You are a Stinky Sock and I am Mopey

It’s been a rough week.  For a number of years I had been helping someone with a problem they have.

Well, I thought I was helping.

I found out early last week that I wasn’t helping at all.  In fact, my help was being viewed as, “Look at me!  I know better than you do.  You should listen to me because I’m so wonderful and you’re just  an old stinky sock.”  That is most certainly not how I meant my help to come across.  I was crushed.  I’ve been finding corners to curl up in and cry all week long.  My poor, sore nose.

Then, a few days later when I was in a quiet mood, another friend made a passing inference that I was moping because I wasn’t in control and getting my own way.  What?  Really?  Is that how people view me?  That I mope around when I don’t get my own way?  Or worse—is that how I am?  Do I mope when I don’t get my own way?  Surely not.  And the thing is that I wasn’t thinking about “my own way” in the slightest bit at the time.  I was crushed.

It took me until today to find the right word for what I’m feeling.  It’s defeated.  I haven’t even brushed my hair at all today and you know I’m just vain enough that not brushing my hair is a sure indication of defeat.  But—please—don’t point out my vanity to me because that’ll tip me from defeated into despondent.  If you have a burning need to point out something about my flawed character, please wait until October when I’ve had time to recover.  October of 2033.

Eh.  I can still write The Blog.  You don’t think that every day last year when I wrote The Blog I was in a good mood, do you?  No way!  There were many days when I had spent the entire day staring pathetically out of windows and feeling sorry for myself, but I still managed to have a little fun with The Blog in the evening.

So, here goes.  Let’s talk about the last 3 Photo Club meetings.

Three Photo Clubs ago, I suggested we do some more light painting.  We’ve done it in the past, but our newest Photo Club member, Hannah, wasn’t in the group at that time, so it was time to play with it again.

Here was an early attempt:


Pretty pathetic, huh?

I kept trying different things, hoping to get some depth to my light.  Here’s a passable attempt at depth.


To take these pictures you need a completely dark room, somewhere to set your camera so it’s still (a tripod or table or something), flashlights, and a long exposure—maybe 15-30 seconds.

When you press the shutter release the camera will start taking the picture—and keep taking it for 15-30 seconds—however long you set it for.  Dash in front of the camera, turn on your flashlight, point it at the camera and squiggle it around.  After 15-30 seconds, the camera will stop taking the picture and all of your squiggles will be recorded onto one image.

It’s harder than it sounds.  I wasn’t happy with any of my pictures of squiggly depth, so I made some stick figures:



By the time we were done, all of us in the room were sweaty and exhausted.  At the end of the day, this is a good representation of how we all looked:


It’s also a good example of how I felt when I was told I think I’m better than everyone, that I’m controlling, and that I’m mopey when I don’t get my way.  Oh blah.  Feeling defeated again.  Let’s move on.

The next Photo Club was when the Chinese exchange students were visiting.  There would only be 3 Photo Club members at that meeting so I brought the students to Photo Club with me.  I suggested that we teach them how to frame pictures.  No one else at Photo Club was very keen on the idea, but (since I’m controlling, you know) I went ahead with my idea.  Hey—if someone else had a better idea, I’d have gone with it.  (Or maybe I’d have moped.  I really don’t know anymore.)

The language barrier wasn’t that big of a problem being that a picture is worth 1000 words.  I showed John how to take a good picture of his friends.  First a bad picture:


Far is bad.

Then a good picture:


Close is good.

See?  6 words, 2 pictures, and the point is made.  We also practiced taking food pictures.  Here’s a picture of Scott helping Elton with a food picture:


But the most recent Photo Club was the most fun.  Over the summer, we’ve been trying to come up with little projects to work on at Photo Club.  Since I’m controlling and always want my own way, I suggested that we take fruit pictures.  Fruit is pretty and it’s cheapest during the summer.  I had a vague idea of scattering blueberries on a table and taking close ups of them.

A day or two before our Fruit Day, I had another vague idea of making a little person out of raisins and having him climb a mountain of strawberries.  But when I made my raisin person he looked like a malformed ant.

