Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef: A Play in One Act

The setting is a boat in the Coral Ocean, about 3 hours off the coast of Cairns, Australia.

Characters:

JQ: a two-year-old boy who has blonde hair and a distinct penchant for doing everything himself. “I do” is his favorite phrase.

JARED: a determined PhD student; becomes very concerned about wasting time if he takes more than a half hour doing anything besides reading; friendly, personable, adventurous. Looks at the moment like he’s survived a year in the wilderness with a wild beard and fluffy curls down to his shoulders.

ANNIKA: A harried mother; quiet; hasn’t much of her own to contribute. Very devoted to JQ and JARED

RUBY: an Irish girl out traveling Australia before going back to the confines of university in Ireland

A HIPPIE AMERICAN COUPLE: complete with unshaven legs and armpits, long hair, and an endearing idealism

TWO DANISH GIRLS: who, despite being beach volleyball professionals, promptly become seasick and look like death; they say nothing, only uttering a few groans here and there.

THE BOAT CREW

Random SNORKELERS

SCENE I: The Edge of the Boat

Untitled JQ: I see baby dark, Mommy!

ANNIKA: Yes, let’s go see baby shark!

They make their way out of the boat to where enthusiastic snorkelers are putting on their masks and flinging themselves into the sea to look at the corals and fishes. Paddling around with their red life-jackets and colorful pool noodles, they look like a swarm of enthusiastic puppies let out for the day to see some sights.  

JQ: chatters enthusiastically I see baby dark, Mama! I swim, Mama! I see baby dark, Mama!

ANNIKA: Yes, baby, let’s get ready! Can you put your mask on?

JQ: I dit, Mama! Sitting at the edge of the boat, with their feet dangling off, they prepare to go snorkeling  

ANNIKA: Ok, JQ, let’s put your mask on.

JQ: gets clingy No mask. Pushes it away and howls

ANNIKA: Do you want to see baby shark?

JQ: No baby dark!

ANNIKA: Do you want to swim?

JQ: No swim!

BOAT CREWPERSON: to JQ Can I help you put your mask on?

JQ: No mask! Clings to ANNIKA and wails loudly.  Sighing, ANNIKA gets up and EXITS with JQ

 SCENE II: After Diving

On the boat. Random snorkelers are coming back up, finished with their outing for the day. ANNIKA and JQ are waiting, and then JARED enters. Untitled

JARED: Scuba diving was intense! That was the scariest thing I’ve ever done!

ANNIKA: What, really? But I thought you liked adventurous things

JARED: Yes! If something goes wrong, you can’t just swim back to the surface or you’ll destroy your ears. Plus, they made me go underwater like 15 minutes before everyone else was ready so I was just waiting there wondering if they’d forgotten about me.

ANNIKA: But were you able to see the coral and the fish?

RUBY (the Irish Girl), butting in: I saw, like, some huge clams. They were about the size of a dinner plate. Oh, and there were some really beautiful fish.

JARED: To be honest, I was more focused on not dying than on the fish.

ANNIKA: So, you won’t be going back?

JARED: Snorkeling is so much more fun, and you don’t feel like you’re going to die.

ANNIKA: Well, I do, but I just have to remember to breathe and then it’s not so bad.

JARED: Yes, but you’re at the top of the water already, not stuck underneath it!

SCENE III: The Way Home

Everyone is exhausted from their full day of seasickness and happy-puppy snorkeling. Sitting on the top deck of the boat, people begin to talk.

 JARED: (to EAGER HIPPIE MALE) So, where are you from?

EHM: Oh, we’re from the US.

JARED: Oh really, where?

EAGER HIPPIE FEMALE: Florida, actually. Have you heard of St. Petersburg? It’s kinda cool and artsy. Where are you all from?

ANNIKA: Well, I’m from Colorado and he’s from Oregon.

EHF: Oh, Colorado. We loved Boulder. It’s a great little town.

JARED: So what are you doing in Australia?

EHF: Well, we were getting a little tired of provincial American life and wanted to learn more about the world. So we’re taking a year to travel around and see the world.

ANNIKA: Oh, really? So what have you seen so far?

EHF: (giggles a little) Well, we’ve actually been traveling for six months already. We started in Hawaii…I know it’s still America, but it’s different enough.

EHM: And then we came to Australia. We’ve been living on this farm in Australia free of charge—we just had to do some work on the farm, y’know, and they’d let us stay.

