30 April 2009

Naps



I love naps.

Naps help keep me sane.

When the tikesters nap, I get at least a full hour of peace and uninterrupted time to do my stuff. When the kids have their nap, they wake up refreshed and cheery. If they miss their naps, I so dread the "witching hour," --usually around 5pm, --when they start getting cranky and incorrigible (and not in a cute way, either!).

When I get to nap, I feel that I am making up for all missed hours of sleep, caused by those late nights in front of my laptop. Naps help me be the mommy my tikesters deserve to have.

Amen.

Wow!



I was so not expecting these. My first blog candies --yay! Three of them.

Veronica from Of Mice & Ramen and
and JenJen from GottaLoveMom both gave me the Blogger Buddy Award and I got another one from Veronica: the Zombie Chicken Award.

*Hyperventilate*
*Waves hand in front of face*
*Deep breath*
*Steps up to the mike*


I want to thank my wonderful agent. You've been so there for me. Mwah! I want to thank my lucky stars, all you lovely people. Oh, oh, oh *Dabs at tears threatening to fall* --don't forget to floss! *Self-important nod.* *Nearly trips on her way off the stage*

Seriously, though --thanks so much, Veronica-of-the-Amazing-Photos and Motherhood-Incarnate, JenJen! Guys, do drop by and check out their sites.











Fast-forward to the next year. I'm a presenter.

The Tao of Zombie Chicken Award:
”The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all…"

In no particular order, the nominees for the Zombie Chicken Award are:
1) Future Blackmail
2) Mad Penguin
3) Week of Menus
4) Our Little Tongginator
5) The Snail's Trail

The Zombie Chicken Award goes to --

*Opens envelope*
*Gasps*


All of them!

*Applause*
*Cheers*


To heap upon all five winners more 'candies,' they all also get the Blogger Buddy Award!

*More applause and cheers*

~~--~~

I love reading these five blogs for different reasons. Some of them make me laugh. Some of them contain a wealth of useful information. Some of them move me. All of them "
regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words." Enough said.

29 April 2009

"Love You, Mommy"




I had errands to run today and our helper attended the playgroup with Zoë. When I finished, I made my way back to the center where her playgroup was held. Because it was almost 11:20am --when her playgroup finishes, --I decided to just wait outside and watch through the window, instead of going in. Besides, I'd forgotten to bring socks, which they require us to wear inside the center. They were finishing up Circle Time and were doing the goodbye song, where they walk around in a circle singing "Mulberry Bush" and when Zoë saw me, she broke out in a big sweet grin and waved to me. Each time they would pass me at the window, she would wave and grin and mouth, "Mommy!"

When she came out, I helped her with her shoes and then she said that she wanted me to carry her. I picked her up. She gave me one of her signature squeezes and then said, "Love you, Mommy." I couldn't believe my ears!

She has said I love you to Josh a few times (mostly when she knew that she'd been cheeky and when there's a chance that Josh might get upset at her), but she has never ever said I love you to either Chris or me.

As parents, we say I love you to our children all the time. To hear our children say those three words to us, without prompting or without them being in response to our own I love you's to them, has got to be one of the sweetest moments ever.

28 April 2009

Sails



Josh decided that he wanted to make his own pirate ship. We only got as far as the sails, because he couldn't find anything around the house that looked "real" enough to make a pirate ship. He had me cut out the sails and then he decorated them himself. We then taped the two pieces back-to-back, with a ruler stuck in-between to hold them up.



Good (because he is a good pirate) captain Joshua's pirate ship


As I write, the sails are no more. Zoë somehow managed to get her little hands on them and tore them to pieces. I thought that might set Josh off and get him really upset, but he just shrugged and said, "It's okay, Mommy. We can make another one." Dear boy. Bless him.

27 April 2009

Our Magic Baby Orange




We have a pot of mini-oranges by the window, leftover from Chinese New Year last year.


Just a bit of background... Here in Hong Kong, you will see pots and pots of these mini-orange plants being sold everywhere around Chinese New Year. Companies buy them and have pots of them around the building and offices. People buy smaller pots for their homes. In Cantonese, the little oranges are called "kam," which sounds like the word for "gold." It's considered good luck to have "kam" in your home (or office) to start the year.

I got the plant because the oranges were cute and I thought the tikesters would get a kick out of them. So, like I said, I got the pot last year and normally, people get rid of the plants when Chinese New Year is over or as soon as the oranges have rotted, fallen off, or when the plant had been picked bare by little grubby hands.

Last year, Josh and his friends had fun plucking the little oranges from the plant. Not to eat --because they taste really sour, --but just because it was fun. Somehow one kam managed to hang on and stay safe from their chubby little fingers. And hang on it did, month after month after month. This year's Chinese New Year rolled around and it was still there. Looking as plump as it did the year before, no sign of rotting. It's still here, as I write. We call that our Magic Baby Orange. New baby oranges had come out and our Magic Baby Orange stayed on, working with the other kams and adding to the pretty orange-green contrast. It shows no sign of rotting. We've checked. It's real. We're totally mystified.

Anyway... Josh decided to draw a picture of the plant. The big orange that you see on top is our Magic Baby Orange. Don't ask me where the leaves are.





