Wednesday, December 14, 2011

a new dress

We're back in the US and currently battling jet lag. Usually I'm a stickler with jet lag.  No naps other than the usually scheduled ones, and you must stay up until regular bedtime, but this time I've been trying to be nice.  Babes and I took a nap the first and second day, and I thought it was going to be ok.  The first day she went to bed at 9 and woke up at 5.  Not good, but not too shabby.  But the second day she was up at 3.  NO GOOD!  So yesterday I was back to my old nazi self.  NO NAPS!  And yesterday she slept from 6:30 to 5:30.  I'm going to keep her up again today and hopefully we'll make it to 6 tomorrow.
Aside from that I've been furiously knitting Christmas presents and I'm almost done with almost all of them (I really hope to finish them so that people have presents under the tree).  It doesn't look like I'll get to my grandmother's shawl, but I know she won't mind that it's not under the tree.  I can't post any Christmas present pictures, but I will post a picture of Zora's dress that she wore on the plane.

Friday, December 09, 2011

I'm a big kid now (or make things easier on yourself)

There's a lot out there on the internet about kid proofing your house, but not nearly as much about making your kid more independent in your home.  I put a lot of thought into making things very accessible for her so that she can do many things by herself.  None of it's perfect, and I don't think any of it is original, but I thought I would share because sometimes its good to have inspiration.  And I also know that sometimes I won't think of teaching Babes something until someone mentions it (like it only recently occurred to me that she might want to learn how to tie shoes).
Anyway, the biggest place you can help yourself out is the bathroom.  Babes potty trained at two (I can't give potty training tips because she basically trained herself, she HATES to be dirty) and I cursed myself for doing it because every hour or so I was running into the bathroom to lift her on the potty, and hold her up to wash her hands.  I eventually ended up putting in two stools, a short one so that she could climb on the potty herself, and a bigger one so that she could reach the sink to wash her hands.  Add to that a towel with a topper so that she can't pull it off the rack and after a while I only needed to spot check to make sure she was cleaning herself and washing her hands well.  I also added a hook at child height so that when she's done with her bath in the evening she can hang up her own towel. 
From Blogger Pictures

In her room, I started off by making sure that she could reach all the drawers with her clothes in them.  Which is actually not that hard since her clothes are so little that she really only needs two drawers.  We used to fight about what she could wear (starting at two WTF?) so now she generally picks out her own clothes (starting around 3).  I try to keep things in sets so that she knows what goes together and only seasonal clothes at her reach. In her closet I took a shower curtain rod and hung it at Babes' height so that she could hang up her own clothes, so whenever she takes off a jacket or a dress she's supposed to hang it up herself (it takes some teaching, putting clothes on a hanger is not intuitive).
From Blogger Pictures
  We also bought her (well actually my Mom bought her) a my Tot Clock, it has a face that changes colors and she knows that when it's blue it's night time and time to stay in bed, but when it turns yellow she can come out and get us because it's morning time.  It worked really well for Babes (I have recommended it to friends and it works for some like a miracle, but not as well for others).
In the kitchen and dining room, there aren't too many things.  I am thinking about making a shelf easily accessible that has snacks and cups, but I haven't done it.  She has just started being able to go into the fridge and get her own tiny oranges and peel them herself which is fabulous.  The only thing I would recommend is a really tall stool so that she can help out with the cooking.  With the very tall stool she can see into the bowls and really see what's going on.  But I only let her stand on it while I'm next to her, it's really tall.
From Blogger Pictures
The other thing is a booster seat for the dining room chairs.  Once again it brings her to a proper height for using forks, knives and spoons and reaching cups and having conversations. 
From Blogger Pictures

Well, that's all the tips I've got?  Do you have something that makes things easier for you? Let me know I'm always looking for tips.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Cold in Chengdu

