Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Almost There

We could not be happier to be sleeping in our own beds, using spoons that don't bend in the ice cream, and playing with our very own toys (or the boxes that delivered those toys).  The container was parked somewhere down the street, but I didn't have a chance to go find it to take its picture.  We worked non-stop unpacking boxes as they were brought in.  From the container down the street, they loaded our stuff onto a smaller truck and drove it to the basement lift to our tower.

From there, the boxes enjoyed a trip up 12 stories in a very well padded elevator.  They were then welcomed to their new home, which was also well wrapped to avoid wall damage.

B3 quickly made himself a little play area behind some boxes, and he was quite content to sit there and play while we worked.

Until the sofa arrived, that is.  Then, he made a little nest for himself and his dump truck and asked for a movie and a snack.  We were more than happy to oblige, since we were both working as hard as we could to empty boxes before we were out of space.

Both he and Ak were thrilled with the way the move changed our habits. They loved that when the table looks like this,

It meant that dinner looked like this:

In fact, they were visibly (and audibly) disappointed the next day when the table was excavated enough to eat breakfast on.  I think they really thought we'd have dinner (delivered by KFC) on Ikea buckets in front of the TV from then on. 

 It was almost like Christmas to open a box and discover treasures we'd been missing.  Of course, there have been some surprises; there is always something that makes its way into a box when it shouldn't have.  Our favorite discoveries so far:
  • A 30 something year old Disney souvenir. Sure, we all love Pluto, but why did he make the trip?  Better yet, why do I still have him at all? 
  • Textbooks. Probability, Statistics, International Business, and more. I'm fairly certain those haven't been opened since we finished grad school in 2002, but they've been moved 4 times now, including 2 international moves.  I think they might be introduced to the trash chute before they make another.  I'm fairly certain the textbooks were on the same shelf with Pluto. 
  • Heartworm pills for a dog we left in Georgia.  Sorry, Daisy.  Oh, wait - I wonder if Pluto needs them?
  • Water.  In a teapot.  G.R.O.S.S.  And a little unbelievable.
Despite days of hard work, there are still several boxes to unpack. The problem explanation is that we brought too many lots of books and way too much  a beautiful stash of fabric.  We'll find a place for everything eventually.  Until then, we're enjoying our stuff!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Calm Before the Storm

Tonight, our house is empty.  The furniture that came with our condo was moved out today.  No more rock-hard beds.  No more comfy leather sofa and shaggy zebra rug.  No more fake flowers; all three lovely arrangements of those are gone.  
The few plates and bowls and "real" silverware are out of the kitchen; only the plastic forks with bent tines remain.  Who knew they'd melt so easily? The TV is still here, and the empty living room has proven to be a great place for cars and trash trucks and bulldozers.  We're sleeping on air mattresses tonight.  

Doesn't it look so spacious?  Proof that looks are often deceiving, in case you answered yes. And it's loud.  Really, really loud.  

Just wait.  Just wait until tomorrow when our container completes its 7 week sea voyage and finally arrives at our door. Wait until there are boxes and boxes and crates and boxes and furniture too big to fit.  

We'll have things we've missed dearly and needed in the nearly seven weeks we've been here.  Favorite books.  Shoes that fit a growing girl's feet.  Baking dishes. (The cooking has definitely been a little on the boring side; there are only so many things you can do with a cheap pizza pan.) Pillows. Lots of pillows.  Blocks and cars (and more cars.  Yay!).  Two doll houses. A tall ironing board (we usually sit to iron now; the one we have is so short). Ben's coffee maker (because he's over the instant stuff).  Sewing machines.  I could go on and on. We're looking forward to having our stuff back.  I know that it's only stuff. But, it's my stuff. Our stuff.  Stuff that we sorted piece by piece, deliberated over bringing or leaving.  Stuff that we decided we couldn't live without or just might need one day.  Familiar and comfortable.  

Mostly.  I'm sure there will be more than one thing that we wonder why we brought it.  I'm just hoping that pile is small, because every scrap of space is spoken for.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Just for Uncle Serge

Do you feel compelled to visit now?  Come on over!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sick Day

After 5 weeks of everyone being healthy, the streak is broken. B3 had a runny nose last week which escalated over the weekend to a nasty cough and fever.  We managed to find a nebulizer over the weekend, so we started his usual medications before heading to the pediatrician on Monday.  The poor taxi driver kept looking at us as he drove; he must have thought I was in the back seat pinching B3 to make him cry and moan.  He was just miserable!  The pediatrician didn't have any available appointments, so we had to just show up and hope for the best.  Thankfully, we were out of there in about an hour, with a bag of 5 drugs in hand. 

 Monday brought breathing treatments every four hours,
Lots of snuggles,
and about a thousand viewings of his newest favorite video, Cars. 

