Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Washing away

All of this rain reminds me of the Noah's ark story I wrote that recently ran in the Morning News. I've wanted to write about the enduring appeal of the destructive Genesis story for a few years, after reading the excellent novel The Preservationist by David Maine. So, a few weeks ago when I caught a commercial for Evan Almighty, I knew I had a timely reason for writing.

A few other papers ran the story (editors across the country are always looking for non-local religion stories on the wire to fill their Saturday or Sunday pages). At least one reader wasn't very happy, as you can read here if you scroll down a bit.

Happy birthday, Katie!

Katie on her actual birthday, at Camp Grandma & Papa

At the swim party

Cupcakes decorated by Steve & Melissa

Cake decorated by Steve

Fancy girl in new dress-up clothes

Party photos are here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


A Starbucks in the middle of Old Town, just down the row from a Dairy Queen, which serves Blizzards

I arrived home late Friday night, after about 14 hours on a flight from Shanghai to Chicago, a delayed take-off due to weather in Dallas and a two-and-a-half-hour flight to Dallas. Jim & Betty stayed at the house while Steve picked me up so he wouldn't have to wake our sleeping Katie and Cooper (who was ill).

Sydney and I in front of the Orient Pearl TV Tower

I am so thankful to Jackie & Sydney for the opportunity to experience a different corner of the world. I'm also thrilled to be home, with my family, relatively clean air, organic fat-free milk, a washer and dryer that work independently and handle a household of four, drivers that generally watch out for pedestrians.

We spent Saturday preparing for Katie's party and Sunday celebrating and recovering. (I hope to get those photos up soon!) Now I'm catching up on work, trying to get ahead on work before our family vacation and trying without success to catch up on sleep. If I don't take an Ambien, I don't sleep well at all -- maybe three or four hours. I don't want to get too reliant on a sleeping pill, so I don't take one every night and then regret it the next morning.

Katie's 2-year appointment was this morning. She's 36 inches tall, placing her in the 97th percentile. Her head circumference is also in the 97th percentile. (I fear, like me, she'll have trouble finding cute hats as an adult. I have a giant noggin.) She's almost 26 pounds (50th percentile). Dr. N (our beloved pediatrician and doctor to all our sweet neighbor babies, too) says she's on track to be tall and beautiful. Steve asserts that she's already tall and beautiful.

If you're not already reading Jackie's blog, I highly recommend it. She has some great photos and details of her adventures.

My photos are here. I hope to write cutlines this week, but no one is paying me to do so. And there are some paying clients out there who want some words written and/or edited soon!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Another busy day

This morning we hired the same driver, Lily, who drove us to Old Town and other destinations Monday. Today we crossed the river to reach the Pudong District. First we rode a speedy elevator of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the tallest tower in Asia. They weren't selling tickets today to the very top, but 870 feet up was good enough for us. It was so hazy that any higher wouldn't have mattered.

We braved traffic and walked across a busy intersection to reach Super Brand Mall, where we ate Thai food and shopped at Toys R Us. Sydney is going to have a great time with her Winnie the Pooh riding toy, yellow bouncy ball, bubbles and other assorted toys.

Yesterday's adventures included a stroll through People's Park and a tour of the Shanghai Museum. The special exhibit was "Art in America," organized by the Guggenheim and ordered chronologically. It was interesting to see 300 years of art condensed for a foreign audience. I recognized most of the pieces, including a Russell and Remington from the Amon Carter. Permanent exhibits included Chinese calligraphy, furniture and ceramics -- very beautiful.

We also hit Ikea again last night. You forget how much work it is to put together a household from scratch -- wastebaskets, shower curtains and rings, spatulas, clocks, rugs, etc. The apartment is furnished, but with just basics, and Jackie's boxes don't arrive from the U.S. for weeks.

There's just one more day for me to help get everything in order before I head home. I love being here, but I'm also homesick and ready to reunited with my sweet family, which now includes a 2-year-old! Katie's birthday was Wednesday, and Steve, Cooper, Jim & Betty celebrated Wednesday night. She'll get another party when I get home.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Early this morning from Jackie's window I watched an elderly gentleman practice Tai Chi on the children's playground. It was a beautiful moment and an interesting contrast -- a relatively old man practicing centuries-old art next to shiny new playground equipment designed for little ones.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hello from Shanghai!

