Showing posts from October, 2013

Thing One and Thing Two

I have a couple of Things running around the house today.

Funny thing, exactly ten years ago I had a couple of Things running around too. Well, one was more sitting there, looking round and cute, but you get the idea.
I think I'll make them dress up like this every ten years. Check back in 2023 for Nat at almost 23 and Ben at 20. If my exceptional good luck for getting my children to dress up in Dr. Seuss characters holds up that is!

Vertical Milestones, Disney and Otherwise

Today was the 2013 Shanghai Disney Resort Cast Appreciation Day. In Disney lingo, a Cast Member is an employee. For last year's Appreciation Day, the company rented out a small ballroom, which comfortably fit the 100 or so employees and their families. This year, the company had to rent out a section of the largest park in Shanghai because there are now over 1,000 employees! It's growing by leaps and bounds! Shanghai Disneyland made the news this past week because it finally went vertical. All the underground work got to a point where they can start growing above ground, and a big ceremony was held to celebrate the first vertical beam going up into the sky. It's still two years from opening day, but it's coming along! They fed us lunch and provided many fun activities for families to do, including learning the art of Chinese knot tying, Chinese calligraphy, and paper silhouette portraiture. We were pretty much there for the photo opportunities though, as my boys wer…


Safety harnesses are for sissies if you make your living washing the windows of the high rise buildings on the Shanghai skyline. Here was the view from my bed on the 38th floor upon waking this morning:

A little wooden plank, a single rope, a bucket, a squeegee and maybe a spare pair of underpants are all you need to be in business.

I can't imagine the day will ever come when I will not feel my stomach lurching into my throat when I see this kind of thing in China. And I see this kind of thing nearly every single day. Thankfully, it's not always directly outside my bedroom window!

American Tourister

Have you ever met anyone who went to London for a holiday who didn't come back with a photo of their entire family or group of friends shoved into a phone booth? No?

Well who are we to be the one family who resists the ultimate touristy shot.

London School Daze

For me, the best travel experiences are ones we get to share with people who actually live in our vacation destination. For our trip to the UK, we were very fortunate to stay with our friends, the Braden family. As mentioned before, we've known them since 2005 when both our families lived in Hong Kong. They had a profound effect on us and our expat experience, and I credit them with being our inspiration for continuing to live abroad.

I love being able to see the average, everyday things they do wherever they happen to live. When they lived in Manila, our first day of visiting them we got to go help out at the health clinic where Glen served some of the poorest of the poor, and then visit some of the patients in the neighborhood served by the clinic, which consisted of dangerously constructed lean-to dwellings all stacked together, housing an impossibly enormous number of people in conditions which were shocking to say the least. But you know what? All four of us would say it is …


I took my poor, hurting son to the corner coffee house to get him a mango smoothie to soothe the pain of his new braces. The only other thing he can seem to handle putting in his aching mouth right now is scrambled eggs, and man-boys cannot live on scrambled eggs alone! While on our stroll, we passed the local Chinese school on our block, and paused to look at the kids doing strange calisthenics. He expressed his great gratitude that we are not a sports-oriented family, and that his father isn't one to get really into watching ball games on television. I asked him why he felt that way. "Because if Dad was into sports, he would make me be on these teams and I'm really bad at them."

I thought for a moment, and responded, "That may be true, but if we were into sports, you probably would have played on one team or another since the time you were old enough to walk, and gone to a sports camp or two every year. By now, you'd probably be pretty good playing at leas…

Mind the Gap

The trains and subways in Hong Kong and Shanghai all have cheerful warnings to pleasemind the gap  or watch the gap when you are boarding the train car. However, the gap they warn you against is no more than five inches, and level with the platform, so unless you trip, the gap isn't going to cause you much damage or hardship. I've always chuckled to myself over the somewhat unnecessary warnings. And then we went to London, where the saying has been in use for a hundred years by the train conductors, and printed and used in automated announcements since 1969 (to save the conductors from having to repeat it over and over again the story goes).

In London, the gap between the platform and the train car is sometimes so wide, and so different in height, a full grown man could seriously fall between if he wasn't paying attention. A few of the Underground (Tube) stations were curved, with curved platforms. And while the tracks curved as well, each individual car is obviously stra…

Heavy Metal

We've entered the orthodontia years.

Nathan is currently moaning himself to sleep over the pain he's feeling in his mouth, and I'm feeling like a super lousy parent for signing him up for a couple of years of braces. Thankfully, the actual braces are a whole lot smaller than the ones his Dad and I had to wear at his age, and thanks to advances in technology, the estimated time he'll need treatment is also smaller than the four years I wore them and the five years Michael wore his. If it was only a matter of some crooked teeth, I'd be tempted to be very un-American and let them be. However, he's got some actual issues with the way his jaw is formed, and the longer we wait the harder it will be to fix. We've already waited longer than is ideal, but this nomadic life isn't conducive to ongoing treatment. Thankfully, a long search here in Shanghai netted a great dental group with a gentle specialist Nathan can tolerate (it's been a long road with this …

A Dog's Life, Abroad

Happy 2nd Birthday Lu!
Are we the type of people who take birthday portraits* of our dog? Evidently.

Lucy Rocket was born in Hong Kong but joined our family in Macau and then moved with us to China. Every single night when we're laying in bed reading while Lu snuggles between us, I turn to Michael and say, "Thank you for this dog." We only got her because of Nathan. Our oldest son can be quite socially and physically awkward, anxious and tense, yet when you put an animal of any kind in his arms, every muscle in his body relaxes and he becomes suddenly graceful.

Living abroad doesn't make it easy to have a pet with a lifespan longer than a goldfish, so despite repeated requests for something with fur, I consistently said no. But one night we were watching movies at a friend's house, killing time during a typhoon, and Nathan was communing with our friend's cats for hours. Completely zoned out, just watching the kitties. None of the tweenage tension he normall…

Home Again

We are back home in Shanghai. It was quite a struggle to voluntarily get back on a plane leaving Europe for Asia. Quite the struggle indeed.

We had a marvelous, busy, adventurous time, and I'm full to the brim with excellent memories. I also filled an SD card with photos and had to buy a second one with a larger capacity. As a family, we took over 3,000 photos between my DSLR, my iPhone, Michael's iPhone, and the little Cannon digital camera that Michael used to use but now our budding shutterbug Ben has taken over. 3,000 photos in two weeks works out to over 200 photos a day. I won't be posting all of them (in fact I only just started looking at them), but I did find one from our first day of going into London town that made me giggle as only the mom of two boys who love jokes about bodily functions can giggle...

Here's a quote on a bench, from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra:

The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne, Burn'd on the water; the poop w…