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I have no idea what possessed me to think that dance class for Ava on a Monday night was a good idea. Really? WTH was I smoking? Oh yeah, I thought that J or I could split the kids and it would be easy. I clearly failed to take into account his job and social life (volunteer meetings and commitments that seem to fall mostly on Mondays).

And poor Merry. She just gets hauled along for the ride – willing or not. Good thing she’s pleasant natured and easily pacified by stroller rides, goldfish, and Cheerios.

Me? Well, I’m never going to be a dance mom, that’s for sure. I’m too tired to care that much.

Ava loves her combo tap/ballet class, though (even though she says that tap is hard) – so we will slog through it and it will all be worth it when we get to recital time. (Right?)

But, But! Something exciting did happen at dance tonight. Her teacher had a baby. Well, not AT dance but you know what I mean. Ava was a bit befuddled by the whole process and told me that her teacher had to go to the ‘hopsital’ to have the baby cut out with a knife. Well, obviously I couldn’t leave her with the impression that all babies are cut out so that led to the discussion of babies in bellies and how they get out of there.

Her response: “Ewwwwww.”

I reminded her that she wasn’t in my belly and that she grew in her Chinese birthmom’s belly – a topic in which she couldn’t be more disinterested in if she tried, by the way – so then she asked me if Mamaw had a baby in her belly (I then explained that Mama and siblings were all in there at different times) or if Daddy had ever had a baby in his belly. Ummm, no because he doesn’t have a va*ina (not spelling it out because I get some freaky google hits already so no need to encourage more) so there’s no way for the baby to come out…which then led to a whole ‘nother conversation about how boys have to squeeze their ‘peanuts’ to get the pee to come out.

<Sigh>

All this because I signed her up for a Monday night dance class…

 

Kay Kay: The Girl from Guangzhou

In a parallel universe, this could be Ava’s life. Not better, not worse, just different. I am strangely unsettled by this thought.

The video is 47 minutes long but watch it if you can. It is a fascinating look not only at the life of a ‘typical’ Chinese girl as she’s grown up but also at how far China has come (and how rapidly it’s changed)  over the last 20 years.

 

I know. I already flunked out of NaBloPoMo. J let me know first thing this morning when he checked the blog. In fact, he woke me up to tell me. Thanks, J.

But I was up late last night. Reading. I used to read A LOT. Like all the time. And then I got busy – one kid, then another kid, and a house, and a job just doesn’t leave a lot of free time for reading the way I’d like to. I used to read 3-4 books a week – now I might read 3-4 a month. I do read tons of blogs and I have about a million news apps on my phone but books have fallen to the end of the list.

I was checking Google Reader last night and one of the blogs I read did a mini book review of a book about the famine in China resulting from Mao’s initial implementation of the Great Leap Forward. The blogger said straight up that this was was not an easy read but was worth the effort as it was the most comprehensive and well-researched book he’d ever seen on the topic. The book is called Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962 and was written by Yang Jisheng. His book was originally written in Chinese and has taken several years to be edited and translated into English. Even with the editing it’s still a lengthy book at 650 odd pages and it is alternately dry, due to all of the statistics, and yet horrifying due to the awful, awful stories of all the dead (and of the survivors who lived through the horrors of the time).

Just imagine for a moment. At least 36 million people dead – the majority of whom starved to death – over a 4 year period. 36 million. That’s nearly the population of California. Dead. Starved to death. Parents, children, babies. All of them.

And all of that was caused by the ideas of one man and his plan to collectivize the Chinese peasants into communal work units. One man. I can’t even imagine how truly charismatic he must have been (in the beginning) to convince so many to follow him. I know that he eventually led by fear and violence but in the beginning people followed him because they believed in him and his vision for the country. With the perspective of hindsight and a Western lens it seems unbelievable that such a tragedy could happen but it did and I think people, but especially parents of Chinese children since this is a part of their first country’s history, should examine it to try and understand the events and the impact.

So even though the book is a little bit expensive – even on Kindle – I downloaded it and got sucked right in. It’s not a fast or easy read and I found myself having to re-read some parts over and over again to follow all the players and crunch the numbers in my head. And then it hit close to home.

