30 March 2009

Heavenly Cakes



So, Zoë's birthday is just two weeks away.


And I have not done a single thing.

I can't make up my mind whether to have her birthday at the clubhouse or at the beach. I prefer the beach, but with the weather being so unpredictable lately...

I haven't done up any little invite, although I have done verbal save-the-date's to a few close friends.



I haven't finalized the menu because I can't decide on a venue. (Hmmm, I liked how that sounded. Say it with me a few more times!)

I haven't ordered the cake.


Ah, the cake. Now, if only the kids' godmother still lives here in Hong Kong, I won't be having this problem. Not only that, my kids will be the envy of all their little friends for having the most gorgeous, most delicious, most wonderfully creative cakes ever. Ever.

You don't believe me? Check this out. This is what the Cake Goddess did for my god-daughter's birthday.



And these cupcakes... (every single part is edible!)




And how about this lovely, lovely cake... *sigh* *double sigh!*



Okay enough, guys! Just help me and pray that this Cake Goddess comes back here to live and maybe you might be able to get her to make one for you, too. Unless you are the lucky few who live in Australia and just want her to stay put so you guys can have her all to yourselves!


Check out more of Jen's creations at A Little Slice of Heaven.

29 March 2009

Big Brother, Little Sister



Me: Josh, can you please keep an eye on Zoë while I go to the washroom?
Josh: Sure, Mom. (He has taken to calling me "Mom" instead of Mommy of late.)
Me: Thanks, Josh. Zo
ë, please listen to Josh, okay? ... Okay, Zoë?
Zo
ë: Okay, Mommy.

No sooner had I taken a couple of steps away from the room did I hear an authoritative "Sit down, Zo
ë. I said, Sit down." I stopped and looked back in time to see Zoë plopping down next to Josh.

I'm really happy that Josh is taking to his role as a big brother very well --in terms of looking out for and looking after his little sister. Zo
ë, in turn, adores Josh and would do everything that he tells her to --most of the time, unless she gets it in her head to tease Josh mercilessly (and I mean, mer.ci.less.ly!) by repeatedly knocking over the complicated race tracks and towers that Josh would be working so hard to build and then running away and giggling... and then coming back for another go, once Josh has repaired the damage!

Sometimes she gets Josh so frustrated that he'd cry and when she sees Josh crying, she would, without being told by anybody, grab a tissue and go over to Josh and try to wipe his tears and then give him a hug, kiss him, pat him on the back, stroke his head. Sometimes she would even throw in a few "Sorry, KoKo" when she'd do that. And Josh... well, he'd sit there and let her comfort him, soaking up the sisterly love. When the tears stop, they're back at being partners in mischief again.

I love seeing my tikesters get along, fight, then make up. I love it that they both are sweet with each other. I love... I love, I just love, love, love these tikesters. Totally smitten. Absolutely head over heels. (You can tell, I got a good night's sleep.)

26 March 2009

Helpers and MIL's



Over the last few days, one of the mommy forums that I frequent had somebody posting about her nasty experiences with her now-terminated helper. Today, another poster is running a poll on whether or not we are generally happy with our helper/s. (I'm happy to report that as I write, it's currently 78% yes and 22% no). Living in Hong Kong where household help is fairly commonplace, yet a novel experience for those who hail from places where live-in help is almost unheard of, it is not altogether uncommon that sometimes topics of conversations at coffee get-togethers revolve around helpers and more often than not, the aggro they bring. One hears more about the negative experiences somehow and it is not that often that happy employers speak up.

Just last night, I was reading one of my favorite mommy bloggers, the Pioneer Woman, and she asked a very simple question: "Do you get along with your in-laws?" The comments (over 600 of them!) that followed her post made for a very, very interesting read. There were plenty who shared their unpleasant experiences with their in-laws and there were a number, too, who were lucky enough to have really great relationships with their in-laws.

I am beginning to think helpers are like MIL's --whether or not you get a good one is down to the luck of the draw, really. And I've been very lucky on both counts.

Uh oh. I hope I haven't jinxed it by writing it down.

24 March 2009

Fearless



Nerves of steel. Fearless. Bold. Daring. That's Zoë.


This is my little monkey at the Ma On Shan
playground, climbing up one of the "ladders"
so that she could get to the slide.

She refused to go up the easier way, --via the ramp,
but instead preferred to "climb ladder... again!"


