Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Losing My Marbles

With a title like that, you probably think I'll be launching into my next tirade about MIL, but this one's about school. And it's really not that much of a rant. Just a bit of whining.

See, for the last few years, ever since I started this job, I used play money in my classroom. The idea was to use it to reward my students for good behavior and completing tasks and to punish them for breaking the rules. It also had the added benefit of teaching the children to keep track of their money and having them learn how to take pride in saving it. By the end of each school year, none of my children ever spoke Korean during lessons. And every single one of them could count all their money by themselves. Not one parent ever complained to me or the school about it.

Until this year.

When I came back from maternity leave, I'd found that my Korean teacher and kindergarten director, Christina, had told the substitute not to use my play money system. Long story short, I was told that now my class size was 16, down from 20, and that 2 of the students left because of my system. I highly doubted that was true and my Western boss, Patrick, had the same feeling. But he's a fair guy so he had me send home a letter to the parents asking them to rate the play money system and write any comments they had. Patrick said if it was only a few parents complaining, we could ignore it, but if not, we'd have to tweak the system a little bit.

Incidentally, I seriously call bullshit on any of those children leaving because of the play money system. One boy left to go to ISQ, the best and most expensive international school here. Two girls and a boy left to go to Chinese school instead which often happens when families plan to stay in China for a while, or if they are half Chinese. One girl left but I was never told the reason. Her English was outstanding and she was well-behaved so she'd won at the end of a couple of months for having more money than the others, so I doubt her mom would have complained about that. And the other child that left was that The Chihuahua and while we're all delighted he's not there, his parents didn't pull him out because of the play money system. By the way, I'm sure you're doing the math and saying that doesn't add up. True that I suck ass at math, my math is not off here. I had 2 new students when I returned, and thankfully, both of them are great kids.

So the letters went home and then they came back. Most of the comments were in Korean so we had them translated. Two comments were written in English and those parents rated my system well. They expressed that they liked the system for its' many benefits and felt it was important to use to help teach the children how to mind their manners, be responsible and keep track of money, among other things. I had a few others saying they also liked the play money system.

And then there were about as many negative comments. But the comments were absolutely ridiculous. I do believe people are entitled to their opinions but, when someone basically tells me "I think you should only use it to reward the children," or "it causes children to tattle" (newsflash - EVERYTHING causes children to tattle!) I think their opinions are stupid. If you dislike the system, so be it, but don't make up idiotic reasons to tear it down. The worst was someone complained their child never won and was always losing money. That was likely someone whose child broke our class rules and didn't do their work. But no, that's all MY fault, isn't it? Couldn't be your child's fault now, could it? They ran down the hall so just blame me because it's not like I don't have "No Running" posted in our classroom or I don't tell them not to run every time they get up from their desks. Nope.

This group of children and their parents are unlike any other group. Their level is the absolute lowest I've had. And it's no wonder - the parents don't hold their children accountable for their behavior and don't have them study anything outside of school. Once they go home, they're overindulged and watch things in Korean. They don't practice anything in English. Yet their parents expect a miracle. I have about 5 students that are doing awesomely because their parents actually push them to. One is Heathen who, as you may recall, has other issues but his English skills aren't one of them. He has a tutor 2 days a week and it shows. He's weird and annoying, but talking to him in English is a treat. Like today on the playground. I see him picking his nose. So I tell him, "Hey Heathen, don't pick your nose. That's gross." And freak that he is, turns to me and says, "But I like picking my nose." Lovely.

Anyway, we decide that we should just change the system and make it simpler because obviously this is too much thinking for these people to do. We change it to marbles. The moms send in clear plastic milk bottles and the school orders me marbles. I tweak my system a bit and send home an updated list of rules, along with a list of what will be rewarded with marbles and what behaviors will cause students to lose their marbles. Christina explains to the children in Korean after I tell them in English.

And the marble system is going great. It looks prettier too and I don't have to make tons of copies of paper money, cut it out, laminate it and cut it out again. Christina also made a sign for it because our Open Class is this week. Tomorrow, actually. And somehow, I'm not nervous, though ask me if that's still true tomorrow.

It looks nice, huh?

But wait...what's THAT? That sign, between the bottles...
"Caught...being good." Oh and yes, to my best friend Lauren who loves Overboard as much as I do, someone DID give their child the English name of Roy. It brings me great joy every day to picture Kurt Russell saying, "His name is Travis." Ahhhh.

In any event, while I did come up with "Shoot for Success" on the sign (Christina just helped make it pretty because she's awesome like that), I did not sign off on this little thing. Which she mounted on foam board and was all proud of. Oh. God. No.

She originally wanted to put it on the good sign, just to the right of "for" but I told her I didn't like it there. She was so proud of it I couldn't tell her I hated it. And she's one of my bosses so I can't just tell her that her idea is stupid. Oh Christina. I love you to pieces but noooooooooooooo. This is awful.

I relented and suggested putting it where you see it in the above photo. It was my hope that there, it's less noticeable. I know why she did it though.

Because of all these whiny give-my-kid-a-trophy-or-reward-for-everything parents. Christina was just trying to appeal to them. Sure, they get marbles for being good. But they lose marbles for being bad too. I get it. I truly do. But it doesn't mean it doesn't suck. I hate the way the future looks with these kinds of kids in charge of the world. That seriously scares me. And it should scare you too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

You know, I should start off with something positive. So let me just say that yesterday, MIL was helpful. I KNOW. Pigs must have been flying somewhere because she completely backed me up without undermining my parenting when Raelynn was throwing a tantrum.

The tantrum, incidentally, was about a cupcake. I'd made strawberry cupcakes with strawberry frosting, much thanks to my mom who sent the mix in a package. Seoul turned 100 days this weekend and we were spared a crazy celebration with all the relatives since in China, 100-day celebrations are a big deal. Well, we were spared until the upcoming weekend that is. Stay tuned for that. Anyway, I thought we should make our own small celebration for her so I made the cupcakes. And we ate them for her.

