Saturday, January 12, 2008

Settling Back Down

I’ve been wanting to write but have been tired all week. It’s felt like my brain is encased in slushy, slow-drying cement half the time.

Things have been fine here. The bedtimes and sleep-in times gradually crept up all week. Friday I actually had to wake eli up to get him ready for school, a big change after those 3 am wakeups. It’s been kind of strange being here alone with Eli and Jacob. We’re all doing fine, but it feels empty. I guess we’re somewhat used to functioning with out Becky – though she thankfully isn’t gone too much. But it’s really weird not having Anna around. We all miss both of them.

The kids are coming along and settling back down to the fact that they live in China and we’re not moving back soon. The first two years here it was never an issue, but it was tough on them coming back last summer. We left on the every heels of Josh’s bar mitzvah, with all the families still gathered in New jersey and Jacob cried his eyes out the night before. His cousins Sarah and Emma (18 months and two and half years older than him, respectively) comforted him and it was really sweet.

“You’re so lucky you live in China, Jacob. It’s so cool!”

“No, its not. Only when we go on vacations. The rest of the time it’s just go to school, come home, do homework, go to bed, wake up, go to school…”

Of course it’s the same anywhere u live, but he’s right. You mo v to a foreign place and crave normalcy and then you get it and think, ‘wait, we live in China. Shouldn’t we be doing more?” But you feel restrained by work, Sunday school, soccer, birthday parties…

Of course, the kids would just as soon do those things than trek off to the Wall again, or fly off for a weekend in an ancient walled city. They did okay on that summer return, though Jacob in particular has complained a bit more ever since. They have become aware of what they’re missing, that life doesn’t stop while we’re here on our little adventure.

This time back it was more of the same and it sometimes made Jacob physically sick. He had a major cavity filled right before we left and the dentist said it could cause some pain, probably that night, But he had nothing. He had nothing for over a week, all through our wonderful ski trip in Colorado when he was happy as a clam. Then about halfway through our week in Michigan we were at lunch with his cousins who were about to go back to Detroit and he got this unbearable ache in that tooth.

Becky ran out to the drugstore and got some ibuprofen. I had sympathy. Over the next week or so, he got about two more and it took me until the last day to realize he got them whenever he was saying good bye to someone he really loved. First, his cousins Michael, Charlie and Claire, then his cousins Jesse, Emma, Josh and Sarah and finally his friend Gabie. He would cry and seem to be genuinely in pain (which I think he was), take some medicine, eventually calm down. But they never came back in the middle of the night and they were never there in the morning and he hasn’t had another one since we left Gabriel’s house.

Jacob took the news hard that we can’t go back this summer because of the Olympics and gave everyone this big sort of weepy hugs and said, “See you in a year.”

When we got back, we were staggering through the passport line – I had to wake both of them up from dead sleeps – and Jacob aid he was thirsty. He went over to the water cooler, which we know well by now, but came back spitting and gasping and saying “the water in China tastes horrible!”

Downstairs, we bought a diet coke on our way out the door and he reacted the same way. He seemed to just feel sick to be in China and everything tasted like poison. On the way home, he claimed he had to throw up twice and got our of the side of the car to basically just spit. I really think he just felt sick to be back, and he was muttering to me about “living on a different continent than everyone else.”

But then we g t home and he ran across the street to see his good buddy Kerk and has basically been fine ever since, with just a few muttered complaints to me. Jacob really thrives in school and once he got back in his milieu he was fine. Though he does still occasionally say things like, “another thing I hate about China is…”

The flight itself was surprisingly easy. We had a retrofitted Continental 777 with plugs – Jacob could play his DS indefinitely – and personal video viewers, with 250 programs to watch. We were all kept happy. The kids only slept the last few hours, which eased th jetlag here a little… but it’s still been a long slow motion week. It’s hard to describe having a chipper 9 year old wake you up at 230 am, get right in your face, and say, “Let’s play connect 4!”

Eli has been on an a more even keel, though he had a couple of rough nights and has struggled through the week in Chinese class –everything else seemed to be smooth sailing. He was sent to the principal’s office yesterday, which led him to call me when he got home and I was rehearsing with Woodie.

“When will you be home, dad?” Usually this is a plea to get back asap but he seemed in no hurry to see me.

“About an hour.”

“Oh. Well, when you get here don’t look in my journal.”

“Uh, ok. Is there something in there you want to tell me about then?”

“Yes, when you get home. We need to talk privately.”

That was pretty classic The note just said that he was sent to the principal’s office, which is a pretty scary thing when you’re in second grade. He was very relieved that I didn’t lower the boom on him. I related. My Chinese lesson this week felt pretty excruciating, too. It’s not a language you can learn casually.