Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bed Times Around The World

I had a good idea for today's post but when I sat down to look for information, they were hard to come by. Having lived in Asia and Australia, I've noticed that there is a significant difference in the time that children go to sleep. Over here in Australia, I think babies are usually down for the night by 6 or 7pm. I also hear that some of Aaron's classmates are in bed by 7pm but most go to sleep between 7.30 and 8pm. In our house, on a normal day, Adrian goes to bed at 7pm and Aaron at 8pm. 

In Malaysia, I often see babies out and about in shopping centers right up until closing time at 10pm. Even if they are at home, I think many go to sleep for the night when their parents go. These are based on my observations of people in my family and my neighbors. School aged children also have bedtimes that are quite late because they often have extra tuition classes in the evenings that don't finish until 9pm.

My intention tonight was to find some data on bed times around the world. Unfortunately, the best I can do is the information I share below. I got it from the Sleep Education blog and I think their information originated from a study presented at Sleep 2008 by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Children in New Zealand went to bed the earliest with an average bedtime of 7:16 p.m. Children in Hong Kong went to bed the latest with an average bedtime of 10:10 p.m. U.S. children had an average bedtime of 8:52 p.m.

Japanese children had the lowest total sleep time (i.e., nightly sleep plus daytime naps) of 11.6 hours of sleep per day. Children in New Zealand had the highest total sleep time of 13.3 hours of sleep. U.S. children averaged 12.9 hours of total sleep time per day.
I don't think its healthy for children to go to bed so late and personally, I wouldn't be able to handle the meltdowns that would occur if Aaron or Adrian were to stay up to 10pm but its out of necessity that this happens in many Asian countries. It deserves a whole post of its own but those evening tuition classes that I mentioned are a necessity to pass all the school exams. Oh and don't forget the amount of homework that children in Asia get - homework from school AND the tuition classes.

Once again, I am counting my blessings that we get to live here where there is no homework and children go to bed early. Hopefully, this won't backfire on them in the long run.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Licorice Root To Fight Tooth Decay

Remember my post about the six holes in Aaron's teeth? As an update, we've completed four fillings and will get the remaining two this coming Saturday. He's been very good at all of them and refused a needle each time. 

Here is some 'exciting' news. I've been doing some reading and there is more that can be done apart from just brushing and flossing. Supposedly, Licorice Root is effective in helping fight tooth decay. The most recent article I've come across is this one from Science Daily.

Licorice has been used in traditional Chinese medicine and researchers have now identified two substances in it that kill three of major the bacteria responsible for gum disease and tooth decay. We're talking about the original root of the licorice plant here and not what you get from the candy stores. The candy is actually flavored with anise oil which has a similar taste.  

There are many other articles about the anti-bacterial properties of licorice and I think it does work because I have been giving Aaron a mixture of licorice root and herb robert for his tongue ulcers and it has been very effective. Starting tonight, I've also got both Aaron and Adrian chewing on a little bit of licorice root after dinner.  I'll be doing it soon too. 

Here are some of the other uses for licorice root.

1. Relaxing expectorant (soothes coughs)
2. Demulcent (soothing effect on contact)
3. Anti-inflammatory (via the body's own corticosteroid mechanisms)
4. Anti-ulcer against gastrointestinal ulcers
5. Laxative
6. Adaptogenic tonic (increases resistance to the effects of physical, mental and emotional stress)
7. Hepato-protective (protects the liver)
8. Antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial
9. Antioxidant and anti tumor
10.Hormonal regulation

Looks like it might be helpful to chew a little of it each day for all sorts of reasons. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Good Times

Aaron and Adrian are typical brothers. One minute they are professing how much they love each other and how they are each other's BFFs and the next, they are screaming and biting. As such, I'm always being toggled between feeling how great it is to have two boys and asking God "Why me? Why two boys?"

