Updates and Anniversaries

I decided it was time for an update on what’s been going on over here while I’ve been doing everything but blogging. So here are the things that have been keeping me busy recently.

  1. The first one, of course, is JQ monstering.

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Don’t be fooled by that cute little face and angelic mop of blonde hair. This little man, who is currently eight-and-a-half months old, rarely sits still and always wants to be getting into something. Vying for the spots of top most fascinating things are computer cords, computers, cellphones, and drawers. So far he’s completely destroyed one drawer in the house and taken the contents out of many more. His motto seems to be, “What can I get into next?”

2. In June, we celebrated our third anniversary. Of course, like the bad blogger that I am, I’ve been trying to write a post about it for a month. This is me giving up and saying no post shall be written. But at least we got (a very bad) picture of us wandering around London on our anniversary.
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It’s been a great three years in three countries, Jared. I’m looking forward to the next year (and the next country!).
3. The third thing that’s been keeping me busy is. . .I got a job! It’s teaching English online to Chinese people, mostly kids. The transition was a little rough on JQ (since he obviously can’t “help” me and has to go in the other room), but I’ve taught a lot of fun students. And I’ll be able to take it with me when we move. . . which is a plus.

4. Which brings me to: we’re moving, again! We leave our current house on July 25 (sniff, sniff), and are going to travel around for a bit before heading off to Singapore in January. Not looking forward to Singapore’s weather, but kind of excited to know where we’re going next and maybe having a bigger flat there too. What I’m not excited about, though, is packing, a.k.a. getting rid of everything we own (again). I always feel like we’ve done a great job of not accumulating stuff until it’s time to pack it all up–and then it takes five times longer than it should to go through everything. But at least we won’t have much to carry when traveling!

5. But before we leave here for good, we’re doing a bit more traveling around the country. We have Scotland and Ireland booked for the end of the month, but for now, we’ve just made a last-minute trip to Gloucester and a day trip to Cardiff from there. Lots more beautiful scenery (and cute baby pictures, of course).

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We’ve been loving the gorgeous English gardens and all the greenery everywhere.

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We had a great time walking around Cardiff as well and seeing the castle and the bay. It was perfect weather too!

6. Besides going places ourselves, we’ve also had other people visit us. After my friend left, my sister came two weeks later. I haven’t persuaded either of them to write a blog post yet, but perhaps I might still. It’s amazing how much more popular living in London has made us!

7. Other than all the busyness described above, we’re just enjoying what has probably been the coolest summer I’ve ever spent. I don’t think it’s ever gotten past 80 degrees (yes, that is Fahrenheit) yet and it’s July. Feel free to be envious, those of you roasting in America. Have I mentioned we’re going to miss England?!

Well, I think that about covers our summer so far. What have you all been up to?

For more, head over to This Ain’t the Lyceum.

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Apartment Tour (or should I say, Flat Tour?)

This post will probably be rather boring, since all my energy seems to be dedicated at the moment to stocking up our apartment with the basic necessities like pots and pans (and chocolate), lugging said necessities home, and thinking of tasty things to cook since I started getting tired of the old faithful hamburger (around here they call it beef mince) and random veggies mixture.

Anyhow, on to the apartment. In this apartment, we have a bed:

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Exhibit A

It’s nice to have a bed, because before we were just sleeping on an air mattress on the floor. You try heaving your very pregnant self off a 4 inch high air mattress and tell me it’s easy.

We also have lovely wide windows that Jared has discovered the perfect use for.

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The scholar at work.

They’re kind of like a cross between a window seat and a treehouse, or so I imagine.

Coming out of the bedroom, there’s a hallway to the door, a bathroom on the right, and the living room (reception room in UK parlance) and kitchen on the left.

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The hallway. Fascinating, eh?

Our bathroom feels palatial compared to the last few places we’ve lived. It’s so nice to have a pretty bathroom that rewards you for keeping it clean. And the bathtub certainly doesn’t hurt things either!

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Jared attempts to emulate Sir Winston Churchill now.

For the kitchen/living room, you’ll have to see them filled with people as you would if you were actually visiting. Jared’s friends from school came over and celebrated the imminent arrival of JQ with us this weekend. They brought presents and we gave them food and everyone had a lovely time.

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And helped assemble them (and isn’t it cute?!)
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Opening presents while everyone looks on.
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The steps to the kitchen make for perfect extra seating.

One of the gifts we were given was a cake that was apparently the favorite dessert of the Congress of Vienna (no, it didn’t survive from the 19th century–it’s just the same recipe).

