Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Clash of Cultures....part 1 of many I'm sure

Ahh, the clash of west meets east. It is always a grand site for one, such as I, who understands both sides of the globe. WRONG...I honestly only understand a scratch of the east and to be honest I don't always understand the west. But, I do enjoy watching clashing of cultures....it causes me to laugh at how fun God is. I'm always reminded of the time period when the people of the earth built a tower to reach the heavens. But, God thwarted their plot by creating different languages. I believe that moment in time was the first culture clash. God has an awesome sense of humor, doesn't He?
Well, I got to take part in such humor a week ago. But, it took me a few hours, ok days, to really laugh with Him. I so wish I had pictures of this day; I'm just not as good about remembering to bring a camera with me like many of my friends. So, I'll have to paint the picture a bit.
Place: Bethany School Flea Market in Taipei, Taiwan
It was a warm Saturday morning and I was determined to get rid of our "stuff." I got there early and set up the table, thinking I had it really organized. I had everything marked. Kids were playing. I had change ready. I watched others set up their tables and had time to chat with friends before it opened. Structure-wise I was ready for the crowds to come. Mentally, not even close.

At 10am the doors were open and a flood of people came in. Now I'm not talking 20-30, I'm talking 50-80 in a small semi-confined area. In the first 15 min. I had 15 people digging and all asking questions at the same time. Note and Hint: most of the talking was in Chinese.

Most of you know that I grew up in the US and have lived in Chinese speaking communities for quite some time. I can speak Chinese, but not at a translators level...more like survival level. And remember that I had marked prices on all the items.

Ok, here is where Ms. West meets Ms. East. Ms. West thought that it would be like garage sales in the US. People look, buy what they want and maybe ask a few questions. It is usually fairly calm and pleasant.
Ms. East saw a market. Markets are places to bargain for the best price. You must ask for a better price no matter how cheap it is. You must not just ask once, you must ask at least three times and maybe even walk off to see if the seller will come down in price. And markets are loud places, busy places. Not a place for small talk.

Ahh, so after one grueling hour, I was exhausted. I had realized that I was in Culture Shock, but 1) was not going to admit it and 2) did NOT think it was funny. By noon, my prince in shining armor came and saved my day. He got me a Coke Zero. We compiled what was left and put it all into one tub. He made a sign that said "Everything Free" and we went home. We left behind the heat, the noise, and the clash of cultures.

Today, over a week later, as I sit here and think back to that moment I wonder if the people that built the Tower of Babel felt like I did at that moment I left to go home...tired, hot, and yet so glad to escape from the chaos.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Tooth Story

"Mama, Matthea is picking at her teeth, " shouted Megan from across the table.
"Thanks, Megan," answered her mother, "but you still need to use your inside voice even if we are in a noisy restaurant."

"Matthea, can you open your mouth so I can see your tooth?" asked her mom.
Matthea opened her mouth wide. Her short teeth were all straight except for one. It was leaning out, almost dangling.
"Oh great! Her tooth is about to come out," said their mom.

"Let me see! Let me see!" shouted Megan as she stood up in her chair and leaned across the table.
"Megan you need to sit down. You can look at it when we get home," said their father, "And, Matthea you need to stop picking at it. We can get it out when we get home."

They began eating again. Megan sat on her knees in her chair. She looked at her plate, then back at Matthea, and then back at her plate.
"Is that why Matthea can't talk?" asked Megan.
"Huh?" asked her dad, "Oh, no my little China Doll that is not the reason. Matthea was born with some problems. She'll always be slower than others."
"Oh. Why is her tooth loose?" asked Megan.
Her dad put his piece of pizza down and said, "Because a new tooth is coming in."

Megan moved her slender olive colored finger up to her mouth. She grabbed her top tooth and tried to wiggle it.
"My tooth is loose, see?" said Megan.
Her mom's shoulders bounced lightly up and down as she covered her mouth with a napkin. "Well, it isn't loose yet, dear. You will lose your teeth when you are, like Matthea. Maybe around the time you turn five or six," answered her mom.

Just then Matthea held up her hand. Pinched between her fingers like a small popcorn seed was her tooth. She smiled really big and laughed. The gaping hole where the tooth had been was red.
"Mama! She needs a Band-Aid, quick get a Band-Aid for her mouth!" shouted Megan.
She slid off her chair and crawled under the table. She stuck her whole head into the bag. Her mom took it from her and pulled out the wipes.
"Band-Aides, Mama. I said Band-Aides!" Megan said as she stood up with a little stomp.
Her dad caught her by the arm and pulled her towards his lap. "Listen, Megan you shouldn't talk to you mother that way. And you can't put a bandage in her mouth. The wipes will help make it stop. Don't worry, my brave princess."

