Thursday, December 8, 2011

Let's Eat, Baby!

Not to be confused with, "Let's eat baby". Punctuation is important.

Quite to our shock and happy surprise, Willow loved eating rice cereal for the first time. She was so eager and excited about finally getting some food from a spoon--it was precious. I think she has been watching us eat very closely lately and often tries to get what we are eating, if it's within her reach. For example, earlier in the day, she sat next to me and watched as I ate my lunch. She was very quiet and serious and never took her eyes off of my spoon! So, maybe she has some notions about what eating is like for non-babies. At any rate, Willow is continuously curious about food. She was so happy to have her own food spooned into her mouth, and she wanted to try it by herself as well. Willow wondered where the food was coming from, and would look for the bowl between mouth fulls.

Adam recorded Willow's first food experience, but then he pushed me aside so that he could try his hand at it. This was his first time feeding a baby and he did great! I guess what surprised me the most was the she ate everything. There was only a very little that didn't make it in her mouth (mostly the fault of her parent's), and so she gulped down nearly all of her serving! I expected lots of spitting and spluttering, so it was a pleasant surprise and I hope that it's a trend that will continue! We'll try some more tomorrow and see how it goes!

On a side note, it's amazing how she gained just about ten pounds in only five months by consuming only milk. Babies are cool.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Story of Willow Pattern China

I've never been a huge fan of fine china, and didn't even register for any when Adam and I got engaged. I just thought--I wont ever use it. But I think that I have found the set of china that my daughter will use. I've decided that I'm going to program her to love this pattern of china by raising her with it. She'll have little toy sets and I'll start building her collection with every birthday and Christmas so that she'll be all set one day. It's just perfect. It's called Willow Blue, or Willow China Pattern, and it makes sense. Willow lives in China, so she should have Willow Pattern. This is a picture of a tiny miniature tea set of Willow pattern china. I had a similar tiny tea set growing up, and I think Willow would enjoy this in several years.

Of course, Willow pattern comes in blue, red, and green. But I think that blue and white wins.

But that's not all, there's a brilliant story and history that goes along with these dishes. I don't believe that these are the most aesthetically pleasing dishes I've ever laid eyes on, but I love the romanticism of the story and the long history it totes along with it--so maybe this will further explain my recent obsession with Willow Blue china.

The Willow Legend:

There was once a Mandarin who had a beautiful daughter, Koong-se. He employed a secretary, Chang who, while he was attending to his master's accounts, fell in love with Koong-se, much to the anger of the Mandarin, who regarded the secretary as unworthy of his daughter.

The secretary was banished and a fence constructed around the gardens of the Mandarin's estate so that Chang could not see his daughter and Koong-se could only walk in the gardens and to the water's edge.

One day a shell fitted with sails containing a poem, and a bead which Koong-se had given to Chang, floated to the water's edge. Koong-se knew that her lover was not far away.

She was soon dismayed to learn that she had been betrothed to Ta-jin, a noble warrior Duke. She was full of despair when it was announced that her future husband, the noble Duke, was arriving, bearing a gift of jewels to celebrate his betrothal.

However, after the banquet, borrowing the robes of a servant, Chang passed through the guests unseen and came to Koong-se's room. They embraced and vowed to run away together. The Mandarin, the Duke, the guests, and all the servants had drunk so much wine that the couple almost got away without detection, but Koong-se's father saw her at the last minute and gave chase across the bridge.

The couple escaped and stayed with the maid that Koong-se's father had dismissed for conspiring with the lovers. Koong-se had given the casket of jewels to Chang and the Mandarin, who was also a magistrate, swore that he would use the jewels as a pretext to execute Chang when he caught him.

One night the Mandarin's spies reported that a man was hiding in a house by the river and the Mandarin's guards raided the house. But Chang had jumped into the ragging torrent and Koong-se thought that he had drowned.

Some days later the guards returned to search the house again. While Koong-se's maid talked to them, Chang came by boat to the window and took Koong-se away to safety.

They settled on a distant island, and over the years Chang became famous for his writings. This was to prove his undoing. The Mandarin heard about him and sent guards to destroy him. Chang was put to the sword and Koong-se set fire to the house while she was still inside.

Thus they both perished and the gods, touched by their love, immortalised them as two doves, eternally flying together in the sky.