EHF: So, when we finish in Australia, we’re going to go to Bali, and then if we have time, we want to see Cambodia, Vietnam, maybe Thailand….

EAGER HIPPIE MALE: Y’know, I just really want to help people. There’s so many people out there, like, y’know, in pain, or in need of money, or stuff, or advice. I want to help them all.

Gradually, people fall asleep or stop talking: Eager Hippies embrace, having previously snogged to their hearts’ content, and fall asleep with his head on her shoulder. The boat becomes quiet as, exhausted from their day of swimming, people wait to get home.

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Campervan Adventures in the Bush: In Which We Almost Lose Puppy and Get Eaten by a Huge Snake

I’m not sure who I am anymore. I’ve never been camping in my life (unless you count sleeping in our log cabin playhouse), yet here I am, renting a campervan in Australia with Jared and JQ for almost an entire month.

So far, it’s been one and a half days, and in those days, I’ve learned how to drive on the wrong side of the road (with no major mishaps besides turning on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal), had a somewhat hot and sleepless night with a small person kicking me, and been on a hike in the bush that was a bit longer than we expected.

Since we’re in a campervan, we wake up as soon as the sun comes up, which here in Cairns, Australia, is at the rather early hour of 6:00 a.m. Since it was still pretty cool early in the morning, we decided to take a short walk through the bush (which is what they call the rainforest/any area not in cities that’s not the Outback) and have a look at the wilder side of Australia.

JQ insisted on bringing Puppy, his favorite stuffed animal, as what could be more useful on a hike than something to cuddle? Untitled So we found the trailhead, where there was a big sign with a map, bearing warnings like “Do not touch the Suicide Plant as it contains a terrible neurotoxin that will make you want to kill yourself,” and “Only experienced bushwalkers should attempt these trails.” We decided maybe it would be best to not touch any plants, and found a nice loop walk that looked short. Jared had me take a picture of the trails, just in case, and then we set off. The first bit was easy: a boardwalk with some well-spaced stairs and otherwise flat terrain. But then it became just a narrow track lined with tree roots and leaves, and not brushing against leaves became increasingly more difficult. The first casualty was Puppy: JQ was sitting on Jared’s shoulders, and as Jared passed underneath a particularly low hanging tree, a nasty thorny vine snatched at Puppy’s fur and JQ’s shirt. JQ clung to Puppy and shrieked until we disentangled them, then he sobbed like it was the saddest day in his life. Thankfully, it was just a mean-spirited tree with spines over every inch of it including the leaves—but not containing any potent neurotoxin!

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The second time it happened, Puppy actually got snatched! JQ looks at this picture and keeps saying, “Mommy, baby sad!”

We kept walking, checking our map every once in a while to make sure we were on the right track. Suddenly, Jared stopped and cried, “Get back! Get back! There’s an eight-foot-long snake with its head raised! That’s the biggest snake I’ve ever seen!” I was a bit miffed that he stopped me even getting a good look at it, but I suppose I’d rather be alive than bitten by one of Australia’s poisonous snakes or crushed by a python.

We walked and walked—up hills and down, over more tree roots, past more nasty vines that snatched Puppy away from his owner, around one more snake (much smaller this time), and still there was no end in sight. Then finally we came to a sign that stated: Speewah Campground: 3.4 km (for those of you who are metrically illiterate, that’s around 2 miles). We looked at our sore feet, the slimy leaves, the hills, the clouds of mosquitoes following me wherever I went and devouring my blood as soon as I stopped—and groaned.

However! We made it—inexperienced bushwalkers though we are. We walked (or nearly crawled) up the hill to our campsite with 7 miles already logged in shoe leather.

And then came the fun part. Since I had assumed we’d be taking only a short walk over decent ground, I had worn open-toed sandals. That wasn’t the best idea. When I came back, there were three leeches stuck to my feet, and they didn’t want to come off. I pulled off one black, slimy end and it immediately started waving around, looking for another place to latch on. (Is it bad that it kind of resembled a hungry baby ready to nurse?) Untitled

So today we learned: do not go hiking in the bush unless a) you’re sure you know how long the hike is, b) you’re dressed appropriately, and c) you don’t mind seeing rather large snakes. There may be a bit of puppy rescuing involved too!

Last Week in Titles: A Saga of Sickness

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Unrelated flower picture because you don’t want a picture of the actual happenings!

