Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 is grinding to the dial up speed...

With a day and a half left to the year, I've been given a reminder of what "slow" means. With all the uploading and downloading that we've been doing this month, our quota has been maxed out and the internet is now crawling along at dial up speed.

Maybe someone up there might have read my previous two posts and is trying to help me slow time down a little. Everyone knows that the internet is one of the biggest time sinks around. Its taking me so long to get anywhere that I have no desire to spend anymore time on here than whats needed to get this post out.

All the time waiting for pages to load got me thinking of my very fist encounters with the internet.

The absolute first time was in the year I started university and was assigned my first email account. Do you all remember the black screens with green fonts? I did nothing with it until I made a friend on a flight and he gave me his email address. That was 19 years ago and we're still friends. (LB, if you're reading this, you need to email me more!)

After the email account was the discovery of IRC - the original IM vehicle. Still in green font on a black background. I think my nick was "Endlessly" and I used to chat with some stranger called "Forever".

So the emailing and IRC-ing only happened on campus until a friend gave me 14.4kbps external dial-up modem as a present. It wasn't because I was ungrateful or anything but I remember having a daily wish for a 28.8kbps modem :D

Once I got internet at home, my addiction really took off and must have made my brain less efficient because I can't remember precisely when I started using my multiple email and IM-ing accounts. Emails got out of control sometime in my second year of working when I was responding to what seemed like hundreds of useless emails a day. My weekends were spent clearing my Inbox because I had to see ZERO new emails there before I could ever shut down my laptop.

These days, I spend most of the weekday daylight hours offline and usually only come online for my internet fix after both boys are in bed. And thats how I waste my nights away :D

Except for tonight of course. Instead, I'll go spend some more sociable time with my family - watching TV.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Adrian's 1st Birthday Party

Today is a day of rest after all the cooking and preparation for Christmas and Adrian's 1st birthday. So, to make this an easy post, here are the photos from our little party yesterday. I have to say a big "Thank You" to my good friend Elaine for taking all these photos. We had hardly any good shots on our own camera (oops!).

Here's the birthday boy looking cute...

This house has seen 3 cheesecakes in the past week - 2 practice ones (because this was my first attempt at any sort of cake) and then this final Chilled Mango Cheesecake.

We weren't very organized for a group photo. I must admit that I was very distracted with the noise of all the kids and the fact that I thought the cake would start melting if we waited too long to serve it.

I think we sang "Happy Birthday" twice and each time, Aaron blew out the candle. Then the other little boy wanted a turn so I had to re-light it yet again for him to blow it out. And we wanted to let a little girl try as well so in the end, we didn't have a picture perfect group shot but the kids had a bit of fun with the candle.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

At 10.04pm last year...

...I was in the Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital, in labour with Adrian and watching an episode of Gossip Girl. I was tired of walking up and down the long corridors of the hospital and so we hooked up my laptop in a corner lounge of the maternity ward.

I had been in what the midwives were calling "early labour" (I was calling it more painful than my last labour!) for most of the day and so they didn't think I qualified for a birthing suite but gave me a bed in the ward. By 10.30pm, they told me that I could either go home, or stay the night alone because Richard wasn't allowed to stay. Thankfully, I chose to stay because an hour later, my water broke, 30 minutes after that, Richard was back in the hospital and about 10 or 15 minutes after that, Adrian came screaming into this world.

He turns one tomorrow. Already! He's toddling around the place all the time now. I guess I have to start admitting to myself that the real "baby" baby Adrian is gone. Throughout the year, I have told myself to savor each day with him because he's not going to be a baby for long.

Here's a photo of him helping to clean up after Christmas lunch.

I'm going to have to think up some way to make the next year go slower....

Friday, December 24, 2010

The World's Best Babysitter?

Wow! This week has gone past really quickly. When I did the post about Santa, he said there were 6 sleeps to Christmas. And now, just one more! My mother and I have spent this week doing a lot of cooking. We're having people over for lunch on Christmas day and have been doing some of the cooking ahead of time. Unfortunately, with Aaron and Adrian around, its ended up that most of the time, one person does the cooking and the other babysits. If we both need to be doing something in the kitchen, then we call in backup - my father.

Yesterday, we all went over to a friend's place to make the desserts. I was prepared for a tiring day of chasing either one of the boys around somebody else's house to make sure they didn't break anything. Instead, we had two still (and silent) boys. Hardly even knew they were there....

They're not smiling at the camera. Its the TV that they're both enthralled with! Most of the time, Aaron is allowed to watch one TV program a week and Adrian only watches his "Baby Can Read" dvds. TV is still very much a novelty to the both of them.

While the TV worked as a very effective babysitter yesterday, the experience actually re-inforced to me that I need to stick to my principles and keep TV to a minimum in our own house. And I've found that each time I've given in to an unscheduled request for TV at home, I'm just met with an endless stream of "Pleaaaase, can I watch a while more." for the rest of the day. I totally understand the attraction to the TV because I'm a bit of an addict myself. BUT, its not something that I want my little kids getting into the habit of.

Its ironic when all I want is some quiet in the house yet I definitely prefer to see them running around and making too much noise laughing than having only their eyes move in front of a TV. Anyway, its Christmas time, and I've always associated it with lots of noise and laughter.

Alright then, its the final day of shopping and cooking. Both boys are downstairs laughing and playing with a cardboard box. I think I'll go join them for awhile before heading out.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Stroll Through Bethlehem

Today, we saw a nativity scene with a difference. In fact, we not only saw it, we walked through it. The Uniting Church had organized for this and it was advertised in our parish newsletter so off we went today for a stroll through Bethlehem.

I was very impressed with it and it was so easy for Aaron to have a good look and feel of the Christmas story.

There was a census collector at the entrance to take down details of how many were in our family. Then, to make the experience of strolling through the market streets more real, we were given some coins to use as spending money.

Here are some of the photos.

A carpenter's workshop...

Bread with honey...

Shepherds, kids and kids...

Here's a close up of one of the kids - my angel...

And finally, Jesus, Mary and Joseph...

I have to say that Joseph did a fantastic job of putting Jesus to sleep. He just stood there for a few minutes, jiggling Jesus a little bit and off he went to sleep.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shopping and Santa

Its been a long long day. I thought I knew the exact Christmas presents I needed to buy and estimated a 90 minute shopping trip. Instead, we were in the mall for close to 6 hours. I may have run over time but at least I came in a lot under budget. Supposedly, all the shops have been doing so poorly this shopping season that they've started the Boxing Day sales early. Good for us :)

So apart from being happy with the shopping, I actually had a very positive visit with Santa. Well, Aaron had a visit that I thought was very positively. As you might have guessed from previous posts, I haven't made a big deal of Santa Clause. We happened to walk past him and there wasn't a line so Aaron asked if he could go chat for awhile.

This must have been a very experienced Santa. Right off the bat, he guessed that Aaron was four and from there, he seemed to know exactly what to say. It really gave Aaron the impression that Santa did indeed know everything (about him, the world and life!).

For me, the most important thing that Santa said came after Aaron told him that he wanted electric trains and dinosaurs for Christmas. Santa's answer was "Well, those are very expensive toys. I can't afford too many presents like that because I have to give presents to all the children in the world. But don't worry, I know exactly what you really need and I have already wrapped it up."

Yes, Santa knows everything! Even if he doesn't know it all and was merely trying to make sure no family was left with a disappointed child on Christmas morning, I'm glad he reinforced some of what I have been talking to Aaron about. We've been discussing what expensive means, the difference between wants and needs and also the value of money.

