Why I’m Glad I Don’t Have a Dryer

I just realized today that I’ve never told you  about our laundry situation in all the various countries we’ve lived in. Have you ever been missing out!

For the past three years, we haven’t had a dryer. And for the most part it’s been ok. It was a little hard in London when we only had a teeny tiny flat and it took clothes two days to dry because cold and damp weather is not the greatest for laundry drying (and also a significant reason we didn’t cloth diaper exclusively!), but really, in a family this size, it’s pretty easy to go without a dryer. Of course, when I was growing up we hung laundry on the line and I felt like it took all day. Probably because with 12 people in a house, there’s always more laundry to hang. But here, I actually kind of like it. Here’s why.

    1. I’m lazy and if I had a dryer clothes would sit in it for days and then they’re all wrinkly and gross. So much better to just get it over with all at once.
    2. It eliminates the step of putting your clothes in the dryer, taking them out, and then folding them. I do exactly none of those steps.
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Don’t your towels have feet?
  • When you hang up your clothes as soon as the washing machine is done, all you have to do when they’re actually dry is move the hangers to your closet. That’s it. No extra hanging, no folding, no wrinkly messes that sit in the dryer for a week.DSC_0474
    • Even matching socks is easier. Of course, that could be because only one person in this house currently wears socks. The rest of us (me, and by extension JQ) can’t stand having sweaty feet on top of (underneath?) sweaty everything else and so we either go barefoot or put on sandals when the looks of disapproval and the questions become too much. But still–no dryer to eat your socks? It’s a win.
    • If you can dry your clothes outside, they will smell like you’ve dried them outside, which, in my opinion, is a nice smell for clothes to have. I’ve never been able to stand the reek of fabric softener and fake smells. If, on the other hand, you live in a small flat in London and only have a bathroom to dry them in….well, they will probably smell like mildew and you’ll go around wondering who’s bringing that weird smell with them. Don’t worry–it’s just you.

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    • It keeps you on top of your laundry. There’s nothing quick about hanging your clothes to dry, so if you know you’re almost out of clean towels or shirts or socks, you have to do laundry that very minute so it can be dry in 24 hours when you actually need it. I start getting complacent when I have a dryer around, because it only takes 4 hours or so for the clothes to be ready to wear again. But it’s really a lot better for my sanity (and Jared’s) to get the clothes washed a day or two in advance of when I REALLY need them so that we actually have clean laundry.
    • On the other hand, it’s kind of annoying, when you only have one blanket for your bed, to have to wash it first thing in the morning so it can be MOSTLY dry by the evening. I suppose I could overcome my cheapskate tendencies and, you know, actually buy another blanket, but SPENDING MONEY ON NONESSENTIAL ITEMS (i.e. not food)!

    And that’s why, in spite of having lived without a dryer for the better part of the last three years, I’m actually kind of happy that I have. Sure, a dryer is awfully convenient, but it’s better for me as a person to actually plan and act on things I know I have to do. Sometimes convenience can be sneaky and look like a friend, but often it’s actually the enemy.

Head on over to This Ain’t the Lyceum to see more posts!

Living in Virtual Solitude: Or, I Have no Wifi

Singapore.

DSC_0262 It’s the land of much heat, beautiful buildings (mostly), almost no mosquitoes (they wiped them all out when Zika showed up), some slightly scary wildlife (which we haven’t seen any of yet), and many interesting foods. It’s also the place where getting wireless internet is more bureaucratic than renting an apartment. Which is why we’ve had a house for almost two weeks now, but still have no wifi. DSC_0246

Of course, living a life free from the distractions of Facebook videos, Netflix, Instagram, and all other web browsing (although we do still have data on our phones) has some obvious benefits, such as spending more time with people (consisting right now of exactly two people, Jared and JQ, since I’m not exactly flush with friends here), spending more time reading books during JQ’s naptime (I’m at around a book a day, so far), spending time playing violin, and spending time cleaning the house when I’m not being a slave to JQ’s every whim. I would even say I’ve been spending time cooking, but I’m still adjusting to grocery shopping here, which is always a hard part about moving. Not only do you have to figure out what’s affordable in stores (pro tip: don’t expect lots of dairy products in Singapore), but you have to figure out how to cook with each country’s kitchen equipment (yes, we’re back to the toaster oven here). For now, it looks like we’ll be eating a lot of rice, green leafies, and tropical fruits.

However, in spite of all the benefits, I’m still a millennial. I miss having wifi. I’m kind of getting anxious about getting back to work (this house ain’t gonna pay for itself), and all day interaction with a small human who has just started bleating “Maamaa” in the most piteous way, while fulfilling, is not exactly restful. At least he naps for about three hours a day?

We should be getting wifi any time now since Jared finally has his official Student Pass. I’m sure it will be nice to get back to working a few hours a day and not feeling quite so disconnected from the rest of humanity (the humans that I know, that is. There’s loads around here that I don’t know). I know the benefits of living a more connected life will be there, but I hope I can remember the benefits of being minimally connected as well. And of course I’ll still be teaching my small bleating wobbly human.

