Thursday, August 30, 2012

Clinger

I'm not sure what's going on, but for the last two weeks, I've added abut 16 lbs to my frame.

????

???

In the form of a stage 4 cling-on, named Salvatore.

I've really tried not to consult the baby development websites with articles written by "The experts". I've got a vague idea of what he should be doing developmentally and socially--and try to go by what our pediatrician says more so than the books. Plus, this is what I studied in college. Childhood development was a huge part of my undergrad studies. I better know my shhhht or my dad's gonna come a-knockin' and want his money back.

But when it's your own child, you become an idiot.

For the past two weeks, I've been  asking myself..." Is this a battle for control that we need to nip in the bud now? Is there a physical reason for his extra fussing and clingy-ness? Is this just a stage he will grow out of?"

NZ and I have discussed it, and we both think he could be getting his upper teeth, as his behavior is similar but not exactly like it was when he cut the lowers. He could also be growing. Or....he could be experiencing separation issues---as evidenced by our short date a few weeks ago, in which we returned to a distraught oh-my-gawd-how-could-you-leave-me-don't you-love-me child screaming in Mrs. Georgia's arms.

So--I did it.

I consulted the Internets.

And here's what Babycenter has to say.....

      "If your baby is like most at this age, he's showing signs of separation anxiety. Far from being a    cause for concern, stranger anxiety is a sign of your baby's growing understanding of the world around him...Your baby's reluctance to be separated from you may delight you or just plain frustrate you at times. ...
Immediately, my mind was put at ease.

It doesn't make carrying a 16 lb baby around all day any easier, but it makes me feel better that this is totally normal for some children. I'm hoping that our consistency with schedule will help ease some of this anxiety he has been having ( especially at nap time and bedtime). Anyone have any tips or hints that worked for them during this stage?

Babies, man. They keep you on your toes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

China Love: Top 10

I think we've surprised those who ask, " How's China?" with our reply.

 "It's not that bad good".

I admit, having never been here before the move, I had some pre-conceived notions of what it was going to be like, moving to an Asian city where everything was, for lack of a better word, foreign.

Perhaps I had NZ's India experience fresh in my mind when I dreamed about what China might be like. My mind wandered into the land of filth, and crowds, and disrepair. Surely that exists here-but it also exists in America. Just not where we live in America. The same goes for where we live in China. We're really happy with our "home" here. We're in a good, fairly safe location. We have many amenities within a short walk. We have easy access to taxi cabs and mass transit. We have great neighbors in our complex, and a wealth of support from fellow expats and a handful of locals we've made friends with. Living here, and being happy, is possible.

The other day, while grubbing on jiaozi at our favorite dumpling joint ( 30 RMB lunch for two, holla!), NZ and I started talking about the things we have fallen for here. We had fun compiling this list...so here it goes, commentary and all...


1. JIAOZI
We have a dumpling place about 3 blocks from our apartment. It's our favorite. And it's cheap. We usually grub on jiaozi, which are won ton wrappers filled with minced meat and veggies, then steamed. Two plates divided by two people, plus a soda and beer for a grand total of $5 USD. That's less than McDonald's, yo.


2. OUR AYI
We scored in terms of Ayi placement. So many of my acquaintances have fired their Ayi because they are unhappy with the attitude or cleaning methods. One of my friend's claims her Ayi talks back. We adore our Ayi, and it's clear that she enjoys working for us. My floors can be eaten off of ( just ask Sal), our windows are always clean, and she even scrubs our shoes once a week. I've heard horror stories of Ayi's using the same rag they clean toilets with to clean kitchen counters, so I bought her a bunch of different color rags when she started, and she never uses the blue one in the bathroom--so our kitchen counters are safe (sneaky, sneaky--aren't I? color coding towels and all) from bathroom funk. I do agree, that would be totally gross. But anyways, we do love Liu, and hope she continues to do a great job.
Keep the food comin, lady--and we'll get along juuuust fine.
Sal & Liu
(P.s. yes, I know about the BUMBO recall...he now gets fed on the floor and is never unattended)




3. VINEGAR 
This one is a joke, but not really. I have a had a long love affair with vinegar. Did you know it can clean just about anything? It's the answer to all of my cleaning, de-oderizing prayers. It's not unusual for me to answer with, " Oh, I'll just put/soak/pour vinegar on it.". Making this frugal girl even happier???? Buying it by the gallon for less than a dollar. I squealed ( kid you not, ask NZ) when I finally figured out which big white bottle was vinegar, and again when I saw the price. NZ also loves vinegar, but his is food related. He's been a rice vinegar fiend since moving here. He adds it to everything!

4. WUXI INTERNATIONAL CLUB
Our transition to Wuxi was made easier by joining the Wuxi International Club. It's a social group comprised of expats and locals alike. They distribute taxi cards, maps and host functions and get togethers to assist in making connections with others in similar situations. I've benefited the most from joining this group, as I've made a handful of friends to explore Wuxi and it's surround with. It's nice to have those who have lived here longer than us, give us advice and pointers about where to eat, what sights to see & what grocery center carries x, y, and z.

