Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Sunday, July 29, 2007

What a quote


I'm a member of a nurses message board and there was a thread titled "How did you react to your first code" and in that thread I found this awesome quote:

"the best though is when someone is talking.. .slip out on ya mid sentence, go into v-fib and ya shock em, and they start right back in on the sentence where they left off!.. too cool!!!"

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Cousin's wedding last night




We had a fabulous time at my husband's cousin's wedding last night. Check out this video. In it you'll find my son, husband, and numerous relatives dancing AND my father in law getting lifted in the air! What a riot!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rap - tipping the scales of indecision

~Taking a brief break from China trip blogging~

So next year my son moves up to middle school (5th grade) and I have been trying to decide between the public middle school and the nearby charter school. It's been such a toss up. Brandon's best friend goes to the charter school. But all his cousins go to the public school. Car pooling and transportation would be much, much easier to the public school. But the public school kids make me nervous: the girls dress like sluts. But the academics is really rigorous at the charter school and Brandon still struggles with writing because of his dyslexia and I don't want him to get overwhelmed by school. But my little sister in law says you can't run at recess at the public school. What kind of recess is that? But Brandon is leaning towards wanting to go to the public school.

Well, with all that, you can see how it is a difficult decision. But yesterday Brandon told me something that tipped the scales of indecision for me. He said that the kids at the charter school don't like rap music. And the kids are all white. Don't like rap music? That's a deal breaker for me. I know how kids are. They influence each other. And the last thing I need is a teenage boy who listens to something other than rap music. no, no, no. I did not raise my son for ten years to just hand him over to a bunch of suburban kids to mold. It's just that, everyone in our family listens to hip-hop. And family unity is very important to me. Not to mention he would probably feel more comfortable in a classroom full of other mixed race kids like himself. So the public middle school it is!

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Funny moments in China

This trip was the best two weeks of my life and I can credit my awesome classmates for making it that way. We just had so much fun and we laughed and laughed and laughed. I am honestly skeptical that I could ever take another trip that could hold a flame next to this one. We just had the perfect combination of characters. So I am chronicling some of the funny moments here so we can look back and remember the good times we had. (Though many of these will be meaningless to readers not on the trip).

  • Jeff asking us if we were working on our Master's degrees
  • Invisible leg of lamb
  • Jackie: "REEEALLY"
  • When Niko wore the flower headband and the Chinese people were laughing at him - one so hard he was in tears.
  • Kanchana charging 50 yuan for everything.
  • "Jackie, are you texting your girl-friend?"
  • Damien kicked human poop. His explanation: "I didn't know it was human"
  • 16 tickets fluttering to the ground as a crowd backs up behind us at the train station. Niko: "Oh my god!", which struck me as particularly funny because he said it EXACTLY like my brother would have said it if he were there.
  • Tianamen square group picture
  • Anita: "Do you think you can bring weapons on the plane?" Claire: "I think that's self explanatory".
  • Our retelling of that story and Bob walking away from us as if we were high because we couldn't stop laughing.
  • Whenever I commented on Niko's "smokers cough" he always came back with "it's not smoking. It's AIDS"
  • Meredith and I talking about wearing Chinese dresses to school next year with the really long sleeves and then imagining all the situations in which we could wave them around, like: raising our hand in class, giving people directions to class, etc.
  • Niko: "Claire, tell Deena she can't sit next to me. She says I'm diseased". Deena: "He asked to bite me!" Claire: (in her best mommy voice) "CHILDREN".
  • "If by _______ you mean _________..."
  • Niko starts a fight with Michaela which escalates and ends with Michaela calling him a slut and slapping him just as Dan pokes his head out the door, looking at her in disapproval.
  • Chris' story of the boy who "had to sing" and his grandma said to sing softly in her ear.
  • Meredith's dad's "20 to life".
  • Ytat's prank on Niko and vice versa.
  • The job that Jackie is actually qualified for: passport stamping
  • How Niko hailed the cab that night in Shanghai
  • Our secret sign language sign and the action it was probably mistaken for.
  • Kanchana almost throwing up in the 200 year old bonsai tree. (That was so funny!)
  • Yelling at anyone with Yankees paraphernalia "Yankees suck!" including the Chinese boy who didn't understand English (I don't think he heard us though)
  • Niko making fun of Christians and the professors getting nervous that he was offending me.
  • How all the Chinese stared when I laughed because I laugh so loudly (but Ytat loved my laugh).
  • Niko thinking that the ride back to Chicago was the two hour one and then realizing the truth while we were in flight.
  • The moment we realized the secret handshake wasn't going to work on the plane.
  • Three awesomely funny pictures:
  1. Niko imitating the ugly woman on the magazine
  2. Meredith spanking the stewardess
  3. Niko giving Kanchana a lap dance

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Monday, July 23, 2007

The best souveneir ever

While in China I bought a pregnancy test in the hopes that we had conceived before I left. I crossed my fingers as the day of my period came and went and then took the test. The cheap Chinese test was positive but it took several hours for the control bar to show up which was annoying. But I knew, as soon as I saw that HCG line that my life was never going to be the same again (for the fourth time!)