When Matthea was all cleaned up, Megan watched their mother wrap the tooth up carefully in a napkin and place it in her purse pocket.
The drama was over. Supper was finished. They got their things and walked home.
At home while they were getting ready for bed Megan looked at her mom and said, "Mama, Matthea did cry at all."
"No, dear, she didn't," said her mom.
"She is a brave princess just like me," said Megan.

This little story was inspired by an event that happened tonight. Yes, Matthea did pull her tooth out at a restaurant tonight! It was horrible. I was just so thankful that I had put that new pack of wipes in the purse. Now, the rest of the dialogue was pretty much made up. Meg has told us various times that her teeth are loose, but they are not even close. But, I needed a way for the reader to understand why Matthea never speaks. I'm trying to explore in the area of the point of view from a sibling of a special needs child.
I've not really given it a title either...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Painted Wall

This has been the longest Uwe and I have lived in one apartment our entire 10 years (almost) of marriage. We've lived here for almost 3 years now. This is home #7.

Our first was a two bedroom place that we fixed up with what we had. Our second I re-painted the balcony(pint tai) and put up curtains and pictures on the wall, only to be moved a month later.

Inspired by Uwe's love of geography we put up a border of an antique map in our third home.

Our fourth I dared to paint again. Except this time I tackled Marcus' room. I painted a thin blue horizontal line about midway down the wall. Using sponge stamps, I stamped out red ABC, 123. Then enclosed that with another horizontal line. Then I painted thick blue stripes leaving thin white stripes from the base of the border down to the floor.

Our fifth and sixth I don't believe I touched, except for hanging up pictures. I left the walls white. I had plans, but I guess having another child and moving put my mind on other things.

For the past two years home #7 has had white walls, except for the race car border put up in Marcus' room. I've wanted to paint the rooms and I have plans to paint each room. I've collected magazine pictures for years with ideas for me to pick and choose from. And with that, I've already picked out the color scheme for most of the rooms. I just hadn't bought the paint.

I'm always haunted by the thought, "But, why paint if we are only going to move?"

Well, two weeks ago I had had enough, we went and bought paint for the girls' room.
You see, those two little artist of mine tried to draw a mural with their crayons probably about a year ago. But, after scrubbing the circles and squiggles with Goo Gone, it is still showing. I know I'm pathetic!

Today I painted a wall. I put on two coats of Spring Green and I felt accomplished, successful. I had a feeling of pride in my work. Granted there was paint all over me (guess that is where my kids get the messy painting?) and some on the floor. But, that all cleaned up fine.

I was just starting to clean up the brushes and put my paint away for the day when Uwe called.

"What do you think about moving?" he asked.

I'm looking at the sticky wet spring green wall and think, "What do I THINK about moving?"

Sighing, I answered, "I painted one wall today."

"Oh," was his comment.

After the phone call, I actually started laughing to myself. Of course, we are going to move. I just painted a wall. I should have known this.

I finished cleaning up. I washed out the paint brushes and began praying. Was it a waste?

I concluded that if we do move I need to paint immediately so that we can enjoy the painted walls longer. I cannot be plagued with that thought anymore, "But, why if we are going to move?"

BTW, we decided not to move. It is not needed, "Whew!" I'm going to get to those walls tomorrow or the next day. The quicker I get them done, the longer I can enjoy them. Then onto the next room...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Just a Mom

Having a child with developmental issues is not always easy, I will admit. I don't ever want people to feel sorry for me or have pity on my daughter. We all have struggles in life, just some are bigger than others. With that said, I want to express my gratitude towards the volunteers that came and helped out at the "I Am A Hero" Games this past Saturday. Without you all there, my day would have been ok, but not wonderful.
Maybe I should explain a bit. You see, my week usually consists of hospital visits and usually more than one a week. But, other parents of special needs children go more often than that. We are always the ones to push our children to get them to the next goal, which is usually as simple as sitting or eating. Their therapist and teachers are right there beside us helping us, but we have the the burden of getting them to the goal. Our child is the one that drools, gets laughed at, grunts or makes strange noises in public. Somedays are really hard.
So, on Saturday morning I was sort of expecting to have to be Matthea's buddy. I probably thought this since I helped organize and the expectation I put on myself to help that day. Anyway, I didn't. I cheered with with the others. In fact, it was great to see everyone cheering for the "Little Heroes" participating. I took pictures and videoed just like a regular mom. I can't express all that I feel into words...probably because I process things forever. But, I wanted to say thanks on behalf of all the parents there to those who came and sacrificed a beautiful Saturday morning. You allowed each of us a chance to watch our child succeed. They finished a goal at each event and that was wonderful.
Thanks for letting me be "Just a Mom"!