When the Motrin kicked in, he even enjoyed a little snack in the window while he read to his best pal, Pancake.

So far, Tuesday has brought a much better B3.  The fever is reduced, if not gone, and his breathing is better.  the air quality was horrible yesterday, so we're staying inside today.  So, there are more breathing treatments, more viewings of Cars, and lots and lots of cars in the den.

I think he'll be back to normal in no time! 

Speaking of normal....what's 'normal' for B3 has long been small and quiet.  Well, guess what? He's growing...AND talking!  There's a pile of the cutest little boy clothes in the top of the closet.  Little stripes and plaids and monograms and memories all folded and stacked.  Little size 12-18 (even 6-12!) month things that I packed to bring just 6 short weeks ago. Under different circumstances, it might be bittersweet to see him grow out of those little things.  Considering, however,  that he wore these clothes last Summer, too, we're happy to see them go...the boy is growing!!  His feet are growing, too.  He's outgrown three pair of shoes, and we're going to live in Crocs and sandals we bought just last week until our shipment arrives.

He's beginning to use more and more words, too.  His pronunciation is dreadful, but he's talking.  We're hearing more and more 3 word phrases, and for the first time ever, he's actually mimicking a little.  All of the words are sweet, but my favorites are, "Yes, Ma'am!".  I think he knows I love that, because it's always accompanied by a sweet grin.  We're hoping to restart therapy soon.

B3 still loves anything that digs, lifts, rolls, flies, or has a siren.  He also enjoys brushing, drying, clipping, and combing hair, although he may leave us all bald before he learns more gentle styling techniques.  He's learning to count in the elevator, and he loves to push buttons...both the literal kinds in elevators....

...and his mother's figurative ones.

He's growing up!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thinking Metric in the Kitchen

When I was in elementary school, one of my math books said, "Be Prepared To Think Metric" on the front.  I guess it was probably fourth or fifth grade, and we were taught all of the ins and outs of the Metric System, supposedly preparing us to, in fact, "Think Metric". 

It didn't work.  Americans simply don't think metric.  If I were to say to almost anyone I know that It's 35 degrees Celsius right now, I'd get some blank stares and one "is that cold??"  in response.  No, it isn't cold.  It's about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, actually.  Some have an idea about kilometers, but that's usually because they're runners and have done a 5K.  I guess that sounds better than a 3M.  In general, we might know that a meter is roughly a yard but that's as far as it goes.

 Since I've worked in more than one job that required moving back and forth between metric and imperial in length (2.54 cm = 1 inch) and weight (2.2kg = 1 pound), it's not all that confusing.  But volume is something else completely; I just can't visualize milliliters.  Yet.  Which is why cooking has been a challenge during the past month.  We haven't received our shipment yet, which means we're relying on the meager kitchen supplies we inherited in our apartment or have acquired.  Which means those cheap Ikea measuring cups and free with purchase grocery store measuring spoons have gotten a workout.  Those metric  measuring cups and spoons.  (We're also depending on a set of Ikea knives that are only marginally better than the plastic ones in the drawer, but that's another whine for another day).

After doing our research when we visited here in July, we knew we needed to bring chocolate with us. It's available, but it's expensive.  Some of you may be wondering if it's really that important that we spent time researching chocolate instead of the thousands of other things we might have researched. The answer is, without a doubt, undeniably, YES.  Anyway. we imported Trader Joe's chocolate chips  because we knew we'd need them. And need them we did recently. 

I had a recipe.  I had ingredients. I had a spoon and a pot to serve as my mixing bowl.   I had scratch paper and a calculator.  Yes, I realize that I could have found dozens of recipes online that were ready for my milliliter measurers, but what's the fun in that?  I admit it; math makes me happy.  Or, maybe anything that involves more brain cells than The Itsy Bitsy Spider leaves me feeling a little bit more intelligent. 

So, cookies were baked and enjoyed.  There's still a bit of dough in the freezer, but I doubt it lasts much longer.

While we're talking about baking, take a look at our oven.
Isn't it cute?  Can you tell how tiny it is?  Have you ever used an Easy Bake Oven?  Yeah. About like that.  It measures a tight 14" x 17", and we left most of our pans behind because they're too big.  (See?  We didn't just research chocolate availability when we visited; we measured the oven, too). 

After the cookie experiment, I came across a recipe for homemade pop tarts that I thought AK would enjoy cooking and eating.  So, again armed with my scratch pad and calculator (yay!), we made a batch.  AK was thrilled to be back in the kitchen, and she made a list of all the things we'll cook when our stuff arrives.  Chicken and dumplings are on the top of her list. 

Anyway, we don't have a rolling pin, but we do have these handy glasses and some parchment paper:

AK did most of the rest of the work for these little tarts.  She put the filling on each square:

Incidentally, she's using whortleberry jam.  I thought it was blueberry, but nope.  Whortleberry. Who knew there even was a whortleberry?

