Monday, March 31, 2014

3 Years And Counting!

This is just a short post to say thank you to all my readers, whether I know you personally or not, for clicking, sharing and loving my blog. Today marks 3 years of bloggity goodness for me, and on such a special date as well. I started this blog on March 31, 2011, just a few weeks before my precious Raelynn was born. But March 31st has always been a date that's very special to me. It was my mom's birthday. I sadly lost her when I was 9 years old and although my father remarried, to an amazing woman who I also call Mom, I still miss my Mom every single day.

 Mom with my big brother Phillip long before I was born.

But March 31st is a day to celebrate because if not for Mom, I wouldn't be here. She was an amazing and talented woman. I feel like she's always around though, watching me laugh and smile with my daughter and sharing in the love.

In celebration of my blog turning 3 and in remembrance of one of the most wonderful people that touched this earth, check out some of my most popular posts ever:
All The Things I Miss About America
A post where I list all the things I miss back home. Much of it food. Speaking of food, if USPS and China Post could get off their asses and deliver my package of Girl Scout Cookies from my friend Natalie, I'd be most grateful. Come on now, before my fucking Thin Mints melt! Gah!

If you ever wanted to know how Raelynn came into the world, check it out. Don't worry...there's no gross descriptions of birthing going on here. Or any photos showing the delivery. Only cute baby pictures, and who doesn't love those?

I Hate You , August!
My thoughts on exactly why I fucking hate the 8th month of the year with a passion.

Guo Nian Hao! (Wishes For A Good Year)
My Chinese New Year post for the year of the horse, 2014.

Oh Baby! It's A...
In this post, I reveal the gender of Baby Qu #2. Which is most likely a...

The Many Faces Of Raelynn
One month after Raelynn was born, I wrote this post all about her. It's still one of my absolute favorite posts of all time.

Diaper Fail
Don't miss the story of how my husband tried to cheap out on diapers when Raelynn was a tiny little infant.

Seeing Is Believing
Featuring the oddball things one could only see in China!

Thanks again for reading my blog, and a big thanks to these countries who are in my top stats:
USA (thank you, everyone back home!!!!), United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, South Korea, Australia, Canada, France, Latvia and Mexico. And a big thanks to all the other countries who click on here a lot but didn't make it into the top 10. You all rock!

Mom and me ages ago. This picture makes me think of Raelynn and me.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bye Bye, Boobies

It has officially been 2 weeks since I finished weaning Raelynn from breastfeeding. I know that might sound nuts to some of you, as you're no doubt thinking, "But Raelynn's turning 3 in a few weeks." I KNOW. I don't need you to point that out to me. Please. I'm happy I breastfed her and happy it lasted as long as it did. Of course, I'm also happy to have my boobs back. For a few months at least until the new baby arrives.

During my adventures in breastfeeding, I had so much support. From my amazing breastfeeding coach I met through La Leche League who came to the hospital right after I delivered to help me get Raelynn latched on to my husband who came with me to those La Leche League meetings to learn more about breastfeeding and even explaining everything he learned to his parents so I had their support as well. I had some great friends and family who always stood behind me for nurturing my daughter naturally too.

I also had just as many people make idiotic comments to me online about breastfeeding. I'm not here to tell you how to live your life, so please, don't tell me how to live mine. Doing something that women have done to feed their children naturally for thousands and thousands and thousands of years should not be frowned down upon. This list sums up a lot of the shit people said to me, quite accurately too.

One thing I do like about China is that no one EVER said a single thing to me while I was breastfeeding my daughter in public. You might think perhaps they were afraid to speak to me because I'm foreign and I might not understand but let me just tell you something about Chinese people: they will come up and say the most mind-numbingly stupid but well-meaning things to you in public. Once, I had a man run across a street to come up and tell me Raelynn wasn't wearing shoes. SHE WAS A SMALL BABY. She couldn't walk. WHY would I get her shoes to smush up her feet? She had on little sock booties that were plenty warm. My Chinese skills are not the best but I do understand much of what is spoken to me. When Raelynn was very small, Jeremy was always with me when we were out and about. No one ever said anything to him either because he would have told them to shove it.

Back home in the states, I have heard so many horrible things breastfeeding women have had to endure. It makes me so angry that people find this offensive in a country like ours, one of the most advanced places in the world. But attitudes like this really do set us back. I love that I could be out at a restaurant in the US feeding the new baby with a cover on to keep myself from being exposed and someone would find this offensive. Yet, if I walked into a restaurant with a top that showed off my cleavage, not one person would express disgust. If I'm still breastfeeding the new baby when we go back to the US, I'll let you know what people say to me but honestly, I'll be so happy if I can wean Baby Qu #2 over here first.

So, how did I finally get my girl to give up the boobies? Well, it took time to wean her. I know many people who weaned their children much more quickly. But every child is different. My breastfeeding coach said I would have to follow her lead and that I couldn't just cut her off cold turkey. I needed to start decreasing the feedings. I did, but it was a battle. And when I saw Raelynn fighting me on things, I backed up and would try again after a couple more weeks. This two-steps-forward-two-steps-back logic was what really worked for us. My friend Chrystal had suggested counting down from 20 to 1 which I tried with very little success. Raelynn just wasn't ready to let go completely.

