Not so “Brave”

I know Disney Films have always had intense moments.

Bambi anyone?

I also know that there have been some darker undertones to the films recently. (Toy Story 3’s garbage incinerator scene…) so I guess I should have researched a bit more about the new Disney film – Brave.

Brave is the newest film from the powerhouse of Disney and Pixar.

I’m not going to review the actual movie because it’s exactly what you would expect from Disney/Pixar.

Amazing.

What I am going to mention is this film is very intense. It has multiple fight scenes, including some between family members. On the big screen and especially in 3D, this movie was a sensory and emotional nightmare for us.

Faith did not like the fight scenes. She was very concerned about someone being hurt. Then add in that there is a twist to this movie that was very hard for her to follow and the impact of the twist was too much for her.

If you have a child who is a bit sensitive emotionally, or if you are dealing with intellectual disabilities, I would humbly suggest that you skip this one.

Or if you really, really want to watch it, perhaps watch on DVD. At least on DVD you can pause the movie if the child become overwhelmed or confused.

Me? I’m just hoping for no more nightmares like we endured almost all last night.

She’s in China – Final

This is the final post of a 4 part series. Hope you have enjoyed following her adventures!

So today we went and got traditional chinese therapies. We each got to try something different. Supposedly these things help things with like digestion, stress, pain ect… but they were weird and I’m not sure they worked on anyone actually. I got scraping, which I’m not sure how, but is supposed to help with pain and congestion. Basically they rubbed me down with oil, and then used this like bone thing to repeatedly scrape my back until it looked like this. which was painful, and still kind of is. I think the marks will be there for a while. I’ll let you know if it actually did anything.

My back just looks like I got the crud beat out of me.

Its pretty bruised up wherever it was red in the picture. lol. I’m not really sure what it was supposed to do, maybe release toxins… in my back? The way Alexa got it, which was not as brutal as mine, it was supposed to help her congestion. I don’t know what mine was supposed to do but it was painful during and after. I never noticed how much people touch your back, until it hurts whenever they do. Hopefully the marks will go away soon. Yeah the acupuncture needles, when I saw them was when I decided not to get it, were not small like they show them on television (where they’re like super thin) they were straight up like shot needles. And they don’t just stick them in a little bit, they shoved those things deep into the meat of the people’s hands and shins or elbows. it was gross and I don’t think I could have done it.

So we learned how to do calligraphy today. This first set was the first characters we learned to do. they’re pretty bad.

So after getting the scraping I didn’t feel much of anything besides bruised. But I did notice I started eating a lot more. In China I usually eat around 2 meals a day, and maybe a little snack, and usually not large portions. But the past few days I’d been eating a ton! I didn’t really think much of it, other than maybe I was finally adjusting to the food. Nope. Turns out, as I found out today in class when we all discussed our Traditional medicine experiences, that scraping has nothing to do with your back, but what people usually use it for is children who aren’t eating enough, it apparently increases their appetite. This I had no idea until today. But it made perfect sense. SO that has to mean it worked right? Because it wasn’t a placebo effect, because I didn’t know that’s what it was for, but I actually did have an increase in appetite… its weird right? How does scraping the crap out of your back make you more hungry? Or maybe its all coincidence. who knows. But its cool isn’t it?

HAIR CUT!!!!

The guy was like in love with my hair, he spent an hour cutting it and styling it perfectly. The way they cut hair here is really different, they add the layers underneath. It was an interesting experience. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, but I’m leaning towards like. :)

Onward to Beijing. I leave to catch the train in like 15 minutes to go to Beijing. So that’s exciting, I’ll be home so soon! We get one day in Beijing, which will probably be spent souvenir shopping for people. I really still have no idea what to get some people, but I guess I’ll figure it out. And then the next morning bright and early I’m headed out to the airport. I’m going to take a taxi with a guy who’s flight is an hour before mine, so I should definitely make my flight, and my taxi ride will be cheaper too! Our hotel is really far from the airport so it was a pretty expensive taxi ride out.

Anyway, I should get going soon, it’s about time for me to start thinking about checking out of our lovely 2-star, B health rated, (yes I did say B rated, with a neutral face, not a smiley face) hotel we’ve stayed in for 6 weeks. its been an adventure, and while I’m sad to leave, I am excited to be home again.