Since FIL has been banned from meeting us at the school bus stop each day, I've been working with Raelynn to keep her from acting out. I know it's really hard for her to keep from sleeping on the bus. Lord knows I try to keep her awake but she's just too tired and the ride is long. When she is woken up, she's disoriented and I totally understand how that must be for her. Yesterday, I spoke to her about this before we got on the bus. And while we were on the bus. I told her if she got off the bus without screaming and throwing a fit, I'd give her a cupcake when we got home. She was very good on the bus. Until she fell asleep and consequently, had to be woken up to get off the bus. The bus driver looked more than a little annoyed. At least that Chinese teacher refrained from offering candy to her this time.

I finally had to drag Raelynn off the bus and once I did, she screamed some more and tried hitting me. Talk about embarrassing! But before I had kids, I knew I'd have to prepare myself for embarrassing behavior. Like this for example. Because I was worried about her getting hit by a car (we were on the side of the road), my main focus was to get us on the sidewalk and out of any potential danger. Once I did that, I told her she blew it with the cupcake. She keeps yelling and saying she hates me now (I thought that didn't happen until the teen years) but I ignore her. And then she stops suddenly and completely switches gears. Now she's sorry. But I don't care. I say nothing and keep walking, holding her hand all the while and trying to think of something else so I don't fly into a rage.

She knows she's in big trouble and she's not getting that cupcake so now there are more tears. We get inside the house and I explain to MIL what happened. I was shocked and thrilled that she didn't fuck up my hard work because when Raelynn begged her for the cupcake, MIL refused to give it to her until I said it was ok. For ONE WHOLE FUCKING HOUR we listened to this kid scream and cry in her room. MIL went and cooked us food that wasn't too bad (seriously, sorry I have not documented the meals...I keep forgetting until it's too late) and I fed and snuggled Seoul.

Finally, Raelynn figured it out. She apologized for being a jerk. I didn't want to reward her though because I feared she'd think as long as she says she's sorry, even if it's not sincere, she'll get a treat. So I had her help me with some chores. And she really worked hard. So I offered her a cupcake for being a good helper.

Yes, yesterday was a good day for a Monday. Two steps forward.

Now it's Tuesday and we're taking two steps back. Way back.

Only a mini-tantrum today. Plus a big, unattended and mangy dog walked by us and that sufficiently spooked her into submission. I'll just remind her about the yucky dog from now on and I think that will achieve the desired results. When we get home, I see MIL has dressed Seoul in Raelynn's socks. Because she's too stupid to find the socks in Seoul's drawers, apparently. Because it makes SO much sense to put socks on a baby that are intended for a child 3 times the size. Perfect. So I tell her this and show her AGAIN where all the clothes are for the baby and just shake my head.

Next, it's dinner time. I've been busy bathing Seoul and trying to reach my brother on Skype for his birthday. Now Seoul is tired and I've put her to sleep. Raelynn comes to tell me it's time to eat. So I emerge from our room and I find only 2 things on the table:
1) Chicken wings, which she made yesterday. Not leftover, just a new batch. She makes good chicken wings but I don't want to eat the same thing 2 days in a row. She always does that kind of thing. My friend Lynelle suggested that she probably buys a bunch of the same thing and then just uses it until it's gone and that makes tons of sense. Only she makes those things the same way every single day. If she has cauliflower, she cooks it with sesame oil. For 5 days straight. Me, I can take cauliflower and find 5 different ways to make it during the week. I wish she could do that too.
2) Xifan. Because OF COURSE.

That's it. Nothing else. So I ask her where are the vegetables because I know Jeremy will shit a brick if there are no vegetables on the table and she then offers me baozi, those steamed stuffed bun things I hate, because those have vegetables in them, she tells me. *facepalm*

So I eat what I can, trying not to snarl in rage too much because there are 2 cupcakes left. Raelynn has eaten all of what MIL served her, which was my requirement for getting a cupcake today, so she is happily eating hers. Mine is sitting, waiting for me to finish this bland offering. But I want to set a good example for my daughter so I eat politely and then enjoy my cupcake.

As I go to throw out the cupcake wrapper, I see something odd in the garbage can. I realize what it is. It's a smoke detector a friend gave us before moving back to the US. A smoke detector that I've been nagging someone to get batteries for. Here (Korea too), smoke detectors aren't usually present in homes. It's the stupidest thing ever. Now ours is sitting toward the top of the trash with soggy tea leaves on top of it. I shout for MIL to come and ask her about it. She tells me it's broken. How would you know, you old moron? It's not broken! It needs batteries. What pisses me off about this is that she threw out something of ours without asking either one of us. She just ASSUMED. She didn't even know what it was. She probably thought it was a mini-spaceship or some shit. I explained to her what a smoke detector does. Then I told her don't throw out our things. This is someone who leaves garbage around the house like napkins and junk mail but throws out things that we want, need or use. That's probably why Raelynn's art smock disappeared. She didn't think there was a use for it. YET SHE KEEPS ALL KINDS OF OTHER USELESS SHIT! She once tried to dig out old power strips that had frayed wires from our garbage until I told her they were broken!

To make my point to her, I pointed at her shoes and asked her if she'd like it if I threw her things into the garbage. She said no. I then told her to please not throw out our things and to only throw out actual garbage. We'll see how that goes. We all know her track record, don't we?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Please Don't Give My Kid Candy

It's not that I'm opposed to candy. Hell, I love the stuff. Especially chocolate stuff. Oh man. And I surely don't mind Raelynn having some of it here and there. But if you read my post from yesterday, you know I don't want Raelynn getting any kind of treat when her behavior is bad. Unfortunately, other people are just as clueless as my FIL on this matter.

It never ceases to amaze me how many Chinese people can try to butt into something that doesn't concern them in the slightest. People on the street will come running up to us to tell us something idiotic about our children. When Raelynn was a tiny baby that couldn't even walk, a man ran across the street to tell me she wasn't wearing shoes. Yeah, no shit dumbfuck. I dressed her. She's A BABY. She can't walk yet. She doesn't need shoes. She's got thick socks on her feet to keep them warm and toasty.