5. VEGETABLE MARKET
Love, love, love our vegetable market. It's like a farmer's market every single day. We have our favorite vendors now, and I feel like we're finally fitting in a little bit better when we go in to buy our week's produce. Sal has been practicing his Chinese " Ni Hao"as we walk through, with me waving his hand and saying it for him. The fruit stand lady always gives us an extra banana, and a piece of seen-better-days fruit to take home for Sal. He's a charmer, that boy of ours! I usually go on Wednesdays with the girls, and then again on Saturday or Sunday with NZ. Shopping there is forcing me to learn my numbers so I know if I'm getting screwed or not when my change is returned!
Vegetables at the market

6. STUFF MART
Think of a huge indoor swap meet that never ever leaves. They just squeeze in more bays when new vendors show up. That's stuff mart in a nut shell. It's actually called Hon Mei market, but us gringos call it stuff mart--because, well---it's full of STUFF. I went there this week with Mrs. Michigan and Sal and I found art supplies, poker chips ( finally!) and even what I assume to be discarded quiksilver patches from the clothing line. I see an infant baseball cap and discarded logo being united in matrimony soon. I'll make my very own one of a kind hat for the boy. NZ still hasn't gotten to experience Stuff Mart, and he may not be as enthralled with it as his wife--but it's a lookie loo's paradise.

7. TSINGTAO
Tsingtao has replaced Budweiser in our refrigerator. Budweiser IS available here, but gets passed up in favor of Tsingtao..That's really sayin' somethin, if you know my ol man.

 
8. BULLET TRAINS
The high speed trains here are no joke. If you can get past the shock of how busy the train stations are ( & how hot they are-no A/C???? Really?), it's a real treat to take the high speed train. The trains are super clean, have tons of leg room, and are incredibly quiet. They cut travel time down to a third of what it would take via car. They're wonderful. To put it in perspective--NZ can make it to Shanghai, Hongquaio station from Wuxi in 45 minutes. It would take about 2 hours by car.

Where's Waldo?



9. SCOOTERS
We've got scooters on the brain around here. It wouldn't be too surprising if we find ourselves on the scooter lot soon.
They see us rollin, They hatin'.

10. ONLY IN CHINA MOMENTS
Living in a foreign country together, and experiencing it first hand is just one of those things that I don't think either of us ever saw ourselves doing when we met. One of my favorite things about being here are the simple texts back and forth of "Only in China" moments. Some of the things we see, or experiences we have had--we will still be laughing about in years to come. I think that the " Only in China" moments that we laugh about will help keep us grounded and appreciate what we have.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Damn Bastard

I've got a secret.
 
I haven't told anyone about it, and I lead on like I know what I'm doing...
 
..but...
 
(gulp)
 
..I don't really know how to use our washer/dryer combo.


The Damn Bastard

At first glance, he's so pretty and new..and OMG how exciting to be able to dry our clothes in the same machine that washes them..no more transferring from one machine to the other! But that excitement wore off by the time we took a maiden voyage together.

After FOUR, yes FOUR, hours of washing and drying, I opened up the machine to almost dry clothes. No biggie, I'll just pop them back in and add some time to finish drying...

And that's when I discovered that in order to dry our clothes, I would have to split my larger load into two smaller ones and run them through the wash cycle again....which would mean FOUR more hours for one load, and another FOUR for the second..and by this time my clothes would have taken a full 12 hours to clean!!!!!

This is no good.

So, I figured I must be doing something wrong. I asked my ayi to help.

Big mistake asking the woman who chooses to wash her rags in our muck sink vs using a washing machine. But, she tried to help out anyhow. She punched some different cycle buttons ( ah ha! there is a 50 minute ECO cycle option) like she knew what she was doing, and I thought to myself, alright, she rocks! That enthusiasm quickly faded as I watched her pour about half a gallon of TIDE , and at least a cup of softener in the bleach compartment...OH NO, this can't turn out well.....And with that load, I witnessed bubble-palooza.

Thank goodness our machine is outdoors. She not only cleaned my clothes ( which required two more cycles of rinsing--more on that later), but our floor as well. She's so sweet though--she came to show me the bubble fest and we both laughed and shrugged our shoulders.

Brie. Fail.

Ayi. Fail.

And, with her help, our load of laundry required two more cycles with NO added detergent just to get the over-soaped clothing residue free. She hadnt' set the dryer option, so thankfully that saved us some time, and after our three wash cycles were done, and my clothes still wet, but clean...I attempted one last time to dry them in the dryer.

 So, you know what this means....My clothes got washed a FOURTH time for the day, and I selected the longest drying time available..this time BEFORE my wash cycle started..

This. Has. Got. To. Work.( and I have go to go to bed)

..Seriously, who spends all day wrestling with one load of clothes? Apparently, this girl does.

The next morning I woke, expecting to open my machine to damp clothing, but to my surprise, they were dry!

Hallelujah, ya damn bastard.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pencil us in

I've barely blogged at all this week! I have good reason, though...

...we've been on the go!

To give NZ a little reprieve from the Sal and mama show that takes place daily in our living room ...babble babble babble, mom makes faces and dances like an idiot, babble babble babble, laugh laugh laugh, Sal and I filled our calendar with activities that kept us out of the house for the better part of each day.

Making it even better, was our weather. We finally caught a break! We woke upon Wednesday to gray skies, and low humidity, and it was oh.so.nice. Of course the humidity and rain have returned for the weekend, designating today as a lazy day, but those three days were worth it!

On Monday, we walked from our complex to the local Xīngbakè ( Starbucks) with a bunch of neighbors to meet up for Wuxi International Club's first gathering since summer vacation. Many expats are returning after summer holiday, so it was nice to meet some new faces--and Sal got loved on even more. He's grown quite used to the attention.

Tuesday, we stayed in for a little while before heading over to a friend's house to visit for few hours.


Wednesday, we jumped in Mrs. Georgia's van and her driver took us to Nanchan Temple, here in Wuxi. We met up with Mrs. Frankfurt, and her son and toured the temple. Mrs. Georgia and I climbed to the top to take photos, and by the next day, both of us had sore legs! There is a lot of tourist driven shopping stalls in the temple area, but I am still having trouble enjoying the experience when I have Sal in a stroller. It is impossible to keep one eye on his stroller, policing who touches him and what not.

