Miscellaneous Back Family News – Potty Training, Birthday Parties, Hamster Babies and Ikea

Here is a confession. The boys are not potty-trained. One of them may not be ready, but one of them probably is. He stays dry when he wears underwear, and poops in the potty (Teddy), but I don’t want to have to lug all of my children to a squatty potty if he declares the need to go, and I am afraid of accidents out in public; at home, I often forget to take off his diaper. I am just too lazy to be very driven to do it, and can’t find it in myself to care when I am at home, since Toby is clearly not ready, and I decided 2 weeks into potty-training (a month ago, maybe?) that I am not operating at a patience level that is equal to dealing with pooped-in underwear, as I am barely managing to function as any kind of mother at all these days. Therefore, I declared an end to Toby’s under-wearing, which he appreciated. Teddy would be fine, though, if I’d just see it through. When we are out in public, I am so humiliated that my boys wear diapers. They ARE too old, and I was so sure I wouldn’t be one of those parents who had such old children in diapers, but here I am, and with at least one of them, it’s my choice. Children here truly are potty trained at three months of age. They wear split pants and their caregivers just sense when they need to go to the bathroom and just hold them over a bucket or the side of the road and they pee. So of course, whenever the learn to walk, they are potty-trained. So having three-year-old boys in diapers is mortifying. Of course, instead of making me want to find the strength within me to potty-train them, it just makes me want to stay home. Sigh.

In other news, I got the surprise of my life two nights ago when I realized I hadn’t actually looked in the hamster cage in 24 hours and that I should probably make sure they were all still alive. I lifted up the hatch to their little loft and when I put my hand down to pet the white mouse, what did I find but 7 little squirmy bodies underneath her (I didn’t count right away, telling myself I didn’t want to know, in case they died, but of course, I eventually gave in). We didn’t know we weren’t supposed to touch them, so Brian held one (against my wishes, even though I didn’t know a good reason at the time), and we quickly made a makeshift house for the dad (I’m pretty sure both the others are girls as the big grey one is the only one I’ve ever seen doing any assaulting, and he does line up with the “hamster sexing diagram” on the Internet). I read an article on the Internet, gave the mom some cheese, filled the water and food, gave her some toilet paper to work with, and stuck the cage in our closet, the only place I could think of that was even a tiny bit quieter than the rest of the house, and where our children wouldn’t be able to find it. I know it’s ridiculous for us to have  seven extra hamsters, but I’m still so excited! I have always wanted to have a rodent that had babies! I hope she doesn’t get stressed out and doesn’t eat them and they all stay warm and survive, even though Brian just wants to throw them all out the window.  And then of course, I hope we can figure out what to do with them once they’re old enough to leave their mother, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. So far, it seems like she’s taking care of them. She made a nice nest out of the toilet paper and moved them all down into it, and now I understand what her compulsive shredding of every paper towel tube we put into the cage was all about (and maybe her aggressiveness?). I can’t wait to have pictures of tiny little furry hamsters to post. My goodness they’re ugly right now.

Yes, I know we shouldn't have held them, but thankfully, I think they're all still alive.

The boys will be three on March 25th (if you ask them, they’re three already, and it’s the first time they’re answering a number when asked, “How old are you?” instead of, “I’m Teddy!” or “I’m Toby!” so I’m not messing with it). We are going to have their birthday party at Brian’s workplace, where they are universally adored, and it will double as one of Brian’s classes, an English corner where the students learn about some aspect of Western culture or discuss any topic you can imagine in English. It will be an American birthday party English corner. I think it will be fun. Thanks to relaxed licensing/copyright laws in China, I was able to order, off of Amazon China, a set of super sweet Thomas birthday decorations, a pinata, and enough hats and noisemakers for 40 people, all for about $50 (a little over the top for me, birthday party wise, but they’re benefitting from the fact that their birthday is coming in the midst of our Federal-tax-refund excitement, and a relief that we’re finally on our feet in China, mixed with a desire to make it up to them that we didn’t really do Christmas or Piper’s birthday). You can tell that the company just took some Thomas pictures off the Internet and put them on party supplies, but the boys will love it. The hats are enormous (biggest birthday hats I’ve ever seen), but that will work well since there will only be three kids at the party, and a whole bunch of adults J. Here is what the party supply company says for itself (they have TONS of themes, mostly Disney, of course): “HighParty birthday party supplies birthday party for children in terms of the United States is a big deal. Children’s birthday parties, seems to be a required course of American social, is a small microcosm of American culture. Your culture spread this concept to introduce to China, we want children in China have a rich social childhood.”