Thursday Thinking

This is a weekly series that I hope you will take part in. Basically, I will ask a question, you answer. Easy-peasy. ;) Sometimes the questions will be very simple and easy to answer in one word. Other times they may be more controversial and require a bit of thought on your part.

Ready?

What’s your favorite Cyndi Lauper song?

Mine is Time After Time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdQY7BusJNU

She’s in China – Part 3

Part 3 of Andrea’s adventures in China.

Here are some pictures of us at the museum with our cultural partners. The museum was really weird. It was a natural history museum, so everything was real… as in they were all stuffed or stored in formaldehyde. it was actually pretty gross. And then they had all sorts of fossils on display, which of course no one else wanted to look at except for me. I’m pretty sure a couple of them might have been fake though.

I’m actually at the hotel this weekend. I had planned on traveling, but turns out that I got wicked sick. I had a killer sore throat, upset stomach, coughing, and a runny nose. I spent most of yesterday in bed. I’m feeling better now, and according to most of the international students, at about the 2 or 3 week mark is when everyone usually gets sick, it’s just your body finally adjusting to the air quality. Which sucks. So I’ve been trying to take it easy since we’ll be going to travel all next week… .sadly to more cities. blech.

The conference went really well, I learned a lot and got to watch a demonstration, but more importantly I got to meet people in my field, which turns out is actually a pretty small community (50-100 people at the conference). And everyone knew my professor, I guess he’s pretty well-known in the community. I also ended up talking with a few of the big wigs (although I didn’t know it at the time) one of them asked for my email and made sure that I keep in touch, he plans to send me papers for me to read when he gets back. I also talked to some of the younger people, which is good since they’ll be the big wigs when I am 😉 I’m really happy that I went, it was a great experience.

Touring China has been pretty fun. we’ve done a lot of things and we’re all pretty travel weary. Today is the last day before we go back to Dalian, and I think we’re all pretty much exhausted. WE were supposed to be at the Nanjing Massacre Museum right now… but most of us decided to skip out on that… It just sounded way too depressing for me, I’m not really looking to spend an hour crying today. But we went to a lot of cool places, I’ll have to find some time to upload the pictures ect.

I’m not sure what my favorite part of the trip was, I wasn’t so much a fan of going to the cities, I really wish we could have seen more nature-y stuff. Hangzhou was really nice though, I liked all the greenery and the lake tour we took. That was really nice. I wish that we could travel this weekend, I mean we can but no one would want to come with me, and they all want to stick around Dalian and party every night (until 11:30 woo hoo) because that’s when the hotel has instituted a curfew, which is pretty ridiculous given that we pay to stay at this crappy hotel and we’re paying about 30 USD each night for each room, which isn’t that expensive, but given that its China, and a hotel not the dorms, I think that the curfew is a little bit beyond ridiculous. I mean what are we going to do if we stay out later? Sleep on the street?

She’s in China – Part 2

Part 2 of Andrea’s adventures in China.

I found Chinese kittens!

Saturday we went to meet with Chinese high school students and they took us to Xinghai, but a different part. We rented bicycles and rode around, and I rode a tandem bike! It’s a lot harder than you might think it would be, it takes a lot more balance! They even had 3 person bikes, leave it to China to do that. lol. But the Chinese students were super nice and they took us to dinner and we met their families. It was nice.

So yesterday was full of interesting food. I went to a Korean restaurant for lunch with some friends. I just pointed to something on the menu and got that, which worked out quite well. it ended up being like big fat thick noodles in some sauce. One of the guys got seafood pizza, which sounds disgusting. But it wasn’t really pizza, and I tried a piece, it wasn’t too bad actually… but what I thought was an onion, really turned out to be a tentacle.. which was weird. But it didn’t taste bad, it just had a really strange texture, which was how I knew it wasn’t an onion. Then for dinner we went to a hot pot place. So basically they bring out a pot of spiced water and then a bunch of raw meats and vegetables and noodle dough and you put whatever you want in the hot pot and it cooks, and then everyone grabs stuff out of it when its ready and you eat it. It seemed like it’d be gross or weird to be sharing your food like that, but it was really fun and really delicious.

