Monday, February 21, 2011

Eleanor in the Kitchen and Around the House

A few weeks ago I pulled a chair into the kitchen, put Ellie on it, and let her help me make cookies.  She's been obsessed ever since.  Nearly every morning the past week or so she pulls a chair in and up to the sink and wants to help wash dishes.  It's cute, but sometimes frustrating when she really needs to eat. In each of the following pictures she pulled the chair in and got up all by herself (and twice without my knowledge).

She loves to help with dishes by filling up and dumping out water from various containers

She also has developed a particular love for her monkey leash.  the other day she wanted it to eat breakfast with her (which included, ironically enough, a banana).

The monkey gets more kisses than either Ben or I!

She loves to color with pencils and crayons, and is pretty good about coloring only on paper.  But I have been very wary of giving her markers for obvious reasons.  But this morning she found the spare high chair in her room  (it had been pulled out for some friends that came over to dinner) and pulled it into the office and wanted to sit in it to color.  I figured she was trapped in so markers were safe.  She loved it.  Mostly she loved trying to put the lids back on and then picking a different color.

And as if you couldn't get enough monkey business, here's a little video:

Oops: I forgot a site in Beijing

After the Great Wall, and after Tian'anmen Square, we hauled ourselves up the the Olympic Park.  It was pretty cool to the see the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube.  We didn't want to pay admission to go inside because it was late and it was pricey! 
Does it seem a little hazy to you?  That's Beijing smog for you.  We are really quite close and out in the country it was a beautiful clear day.  The sky was never blue in Beijing, only dirty gray

They had large pedestrian walkway between the two subway stops for the Olympic Park, and on either side of the walkway was the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube.  They had put out Christmas trees for the festive season, which is amusing because China is more or less officially atheist.  But it was lovely.

Crystal the fish

In front of the Olympic Flame...thing.  It isn't lit anymore.

In front the Bird's Nest.  Ben was fascinated by the mathematics and engineering that went into this hyperbolic paraboloid...or whatever.

The Water Cube.  While living in the Navy Lodge we watched a documentary on how this was designed and built.  All the "bubbles" are made of a super-awesome plastic.

Some Miscellany from Beijing

We stayed at a very cool looking hotel in Beijing.  It was on a tiny side street, so you never would know it's there unless you were looking for it.

This was down the street from our hotel.  I laughed every time we passed it.

It was fun to see red lanterns lit up over restaurants at night.

In front of our hotel...again.

Ellie the Marshmallow Girl!
This was taken as we were getting ready to go to church.  There are actually 2 "foreigner" branches of the Church in Beijing.  It was so wonderful to be able to feel at home in a place that was so foreign in so many ways.
Quite possibly my very most favorite "translation" EVER!  
This is at the brand new terminal at the Beijing Airport that was built just for the Olympics.  How this slipped past befuddles me!  Aaron said that in Chinese it basically says to wait inside the box.  There were aisles delineated by tension barriers and this was the sign in front of it.  I laugh every time I see it!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Beijing Stop No. 5: The Forbidden City

We intended on visiting the Forbidden City on Monday, after Tian'anmen Square.  But it closed.  Lame.  Especially since we were flying out of Beijing the next day at 2 pm or something.  So we decided to haul ourselves back the next morning bright and early.  We were some of the first people in line and we were freezing.  It was SOOO cold that morning.  But the lovely thing was that the City was mostly empty and much more enjoyable that way.
The Forbidden City was the home to the Emperor and his court for a really long time, through both the Ming and Qing Dynasties.  Something like 24 Emperors lived there.  And the place is massive.  HUMONGOUS! Did they really need that much paved space?  I guess so.  There were several massive halls each with their own throne for the Emporer and each with their own large courtyard.

This is all one piece of stone, carved with all kinds of royal and mythological symbols.  

One of the many throne rooms

Ben imitating the dragon/dog guarding the entrance. It looks like it's stepping on it's pup, but they believed that it nursed from the paws.  So really Ben is imitating nursing...
It's hard to describe the grandeur and immensity of the place.  The very last place we came to was the garden, which was smallish compared to all the courts and halls.  But very pretty.  and by this time Ellie was out.  She had enough of being drug around in the cold and just cuddled up in our arms and zonked.
At the Lovers' Trees.  Two cypress trees growing intertwined

And that was Beijing for us!  A city with incredible history, unbelievable drivers, and inconceivably disgusting smog.

Beijing Stop No. 4 or 5...what am I at now?

Tian'anmen Square!

We came here after seeing the Great Wall and eating lunch across the street at the world's largest KFC (where I think a worker was trying to tell me that Ellie was to small to play in the playplace, but I feigned ignorance and let her play).  