On the way to the car, we walked passed another Santa Clause. Aaron very matter-of-factly said "This is a fake one. We've already talked to the real and he knows me." Kids! Even though I haven't perpetuated the Santa story, it has somehow gotten firmly embedded in his mind as fact. Its sweet to have such innocent thoughts.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Dinosaurs' Night Before Christmas

Aaron has been into dinosaurs for just over a year now. The whole dino phase really took off around Christmas time last year. One of the books we borrowed from the library last year was "The Dinosaurs' Night Before Christmas" by Ann Mueke. He's been talking a lot about it this year as well because we got a copy of it.

For any family with dino crazy kids, this is a must read book for the Christmas season. Its all about a boy that sneaks into a museum on Christmas eve when all the dinosaur fossils come alive and have a huge party. The illustrations have all the details of the dinosaurs, yet are cute in a Chrismassy way. Apart from the great storyline and pictures, the best part about this book is the CD it comes with. The story is read and there are several very clever dinosaur Christmas carols.

Go here, to have a listen to some snippets of them. The ones from the book are Hey, Duck Bills!, Hark! The Pterodactyls Sing, The Allosaurus Chorus, Deck the halls with Stegosaurus and We Wish You A Dino Holiday.

My favourites is "Hark! The Pterodactyls Sing" because I've always liked "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing". I like it not just for the tune but the clever way the words have been re-written. Here are the lyrics, why not try singing along as you read through this....

Hark! The Pterodactyls Sing
Flying high on reptile wing.
Down below them in a nest
raptor chicks await breakfast.
Rays of sunshine coax rebirth
From the Mesozoic earth.
Tiny bug and giant beast
'Wake to hunt a new 'morn's feast.
Hark! The Pterodactyls sing -
Wondering what the day will bring.

Diplodocids in a band
Stroll across the misty land.
Evergreen and fern so sweet
Fuel a thunderous march of feet.
spindly neck of Seismosaurus
Reach up to the roofs of forests.
Drooping heads of Dryosaurs
Pick new moss from forest floors.
Hark! The Pterodactyls sing -
Wondering what the day will bring.

Rushing through a thicket dense,
A Tyrannosaur, immense
Chases down a hapless prey -
Just in time it gets away!
A voracious appetite
Threatens creatures still in sight.
Silently they crouch and hide
Until T. 'Rex passes by.
Hark! The Pterodactyls sing -
Wondering what the day will bring.

'Deep beneath a rolling sea
'Pliosaurs dive gracefully
Searching for a seafood meal -
Trilobite or paleo-eel.
Far below, a shadow, looming -
Suddenly to surface zooming!
Mouth agape, a Mosasaur
Makes the divers head for shore!
Hark! The Pterodactyls sing -
Wondering what the day will bring.

Mama Raptor has come back
'With a tasty morning snack
Eagerly her hungry brood
Gobble up the baby food.
Far aloft, on graceful wing
'Pterosaurs, still hang-gliding,
Herald that the rising sun
Marks another day begun.
Hark! The Pterodactyls sing -
"'Day has dawned on everything!"

I'm now inspired to go dress all of Aaron's dinosaurs in Christmas outfits....

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

DIY Chinese Sausages

Remember how I mentioned in this post that I love eating Lap Cheong (Chinese Sausages)? I'm always thinking about them. We've bought them here in Brisbane but so far, I haven't found a store that has it exactly the way I like.

So....we tried to make it. And we thought we'd try to make them healthier so we used lean meat to make them and only put in a little bit of fat. Bad idea as the lack of fat made the sausages very chewy. I was quite disappointed. The upside is that my parents both seem to like it and we did have a lot of fun making them.

Anyway, here are some photos of us making it.

That brass 'pumper' is ancient! It must be at least 30 years old because my mother had it made when I was a child to make these lap cheongs for me. It actually takes more than two people to pump up the sausages. After I took the photo, I went to join the assembly line too.

After pumping them up, we had to hang them up to dry but a million flies came to visit us. This was obviously not a good way to hand them, especially if we needed to do this for a few days.

The solution was an overturned laundry basket with Adrian's old mosquito net draped over it.

For those who are curious about it, its meat marinated overnight with sugar, soy sauce and Chinese rose wine (we had to substitute this with sherry). After pumping them into the sausage casing, you leave them to dry for a few days until they're hard. I'm not sure about the ones that are home made but the store bought ones last for months in the fridge. They are steamed or pan friend and then sliced thinly to serve. Yummy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Old "To Do Before I Die" List

I was looking for an empty page in my notebook today and came across a very unfamiliar list. The notebook itself is close to seven years old but I'm not in the habit of dating things so I don't know when I made this list but its definitely some time before Aaron was born.

Amongst the sixty seven items, these really stood out and made me wonder about the sort of frame of mind I was in at the time. They seem mismatched and so out of reach (and even more out of reach now).

1) Meditate daily - What?! There is absolutely no quiet in my life right now, not around me or within me. In fact, I am wishing that somebody will give me a pair of noise canceling headphones for Christmas. I think I need to wait another five years before I start working on this.

2) Earn a "fantastic" salary from trading - I'm guessing that I was trying to set a high bar for myself but I probably intended to earn the same as I would if I were to go out to a job. This was my aim when I first quit Intel and was home all day. I worked on it for awhile and felt pretty comfortable with where I got but when Aaron came along, I just couldn't focus. The good news is that I started it again last year but then Adrian came along. Damn!

3) Start an elaborate and traditional Chinese New Year practice - Hmmm...I never give much thought to Chinese New Year. But I suppose this would be a good idea now that I have two boys to 'educate' on the Chinese traditions. Hey wow! Looks like I had some sort of long term thinking when I wrote this down without even having any children yet.

4) Attend a Star Trek Convention - I've totally forgotten how crazy I used to be about Star Trek. I guess I still am but never spend the time to get immersed in Federation stuff anymore. If I'm lucky, the boys might get interested one day. (Although, by the time they're old enough to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation, it'll almost be like me watching Star Trek : The Original Series.)

Now here's the most shocking one of all...

5) FOUR kids - OMG! Who was this person? What was she thinking? I still see how fun it could potentially be with four children but I now have the added experience of knowing how much work (and money) goes into it. Nah...if I did this before I died, I wouldn't have the time, energy or money to do any of the other sixty six items....

It was strange to read through that list and get reminded of things that I used to want to do. While many seem unattainable at this time, at least I can start plodding towards them.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'm making a list, and checking it twice.

Like the millions of other parents in the world, I'm getting caught up in the whole Christmas present shopping spirit. The toy makers and marketers are so good at what they do. My child needs ALL those toys! Well, not really but there is so much out there and I get so tempted to make his day (or half day) buy getting him lots of big ones.

But, I won't.

I'm not here to kill the excitement of Christmas. On the contrary, its my favorite time of the year and I want it to be his too. It wasn't that long ago that I was a child so I do know that a big part of Christmas was the anticipation of the presents. However, I also want him to like it for the Christmas carols, meals with family and friends and most importantly, the spirit of giving.

There is also the whole Santa Clause thing to uphold as well. I have decided to play along with the Santa story because its what most of the children Aaron's age know (and talk about in places like schools and Christmas concerts). But, Santa will be the one that brings the boring things like socks, erasers and pajamas. I haven't been using the threats of "you better be good or Santa won't come" so its my way of keeping Santa in the scene but not have such a big role. I actually read somewhere that some of the original Christmas presents were fruits. I wonder if a watermelon with a bow on it would generate any excitement - it is after all his favorite fruit.