Today I went to lunch with my classmates, well some of them, and our grammar teacher. We went to by far the best restaurant I’ve been to so far and the best food. I didn’t know what any of it was, but this Russian guy Alex was sitting next to me and kept putting things on my plate to eat. it was really interesting.

Friday some of the people want to go to the zoo, but I really don’t want to. Apparently in China they don’t take care of their animals. People can throw things at them, or you can pay to  have a live chicken thrown into the tiger den… so it’s all really bad for the animals… I’m just not sure I can support such animal cruelty. Also it’s expensive. So instead I think I’m going to a different park with a British International Student, Martha. I think that should be more fun.

Next week on Tuesday we leave for our touring event. I think we’re going to Nanjing, some other city, and Shanghai. I doubt I’ll be doing too much touring of Shanghai, since the World GPR conference is happening at the same time. I emailed my professor to see if any of his colleagues were going, and turns out a couple are, and he offered to pay the registration fee as long as I committed to one full day at the conference!!! (which is 2,000 yuan!!) I’m really excited about this, it’s a chance for me to meet geophysicists from around the whole world!

Monday we went and taught some high school students. My kids loved me, they loved my presentation and all my pictures. They were so sad when I had to leave, probs bc we were in the middle of learning about slang words. I taught them: sweet, sucks, blows, sweet ride, hottie, slamdown, muffin top. lol they had so much fun. But I also got a job offer from the high school when I graduate. Apparently they are looking for foreign teachers to come teach their students, especially like SAT prep… so that was interesting.

She’s an American Girl

So, tomorrow is Faith’s birthday.

She will be 9.

Yowza.

Like most little girls, Faith has been excitedly counting down to this magical day.

Unlike most little girls, Faith has special needs.

Birthday parties are a dicey thing for us. Heck, outings are a dicey thing for us.

Last week, the neighbor girls went to the holy grail of girly-girliness: The American Girl Store.

I had no idea there was an American Girl Store right here in Seattle. Did you know that? Did you know that the American Girl Store does birthday parties? I didn’t.

Now, regular followers of my blog may be a bit confused right now. Wondering WHY this matters. Faith is about as far from a girly-girl as a girl can get.

Captain America? Superman? Mario? Firetrucks? Transformers? Yes.

Tea parties? Tiaras? Princesses? No.

But….there is no one peg that fits here. Faith has spent years flipping through the American Girl catalogs. Pointing to each doll and asking about it. Noting which ones are similar to her and which ones are similar to someone she knows. The “Almost American Girl” dolls in other stores have not interested her in the least. It has just been the American Girl dolls.

So…. once I realized there was an actual American Girl Store nearby, a tiny inkling of an idea started to form.

Have you ever been to an American Girl Store? It is a sea of pink and red filled to the brim with squealing girls.

What if…somehow…by some miracle….I could figure out a way to take Faith to the American Girl Store for her birthday?

Crazy? Probably. But I figured the least I could do was talk to someone and see what kind of accommodations could be made. The following is my emails with Anna. Anna is amazing and needs a raise. And a bonus. And a vacation. :)

“Hi Anna,

I am hoping to arrange a visit to the Seattle American Girl Store for my daughter, Faith’s 9th birthday. Faith is developmentally and physically disabled. For three years she has flipped through American Girl catalogs, asking about the different dolls. This year I think we are possibly able to make the trip to the store. This will be her (and my) first experience and I am wondering if there are any accommodations that can be made to help her have an enjoyable experience.

A bit about Faith…. She survived a stroke as a baby. She has a hard time physically walking. She can walk but tires easily. She can manage most of the day without her wheelchair, but if the store will involve quite a bit of walking, we may need it. She also has autism. She becomes very easily overwhelmed by too much stimuli. I am wondering if it is possible to have a small selection dolls in a small area for her to “shop” from rather than have the possibly overwhelming experience of the entire store? What time of the day is the store the quietest? 

We would also like to celebrate her “party” at the Bistro, with the goodies (cake, ice cream, tiara) but it would just be her and us (Mom and Dad). Is it possible to have a birthday party without the “party” part? 

I am a special needs blogger and I would also love to chronicle how this goes in a blog post to share with other parents. Knowing what accommodations can be made at a particular store/event is a huge help for those of us who need a bit extra help with our children.”

