Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

I forgot, we do have one tradition each year on Easter... We take a family snapshot! It's still too chilly here to dress in regular springtime apparel, and I'm still under the weather, so this year our pic features jackets and hoodies instead of the outfits beneath that we semi-tried to coordinate. I'll survive.

Also, today the boys got to snuggle some bunnies. But they did not come home with us, one dog in a high rise is enough in the pet department I think. Happy Easter friends!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Eggs and things

Last night a friend of mine was lamenting about how their child didn't want to decorate Easter eggs this year because at age six, they were "over it" already. I thought back to last year in Macau when my boys got to dye eggs for the very first time thanks to a friend from America whose children couldn't bear to miss that tradition. My boys haven't asked me to color eggs this year, and after nearly thirteen years of being a parent and not taking part in that particular tradition even once, I'm not going to jump in and suggest it now.

The whole Easter egg thing started a long bedtime conversation between my husband and I and how there are so many traditions in American culture that we don't participate in, nor have a desire to be a part of at this stage of the game. Santa Claus and fancy Christmas dinners, the Easter Bunny, St. Patty's Day, the Tooth Fairy, and even Thanksgiving just really aren't part of our family's celebration. I assure you this isn't due to some religious or spiritual conviction. We always say yes when someone else invites us to their celebrations, showing up with a side dish and beverages. But without an invite, we tend not to do those things on our own.

I blame much of it on the fact that my first year as a parent I lived in Tokyo, Japan. Thinking it was the only opportunity I would ever have to live abroad (ha!), I jumped in wholeheartedly to embrace every single Japanese holiday and festival that came along, and left all the more Western traditions for another year.

But the next year we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, far from our families who had been the torch-bearers for doing certain things the same way each year because that's the way it's always been done. My husband worked in live entertainment, and holidays were his busiest times, because other families have traditions of seeing shows at Christmas or or Thanksgiving. So our tiny family of three spent our second and third year enjoying some of those traditional American holidays by greeting Daddy at the Stage Door with a store bought side dish to go along with the turkey someone in the cast or crew made in a friend's oven. We tried our best to make it to family holidays down in Southern California, but it didn't always happen. The show must go on!

Then Benjamin made his way into our family and we moved off to Hong Kong, another country filled with rich festivals and holidays we were eager to experience (once again thinking it would be our last time abroad!). At some point I realized we'd never introduced the kids to Santa or gone through the hassle of finding both the elusive white eggs and egg dye while living in Asia, and it just never seemed like a good time to start. Maybe next year, I'd think, when we're not living out of suitcases or packing up everything we own to move overseas yet again.

And then we found ourselves living in Macau, which has some of the most interesting and diverse holidays and festivals that stem from its Chinese and colonial Portuguese background. It was less important to me to find a way to celebrate American Independence Day (burgers at the Hard Rock Cafe anyone?) than it was to take the boys to the local cemetery on Qingming Festival day to see families who traveled far and wide to sit at their ancestors' tombs telling stories, stuffing themselves silly, and making burnt offerings of paper televisions and cardboard Louis Vuitton bags so their dead relatives could be happy in the afterlife. I tried to make a parallel to similar holidays in American culture (Qingming reminded me of Thanksgiving, since generations of families travel "home" to be together and eat until they fall asleep. The fact that it happens in a cemetery and that the cemetery is filled with thick smoke from all those offerings to the ancestors makes it unique among holidays).

And now here we are in Mainland China, an atheistic country which has fewer festivals and holidays with cultural significance than anywhere else I've ever lived. And yet even with that vacuum of festivals, I still haven't filled the space with things from our country of birth. And at the end of our long conversation last night, neither Michael nor I felt bad about that. In fact, we feel great joy and satisfaction from having been able to carve our own way among the cultures we have been fortunate enough to live in, taking some things for our own and discarding what no longer fits. It will be years before we know if this ends up being a positive thing for our children, but we are a family who values creativity and uniqueness and I'm proud that our values extend into the way we actually live life.