I waited until I got home to reveal the surprise to my husband. Though if he were as smart as my best friend -who guessed it immediately- he would have realized I was pregnant when I started crying as soon as I got home ("I miss my friends" and other childish gibberish). After passing out all the presents I told him I saved the best for last. Then I presented him with a tiny, fragile, ugly kite in a pretty box. He examined it carefully, trying to figure out what "the catch" was. And finally he noticed the positive pregnancy test underneath. It took him another ten or so seconds before he burst out: "NO! Are you kidding me?" He was TOTALLY SHOCKED. It was beautiful. He yelled at the kids to be quiet and lay down while he lay there trying to process it. Then he was happy. And he felt much better about my dramatic return home, now knowing the true cause of my emotions.

We're already calling the little fellow Kalel. We've been calling him that for years and as tempted as I was to give him a Chinese name, I felt it was a sign when I stumbled upon a store in China full of nothing but Superman clothes and accessories. I bought a whole bunch of stuff. I won't even consider the possibility that it's a girl unless I see it on the ultrasound. I had a premonition when I was pregnant with Brandon that I was going to have five boys and a girl. My mother in law is convinced it's a girl. She's probably just looking at it statistically. To each his own.

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$

Even though the exchange rate is fabulous, the constant pull for our money is exhausting. Street vendors are everywhere and very aggressive. One of the three phrases we all know is "NO thanks" (Boo Yao Lay Shie Shie Nee). Ytat and Kanchana, MCC students who both moved here recently from countries that bargain for prices (Cambodia and Thailand) are the best at getting the lowest price. Sometimes they help us buy things too. For instance, at the Forbidden City Wall I had my picture taken in Empress garb for 50 Yuan. Kanchana and I asked if the price was negotiable because some government run places have set prices. They said it was not, so I paid it. But a half hour later Anita and Rose showed up with their pictures taken for 30 yuan a peice. Well, Kanchana wasn't going to stand for it! She argued with them until they offered to give me a second picture free.


That night we wanted to sing Karaoke. After an evening enjoying ourselves in a private room (not our first choice, we just couldn't find anywhere else to sing) we asked to pay our bill which is when the drama unfolded. They gave us a bill for twice what we had agreed to! Of course no one spoke English but we proceeded to argue with them for the next half hour using paper, pencil, calculator, and lots of pointing. They had charged us an extra 200 yuan for the girl who sat with us, helped us with the remote and clapped for our singing; 150 yuan for the dried fruit we specifically said we did not want and tried to send back, but ate anyway after they insisted we take it as if it were complimentary; another 100 yuan because they brought us Heineken instead of the local beer we asked for; and for good measure they added another 100 yuan charge for nothing they could explain. After removing that charge we begrudgingly paid and left fuming. Four hundred yuan towards the university of life. Lesson: pay in advance for all services in China. We complained to our tour guide who was shocked that we were treated that way in the hotel. She got an apology from the hotel for the "miscommunication" but we in no way accept that apology since the appropriate apology would be "sorry for trying to rip you off".

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Check out this strange bug bite I got in China


I apologize in advance for this post. It's just that the nurse in me is fascinated by this sort of thing. My last day in China I woke up with these two puncture marks and a swollen lateral anterior tibialis that was painful to the touch and bruising. Over the next few days the bruise continued to grow and spread. Here's a picture from today, about a week later. You can tell the bruising is fading/turning colors. I didn't drink the night before so I know I didn't fall to cause this injury. My mother in law says it is a centipede bite (or two, I guess). I believe her since she has more experience with tropical bites than me. Very bizarre and interesting.

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Wale Sexual Function Obstacle

Prostitute business cards are slipped under our hotel doors at night. "Wale Sexual Function Obstacle" was our favorite service listed on the card. The MCC students would joke about it with each other. In the middle of one night my roommate Michaela and I heard a prostitute having rough sex in a neighboring room. It made us so sad to hear for ourselves these women selling their bodies. Then she yelled "stop. Stop! No!". Tears came to my eyes and I got mad. I went into the hallway and stood outside his door with fist poised, ready to knock if she continued. I was ready to fight for her, to yell at him "She said stop!" but luckily that was the end. They showered and then seemed to argue over something. Probably the payment.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

The top six most disturbing things I saw in China

6. A lack of basic safety measures. Children riding in the front seat of the car on their mother's lap. Bicyclists everywhere but no one wearing a helmet.

5. Prostitutes out in the open (see next post)

4. Entire homeless families sleeping on the sidewalk in Shanghai. There were blocks and blocks of these sleeping people from young to old.