Anna wrote back almost instantly.

“Hi Allison,

I would love to meet with you and Faith, and I’d be more than happy to customize her visit so she can have an amazing experience!

Our store is usually the quietest during the week in the morning and early afternoon. We will begin to be busier as summer break approaches, but weekdays are often much quieter than weekends. Our store is all one level, and very accessible, so Faith would be able to enjoy everything, including the bistro and doll hair salon, while visiting in a wheelchair so she could be the most comfortable.

I’d be happy to select some dolls and outfits for Faith beforehand, and then meet with her to help her go through choices. If you can tell me which doll(s) she’s excited about, or if she’d like to find a doll that looks like her, I’d be happy to bring a selection of dolls to her to help make choosing easier.

I can also help with creating a selection of outfits and accessories too. If you can tell me a little bit about Faith, her interests, hobbies, favorite colors, what style clothes she likes, I can create a customized shopping experience with outfits and accessories she’ll love! 

You can absolutely have a birthday party for three! The Bistro Birthday Celebration includes a drink, appetizer, main course and special cake and ice cream for dessert, with a goody bag for girls. The cost is $28 per girl and $18 per adult. If you have a date in mind for visiting, I’d be happy to check on reservations in our bistro!

And you’re more than welcome to take photos to remember the experience, or ask any questions that we can help answer! I’m looking forward to meeting with you and Faith!”

This was starting to feel like something we could actually do! The American Girl Store was very willing to help come up with accommodations to help Faith enjoy her American Girl experience to the fullest even with the additional challenges. Anna called me so we could speak in more detail about what we could do to help Faith. Anna was patient and full of ideas. She also went well out of her way to not only check the Bistro’s menu for Faith’s allergens, but she also ensured that they would have Faith’s favored ice cream on hand.

Wow.

Here are the photo’s from an amazingly magical day.

Faith and I on the ferry. This was before she understood where we were going.

As we wheeled into the American Girl Store, Faith exclaimed “Mommy, there is DOLLIES here!”
Anna helped Faith get settled on a bench away from the main flow of store traffic.
Anna then brought out 4 dolls for Faith to choose from. She showed her each doll in a slow, calm manner. She opened each box and took them out so Faith could really look at them.
Oh this one. I love her. She is my very own dolly!
Next up, Anna slowly showed Faith accessories for her Dolly. Each item was unboxed and Faith was allowed to touch.
Including a chocolate lab!
Anna helped get Faith's dolly dressed up. :)
Next, Anna helped us with an appointment at the American Girl Salon. Faith supervised intently. LOL
After dolly's hair was finished, Anna escorted us to the Bistro. Dolly was settled into her own seat. Faith thought that was amazing! On the table was a birthday card for Faith from the American Girl Staff and a tiara.
Prior to being served, the staff double checked with us about Faith's allergies. Faith chose Mac and Cheese. She deemed it yummy!

Surprise! Faith was quite perplexed as to why all these people were singing to her! She blew out all the candles in one try.
"It's my Berf-day!" The cake was simply divine. Fit for a princess, or a superhero. Or even a superhero princess transformer.
The day was a success. Not only a success, but an "I had such an amazing time that I fell asleep in the car which I never do sitting beside my new bestest friend in the whole wide world" success. And I'm pretty sure that is the best kind.

If you have ever considered a trip to the American Girl Store, but have hesitated due to special needs, please email them. I can not stress enough how accommodating the entire staff was. Every person we came in contact with was so helpful, patient and understanding.

Thank you American Girl Store for helping to make a little girls wish come true.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Looking into my life from the outside, some may think it is chaotic.

Probably because it is chaotic.

One thing that helps each day is to not sweat the small stuff.

Do you remember many years ago….the series of books by that title?

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.

They were amazing books that helped put things in perspective. In the end, it is ALL small stuff.

Guess what? There is a brand new “Don’t Sweat…” book!

  • “In the first new Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff book in nine years, Kristine Carlson shows how moms can live with less stress and more happiness. Kristine Carlson gives mothers tried-and-true advice that will empower them to find greater peace, joy, and harmony within themselves and their homes. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms reveals how to: be a mom (not a friend), balance being a woman and a mom, pursue your passion (but not at the expense of your children, and reclaim your family time.”
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I like how each chapter can be read independently from the others. My personal favorite is Chapter 48 – When All Else Fails, Laugh! In our family sometimes that’s all this is left to do, laugh. We can find the humor in almost any situation.
This book is also the perfect gift for the moms in your life.
If you would like to read the first chapter, it is available for free here.

