Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Letting Out the Leash

No, I'm not referring to a dog but to our children. This week I took two big steps in parenting by allowing my kids some new freedoms.

The first was at their request. I accepted an invite to a baby shower without realizing Erik would be gone this week and I'd need a sitter, and also before I knew that we would just be recovering from a highly infectious disease which would keep all potential sitters at bay. I debated bringing them to read and play games in another room, or not going, neither of which appealed to me. I was leaning toward option A and tried to get the kids on board, but Ethan said, "Can't we just stay home alone?"

Hmm . . . home alone from 6:45-8:45 pm? Granted I was only going to be about 1/2 mile away and I'd have my phone and we have friends directly across the street and they are 11 1/2 and 9 1/2. It seemed alright but I called a wise friend of mine who errs on the side of cautious to get her opinion and she encouraged me to give them the opportunity.

So I went and everything was fine. The house didn't burn down and no one came to rob it while I was gone, both wildly probable situations. Ethan did call exactly at 8:30 to see if I was leaving (I was) and insisted on waiting til I was home to go to sleep.

Tonight was big step #2. Ethan has started attending our church's youth group on Wednesday nights with 3 of his friends. So far we have taken turns as parents escorting them to the subway, down one stop to pick up one of the kids, two more stops, then a short walk to meet the bus that takes them the rest of the way. This week, the parents collectively decided to let them go alone.

Within 20 minutes of leaving them, Ethan called me and said, "The bus isn't here." Grand. Fortunately it was just a matter of the driver being a bit late. He called me 1/2 hour ago to say they were leaving and that he'd be home in an hour. (Ethan really likes using his phone).

Wow - they're growing up!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Puppy Tales

Our quest to find a dog continues, and in the process we are learning a lot about dog culture here in China. Here's what we understand:

1. There are very few reputable breeders.
2. Dogs at outdoor markets are usually one or more of the following: taken from their mothers too soon, not immunized (though they say they are) immunized too soon so it's not effective, dyed or in other ways enhanced to look better than they are, sick in some way
3. People who have had puppies in their homes will give them away too soon and without immunizations - case in point: Megan and I found 3 absolutely adorable little puppies on the street today. The man was selling them for 10Y each. They were only 20 days old. One sibling had already been sold.
4. Dogs in pet stores probably have been immunized but too soon, and will cost you nearly one month's rent.
5. Most people seem to have obtained their pets from friends.

If we get a dog here who has not been immunized, we have to keep it inside for 8 weeks until it has had all its shots. Obviously, we'd prefer one that has been immunized, but to do that we'd probably have to get an adult dog from someone who leaving. That has the disadvantage of us not being able to train it ourselves. And also, we don't know anyone who is leaving.

We do have American friends who breed dogs and just had a litter, but we couldn't have one of the puppies for a couple more months. Even then, it's not the kind of dog we'd like. What kind would we like? We saw just what we want this morning at a local vegetable market. I asked a woman what kind he is and she said, "Ordinary dog." (unfortunately he belonged to one of the vendors).

So we continue on our hunt for an "ordinary dog." Pray that we find one soon!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What would Cesar do?

In preparation for getting a puppy, we turned to what seems like the best source of information: Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer. If you've ever seen his show, you know that you want the man to come live in your house while he trains your dog to perfection, and not leave before he transfers his mojo to you. He says it's all about the energy you give off. I say he's magical.

Since he can't come to our house, we bought one of his books and have been reading it religiously. We kept it in mind yesterday when we went to visit Potential Puppy #2 (#1 having been sold at the market already). When choosing a puppy, Cesar says you should look for one with medium energy - not the one who is wildly excited to see you. So when we met the dog (Omelette is his current name) and he refused to even be in the same room with us for most of our visit, we thought, "What would Cesar think of this?"

I think he would wisely realize that when the owner said that he is, "a quiet and obedient dog who doesn't bark" what she really should have said was, "He's terrified of being touched because of his time on the streets away from all living beings." You shouldn't choose the wild puppy, but you also shouldn't choose the one who refuses to come to you.

The kids were heartbroken, especially Megan, but we think we made a good choice to say no. There's a dog market north of us and a friend of ours who raises dogs and frequents the market has promised to take us there soon. It's just too bad we couldn't take advantage of this time of quarantine to adjust to a dog. It has given us a lot of time to prepare though!