At photoclub I tried re-making a person out of grapes and blueberries.  It worked! He was so handsome and the food was so pretty that I was inspired to take a series of pictures of Chester, the Grape Man.


What I did On my Summer Vacation

By Chester Grapeman

On my summer vacation, I did many things.  First, I went to Tanzania and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.  It was so cold in the snow that my face turned blue!


Next I went white water rafting on the Futaleufu River in Chile.  I fell in the water and almost drowned.  My head turned blue from lack of oxygen!


After that, we went to the state fair where we saw the World’s Largest Watermelon.  It was bigger than me!  I ate too much, though, and felt a little sick.  I got a little blue about the gills.


Then, there was a family reunion.  My cousins and I played a bit of football.  We didn’t wear helmets and I got all bruised up.   My head turned black and blue.  But I got a touchdown!


The last thing I did was head to Hollywood and see the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  I must have set the white balance wrong in my camera.  I look really blue in this picture, don’t I?  Huh.



Yes, I was lying in the dirt and gravel, with big ants crawling around, sweating, to take these pictures.  But it was worth it.  Chester was so appreciative.

The Hub

I know some people who recently opened a restaurant in Hanover, PA.  The restaurant is called The Hub.  They serve burgers and wraps.

Unfortunately, they opened when the exchange students were here and we spent entirely too much money.  We didn’t want the students to get a bad impression of Americans.  There we were, feeding them tomatoes and corn (“Only poor people eat tomatoes and corn in China”), so we had to put on a good show and…turn on the lights.  Ugh!  There were, like, 4 light-fixtures on at the same time each evening.  For hours.  It was making me twitchy.

In fact, we often (often) use the light from our ipads to maneuver around the house at night, like carrying a candle in the olden days.  Did you know that it costs only $1.36 to charge an ipad…for a year?!  I’ll repeat it:  It costs a buck 36 to charge an ipad for a year!  A year, people!  I am not kidding.  Here’s the link.   Providing electricity for four blazing light fixtures costs way more than a buck 36.

And it wasn’t just the blazing lights–we had to feed the students food, take them laser tagging, take them to Li’s Buffet, buy them Nerf guns.  The list goes on and on.

So, we didn’t go to The Hub when it first opened.  We wanted to save up some money for a bit.

But I finally got to go tonight.  Remember my Soup friends?  I used to meet with a group of women every other week for lunch.  We always ate soup.  We don’t meet as much anymore–only every other month or so, so we missed two birthdays.  We arranged to meet this evening at The Hub to celebrate the birthdays we missed.

There we were at The Hub, being cackling 30/40 year-old women and talking entirely too loudly.  After we had dinner, it was time to sing Happy Birthday.  Now, as you all may recall, when my family sings Happy Birthday, they sound like those dying giraffes I’ve told you about.  But since there was no family around, I had a chance to sing it normally.  And loudly.  Oh, I wasn’t the only one.  They were all belting it out.  Nice and loud and…on key.  Yes!  On key!  And when we got to the last “Happy Birthday to you”  three of the women in my party broke into a perfect three-part harmony.  A three-part harmony!  I’m telling you, other patrons in the restaurant had to dab the tears from their eyes, it was just that beautiful.  That’s what happens when you sing Happy Birthday with three members of the church choir.  Choir people sing loud and proud, on key, and in harmony.  I’m hiring them to come to the next Lizard family birthday party.

And now, the food:  Oh yum–it was delicious.  They have some sort of seasoned fries with some of the seasoning at the bottom of the basket so you can roll your fries around in it.  Or, you could get chips instead.  I was imagining a bag of nasty old chips, which is why I went with the fries, but no.  No!  Not at The Hub.  At The Hub, you get homemade hand cooked chips.  Mmm.