One week ago, I had high hopes. We had just returned from touring Sri Lanka for a week, everyone was glad to be home, and there were All The Things to do (namely, laundry, grocery shopping, and other elements necessary for survival). And did I mention everyone was glad to be home? Surely I could crank out some blog posts as well.

But then disaster struck. On Saturday evening, Jared began to feel unwell, and on Sunday morning we were awakened by him vomiting loudly and forcefully all over the bathroom. This day was titled “Thank Goodness it’s Probably Food Poisoning,” because, like the good wife I am, I’d rather stay healthy and take care of everyone than get sick myself.

On Monday, things were a bit more back to normal, though Jared was still feeling a bit green and not eating much. JQ, however, had decided it was his duty to scatter as many of his toys over the house as he could, resulting in blocks and legos covering approximately 3/5 of the living room floor. Any attempts to pick up said blocks and legos were met with protests and immediate rescattering, leading me to wonder, “Why Are Toddlers People Too???”

On Tuesday, there was a premonition of disaster when I got JQ up from his nap to take him to his babysitter’s and he vomited all over me when I put him on my back. I, of course, wrote it off as just one of those random things babies do as he was happy otherwise and not a grouch, but should have known I was “Living in Denial.”

By Wednesday, things were feeling decidedly blue and may have culminated in a few bouts of crying as I wondered if I would always be “Living in Solitary Confinement with a 1.5 Year Old,” which, in case you’re wondering, really is that much worse than living in solitary confinement by yourself.  But really, Singapore, why do you have to be so far away from everyone (and so hot)? And why does the rest of the world sleep so much during the day?

On Thursday, things were fine as I woke up and ate breakfast, until, at 10:00 a.m., I felt a twinge of “things aren’t quite right”. Jared immediately told me I was not allowed to get sick, then went to the store and got some traditional Chinese medicine as he’d been reading about all the values of traditional cultures and how much they know about everything. The stuff tasted awful, like dirt mixed with Swedish Bitters (which Jared apparently was never forced to take as a child), and had millions of little round balls which would not dissolve in water and had to just be swallowed. Oh, and it tasted terrible coming back up. A word to the wise: “Never Take Chinese Medicine When You’re Coming Down With the Stomach Flu,” or maybe, “Don’t Trust the Old Ladies at the Herb Store.” Once I categorically refused to even SMELL any more of the stuff, the day got a lot better, though it was perhaps marred by throwing up in the middle of a class.

By Friday, I had the energy of a sloth that’s been hit by a train and was just glad I only had to teach 5 classes instead of my usual 8 as I’d had the foresight to close any open slots the day before. You could call this day, “Lounging Is Too Much Work.”

On Saturday and Sunday, I was feeling better enough to pick up all the blocks and legos that had been scattered around the floor for the whole week (while JQ was in the other room, of course!). Then I figured my work was done and mostly rested, other than going to church since no one was actually throwing up anymore at this point.  “What Are Weekends for, Anyway?”

And now it’s Monday morning, the dishes are exploding out of the sink, the floor hasn’t been mopped in who knows how long, and we’re back at Solitary Confinement with a 1.5 Year Old. But at least there aren’t blocks all over the floor (for now)!

Photo Bloopers

Here I am, breaking radio silence for the first time in about two months, to bring you the best of Annika’s photography skills. And I tell you, these are some incredible pictures.

First up, we have this thrilling number taken courtesy of the self-timer on my camera. You’re welcome.

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I had never known before I saw this just how much I look like a cartoon character when I run with a baby on my front. Now I know. And I can never un-know that fact. It will haunt me forever.

Next we have this beautiful view of fields and hills in Yorkshire…until you look to the right.

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Yes, that is a finger pointing. No, I don’t know what it’s pointing at.

And this one…well, there’s nothing wrong with this one. It’s just a cute baby picture I thought you’d want to see.
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Have you ever seen such a cute little laughing bear? I thought not. If you look at that face long enough, you should start smiling too!

Have a cheery Friday, and maybe I’ll show you some more of the (better? hopefully?) pictures soon!

A Lovely Spring Boat Ride

We decided to switch things up a little the other day and catch the Thames Clipper, since we live so close. It was a lovely spring day, though a little chilly on board ship, and JQ decided to break his nap strike and actually sleep a little while he was on board (of course only while in his carrier).

