Archive for March, 2009

To Do List

I’ve been so busy anticipating this upcoming trip to the States that I haven’t bothered figuring out exactly what we’re going to do while we’re there.  For me and Noah, this is our first trip back in six months, for Mark it’s his first trip since spending a weekend in the Bay Area in February (where he got to cross off things like eat Cajun food, have BBQ, watch a football game and go to the DMV off of his checklist).  Not having any well-formed itineraries or anything, I thought I’d make a random list now of what I want to do while we’re back and see afterwards just how much I got through:

  • See Cristina in DC and introduce Noah to her youngest daughter, a.k.a. his future wife.
  • Check out Mark’s alma mater and visit colonial Williamsburg while we’re there.
  • Visit Amish country in Pennsylvania.
  • Check out the cherry blossoms in DC all the while making snobby comments about how it pales in comparison to seeing the real thing in Japan (snob and a half!!).
  • Stock up on enough yarn to last me the rest of the year at my favorite LYS in Berkeley.
  • Go to Target, a.k.a. my second home.  Because you always need something from Target…even if you didn’t know it until you get there.
  • Go to Costco.  Because I love Costco.
  • Stock up on enough books to keep me reading for the next two years.
  • Ditch the boy and go to Chez Panisse in Berkeley with Mark.
  • Eat Zachary’s pizza.
  • Have lots of awesome, cheap Mexican food.  Most likely here or here.
  • Take Noah to see the old alma mater and have a Fat Slice while we’re there (mmmmm…more pizza).
  • Take Noah to Muir Woods to see the redwoods and afterward hang out in Stinson Beach.
  • Maybe take Noah to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  But only if Mark comes with us.
  • Take Noah to the Academy of Sciences again, but this time with Mark.
  • Reunite Noah and Nevan at Nevan’s birthday party.
  • Make fun of Jae for turning 30 and then make it up to her by taking her out to dinner.
  • Check out open houses, fall in love with one or two houses, fantasize about what it would be like to live back in the Bay Area again and then come home depressed.
  • Go to an A’s or Giants game with Mark and Noah.
  • Watch American Idol with my mom and maybe even get a chance to vote for once.

Ok, well now that I look at it, that’s kind of a long list.  I’ve got three weeks so there’s still a chance I can do it all…although in all honesty, there’s a very good chance I will just end up puttering around the house being lazy and watching tv with my mom and dad.  But really, there’s nothing wrong with that either.

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March 30, 2009 at 11:12 pm 6 comments

Weekend Stuff

One Week

In just five days, Mark, Noah and I are hopping on a plane and flying to Washington DC/Pennsylvania for the week followed by two weeks in CA while Noah is on Spring Break at school.  I’ve been looking forward to this trip for months now and the time has just d-r-a-g-g-e-d by, but now that it’s coming up I suddenly feel completely unprepared for it — especially for the long flights — so it looks like I have another errand-filled week ahead of me.  Luckily I got all of Noah’s doctors appointments taken care of last week — dentist, optometrist and pediatrician — so most of what I have left to do is the fun stuff, like shopping for gifts and food to bring back home, toy shopping for my nephew, and a little bit of clothes shopping for me.  By the way, if anyone has anything they want me to bring back from HK just let me know.

A Mark Update

Back in the day when I still used to work, one of the downsides of taking a vacation was that I usually needed to put in at least a week of overtime before and after taking time off to make sure all of my responsibilities were taken care.  Mark’s equivalent of that is having to take a buttload of business trips before and after.  He’s been traveling for the past three weeks — Shanghai, Tokyo and Singapore — is spending the last week of our “vacation” in TX and Southern CA for work, and then traveling heavily some more in May through mid-June.  Of course a lot of his late-Spring travel is because the baby’s due in July so he’s not planning on leaving HK again until August or September.  Hopefully, we won’t end up driving each other insane because we’re around one another for so long.

