Wednesday, April 30, 2014

In-Law Insanity

I would like to take a moment to complain about everyone's favorite derps, my in-laws. Actually, I would not like to take a moment...I must take a moment, or else I'm going to completely flip my shit.

As I mentioned in my last post, we have a 4-day weekend. And since I did not want them coming to bother us during our big stretch of weekend, my husband had them come Monday, Tuesday and today so they could spend time with Raelynn. It was as tortuous as it sounds. Worse, actually.

Tonight, I hit my limit and lost my mind. It's best if I just make a list of the ways they made my blood pressure skyrocket these last few days:
1) The mess.
Of-fucking-course they leave a mess everywhere. I don't know who is worse...MIL leaving food out that would otherwise sit out all night if not for me (or my husband) moving it into the refrigerator after she leaves...or FIL, who plays with Raelynn and leaves ALL her toys all over the fucking floor. He doesn't tell her to pick up things she's done playing with. He just lets her pile it everywhere. Which leads me to...

2) Broken things.
While in the middle of trying to calm her from having a meltdown, which was all FIL's fault (I'll explain in a second...) I step on one of the toys mentioned above. A half of a plastic mango from her toy food set and it breaks. Thanks asshat!

3) The meltdown.
Totally FIL's fault. He took every single book off her shelf (she has somewhere between 70 and 80 books now) and left them in the middle of her floor. One of them is a coloring/painting Dora the Explorer book. It came with crayons and washable paints (courtesy of my awesome parents). Raelynn wanted to play with it right then but we were sitting down to dinner. I told her we'd color and paint tomorrow and to come along. For once, MIL was actually helpful because she shouted at her husband for disregarding what I was saying. DO NOT undermine my parenting in front of my child. Even MIL learned that one already but FIL just can't get with the program. I yelled at him in English and despite not understanding a word, he took it as a cue that if he didn't knock it off, I'd likely beat him with my chair.

4) The phone. 
For whatever reason, when they come for dinner, neither one can seem to remember how to use a phone to call their son. You want to know where he is so fucking bad? YOU pick up the phone and call him. He's sitting in traffic! If he's got a business appointment, he always tells us. Stop nagging me to call him when you can call him yourself. I'll nag him when it's important, like when you guys piss me off endlessly and I want him to change the locks.

5) Tea, tea, tea.
Last week, my in-laws complained because we were about to run out of the expensive green tea. And yes, in case you are wondering, there are various grades of tea here and the best green teas cost a pretty penny. But they are very worth it. The thing with them though is that you only need to put a pinch in the bottom of your cup and then fill it with hot water. It will expand up in your cup. Both MIL and FIL pissed and moaned about how much they spent on that tea for us and now look! It's just about gone! Well, I'll have you know why it disappears so quickly...because when they come over, they fill several mugs with too many tea leaves, therefore creating a cup that consists of mostly leaves and a sip of tea. See exhibit A below...
For the record, you do not need that much tea in one mug. If you were making a whole pot of tea, this might be acceptable but not in your own personal cup. And they are the ones that do this and they are complaining about the price of the tea! Gah!!!!!!

6) Eat, eat, eat.
With MIL coming over, she of course HAS TO cook for us. Some days, it's actually very helpful, even if whatever she serves makes me want to gag. But what I hate even more than her cooking is her insisting I eat something particular. No, no, no. Yesterday, she had some dry, crumbly, flavorless mantou. For those of you who have never visited or lived in China, mantou is a type of Chinese bread. It is very glutinous and floury and has absolutely no taste. No salt. No sweet. It's just a blob of crap that I find a waste of calories. In a pinch, you CAN make it taste good by frying it in a pan and seasoning it with salt and garlic powder or using it to make quickie pizzas in your oven. But when MIL serves it, she wants you to eat it plain. There are a few different kinds of mantou and the one she brought yesterday is my least favorite of them all. I politely declined but she kept nagging me, telling me it was good for me. GOOD for me?!? Lady, you are off your rocker if you think this crappy-ass excuse for bread is going to improve my health. I'd get more nutrition from a Snickers bar.

Perhaps I wouldn't be so annoyed if my husband were home when they were here. It's not his fault. He can't control the traffic. But it just sucks ass to be stuck with Dumb and Dumber and have little escape from them. Well, at least they are gone now and my urge to kill is no longer rising, rising. I am going to cling to this very last shred of sanity that I possess with my dear life and enjoy my long weekend, which will hopefully remain in-law-free for the entire duration.