Slowly but surely, I began to cut off her feedings. I did away with the one in the middle of the night and to calm her down, would just bring her in to sleep with us when she woke up crying for it. She wanted to be close to me. It took a couple weeks for her to stop crying about it. Then I had 3 left: morning, afternoon nap and before bedtime. Mornings were also hard to cut out. My husband would help me distract her, offering her something like milk or yogurt instead while I'd get ready for work. Soon, she forgot all about morning boobies. Naptime and bedtime were all I had left. As I potty trained her, I allowed her to have both, but once she got the hang of the potty, I began to count down like Chrystal had suggested earlier...and it began to work, finally! She was ready!

I waited for her to start school with me before I completely tossed the naptime boobies. She would fall asleep on me on the bus ride home and not need her boobies. She forget about that feeding too. And then, there was just bedtime boobies. I decreased the countdown to 10 to 1. And then one night two weeks ago, she didn't ask for boobies. And I didn't offer. She brushed her teeth, climbed into bed and happily listened to stories. She kissed me goodnight and went right to sleep.

And I went to our bedroom and cried.

I cried because it was the end of breastfeeding Raelynn. I knew it would come some day. And I wanted this day to come. But all of Raelynn's baby days flashed before my eyes and I realized my sweet baby was now a big girl. And while I'll miss her as a little baby, I have this amazing big girl to watch grow up into a little lady. Hopefully, a little lady who covers her boobs modestly and isn't afraid to breastfeed her children when she grows up. 

Here's a photo of Raelynn and me when she was just a newborn, while we were still in the hospital. Before any anti-breastfeeding folks get their panties in a bunch, please know this is not a picture of me feeding her but was taken after, while I'm covered up and cuddling with my sweet precious angel.

And here's my big girl now!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Kids Say The Darndest Things

Or rather, kids WRITE the darndest things.

My kindergarten students all have these communication journals. Every night, the children must write our Word of the Day in the journal and show me the next day. Yesterday's word was "this."

Unfortunately for Amber, she rearranged the letters of the word "this" into, well, THIS:
 I love that last week's words were all just fine. But this week? It's shit, apparently. I should also tell you that Amber has a fraternal twin sister named Dora. Dora did not have a problem writing "this" in her journal. Oh Amber!

Here is a close-up of what is now my absolute favorite thing any of my students have ever done. Enjoy!

Oh Help

Someone please, please, please, PLEASE help me.

Today, when I came home from work, my in-laws were here. Raelynn's been sick the last 2 days so they've stayed here to care for her while we've been at work. Which I do appreciate. Really.

But how do I appreciate this random gift from MIL? SAVE ME.
What you are looking at is, quite possibly, THE ugliest maternity shirt ever created in the history of the universe. She thinks I'm a pregnant little old lady, apparently. I would not ever wear this garment, even in the privacy of my home. She whipped it out of a bag and handed it to me. And that's when I quickly realized this wasn't for Raelynn. My God, that would be even worse than it being for me, wouldn't it?

 Let's forget for the moment that I have the biggest brown thumb of all and plants kill themselves when I'm left in charge of them and let's focus on this stupid gardening theme, shall we? I love the declaration of "PRETTY" and right across where my baby bump would be. As she explained to me, she thought my shirts were too tight or too short so she wanted to get me something that fits. Never mind that it is completely hideous. It's just her style though, isn't it?

Here is a glimpse of the Engrish on here. It could be worse indeed. Perhaps it's trying to make a pun about fertilized seeds and MY fertilized seed? Lord knows. In any event, once my husband gets home and laughs until he pees over this, this rag will be sent into the vortex of ugly things MIL has bought for us, like so many items before it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Y Chromosome Strikes Again!

Yesterday, my husband had a business dinner meeting and I wound up having a pleasant meal with MIL. I KNOW! After she left, I got Raelynn ready for bed and then set off to relax and shower. At around 9:30pm, when Raelynn was sound asleep, I heard the key in the door. I went to greet my husband and what I found was a totally drunken mess loping through the door, dress shirt unbuttoned under his suit jacket, brandishing an umbrella like a tiki torch as he boisterously greeted me.

I sighed heavily, knowing the rest of my night was going to severely suck. I should tell you though that it's not often that Jeremy drinks like this. It's part of the culture in both Korea and China to drink while you eat at a business dinner and it can be considered quite rude to refuse a drink. So if you want your business to go well, genbei as they say here (which is Chinese for "cheers" and basically means you should drain your entire glass in one gulp).

Jeremy's college experience was different than mine. During those years of my life, I eventually learned how to handle my booze. Once, on a date with a guy I really liked, I had eaten a bowl of Chunky New England Clam Chowder so I wouldn't be hungry when we went out drinking and dancing at a club. FYI: the upchuck factor on soup is a 20 on a scale of 1-10. But being young and dumb I didn't know this and hence, made quite the ass out of myself. I've come a long way since then.