Pro tip–to get the best looking pictures, try balancing the camera on top of your baby’s head while you try to get the best shots. He’ll wiggle and possibly even squeak at you, leading to the best crooked pictures you’ve ever taken. (I’m well on my way to teaching a photography course!)

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I did end up getting few good pictures without millions of heads and the backside of the boat in them, however. This one of Tower Bridge, for example.

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And the battleship whose name I feel I should know but can’t remember. DSC_0428

There were also some people out enjoying the river

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And we saw a lovely view of the dome of St. Paul’s looking rather incongruous next to some newer apartment buildings. But at least they’re not Soviet style architecture.
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Oh, and London Bridge too. I think most Americans assume that London Bridge must be some fabulous looking bridge that’s the most amazing thing they’ve ever seen. Well, it’s not.

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Just kidding; that’s not actually London Bridge. It’s Waterloo Bridge. But the principle is the same.

And just in case you’re wondering what the backside of a boat looks like, here you go. You can thank me later.

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Seth Goes to the Big City

It’s me, Seth, again!  As many of y’all know—or don’t as the case may be—I am Annika’s (pronounced: A-Naka [ed: don’t you believe him]) little bro-ski, and in that official capacity I was able to biff off and visit sizzors in London a few months ago. The official reason I was sent was to see sister and Jared and JQ, but the real reason was because mother wanted to go, but she needed me to go with her and keep her from getting smashed by a double-decker bus or a bin lorry.

Anyway, having never done much flying, the nine-hour flight had already soured me on London before the plane even touched down. The flight wasn’t that bad; it was my lack of ability to sleep that made me completely miserable on this first flight of any duration (the flight back was lovely and Morpheus closed my eyes more than once for an hour and a half nap, which made  quite doable and even enjoyable). Upon my exit from the plane I was at once introduced to that famous damp weather that apparently London has a monopoly on. This did little to ease my sleep deprived mood. Next, we had to pass inspection by the border control personnel. This accomplished—after I cleared up some misunderstanding having something to do with them not getting some joke I made about coming to the British Isles to cause a ruckus at #10 Downing Street—we made our way across the city to Annika and Jared’s flat, which, I was surprised to see, was actually quite three-dimensional and very lovely. By this time I was ready for lunch. While I was still extremely tired, this in no way affected my ability as a trencherman. In short order I was cracking the chicken bones and sucking the marrow out of them, which was slightly odd because Annika had served us roast beef.

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By this point in time, my tiredness had become acute, and I was quite relieved when Mum and Sizzors biffed off to the other room to examine the stuffs mum had brought Annika and JQ from the states, and Jared biffed off to continue his studies, leaving me alone to take a nap. Well, not quite alone: JQ was there too. This presented complications as he was asleep on the only suitable piece of furniture there was to take a nap on: namely, the couch. I have often observed that babies have perfected the art of taking up the maximum real-estate they with their small size can muster, and I would not be surprised if some scientist discovered that the square footage a baby requires could expand into the double digits. I settled into the small corner of the couch left for me, and soon found myself desiring a more comfortable position. Being stretched out on the floor was no better, and soon I found myself coveting JQ’s spot on the couch. In short order, I found myself comfortably ensconced on the couch with JQ lying in the crook of ma’ arm. This worked quite well, and we both got quite a long nap.

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By the end of my time in London we were quite good friends and he even began copying Uncle Sethy.

When I awoke, London was looking much better. Anyway, over the next nine days we walked all over and saw lots of interesting things. The first major sight Annika took us to see was Tesco. It was absolutely amazing—it was there that we were introduced to British culture right where it counted; food, clothing, house goods, etc… and the admission seemed to be quite reasonable. To sweeten the deal, they even gave us a few heavy sacks full of various things to take to the flat. From there we walked around the square of the Woolwich Arsenal—for the cheapskate readers I would recommend the square because the admission price is a quite a bit less.And to make it an even better deal they only made one take a sack of fruit; apparently these British tourist destinations have so much stuff they can’t wait to pawn it off on helpless Americans. (ed.: Tesco is a British supermarket, and the square is the British equivalent of the American farmer’s market, but I did not want to let on to Seth that I knew this mostly because he would have balked at the idea of wasting sightseeing time to shop…)

Tesco

The next day Annika was beginning to get that look in her eye that one sees a welder develop as he realizes the shower of sparks and slag coming from his arc are finding their way inside his glove, and me and mum figured the prudent thing to do would be to get out of sister’s hair. Which is almost impossible to do in a two room flat. So we found ourselves exploring London solo. We continued this daily pilgrimage for at least a few hours every day and saw many strange and wonderful things, of which I shall only mention the highlights.   Jared took us around his college, and in the vicinity of the college we found this little shop, which Mum, being a Dickens buff, had to enter.