Even some of the older kids didn't dare to
climb this particular one...

...and this is what she does before she goes
down the slide. Whee!

Our very own adorable little chimp! There's never a dull moment with this one. I get really tired out keeping up with her.

21 March 2009

Counting, Zoë Style



Two, tee, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten

'Neven, two-teen, terteen, far-teen, sixteen, seventeen, another-teen....

Holy Pears



Josh was having pears for his morning snack and Zoë, pointing to her bowl, announced that hers were apples. I told her that hers were pears, too, and I did the baby sign for PEAR.

Zoë: Pears? (Doing the sign for PEAR).
Me: That's right, Zoë. Those are pears (Sign PEAR).
Zoë: Pears. *Gummy grin* Mother, son, holy pears, 'men. (Sign PEAR).

I wasn't sure I heard her correctly until she repeated it, this time with her fingers tapping her head and her chest before putting her hands together to do the sign for PEAR!

This tikester, she totally cracks me up.

19 March 2009

A Good Day



Despite Chris leaving for a business trip this morning, despite feeling woozy, and despite having a throbbing headache all day, today was a good day.

1) Zoë and I had a wonderful time at her swimming lesson this morning. She was so excited about going swimming and once in the water, was so game for everything. She especially loved it when I would sit her on the side of the pool and ask her to jump in to the water and I'd catch her. I love taking Zoë to new places and getting her to try new things as she just totally embraces each new experience that it's such a joy to watch.

2) Tired from the morning "exercise," I took a short nap after lunch. When I woke up, Josh presented me with a "book" that he had illustrated and wanted me to "write the words" for him (See his book here.) After we finished doing his book, we still had some time left before we had to leave for his Socatots class, so Josh decided to draw some more. Zoë, of course, did some drawing along with him. When they were both done, Zoë brought both pieces over and said, "Hang up, Mommy." I am running out of space to hang their art work! I just love it when the kids can entertain themselves and have some creative output, too.... little things that I can keep and give back and share with them when they're older.

3) Josh's Socatots class went especially well today. Josh is definitely better at saving goals than at scoring them, but today, he scored a few goals, and at one-on-one play at that. I liked it that he didn't gloat even when he scored the goals (when it was all I could do to stop from jumping up and doing Dora's "We Did It" dance). I liked it that even when he wasn't able to successfully save a couple of goals today, he just calmly walked back to the queue to have another go. No tears, no drama (and there were plenty of both today from a few of the boys, who either fell, was accidentally hit by another or who could not score/save a goal). At any rate, I hope that Josh continues to be the sportsman that he was today --competitive without being aggressive, graceful in winning and losing.

4) My friend lent me her New Moon book and I can now get engrossed once more in Bella's world. Thanks, SN!

5) After an unusual traffic jam on the way home (which didn't help my pounding headache at all!), we came home and Zoë greeted us with her cheery smile. She ran over to me and hugged me around the knees and went back to playing with her puzzle pieces.

Like I said, today's a good day.

17 March 2009

An Interview with Josh



A friend forwarded to me a set of questions that she asked her two kids and I thought I'd try to do the same with Josh.


1. What is something Mommy always says to you?
JOSH: Stop and I love you.


2. What makes Mommy happy?
JOSH: When I kiss and hug Zo
ë.


3. What makes Mommy sad?
JOSH: When I fight.

4. How does Mommy make you laugh?
JOSH: By tickling me!


5. If Mommy is an animal what is she like?
JOSH: A bird… because a bird is an animal.

6. What do you like about Mommy?
JOSH: That your hair is so beautiful.


7. What don't you like about Mommy?
JOSH: Uhm… I like everything about you, Mom.
(Awww. This is a very typical answer from him, when you ask him these kinds of questions. He's very diplomatic.)

8. What is Mommy's favorite thing to do?
JOSH: Work!

9. What does Mommy do when you're not around?
JOSH: Look for me.
(I wonder if he imagines me going from room to room calling his name..?)

10. If Mommy becomes famous, what will it be for?
JOSH: A soup *Giggle, giggle* (He was drinking soup during the "interview.")


11. What is Mommy good at?

JOSH: Games, like Mario.

