Chinese People Sleep A Lot

Day 2 with our Chinese exchange students.

Last night I didn’t feel like cooking dinner.  And what happens when I don’t feel like cooking dinner?  Li’s Buffet!  But you knew that.

At 5:00 I picked up the students from their class and told them we were heading out to eat.   From my calculations I had had only 4 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period but they had had only 4 hours of sleep in a 36  hour period.  Within seconds, John was sound asleep and Justin wasn’t far behind.

As their heads lolled around I regretted taking them out to eat.  Maybe I should have taken them straight home, let them scarf down a meal, and sent them promptly to bed.  Too late now.  By the time I cooked a meal and we ate it, it would take just as long as eating at Li’s and driving home.

We got to Li’s Buffet and they stumbled out of the car.  Once inside, Jin greeted them warmly in English and asked them about some sort of dialect.  They stared for a beat and then Jin switched to something that wasn’t English and they had a nice chat.   Jin stayed with us through most of our meal talking to them and listening to them.  So did our server, but I don’t know her name.  As it turns out, Justin and John are from a city called Fuzhou.  Fuzhou?  I’ve heard of that before.  Oh that’s right!  That’s where Jin is from.  Well, of course.  (Heavy sarcasm starts now.)  By land size, America is the 3rd largest country in the world and China is the 4th largest country in the world.  So obviously, if someone comes from China to America and eats at a restaurant in the tiny hamlet of Gettysburg they’re just bound to meet someone from back home.

And it only gets better.  Are you ready?

The server.

Not only is the server from Fuzhou (and Jin is from Fuzhou, and Justin and John are from Fuzhou) but when the server lived in China, she lived in the very same apartment building that John lives in now.  

Did you read that?  I’ll say it again in case you weren’t paying attention:

The server lived in the very same apartment building as John! 

Of course.  Out of 1.3 billion people in China, next door neighbors are bound to bump into each other wherever they go.  They’re in DC on a field trip right now and are probably falling all over their neighbors everywhere they go.

(Sarcasm ends.)

We left and drove past some battlefields.  I explained about the Civil War.  Justin commented, “For independence.”  No…independence was with American and England.  This was between America and America.  “Oh.  For power.”  China has had about 50,000 civil wars for power, so Justin figured it out pretty quickly.

He was interested in the battlefields so I asked, “Do you want to stop and look?”  He said, “Wait, let me get the word…” and looked up the word he wanted on his phone.  The word was, “Yes and no.”  Ummm…  I looked in the rear view mirror and John was sound asleep again so I went with “no.”

As soon as we got home, John went upstairs and fell asleep again.  Justin stayed up to play with Boy8 and his Nerf guns.  Justin snuck upstairs to shoot John with the gun but John slept right through it.

Finally, we got Justin to relax for a few minutes on the hammock.


And that pretty much sums up day 2.  I probably won’t write anything about day 3 (today) because they’re on their field trip right now from 9-9 and we will barely see them.

P.S. This morning they smeared as much butter on their pancakes as you smear peanut butter on a PB sandwich.  I said, “No, too much!” and scraped it off, but they smeared it back on when I wasn’t looking.

Chinese People Don’t Sleep

They’re here!  The Chinese exchange students arrived yesterday at 10:45 p.m. our time which is 10:45 a.m. their time.


Taken this morning–Justin is wearing the button up shirt, John is wearing the tshirt.

First of all, Darling Husband is on a business trip so it was just me and my kids to greet the students.  I’m not sure if the fact that Darling Husband is away played into the events of the last few hours or not.  I’m curious to see what happens when Darling Husband gets home at 8:00 tonight.

Here’s what I mean.

One of the boys, whose English name is Justin, speaks pretty good English.  The other one, English name of John, speaks almost none.  Justin has taken over my house.  I’m not sure if it’s because of a personality quirk unique to Justin or if the language barrier makes things more abrupt than normal or maybe it’s a mixture of him being the oldest male in the house coupled with a sense of service to his elders.  I don’t know but he’s taken over.

When we arrived in the house Justin immediately announced to us all, “First we will open presents.”  He opened his bags in a bit of a frenzy to find the presents.  They were wrapped.  I’d been told that Chinese people accept gifts and open then later so I planned on a polite thank you and to open the presents later.

But not with Justin!  With Justin, he unwraps your gift for you.  He unwrapped the present, took it out of the box, set it up and then presented it to me.  It was coffee mugs with coasters on a tray.

