Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Baby Pancakes

With six chompers and one more currently working it's way in, Sal was cleared to start transitioning from purees to soft cooked foods after our most recent pediatrician appointment. And call me crazy, but I got excited about all the things I could start giving him. Visions of soft cooked carrot cubes & green bean pieces, peas, sweet potato & apple chews, shredded chicken and beef danced in my head.

His favorite meal thus far, aside from carrot zucchini oatmeal--he loves oatmeal like his mama-- are the baby pancakes I have been making. I call them baby pancakes, but they could also be considered vegan, I think. I'm no vegan expert, but I think that the absence of any animal products make these vegan. Maybe I should call them vegan baby pancakes--or not.

There's this whole list of foods that most pediatricians will advise parents to steer clear of for the first year, for reasons ranging from allergies to digestion issues to choking hazards. I'm doing my best to abide by the advice of my pediatrician, and keep Sal's diet milk and egg free til he hits that magical one year mark. Apparently egg yolks are okay--but we still haven't tried those. Living half way across the earth from the only health care I really trust is a pretty good deterrent for jumping the gun. Emergency services here are not as--how shall I say???--dependable or efficient. I'm sure that sooner or later we'll have a split chin that's gushing blood on our hands, and we will be forced to experience the local hospital emergency services, but for now, I 'm perfectly happy being cautious.

Anyhow, I've devised a couple of pancake recipes free of EGG and MILK...and bonus--they sneak in vegetables and fruit.

Boo-to the-yeah.

Thought I'd share em.

These are super simple to make and store well in a refrigerated airtight container for breakfasts, etc.  I take one out in the morning, tear it into bite size pieces, and watch Sal devour it.



1/4 c. pureed carrots
1/4 c. pureed zucchini
1/4 c. Applesauce
1 mashed banana
1/2- 3/4 cup oats
1 tsp Cinnamon ( we love cinnamon!)

Mix together in a bowl. Let sit in the fridge once mixed, for two hours so that the oats soak up the water from the purees. The "batter" will be quite thick.

Spray pan with olive oil.

Heat pan over medium heat.

Spoon in pancake batter to make silver dollar size cakes.

Cook 1-2 minutes per side, or until browned.


1 cup mashed purple potatoes
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1 mashed banana
cinamon to taste
optional: chopped blueberries

Mix together in bowl.

Spray pan with olive oil or butter.

Spoon "batter" into silver dollar size cakes ( I had to use the back of a spatula to spread the batter out a bit)

Cook 1-2 minutes per side, or until browned.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Halloween

I should start this post off with a letter addressed to my son that would go something like this..

Dear Sal,
I am so sorry that mama did not have the means to make you a super awesome first Halloween costume, but I hope you understand. Mama does not have her sewing machine, and we were not expecting to have Halloween plans while living here. Therefore, your costume was made up from things we already owned --minus the little girl tights...Again, I'm sorry..Yes, at age 9 months, you wore a pair of girls tights.
I promise that once we return to the states, you and I will head down to Joann's fabric store in August, and you can pour through the catalogues of costume patterns...and I WILL make you any one you want. It will be fun. It will be our thing. Mama and Sal, picking out a pattern and fabric together. You can hold me to it, Just because I dressed you as.....

Yes, that's a red terry cloth bib you're wearing as your cape.
Yes, those are little girls tights mama scored for 2 RMB.
Yes, those are your shoes from Auntie Adele ( they finally fit!).
And yes, that's one of your gDiapers you're wearing as a Speedo over the tights.
We will probably draw on a 'stache, and put you in a long sleeve onesie ( oh the looks I'd get for taking a bare bellied boy out in 70 degree weather!), but I think it will still be cute.
Thanks for being such a good sport.
P.S. I promise not to bust these pictures out to show your prom date.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Roadside Lunch

the weigh in
On Friday, NZ, his assistant and our driver were looking at equipment yards between here and Suzhou. At some point, they decided to take a lunch break.

They stopped at this little hole in the wall house off the side of the road. NZ says there was a little boy playing outside, and baby pools full of fish out front.


So, they go inside, and asked about the specialty.

Chicken ( surprise, surprise).

They cook the chicken, then make soup with the remnants.

This sounded good, so they ordered the house special.

Our driver gets up, and heads out ( NZ thinks he's going for a cigarette break).