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It was quite tasty when we opened it later. Basically a walnut praline pie or something like that.

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Jared loved it.

Combine a tasty pastry with the peace settlement that resulted in the most peaceful century in modern European history, and you have the recipe for greatness. Maybe it’s why the Congress of Vienna was so successful.

Anyways, we love our little flat, and it’s a great space for entertaining as well. Come by and see us sometime!

Call Me Crazy

So ya’ll have probably been wondering what I’ve been up to this last month and a half. Besides neglecting my blog completely, I’ve been busy doing a million other things, like going across the US from the west coast to the east coast, seeing friends and family, and preparing for another international move (after which a baby will make his appearance–we hope not too soon!). So call us crazy: since July first, we’ve been on six plane flights (if you count layovers), six US states (three only in airports, though), said hello to about a million people we hadn’t seen in a year or more (I exaggerate only slightly), said goodbye to all of the aforesaid people, and are currently working and saying hi to a few thousand more people in the DC area before we head off to another new continent, at which point it will be only slightly more than six weeks before JQ is due to make his appearance. Stressful? Not in the slightest.

So, we started out in Oregon, where Jared made delicious molasses cookies (hey, I’m pregnant–I can think about food, and cookies are obviously some of the most important things in life).

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Don’t they look tasty? (They were!)

I had to take a picture of them because they were so shiny and chewy looking.

Besides eating cookies (did you know there’s good iron in blackstrap molasses?), we also went on various random hikes to see waterfalls,e

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This is what happens when I try to put up a picture of me–it’s either blurry or glowing or both. Enjoy!

and more waterfalls,

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Isn’t that pretty, though?

and some strange trees.

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They do weird things to trees in Oregon.

We also went to the beach, where I tried boogie boarding for about 30 seconds and decided it really wasn’t comfortable to try to lay on my (increasingly expanding) stomach while a giant wave washed over me.  My thoughts on the ocean apparently haven’t changed much. Jared, on the other hand, enjoyed it.

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Doesn’t he look happy?
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I got me a handsome one!

Then it was off to Colorado, where we enjoyed gorgeous sunrises and sunsets,

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God knew what he was doing when he created mountains!

great company (have you ever noticed how nice it is to be around people who actually care about you?)

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Chillin’ with the littlest sister.

and fabulous conversations along the lines of: “Annika, would you rather have Jared or a shark?” The decisions these people want me to make!

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Jared enjoyed the back porch.

It was great to be back on the farm for a while and able to see long distances again. Beijing just doesn’t have a wide expanse of sky.

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So here we are on the east coast, enjoying its particular brand of beauty as well (sorry, no pictures yet). It’s been a great trip back in the US so far, and we’re looking forward to our last month of it. And who knows–I may even blog a little more frequently now that my brain isn’t being assaulted with all the decisions like, “Would you rather have JQ or a mosquito?”!

Growing Up Is Hard to Do: Becoming an Independent Adult

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Our neighbors here have the most amazing roses. They’re so beautiful.

When you’re young, you think once you hit the magical age of, say, 18 or 21, you automatically become an adult, with adult ideas, responsibilities, and respect.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. There’s no magical age at which you cease to feel like a child and begin to feel all grown up. I sort of suspect that even when I’m in my thirties and forties I’ll still feel some of the same insecurities and childishness I did when I was twelve.

When I was four, I was adept at spotting self-centered adults. Generally, they were the ones who didn’t have any children of their own yet, or the ones who were high on their own importance. They were the ones who told me I couldn’t have a tiny cup of coffee even though I knew my parents let me, or who wouldn’t let us climb four feet in the air on our playhouse because DANGER, or who yelled at us for being kids and talking somewhat loudly in a hallway. They didn’t care to get to know me, to learn that I was, in fact, the world’s most cautious child (and also generally obedient) and would never do anything that was in the least frightening. Getting me to climb four feet in the air was a real feat. Now that I’ve grown up, I think I can manage five–on a good day.

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Of course children need adults in their world, people to give them boundaries and security and love. But with an overbearing culture of adultishness, where adults are always right and children are always wrong, how do we expect these same children to grow up and have opinions and ideas of their own? As a four-year-old, I felt miffed because no one thought that I had ideas or was a person. As a twenty-something today, have I gained the right to personhood yet?

So here are some suggestions for those twenty-somethings (or teenage-somethings) who are hoping to gain their independence, but don’t know how to balance that fine line between respecting authority and making up their own mind.

