Archive for May, 2009

Things That Made Me Happy

I’ve been pretty miserable lately.  I have a lingering cough from a cold last week and on Saturday I coughed so much that my ribs were sore.  Well, on Sunday I tried to stretch out my sore back/rib muscles and an ill-timed cough pulled my back out of whack and I’ve been in Pain City ever since.  It hurts when I cough, sneeze, laugh, yawn, walk, breathe, lay down…pretty much any time I’m awake and moving.  Today was just a smidge better than the weekend and as miserable and mopey as I was for a good part of the day, by late afternoon I realized that — pain and whining aside — some pretty nice things happened to me today regardless.  So in the spirit of not dwelling on the negative, here are the highlights of my day:

Photography Happiness

My Travel Photography class started today at the YWCA.  It’s a short course — just two hours today and next Monday — but the class itself is a nice break from my usual routine.  We were supposed to bring in five of our travel photos to the first class so we could critique each other’s work at the end of the class and having the class and the instructor tell me that three of my photos were perfect as is was a pretty sweet feeling.  Yay!

Grocery Store Happiness
I’m insane in that I love to go grocery shopping. I hate having to go to more than one grocery store a day though so after spending an hour at one grocery store only to realize that I needed to go to another one to finish picking things up for that night’s dinner, I was pretty grumpy by the time I got to city’super at IFC. I instantly perked up when I saw that they were having a Tastes of Thailand promotion which meant lots of samples of Thai food. And not just Thai food, but Thai candy — specifically coconut candy, which I love. So despite my doctor’s ban on sweet things, I picked up a small bag. I’m giddy just thinking about all the coconutty goodness ahead of me. Mwuhahaha….

Finally…Knitting Happiness
Not much to say here — I just love to knit. Lately I’ve been feeling weirdly incomplete when I don’t have a project on my needles so casting on a new project today made me pretty happy:

So yeah…in the words of Ice Cube: today was a good day.

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May 26, 2009 at 12:27 am 3 comments

School Report — A Braggy Sort of Post

Parent/teacher conferences at Noah’s school are coming up and in preparation for the parent-teacher meetings, on Monday they sent home a school assessment. These aren’t report cards — we’re talking about three- to six-year-olds after all — but two pages describing each child’s progress and growth in their classes. The report is separated into eight sections:

  • Communication, Language and Literacy
  • Mathematical Development
  • Knowledge and Understanding of the World
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Creative Development
  • Physical Development
  • Mandarin
  • and General Comments

When I first heard about school reports — for three-year-olds — my first thought was, “Poor kiddos.  So much pressure already!”  But now that I’ve actually seen my first one, they’re pretty cool.  Noah’s wasn’t some crazy judgmental critique.  Of course, I think he’s pretty smart so maybe I’m biased.  They actually give a good glimpse into what he does every day for three hours.  It was full of comments like:

  • He listens attentively to stories and is able to retell sequences and responds to what he has heard with relevant comments, questions or actions.
  • Noah is becoming more confident in talking about important events and people in his life, such as Lolo and Lola whom he visited in California and his cousin Gabriel who lives in Pennsylvania.
  • Noah may appear quiet at times but once prompted he eagerly shares his experiences and past encounters, often describing events in great detail.
  • Noah has matured through interaction with a bigger group of children since he switched to the morning Pre-School.  He is more expressive of his opinions and needs and is able to hold logical and relevant conversations with his friends and teachers.
  • Noah displays gross motor skills that are appropriately developed for his age and enjoys running and jumping around.
  • Noah maintains attention and concentrates during Mandarin circle time…and effectively carries out simple instructions given in Mandarin such as “nod your head”,”wash your hands” and “clap your hands”.

At two pages, the report is pretty comprehensive and too long to just copy down but as soon as they post his report in his online portfolio I’ll be sure to link to it.  A lot of this stuff I already knew about him (except for the Mandarin stuff which I’m completely clueless about considering my Mandarin is limited to being able to count to three) but it’s still reassuring to know that other people recognize the same things in your child that you see and that you aren’t just being a biased, overly-proud parent.  Additionally it helps put certain things in perspective for me.  Comments like “(he) enjoys ‘Circle Time’ and ‘Story Time’ as he can now sustain attentive listening and therefore they are becoming more interesting to him” remind me that I shouldn’t get frustrated when he stops paying attention in the middle of a story I’m reading to him because he’s only three and developmentally his attention span is just not quite there yet.