And don’t forget the friendly service.  I got a few pictures of Joy.  Here’s one:


I love her look.  I plan on going back to The Hub when there’s better light in the windows and taking more pictures of her.  While I eat chips.  Those were some good chips.  Joy was polite about me taking pictures of her.  I forget that people aren’t used to having their pictures taken with big ol’ cameras.  Cell phones, yes.  Big ol’ cameras, no.  But she managed to ring up my bill, even with all the whirring and clicking of the camera directed her way.  A true professional.

After eating, we hung about for a bit on the sidewalk saying our good-byes when a friend of ours passed by in his mini-van.  He rolled down a window to holler out a friendly insult.  I missed exactly what he said, but it was something about being hooligans on the street corners, or some such thing.  Now, that’s not a very exciting story to tell you, until you get to the part where one of my friends didn’t recognize him and was getting increasingly upset.  “Oh, that’s just disgusting!” “Oh, seriously?!”  “I just…splutter…splutter…!”   She was on the verge of hurling insults his way when the light changed and he drove off.

So, there you have it:  ipads are a cheap source of light, bring a choir with you when you sing Happy Birthday, the food at The Hub is yummy, and Tim was not trying to pick up a group of cackling women while driving around Hanover, PA in his minivan.

Lost in New York City


Justin and Boy8.  Justin looooves cars. But he prefers new ones and not old ones.

So these 36 kids from China come to America for a 2 week vacation.  About half of them speak passable English but the other half barely speak a word.  They can say, “My name is …”, “How are you?” “A little,” and “Monique is at the library.”  No, wait.  That last bit was from my high school French class.

The kids range in age from 11 to 17.  Eleven!  Boy10 turns eleven in a month!  Granted, the 11-year-old from China (Zhon) was taller than me and possibly outweighed me, so maybe his parents forgot he was only eleven, but still–eleven!  I wondered how their parents felt about this trip.  Sure, they must have been ok with it enough to send them in the first place, but as John said after a phone call with his mother, “My mother worries.”  John is 13.  Of course his mother worries.  I have friends with 13 year olds and they’re only 40% grown.  At age 13, you’re still 60% kid.

For example, as much as Justin likes his ties and talks his politics, he still has a big dose of kid in him.  We were greeted every morning with a house-rattling THUMP as he leaped from the top bunk of the bed onto the floor.  When my parents visited and stayed in the bunks we were not greeted each morning with a magnificent THUMP as my mother leaped from its heights.  No.

So, these kids’ parents see them off at their local airport.  From the local airports, the kids fly to the Beijing airport, which is the second largest in the world.  I’ve been telling people it’s the largest, but I was wrong—the one in Atlanta is the largest.

Once they’re in the second largest airport in the world, these kids, including any eleven year olds, have to find their way, all by themselves, to the flight that’ll take them to America.  Remember—their parents are home in Fuzhou or Shangdon or wherever they’re from–hours and hours by plane away.

Then once they arrive in America, the students will be staying with strangers and being bussed to various major cities to go sight-seeing.  They will have one American and two Chinese chaperones.  For 36 kids, half of whom don’t speak English.

I wondered how the parents were feeling about their babies off in another country.  A good many of them must have missed their kids and been worried about them.  I know I was worried about them.  The responsibility for their safety weighed heavily on me.  For example, even though it’s not a law for the backseat, I require everyone to wear seatbelts no matter where they sit in my car.  No way do I want a 150 pound person in the backseat flying into the back of my neck, killing us both, if there’s an accident.  You stay in your seat, and I’ll stay in mine.

So, every time the kids rode in the car, I reminded them to wear their seatbelts.  I carpooled with Vince’s students a few times so sometimes I had 5 students in the car.  Every time I started the car, I would sing out, “Seatbelts!”  I told them, “I am not going to call your mother and say, ‘John died in America.’”  Justin translated it to the car and they all laughed and laughed, but it’s true.  I am not calling some worried Chinese mamma and telling her that her son died in America.  Sheesh.

On the day they were to visit New York City I carpooled the five kids to the meeting place at 8:00 in the morning and Vince was going to bring them home at 10:00 that night.

But at 10:00 Vince called and said, “They’re going to be late.  They told us something happened in New York and they’ll be an hour and a half late.  I don’t know what happened.”