The three green blobs are the new "babies." You'll see one of them in the photo below.



Let's see how many of these new baby oranges will last (assuming Zoë doesn't pluck them off).

26 April 2009

Thoughts on Education



Yes, I know that it is illegal to homeschool in Hong Kong.

Just this past week, though, I've "met" quite a number of mommies on the blogosphere who homeschool and as I read through some of their posts, I think to myself, "It would be good if I can do it with the tikesters, too."

Yes, it would be good. Would I, if I could, though? Honest answer: I don't know.
Probably not.

----
Education* here in Hong Kong can be very expensive. Sure, we could send our kids to local schools, but I have yet to come across any that suits our needs.

Most of the local schools use Cantonese as a medium of instruction (with the exception of language classes in English and/or Mandarin); our tikesters do not speak Cantonese. Not that big an issue in itself, because I know that if we persist, they will acquire the language somehow. Kids learn languages far more easily than adults. But I am concerned that we might not be able to support their learning at home. Neither Chris nor I can read Chinese well enough to be able to fully help in case they have questions with their lessons. I want to be as involved as I can and know what they learn in school and I want to be able to supplement and reinforce lessons outside of school. Not so much as ramming down their throats more academic learning, but rather giving them additional exposure, where we can, to topics of interest by having little conversations, reading fun books related to what they're currently learning, etc. I won't be able to do that well if I can't really read their notes or lessons that are written in Chinese. I'd be out of my comfort zone in terms of sharing the right information (in Chinese) with the kids. (Whether or not it is fair that we're holding them back from an opportunity to learn more Chinese just because we, the parents, are not perfectly at ease with the language ourselves begs further discussion, though.)

Another consideration when it comes to local schools: l assume that the teachers' use of Cantonese is impeccable, as it would be their native tongue, but I worry over the school's lessons in English or even Mandarin. I know of local schools' English teachers whose knowledge of and familiarity with English is not what I would expect an English teacher's to be -- and I do not mean their accent when they speak English. Sometimes schools hire English teachers based on "appearances" --i.e., non-Asian, preferably Caucasian-looking, speaks with an American or British accent. Never mind that their spelling is appalling or that they themselves would need grammar lessons, as long as they "look" qualified to teach English, even if academically, they aren't.

Other things: I don't quite subscribe to rote learning nor do I believe in too much homework, which is what characterize many local schools here.
Many of them have big class sizes (30 to a class).

"International" schools, where education is supposedly less rigid, are not the answer for us either. For one, the cost of an international school education is very expensive. Most require debentures of a few hundred thousand dollars (HK$), with some even running into millions. This is on top of the tuition fee, which is generally around HK$10,000+ per month (about US$1,300/month). Long wait-lists. Students from international schools are sometimes perceived as lacking in discipline, at least compared to their counterparts in local schools. There can be pressure to "keep up with the Jones'" --what with school trips to the Maldives, birthday party favors from Tiffany, etc.

Given the available options on both local and international schools, homeschooling is looking rather appealing.

But it's not happening. Not only because it is illegal, but also because I don't think I have the patience nor the discipline to do it successfully.

What to do? So we join the ranks of many Hong Kong parents (locals and expats) who stress over their children's education and apply to different schools and pray that the school our tikesters end up in would be the right school for them.

I wonder if it was as hard to choose a school in our parents' days.

----
*I'm talking mainly about primary school education in this post.

25 April 2009

Jigsaw Time



Zoë: Mommy, pezus please.

Me: Pretzels, Zoë? (I opened a bag of pretzels last night and she and Josh had fun biting into them and laughing over the different funny shapes they came up with.)
Zoë: No (laughing). Pezus.
Me: Pezus? What's a pezus?
Zoë: Pezus. Mickey Mouse.
Me: *Light bulb on* Ah, puzzle. Puz-zle, Zoë. Say PUZ-zle.
Zoe: PUZ-zle, Mommy. Pezus, please.

I got up and got her her set of Baby Disney puzzles. There are four of them, starting with a simple 3-piece Baby Minnie puzzle, then there's a 4-piece Baby Mickey one, a 5-piece Baby Donald puzzle, and a 6-piece Baby Goofy one. She loves working on these puzzles and once completed, she would break them up to start all over again.


It's kinda cute how she talks to herself while she does her puzzles. Here's a short video that I managed to take this morning. You'll hear her say "Thank you" when I handed her the pieces to the next puzzle (around the 2:00 mark). *Smiles* 

video


24 April 2009

Domino Art



Josh recognizes a few Chinese characters now and can write simple ones. He delights in writing what he thinks are Chinese characters and then he'd ask me what he had written.

Anyway, Josh must have been on creative overdrive yesterday, because after he finished his map-not-a-drawing, he busied himself with stacking dominoes and trying to make "buildings" with them. Zoë was sprawled on the floor next to him trying to "help" and Josh was letting her. All was peaceful.

I went back to copying down recipes. Okay, I could've printed them out, I know; but I had this notebook full of recipes that I'd jotted down and highlighted with markers and all, you see... and I didn't want to vary the format. Yes, I'm anal that way.

Then Josh called excitedly and wanted me to look at something. He had made the Chinese character for SKY with dominoes!

