Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Picks

Books, books, books.
Here are Willow's picks. I talked to her about why these were her favorite books for this month, and she gave me some very insightful responses. I will insert Willow's book reviews for your enjoyment.

"Tails" by Matthew Van Fleet is a very entertaining read. It has a pleasant weight to it, since the pages are very thick as is the binding. The first thing I loved about this book was the cover. I know they say you're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but how can you resist all the colors and textures that just POP off the page?! It's fantastic! I like to sit for a good two or three minutes just to study the cover and feel all the different textures. Of course my favorite is the tiger's tail, but I spit up on it today, so I'm pretty sure it will never feel the same again. My bad. Anyway, each page has rhymes about animals and their tails, uses great descriptive words to describe how they feel, and incorporates unique animals (and their tails of course). Each page has textures, or pop out pages, flaps, or whatnot to interact with. My favorite tail is that of the porcupine. I've learned that porcupine tails are very spiny. To say the least, I highly recommend this book to my peers---just not my copy, since I had a little mishap on the cover (as previously mentioned) it's my favorite.

How do you feel about puppies? Well, I've never really seen a real puppy, but these DK pictures are very realistic and I feel like I can relate to each puppy. I mean, they're always running around and chewing things, I know exactly what they're going through! I also love all the textures on each page. My favorite is the last page, there are three little puppies with velvety noses--I can't resist it, I MUST kiss them every time we get to that page. I'm very good at kissing lately.

What's not to love about Dr. Seuss and his unique rhyming scheme? Nuff said.

Thanks to Willow for collaborating on this post and giving her book reviews of her Favorite February books.
Here's what I've been reading this month.
"Death Comes to Pemberley". Just started this one, so we'll see how it goes...but basically, Mr. Wickham gets murdered. The author attempts to write using Austen-like prose, so it's interesting.

This book is not as cheesy as the cover would suggest, but it was a quick read and very I guess I'll still place it in the cheesy category. It was a relaxing story, however, and I read it one day.

I have loved the movie "The Princess Bride" for so long, I was excited to finally read the book. I'm a firm believer in books being better than movies that are based on the same story-- but I was actually surprised to find the book surpassed my expectations. What makes the book so clever is that the author makes you believe that you are reading an abridgment of The Princess Bride that was originally written by S. Morgenstern as a parody on the decline of European monarchies. Goldman tells you about his son and psychiatrist wife, offering a purpose for why he is even going about writing an abridgment. He sprinkles in enough facts about his actual professional life that you start to believe him. The introduction to "The Princess Bride" is so long that you start to wonder when the actual story will begin. In reality, S. Morgenstern, his 'original' story, the son, and the psychiatrist wife are all made up (I had to look it up on Google because I was so curious). Throughout the whole story, Goldman is constantly interrupting the text, to either tell you something he is skipping over in Morgenstern's 'original' story, or to give you some parenthetical commentary on the world at that time. He's very long winded in these commentaries, but his dry sense of humor is irresistible so I usually ended up reading his comments whether I wanted to or not. Since Goldman actually did help to write the screenplay for "The Princess Bride" the similarities between the book and the movie are numerous. However, I was surprised to find that Buttercup was not only beautiful, but also silly, awkward, and a little ditsy...sometimes even socially awkward, and painfully embarrassing. I loved it.

Willow is also starting to enjoy watching TV, which I'm not particularly happy or proud about. But I confess, it is good to have a break once a day where she isn't fussing at me to hold her or play with her. She demands 100% of my attention, and she knows if she's not receiving it. There are very few instances when she is happy to be on her own. She knows how to play by herself, but she hates to be alone. Hence why she has been crying in her crib for the past thirty minutes (currently), because she refuses to go to sleep. We've been trying to get to sleep for the past two hours. She's over tired, and basically hasn't had a nap in the past 11 hours because she refused to nap this afternoon. Anyway--all that to say that Willow enjoys watching her 40 Years of Sesame Street DVD. She is in love with all the puppets, especially Big Bird, Grover, and Elmo. She definitely pays close attention to those the most. She has a few favorite clips and we watch them over and over again. I don't mind, since it's so nostalgic to watch vintage Sesame Street. Adam enjoys it too.
She's also been watching the first ten minutes of "The Princess and the Frog" this week. She is enthralled by the animation and the musical numbers. It's sort of a scary movie though, so I'm glad that her attention span maxes out after several minutes. Maybe I'll try to find copies of Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast.

