A Bit of Writing

>> Thursday, February 25, 2010

I've been doing a bit of writing for the Global Times. It's the Party voice here in China and I don't really know how I feel about writing for them. But the people are really nice and it's a good outlet for my writing. They've sort of changed the rules lately so it's difficult for me to write what they want now. We'll see if I can come up with something for them. Here are a few links of things I've written for them recently. Oh yeah, and please forgive the typos and the illustrations. They're not mine.

Lang fei (Wasteful)

Kindness Isn't Dead

Giving in to TCM

Living Local (That's my title. It's better than the title the editors gave the article)

Students Need Sleep(I don't remember the name I gave this article, but the one they chose really stinks.)

Kids Need Love, Not Money (again, their title, not mine.)


No Cake, Please

It’s a little after midnight so I guess it’s officially the early morning of Feb. 26, 2010. This means that I’m 39 years old. Can it be? Isn’t middle age for other people? How am I supposed to deal with this?

I randomly happened upon my engagement picture the other day. I was amazed at Matt’s thick, wavy hair and the taught skin around my eyes and my thin arms. No gray hair, extra weight or wrinkles. I remember all the junk food I ate and all the late nights I had. How did I still get up in the morning and stay so thin?! Nowadays the late nights kill me. Tomorrow morning I’ll most likely barely be able to drag myself out of bed to take Sam to school and then I’ll probably come home and crawl into bed for another three hours to make up for my post-midnight blog.

This birthday is a little difficult for me. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it might have to do with expectation. By now wasn’t I supposed to have 5 kids, a minivan, a house in the suburbs? My life is not at all what I had planned. I have one child, no car, and I live in an apartment in Beijing, China.

I just have to remind myself that this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. I have a wonderful husband who tries his best to meet my every need and desire. He is Heaven sent. I couldn’t ask for anyone more caring and kind. I thank Heaven every day that he is my husband. And, I find him dashingly handsome. That doesn’t hurt either.

And Sam. What a blessing he is. As the years pass, I realize the miracle it took to get him here. He’s developing a great sense of humor and he’s a joy to be around. He thinks about things and isn’t afraid to feel. He has confidence in his abilities, too. He’s smart.

And China? It’s kind of a quirky place for us. We don’t have an expat package, so we don’t have a driver and we haven’t bought a car. Our place isn’t in the central business district and it doesn’t have hot running water in the kitchen. But, it’s free. It’s a wonderful neighborhood where people are clean and educated. The botanical garden is our back yard. I have a maid/cook. I have a drawer full of pearls and other baubles and a closet full of clothes. It’s a weird sort of mix between developing country and luxury living.

I love the people here, too. Barring taxi drivers and subway riders and anyone I’m bargaining with at the market, people here are kind and honest. They have so many virtues that I wish I had. True loyalty and humility. Selflessness, kindess, integrity, hard-working, charitable. After three years, I feel like I’m just beginning to peel off the top layers of what it means to be Chinese. I’m finding all sorts of beautiful things. There are a few Chinese people I have come to know quite well here and I have the utmost admiration for them. I can truly say I have never been around so many fine people.

So why the fuss about my situation in life? To tell the truth, I’m not so sure. I guess it’s because I had my dream life all planned out and I’m not living it. I’ve gotten in contact with a few of my old high school friends through facebook. It’s a lot of fun to see what they’re up to and to talk to them again. But sometimes it’s hard, too. Many of them have all the things I thought I would have: the kids, the minivan.

Maybe getting older means the dream of having more children will remain just a dream.

In the meantime, I don’t think I want to make a big deal out of this birthday. Matt has asked me for a long time now what I want. What I really want is no more gray hair or wrinkles. Maybe I can postpone this birthday until March or April when the sun is shining and the garden starts to bloom and I feel like all is right with the world.

I don’t want a cake or presents. How many pearls does one girl need?! Maybe I just want to be thankful for what I have and where I am in my life because really I have everything I could ever want. That’s probably the best birthday present ever.


Pinewood Derby Champ

>> Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sam has been looking forward to the pinewood derby for years. We haven't done cub scouts before now because it's been too much of a pain. Trekking to pack meetings for over an hour and trying to find the supplies for stuff seemed like just too much. But, we finally enrolled in him scouts. I still don't know exactly how involved we will be, but we'll try out best to at least get him involved for the big stuff.

His first activity was the pinewood derby. We got the kit a few weeks before but due to a lovely bout of food poisoning weren't able to start work on it until the Monday before. Sam worked really hard on it and Matt spent a lot of time with him.

Because it was such a big deal for Sam, I took a lot of pictures and have chronicled the experience here. Stop reading if you get bored. This one is gonna be long.