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But the final laugh was on her, as it was only inhabited by a grumpy Asian man selling shoes.

After we got over our disappointment, we took a cruise on the Thames and went to the Greenwich Observatory grounds and saw the laser arcing through the fog to show the meridian. We saw the maritime museum, several old important buildings that some guy named Parliament built, and next to them a big honking church built for some guy and gal named West Minster and Abby respectively. We went to famous London preacher C.H. Spurgeon’s church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle, for our Sunday morning service and heard a rousing sermon by Dr. Peter Masters. We also went further afield and took a trip to Gloucester to see friends, and had a delightful lunch and tour of the grand old town. I for one was glad to get out of the city for a bit and cool my heels in a place where it was not so easy to lose mum. The last notable place we visited was Dover with its white cliffs, and all the rest I shall leave without comment except to say that Mushy Peas look and taste exactly like they sound.

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Everyone but me on Dover Beach. I’m sure ya’ll are quite relieved that I am on the proper end of the camera.

In our many jaunts around London I was given to wonder why I had always wanted marry a spirited Lass. Mum is among one of the most spirited adventurous women I have ever met and at times it was with the utmost difficulty that I kept from losing her as she would move with the crowd to get on the bus or train—the wrong bus or train, or even worse when she would begin to cross the road having looked the “wrong way” and almost get smashed by an oncoming bus. I especially pondered this question as mum would duck into many little shops to examine small things (flowers, parks, paintings, baby clothing etc…) as I wanted to go look at bigger, better, more interesting things.

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Like this dredging bit. . . for some reason mum found its charm elusive.

I came to realize that it was for the same reason that the cat goes and eats grass when it is sick; namely, because it knows what is good for it. I dare say I would not have had a hundredth of as good a time if mum had been less adventurous. In fact I probably would have been content to sit in the flat bugging sister and holding JQ. Thus, the moral of the story is, always take along a spirited woman when you set off to see the world—or else you probably won’t see it, although look at it you might.

I found it fascinating to watch the inhabitants of London who, despite their many differences, all seemed to have one thing in common—they are always in a hurry! Secondly, it struck me as slightly disorganized in its general layout, and for the most part, a hodgepodge collection that had evolved into its present state over a long period of time, which, while not providing for the rapid assimilation of the American tourist, did lend a particular je ne sais quoi to the overall mystique of the city, and aids the adventurous in finding new roads. Thirdly, I had to marvel at the transportation directors and their splendid work in organizing the publick transportation for so many millions of persons every day, so that even a backwards American farm boy could get around quite easily . Lastly, London struck me as a place where I would not like to live—as I far prefer open fields and the clean air of country life. But for all that, London is a fascinating place full of great history and well worth a visit.

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Home sweet home on the Colorado Plains

 

How to Have a Stress-Free Pregnancy

Since there are (fortuitously) seven steps to follow, I’m linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes!

Can you believe my baby is already almost five months old? He’s getting big so fast! So in honor of being the mother of an almost five-month-year-old (how Jared says it and it’s so funny I have to include it here. Do tell if you know anyone else who says that!), let me give you some advice on how to make your pregnancy really easy and stress free.

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(Cute baby picture so you’re reminded what the end result will be).

First, start your pregnancy in a country where no one speaks your language.  Prenatal visits are that much more exciting when you have to listen to the nurses practicing how to say “gynecological” from Google translate. And you’re never quite sure if they’ve understood any questions you have. As a bonus, when you come back to English-speaking parts all your doctors will be really annoyed because your medical records are all in Chinese and they don’t teach them that in medical school.

Second, get rid of nearly everything you own and prepare to move halfway around the world when you’re about five months along. Things like couches can really weigh you down with their couch-sitting needs, so it’s better for all involved if you just get rid of them now. You’ll be thankful later when you’re so huge you can’t pry yourself off a couch with a crowbar!

Third,  leave the country you started in and spend a few months with family. You’d be amazed how packing in the visits and seeing as many people as possible in a couple months’ time makes everything easier. But don’t get your heart set on staying here with people you know–these are just quick visits!