In other Mark-related news, he finally got around to going to the dentist a couple of days ago.  This is an appointment that he’d been putting off for months because he was just too busy to go so he was due.  He thought that one of his fillings had gotten loose and it was starting to get painful for him to eat so he wanted to see Dr. Lee before we left for the States.  So imagine my surprise when I got a text from him while I was waiting for his to get out of his appointment announcing “don’t wait for me.  go home.  may need a root canal.”  Ouch!  And sure enough, after some more x-rays Dr. Lee started on the initial work for a root canal.  It turns out that he rarely completes a root canal in one sitting — something about most people finding it too painful to sit through all at once — so he drilled the tooth, started cleaning, put a temporary cap on it and sent Mark home with a bunch of painkillers.  He has another appointment this Wednesday so hopefully he can finish it up before we leave.

A Photo Challenge

Last week Jae issued a photo challenge to us girls with the subject of Still Life. Usually when I think of still lifes I think of fruit baskets and because I live in Asia, this is what my fruit basket looks like these days:

Earth Hour
As you may have been aware, Earth Hour was on Saturday — when people were encouraged to switch off their lights for an hour beginning at 8:30 pm as a gesture against global warming. Mark happened to be away at a “work” thing that night (the “work” consisting of hanging out at HK Stadium, drinking beer and champagne and watching the HK Sevens — HK’s huge annual rugby/social event) and Noah is usually asleep by around 8 pmish, so really it was just me turning off the lights for an hour. I’m not a proponent of global warming or anything, but I am a big chicken who is still afraid of the dark (or rather, all the horrible things that can happen to you in the dark…like getting eaten by monsters) but Noah had turned major environmentalist all of a sudden coming home from school spouting hippie statements like, “My teacher says it’s important to save the Earth” and “Smoke is bad” so at the very least, for his sake, I thought it was important to participate in it this year.  Here are before and after pictures of my building participating in Earth Hour:

Before

After

Yeahhh…gotta love HK and our wonderful environmental sensibilities. I’m also guessing a lot of those lights were off only because most of those people were at Rugby Sevens that night.  Well, on a positive note at least I didn’t get eaten by monsters — quite possibly because the one candle in the house kept them at bay (note to self: Buy more candles!):

March 30, 2009 at 9:15 am 4 comments

$@%&#!!!!!

Disaster!!

I mentioned in this post that I had recently cast on on another knitting project. I had been knitting a Falling Leaves Wrap for my mother-in-law’s birthday last week. After ten days of knitting, I only had about three inches of the wrap left to knit plus some fringe to add. Here is what it looked like earlier:

If you knit and you know that this is a work in progress, you might look at that picture and ask, “Hmmm. But where are the needles?”

EXACTLY.

The boy has a horrible obsession with playing with my knitting. After many close calls in the past, I’ve warned him repeatedly that under no circumstances is he allowed to even breathe on my knitting, yarn or needles. Of course he never listens but I’m decently good at keeping my stuff out of his reach. Except that after a six hour knitting stretch that ended at 2:30 am this morning, in my sleep-deprived knitting haze I didn’t bother to hide my work before going to bed. Cue the boy and his grabby hands this morning. He pulled the needle out and left all of my live stitches hanging onto nothing. Nothing! I tried slipping the stitches onto a needle to try to salvage some of the wrap, but no go. It’s lacework:

so it’s really difficult to pick up all those yarnovers, decreases and slipped stitches once you’ve let them go — which is why smart people use a lifeline — so it’s back to the drawing board for me.

I can’t even begin to describe how angry I was when I realized that I had to frog the thing and start over. Furious doesn’t even come close. Irrational, enraged, unintelligible and foaming at the mouth is a bit more like it. I actually threw a full-on tantrum complete with AAAARRRRRGGGHHHH!!!’s, flying needles and yarn and a torrent of f-bombs. Perhaps I may have overreacted, but it was 10 days of work! And so close to finishing too! That’s 573 yards, or 1/3 of a mile, of fingering weight merino wool knit for absolutely nothing.