At the end of each day, I always go to sleep with the happy feelings. I know that Aaron genuinely cares for Adrian and is a fantastic big brother. In fact, I think he's doing a better job at being the eldest than I was when my brother and I were little. He protects him, tries to teach him things, engages him in play that is appropriate for a 2 year old and even takes him to the loo (!!). For now, I know that Adrian looks forward to Aaron coming home from school so they can play but I can't clearly see that he cares for Aaron yet. 

I thought I'd share a few photos of a particularly fun time they had. This was taken on Sunday when we were waiting outside for Richard to finish his clogging class. I'm usually outside with the two of them and they are free to run around everywhere, up and down ramps. This particular hall is at the Caboolture showgrounds and on a Sunday afternoon, there are no cars around so I sometimes also take their bicycles along.  

Its night time now and there is nobody screaming. So, I'm thinking "I don't want them to grow up!"

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mama's Day Off

Ah, Saturday. It has neither been a day of excitement nor a day of relaxation but its been a good day for me.

All four of us went along for Aaron's trial gymnastics class. Hold on, its conducted at a place where they teach gymnastics but the class he attended was actually called 'Ministunts'. It was our first time there and it appears that only the little girls do 'proper' gymnastics. The boys are all in this stunt class where they have structured muck around time. Among other energy spending activities, they had crawling races, practice falling on the side of their face, time on the trampoline and somersaults. Needless to say, Aaron loved every minute of it and it looks like I'll be signing him up officially.

I enjoyed the one hour watching Aaron play around because I didn't need to keep Adrian out of mischief. This is the reason why I've had such a good day. I've was relieved of most of my mothering duties and Richard took over for the day. To make it even better, I've been able to stop myself from telling Richard how to do things for the children and leaving it completely up to him. It doesn't really matter how he gets it done as long as they don't get seriously injured, they get food and drink, and they both get a bath. If the house ends up in a mess, thats not a problem either because Richard is in charge of cleaning it up. Am I lucky or am I lucky? Oh and don't forget that he also got dinner ready. It was one I prepared earlier but he did all the re-heating and cleanup.

So, are there people out there who think this is not fair? Perhaps some people think that he's been hard at work all week and deserves some time off too? I don't want to know. The break I needed wasn't so much from the physical aspects of my job but from that 24 hour neediness that I am surrounded with. Needs from little people that are relentless.

I just did a quick search for 'relentless definition' to see how specific it is and it is exactly the word I needed to use.


  1. Oppressively constant; incessant.
  2. Harsh or inflexible.
merciless - ruthless - pitiless - unrelenting

So after a day of some relief from my 'merciless, ruthless and pitiless' little bosses, I find that I miss interacting with them and am ready to get back to the job.

Latest update from 5 minutes after I clicked 'publish' the first time:

This is how Richard kept them entertained while I blogged.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How Old Is Too Old?

I've been taking Aaron for swimming lessons here and we always go to the ladies change rooms. Its mostly mothers who take children to these lessons so we're all in there with the little boys and girls. This week, I noticed that they had put up a blank noticeboard to partition off a portion of the room and a few mothers were telling their children to go behind there to change. Privacy? Probably, but it got me wondering because as far as I can see, all the kids that were six and under didn't have any problems stripping down and getting changed right there in the open.

I didn't send Aaron to get dressed there because I prefer to sit on the bench when helping him to towel dry and whatever else he needs assistance with. I don't think its an issue but I've become more conscious about making him face the wall to change in case the other mothers don't like him flashing them (or their daughters). Kid or not!

This leads me to another minor issue that I might soon have. I've been deferring thinking about when I have to stop taking him into the ladies' restrooms with me. There have been several times that I have sent him into the men's restrooms but those were urgent situations where there were long lines at the ladies side and no disabled toilets available. He's barely strong enough to push open some of those doors and I have no idea who is on the inside. And, I can't go in to check on him if he takes a little longer than usual to come out. So, I wonder how much longer he can keep going to the ladies side with me before other women start looking at him funny? How old is too old?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Learning About Money

One of my favourite times during the day is after dinner and before Aaron's bed time. This is the only time of the day that I can give Aaron my full attention and I always try to make it as productive as possible. He's usually tired after a long day but if I put enough effort in to make a game out of everything, he's still incredibly receptive. 