This, on the other hand, is what Adam and I are watching lately. "Once Upon a Time" is about every fairy tale character (basically) you ever knew that has become trapped in the real world. There has been a curse placed on them and they have know memory of who they really are. All their lives are a little messed up, and not ending happily ever after--but there is a way to break the curse. We don't know what it is yet, but it involves Snow White's daughter. I like how it twists the stories just a little so that they are recognizable, yet unexpected. I also like how their names in the real world are somehow linked to their fairy tale names. Snow White's name becomes Mary Margaret Blanchard. Blanchard makes me think of the word blanch, or blanc, which means white. And I've heard that Mary Margaret is part of the name of a woman from the 18th century that inspired the Snow White story. The evil queen's name becomes Regina, which means Queen. Jiminiy Cricket's name becomes Mr. Hopper. Red Riding Hood's name becomes Ruby. It's not just the names that draw me in. I love fairy tales, always have, and probably always will. Even though I took a class about them in community college, which basically ruined fairy tales for me temporarily. Apparently, fairy tales can be interpreted in dirty ways, and my teacher always did exactly that. The most interesting thing about that class was reading 10-12 different versions of the same stories from all over the world. You quickly see that, without much communication, almost identical stories were popping up all over the Eastern and Western hemispheres--they were archetypes, universal, and enduring.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sick Sunday

Didn't go to fellowship today because Adam had been feeling sick all day Saturday, and it seemed to get worse during the night. It's nothing serious, but he's considering not going into work tomorrow either. February is officially the sick month. Either Adam, Willow or myself has been sick during this entire month.

Anyway, when I heard Willow start to wake up this morning, I asked Adam if he heard her too. She wasn't crying, but every once in a while you could hear some activity coming from her room. Adam went to check on her, and came back with a smiling baby a minute later. He was laughing because Willow had been standing up in her crib, playing with the different things that were on her changing table (her arms are very good at reaching).

Then, later on that day, Willow was taking a very long nap. Usually her nap is about 30-60 minutes long, but she had been sleeping for almost three hours. I don't like waking Willow up from her naps, because if she needs the rest, I'm not going to stop her from taking it. But, this was a really long nap, and I started to wonder if she was all right. Adam likes to get Willow up from a nap, because he thinks she is so cute when she first wakes up. So once again, Adam went to go check on Willow. He came back with Willow, once again, laughing because she had been sitting up in her bed while brushing her teeth! She had retrieved her tooth brush from where it was located on her changing table, sat down, and had been brushing her teeth for who knows how long. So cute! We hadn't heard her at all--no fussing or crying. Usually Willow cries when she wakes up from a nap--either because she is still tired and was woken up prematurely, or because she is scared, or because she just wants someone to come and get her. So it is very funny that she decided to just be content and hang out on her own before letting us know she was awake.

During Willow's second nap, I worked on getting dinner ready, washed dishes, and worked on a few loads of laundry. I've had a slightly productive weekend of house cleaning, Little Women stuff, and reorganizing my pinterest boards (not 'really' that productive, but it makes me feel better). This has been the first weekend all month that I've been able to take it easy. The weekends have been the best time for me to go out to the markets, since Adam can help by watching Willow. I wanted to go again this weekend, but forced myself to stay at home and take care of things here.

Willow has been eating a little more food in the lumpy category. She loves cheerios, carrots, potatoes, bananas, egg yolk, toast, and biscuits. This coming week we will try out noodles and baked apples. It's nice that she can eat some of what we're eating now. For instance, I steamed some carrots tonight, and Willow ate a few little pieces. She is so excited to taste what we're eating--I can tell she's proud.

Also, today Willow started clapping her hands for real. She's been practicing the motion of clapping her hands for a while, but would mostly keep her hands balled up in fists. Today, however, she seems to have moved past clapping her fists and now uses her palms correctly. She claps her hands quite often; whenever she is proud, happy, excited, or bored--she's clapping her hands.

Will add a few pictures soon. Off to bed now! It's been a long day, and it will probably be a long night with a baby who has embraced the newborn schedule all over again.