The Incompetent Picture Lady

Today is a happy day. It's Wednesday here, but it feels like Friday. Because in a way, it IS Friday. We have off Thursday and Friday for the Chinese Labor Holiday, making it a 4-day weekend of funness. And then when we return to school on Monday, we get to ease back into the workweek by celebrating Children's Day. Oh what? You thought we'd celebrate Cinco De Mayo? Oh how I wish. Actually, no, I don't wish. Because I'm too pregnant to drink myself silly with margaritas so some of you back home will have to do that for me. In any event, here, we'll be having activities for the kids like games and face-painting. Guess who gets to paint faces? Why yes, that would be me. We'll worry about that later though.

The children will also be doing a craft. They will make picture frames with the Korean teachers. So this week, parents were asked to send in a 4x6cm family photo for their child to put in the frame. Since Raelynn is a student, I had to make sure not to forget her photo. Lucky for us, there is a photo shop right down the street.

But unluckily for us, the woman that owns it is absolutely the most incompetent photo person.

I hate saying it because she genuinely is one of the nicest people I've met here. But I've always felt this way about her, since Raelynn was born. When we went to get Raelynn's US passport and citizenship, we went to her about passport size photos. She had no idea what the measurements were and guessed, telling us they would accept them. She also ignored the other requirements my husband had translated for her. And thus, we were stuck with a bunch of tiny photos of Raelynn we couldn't use and had to run out to a proper passport photo establishment near the US Embassy to get correctly sized passport photos (which was this photo at the end of this post, incidentally).

To be fair, she probably doesn't get our kind of clientele ever. Our neighborhood is on the north side of the city, which I believe I've mentioned that my friend Andrea once dubbed it "the part of Qingdao that time forgot." Still, it's remarkably sad that I could probably size and print photos more capably than she could.

I will say that she has printed out other photos of ours without incident. But for the photo I gave Jeremy, I was surprised at what I got.

Here's the jpg we gave her to print:

Yesterday when my husband came home, he asked me to walk with him to the photo place to pick up our photo. So while Dumb and Dumber (my in-laws) played with Raelynn, off we went. When we got there, Jeremy realized he'd forgotten his wallet. But that was okay with Incompetent Picture Lady (let's call her IPL for short) which is why I said before that she's totally one of the nicest people here. She gives us the photo and tells Jeremy he can pay her tomorrow. I'm very sad to say that I didn't take a picture of it. Because she gave us the photo you see above with about 2cm of a white bar going vertically down the right side, next to my husband.

"Why is there a white bar here?" I ask my husband. He asks IPL and she farts up this lovely excuse, which Jeremy then translated for me:
"It's because this picture is a close-up. Your heads are too big."

"Um, what?" I say, equal parts amused and perplexed. "Raelynn's head is not big. My head certainly is not big. Perhaps it is YOUR head she's referring to," I tell him. I mean really. He has huge head.

But big head or not, that does not explain why this woman is so incompetent with sizing photos. Isn't that her job? HOW is it hard to print a photo to the size specified?

Then, Jeremy asks me, "why did you choose THIS photo?" Like it's MY fault the photo has a white bar down the side. Because I chose this photo. Seriously? I chose it because it was taken recently and all 3 of us look good. Some of our other photos have Raelynn looking away or make me look hideous. Other are great but for they are selfies and I've managed to cut off the top of my husband's gigantic head yet again with my aim. This one was perfect because all of us were in the frame and looking good.

IPL says she can cut off the bar but the length will be shorter than 6cm. I can't help but laugh. I mean, this is funny, isn't it? This is SO China. Bless her heart, she is kinder than you can possibly imagine, which I do appreciate in a place where customer service has either not yet existed or been trampled to death and cooked on a street vendor's grill. But I have to ask...WHY wouldn't you just create the photo to the size you were asked to create it? WTF?!?
Yes, yes. My thoughts EXACTLY!

And just like that, she chopped off the 2cm of white bar and I instantly regretted it for I should have taken a picture of it first. But I think you still get the picture.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New Facebook Page!

Dear friends, family and fans alike,

I've recently created a page for my blog on Facebook. So for those of you who don't know me personally that would love to connect on Facebook too, now's your chance!

Click here to visit my page and be sure to like it!

Thanks as always for your love and support!
From your favorite snarky blogger, JQ.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Home Repairs: The Chinese Way

For the last couple of weeks, we've been having some issues with our kitchen sink. It's been leaking. So much so that my husband and I discussed the possibility of turning it into a swimming pool/kitchen kind of thing. But alas, we agreed having just a kitchen would be most practical. Plus, we didn't want it to become worse and affect the people living below us. We called the repair guy that we usually call in for large messes such as this, because we do NOT want FIL taping things together. You've seen what my FIL has done to try to fix things, right? If not, please step right this way to here, here and here. There was no way we were letting him handle the sink situation.

The repair guy came and after some tinkering around, we figured that was the end of that. But later, after washing the dishes, I noticed the floor was wet again all around the sink. So he came back again, this time replacing some tubing underneath the sink. We thought for sure that THIS was the official end of the matter. But no. The next morning, we woke up to a very wet kitchen floor. Again, he came, and he fixed what he could (without charge) until he could come back for a longer stretch to repair it for good. The problem? The pipes inside the walls of this shitty building were causing the leak.