Huh.  I wonder what happened.

At almost midnight, Vince dropped off our students.  They were happy to see us and were all smiles and bouncing around the house.  John forgot to take his money to New York and only had enough pocket money for a t-shirt.

Ha—pocket money!  I washed and dried some ‘pocket money’ by accident.  When I opened the dryer, there, sitting as nice as you please on top of the clothes, was a $100 bill.  Later in the week, we bought some skin cream for another kid’s mom and he paid us back with…a $100 bill.  And Zhon, the burly 11 year old, gave Vince’s seven-year-old a present—a $100 bill.  The seven year old held it for all of 3 seconds with wide happy eyes and a big grin while angels sang in the background before Vince said, “Nope!  Not gonna happen!” and yanked it out of his fingers and gave it back to Zhon.

So, John bought his $30 “I heart NY” t-shirt and Justin was bouncing around the living room because he had finally bought his ipad.  He had talked about it non-stop all week—about going to the Apple Store in NYC to buy the ipad.  He had wrestled with whether or not to buy a full sized one or a mini.  What a delicious decision to have to make.

And in the middle of them bouncing around the house and giving me their leftover packed lunch and showing us the ipad, Justin mentioned that he got lost in New York City.

Lost in New York City!

Really, really lost–as in, make the bus an hour and a half late because one of the kids is LOST IN NEW YORK CITY!!

I’ll tell the tale in Justin’s own words.  Read it with a lilting accent and a lot of expression, because that’s how he talked:

I am in the Apple store and I buy my new ipad.  Full sized.  My father tells me to buy full sized.

But I must find the bus.  But the bus!  It is on seventh avenue—so, so far from fifth avenue.  So far.  I do not know where it is.  Why so far?  And I am lost!  Fifth avenue is too crowded.  So many people.  So many.

I find an old man.  I ask the old man, “Where is the Apple Store?”  The old man say, “Close!”  and I am so happy.  So happy that it is close.  But when I get to the store, it is an…apple store.  (At this point, Justin mimes eating an apple.)  Not the Apple Store!  I am so lost!

I asked, “How did you find your way back?”

His answer:  I use google GPS to find the Apple Store.

Lesson learned: do not ask little old men about new technology.

But at the same time, I love this world our kids are growing up in now.  Technology is such a part of their lives that it’s science fiction come true.  When I watch Star Trek with my kids we see Picard using his touch screen ipad at his desk and Captain Archer Skype-ing with the people back on earth.

Justin seemed none the worse for his little adventure in the Big Apple.  But when the kids were offered an optional shopping trip on their last day in America, he told me with a big grin, “I will not go shopping.  Maybe be lost again!”

And that’s when we went laser tagging instead of shopping.  Ay yi yi.

But that’s a story for another day.


John with Michael at church. Michael did not play the drums the day they visited. Such a disappointment.

Overbearing Mom Person

In case you haven’t been following—we recently had two exchange students from China stay with us for two weeks.  They left this past Sunday.

There were 36 students in all.  When they got here, they were paired up and sent to live with host families during the evenings and weekends.  During the day, the group would meet at a local high school and either have classes or take trips to local tourist places.  They went to Philadelphia, New York, Washington DC and, uh…a goat farm.

On one afternoon the students were taken bowling.  The host families were invited to come along.

Ah!  Perfect!  The students were staying in my house in the evenings and Nephew14 was staying during the day.  For whatever reason Nephews don’t like to hang out all day cleaning houses, so I had to come up with something for him to do while he was here.  Bowling sounded great.

We got to the bowling alley early—Boy8, Boy10, Nephew14, and me.  The students weren’t there yet and we were the first host family to arrive.  We ordered some bowling alley pizza and waited for the other families to show up.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, the students were there…but no other host families.

Oh, rats.

My exchange students were going to be the only students with the wackadoodle host family that showed up at the bowling alley–the overbearing Mom with her kids tagging along.  What an embarrassment to them.  If it had been just me and my kids, I’d have slipped away before they saw us, but I didn’t think I could get Nephew14 out of there.  He was still eating his bowling alley pizza.