Homeless

I still remember the first time I visited London: 14-year-old me was awestruck at the old buildings, the British accents, the  aura of history that pervaded the place. I, a kid who had lived on a farm her whole life,  felt as though I belonged in London. London felt like home.

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Now, nine years and three moves later, I live in London. But the London of now doesn’t match up to my teenage dreams. When you live in a place, the glamour wears off quickly. It’s the difference between love at first sight and that same love ten years later–as you live with someone, you find they have rough edges and sharp corners too, but you love them even more for all that. As a child, my world was stable. I lived in the same house for the first twenty years of my life. I knew where home was. But now that I’ve lived in three different countries in as many years, “home” is more of an abstract concept. I don’t know where I belong any more. Travel is great. We’ve learned so much from living in new countries, far away from everything familiar. We’ve found out that what we’ve taken for granted all our lives–small things like ovens, big things like freedom of speech and unfettered access to the Internet–are not the same for everyone everywhere. People do things different ways, have different values, and sometimes even use “rubbish” as an adjective (as in, “This is a rubbish blog post”).

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But traveling has made me evaluate what it really means to be American, or Chinese, or British. I see how different each culture is, and yet, in many ways, how similar.

Growing up, I thought Britain was just another America across the ocean where people spoke with cool accents and had ancient castles and stuff. Now? I don’t know what Britain is–but I know it isn’t that!

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Joy

Four months ago, every night was as quiet as when the baby’s gone to bed early. Four months ago, all we had to assure us of his coming was one very round belly, a car seat, and a crib. We were full of expectations and fears—a hard birth, sleepless nights, a world that would change dramatically. And it was all true.

What we could never have anticipated is just who he is. It’s hard to believe that the person we were waiting for was this babbling squeaking little person, so full of life and opinions already. This little person who dissolves into a puddle if he doesn’t get to bed on time, and who wakes up in the morning by wiggling and kicking for an hour before he opens his eyes with a smile. What we were missing in our expectations was the joy.

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To hear him squeaking, click on the video!

Every moment since his arrival, the long newborn nights and the days full of wonder as he awakens to the world around him, has been full of joy. His loud vocalizations, the smell of his wispy hair, his round soft cheeks (just perfect for kissing) have all been so much more than I could have ever imagined. Watching this small being learning how to smile, blow bubbles, and coordinate his hands makes me smile every day. I can’t believe it’s been four months already, John Quincy! We love you so much.

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.

 

 

 

Postpartum. . .and Loving It!

You know what the best part of being postpartum is? Besides, of course, the fact that I get to stare at this adorable little face every day.

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It isn’t still looking four months pregnant and having the world’s softest stomach or leaking milk everywhere or smelling like baby poo when I get sweaty, though those are wonderful and amazing. . .I mean, unfortunate.

It’s simply not being pregnant anymore. When I was pregnant, I thought I felt fine. After all, I never really was sick or exhausted, I was able to hike the Great Wall and move from China to England with a few months of extra travel around the US in between–but now that I feel normal again I realize just how much work pregnancy really was.

It’s well known that pregnancy takes it out of you physically, because, well, that’s a brand new human you’re growing, but I hadn’t really thought that it would change much else. Besides the fact that as soon as I got pregnant I lost any drop of creativity I may have originally had (and said goodbye to my resolution of blogging twice a week because all the sudden I only sounded whiny), I thought I was still mostly normal. But no. Blame it on hormones, or perhaps on the fact that I’m an imperfect human, but inter-personal relations got a lot harder. I’ve always prided myself on being a nice person who’s not too easily annoyed (and brothers don’t count), but suddenly I was seeing all the worst in people. I felt like I was finally going through the moody teenager phase of “nobody understands me!” and needing at least an hour a day to sit in my room with the door closed to recover from people.

But now that I’m not pregnant? I’m feeling great again, physically and mentally. I almost feel better than I did before I got pregnant. Long walks uphill? No problem. Going to church and meeting people? Bring it on! I even have the energy to tackle the dishes and housework (and grading) now without feeling like it’s overwhelming and will eat me alive.

That’s not to say I’m not an introvert anymore. I still don’t mind the fact that at least three days a week I’m home alone all day. But I’m grateful that I get the chance to go out and visit with friends too at least a couple times a week.

If you happen to be pregnant and foggy, have hope! It gets better. You will become yourself again. And maybe (though no promises here) even able to deal with difficult people again!

And at the end, you’ll get one of these:

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Is that a Jared face or what?

And it will be oh-so-worth it. (I know, that’s kinda cliche, but it’s true!)

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!

One Month

JQ is one month old now. Actually, he’s six weeks old today, since I’m a week and a half behind on writing this. So I’m going to turn into a mommy blogger again and give you some more cute baby pictures.

