Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Help

I hesitate to talk about this. Mostly because people back home will roll their eyes. And people here will be, like, "shhh, don't talk about that."

We are blessed with a fabulous helper (seriously blessed and I am so grateful). Not only do I not have to have my two children come with me to every single appointment (Chase had a front row view of everything for three years - from doctors to dentists), but I can also let Mads sleep when she's tired (no wonder Chase gave up napping before she turned one). The other benefits include a clean house, hot food on the table (a big plus at breakfast and after a long day), and never having to do laundry (clean, ironed clothes magically appear in your closet).

So what do I do? I spend every moment I can with my kids. I don't have to put them in front of the TV because I need to clean my house or I'm having guests over, and that, I feel, is the biggest luxury of all.

But I also have to say that one pays in other ways. More is expected of wives here, because they have help. Granted, some wives get to enjoy a most enviable lifestyle. But there are unspoken rules - homes are always sparkling clean, clothes always pressed. Fresh cakes are always coming straight from the oven. Puts Martha Stewart to shame. It feels, at times, like I'm living in Stepford. There are silent pressures here, as there are everywhere, but it just feels like it has been turned-up a notch. There doesn't seem to be much room for error.

Husbands, meanwhile enjoy, what my friend calls "Man Town," because they've just hired someone to get them out of doing dishes (special thanks to my own, oh-so-loving husband who has jumped in to do dirty dishes whenever he sees them because he knows how much I dislike it), clean-up after work - even watching over their kids. This is not to say that husbands don't do anything, it just removes the stress about who will do what.

But I think the kids pay the most. At the end of the day, they have someone to spoon-feed them and wipe them at every turn, so they are not taught independence. They do not carry their own things. They don't make their own food or clean up after themselves. It's unreal, but yet expected.

And so I try every day to keep it real. To have the kids make their beds. To set the table. To clear the table. To pack their own bags. To clean up (PLEASE). To be gracious. And kind. And care for each other and others. And while a helper can help build these skills and instill these values, I must say no one does it better than mom and dad.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Interview #2

After the interview, I asked Chase what they did. She said, "They read a Kipper book and asked us lots and lots and lots of questions."

And then she said they asked her to draw a picture of her family.

I said, "What was mommy wearing?" Chase said, "nothing." I would be worried, but I have never seen Chase actually draw a nude before - but hey, there's a first time for everything. And what better time to break that out, then a school interview?

As for the parents, we were left alone to pick over already picked-over biscuits and make ourselves a cup of tea or instant coffee with no one to talk to (except each other) and a woman who was part of the administration. Lucky for me I had a good friend there. There was no one we could ask "official" questions to, and no one to show us the school. We couldn't even leave the room because school was in session. Now I understand and appreciate the need for parents to stay-put, but I really have a hard time when someone tells me I can't leave a room. It's like my very being wants to RUN from the room, screaming, "you can't make me stay!" But I held back, for Chase's sake. (I think I'd be singing another song if we were actually interviewing for a spot, rather than INTERVIEWING FOR THE WAIT LIST - like if another kid decides not to go to our amazing school then maybe your child will get a call).

So I asked the woman (the guard) if anyone could show my husband the Primary 1 classroom before we left. She said, "you can arrange for a tour in May." I said (knowing the answer full well), "When do you notify parents if their kids are accepted?" She said, "February 8th."

Because that makes sense. NOT.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Hospital

So I went in for a procedure, which I will not detail here, but I did want to blog about my experience at the Hong Kong Sanatorium. The procedure was pretty minor, in the grand scheme of things, but it is something that requires a skilled surgeon who actually KNOWS about it, which was much harder to find then I originally thought. After talking to five doctors, I made my choice. Luckily, he worked out of the Sanatorium, which is known in Hong Kong as one of the best choices for "ladies issues."

First I was given a choice as to if I wanted to stay in a single room (1st class), a room with a shared toilet (2nd class) or a room where I shared it with 5 other people. At first I signed-up for the single room, because I thought it was like America, but then I found out that ALL EXPENSES (yes, that's right, it even includes the cost of the surgeon's time and doctor follow-up visits) are linked directly to which room you choose. So does this mean the surgeon does a better job for a 1st class patient then a 2nd class patient? Hmmm, I hope not. I was lucky enough (I think?) to secure a single room with a shared-toilet.