Avoiding the Plague

Erik this morning when I crawled back into bed with a headache:

"Shun . . . . Unshun, I love you, re-shun."

I don't blame him. He's the only one who has managed not to be taken down by the dreaded hand, foot and mouth disease. This isn't surprising, given that he is the bionic man, able to run 5 miles on a whim, skips meals and doesn't realize it, and almost never gets sick.

This is good news because he's supposed to fly to the States on Saturday. Maybe more importantly, he's supposed to fly back a week from now with a bag full of stuff we didn't bring back in August (how can my Walmart list be so long??). Now I know the reality is that he is probably carrying that virus around in his body where I like to imagine his immune system like a troll tromping around and slaying all the weak little HFM germs that have dared to disturb its slumber.

Hopefully he was exposed when Megan first had it last Wednesday so it would theoretically be through his system by now. But regardless, he'll be treating himself like he's infected and be keeping a safe distance from all while washing his hands copiously. Pray that he doesn't really have it, and he doesn't pass it to anyone!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Shortly after coming back to China, we saw a puppy at the local market for sale. He was just what we were looking for - a scrappy little guy with floppy ears. I took the kids to meet him, and he tried to chew on Megan's hair which she found delightful. We weren't prepared to meet him yet so we prayed that if that was the dog for us, he'd be there when we went to get him.

And he's gone.

When Erik called from the market to tell me, I thought, "Wow, we don't even have him yet and already we're going to have to deal with the devastation of losing him." I immediately went on a local vet clinic's website where they post adoptable pets. Someone had just posted this little guy:

His current owner found him on the street when she was out buying a "jian bing" (sort of like an omlette in fried bread) so that's his current name. By her description he is quiet and pleasant, has been dewormed, and comes with a collar and leash and food.

Today our Tao Bao orders (crate, dog bed, training pads) should all arrive and we can pick him up this Friday when the woman who found him is back from a business trip.

So now we just need to know - what to name him??

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Blessing of Sickness

Last Wednesday Megan came into the kitchen and said, "I'm cold and my head hurts!" Sure enough, she had a fever. More troubling was that she had a mild rash on her feet. The next morning, it was covering her stomach. My immediate thought was "hand, foot and mouth disease" which has frequent outbreaks in China, and which had been traveling around the community here. To my knowledge, Megan didn't have any contact with the kids I know who've had it, but apparently you can be a carrier and not know, and we had 5 families at our house on Monday night so it could have been any of them.

Unfortunately, Thursday was a co-op day, and the day when our kids' very close friends returned from a 3 month absence. Being restricted from those activities was torture for Megan, even more so than the high fever or spread of the rash across her body.

When I first called the doctor and described her symptoms, he told me it wasn't HFM but just a viral rash. By the next day, I knew he was wrong (and so did he, when he called to check on her) because ugly blisters had formed on her feet, hands, and in and around her mouth.

By Saturday night, Ethan came in and said, "I'm really tired" with that look feverish kids have. By the morning his throat hurt and he had sores in his mouth. Then last night, I thought, "Wow, my head really hurts!" I don't know that I have HFM because I've been coughing a lot and my nose is getting stuffed up which are not symptoms, but I'm obviously sick.

So what to do? This thing is crazy contagious, like chicken pox contagious. We've cancelled all activities this week and I called my helper to tell her to stay away this week (though unfortunately she was here Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before I realized what Megan really had). She actually told me that if she came and someone from her son's school found out, he would have to stay away from school for 2 weeks!

So at least for the next week, we can't see anyone or go anywhere. I'm a little baffled as to how we are going to get groceries, but aside from that I am actually a little excited about this. Having such an open schedule means we can do all those things that normally get squeezed out - reading for hours, doing crafts (we've already attempted to make a bowl out of tissue paper stuck to a balloon), science experiments, baking, whatever. I'm sure they'll be a certain amount of disinfecting the house and watching Netflix to pass the time thrown in there.

What's most exciting though is that we realized this is the perfect time to get our promised dog! As soon as I feel up to it, there's a little guy at the market we've had our eye on for a couple weeks. Last night I ordered some essentials for him off the internet and they should come within 48 hours. So probably some of today will involve preparing for that.

There's something of a blessing in this I think, if we look at it that way. I think it might be kind of fun (ask me again in about 5 days if I still think that). :)