Wednesday, December 7, 2011

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


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