Fourth, when you’ve traveled the entire length of the country and seen everyone, get ready to move! Thankfully this will be an easy process since you will have already done step two. It just involves packing your entire life back into the two suitcases you’re allowed and you’re off again.

Fifth, once you’ve flown for around seven hours and have a serious case of jet lag and swollen ankles, start looking for a place to live. This will involve lots and lots of googling and walking everywhere, so be sure to give yourself at least a few weeks before the baby’s supposed to come. Remember, you still have to find a doctor reasonably close to where you’ll be living as well.

Sixth, you finally find a place to live and your baby’s due in a month! Perfect timing. Now you can relax. . . except there’s no furniture. Time to go shopping so when that baby does make its appearance it doesn’t have to wear your clothes. Oh, and having somewhere comfortable to sleep is a plus too.

Seven, buy that waterproof mattress cover you know you should have just in case you’re one of the few people whose water actually breaks before you’re in labor. Then let it sit in the other room because there’s no way your water is actually going to break in the middle of the night–at least not two weeks before the baby’s expected!

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(Not-so-cute pregnancy picture so you can see what the last two weeks of pregnancy were like.)

Once you’ve done all that, you can kick back (I’ll let you have a couch again) and wait for that baby to arrive. You’ll probably have about two days before he decides it’s time. But at least you weren’t just sitting around worrying about when he was going to come.

So in brief: to have the easiest, least stressful pregnancy possible, all you have to do is get rid of all your stuff , pack some suitcases, and fly (four or more flights is best)! And for maximum stress reduction, plan on having a baby a few weeks after you arrive. It’s completely foolproof.

2015: Year in Review

Can you believe it’s already the end of 2015? Where did the year go?

Just back last January, we were in China. Winter was seeming really gray and really long. So apparently I spent a good deal of my time blogging, as , in some un-repeatable feat, I wrote a total of 11 posts. Most popular of those posts was, of course, Whither Sex?.  Other than writing blog posts, though, I was busy finishing up grading for the year, visiting some interesting places in Beijing, and then jetting off to Xi’an to do a little sightseeing. For some reason, my least popular post in January was this one. I guess people don’t like reading about dishes??

I don’t know what my favorite picture from January is. Probably this one, of the cathedral in Xi’an:

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Before the service

It was such a welcoming atmosphere, to worship with the people of God in another land.

In February, Chinese New Year was the main event.  We heard fireworks for weeks! Of course, another exciting thing was that I got pregnant with John Quincy, which meant that all the sudden Jared told me everything I wrote sounded like I was complaining. However that may be, my favorite picture from February is definitely this one of the fireworks. They may have been loud, but they were pretty to photograph!

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KaBOOM!

In March, I almost became Jared’s first wife (no shock that that was the most popular post of the month!). In less exciting news, there were some pretty spring flowers and Beijing warmed up and became slightly less gray. I also decided not to become a food blogger. Less popular was tips on long distance friendships. I guess people just like having friends who are close to home!

Favorite picture for March is definitely the one of the girl kissing the horse. She was so cute!

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In April, apparently not much happened. There was Easter (which was of course busy at church), we visited Marco Polo Bridge which is called something else entirely in Chinese so no Chinese person will know what you’re talking about if you call it that (though I digress), and the most popular post was one about how China lost our mail. Fascinating stuff going on here, folks!

My favorite picture for April, though, is one of the pretty spring flowers. When you’re living in a place like China, where the buildings aren’t beautiful, you’ve got to cling to whatever beauty you can find–and the flowers definitely had it.

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In May, my most popular post was on how to grow up. We also visited Tianjin and got a taste of another Chinese city. And that’s all I blogged about, though I’m sure my days were filled with more teaching, bike riding, and grading.

Favorite picture in May is of the man fishing (though I still wish the angle had been right to get the No Fishing sign in the picture!).

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This just captures the spirit of China. . .

Bonus picture: little tiny JQ (it sounds nicer to say it that way than big fat me!).

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He’s come a long way since May!

In June, the most momentous thing was that we decided to go back to the US for the summer. Of course, we were keeping it a secret, so no blog posts about it. It was a fun surprise! Since I wasn’t blogging so much (looking back, I mostly remember being pretty busy with teaching all the time!) I got in a guest poster who would write something funny for ya’ll. I’ve tried to get him to do more, but whaddaya know? He’s even worse at turning out regular blog posts than I am!

