however, SCM has sugar added during the process. One CAN make their own SCM if they so desire by heating the evaporated milk and adding 3/4c sugar to every 5oz of evaporated milk. Once dissolved, turn off heat and let cool. Voila! SCM. 

But, Ehhh- that's too much work. 

I dumped the evaporated milk into my stiff peaked whipping cream, tossed in 1/4c sugar and crossed my fingers that it would still work. Once mixed, I divided into 1/2 cup portions using baby food containers and Popsicle moulds. NZ requested berry icecream, so I puréed blueberries and threw in some whole berries as well. Other flavors made: peanut butter hot chocolate & vanilla with sprinkles. I just added the mixings and stirred them into the individual cups. 

I put the Popsicles and cups in the freezer for an hour and a half until lunchtime. After lunch (and the kids were in bed), I treated myself to the vanilla sprinkles cup....

Guess what?

It totally worked.

 I'm actually glad I didn't have SCM on hand, because this one is the perfect marriage of "not too sweet" and creamy. 

Here's the recipe:

Evaporated Milk Ice Cream
Makes 6 1/2cup servings
1 cup heavy whipping cream (very cold-I store mine at the rear of my refrigerator, top shelf)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Medium size stainless bowl
Handheld or stand mixer

1. Chill stainless bowl for 30-45 minutes in freezer
2. Pour 1c whipping cream in chilled bowl. Beat on high with mixer until peaks form. Approx 5 min.
3. Add 1/2c evaporated milk & fold in 1/4c sugar with spatula. 
It will look very liquidy. Don't fret.
4. Divide into small single serve containers. 
5. Mix in your mixings (alternatively, you could mix them in with step 3 if making all the same flavor).
6. Freeze for 1 hour minimum. 
7. Serve and enjoy!

Lost wallets and peeing in pools

I woke up to one of the clearest days I have seen in a while. The air seemed cooler and there was a nice breeze flowing. 

At 5:30 a.m.

The rest of the day was much like the last week has been. Too hot to do much of anything. The kids and I tried to walk a half mile to B&Q to buy superglue, but we only made it as far as the convenience store at the entrance to our compound. Sal was insistent that "the wady have my [his] wallet" at the convenience store. He left his wallet and money on the dashboard of the store's train ride on Tuesday and it was gone within minutes of us remembering and going back for it. 

He went in and asked the clerk "you have my wallet?" today and she had no idea what he was saying so she just told him how cute he was in mandarin. 

From there, we tried to spend a few minutes in the shaded sandbox playing, but sand and sweat don't mix--nor does a hot baby stuck in the stroller while her brother plays. 

After ten minutes of being sand magnets, we returned to our apartment, cranked the a/c and filled the pool on the patio. 

Carla took her first dip in it today and christened it with pee within her first two minutes. 

Summertime is in full effect. 

And that folks, was our day.