She smashed the edges with a fork:

And she enjoyed the fruits of her labor:

These little tarts are yummy, kid friendly , and very easy to make.  We'll definitely make them again soon!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Our Chinese Scholar

AK has had a Mandarin lesson each day at school for 3 weeks now, but she rarely admits that she's learned a thing.  Occasionally, she'll tell me a new word (book and ball have been reported), but usually, I get a shrug and she says, "same stuff!" when I ask what she learned (Note to Mom and Dad...yes, I realize that this is payback for all those years of my unwillingness to report about my school day.)

Anyway, because she never volunteers much information, I was a little surprised when she brought me this when she and B3 were coloring:
She said, "It's part of my name in Chinese.  It says 'an'".  Now, I was impressed, yet skeptical.  Even so, I snapped a picture and posted it on Facebook. Imagine my surprise (shock, really) when a friend who lives in Japan responded with,
 "That is definitely a Chinese character: 安.  I don't know about in Chinese but in Japanese it is pronounced "an" or "yasu(i)" so maybe it is the last phonetic character of the family name.."

Wow. So my kid really DID write the first part of her name in Chinese.  She IS learning something!  And someone else recognized it!

Later that afternoon, I caught her singing a song I didn't know.  When I asked her what it was, she rolled her eyes (is she 15 or 5?) and said, "It's in CHINESE, mama.  You can't sing Chinese!"  I convinced her to let me video her, so here she is (please excuse the poor video orientation/sound/quality; I did this with my phone, and clearly, I have much to learn).

Of course, after I stopped recording, she told me that it was the "Hello, How are you? I'm fine, Thank You" song.

We can't wait to see what else she learns.  Obviously, her Chinese already surpasses mine.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Where We Live: Take a Walk

After AK gets on the bus at 7:45 am each morning, B3 and I are on our own for the day.  Sometimes, we walk with B2 to the train station or we go to the market.  There's really no need to get in much of a hurry, because nothing around us opens before 9:30, and most things don't open until well after that. 

Our complex has a little trail that meanders around the second floor of the buildings, and B3 enjoys walking there in the mornings.  Predictably, he'll pull on flowers, try to separate the tree's roots, and talk to the cars in the car park below us. 

Some of the plants and flowers are familiar; either I've seen them as houseplants or growing in Florida or Hawaii.

For instance, there are schefflera plants everywhere.  We've had one of these as a houseplant forever, so it's nothing new.  It IS different to see them just growing along the sidewalk.

And, this one's for you, Tonya.  Isn't this the KK12 Plant That Would Not Die?  I think of you and laugh each time I pass by, which is daily.  Many times a day, in fact.

Some plants are all new and fun.  I think these are all varieties of Heliconias:

There are many different types of palm trees, but this type has amazing roots.  B3 never fails to stop and try to separate the roots.

This one has the best hair:

Then, there are staghorn ferns in some of our trees.  Mom, these are a bit bigger than that one you tried to grow years ago.

There are frangipani trees, too.

Perhaps you've seen them in Hawaii or even Florida (not sure about FL), but The Patton/Marion/Richwine families know the frangipani from another source - The Big Orange Splot , an all-time favorite book:
AK was excited to see the same kinds of tree that Mr. Plumbean planted in his yard!

There are other flowers, too...

There's a foot reflexology area, which I don't yet understand:

Another favorite spot is the Koi Pond, where AK and B3 enjoy feeding and watching the fish  and I try to figure out how I'm going to extract them from the water when they fall in. It hasn't happened yet, but it's only a matter of time before it does. 

All around the property, there are little gazebos with grill and picnic areas. These are also good for climbing in and out and in and out and in and out of chairs if you're two and a half.

Nestled behind the kiddie pool in the back of the complex, there's a small playground.  If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a little monkey playing there as you walk by:

We're enjoying our new home, and we're thankful for fun things to see right outside our door each day!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

Last weekend, we enjoyed a Chinese lunch of ramen, rice, buns, dumplings, and crispy chicken. 

AK decided that she actually liked the ramen, after she finally tasted it. 

I discoved that I really like lemon tea, and it's almost an acceptable substitute for real sweet tea. 

Ben and I did our best to eat the entire meal with chopsticks, and neither of us left hungry.  B3 screamed and cried because he didn't have any chopsticks and tried desperately to steal mine (actually, he was a complete helllion during the entire meal; but that's another post for another day. One entitled, "Why must Two be so Terrible?").  So, I promised them both I'd buy them chopsticks. 

I remembered seeing some at Carrefour, so I surprised them a few days later.  They both enjoyed playing with them with beads, little wads of paper, and a dump truck. 

We haven't eaten a meal with them yet, but I think I'll have some forks handy...just in case.