Next he unwrapped and took a bell out of a box and hung it in the living room next to my Tardis Christmas ornament.  And then there were bookmarks.  Not only did he unwrap the bookmarks but he found a book in my house (a ridiculously easy task) and showed me how they work.

After I offered them water, milk, or coke (they took the coke), Justin announced that now they would take baths.

I store my Costco-size laundry detergent and a laundry basket in the shower stall and as I tried to move it out of the way Justin said, “No, no, no!  I do that!” and leaped to do it for me.

After showing them the showers, I showed them that I had toiletries for them.  Justin looked it over and said, “I brought all that.”  “Even a towel?”  “Yes, a towel.”

But not John.  I watched as Justin and John had a conversation in Mandarin about each toiletry—the toothbrush, the toothpaste, the shampoo, the washcloth, the bar of soap.  Justin would ask something and John would reply.  Apparently to Justin’s great disgust John didn’t bring any toiletries with him.  He told me, “He brought nothing!”  I think he was tempted to smack John on the back of the head like in the Three Stooges, but he refrained.  He really looked irritated at poor John.  John just smiled at me.

Justin pointed to the toiletries I’d bought for him and said, “You put these away.”  Then he said, “Are you tired?  We will take bath.  You are tired.”

And with that, I was clearly being sent to bed.

The floorboards in my house are pretty quiet—except for the ones in my boys’ room upstairs where the students will stay.  They creak a lot.  The night before the students arrived Boy8 wanted to sleep on the floor like a camp-out, so I let him.  He must have been sleeping on the creakiest floor board in the entire room because I could hear it creaking all night long every time he rolled.  Apparently, Boy8 rolls a lot.  I don’t wear earplugs when Darling Husband is away so I didn’t get any sleep.

And then last night the students walked around on the floor until 1:30 in the morning.  And then they started walking across it again this morning at 5:30.  I broke my rule and put in the earplugs until 6:45.  Four hours of sleep just isn’t enough for me.

This morning Justin didn’t order us all around, but he did insist on helping with everything.  I let them choose among pancakes, eggs, and cheerios. They chose eggs.  Justin jumped right in and wanted to crack and whisk the eggs (ham and cheese omelets).  When we made their packed lunch Justin wanted to make his own sandwich (chicken salad) and wash his own fruit (grapes, strawberries, blueberries) and get his own water.  He told John to help, too, so John did.  John does whatever Justin tells him to do.

When I mused to Boy10 that they want to do everything for us he suggested we start to clean the playroom so that Justin and John would take over and do it for us.  Good try, buddy.

I think Justin enjoyed his eggs, but I don’t think John did.  That’s ok John, I didn’t like them either.  Eggs are gross.   I’m pretty sure John and I both ate them only to be polite.  I’ve been forced to eat three (make that four) rolos to cover the taste of them.  I think John and I will most certainly be eating rice tomorrow morning.  I like rice much better than nasty old eggs.

Poor Boy8 tried really hard not to laugh, but this morning when I asked Justin what they like to eat he said, “Rice and soap.”   Boy8 was trying his best to be polite, but there was a bit of snorting coming from his side of the table.  He turned his head aside to try to hide it, but it was there.  You all would have been proud of me.  I wanted to laugh, too, but Justin is very serious and I thought it might offend him.  Justin realized his mistake and corrected it to, “Rice and bread.”

After breakfast and packing their lunches, it was time to drop them off at their class.  Halfway there, I noticed that the ABS light was on and that all my gauges were at 0.  Gas—zero.  RPMs—zero.  Speedometer—zero.  Blah.  Why do I have car trouble with passengers in the car?  Like when I was out with Photo Club and we had 500 million dollars’ worth of camera gear and the car broke down in the middle of Baltimore city?

I have no idea how serious the ABS light is or how serious it is when all your gauges go to zero.  I was afraid to continue on and afraid to pull over.  We soldiered on and all at once the ABS light went off and the other gauges came back on.

I can’t wait for Darling Husband to get home. Since he’s a male he can take over and tell me what to do about my car.  🙂

Chinese Exchange Students at my house!

So…on Tuesday two Chinese exchange students will arrive at my house.  They will stay with us for 12 days.  They’ve come to experience America.  A lot of what they learn about America will be based on my family.