Stopping to window shop is a bad idea--because when I do that, I usually turn around to find a crowd of gawkers surrounding us. They will just keep coming until I start pushing my stroller over people's feet. It definitely detracts from the shopping experience, and makes me thankful for being able to window shop hassle free in the states. I did score about a kilo of apples for 5RMB, which I thought was just pure awesome. That's like 75 cents for 2.2 lbs!

Mrs. Singapore flanked by gawkers as she watched the boys while we climbed the temple stairs.
We climbed to the top

Nanchan Temple



A monk

On Thursday, Sal and I walked to Subway with Mrs. North Carolina and Mrs. Michigan for lunch. It was so nice out that we grabbed our lunches and sat at outdoors at a little cafe where we tried out their drink menu. Being that I am not a coffee or tea lover, I tried out the "Lime Green Lemon Lime Soda"...and it was just that---Sprite with lime green syrup added. Hellllloh sugar high! I think next time I'll give seltzer water a try. The hostess quickly moved us inside when it started to drizzle, cause you know, the baby might catch a cold or something!


Lunch with the ladies...Thursday

Friday was our busiest by far--my driver took Mrs. Michigan and me to IKEA where we met up with Mrs. North Carolina and Mrs. Barcelona for a shopping fiesta! I lllllllooooove IKEA here. Not so much at home, but here---it's a sense of security and familiarity. It's quite funny to go into someone Else's home here and see so many of the same items you have in your home though. Guess we all have good taste! We sat down to lunch before heading home, and all in all, it's nice to have other ladies to shop with! No rushing or anyone telling you not to buy things (which reminds me of this blog, which splits my side every time I read it)--actually, NZ is a pretty good sport about the things I buy and shopping that I do, since I am usually pretty spendthrift. After my grand purchase of 15 RMB ($2.25) for a pair of gray oven mitts, I walked out satisfied. Once we were done at IKEA, I dropped Sal off with his dad for an hour or so, and delivered supper to a couple who just welcomed a daughter.

I got home, kicked my shoes off after such an eventful day ( yes, shopping can wear a girl out!!!) and settled on the couch with my iPad. We ended up accepting an invite from the Michigan's for supper, so we grabbed a couple taxi's and headed out for some live music and German food. It was a really fun night, and the kids danced on stage, Sal got serenaded by a possible tranny singing Justin Bieber's "Baby baby song", and we returned home well fed and feeling like we've started to really live life over here, rather than just survive.


And that, my friends, is a good feeling.

Friday, August 24, 2012

From the 25th floor

Every morning and evening, there's a changing of the guards at our complex, and the one to the right of  ours. A dozen or so men dressed in fatigues, line up and make their rounds to relieve their counterparts, peeling off pair by pair until all security kiosks are manned.
 
When we first moved here, I thought it was overkill.
But, having them here adds to the safety of where we live,
and I am thankful for how serious they take their jobs as security around here..
No rent-a-cops here.
They're the real deal.



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Skit-izzle!

Today was a good day.
Oh yeah--look what I found today at the Korean market...
 
Sour skittles.
 
..annnnnd, they're already gone.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Suzhou day trip

Humble Administrator's Garden, Suzhou
This past Saturday, NZ, Sal and I joined our friends, the Royals for a day trip to Suzhou. The initial idea was to take the train into Suzhou and get some tailor made clothing made for the boys ( and maybe sneak a dress or two in for the girls). We also wanted to do some  sightseeing, so we decided between a museum and a garden walk.


Suzhou
Pretty much anywhere you go in China on the weekend will be busy. Wall to wall people. Suzhou was no exception. The line for the museum wrapped around the corner,  so we made a split second decision to do the garden walk instead--even if it was sweltering outside. The guys went and got tickets while we girls did our best to avoid the crippled beggar man on a home depot cart with mad rolling skills. He kept circling us asking for money and just about took Donna out at the knees on his last go round.

MEO. MEO. MEO! ( Don't have. Don't have. Don't have!)

Once inside the garden, it was a bit shadier, but not really any cooler. It was very pretty and there were a lot of architecturally neat rocks and buildings inside the gates.

The Zentils in Suzhou
As you can see by the photos, it was HOT out there. Like not just heat hot, but humid hot. I can't even begin to explain the humidity here. I've never ( not even in Texas) felt anything that compares..... I'm quite certain we all lost at least 2 kilos just walking around and sweating all day. We were all super hot messes, but didn't let that curtail the photograph taking. The boys were smart, bringing extra shirts and underwear so that they could spare the tailor their sweat soaked shirts during measurements.

From the Humble Administrator's Garden, we took cabs to the lake in Suzhou and ate the best Mexican food we've found here. It was a great retreat from the heat and we all walked out with full bellies. From the lake, we took the metro into the city again, to go to the tailor's shop. We arrived to the tailor only to find a sign taped to the door--closed the 19th and 20th.

BOOO!

We did try another tailor, but the prices were white people prices--and they weren't willing to budge on price. So, we walked out and decided we will go back another time for clothes to be made. No sense paying more just because we are white---which happens a lot here. We pay more for vegetables and fruit than our ayi does--or than my friend from Singapore does. It doesn't make me mad, but it is a tad bit frustrating when I sit back and think about it. I try to just be thankful that we have the money to buy things, but I also don't want to be taken a fool here by the locals.

