slide show

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven was wonderful.
The park surrounding the Temple of Heaven, referred to as a "people's park," was WONDERFUL!
Obligatory Temple of Heaven shot
Some kind of "sing-a-long."  We ran across at least 5-6 large groups of people doing these sing-a-longs.   It was amazing listening to them sing so proudly in Chinese.
The man was playing an "Erhu," a stringed Chinese instrument played with a bow.  It sounded beautiful when he played it.  Not so much when Patch gave it a try, but I was shocked that Patch was able to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star good enough that we all could recognize it!
LOVE this boy and all his spirit!
This isn't really a pic of Patch running, It's a pic of the the folks trying to negotiate the wheel chair down the ramp.  As a family that had a someone in a wheel chair for decades, this was quite a site!  This was the only place I saw any accommodations for wheel chairs in all of China, so that part is good.  But notice that it is taking 3 people to get her down!  It looked so amazingly dangerous and I imagine quite scary for the woman in the chair too!
This it one of my favorite images of our trip!  I mean what a backdrop!  I just love the angle and amazing detail in both the temple and the stone rails on the side.  I love how they are looking out over the courtyard.  I love seeing my man and my son having an amazing moment together!
These  two were so so wonderful on our trip!  I was so proud to call them our son and daughter.   They were adventurous and flexible.  And don't tell Livy this, but I think her younger brother has finally gotten a bit taller than her!
Does Papa stick out among the other Chinese tourists?

The detail is everywhere!  These are the ends of the roof tiles.  A.Maz.Ing!
These are the people playing card and board games on the railing.  Every game had several onlookers too.  
I think these two men are playing chess, the Chinese type.  I also like this pic because of the grandpa taking care of his grandchild, so so very typical of grandparents to care for their grandchildren while the parents work.  We saw many many small children in their grandparent's care at all the parks we visited.  
He looks like Goliath!  He's buying a couple JiĆ nzi or Chinese hacky sacks.  He and Patch then played a bit in the park with the other Chinese folks... and got several laughs and pointing and even a few cheers from the Chinese folks that couldn't help but stop and watch them play.  Papa play a lot of hacky sack in college, (twas the late 80's after all) and I think they were amazed that he could kick it at all!
Let me tell you that Chinese women take their dancing very very seriously!  We never saw them smiling while they were doing it.  The woman in the front was the leader or probably the instructor for the group.   I adore her outfit!  leggings, boots, fringe to sway with her hips.  Also love her hands.   The form of dance that this group was doing was kinda modern.  Macarena-ish.  
Care for a sing-a-long with the accordion?
Asian tour groups were in abundance at all the big sites, compete with tour guide with a flag on a big long pole, and several folks with surgical masks.  I assume it's the way Asians like to vacation?  
Oh the kite fliers!  No children to be found here.  This was serious stuff.  The kites were WAY up in the air.  And seeing as how there wasn't even the tiniest bit of breeze in the air down on the ground, I have no idea how they got the kites in the air in the first place.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Navajo Sky

A Navajo sky is big puffy clouds (the kind I drew in 1st grade) against a bright blue background.  Last Thursday, a little storm blew through, and these were the clouds that were left.  The palo verde trees and creosote bushes are all blooming yellow.  Even the saguaros are starting to bloom.  The desert is amazing in the spring.  
Not too many details because I took this one with my cell phone on the way to the orthodontist's office
IOS 105, 4.7mm