The students didn’t see us at first.  The bowling alley had pre-entered the students’ names onto the score boards and the chaperones were releasing the students off the bus lane by lane.  It was all very orderly.

Until all of the students were in their lanes.  And then…chaos.

Apparently, none of the students had ever bowled before.  And here they were—in America, wearing silly shoes, brightly colored bowling balls in hand with those upright pins mocking them at the end of the alley.  Down with the pins!

All at the same time, the students began rolling the balls down the alleys.  They had no concept of the rules.  No concept of “each person goes twice,” no concept of “wait for the pins to be cleared before rolling a second time.”  Just fling the balls down the alley one right after the other and try to knock over those taunting pins.

One ball got stuck in the gutter and Justin (of course it was Justin) took it upon himself to retrieve it.  He went past the line–past the line, people!–and slipped and slid his way down the alley until the guys who worked at the bowling alley had to come and shoo him away.

Throughout all this, I was holding back and considering our getaway as soon as Nephew14 was done eating his bowling alley pizza.  And that’s when John noticed us.

As soon as he saw us, his face brightened and he rushed over to greet us.  “Hello Miss Jackie!  Will you play with me?”  And then Justin noticed us, too.  He gave us a big grin and came to greet us as well.

They most certainly did not perceive us as the wackadoodle mom and kids who embarrassed them at the bowling alley.  Instead, they were happy we were there.  Awww.  And I’m glad to say, one other family finally showed up, which was a relief to me.


They rarely gave big smiles for the camera. Not sure why not.


Justin would say, “Smile!” and then…wouldn’t. He bought those sunglasses here for $100 and wore them everywhere–indoors and out.

Later in the week, after their trip to the goat farm, I picked up the students from the school.  Usually they were already in the building but this time they were still on the bus.  When they caught sight of me and my kids walking across the parking lot, they flung their arms out of the bus windows and hollered, “Hello, Miss Jackie!”  Big waves, big smiles.

As soon as they got off the bus, they rushed to us and showed us the ½ gallon of goat’s milk they had bought at the goat farm.  Justin said, “The man told me this was the best milk in the store.”  Of course he would want the best milk in the store.  Justin is a self-admitted perfectionist.  (MrPerfect is part of his email address.)  “We will all try the milk at home.”

And we did.  At first, it was ok, but then…yuck!  Aftertaste.  Darling Husband later told me it tasted like licking a goat.  I’m not sure whether or not John and Justin liked it because we were all being very polite about the milk.  We didn’t want to tell them how yucky it was and they told us everything was delicious.  Everything.  “Very good.  Delicious,” was said at every meal.

Darling Husband told our kids that they should learn from John and Justin and no matter what we give them they have to say, “Very good.  Delicious.”  My friend Bridgette pointed out, “See!  Proof that starving children in China are grateful for their food!”  Well, John and Justin were hardly starving, but it does make for a fun joke.  And it did teach my kids to be a bit more gracious about stuff they don’t like.

And what have I learned from Justin and John?  How to greet people.   In the book “How to Make Friends and Influence People,” the author advises the reader to be interested in people and show that you’re happy to see them.  John and Justin were perfect examples of that admonition.  You can’t help but respond in a positive way when someone is so clearly happy to see you, even if they make you drink gross goat milk.

My Homeschool is Lame

It’s official.  My homeschool is lame.  We study for 6.5 hours during the day, plus an hour for karate on Tues and Thurs, plus 20 minutes of Latin in the evening with Darling Husband and 30 minutes of mandatory reading at night.  This fall we’ll start watching CNN student current events during breakfast and old Bill Nye science shows on youtube during lunch.  Whatever seat work that doesn’t get done in the day gets done in the kids’ spare time.

But it’s still lame.

Justin, the 13 year old exchange student from China, attends school from 7:30 in the morning until 6:00 at night.  Then he comes home and does 3 hours of homework.  Thirteen and a half hours a day.  He became utterly serious and emphatic as he told us, “Marks are the most important thing in China.  Most important.  More than anything.”