12. What is Mommy not very good at?
JOSH: Leaf Cup (at Mario Wii). Tell me another question.


13. What does Mommy do for her job?
JOSH: Work!

14. What is Mommy's favorite food?
JOSH: Vegetables.
(Not really.)


15. What makes you proud of Mommy?
JOSH: When you do funny stuff.

16. If Mommy’s a cartoon character, who would she be?
JOSH: Jeff, from The Wiggles.

ZOË: Cup. Funny, Mommy. *Cute grin* (Our darling diva just loves to be part of conversations.)


17. What do you and Mommy do together?
JOSH: Play Mario.

18. How are you and Mommy the same?
JOSH: I have light skin and you have light skin. I have stripe T-shirt and you have stripe T-shirt.


19. How are you and Mommy different?
JOSH: That we don’t have the same hair.


20. How do you know Mommy loves you?
JOSH: I know everything.
(Another typical Josh answer.)


21. Where is Mommy’s favorite place to go?
JOSH: To work.


22. What do you want to do for Mommy when you grow up?
JOSH: Cook, I guess, and draw a beautiful picture.


23. What do you want Mommy to continue doing?
JOSH: Play Zingo!

24. What do you want Mommy to stop doing?
JOSH: Shouting at me.


25. What do you want to say to Mommy?

JOSH: I love you.

--------


Okay, this is telling... but, but, but... do let me clarify a few things.

First of all, I don't play Mario with him as often as this suggests. I only fill in for Chris when he's not around. Secondly, "work." That's what I tell Josh I'm doing whenever I'm in front of the computer, regardless of whether I'm actually working, Facebooking, blogging, surfing, or playing Scramble! Note to self: Work, check; but cut down on the other stuff.

No. 24. I wish I could ask him again and I hope that he'd give a different answer this time. I feel so bad about this, because the truth is, I do yell at him. I am trying to
count to 10 and I am trying, I am trying (I'd committed to this in writing. See this post).

Josh's answer to the last question, well, bless him. Even though he wishes that I'd stop shouting at him, he loves me. He loves me. He loves me. He. Loves. Me.

Bless him. Children are such forgiving little souls.

16 March 2009

Tea Party



It's really different with girls. I don't recall witnessing these scenes with Josh when he was at this age. He did play with cooking sets (and still does! He's determined to be a chef, remember?), but he never set up the cups and saucers and he never sat his "playmates" down and pretended to have tea with them.

Here is Zoë having a tea party with Dora. Zoë cuts up the food, puts food on Dora's plate, pours her milk, and even tries to feed her.



I love watching whenever she does this. Sometimes I get invited to join, too. 'Ah mon, Mommy. 'Ah mon! (Come on, Mommy. Come on!) Sweet.

The Seeds We Sow



(Be warned: I was in a, uhm... a reflective mood when I wrote this.)

This has been on my mind for some time now. I had been thinking that I need to strive harder to do good, be a better person, not just because it sets a good example for the kids, but also because I believe that what we do now, as parents, might reflect on our children and our grandchildren --in a karmic sense.

A passage read during Mass today got me thinking. From Exodus 20:5-6
"...for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments."
I am not going to dissect this passage and talk religion here. I brought it up because, from a religious point of view, it reinforced what I was thinking. That beyond the practical impact of what we do now, --e.g. living green, being more frugal, adopting a healthier lifestyle, etc. -- there is also the "karmic" impact to consider. I say karmic because I can't think of a better word at the moment.

It would be comforting to think that if we do good to others or simply be a good friend, a good neighbor or a good citizen, that one day, should the occasion arise, someone hopefully might remember how we were and extend the same courtesy to our children and our children's children. THIS is what keeps me from firing off acid retorts and holding my tongue these days. This is why I feel I should reach out more and help others more. This is why I feel so blessed to have children. These little tikesters somehow make me try hard to be better.

15 March 2009

Raising Children Backwards



I came across this post when I was blog-surfing and I thought it was pure gold. The writer was talking about raising boys... backwards. She wrote that we need to love our boy/s "enough to raise him into the man (we) want him to be. Backwards." Intriguing, eh? I thought so, too. Read the complete post here.

She was writing specifically about boys, but I believe that her advice could just as equally apply to girls as well.

It's so true. We need to be able to envision how we want our children to be when they're grown-ups and work toward molding them to be the kind of person who would embody the qualities and principles that would serve them well in life.

14 March 2009

Think, Think, Think



I am so enjoying Zoë's growing vocabulary and blossoming conversational skills.