So on Friday, my in-laws sat here with our repair guy while he did a bang-up job on our pipes. I mean this quite literally. You HAVE TO see what he did. Of course my in-laws think this is normal but I hate it. But if this is my alternative to mopping up a swimming pool every time I wash a dish, then so be it.

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Well, these pictures are surely worth 1,000,000,000,000 words...
I was surprised when I came home from work to find the repair guy STILL working away. Even more surprising, he was working in our bathroom. Oh God. He's rerouting ALL the pipes. This should be interesting. I took this photo when I was running in to use the toilet. Being pregnant, I simply could not hold it any longer. I was annoyed because our washing machine was so close to the toilet now.
And here was why! He changed the spigot to be against this wall instead of next to the radiator. So this was as close as it was getting to the wall. I was furious. How am I supposed to take a shower in this place now?!? Or comfortably sit on the toilet?!? Gah!

Lucky for me, my husband called saying to get Raelynn dressed and ready - we were having dinner with his boss and one of his clients. I was relieved, for one, that I didn't have to be trapped inside my house with my in-laws and the repair guy. No offense to the repair guy. And for another, I wondered how in the world I could possibly make dinner with pipes and crap all laid out across my kitchen floor. Or worse...what if MIL insisted on cooking for me? I swear I would have chased her away with the pieces of pipe on the floor if she even tried.

When we came home, the disaster area had all been cleaned up. But the aftermath was still just as intriguing. Here is what it looks like now...
The new pipe comes out from under the sink cabinet...

 And into this cabinet...

 And out the cabinet and on up it goes...
 And up, into this small extra storage cabinet we have above the kitchen door. Or should I say "had" because look at it of the doors to the cabinet is missing (perhaps FIL stashed it away so he could tape it to one of our walls for later use). We can't even cover that up so we're stuck with half a cabinet!
 See?!?!? Geez! Only in this country!
 So through the cabinet it goes out into the entryway of our apartment, by the coat rack.
 And above our door...
 And into the wall just above the bathroom door...

 Why, yes! That IS another over-the-door cabinet that has now been rendered gimpy. I feel like hitting myself in the face with a brick.
 Down it goes along the wall...
Under the bathroom sink...
Behind the toilet...
 Into a clusterfuck of pipes! WTF!
 I will say that at least he raised this spigot up so we could get the washing machine back up against the wall. That I appreciate because the thought of standing in or on my toilet while I showered made me extra, extra, extra stabby.
 And the whole thing ends here, connecting to our water heater for the shower.
Here is the bathroom now. Or rather, before I scrubbed it like crazy this morning. As I did the rest of the house. It was so grimy in here. Now it feels better but it's just so weird having all these insane pipes and half-complete cabinets around.

But at least there's good news in all of this: there's no more leaking in the kitchen. A small victory.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Do You Feel Like Chicken Tonight?

After today, I may very well never feel like chicken tonight, tomorrow or any day in the foreseeable future. I am scarred for life after being greeted by this image at 7:30am...
Why, yes, they are bags of whole, dead chickens with their freakish feet poking out. Chinese people find this totally normal. I, however, have still not adjusted to something like this. Chinese people also LOVE eating the feet. I. Just. Can't. I can't. And I'm an adventurous eater but there is something so bile-inducing about being presented with chicken feet.

These were dropped off at the school sometime prior to our arrival this morning. I had forgotten my camera but my friend and fellow kindergarten teacher, Jon, helped me out by snapping these photos. Not pictured: the gaggle of high school students that stopped to gawk in disgust at these as well. See? I'm not the only one that finds unprepared chickens frightfully horrendous. Also, the thought that today's lunch could be sitting out unrefrigerated for a while (and perhaps was already sitting out long before we all came along) AND on the dirty floors of the lobby of the school made me completely gag. 
Yum or yuck? For me, it's a big yuck. So much so that I bought kimbap from the school store so I would have something to eat.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Let It Go

If you've been watching the news at all lately, no doubt you've noticed that the MH370 updates have been replaced by the horrific Korean ferry tragedy. And if you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you probably noticed that I love Korea. I considered it a second home. It's why I felt so comfortable teaching at a Korean school here in China. I know the culture. The food. And I know a bit of the language too.

The disaster with the ferry made my heart ache because for one thing, I'm a mom. For another, I'm a teacher. I understand this pain that the families feel and I am so sorry for their loss.

Despite that everyone grieves in their own way, I was perplexed by the Education Ministry in Korea banning all school field trips until at least June. You can read about that here and find many more articles about it in a simple Google search. I know that many parents are concerned about big overnight trips right now, and perhaps now is not the best time for students to take them. But even day trips are being banned. That's right. No trips to the parks or the zoos or anything of the sort.