"Take a picture, Mommy! Take a picture." So, here you have it. Good thing, too, that I managed to take a photo of it, because no sooner had the camera clicked when Zoë tried to help by adding more tiles and Josh, protecting his turf, tried to hold her off. They tussled. The sky fell. And Zoë ran away with some of the tiles.

23 April 2009

Not a Drawing



I asked Josh to go draw something. He was feeling a bit restless and I wanted to finish copying down a couple of recipes that I wanted to try this weekend. Minutes later, this was what he came back with...




Me: What a nice drawing, Josh. Such lovely colors.
Josh: It's not a drawing, Mom. It's a map!
Me: Who's this on your map (pointing to the "face").
Josh: (Exasperated sigh) That's an apple tree, Mom!


I asked him to tell me about each item in his drawing, so there wouldn't be any more confusion.



If your kids watch Playhouse Disney, you'll recognize some of these names...




The fun and pleasure is in getting him to explain his drawings, as much as seeing his creativity come to life. I never really know what he comes with sometimes.

22 April 2009

Birthday Thoughts for Zoë




This is a belated post for Zoë's birthday last week. I got too carried away posting about the party and how they "mauled" the cake...

I can't believe that our darling diva is now 2. I don't know what it is about this little girl that just makes my heart sing with joy. I can just sit and watch her; every little thing she does amazes me. It's not like I haven't gone through this stage before with Josh... Maybe it is the knowledge that she is our last baby and I want to hold on to her "baby-ness." Maybe.

In a lot of ways, Zoë truly embodies her name. Zoe, in Greek, means "life." This little tikester is so full of it... life, I mean. You only have to see how she passionately embraces new experiences to know what I mean. The way she squeals with pleasure. The way she hurls herself into our arms. She hardly ever does anything half-measure. When she's sweet, she's the sweetest girl ever; when she's fierce, well, take cover!

I thought that on occasion of Zoë's birthday, I'd list down 10 random thoughts that I have concerning her. I have to limit them to 10, or it's going to be a mighty long post. In no particular order (oh yeah, random -duh!), here they are:


  1. She is my dream daughter... cute, cheeky, sassy, sweet, and spunky.
  2. I love her many goofy faces. I love her smiles. I cannot resist her smiles (and she knows it).
  3. I know it's way too soon, but I do pray that when she grows up, she'll find someone who'll love her for everything she is; that she'll find someone who will love her as much as she loves that person.
  4. I pray that she and Josh will continue to be close, to continue to look out for each other. You might not think it, but little as she is, she does look out for Josh: When Josh cries, she brings him a tissue to wipe away his tears and hugs him to make him feel better. *Smiles*
  5. I look forward to our first shopping spree together and then stopping by a coffee shop afterward, with bags around our feet, while we sip our beverages and sigh contently.
  6. I know Josh wants to be a chef; I wonder what she wants to be when she grows up.
  7. No matter what mischief she gets into, I hardly ever get "mad" --especially when she looks up at me and smiles one of her goofy smiles. (See #2)
  8. I complain about still breastfeeding her, but I just can't bring myself to force the issue and wean her. She is so obviously not ready to give it up yet (and I guess I'm not either).
  9. I look forward to reading Someday (by Alison McGhee) with her and I hope that she will keep the book and read it to her own daughter, too.
  10. My little whirligig, my little buggy-wuggy, my funny girl. She is my everything. I can call her the silliest "my (whatever)" and she'd answer YES. My girl. My daughter. My heart.

Happy "berday," Zoë.



21 April 2009

Mean Pirates



I was trying to organize the photos on my hard disk and came across these:


Josh got a Pirate Kit for his birthday and we had an afternoon of fun playing Pirates with both Josh and Zoë.

This "look" had both me and my mom in stitches! Josh looked like a real baddie here... apprehended for credit card fraud!



Have a great day, everyone!


20 April 2009

Mom, I'm Leaving



Not a good day. Not by a long stretch.

Perhaps it's because it's the first day of school, after a very laid back, chilled out Easter break (for the kids). Maybe I am just sleep-deprived. Or the planets were not in the proper alignment. Whatever.

I was cranky. Josh was whiny. Not a good combination.

In the afternoon, after we came home from his swim class, right before dinner --yes, the witching hour, --I lost it and yelled at him. He cried and stomped to his room, muttering, "Mom, I'm leaving and I'm not taking you with me."

I left him alone for a couple of minutes before I went in and sat with him. As soon as he saw me, he told me again, "I'm leaving. I'm not even taking Zo
ë with me." He then quickly backtracked and said, "No, I am taking Zoë with me, but I am not taking you."

Me: Where are you going?
Josh: To Canada.
Me: Where will you stay in Canada?
Josh: With Ah-Kong and Ah-Ma.
Me: Why do you want to go to Canada?
Josh (through tears): Because you are angry with me. *Un.Break.My.Heart*

I gathered him in my arms and just held him, all the while wondering how I was going to assure him that he is loved, yet not "lose the lesson." This I find to be one of the toughest part of parenting --finding the proper balance. I apologized for yelling at him, but explained why I got angry. We sat there quietly for a bit and then we heard Zo
ë knocking at the door, getting a bit upset herself that she wasn't in on whatever it was we were doing in there. I asked Josh if he was ready to go out and he nodded yes. Within minutes, he was off hiding with Zoë inside Chris' closet, calling out to me to find them.