Ok, I can’t even type those words without huge guffaws.  Heaven help them.  Seriously, I can’t stop guffawing.  Hang on while I compose myself.  Hang on…

Think about it.  Think of the warped view of America they’ll receive.  Consider my previous blog posts.   Like the one about how we’re so cheap we allow only a single light bulb to be lit each evening.

Or how about the sock that’s been hanging in the back yard for a few years because we want to see how long it takes to deteriorate?  Speaking of the deteriorating sock, we also have a dead mouse in a glass jar on top of the dryer.  We wanted to watch it decompose for science class.  Unfortunately, with no oxygen in the glass, after 3 years the mouse looks the same as the day we put it in the jar.  Guess that Snow White and the glass coffin story isn’t so far-fetched after all.


And how about our old technology?  The very first picture I posted on my blog was of me talking on the phone to my mother.  This picture:

IMG_1805 - Copy

What a great phone.  We call her Rosie.  If there’s a guest in the house when Rosie rings, the guest will look confused and ask, “What was that?”  Apparently people haven’t heard ringing phones that use an actual physical bell and hammer in a very long time.

And let’s not even talk about the manual typewriter in the living room.  Children have stared at it, trying to puzzle out what it is, and finally have to ask.

Or how about the way we sing Happy Birthday like dying giraffes?  In the dustylizard family everyone picks a different tune, or just a general dirge-y moan, and we all warble or wail (or moan) out Happy Birthday.   Luckily for these Chinese students, Dad’s birthday party is scheduled for the weekend they’re here with us.  They’ll get to take part in the birthday tradition.  They’ll go back and tell everyone what bad singers Americans are.

Darling Husband and I heard about the exchange students needing families to host them through our friend Vince, who has 42 children.  I guess when you already have 42 children, a couple more aren’t that big of a deal.

We went to a meeting to find out the details and everything was sounding really good.  We’ll have two boys staying with us, aged 13 and 14.  They’ll be with us for 12 days and will spend only 4 full evenings with us and three weekend days.  They’ll be in classes and on field trips the rest of the time.

Yes, everything was going along smoothly until the guy said, “A lot of times the kids get a little homesick.  They’ll view you as a stand in mom and dad while they’re here.  You’ll want them to feel welcome, so as soon as you meet them give them a big hug.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Whoa.  Scratching record sound.  Time out.

A big hug?  Huh?  You know how I feel about hugs.  Out of the 7 billion people on this planet there are exactly three people that I want to hug—Darling Husband and my two kids.  If I never hug anyone else other than my man and my kids for the rest of my life, I’ll be perfectly content.

Besides…really?  Really?  Do people just go around hugging other people like that?  No.  No, that’s just weird.  Why would I go around hugging someone just because they’re homesick and need a stand in mom?  I mean, that doesn’t happen.  Lemme try to think of one time that someone would ever do that…

Oh.  Wait.

Mrs. Weasly.

Mrs. Weasly would totally hug Harry if he was homesick and needed a stand in mom.  I guess I could pretend to be Mrs. Weasly for a few days and give them hugs.

But!  There is a bright spot!  Remember the blog post where I told you that no one will play board games with me?

When these kids arrive it’ll be a cinch to convince them that all Americans play board games and when I ask them to play, they’ll play!  The only snag is how will I teach them the rules if they can’t speak much English?  There is no guarantee that they’ll speak English at all.

Never fear, mon frère.  Do you doubt my game playing determination?  Ages and ages ago I bought some awesome games from a French company. Each game comes with a 27 page booklet of instructions—each page in a different language.  Check out the table of contents.


And lookie-lookie at page 25.  I double checked with Jin at Li’s Buffet and he confirmed—Chinese.  Woot!  Doubt no more. Games will be played.

Anyway—you do not want to be around me right now.  I’m so excited about their visit that I’m starting to embarrass myself, prattling on and on to anyone who will listen.  Like Chester in this clip. Yap, yap, yap.

About two weeks ago, I was lamenting the fact that I can’t afford to travel to other countries.  I was considering ways to save up enough money to go to Europe before I die.  People are endlessly fascinating and I’m always trying to work out what makes them tick–especially how cultures shape people.  And here, without having to spend a dime, I get two kids from China dropped into my home.  I hope they can speak English and I hope they’re as talkative as Nephew14 because I’d love to learn as much from them about China as they learn from me about America.