The Goods and the Bads...I realize this is a terrible title

Last night as I was trying to fall asleep, I rolled onto my stomach to get more comfortable. I love to sleep on my stomach; for years and years it was how I fell asleep. When I was pregnant with Willow, I forced myself to sleep on my left side most of the night, and that was so uncomfortable. Even after she was born, it was difficult and uncomfortable to sleep on my stomach. Now, I can finally get comfy again and fall asleep oh-so-content on my tummy. Yay! This got me to thinking about the worsts and bests of everything. In typical OCD fashion, I started counting of 5 things for each category I could think of until I passed out. Here were a few of my thoughts.

Five Best Things About Pregnancy:
1. Better nails and hair that didn't fall out
2. Not having to lift anything heavy
3. Getting spoiled by Adam--hardly every shopping or cooking
4. Making a place for Willow in our home and lives
5. Nesting in general

Five Worst Things about Pregnancy:
1. Not being able to sleep (discomfort, sleeping on my side, too much movement, leg spasms, heartburn, restless legs, light sleeping, etc.)
2. Having to pee at least once every night
3. Avoiding certain foods (tuna, bacon, soft cheese, etc.)
4. Limiting caffeine (so hard when hard when teaching)
5. Feeling swollen, tired, and over heated all the time

Five Best Things about our apartment:
1. Three bedrooms (in China, this is great news)
2. Interesting details/trim around the apartment (that's rare)
3. Nice flooring
4. First floor living is convenient, and we have no yard work
5. Landlord-provided furniture, including a big TV for Adam

Five Worst Things about our apartment:
1. Our neighbors are horrible, noisy, and drive me crazy
2. Only 1 bathroom
3. Nice flooring shows every speck of dust
4. No choice in furniture, am prohibited to re-purpose furniture to my liking
5. Poor appliances and amenities (20 minutes of hot water, tiny washing machine, no dryer, no oven, only two burners on the stove, tiny sink, no drawers in the kitchen, AC in only one room, no central heating)

Five Most Annoying Things about our neighbors (disclaimer: I feel bad confessing these things, I don't want to sound like a complainer, but it's been years--and I need to get it out--hopefully it will be cathartic):
1. They drop marbles on the floor in the room above our bedroom randomly throughout the day/night
2. They yell, walk around in high heels, and chop their vegetables with vengeance
3. They have guys speaking loudly/yelling on weekend mornings at 6 or 7 am.
4. They smoke (it smells), and cook (it smells), and flush their toilet (it smells)
5. They have been remodeling for 7 months, and it's past the point of annoying

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Friday Stripes

Or maybe we should call it obstacle course Friday. Willow pulled down a few pillows on her own, and then I gave her a few more. She had fun crawling and snuggling all over these pillows for at least twenty minutes, so I had to take a few pictures.

Got a little stuck at this point.

Helping take pictures again.
Yay! Clapping her hands.
Walking around her book basket for a while was also entertaining. She kept standing on her tip toes (calf workout!) and squatting (exercise those thighs!). Super cute. I tried to get a picture of her squatting because it looked so funny, but I was too late in grabbing the camera.

Back to helping with taking pictures.

This is Willow's new face she makes often. She purses her lips when she's either tired, concentrating, or upset about something. I see her doing it when she's focused on a task, ready to take a nap, or in a stressful situation out in public.

Little lips. Come to think of it, she used to make this face when she was a few weeks old, but she is re-instituting it as a regular look around here.

Had some kids over for dinner the other night. Willow loved interacting with new people. She is becoming less shy, but likes to know that her parents are nearby. I'm also having a 5th grader come over once a week to help out with Willow. She will play with Willow so that I can get a few things done around the house. It works out as a win-win-win situation for us all and I'm really excited for a little extra time (especially since Adam is going to be more busy with soccer soon), and the relationship that Willow will get to build with this lovely girl. She was actually one of my students two years ago, and I really enjoy her company.


Thursday, February 23, 2012


It snowed a few inches last night in Shenyang--which was magical if you were inside a warm apartment. In the morning, the sun reflected off the fresh snow and made our home extra bright. Unless the temperature warms soon, this snow will be around until it's an ugly, sooty permafrost.
It was only fitting that Willow should wear this snowflake outfit that her Grandma Johnson gave her for Christmas.

I think she believes she is important to the photography process if given the camera lens cover.