We walked around an outdoor mall with many stores blaring techno music. It felt like we were in a nightclub duel walking from storefront to storefront. There's only so much of that stuff a girl can take (as mentioned a zillion other times in this blog, this girl doesn't do techno--talk about agitation!). To beat the heat, we grabbed 3 RMB ice cream cones from KFC, which is like an ice cream cone for 50 cents! I'll have 4 more, please!

Sal goes for geek chic in some lensless glasses. They're the rage here.
I think the sun had gotten to us by this point, so we hopped in taxis and headed back to the train station. Sal had to ride in front ( no airbags in taxis here--and the only seat belt is in the front seat in most of them--so please please please, spare me the lectures...being belted in his car seat is far beyond what most do here) and I was afraid we might crash because the taxi driver took a liking to him and was so busy making faces and smiling at him that there's no chance his eyes were on the road. Taxi driving here is not for the faint at heart.

By the time we arrived back to Wuxi and hopped in the cue to grab a taxi home, Sal had had enough for one day. He pitched a fit like no other ( his first and only fit of the day--he was a happy guy the entire day up to this point) and was Sca-ream-ing and calling all the pterodactyls in China from this hot stuffy line we had to stand in. Good thing there were only about 150 people in front of us in a cue line that zig zagged back in forth about 4 times. Were we waiting for a ride at Disneyland or for a taxi? It's so easy to forget. Oh--no cameras around the necks? Must be a taxi line.

Sorry it's sideways. My iphone pics come out this way sometimes. Sal's first train ride.
Some Chinese guy, presumably a black taxi driver ( private taxi--they charge an arm and a leg, and most their cars are black in color--hence, black taxi) came up to NZ yelling at him. Pointing to our screaming child and telling us to follow him. NZ insisted that we not go with him, and the guy just yelled more, threw his arms in the air and walked off. Pouting anyone? He came back another time and just did the same thing..Yelled, threw his arms in the air and pulled aside a railing. Thankfully, a guy in line in front of us, somehow managed to let us know that they were allowing us to skip the line to the very front. The waving taxi guy wasn't a black taxi driver after all. He was just trying to tell us we could go to the front. Apparently, screaming babies are the ticket to line jumping.

How do ya like that?

A taxi pulled up, we hopped in, and off we went.

Just like that.

Not a bad way to end a super fun day in Suzhou!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

SEVEN months old

I'm a bit behind on this post, as I wasn't really thrilled with any of the photos from my attempt at Sal's 7 month pictures. The lighting in our apartment doesn't lend well to mid-day pictures, but I still haven't learned my lesson. I was hoping to get  new pictures later in the week--but to be honest, does it really matter?

For month seven photos, we went with Sal's pensive look. So serious.


He's got many faces these days. Our favorite new one debuted yesterday--and we call it the "fierce face". It's a funny smirk/smile/grimace thing and he does it when he is really excited. Maybe he will perfect it by the time his 8 month photos roll around.

This past month, he has sprouted his second tooth, and gone from crawling in reverse to an all out army crawl. He can get up and move forward on all fours, but seems to prefer the speed at which the army crawl gets him places more than the frustration of left knee-right hand, right knee- left hand for actual crawling. I find him EVERYWHERE that he shouldn't be. His newest infatuation is his laundry basket. He likes to tip it over ( it's very small--as everything here in China tends to be) and roll it around the house.

Sal had his first babysitter a few nights ago, and had a bit of trouble with it once he realized that his mama wasn't anywhere in sight. This is something we will continue to work on--I won't rush it, but I will keep attempting short stints away from him until he is comfortable being cared for by someone other than myself or NZ.

He weighed in at 7.5kg his last appointment which translates to 16 lb 8 oz. I do think the nurse was generous though---she let him keep a pee filled diaper on for his weight check. I asked to take it off for a more accurate weight, and she said to leave it on. So, I'm guessing he is closer to 16 lbs. Height wise he continues to grow about an inch a month and is 27" tall now! He's almost half his mama's height!
Sal's favorite crocodile

Another first for Sal this month was riding the high speed train from Wuxi to Suzhou! By car, it would take an hour---on the train--it took 15 minutes! He was a fantastic traveler, and I see more train rides in our future! Perhaps to Shanghai next time!

The sky's the limit for this kid!



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dare I say??

Dare I say that I like it here?

I wouldn't say I LOVE it here ( although I am pretty sure if we were in Italy I'd claim LOVE), but it's really nothing like I had expected.

In a good way.

I know, I know..you're all thinking, "but Brie, what about all your stories of jaw dropping sightings? What about the bare butted kids? What about the backward ways?"

Sure. There are endless blog worthy happenings every single day. There are things that I see here in China that would never fly in America. I'm still a proud American. I am still thankful for our freedoms. That will never change.

But, I have found things about living in China that I like. I have found something here in China, that I didn't have in America. It's so easy as an American, living the suburban life--to be holed up in your house all day. As a stay at home mom, it was easy for me to go an antire day of not having contact with anyone from the time my husband left for work til the time he got home. I didn't always like that. Everyone in America leads such independent lives, that sometimes you can live next door to someone for years and never meet them. We were lucky to know our neighbors in the states, but I was the only stay at home mom I knew of, living on our street. It made for lonely afternoons.

Since we've moved into our apartment complex here (A++ to my ol man for doing his homework on this place!) I have gotten more social. I'm quiet by nature, but I really do like being around people and finding friends to go do things with. Luckily, NZ picked a home for us that is in a good part of the city, within walking distance to the necessities--and most of all, he picked a complex that has many expat families living within.

Within a week here, I made friends. This was a HUGE worry of mine--being in a foreign land, without a friend to call my own. Back home, I had my sister and sister-in-law and a handful of other friends I would do things with when the stars aligned and our schedules worked out to meet up.