His teachers also have a very no-pressure approach to his development which I appreciate because it makes me feel like they’re really interested in his overall character and not just academic achievement.  In the past when I’ve asked if there’s anything I should be doing with him at home they always answer to just have fun with him, that he’ll eventually pick everything up and there’s no rush.  In some ways it makes me sad that he’ll be leaving the Woodlands Montessori after this summer — his teachers know him so well and he’s so comfortable in his class and with his classmates.  And me — well, it turns out that I’m actually part of a sort of mom’s clique at his school.  Naturally our kids are all good friends with one another so the four, sometimes five, of us tend to see each other a lot and hang out at birthday parties and school trips.  I’m sure that Noah will find his groove in no time at HK Academy in the fall but it still makes me sad that he won’t get to see his best friend, Charlie, every day anymore.

Anyway, the part of the report that I thought was pretty interesting was the General Comments section, where his teachers wrote:

Noah generally appears to be a quiet child but is able to interact well with his friends and classmates…Noah speaks and shares very confidently in a very small group or on a one to one basis.  In such circumstances, he opens up and starts talking about everything and anything that interests him.

It’s interesting to me because in a lot of ways it reminds me of myself.  I see so much of Mark in Noah — they look a lot alike and Noah is outgoing and makes friends easily like Mark — but this?  This is all me.  Of course, I recognize other parts of myself in Noah but I’ve always suspected that it was learned behavior from hanging around me so much — like his anal-retentiveness and his insistence on reading the directions first upon opening a new toy.  So it’s nice to recognize some of my own personality coming through.  Yeah, he’s my boy alright.

May 20, 2009 at 2:07 am 4 comments

Arts and Crafts Sunday

Mark stopped in Tokyo for a wedding on his way back from Texas so it was just me and Noah over the weekend.  I initially planned on taking Noah to the beach on Sunday but the weather had been iffy all weekend and we both caught a little bit of a cold so our Sunday beach outing turned into an arts and crafts day.

Noah is majorly into beads right now.  Thankfully he skipped that phase where he sticks them up his nose and I have to take him to the emergency room and he went straight for stringing them up into necklaces (whew!).  On Saturday I let Noah pick up a small jewelry kit so we would have something to do the next day (besides watching movies all day.  Which, believe me, I was definitely tempted to do) and on Sunday we spent a good part of the day stringing up beads, cutting out foam shapes and gluing stuff together.  Who knew jewelry making could be so exhausting?  Noah insisted on taking two breaks (including a nap) during our little craft session but after four hours I am now the proud owner of a sparkly hair clip, two bracelets and a necklace.

Noah has also been enamored of the stuffed bunny I knit up for baby #2 so to ward off any potential baby jealousy I decided to knit up this turtle for Noah on Sunday.

Naked turtle:

Turtle with his shell on:

This was surprisingly quick to knit up — taking only a day — but man, was it a pain in the butt to put together. It basically comes in eight separate parts that all needed to be sewn together and at 8″ long he isn’t a small thing to knit. Nevertheless, the effort and the carpal tunnel on Monday was worth it. Noah loves his turtle and gave it the ultimate honor by sleeping with it last night. He even gave it a name: Super Fast Turtle. We may need to work on his names a bit but at this point I’m just glad he actually plays with it.

May 18, 2009 at 4:10 pm 4 comments

Baby Stuff

At this point in my pregnancy (32 weeks) I’m going in to see the doctor every two weeks instead of every four so I’ll probably not update as much because it’ll just get redundant. Everything so far is progressing normally, although Dr. Doo has decided to subject me to random blood tests to check on my sugar levels. It’s a little funny and makes me feel like some kind of weird sugar/crack addict, but so far I’ve had two random tests and my glucose levels have been normal both times. Gestational diabetes, shmiabetes…and that’s with me cheating and sneaking in a smoothie, a cookie or some ice cream almost every day. I feel like I’m cheating the system and winning. Ha HA!