I don't think I would like to be a classroom teacher but I love teaching Aaron. There are always new ideas that I want to try out or topics that I want to explore with him. I think I still have some hidden desire to completely homeschool him but thats unrealistic. 

This week, we started learning about money. He got his first taste of the value of money when he took the two dollars he earned from painting a door knob hanger to a book shop. He was very disappointed when he found out that a sharpener was about the only thing he could afford. So, we've been discussing the value of money for some time but I haven't had a chance to break down the mechanics of money with him yet. 

We've starting at the very beginning (almost) and learning to count money and how the coins can be used in different combinations to make up totals. Maybe I can even teach him to go pay for things and work out the change he needs to wait for. 

My intention is to also show him how money is made and circulated. And maybe I'll draw up something to show him how the price of a good or service is derived - hence explaining how Richard's daily trip to work results in money for our needs. I don't think I'll go any further than that for a five year old. He doesn't need to know about the current financial woes in the global economy. 

I always end up feeling like I have achieved something when I see Aaron feel excited and eager to learn more about something. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are Teachers Being Too Nice?

This week, Aaron started visiting his new class. He is transitioning from his current kindergarten class to a Grade 1 class. This is what the school usually does at the end of the school year for the children that are moving up a class. He was a 'late entry' to Grade 1 so he missed the transition period at the end of last year when other classmates went through this whole visiting routine.

Now, after two weeks of catching up with his friends after the holidays, he has started to spend time in the new Grade 1 class. We have been talking about this for awhile and I know that inside, he's excited about it. But of course, when the time came, he was anxious and probably feeling very alone because he had no friends yet. This morning, I happened to be around when two children from Grade 1 came to walk him over and he had tears in his eyes. He hasn't cried on any other 'first days'!

I think maybe the school/teachers have been a little too nice here. They are giving him the choice to come back whenever he wants and making sure that he is comfortable with everything. Yes, it is very considerate of them but I wonder if it would work better if they just made a clean break. Then he wouldn't have to go away and feel anxious and then come back to his old class and feel the comfort from him. Or maybe, a better strategy would be to outline for him that each subsequent day visiting Grade 1 will be for a longer period than the first until finally, say three days later, he can just go directly there.

At home, I've been trying to convince him that the way to go is to get into the new class as soon as possible so that he can teach his friends about everything when it is their turn to transition. Supposedly, there are several other children that will transition before the middle of the year.

Having said all that, I can see how their approach is aligned with the Montessori way of 'following the child'. I just can't help thinking that life was so much simpler when I went to school. Teachers were just more grown ups to tell you what to do. No talking to teachers or telling them how you feel or what you want.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kentucky Fried Chicken

I suppose I should call it KFC these days. The 'Fried' word is conveniently hidden behind an 'F' so that we all don't need to feel as bad for eating it. Anyway, we all know those finger licking good little pieces of chicken have no place in our bodies but it seems that they often have a place in our memories.

A friend and I were chatting the other day and he mentioned that his memories of KFC are forever tied with Sunday Mass. It seems that the church he went to as a child was next to a KFC outlet and he used have to spend the time in church being distracted by the distinct aroma wafting across from next door. KFC became the food of choice for special church related occasions for his family. When his son was baptised, he said he brought a few pieces of KFC along!

My memories of KFC are from a time when my mother was not the health conscious eater that she is now. I remember that she used to tell me that the bones were great to chew on. Anyway, my most vivid memory was of the day that she took my brother and I to watch Superman IV : The Quest for Peace. There was a KFC outlet opposite the Cathay Cinemas in Ipoh and we went there for dinner before the 7.30pm show. I think I was ten years old. There were other times that she took us to KFC but that was the most special.