Hello! Jackie's apartment has been without Internet access since we arrived Sunday afternoon. After many negotiations, translations and a slightly angry Jackie, we now have service.

The flight here was without trouble. Sydney slept off and on and was charming when she was a wake. The three of us camped out in a middle row in business class, where we watched some TV, listened to music, ate lots of food and napped.

Jackie's apartment is part of a huge gated complex with multiple 30ish-story towers, all facing beautiful grounds, playgrounds, clubhouse, swimming pool, tennis courts, walking trails, etc. It's relatively quiet here on the sixth floor, though right now I can hear lots of children playing at the playground below. Sydney and I have been there twice, and she is delighted to see so many other little ones.

The apartment is modern, clean and roomy enough for the three of us. (Though Jackie says she's depressed by the size of my room and insists I could handle prison after sleeping in such a tiny space. I can endure most anything for a week or less!)

I'm learning that China is an odd mix of modern and not. For example, the security to get in the building and into the apartment rivals anything I've seen at home. But there's no oven in the kitchen (there is a microwave, though). The washer and dryer is all in one, but it accepts a tiny load of clothes, and it takes a really long time to dry them. (Perhaps that's why there are so many clothes hung out to dry all over the city. We can't imagine that they stay very clean, with all the air pollution.) It seems as if every other person smokes, and they do so in elevators, restaurants, in shopping centers, near children.

Taxi cab rides are an adventure! I've had to stop looking out the windows too often, as I'm sure my pulse quickens to an unhealthy rate each time we almost hit another car or are almost hit ourselves. This is all without the benefit of seat belts! And pedestrians, beware. Walkers have no right of way, even if the light is in your favor. Crossing the street requires extreme caution, speed and agility.

We've eaten some wonderful meals. Jackie's friend and colleague Sam took us to a Chinese restaurant our first night, and we shared multiple dishes. The Shanghai way is to serve rice at the end of the meal, to fill you up, not during the meal as we're accustomed. Jackie asked Sam to ask for it with the entrees, and I'm pretty sure the wait staff thought we were strange. They also asked Sam (who speaks and understands the language very well) why I didn't eat the best part of the chicken, meaning the skin. The meal ended with slices of fresh watermelon, which made me wish even more that Katie & Cooper (and Steve, of course) were with me -- they love watermelon!

After dinner, we headed to Ikea for some basics for the apartment -- pillows, glasses, plates. I live about five miles from a very similar Ikea, and yet I was really a world away. (I know that sounds trite, but it's true!)

For lunch yesterday, we ate at Sasha's, a Western kind of place in the French Concession. I had hot and sour soup with coconut milk and shrimp and penne puttanesca, a dish I like to make at home. For dinner, we had hoped to eat at a recommended Thai restaurant. After arriving around 9:30 p.m. and wandering the street a bit and asking for help, we discovered it had since changed to an American-style diner. We opted instead for Maneo, just a few doors down. It was a good choice. I enjoyed teriyaki salmon atop green tea soba noodles, and Jackie and I shared bread pudding.

Yesterday we also explored Old Town. We started the morning right -- at Starbucks! It was amazing -- even the light fixtures are the same as at home. We wandered through the Yu Garden, missing some of it, I'm sure. It was very much like a maze. What we did see was beautiful, if not exactly calming, only because of the many tour groups. We then did some shopping -- I bargained for a kite for Cooper, and Jackie talked a shopkeeper into a good price for two teacups.

In the afternoon we did some necessary shopping at Carrefour. Imagine a two-story Super Wal-Mart to get an idea. And then add some unusual items, such as tanks filled with fish, crab and other swimming creatures for eventual eating, and produce I've never seen before, even in photos. We had to make some guesses on basic foods, such as yogurt. I think the one we bought was made by Dannon, based on the logo, but I'm still not sure.

We still have more site-seeing. And Jackie has more to do to settle in and get ready for work. We're balancing Sydney's needs with the need to get a lot done before Jackie is on her own.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Getting ready

In less than 48 hours, I'll be on my way to Shanghai! Just last night I pulled out the clothes I'm taking. I won't need much, as I'll be there for just a week, and Jackie's apartment will have a washer and dryer. But I am a chronic over-packer, anticipating every kind of climate change, event, occasion, etc.

I have no complaints, though. Jackie has had a much bigger packing job, as she's selling her home and moving for a year. There are all kinds of challenges when moving across the world with a 1-year-old. Did you know, for instance, that the diapers in China aren't as reliable as American diapers?