On the other hand, Dr. Doo has also warned me that because of my predisposition to GD, he’s unlikely to let me go past my due date (July 8th) because there are increased risks to the baby’s health otherwise. So for anyone making bets on when I’m going to pop this little guy out, at least you have a firm end date. Anyway, here is another picture of baby #2 (and yes, we do finally have a name for him but I’m not telling quite yet). Mark is usually the one who scans the pictures but since he’s not around I did it the old-fashioned way and snapped a picture of the picture. Lame, I know, but it’s the best I can do until I have access to Mark’s work scanner:

On another note, realizing that I’m 32 weeks along made me additionally realize that we’ve only got two more months before this little guy comes out and joins us. We put off doing/buying a bunch of things because we felt we had so much time left but with 8 weeks to go we’re kicking things into high gear. Last week we finally got around to ordering a new stroller, car seat and an awesome high chair for the baby and next week Mark and I are taking a tour of the hospital where I’ll be delivering (you must check out Matilda International’s maternity video in that link. If only for that one scene of the guy in the chef’s uniform cooking something in the kitchen. I’m slightly embarrassed to say this, but I’ve heard the food at Matilda is excellent…not that I would base something as important as where I have the baby on how the food is…but it sure helps).

With Mark out of town and me being super tired and extra lazy with limited mobility, I’ve kept the baby prep down to a minimum this week.  However I did manage to arrange to have all of Noah’s old baby furniture repainted from white to black:

On top of that, I also finished the blanket I was working on for the baby:

And as an added bonus (read: boredom killer) I also knit up a stuffed rabbit for him as well:

This is Sophie with Elijah, the elephant that I knit up for Noah that he refuses to play with:

Of course I still feel horribly unprepared and there’s a ton of stuff that we still need to get before the baby comes, but at least starting to get the nursery together is a start.

May 16, 2009 at 4:30 am 5 comments

Back in the Swing of Things

We’ve been back in HK for three weeks now and after a one week jet-lag respite, things quickly got back to normal.  Actually, we’ve had a pretty busy past two weeks so overdrive is more accurate.  Here’s a recap…

Mother’s Day

Noah’s class hosted a Coffee Morning for Mother’s Day and invited all the moms in for a little performance.  Noah had been practicing his song all week and had been bragging about making me flowers so I had an inkling of what to expect.  So on Thursday morning I went to his class, sat down at a the tables along with the other moms and watched his class perform a couple of songs especially for us.  Noah, being Noah, naturally sat in the front row and made faces at everyone while the rest of the class went through the choreographed routine.  Nice.

Afterward he joined me at the table where the teachers had laid out bread, jam and cookie cutters and he put together a couple of heart-shaped jam sandwiches for me…which he then asked if he could eat and then wouldn’t share with me. Oh well. I’m not really allowed to eat jam anyway so I guess it all worked out.

That Mother’s Day weekend, Mark gave me an awesome present — an obligation-free weekend. He took the boy swimming, kept him occupied, entertained, played with him, fed him, changed him…leaving me free to do whatever I wanted. Mostly I spent the time knitting but I joined in when I felt like it. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable things are when you don’t feel like you have to do them. I even got up early on Mother’s Day and made pancakes for everyone. Just because I felt like it.

And if obligation-free childcare wasn’t enough, Mark topped off my present by getting me a flash for my camera. I know, totally nerdy but it’s what I wanted. He actually got a better model than the one I would’ve bought for myself. This thing is awesome — it’s huge, it comes with color filters, a diffuser, a built-in bounce card…everything a girl needs to make herself look scary and intimidating. It also has a 150 page instruction manual (in Chinese!) so until I learn a thing or two about lighting, I’ll be relying heavily on the auto-functions. But still…exciting!

Extracurricular Activities

With May comes the start of a new class term at the YWCA. We had enrolled Noah in their Socatots classes last summer, fall and winter terms. We thought we’d give him a break during spring term because he didn’t seem like he was enjoying the classes very much — he mostly just goofed around in class. Well, after a few months with nothing to do in the afternoons after he came home from school, we were both going a little nuts from boredom. So this term, I enrolled him in two afterschool classes: Basketbabes and Little Scientist.

Whereas during Socatots Noah was more interested in being a class clown and getting people to laugh at him, at Basketbabes he’s attentive, he participates, and he ignores the other kids who are goofing off and really focuses on what Coach Steve is saying. It may be that Noah is just more interested in basketball than in soccer, but I also chalk it up to Noah being several months older now. It’s amazing to realize how much he’s progressed in such a short amount of time.