Luckily for Noah, Clarita had taken him to the play area but poor Mark had just gotten home from a trip to Singapore when I discovered what Noah had done and he basically cowered in a corner while I screamed and threw stuff. After about 10 minutes of raging, he was nice enough to come along with me on my walk to Starbucks so I could calm down a bit (because everyone knows that what an enraged lunatic needs most is more caffeine). We ended up catching a movie instead, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (which if you want a quick review was mindless entertainment but loads better than the second Underworld movie and better even than The Watchmen. Because yeah, I thought The Watchmen was that bad). Afterward I was in a much better mood and less determined to put Noah in timeout until I finished another wrap.  Hopefully I can finish another wrap before we see my in-laws in DC in two weeks.  Besides, when you come home and the boy flashes you this look:

It’s a little hard to stay mad.

March 26, 2009 at 8:33 pm 12 comments

A Leisurely Saturday

On Saturday, by complete freak chance, Mark, Noah and I all ended up waking up at the same time — 7:30 am. So not to waste this golden opportunity when everyone was awake and in a good mood, we headed out to brunch to get our day started right. Rather than bore you with a detailed account of our leisurely outing, here are some pictures I took instead:

The Brunch Club — our new early morning hangout:


(Noah was in an “I’m not smiling until someone gets me my banana smoothie” kind of mood)

Oddly enough, The Brunch Club is tucked away on Peel Street which looks like this:

Taking a walk to the Peel/Graham Street market:

Me and Noah at the Hong Kong Flower Show at Victoria Park. Yes, I’m fat and pregnant and my shirt is too small. Are you happy now people?

The playground at Victoria Park:

One pooped and totally huggable toddler on the way to lunch:

For the record, our seven hour outing completely destroyed me and Mark. We got home and immediately ended up taking long naps while Noah continued to play for several more hours with Clarita, culminating with a trip to the play area and then a walk around our apartment complex with Mark. I have no idea where he gets his energy from.

March 22, 2009 at 8:06 pm 8 comments

Success!

Last week I wrote about Noah’s final school interview at the Hong Kong Academy and how we’d find out at the end of the week what the results were. I somehow managed to completely forget about the whole school thing so I was pretty excited when I got an email from their Admissions Coordinator today. Of course, not as excited as I was on reading it and finding out that Noah’s been accepted. Hooray!

I’m so proud of him. I know that the school assessments aren’t a measure of a child’s aptitude or charming personality or anything, but still I can’t help but feel a glowing pride in him. I mean, he did beat out some 60 or so other kids for a placement — and that doesn’t even include the kids who had a legacy advantage going into the assessments.  Coming on the heels of the Canadian school waitlisting this is such a huge relief for me as well. One of the reasons I liked HK Academy is that their program goes all the way up to Grade 9 (with plans to include grades 10, 11, and 12 in the next few years) so we’re pretty much done with having to worry about school for the rest of the time that we’re here.

He starts school on August 19 where he’ll go to classes three hours a day, five days a week — the same schedule he’s on now. In the meantime, for anyone interested (Mom!) you can check out his new school here and more specific information on the K3 program here.

March 20, 2009 at 8:59 pm 8 comments

This Is How We Roll

Originally this post was supposed to be called “Boring and Mundane Day to Day Things” (because I’m starting to run out of clever little ways to rephrase “Weekly Update”) but I thought this title was a little catchier.  Basically though, this is still a boring and mundane weekly update.  Sorry for the misrepresentation, but since you’re already here and reading this…

Ruby’s Party
Two birthday parties down and only one more to go. And I have to say, I think I’m starting to get the hang of this whole ‘talking to other parents without coming off like a total freak’ thing. Ruby’s birthday party was at a huge indoor children’s playground at the Aberdeen Marina Club and while the kiddos ran around for a good two hours, I got a chance to sit down with the other moms that I’d seen just a couple days earlier at Sports Day and talk and feel more normal. And by ‘normal’ I mean ‘at least I’m not as weird as that German mom — whew!’. And yes, apparently it is possible to be totally insecure yet completely judgmental at the same time (hooray for multitasking!). Noah, as usual, had a blast. Especially since the Club housed an insane playground. Noah hung out on some spinning disks for a while, practicing his pole dancer moves:

Finally deciding to spend the next hour and a half racing down one of the slides with his best friend, Charlie:

After two hours of running around and screaming, the kids were beat. But then Ruby’s mom brought out hot dogs and cake and afterward they were ready for Round Two. After 20 minutes of repeatedly warning Noah, “Five more minutes and then we have to go home, ok?” I finally wised up and coordinated our leaving time with Charlie’s mom. I think Noah loves going to these parties as much for the party favor bags as for getting to hang out with his friends. Here he is showing off one of his favorite favors:

Next Monday is Charlie’s birthday and after that, hopefully we’ll be set for a few months. Although I must admit, these parties are starting to grow on me.

