Saturday, October 30, 2010


I found out this morning that the flight I'm taking on Friday back to the States with the kids (and no husband - he's coming a day later) has no in-seat entertainment. On flights that do, I can put our kids in their assigned seats and see them again when I get off the plane. This changes the game considerably. We get on at 1:40 p.m. and land many hours later (11? 12? 13? not sure) in San Francisco. At some point they will fall asleep, but until then we need to have enough books and games packed to keep them from driving each other and me crazy (to their credit, they are very good fliers, but everyone has their limit).

On a very pleasant run to the park just now (Turkey Trot here I come) it hit me that I really have no reason to complain. I mean really - getting back from the Orient used to take months. On a boat. Sometimes people died on the way. At best they spent part of it heaving over the railings. Can you imagine trying to entertain your kids on a boat for months? How tired would you get of hearing, "How much further is it?"

So I'm choosing to be thankful that I can manage a trip home for a week and it takes me less than a day to get there. No boats, no heaving (hopefully), no all sorts of things that could happen if the trip took months. It's all in how you look at it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Speaking of bathrooms

It's been really fun to watch my kids learn Chinese. More and more they recognize characters they see out in public, or pick up words Erik and I are speaking to others. The only unfortunate thing is that soon Erik and I will not be able to use Chinese as our "we don't want the kids to understand what we're saying in their presence" language. Time for Erik to pick up Spanish (and for me to find it again).

Today as we reviewed for their class, I was throwing out other useful phrases like, "Where is the bathroom?" There are two good ways to say this. One is "Wei sheng jian zai nar?" and the other is "xi shou jian zai nar?" The latter they instantly recognized as "Where is the wash hands room?" Easy enough. The first means literally, "Where is the sanitary room?" so I explained sanitary as clean. Ethan objected to that by observing that the bathrooms here are rarely clean. So then we put together the phrase, "China has no sanitary rooms." This is not actually true. In fact there has been a delightful increase in the number of public bathrooms which DON'T make me wish I couldn't smell. But for the sake of language learning, it made for useful conversation.

On a completely unrelated note, my question about whether or not the yogurt in the refrigerator had gone bad has been answered. I now need to go eat something else.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Thoughts about the new carpet

I am experiencing a state of high satisfaction with life today, mostly superficially centered around the arrival of the two pieces of carpet in our home. The larger, pleasant blue colored one is in the homeschool room, and the smaller, off white one is on the first floor (yes, off white - we're living on the edge!). After yesterday's curtain debacle this felt like a bit of redemption for me. I don't want to talk about it. I'm not proud. And I still don't have guest room curtains, although the living room ones are lovely (albeit without pleats, but that's another story).

I didn't realize how exciting the carpet would be for the kids, but after I had accompanied the carpet delivery men to the ATM to get money for them, I returned to hear shouts of glee from four young people who were romping on the carpet upstairs (the kids had friends over).

Megan hadn't come downstairs to see the living room carpet yet, but when she did this was her reaction:

Megan: Wow - look at this one! And daddy hasn't even seen it yet!

Ethan: He's going to come in and say, 'What's that big white thing?'

Megan: No he won't. He's not that dumb.

Glad that Megan has so much confidence in her father. And glad to have a nice comfy place to sit in two rooms!

On a Morning Walk

I almost took my cell phone with me on a short walk this morning, but the battery was dead. Too bad, because I could have shown you what I'm about to simply tell you. So you'll just have to use your imagination. I saw:

The sun rising through the trees - gorgeous!

Dogs that came to the park and made friends - a German Shepherd, a couple of Golden Retrievers, something that looked like a small St. Bernard, a giant Husky, and a variety of smaller dogs roughhousing and chasing each other.

People doing Tai Qi as solitary figures in the midst of the trees - beautiful and calming to watch

So many people out walking and running - Chinese are active people!

A man playing the saxophone

Another man slapping his legs vigorously - wake up legs! Or at least, that's what I imagine he's thinking

My breath! It's perfect exercise temperature right now

yellow roses and purple wildflowers

old ladies walking and chatting together (and by old I mean OLD)

Walks like that make me want to go more often. Unfortunately I can't go out again in the morning until Erik gets back Wednesday night. Next time I'll take the phone so you can see for yourself.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Gina vs technology

I'm not one to pursue new technology. I like to think that what I have is as good as I need, and that there is really nothing added to my life by getting the next best thing. I think if I were 80 years old right now I'd be the kind of person who has never touched a computer and still has a rotary phone.