What will I get him? Well, like I said in the title, I've made a list and I'm checking it twice (or twenty times). The more important question is, what do I help him give. He initially thought that we'd go out and buy things but I showed him that he didn't have enough money in his money box (gift from Santa last year). So, whoever doesn't have money will need to make their presents. Which only means that I'm going to be very busy and my fingers will probably be full of paint, glue and glitter. Maybe this will then become some of the happy memories that he'll make about Christmas time.

Ah....very busy times ahead. There are only 16 days left and I think I'm making things waaay too serious. Its all about having fun!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Post Office Out of Stamps

Unbelievable yet true.

I have been very organized this year and got all my Christmas cards written up on the weekend. And today, I thought I would try to beat the crowds and went to the post office at 2pm - when things have been quiet in the past. Unfortunately, everybody else thought they'd go at the quiet time too and the queue extended to nearly the outside of the post office.

So after fifteen minutes of slowly creeping past all the Christmas merchandise on sale in the post office, it was finally my turn. But guess what?! No stamps left. All they could offer me was a plain white label. I was a little disappointed because the cards don't look festive at all now but I did settle for it after that long queue.

Actually, the stamps weren't my only disappointment today. I went out to get some new lights for our Christmas tree but guess what, they were sold out too! I'll just have to make another trip somewhere else tomorrow.

I'm usually very excited about Christmas but this year, that feeling hasn't set in yet. I can't decide what presents to get for anyone. I also can't decide what we should cook and when we should have our Christmas get-together. And, on top of all that, its Adrian's birthday on 27 December and once again, I can't decide what to do about it. Indecision!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The T-Rex and the Baby Angel

This is one of my favorite photos of the boys from recent weeks.

It so clearly shows who they both are right now. Aaron - four years old and bursting with as much energy as a t-rex. Adrian - 11 months old, also bursting with energy but somehow his energy is sweet.

I admit that sometimes, when I'm watching them both, I find myself enjoying Adrian's energy more than Aaron's. Adrian is innocent and all the mischief he gets up to is still excusable (and downright cute sometimes). On the other hand, I find myself having so much more expectation of Aaron to know what he should and shouldn't do. Too much expectation perhaps...

He's still only four years old. Its easy for a baby's cuteness to overshadow that of a noisy little boy but there is still plenty of cuteness left in Aaron. In fact, it was Aaron's dinosaur impersonation that made me like this photo.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Is he sleeping?

Sleep? My babies don't sleep. Not in their cots, not in the car, nor pram and not after 5am. Sleep and this family have not been good friends for awhile.

And yet, today, I present you with this :

I (well, my breadmaker) baked some crusty bread ready for breakfast this morning. It was incredibly yummy and the whole family loved it. Adrian did too. He munched and munched and munched. We thought he was having a good time eating but quite suddenly, he dozed off. In his chair and with some bread still in his mouth. Go figure!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Going Green With Baby

There is plenty of talk these days about being "green" and being "environmentally responsible". I do care about our planet but so far, I haven't always been the type of person that is actively green.

However, in hindsight, it seems that I turned over a new leaf sometime in the past four years and didn't even realize it. Having a baby changes your life in so many ways. Although life with baby is often rigged with impulse buy traps each time you go shopping, the fact that you're responsible for the well being of something so precious, makes you do a lot more research before buying. Also, these expensive little responsibilities may hang around for the next two decades so the choices made need to also be the most cost effective ones.

So, somewhere between wanting to give the best to our children while spending the least, we seem to have become a fairly green family. It wasn't very hard to do at all.

Here are some of the choices we've made:

* We have not installed air conditioning. The summer months can get pretty scorching but we figured that there are probably only a maximum of 14 truly unbearable days in a year. On those days, we'll go shopping!

* We mop the floors with vinegar or a fruit and vegetable scrap enzyme cleaner that we make ourselves. If you're interested in making some, google "vegetable enzyme cleaner" for some recipes. My tip is to use as much citrus fruits as you can for a better smell.

* We've recently started washing our clothes with soap nuts. These are called Sapindus in Wikipedia.

* We use cloth nappies almost all of the time. I have some leftover disposables that I keep for when we're traveling.

* We grow a variety vegetables in our garden. This is a lot of fun, especially with little kids. Eating organic can get very expensive but the plus side is that they are fresher, contain none of those harmful pesticides and may have more of the nutrients left in it. So, to avoid buying everything organic, the vegetable garden is a cheap and fun alternative.

These are just a few of the choices our family has made and it may not work for another family. Everyone does their own green bit. There are plenty of other ways to go green in our every day lives and you can see that going green goes hand in hand with spending our money wisely. It is not an all or nothing exercise. We can all do what we feel comfortable with and start out small.

I'm very motivated to continue trying to do my little bit for the environment. Its not only about saving money but also much more about not destroying our earth.

Two minutes later : I've come back here to add that I forgot to mention my most green accomplishment yet. Breastfeeding! If you're talking about giving your baby something local, pesticide free, not processed and with zero carbon footprint then this is the perfect product.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Simply Irresistible

The season of eating is definitely coming up. There are a few parties coming up and we've also started talking about what we should prepare for the two birthdays coming up at the end of December - the one for the BIG guy upstairs as well as the one for the littlest guy in our house.

It got me thinking of all the food that I find irresistible. I don't have very sophisticated taste buds at all and am easily pleased as you'll see.

So here's a list of the foods that I can't, won't and don't resist. Its not a list of all the foods I like because the would be too long:

* Fresh bread. Even if I've just had something to eat, if I go out to the store to get bread and its still warm when I get home, I can't resist one (or two slices).

* Cheesecake. I'm not much of a cake person but these are the exception.

* Hard Boiled Eggs. Actually, its the tip that I can't resist. Whenever I have to slice a hard boiled egg with an egg cutter, I have to eat the top tip.

* Pasta. If I had to pick between rice and pasta, its always going to be pasta. And yet, I have rice about 6 nights a week. Oddly, whenever I'm at a hotel, I always look to see if they have boring old Spaghetti Bolognese. They always have it the way that I like which is also the way that I never seem to be able to replicate - the not-so-tomato-y way.

* Lap Cheong. These are Chinese Dried Sausages. I love these so much that if these are served at a meal, I usually don't touch any of the other dishes. Just the plain white rice and the lap cheong will do.

* Pineapples. I've only recently been able to eat these and now, a newly bought pineapple doesn't last 2 hours in our house before I start cutting it up.

Its your turn now. Tell me about the food that you just can't/won't/don't resist.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bulky Bums

These days, depending on what shirt he's wearing, Adrian either looks a little like a bee or an ant. The modern cloth nappies he has been wearing seem to look very bulky on him sometimes. I think I'll get him a black and yellow striped one for Christmas to really complete the bee look.

He was wearing blue today. What blue thing has a big bulky behind?

He even managed to get this little scooper thing stuck on his bum.

These photos were taken on our back deck. Just like another little escape artist, Adrian is out there whenever we forget to close the doors. Sometimes, when its close to bath time, I let him crawl all over the place and get into everything. Its amazing to watch the curiosity on his face and the excitement he gets from being free.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Avoid The Doghouse This Christmas Season

I think I'm an easy person to shop for. I give lots of hints and clues. In fact, if you hang around me enough, like my husband does, I actually talk about things that I would like to get. Unfortunately, the results still indicate that my messages aren't getting across.