I'm glad that kids are so resilient, but I felt very bad that Josh felt so sad that he wanted to leave. I know part of it is just for dramatic effect, but still... Man, I struggle.

19 April 2009

My Feisty Litterbug



I asked both Josh and Zoë to sit at their table and wait while I finish preparing their lunch. Because they were hungry and they knew what was coming, they literally ran to their table and sat down. There was a book lying on the table and Zoë just swept it off to the floor to clear out the space in front of her.

Before I could say anything, the following "conversation" took place:

Josh: You're a litterbug, Zo
ë.
Zo
ë: NO! (With a petulant glare at Josh).
Josh: Yes, you are.
Zo
ë: NO!
Josh: You're a litterbug, because you "littered" the book on the floor.
Zo
ë: No, KoKo 'bug!

At this point, I couldn't contain myself and just burst out laughing.

All the while, I was watching the two of them sitting there on opposite ends of their table, facing each other, like two debaters arguing a point.

Zoë might not know what a litterbug is, but she could sense that it was not a nice label and promptly fought back. I don't have to worry that she won't be able to hold her own. She's definitely a feisty one, our girl.

18 April 2009

A Third Child



Our good friend, AK, just had a baby --her third, --and we just came back from visiting her at the hospital. We were looking at her baby boy through the nursery window, marveling at his shock of glossy black hair, his smooth round cheeks, his overall newborn sweetness, when AK teased us that maybe next February, we might have another baby of our own.

A bit of background: AK is godmother to our two tikesters and we are godparents to her first two boys. Her second son has the same birthday as Josh; this third baby's birthday is just one day after Zo
ë's. Zoë's birthday is the same day as AK's dad's.

Her comment about us having another one by next February is something that we joked about before. That if we have another baby and if our baby will share the same birthday as her first son whose birthday falls in February, it would be so funny/weird.


Whether or not that's going to happen is open to speculation. Chris and I did discuss about having three kids. This was before we got married, before we had kids. After Josh, we knew that we definitely wanted another one. After Zoë, I had initially wanted to have another one. Now, I'm not so sure.

For one, I'm not getting any younger. I feel like we're almost "over the hump" with Zo
ë --i.e., she's 2 already and the more physically challenging months are behind us (not sleeping through the night, starting solids, constant diaper changes, learning to walk and talk, etc.). I'm not sure if we have it in us to go through the whole process again. Also, right now, it's one-on-one with two kids; with three, Chris and I will be outnumbered. Not only that, there will be other issues to consider: whether to move to a bigger place/where, whether to hire another helper, the kids' education, etc.

Right now, both Josh and Zo
ë are really starting to play together and have "conversations" and both Chris and I are enjoying them even more now that we don't have to worry about watching out for the "baby." Chris and I can sit back more and just watch them play. We can now have really fun activities where all of us are able to participate, without one of us constantly being on the sideline with the younger one because she's too young to join in the fun. When traveling with the tikesters, we've already worked out our preferred seating arrangements on long-haul flights. Pretty soon we might even be able to travel more without stressing out too much over little things that one stresses out over when traveling with very young children. Having another baby will mean adjustments. Adjustments that, at this point, I'm not too eager to make.

Am I over-rationalizing? We'd given away pretty much all my maternity clothes and baby paraphernalia. Tempting fate? Perhaps. We'll cross the bridge when if we get there.


But yeah, AK, it would be cool if we have another baby and the baby's birthday would be the same as X's.

17 April 2009

When the Grandparents Visit



My parents left today. After a two-week visit over the Easter holidays.

It's going to be a bit duller, a bit less chaotic with them going back home. The tikesters have gotten a bit spoiled with the attention and the fun that they've been having with KungKung and PoPo here. I've gotten a bit spoiled, too. I've scored some me time with them around: I let Josh and Zoë loose on my parents. Most of all, I'm going to miss having two extra people with whom I can unabashedly share my pride and delight at little things that Josh and Zoë do, something that I would be hard put to do with others for fear of boring them to tears.

It really warms my heart to see how much my parents enjoyed playing with Josh and Zoë, showing them off to their friends. It's equally wonderful to see how the tikesters just soaked up the extra loving attention. There is something very precious about the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren.


Very. Precious.

16 April 2009

Jellyfish and Pandas



We decided to go to Ocean Park on Tuesday and this time, we made sure that we got to ride the cable cars, visit the Atoll Reef, the Giant Pandas, and the Jellyfish Exhibit. Last time we were there, we got stuck at Kids' World, which is basically just a children's playground. By the time we could pry the kids loose from Kids' World, it was too late to go visit the other parts of Ocean Park. Thank goodness for annual passes.

First thing we did was to get to the cable cars. As we were waiting to get on, Josh told us that he wanted to be on the purple one. The next free one that arrived was a red one and we got on, but he made us promise that we would ride the purple one on the way down. It was Zo
ë's first ride on the cable car and she was ooh-ing and wow-ing; at one point, she said, "Dizzy. Really dizzy," but she was looking around and not a bit sick at all. I think she was just trying on the words for effect.