So my husband can't drink the way I can. Well, the way that I can when I'm not pregnant that is. At least he was smart enough not to drive. He took a taxi home which was a relief. I was so happy he came home alive. Now, my challenge was to make sure he stayed that way.

See, Jeremy is a back sleeper. He LOVES to sleep on his back. I'm more a side sleeper, which is good news for me while pregnant because after the 1st trimester, you can't sleep on your back anymore. My husband snores so loudly that I need earplugs in order to block out the sound. And some nights, I can STILL hear him snoring away.

I tried to get him to drink some water and some green tea but he passed out cold on our bed. On his back. And soon, I heard this horrible gurgling. He was going to puke. I dragged him to the bathroom and tried hurrying away before the sounds of splattering vomit caused me to join in. He staggered out, like some half-dead zombie and curled up on the floor. I brought a bucket from the bathroom, normally used for laundry purposes, to put beside him. He snored away on his side for a few minutes and then sprang up gagging. He ran toward me and tried to open the window to barf out there. Drunk people! Gah! I quickly locked all our windows, now terrified he'd lean out of them to far and fall to his death.

In college, one of my best friends was a girl named Tara (may she rest in peace) who would drink herself into oblivion constantly. One night, she actually walked outside of our townhouse and tried to open the door of someone's Cadillac because she thought it was the bathroom. It was funny then.

But now, this kind of shit isn't funny, I think as I pat his back while he hurls some more. It's then I'm reminded of my wedding vows and try as hard as I can to be supportive and helpful, even though I am tired and, being pregnant, seriously want to throw up myself from the stench of vomitty-alcohol permeating our room.

In total, I emptied out the laundry bucket 5 times. Despite placing it in front of him, he still spit up a bit on the floor. He even threw up on a sock (it was his sock at least). At one point, he lay on his back and started to choke on the vomit and I cannot even believe I was able to move so quickly and roll him onto his side. I sat up much of the night, watching, helping, praying. And once I was sure he was not going to die from falling out a window or choking on his puke, I finally put in my earplugs.

Since our bathroom is right by Raelynn's room, she woke up to the retching sounds and cried, scared of the monster-like noises she heard. So now, I had her in our bed, snuggled right up to me, and a totally zonked out, husband that reeked of boozey, barfy disgustingness. I was so angry and so tired. Somehow, I managed to get some sleep but I still felt like hell today. In the morning light, lectured my husband and then gave him some ideas on how he could make this all up to me. Jewelry. A nice dinner. A massage. He'll be working this debt off for a bit, which I blame on that y chromosome. You remember what happened the last time, right? Sigh. Men! Between you and me though, as long as he never pulls this shit again, that'll be even better than diamond earrings. Though I'll still take him up on a fancy meal. This mama needs some spoilin'!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Unexpectedly Pleasant Dinner Companion

Yesterday when my husband came home from work, he told me he would most likely not be home for dinner tonight due to a business dinner meeting. I always hate when these things come up but it's not like they do every night, or every week for that matter. But that wasn't what was troubling me. I was disappointed that I'd be stuck eating dinner alone with my in-laws.

As you may have read, my in-laws and I have made an arrangement that makes us all happy ever since the school year started back up and Raelynn started coming to school with me. I'm actually happy to see my FIL waiting for us at the bus drop off. A couple of days a week, he just carries her upstairs and then goes on his merry way. But 3 days a week, he sticks around and plays with her while my MIL makes dinner. Since they don't spend all day with Raelynn anymore, they definitely need to have some time with her. And it has been working out great because lately, I'm so wiped out from being on my feet and teaching 20 horribly behaved children (seriously, this is THE worst batch of kids I've ever been dealt ever since I started teaching) that a nap is in order.

So even though Jeremy wouldn't be able to come home for dinner, I was stuck eating with them. But so tired that I was relieved I didn't have to cook or worry about watching Raelynn. I took a nice nap and when I woke up, I found FIL had gone home. MIL asked me if I was hungry now that it was just past 6pm. She said she'd fed Raelynn while I'd been asleep. Then into the kitchen she went, clanking around briefly and emerging with steamed clams, tofu with green onions and wonton soup.
From left to right, tofu with green onions; steamed clams and wonton soup.

I was absolutely surprised. No longer is she nagging me to do this or that like I'm some small child, incapable of making a decision for myself. No longer is she making me things she knows I despise. She's actually GETTING IT. Go MIL! Lately though, as much as I love steamed clams, they've just tasted strange to me. It's no reflection on her...she has never made them badly any other time I have had them, and that's saying A LOT if you're a regular reader of my blog because this woman makes many things very badly. I think this latest aversion is more about my hormones playing tricks on me. Still, I sampled some to be polite. Tofu is an easy pleaser for me. And her wonton soup really does rock.