With Christmas around the corner, I thought this video would be a good reminder for him, and all the other guys out there.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Starting Kindy - A BIG DEAL for Moms

Aaron went for his first day at a Montessori School today. I thought I was over the pre-kindy excitement I've been through it all when he went to Mariaville in Ipoh a few months ago. Yet, I found myself equally excited. Maybe even more.

We were all up before 6am. I got a big breakfast ready, picked out his clothes and packed his lunch by 7am. The whole family was ready to take him to school by 8am. Unfortunately, the teacher told us to arrive at 9.30am. So, we hung out, played around and eventually started running late! Thats what happens when you get too excited and leave too much spare time. Anyway, to top it all off, we get halfway there and Aaron asks "Where's my bag?". Yes, after all that, we left his bag at home. There wasn't enough time to turn back so we dropped him, then went home to get his bag and went back to the school again. And because its only a 9-12noon session, I was back at the school again an hour after the bag was dropped off!

Anyway, I have been excited for him, for weeks. And, I have been anxious about it for myself. This is the start of him being away from me. Its not like holiday school at Mariaville. Its the real deal. Its only a couple of days this year but from January, its five days a week, ten weeks a term. For my sake, I've put him in for a half day only. At least I can still be the center of his world for half the day. (Unfortunately, he liked it so much today that I almost couldn't get him away at 12pm and he's saying things like he wants to be FULL DAY.)

Another selfish thought that has been crossing my mind is that this could be the end of my flexible lifestyle. Yes, I am tied down with two kids but up until now, there is nothing stopping us from going away for holidays or spending a special day out on a picnic. There would be no more impromptu outings during weekdays. I love going out with him and exploring different places.

He did have a very good day at the kindy today and spent a lot of the time afterwards asking when he can go back. When I picked him up, he had a huge smile on his face and was oozing happiness. At least I know that he's in an environment that he really enjoys.

If I spend so much time thinking of kindy, I wonder what his graduating high school is going to do. What if he goes away to a university in a different state? What if he doesn't want to study anymore and finds a job in another COUNTRY?! What if he gets MARRIED at eighteen????

I think I should stop thinking about it now ...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back From The Beach

Why do we not live nearer the beach? Why? Why? Why? I guess I shouldn't complain. It was only a 90 minute drive there and both boys did well in the car.

The beach must be the easiest place to keep children entertained. All that sand keeps them occupied for hours and hours. And running back and forth, getting bucket after bucket of water for the moat of the sand castle - well, that alone lasts a good 20 minutes before they realize its futile. Aaron made friends with this family with four kids and they played every morning and afternoon for the entire time we
were there.

Adrian also had a lot of fun with the sand. When he first saw the waves, he was completely enthralled and crawled straight towards them but then got a face full of water. Oops! That gave him a bit of a shock and we had to take it slowly for awhile until he got used to it.

And guess what? Adrian took his first unassisted steps while we were there. It wasn't when this particular photo was taken but he seemed to do a lot of standing on the sand in the lead up to those first steps.

Here's one final photo of the both of them.

I'm already planning our next trip there. Maybe I should just plan on going there on a monthly basis.....if only...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tree Climbing

I have had a lot of fun today. We went tree climbing! I actually read about this free activity organized by the Brisbane City Council but forgot all about it because children needed to be 8 years old to participate. Never imagined that Richard, my dad and I would be the ones enjoying it today instead of Aaron.

You'll see from the photos that its more climbing a tree with ropes (and the added safety of them) rather than climbing with your bare hands. This was of course a very easy and tree but the instructor told us there are other areas in Brisbane where they go very high up. This must be what the Greenpeace people do to stop logging....

Anyway, here are our photos.

Aaron was left on the bottom as we all made our way up the tree. When we were about halfway up, we heard "I need to pee!". Oops! All three of us were hanging up in the air. Thankfully, the instructor's wife followed him to a nearby tree and was kind enough to keep him entertained for the rest of our adventure.

Richard and I climbed into the hammock while my father was in a single hanging hammock chair on another branch.

I liked the hammock better after Richard got out and there wasn't the extra person wobbling it.

And now for more news on fun - We'll be going to Caloundra for the next five days for some fun on the beach. YAHOO!!!! Aaron has been waiting months for this. I'm also very excited but the weather forecast is saying that there may be cloudy rainy days coming....lets hope they're wrong.

I won't have access to internet while there so look out for my post with pictures next Saturday. Have a good week everyone.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Walking With The Trolley - Take 2

This is the photo I posted of Aaron in 2007 when we first got him the trolley. According to the date on that post, this was two days after his first birthday.

The trolley went to Palembang with us and has now made the trip back to Brisbane again. And here's Adrian, 10 months, trying to push it along.

I have to say it - He's so cute! When Aaron was at this stage, I think I spent a lot of the time wishing he would grow up faster. Now with Adrian, its the exact opposite.

Anyways, I'll try not to blink my eyes too often.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Suppose You've Past The Big Three-Oh

I met my old piano teacher for lunch today. She's not really old - sixty four (I think). I just use 'old' because I stopped my lessons with her fourteen years ago.

She used a lot of that word today though. For some reason, she kept saying that once you past sixty, you're living on borrowed time. Perhaps its because she's going through some stressful times at the moment or because her sister has a couple of cancers in her. Whatever the case, I felt so sad that she was having such a hard time.

I tried to keep things upbeat and talked about how everyone is living longer these days. She then reminded me that it was like yesterday that she would come pick me up to go for master classes. All that time passed so quickly and today, I picked her up and took her out to lunch. Thats when she said "I suppose you've past the big three-oh". (Yes, I have. Oh No! I'm halfway to the big six-oh!) If the next fourteen years pass by as quickly as the last, its true that she's going to gone in another blink of the eye. And so will many other people I know. What morbid thoughts!

Its strange to go from a teacher-student relationship to one where she tells me things about her family and her life. She's a friend. I like this grown-up relationship but I'll always have that respect for her as my teacher. At the same time, it makes me feel bad that I have such an easy life and have few worries while she's grown 'older' and seems to have so many. She's spent her life teaching and caring for others, shouldn't this be the time that she starts to be cared for and relax? The big six-oh for her seems to be taken like the end of the road.

Its a reminder that there are people less fortunate than us. Its also a reminder to make every day count. I wouldn't want to reach the big six-oh and feel like there is no time left to make my life worthwhile.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Power of Indoor Plants

The Brisbane City Council Libraries have been holding a series of "Sustainable Living" seminars. These are free and cover a range of topics from organic gardening to green motoring to eco-babies.

I attended the "Healthy Homes" one yesterday and it was about how plants can absorb the toxic compounds emitted by all the stuff we fill our homes with. Supposedly we're surrounded by roughly 350 different types right in our living rooms. I wasn't so interested in the topic but went along to keep my mother company. I did end up getting interested in the end.

From what I can remember, the speaker mentioned that there have been numerous experiments conducted on how plants improve well-being and productivity in the workplace. They have done experiments where employees were given questionnaires before and after plants being introduced and the results indicated that people felt less stressed with the plants around. I got this part of the results from the NIPA website:

Staff with one or more plants in their offices showed reductions in:
* Anxiety -37%
* Anger -44%
* Depression -58%
* Fatigue -38%
* Confusion -30%
* Overall Negativity -65%
* Overall Stress -50%

No-plant (Control group) showed the opposite trend:
* Increased Negativity +(20-40)%

And yet, the Australian parliament house supposedly removed all indoor plants recently in an effort to save costs. No wonder we've got such a muddled government at the moment.

