These Boots were made for Preschool

A big personality with boots to match

A big personality with boots to match

Following in the footsteps of her guh-guh, Charlotte is now attending her second year of preschool, this time at Wesley Learning Center in Sandy Hook.  Orion last night sweetly asked C if she wanted any tips or advice and then offered up some mathematics knowledge to help her through her first day:  “Do you know what 4+4 is?  8.  Do you know what 50+50 is?  100.  200+200?  400!”  You know, just the basics for any three and a half year old to retain.

Ahh!  Six hours of newfound freedom each week, right?  By the time I paid bills, dealt with insurance nonsense and began my new position as coordinator for my Church’s Fall Fair (we are still living out of boxes, why not oversee a new project?) my time was up and I was back on the road to pick up my little lady.  While she didn’t specify what she did during her morning, her wide smile and eagerness to return was enough for me.  I knew she had a great time and was itching to play with children, as she has been out of school since March.  A big plus is that these children speak the same language as her!

The afternoon ended with a pool playdate with the Morris family, bicycling with the neighbor boys and her choice of dinner for the first day of school–macaroni and cheese (for breakfast she chose blue scrambled eggs, the leftovers of which no one has touched).

Yo Ho Ho, Mateys!

Today we hosted a pirate birthday party to celebrate our favorite scallywags, Captain Sharkey Scoundrel Orion and Captain Dreadful Curly Hair Charlotte’s birthdays.  Children were invited to dress in pirate costumes, but we had pirate scarves, eye patches, tattoos and face paint to help those who wanted to bring it to the next level.  Layne came up with a creative game for the children to chose pirate names, but it was the adults who really had a good time with it!  I am particularly proud of mine; Plundering Squidlips Elizabeth, and you may now refer to me as such.

They Say It’s Your Birthday!

Orion is 5 years old!  (we have a hard time wrapping our heads around that one).

Happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday to you!

The birthday boy was in charge of our plans today.  He chose what I cooked and where he wanted to go.

For breakfast he chose his favorite stuffed french toast, a lunch of tomato potato soup (the kid loves soup!) and for dinner lasagna.  As previously mentioned, lasagna used to pose a slight problem here but has gotten much easier to prepare.  I still make ricotta, I now suck it up and buy the sauce, but the noodles…I have now found the lasagna sheets but they are expensive.  I think $6 for a box of pasta is expensive!  Alright, Elizabeth, get a grip and pay the man his ¥36 and move on with your life!  I must learn how to make it from scratch.  So much more satisfying!

Though Orion has the entire metro system, taxis and shuttle bus at his disposal, it was a good thing O wanted to stay home because it was quite cold and started to snow.  All the sweet thing wanted to do was go to the playroom and then to the park.  We saved the park for a warmer day and after the playroom headed into the metro station for lunch (much better than it sounds, trust me) and to see our friend Brown for some DVDs.

This evening we were joined by our friend Indigo while her sister was taken out by her parents for a special evening of their own.  The lasagna was a hit with everyone (turns out Orion was previously boycotting lasagna because doesn’t like ricotta so that is an easy fix) and for birthday dessert, strawberry cupcakes with cream cheese strawberry frosting.  His favorite gifts include a Transformer (he doesn’t watch television, where did he learn about them to request one for his birthday?) and a road track thingie (not sure what to call it).  Both took Layne a while to set up. As Orion said, “maybe only Chinese people can put them together?”  In Chinese “fake” fashion, it is not actually a true Transformer, but rather a “Traesfarmor” and already had a few pieces broken off in the transforming process.  Why make it so difficult?  When you press the sound button it alternates between futuristic “pyooo pyooo pyooo” sounds, a telephone ringing and a man saying “let’s go, rangers!”  He is thrilled with it and I think the quirkiness adds to the “charm” of the toy.  He was a patient gentleman tonight, serving others cupcakes before himself and not getting upset as both girls crawled over and around the car track playing with the cars he just received as gifts.

Orion, we love you and are proud of the boy you are growing into; smart, kind, inquisitive, sensitive, clever, handsome, gentle and loving.  Thank you for being a part of our life!

新年快乐! Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Bright, Fun, Gaudy, Fantastic;  Chinese New Year is on the same celebratory level as Christmas in America.  I have heard how laowai abandon the country in droves this week to escape the enormous crowds, incessant firecrackers and closed businesses (I was warned to buy extra groceries in anticipation), but we are excited to celebrate China’s most important holiday in the thick of it all, no matter how many sleepless nights the firecrackers cause!

Everywhere you turn, you will see freshly hung cheery red lanterns and decorations.  As this is the year of the horse, equines emblazon everything from cards, sculptures, art and underwear.  We even saw a special edition Year of the Horse My Little Pony (still kicking myself for not getting that one for Charlotte).  You name it, they make a horse version of it.  There are also tangerine trees everywhere, which make a popular gift.  The shape and color of the fruit is reminiscent of coins, symbolizing prosperity.

There are many rules and also exceptions to these rules about what is proper CNY etiquette.  Do not wear or give gifts in the color white–a funeral color.  Do not give gifts in fours–the word four, si, sounds similar to the word death.  Six and Eight are auspicious numbers, however.  Noodles should be uncut to represent a long life.  Hongbao (red envelopes given to children and unemployed adults) should be give in even numbers–odd numbered monetary gifts are only given at funerals.  However, this is determined by the first digit in the number, not by the number as a whole (for example, 30 is considered an odd number based on the leading digit 3).  There are so many rules I wonder if anyone remembers or understands them all.  The one that sticks with me, however, is that no one is allowed to sweep floors on the first day of the year.  DONE!