But what was even more surprising was that I actually ENJOYED her company. She sat down to eat as well, having no son or husband to rush around and serve. It was just us, and Raelynn, who joined us at the table to pick at some clams (which she loves and, incidentally, calls "shells" instead of "clams"). She also arranged some of her dinosaurs on the table to keep us all company. What a dear!

It was amazing that I could finally sit in peace with my MIL and not be constantly wishing for her to go home and leave me be. We even talked and laughed as Raelynn continued to amuse us with her cuteness. Perhaps that will change, but I hope we'll have more peaceful encounters like this. As long as she and her husband remain helpful without interfering, I think it could work. Then again, this is the same woman who somehow keeps getting water in the rubber kitchen dishwashing gloves EVERY time and who buys my daughter clothes that look like this so perhaps not. Oh well. Even if it's just a little more peaceful, I'll take it. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Loneliest Bike In The World

It might surprise you to know that I actually do not know how to ride a bicycle. Yes, really. I had a bike with training wheels but to make a long story very short, by the time anyone had a chance to devote time to helping me ride it without the training wheels, I was old enough to drive a car. And had my own car. And I was so totally NOT going to be caught dead pedaling around on a bicycle for God's sake.

But this post isn't about me or my lack of bicycling skills. It's about the bicycle that has been chained up to the stairwell in our building since the beginning of time.

Ok, so maybe it hasn't been around since life began existing, but close enough. Our building was built in 2001. It is hard to believe it's just 13 years old (you'd think it had been around for at least 20 years the way it looks, but that's China for you). What's even harder to believe is that this bike has been tethered here since the building was first built. My in-laws bought this apartment when this building was brand new and in they moved. And, according to my husband, they had to struggle to maneuver their things up the stairs (this is an 8-story building and in China, buildings under 10 stories do not get to have elevators) past this bicycle on the 4th floor up to the house that is now ours on the 6th floor.

It has been here all this time and I've often glared at it and wondered why in the hell someone would chain up a bike inside a narrow stairwell, yet I've always forgotten to write about it.

It totally wouldn't bother me if the person who owned this bicycle would, you know, RIDE it from time to time. But it has NEVER moved. Not even an inch. EVER. Since this building was built.

I asked my husband about it today and he told me something interesting. A couple years ago when we bought our new, giant refrigerator, those poor guys moving it up 6 flights of stairs were ready to kill when they had to try to get that thing past this dusty, ancient bicycle. Jeremy had knocked on the door of the home he suspected it belonged to. A woman answered and said that the bike was her father's, but he didn't live there.

Of course! Why keep a bike at your own house when you can keep it at your daughter's house! AND NEVER USE IT! Because this makes perfect sense to all Chinese people apparently, except for my own husband who is a bit of an anomaly (thankfully!). She went on to say that her father had the key for the bike lock so she couldn't move it. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? How could I possibly be surprised by this after living here for over 3 years? People here are so beyond illogical with these kinds of things. Let's chain up a bicycle we will NEVER use in the path of a bunch of other residents and not even have a key to unlock it when someone might, say, have to move a large refrigerator or other furniture up or down the stairs. Brilliant!
Why no one else has taken bolt cutters to this relic and set it free, I will never know. And why this stupid woman hasn't sold it is also a mystery to me. Maybe she likes that everyone in the building absolutely hates her. Here, people are extremely selfish, not giving any thought about how their placement of bikes or even cars causes obstacles and inconveniences for everyone else. Ultimately, this is the result of generations of people having only one child and not ever teaching accountability to every resulting generation. But this, my husband explained, is the Chinese way. Of course!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Moisturizing Engrish

I just LOVE when I find awesome Engrish randomly during my days here. It was my turn for class so I headed back to my classroom only to discover my Korean teacher, Christina, was still singing with the children. I sat at the desk to wait and noticed she'd put a bottle of lotion on there. I pumped some out into my hand as I read the bottle. And then, I had to keep from bursting into hysterics. Here's why:

It's a little blurry, but it says:
Protect Moisten Delicate Hand To
Learn The Occult Feeling

If you don't understand why this is hilarious, perhaps you need to visit the definition of occult for yourself. Of course, if you don't understand, you're probably lazy...far too lazy to click a link. And in that case, it basically means, as an adjective, that it has to do with magic or astrology.

Now, I'm sure what they MEANT to say would have been "Enjoy a Magical Feeling" but of course they had some idiot use a computerized translator and then that same idiot likely decided to play around with the thesaurus.

Just for shits and giggles, I DID try to summon up a 5-headed mythical creature to devour my noisiest students, but this cream totally did not deliver the goods. False advertising! Boo!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Oh Baby! It's A...

Ok, I know you're all gagging to know about my 20-week ultrasound. I have been dying to know what's been growing inside me all this time. In China, they don't reveal the gender due to the one-child policy. But that doesn't apply to us. Still, it can be difficult to get them to tell you the gender of your baby.

If you want to know what we're having, keep on reading, or cut to the end of this short post to find out. I don't care. Just don't be a big mouth and post "OMG! I can't believe you're having a..." on my Facebook page. You can comment directly on this blog all you want though.