3. Beggars everywhere. Some disfigured. Some young children claiming to be hungry.

2. A woman at Confucius' temple drinking water out of a puddle on the ground.

1. And the number one most disturbing thing I saw in China....

My beloved Brown was no where to be found!!! Ok. Ok. The placement of that at number one is a joke. But the lack of UPSers was no joke! I was horrified by their non-presence. I can only hope that that means we are still outsourcing our deliveries in that country. We are sponsoring the 2008 Olympics in Beijing so there is the illusion of our presence, but no actual brownie drivers to be seen.

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The tourist business in China

Terra Cotta Warriors

Our Beijing tour guide, Jeff

The Chinese really have the tourist business down to a science. There are hundreds of tour groups. They're led by a national tour guide and local city guides who carry a flag on a pole for easy identification in a crowd. Your tour group travels in a private bus and has planned activities all day. Besides major attractions- like the Terra Cotta Warrior museum, there are multiple smaller stops along the way, all designed the same way. It starts with a "lesson" from the expert (who sometimes even takes the group flag). Then there is maybe a tour through the "factory" and finally it ends with an opportunity to buy some of the product. Despite the genericness of the program you do learn a lot. I now know a great deal about:
  • pearls
  • jade
  • Chinese farmer's art
  • Cloisonne
  • laquered furniture
  • and the corny one... reproducing terra cotta warriors ha ha.
By the end we were jaded by the process (pun intended) due to a disturbing experience we had at the jade factory. We were led to a room of Jade carvers to watch them do their work. As we all oohed and ahed and took pictures the workers looked bored yet focused as if they have been doing that work for ten hours straight. But as soon as we left they left too!! (Dan and I went back to peek in the room and to our dismay we found it empty). It was clearly just a gimmick. It was no jade factory!
A jade factory worker "hard at work"

The attractions are not the only thing planned to a 't'. The meals are planned too. Restaurants do plenty of business serving only tourist groups. We are brought to a restaurant, told to sit at two tables and then served... an identical meal every single time. (Beijing meals in particular were identical). It is served on a large lazy Susan in the middle of the table which we tactfully try to spin to reach the dish we want. The meal starts with a small dish of cold sliced pork followed by many other dishes that all run together in my mind due to their blandness and at the end when it is now completely useless to us they bring a bowl of rice and finally dessert- a platter of seeded watermelon. Needless to say, we all lost a lot of weight on this trip.
Dessert. This was the only one served with an artistic design. Very cute though, you've got to admit.

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A retreat exercise

Before leaving for China our group had a day of team bonding at the MCC retreat. At this retreat we did an exercise in which we paired up and one of us described their lego creation to their partner who could not see it. Ideally your partner will be able to recreate your figure I was really excited to do this because I pride myself in my communication skills. My partner was Kanchana, an ELL student. She didn't understand my directions nearly as well as I had hoped - which was no big deal - it was a learning game after all; but what was most fascinating was that she had never played with legos before! So she didn't know that legos are always assembled bumps up! Her creation was similar to mine, but with the peices facing downwards! It just goes to show you that the smallest details of instructions can be important.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Some highlights of the trip

While in China my friend Niko decided to tease my hair into a huge fro. It was really cool looking. He did it on the bus and in the middle of a busy square. The Chinese people gathered around and stared. One woman had a look of horror on her face as she watched. It was really fun.

We saw a Kung fu show that was fabulous. If it ever comes to broadway I'll be the first to buy tickets for my family. Pretty much the only good looking guys we saw on this trip were performing at this show. Two words, Chinese men: protein powder.

The Great Wall of China, the scenic highlight of the trip for me. It was breathtaking.

While in America I heard that you can "lock your love" on the Great Wall of China. So my husband and I went to the store to buy this (and got in a huge fight while in the store ha ha). But the part of the wall we were on didn't have the chain link to lock it to. So I climbed to the other side of the wall to chain our lock to this cable. A Chinese guy had to help me get back onto the wall because the ledge I was standing on was so far back.

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I'm back from China!

I got back last night from my two week trip to China. I tried to post while there but (I think) the Chinese government censors American blogs because I couldn't access mine or any of my friends. I was able to blog on my school's blog but after writing a post about my experience with Chinese prostitutes the advisor to the trip deleted the post and basically told me that I could only write politically correct posts. The irony of being censored by Americans while in a communist country was not lost on me. I titled my next one : Jian Cha (Our trip). But Jian cha doesn't mean our trip. It means "censored". My small attempt at passive resistance.

We squeezed two months of experiences into two weeks. It all blurs together for me right now, but I hope to be able to spell out the highlights of the trip here over the next few days. I learned so much, made new friends. It was life changing; an experience I will forever remember and cherish.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

My husband is so cool


Last night, in the middle of the night, he was driving home on the highway and saw a deer get hit by a truck. Only its head was struck. My husband pulled over and waited for traffic to clear. Then he stopped his car in the middle of the highway, picked up the 180 pound animal and put it in his trunk. He drove it to his parent's house where he, his brother in law, and his father cut it up and put it into different bags. Now the freezer is filled with fresh meat. Cambodian friends were given meat, and mom cooked this wonderful dish, Salaw Mchew. Yum.

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