My school has decided to jump on this bandwagon as well and thus, our plans for Children's Day on May 5th have been changed. Instead of enjoying a gorgeous spring picnic at one of the nearby parks, we'll be doing something at school, most likely involving a few games, some crafts and face-painting. Last year, the principal cancelled our spring picnic because of the bird flu (even though she didn't care if they played outside on the soccer field or playground where birds can also get to). This year, it's because a ship of students sadly sunk into the sea.

I mean absolutely no disrespect regarding this incident. It is incredibly sad and if the captain hadn't been such a coward, coupled with how Korean culture forbids you from questioning authority, perhaps this would have been an entirely different turn of events. But as it stands now, 150 people have been confirmed dead and another 152 are still missing. In Korean culture, it is all about being a whole unified group. So even for people who didn't know any of those aboard this doomed ship, they are mourning as well. I get this about Korea and Koreans and I feel them, truly I do.

That being said, I find it a bit much to ban ALL trips. Even day trips? How do your kids get to and from school? What if the bus they take to and from school has an accident? If you drive them, what if YOU have an accident? Shouldn't you keep your children home if you're so worried that something horrible might happen to them out in the world? What if some idiot in your building leaves the gas on and blows it up?

Before you think I'm so harsh, I'll have you know that death terrifies me. It frightens me to my core and to even think of something happening to my daughter, my husband, my brother, my parents, or any of my relatives or friends, makes me ill. What if this? What if that? If you know me personally, you know that as excited as I am to have my second child, I am completely freaked out about having a second c-section. What if I die? What if something happens to Raelynn while I'm in the hospital recovering? What if? What if? WHAT IF????

We - and by we I mean all of us, especially myself - need to let go of that fear. Because fearing everything isn't living, is it? If I spend my days freaking out about the what ifs, then I miss the beautiful moments in between now and my time to go, which I hope and pray isn't until I'm old and senile and while I'm sleeping. And God forbid it isn't, then I've wasted precious time panicking about something I potentially can not control.

Every day when we leave for work, I hug and kiss my husband goodbye. And I hold my daughter tight. Because if something awful should happen to any of us that is beyond my control, I can at least make the moments I have with the people that make my world complete wonderful memories. And if all goes well, I store up a collection of beautiful moments that make me smile when I'm having a rough day at work. It's these sweet moments that make our lives worth living.

I've lost enough family and friends in my life to know the sting of death. It leaves a scar that never goes away. I can't live every moment afraid that people I love will suddenly cease to be. Or think that way about myself. Which I sometimes need to remind myself about. Bad things happen in this world and there are risks to be had in every single thing we do, from eating to swimming to driving to flying, and being so terrified of them that you don't live your life is no way to spend the time you've got. It's like a prison of your own making. I'm guilty for being my own warden at times in my life. But as I look at my daughter, so happy and full of life, so friendly and open each day, I know that for her sake, I must drop these heavy suitcases filled with my fears and just let it go. 

Weird Science

It's Science Week at school which means my students had to create science projects for homework and bring them in. Which really just means their parents did all the work and put their children's names on them because, let's face it, kindergarten children can't exactly do a science project all by themselves. Not like the big kids of course, which incidentally, if you never saw my Engrish Science Projects post from last year, now is the perfect time to check it out.

So what kinds of stuff did they bring in? Take a look:
 On the left, is an interesting project from my student, Adella. She's one of my good kids and although I'm not sure what this proves scientifically, her use of that clay gunk and glue is outstanding. The photos of her cutely putting this thing together at the bottom are also a nice touch. On the right, another student of mine, Roy, has included blobs of clay with crap in them which I am guessing is his attempt at making fossils. He also has employed the use of including pictures of his adorable little face on the project.

 There are some posters of typical things which you can see slivers of, like the one of outer space on the right and just above it is a dinosaur poster (which my friend Patrick made for his son, Tommy. I mean, Tommy slaved all night long to create that beautiful dinosaur poster...). But the focus here is my student, Gaon's x-ray display. Which I'm quite sure his father drew. This kid, sweet as he is, can not draw anything remotely resembling any object no matter what I ask him to draw.

 I was intrigued by this box of crap. I'm not sure what's happening here. I thought that stick was so I could fish for things but it looks somewhat incomplete in there. Maybe it is just supposed to be a box of crap.

 And while I was trying to make sense of the box of crap, I discovered this gloriously odd item. What is it? Fuck if I know. It looks like a Lego-man made from a bottle and yellow paper. Not very scientific if you ask me.

 Speaking of Lego-man, he and his friends are passed out drunk inside this robot head...