1. Start making your own decisions about small things. The small things are a great place to start for people who aren’t confident in their decision-making abilities. Decide what books or clothes you’ll buy or when to do your homework and when to hang out with friends. Don’t always rely on your parents or friends to tell you what to do.

2.Don’t always ask advice from people who you know will tell you the same thing. Seek out different viewpoints and ideas, because how can you really grow if you’re hiding behind other people’s opinions? And once you have the advice, it’s up to you to make the decision.

3. Learn to say no to people. This has been a hard one for me, especially, as I don’t like disappointing people. But sometimes you just can’t take on that 32nd violin lesson, even if you DO have an open hour right at that time. So say no if you have to, even if it might make someone sad or upset.

4. Learn to take responsibility for your own decisions. It’s your decision, not your parents’ or your pastor’s or your friends. And if it goes wrong, saying “The parents you gave to me!” in a whiny voice to God doesn’t make you any less culpable for a bad decision, and it’s not any cuter than when Adam first blamed Eve. Of course you should still honor your parents—and respect their ideas. But that doesn’t mean they’re perfect, and it definitely doesn’t mean that they’re still in control of your life once you’re an adult.

5. So, you should transition from asking permission to seeking advice. Parents should become friends instead of authorities, wise people in your life who you seek to learn from instead of people you fear who seek to run your life.

6. Don’t be afraid to make different decisions than other people around you would make, or even than you would have made a few years ago.  Ending up in China was never my original plan–when I got married, nothing was farther from my mind (or from Jared’s mind)–but it’s been a good decision. We’ve met new people, found a whole new culture, and started learning a language. So don’t let fear of the unknown or of public opinion stop you from making a decision.

7. After all, good or bad, decisions have to be made. And what most of us forget (at least I do!) is that doing nothing is also making a decision. Inactivity can be worse than boldly stepping out and taking charge. And who knows–it might just lead you to your same hometown doing what you’ve always dreamed, or it might just lead you to China!

And since there are conveniently seven points,  I’m linking up at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes this week!

Four Ways to Keep Your Faraway Friends

When you’ve grown up with someone and seen them practically every day of your life, it’s a bit hard when you have to move away. You can’t do spontaneous things like going out for coffee in the afternoons or going shopping for a couple hours or even going on a walk like you used to. Instead, you have to balance busy schedules against the rigors of different time zones and different lives. You may even start to wonder if it’s even worth it to keep your friendships going–if perhaps they’d be happier if you just bugged off and let them keep living their lives without constant interruptions from you reminding them what life used to be like.

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The rose bushes are always greener on the other side of the fence.

Fortunately, friendships don’t have to peter out with distance and changing lives. There are still some things you can do that will help your friends far away feel like they’re still connected with you–that you still care.

First, be proactive, whether you’re the friend that left or the friend that stayed. Don’t assume that just because they’re your friend that they can do all the working of keeping the friendship together, or figuring out all the wonky time-zone differences, or figuring out your schedule. If you work together on this, it will also have the bonus that you talk more!

Second, try to make things easier for them to call you. If there’s a foreign country involved (no, we’re not starting any wars or anything!), chances are neither of you can just call from your phone like you normally would. Try to get free apps like Skype or WeChat (which is huge in China!) that will let you talk without one or the other of you spending a boatload of money every time you get lonely. Even $0.05 a minute adds up pretty quickly.

Third, (and this might be the hardest), keep thinking of things that you can talk about. If you’re anything like me, when something interesting comes up that you want to talk about with your friends, it may be a couple days before you get to calling them. And by that time, it might have disappeared! And if I can’t remember anything I wanted to talk about, I’m pretty much the world’s most boring friend. Conversations devolve into a series of “How was your week?” “Fine.” “Anything exciting?” “Nope.” Read a thought-provoking book, or talk about something interesting you read in the news, or even discuss funny YouTube videos. Or, you can remember the interesting things that happened at work that week, like the time your student said “shit” in class without knowing it was a bad word. (He was using it to talk about dog poop).

Fourth, do what you can from a distance to make your friend feel cared about still. (I’m really bad at this one too.) Send a postcard, or an email if a postcard is too hard. Maybe write a letter, or, if funds allow, send a small box. If you feel up to it, visiting is always appreciated. Just think of it as your only chance to see the world.

So, if all your friends have moved away (or if you’ve moved away), your highschool habits of forming friendships just aren’t working anymore, and you’re wondering if you’ll ever make new friends again, or if you’re doomed to die friendless with hot ears from talking on the phone so much, think of these tips. Long-distance friendships are possible–though hot ears are pretty much inevitable.