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Out and about in Beijing

Did I mention that when we were in Beijing we were like tourists on speed?  Seeing as much as we could and power-touring for 3 short days.  We knew we had very limited time in Beijing and that baby girl would soon be with us.
 We tried to take the subway as much as we could both in Beijing and Guangzhou because it incredibly cheap, about $2 round trip for the 4 of us, and a fun adventure.  I will say that I've used subways in the US and in Europe.  After a couple visits, I never was able to figure out the system and get around in New York, and felt like a complete dummy.  The subways in Paris and London are incredibly user friendly.  And in my opinion the subways in Guangzhou and Beijing were very easy to use once we understood the layout.  My understanding is that the vast majority of the subway in Beijing is only 4 years old so it's really brand spankin' new.  And it's clean!  Easy peasy and definitely would recommend giving it a whirl.
Patch and Papa trying to figure out how much to pay on our first attempt riding the subway.  Papa held up 4 fingers, passed some money through the hole, and got back change and tokens.  Easy enough! 
Waiting for the train to arrive.  Must not have been rush hour.  This looks incredibly slow and quiet.
The names of the stations are clearly marked above the doors in both Chinese and Pinyin.  This is the pink line.
This station is just down the street and around the corner from the Hotel Novotel in Beijing.    
Getting on the train.  Notice how amazingly clean it is!
Also notice the names above the doors, and all the stops of that train both above the doors and on the pillar.

The very first time we attempted the subway, we followed the crowd and waited by the doors for the train to come.  There were about 10-ish people by each door... kinda busy but not bad.  The train pulled up, the doors opened, and all Papa and I could see were a wall of people.  Where would we stand in there?  It looked completely full.  I inched forward with Liv and prepared to find some standing room, but then I heard Papa holler to me "Wait!" So I took Liv's arm, backed up, the doors closed, and the train left with the 4 of us now standing alone on the platform.  Papa explained that he wasn't prepared for the crowd and needed a moment.  A few minutes later, the next train came, and this one was was surprisingly more crowded than the last.  But we had watched the first train, and learned the trick to getting on a crowded train is to just step in and lead gently with your shoulder.  Amazingly, no matter how crowded, there will be room enough for you to stand.  Liv and I made our way in, and pushed our bodies together like a sandwich, as did Papa and Patch.  There was nothing to hold onto, but then again, falling was an impossibility with that many folks crammed in.  From then on, a crowded subway train wasn't intimidating.
This sign shows all the stops that this line (in this case it's the pink line) makes.  The large blue arrow shows which direction it's going.  The red and blue arrow/flags on the bottom indicate where you can change trains (in this case for the red line 1 and blue line 2)  Also, at each hotel, we asked the concierge for a subway map and had them circle the stop closest to our hotel.  We studied this map ahead of time, and I carried it around in my pocket when we were out just in case.  
This is the name of the last stop that this train makes, so you can ensure that you are taking the train that is going in the direction you want to go.  
This is the stop closest to The Temple of Heaven, in Beijing.  I think it was only about 5 stops down from our hotel.  It cost about $2 for the 4 of us to get there and back via subway.  
We ate a huge breakfast every morning at the hotel's buffet, usually snacked our way through lunch supplemented with street food, then found a cheaper restaurant with the locals for dinner on the way back to the hotel each evening.  This way of eating was quite affordable and fit our schedule.
Care for some gizzards to go with your hangy slimy squid on a stick or any other various mystery meats?  Cooked up special just for you!
The infamous "snack street."  And she looks like she means business folks!
This is suppose to be a photo of the very yummy dinner that we ate.  Instead it's a photo of the carnage after the very yummy dinner that we ate.  We ate at this restaurant every night we were in Beijing.  The 4 of us ate dinner for about $25 for a few entrees and hot tea to drink.  On the last night we splurged and had Peking duck, (see the pretty duck plate!)  and it was a bit over $35 and worth every penny of the extra $10!
If you happen to be staying at the Hotel Novotel, exit the hotel and turn left.  It is the first restaurant down the block with the red lanterns.  Between 50-100-ish yards down the street on the same side as the hotel.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Attachment in the trenches

When we were in China, we traveled with several other families.  In our travel group, I don't think I'm exaggerating by saying that we had "the crier."  Unlike the other happy, giggly children in the group who were quick to return their parent's smile, our sweetie was unhappy much of the time.  Despite our efforts, she rarely smiled and often cried.  I even had the younger child of another family come to me and say on more than one occasion, "Your baby cries a lot.  What's wrong with her?  Our baby is happy."
Rationally, I knew that her grieving meant that the attachment process was in full swing.  And that is a really good thing.  That made everything else totally bearable.  But grieving, no mater what form it takes, still makes my heart sad right along with hers.