But it doesn't end there with people telling you how to dress your kid. And by the way, no matter HOW you dress your kid in China, some fuckface will come up to you and tell you your kid is too hot or too cold. Yes, because YOU know what MY kid needs. Hey, I know what you need...a throat chop. Get lost! Yeah, people here are beyond nosy. I'm sure they're trying to be helpful so maybe I should cut them some slack but I am soooooooooooooooooo sick and tired of the stupidity here. I find myself shouting "Serenity now!" like George Costanza's crazy father in Seinfeld.

As promised, FIL didn't come to wait at the bus drop-off today. I tried to keep Raelynn from falling asleep on the bus but my efforts were all in vain. She was cranky when I woke her up, willingly flopping herself on the floor of the bus aisle and crying like a baby. I shout at her to move it or she's in for it and she miraculously obeys, though continues the crying. We're the second-to-last stop. A Chinese teacher gets dropped off last. I forget her name but she's wonderfully nice. She's helped me out before when Surly was, well, surly.

She and I were also pregnant at the same time. She had her first child, a daughter, 3 months before my Seoul was born. When I came back to work, we happily showed each other gobs of photos of our tiny babies. I generally like this woman. But today, I did not like her. Not one bit.

As we make our way to the front of the bus, Raelynn wailing away like the drama queen she often is, the Chinese teacher says, "Oh no! Don't cry! Have a piece of candy!" And I stop her. "Uh, no thanks. She doesn't need candy right now. She's not being very good," I explain. And I keep moving with Raelynn toward the exit and the Chinese teacher, who has understood exactly what I've said (her English is very good) tries again to give her the candy. "No," I say even more firmly this time, "She doesn't deserve candy for acting like this," and I physically have to push the candy away from my daughter before we get off the bus. Raelynn cries for about 2 more seconds and then promptly stops. We walk home and she behaves. She walks all by herself without me carrying her. She even carries a bag of sweet potatoes from our field trip to the ultra-lame potato farm (please don't ask, but if you're a friend of mine on Facebook, you can see the photos there).

I'm furious that people try to undermine my parenting here. FIL. People I know from work. Strangers even. Is everyone here really truly that socially awkward? Maybe I'm the one that's crazy but if a child's parent told me their child shouldn't have any candy, I wouldn't press the issue. I would stay out of it. Jeremy's even had enough of it. Not too long ago, Raelynn threw a fit at church and he took her out of there while I was outside the auditorium with Seoul. As I followed them, a Chinese lady and her small son followed, all the while the woman is telling her son to tell Raelynn not to cry. Seriously. People here just don't get it. It's no wonder children here are terrible. Why wouldn't they be? No one stops them from behaving like monsters. Oh she's crying, and not because she's hurt. She's crying because she didn't get her way. Here, let's give her a treat so we can reinforce that rotten behavior so she always acts like a jerk and cries for more candy. I'm sure she'll be a well-balanced adult. Yessssssssss!

I seriously think everyone needs to read this article about raising a generation of helpless children. Because it's true. Especially in China. I want to stay in touch with this Chinese teacher when we move. I want to see how her daughter behaves when she's Raelynn's age. It doesn't take a genius to predict that the girl will be a total brat thanks to her grandparents spoiling her and her own mother awarding her candies when she fails to obey her requests. Get ready for it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Great Going, Grandpa!

Thank goodness for Google searches so I can find the perfect images to illustrate my posts. This one's from here

Please read the title of this post with as much sarcasm as you can drip from your voice. Because FIL has outdone himself yet again in undoing the positive progress we've made in Raelynn's behavior.

Despite my repeated pleas, FIL comes to meet us at the bus drop-off each day. When I was pregnant with Seoul, this was very helpful because I couldn't carry a sleeping Raelynn and our bags off the bus, up the hill, down the street and up 6 flights of stairs. But now that I'm not pregnant, I welcome the strenuous exercise. It's the only workout I've got time for at the moment and FIL ruins it every day by being there. But with any luck, we'll be moving to the US soon enough so I think to myself, "What's the harm in letting him come to greet his eldest granddaughter when she gets home from school?"

Oh silly me.

I should have known there would be great harm in allowing this. After all, we remember what a maternity leave of daily outings to the park with her grandparents resulted in: crazy behavior at the US Embassy in Guangzhou.

Today, Raelynn had fallen asleep on the bus. Some days she doesn't, but today she did. I tried to wake her which resulted in a groggy toddler. She started to follow me but FIL came on board and she didn't want to go with him. I keep calling her from the door to come with me. The bus driver looks dull-eyed and annoyed. Certainly he wants to move on from here and go play mahjong for hours on end while drinking tons of beer and smoking tons of cigarettes, or whatever he does when he's not driving the bus. Finally, FIL just scoops her up and she kicks and screams and goes into full-blown tantrum mode.

We get her on the side of the road and she's completely flipping out. And then, she bites FIL. On his thigh. Savage. So, still carrying all our bags, I snatch her up and carry her, telling her things like "No!" and "We don't bite people! Wait until Daddy hears about this!" And she's upset but she's listening to me. Until I put her down a block away. Because I am wearing high-heeled boots and I cannot keep wobbling in them, with our bags and carrying her on this lumpy craptacular sidewalk. She's furious about this and flips out. She wraps her arms around one of my legs - classic toddler tantrum move - and I have to hobble down the sidewalk the rest of the way. Now instead of not wanting her grandpa, who she was saying she didn't like moments before, she says she doesn't like ME. Because I won't carry her anymore.

Of course that idiot feeds into this and allows her to behave this way, carrying her like a baby and giving into her demands. Once up the stairs and away from nosy morons on the street who kept trying to butt in (and were abruptly cursed at by yours truly), we enter our home. MIL is naturally curious about why Raelynn's crying this time so I explain to her what happened from the whole biting incident on forward. I tell Raelynn to go to her room until she can come out and tell her grandpa she's sorry, which she STILL had not done because he gave in to her.