 One of my particularly smart students, Karo, made this wind-powered car. It looks like his mom let him do some of the work himself. Also, please note our "do not touch" signs in the background. Do you think that stopped my students from fiddling with things? Of course not.

 Anny, although extremely bright, probably watched her father put this windmill together for her.

 Ella put together this airplane. I suspect she did it herself too. She's pretty crafty.

Tony, while being the smartest in the class, could not have done this by himself. Again with the photos of his cute little mug plastered everywhere too!

But of all of these, my favorite...yes, even more loved than the Lego-man bottle this Space Baby contraption:
 This was done by a student in the 5-year-old class. She's the little sister of one of my students from last year. This is not a picture of her though. This is a picture of her younger sister who is quite a cute baby, no?

Why a baby on a spaceship? I have no earthly idea. Maybe that's where she thinks babies come from - outer space. Personally, I just think it should win based on how insanely adorable it is, even if it completely lacks anything to do with science as we know it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I Banish Thee To The Couch!

Yesterday, Raelynn's teacher, Kelly, told me that they would be making strawberry milk today. She asked me to bring a small carton of milk and 10 strawberries. I was pleased to do so, and quite relieved we had those exact things in our home already. I didn't need to wander down the street in search of strawberries and then argue with some crook who would try to push down on the scale to make the weight read higher than the bag. It's why Jeremy does the shopping at the markets. No one cheats him.

As it was Monday, my in-laws came over for dinner. When my husband came home, we caught up about our days and I told him all about how Raelynn was going to make strawberry milk with her class. She even told him how excited she was about this activity and my husband was absolutely delighted that she would be doing something so fun in her class.

Fast forward to this morning when we're getting ready for school. My husband asks what he should pack us for our snacks and I remind him to grab the milk and the strawberries for Raelynn. And then, this shits out of his mouth:
"The strawberries? I gave them to my mom last night."

"YOU WHAT?!?!?" I shriek at him, absolutely floored that he would do such a thing.

"I gave the strawberries to my mom because they were good strawberries," he explains stupidly, as I continue to sear him with a burning gaze of rage.

"WHY would you do that?!? I told you Raelynn is going to make strawberry milk with her class today and you STILL gave them to that woman?!? Why didn't you give her those fucking apples that you keep trying to pawn off on me? You just HAD TO give her one of the fruits that I want to eat AND that Raelynn needs to bring to school!"

My husband hung his head in shame. And he should. He totally fucked it up there. It pisses me off to no end that he thinks about making his mom happy at the sake of taking from us. Now I'm not saying he shouldn't be kind and give her nice things, but for fuck's sake, if the strawberries look that awesome at the market, buy her a bag of them too! Don't give her our bag of them! Especially when I tell you I'll need some of those strawberries for our daughter to take to school.

I was going to tell Jeremy that he had to sleep on the couch tonight. Or in the toilet. But he slapped on his sneakers and bolted out the door, returning 10 minutes later breathlessly clutching a bag of strawberries. And now I'm not as angry with him. I love my husband. I don't want to make him sleep on the couch. But I DO want him to think twice before he does anything this idiotic again.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Go Away!!!!!

Not that long ago, my in-laws and I came to an agreement. The arrangement. And what that basically consists of is this: my FIL comes to meet me where the school bus drops Raelynn and me off so he can carry her sleeping-angel-face home; MIL cooks us dinner 3 times a week and she and FIL spend some time with Raelynn since they don't spend all day every day with her anymore. It was supposed to make all of us happy.

And it really, truly did make my life easier. Especially FIL helping me get from the bus to our home. Plus some nights, it IS nice to have someone else cook so I can just relax.

But not tonight.

After FIL helped me bring sleeping Raelynn upstairs, laid her on the couch and left, I took out some chicken breast. I had grand visions of making chicken parmigiana and eating something non-Chinese. As the chicken began to thaw and I scrolled through my newsfeed on Facebook, I heard our door open ever so quietly. And I snarled in anger. See, my in-laws came for dinner on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Today is Friday. We agreed to 3 days of dinners with them. Not 4. And on Wednesday, FIL had brought me a whole Chinese-style roasted chicken. I couldn't even cook that night because they left me with things that were already cooked.

Not surprisingly, my husband has yet to respond to my text inquiring as to why there is a horrid troll running amok in my kitchen. Okay, I worded it much more politely than that and perhaps he is legitimately busy at work, but seriously...WHY THE FUCK IS SHE HERE?!?!?!?

I don't want Chinese food afuckinggain this week. I want to eat what I want to eat. Bitch better move out of the way...I'm making myself some hotdogs so I don't starve and then once I'm full and not in a stabby mood, I will ask my husband to remind her that I do truly appreciate the help but I LIKE COOKING and some nights I NEED MY KIND OF FOOD. And whatever it is she's in there making right now smells like burnt sand (if there is such a thing) and low tide at the pier. This can't be good. Save me, hotdogs. You're my only hope!
Photo from Wikimedia.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Happy Birthday, Precious Raelynn!