Once we got to the hospital, my doctor was leaving. Her husband was ill and she had to go care for him. Our doctor told us that another doctor we like was also on duty and she'd see us for our next ultrasound in 4 weeks. I was a bit hesitant. After all, my doctor had told us she would not keep the gender a secret. But perhaps the other doctors might be more guarded.

We went into a different ultrasound room than usual. This one is better, with a TV mounted on the wall so you can simultaneously see what's happening. In the other room where I had my last scan, I had to tell them to turn the monitor toward me so I could see. That was when I saw that the doctor was not lying to me...our child was mooning us.

Determined not to get mooned again, I gobbled a bunch of chocolate before we went into the ultrasound room. That proved to be quite a smart move. The baby was very active, dancing about in there, not like I couldn't feel it. My husband and I watched carefully as the doctor performed the scan. She showed us the head, arms, hands, and then she moved further down. "OH GOD. Is that a penis?!?" I shout. "PENIS?!?" echoes Jeremy. And the nurse stares at us, strangely as if "penis" is the only English word she knows and she is embarrassed to hear it screamed in her presence. But then I see it looks more like the umbilical cord. Or is it? Hmmm...

So I ask my husband to ask her and she tells him she doesn't know. It's hard to tell. Hard to tell at 20 weeks? Bitch, please. I tell her not to lie to my face. This shit might pass with these imbecilic women here but it won't work on my ass. She's afraid she'll get in trouble but little does she realize she's thisclose to having me hit her upside the head with my purse.

Now I'm concerned. Penis or umbilical cord? I feel cheated and I don't want to leave without an answer. We go back in to where the other doctor is and my husband tries to find out for me if she can tell us. He tells me to be patient and sit quietly so I do, feeling my heart bang in my chest. I HAVE TO KNOW.

And if you HAVE TO KNOW too, here it is...
The doctor tells us that it is "most likely" (yes, they used "most likely" because they say we will be able to be more certain during the next ultrasound in 4 weeks and certain during the 4-D ultrasound in 8 weeks) a:

I am so happy and so excited, yet I don't want to get too happy and excited in case they are wrong or just telling me what I want to hear to make me happy. But it hopefully is another sweet little girl, just like I've been dreaming of.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Surly's New Song

It seems that after Surly the Bus Driver discovered that my husband is Chinese when he saw my in-laws at the bus stop, he's done a complete 180 on his attitude toward me. He's totally singing a different tune. I know the school probably talked to him about it too, but I doubt that's why it changed. My husband agrees: Surly is now nice to me because he considers me Chinese by marriage.

On Thursday, when Raelynn and I got on the bus, no other teachers or students were on yet. But Surly was perched in the driver's seat. In the front row, a bus driver from another bus was sitting shooting the breeze with him. I greeted them and sat in the 2nd row with Raelynn. That's when Surly asked me if Raelynn's father was Chinese. I tell him yes and that his parents are the ones who have been by the bus drop-off waiting to help me carry my child home. He says she looks just like me and doesn't even look Chinese. I smile and tell him she looks just like her father when she's sleeping. It's true. I know Raelynn doesn't look very Chinese. I think she's got the most beautiful blend of our features, don't you?
But perhaps if you didn't know my husband, you would never guess Raelynn is half Chinese. She looks almost exactly like me when I was that age too.

And again today, when Raelynn and I went to get on the bus, Surly was there. He actually jumped up from the driver's seat and pulled Raelynn up so that I wouldn't have to try to lift her up the stairs. I was beyond shocked at this display of kindness. But something even more astonishing occurred a short while later.

All through the drive today, the bus would turn off when he'd roll to a stop. This isn't a very big deal over here because many drivers do it on purpose. I find it odd, especially since I am pretty sure that every time you start up a vehicle, that's when it burns up the most gas. But everyone does it here. I listened to my iPod while Raelynn slept. Just after we hit the second-to-last stop on Fuzhou Road, leaving just Raelynn and me on the bus, the bus lurched to a stop. Surly tried and tried but the engine would not turn over. He gestured to me to wait just a moment and he made a phone call. I could only understand bits and pieces, but the person on the other line was telling him to refill a fluid of some kind. I watched as Surly topped off the fluid and then he hopped back in. The engine fired up after a few tries but the gears were not letting it go. The bus had officially broken down.

I knew I'd have to take a taxi, but what completely took me by surprise was how Surly helped me with my bags AND then waved his arms like a madman at a taxi about to pass by. AND he ran up to the taxi, put my bags in with me and told the driver where to take me even though I was capable of doing that myself.

I called Jeremy from the taxi and told him to call his parents and have them meet me at our building instead of the bus stop, but they missed his call. I tried looking for them by the bus stop but I didn't see them. I was on my own with Raelynn and our bags up 6 flights of stairs. It sucked, but I did it. I had to stop on the 3rd floor and rest before I kept going. It made me wish they were there. But worry not...they soon found out from my husband what had happened with the bus and rushed to our house. They scolded me for carrying so much weight up the stairs but I had no choice. What was I supposed to do...stand out in the cold and wait for God knows how long until they came? I'd been home about 10 minutes before they finally arrived.