I was really looking forward to going to Noah’s science class with him but as it turned out, it’s one of the few classes at the Y that’s children-only on the inside. Still, it’s a nice 90 minute break where I get to sit and read while I wait for the class to get out. He’s gone to two classes now and both times he’s come out of there running and so excited about what they’ve done. I love his enthusiasm for it, especially considering that science was never one of my strong suits in school.

And just to really get our money’s worth out of our YWCA membership, I’ve also enrolled in a couple of classes for myself. In a couple of weeks I start a Travel Photography class as well as a First Aid For Infants and Children class. They’re both short, two-session classes but I’m looking forward to having a reason to get out of the house and talking to other grown-ups. Oh, and of course hopefully I might learn something useful too.

File This Under “I Guess This Means We’re Staying For a While”

After living here for two and a half years, Mark and I finally gave in and bought a car last weekend. We’ve gotten by pretty well just using taxis and public transportation, but with a newborn on the way we wanted a safer, more reliable transportation option. Partly it’s because I’m due in the middle of typhoon season and trying to get a taxi during a typhoon is a huge pain in the butt that usually involves at least a half hour wait. The dealer is just finishing up all the paperwork but on Monday he should be delivering a 2001 Toyota Harrier (basically a Lexus RX — it’s the name they were sold under in Japan until 2008) to our door. That means we have a couple more days to get used to the idea of driving on the other side of the road. Oh, and we should probably get licenses too while we’re at it.

And in Mark’s World

Mark’s planning on staying home (as in working in HK but not traveling out of the country) for a few weeks before and after the baby comes which is pretty exciting. Of course, not traveling for two months means he’s got to cram in all his business trips now. So a week after we got back from CA, poor Mark had to turn around and hop on a plane for Texas and then Tokyo for a week. He’s back in HK for a week followed by another weeklong stint in Tokyo, but after that he’s staying put hopefully until August. Hooray!

Finally…
Noah got to go to his good friend’s birthday party this week. It was a pirate-themed affair held at one of the beaches nearby and according to Clarita (who took Noah because I had to stay home due to handyman issues) Francois’ mom had gone all out — setting up food, getting tons of props and favors, and burying little treasure boxes in the sand for the kids to find and dig out. Naturally when Noah got home, he was even more into pirates than ever. It was actually really cute. He insisted on calling me Pirate Mommy while he was Pirate Noah and he started walking around everywhere taking big pirate steps and saying “Arrrr!” with each step. Anyway, here is Pirate Noah for your viewing pleasure:

May 15, 2009 at 11:28 pm 4 comments

How to Entertain a Three-Year-Old in the Bay Area

1. Take him to the California Academy of Sciences.
I took Noah to the Cal Academy once before when we went back home last October but he was just as excited about it this time around. Unfortunately, so were the hundreds upon hundreds of other children who were there for a Spring Break trip with their families or on class field trips. Fortunately the building is so well-designed that there were very few places where we actually felt crowded and we got to see pretty much everything that we wanted to. Like…

Giant Hissing Cockroaches,

Jackass Penguins (always a favorite with Noah),

Geckos,

and Butterflies at the rainforest exhibit:

And as an added bonus, after a few hours at the Academy you get to ride home in peace and quiet because this is what happens to your family afterward:

2. Take him to an Oakland A’s game on Dollar Wednesdays.
Ok, so actually Dollar Wednesdays is probably not the best day to go. If you take $2 tickets, $1 hot dogs, a beautiful day, add in Spring Break week and the Red Sox as the visiting team…well, you get a lot of waiting in lines and sold out stuff. It took Mark an hour just to get out of the parking lot…just in time for Bay Area rush hour traffic. Wheee! Luckily for me, I bowed out of the game, opting to get a haircut and do a little shopping on Solano Avenue instead (ha ha suckas). Otherwise, nothing better than supporting your local home team:

3. Take him to the East Bay Vivarium in Berkeley.
Actually, the vivarium is really just a store that sells reptiles. But really, really cool reptiles. Like monitor lizards, albino constrictors, geckos, turtles, and some other things I’ve never seen before. It’s a relatively small store but we still spent an hour there just looking at all the animals. Plus it’s located just a block away from all the awesome shopping on Fourth Street in Berkeley, so win-win for everyone.