On a side note, many of the volunteers were students from MCA Taichung and Bethany. You all continue to amaze me. If anyone reading this sees any of those students, please tell them you heard great things about them from me. "My Little Hero"

Two Poems

Tonight I've tried my hand at poetry. Well, I'm not sure I should be so proud to call it that. Anyway, it's words/thoughts put down on paper. It's a sum of my last few months with the kids. Humoring myself...


Bottles lined up,
One by one.
Green, purple, clear, pink

Who are they kidding?
Flavors of lime and grape,
Smells of bubble gum,

One for coughing, one for sneezing,
One for symptoms too vivid in name

Six days
Three times a day.
You've got to be kidding me.

"Bronchitis Blues"

Runny nose,

Doctor's office,

Liquids and rest,
And medicine, too!

Weeks later,
Coughing, sneezing

The Easter Tree

Traditions in our house are mixed between German and US cultures (and sometimes Chinese, too). Easter is no different. The German's have an Easter tree. Ours is always a palm leafed type of a tree/plant. One year I think we didn't have one, so Uwe found palm fronds somewhere and we decorated that. Anyway, this year we have a palm leafed plant that I brought in from the balcony. If I was a green thumb or anywhere near a horticulturist I could tell you the name. But, sadly, I did not get that grand gene from my mother.
We decorate our Easter tree with painted eggs. Some are store bought decorated plastic eggs sent from Oma and Opa. Others are ones that we decorate ourselves. You know the blown out egg type. Then we paint them in various colors. I have been able to save a few from the past years. Two are from our first year in Wuhan. Can you believe they made one move within the city and a move across the strait?

Matthea loved painting. Maybe too much. I couldn't get a picture of her in process because I was holding her egg, so here is the after shot.

Little Megs was so funny to watch. She liked mixing colors to explore the art of making new colors. Fortunately, she did not go too

Marcus in deep concentration. I think that this will be one tradition that he won't outgrow.

The girls Easter morning in front of our Easter tree.

All three kids in front of the Easter tree.

Easter Trees, would this make a good article piece? Hmm, I'll have to research this a bit more. Maybe could even be a short children's piece on it too. Ahh, the joys of discovering story ideas and plots from my personal life....

Friday, April 10, 2009

3 Kids, 1 Mom, 14 Eggs

OK, I was a bit of an over achiever with the eggs and the bowls of dye (as you can see in the photo). Looking at this photo, I think I had as many bowls of dye as eggs...what was I thinking? The coke on the table was what kept me sane. But the kids had fun. I'm so thrilled that Marcus still likes to do this. Soon, he is going to be "too cool" or "too old" or both. Dreading that day, so I need to enjoy each moment I can while I can.

This was Matthea's first year to be allowed anywhere near the dye. She has a strong belief that any water, no matter what, should be splashed and splattered. But, this year she was able to control this urge a bit, so I let her have a go. She did throw the egg in the bowl and shove her thumb through the shell, but overall she did great. She loved putting the stickers on after the eggs had dried. Which was much easier to take pictures of.

Megan, dear Megan. First, to answer questions regarding her glasses...they are not real. They were sunglasses that the lenses were taken out. She, seriously, wears them all day and only takes them off at night. Yes, we get comments about them all the time.
This is her first year to remember Easter. We hope and pray she will learn the real meaning in the midst of all the fun. She loved dyeing eggs and wanted to do more, of course. She just wanted to do purple and pink eggs, her favorite colors. We got her to expand out and do a yellow one and blue as well.

Our eggs turned out great. We only got dye on our hands, face, table, floor, and I'm sure hair and clothes. We hope to paint eggs with Uwe tomorrow. I'm pulling in recruits for that project.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Did You Look at a Map?"

That would be what my eight year old asked me as I realized we were on the wrong MRT train. Guess I should start at the beginning...

Marcus had been invited to a friend's house for the afternoon. Matthea had Speech Therapy at one hospital and then at another hospital a foot scanning session (story in itself). The plan was for all four of us (me and the 3 kids) to go to Speech with Matthea. Then we'd take Marcus to his friend's house via MRT (subway); then take Matthea to her foot appointment; then back to pick up Marcus before heading home. Sounded easy to me.