We made our way to the Jellyfish Exhibit first. It was really cool. See?


These are real, live jellyfish. The park had set up the aquarium with colored lights at the bottom which shine up, illuminating the jellyfish in shades of red, blue and green.

After that, we made our way to the Atoll Reef. They had gazillions of marine creatures swimming about in this gigantic tank. There were giant turtles, sharks, rays, and lots of very interesting fish. It was a bit crowded and it was hard to take good photos of the fish. There are also mini tanks which feature sea dragons, sea horses, corals, etc. Definitely a must-see, especially with kids.

We saved the pandas for last. Luckily when we were there, it was feeding time. That means we got to see the pandas awake, instead of them just lying there in a black-and-white lump. Lazy creatures. They're really adorable, though.

Before the pandas came out from an inner enclosure where they were being held while the attendants were arranging the bamboo, I asked Josh whether the pandas would come out running or if they would veerrrryyyy sloooowwwly make their way to the pile of bamboo, Josh said, "Umm, I think they will come out moderato." You can tell, he has watched too many episodes of The Little Einsteins!


15 April 2009

Zoë's "Par-dy"



Although there are three more days of school holidays left, which means that I have to keep both kids entertained, I am definitely not as stressed out as I was last week, when I was running around trying to make sure that I had everything I'd need for Zoë's party.


Given that the decision to throw her a party was pretty last-minute and considering how disorganized I've been, Zoë's birthday party turned out quite well. Happy me. Happy Zoë. Happy kids. Happy me again.


Good thing we held the party at the Clubhouse instead of at the beach, because it poured that afternoon. I wanted to keep the party small to keep things more manageable (for me!); plus I felt bad for the very last-minute invite that I'd sent out invitations only to a few close friends. For activities, I decided to do "artsy" activities --something that will keep the kids entertained without me having to sing and dance or hop around. We started with cupcake decorating. I made strawberry cupcakes and cream cheese frosting. Personally, not my favorite (I'm more a muffin girl), but they were a hit. We had rainbow sprinkles, mini M&Ms and other fun cake decoration stuff for the kids to play around with. That kept the kids busy and allowed me to chat a bit with the mommies.



I also had prepared some Crayola Color Wonder coloring pages and corresponding markers and finger paints. No mess. Magical. Fun. "Art" that they could take home. We had balloons lying around on the floor and the kids had fun tossing them up in the air and kicking them around. (Oh, and I also had The Wiggles DVD on, as back-up.)


For food, it was a rather eclectic mix. I just went with whatever was easy for us to make. We had Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti, lumpia shanghai (spring rolls), soy chicken wings, oatmeal cookies, peanut butter choco chip cookies, fruit melange (watermelon, grapes, honeydew melon). All "homemade." Psst, I used Betty Crocker for the cookies...

Now that it's over, I can say that I had fun preparing for it. The best part was seeing the kids really enjoy themselves at the party.


Postscript: We had another cake on Zoë's actual birthday. I ordered a plain chocolate cake (really yummy!) with just Zoë's name piped on and then we "decorated" the cake ourselves. This is something that I'll probably do more of with the kids, seeing as they had so much fun. I can already see my waistline and hips ballooning... way bigger than they already are!



14 April 2009

Cake-Mauling




We had some cake leftover from Zoë's "pre-birthday" party yesterday and the two tikesters decided to attack the remaining pieces. Grubby little hands dug into the container, making frosting squish between the fingers, digging for the pieces of fruits in between the layers of cakes...



I decided to just let them be. One of those
occasions when I sigh and just let them "be kids"...


This is the aftermath.

Okay, a bit wasteful, but the cake didn't look so appetizing anymore... We do have another cake for her "real" birthday today. More on that later. :)

11 April 2009

Chess




Having watched Chris play chess on the computer, Josh decided to make his own chess set.

The right side has more pieces, as you can see. Those are his pieces and whoever plays against him gets only six pieces. Because those are "the rules." According to Josh. He even had an instruction sheet drawn up.





Checkmate.

10 April 2009

A Present for Zoë... from Josh



Josh has been telling anyone who would listen that his sister's birthday is coming up; he'd even give the exact date.

Last week, he told us that he wanted to get some money out of his piggy bank and "buy a present for my sister." Out spilled all the coins, some Jumpin' Gym tokens, and the odd foreign change from Chris' business trips. We suggested that he should count how many he had and we would change the coins for him into paper money. He doesn't know the different denominations yet, but we handed him a HK$20 and a HK$10 bill. He promptly put the bills in his Kung Fu Panda wallet.

Off we went to the "baby store" downstairs. After barely a minute of browsing, he picked up some twistable crayons very similar to the set that he has and declared that he wanted to get those for Zoë. Maybe he was lucky or maybe he really knew that it was within his HK$30 budget. He brought it to the counter and told the shop owner that it's a present for his sister. He then whipped out his wallet, pulled out the bills, and handed them over.

I so wish that I had my camera with me then. My 4-year old was so "grown up" and he felt so proud that he was able to buy a present for his sister "with my own money."

This is one of those mommy moments that make me blink back tears at the utter preciousness of it all.