At any rate, this square is massive.  Really, really huge.  We were too late to go into the mausoleum and see dead, frozen Chairman Mao, but it's all good.  
Ellie enjoyed running around holding her monkey harness.
 Of course the Chinese there were constantly snapping Ellie's photo.  By this time it was no longer a novelty and now just slightly annoying.  Especially if they would try to pick her up or "ask" to hold her (and by ask I mean try to take from my arms).  Luckily Ellie had no desire to be held by a stranger and would cry or run away. Plus she was tired!


Behind us is the entrance to the Forbidden City (the next stop on our tour).  We are quite far away from it so it's difficult to tell that the picture of Mao hanging above the entrance is at least 20 feet tall.  That's one huge portrait.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

We Interrupt This Program to Bring You a Special Bulletin...

Though my posts on China have been much delayed, and many of you may have heard the news through phone calls or facebook, I thought I ought to post anyway.  I did for Ellie, and it would seem unfair if we didn't here.

Anyway, we are very excited to be welcoming another GIRL into our family!  She's due July 6th, but if she wants to be like her sister and come a bit early, I won't complain.
This is me at nearly 20 weeks, the day we had the ultrasound.

This pregnancy has gone much like the last.  Constant nausea for the first trimester, but no vomiting.  And then just getting bigger after that.  I'm definitely getting bigger faster, and I think a lot of it has to do with my complete lack of abdominal strength.  I didn't have much before, and Eleanor really messed me over, and I never did anything to fix it.  My doctor says I'll pay for it with increased lower back and abdominal pain.  Swell.

The ultrasound itself was highly amusing.  The technician was this funny, squat little Japanese man who made the most amusing comments.  The best was when he was checking the gender and said, "No, no little bumps here.  Hi, hi*, no boys parts." And then that's what he typed up on the picture he printed out for us: "Female. No boys parts."
*hi is Japanese for yes, though it is used as a filler word a lot.

We've got no idea what we're going to name this child, though Ben did put forth a strong contender by suggesting Einsteinium Epsilon.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Beijing Stop No. 3


Really, it was great.  Probably my favorite thing we saw/did in Beijing, maybe all of the China (besides being with Crystal and Aaron).

First of all, getting there experience all its own.  We hired a private driver so we could go to a less crowded spot and it was cheaper.  But it must first be said that to the Chinese, traffic laws are mere suggestions. Especially if you are paying for the ride it seems.  This guy was insane!  For instance, we were at the end of a long line of four lanes of cars waiting at a stoplight.  He pulled over to the shoulder, drove a long for some distance, then merged over all four lanes into the left turn lane and cut his way in there.  It was nuts.  But the most terrifying was when we were nearly hit by a shower of bricks.  We were in a little village on our way to the wall and there was a motorcycle pulling cart coming towards us with a truck full of bricks behind him.  The truck driver decided to try and pass the motorcycle and swerve back into his lane before hitting us.  Unfortunately his bricks were not secured. Our driver served to avoid the small avalanche of bricks that fell off and then stopped to check out any damage.  We were mere inches from being hit, but luckily the car wasn't even scratched.  Thank goodness for prayer!  The thing that cracked me up the most was that the car behind us, who must have witnessed the whole event, started honking his horn in impatience while our driver checked to make sure everything was okay.  Welcome to Chinese driving.
We had experienced some "paparazzi" while in China, but this beat all.  The Chinese were obsessed with taking pictures of Ellie (so are we, so who are we to blame them).  There was a large group of Chinese tourists just before we were about to get on the wall, and they all wanted to take their picture with Ellie, who happened to be strapped onto Ben. So they lined up and started clicking away.  It was hysterical.

Even Crystal and I had our faces photographed a few times.  We're just cool like that.

Anyway, the wall.  It's funny, in some ways it is smaller and yet bigger than you imagine.  It's not terribly wide, probably only 10 feet wide. But you could see it stretching off in the distance in both directions for miles, roaming over the tops of the mountains.  It was incredible.  Pictures will do better justice.  Here you go.

(This is one of my favorite shots from the entire trip. Maybe someday she can use it in her 5th grade country report)

Ben and Ellie firing cannons. Though Ben pointed out that it isn't a very good strategic advantage to have an immobile cannon.  But let's be honest, the Great Wall didn't really do any of what it was supposed to do.

This was the steepest part of our hike along the wall. I'm not going to lie, it was rough!

You can see that the wall is on top of the mountain.  To get to it, we took a cable car up, and when it was time to come down (we hiked about a mile of it), we took the ski lift down.  As we were preparing to get on, we made sure to read the "Visitops Rules"
Click on the picture to enlarge it so you can read the rules in all their glory! Our favorites were #3 and #4. Also we cheated a bit and didn't tell them that I was 13 weeks pregnant.  Not that we could have communicated that anyway.
The drive back was still exciting, but less eventful.  Ellie fell asleep, an we had the driver drop us off at the world's largest KFC, near Tian'anmen Square. Which will be the subject of the next post, when I get around to it.