Living here, the other women are ALL in the same boat as me. Husband leaves at 7:30a, then we've got all day to fill until they return home between 6:00 and 7:00p. It's been a fantastic experience for me in terms of finding support and guidance and really just camaraderie and people to do things with.

I liken living here to living in the college dorms. So many friends live within the confines of our complex, that we can call one another up and stop by if we're bored. If you have forgotten something at the market, just call a friend--one of us will have it and be happy to share. Mondays are "walk to Starbucks" mornings, Tuesdays are Bible Study for those who go, Wednesdays have just started as "Zumba afternoons" and Thursdays and Fridays are up in the air.

I'm starting to understand the truth behind the adage, " It takes a village..." because that truly is what I feel we've found here.

We're all in this together--and I couldn't be more thankful for the friendships we've made thus far.

The tale of two lunches


When NZ walked in the door (four hours later than he had told me to expect him) this afternoon, the look on his face was priceless.

I of course, had been chomping at the bit to share with him what happened to us today... but I knew by the look on his face I just had to hear his story first.

Me: " Wow, I thought you were working from home today? Didn't you say.....?"

NZ: shaking his head, "Yeah--I thought I was going to be home by 11:00"

Me: "What happened?"

NZ: " I went to the bank."

Me: "And where else?"

NZ: "Nowhere...the bank took FIVE hours to set up the account."

Me: " Why would it take that long? Did you not have everything you needed? Did they have to make calls or something?"

NZ: " You don't want to know--long story"

Me: " So what'd you end up doing for lunch?"

NZ: " Since my transaction cut into the bank's lunch hour he invited me upstairs to the cafeteria that feeds the bank employees. I ate with our banker, and after that we went back downstairs to finish the transaction "

What the...?!

We both laughed at how absurd that sounds to us as Americans....being in the middle of a transaction and having the banker say "Well, it's lunchtime, I'd love to continue this----after lunch--please come back later, or join me."

And this is where I shared my story I couldn't wait to spew his way...

Me: "  We just ( emphasis on juuuuust) got home about an hour ago."

NZ: "What'd you two do today?"

Me: " We went and bought our train tickets to Suzhou"

NZ: " And what else? "

Me: " Nothing. That was it. We ( 5 expat women and 3 babies) got to the ticket kiosk at 12:00p and waited in line behind a woman. After she was done, Mrs. Georgia stepped up to the kiosk to order her tickets and the woman behind the counter got up and walked through a door in the back of the kiosk. We waited like 15 minutes and there was a line behind us...but she never returned...We figure she went to lunch, but she didn't hang a sign or announce anything."

NZ: "So, what'd you do?"

Me:" We went to KFC and sat in the air conditioning. But it was like lunch rush, so of course, three white baby boys caused quite the commotion."

NZ: " Quite the spectacle, I'm sure...so did you get tickets?"

Me: " Yeah, we went back at 1:00p and she was back in her kiosk."



Lesson learned: China takes their lunch hours very seriously.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Date Night

Sal just turned 7 months old.

This means, it's been 7 months since NZ and I have eaten warm dinners at the same time.

Tonight, we went on a date.

Just me and my sunshine.

We dropped Sal off at Mrs. Georgia's house and headed out on foot towards our favorite dumpling joint. I wore one of my favorite "dressy" shirts and felt pretty cute considering I've been living in the same three outfits the past three months. Bringing only one suitcase of clothes was a fantastic idea, but I miss my dresses. I really do. All 23 dresses ( remember, I had 27?) that I proudly parted ways with??? I take it back.  I miss every single one of them. Even the ones I dubbed as ugly.

Anyways, back to our "date"...NZ and I, in my cute shirt, started walking towards the main drag, and wouldn't you know.... the skies opened up and just dumped rain on us...and I'm not talking a light romantic rainfall, I'm talking from cute hair to drowned rat in 0.6 seconds.

And of course, no umbrella.

Do we keep walking and hope it passes, or head across the complex towards our apartment, grab the umbrella and change our clothes real quick?

We chose option 2. Back to the apartment, changed clothes and grabbed the umbrella--and back out the door.

Minor detour, but dinner was on the horizon.

Then we had a problem. Our umbrella only had room for one. Being the gentleman that he is, NZ gave me the umbrella and withstood the pouring rain. We laughed about how wet we were getting, because there was really no way around it. Even with an umbrella, I was getting a good dose of rain.

Oh, and by the way--flip flops--not the best choice in footwear when walking through rainy China streets. Disgusting actually. By time we arrived at the dumpling place, I had road stripe up the back of my legs from walking in my flops.

The dumplings were awesome. The beer was good. The company was even better. I sure love date night with my ol man. We got to talk. It was nice. We got to eat with both hands instead of trying to manage chopsticks with one hand, while clearing the circle of death( any items within Sal's reach)with the other. I actually got to taste the food instead of shoveling it in my mouth. It was a much needed date.

Total cost for 2 adults to eat gyoza and a couple beers?

5 RMB ($8 USD).

 Insanely cheap local fare is one of our favorite things about living here.

We headed back towards our apartment and experienced a spectacular thunder and lightening storm. It was so loud and beautiful. Of course, with the lightening and thunder came a torrential downpour, which, even with an umbrella, drenched us. We took shelter for a few minutes in the plaza ( and enjoyed ice cream!) before running to Mrs. Georgia's to pick up Sal.

Although NZ and I really enjoyed our date night, it was evident upon opening the door that someone did not like being away from us for that long. The smiling boy we left just two hours earlier was screaming to the high Heavens when we picked him up. I jokingly asked Mrs. Georgia if he did that the whole time, and she so sweetly said, " Well, not the whole time."

