Monday, June 30, 2008

Sojo's New BFF

A few summers ago, I found this small statue at the grocery store of all places, and I loved the serenity of it for our front garden. She has knelt there quietly ever since; that is, until Sojo discovered her the other day and decided to become her new best friend. Sojo and "girl" (not quite understanding the idea of giving things names yet) spend lots of quality time together with Sojo giving her lots of hugs, changing her diaper, putting pieces of bark on her head, and even throwing her down the stairs sometimes. Thankfully, she is not made of stone but some sort of coated plastic, so the broken pieces don't matter so much. Our favorite stone buddha arrives in the shipment tomorrow, so "girl" might have some competition.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Walk in the "Jungle"


Cheers to summer vacation! The weather up here in Washington is simply gorgeous--well, probably too hot for Washington folk, but perfect for us Arizona peeps. I love the aspect of settling into a house once a year: the unpacking of sheets and towels, quilts aired out in summer sunshine and checking in on the progress of trees planted and blueberry bushes.

Somehow we acquired a lot of kitsch in our travels, and, sadly, most of it has no real purpose and currently sits in boxes in the storage room. Take this lovely basket from Ethiopia--never could figure out what to do with it until our walk in the forest the other day. It has become the most perfect woven nature basket, a place to collect special things from the forest to put on our nature table in the house.

Sojo loved the forest, or actually the jungle as she calls it. All the greenery reminded her of the Horton movie (I swear we do more than just watch that movie!) and she kept saying "Horton," "jungle" over and over. She's a big fan on finding walking sticks at the moment, and we stumbled upon a garter snake ("nake! nake!") that she is determined to touch whenever we can catch one.

Friends and relatives trickling in all summer long, lots of wine and bbqs on the deck, and hopefully some quality hammock time really soon. With the weather as nice as it is, I may even get a Seattle tan this summer!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Desert Love


As I sit here at a cafe in Washington, dressed in my summer fleece, with a napping girl nearby, I will close up our time in the desert.

The desert is not for everyone. Wide-open spaces and the lack of green can be shocking to the eyes, but I adore the desert, even in the blazing summer heat. Night brings a bit of welcome coolness, and for the past 15 years, every summer I come home, the constellation Scorpio is waiting for me in the sky each night as I sit on my parents' patio when the sun goes down. During Sojo's jetlag nights, we took her out to the patio and sat in the lawn chairs, soaking up a bit of the desert magic. And, what do you know, that wiggly little girl just laid back and stared at the stars, listened to the frogs and crickets, and even got to hear some coyotes howling in the distance.

Another piece of magic during this desert trip was my mom's new labryinth that she and her family/friends constructed for her 63rd birthday. Walking the labryinth is a very individual experience but definitely one that brings peace. It is even used in Montessori education as a calming practice. I took the chance to walk it whenever I could and am already mentally building one at our house in Washington. Sojo preferred to hop over the rocks and move them around, but she dug it just the same.

Settling in to our special place here in Washington. Sojo is up now and sitting next to me now in her new red fleece, eating yummy pumpkin gingerbread from the funky cafe near our house. Life is so good.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Beating the Heat, Toddler Style

How to beat the Arizona heat, toddler style.
Purchase one mango smoothie from Xoom Juice, add one pair of new stylin' toddler shades, and head off to pick out one Curious George book from our favorite used bookstore.

The combination of these 3 activities must have had some hidden magic. We were requested by Sojo to read the book 3 times before bed (hmmm...a magic number?) and this is the first night since we arrived that she has not woken up numerous times with jetlag. Back to some semblance of normalcy. I did mention numerous times a night, right? With added screaming and wanting to play at 2 a.m.?