She screams and carries on, while the actual baby in the house serenely peers at me from MIL's arms. She wiggles and reaches toward me and I'm so happy to see her little face again. She wants her milk boobs so I tell MIL to have Raelynn stay in her room until she says sorry to FIL.

I can hear everything from the bedroom but I can't do anything because Seoul is blissfully latched on and enjoying breastmilk straight from the tap. All I can do is send Jeremy WeChat messages from my phone, telling him all about it. Once Seoul finishes her meal, I take her with me to talk to Raelynn who has now stopped crying her eyes out.

She's fine, actually. And as I try to talk to her about why her behavior wasn't good, she tells me, "Grandpa gave me a piece of candy!"

"WHAT?!?" I say, stunned. And then I turned to him and asked him in Chinese, "Ni gei ta tang?!?" And that total imbecile says yes, because she was crying and he didn't want her to cry. Oh. My. GOD! What is wrong with him?!? I actually ask him this. I then tell him as politely as I possibly can in my poor Chinese that I don't want him to give her candy when she's been bad because then she thinks she can act out like that and get rewards. And he harped on the whole "but she was crying bit." Augh!

Jeremy gave him a big lecture when he got home but FIL didn't understand still. I asked my husband to explain to him that if he loves Raelynn, he sometimes needs to let her cry and be disappointed. One day she'll be in America and I don't want her acting this way. I would be absolutely embarrassed if she acted like this at my parents' house. Then again, my parents wouldn't be giving her candy if she'd been that rotten in their presence.

But one good thing did come of this incident - FIL said he won't wait at the bus stop tomorrow to punish her for biting him today. I don't know if that will work but hey, I'll be happy to not have him mess up my parenting.

Oh and in case you're wondering about MIL, let me just bitch about her for 2 seconds. See, I'm finishing this post after Raelynn's bedtime routine and after hanging out with my husband in the living room. We enjoyed some ice cream together while watching TV. When I went to serve him that ice cream though, I noticed something odd on top of our mammoth refrigerator. I tried taking photos but the flash whites it out completely and without flash, you can't see it, much thanks to the pathetic, paltry little light in our kitchen, so you'll have to envision what I'm about to describe...

On top of the refrigerator, I noticed a plastic food container (calling this wonky thing "Tupperware" is a stretch) covered with a clear plastic bag. Because she just can't ever figure out how to use lids. I saw it when I was opening up the freezer to get the ice cream. I opened the freezer door and stopped. I closed it and reached up to this foreign object. And I noticed with disgust that it had a leftover cooked fish dish inside of it. Leaving food out is totally MIL's calling card but this is a new one. I mean ON TOP OF THE REFRIGERATOR. You know, I'm not a tall girl at five-foot-four but I'm not short either. Still, I had to reach up to grab this thing. It required effort on my part. MIL is not taller than I am. She's not shrunken and short either. So she had to actually work at putting this container of food up there. Jeremy just laughed. And I'm sure you are too but I'm not. Because only a crazy person would do that and we are stuck leaving that crazy person to watch our precious baby. Lord!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Designed By FIL

It's been a hot minute since FIL has given us something to gawk at. Remember all this? Yeah. Just scroll through all that for a moment. I especially love this project.

FIL's been refraining from his half-assed repairs and decorating for a while. But today, he apparently couldn't help himself. I came home and saw this...
I love this silky scroll thing, by the way. We picked that out to replace all the horrible things that my in-laws had in this house when we moved into it. When I first saw this arrangement though, I thought, "Who the hell touched our scroll? Why is it draped over the lamp?"

Upon closer inspection, I discovered this...
See, the lamp's neck was a bit broken. It wouldn't raise up any higher. This didn't bother us. But it apparently bothered FIL. So he decided to string it up and tie it to the same nail our scroll hangs from. Because. Because he's severely touched in the head? I've no idea. It's not like this lamp is miles higher than it was. I just fail to understand the purpose of this repair. Jeremy didn't understand either. He just laughed at my confusion over this and then patted my hand, reminding me that we'll move soon enough. Please God, let us move away from here as soon as we can so I don't have to fight the urge to string FIL up. Why anyone would think this is a great idea is beyond me. Then again, it's FIL so that explains a lot.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The In-Laws Have A Death Wish

Somehow, I yet again resisted the urge to strangle both my in-laws today. I know, I know. You're not at all surprised by that revelation, are you?

Last week, MIL stupidly asked me if she could hold the baby. After she'd been with Seoul allllllllllllllllll day long and I had just started enjoying my time with her before she fell asleep. Incidentally, because both my in-laws are too idiotic to care for a baby and have no idea how to get her to go to sleep, this poor child falls asleep within one hour of my arrival home. So I get one hour with my precious baby, who is now 3 months old today. ONE HOUR. The rest of the time, I watch her sleep and nurse her when she needs to eat. Jeremy yelled at them about this, but it's still happening. Because. They. Are. So. So. So. Stupid. Or maybe they're doing it on purpose.

Anyway, like hell I'm giving up Seoul to let those fuckheads hold her when I get home. Aside from quickly tossing a load of laundry in, I stayed right by Seoul's side. While I was starting the washer, MIL poked her head into the bathroom and asked me if FIL could hold the baby. No, I tell her in Chinese and finish what I'm doing so I can hurry back in to Seoul who had begun crying.

I realize I've left my phone in my bag by the door so I take Seoul with me to get it and MIL again asks me if her husband can hold the baby. I stop, stare at her and then ask her if she's lost her mind. Because that's what I'm to assume, isn't it? You AND your idiot husband watch MY baby all day. And now he wants to hold her? Not on my watch!

I told Jeremy about this so I hope he's clued them in that they should never ask that question ever ever EVER again. I imagine he said something like, "Hey bumblebrains, my wife works all day and just wants to see our other beautiful daughter because she's been away from her all day and you guys are selfish fucks for even asking her if you can hold the baby when she gets home from work." Ah, in a perfect world! How I wish! Hell, if he just told them they can't hold the baby when I get home from work, I'll settle for that.
Look at this sweet face! What kind of dolts could possibly think that I even want to be apart from her during the day, and then not want to spend all the time I've got with her once I get home? What is wrong with them? Are they stupid? Selfish? Both? Argh!