Separation issues, anyone?

As soon as I took Sal in my arms, he calmed down and just nuzzled in for the rainy run home. I may be naieve, but I didn't think he'd miss us. Afterall, we play at the Georgia's house all the time. I feel guilty having left him if he wasn't "ready", but are children of stay at home mom's ever ready for their first time away from mom?

Guess our next date will require a table for 3.

I've got room for two men in my life.

My sunshine, and my baby.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What's it worth to you?


Golden comfort.
Yesterday afternoon, I was inspired to write this post after the following exchange between myself and a fellow expat, who I shall refer to as Mrs. Georgia (since I haven't officially asked  her if she minds being mentioned from time to time in my blog).

Sal and I were hanging out with Mrs. Georgia yesterday afternoon, as we often do. We had been invited over for supper, so we were passing time playing on the floor while Mrs. Georgia tapped away at her computer putting in her weekly city shop order. City Shop is a Shanghai based grocer that delivers to Wuxi on Tuesdays. I love City Shop. I order all of our heavy items from there..cat litter, sodas, canned food...They will waive the delivery fee if you spend over 300 RMB ( $50 USD), and she was just shy of the limit. So she asks if I need anything...

"Do they have peanut butter?", I ask.

tap.tap.tap.......searching.....peanut butter.

" Yep. Jiff, Skippy, Adams...."

" How much is the Adams?"

"65RMB"

(quickly calculating 65 RMB to USD in my head...10% of 65 is 6.50, half of 6.50 is 3.25...making the jar $9.75USD)

"Yeah, that's good. Will you order me some?"

Whoa, back it up here....is this the same girl whose husband poked fun at her frugalness back in the states?

Yup. It's me. Writhing inside at the amounts we pay for imported items, yet feeling that they are worth every single cent we pay to have them in our pantry.

Don't worry, I'll treat that peanut butter like gold. I will interrogate anyone who comes close to it with a spoon. "What are your intentions? Are you going to lick that spoon clean?"  If his answer is anything but yes, then it will go into hiding. I will guard it with my life.

It's funny how viewpoints change, especially for comfort items. Do we have to have peanut butter? Absolutely not...but when there are so few comforts from home available, I find that I am more willing than usual to fork out dough for something. Peanut butter is one of those things. For NZ, it's imported beef and cheese. For a while, it was tortillas. We paid $6 USD per 12 pack for disgusting El Paso flour tortillas...that was, until NZ made our own for pennies on the dollar, and the taste far surpassed the El paso ones.

Making our own food is something we both enjoy doing, so living in China and shopping hasn't been too hard. Many things ARE cheaper here...but the comforts of home tend to be pricey, and maybe it depends on how much I am missing home on shopping day, but  find that there are some things I can rationalize spending pretty much any amount of money on.

Peanut butter is one of those things.

Can't wait for my pot 'o gold!




Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sal's new buddy

Sal has a new best friend.

That kid in the mirror always smiles back.



They're the best of buds.


Baijiu

Once Wednesday's typhoon rolled through (It was rated a 10/12 by the way!), NZ had to fly to Chengsha for business.

And as customary here in China, he was treated to some of Chengsha's best. He had his first taste of Baijiu, which is a special Chinese liquor, which, in the words of NZ, is "hardcore sh--". A few rounds of toasting with that stuff, and even the Irish men will be under the table.

But, I'm guessing Baijiu looked a lot more appetizing compared to this...



I'd have to be pretty sideways to drink this stuff!

Those are real snakes.
Marinating in liquor.
And people drink that stuff.
Fo' real?!

Feeeeshies
To help absorb the Baijiu, NZ was served a plate of fish. Looks like mackarel to me. Who knows?

He said it was okay.

I think I'm glad I wasn't at that table with him.

I'm game for Peking duck. Or gyoza. Or Dumplimgs. Or Dim Sum.

But I'm still not brave enough to try the seafood dishes yet.

Maybe I need some Baijiu first?

Then again, Baijiu may provide the liquid courage that leads to trying snake liquor...

Which would then result in the worst hangover of the century.

...and that would totally suck.

I'll leave the baijiu drinking and fish eating to the boys.

Friday, August 10, 2012

From the 25th floor

A rare moment of calm in between the rain and wind of Wednesday's typhoon.

Up here on the 25th floor, it felt similar to an ongoing small earthquake...chandeliers swaying, scooter alarms outside blaring. Overall, not too scary, but definitely something I could live without.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Handle With Care

A few weeks back, NZ, Sal and I walked down the road to our local B&Q. B&Q is the Chinese equivalent to Lowe's or Home Depot. Our mission:

1. Find a patio set and large rug.
2. Arrange Delivery.

Ready to head into B&Q
We walked into a familiar warehouse looking store ( which goes to show that we spent way too much time at Home Depot back home), and made our way past air conditioning units ( ahhhh, cool air) and towards patio furniture. Nick and I eyed the same one, making the choice an easy one. We usually have the same taste when it comes to furniture, making shopping quite easy and quick.

We also found a rug.

Okay, great.

Now what?

Find an employee to help us.

Found employee.

Doesn't understand us. Calls for backup.

Store manager arrives.

Speaks English ( spoiled Americans!) and helps us through the checkout process.

One catch.

In order to schedule delivery to our home, NZ must provide them with his Chinese name.

In Chinese characters.

Whaaaat?

We don't have Chinese names yet.