There are several different versions of the legend that I've read, but this seems to be the most consistent. There's also speculation over WHO actually brought the pattern to England in the late 18th century. Whoever it was, it was definitely a china manufacturer who was hoping to make a profit off of the romanticism attached to the Far East. Whether he really found the pattern in China, or designed it himself, I am not fully convinced in either direction. The 'legend' however, is most likely a fabrication of the English china manufacturers, since it cannot be traced back to China. It's still an interesting story, and I can see why it became so popular in the 1700's. This pattern has always been in production since then, and although it's popularity has had ups and downs, it has lasted over two hundred years. There's lots of side-stories that go along with Willow china too, since it's so it's found in some factory's foundation, and shards have been found in secret underground tunnels, and etc., etc. Here's a link to a cute video about the story of Willow pattern.

Here's a pretty Willow pattern set manufactured by a company called Johnson Brothers, which I find to be even more comical and fitting, since my Willow is also a Johnson.

I love the pretty hat box that this set of twenty comes in.

There are also table linens available in Willow pattern, and apparently, this dress.

Maybe wall paper?
Maybe not this Christmas, because she needs a stroller more than china, but this is in her future. I promise.


5 Months...Check!

Five months behind us, and I can't believe how fast they've gone by. We've really done so much in that time frame when I think about it, but I feel like I'm in fast forward. Maybe that's just how life feels when you have a little baby. They grow so fast.

Today, Willow is five months old, although the date on the post is incorrect--I'm working in China time, but my blog posts in US time---I should fix that...
To list Willow's accomplishments would take forever. I think this is one of my favorite baby phases--they can do so much and are learning new things everyday, but there is no crawling/walking and still not too many opinions to have tantrums about.

I just wish Willow would sleep through the night consistently again!

Here's a little update on where she is developmentally:

-Doesn't like to be left alone or put down; wants to be held by dad or mom all the time
-Will cry if she can't get her favorite toy/book in her mouth
-Is scared of the vacuum cleaner
-Is amazed by the kitchen, the Christmas tree, bath time, and noisy toys
-Feels obsession for the toucan on her bouncy chair (still)
-Doesn't have complete control over her emotional state--so lots of mood swings

-An observer of groups of people and crowds; she is very serious in those situations
-Likes to be home the best; you can see a definite change in her behavior the minute we return home (likes to play, eat, and sleep best at home too)
-Plays "shy" with people (smiles, sticks her tongue out, and then hides her face)
-Isn't scared of all the strange Chinese women that are always coming up to her
-Likes to smile at taxi drivers, neighbors, market vendors, etc.
-Very curious and observant wherever we go
-Likes looking at the "other baby in the mirror"

-17 pounds and 3 ounces as of last week
-Likes to practice taking little steps around the house
-Stands on her tippy-toes (Pediatrician says it's because she wants to walk...maybe)
-Tries to pull herself up on her own using furniture (hasn't been successful yet)
-Lunges for objects
-Gets on all fours by herself and also moves between her knees and feet while in the crawling position
-rolls over in all directions
-scoots relentlessly forwards and backwards, especially while in her crib
-Obsessed with sticking her tongue out
-Still talking, usually when no one else is and its quiet
-Blows bubbles and raspberries
-Laughs when we play with her (especially at her dad), and is beginning to feel ticklish
-Sits up very well for long periods of times, can balance herself, but still topples over when she gets too excited
-Likes to sit by her toy basket and pull toys out
-Feels the need to put everything in her mouth
-Extremely interested in anything electronic (ipad, computers, phones, remotes, etc.)
-Learning how to play in the bath tub, and very curious about the cup we use to wash her hair

Somethings She's Working On:
-Tummy time/learning how to scoot/crawl
-Improving balance while sitting
-Waving goodbye to people when we leave
-Reading books (not really interested in this yet)
-Drinking from a cup
-Picking toys up after dropping them
-Clapping hands
-A few new teeth coming soon
-Brushing the two teeth she already has! :)

Recently, I've noticed that's getting to big for her toys (bouncy chair, play mat, swing). She's either literally too big, or just 'over it'. It's no longer entertaining to lay on one's back and swat at toys. The other day, I sat her next to her basket of toys and she went wild. Now it's one of her favorite things to do; rifle through the toys and practice picking them up--of course everything must go into her mouth for a taste test.

She heard the shutter sound on my camera and turned around to see what was happening.

Yesterday, she noticed Adam had a band-aid on one of his fingers (he hurt it at school early that day while cutting out paper snow flakes. lol). I think she is very observant to notice little details like that. She was trying to figure out what it was.

Another new fascination is this cloth book. It was given to us at her first baby shower, but she hasn't ever played with it. It's Chinese, so some of the illustrations are interesting, but Willow loves the interactive features.