We're still organizing before scheduling Jeremy's visa interview but I hope it won't be too much longer until we do. I need to know if we're approved. God, please let my husband be approved. I can't leave him with those chodes. And we've got to get our girls away from them before they catch the stupid too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Big Man With A Tiny Hat

I've been wanting to post this for a while but had to wait until my husband handed over the photos which he'd taken during the Chinese National Holiday when we'd gone down to the beach. He'd always try to give them to me after I'd shut down my computer for the evening. Or even while I had already slid into bed, struggling to keep my eyes open to read just a few more pages of something Carl Hiaasen because I simply must read all his books repeatedly. Currently, it's Strip Tease again. Don't even ask me how many times I've read Stormy Weather. Yes, his books are that good. Just thought you should know.

Anyway, before history repeats itself and I wake with a jolt to discover I've been drooling on my pillow while Jeremy tries not-so-discretely to capture that loveliness on video, please allow me to introduce to you the big man with a tiny hat...
Now before you think I'm some total jerk that makes fun of random large people at the beach (I'm just a regular jerk thankyouverymuch), I'm not making fun of him for being big. I'm making fun of him for wearing such a teeny tiny hat while being his size.

I mean, just LOOK at it. It's so small. It looks like a child's cowboy hat, right? Or perhaps he bought it down in Guangzhou where everything is small. Or...maybe he IS from Guangzhou! We don't know that, but what we do know is this hat is clearly the absolute wrong size for this guy.

Check it out from the side...
That hat is seriously 3 sizes too small for him. Maybe he stole it from a child. The world may never know!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Butt Out!

Every time I see my in-laws, they always rise to the occasion and make sure to do something that's either A) unsanitary B) stupid C) dangerous D) annoying or some combination of the aforementioned items. Yesterday during dinner, it was D) annoying.

My husband wasn't yet home from work so Raelynn and I were stuck eating dinner with MIL and FIL. I hate eating with them. I hate eating the food she makes too. She always tells me everything is "hao chi" which is Chinese for "delicious." And as a writer and master of the English language, I hate calling things "hao chi" even if they are because they only have 1 word to describe it when things could be so much more than "hao chi." As you may have guessed though, most things she makes are far from being "hao chi." They are, in fact, the opposite of that. See here for example. Or just about everything listed here. So it is highly irritating when you are trying to choke things down to be polite when some asshat keeps shoving things in your face and telling you it's "hao chi hao chi hao chi" when it clearly is not. Or telling you it's healthy when it's been cooked in gobs of oil. Oh! Or my favorite, which she did the other night and my camera was charging so I couldn't get a photo - she made some nasty thing that looked (and smelled) like swamp farts and alligator shits and she told me that it will make me even more beautiful. I almost peed my pants from laughter. You see, if this thing really made people more beautiful, she wouldn't look like, well, like she looks now. And all the people here would really be way more attractive if that were the case.

Anyway, while I was being tortured with their company and MIL's cooking, we were watching TV. Spongebob was on and Raelynn was happily watching it. But soon, it ended and I told her I was going to change the channel so Mommy could watch something Mommy wanted to watch. The next show coming up was The Thundermans and I think it's soooooooooooooooo terribly trite. But Raelynn starts freaking out and throwing a tantrum, which she's prone to do. She does this with us all the time but we don't cave. We never change it when she's in the middle of watching a show she really likes (unless she's been bad and then we do so as a punishment) so when she acts like this and tries to control the TV, we tell her she can go to her room if she doesn't like it. Which is what I told her.

But my in-laws are both upset. They're telling me to change it back. NO. Absolutely not. I refuse. And Raelynn cries some more. And FIL starts bitching at me. And I bitch right back. They always butt into everything. Since Jeremy's been obsessed with Pulp Fiction for the last couple months, all I can think about is Samuel L. Jackson as Jules saying, "I don't remember asking you a goddamned thing!" That about sums up how I felt during this situation.

This is MY house and MY TV and furthermore, she is MY child and I say what goes. Raelynn, who is used to her idiot grandparents giving in to her every ridiculous whim, decides that since I won't change the channel back to Nickelodeon, she's going to spit on me. So now I order her to leave the table and go to her room. In fact, I escort her there. She cries and cries and I tell her simply that her behavior is not good and she needs to stay in her room until she can be nice. I close the door to her room and sit at the table again. FIL goes in there to talk to her and I explain to MIL, the less stupid of the two, that I don't want her acting like that when my parents come to visit or when we go to the US. I decide enough time has elapsed and I go to talk to Raelynn to see if she's ready to rejoin us at the table.

When I walk into her room, FIL tells Raelynn that Mommy is sorry. Um, no. No, I'm not at all sorry for setting proper limits for my child, and I'll thank you very much to not tell me how I should feel which only serves to make me even angrier than I was before when you tried to undermine my parenting. I shoo him away and I talk to my daughter, who is crying because she knows she was wrong. I tell her I miss her at the table and ask her if she can be a good girl and come sit with me. She says yes, and tells me she's sorry for being bad. Then, off we go, back to the table to finish eating.

My in-laws seem amazed that there's no more tantrum and that Raelynn has accepted that she doesn't get to control the TV all the time. This is exactly why we want to leave here as soon as we can. Because our daughters are still young enough that we can keep this from adversely affecting them. Jeremy and I refuse to give in to everything they want because we know what will happen. We know that giving your child every single thing they ever ask for will only create entitlement, and worse, never train them to accept disappointments with grace. Because life is full of disappointments and I want both Raelynn and Seoul to be able to handle the bad when it's dealt their way. I refuse to let my in-laws sabotage my children's future. True that grandparents should do some spoiling, if it had been my parents at the table last night, they would have let me do my thing. They would never have told me to change the channel back to stop Raelynn from crying. If they DID disagree with my parenting, they'd tell me privately and not sabotage my authority in front of my child.