Better Than Muzak
Every now and then I get bored enough that I do things like time just how long it takes the elevator to go from the 49th floor to the lobby — 28 seconds. And what’s a person to do on so many rides up and down per day? Luckily, Noah keeps things interesting for me. When he’s not climbing on the hand rails or taking his pants off in the elevator, he treats me (and other riders) to little tidbits like this:
Me: Noah, please stop banging your toy on the wall.
Noah: Why?
Me: Because you might break it.
Noah: Oh. Because I might break it? And then I’ll cry and you’ll buy me another one.
(Cue laughter from other elevator passengers)
And at moments like this, those 28 seconds can’t seem to go by fast enough.

My Spare Time
I’ve been on a bit of a reading binge since I found out I was pregnant. At first it was because I was getting so sick I couldn’t do much besides lay in bed and read a book and then it was just out of habit. I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself if I didn’t have something to read. See? Here are just some of the books I’ve managed to get through in the last five months alone:

I recently ran out of books to read and had been hunting for a new one when, lo and behold! I got a package in the mail from my friend, Alicia, with Three Cups of Tea inside it. I’d been wanting to read this for almost a year now — ever since talking to some guy on a flight from AZ to CA last spring who was reading this and highly recommended it. Basically, it’s the true story of a mountain climber who decided to start building schools for impoverished villages in the Northern Pakistan region. I just made it sound a lot more boring than it really is but it’s ridiculously inspirational and I can’t wait to finish it and then start sending copies of the book around to my family. Thanks Alicia!

Baby Blankets and A New Project
I haven’t been knitting anything lately — not since I finished the sweater coat for my friend’s daughter over a month ago. I figured I would save my yarn money for my upcoming trip to the US where I could pick up some yarn for baby #2’s blanket. It’s also taken a while to find a baby blanket that I want to knit. For Noah, I had knit a blue hooded seed stitch blanket which he still sleeps with to this day. But since I’ve had a few years to hone my knitting skills, I wanted to knit something a little more challenging for baby #2. My problem is I find that most baby blanket patterns out there are either too frilly/lacy/old-fashioned or else just kind of boring. I considered this one for a while but I finally settled on this one instead:

Simple and classic and the contrasting running stitch makes it visually interesting enough without being over-the-top. Of course the blanket I’ll make will be blue and brown but now I can’t wait to get back to CA to start hunting for yarn.

In the meantime, I cast on on another project:
I’m hesitant to say anything more about it because it’s a present for someone who may be reading this but I have to say that I hadn’t realized how much I missed having something to knit. If I’ve been feeling a little low recently, this week — having both a new book to read and something to do with my fingers in my downtime — has made a world of difference. I’m nowhere near being the greatest knitter out there but it amazes me just how much this little hobby has become part of my identity.

March 19, 2009 at 2:19 pm 5 comments

School Stuff — The Home Stretch

We heard back from the Canadian school about a week ago and he’s on the waiting list there. Normally I’d probably feel more crushed that he didn’t get in outright except that all the other mom’s at Noah’s school that I’ve talked to told me that their kids were also placed on the waiting list for that school too (with one parent’s daughter getting a full on rejection). Still, it’s hard not to feel a little anxiety. So the school situation as it currently stands is acceptance into the Japanese school, waitlisted for the Canadian school and today we went to the Hong Kong Academy for his final school interview.