The MRT system here in Taipei is really great. But, to get from hospital number one to the friend's house we had to change trains twice. This doesn't sound too bad, except one must remember that changing trains means going up and down escalators with 3 children (which 2 of them are just learning how escalators work).

We got off at the first train switch. We followed the crowds up the escalator. Walked a ways, then went down another escalator. I saw a train coming to a stop and thought, "Perfect timing. We'll jump on and be there soon." About two stops later I heard the announcement for the next stop. I looked at the MRT map on the train and realized....we were going the wrong direction!

The next stop we got off. This was when my son asked the question, "Didn't you look at a map?" To which my answer was, "Well, yes briefly." Guess it wasn't well enough.

At this point I made a fast decision that a taxi would be faster. So, up another escalator or two we went and found a taxi.

Off we raced to the friend's house. We made it there a bit late, but we made it. Now, that was just half the trip. The girls and I headed to the next hospital which was another trip on the MRT.

Matthea got a free pair of tennis shoes with arch supports. She was asked to help in a research study regarding arch supports. They have a computer that scans the bottom of your foot that they are testing as part of the research. Well, my little pumpkin wouldn't even put her feet inside the bag to get the picture taken. Fortunately, they had other means to see the pressure points on her feet when she walked. We did leave with a new pair of shoes and insoles that help her stand straighter. We go back in 2 months to see if there is any change.

So, back to the MRT we went to pick up Marcus. We made it home all in one piece. Extremely tired, but in one piece. The whole plan took 5 hours. And to think I could have saved a little bit of time had I gotten on the right train.

Supper? No problem, my wonderful husband had it all taken care of. He had grilled.

Things I think I learned:
1. Stop glancing at maps and study them, especially when I'm not sure where I'm going and when I have the kids.
2. Don't plan so much in one afternoon...(I have the hardest time with this lesson, I keep repeating this mistake over and over.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sickness in the House

I feel as if I've been nurse these past few weeks. Two of my children have been sick, as well as, my husband. But, in the midst of it all I came up with a new story. It was inspired by my daughter, Matthea. She come to me with her blanket in hand wanting to sit and be held. This piece is still in draft form, but will probably send it to a magazine when I have time.

Title: Untitled at this point
Age Group: Young Children (2-5 years)

“Mama, I don’t feel good,” said Gill.

Gill’s mom felt her warm head and sighed, “Oh dear, you have a temperature, honey.”

“What’s a timber chair, Mama?” asked Gill.

“A tem-per-a-ture is a fever. I’ve got some medicine to make it better,” said her mom.

“I think that if I sit on your lap I’ll feel better, Mama,” said Gill.

“Well, you can do that after you take the medicine,” said Mama.

Gill’s mom poured pink liquid into a little cup. Gill looked at the liquid and said, “I’m feeling better. I don’t need any medicine.”

“Oh, really?” answered her mom, “I think that you should still take the medicine anyway. Here’s some water.”

Gill slowly reached up and smelled the sweet bubble gum scent of the medicine. She tipped the cup up to her mouth. She immediately grabbed the cup of water and gulped it down. Her mom took her hand and led her to the rocking chair where she held her and rocked her.

The next morning, Gill still had a temperature with a cough. Her mom decided that she needed to see a doctor.

“But, Mama, I have a better idea,” said Gill.

“What is that?” asked her mom.

Gill answered, “You can sit in the rocking chair and rock me. That worked last night, remember?”

Mama smiled, “Well, yes I remember. How about after you see the doctor we rock?”

“But, I don’t want a shot?” said Gill.

“Oh, I don’t think that you will have to have a shot. Why don’t you get your medical kit and I’ll show you what the doctor will,” said her mom.

Gill went to her room and got out her medical kit. Her mom opened it and pulled out a long cord with ear plugs on the end.

“Gill, this is called a steth-a-scope. The doctor will use this to hear your heart and to listen to you breathe,” said her mom as she put the ear plugs into her ears.

As she put the round part up to Gill’s chest, she asked her to take a deep breath. Then she pulled out a small hammer with a hole in the middle out from the bag.

“Gill, this is called an ear scope. The doctor will use this to look in your ears,” said mom as she looked in her ears.

“Oh, this is fun,” said Gill.

“Yes, this is fun and seeing a real doctor will be fun too,” promised her mom.

“Can I take my medical kit along?” asked Gill

“Of course,” said her mom.

Later, when they returned from the doctor’s office, Gill climbed up into her mother’s lap and they rocked together until Gill fell asleep.

Well, that's it. I'll probably set this one aside for awhile and look at it later. I have my writing assignment that is haunting me with the due date.