The bit of research that really got me interested was one done on classrooms. The University of Technology in Sydney conducted some preliminary research on 360 children in Grades 6 and 7 and the effects of plants in their classrooms. They found that there was 14% improvement in Mathematics, 10% in Spelling and 11% in Science. Amazing isn't it? For the rest of the details, read the short report.

This was only a preliminary study and the first that specifically tried to measure the effects of the plants in the classroom. More research would be needed to provide formal confirmation but its enough to make me want to put plants inside our house now. We've got none at all right now.

So, are you sitting near a plant right now?

Friday, November 5, 2010

We've Created A Monster

Well, not exactly a monster. Just a child that lectures grown ups on healthy living and eating.

Its all to do with my mother's brainwashing. From the very beginning, my mother has made it her mission to instill all her healthy living and eating habits into Aaron. I like the idea of it but I'll admit that I'm not as diligent as she is in this area.

The other day, Aaron met my second cousin for the first time. The guy AND his wife smoke and he happened to see them light up. Guess what? They got an earful from him about how smoking isn't good. And following on from that, he started his lecture on healthy foods. Why fiber is important. Which foods contain antioxidants and why you need them. How he never EVER eats junk food like McDonalds. I can just hear my mother's words coming out of his mouth.

My favorite part of this lecture (yes, he gives it to me too) is when he sometimes gets the words "carbohydrates" and "carbon dioxide" mixed up - "We also need to have carbon dioxide for energy."

I know this is good stuff and he really does believe and live by it (because we try to be consistent with the message my mother is teaching). We're all forced to as well because we don't want to ruin what my mother has taught him so far. Unfortunately, I do like to have junk food sometimes. There have been a couple of instances recently where we've gone to get a Big Mac, taken off the wrapper and then re-wrapped it with an un-marked napkin. *sigh* The trouble we go through to put junk in our bodies! At least he's keeping us healthy.

I'm just wondering how long this can last. When will he ask start asking for junk food? Will he want it if he's never had it before? Will he refuse it if somebody else takes him out to eat? It'll be interesting to see what happens.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Evolution of Mom

We all know that second time mothers are much more slack...I mean, relaxed. We've been there, done that. We know what won't happen if we don't do something.

Recently, Adrian seems to have had a change of heart towards food. Where there was once a baby that ate everything in sight, there now is a baby that shakes his head vigorously and bats my incoming spoon away. Its been a week now and I haven't been able to get him to eat much solids at all. Am I worried? Nah! He'll come around. I think so little of it that I forgot to pack lunch for him when we went out today. And when he refused the first spoonful at dinner time, I ate up all his food. (Very tasty stuff!)

I remembered this funny comparison that I got emailed some time ago and dug it up to share here today.

Your Clothes
1st baby: You begin wearing maternity clothes as soon as your OB/GYN
confirms your pregnancy.
2nd baby: You wear your regular clothes for as long as possible.
3rd baby: Your maternity clothes are your regular clothes.

The Baby's Name
1st baby: You pore over baby-name books and practice pronouncing
and writing combinations of all your favorites.
2nd baby: Someone has to name their kid after your great-aunt Mavis,
right? It might as well be you.
3rd baby: You open a name book, close your eyes, and see where your
finger falls. Bimaldo? Perfect!

Preparing for the Birth
1st baby: You practice your breathing religiously.
2nd baby: You don't bother practicing because you remember that last
time, breathing didn't do a thing.
3rd baby: You ask for an epidural in your 8th month.

The Layette

1st baby: You prewash your newborn's clothes, color-coordinate them,
and fold them neatly in the baby's little bureau.
2nd baby: You check to make sure that the clothes are clean and
discard only the ones with the darkest stains.
3rd baby: Boys can wear pink, can't they?

1st baby: At the first sign of distress--a whimper, a frown--you pick
up the baby.
2nd baby: You pick the baby up when her wails threaten to wake your
3rd baby: You teach your 3-year-old how to rewind the mechanical swing.

1st baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics, Baby Swing, and
Baby Story Hour.
2nd baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics.
3rd baby: You take your infant to the supermarket and the dry cleaner.

Going Out

1st baby: The first time you leave your baby with a sitter, you call
home 5 times.
2nd baby: Just before you walk out the door, you remember to leave a
number where you can be reached.
3rd baby: You leave instructions for the sitter to call only if she
sees blood.

At Home
1st baby: You spend a good bit of every day just gazing at the baby.
2nd baby: You spend a bit of every day watching to be sure your older
child isn't squeezing, poking, or hitting the baby.
3rd baby: You spend a little bit of every day hiding from the children.

Parenthood is definitely a journey of self discovery isn't it?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Modern Cloth Nappies (Part 2)

Several weeks ago, I blogged about trying out Modern Cloth Nappies. I ended up buying a $20 Peapods and also $5 no-name one off ebay. I was hoping that they would both have the same performance but, as suspected, the Peapods ones didn't leak at night. Its something to do with the cut of the leg holes and how Adrian sleeps at night. They seem to work with no leaks during the day. Now that I know how they work, I got us an additional Peapods for nights and another $5 one for days. (I'm itching to get more because they come in really cute colors). We're 100% reusable now.

Cloth nappies are no more inconvenient than disposable ones. They are both a pain to put on a squirmy baby. Even my old terry toweling squares aren't all that hard to use, they just don't look that nice. The absorbency of the bamboo inserts are as good as the disposable nappies and the fleece top layer keeps the baby feeling just as dry. The one area that I'm not as 'green' on is the fact that I do like to put a nappy liner down to catch any 'solids'. I'm feeling good about ditching the disposable nappies, especially after coming across these figures on the Australian Nappy Network.

1.375 Billion disposable nappies used annually in Australia and New Zealand.

3.75 Million disposable nappies dumped every single day in these 2 nations alone.

3 Million trees felled every year to make disposable nappies for Australia / New Zealand.

100 intestinal viruses leach from untreated human waste at rubbish dumps, contaminating ground water at land fill and creating risks to sanitation workers.

50% of total household waste will be disposable nappies, in a household with 1 baby using disposable nappies full time.

7 times better for the environment, reusable nappies compared to one use nappies.

2 Tonnes of landfill created by each baby in disposable nappies full time.

1 degree hotter the average temperature of a boy's testicles in a disposable nappy - possibly related to increases in infertility and testicular cancer of the last 25 years.

After all the research and excitement about modern cloth nappies, I've sadly been reminded that I'll probably need to start toilet training soon. Nappies are fun now....toilet training? Not so much.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

6 Don'ts For Wives

Several days ago, I mentioned that the little book I bought, "Don'ts for Wives", was broken down into twelve chapters. I thought I'd share "Don'ts" from the first six chapters today. I have picked those that I think will have some relevance to wives now.

1. Personalities
Don't despise sound common sense because he doesn't indulge in brilliant inspirations.
Somehow this reminds me of the Tortoise and the Hare story. Not everybody can be flash.

2. How to avoid discord
Don't nag your husband. If he won't carry out your wishes for love of you then he surely won't if you nag him.
This is something I remember from before we were married - I never wanted to be a nag. After 10 years, I do find myself nagging occasionally but I don't think I'm all that bad.