China is full of people just like my in-laws. Which means there are billions of spoiled, overindulged children who will never learn to do things for themselves or figure out how to deal with it when something doesn't go their way. And that, my friends, is truly a frightening reality.

Mooseknuckle, Anyone?

Who's hungry? Well, if you are right now, you certainly won't be when you take a look at this creation by MIL.

 Dear Lord! What IS that mess? It looks like she melted a whole entire yak into that pot. Thankfully, I didn't have to eat it. She knows better now that I will not eat unrefrigerated creature. She left this out on our stove. Shame on my husband for allowing that too, but he likes eating boiled mooseknuckles or whatever the hell this is, even if it's been sitting out on the counter overnight. Or for days. And according to my other friends with Chinese spouses, this is a very typical thing Chinese people do - the whole leaving the food out thing. It totally freaks me out.

Also, loooooooooooove the wonky dumplings she probably left out all day long with this decomposing carcass. On a plate. In a plastic bag. Because Qingdao people love their plastic bags. Ugh.

Blargh! I should totally print this photo out and tape it to the cabinet where all my candy bars from my mom are. That will keep me from snarfing them all down at once. Actually, that will keep me from eating anything again. Ever. This looks like a cauldron of death, doesn't it? It's like she goes out of her way to make her food extra gross.

Despite this disgusting mess in my kitchen, I was at least able to make a normal dinner tonight. I waited until Seoul fell asleep before I began cooking and MIL kept pestering me that she wanted to hold the baby. MIL, you were with Seoul all day. I get only about 2 hours - if that - of her being awake when I get home and I'm NOT giving her to you for that time. Dinner will wait until she sleeps. No one will starve if we have dinner at 6:30pm instead of 5:30pm. In addition to nagging me every 5 minutes about getting to hold the baby, she kept singing stupid Chinese songs. SHUT UP! No one wants to hear you sing, especially not me. I gave her the death stare and she put a lid on it. Thankfully she left soon after that. Of course, when Jeremy got home, he served himself up a side of yeti soup here to go with my offerings of cheesy pasta, tofu salad and roasted cabbage. I had to look the other way while he ate it so I could try to ingest some of the meal I'd prepared.

MIL - ruining food by cooking it her way since at least 1950.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


So here's a quick post to share the grossness that I was subjected to earlier. Because I can't keep this shit to myself. Why should I be the only one to suffer? And yes, I already told Jeremy. In case you were wondering.

My in-laws have been watching Seoul while Raelynn and I are at school. When we get home, I go enjoy my cuddly precious baby by feeding her, talking to her, playing with her, singing, dancing...whatever she's up for until she falls asleep. To help me be able to have this time with my tiny baby before she suddenly poofs into a big girl like my darling Raelynn, MIL cooks...yes, STILL. And my apologies incidentally on not photographically documenting it. I'll try to do that again soon. I'm just exhausted this week as I get used to being back at work and most nights, am busy holding my sweet Seoul while I eat so I can have more time with her. Anyway, MIL also bathes Raelynn for me, which is truly a big help.

I heard Raelynn screaming and some general discussion in Chinese regarding smelling bad. Which I found ironic, considering who was saying it. I finish feeding Seoul and come out to find MIL bathing Raelynn in the bathroom while FIL is in Raelynn's room folding up the dirty clothes she was just wearing and trying to put them back in her closet. EVEN THE UNDERWEAR.

Please let that sink in for just a teensy moment, won't you? MIL is bathing Raelynn and FIL is putting the clothing she was wearing all day - running outside, playing on the playground and getting dirty in pottery class - back into the closet DIRTY. AND he's putting her underwear in there too! Now, I'm all for putting some things back in the closet if they haven't been subjected to the kinds of things a toddler is subject to at school, but never ever ever is it OK in my book to put underwear you've worn all day back without washing it. Or put it back on right after you bathe. DEAR LORD! And these people had the nerve to tell her she was stinky and needed to take a bath. Yes, she needed a bath but I've lost count of how many times I've wanted to tell those 2 they smell like they've been playing with wet dogs. At least we can understand WHY they smell so badly...they wear the same things day in and day out, including their underwear, and do not wash them! And they do not bathe regularly! Gah!

Oh! Oh! And my husband told me something very interesting this evening. We were discussing visa things and he told me that his father told him that he didn't want to come to America to visit us whn we move there. Rude!

I asked why that was and Jeremy said his father likes Qingdao and doesn't want to go anywhere else. Bats in the belfry, man. Now, I don't really want him (or MIL!) to visit, but I'm sure I must allow it at some point once we're settled in over there. MIL wants to visit of course and you know that old cow will try to stay with us FORFUCKINGEVER and I am hoping her tourist visa would not be valid for a long period of time. GOD. Don't let this woman come stay with us. We'll just come back and visit them. Anyway, I'm kind of pissed about what FIL said. Not because I'd miss him but because his only grandchildren will be living in their home country and he won't even go visit them. What a dick. His loss. I have to at least give MIL points for wanting to come. She's never even been on a plane. Ever. In her whole life. That should be interesting trying to explain to her how airports and airplanes work. Or how to get her tourist visa from the embassy when we're ready to entertain her. When that happens, count on me blogging about it. For sure!

Step 3: In Progress

Family and friends got treated to this wonderful news yesterday but I was too tired and busy to slap together a post publicly. We were notified that we may now schedule Jeremy's visa interview!

We're very excited because, as you may recall, we initially filed our I-130 petition for an immigrant visa down in Guangzhou on September 2nd. That's pretty speedy. We completed the 2nd step before the Chinese National Holiday last week. Now the 3rd step beckons.

Before we schedule our appointment though, we must make sure we have all our documents and forms in order. Because it would suck severely if we got all the way down there only to realize we'd missed something which would slow down our process.