Maybe by the time I'm a grandma I'll get my act together and get to decorating some eggs for the grand kids. Unless of course we're off living in yet another country (seems increasingly likely, yes?), and in that case we'll teach them to make lanterns or kites or to simply appreciate that the world is large and has so much to offer if you're willing to not always do things the way they've always been done.

Friday, March 29, 2013

No compression

I don't know you guys, it seems like omnipotence isn't something that would enjoyed being compressed. And into a biscuit no less! But I'm not really omnipotent (yet! *insert evil laugh here*), so what do I know. Maybe this makes all that unlimited power portable?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Charcoal Breed Flavour

The long-awaited results of my allergy test are in, but my doctor isn't! She'll be in tomorrow though, so the big reveal of what's causing all these crazy reactions will hopefully happen then. And in related news that will surely surprise no one, it has been four weeks since I was last sick and this morning I awoke to a bright red throat, major congestion, and a fever currently hovering around the 101F mark. Right on schedule. Can someone please stop this crazy roller coaster of waxing and waning health? Because I really, really want to get off now. Thanks.

But here's something to lighten the mood. I'm not a coffee drinker, but if I was, I would probably avoid the kind of coffee beans that are bred with charcoal. Personal preference, really.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Basket Case

I used to wear my babies in a Baby Bjorn, a front carrier that kept my hands free while navigating subways and train stations in Japan and Hong Kong.

This lady has a different approach, wearing her baby in a basket on her back. The kid was happy, couldn't tell if the lady was or not! Considering the straps binding the basket to her back looked like shoelaces, I'm not certain it would be all that comfortable.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Salty Fresh

All three of our lifts (elevators) contain two poster-sized ads, which are changed out every four to five days. For most of them I can only guess what the product is. But not today! Today's product is clearly toothpaste. And a special flavor too. Because your teeth don't feel extra clean unless your mouth is salty!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Friday, March 15, 2013

Oh Benjamin.

It's almost painful how very photogenic my youngest son can be when moody. Oh my petulant yet beautiful boy, I love you so!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sweet Life

First of all, thank you for all the emails and comments regarding the MRI. The results are in and somewhat unremarkable. I (like most people in the world) have a deviated septum. And as it is only slightly deviated, likely not the cause of the recurrent infections, and I lack the vanity to demand a perfectly straight nose, it will stay the way it is. I also have "majorly inflamed" sinuses. I was born in the San Fernando Valley of California, and therefore speak Valley Girl, so when I say majorly (or totally or like), I'm just making conversation. My doctor, however, is from Poland with a thick Polish accent, so when she says majorly, it means extremely. I've been prescribed a steroidal nasal spray to reduce the inflammation, which I'll be taking for the duration of our residence in Shanghai.

Next step is a bit of a miserable one. The doctor is sending me off for an allergy test, for which I need to fast from all antihistamines (Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, Prilosec) for seven days. Yesterday was day one and I was super headachey and extremely grumpy (solved both by going for a 90-minute Chinese massage). Today is day two, and I awoke covered in hives which I'd scratched in my sleep, drawing blood. Nice, huh? I'm not sure how I'm going to make it a full week! The doctor is not hopeful that the allergy test will actually help with my situation (she's banking on the nasal spray helping more than anything). After all, if I have environmental allergies then I will just have to wait until our next relocation to permanently escape them. If there are food allergies (beyond the shrimp one we already know about), then I can at least try to reduce that exposure, which may or may not be affecting my sinuses but certainly are driving my poor, pale, sensitive skin bonkers. Majorly.

Now to leave you on a high note and distract you from all this talk of noses and blood. My favorite treats in Macau are egg tarts, a slightly Cantonese twist on a Portuguese treat called pastéis de nata. They taste like happiness to me. When our friends from Macau came up for a visit, they brought me a box of them which I relished. Today I found them in Shanghai, fresh out of the oven at Sam's Club of all places! They aren't quite Lord Stow's, but they did make my taste buds happy! Michael doesn't care for them, so I don't have to share with him. The boys, however, are a different story...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Don't Panic

Today I posted the following on Facebook:

"I'm having an MRI today to see if there are answers to why I've been so sick this year. I know it's terribly wrong, but in the midst of the crazy/busy/demanding week I'm having, I'm actually looking forward to the hour's worth of solitude."

