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!