09 April 2009

Double Rainbow



If you ask Josh about his favorite color, he'd tell you it's rainbow.

Yet, he'd never seen a real rainbow before... until last summer, when we were visiting with my in-laws in Canada. I can't remember what we were talking about when Josh said wistfully, "I've never seen a rainbow before." 

As if the heavens suddenly decided to bestow a little bit of magic on a 3-year old boy who doesn't mind writing the seven letters it takes to spell out his favorite color while his classmates got away with shorter words to write, we looked out the window and saw *gasp!* a rainbow... AND *double gasp!* another rainbow!




I don't recall ever seeing a rainbow with colors as vivid as the one that I saw then. The second rainbow was a bit more blurry, but there, nonetheless.

What a treat it was for Josh. His first sighting of a rainbow and a very rare double one at that. 

08 April 2009

Easter Hat




We needed to make an Easter hat for Josh for the Easter Parade at his school this week. I'd totally forgotten about it until Josh reminded me about it the night before.

Because I didn't want him wearing a girlie bonnet, I decided to make him a top hat instead. Initially the idea was to use shredded crepe paper and make a nest on top and glue eggs and little chicks to the nest. But first, we had to make the top hat. Good thing my parents are visiting. My mom is VERY good at arts and crafts and my dad helped with drawing the circles... without a compass. He made a makeshift compass with a pencil and a piece of string. I thought that was pretty cool.

The hat was more difficult to make than I'd bargained for... and it was taking too long, and I figured that getting Josh involved in making the hat would be more meaningful than us putting together everything for him.

Nest idea, out the window. I drew some eggs with PowerPoint instead, printed out a sheet, and assigned Josh the task of "decorating" the eggs. Zoë got her own sheet of eggs to color as well (but of course).

After the eggs were all "decorated" (including Zoë's), Josh set to cut out the eggs himself. I helped, to speed things along; it was way past his bedtime. I also cut out some Easter-themed pictures from the supermarket leaflet we got and glued them on.


The hat turned out a bit too big for Josh; it went down over his eyes! My mom, ever the resourceful person that she is, cut up some small styrofoam pieces and stuck them around the inside of the hat, just above the brim, and voila, problem solved.

Josh came home after the Easter parade and proudly announced that everybody said his hat was great and that he had the "bestest" hat of all!

Missing HH



Josh didn't want to go to school this morning. He was crying and he said that he just wanted to stay at home. This is so unlike him; this is a boy who would always tell me that he did "lots and lots of fun stuff" whenever I'd ask him what he did in school. Josh loves school. So, yes, we were a bit concerned about this sudden change of heart.

We sat him down and tried to find out why he didn't want to go. Had he been bullied, did something unpleasant happen at school... All he was able to tell us through his tears was that "My friends don't go to school anymore, so I don't want to go to school either."

We managed to convince him to get on the school bus, but he was clearly not a happy camper.

Later in the day, I called up his school and got to speak with Ms. A, his teacher, and told her about what happened earlier this morning. I asked if anything had changed this week or if there had been any special incident in school that could have triggered this reaction in Josh. I shared with her what Josh said. She mentioned that they do have a smaller class of late; with the Easter holidays coming up, some families have decided to take an early Easter break and have gone away on trips. When Ms. A mentioned that, it brought to mind the conversation I had with Josh last Friday.

Me: How was school today?
Josh: Good and bad.
Me: How come?
Josh: Good, because I did lots of fun stuff today. Bad because HH did not come to school today.

Apparently HH hasn't been in school at all this week either. Not only is HH Josh's best friend in school, he is also Josh's seatmate on the school bus. No wonder Josh didn't feel like going to school today.

Josh came home today from school and all's fine with the world again. He announced that Ms. A (bless her!) told him that his friends will be back, that HH will be back from Malaysia when school starts again after the Easter break. He now wants to make a drawing for HH, "something that HH might love." Life is good once more.

07 April 2009

City Fun




Living in Hong Kong, our tikesters don't get much of a chance to commune with nature. (Last Saturday's trip to the organic farm was more an exception than the norm.) It's mostly the marbled floors of shopping malls that are my kids' stomping ground. See these photos below:


This is Zoë playing hopscotch on a pattern of little lights on the floor of the walkway connecting Pacific Place 3 to the main Pacific Place building.


Here is one of Zoë and her friend, Nathan, playing their version of hide-and-seek, which is basically just both of them covering their eyes and counting and shouting out, "Not, I come!" and then they both run.

I wish I'm good at PhotoShop. I could then edit and change the backgrounds of these photos to show, for the first two photos, a sidewalk with a chalk-drawn hopscotch grid; with little tufts of grass boldly peeking through the cracks on the sidewalk. In the second photo, I would love to see in place of those huge potted (fake) topiary a huge oak with generous shade; the marble floor, the green grass of a park.


Don't get me wrong. I love Hong Kong and I think that raising our children here definitely has its pluses. But like everything else, there are trade-offs.