First of was the wheels and axles. They did everything they could to make those wheels spin fast. Here is Sam timing how many seconds the wheel spins on the axle. Notice, also, the ear plugs and safety glasses. Sam insisted they be safe. Matt obliged.

Sanding together

This is Sam's design he drew. They're discussing how to put it on the block of wood.


There's a story behind the graphite powder. We couldn't find any. We went to hardware stores, big chains, small mom and pop stores, mechanic stores, electronic stores, you name it. We still couldn't find any. We posted on an email group and, finally, someone told us where we could buy some the day before the race.

Sam and I traveled an hour there and back to get it. It was a chemical reagent company and they sold us a huge bag full. That was all they had. We took it. It's not always easy to find stuff in Beijing.

Graphite powder is messy.

At the weigh in, the car was a little over weight so they had to drill some holes in the wood to make it lighter. You can see the holes in the bottom of the car.

The boys from the branch.

The official weigh in.

Sam's car is the blue one on the left.

Excited before the race started.

Sam's car is on the left.

Now on the right.

The first race.

The excitement after winning the first race.

The guy in the middle of the picture below was so funny. His son was racing, too, and we talked a little before the races. After Sam's car won the first race, we realized that his design allowed his car to go below the starting gate a little bit because he cut it really thin. The guy went over to the judge and pointed this out. The judge shrugged his shoulders.

We actually had no idea what the set up would be and Sam came up with his design without any input from us. And, the car won every race by a big margin so that small amount of the car that actually went under the window didn't end up determining the winner. I guess you just gotta laugh. Do you really think they would have disqualified him for that? Sheesh. All I can say is it wasn't intentional and it didn't end up mattering in the end.

The final race starts. (BTW, this was a different track and it's starting gate went all the way down to the bottom so Sam's car didn't have any advantage.) Sam's car is second from the right.

And they're off...

Sam's car pulling ahead...

A little further ahead... and finally winning the finale.

Nervous and excited before getting the trophy.

Proud Dad.

There's the trophy!

Celebrating at Domino's.

Never lost a race. All 4s. (I guess 4 means they win the race and get the most points.)

On the way home Sam was really tired. He had slept over at a friend's house the night before and they didn't sleep much. But, even though he fell asleep in the cab, he still held on to the trophy.

Finally, after a little cajoling, he gave up the trophy and settled in for a nap.

What a great day.


The Biggest Snow Storm in 50 Years

We had a huge snow storm--the biggest storm Beijing has seen in 50 years. I felt a little bit like I was in Utah. Sam had a blast. He jumped and threw snowballs and knocked snow onto other people. I have never liked the snow, but this time it was so peaceful. The botanical garden was calm and it seemed like no amount of shouting or snowball fights could penetrate the stillness.

This tree is ENORMOUS. It was lovely with it's branches weighed down by the new snow.

Matt mentions my layers of clothes in this video. I am, to put it mildly, cold averse. So, I usually wear a few pair or long underwear. Yep, you read right, two pair. A cotton and a wool layered. And I wear a fleece and a sweater or two under my coat, too. Oh, and ear muffs and a hat and scarf. That pretty much does the trick but all winter I look like I'm a little puffier than usual. And it's hard to put my arms all the way down. It's a small price to pay for warmth.

Below, Matt is hitting the tree branches so the snow cascades down on Sam. Sam loved it and asked Matt to do it again and again.

And, of course, what outing would be complete without the obligatory picture of someone wanting a picture with the "laowai" or foreign kid. Sam kindly obliges.

My two guys in knee-high snow.

Sam and me showing how much snow there is. For Beijing, this is unbelievable.

Playing in the snow.

This is the same scene I photographed at the end of fall. I love the comparison between the end of fall and mid-winter.


Christmas 2009

>> Friday, February 5, 2010

Why is it that I haven't quite capture the art of getting meaningful holiday pictures? For some reason, I'm better at taking pictures and recording the every day moments or the interesting things about China. So, here is yet another Christmas with just a few photos. Please forgive me! Maybe I can use the excuse that I'm so busy making memories and living in the moment that I just don't remember to capture it all on film. I'll try to do better next year.

This is Sam playing with the loot. This year Karen sent a huge package from the U.S. Thanks Aunt Karen! Sam totally loved everything from the Legos to the Cream of Wheat. It was really nice to get all of the little things that we can't get here in Beijing. Just what we wanted.

We have a wonderful branch Christmas party complete with dinner, the primary kids reenacting the nativity and a visit from Santa Claus.

Christmas was such a wonderful time. It was a renewal of my love and gratitude for the Savior and of my testimony, as well. Merry Christmas, everyone!


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