3. Habits
Don't open the door for yourself when your husband is present. He would open it for a lady guest, let him open it for you. Besides, your boys will not learn the little courtesies that count nearly as well by precept as by example.
I'm going to have to get this started in our house. ALL the boys in this house need to learn it.

4. Financial Matters
Don't spend all the best years of your life pinching and saving unnecessarily, until you are too old to get any pleasure out of your money.
Ah, I like this one a lot but its definitely something that I have problems with. I thought people from a hundred years ago would be more into saving all the time.

5. Evenings At Home
Don't let him search the house for you, Listen for his latch-key and meet him at the threshold.
Fiona left a comment mentioning something similar from her religion. Looks like this is one of those universal truths.

6. Jealousy
Don't be jealous of your husband's acquaintance with other women. You don't want him to think you are the nicest woman in the world because he never sees any others, but because he sees plenty, and still feels that you are the only one in the world for him. Have nice girls around the house pretty frequently.
I found it hardest to pick something from this chapter. They all seemed so old fashioned. Even with this one, I'm not so sure about that last sentence.

And there you have it. I've already put #4 into practice today. Better get cracking on the other ones...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lets Be Punctual

Punctuality definitely means a lot to me. I'm proud to say that I am the most punctual person I know. Unfortunately, I seem to have friends and family that are on the other end of the scale. And guess what? It is my No. 1 peeve! It drives me absolutely crazy. The only people I make excuses for are parents with young children - genuinely unexpected happen to them that often require immediate attention.

There are two things worse than a person being late. The first is not letting the other party know they are going to be late. And second, only letting the other party know they will be late at the time that they were supposed to have arrived. That drives me even crazier. Surely, they would have known earlier that they couldn't make it on time.

I think some people are habitually late. And in some places, it is expected that people will be late. In Malaysia, people operate on Malaysian time. Its a sad fact that wedding invitations will always print the start time half an hour before the time they hope to start the celebrations. This is stupid because everybody knows it and only start arriving after that half hour and by the time everybody dribbles in, its an hour after the printed start time. And for people like me who even more stupidly hold to the principle of being punctual, its an annoying one hour of drinking chinese tea and eating peanuts.

In Indonesia, the official term is 'jam karet'. This translates to elastic time. You can just imagine how much of a priority punctuality over there is.

I know I can't change the way people are. All I can do is live by what I believe in and then grumble on the inside when I have to wait. But people, its not that hard to be on time.

First, find out what time you have to be somewhere. Then, list down all the things you need to do before hand and how long they take. Don't forget to include travel time. Once you've added all the time up, add on ten minutes to be on the safe side and work backwards from the time of your appointment. If you get delayed for longer than ten minutes, call to say you're running late. Its simple!

*Sorry for the rant but I was left waiting a little too long today.*

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

He's Growing Too Fast

Adrian has been doing a lot of growing up since the last time I blogged about him.

* Third and fourth teeth cut through last week.

* Pulls up to standing and sometimes forgets to hold on for a few seconds before he lands on his bum again.

* Uses all the chairs in the house as his walker.

* Climbs up on everything he can. He once pushed a footstool to the edge of a low set of drawers, climbed up, grabbed my moisturizer and had a good time taste testing.

* Makes his version of a car noise when he plays with a toy car.

* Starting to really enjoy books but he's gotten a little too excited with some and now they need repairing :(.

* He likes exploring the place with his index finger. He makes the pointing gesture and then creeps it along to feel out things - food scraps, dirt in the sliding door rail, gaps under doors, light switches, the radio tuner, the CD player buttons.....

He's a lot of fun to watch. The one thing that isn't getting any better is his behaving like a puppy. I think I've mentioned before that he puts anything and everything in his mouth. He still has those amber beads on but I'm not sure they're working. Things like this isn't so bad since the shoe hasn't been worn out yet....

But this morning, he really sunk to new lows. I saw him splayed out on the floor, licking it. Initially, I thought he was exploring the grouting between the tiles but when I picked him up, it was (be prepared for grossness here) his own spit up!

Babies must be the masters of balance. How else can someone come across as cute and adorable while at the same time have lots of the eww factor as well?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Don'ts For Wives

On a whim, I bought this little pocket sized book after being attracted by that title and reading the preface. It was written by Blanche Ebbutt and published nearly a century ago, in 1913. While there are points in the book that seem a little dated, many of the 'don'ts' are still useful for wives today.

The book is broken down into twelve chapters :

1. Personalities
2. How to avoid discord
3. Habits
4. Financial Matters
5. Evenings At Home
6. Jealousy
7. Recreation
8. Food
9. Dress
10. Entertaining
11. Household Management
12. Children

Sometimes the wordings and the ideas presented do seem old fashioned but when you think about the principles and intentions behind them, they don't need to be labeled with expiry dates at all.

For this post, I'm going to pick a random "Don't". I think I'll organize some of the others over a few other posts in the future.

Don't think its beneath you to put your husband slippers ready for him. On a cold evening, especially, it makes all the difference to his comfort if his soles are warmed through.

When I first stopped working, I sarcastically told a friend that I was staying home to bring my husband his slippers when he got home from work. Of course, I said it with the very thought of it being beneath me and absolutely no intention of doing anything like it. Now, even though I've still not done it (and will need to psych myself up a lot for it), I think it would be a very thoughtful gesture. Richard would be so surprised that he'll probably faint! But you can see how it may seem old fashioned (and maybe some people may argue sexist) but at the same time, its a very sweet and loving thing to do right?

Look out for more "Don'ts for Wives" in the future. There is also a companion book, "Don'ts for Husbands" that I'm planning to get my hands on.

Crash Course in Haute Couture

Anybody who knows me probably knows that I'm not a fashionista and never have been. I've never been a tomboy but at the same time, I've never been into make-up or keeping up with the latest trends for the season. Its not that I don't love beautiful clothes or dressing up. I just never hung out with the kind of crowd that was into those things.

Its never too late to start knowing a little more about fashion though. I do love sewing and haute couture is all about 'high sewing'.

I took my mother to the Valentino Retrospective: Past/Present/Future for her birthday. She's no fashionista either but she has always loved designing and admiring beautiful creations. We got there early, spent about thirty minutes oo-ing and ah-ing at the unimaginably beautiful dresses and then joined the guided tour.

Thats where my crash course in 'Haute Couture' started. First and foremost, I finally learnt how to pronounce those two words correctly. Also, I never would have guessed that an Englishman, Charles Frederick Worth, was the first couturier (another new word) to start the whole haute couture movement in Paris. His fashion house was called the House of Worth. Supposedly, to be genuinely haute couture, the atelier (new word again) needs to be in Paris. However, Valentino is somehow except from this and has his atelier in Rome.

The most awe inspiring piece of information was that to be 'haute couture', the entire dress must be hand made. All those intricate and elaborate gowns - HAND MADE! And, all the accessories have to come from designated haute couture places. For example, all feathers used must be ostrich feathers and have to come from Moulin Rouge.

But, back to the hand made. HAND MADE! Every stitch on those dresses! My mother had to go round all the dresses again after the tour to re-admire them from the hand made perspective. Sequins, beads, flowers, shirring, whatever it was, it had to be done by hand. Take a look at this one - pierced by hand and then pleated by hand. It looked stunning when the model was walking.

My two favorite dresses were from 1969, a black one and a red one. Neither of them were the over the top, super dressy sort. Unfortunately, its really hard to find images of those dresses so, I can't put anything up here. All I know is that the black one was worn by Monica Vitti in a movie called La Notte. The movie was in black and white so, the detail of the dress wasn't coming out anyway. Just trust me, they were simple, elegant and feminine.