In the past month, we also learned about losing your bank card; in other words, NEVER EVER DO THIS! Let me say up front that it was I who lost the bank card, and then of course found it after we had searched the entire house and finally given up and gone to the bank and canceled the card. If you tell them you have lost your card, they freeze your entire account for seven days. They tell you to come in in seven days to receive your new card, and in the meantime, you can get no money out, even though you have your passport and all of your account information with you, and foreigners are memorable and surely they know you are probably not committing fraud trying to access your own money. They wanted 25 kuai right off the bat for the new card, but that was literally all we had at the moment, as we discovered the card was gone when we went to make a withdrawal from the ATM to replenish our budget money (we pay for everything in cash). There is little that is more infuriating than having a bank refuse you access to your own money, especially when you are in a strange country with few friends and a family of five to feed. We wired ourselves cash to get us by through Western Union, but when the time came to return for the new card, the pink slip they’d given us was nowhere to be seen (perhaps my fault, but in this case, we’ll never know).They refused to give Brian the new card and told him he’d have to start the process all over again, and we’d have no access to the money for seven more days. Thankfully I was about to be paid 700 in cash for my tutoring job, and we managed to get by. At the end of the 14th day, Brian went in, this time with the second pink slip of paper, and the teller simply pulled a stack of new bank cards out of her drawer, pulled one off the top, and gave it to him. This is probably why all banks in China separate the customers from the employees with thick glass windows, and only a dip in the counter through which you can pass slips of paper, and through which there is no way you can maneuver your arm so that you can reach up and strangle them.

We are three months into our adventure here now, and still very unsure about whether we like it in China with three small children. Winter is coming to an end this month, and perhaps that will make a difference. It may not be as cold as Minnesota, but winter comes with a biting wind that just about takes the soul out of you. Then there is the fact that no place is beautiful in wintertime, and we have yet to see China green and growing. Here’s hoping that springtime will bring with it a brighter outlook, and that the smells outside will not intensify too much with the rise in temperature. It rained once the day we arrived (December 7th) and 3 months to the day of our arrival, it precipitated again, this time a misty rain with some snow mixed in. This was also the day we went to Ikea for the first time, so not the greatest walk from the light rail to the store, but what a magnificent thing it was to feel like we were in Sweden-land in America again. The kids watched the same Tom and Jerry cartoon on a loop at least 5 times while we ate Swedish meatballs, and then Piper went and played in the play place while the boys and parents went and got the boys some much needed beds (the boys are 2 cm too short to play, and a year too young, but the minute they are 100 cm, they are going in there, my obsessive law-abiding-ness aside – Chinese people have no idea how old our kids are, and persist in believing they’re triplets even after I’ve told them otherwise, so we’ll use that to our advantage). I just can’t tell you how good it felt to be in Ikea–the closest to America I’ve felt in a long time, and I plan on using it as a break from China every once in a while (especially once the boys grow that extra two inches. Orrrrr… I could get them thicker soled shoes. That just occurred to me…

Here is a picture some stranger on the Internet took from the Ikea in Tianjin. And this is typical Tianjin weather.


This is Ikea's opening day in Tianjin. (Not my picture.)


And this is what the building looks like (also not my picture).

Toby has just gotten over a croupy cough (for the most part), after having it for two days, but now he has a fever with a really flushed face and lots of whimpering and tiredness interspersed with unexpected bouts of energetic playfulness. We’ll give it two more days and if he’s not better, we may have to break down and take him to the doctor, but oh how I do not want to. If we do, we’ll take him to the Western hospital in a neighboring district, though I imagine it will still not be a pleasant experience. I have this fear that they will get something like pneumonia (anything is possible with the crap they are breathing in the air outside, and the spit that is everywhere that they play), and the Chinese doctors will not be able to figure out that that’s what’s wrong. Or that nothing will be wrong but they’ll give them an unnecessary (and high) dose of antibiotics just for the heck of it. Or that nothing will be wrong that they can do anything about, and we will have just suffered through hours in the Chinese medical system with  child that does not feel well and picked up some even worse disease. None of these are things I ever feared in America.

This is poor Toby tonight before he went to bed :(.

Teddy can sing most of his ABCs now (taught by Piper), and both of them have learned a lot of the songs in “What Your Preschooler Needs to Know” and can sing them quite loudly, adorably and tunelessly. I hope I will be able to put up videos soon.

I think that wraps up the news for the month…


One comment

  1. “This is probably why all banks in China separate the customers from the employees with thick glass windows, and only a dip in the counter through which you can pass slips of paper, and through which there is no way you can maneuver your arm so that you can reach up and strangle them.”

    My sides hurt now.

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