So, as you can see, my homeschool is utterly lame.  And so is yours.  And your private school and public school as well.

His 13.5 hours a day sure are paying off.  That kid is razor sharp.  He sat with us and talked politics, history, and economics as if it were the most natural thing in the world for a 13 year old kid to do.  We learned a lot from him.

Here are some things we learned from Justin:

1.  It is cold on airplanes so you must dress warmly.

The first night they arrived, I noticed that Justin’s clothes fit him badly.  I wondered at the tailoring in China.  His clothes were lumpy and his legs were stuffed into the pants like sausages.  What do the Chinese girls think of the Chinese boys and their lumpy clothes?

But after that first day his clothes looked normal for the most part, except that he wore a striped tie with a plaid shirt.  (He loves ties.)

On the last day as he was getting ready to leave he said, “It is so cold on the plane.  They tell us to wear two pants and two shirts.”

Ah.  I see.  So, when he’s on the plane, he’s stuffed into two pairs of pants.  I’m not exactly sure who told Justin to wear two pairs of pants because John came downstairs wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  I’m guessing that John was cold on the ride home and Justin was toasty warm.

Well, he was toasty warm until he arrived in China.  And then he was miserably hot.  Ever since they’ve been back to China, I’ve been getting messages from them.  Here’s the one I got this morning from Justin:

Justin:  Temperature in Fuzhou is 45celsius.  As soon as I had arrived in China, I felt very hot

Me:  45 celsius?!  Hot!  It is 19 celsius here.

45c = 113f

19c = 66f

Now, 113 seems a bit high to me.  I mean, really—113 degrees Fahrenheit?   Then again maybe not.  I just looked up the forecast for Fuzhou and it’ll be 104 with 59% humidity on Thursday.  That’s pretty hot.

Anyway, the reason that “as soon as I had arrived in China, I felt very hot” might not have all been due to the weather.  It might have been in part because he was stuffed into 2 shirts and 2 pairs of pants.

2.  Parents don’t understand.

When the students were here it was probably one of the best experiences my family has ever had together.  I’ve only lived in the mostly northern states of America, but I’ve heard of the graciousness of the American south.  The exchange students are from the south of China so perhaps there’s something about living in the boiling hot southern regions of a country that makes for good manners.

If a door needed to be opened, they opened it.  If something fell on the ground, they picked it up.  If someone was lifting something, they jumped to help.  They greeted us warmly each time we met (more on that later) and everything was please and thank you.

I’ve never met such gracious people.  Having them in my home was so easy.

But I’m smart enough to realize it was just for 2 weeks and very likely, after time, we’d have started getting on each other’s nerves.  Probably Justin’s first.

One night we were asking Justin questions about his home.  We asked what happens if he gets in trouble at home.  He said, “Very terrible!”  Then he went on to say that he is an impatient person and when his parents don’t understand him, he curses at them.

Parents don’t understand their kids?  That’s an old, old song Justin.

Literally, an old song.  Will Smith and Justin would get along great.  Parents just don’t understand.

3.  Tomatoes and corn are for poor people.

Justin talked about how after World War II China was poverty stricken.  Everyone was poor and everyone lived on tomatoes and corn.  But now, people like to eat a lot of beef.

Uh oh.  I love tomatoes and corn.  They’re my favorites.  One of my best memories growing up was when I ate 12 tomatoes in one sitting on the ride home from Harper’s Ferry.

In the picture below–dinner:  tomato based minestrone soup and corn on the cob.  Our students had to eat like poor people while they were in America.





Note the gobs of butter on Justin’s plate.  And that was just the beginning.  He added more.  They buttered everything like that.  The butter on their toast was thicker than the bread.

Later in the week I took them to Shannon’s house for a proper meat and potatoes American dinner so they wouldn’t think all Americans were poor, eating tomatoes and corn.


Obviously, there’s much more to say but my lame homeschool starts in less than two weeks and I’m supposed to be lesson planning right now.


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!