Henan province – Merry’s province – was the province that suffered the highest number of casualties. Nanyang Prefecture – Merry’s city – was in the top 3 with tens upon tens of thousands of villagers dying from starvation. It just boggles.my.mind that this one man set forth all of the actions that ultimately led to me having these two beautiful girls sleeping upstairs – 7 thousand miles from where they began. Really, it just boggles my mind.

I’m only a couple of chapters in at this point. I haven’t even finished the entire chapter on Henan province so I’ve not even ventured into the chapter on Hubei province yet. I want to read more and more but at the same time it is very chilling and I find that I have to break away from it also – it’s pretty graphic and some of the things that happened ain’t pretty.

I’ll leave you with some links.

Here’s the book: Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962

And here’s a review from The Boston Globe: ‘Tombstone’ by Yang Jisheng, translated from the Chinese by Stacy Mosher and Guo Jian

*UPDATED* with a new link to an NPR story (with audio): A Grim Chronicle Of China’s Great Famine

So. Halloween.

As you can tell from the pictures I posted earlier I really planned out the costumes that Ava and Merry would be wearing. Ava agreed to the Little Miss Muffet and her spider concept (even though she wanted to be the spider) and I spent a ridiculous amount of money on the two costumes. I figured they would get several wearings out of them since Merry had a daycare event, Ava had a school event, we had photographs taken (thanks to a cheap Groupon) and finally culminating in the big event – trick or treating.

We had the photographs taken on the Saturday prior to Halloween. This was also the Saturday prior to Hurricane Sandy potentially flooding our area beginning Saturday night. The Saturday we had to meet with our social worker for our second post-placement visit at the last minute since we were scheduled for Sunday AM, by which time we knew we would be flooding. This was also the Saturday that Merry suddenly – after all of that and seemingly out of nowhere – didn’t eat dinner (unheard of for her) and spiked a 103.6 fever.

I’ll spare you the long story of the miserable weekend and Monday that we were basically flooded into our house while my child’s fever raged on and just say that there was an ER visit, a chest x-ray, and a diagnosis of we’re not going to call this pneumonia but it is and that’s what we’re treating her for – which all means that Merry didn’t get to go trick-or-treating because she was pretty darn sick.

I was sad. I had to miss taking Ava trick-or-treating. I had to miss taking Merry out to see all the neighbors. I had to miss parading them around in those ridiculously expensive yet totally awesome costumes. And it’s not like I could send Ava out dressed like that without a spider (well, and it was super muddy thanks to all the rain so yeah, no). So after all that planning she went as Batgirl – in a cheap polyester costume I picked up at 90% off from last year’s Target clearance sale.

(Look – she still had all her teeth!)

This is when I asked her to look fierce. (Maybe she thought I said mental.)

And J kindly snapped a picture of her by our neighbor’s fence where we take a picture every year.

She had fun. J dressed up with her and off they went to hunt and gather some Dots (at which they failed miserably) before coming home to hand out candy at our house. Honestly, I think she enjoyed that as much as she did trick-or-treating. Our neighbors were delighted to see Ava, disappointed to not see Merry, and kindly sent home candy for me her so she wouldn’t miss out on anything. We have about 10 Frosty certificates to use and Ava ate herself silly on Skittles while Merry sorted the candy. She spent ages moving it into piles and dumping and replacing it in the pumpkin.

(Our Halloween rules: Ava can eat all the candy she wants on Halloween night. All Dots and Almond Joys belong to Mama and Tootsie Rolls go to Daddy. The candy is out and fully accessible to Ava for about 3 days at which time the rationing begins – although honestly, she’s mostly lost interest by then anyway.)

P.S. She’s getting wise to us. She hid the pumpkin from us the second night. I think she noticed the decrease in Reese’s and Kit-Kats.

Annnndddd 5 years ago today we crossed the water and headed down to see our baby’s face for the first time. I barely remember the drive down and have no idea what we did afterwards – but I remember every single minute that we were inside that office. I didn’t think I would cry but I started tearing up when our social worker handed me the envelope and burst out into full on happy tears as soon as I saw Ava’s face.

We signed the paperwork immediately and handed it back – yes, we accepted Qi Xiao Bei, age 7 months, as our daughter. Without even a moments hesitation.

I can’t believe that was 5 years ago. A lifetime. But it was only yesterday, right?