Beijing State of Mind

The boys have really been enjoying this video. Even if you’re not all that familiar with China, it still has some parts you’ll find funny…talking about the guys walking around with their shirts up, the kids with the split pants, etc.

Homework

The boys have had some really cool homework assignments this year. Eli’s hot a big project going on right now where he’s thinking up organisms that might live in the specific environment that he was assigned…another post on that later. Tonight, Oliver is making his spelling words out of play dough.

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Moments to Remember

I often post a lot of the funny things the kids say and do to Facebook, and worry that they’ll be lost to time when we all get sick of the FB. (I mean, really, who isn’t tired of it already!). So I’ll try to make am effort to keep more of them here, and hope this blog stats around for a long time so I can look back. In the meantime, I copied my post from a few minutes ago:

I love how bits of information get absorbed and connected together in new and inventive ways in little minds. Oliver just finished telling me about how it’s much fairer these days because girls and boys can both compete in the Olympics, since it wasn’t that way in Old Times. He’s not 100% sure how it changed but he thinks it might have been Nelson Mandela who was responsible. ‘Not quite’, I say. ‘Remember?Nelson Mandela was fighting apartheid in South Africa.’ ‘Oh right’, says he. ‘And he was helping out Rosa Parks with her bus that’s in the Henry Ford Museum’

Cultivating Happiness

As part of his homework, each week Oliver gets an assignment in his Learning log to work on over the coming week (sometimes two). I believe we’ve posted one of his videos before, about his research on the Blue Spotted Jack. There was another one, about making a Haloween decoration.. He has kept a log of his physical fitness, made a Christmas card for a friend…lots of great stuff. His assignment for this past week was a lot of fun, and my favorite so far, so I thought I’d share it.

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The Problem With Living on the 20th Floor

We’ve got the kids in bed, the glögg warmer warming, all is in place for a lovely evening soaking and looking out at the city. The bathtub, however, has been filling for at least 40 minutes and it’s not even close to full. Yes, it is a large one, but I don’t think the size is the issue…the water pressure up here on floor 20 just isn’t that fabulous. Hoping we finish filling the tub in time to enjoy it before we fall asleep!

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A Big Birthday!

Oliver celebrated his 6th birthday today, and he did it in style! We started the morning with a nice FaceTime call from Grammy and Blue, and then headed over to the Kerry. Ryan and I went to the gym, to get in a vigorous spinning class in anticipation of the gluttony to come, while Oliver hit the Adventure Zone, where he has worked up to being able to go down even the biggest slides! (When we first moved here, he said he wouldn’t be going down the big ones until he was 8 at least). Eli headed out to do whatever it is that Eli does..he mostly wanders the mall, like preteens all over the globe..it’s clearly a universal behavior. After the gym, we had another quick FaceTime call, this time with Nana and Papa, and off we went to brunch.

Oliver chose The Cook as the location for his birthday brunch, which was convenient since we were already there! This was our second time brunching at The Cook, and we loved it even more than our first visit. Probably because we knew how it works this time..our first visit was a little confusing. Because you can order a la carte, instead of brunch and at times when brunch is not being served, all the items have prices on them…but they are irrelevant for those enjoying the all you can eat buffet…you just order whatever you like. Everything is cooked to order, so you place your order, and the staff scan the card you are given when you first enter, which allows them to know who ordered what, and they bring it to your table when you have finished. The restaurant has many different stations to visit, divided mostly by type of cusine..you can choose anything you like from the many options…sushi, tepanyaki, Thai, Indian, Cantonese, Malaysian, American, pasta, salad, Peking duck, Shanghainese, etc, etc. There is also an an amazing bakery with assorted breads, desserts, ice cream and various toppings. For drinks, the kids went nuts with fresh squeezed lemonade and Ryan and I enjoyed the free-flow adult beverages, which come from The Brew, the onsite microbrewery at the Kerry. We all ate and drank very very well, and the kids were entertained by the clown and magician that stroll around the dining room performing tricks and making balloon sculptures.

After a very long brunch we waddled away from The Cook, and paid a visit to the Lego store, where Oliver picked out a gift from Nana and Papa. Then the boys got haircuts. Now it’s back home, to digest (I don’t think we’ll need to eat again for days!) and put together Legos. All in all, a very happy birthday for our Oliver!

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Christmas Markets. Cubed.

After the awful awful awful air pollution of the past week, it was a relief to see the numbers dip back down into the (still unhealthy, but no longer apocalyptic) sub-200 range. Especially because I’d been looking forward, for weeks, to today because I had planned a Christmas Market Marathon for us. This weekend seems to be THE weekend for Christmas markets in Shanghai. I’m guessing as to the reason, but maybe because they are trying to hit a December weekend before the international schools let out and many expats leave town? Regardless of the cause, this was the weekend of Christmas Markets, and I wanted to hit as many as possible. With big plans for my birthday tomorrow, that meant fitting them all in today.

Our first stop was a bit of a bust. This being China, there are frequently situations where details are lost in translation. This was the case for the Winter Wonderland at 3 on the Bund. Despite a promise of ‘all day family activities’ and an epicurean market, we arrived to find that other than the brunch, there was nothing else going on until 4. No matter, we had a nice walk along the river to get there, and afterward headed to our next market on the itinerary.