I can’t wait!


I time it to get to church about 5 seconds before the service starts.  I arrive, realize that I’m not wearing nearly enough layers, and barely have time to seat my bottom on the pew when they say, “Let’s all stand.”

Sometimes I time it wrong and I don’t even have time for my bottom to hit the pew.  There I am on my way down when they say “Let’s all stand,” and I have to change direction mid-sit.  I’ve pulled muscles, people.  Standing and sitting is all very difficult at 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday.

Not nearly enough layers?  Oh, it’s not just me.  A couple of weeks ago I grabbed a throw blanket as we were walking out the door at 7:51.  Darling Husband gave me a pained look and said, “Please don’t take a blanket to church.  Please?”

But last week I watched a woman a couple of rows in front of me leave.  She came back 5 minutes later…with a throw blanket under her arm.  And then she didn’t drape it discreetly on her lap.  Oh, no.  She wrapped it around her shoulders and settled in all cozy-like.  I had to fight against the sin of envy through the entire service.  While I shivered.

This coming Sunday morning I’m taking my blanket.

So there it is at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning and you know I didn’t make it to bed before 12:30 the night before. I’m cold and I haven’t had a chance to sit and I can barely keep my eyes open. Think about it–from Monday to Saturday, I’m not even out of bed before 8:30.  Not even out of bed!  8:00 a.m. on a Sunday is brutal.

But then…Michael.

Michael is one of the drummers at church.  I’ve written before about how we can tell whether or not Michael is playing without even looking.

See, after the “Let’s all stand,” pronouncement, most drummers start into the song, nice and easy.  Rat-a-tat-tat.  But not Michael.  Before the second chord is even struck, Michael has hit every single drum in the kit.  Five times each.  Every drum.  Five times.

Oh, you think I’m making this up?  I’m not.  And I have proof.

See way back in Michael’s college days, he was in a drum corp.  Don’t know what that is?  Watch a few seconds of this video.  If you don’t want to watch the video, I’ll explain:  a drum corp is like a marching band but with only drums, brass, and color guard (people who twirl flags and batons and dance.)  They compete on football fields and the entire corp weaves in and out of each other while they play.  There are corps all across America and around the world, competing.

Not only do the entire corps compete, but they also have individual competitions.  Here’s a 25 year old video of Michael’s individual competition, filmed by his mother.

Go ahead and click on it.  You’ll miss the entire point of this post if you don’t click on it.  You don’t have to watch the whole thing.  Just watch from 13 seconds to 28 seconds or from 1:10-1:27.

Friends, let me assure you, Michael has not slowed down in the past 25 years.  When I say he hits every drum five times before the second chord has been played, I mean that he hits every drum five times before the second chord has been played.  I send up a prayer of thanks for Michael and his drums every Sunday morning at 8:00.  Wakes you right up.


Oh wait!  I’m not done!

I didn’t mean to write so much about Sunday mornings.  What I wanted to write about was going to see a drum corp competition last Sunday evening with Michael and Kim.  Kim is married to Michael.  They were in the same drum corp together—the Bluecoats.   Whenever the Bluecoats compete nearby, they go to watch and they invited us to go with them.

It was a lot of fun.  When the Bluecoats take the field, it’s tradition for fans to hoot out, “Blooooooo!”  which sounds a lot like “Booooo!”  Yeah…we got some surprised looks from spectators who don’t know about the tradition.  I heard a woman saying, “Sheesh.  They haven’t even played yet.”

The Bluecoats were great, but the best part was watching Michael.  I haven’t attended many sporting events, so I haven’t seen that many Fans.

And Michael is a Fan.

No matter what those Bluecoats did, Michael was clapping and hooting and bloo-ing.  It was great. Michael and Kim had invited 4 of us to go with them to the competition and I think we can all agree that the best part of the evening was watching Michael root for his old corp.

Can’t wait to go again next year.


I didn’t take my camera to the competition because I didn’t want it ruined in the rain.  Here’s a picture I stole from Michael’s Facebook page from last Sunday at the drum corp competition.  The other guy in the picture is someone who was in the Bluecoats with Michael and Kim 25 years ago.

They’re blurry in the picture because they’re drummers and they move fast.


A Wild Night on the Town

I have brand new friends–Tim and Shannon.  Which means I have a whole new set of their stories to tell you.

Here’s one about Tim.