06 April 2009

Gone Organic - Part 2



We had fun going up and down the rows of strawberry patches, trying to get at the reddest, biggest strawberries. Actually, the strawberries were not that big, but boy, were they juicy and sweet. The soil around the strawberry patches was covered in plastic and there were times when we just stuffed the strawberries directly into our mouths (yes, without washing them first)! After we picked our fill, we headed back to rinse the strawberries. We made the mistake of putting a pile of strawberries into a plastic bag and then filling the bag with water to swish off the dirt. The owner saw us do this and agonized over how we were "bruising" the strawberries. She showed us how we could simply rinse them quickly and explained that because these are organic, they really do not need as much cleaning as the ones that have pesticides sprayed all over them.

It was pretty relaxing with us sitting and just feasting on strawberries, while the kids ran around playing with the soil, checking out the bunnies, running up and down the rows of veggies, etc.

At one point, the owner suggested that we let the kids dig up carrots and brought out little shovels. She showed us how to dig around the sides to loosen up the soil so that we could easily pull out the carrot. It was really fun. The kids had a fun time digging (although we had to be careful that they didn't hit the carrots and break them) and we helped them yank out the carrots. The carrots came in different colors: orange, white, green, purple. We just rinsed off the dirt and took a bite. It tasted really sweet and oh-so-fresh. I'm not that into carrots, unless it's shredded or in juice form, but if all carrots taste like these, I'd gladly have them every day.

I wish we had more time, but I could tell the kids were getting really tired. We hadn't even explored the other side of the farm, where we could pick our own cherry tomatoes, ears of corn, etc. We will definitely be going back.

Before leaving, I decided to get some fresh produce, seeing as we were there already. I got some lemon grass, cherry tomatoes, watercress, corn, and kangkung. Oh, we also got the carrots we had dug up. She charged us HK$10 per carrot, HK$15 per ear of corn. The cherry tomatoes were HK$25 for a small box. I can't remember how much the watercress and the kangkung went for, but they were not cheap. Price aside, these were the freshest, best-tasting food ever.

In the coming months, the farm has the following "festivals" lined up:
Corn, Cherry Tomato, Watermelon.

Fees
The farm charges an entrance fee of HK$20 per person. Seniors over 65 and children under 3 go in for free. Visitor whose birthdays fall during the month of visit also get to go in free-of-charge.

For picking strawberries (unlimited, but have to be consumed within the premises), the fee is HK$100 per person.

You can also get a "hotpot" meal with any vegetable that you pick from the farm. They provide the soup base and sauces. You pick the veggies, you do the "cooking." For this, the fee is HK$150 per person.

Vegetables and fruits that you pick and want to take home are charged by the weight, usually. Prices vary.


Details
Name of the farm: Hok Tau Potted Organic Vegetable (
鶴藪有機盆栽蔬果)
Address: Hok Tau Grange(粉嶺鶴藪村鶴藪排)
Contact person: Mr. Kwok (郭先生)
Tel. No.: 2674 6638

04 April 2009

Gone Organic - Part 1



Because we so enjoyed picking blueberries last summer when we were in Canada, we leapt at the chance to go strawberry-picking here in Hong Kong. We were so surprised to learn that we could do that here --and at an organic farm at that.

It was a great thing to do with the kids on a nice, sunny day. Apart from picking strawberries, the kids got to dig for carrots, pick ears of corn, see/feel/taste different kinds of veggies. I wish I'd checked to see that the memory stick was in the camera before we left the house. Arrgh. Because I didn't, I don't have many photos to feature here ...

We got there around 10:30am and after parking the car, we did a 10-minute walk down a narrow concrete path that's lined on both sides with grass, rows of veggies, wild flowers, a little creek. Zoë and I brought up the rear because I constantly had to stop and wait for her. She would chase butterflies down the opposite direction and I had to carry her back down toward where Chris, Josh, and my parents were up ahead. After a few steps, Zoë would stop again to gaze wonderingly at the "fall" (her word for waterfall), which was actually water flowing out from a drain on the side of a small canal. Then she wanted to look for fish (where fish go, Mommy?). We did eventually make it to the registration tent, after I decided to carry her instead. We paid up, got the proper stickers stuck onto our shirts, grabbed our baskets, lined them up with plastic, and off we went to the strawberry fields.

It is actually almost the end of strawberry-picking season. Usually the season starts in November and lasts until March, but because the cold season started late, there were still strawberries to be picked, although not as many as there would have been earlier on in the year.

The lady who did the registration accompanied us to the strawberry field and showed us which ones were good for picking, explained how organic strawberries are different from the big red strawberries that we see in the supermarkets and offered some spiel about the benefits of going organic.



Josh, set loose, was on a mission. He is not really into strawberries, but he threw himself to the task of picking the biggest, the reddest strawberries. Zoë, on the other hand, little Miss Strawberry herself, had her little basket in hand, but no strawberry made it into her basket except for the ones I threw in. Whatever strawberries she got her little hands on ended in her mouth. Minutes after we started, she already had red stains down the front of her shirt and streaks of strawberry juice running down her arms; her mouth, cheeks, and hands were stained red and she looked like a clown.

03 April 2009

Mind Your Manners, Mommies



I always enjoy attending my children's activities with them because I get to see how they do, I get to celebrate their little "victories" and be around for them when they need a little moral support, but also, I enjoy meeting other parents.