All's well that ends well, I suppose though I'm still quite stunned that Surly even went to all that trouble. I hope that maybe with this new song he's singing that he'll be nice to all people who need a hand, not just people he perceives as his own kind. But that's a good lesson for all of us now, isn't it?

The Arrangement

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I like to spend as little time as possible with my in-laws. And if you're new, now you know and you can go browsing though my archives to see 1,000,000 examples of WHY. It's not that I hate them. It's just that the less time I spend with them, the easier it is for me to find something I like about them and the more likely it is that they won't wind up doing something to annoy me.

But now, we've come to an agreement and an arrangement as been made.

The other day, I told you about Surly the Bus Driver. Who has incidentally changed his tune. Now he no longer complains because he discovered my husband is Chinese. That's because one of my in-laws has been waiting by the bus drop-off for Raelynn and me every day this week. On Monday, it was MIL. And it was the first time EVER that I was happy to see that woman. I am now officially hitting the 5-month mark on this pregnancy and as I started down the steep bus stairs with my bag, Raelynn's bag and Raelynn, I realized it was much more difficult than I thought it would be. I also realized, as we walked along, that to carry her up the small hill that leads up to our street, then down our street to our building and finally, up 6 flights of stairs, was now impossible for me. I needed help.

On Tuesday, FIL was there. He helped me get Raelynn upstairs and played with her for a short while, then he was on his way. On Wednesday, we had to have dinner with them, but they came and helped me get off the bus with Raelynn. She somehow stayed asleep as we carried her off the bus, down the street and up the stairs. She desperately needed that nap and she would have totally woken up had my pregnant-ass been stuck struggling down the street with her.

At dinner last night, we made a deal. The arrangement. They would come help me at the bus stop and carry Raelynn home for me. But only on some afternoons would they stick around to spend time with her. And now, all of us are happy. I won't injure myself, Raelynn or the new baby, and they get to see her 5 days a week, even if just for a couple minutes on some of those days. It makes me, dare I say it, like them just a bit more.

Oh now don't worry. There will still be many more crazy in-law stories to come. There are too many differences between us for there NOT to be some wacky-ass crap happening around here. Like on Wednesday when FIL started to panic because I gave Raelynn a glass of cold orange juice. Because Chinese people think you should drink only hot things. I pointed out to him that milk is refrigerated and everyone drinks that cold or else they'll become ill from drinking spoiled milk. He had no rebuttal there. I also reminded him that in my country, we drink both hot and cold beverages and my people are just fine. I hate hate HATE drinking hot water here. I love hot tea and hot coffee. And hot chocolate (who doesn't?). But I'm not going to drink a plain glass of hot water. Blah! Or heat up my juice. That's just crazy, man.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Surly The Bus Driver

I don't have an actual photo of the bus driver in question, but I think this classic Chris Farley image will do just nicely.

Since I've been teaching at my school, I have always taken taxis home. For about 25 yuan, I'm back home in 20 minutes. Which was great because it gave me more time to spend with Raelynn. But recently, due to taxi drivers and their fares alike taking to using apps on their phones so that they may order a taxi to their location, it's made flagging one down so much more difficult. Now that I'm entering my 5th month of pregnancy AND I have my small child to cart home with me every day, I signed up to take the school bus.

In the mornings, I still have my driver of the last 3 years, Hao Shufu. But in the afternoons, there's no telling what part of town he'll be in so he can't pick me up. Last year, I started taking the school bus in August when there are absolutely no taxis, thanks to the beer festival and all the mutant tourists. It's air-conditioned and it sure beat sweating my ass off on the city buses.

The city buses aren't a good option for me now either. I have to change buses downtown and then when the second bus takes me to my stop, I've got to cross a huge intersection. This was no bother before I was pregnant. And it would be no bother if I weren't hauling around Raelynn. In August when I started taking the school bus, the driver would drop me off at a city bus stop that was still a bit away from my home. Meaning I could not walk there. I either had to hop on a city bus or have the good fortune to catch a taxi. This was when Gargoyle was the driver.

I called him Gargoyle because he was an old, bald Chinese guy that very much resembled a gargoyle you'd see perched outside on the ledge of a library, courthouse or other city building. He had little regard for traffic laws, swore loudly into his phone and just barely rolled to a stop to let you off before zooming away again. Gargoyle's bus was this ancient thing that smelled like rotting cheese and wheezed as much as he himself did as it climbed up hills. The brakes always felt like they were going to give out at any second too. I think all of us were relieved when Gargoyle's bus broke down and they commissioned a nicer bus for our route.

But this bus is driven by Surly. I only rode the bus with Surly in charge a few times last year. And then I resumed taking taxis. Now I have no choice but to be a passenger on the Surly Bus.