It's incredible to think that three years ago, I went through one of the most difficult labor and delivery situations to soon find myself holding this darling creature:

I know that giving birth is, for women, something seemingly so ordinary, done routinely for eons. But for me, it was an extraordinary experience. One that changed my husband and me forever. And we are so thankful for this beautiful daughter who has been, at times, a sleep-depriving challenge, but more often than not, one of the most amazing blessings we have ever been given in our lives.

Here is my open letter to my sweet Raelynn. I hope she reads it when she's old enough...

Dear Raelynn,

You are an absolute treasure to both your father and me. We have cherished every moment with you, even the difficult ones, because even then, it made us closer. In these last three years, you have grown so much. Not just in size, but also socially and emotionally. For me, one of the most amazing things was realizing I was having a real conversation with you. Or when we shared our first inside joke - brush your teeth, not your lips! You thought this was so funny, and I laughed so hard, genuinely happy with my life because you make me so happy to be alive.

When your daddy and I are away from you, we hurt. It's why we almost always take you every place we go because we love being with you. We love your smile. We love your laugh. We love teaching you about the world and hope that as you grow, you will help to make this world a better place.

One of my favorite things is when you say "family" because you say it "famwee." It is just so cute and it makes us so happy that we are your family. And it's not just Daddy and me who are happy to have you in our lives...your Grandpa and Grandma, Papa and Mimi, Uncle Phillip and Aunt Kimmy, your friends and your teachers all love you because you are so sweet and funny, and you make us all so happy.

As you turn 3 and start on your way to becoming 4, I hope that you will grow even stronger, learn even more, have lots of fun and be kind to your little sister when she's born. She can never take the love we feel for you away - that is yours and yours alone.

I am so grateful to have you in my life. I can't wait to see what kind of wonderful things you do next.

Love always,
Mommy and Daddy

Raelynn's first birthday...

 Second birthday...

And now, the big 3! Happy 3rd Birthday to our beautiful Raelynn!

We hope all your wishes come true, even if you are just wishing you can eat that whole cake yourself. That IS what you're thinking in this other photo, isn't it? That's my girl!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

MIL Gets A Gold Star!

I hope you are sitting as you read this. If not, find a chair because you will totally fall on your ass when you see this. Look what MIL bought for Raelynn:
 She bought these 3 tank tops. In the right size. Without any stupid crap on them. Just 3 tank tops, in 3 attractive colors. I KNOW. How did this happen? Was it a fluke? Did someone help her? Did she FINALLY listen to what I've been telling her about matching things and not buying clothes with ugly pictures on them and/or nonsensical English?

She also bought this pink-striped racer-back. I'm amazed. I was so proud of her, I clapped. I CLAPPED. Hey, I want to reinforce this good shopping behavior, lest she revert to her old this, for example.

So what do you MIL turning over a new fashion leaf? Or is this just a stroke of dumb luck on her part? The suspense is killing me!

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Yuck Strikes Back!

I was planning on writing this post over the weekend, because on Saturday, I discovered the latest yuck in my series on all things yuck. If you missed the originals, please see Yuck of the Day, Return of the Yuck, and Revenge of the Yuck. Why did I withhold this late-breaking (not really) news? Well, on Saturday, I found the latest yuck while giving the house a thorough cleaning. Something I can no longer do after school because I'm too tired and pregnant. Unfortunately, I also came down with a sore throat AND a code 10 migraine (which lasted all through Monday, incidentally) but have no fear, I am finally on the mend.

So whilst cleaning on Saturday, I discovered MIL had again put some green, leafy vegetables between the window ledge and the refrigerator in our kitchen. Just like Revenge of the Yuck. Oh MIL! COME ON! Use the fucking refrigerator!

Check it out. My apologies for the shiteousness of these photos but it's not my usual incapability to take decent photos of abstract items this time. It's because there are GNATS buzzing around this. I took these 2 photos of this yuck and promptly took out the garbage. YUCK!

A quick but craptastic shot of what's inside is all you need to feel my pain. It's Spring now so vegetables go much more quickly when you leave them out. Or hide them on the floor under a box next to the refrigerator and the kitchen know, whatever floats your boat. This was cilantro, incidentally. In Winter, I am less bothered by leaving things like this out because it is so cold and our kitchen stays like an ice box. Flies don't come around then. But I am opposed, in every season, to sticking any kind of vegetable, root or leafy, on the side of the refrigerator, on the floor no less, so that it spoils because no one but an ancient troll who comes over a few times a week is aware that it is there. I better start putting Jeremy on vegetable patrol or else I predict MIL will stash something there that will draw every bug within 1,000 miles to come visit our kitchen. Urgh...I sure hope I'm wrong!