Of the three schools HK Academy is the only school that I always have a strong visceral reaction to whenever I visit the campus — I can’t even begin to explain how much I love this school. Mark and I have a difference of opinion on our top schools. While HK Academy is my top school choice for Noah, it’s at the bottom of the list for Mark. Nothing personal against the school — he just really hates the school facilities. To be honest, it is pretty crappy. While pretty much every school in HK has its own campus, HKA leases its buildings from the government and was granted a pretty old and decrepit building with a ton of old stone staircases leading up to it. Not the ideal situation for a bunch of rambunctious preschoolers to be running around in. However I spoke to one of the moms that I know, Pamela, who has a son currently attending HKA and while she and her husband hate the school grounds as well, she made the point that the crappiness of the exterior doesn’t take away from what goes on inside the school — and I happen to love what goes on in the school and the school ethos.

  • Education-wise, it’s one of the few international baccalaureate schools in Hong Kong, which is a program that Mark and I really like because of its focus on teaching children to be internationally-minded and to develop critical thinking skills.
  • They also invest very highly in their teachers — they close the school early every Wednesday afternoon for curriculum and teacher development and training, and they have the smallest teacher-student ratio of any school in Hong Kong.
  • I’m also kind of a fan of their ballsy quota-style system of choosing their students. It’s something that a school in the US would never be able to get away with — accepting or rejecting students based on their nationality — but HKA does it openly and explicitly in order to create a diverse student body. They currently have 36 nationalities at the school making them the most diverse school in HK. Plus it’s kind of refreshing how unapologetically politically incorrect their policy is.
  • Less critical, but still important, is that they are a non-parochial school.  One of the schools that I was initially interested in sending Noah to — Hong Kong International School — makes religious studies a compulsory component of their curriculum and on that basis alone I had to cut them out of consideration.  HKA, thankfully, doesn’t even go near religious instruction.
  • But my favorite thing about the school is how much emphasis they place on parent involvement.  At HKA you can’t be the kind of parent that just drops their kid off and picks them up — there is a very strong emphasis placed on parent participation.  Besides field trips, they also set aside three opportunities a week for a parent to come into their child’s class and help, such as reading time or cooking time.  Pamela says that of her friends she’s the only mom who knows every single child in her son’s classroom and they all know her as well.

Noah and I arrived at the school (on time!  Yay!) and climbed up three flights of scary stairs to their early childhood center where the other kids and parents were waiting.  My first reaction on seeing the other kids was, “Oh no.  They all look like happy, well-adjusted children.”  Which I realize makes me mean-spirited, but hey, it’s competitive.  Unlike the other schools, this assessment was scheduled to last 1 1/2 hours rather than the usual 20-30 minutes.  They got to play with toys and puzzles, had a storytime, had an art time and a snacktime.  I had no idea what I was going to do for 1 1/2 hours so I brought a book, but they gathered all of the parents into one of the classrooms and had their admissions coordinator and a teacher sit down with us for a Q&A session.

Halfway through the Q&A session I had to try to tune out because I suddenly became concious of how much I liked the school and how disappointed I would be if Noah didn’t get accepted.  Admission into HKA is nowhere near as competitive as it is for the Canadian school but it’s still tough.  There are 28 slots available for the K3 class and they’ve got an applicant pool at least three times as large.  After determining school readiness (which is what the assessments are for), their criteria is based on each child’s nationality, ethnicity and gender — trying to achieve as diverse a class as possible with an even mix of boys and girls.  After that, they give priority to kids who already have a brother or sister currently attending the school — of which there were 13 kids on that one day alone (this was the second of three assessment days they were holding).  So yeah, it’ll be tough to say the least.  But I’m kind of banking on the fact that I always seem to be the only American whenever I’ve been there and on top of that, being ethnically Mexican-Filipino-Chinese, Noah’s a pretty decent individual melting pot.  Go quota-system!

If he doesn’t get in, we’ll most likely keep Noah at the Woodlands Montessori school he’s currently going to and hope he gets into the Canadian school or HKA on the waitlist or else apply for the English schools next year.  Thankfully, Woodlands is a good preschool, he’s comfortable there, and a good number of his friends will still be attending classes there next school term.  We should find out by next Friday whether or not Noah has gotten in or been placed on the waitlist, so until then I’ll just be trying to put this whole school thing out of my mind and trying to act relatively sane.

March 14, 2009 at 4:53 pm 5 comments

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