These days, I still get cravings for some KFC but most of the time, I ignore it. We've also trained Aaron to think that KFC is one of the worst possible foods for him. Occasionally, when I do give in to those cravings and get some Hot and Spicy KFC, I end up enjoying the first few bites and then feeling fat, oily and guilty by the end of the meal. I usually end the meal by saying "I don't ever need to eat that again." But of course, I do. Its definitely a love/hate relationship for us.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Forgotten Photos From Malaysia

I didn't use my own camera much during the holidays because my brother was around and I just let him be the photographer. So, it was a pleasant surprise today when uploaded whatever I had to my computer.

Aaron's hair is still quite short now but this was the shocking cut that he came back with after my father took him to the barber. I remember not knowing what to say because I didn't want to make him feel bad but looking back at it now, it looks quite cute.

This was my breakfast for almost half the days that we were there. That long, crispy looking loop is Tosai and is made from rice batter and black lentils. My father and I always have that while my mother and Aaron always ordered the Roti Canai. The total cost of our breakfast each time was always around USD3.50.

And finally, here is my personal lion dance troupe. The neighbors must have loved us! One of my friends gave this 'lion' and drum set to the boys. I loved it and enjoyed the drum myself but it was definitely a controlled toy in the house. We played with it often but only when I brought it out. Unfortunately, we weren't able to bring the set back to Brisbane. At least there will be something exciting to look forward to playing next year.

I'm very happy that Aaron enjoyed the six weeks in Malaysia as much as he did. I don't think Adrian appreciates it yet. If only it was a car ride away.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rubbish That I Indulge In

I'm sitting here,  almost unable to concentrate on this post because I want to get to the TV watching part of the night. Its been decided that we will watch Gossip Girl tonight. I know its absolute rubbish but I can't resist those twisted plots and overacted characters. Thats where I got the idea for today's blogging topic. So here are three things in my life that I know are of no value to me yet I don't try very hard to cut out.

I mentioned Gossip Girl  - an absolutely mindless TV show about some early twenty somethings that don't need to work and play some sort of love twisted through each season. Its so far removed from my life that I find it incredibly relaxing to watch it with Richard and comment on how unlikely those scenarios are. And of course, I like looking at the clothes they all wear.

I love carbohydrates too much. Yes, the dreaded CARBS! I've had a friend remark that I can eat a mountain of rice. And, I also know that if left with the time and the correct filling, I can eat half a loaf of bread all by myself. I make myself feel better by squeezing in a few extra feeds with Adrian if I can .

My final weakness  is celebrity sites. Ugh! This is such a waste of time. It all started when I was pregnant with Aaron and I started visiting the Celebrity Baby Blog site. Aaron is five and a half and I am still checking that page each day. And sometimes, I follow the links on the bottom to more sites with useless information and photos. Luckily on most days, I'm able to just stick to reading the one page because following the links take up precious time that I really need for other things. I should be catching up on the latest news, getting up to speed with the petty politics of this country or studying the financial markets.

And it looks like those are the major ones for now. I really thought there would be more. There are of course other occasional weaknesses like being unable to resist buying a t-shirt because it was $2 or giving Aaron yet another story book for his overcrowded bookshelves.

So what about you? What kind of time, calorie or money wasters do you have?

Friday, February 17, 2012

We Will Speak Mandarin

For the second time this week, a total stranger has triggered the feeling of failure in me. The first was the dentist and the second, the audiologist we met with today. I had to take Aaron for a follow up hearing test and the lady casually asked if he spoke a second language.

"No...I tried. I had the best intentions. He probably understands quite a bit but he doesn't speak any Mandarin."

Up until now, I have placed the responsibility of teaching Aaron, and now Adrian, a second language, squarely on Richard's shoulders. After all, he is the one that grew up with Mandarin as his first language. This is the only language his father speaks which made it quite awkward when we visited in December. Richard also went to a Mandarin speaking high school. So, its his language! He THINKS in Mandarin.