I've been thinking about whether I'd like to own any of these dresses and my final answer is 'No'. They're beautiful and I like looking at them but I think that if I somehow got in the league of the 3000 or so women in the world who could actually afford some of these dresses, I still wouldn't want one. I'd be a nervous wreck just putting it on, let alone walking out in it. What if I snagged it on the heel of my shoe? Or accidentally closed the car door on one of those huge skirts? OR, what if I had to go to the bathroom?! Or, for that matter, eat? OR sit? I'd ruin the artwork. No, I think I could handle trying one on, under supervision, in a cleanroom, but I wouldn't want to spend the equivalent of a car on one of them.

Would I like the experience of being part of the creation of one of them? YES. I'm blown away by the beauty of all the dresses but I am even more moved by the work that goes into them.

My mother had a fantastic day and as we were leaving, she said "My eyes are too old to be doing any of that work so I'd be happy just sweeping the floors while these people worked."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Have You Got A Soroban?

We have a new toy in the house. I bought it for Aaron but like so many other things, I think I'm the one that is having all the fun.

Check out our new Soroban ...

A Soroban is actually the Japanese derivation of the Chinese abacus, the Suanpan. I bought the abacus on ebay and actually thought it was a Taiwanese type until I turned to trusty Google to learn how to use one. So, official information now is that the one we own is the Japanese type, referred to as the Soroban. It has one top bead and one bottom bead less than the Chinese one.

I think I got my information mixed up. They do a lot of abacus training in Taiwan but don't actually have their own type of abacus. Where did I hear this from? An eleven year old boy who can do addition, subtraction, division OR multiplication in his head as fast as I can with the calculator.

Five years ago, I taught piano to the most serious eleven year old boy you can imagine. He was the perfect piano student. And then, I found out that he was super with his mental sums. His skills fascinated me and I spent a lot of time competing with him - my calculator against his brain. It was truly amazing. We're not talking about simple two digit operations here. I could give him numbers in the tens of thousands to work with and he would still match my calculator. Can't remember if we went to hundreds of thousands or not. It turns out that he got that good by first training with the abacus. After a few years, he must have developed an abacus in his head that he could manipulate.

I'm not trying to turn Aaron into a math whiz. I just thought this would be a fun way for us to play around with numbers. We've been using cards, and dice and now, the Soroban will be another visual aid for numbers.

I've been playing around a lot with the one that we've got and even though I'm slow, I can see how its use can match a calculator. You can play around with this virtual Soroban to see how the numbers will look like. The first rod on the right is the unit rod, the next is tens, then hundreds, thousands, etc. Go have a look by keying in the digits. Make sure you look at what 5 is because its the pivot point for counting to 10.

If you've taken a look at how to count and if you've got the spare time and are interested, this is how simple addition can be.

112 + 232 = 344

To make 112, start with the third rod from the right. Push 1 bead up. Then, push 1 bead up on the next rod and 2 on the last rod.

Then, starting with the third rod from the right (the one where you should have one bead):
- push 2 beads up
- move to the next rod, push 3 beads up
- move to the next (and last) rod, push 2 beads up.

Now, when you look at the last three rods of the Soroban, you'll have 3, 4 and 4 beads. And thats the answer.

Have I confused you all? Can you see how it can be fun? Imagine the speed that you could get on this thing once you've practiced. (Yes, I know we have calculators these days but I believe this will train your brain to eventually do the math without the actual Soroban) Go get a real one and play around with it. Makes a nice clicking sound when you can go fast.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I'm doing an easy post today.

For the benefit of some of my friends and family that have been asking what clogging is about, here's a video from America's Got Talent. I never watched these guys before until today when I went around looking for some funky clogging clips.

Thats what I'm aiming for. (No, not America's Got Talent!) I want to clog like that! I think I'll give myself three years. I don't think that teacher in her seventies will take me there but there is another teacher that I go to thats much younger. His class is always a bit too advanced for me though. I'm sort of in between at the moment.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pet Tiger

Weeks and weeks ago, we went to an organic market that has sort of exploded into a sort of weekend hangout place for families. You can see that many of these families are the cloth diaper, baby wearing and not necessarily shoe wearing variety. We too are cloth diaper and baby wearing people but I don't agree with not wearing shoes outside.

Anyway, I forgot all about these wonderful photos we took of Aaron.

These were taken just a few weeks ago but as I look at him now, he already looks older. He's aging right before my eyes!

A Multicultural Weekend

We had a huge weekend! Way too busy for my liking but it was packed with things we had to do.

We had to go for a picnic with Richard's classmates on Saturday morning. Although, I did leave early from that because it was a crazy, windy day. Adrian kept burrowing into my chest, trying to find shelter so I decided to go home.

At the picnic, I met people from Africa, Europe, South America and China. With so many interesting people, its no wonder Richard enjoys his classes so much! Whats even more interesting is that many of these people, from parts of the world I may never get to visit, are going to go on from this Masters course in Brisbane, to other countries (not their own) that I'll also probably not visit.

After the picnic, we dropped Aaron to his Chinese class in the afternoon and I had to go for a clogging 'party'. Yes, yes, the 2pm party was attended mainly by seniors but I had a good time. I've come to know many of the other cloggers and they are a fun bunch. I know this one particular lady that is in her mid seventies and still teaching a weekly class. She also choreographs many dances and very often, she uses music of today. For example, one of her latest ones is to Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. How does a lady her age even come to know of Lady Gaga?? And the dance? Well, it is hard and fast! I am full of admiration for that lady. (Another side interesting note about her is that her husband is a Russian that came from China. Imagine that!)

Yesterday, we had to go to the annual Multicultural Festival. We took Aaron there last year and he liked it so much that I'm not kidding you when I say he has been asking us on a monthly basis if it was time for the Multicultural Festival again. So, it was his day yesterday. We watched Japanese Taiko drums, an Indonesian traditional orchestra, Chinese Lion dance, dancing from South America and many other interesting performances. My favorite for the day was at the end when we were watching a Brazilian band. Initially, we were 'watching'. After awhile, Aaron got this strange, sort of shy look about him. He started dancing where he stood. Then he got me to sway a little with him and after awhile, he insisted that I take him to the dance floor. How could I resist? He really went wild there with the Brazilian beat and he isn't usually a dancer. The last time I remember him dancing willingly was when he was about 18 months and watching the Wiggles DVD. He usually prefers to be the drummer or guitarist.

I found the weekend exhausting but at the same time, this is what I live in Brisbane for!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Who is this boy?

I don't know if I should be laughing or crying. Initially, when this happened, I couldn't control myself and laughed. Even when I was giggling, I was thinking "What did I do wrong? Surely this is a 'C' in parenting."

This morning, I insisted that Aaron drink a full glass of water. He doesn't like water. I get that. But everyone needs to learn that there are things that need to be done even if we don't like it. So, I've been making a conscious effort to get him to drink.

Anyway, I was in the kitchen and I saw him walk out onto the deck. He goes to the edge and starts to tip his glass over but stops suddenly. He looks into the house and must have thought that he would be seen too easily. So then, I see him walk carefully down the stairs without spilling the water. I quickly tip toe out and was just in time to see him pour the water out onto the grass. He had such a guilty look on his face and I just couldn't help myself. I laughed.

And then I kinda cried inside. My baby tried to deceive me. My sneaky four year old went behind my back to do something he knew wasn't right.