I arrived early, handed over my referral letter and was given my room number. A very dear friend (also a nurse) came with me. I went into the room, which was lovely and absolutely SPARKLING clean. I was given a "Welcome" bag, that had toiletries. Also a robe, slippers, soft pants and a soft shirt - nothing like those crisp, light-blue gowns we get in America. This one was made of heavy cotton; the weight was somehow reassuring.

Then a nurse came in - and this was the only part I didn't like - she was absolutely clueless why I was there. I even had to SPELL the condition out to her and explain it to her like she was 4-years-old (good thing I've had so much practice at explaining things to 4-year-olds). I said, "didn't the doctor send something? Didn't you know I was coming?" Poor thing. At which point my friend told me they just send the interns to check people in. Didn't make me feel too confident.

From there it got better again. They offered me warm blankets when they brought the wheelchair, and I found myself absolutely warm and cuddled up as I was rolled through the hospital. I was then transferred to a bed, with a very warm comforter. They then put two more hot blankets under and the chill was gone. I was then rolled into the operating room. Everyone was speaking in Chinese this entire time, which I found somehow reassuring because I actually didn't want to know what was going on around me.

And then the anesthesiologist arrived. I was totally tucked under the blankets, with a strap over the top of everything. Clothes still on. And I was thinking, at some point they'll ask me to take off the blanket, right? But they didn't. He asked me for my hand and that's all he needed. Before I slid off to sleep town, I remember thinking, this anesthesiologist is the happiest man I've ever met. I'll take some of what he's got... and then I was awake. And it was over. And I spent the next 20 hours in my room. And it was so quiet. So very quiet.

I had all these plans for making plans and getting things sorted while I was there, but I found having no distractions so distracting. I didn't watch tv. I just read a book and enjoyed the silence. By the end of the day I felt like I had slept a thousand years, maybe because I didn't have to "do" anything, or maybe because a surgery I had been dreading was over, or maybe because I was just relieved to get on with my life.

I made a little vow to myself to make every effort to protect the stillness and quietness inside. To stay calm and stop worrying so much. Easier said then done, especially for me, but even now I can still feel it. It's solid and strong and I feel as though I've been out of touch with it for so long. Welcome back.

Here is the "lobby" of the hospital...

The view from my hospital room...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chase Rules China

I think it will happen. One thing that struck both Hubs and I when were in Disneyland is how much attention Chase received from the mainland Chinese. This struck us as odd, because Mads has the blond curls and blue eyes, while Chase has light brown hair and blue eyes. They couldn't get enough of Chase. Pictures, and many of them still wanted to touch her.

Hubs joked they must have seen her picture from when she ruled Dalian. But it was really very surprising to both of us. Chase was gracious through it all. (Kinda like she remembered what it was like to be adored by "the people.").

They loved her even more, of course, when she spoke to them in Mandarin.

Don't Fall In...

I have been working really hard with Chase to *actually* communicate with Madoc. Like ask her for things, instead of just taking them. And so I am always pleased when she uses her "big girl words" to get her point across. I totally blame our dog (sorry Hubs) for teaching Chase non-verbal, head butting as a means of communication, simply because I don't know where else she could have got it from - and she spent so much time pushing Tag out of her way with her head that it just became second nature.

So I must applaud the fact she used her words last night; I heard her little voice coming from the bathroom. She was telling Mads, "Don't push me while I'm on the potty or I might fall in, and then you'll never see me again."

I think Mads wanted to see if her sister was speaking the truth, because I had to go in and pull Mads off her.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


There have been countless studies done about neuro-imaging ... how people recognize same-race faces much better than, say, if they were trying to identify a person they had seen once out of a line-up of people of another race.

So I have found, after living in many different countries, that when you first move to a place, the people in it all kinda look the same. I'm not sure how to say this, but it has always been particularly difficult for me to tell Chinese faces apart - or tell some Chinese faces from other Asian races. It has also been hard for me to tell accents apart - when we first moved here I had a really hard time telling the Australian accent apart from UK accents.

But something strange happened to me while I was in the MTR yesterday. I looked around and I had a very sudden, very clear, realization that I could actually tell the people apart. And it wasn't like I had even been thinking about it. It just struck me like a bolt of lightening. All of a sudden, everyone looked very unique. Like I could identify anyone in a line-up.