Ok, enough with being important to the process, time to pull myself up on this couch.

Now it's time to take the fabric out of the suitcase mom was packing.

Now it's time to examine crumbs I picked up with my own chubby fingers. Geez, you think mom could keep a cleaner home with a house keeper and everything.
p.s., aren't her eyebrows hysterical?

Now it's time to eat said crumb.

This is my new trick. I can finally help myself to some water.

Today, we were both very busy. I somehow missed lunch again between all the chores, play stuff, rehearsals, and hanging out with my baby. We played, read, and had lots of giggles. There was some skype, and she ate some more finger food. On Monday, she's going to try her first noodle dish. Yesterday she ate her first egg yoke and liked it. She likes her munchies, toast, and bananas. She would much rather eat whatever her parents are having, but for now, she has to stick with her baby menu.

Her little teeth are so funny! I love to kiss her chubby cheeks.

Off to bed. It's 10 pm, and Willow will not care that I stayed up three hours later than she did. I am a person who both needs and loves rest.


Little Women

Fabric, fabric, everywhere--fabric coming out of my ears.
This, plus a bit more, is what 100 yards of material looks like.
Found at a fabric market that I've frequented since moving here, it cost about $300 altogether, and this was the first year that I didn't buy a single scrap from the cheap piles (which are basically heaps of ragged, torn, stained, unwanted pieces of yardage). Moving on up! I tried to pare down the costume list as much as possible so that we could invest in more quality materials.
Then, I did another thing that I skipped for previous shows...I washed it all. This takes a significant amount of time when the circumference of one's washing machine is the same as that of a dinner plate. Also, it's very difficult when some pieces are thirty feet long and need to be hang dried because I don't have a dryer. It's a long and arduous process. Basically took two whole weeks to buy, wash, dry, iron, fold, and organize. I want these costumes to look better than passable, but we'll see what happens. I'm not the best at choosing textiles and have a hard time visualizing the final affect. Plus, there's a lot of trust that goes into the process, because I give the tailor the fabric and a picture and she does her best to recreate the look without even using a pattern. That's skill.

During Willow's nap this morning I was working on gluing swatches to my pictures to help the tailor stay on track with which fabrics belong to which dresses.

This year, I probably invested over fifty hours in researching for costumes. This is actually standard. It takes a while to find pictures of costumes that I want to be made, and sometimes I find great looks but horrible pictures. Usually what happens is what I want is unrealistic and I have to constantly remind myself to be practical.

Willow woke up from her nap and wanted to 'help' by taking everything OUT of the suitcase. I should have done this task the previous night, but was too tired and unmotivated/undisciplined. So, this morning I walked out into our living area and saw the mountains of fabric--I experienced a lot of groaning and grumbling because I realized that I would have to personally cart the materials to school. If I had finished the night before, then Adam could have taken them with him to school.
I was wondering how I would be able to do this on my own since I would have to carry Willow too. Also, it had snowed several inches during the night and the road wasn't shoveled. It was quite a traumatic experience, actually. I bundled Willow up, put on my own coat and mittens, and then looked at my pile of stuff. I had a suitcase that weighed about fifty pounds and a big IKEA bag that was stuffed with 15 yards of fabric. I picked up Willow, slung the bag over my shoulder, and started hauling the suitcase out the door. The real fun began when I got outside. The suitcase had a hard time 'rolling' over inches of snow and ice. I slipped once, but was able to recover my balance before hitting the concrete (scared myself!). I am known to fall often. I was grumbling and griping because this was a horrible experience. I could barely hang on to Willow because we were bundled up so much, I only had one arm for her, and she's over twenty pounds. Thankfully she was very still and not trying to get away from me or throw a tantrum. Somehow we made it towards the complex gate. I knew I had to get that far, and then the school bus would pick me up. I had to stop every ten seconds to readjust and give myself a break. I'm out of shape. As I neared the gate, a Chinese man actually stopped to help me! Wow, I always love it when this happens because I'm used to people gawking or criticizing my efforts, but not really lending a hand. He was my angel at that moment. He helped me to the gate, and then I stood there in a little bit of panic. The bus wasn't there. The bus is ALWAYS there when I arrive. And if it's not, that means that no one is going to pick up (i.e. they forgot). How was I going to get to the main road (quite a distance more) with all this stuff, through all the snow. My body couldn't take it. I thought about turning around and going back home, but I didn't have my key (ah!). So I stayed a few more minutes--finally the bus pulled up and I was so relieved. The driver helped me get all the stuff into the vehicle and it was smooth sailing from there.