Apparently I didn’t upload any pictures on to the blog in June, but here’s one of our anniversary dinner: some kind of Chinese tasty beef.

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Don’t ask me why he’s making that face!

We actually hiked the Great Wall in June too, but I didn’t write about it till July. As that was the only thing I posted in July, due to visiting relatives (it’s hard to find time to write when visiting people!), pictures are rather scarce. Looking back, I find it hard to believe that I actually did that hike when I was five months pregnant. Maybe I was slightly crazy!

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Is this the face of someone who’s having fun, or someone who’s about to keel over from the heat?

Since that picture was actually taken in June, I’ll give you a real July picture too: Jared doing one of his favorite things.

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In August, we were visiting another set of family and I gave you the rundown on the crazy that was my life. I also got asked questions like “Would you rather have Jared or a shark?” Tough decision, folks!

Favorite August picture: Colorado sunset.

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Nothing prettier than a Colorado sunset!

In September, the big news was moving to London! (Yes, third continent in one year.) We stopped by Iceland on the way there just to do some sightseeing as well. I also was so pregnant that I decided there were some things that pregnant women shouldn’t have to do. (One of my more popular posts for the year.)

Favorite picture from September? Iceland.DSC_1142

In October, I wrote my most popular post ever. That was definitely the most exciting news of October. Just kidding.

Actually, John Quincy was the most exciting thing of the whole year. And he definitely merits the October picture. Except, he’s so cute I don’t know which picture is best. So you get the one that was most exciting for me–when he’s about three seconds old.

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In November, my mom and brother came to visit. It was definitely nice to have some help cooking and cleaning so I could recuperate and enjoy the baby. JQ turned one month old, and that was about it on excitement.

Picture for November? Definitely this one.

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He’s so much bigger now! (And I don’t mean Seth, either)

In December, there was spit up. A lot of spit up. There were also Christmas decorations and some traveling (which I haven’t blogged about yet. And Christmas. And we visited Greenwich Park.

Santa Baby definitely takes the cake for December. Everyone loved him.

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And that’s it for 2015. Just a quiet year involving three continents, a move, and having a baby. Who says you need to be single to have adventures? Let’s hope 2016 has just as much joy and maybe slightly less excitement.

 

 

 

Grading, Spit-up, and Decorating

It’s been kind of quiet around here lately. Yes, even where I live, even with a baby. Though for a couple days last week, he broke his “good baby” streak and got a little crabby as he was sick. No, I won’t rub it in for those of you who have babies who cry every evening for four hours without fail. Two days of that was plenty for me, thank-you-very-much.

Other than baby getting sick, I’ve mostly been grading essays. Last year, I taught six writing classes and had six sets of around 120 papers each. I could usually get them all returned by the time the next class session rolled around–and I thought I was a pro at grading papers. But mix in an international move and a baby, and suddenly those papers don’t move so fast off the desk. Now, as soon as I start grading I’m interrupted by baby waking up or wanting to eat or needing a diaper change, and my concentration is gone like that. I’m ashamed to admit how long it’s taken me to grade only 32 papers. But finally, finally (probably feels like forever to my students) I’m  done with one set–now on to the next set of 32! (And then they turn in one final set this weekend, so it’s not over yet.)

I’ve also been monkeying around with Photoshop the last few days, watching YouTube tutorials and all that. I figured out how to do that black-and-white with a pop of color thing, see?

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Pretty snazzy, huh?

Now I can mess up my pictures for the blog here, and ya’ll can be tortured by them.

Now what you’re really here for–the Christmas decorations. This is how we decorate for Christmas:

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Red bowls? Check. Pretty flowers? Check. Red flowery glasses? Check. Baby? Check.

He adds a certain flair, don’t you think?

In case you don’t like the baby in the window option, I have option number two for you:

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Introducing: the baby as the dinner table centerpiece. The piles of books and papers are essential for completing this look. They help to ensure that the baby won’t go anywhere. (Ignore the food–I take really bad pictures of food, as we all know. )

And, you know, I mentioned spit up in my title, so I’ve got to talk about it for a minute. Not that there’s much to say about spit up, except is it one word or two? And it lends its unique smell to everything it touches, which, as of now, is everything. I consider it a good day if my shirt has only been spit up on once. Jared considers it a good day if his hair doesn’t get spit up in it. He’s considering patenting a new conditioner–after all, they make soap out of goat milk, so why not regurgitated breast milk? Makes your hair smooth, shiny, and strong!