Disclaimer: I swear that Dale was the one who picked out the diva shades for Sojo, not me, although I love them as well. She actually keeps them on her face; that is, when she's not pushing them up on her head to look cool. I fear impending Hannah Montana days with this one.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sweating in Tucson

Even with 108+ temps here in Arizona, we are managing to find lots of fun things to occupy our time. Sadly, being outside for any length of time is downright dangerous, so it's mostly inside fun at this point. Listening to Jack Johnson's Curious George soundtrack (so love this music!), dancing with Elmo, drinking popo's "moothies," and cooking with pretend food are highlights of every day. However, we braved the heat and ventured out to the zoo the other day for a quick visit, and, as we expected, it was a big hit with the animal lover in the family. Sojo got to feed a biscuit to a giraffe (very cool!) and had her face painted for the first time.
In somewhat desperation to find indoor activities outside of our living room (really, we can only make pretend eggs so many times a day), we took her to Chuck E. Cheese. YIKES on the stimulation overload in that place. I was basically mouth agape at all the noise and lights and little people running amok. Sojo was totally not into it at all and only wanted to hang out with the Chuck E. Cheese band of characters on stage. She moved back and forth between them, giving their mangy "fur" hug after hug. We then got out of there quickly and left our few tokens to some random lucky kid.

my new favorite pic. leaves me speechless

Friday, June 20, 2008

Swimming, Muffins and Vacation

Ahhhh, vacation! Certainly not why I became a teacher, but definitely a perk I appreciate greatly. After a really long, tough flight that I am currently trying to block from my memory (let's just say at one point I started hoping that maybe, just maybe, people would feel sorry for us and think Sojo was screaming at the top of her lungs and throwing a temper tantrum because we just adopted her instead of the real reason that had to do with DVD batteries going dead and the end of Curious George). But, on the bright side, we are here swimming, making muffins and having the best time with popo and gong gong. She loves them so much and feels so comfortable with them. Kinda what it's all about...ok, the memory of the flight is fading already.

Even healthy muffins need a dose of Christmas tree sprinkles

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Reflections

Getting caught in a fabulous summer rainstorm--a precursor for life back in the tropics
The down side of living a peripatetic lifestyle is the goodbyes, and we have slowly made peace with leaving this week. I've personally never got it right timing-wise until now--I've either left with such sadness (still miss Ecuador to this day...) or with such relief (sorry, Cameroon, but you left my spirit broken for a while...), but with China it feels just right. Incredibly grateful for all the country gave us but very excited to be moving on to another adventure.

To get Sojo ready for the flight, we bought her her own travel bag, and she spent the first 20 minutes just pushing it around the house. Determined to be a super-organized travel mom (and not forget my own suitcase on the floor at home like I did last year!), it's stuffed with goodies, books and tiny plastic animals that are her favorite things. She brought it to our last breakfast this morning with friends, and it was a hit with all the under 2 crowd.

And lastly, happy father's day to Dale and my father. Both such fine examples of men with kindness family and integrity as life priorities. I am blessed twice over.

So, there you have it. Five years of our lives spent here in China. At times, I felt like I was in a zoo or looking into a zoo, both me and Chinese walking past each other, staring and wondering about the other person's life, but Sojo helped break the ice in what can be quite a distant culture. She is our eternal connection to this land, and I often wonder what she will wonder about it and want from it in the future. I've burned images into my memory to share with her: Muslim men making noodles and dumping them into huge metal pots, the clicking of mah jong tiles played by elderly Chinese during hot summer months, and how much people loved her here. We're always just a plane ride away, and our road might curve back here...

Next stop Arizona where we'll have tons of fun AND my new Obama t-shirt is waiting for me!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nature Calls


Our near future includes chillin' in these two chairs on chilly Seattle mornings, coffee cups placed on the tree stump, watching the fish we added to the pond at our house last summer. Sojo was just a lump on a blanket then, but now she has her running legs on her, and she's added jumping to her list of accomplishments these last weeks (she'll show anyone and everyone that her feet actually come off the ground now--who knew how much coordination is involved in maneuvering a jump?). Of course, we'll have to take extra care around the ponds on our property, but I have such sweet, sweet visions of her meandering down the forest paths, picking up pine cones and blueberries and sticks on her way, hopefully tucking them into the pockets of the nature apron I want to make her with the Hello Kitty! sewing machine I'm going to buy when I get stateside.

adding the fish last summer
ready to take on the world this summer

Get Ready!