So when Erik suggests that he buy me new technology, or tries to pass off his old gadgets to me (because he IS buying the latest technology for himself) I tend to be resistant. The most recent attempt has been an iphone. He really wants to buy me one. I know, I know, there are probably many people who would think, "Why on EARTH wouldn't you want your husband to buy you an iphone?!?" Ok, here are my reasons:

1. I don't need another way to waste time
2. That thing's a giant. It feels like I'm holding an entire book to my ear.
3. They're not cheap.
4. There's nothing wrong with the phone I have.
5. I'm just kind of stubborn.

On top of the iphone, I desperately need a new computer, because this one is the devil incarnate. Erik's always up for buying me a new computer (I mean of course when the need arises, not just for fun) but because he just bought a Macbook and hasn't really started using it, he suggested I just take it and he can buy another one when we're in the States.

Ok, switching to a Mac brings out a whole new level of resistance in me, mostly driven by the fear that I will have to spend hours trying to figure out how it works which will degenerate into frustration and tears and the kids saying, "What's wrong mommy?" and then quietly leaving me to myself. Not my preferred method of living.

And yet, today Erik is setting up the Macbook for me, and I have agreed to an iphone. Why the change? Well, partly because I fear one day I WILL throw this computer out the 12th story window BEFORE opening the window which will mean more Chinese workers in my house fixing the window, not to mention the real possibility of killing someone on the street below. That's a whole mess of trouble. I've heard a million times "Once you go Mac you never go back" and I'm willing to test theory.

As for the iphone, I've been swayed by a few apps, like the one that allows you to point your phone at Chinese characters and have it read them for you, and the one that allows you to directly record things into Quicken (I might actually stick to our budget that way!), and the GPS. We're not going to run out and buy it yet, but I'm open.

I surrender. Technology wins.

Friday, October 08, 2010


This is the view out our north windows on a pretty typical day. This actually isn't as clear as it could be, but the sky usually isn't as clear as it could be. We had some really beautiful days over the holiday last week, days where you forget that the sky can do this:

This is the same view, this morning. It was worse when I woke up at 6, but whatever part of this was fog has left and this is what we get to see the rest of the day. The forecast says "sunny" but what that means is, "The sun is still shining on the earth, but you will know this only because the white will become brighter."

Thursday, October 07, 2010

A Lego Imagination

I heard Ethan this morning before I saw him, the sounds he was making to accompany the flight of his Lego creation coming down the stairs. He sat on the couch next to me and told me an elaborate story involving the dog sector, the human sector, differences in gravity, his "son" Ben, the specs of his flying vehicle, something involving a war, and a crash landing. This is all in his imagination. His Lego imagination.

If you have boys, and you are wondering about the value of these expensive pieces of plastic (which become lethal torture objects under your feet in the dark) wonder no more. Granted, most of the Legos we have we bought on sale or were gifts, but they are worth every penny.

Ethan rarely puts sets together as intended anymore. Instead, he and his friends (and sister) have covered his Lego creation table with various vehicles and stations, including the White House, a carpark, a pet shop, a fishing pond, a museum, a gas station, a prison, a dock, a "puffle" house, and a horse stable.

Nothing has provided Ethan with more hours of entertainment nor with more fodder for imagination than Legos. In fact, it's pretty much his only toy. The things he makes baffle me - I don't think I could create them. That could be because I have not one engineering bone in my body.

As I typed this, Ethan jumped up from the couch and said, "I have an idea!" I can hear him rummaging through his Lego boxes. Today, I tip my hat to the creator of Legos, and say thank you very much.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Ever since I saw this field of wildflowers in the park near our house I've wanted to take pictures of the kids in it. The light was horrible at this time, and the kids weren't dressed or anywhere near clean (when mommy can't remember the last time you showered, it's really time to shower) but this was my "test run." Once we found a place where they weren't being swarmed by bees, they were good sports about it. Soon I hope to go back with clean, groomed children (because that's what they look like so much of the time right?) and better lighting, and see what we can get.