It captures her attention for a good ten minutes at a time--which is remarkable since her attention span is very limited. I like that it's cloth and she can't bang herself in the head/mouth while trying to eat it. It makes sounds, has removable pieces, and some different textures.

Willow likes to talk on skype (sort of) when she's in the mood to look at the faces on the ipad. She is becoming more aware of what's around her (looking for the source of sounds, etc.), and really likes it when Adam gets home from work.

Lately, Willow has been having trouble sleeping through the night. I'm so tired of waking up throughout the night, but she usually needs help getting out of a corner that she's jammed herself in or getting covered back up because she's so cold, or getting her nose cleaned because she's still a little sick. But, then she's just a happy girl in the morning, so I shouldn't complain. Yesterday she didn't nap all morning (because we were out) and I was exhausted! I will one day look back on these days with fuzzy feelings--so I'm trying to cherish them in the moment as well!

I'm working on her baby book and having fun with that. It's like a home made/scrap book version of a traditional baby book. I hope that she will enjoy looking at it in the years to come.

Willow, we love you more than ever and are so proud of you! We love your giggles and how happy you are to see us every time you wake up. We think your personality is so silly. When we play the game "I'm...Going...To...Get you!", you start to get us instead! So silly! You try to take your diaper off on the changing table, and you are always so cuddly. You're the best!


Advent...and a little Adventure

I can hardly believe that it is already December and the count down to Christmas has begun. In about two weeks, we'll be sitting on a plane headed toward America (and jet lag) to celebrate with family. I'm really excited about this chance we get to spend Christmas and New Year (plus some) with our family and friends. Willow doesn't know what we're doing or where we're going---but she's along for the ride.

Today, Willow and I went on a little shopping excursion. I had a two goals, both of which were met successfully, so I am happy. Plus, Willow managed to be extremely happy for the two hours that we were gone. She fell asleep on the taxi ride home, and I enjoyed her little cuddles. I look forward to the time when I don't have to hold her while we shop and worry about whether she needs to be changed or fed--to the times when she will (maybe) enjoy shopping with me. If you are ever feeling low or that your baby is just too much work, you should go shopping in China. Literally, the whole world stops for you, talks with you, admires and kisses your baby, and tells you every compliment about how pretty, beautiful, good looking, cute, and adorable your baby is. I haven't been shopping with Willow in a while, and I was quickly reminded about how much I had to keep STOPPING so that people could admire her. At some point, you have to walk away--almost rudely--or else it will never stop. Man, Willow is good for business. Every little shop we stopped at, people crowded in to see Willow. They would just come and stare at us, or surround us in hoards. They hug her, kiss her, touch her head...she actually likes it. She smiles and giggles and plays "shy". It's a little ridiculous. I imagine that as she gets older she might resent it a little, but as of right now, she just smiles and sticks her tongue happily.

People here always want to know three things:
1. How old is your baby?
2. Is your baby a boy or girl? (no matter if she's wearing all pink and bows...they still need clarification here)
3. What country is your baby from? (which is usually followed by, why doesn't she look white?)

The last few times I've been out, I've noticed a few things that have made me wish I had a camera along, because they're just so unusual. I wanted to write about them before I forget.

On Monday, I saw a small truck with a flat bed, piled high with second rate desks and couches. There were a few men standing in the back of the truck, holding onto the pile so they wouldn't fall off. Though, one guy was just sitting on a couch with his legs crossed, calmly smoking his cigarette. It just looked so comical, dangerous, and oh-so-Chinese.

In our taxi today, my first driver was a very friendly older man. I like it when the drivers are like him. Very nice and easy to talk with and they like Willow too. This guy thought Willow was funny because her little foot was near his gear shifter and he thought it was so cute. Some Chinese men really love babies, although most could care less about a stranger's kid. When we got out of the taxi, two old men (who were strangers to each other as well) came right up to me so that they could look at Willow. Very surprisingly they started telling me that she wasn't dressed warm enough. I say this is surprising because usually it's the women who tell me this, not men. I think this is the first time (although I know not the last) that Chinese gentlemen were giving me parenting advice on clothing Willow properly. We quickly got out of that situation and headed towards the shopping area.

Oh, back to my original story. When I was still in the taxi, I noticed that the taxi in front of me had an ornamental bird in the cab! What?! Who puts their pet bird in their taxi? So strange. First time I've ever seen anything like that. I was glad that I wasn't in that cab with the bird and all its germs being fluttered around. My taxi driver also thought it was bizarre and we had a good laugh.