4. Get an hour’s worth of good behavior out of him by bribing him with an ice cream sundae from Fenton’s Creamery in Oakland.
Ah, Fenton’s. It was a required stop on my Bay Area nostalgia tour. I’ve only been back maybe once or twice since it burned down (arson) and reopened in 2003, and let me tell you, the vibe there is much different when you go during the day with your three-year-old as opposed to going late at night with your college friends after stuffing yourselves silly at Zachary’s. And as luck would have it, I would go when I couldn’t eat any sundaes because of my crappy glucose tolerance. Oh well. But the point in going was to take Noah for a sundae. The fact that Piedmont Avenue is home to some awesome shopping (yes, there seems to be a theme forming here) was just coincidence.

Noah with his child-sized sundae:

5. Take him to Picnic Day at the UC Davis campus.
I guess technically UC Davis is not really part of the Bay Area, but my brother and sister-in-law live in Davis so we just happened to be in the area. When my brother first brought up Picnic Day, I thought it would be a cute, small, laid-back thang…more like one of the awesome farmer’s markets that Davis hosts. When we got there, I discovered it was a Really Big Thing. Like, with parades and petting zoos and bands (oh my!). Not to mention plenty of drunk frat guys running around. We got there towards the end of the event but there were still plenty of things for us to take Noah to. They had a Multicultural Children’s Faire set up for the kiddos so we spent a couple of hours taking him around to the different tables and exhibits.

Noah rolling his own pot…

and adding clover seeds

This is the face of a child who does not like face painting:

After making his own Hawaiian lei:

Sitting down and drinking his first root beer float

6. Take him on a nature walk in Muir Woods.
In all honesty, Noah didn’t really care all that much for Muir Woods. He is, after all, only three and primarily interested in running around, yelling and catching bugs. Not taking a walk through some peaceful woods admiring the beauty and majesty of redwood and sequoia trees and being one with nature. Still, Mark and I had a nice time and this is one of my favorite places in the Bay Area.

Mark teaching Noah the significance of tree rings

Lots of tall trees

And clovers

7. Let him run around on Stinson Beach.
As a reward for being relatively quiet and letting us enjoy our walk in the woods, we took Noah to Stinson Beach afterward. The beach is only 9 miles away but because the road is along the coastline and so twisty and turny, it still took a good 30 minutes to get there. We were on the tail end of a three day heat wave in the Bay Area so it was a perfect day to go. Noah took off immediately for the water as soon as we put him down on the sand and he spent the next hour running in and out of the water, making new friends and making sand castles.

Practicing his Karate Kid moves

May 6, 2009 at 11:13 pm 4 comments

Spring Break Recap — Part Two

After a week on the East Coast with Mark’s family, we headed over to CA to hang out with my family for the rest of our time in the US.  Noah and I have been pretty lucky in that we’ve gotten to go back about two or three times a year, so trips to CA are pretty laid back for us…mostly just a lot of hanging out with family, seeing some old friends, eating at all the places I miss, and buying stuff that would otherwise be unavailable or incredibly expensive in Hong Kong.

Mark and Noah dying easter eggs:

A successful easter egg hunt:

Noah and his Lola:

Trying not to step on the cracks. Noah and Tita Carol walking along Piedmont Avenue:

My SIL, Lien, working on one of her awesome cakes:

Mark terrorizing the wedding cake:

Dave, Nevan, Noah and Jae at Nevan’s birthday party. Yes, please, take my child!

Noah and his Tito Monkey:

Noah and his Tito Dennis:

And because Mark got to come back with us for a change, we even got around to doing a sort of nostalgia tour around Oakland — hitting up where we used to live, where we got married and where we used to hang out. This is the church where we got married. Mark posed in front of the church because we weren’t sure that I wouldn’t burst into flames if I got too close:

Where we had our reception:

See? Parts of Oakland can be really pretty:

The old hood — Grand Avenue in Oakland…still protesting Bush after all these years. Ahh…some things just never change:

By the way, have I mentioned that we love Oakland? Don’t mock. You know you want one too:

Naturally, we did a bit more than just hang out when we went back. But I’m saving all that for a final (photo-filled) post. In the meantime, here’s a link to even more pictures in case you’re interested:

Spring Break — West Coast

May 6, 2009 at 12:26 am 3 comments

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