Next thing he knows, our driver is coming back in with the cook, who is carrying a live chicken.

They take the chicken to a scale for a weigh in, to see how much lunch will cost.

The cook comes out fifteen minutes later with the most delicious lunch ( & freshest chicken) NZ had eaten all week.

In the States we have Lobster houses where you pick your dinner out of a live tank.

I suppose this would be considered a Chicken house.

What do you think? Marketable in the US?

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Great Pumpkin caper

Halloween is pretty non-existent over here. However, I did spot some ghosts and rubber Jason masks at Auchaun last weekend. Those must be marketed for us. The expats.

One of the moms in our complex has organized an email list of houses apartments that are willing to participate in handing out candy on Halloween night, and we plan to greet every little ghoul and boy with some candy "imported" from the USA. We hauled a large bag of mixed Butterfingers, 100 grands and Baby Ruth's back with us.

And then...

Someone opened the bag.

I'm not sayin' names or anything, but I know who it was.

I know her quite well.

We still have enough to hand out, but I have done irreversible damage to the bag. Sorry kids....instead of a handful, you'll get ONE. I'll be pretty militant about it. If there are any left over, I'm totally calling dibs.

Other than Halloween candy, my other favorite thing about fall is pumpkin everything. I love pumpkin pie sans crust. I'm a filling only kinda gal. And not too sweet. Which means, I usually end up making my own pie filling rather than buy the store bought stuff.

There are no freeway-side pumpkin patches with hayrides in this neck of the woods, so Sal's getting jipped on the whole first Halloween "let's -dress-him-up-in-a-bunny-costume-and-take-a-picture-at-the-patch" that we can blackmail him with when he's a teenager. I think he's okay with that..but mama is a bit sad she's missing out on taking him to Underwood Farms with his cousins this year. Thankfully, there are many many more Halloweens to come, and we will be home for them by the time he learns what's really up with the whole trick or treat thing.

While shopping at METRO last night, I asked NZ if I could buy a pumpkin.

He said , "yes", of course.

I planned on baking it today while Sal napped, but he got a hold of it while I was working hard at converting Fahrenheit to celcius so I could use our little toaster oven and it ended up becoming his morning entertainment. I got a sharpie out and drew on a jack o' lantern face and he rolled that sucker all over the house.

Squeals of delight, I tell you.

Cheap entertainment at its best.

Anything for My little pumpkin caper.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pandas & Chickens

Just before we left for California, Nick hired an assistant.

She's made life a whole lot easier, with her broad knowledge on business, Chinese government and the such. She has also provided us with what I like to call "street smart slang.
NZ, Sal and I are "Pandas".

You know how everyone likes to go to the zoo and watch the pandas? For the Chinese, watching a family of Americans is just like going to see the pandas.

They can't keep their eyes off of us because they are intrigued by everything we do.

We also learned from his assistant that there are two kinds of chickens...I'm not referring to a Rhode Island Red vs. a California gray but chicken, chickens, and female Chick-ens...known to Americans as ladies of the night, call girls, slutty mc sluttersons, hookers, prostitutes.
As a woman, you do not want to be called a chicken.
Duly noted.

I had to laugh when Nick passed on this wealth of information to me, because it occurred while we were at the local outdoor market about to buy a chicken. We needed help from his assistant in asking the butcher to remove the neck and feet of the chicken. So, Nick calls his assistant, and the conversation went a something like this....

NZ: " hi, K. I'm down behind the vegetable market, and I want to bargain for a chicken."

(I don't know what her response was, but it required some clarification by NZ)

NZ: " A chicken, chicken.  Not a girl."

I want the biggest Hen you've got.

While K. Did the translation for us to bargain for a chicken, chicken (complete with picking male vs female and sorting out the butchering details-"no, we don't want the stomach or intestines. No, we don't need the legs or head."), NZ explained to me that women who sell themselves are also called chickens.

Wei? Ni Hao.
( we sanitized the crap outta his phone after the chicken wrangler bargained with K.)

It gave me a good laugh, and now I smile every time I think about his phone call to his assistant.."uhm, yeah, I'm out back, about to buy a chicken...."... Poor assistant probably thought to herself, "what did I get myself  into? My boss wants me to barter with a chicken for him?"