I sent a photo of the festive sign I bought for our front door to a Chinese friend, asking if I had the character displayed correctly.  She congratulated me for knowing to hang it upside down which is how this specific character is done for the holiday.  Say what?!

Orion’s school put on a grand CNY performance complete with dragons, lion dancers, Chinese acrobats and confetti cannons!  His Pre-Kindergarten class performed their version of a Kung Fu demonstration which was adorable.  I cannot stop watching the video of him on stage.  Should I be bothered that he smiled widest as he was “punching” the backs of his friends?

One night we took a trip to Yuyuan Gardens to enjoy the annual lantern display.  The lanes were lined with hundreds of lit lanterns, each lane with a different theme to it.  The main attraction was the huge display at the center of it all, featuring a three story tall horse snorting smoke surrounded by animatronic figures.  At the entrance to the Garden of Contentment, the waters surrounding the famous zig-zag bridge (it is believed evil spirits cannot turn corners so the bridge is safe. *phew*) were full of bright animatronic figures and scenes.  The walk-through started, however, with a scene depicting Adam and Eve; surprising, considering China’s environment of strictly regulated religion.  It was a very enjoyable evening!

Mr. Li and his mother, proud to show off their most honored holiday, invited us again for a feast at their home on New Year’s Eve.  If Santa Clause was a Chinese Granny, it would be Mrs. Li.  Waiting excitedly at her front door, pink cheeked, eager to see the children, she happily handed each of them a hong bao full of money.  Last time Mrs. Li prepared 21 dishes–this time when Mr. Li asked his mother how many she made, she looked perplexed–she lost count!  The table was set with about six dishes when we arrived, and continued on into the evening.  Poor Mrs. Li barely had time to sit and enjoy a few bites before she was shuffling back into the kitchen to make something new every few minutes.  Our feast included traditional foods such as Eight Treasures Rice (glutinous rice mold studded with raisins, red dates, nuts and filled with sweet red bean paste) and Tang Yuan (a sweet soup filled with dumplings full of sweet black sesame paste).  The evening rightfully concluded by setting off firecrackers in the street which was much anticipated by Orion.

Back at home, the loud fireworks did not interrupt the children’s sleep or Layne’s ability to concentrate on work, which is exactly what he went back to doing.  The deafening noise and billowing smoke culminated just before midnight, but we could not see the actual fireworks because the air was too;  how to put it delicately so my phone doesn’t get shut off again;  full of revolutionary zeal.  The kind that causes lung cancer.  It is the closest I can imagine to being in a war without ever having been in one.  It was loud and shook the building and seemed unending. Fantastic fun!

Layne living it up on CNY

Layne living it up on CNY

 新年快乐!

Happy New Year!

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Happy 2nd Birthday, Charlotte!

Happy birthday dear Charlotte!

We cannot believe you are two years old already and are amazed at how big and sweet you are!  We had a lovely day together playing, cooking, and riding scooters with Orion when he came home from school.  We had an even better evening as Daddy came home early to eat dinner with us–the first time in a long time!.  We enjoyed birthday cupcakes and Orion helped you with your presents.  Your favorites are a tea set and toy farm with animals and farmers.

生日快乐!

Love,

Daddy, Orion and Mommy

Shanghai Museum of Public Security

I woke up this morning to the food scandal du jour in Shanghai.  Apparently Wal-Mart has been switching five spice donkey meat with fox meat instead.  The nerve!  In the spectrum of gross (to Western sensibilities) meat options, wouldn’t you actually prefer fox to donkey?  It sounds much more luxurious if you ask me.  I’ve said it once and I will say it again;  I am so glad to be a vegetarian!

The first few days after returning from our trip the kids and I have mostly stayed at home to let them run around and stretch their legs on their own turf.  The trip was rough and they have certainly earned it.  Today I was itchy to roam so we chose a special outing for my little guy and headed to the Shanghai Museum of Public Security AKA The Police Museum AKA Little Boy’s Dream.  I always glow with pride on the inside when Mr. Li, a life-long Shanghai resident, tells me I find places that he didn’t even know exist in his city!

Upon arriving, the gruff looking officer at the door softened a bit when he waived us through without even paying the 8¥ entrance fee.  Maybe our appearance caught him off guard as we were the only visitors in the whole three floor museum during our time there.  It is a little off the beaten path but otherwise a great museum.  Everything is beautifully curated and the exhibits are just right to capture Orion’s imagination through the vehicles, weapons, surveillance equipment and uniforms on display.  Chinese-only signage forced us to use our imaginations on some things but that was part of the fun.  The only downside to the museum was the room containing gruesome photographs and weapons (think saws and dull meat cleavers) from crimes that were at least displayed quite high and required a bit of squinting to get a clear look at what was depicted.  Upon seeing the skull with scissors sticking out of it I rushed the kids away to look at the suddenly fascinating exhibit on police paperwork.

My favorite display was the hall exhibiting gifts from police departments around the world, in particular, of course, the United States.  Three walls held patches from each state and branches of their specialty forces.  I was proud to see a large patch contingency from Connecticut!  I could almost close my eyes and feel the yuppiness surrounding me.

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