Friday, April 11, 2014

No Excuses!

Let me tell you all about a boy in my class this year. I'll refer to him from here on out as Heathen, which, if not for a few extra letters (and one missing one) would totally be an anagram for his real name.

I've dreaded having Heathen in my class since last year. He's actually a bright boy, so you think I'd be delighted to have him in my class. But his behavior, like most Asian boys here, is ridiculous. Here is a boy who leaves a mess and has to be reminded at least 100 times to pick it up. Who tattles on EVERYONE and when he does, the things he tells me about are not punishable offenses. Who spends his play money like it's going out of style and has to work it off with writing assignments. Who visibly disappears into his own mental world, much to the confusion of the rest of us.

Yes, Heathen is a very special boy. But it's not because he has any actual medical problems. It's because he's an only child. Now, before you only children out there start in on me, I will tell you there is nothing wrong with ALL only children. But when it comes to Asian children, particularly the boys, they are spoiled beyond all spoiling. They are never held accountable for their actions. They are worshiped. They can do no wrong.

This week, during Cake Week, I had the opportunity to meet with Heathen's mother. She's nice enough but she confirmed what I'd suspected: Heathen was indeed an only child. Before I met with her, I had witnessed Heathen, who is bright enough to do his own assignments, get another student to try to complete his work for him. I couldn't even believe it. I've seen lots of things while teaching kindergarten, but never this. I have a play money system in place to reward and/or punish the children. So I charged Heathen and the girl he got to do his dirty work $5 in play money each. I lectured them on the importance of doing their own work. And I told Heathen's mom, who was as disappointed as I was.

Later in the week though, I caught Heathen doing it AGAIN! This time he convinced another boy in the class to finish his work. And again, I punished Heathen and the other student.

On that same day, I noticed that another boy in our class had his play money envelope in his book box but not secured in the plastic folder where graded homework and class work are to go. I tell the students to keep their play money in the folder to keep it safe. But something came up with one of the other children and I became distracted from telling this other boy to secure his envelope.

During the next class, Heathen got in trouble for speaking Korean. He got up to pay me and as I was continuing the lesson, Heathen interrupts to tell me this other boy's envelope is not where it should be. I call the other boy up to fix it and that's when the other boy discovers his money is missing. When I'd seen it just before, I could clearly see money inside of it. Now I was angry. I checked Heathen's folder and lo and behold, there was this boy's money. I knew how much money Heathen should have had because he had spent all his money paying various fines earlier and had to do a writing assignment to earn money. He had less than $10 in play money before but now suddenly had much more. I left him with $5 and gave the rest back to the other boy. I scolded Heathen and explained to the whole class that I never wanted this to happen again, to anyone. I made Heathen write "I will not steal" in his notebook too.

At lunch, I told my Korean teacher, Christina, what had happened. She agreed this was very serious and said because of the severity of the situation, she would speak to Heathen's mom about this herself. That was yesterday.

Today, Christina tells me that Heathen's mom said that Heathen didn't understand what he was supposed to do when he spent all his money. She asked that we write about that in the weekly newsletter so she can understand better and explain it to him. Understand my foot, lady. Now I'm pissed.

Dear Mom In Denial:

Your son UNDERSTANDS. It is not the first time he's spent all his money from speaking during lessons, running down the hall, hitting another classmate or breaking any of the other class rules. HE KNOWS. When he has no money, he tells me and he gets his notebook and a pencil because HE KNOWS he has a writing assignment to complete so he can earn more money. This has been explained to all of the children, in both English AND Korean. He knows this even better than the others because he has had close to 10 of these kinds of writing assignments to earn more play money. Just flip though his English notebook.

You making excuses for him is pathetic.

How about saying, "I'm so sorry. I understand this is a very serious situation. I will make sure to talk to my son about this so it never happens again." But no. You made excuses for him. Just like every mom that raises a sociopath for a child. I know how much it sucks to punish your child for things. I know it must be embarrassing too, but you are the parent and you must exert control over your child. Keep making excuses for Heathen and watch him turn into an adult that can't do a damn thing for himself. That can't hold down a job. That manipulates those around him into doing things he should be doing for himself. Or even worse, the kind of person that will grow up and walk into a public place and kill innocent people.

Yes, you.
You are to blame for this kind of shit when you don't force your child to take some sort of responsibility for his actions. He is not an infant, or even a toddler. He is 7. He knows better. He knew it was wrong but he did it anyway. If my brother or I did something like this when we were that age, we would have been forced to apologize to our teachers and classmates and we would have had to make a big show of returning what we'd taken. But not Heathen. Oh no. He's too precious to be accountable for his behavior.