On the other hand, my parents speak to me in English. Apart from the smattering of Cantonese that I speak with my grandmother and kindergarten level Mandarin and Malay that I picked up from living in Malaysia, English is my only language.  How am I expected to surround my children with Mandarin?

It is with envy that I observe other mothers conversing solely in their non-English mother tongues with their children. I want to do that too but I'm going to need to learn the language first. I can't wait for Richard because he doesn't seem to be around enough to be effective. I have to stop my half hearted attempts to raise bi-lingual children and get serious about things.

So, I started last week. Unfortunately, Pimsleurs Mandarin lessons are very much for the traveler and are not giving much vocabulary for disciplining children or answer their hundreds of questions each day about the world around them.

We also have a set of childrens story books that build mini stories from some of the simpler characters. The boys and I read through these each day but I'm worried that they will get bored of that soon. I'll be stuck for material then and maybe have to make some of my own. EEK! I have also convinced Aaron to write a page of Chinese characters each day and he has been good so far.

I feel quite self conscious when we are out and about and I speak to them in Mandarin. If the people around me are not Chinese, I'm a little more comfortable but if they are, I try to whisper. Whispering doesn't work with these two boys so I inevitably fall back to English. Its terrible to look Chinese, have Chinese looking children and not be able to speak Chinese. Especially these days when there is so much emphasis on this second language business.

Anyway, I've set is as one of my major goals as a parent. Its going to be a miracle if I actually end up making them Mandarin speakers but at least I'm trying.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

They Are Out To Turn My Hair Grey!

Well, I had to take Aaron to the dentist today. I noticed last week that one of his teeth had a very visible hole in it. One hole is bad but I should have seen it coming knowing that he seemed to come out very quickly from supposedly brushing his teeth.  I made a mental note to stand in on his teeth brushing more often but I didn't beat myself up too much about it.

So back to that visit today. Guess what? He's five and his last visit to the dentist was in October but he has FIVE, maybe SIX, holes that need fillings. OMG! And instantly, five, maybe six hairs must have turned grey on my head. I could not believe it. I was stunned.

The first two words from the dentist after announcing the 'results' was "Soft Drinks!"


He then said "Poor oral hygiene".

I'm his mother! How could I let him get that many holes in four months? On hindsight, they must have already been there at the last visit but no x-rays were taken at that time. And also, all the tongue ulcers Aaron has been getting has meant that there were many days that he didn't brush his teeth at all. On top of that, he was taking all sorts of sugar coated pain killers and mouth rinses.

Aaron got two fillings done and we'll be going back for the next two weeks for the rest of them. I'm making an appointment for myself too so that I won't suddenly get a shock like that with my own teeth.

The final thing the dentist said to me was "After he brushes his teeth, you need to brush his teeth for him, until he  is eight!" I don't remember being all that conscientious about my own teeth brushing when I was five. I definitely don't remember my parents brushing my teeth for me! I think I should just supervise and train him a little more over the next few months.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Maternal Grandmother

My brother has been working on our family tree for several years now. Over the Chinese New Year period, he took the time to scan a lot of the old photos that were still around. My favorites were the ones of my grandmother. Here are just a few.

She always wore either the traditional samfu (literally translated to shirt and pants, but the chinese style) or the kebaya (embroidered blouse worn with a sarong) for more formal occasions. She always has her hair permed because her best friend was a hair dresser. I even saw photos of my uncle when he was three years old and he to had a perm! My grandmother still has permed hair today.

I'll admit that she's my favourite grandparent. She is always gentle, kind and considerate. In her old age, she has grown a little clumsier and less elegant if a stranger were to observer her but I still see her the way I did as a child. This photo of my grandparents from my childhood. She is still wearing a samfu.

And here they are today - she is 89 and he is 94. She no longer wears the samfu as often because they've all be worn out and nobody makes them anymore these days.

I think they both still look good for their age. Well, I'm off to give them a phonecall.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Stress Free Parenting

Is it possible? Somebody please tell me. Has anyone gone through an entirely frustration free day where each road block from a child was met with a smile and a calm voice?