Just the other day, she climbed onto our bed, bringing Monkey with her. Normally, Monkey comes with a banana, which Zoë would stuff into the pocket on Monkey's overalls. We didn't see the banana, so the following conversation ensued:

Me: Where's Monkey's banana, Zoë?
Zoë: Uhm, uhm. Lost!
Me: Uh oh. It got lost, eh?
Zoë: Yeah. *Grin*
Me: Where did you put it?
Zoë: Forget. *Another grin*
Me: Oh no. What do we do? Monkey will want his banana.

Zoë tapped her finger to her forehead and said, "Think, think, think. Where 'nana go?" She got off the bed in search of the missing banana.

------
If you (or your kids, I mean) watch Super Sleuths, a Winnie-the-Pooh show on Playhouse Disney, you'll know where she got this from.

(Yes, I do let them watch a little TV. *Sigh*)

13 March 2009

Cost-Per-Wear



I guess all those years working in advertising have so deeply ingrained in me how to look at cost-effectiveness that I'd carried it over to my personal life.

One way to measure advertising effectiveness in terms of cost is to look at its CPM (or cost-per-thousand). CPM is defined as "The cost, per 1000 people reached, of buying advertising space in a given media vehicle."

Now, whenever I buy something, I simply look at cost-per-Wear/Use. I'd justify buying a more expensive piece of item by telling myself that I'd get a better cost-per-use out of it. Over the years, I've noticed that I generally have gotten less use of the not-so-expensive stuff that I'd impulsively bought. The more expensive items (generally of higher quality) would last me longer and I'd be wearing them more often. So, in essence, if I divided up the cost of the item against the number of times I'd used it, the more expensive items actually come out cheaper overall!

Here, in table format, is an example of what I mean:



So, in this case, Item 2, while being more expensive from the outset, turns out to be the wiser choice if you look at it long-term. Item 2 turns out to be more the better choice as it is more cost-effective. (Of course, this is assuming that you'll really wear it as often as you think you will!)

12 March 2009

For Lent



Usually, it's something I really like. Chips, for example. I go without chips during Lent. It's not easy for me to give up chips.

This year, though, I am inspired to do something different. I got an email that suggested actually doing something instead of not doing something. Starting today, I've decided to be a patient mom during Lent. I have about a month to go where I will count to 10 (or 50!) when I feel like exploding in frustration over something the kids did or didn't do. I will listen more, play more, explain, be nurturing, be there for my kids instead of being a fixture in front of the PC Facebooking or blogging.

Could I last that long and still keep my sanity?

Backgrounds



I've been toying all morning with the background of the blog. Do you like it?

I got the free background from The Cutest Blog on the Block. Go check it out.

Next project: Give the header a facelift.

I still have to learn how to do that.

10 March 2009

The Power of 1-2-3



I don't get it. I really don't.

Josh is at an age where he would seem deaf to everything I tell him to do. I'd repeat myself five, six times, all the while trying to stay calm. I'd raise my voice a notch. La di da, he'd still be doing whatever it was he was doing, totally impervious to my rapidly fraying patience. It's not until I start counting 1-2... that he'd look up and say innocently, "What, Mommy?" Aarrggh!

No matter how he'd whine and won't want to do something, the moment I'd start counting 1-2..., he would grudgingly do whatever it is that I ask, before I get to the count of three. He knows that he would have to do it anyway, but why wait until I start counting? Things would be so much easier for both of us if he would just do whatever it is I tell him from the get-go.

I'd read that this is normal for this age, but, but, but... On the one hand, I want to savor his being a kid and don't want him to grow up too quickly; on the other hand, I am looking forward to when, hopefully, things will get easier when it comes to getting him to tidy up, finish his meals .

08 March 2009

Fun With Water Bottles



For some reason, Zoë loves to play with the 18-liter water bottles --full or empty. She dragged out two empty ones last night, handed one to our helper, said "Cheers!" and then proceeded to lift the bottle, tilted it and pretended to drink from it. What a sight. What an imagination. I wasn't able to take a photo of that. By the time I brought the camera out, Zoë had already moved on to another game. Josh decided to join in.


Here is Zoë explaining the rules to Josh.

They'd decided that the bottles were "horsies."


Zoë wanted to "See, see!" after I took a photo.
Josh got bucked off the horse first; Zoë wins!

07 March 2009

EEG... eek!