One Sunday a long time ago Tim was in church with his girlfriend.  He put his arm around her shoulders as they listened to the sermon.  It was a long sermon.  Somewhere in the middle of the long sermon, his arm fell asleep.

It was the sort of sleep that made his arm turn entirely numb and he didn’t know it was asleep.  It was so asleep that it flopped off the back of the pew and onto the leg of the woman behind him.  Tim didn’t feel it.

From the woman behind him’s point of view, a young man was randomly groping her leg in the middle of the sermon.  She was having none of that.  So, without bothering to keep her voice down too low, she leaned forward and said, “Young man!  You will remove your hand from my leg right now!”

Tim was startled, having no idea what was going on.  Slowly he became aware that his arm was not around his girlfriend’s shoulders, but was draped down the back of the pew and lying on a woman’s leg.  He tried to move his sleeping arm, but it wouldn’t respond.  He ended up having to use his whole body to swing his arm up and over the back of the pew where it thumped down next to him.

I heard this story last night on the way home from celebrating Shannon’s birthday.  Our friendship with Tim and Shannon is so new that I don’t even know how old Shannon turned, but we still had fun celebrating.

We had planned to eat dinner in a cute little restaurant in Gettysburg, but right now it’s the 150th anniversary of the battle at Gettysburg.  It’s a teeny weeny bit crowded in Gettysburg right now.  Here’s a quote from the Baltimore Sun:

“Gettysburg officials are expecting 250,000 visitors to visit the small south-central Pennsylvania borough of about 7,700 residents for the anniversary.”

We figured that we can go to cute little restaurants in Gettysburg any time we want to.  Let the 250,000 visitors have their turn at them and we’ll go somewhere else.  We’re very gracious like that around here.

So, we headed to boring old Frederick, Maryland and went to a chain restaurant—Macaroni Grill.  Dinner was great but afterward we wondered what to do.  Frederick isn’t necessarily bristling with culture, you know.  And that’s when Darling Husband sat up straight and blurted out, “We could go to Wegmans!”

Yes, the grocery store.

Tim said,  “Er…the grocery store?”

Darling Husband said, “Yes!  It’s great!  Let’s go!”

Ok, so we’re friends with Tim and Shannon, but as I said, it’s still a relatively new friendship.  We’re not quite at the point where we can say to each other, “Are you out of your mind?  I don’t want to go to a grocery store on my birthday.  That’s a dumb idea.”

So, Tim and Shannon said a carefully polite, “Okay,” and we headed to Wegmans.  They did their best not to drag their feet through the parking lot and when we got in the entryway Darling Husband said, “We might need a cart,” and grabbed a small cart.  Tim and Shannon looked mildly bemused.

But before we even made it past the cart storage part of the store, Shannon said, “Ooo!  Look at that!” And popped a bag of trail mix into the cart.

And then we entered the store.

Now, you need to know something.  Shannon is an amazing cook and has vast knowledge of all things culinary.  She took one look at all the obscure mushrooms and exotic cheeses and swooned.  We ended up spending an hour and 45 minutes in Wegmans.  We were so wide-eyed at all the wonders of Wegmans that our eyeballs were drying out.  Darling Husband bustled about like a happy mother hen, so tickled with himself for suggesting a trip to the grocery store for Shannon’s Birthday Bash.

For the more particularly yummy looking treats, Tim would say, “It’s your birthday!  Let’s get it!” and pop it into the cart.  The cart was stuffed with saltwater taffy and pasta sauces and cheese crisps and fruit tarts and trail mix and truffles and, and, and…

We got to the register and their bill totaled up to $195.51.  Darling Husband said, “Wait!  I have a Wegmans card!”  We used it and the total dropped down to…$195.51.  Ooooo.  No discount for you.



We had a new person at photoclub this morning–Rose.  Gerhard helped her learn her (Pentax!) camera settings.  She got the usual warning:  If you come to photoclub, you will be photographed.  Here she is:


The rest of us played with our project for today:




It’s easy:  tape two colorful pieces of paper to something sturdy—like the lid of a pizza box.  I used double sided tape so it would be nice and flat.

Fill a glass with water and place it where the colors meet.   Move about a bit until you see the water refract the colors making a checkerboard effect.

Hannah used 3 colors of paper and different angles and had all sorts of crazy circus tent looks going on with her water bottles.  Good job Hannah!