Stay tuned for more street smart slang. I'm sure there's tons to come.

Never a dull moment.

Oh, and..I learned this...when eating with chopsticks, and finishing your meal (or even taking a breather), do NOT put your chopsticks in the bowl pointing downward...instead, lay them across your bowl. Putting your chopsticks in the bowl, pointing downward is like telling the cook you want to kill him.

That was my big Wuxi whoopsie.

Always learning.

Sweaters & socks

Fall has arrived in China.

Thank goodness!

That summer heat was NO joke.

Sweltering, I tell ya.

I whole heartedly welcome the cooler, slightly crisp mornings we've been having. In fact, I've even started running with Sal after NZ leaves for the office. I use the term "running" loosely..it's more of a run, jog, speed walk, gasp for air, flail my arms kind of outing..but I do it, and that's all that matters, right? I suit up in Capri leggings and a short sleeve T, and Sal usually sports a long sleeve onesie and some athletic pants. Perfect for the weather.

It's quickly become apparent to me, that Sal and I (and some of our expat friends) are the only ones who find this weather enjoyable.

Looking at any Chinese out and about, it's obvious they believe otherwise.

We're talking winter coats on adults, children in layers upon layers, and babies dressed up in fleece suits and covered with blankets.

Clearly, it's cold in their eyes.

So, as with anything here that's different, or out of the norm, we get stared at on our daily run. I get stares, glares, and even yelled at.

Why are they yelling at me?

Because Sal needs a sweater.

Yes, I've been flagged down more than once to be reprimanded for my child a) not wearing socks, and b) not wearing a jacket.

People, we're talking high 60's, low 70's here.

Not cold. Comfortable.

I usually charade back and forth ( or just keep running) that he is okay. He's not cold ( the sweaty nape of his neck seems to be sufficient evidence-my kid's a furnace), he's not going to get sick ( Chinese culture believes that cold weather makes one catch colds), and we're just fine without the unsolicited advice.

Most of the time I let the looks of disgust roll of my back, but every so often it really gets to me. I have to remind myself that this is just a cultural difference between us and them...and that neither way is wrong. Just different.

I can't wait to see what happens when true winter rolls around. I picture little Chinese boys and girls wobling around like the kid in "A Christmas Story", barely able to move in his/her snowsuit..all the while, we finally cave in and put sweaters on.

Cause you know, we don't want to catch a cold or anything.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

On the go: baby travel simplified

on the go

Between living the city life (apartment with no extra space vs house with a garage) and traveling, I've done my due diligence in selecting baby paraphernalia. Thought I'd share what's been working for us on the road.

1. Nuby sippy cups. I like these for 3 reasons. They don't spill. They don't have handles, so they fit in my diaper bag bottle pocket. Sal drinks easily from them.

2. Baby Einstein Take-a-long Tunes. Four different tunes play, and usually divert meltdowns better than any other toy we own.

3. BooginHead SippyGrip leash. We attach toys to this leash so they stay off of the Chinese streets/floors/sidewalks.

4. Munchkin Snack Catcher. Ours usually gets stocked with puffs or yogurt melts. Great for learning to self feed without ruining everything in a ten foot radius.

5. Summer infant silicone placemat. We use this almost everywhere. The only drawback is that it does not suction to tablecloths, which are quite popular here. The trough is a great catch all, saving baby's pants, and the floor from dropped food. We also use "table toppers" disposable placemats (not pictured) made by neat solutions when dining at a restaurant with cloth table tops since they adhere with a tape backing.

6. wet ones. These are all-in-one cleaners and work well for high chair trays, messy hands/faces & public changing tables.

7. Tommie tippie silicone bibs. These combined with the summer infant tray are fabulous. We can actually survive a mealtime clothed! A quick wipe down with a wet one, and they roll right back up and can be stored in your diaper bag for the next meal.

8. Munchkin disposable multi use pads. I have used these more than any other item since moving to china. Sometimes a restaurant floor is cleaner than the bathroom, so diaper changes take place in many different places (which I never in a million years thought I'd change my kid on a metro train seat!--but that's one of the cleaner places we've marked off our "I've-changed-sal...." list). These mats can be tossed after use, and provide a nice sanitary barrier for even the sketchiest of diaper change locales.