I asked the school if the bus could perhaps drop me closer to home so I wouldn't have to cross a dangerous intersection with a small child while pregnant. The bus coordinator at school talked to Surly the Bus Driver and told me it was no problem. On Monday, however, Surly gave me problems. Lucky for me, one of the Chinese teachers that takes that bus gets off just before me. She speaks English well too. She happens to be 8 months pregnant and had asked if she could be taken closer to her home, also on Harbin Road like me. Surly, despite agreeing to this with the bus coordinator, started to turn right on the road that comes just before Harbin Road, telling us this was the end of the line. She explained to him that we were pregnant, plus I had a now-sleeping child on my lap and it was only a short distance away for him to drive us. He begrudgingly agreed and swung the bus back north to Harbin Road, made the left turn around the roundabout and sped along. It took 2 whole minutes from the point where we had to coax him to do his job to drop us off. Yes, 2 minutes. God! How out of the way Pregnant Chinese Teacher and I are! How inconvenient for Surly!

Incidentally, this was the only time I have EVER been happy to see my MIL. She was waiting by the city bus stop where Surly let us off. I was grateful for her help because trying to get down the steep bus stairs with my bag, Raelynn's bag AND a now-waking-up Raelynn, all while pregnant is much harder than I expected. I was worried I'd fall or drop her, or both, so it was nice to have MIL's help.

On Tuesday, I spoke to the school again about Surly. I told them what the pregnant Chinese teacher had said that Surly had said. They told me again to take this same bus, that this was his route and not to worry. So on Tuesday, Raelynn and I again boarded bus #6. As we sat there before the bus departed, Surly got on and he said something to the pregnant Chinese teacher, who turned to me and said that Surly wanted us to get off his bus and take a different bus. My friend and colleague, Patrick, piped up from a few rows back and told me not to get off the bus otherwise I'd wind up with another driver who didn't know where to drop me. I yelled that the school told me to take this bus and if he had a problem with that, he better consult the school. Pregnant Chinese Teacher politely translated that and Surly shut the fuck up and drove the bus, telling Pregnant Chinese Teacher that we had to take a different bus tomorrow. Oh really, fuckmunch?

Today, Wednesday, I marched upstairs and spoke to the bus coordinator via a translator at school. I detailed Surly's stupid comments and told them if I am to take another bus to please tell me which bus so I can stop having these annoying arguments with Surly in a language that I speak so poorly everyfuckingday.  I'm not getting off a bus my school tells me to take because he, a bus driver, tells me to take a different one. You are NOT the bus route coordinator! I'm sorry it is your lot in life to drive a bus. I don't think anyone truly grows up and WANTS to become a bus driver, do they? And this is no offense to all bus drivers, but all offense to Surly. If you don't want to drive a bus full of Korean children and their teachers to their bus stops around town then FIND ANOTHER FUCKING JOB!

Incidentally, Surly the Bus Driver left some students sleeping on his bus last year and drove past their stop. At the end of the line (likely where he tried to boot me off), he kicked them off the bus. They were new to China and didn't speak any Chinese and had no idea where they were. The children called their parents in tears. Understandably, the parents complained. Who wouldn't? I would have gone in with a lead pipe to the guy's kneecaps but that's just me. Yet, he is STILL driving a bus for our school. If this happened in the US, this guy would never be allowed to drive a bus full of children ever again. It amazes me that this kind of crap is tolerated here. When I told my husband about the Surly situation, he said that with Chinese people, when they tell you no about something they have to do, you have to be pushy and argue with them until they agree. *facepalm* Yes, really. This is among the many things that are severely wrong here. What Surly and those like him don't realize is that I will go to war on your ass. Which is precisely what I did.

The bus coordinator and the translator tell me to check back in the afternoon as they would check out if I needed to take a different bus or stay on the same bus. In the afternoon, I was promised that bus #6 was still my bus, and Surly's boss had said so. They said Surly would not give me any more problems. I told them he better not or he'd be the first bus driver ever to get a black eye from a pregnant woman holding a toddler.

And what a pleasant surprise...Surly shut the fuck up and drove the bus without so much as a huff. Finally, I can enjoy the silence of no bitching from Surly AND a sleeping angel on my lap.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Milkshake Monster

Given my recent post about milkshake dreams, you'd probably assume with a title like Milkshake Monster, I'd be writing about myself. But no. There is a pint-size creature that growls in rage should you attempt to take a milkshake away from her. Here she is:

On Sunday, we went to a Western restaurant that we enjoy called The Diner. They have opened up a few locations since we've been living in Qingdao and most recently opened a 4th one at Marina City, which is right by where we go for church/Raelynn's play group on Sundays. The Diner makes awesome pizza and after a recent dinner with some Chinese friends at a crappy Chinese-trying-to-be-Western restaurant where I was subjected to disgusting pizza that made this pizza look good, Jeremy had promised to take me out for a real pizza.