Get ready, Popo and Gong Gong! We're ready for all that swimming and playing and muffin making in Arizona. Sure, we might have to go outside to the playground in the early morning hours due to the summer heat, but we're up already so we'll have it all to ourselves.

Soon...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Travel Buddy

As we get ready to leave next week, we've been tucking away small things to keep Sojo occupied on the plane. However, she's been having a weird last couple of days, and without analyzing her too much, it seems she does realize that everything is gone and transition is brewing. Hmm...could that be why on Sunday, she screamed quite loudly when anyone even approached something she was playing with, almost like saying, "Where the *%&*&*(#$ is all my stuff, and don't even THINK about taking this as well!" Enter Elmo--an early travel gift we gave her last night and perhaps the perfect friend for this long trip and big move coming up. Sojo's a huge fan, sings his 'la la la la' song, and doesn't find his high-pitched voice as annoying as we do. She immediately hugged him to pieces, and held him so tight as she fell asleep. Now if we can somehow get him to promise to work his magic on the plane ride next week.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Friends


We love watching Sojo and her friend Mimi together. Sure, part of it is because they look so much alike and are both so sweet and beautiful, but I also love that Sojo is beginning to understand the concept of friends. Sharing with those friends is a whole different story, but the love is definitely there.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Winding Down

Only one week left in China, and the movers came today to pack us out. We arrived five years ago with 14 suitcases, and yikes, we are leaving with a lot more. This from a girl who about 7 years ago refused to even sleep on a proper bed and chose an air mattress instead just because real furniture was such a commitment! I wish we could blame it all on Sojo, but we just can't. I'll blame it on the beautiful antique Chinese furniture, a huge children's book collection and a husband who is a gigging musician. Sojo handled the move pretty well and didn't seem to even notice that our house is so empty it echoes. Now that we are down to almost nothing for her, save for a few small toys, we found some fun things to do in the afternoon after the movers left. First on the list was making a mess with some spare mah jong tiles and then a yummy lunch with Mr. Bobcat. They dined on pretend 'dofu' and 'mi fan,' which is tofu and rice in Chinese (I love when she speaks Chinese--it is so cute to hear her use the tones!) At the Toys R Us here, they had this random Winnie the Pooh Asian food set, and it was great to see something regional because there was not an Asian doll to be found there. Their lunch kept getting interrupted because Sojo kept asking me to get up and put her plastic soup in the microwave again and again. Being that our shipment will arrive in Thailand around October, we put a play kitchen in there as a surprise for Sojo. I fear I will have to work on my sharing skills again when we open it up as that also plays into my wee obsession with small things, but at least she can 'microwave' her own stuff.

And lastly, but possibly the most fun, we had a major rainstorm here today, which was perfect for a pre-bath puddle splashing.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Big Girl

We've had a potty sitting in our bathroom for months now, simply because we saw it at a store, realized we'd need one someday and picked it up for future use. Its main use so far has been as a chair and a spot to brush teeth, and whenever Sojo sits there, she insists that one of us sit on our potty, and so we just hang out a bit from our respective perches. Actually, this photo is taken by me while from my potty across the room while Sojo brushed her teeth. Our philosophy for potty training is pretty mellow and consists of waiting until she showed signs of being interested.Imagine our surprise tonight when Sojo sat on the potty, fully clothed as usual, and then out of the blue said, "off!" while pulling up her skirt. Off went the skirt and diaper, and she hopped right up on the potty and looked like she was serious about it. After a few minutes of getting up and down, she peed in the potty! We were totally shocked and jumping around the bathroom laughing and screaming. Then we took a step outside ourselves and realized how hilarious we looked with big grins plastered on our faces, all because of a little sweetie peeing like a big girl.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Heartfelt

At one point this weekend, we were walking with Sojo when she turned to us and said, "happy." Wonderful beyond words to have her express how she feels, and even more wonderful that she feels happy. Right back at ya, sweetie!

p.s. H & M rocks! Sojo's t-shirt says THINK ABOUT MY FUTURE. I love thought-provoking kid shirts.