I'm a mom too. I love my child just like you love yours. But as wonderful as my daughter is, she is not incapable of making mistakes. It's my job (and my husband's job too) to help her learn from and correct those mistakes. If my daughter did what Heathen did, you better believe I would be embarrassed. I would be very upset to hear of it, but I would be glad to know so that I could help her learn, grow and become stronger from this situation. If you really love your son, you'll do this kind of favor for him instead of sweeping the problem under the rug and making stupid excuses for him. Because believe me, I don't want to be watching the news in 15 to 20 years and see Heathen's mugshot on there accompanying a story about how he shot up a mall. And neither do you.

Welcome To Cake Week

After one month into the first semester at school, we always hold our parent-teacher conferences for one week. But last year, the other kindergarten English teacher and I decided to forever call it "Cake Week" instead. This name is much more fitting since every parent that comes in to meet with you to discuss their child's progress comes with a cake in hand. Sure, having meetings with parents is a bit of a drag. But free cake? Now that's just awesome.

Don't believe me? Please, take a look...
First up, a Japanese-style cheesecake. Many of the moms favor this store. To get one of these is one of the greatest food gifts of all here, in my opinion.

Here's the Japanese cheesecake itself. It's so light and fluffy, very cake-like, yet very creamy. It is deliciously evil.

Another mom gave me a giant box of these awesome chocolate covered almonds. While not technically cake, getting this made my day.

Because I have 20 students, and the potential to receive 20 cakes, I can't eat them all. Well, perhaps I could but even as much as I love cake, I simply cannot bring myself to eat all of it myself. So some of my cakes, I've stashed at work and cut up to share with the other teachers. Here's my Korean teacher, Christina going for a piece of one of those cakes. Yes, there are cakes I neglected to photograph. My bad.

 On another day this week, this is what I brought home...a chocolate cake (pictured below), a scrumptious cheesecake (on par with that Japanese cheesecake pictured earlier), an assortment of 3 different kinds of insanely yummalicious cookies (from the Japanese bakery) and a brownie. And this was just what I brought home. I gave away one cake, which I actually didn't want to do. Christina put me on the spot and asked me if she could give it to Ali, the part-time Korean teacher who we have for the 6-year-old class. I had stashed that cake and another one in the fridge to share with all of the kindergarten teachers in the morning. How could I say, "Well, she didn't earn this cake so no. I'm not giving it up." It's what I wanted to say but I smiled and handed it over. As long as no one tries to take one of my cheesecakes...
 I would have gotten in a fight if I had to part with this chocolate cake. No fucking's MY cake and it's coming home with me so my husband and daughter can eat the bulk of it. I teach 20 kids every day. Ali has 7 students. Her life is easy. I win. Cake cake cake!

 I also received this delectable box of Italian chocolates. GOD! These are so sinfully chocolatey. Christina got a box of them too and like me, hoarded them. They are THAT good!

Why yes, it's another Japanese cheesecake from the same bakery. When I received this one, we still had part of the first one we received in our fridge. Don't will get eaten!

Here's an assortment of strange cookies that one of the moms sent in for all the teachers. It was really sweet of her to get something for everyone in the department. The orange-colored cookies were very hard but very good. I stayed away from the others. They reminded me of bland Chinese snacks.

Here is one of the few non-cake gifts I received. One of the moms made me this pencil holder. I'm not currently stashing pencils in it though. I was using it to hold some of my bottles of juice, which we all received as gifts. Some moms will bring you a box of 12 bottles of juice and we always split them up between all the teachers. Not pictured: about 7 bottles of various flavors of juice that, by the end of the day Friday, had accumulated on my desk.

But you know what's just as great as getting tons of cakes? Getting Engrish with those cakes. My box of chocolates came in this gorgeous flowered bag. I tried to take about 100 photos of the words but every time, they came out blurry. I eventually gave up. Can't make it out? Here's what it says:
Gift to you
Life is a paper white, there on each of
us may write his word or tow.

How exquisitely poetic! May I have a word or "tow" with you too? Sigh. I'm in love. Though, this next one takes the cake, pardon the pun...

That non-Japanese cheesecake also has some priceless packaging...
Again, I tried desperately to photograph it but as you can see, I just suck. In any event, here's what it says:
Pay attention, there is a fully new taste go public. It is healthy,
delicious. It really is the best snack for all of you.

It's hard for me to choose which one of these I love more. The first one is so charming, but yet, this almost passive-aggressive-scolding-Asian-mom-style translation really warms my heart too.

As Cake Week comes to an end, I'm left with way too much cake, despite my best efforts to share it with others. I sadly did not photograph all the cakes given to me. So just imagine a refrigerator full of cake (and some farty-smelling dumplings or whatever the hell it was MIL made us eat yesterday) and that's what I'm working with. Once the cakes go, at least I will always have the Engrish to make me smile.