So the weather has gotten cooler... And I'm sure you're thinking, well it's December it should be cool right?  Well yes and no.  Chengdu is a weird place.  It just dipped below 60 yesterday.  While the weather is mild, it's also damp, which makes it chillier than what the actual temperature says. It's a chill that also seeps.  If you are standing around outside, you don't feel cold at first, but as you stand there it seeps up under your clothes and gets you.  BUT all that being said, it is in the low 60's upper 50's (between 12 and 17 Celsius).  You would not be able to tell it from what the Chinese people are wearing.  NOW granted most of the homes here are built without heaters (something about geography, central planning, and temperatures, Chengdu didn't rate built in heating for their buildings).  So I can some of the extra layers, I imagine that if you get cold, it might be really hard to warm back up.... maybe.  BUT, I have not turned on the heat once in my apartment and it's still a comfortable room temperature.  I'm not in short sleeves, but I also am not in a sweater, and we're not cold.  Here's where it gets tricky.  Chinese people leave their friggin' windows and doors open ALL THE TIME!  Even at the school where we take Babes.  I brought her into school one day, and she was dressed for the weather.  Her teachers FREAKED!  They said the classroom was too cold for her to wear what she was wearing and they pulled a sweater out of her bag and made her wear it.  I looked out the back of the room and the outside door was WIDE OPEN!  I was a little worried when we signed her up that her classroom wasn't heated, but it's not that cold in Chengdu, I figured it would be a learning experience and toughen her up.  But the fact that it's not heated, AND they leave the doors wide open drives me crazy! 
The other thing that I don't understand is the towel down the back.  Go to any public playground during the winter in Chengdu and you will see a bunch of sweating, red faced Chinese kids running around the playground.  They all look about half a step away from heat stroke because despite the fact that they are running around at top speed and often on an indoor playground they are still wearing there long underwear, sweaters, winter jackets, arm warmers, leg warmers, and a towel down the back.  Why the towel,  you may ask, Well, someone I know asked about it.  The towel is there because the kids get sweaty, so they run around, the towel gets all sweaty, and when they're done, they remove the towel and viola!  The kids dry again!  Forget the fact that their hair is now soaked in sweat, and I'm sure they're legs and arms too, but they are mostly dry.   Don't believe me?  Here is a picture I took of Babes' dance class (note some days the window is open in the studio too, which is why Babes is also dancing in a sweater, which I feel is somehow wrong).

From Blogger Pictures

Sorry it's so blurry, I was using the bad camera through the studio glass.   

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Good bye Thanksgiving... Hello Christmas!

So I survived the Thanksgiving Extravaganza!  Even though I kept waking up in a panic the whole week before I managed to pull it off and no one got sick (my measure of a successful meal)!  And despite a mishap with the macaroni and cheese (I pulled it out of the fridge to put it in the oven and it was still frozen!) the lunch was on the table and ready to eat at 12:30 as planned.  There were even times in the morning when I was standing around thinking that I should do something, but everything was done (except of course for the frozen mac n cheese).  To make a meal like this involves LOTS of planning.  I started a month before, I picked out recipes, looked around to make sure that I would be able to find all the ingredients for everything I wanted to make, then I made a menu.  The menu went up on the fridge and beside each item I had a make ahead schedule.  Then for the day of the event I had an oven schedule, also posted on the fridge so that everything was cooked and things that needed to be hot were hot, and everything was cooked (except the mac n cheese, which ended up in the microwave and then stuffed in the oven at the last second).  I ended up with twice as much food as needed; a whole extra turkey, an uneaten cake, and a gazillion leftovers!
 This is what a Thanksgiving meal for 20 people looks like before it's cooked. 

From Blogger Pictures

And here are some pictures of the spread.  Thanks to a friend of mine who actually has an eye for photography!  

From Blogger Pictures

From Blogger Pictures

 And the end of Thanksgiving means the beginning of the Christmas season so this past weekend Babes and I decorated the tree to the first playing of Xmas music this year!  I used to have fairly strict rules on when Christmas started and when I would start decorating for it, but since I've been overseas I've realized that it's important for me to decorate because otherwise, in many places, you won't see Christmas.  Oh sure, you'll see some trees and lights, but it's nothing like the holiday spirit that you get in the US.  So every year after Thanksgiving I put away the fall color and bust out Christmas. 

From Blogger Pictures