This happened to me last time I was in Asia (12 years ago), but then I lost it. So it is really strange that when it came back, it was so very obvious to me. I just wanted to write about it, because I find it fascinating and odd at the same time.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Loving You!

Chase, tonight while you slept I was in your room (putting Mads back to bed) and I looked over at you and you were cuddled up so close to your giant teddy bear. You are so beautiful. I snuggled up to you for a while and gave you a big hug. You are such a shining star. You sparkle even when you sleep. I love how you look over and care for your sister. You are really the sweetest person I've ever met.

And Mads, my darling midnight sunshine, who now wakes 3x/night, I hope those teeth stop hurting you soon. You are such a gorgeous girl, with a radiant smile and fabulous laugh. "Mama This," and "Mama Up," have to be four of my favorite words of all time. And when I ask you how old you are, you hold up two fingers and say "three."

Watch over each other and care for each other always!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hong Kong Disneyland! Yeah!

We told Chase that when she could read and write any three-letter-word, and read/write a sentence of three-letter-words, we would take her to Disneyland.

Having never been to a single Disney park myself (Chase thinks this is because I didn't learn to read/write until last year), I'm not sure who was more excited to go.

Hong Kong Disneyland is located an hour from our house - so close enough to go whenever we want, but far enough to keep us from being regular visitors.

It was right about this point where Chase totally lost it. Her tongue just went crazy and she started making happy puppy sounds. Notice Mezzebelle in her arms.

Hubs trying to look cool (keep his tongue in) ...

First stop ... pictures with Mickey and Minnie ... (Mads loved them)

And then a marching band caught our attention...

Walking down Main Street, Chase said, "the air is delicious! Because it smells like buns!"

Hubs wrote his number on Chase's arm... just in case...

I have to say the castle was much smaller then I thought it would be. We are not that far in front of it...

Hubs and Chase took a good look at the map and planned out our day...

First stop - Princess Aurora! She was so lovely. I want to be like her when I grow up.

She gave Chase a kiss on her cheek. Chase wore it like a medal of honor for the rest of the day.

We rode the carousel..

We also went to the Winnie The Pooh house, which sounds innocent enough - and started out happy and jolly, but it quickly turned really weird, dark and, I must say creepy. Madoc was terrified and we couldn't get out of Pooh's Honey pot, so we rode through it. I will NEVER take her on that ride again. Ever. It is terrifying. I was scared. I am actually going to write to Disney about it, because it SUCKS to be stuck in a honey pot with a very scared two-year-old, while Tigger jumps out at you in a completely dark room and the woozles are actually nightmarish creatures.

But the tea cups were awesome!

While I tried to keep my cup from spinning too much (for Mads' sake), Hubs and Chase spun and spun... He looked green when he got off the ride. Maybe this is why...

And then it was time for a snack. Oh what to eat? The offerings at the closest snack stand included fish balls (pre-packaged, on a stick, original flavor - what could that mean?, Korean dried squid, corn on a stick, some kind of seasoned chicken on a bone and some other less identifiable treats).

And then there was the hot food menu ... (click to enlarge)

From the snack stand, we could see Tarzan's tree house. We were tempted to go, but the lines and the fact I had been carrying Mads all day made us re-think it.

We also went to the Lion King show and while Chase enjoyed it, Mads and I had to leave early as it was just too much for her.

Instead, we decided to take a boat trip around the island. The driver was hilarious. There were definitely scary parts (Mads clung on tight). And there was this really weird part where you pass by a camp site that is supposed to be inhabited by a scientist, but there are monkeys instead - two of three are holding guns. Seriously. What the? One is looking down the barrel of a shotgun and the other is holding a pistol pointing at the boat. SERIOUSLY. I am SO writing to Disney. How could that possibly be appropriate?

This was another strange one - a Rhino scaring men up a tree - his horn just touches the lowest man's bum, and all move. It's just weird. There was also a head-hunter section (freaky for kids, right?) and there was a big fire section - also terrifying! (poor Mads!)

But there were a lot of really funny people that kept us laughing throughout. One is below. And she really left the house dressed like this.

Chase had seen a number of people eating cotton candy, so it became a topic of conversation. And we decided we needed to get some cotton candy. Oh, Chase was SO happy.... (can you even believe that it is four times her head size?).

She ate as much as she could and eventually became covered in cotton candy strands. Mads didn't care for it. She has always enjoyed spicy, savory things.