If you look at the photo above, in the 3rd item, it tells us to download the Immigrant Visa Instruction Packet and follow the instructions. So we do as it says.
This is just page 1 of a 9 page document, which sounds horrible but actually only the first 4 pages are in English and the remaining pages are the same document translated into Chinese so my husband can read this in both his 3rd language and his native language. I had printed it out so we could use it as a checklist, checking off what we've got and gathering anything we need.

Jeremy only needs to get his police report, which takes just a few days, and have it translated into English. He needed a few other passport photos as well. You can see on the photo above of this document that they require 2 more passport photos. They wanted 2 passport photos when I was submitting the I-130 at the embassy. For the 2nd step, Jeremy had to send in 2 more passport photos. This step requires 2 more photos and when he goes for his medical exam, he must bring 5 passport photos with him. Holy wow. That's a lot of photos!

I also need to prepare the I-864 support form and am eternally grateful to my wonderful Daddy for all his help in comprehending that document and filling it out properly. Thanks Daddy!

So we're waiting a few weeks before we go to schedule the appointment, but last night, I got a major headache in the form of 2 hours of research when I should have been sleeping. Small baby + back to work + this visa stuff = 4 hours of sleep for me. But I want to pay it forward to anyone who is currently going through the US visa process with their spouse (or about to do so) and save them the pain and exhaustion I went through to check this.

As I mentioned, Jeremy needs a police report. On the form, it's noted as a "police certificate."
If you are in this visa process too, THIS IS MY WARNING TO YOU! Please make sure you read that paragraph carefully. Hell, read EVERYTHING on this document round-up carefully. Don't skim over it. DON'T. As tedious as it is, make sure you look at every single requirement listed under every single item or you will miss it. We almost did.

See, Jeremy can get his police certificate for China fairly easily. But there's a 3rd item listed in the police certificates category that states that if the applicant has lived in another country for 12 months or longer, they must get a police certificate from that country. IF that country has them available. Some countries don't. My husband, as it turns out, lived in South Korea for 4 years. So according to this requirement, he needed to obtain a police certificate from South Korea, if it was available, in order to have ALL his police certificates.

Now there's a pit in my stomach. We're so close and now this sets us back. But wait, let me look it up online and find out what to do for this, I tell him. So I spend 2 hours digging through forums and reading the US government's official websites and I finally found what I needed to know. Save yourself 2 hours, people and do this:
Look up at the last photo and follow my finger. Under the police certificates section of that form, you'll see a link to a website. Click it, or just click here if that's easier for you. 

After you do that, you'll see a search bar with a "GO" button next to it (see the above photo). Type in the name of the country you're trying to find out about regarding police certificates. In our case, it was South Korea. Then you scroll on down until you find "Police Records." Read there to find out if that country requires a police certificate or not.

I was elated to see this:
At the very bottom: Applicants outside of Korea: Unavailable.

After that scare, we have checked, checked and rechecked the required documents and all the requirements for those documents and we will probably check, recheck and check check checkity check some more, before we make the visa interview appointment. And then while we're packing for that trip. And then again before leaving for the airport. And then again in the hotel. And then again in the waiting room.

I hope that information helps at least one other confused person undergoing the US immigrant visa process. For now, this gal is going to check check check out the back of her eyelids and get what I hope will be more than 4 hours of snoozes. Please keep sending your good vibes our way as we continue through this process!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Surlier Than Surly

I was expecting my first day back at work to be much worse. But you know what? It was pretty nice. I have a few less students than last semester, but the ones that have returned were being so good today. Some of them even told me, "I missed you," which made my heart melt. It was a nice distraction from missing my precious Seoul, who survived her first day in the care of the head troll, thankfully.

At the beginning of last semester, you might recall the problem I had initially had with Surly. He was the bus driver that was too lazy to drive an extra couple of minutes to my stop. It bothered me for many reasons, the first of which was because I was pregnant. Secondly, I had Raelynn with me. And thirdly, because students are required to pay a bus fee, I'd PAID for bus services for my child. You can read more of the Surly saga here.

Anyway, today I was expecting to see our pal Surly when we got on the bus. But instead, there was a woman bus driver. I talk to her briefly since she doesn't know who I am. I tell her where Surly had been dropping us and she says "hao hao" which is "OK" in Chinese.

But as we get to the last stops before ours, she speaks to some of the Chinese teachers on the bus and now she doesn't want to take Raelynn and me to our stop because of the same lazy-ass reason Surly had given! See, just before you arrive at our main road, there's a street she turns right on where she is to drop off the bus when she's done dropping off the students and teachers. It is no exaggeration that this is just a couple minutes from our destination.

Now I'm livid. This woman is now telling me via the Chinese teachers she's about to drop off just before her beloved right turn that she doesn't want to take us there. I PAID FOR BUS SERVICE. Why is this so difficult? Why is it an argument with these people EVERY fucking time I need them to do their jobs? I hate people here. Seriously. Something is totally fucking wrong with you if you can't 1) do your job and 2) if you'd leave someone with their small child far from their bus stop.

She's pulled the bus to the side of the road and turned it off, refusing to budge until she makes some phone calls. She calls the school but can't get anyone there who has any information about the bus routes. So one of the Chinese teachers helpfully suggests she call Yang Shufu, or Surly himself. After talking with him, she huffily says she'll take us to our stop today but not tomorrow. "She says maybe you should take a different bus tomorrow," one of the Chinese teachers explains. Which is EXACTLY what Surly had said last semester. He gave me so much attitude until he realized I was married to a Chinese person. Maybe I should have told this bitchy bus driver that too.

She starts the bus and proceeds but she turns down a side street that's parallel to mine because she doesn't want to have to make the u-turn that Surly always made after she drops me off. U-turns are legal here unless otherwise posted, in case you were wondering. So she arrives at the intersection of Harbin Road and Nanjing Road and instead of turning left at the light to officially bring us to our stop where the city buses also stop, she turns right. Because she doesn't want to make that u-turn. And because it's totally normal to send someone with a small child to cross a very large and busy intersection even though they paid for the bus service.