Seriously, some days, when I just can't keep it calm at home and everything is crazy, I literally feel big wrinkles digging their way into my face and grey hairs pushing their way out from my hair follicles. I've taken to telling myself "Its no big deal, other kids get like this too. No point growing old over it."

As you can see, I'm still hungover from the holidays where I didn't have Richard's help with child care each day. I feel very disorganised and tense. Its impossible not to notice the calm mothers at Aaron's class gate during pick up and drop offs. They seem so peaceful and their children so obedient. Are they really like that all day? On the other hand, I have to admit that there are the mothers with the permanent furrows on their foreheads and kids that are definitely not cooperative. Thankfully, I think I'm somewhere in the middle, but I can feel a definite force pushing me to the dark side.

I want to be one of the calm ones. If only I could follow them around for a day to see if they just pull it together for the pick up and drop offs or they manage to keep their cool all 24 hours of the day. I suspect that it probably isn't calm all the time but maybe they do have most of their day under control.

The one common thing that I've noticed is that they never seem to be in a rush. Kids are unloaded and loaded into car seats at a very easy going pace. The long walk from the car park to the classroom is more like a stroll through park lands, observing and exploring along the way. The pick up after school often begins with a short chat about the day, sometimes a few minutes in the playground and then the stroll back to the car.

So, this is the first step that I will be taking in an attempt to reduce the spikes in stress levels in this house. I have no boss and I don't have heavily scheduled children so I'm just going to take it easy. Before jumping into this, I've started telling myself that it may mean that I must not rush to get things done so that I can have a few minutes to myself. The reward of a calmer environment and more co-operative children may eliminate that need for time to myself. Right?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Where did my weekend go?

I really think that weekends should be three days long - one day to do all the essentials, one day to go out and have fun and then one day to stay at home and do nothing. That one day of doing nothing would surely make the first weekday more attractive. 

Today disappeared in a flash. We went to mass in the morning, came home and I prepared some food that we could just re-heat during the week. Then, it was time for lunch. After that, I had to get everything ready for our usual Sunday journey to Caboolture for clogging. The entire family goes. Richard is now in the beginner class so the boys and I go along with him at around 4pm. My parents leave the house a little later than us. After Richard's session, he brings the boys home for dinner and bed while my parents and I stay back for the rest of the night of clogging. We don't get home until 10.30pm! 

So its just going to be short post tonight. I was supposed to start my early morning gym visits again tomorrow but I doubt I'll wake up. Is it that important to be disciplined? I'm still craving a break but for now, I'll settle for a good 6 hours of sleep.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Stuttering Episodes

During the first half of my pregnancy with Adrian, he had me very worried because one of the pre-natal tests came back indicating that he was at an increased risk of Down Syndrome. It was the first time in my life that I was constantly worrying about something day and night, for weeks! Anyway, all that worry was relieved after week 20 of the pregnancy when I had another scan.

About three weeks ago, he did it to me again - gave me a day and night type of worry. He has been speaking very well and chats like some three year olds. His sentences are long and mostly complete ones with correct grammar. So, it came as a real shock when he started stuttering. I don't know what the trigger was the first time, but one night, he started repeating the word 'I'. He always says 'I love you' about a hundred times before he goes to sleep but that night, he repeated the 'I' five times each time he said it.

By the next morning, he was repeating the first word of every sentence he spoke. And by that evening, when he was tired, he had to work so hard to get the first word out that he would start crying. It was heart wrenching to watch.

All this happened during the Chinese New Year period when we were very busy and there were a lot of people around. When we finally managed to have a quiet day at home, and I could dedicate all my attention to him, he seemed to improve. Instead of repeating a word, he would just drag it into a long sound. And then, strangely, a blessing in disguise happened. He clipped his finger in a door hinge and the next day, he woke up and he spoke normally again. Boy was I relieved!