I won’t bore you with details about his eating and sleeping habits, but he is an exceptionally good baby. Must be because he’s just like his wonderful mother.  Except I probably cry more than he does.

Don’t you just wish you had that cute little face to look at every day?

In Which You Get the Scoop on the REAL Me

Goodness, it’s been quiet around here lately. Only a few finals left till the end of the semester, though, and I’m wondering, is that like being a few fries away from a Happy Meal or a few screws loose on the steering wheel? Let’s hope not.

Anyways, this blog has been a lot of me blithering about me and China and everything else I could think of (which, granted, hasn’t been an awful lot, especially recently!). And while nothing has been happening for us here in China, back in America there’ve been funerals and graduations and weddings that I’ve had to miss. So for a change, I thought you could hear from other members of the family. Enough of me talking about me–now you get to read what others think about me.

So without further ado, here’s my younger brother Seth’s take on farm life in Colorado.


Greetings from the beautiful state of Colorado! My sister Annika being ‘blogged’ out currently and ensnared with the worries and cares of this life has expressed a wish for me to fill some dead air and thus I her little brother Seth will be writing this post. If I do a good enough job, methinks I shall be added on as a regular contributor, which would be fitting seeing as how I introduced ma’ sister to the concept of milk and pickles in the first place. Be sure to let us know in the comments if you think I am “succ-Seth-ful.”

At this point some introduction is probably in order. I am Seth. If you met me in person I probably would tell you something along the lines of, I am a simple sheep farmer who is seeking to reflect the face and affections of God in my life albeit imperfectly—as any of my siblings would gladly tell you (at least about the imperfectly part).

As Annika hasn’t discussed much of her past life on this here blog, I thought ya’ll’d like to see a side of her she doesn’t let on about—the tough older sister who isn’t above doing some spinach picking until her back is sore. A large part of my life includes farming, which is a little different from the gentrified city life Annika’s gettin’ accustomed to here. Well, a typical summer day on the farm starts at 4:56 AM when you wake up and shut off your alarm before it rings because as everyone knows a ringing alarm is the worst way to start the day. Incidentally, even if you don’t set an alarm you will still wake up no later than 5:30 because that is always the time you get up. You then go read the Scriptures. After this time of reading and prayer you go get some “starting fluid” (water, orange juice, or for the strong-stomached, V8), and head out the door to begin the day’s work.

At the field this time of year, me and my ever hardworking younger brothers Abel and Hans (note: names are the same but attributes have been changed to protect the guilty), go out the door, grab a hoe, and begin working like David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, or A Tale of Two Cities (i.e., like the Dickens). (This is one of the attributes that has been changed, never fear!)

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Abel working extremely hard. Notice how he is outstanding in his field.

But it is not all hard work and early mornings. A few years back when Annika was still at home and she did not appreciate something I was doing—I don’t remember what it was, probably something quite annoying as is the wont of little brothers—anyway, she didn’t like it, and next thing I know I was being chased through the cucumber patch with a crazy woman behind me brandishing a large cucumber as a fearful instrument of war. If we are perfectly honest with ourselves, I think Annika could teach Attila and Genghis a few things about striking fear into the heart of the enemy. It is not every woman that can strike mortal terror into the heart of the enemy with a cucumber. But Annika did not always have to use fearsome weapons: she could also strike fear into the heart of her little brothers—or anybody for that matter—with a look that would in the middle of August freeze every lake in Orlando solid.

Fortunately, Annika did not always freeze us solid all the time, and to be perfectly honest with ourselves she is truly a wonderful older sister. When I wasn’t making her mad enough to chase me with my enormous cucumbers, another exciting thing to do was teach Annika how to drive a manual transmission. She practiced and practiced and when she got good enughf we finally let her have whack at driving a manual transmission with a pickup under it. However, she disliked this “beast,” my beloved first vehicle. For some reason, the two inches of mud on the floorboard, the gaping hole in the dash where the radio was supposed to go, or the seat whose only padding was the old jean jacket, gunny sack, and other oddments that the previous owner had stuffed in there left her immune to their endearing charms. In fact, she thought it was treacherous to her just like Brutus to Julius, liable to leave her stranded in the middle of the highway any time she needed to make a left turn. O All of its charms, such as its rugged good looks and perpetual cleanliness were lost on her and she could only see its faults. Alas, thus is life.

Well I have probably driveled on enughf now so I will let you all get back to your lives. I shall leave you with this quote from the great Groucho Marxs “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Well, have a blessed day, toodles!

Easter

It’s fitting that Easter happens in springtime. The earth has been waiting, cold and dead, but with the coming of spring it becomes green and alive.

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Ginkgo trees

Small buds are bursting out, as their tombs can no longer contain them.

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Rain falls gently, bringing life.

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Blossoms

Trees bloom with the promise of the fruit they will bring.

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A small garden

Gardens are tended carefully with hope.

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As we celebrate springtime and new life, we also celebrate the resurrection of Christ, giving us new life. Happy Easter!