Jackie has started a new blog, where you'll be able to follow her adventures.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Glen Rose field trip

This T-rex model was shipped to Texas after its debut at the 1964-65 World's Fair in New York City.

Last week was dinosaur week at our house. (The theme was easy to choose -- Cooper spent the mornings at SMU at Legacy in a dinomania class.) Our weekly field trip was to Glen Rose.

One of the first creatures we drove by at Fossil Rim

Grandma & Papa joined us for the pleasant journey and treated us all to a drive through Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Steve ably navigated his parents' car through the scenic grounds, stopping whenever we were close enough to animals for feeding or admiring.

We all laughed so hard at this creepy bird, who seemed especially fond of Papa.

We all were a little freaked out when an emu headed straight to Jim's window. Those are some creepy looking birds! They remind me of dinosaurs, actually.

A gentle giant

Other animals included all kinds of deer, zebras, giraffes, ostrich, antelope, wildebeest and cheetahs (behind fences, not roaming "free"). The zebras were super friendly, pushing their faces (that doesn't sound right) right into the car. The giraffes came close enough for us to pet.

Then we drove a few miles away to Dinosaur Valley State Park, in search of dino tracks in the river bed. We learned an important lesson. If you're traveling with a group of people, send someone first to scout the location. We headed down toward the tracks at Blue Hole. It was a steep, slippery, treacherous hike. The Paluxy River was full after recent rains, so finding the tracks was near impossible. The side we entered was too rocky for comfortable entry into the water. And then we had to climb back up. And it was about 100 degrees.

We all made it back to the top, but Betty got very ill very quickly, we're guessing from the quick hike and the heat. She rested for a bit and recovered quickly, though we were all worried.

We traveled a bit farther into the park for a picnic dinner, joined by about 100 uninvited flies. I am definitely not an outdoorsy, camping, roughing it kind of girl. But the food and company were good!

Cooper and Steve found a better river entry and spent a few minutes playing in the water. I was very nervous -- too nervous to remember my camera! -- with the strong current in the river. Cooper can swim, but he's not a strong swimmer yet, and that water was rushing, gushing by.

Cooper easily fits in the track of a dinosaur's foot.

We did stop to see some tracks at the entrance/exit of the park before the journey home, during which we enjoyed Betty's homemade cookies.

The journey's photos are here.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


New mommy Amy and baby Gavin

Drew ("Drewbe")

A local bank sponsors free outdoor concerts every Friday in June. We finally made it out there last night and had a great time listening to Joe Dee Graham. We sat with two neighbor families and enjoyed the relatively cool evening.

That's Katie in the pink hat, making friends with a nearby group.

Cooper and Katie are both extroverts -- more so than Steve and much more so than me. Cooper ran up to the front of the crowd and made some friends. They all played Frisbee and soccer together. He also found Anish, a fellow alum of Mrs. D's class.
Cooper rests for just a few moments before running off again.

Katie toddled off to nearby families, climbing in wagons, playing with others' toys, making friends with a daschund. She also loved playing with Scooby Dube, our neighbor dog and one of the most well-loved, well-behaved dogs I've ever known.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Girly girl in disguise


A cheerful summer dress from Grandma & Papa

When we were visiting the Tarun-Stogsdills last week, I realized how much Katie loves girly things -- magic wands, bracelets, princesses. At home she has some decidedly girly toys -- purses, a play kitchen with food, a baby doll -- but not many. She's as likely to play with cars, knights and plastic amphibians, I suppose because she sees Cooper playing with them and because there's a lot more of them after almost six years of collecting. Her clothes are feminine except the hand-me-down PJs, such as the Batman costume she's wearing here. (It was one of Cooper's favorites, a gift from the Pry-Beckas.) We called her Batgirl the night and morning she wore them.

Happy birthday, Sydney!

Baby Sydney turned 1 this week, and a crowd celebrated with a pool party yesterday. There were lots of babies and toddlers there -- I actually lost count.

The party was also a sort of farewell for Jackie and Sydney, who are moving to China for a year. I'm flying with them on June 16 to Chicago and then to Shanghai, where we'll unpack, shop, get acclimated and see some of the city. It will be hard to leave the two of them behind a week later! But they will have a great adventure, and I'm sure we'll get lots of e-mail and cell phone updates.

A few photos from the party are here.