If he was an adult, sneaky deception like this might translate to fraud! Things like identity theft come to mind. Criminal offenses!!

What did I do? Am I too strict? Have I shown him some example of deception? I actually didn't punish him because I was worried that punishing him might just send the message that he needs to sneak around BETTER in the future so he doesn't get caught.

On some levels, deception is 'ok'. Like, telling somebody they cooked something really nice when it was awful. I think we all do some sort of deception in our lives. Unfortunately, how do you teach a child when it is 'ok' and when it is not? The easiest way is to teach that one person should never deceive another. At least until they strengthen their own moral compass. Yes? No? Maybe?

I'll definitely be paying more attention to what I do (and of course what he does).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Male Brain

I'm reading a very interesting book entitled "The Wonder of Boys" by Michael Gurian. You can probably guess that its a parenting book to give me more insight into how I should treat the two boys. The very first chapter is dedicated to describing the differences in the male and female brain and how this affects behavior and so parenting styles for sons and daughters.

I've read the whole chapter. Its full of interesting facts and I now have more 'excuses' for the way my sons behave. BUT. The one point that stands out the most from this chapter is related to the grown male in my life and not the baby ones.

"Overall, brain research has shown how the female brain is at work in more sections than the male just about all the time.....To use an analogy: the male brain turns on, like a machine, to do its task, then turns off; the female brain is always on."

The male brain has an On/Off switch and I guess sometimes its a little sticky and stays on the 'Off'. Well that answers a lot of questions for me!

This On/Off mechanism is also supposedly the reason why males are not as good at multitasking. Males are very task-oriented, but its one task at a time.

Richard is definitely a one-task-at-a-time man. On the other hand, I am very pedantic about efficiency and I almost think of the various tasks in my days in the form of a Gantt chart.

Something else that will answer many people's questions is this little paragraph:

"Boys and men take in less sensory or "proximal" data than girls and women. They smell less, taste less, get less soothing and input from tactile information, hear less and see less."

Hear less AND see less !!

So that's why he can't find things in the pantry and doesn't respond when I tell him where it is! I keep talking to Richard about what I've been calling "peripheral hearing" and it looks like he has had a valid reason all along for not having any!

At least now I have an answer to my question "Why can't you do like I do?". The next step is accepting it :) I should just think more like a male and just look for the end result. After all, its not my aim to parent my husband.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Parent's Prayer

Ah...after a long day, this prayer seems so apt. I came across it at

A Parent's Prayer

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray my sanity to keep.
For if some peace I do not find,
I'm pretty sure I'll lose my mind.

I pray I find a little quiet
Far from the daily family riot
May I lie back - not have to think
about what they're stuffing down the sink,
or who they're with, or where they're at
and what they're doing to the cat.

I pray for time all to myself
(did something just fall off a shelf?)

To cuddle in my nice, soft bed
(Oh no, another goldfish - dead!)

Some silent moments for goodness sake
(Did I just hear a window break?)

And that I need not cook or clean -
(well heck, I've got the right to dream)

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray my wits about me keep,
But as I look around I know -
I must have lost them long ago!

Somewhere else on that site there was a comment that if you can't get your child's attention, just sit down and look comfortable.

True isn't it. Alternatively, sit in front of the computer. It makes them drop everything and come.

Still, those tiring little energy balls are cute and right now, both of mine are peaceful angels in bed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

First Time Paper Mache

Aaron and I have been working on our first big-gish crafts project. We've always done little things that took 30 mins but this mask took us three days. So there was a lesson in patience in it as well.

Initially, he was very keen and wanted to do everything. That lasted for about three rounds of the sticking the newspaper on. So, we stopped and then picked it up again later in the day - thats why it took us two days to complete.

Here we are getting our fingers sticky with the tapioca starch glue. When we were kids in Malaysia, I remember calling this 'gum'.

I fully expected him to paint the mask in some dinosaur color but he insisted on pink - because thats the color of humans (according to him).

We used a balloon as our oval mask mould so here he is popping it with a needle. I was a split second too late with the camera.

His intention was to make a scary face mask but I'm not a very good artist and he doesn't have a very steady paint brush yet...Just imagine fierce bushy eyebrows and a big curly mustache.

I think we'll try doing this again and get Richard to help us when it comes to the painting. He's good that all that arty stuff...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Toys and Us

Guess what? Today, for the first time, I walked into Toys 'R' Us here in Brisbane. I've also been to the huge chain a couple of times in Penang, Malaysia but we've never bought anything from there. Today was no different. We went in and Aaron had a good time looking at everything. I did too! I love looking at toys, and can see that there are plenty that I would enjoy playing with. Still, no matter how much I want to grab those toys and rush home, I don't.

One of the most habits we've cultivated since Aaron was born is to never buy any toys for him while he is around. The rationale was that if he was never given the choice of toys or given the experience of going into a store, picking out what he wanted and going home with it, he would never turn into one of those kids that threw tantrums in toy stores when they didn't get what they wanted. It may make us sound like incredibly controlling parents or that we're depriving him of some joy but so far, it has worked. He has never asked, begged, whined or threw a tantrum about buying a toy. He will ask beg and whine about going to a store to look at toys but so far, he just says things like "I wish I could have such-and-such." And, he leaves peacefully once we've looked through everything. If there is something that I think we really want to have in our house, I'll just go back to the store some other time, without him, to get it. At least it gives me the opportunity to decide.

I know, one day he might get wise and just cut to the chase and throw a tantrum for something he wants. Fingers crossed that it won't happen.

So of course, we're going to try to do the same with Adrian. In fact, after having some experience with Aaron and watching Adrian play so far, I haven't even gotten him any toys. I did get quite a few teething toys but that was a mistake.

I believe that babies play with everything in their environment. And from what I've seen, they're going to treat a Fisher Price toy the same way as they treat and old ice cream container with a few little bottles inside. Everything is about exploration - pick it up, turn it over, give it a lick, shake it, repeat several times and move on to the next item. I am tempted to buy him things but I think I'll hold off for a few months. He has all of Aaron's early days collection to play with for now.

Having said all that, Christmas is barely two months away and I have my eye on a few items that I can't wait to get. I really do enjoy playing with the new toys as much as Aaron does.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How did I become this mother?

I visited three schools and rang up another one today because I've recently added a new worry to my list - Which school to go to? BIG QUESTION for me at the moment even though Aaron is still a little guy.

I don't know what it is. Maybe its because I'm Chinese. I understand that play and socializing is important but at the same time, I want him to also do the serious learning. Y'know, stuff like reading, writing and arithmetic. (Yes, now, when he's four years old.) One of the great things about having nowhere to go in Palembang was that I got to spend a lot of time doing stuff with Aaron. We played a lot but we also read a lot and did a lot of pencil and paper work. I want a school that will do that with him - Play and Learn.

Of the four schools I checked on today, two were Catholic primary schools, one a state school and another a Montessori school. None of them were bad, but none of them stood out either. In fact, they were so 'bland' that I came home and looked up 'homeschooling'.

I'm chiding myself now. It shouldn't be such a big deal. He's only going into Prep in 2012. Thats a preparatory year for Grade one in 2013. But then again, I would feel a lot better knowing that somebody will be paying attention to his particular needs. I don't want to find out that they're trying to teach him his ABCs a year from now when he's already reading at the moment.

Anyway, I don't have any answers yet. They don't even tell you if you have a place at these schools until sometime next year. They're going to keep me in suspense...keep me browsing the homeschooling website.