Oh, and a few pictures of London for you too. We were on our way to church yesterday and kind of got lost on our shortcut through the park when we ran into this view:

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It’s pretty amazing to live in a place where you can find a view like that just getting lost (it’s from the Greenwich Observatory, by the way, and our church meets in one of the buildings in that square down below).

I tell my students they need to write good conclusions that neatly wrap everything up, but how do you wrap up something so random? Maybe a pithy phrase will do it: have a good week, and may the spit up stay out of your hair!

7 Things Pregnant Women Should Never Do

This summer has been like a time warp for me–somehow I expect it to still be June or July, but here it is September! And leaves are turning colors and everything, while I’m still expecting to hear about the green beans getting ripe or the squashes finally coming on. How is it already apple and raspberry season?!

Anyways, enough about me being clueless about what time of year it actually is (maybe it’s just denial that I’m going to have a baby in around 8 weeks. . . ).

Let’s talk things that clearly were not designed for pregnant women and should be put on those randomly restricting lists that float around.

  1. Wash dishes. This one should be obvious–who really wants to do the dishes, especially when they’re pregnant? But the reason it’s on this list, besides the fact that you all know my true feelings about dishes, is that every sink ever made is at the exact wrong height for the belly of a pregnant woman. And who really wants to stand at a sink trying to wash a dish from a foot away, while simultaneously trying to keep water and soap and grease spots off their convenient spot-attracting shelf? So I say, let’s put dishes on the list of “dangerous things for pregnant women” that includes things like picking up a jug of milk because it’s too heavy.
  2. Pick things up off the floor. Who really wants to bend over when there’s a gigantic baby in between your waist and you? Either you can bend at your hips and spread your legs apart and pray that you don’t fall over, or you can try to bend like you used to and get about half as far as you used to, or you can do what’s “recommended” and squat, praying that you’ll make it back up. All three options have a pretty good failure rate, in my opinion. So either build conveniently placed shelves around all the walls of your house to put everything you’d usually stash on the floor on, or just leave stuff on the floor. It’s better for your health! (At least, your mental health.)
  3. Do laundry. Getting stranded on your belly as you gracefully fish for the last few pieces of clothing stuck in the very bottom of the washing machine isn’t my idea of a fun day. If it floats your boat, then by all means, go ahead and fish! As for me, maybe I’ll stick with a front loader instead of a top loader so I don’t have to grow my arms a foot longer.
  4. Sit up. When you’re laying in bed and somehow have to get your feet off the bed and on to the floor, it’s oh-so-tempting to try to do it while keeping the rest of your body laying flat. Unfortunately, for those of us who weren’t gymnasts in our former life, 90 degree angles don’t come easy to our backs. At the same time, with abs stretched as far as they can go, sitting up takes a herculean amount of will-and-muscle-power. I have yet to find a solution to this problem, but rest assured I will keep trying! (I’m guessing “have the baby” is the only solution out there.)
  5. Live in hot, humid places. I thought I was doing great with summer heat. . . until I came to Arlington, Virginia. Days in the 90s combined with 50-60% humidity (on a good day) do not lend themselves to the cool svelte look. My advice? Stay someplace nice for the summer, where there’s no humidity. Maybe Australia would be nice for the months of June-August.
  6. Drink ice water. Actually, I have nothing against ice water. This was one of the crazy Chinese prohibitions that I think probably every American pregnant woman has broken at least once. I actually had a Chinese woman take an iced drink away from me and chew me out (in Chinese) for drinking a cold drink while pregnant. I basically listened to her and then took it back and finished drinking it. Baby’s still fine, as far as I can tell (it would be tough luck on all those American babies if ice water really were harmful!).
  7. Read pregnancy advice blogs. Writing them is fine, as long as you have GOOD advice to give (like mine obviously is!). But when every other pregnant woman out there is certain they’ve figured out the secret to _______ (fill in the blank with your choice), or has a horror story of that time they nearly died because their baby kicked them in the ribs (totally making that up, but you could probably find it somewhere on the internet!), it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So basically? Stick with nice bloggers, like me, who don’t post very often. Then you can’t get overwhelmed.

And, in the words of the immortal Bugs Bunny (I have a nagging fear I’ve used this line before, but can’t remember for sure), “That’s all, folks!” Oh, and here’s a bad mirror selfie of me because I haven’t taken any other pictures this month.

Linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum.

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