The tailor came, and a friend/colleague from the school helped me to translate my ideas to her. We had half of the cast measured for the costumes--we were missing quite a few people though, so we will have to have a second day for fittings.

I'm excited to see what the tailor will be able to come up with. This has the potential to be a great costume play, but as I am not a very visual person and have no claims on fashion design, we'll see what happens.

This is the awesome couch that has been purchased for the play. I went out and bought it last weekend and was able to bring it to school via helpful friends. Isn't it amazing?! I can't believe that we were able to afford such an awesome set. Like I said, we're moving on up.

I don't necessarily have more 'time' for theater this year since being a mom is a lot of work. But I think I have a tiny bit more presence of mind. Little Women has been an enjoyable experience for me so far and I'm really glad to be working on it. I love the cast, and am excited for all the potential I see in every aspect.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Yet another

Post containing pictures of Willow baby.
I guess there's just little else to show pictures of these days, and everyone back home always wants to see Willow....
Since I posted the last entry, Willow took her first step! She pulled herself up to a standing position using the couch, let go, and then took a step. She was probably standing on her own for a few seconds as well. I can't believe how mobile is she is, and how much she tries to achieve at her young age. I wish I was making this up, or exaggerating, but Adam can attest that this REALLY happened. Of course, Willow was ecstatic and did a lot of arm flapping and squeaking afterwards. She is a penguin.

Something I've been thinking about lately is how Chinese people never assume gender. At first, I found this strange, but now I kind of prefer their, "boy or girl" question. It's a lot better to the alternative, of someone calling your daughter a boy (which happens somewhat frequently). I don't know whether I should be offended or not by people thinking that Willow is a boy. It happens at the doctor's office (people think her name is "Will" or that Willow is a boy's name), and even with random strangers. It happened today too! Chinese people, however, will always ask the following questions when they walk over to admire Willow:

1. How old?
2. Boy or girl?
3. Is she cold?
4. Is she American?
5. Are you American?

I used to think that they asked me if she was a boy or a girl because they couldn't tell--but now I think they ask because it's part of their culture. It also makes sense since they don't really differentiate between male and female clothing styles or colors. For instance, on the airplane on our return flight, there was a one year old boy dressed in a lacy pink cardigan. A foreigner would automatically assume that this little kid was a girl, but I've learned to ask, "boy or girl?".


Time with Daddy

Because of "Little Women", Willow has had lots more opportunity for one-on-one time with her Dad. Whether it's because of rehearsals twice a week, or long weekend shopping trips, Willow loves the chance to play with Adam. He has a much higher energy level and usually encourages Willow's desires to explore, investigate, and get into all sorts of trouble.
Here are some pictures I found on the camera after Adam babysat Willow one day.

She is getting so tall, and pulls herself up on all sorts of objects. She is also beginning to experiment with balancing on her feet. She pulls herself up on her crib rail, or the couch, or one of her parents and then....lets go! The longest she has gone without falling has been about 3 seconds, but it still freaks me out.
Today she bumped her head and has a little bruise from trying to climb on top of container of sweet tea and falling into the cupboard.


Valentine's Day

Once, when I was probably about five or six years old, I remember that my dad brought me a little heart shaped box with six chocolates inside for Valentine's Day. Filled with self-control, I somehow saved those candies for over a year because I thought that they were so special that I shouldn't eat them. Until my mom found them, declared them too old, and we had to throw them away. It's funny because as I'm typing this, I realize that I still do this sort of thing today. I save items we've imported from the States and use them so sparingly that I usually have to throw them away because they expire or become rancid. This has happened more than once, and Adam gets on my case about it.
Anyway, this year, we decided last minute to go out for Valentine's Day. We were able to find a friend to babysit Willow so that we could get away for a few hours. It was nice to go out and eat tasty food together without having to entertain Willow. We went out to a nice Italian restaurant and ate way too much food. Yum. Time is going by so fast. I can't believe that Willow is 7 months old, or that this was our 5th Valentine's Day together, or that we're in our third year of living overseas. It's crazy. It's blessed.