A quick call to our translator, "Irene" and she rambles off information to the checkout girl in Mandarin and the world is a happy place again. The delivery men will call "Irene" when they are ready to deliver our items...and she will in turn call us.

This, my friends, took over an hour. Standing at the customer service counter, arranging for delivery to our apartment which is literally 3 blocks away. Everything in China takes longer. I'm sure the fact that we speak English and don't understand more than a handful of Chinese doesn't help.

Delivery scheduled.

We head back home.

Sal's exhausted from all the lovely ladies coming up and touching him and his golden hair.

He passes out and mama's left with a dangler on her chest, which evokes more stares, because why does white woman hang baby from backpack? is baby alive?

Please, my fellow Wuxiians, don't touch the sleeping baby.

Take my word for it.

He's still breathing.

The 3 block walk home was just too much for this guy. Out cold.
So, on Tuesday morning, Irene calls me and tells me our delivery is on its way.
Like a kid on Christmas morning, I can not wait to get our furnishings and set them up.

The intercom rings, I buzz them up.

Two smiling men hand me an invoice with a pen.

Sign here, points the man.

So, I sign.

They lug the box in.

What the.......???
This box has seen better days
I take it back, I don't want to sign for this!
This box has seen better days. Did it fall off the back of the truck or what?

I charade for them to stay and wait till I can inspect it, and the man waves the invoice in my face with my signature, as in, "Ma'am, I won't take it back. You signed."

I start thinking about what my ol man will say when he gets home to broken "new" furniture.

Oh me, oh my...

..

..

Oh wait.

It's all intact. ( thank gawd!)

Not a single scratch.

Phew!

And doesn't it look great out on our patio?
Ahhh, a place to sit and relax. If only it wasn't a zillion degrees and humid.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hug your kids at home, belt them in the car

Way back in the day, my aunt Cheryl had a bumper sticker on her 4Runner that encouraged seat belting your kids in the car--"Hug your kids at home, belt them in the car". I always thought it was a little bit funny, although I am sure it offended some.

Anyways, here in China I am facing the great car seat/safety belt debate.

We hire a driver whenever Nick has business to tend to. If the driver is hired for the day, I also have use of his services.  Otherwise, Sal and I walk wherever we are going.

Why not take a cab, you ask?

Seat belts.

Or, the lack thereof.

Consensus amongst the expats who have more time here under their belts is "When in China....do as the Chinese do". Which translates to riding in taxis with kids on laps.

I just can't give in to the ease of lapping Sal. Even with the ever growing threat of him growing out of his carrier and into a convertible yes-i-plan-on-re-installing-it-every-single-time-even-if-it-breaks-my-back car seat, I still plan to belt him in the car.

I guess this means we just won't use taxis here in China, unless of course, I find one of the few that have working safety belts AND ( even bigger AND) they are willing to wait for me to install it! These cab drivers here are off before your door even closes. Swerving through traffic, gas on to beat the lights...They drive like it's a race to the finish. And then the next question..what to do with the convertible car seat when we arrive at our destination? Do I carry a full size car seat, our stroller and a wiggly baby to the grocery store?


Our fullsize Quinny Buzz Stroller
Top contender for Sal's next car seat
Logistically impossible.

These are things I took for granted in the States. I never once thought about not having a car, nor did I think about what I would do when Sal graduated to a convertible seat from his carrier...and now, he's just 2 inches shy of outgrowing his carrier. The time is coming. We will buy one on our trip to the States in October. We have learned ( with formula, etc) that just because it carries a brand name, doesn't mean it meets US safety standards. It only meets standards for the country it is being sold in.

One thing is for sure, I fully intend to continue to hug my kid at home, and belt him in the car. Maybe my view is skewed due to how long it took for us to have a child to bring home. Maybe our struggles make me overprotective. Or, maybe I see that it only takes one crash and our lives would be shattered. Again. For what? Convenience.

I don't know about you, but I'm quite certain that NZ and I have lost more than our fair share of babies for a lifetime. We think we will keep this one in a bubble as long as possible. ( I kid, I kid).

Bubble? No.

Car seat? Definitely.

Even if that means that mama gets the best set of legs this side of Wuxi from walking everywhere.

Anyone have a car seat they love, don't love? I was looking into the Diono, but I believe the seat back is too high for many of the vehicles our drivers transport us in. I'm now looking into Recaro ProSport and the Graco Myride65. Chime in, please!

Ty-whaaaa?

NZ and I both received this text on tonight:

"台风橙色预警:强台风海葵8月8-9日将严重影响我市,阵风10级,江河湖面11-12级,伴有暴雨到大暴雨,请注意防风防雨确保安全。[市气象局]"

Yeah, exactly.

What's up?

Copy. Paste. Bing translate.

"Typhoon Orange warning: strong typhoon anemones August 8-would seriously affect the city, gusts of 10 levels, rivers and Lake 11-12, accompanied by torrential rain to downpours note wind rain to ensure security. [City Meteorological Bureau]"

Oh, Typhoons.

That's what.

Go figure we both have plans tomorrow. Me and Sal, a playdate at the indoor park, and NZ has a train and flight to catch. We shall see what tomorrow brings!

***EDIT(8:57a)*** NZ's flight has been cancelled. He will postpone travel until next week. Sal and I, on the other hand, are still park bound. Keeping a child inside an apartment on a rainy day is just asking for trouble. So far, just heavy rain and wind, but nothing scary.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Turtle head Park


Aside from our trip to Shanghai to meet up with NZ's cousin, we have yet to do any sight seeing. Before anyone chastises us for our lack of getting out and about...let me just say one thing.

It's freakin' hot outside.

And humid.

And hot..oh, I already said that..