Thursday Thinking

This is a weekly series that I hope you will take part in. Basically, I will ask a question, you answer. Easy-peasy. ;) Sometimes the questions will be very simple and easy to answer in one word. Other times they may be more controversial and require a bit of thought on your part.

Ready?

I am moments away from catching a ferry to take Faith to the American Girl Store in Seattle. Have I  lost my ever-loving mind? 

She’s in China – Part 1

For years, a running joke in our home has been….. when anyone asks…..

“Where is _______?”

The answer is “China.”

Teddy Bear? China. Dinner? China. Grandma? China. Gym socks? China.

You have no idea how strange it is to have Faith ask me “Where is Sizza?” (That is her name for Andrea) and have me answer “China!” and be telling the truth.

Andrea has been in China for a month now. Yowza.

Here are a few highlights of her adventure so far:

Andrea  vs. China –

I am visiting the Great Wall tomorrow and was possibly overcharged by a sketchy cab driver. More to come…

Today I visited the Ming Tombs (a big pile o’dirt with cool buildings in front of it) and went to the jade emporium (I now know how to spot fake jade). Additional tidbit, the Great Wall is made up of steps across the top, lots and lots of steps. It’s not flat like they make it look like on Mulan and Scooby Doo. 😉

We had Peking roast duck. You take the duck and put this sauce on it with onions and wrap it up in this tortilla looking thing, it was really really good. We also hit up the Silk Market and tested our bargaining skills.

The food today was weird… they brought out like whole fishes and things that look like vomit. The other meats still had bones in them, so needless to say, I didn’t eat too much.

Yesterday we went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It was really good. Tiananmen Square was really big, and there were soooo many people. I had no idea it would be so busy. THe Forbidden City was pretty cool to see the imperial palace. We also went to the temple of heaven, it was really nice. I’ll just have to send you pictures, they’re hard to explain. The architecture is just really nice and with such attention to detail, it just amazes me that they built those things that long ago.

We took the train for 10 hours. We got to our hotel in Dalian this morning (turns out we are not staying in the dorms, I guess because they don’t have air conditioning) its ummmm an experience. So the room is tiny, the bed is an anorexic twin. There’s no closet space (well a tiny amount). The air conditioning certainly doesn’t work that well. It’s by a busy road. We’re on the 5th floor, with no elevator. And the bathroom, o the bathroom.

There is no wifi, I’m currently using an ethernet cable that is so short I have to sit on the floor, and is broken, so when I want to go to a web page, I physically have to push it in. lol. I’m excited though, we’ll start classes on Monday, so far no one here speaks any english, and the signs don’t have english on them, so we’ll really be practicing. I’ve already found that it’s not quite as difficult as I thought it would be, so we’ll see how classes go though.

Yesterday we toured the city with some Chinese students, it was interesting. My girl was really nice and sent me some CHinese music to listen to, it was awesome

We went to XingHai square, the largest square in China. There is also a beach there, but its like Seattle beaches in that it’s rocks.. but it was still nice. So now I’ve been in the Pacific on the other side of the world. lol. The water was actually really clear and blue, which surprised me, so I guess there isn’t too much pollution here in Dalian, which makes sense due to its location.

Classes have been pretty hard. its 4 straight hours, and only 2 classes each day… yikes. At first it was all gibberish, since the classes are taught solely in Chinese. But as more and more classes have gone by, I’m understanding more and more.. so I think by the end I’ll have it down.. My reading/writing probably won’t improve as much as my listening/speaking.. since that’s mostly what I’m doing right now is listening… I haven’t been doing a whole lot of talking yet… mostly bc I only understand about half of what people say.

I went ziplining across the bay, it was AWESOME! You could see so far and it was a ton of fun, well worth the 80 yuan I paid, which is less than $15. lol. I was pretty nervous… but in China they don’t let you wimp out of stuff lol. Some of the people went bungee jumping before, and some girl was chickening out, and they just pushed her off the platform.. lol.