9. Gate check bags. We didn't go expensive on these. The J.Childress bags from babies r us or target work fine. The bags take a beating well. Ours have survived five flights now. Sure, you can travel without them, but dont expect to have a clean carseat or stroller when your reach your destination. They fold into a little pouch and take up very little space in comparison to the fancy ones that are sold by the stroller and car seat manufacturers. 
10. Brica foldable booster seat. This seat folds easily and fits into a large diaper bag. It attaches to many styles of chairs with a simple two clip process, and has a lap harness to keep kids from falling out ( or escaping). Great for visiting family, going out to eat, and even at home in place of a high chair (once children can sit easily on their own).

We're residents, yo.

Here's the proof.
It's official. PRC is home.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NINE months

Sal turned 9 months on the 13th. We had just returned from the states, so I am a few days behind on getting pictures and a post going.

This past month he has transformed from a baby to a super mobile, gets-into-everything little boy. Just as I was getting concerned that he wasn't sitting ( he'd tip over and crawl away any time I sat him down), he surprised us by pulling up to a stand instead.

About the same time, he decided that he could in fact, sit.

This made for a vey relieved mama.

Well hello, I can sit on my own now.

and I can stand. I'm quite proud of myself.

I like to figure things out by destroying taking them apart

Sometimes I get myself in a jam and mom takes pictures
when she should be helping me instead
Per the pediatrician's advice ( based on all those teeth..6 total!), we started him on soft cooked foods, and are phasing out the puree's, except for his beloved applesauce. He seems to love ( & eat) everything we've set in front ofhim so far--especially little snipets of dad's capicola from a sandwich one afternoon. The boy's got Italian genes, that's for sure!

He's weighing in at 18 lbs, and measures a whopping 28" tall. He was a trooper with his recent immunzations, letting out just one small cry--a stark contrast to his first few rounds of shots.

Sal took a liking to a FloRida song this past month, and everytime we play it, he gets his groove on. It's pretty cute. He seems quite proud of his recent accomplishment of standing, and is quick to show anyone who will watch. I just love the little look on his face- I hope that pride never goes away.

I feel so lucky to have such a sweet little boy as MY son. I'm looking forward to seeing what month 10 has in store for us...first steps, maybe?

California: weeee're baaaack

Here's a what-we-did-while-we-skipped-town-during-Golden-Week post full of photographs.
We went to the park and watched dad play softball.


heyyy batter batter

We hit the beach.


We saw a Dodger game (they won).

my boys in blue

We went to the zoo while dad went fishing.
at the zoo with grama Sandy & grampa Bob

We saw family. Lots of family.
grandma Valorie..those earrings look so---- grab-able. May I?

grama Sandy

great grandma Pat

meeting my great aunt Cindy for the 1st time

Sal started standing.
look mah!  I can stand!

We ate sushi. More times than I like to admit.

And mama shopped her heart out.
Target didn't know what hit it when I came through.
Puffs , candy and anchovies--priorities.

Sal's stash of formula
clothes from Auntie, grama and great grandma...
California, we'll miss you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In a hurry

I dread grocery shopping at a few of the markets here in China. Fifteen check out lanes, and only two of them open. You can imagine the pile up that causes...but it seems to be the norm for the store near our apartment.

Sal and I had a few things we needed to purchase for a baby shower I am co hosting on Friday, so this morning, I added a detour to our jog. We stopped in at Carrefour. I figured that 8: 00 a.m. On a Wednesday was probably not going to be too busy. I found what we needed and we headed to the checkout lanes. Two lanes, at least ten people in each line. I chose the one that seemed to be moving quickest and settled in for inevitable gawkers and people who insist on pushing their cart across the line rather than going around. People in the states do this too..it drives me nuts.

So, of course Sal and his new bright green stroller (what was I thinking...drawing even MORE attention to the kid?) drew a crowd. I kept moving forward in line, and this old woman came and stood next to me with her groceries. She started to crowd into me and I realized that this woman was going to cut line (insert the childhood song "no cuts, no butts, no coconuts" here) in front of me. Thankful for the massive size of our spaceship stroller, I pushed forward just enough so that she could not get in front of us. Why would I let someone cut in front after I have already waited five minutes? No sir-ree.

So, now Sal and I are in the actual lane and not just the line, and as I start unloading the basket I've been balancing, I feel a push.