Because it's totally like walking out of the building straight into a Bikram Yoga studio. The humidity just takes your breath away and you feel the urge to down-a-gallon-of-water-to-replace-what-I-just-sweat out in the first 5 minutes of breathing the summer air.

Stifling.

And if that's not enough, I'll throw the baby in there as an excuse. Yep, I just used Sal as a scapegoat.  In all actuality, he is the main reason we have yet to really get out and do much exploring of our area, other than air conditioned supermarkets and jumbo malls. Simply put, this kind of heat, for long periods of exposure, is just too dangerous for a little guy like him. Babies overheat so easily, and we're within the mindset that we really really don't want to test out any emergency rooms here.

That being said, I've got many local attractions, that come fall, will fill our weekends up with exploring our new city and its surround.

Thankfully this morning, we woke up to cooler weather ( 85 F at 8:30a) and a nice breeze--okay, the breeze was more like gusts of wind, but it really made it feel much more bearable outside...So, we did it. We left the building to do something fun!

We packed the backpack and the boy up and headed to Turtle head Park Isle ( Yuan Tou Zhu), which is located on the shore of Lake Taihu, our local lake. Lake Taihu is the 3rd largest fresh water lake in all of China. Here in China, it is common to pay a fee to enter a park, much like one would do in a US National park, such as Yosemite. We each paid 150 RMB to enter, the equivalent of $24 USD.



We had asked the driver to come back in an hour and a half, but easily could have spent the better part of a day there wandering the gardens and staircases to traditional Chinese buildings located within the park. We only saw about half of the attractions, since we were tight on time, and definitely plan on returning in fall when no one is in danger of heat stroke. I hear that in fall, the foliage is beautiful reds, oranges and yellows---something that we southern California bred kids rarely experience, seeing as the only way we know that winter has arrived is that people start to wear jeans with their flip flops.



                       

We returned from our hike, a sweaty mess, but are looking forward to going back once Autumn arrives so that we can see the trees change color and visit the other half of the park that we missed today.

Quality Control


For the past few weeks, NZ and I have been going back and forth on whether or not buying formula here in China is safe to supplement with. We brought over a suitcase full of Enfamil, and out of the 10 we brought, we have 3.5 left. I grossly underestimated how much he would go through, especially since I only nurse at home, and when we are on the go, he gets formula. Call me a prude, but nursing in public just isn't my thing.

Anyways, back to the safety of formula sold in China.

We've looked at every grocery here in Wuxi, and have found a similar logo to Enfamil, but it's packaged slightly different ( metal canisters vs. plastic containers) and they're called EnfaPRO or EnfaGROW, rather than ENFAMIL. This sketched me out a bit, and I did some Internet research ( yes, I know you can find anything on the Internet) and found out that there were a handful of babies that died from Enfamil sold in China this year. Back in Sept 2011, Walmart in the US had to pull a "lot" of Enfamil from it's shelves due to contamination and an infant death attributed to said contamination.

The death of the babies in China....same lot number that was pulled from the shelves in the States.

My guess is that someone picked up the pulled lot for a steal of a deal, and turned around and sold them here in China, with no regard to safety or humanity.

Scary.

How valid this story may be?  I don't know...but I'm not willing to chance anything.

A colleague of NZ's who is a Chinese national even tells us that we should not buy anything ( sunscreen, milk, diapers, formula, baby food, yogurt) that comes from China. She has an 18 month old daughter and she imports these items from the States. That alone, speaks volumes.

Still curious about the EnfaPRO we keep seeing on the shelves, that look mysteriously similar to what we buy at home under a different name and package, I contacted Mead Johnson directly and asked about the safety and quality of the product available in China.

Rest assured, the EnfaPRO and EnfaGROW are Mead Johnson products, however, the following line in the emailed response I got today has made the decision to continue to import  US made formula cut and dry.

...The formulas available in other countries are manufactured to meet the requirements of those countries; there may be slight differences when compared to products sold in the United States/your country....

So, what the Consumer Care Specialist is saying, is that although the EnfaPRO and EnfaGROW products  are in fact Mead Johnson brand, they are only required to meet Chinese standards, not those of Mead Johnson USA.

Anyone want to take a guess what my suitcase will be filled with on our return trip from the States?

That's right...

Good ol American made formula.


Friday, August 3, 2012

From the 25th Floor


Wide load, coming through.

That's a bicycle under there.

And a person riding said bicycle.

Any guesses as to what Hercules is carrying?

..
..

..

..


..

..
.

.

Styrofoam.

Yep, appearances can be deceiving...not that balancing a bike loaded 7 feet high and 4 feet wide with styrofoam isn't a feat in itself...it's just a good thing that it isn't heavy to boot!

This man bikes by our house every few days, loaded to the gills with styrofoam containers for recycling.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Inspection

This post almost doesn't need a narative...but I'll give one anyways, cause you know, I'm full of words.

Oh, we've got a curious little friend

He's thinking, " I've got to check these American made strollers out"

Good steering, maneuverability. Plush interior....Only one thing missing...a test ride.
                                     
And this is me, dropping my iphone to pull the kid out of the stroller.

                                   Yep. We got acosted by a 5 year old. It got to the point (after as stern NO! failed to get him off of Sal) that I straight up pulled the boy out with force, and started pushing forward to get away from him. His persistence was remarkable. He was back ast my stroller, climbing up the side as we rolled away. Again, I pulled him off, said Buyao ( Don't want!) and this time Sal and I made a run for it, rolling over the little guys Crocs. Without flinching, the little boy said, "Bye bye".

And off we went.

My guess is that he will make a really good TSA agent one day.