Our last ride ...

And on the way out, Chase wanted a picture in the space suit, but couldn't get up high enough for her head to appear ...

So Hubs helped her...

And then we went on the train, that goes around the outside of the park, and doesn't really show you anything except trees, because you are behind the exhibits. Weird. At this point the girls were totally spent, hungry and just needed to sit for a while. So sitting back and watching the trees go by actually worked well for us.

Lessons learned...
A) Never take a 2-year-old on a ride where you can't see the ENTIRE ride - it's bad news every time.

B) Bring lots of snacks

C) Be sure the camera is charged (our battery light started flashing early on so pics are limited)

D) Bring stroller and Ergo carrier. Mads ended up wanting to be carried most of the day, but it was sure nice to sit her in the stroller.

E) If you have two kids of two different ages, be sure there are two adults so you can split up.

F) Space Mountain is a crazy ride. I reminded me of a taxi ride I had not too long ago that I never wanted to have again. Ever.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

No Pictures Please

Hubs has been reading Robinson Crusoe to Chase before bed. And she loves it. A couple nights ago, Hubs finally got to a picture in the book. He said, "look Chase, there's a picture!" Chase said, "I want to read a book with no pictures, because I can see the pictures in my head." I LOVE IT.

Chase's First School Interview

So my eye started twitching early this morning because I was so nervous for Chase's school interview. I tried to make it stop, by telling myself it didn't matter, that she doesn't really need to go to school next year. Yah, whatever.

Chase is amazing in every way, but the numbers aren't good. She is one of 400 kids being interviewed over two weekends for 150 spots. Oh, and did I mention that 70% of the 150 spots must be given to permanent resident card holders (not us)? Oh and there is only one other school that we might be able to send her to ... if she makes it on to and then off the wait list.

I guess the good news is that she wasn't the little girl who cried and wouldn't let go of mommy (yes, there was one of those). On the other hand, she did snag Mezzabelle from my purse when I wasn't looking (Mezzabelle is her doll, who she has only recently formed a strong attachment to - and that we told her wasn't going with her into the "playgroup"). So Mezzabelle went along for the ride.

So I asked her what she did when she came back. She told me "the lady" read them a story of the Hungry Caterpillar (a story that I personally dislike, I have no idea why, so Chase has probably only heard the story once). Then "the lady" asked the kids to re-tell the story using cards. Chase said she did it all, but forgot the last part (you know, the BUTTERFLY part), and then she said the lady asked her if there was anything else, and Chase said "oh yah! the butterfly." PHEW. That was a close one.

Then I asked her if they drew anything. She said, "Yes, I drew a rainbow." Now Chase has never just drawn a rainbow. She has always made very detailed drawing with ladders up to clouds, with kingdoms or rain clouds or treasure maps or cities. So I asked her if she drew anything else and she said she drew kings and queens and princesses. (I'm thinking good, light subject matter, no one can read anything into that...) and she said, "and I drew a picture of a man dressing up as a woman and a woman dressing up as a man." Okay, SERIOUSLY?

My friend, who also has a child interviewing at the school, turned to me and said, "leave the bedroom door open last night?" SERIOUSLY.

For the record - I have a creative daughter. I have absolutely no idea where she came up with that idea.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Aussie Burger

So let's just put aside the fact it is the New Year, that we have the (oh so popular) resolution to exercise more and eat healthier.

We were invited over to an Aussie friend's house for a BBQ, about six months ago (and yes, we've been invited over again since then). Hubs has not stopped talking about the burger.

We decided to do our best to recreate it. Following is a recipe he found (and I must say, it is rather massive and oh so delicious). Worth the work (and weight) in gold.

Hubs commented upon completion that it was a "light meal." And he didn't feel "overly full."

I give it two snaps in a circle.

Toasted Roll
Cheese (cheddar)
Fried Egg (in bacon grease)
Fried Onion (intact slice in bacon grease)
Grilled Pineapple (or you can fry it in bacon grease)
Beetroot from a can (Yes, cold beets)
Cole Slaw (see spicy slaw below)
Tomato Sauce (otherwise known as ketchup)

spicy slaw recipe

1 cup may (use way less)
1 tablespoon hot sauce (use more)
juice of one lime
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 small cabbage (red or green) - the one we had next door used carrots