So far in the playgroups and children's activities/classes that I've attended, the bunch of mommies (and daddies) that I've met have been really great --very supportive to all the kids in the group (their own and others'), pleasant, and at the very least, courteous. So imagine my surprise today when I had not one, but two "rude" awakenings.

Rude awakening #1: I got to the door of the gym first and after I passed through, I held the door open for Mum A, who was right behind me. Nothing, not even a nod. Maybe she hadn't had her coffee yet. Maybe she thought I was born to hold open the door for her.


Rude awakening #2: We moved to the playroom after the class. We were on our way in when I saw Mum B's little tot wanting to go in, but Mum B was just taking off her shoes. I held open the heavy glass door to the playroom because I couldn't close it without it banging the boy on the face. When Mum B was finally done taking off her shoes and got to the door, she never even glanced my way, let alone said thank you to me for not letting the door slam into her boy's face. Later on, when I was chatting with Dad C whose kid was in the same class we just finished, Mum B sauntered over and started talking to Dad C, totally ignoring me, even though she interrupted our conversation. Even when Dad C would look at me occasionally during the ensuing conversation to include me (because he has manners, thank you), she continued to ignore my presence.


With Mum A, initially, I thought it was because she could not speak English. Then I heard her talk to her little one in perfect English. Maybe she thought
I could not speak English, with my Asian looks. With Mum B, well, I don't know what her problem was; it definitely was not because she thought I could not speak her language, because she definitely heard me chatting with Dad C.

(Note: This was only the second class that we've attended and I haven't met Mum A, Mum B, Dad C or even any of the other parents in the class prior to signing up two classes ago. Maybe I need a new deodorant *sniff, sniff*...?)


So I am naive in thinking that the parents that I meet at my children's activities/classes are all nice people. The lot of them certainly are; a few of them have even become good friends, outside of our shared class/activity. I shouldn't fret over a couple who must have left their manners back home this morning, though I seriously wonder how these mommies can teach their kids basic manners when they don't model it themselves. Seriously.

Early Mornings



I'm not a morning person, but I've been up before 7am every day since the kids were born. I don't really mind. You know why?


Picture what happened this morning:

Through a sleepy haze, I heard Zoë shout, "Come on, KoKo!" Then I heard the pitter-patter of little feet as both of them beat a path to our room and then came a chorus of "Good morning, Mommy. Good morning, Daddy" as they climbed onto our bed. Josh made it onto the bed first and claimed a spot next to me. Zoë protested because she wanted to be next to me. Josh very obligingly moved over and made room for her. Zoë then shimmied over and looked over to Josh and said, "Thank you, KoKo."

While Zoë was nursing, she had her leg over Josh's and Josh wasn't too keen about that and said, "Zoë, I don't like that. Stop. I don't like that." I moved Zoë's leg back only to see her lay an arm on Josh's chest. I was about to say something about it when Zoë said, "Love you, KoKo."

I looked over at Chris and saw that his eyes were closed, but he had a big smile on his face.

There is nothing sweeter than waking to all that in the mornings.

02 April 2009

Word Nerd



I love word games. Scrabble, Boggle, anagrams, crossword puzzles, word jumbles... I play Scramble on Facebook like one would play Solitaire --game after game after game. When the kids call to me, I answer them without taking my eyes off the screen, my fingers poised above the keys ready to enter the next word I could find: "Mommy's concentrating. Don't distract me. Later, okay?" Only when the time runs out (three minutes per round) do I turn around to see what they wanted... or if I see that they've managed to keep themselves occupied, I quickly hit the Play Again button. If I'm on a chat with you and you see some totally unrelated words pop up on the chat screen, I'm on Scramble and like my kids, you will have to wait until I finish my round before I can chat with you.

My name is Buckeroomama and I am a word nerd.

01 April 2009

A Blast from the Past





Remember this guy?  I had a serious crush on him.  I had his poster up on my ceiling in my old bedroom so that I could wake up in the morning and his face would be the first thing I'd see. He was my first "ideal" of a decent, wonderful guy that I was sure my parents would approve of.  Kind of your boy-next-door, someone-you-grew-up-with-and-knows-and-loves-you-in-spite-of-yourself kind of guy.

But this was aeons ago.  I'd moved on since.  To hunkier and more mature actors and other decent, wonderful real-life guys, one of whom agreed to take me as his wife. And I never looked back.

Until I received an envelope the other day. I was expecting that particular piece of mail, but totally not expecting what fell out of the envelope when I opened it.  A stack of Ralph Macchio photos.  I shrieked in surprise and I had to laugh at the quirky humor of a friend who remembers (Thanks, JW!).

I usually pass along to my nieces stuff that I'd outgrown --writing papers, books --but I don't think I can pass along these photos.  I would rather these vintage photos pass into the hands of somebody who could truly appreciate them.  My nieces, these young-uns, will more than likely not even know who Ralph Macchio is, which I find rather sad.  He might not be as "perennial" as Tom Cruise (who was also in The Outsiders), but I'd take Ralph over Tom any day, thank you very much. 

Let me know if anyone wants the photos and I will gladly mail them to you wherever you are in the world; you just have to tell me one reason why you would want them.  In the meantime, I'll keep them safe and I might flip through them sometime. And I know I'll smile when I do that.  

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