At this point, Raelynn has fallen asleep so now I must take my bag, her bag and my other bag with my breast pump, not to mention Raelynn herself, off the bus and cross the intersection twice to get to where the actual bus stop is. The surlier than Surly bus bitch was saying something to me about my daughter being asleep as we got off the bus. Some sort of "isn't that cute" kind of remark and I told her I hoped she got mauled by a bear. But I doubt she understood since I have no idea how to say that in Chinese. I'll talk to the school about this mess in the morning and if they can't help me, I'll ask the gals that translate there to help me say "I hope you get mauled by a bear" for my next encounter with that bitchy bus bitch or anyone else who doesn't want to do the job they're paid to do.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho...

Tomorrow, it's back to work I go.

Technically, last week was the last week of my maternity leave. But much thanks to the Chinese National Holiday that was going on this week, school was closed so I couldn't return to work until tomorrow - Monday, October 6th. I'm very thankful to have had this time off, and even more thankful to have had an extra week on top of it because honestly, it went by way too fast.

I wish I could stay home with Seoul all the time. I'm going to miss her and you know I'm not at all thrilled about having to leave her with the idiots. But going back to school means Raelynn goes back too, and she needs school. She needs to get away from the idiots even more than Seoul does. Raelynn's behavior has become worse from being subjected to them. Seoul's just a baby who drinks breastmilk and sleeps most of the time. I just hope my in-laws remember to be sanitary. God, please let them be sanitary. And please let this kid take to bottles of my breastmilk as well as she's taken to drinking my milk straight from the tap.

And please, let my students have mercy on me. Augh.

I'm kind of looking forward to seeing those little munchkins. Some of them anyway. The Chihuahua is gone, thankfully, as are a few of my other students, some of which I liked a lot. And you know, it's not a bad job either. I work with some really nice people, so I guess it could be worse. Like some jobs I used to know.

But anyway, I've mentioned before that my dad carries a card in his wallet that says, "Don't be sad because it's over. Be happy because it happened." And that is exactly what I'm going to try to think of tomorrow as my maternity leave/vacation becomes a thing of the past. I'll think of those wonderful moments I've had during this time, the most notable of them being the birth of Seoul. How about the first time we went out as a family of 4? That was nice. Then there was the time I dropped ice cream on the baby's head. And who could forget our trip to Guangzhou? We also celebrated our 4th anniversary. And then we got that wonderful letter from the US Embassy approving us to begin Jeremy's visa process, which we're currently in the middle of.

Now I've got the future to look to. The rest of the visa process which will be a long and windy road well worth the travel, another package on the way from my folks (thanks again Mom!) and even better than that...2 months paid vacation in January and February PLUS a visit from my parents during the Chinese New Year. But in the immediate future, I look forward to shortly after 4pm tomorrow, when Raelynn and I will get home and I can hold my sweet little Seoul in my arms again.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Now That's No Picnic

I was so excited for today. Jeremy had told his mother to leave us be for the Chinese National Holiday. Of course, she refused to take the hint and sent her husband over with roasted chicken later this evening, long after dinner, but that's a whole other story.

This story is about how we decided to go out for a picnic today. We packed up a bag filled with sausages, cheese, bananas, cookies, water, Cracker Jacks, marshmallows, and some mini candy bars (those last 3 things courtesy of the amazing package my folks just sent). We grabbed a big mat and a frisbee and hit the road. Before we left, we discussed where we should go. I'd suggested the vineyard out by the mountain as well as Sculpture Park, which is on the beach right near my school. Jeremy thought the vineyard was better because it's really pretty there and he was worried the beach park would be too windy.

So off we went. Our GPS on Jeremy's phone kept shutting off. So each time, Jeremy pulled over to get it fixed. Finally, it was talking again and as we were driving down one road gabbing away, BAM!

The glass on the window next to Raelynn shattered and the car spun in a circle. Raelynn screamed and I did too, once I heard her screaming. I was terrified she was hurt. I knew what had happened. I'd been hit by a drunk driver 13 years ago and remembered the scary feeling that car accidents tend to bring. I was lucky then and today, I was even luckier. Because my beautiful children were with me and they were both fine. THANK GOD.

Jeremy and I were fine too.

But before we knew that, Raelynn was now screaming and crying. She was scared to death, reaching for me. I unbuckled her and held her in my arms along with Seoul, who had been sleeping until this all happened. Now she was crying too. It's then I notice Raelynn has a small mark on her face. We get out of the car and I see the other car. Two young women are inside. I shout angrily at the driver and she cowers. She looks even more ashamed when she sees our 2 children. She should be ashamed. She t-boned our car. We definitely have a guardian angel.
 Here's our car after the accident.

 Here is the other driver's car. Jeremy took this right after it happened so she's sitting in the car with her friend calling the police.

Speaking of the police, it took them 40 minutes to come check out the accident. Seriously. 40 minutes. Only in China.

 It was a good thing we'd packed for a picnic. Because as we waited on the side of the road, Raelynn became hungry. You can see her booboo as she eats this banana. Jeremy had run to a nearby store to get her a band-aid. Poor Raelynn!

Here is the intersection where the accident took place. This is how our cars wound up. She hit us so hard we spun all the way over there. She was looking for a street and not paying any attention. She was also going over the speed limit.

While we stood there, a man who happened upon us shortly after the accident offered his vehicle to us so Raelynn could sit down and so I could breastfeed comfortably. We were sitting on a wall. We politely refused. He bought us water and a small toy for Raelynn and he stayed until we were leaving to make sure we were ok. It's nice when you meet people who are that kind. I was beginning to think there weren't any of them left.

Raelynn cried a lot but mostly because of the car. "My precious red car got smushed!" she shrieked. She was more worried about the car than herself.

The good news is we're all ok, though we're keeping an eye on the children just to be certain. The woman who ran into us and her friend came with us to the hospital and took care of the fees for checking out both Raelynn and Seoul. She'll also be covering the costs of repair to our poor Aveo. At least it is fixable though.

It was a lousy day, but it could have been a whole lot lousier. We're just thankful it all worked out and we hope tomorrow is a better day. We'll take the bus.