So we decided to give the new location a try. But we were extremely disappointed. Jeremy had walked in first while I lagged behind helping Raelynn up the stairs to the restaurant's second floor roost. Once we joined him inside, Jeremy didn't look very pleased. The restaurant was very small inside. There was one giant table where a bunch of foreigners were already eating, and a few smaller tables in the corners. There was also a patio with outdoor seating. A couple tables were open inside and my husband had tried to sit there only to be denied. In Chinese, they told him those 2 tables were reserved for a 1pm reservation. I stared at them, confused. For starters, at the other locations, they put a card on the table that says "reserved" when people have made reservations. There was no marking on this table to indicate that. Also, it was just after 12pm. Meaning we had plenty of time to eat and leave before their reservation arrived, if they even would arrive on time, or at all.

They told us we could go sit on the patio which, with a toddler and in cold and slightly smoggy weather, was not something we wanted to do. Their general attitude sucked so we left as they attempted to make a half-assed apology. Sorry, but we won't be going to THAT location again. They obviously don't want our business. That was fine. We just went to the location in May 4th Square where the staff is always happy to wait on us and any other patrons that dare to show up. And we had a lovely lunch with pizza and burgers. And a milkshake, which, I shit you not, Jeremy and I got barely a few sips in before SOMEONE *coughcoughRaelynncough* stole it away.
 Can Mommy have some?

 Fuck no!

 I'll cut you, bitch! Gimme back MY milkshake! AIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

Ah, MY milkshake. Reunited, and it feels so good...

Step off, woman who gave me life. You had your sip. The rest is MINE MINE MINE!!!!!

Maybe we should have ordered 2 milkshakes but at 30 yuan each, my husband refused. He said he'd rather buy me a tub of ice cream and some milk and let me go nuts. That works for me.

Because she stole my milkshake (well, it WAS mine...I was the one who thought to order it!), Jeremy ordered the chocolate lava cake dessert that I adore so much. It comes with a side of ice cream. It rules. At least she was kind enough to share this dessert.
 I don't share milkshakes, but I'll share this dessert with you, Mommy.

Meanwhile, I'm so happy she's got plastic utensils so she can't stab me. Not that she would...would she? Nah.
 Both of us are blissfully quiet, sharing in this chocolatey moment together.

All gone. No way, dude. I've got a plate to lick.
And she did. She scraped that thing clean. It's the Raskin gene. My side of the family loves desserts. No doubt this set of photos reminds my dad of me at that age. If he's reading this now, he's laughing himself silly because it's Jennifer 2.0. Ah, I love my mini-me, even if she is a milkshake monster, just like her mommy.

Raelynn's 1st Official Day Of School

Today was the big day. It was the official start of school for Raelynn. I say "official" because she went with me last week during teacher workdays. I wasn't planning on that, but my in-laws, as you well know from reading my blog, are quite dim bulbs. And despite being told that we needed them to watch her on Wednesday and Thursday, they didn't comprehend this. They watched her on Wednesday, but on Thursday? Those two dinglebrains were out at their hillbilly mountain house in the sticks, which they call Laoshan Mountain. If you're not familiar with this area, that basically means they went to their weird dirt-road village-esque home in the mountains, about an hour and a half by bus from our home.

It worked out for the best though since she got to become acquainted with her surroundings. And the potty. I was so worried she wouldn't go there, but she's now a potty-pro. Way to go, Raelynn!

On Friday, I realized something important. That doing my job AND watching Raelynn simultaneously were exhausting. I was looking forward to today, Monday. Sort of. My maximum class size is supposed to be 20, but some important guy wanted to send his son to our school. And naturally, this kid HAD TO be in my age group. So they broke the maximum capacity rule to put this kid into my class.

To say I was pissed off was a huge understatement. But it quickly resolved itself as one of the other students cancelled and so now, I am left with my actual maximum capacity of 20. Twenty 7-year-old children who I successfully spooked into silence with my rules. Let's hope these kids behave themselves the rest of the days of the year though. I guess I should be grateful I don't teach at a Chinese school where I could have 50 children in my class. GOD. Talk about suckage!

Finding that out was a huge relief. As was watching Raelynn happily cavort with the other children. She cried and whined a few times and was a tad naughty, but Teacher Kelly said she was mostly a good girl.

So now, without further ado, I present photos of my princess on her first official day of school...
 Upon being let loose into her classroom, Raelynn predictably gravitated toward the awesome toy kitchen.
 Here's some other children in her classroom playing.

 She was SO happy to be out on the playground after lunch. I heard she'd escaped the classroom in attempt to sneak out there. Nice try, kid.
Gah! She's so cute!
 She had fun peeking out at me through this little tunnel.
 More slide fun!
 And finally, the cutest photo ever of, quite possibly, the cutest child ever. It made my day less stressful to see her and watch her be happy when I was rushing about between my classes. It's also a huge relief that she's not with my in-laws all day every day. A few times a week, they will come by after school to see her, which is just fine by me. Today, they took  her to the yogurt place by our house while I came home and enjoyed the silence. Jeremy explained to them that they aren't to come every day though so I hope they will abide by that or else you'll be seeing a whole slew of blog posts about how crazy I am going. Dear Lord, no!