So rather than concentrate on my daughter's sadness, I concentrated on capitalizing on her attachment process and doing all I could to reap every ounce of bonding that I could.  It was just a change in my mindset.  Being proactive helps me get through tough times.

Now that we have a solid 7 weeks under our belt, things are much easier, and our journey continues to get easier every day.  It's so good that I often forget that this process of attachment is still in full swing.  Lest I entirely forget, a meltdown surely happens, and I resort back to my China-travel attachment bag-o-tricks.

The following are notes I wrote down while in China and while we were completely in the trenches of attachment.  I can't tell you how happy I was to stumble across this list a couple weeks ago.  When push comes to shove and I have a screeching toddler at my ankles while I'm trying to get dinner on the table, or when things just seem off, it's hard for me to remember specifically what to do.  It's all too easy for me to get wrapped up in the moment and frustrated and forget practical techniques.
My linear mind loves resorting to list at times like these.

So here it goes.  Maybe it will help someone else out there too.

---The Ergo is my best friend.  My Ergo allows eye-to-eye contact and physical closeness, on the front, not the back.  It correctly aligns the baby's spine, unlike other carriers that suspend baby leaving their legs dangling downward.  I'm sure there are other good carriers too, but I'm most familiar with Ergo.  Just avoid carriers "hang" a baby by their crotch.  A baby carrier also makes it so no well-meaning person (waitress, Grandma, random Chinese granny...) can take your child from you. If you have a Velcro baby, it makes it easier to get any sleep on the plane, (no fear of dropping baby if you doze off) get the essentials done, and enables me to use bathroom and not set her down.  TMI I know, but still wanted to pass it along.
My father and I waiting our turn for some street food in Guangzhou.
My Ergo always held her securely against with me when we went out...
as well as much of the much when we were in the hotel too.  
---In the beginning, we stick to only one person to meet all her needs.  All her food, drink, toilet, diapers, bathing, nose wiping... everything.  We added another care giver, Papa, later, a few weeks later when we felt like her attachment with me was solid.  Then others as time went by.  This one person care giver in the beginning is harder than it sounds.  Our sweetie has took a liking to her 13 year old brother within days.  And he instantly ADORED her as well and wanted nothing more than to feed her and offered to give her a bath and more.  I was often tuckered out which meant I would have LOVED to say yes when he offered help.  But I know that I needed to be the only provider of her needs.  So in the beginning, I tried (emphasize the word try, sometimes I have to snag a break) to do everything for my new daughter.

---In China, we often skipped the side trips and tours.  I had a very hard time with this one.  I think it's important to get to know the culture of my daughter.  I wanted to be able to know China and appreciate it so much that I can tell her all about her land of birth.  But, in the end, attachment comes first.  So I found that often we skipped the excursions and gave my new daughter 100% of my time, if I felt I needed to that day.

---We did it together.   We co-slept.  I'm a very light sleeper and need my sleep to act like a human being the rest of the day, but co-sleeping, or some version of it, ensures that our new daughter knew we weren't going to leave when she dozed off.  Nap together.  Eat together.  We let this also include co-bathing too.  In the bath or shower, which ever works.  She evidently doesn't mind baths, and I think she found them relaxing.  Much to my dismay, she is however scared to death of the shower.  Both Jude and Tess showered with us for months while we held them and relaxed as the water drizzled on them.  They also liked to play at my feet with toys in the shower as I washed my hair.