We had to take Zoë for an EEG (electroenceplalogram) this morning to make sure that she doesn't have any physical or mental problem after her gastroenteritis-related convulsions last month.

The whole process would take only 30 minutes, generally. They put a cap over your head and attach electrodes which are, in turn, hooked up to a computer, which will record the electrical brain activity. While the computer is recording, you can do whatever you want for as long as you stay still and don't move around too much.

Stay still for 20 minutes. Hah! Zo
ë lasted for 10 minutes and then started to try to pull off the cap and kept saying, "Go home!"

Because there were other patients scheduled for an EEG that day, we had to terminate our session and reschedule for another.

Help! We brought raisins, Cheerios, milk, grapes, blueberries, books, crayons, Lego pieces, etc.-- everything that we could think of to keep her occupied for 20 minutes. I even breastfed her! I really don't know what to do for Monday. Unless we're very lucky, it might just be a repeat of today, maybe even worse, because Zo
ë already knows what goes on and she will not want to set foot in the room at all! Worst case scenario, she might have to be given some medication to help her sleep (Oh, good luck with keeping the meds down, Doc!).

Any suggestions for what else I can try on Monday? Please, pretty please...?

06 March 2009

Little Artists at Work



Another artsy afternoon... The paints keep me sane, especially when it's rainy and cold and the kids could not go outside to play.
~o~

Both little ones had their own brush and set of paints.
Nice and neat. I even remembered to get them to wear
protective layers so that they wouldn't get paints on their clothes.

And then this happened...


So both decided to "clean up" the mess on the floor
with their hands and then make hand prints on their paintings as well.


The end results:

Joshua's


Zoë's


Ta-da, Mommy!

05 March 2009

Swim, Swim!




Zoë had her first formal swimming lesson today. I'd wanted to sign her up since she was four months old, but at the time, Harry Wright only did lessons at the West Island School in Pokfulam, which is way too far for me. I kept asking Teacher Bev if they would be opening any Baby Class at the SCAA and --hurray! --now they have!

There were only four babies in the class today and Zoë's the "oldest" baby at 22 months. The others were four-, six-, and 10-month old babies.

It was really fun. It's kinda like a playgroup, except we're in the water. We sang songs and led the babies through "activities." We, mommies, got a good workout, too, from lifting and carrying the babies. We were taught how to hold the babies a certain way and be able to help them kick their feet, move their hands, etc. The little ones got to "jump" into the pool, swish from side to side, blow bubbles (Zoë's favorite!), swim through a hula hoop, bounce up and down, lie on their backs. We sang Ring Around a Rosy, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star... The idea was to get them all comfortable about being in the water and slowly introduce them to the arm movements and kicking.

The babies all seemed to enjoy it. I know Zoë did; she kicked up a fuss when we left the pool today. I enjoyed it very much, too and we're definitely looking forward to next week's session.


The Last Word... Always



Sometimes just for kicks, I'd throw silly questions at Josh just to see what answers he'd come up with. I thought I'd do a simpler version of this game with Zoë.

Me: Which one do you like better, Zo
ë --Pooh or Tigger?
Zoe: Tigger.
Me: Okay, how about Tigger or Piglet?
Zoe: Piglet.
Me: Piglet or Roo?
Zoe: Roo!
Me: Roo or Owl?
Zoe: Owl. Hoot-hoot.
Me: Yes, Owl goes hoot-hoot. Who do you like more --Owl or Pooh?
Zoe: Pooh.
Me: Pooh or Tigger?
Zoe: Tigger.
Me: Tigger or Pooh?
Zoe: Pooh.
Me: Pooh or Tigger?
Zoe: Tigger.
Me: Tigger or Pooh?
Zoe: Pooh.

Right. Moving along....

01 March 2009

Wow, Mommy



It's general knowledge that kids "tell it like it is." You can count on them to literally point out the ugly truth about somebody's unsightly mole. If you know you are fat, you don't ever ask a child if he thinks you are, because chances are that he'll agree. That said, although children can be quite blunt with their observations, this same bluntness sometimes grants us some very welcome ego-boosting lifts, when we least expect them.

I was getting dressed to go out to the mall when Zoë walked in. She took one look at what I was wearing (jeans and a mauve crinkly blouse) and gushed, "Wow, Mommy! Pretty." She then came up and felt the material of my blouse and said, "Nice." Stamp of approval from a 22-month old.

Thanks, Zoë. :)
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