About a week later, I lost my temper at him and gave him a loud and overly harsh scolding. Almost instantly, the stuttering returned - worse. He repeated every word in each sentence! This carried on for quite a few days and I noticed that he started to choose not to communicate with words. While quiet is one of the things I crave for this household, you can imagine the guilt I felt for scolding him and wishing for quiet when he was now finding it too hard to even attempt speaking. We were still in Malaysia but I made an appointment at a speech pathologist for the day after we were to arrive back. Strangely, on the same day that I made the arrangements for the appointment, he bumped his chin on the edge of a table and ended up cutting his lip. He went for a nap straight afterwards and when he woke up, he spoke normally again! I guess the brain got something else to worry about and freed up his speech or something. I was so thankful!

We still went for the appointment when we got back to Brisbane but the speech pathologist said he spoke perfectly, above average his age group in fact. She couldn't tell me anything useful because she wasn't able to observe him. We're supposed to monitor him for the next three weeks and go back.

The forced lesson from all this is that I am now about ten notches more patient. I've consciously tried to become one of those silent but deadly parents - I have not achieved this yet. There were a few times where I had to discipline Adrian, and I did this by either taking away an offending toy or removing him from a situation. He started dragging out the first words in some of his sentences again. Thankfully, it only lasted a day and then disappeared.

What am I supposed to do with a two year old that I cannot lose it with? I know you're not supposed to in the first place but it happens! I must not compare my sons but even without this problem, Adrian was well on his way to becoming a much more challenging two year old than Aaron was.

Friday, February 10, 2012

I'm Finally Starting The Year

We arrived back from Malaysia on Monday and jumped straight into things. The month away from the internet was surprisingly refreshing - I didn't suffer any withdrawal symptoms or even miss it. Apart from occasionally remembering to Skype Richard, I was happy to be offline.

I might have already missed a whole month of the calendar year but maybe I'll go by the lunar calendar instead. That way, I'm only two weeks behind. I can't say that I'm rested after a six week holiday, in fact, I am exhausted from single parenting for the past month, but I am definitely enthusiastic about starting the year. Adrian is two years old now and a little bit more independent. I want to seriously work on my own things again - bank account balance, stamina, brain capacity, and of course, this blog. Lets see if I can get back to daily blogging.

So for this first post of the year, here are the highlights of our six weeks in Malaysia.

We had a mini party for Adrian's second birthday. Many of my extended family were already in Ipoh because of Christmas so we invited them all to the house for noodles, roti canai and a banana chocolate cake. This is a photo of Adrian with all the ladies that were present. I'm still asking around for anyone who took a decent family photo of us.

Richard was only in Malaysia for about two weeks and for one of those weeks, we were in his hometown of Penang. We spent time with family there as well as a few fun days at one of the beach hotels.

The main reason for our visit back to Ipoh was for the whole family to make a big deal of Chinese New Year. Almost everybody was back. My grandparents are 89 and 94 and the whole family coming together for a big celebration means a lot to them. When I was a child, my grandmother would invite the lion dance to her house. Thirty years later, she is too old to be bothered with the hassle of it and I invited them to our house instead. I LOVE watching lion dances, the loud drums and firecrackers always put me in a festive mood. And, it has always been a dream of mine to have them come to our house in Ipoh.

In the photo above, the two lions are peeling and arranging the pomelo, mandarins and peanuts. Supposedly, its good luck to eat these things that the sweaty 'lions' have prepared.

This trip was intended to be all about my grandparents. While I did spend a lot of time with them, I left with the feeling that I still didn't spend ALL my time with them. Aaron and Adrian are still too young to just sit around and chat with old people, and, at this age, thats about all my grandparents can do. In the end, I was over at their house a lot of the time, but each time, it was only for a short period of time. I hope that I'll get another chance to do this in the future. Here is one final photo of my grandfather, Adrian and I.

Tomorrow is our first Saturday back and I plan on doing nothing. The past six weeks have been so hectic that I need to take a break now.