I immediately got a stream of comments, text messages, emails, and two phone calls from people worried about me. Whoa Nelly.

The truth is I've had four sinus infections in about eight months. One bad enough to send me to the hospital, and the most recent one needing two rounds of antibiotics and steroids to finally kick it. What will I need the next time I get an infection? As the saying goes, I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. So after my most recent doctor visit, I was sent to have an MRI to simply rule out any physical anomalies that might be making me prone to harboring these bacterial infections in my face. Ugh.

My doctor gave me a choice of two places to have the MRI, an English-speaking facility or one that only spoke Mandarin. The difference in price for the convenience of mutual linguistic understanding was $500 USD! Luckily my insurance meant only a 10% copay. The last time I had an MRI (back in Macau for a different issue) not a single person spoke English. I'd foolishly turned down everyone's offer to come with me, and it led to a frightening situation where they gave me a strong sedative which left me dizzy and woozy. When I was done, I wandered the streets surrounding the hospital for an hour, disoriented and drugged, until I finally found a taxi driver who could understand my slurred English and get me home, where I ended up sleeping off the drug for six hours straight. So yes, I paid the extra $50 USD to make sure I could understand and be understood. And I declined any medicinal help to get me through it.

The facility (ProMed Cancer Center) was beautiful and clean and filled with polite and friendly people who were very organized and greeted me by name when I walked up to the reception desk, much like what you'd expect at the Ritz-Carlton, not a doctor's office (perhaps I was their only appointment that hour, or the only one who looked like my name could be Heather Rose-Chase?).

The tube I had to lay in was much smaller than my only previous experience with an MRI, so I kept my eyes tightly closed and took lots of long, slow breaths. I'm working on memorizing a piece for an upcoming presentation, so I tried to repeat that over and over, generally only getting the first three or four lines before the machine would make a startlingly loud noise, prompting me to start over in my head. At least I've got the first part down!

The comical part (which I always try to find in any situation because, come on, life is better when you laugh) came from being told that I had to leave my eyeglasses behind in a locker with the rest of my clothes and belongings, and then attempt to navigate blindly through a maze of corridors and up a set of steps into the machine. All while wearing the worst possible oversized shoes, Crocs, which felt like walking in Mickey Mouse's giant shoes, donned only in a small terrycloth robe. As I made my way down the hall, bumper car-style, holding my robe closed with one hand, groping for something to hold onto with the other, the helpful nurse (who I didn't even see approaching) pointed out the obvious, "Wow, you really can't see, can you?"

Results are in on Monday. Since they got me in and out faster than I expected, I stole an extra thirty minutes after the MRI to sit on the patio of a nearby coffee house and enjoy both the warm sunshine on my skin and the solitude that I was hoping for in my Facebook status. And now I must return to my crazy/busy/demanding week.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rushing Home

I live in the shadows of those tall buildings in the distance. The one with the hole at the top is the Shanghai World Financial Center, and at precisely this moment, it is the tallest building in China. The building with the cranes at the top will very shortly eclipse it and win the tallest title.

I love to live where I can scan the horizon and see a neighborhood landmark from nearly anywhere in Shanghai. It's a good feeling, even when I have to spend forty minutes in a taxi, crawling my way home through rush hour traffic like this evening.

Monday, March 4, 2013


The temperatures this week are supposed to reach the 70's. The level of health in our home has shot up to near-perfect levels, per our doctor visit this morning. I bought an armful of blossoms from my favorite street-cart flower peddler. And our taxi ride home from this morning's activities was the safest and most careful drive I've experienced anywhere in Asia. I'm certain it had to do with the scent of the flowers mixed with the lovely sunshine in Shanghai. The driver was taking time to smell the roses instead of barreling down the road, one hand on the horn.

Things are looking up!

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