Then, we were stopped at an intersection on quite a busy road. There were cars everywhere---it's a 8 lane road, which means there's probably 12 lanes of cars squished together. A cop who had been working at the light started walking towards us--everyone's eyes were glued on him. He was like a magnet--I don't see many interactions with police here, so I found myself staring with curiosity. It was interesting for two reasons: he walked up to the car next to me because it was an illegal taxi and asked for their license. I felt a little bad for that driver. The second interesting thing was that my driver quickly grabbed his seat belt and stretched it over his chest to make it look like he was buckled up. I've never seen that before! I didn't even know that wearing seat belts was a law here, since no one does. I reached for mine too, just in case--but the cop was walking away so the driver said I didn't need to pretend. haha.

Later, we ended up at Starbucks because one of Adam's student had given us a bag of coffee beans, but they needed to be ground. While I was there, I noticed that they have some special Christmas drinks being featured. I was so excited, because although it's not the holiday drinks that you might see in America, they actually sounded good! Toffee Mocha, Black Cherry Mocha, and Cranberry White Chocolate Mocha. I love white chocolate mochas--those are MY drink. But they don't make them in Shenyang. When I saw that they were selling a variation of it, I just had to try it out. They were also have a deal--buy a grande size for the price of a tall. So, I grande-d it up and drank to my hearts content. The only weird thing was the chunks of cranberries they sprinkled on top of the whipped cream...that was a little unsettling. However, I kept thinking to myself, "this is heaven in a cup". There was Christmas music, and a huge Christmas tree set up outside (like three stories tall), and Willow was playing with her toy next to me. It was a nice little respite from carrying her in the bjorn. That baby carrier is amazing, however, Willow is getting too heavy for my back. I think we need a stroller.

The weekend of Thanksgiving, I had a White Christmas party. A bunch of my friends (and some of their own daughters) came over and we ate dessert and watched "White Christmas". That's a random little fact that I want to remember someday. Willow wasn't exactly cranky, but she didn't want to watch the movie...

Last Friday, Adam had his middle school science fair. It was quite the undertaking and I was really impressed with all the work that he put into it. I think that it was quite a success, considering that it was an all day/evening event and it's the first time he's done it. This was all his idea, and he really brought it to fruition. Each middle school student chose a project, conducted experiments, and presented their findings/research on tri-fold boards (which they had to construct themselves because they don't sell the pre-made ones here). Throughout the day, students were judged by other teachers and almost all the elementary and high school students visited the activity room where their boards were displayed. The middle school students looked so cute. Everyone had to dress up "professionally". There were little middle school boys wearing sports jackets with elbow patches....oh my word! The whole activity room was set up with dozens of displays, and there was a constant buzz of activity. After school was dismissed, the middle school students stayed for pizza and games and waited for their parents to come in the evening. What a fun idea!

I was at school on Friday to finish casting "Little Women", so I was able to see all of Adam's hard work. He had to do so much between organizing the students' projects and helping them know what was required/guiding them through their processes; ordering buses for parents and students; arranging games, activities, movies, and supper for the students; orchestrating rubrics/judging; and scheduling other classes to come visit the science fair. Lots of work on top of being a teacher, a graduate student, and a family guy.

Well, "Little Women" is finally cast. I can't go into detail on here about casting, but I'll just say that it was the hardest year of all. It took many times longer than past years to cast students, and we even had to have last minute call backs on Friday. We deliberated, we chose, we cut, we posted....and now we hope that we made the best possible decisions. It was infinitely harder this year because we only had 15-ish parts to give out...but over twice that many students showed up.....more students showed up for this year's auditions that the last two years combined! We had our first read-through already, and I'm excited to be working with this group of kids. I think it's going to be a stellar show. I'm excited about costuming.... :) I'm going to buy some petticoats, bustles, and hoops while in America! Also maybe some wigs and bonnets.....

Long post...thanks for reading. Here's a picture so that this post is not only text. Willow is a high-tech baby, doing what she


Rough Patch

Willow's sleep history is as follows:
-newborn phase
-jet lag phase
-sleeping through the night for 2.5 months phase
-perfect storm phase

What is the perfect storm? It means she's teething, suffering from a bit of congestion, and moving around too much in her crib all at the same time. I don't know what happens, maybe she wakes up in pain or because her nose is stuffy, and then starts to cry. When she cries in her crib, she insists on scooting around and rolling over and ends up in these impossible situations all tangled up and fighting with her bumper and blanket. Someone has to go save her and then calm her down. Sometimes that means changing her diaper and feeding her again too. I can't remember the last night she slept without waking up. Last night, she was up three times. The same with the night before. Three nights ago she woke up FIVE times. Oi.

Well, now she's waking up again. So I need to go!