Surely, it must be an accident. The person behind me probably assumed I was done unloading.

I do a quick turn around and what do I see?

That dang line cutter wanna be right behind me.

Instead of an "oops, sorry" look like you'd get in the states, she looked at me as if to say, "hurry up, whitey. What's taking so long?" I of course, rushed to get the rest of my basket unloaded, wallet out ready to pay, and my re-useable bag (bravo, China for charging for plastic bags..provides incentive for bringing our own) ready to bag up my purchases and hit the road running again. As I inch forward, I feel the woman behind me's full body against me. And then she pushes forward with her ENTIRE body touching my backside.

Seriously? So not cool.

I inch forward again, and she does it again with even more force.

Super irritated this time, I give her a good booty pop backwards to earn myself a few inches of space between us.

Thankfully, it's now my turn to pay and get the heck outta there.

On my way home, I got to thinking....she must have been in one big hurry. Maybe next time instead of waiting for me to count my change ( gotta make sure I get correct change back..I  might be an American  but I'm no dummy), she can just pay for both our purchases.

Or, I could have just let her cut in line.

Maybe she was teaching me a lesson.

If so, I failed that one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Oh, you again?

Oh, hello grieving process...it's you again.

And just as I did three years ago in dealing with the loss of Denise, I've been greeted by the grief monster once again with the death of my grandfather earlier this week. I feel the same denial that I felt with her..the whole, "this can't be true.", "did that really just happen?" and even went back in to say goodbye to my grandpa fully expecting him to be in his lazy boy recliner just days after his passing.

Yup. Denial got me through this past week.

Now we're back in Wuxi, after the longest flight ever. Thirteen hours with a mobile baby is like wrestling a bag of snakes while playing the "operation" game. Trying not to touch the poor man sitting next to us for fear of making him "buzz" nasty comments or looks our way.

Oh, did I mention we just happened to take a trip home to the States?

Yup. Spent our first "golden week" holiday back home.

Party poopers.

We left for the U.S. on the 28th of September and had a jam packed first week home so that we could sail through the second week and enjoy life a bit. We figured that it was as good a time as any for Nick to get away from work here, since China basically shuts down for celebrations during the week, and then we added a week "vacation" to that, giving us plenty of time to shop enjoy the perks of home.

Our trip started off a bit rough. The day before we were to leave, Sal had a fever and was sounding like he had gurgling in his chest. We took our first trip to the E.R. to get it checked out--a chest X-ray later, we were told he had contracted a virus and that he'd be better soon.


We spent a wonderful weekend in southern CA at my grandparents house. My dad came to visit us and it was really nice to be with everyone and fill them in on life in China.

I'll do another blog post on what-we-did-in-California so I can fast forward to the end of the first week in CA and back to the subject of this post.

On Saturday of our second week, my sister called to tell us that my grandpa had been rushed to the hospital and was in ICU. At 91years-old, he could have been rushed there for many reasons, but we later learned he had suffered a heart attack. Sunday morning, around 11 we got another call. The message was clear, "come quick. Grandpa is not going home. Ever."  We spent the next two days glued to his side as his sons (my dad and his brothers) rolled in from out of town to be there for his last moments. I can not put into words what it was like to witness his final moments, so I won't even begin to try. All I can say is that my grandpa lived life to the fullest. I choose to remember the way his eyes lit up when Sal was brought in to the room, and how he gave us a good laugh with one of his "damn, I'm good" moments not more than an hour before he left this world.

But damn, this grieving business sucks.

Now that we're home, and I'm getting back to life as we know it here in China, it has sunk in that he's not coming back...and it stinks that we aren't able to be there for the spreading of his ashes, or for the
celebration of his life next week. Those things are not as important as the moments we got to spend with him--at least that's what I keep reminding myself.

How lucky (should I say lucky?) were we that we were actually in town and able to be there when it mattered most? We got to say goodbye. I got to hold his hand. I got to give him a kiss. I was there...

So, now I feel the second stage coming on--a little angry that he couldn't be saved. A little angry that I'm missing being there for my dad, grandma and uncles next week...but again...reminding myself that being angry is just part of this whole process, and we will be okay. If there's anything that I've learned from dealing with our own loss, it's how this whole grief things plays out.

Guess I better buckle up for the bumpy ride.

Here we go.