Next up was the Marche de Noel at the Cool Docks warehouses further up (down?) the Bund from our first stop. This was a much bigger sucess. First we stopped at the Cool Docks 1 location, both because the boys were in need of a snack, and because we had no clue where the market actually was. The boys filled up on gelato, the grown ups on coffee, and then we were off to the actual market. And it was a blast! We enjoyed some glühwein (E&O got real Belgian hot chocolates) while strolling along the vendor booths. We found a Swedish lösgodis company, and grabbed a photo of Eli with their adorable mascot. We purchased a box of pre-mixed candy, and are looking forward to checking out their store to see if you can mix your own as well. The boys also got a chance to decorate some cookies for a good cause.. They were delicious. (I took a bite. Mom tax.)

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Our final stop for the day took us to the Christkindlmarkt over in the Former French Concession. This one actually charged admission, but your 25 RMB ticket was then good for an equivalent amount in food and beverages. More glühwein for Ryan and me, as well as bratwurst. It’s just not an authentic Christkindlmarkt without bratwurst! This market looked the most authentic, with little wood huts for each vendor. It was also the busiest. It was packed! We still managed to buy some gifts, eat some delicious sausage, drink delicious mulled wine, and the kids found a playground. It was all very festive and Christmasy and was a wonderful end to our market marathon. We continued to pretend we were in Europe by finishing the night around the corner at La Creperie. I had a crepe that had raclette cheese, potatoes, ham and cornichons. It was like having a whole raclette meal, in crepe form. Unsurprisingly, I had no room for a dessert crepe after that, but don’t worry, the kids did!

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Christmas Bazzar and Thanksgiving

We packed a massive amount of activity into this weekend. On Saturday, both boys had birthday parties so we made a quick run to the gym. While Ryan was working out and the boys were playing at the Adventure Zone I made a quick run to the attached shopping mall to grab some birthday presents. (As a cool random note, FaceTime works over cellular here, so Elizabeth and Henry got to see Eli and Oliver sliding down the slides at the Adventure Zone). The wrapping of the birthday presents turned out to be a little bit of an ordeal, because the toy store only had pink flowery paper or purple with polka dots and hearts as their choices of wrap. Fine for Oliver, who was heading to a girl’s party (and even a 5 year old boy would probably have not cared about the paper). However, I could just not imagine sending Eli to his buddy’s 11th birthday party with a Pink flowery or Purple Polka dotty/hearty present. So then I dashed all over the Kerry Parkside looking for a gift bag. Eventually I ended up paying a ridiculous sum to the florist to have her wrap it. She took an extremely long time to do the job, with precise measuring and folding, and special tape, and ohmygodineededtoleave15minutesago…but I guess she wanted to make sure I was getting quality work since I was paying so much for it! Finally she finished and I dashed to the car to meet Ryan and the boys and we were off!

After a wrong turn or two, we got Oliver dropped off. Eli’s party was a good half hour away, at some villas near his school. Ryan and I decided we’d rather kill some time in Jinqiao, where Oliver was, than hang out in Kangqiao, where Eli was heading, so we sent him off with the driver and instructions to come back and pick us up in a few hours. And with that, we were free! We hit a lovely cafe for some pastries, then a spa for an hour long foot and leg massage. Heaven! We had just enough time to scarf down a couple of delicious crepes before Mr. Shen and Eli pulled up, and we headed back to pick up Oliver. After that we zoomed off to SMP skatepark…and there are a couple of previous posts to show how much fun that was!

Today we headed off to school for their Christmas Bazzar. There was a Secret Santa shop for the kids to shop on their own for gifts. Elves were on hand to help the little ones, and both Eli and Oliver emerged with a wrapped gifts for Ryan and me. Can’t wait to see what they are! There were arts and crafts, photos with Santa (Oliver looks terrified!), vendors, and music. I bought a gigantic Christmas arrangement for the table, which may be our only decoration if our sea shipment doesn’t make it to us before the New Year. I’m sure I paid hugely inflated expat prices for the thing, and it was still so inexpensive I was downright gleeful as I handed over my payment. Ryan and Oliver and I volunteered at the raffle table and then shopped and ate. Eli ran around with his friends. It was lovely.

This evening was a Thanksgiving potluck for our apartment complex. Shama provided the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy…and even brought in a company to do a wine tasting. The rest of the food was brought in by the residents, and since so many of the people living here are Japanese, there were definitely a few non-traditional dishes on the buffet. :-). Everything was delicious and while it was different from Thanksgiving at home, it was still the real deal…getting together with friends new and old, to enjoy delicious food and each other’s company. Eli pronounced it authentic when he ran over to the festivities ahead of time ahead of the rest of the family and then came back to report, ‘it’s all Thanksgiving-y in there! There’s a ton of people, and wine, and it’s smells like turkey!!!’ We’re all home now, and cozy, and enjoying the chocolate chip cookies that I held back from the batch I made to take over to the potluck.

Oliver at SMP:

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Christmas Bazar Snack:

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My Floral Arrangement:

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Ryan Digs In:

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Eli Photobombs Thanksgiving:

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