---Not too much too soon.  Put away the crazy loud toys and things that over stimulate. Our two favorite toys that we took on our China trip were stacking cups and a small rain stick.  These two toys are amazing.  They are ENOUGH for the whole trip along with the toys she finds in the room (peek-a-boo with a blanket, empty water bottle with a coin in it...)  I try to carry this over to accessories too.  As much as I'd like to stick a hair bow in her hair, she's just not ready for it, so I'm trying to resist the temptation accessorize my sweetie.  She's made it clear she didn't want anything in her hair, so I'm giving them up for now.  I have some really cute ones though.

---Forget training up the way of a child... for now.   Spoil her.  Let her have candy.  As I learned on this trip, let her sleep however and whenever she wants, as long as she sleeps.  Skip the highchair if your child resists it and let her eat on your lap.  Or skip your lap and let them eat in a highchair if your child isn't ready for you yet.  Scoop up a crying, falling, toppled little one even if you know she's not really hurt.  Let it all be about attachment and being there for her every little need while your traveling and when you first get home.

---Games and finger-play songs that promote eye contact are now some of her very favorite things to do.  Her favorites include peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake,  horsey horsey carry me, round and round the garden, this little piggie, itsy-bitsy spider...  I seat her on my lap, facing me, and we sing and do the hand movements together.  The giggles are the icing on the cake!

---Massage is a very good thing.  I purchased a lotion in a scent I loved before we traveled.  At least once per day, I massage her, usually her feet and legs.  Massage is a favorite after bath and at bedtime.  It calms her down and she genuinely loves it.  The skin contact between us is invaluable.

Truth be told, with some adaptations for the age of the child, these things work for all my children.  Sometimes my 9-year-old just needs to sleep with his mama.  And sometime playing a game with the teenagers is just the thing to break the ice after a tough tough day.
Although I don't think I'll be carrying around my teenagers in the Ergo anytime soon.  .

I'd love to continue this list in the comments!  Do you know of some more practical ways to reinforce attachment and bonding, whether you be in China or at home?  These are just the ones that came to me while I was knee deep in it all.
Please add your suggestions!

Monday, April 23, 2012

With the lights off

Liv had been telling me that she would like to write a blog post.  I encouraged her to do so.  I love to see her perspective and see a bit of her soul through her words.  This is her story in her words.  
And again another ordinary miracle... I am humbled that I have been blessed to be the mama to these children.
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .  
From the mind of a crazy daughter...
I have a story to tell you.  A story about racism.
Starts out after bath time.
I love to take one of the littles after bath time, even when Mama insists on asking me several times "Do you want to take him?  Or do you feel like you have to take him?  Are you sure?" 
My answer is always the same.  
I want to take him because I love them!  And it also helps procrastinate my chore of cleaning the kitchen.
Today Jude got out of the bath first so I got him in his pj's, read him a story, said prayers, and told him Mom or Dad will be in soon to give him a kiss goodnight.  
That's when Jude asked me a question.
Jude:  looking at his arm next to my arm. "Why is my skin browner than yours, Sissy?"
me:  "Because you're from Vietnam, Jude"
Jude:  "Why are people from Vietnam browner?"
me:  explaining it the only way I knew how, "Because that's the way God made them."
I dimmed the lights and shut the door a bit, thinking that was the end of the conversation, but as I was cracking the door he decided to sum up his thoughts on the subject.
 Jude:  "Sissy, what if we turned off all the lights?  Everyone would be browner... right?"
 me:  "Yes, Jude.  Everyone would be the same color.  Goodnight, I love you."

That last comment that really caught me off guard.  How is it that my 4-year-old brother had captured the 
essence and understood the subject of differences in ethnicity?
Was it because he is a minority, and he knows what it feels like to be stared at?
Was it the ethics he's is being raised with?
Is it just his personality to see truth?
Had one of his classmates asked him about his "browner" skin?
Whatever it was that made him think about color as simply color, he understands a concept that many adults still might not understand completely.
We should all strive to be a little more like Jude, and try think about the people we meet on a daily basis with the lights off.
-- Livy the Unstoppable!
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