Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Has It Really Been 12 Days?

We've had a string of unexpected events over the past 12 days. After each one, it took a day for me to catch up on the things I needed to get done. And then, something else would happen and I'd have to play catch up again. It was tiring and I got lazy at the end of each day.

One of the exciting happenings was this little emergency :

He jumped from one end of a two seater sofa to the other and hit his chin on the padded armrest. Who would have thought that a padded armrest would split a chin? Anyway, we had a dream trip to the hospital - he fell asleep shortly after we arrived, didn't wake up when they pulled and prodded at his chin and then was fresh and compliant when it was time for them to glue his chin back together. 

That little bit of pain hasn't slowed Adrian down at all and he has carried on running, jumping and falling as he has done every other day. Unfortunately, Aaron got a round of his tongue ulcers and that pain had him whining for a day. The good thing that came out of that was that Aaron stayed home from school and the extra attention he got led to the start of a new project that he and I will work on - a huge timeline of the age of dinosaurs. Its going to be massive because we intend to draw most the dinosaurs from each of the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic periods. Wish me luck!

It wasn't all unpleasant events, my parents are back here in Brisbane. Earlier on, my cousin from Malaysia was here for a few days and we did all the touristy things. My brother from Sydney also paid us an unexpected visit earlier in the week. 

Now, I need to get to my sewing machine - winter is here and Adrian needs some long pants!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Children And Sticks

There must be some sort of magnet in sticks that attract children. I think most parents would know what I'm talking about. It doesn't matter what else is on offer, a stick is almost always capable of enticing a child to pick it up.

And yet, one of the common commands heard in playgrounds is "put that stick down". I'm definitely guilty of enforcing the rule, especially when there are other children around. There is an automatic panic button that goes off to warn of the potential for another child's eyes, ears, mouths, or whatever to be skewered by a stick  that one of my sons is wielding.

However, I'm also guilty of having a double standard here. The truth is that I think sticks are great. Not only are they extremely cost effective, they are also one of the most versatile toys around. A single stick can be a sword, pen, spoon, spade, screwdriver, or an arrow. If you had two sticks, they become drumsticks, violins, cellos, chopsticks or the bow AND the arrow. If you have a bunch of sticks, you can build a cubby! Well, thats what I've been told by a group of four year olds that I saw accumulating a huge pile of sticks in one corner of the school playground. So, if we believe in toys that stimulate the imagination and encourage children to be outdoors then, the stick is definitely one of the easiest ones around. 

I couldn't find a 'dangerous' picture of my son and a stick but here he is with a beach pen.

There is definitely reason to be worried when children run around crazily with sticks and I don't trust my two sons enough (yet) for them to play with sticks when there are other children around but I think its ok for when we're alone. I can already hear some parents thinking that my message isn't consistent or that I can't have my eyes on my children every second of the day but I think this is a calculated risk that I will take.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Losing Battle Against The Birds!

This is the third one we have lost in the past two weeks. They didn't even wait for it to turn yellow!

For more Wordless Wednesdays, please visit My Little Drummer Boys.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I Almost Ran Over A Child

It happened this morning at the carpark at Aaron's school. I've been thinking a lot about the incident today and wondering if I didn't look carefully enough. Honestly, I can't remember exactly how everything happened.

I'm pretty sure that I would have checked the rear view mirror and then looked over my shoulders to take care of any blindspots. Thankfully, I was reversing out at a slow crawl because I know there are always lots of parents and children walking around. I think what could have happened was that the little girl (about 5 years old), walked past the back of the car when I looked back to the front to check that I didn't turn into the car next to me. I'm supposed to do that right? I can't think of a way to avoid looking at the front of my car, at least a short while, when reversing out of a car park. When I looked back, I saw a lady about to cross behind the car so I stopped the car to let her pass. It was when she got to the other side of my car that I saw her speaking sternly to the little girl. The girl must have walked off without her mother.

I'll definitely be more careful from now on and I've also decided to park at another area where I know less people will be walking about. It should also be safer for Aaron and Adrian because there is less chance of them being in the position that the little girl was today.

What if I actually did knock that girl over? This has been bugging me a little all day. Was I too careless? Even if I did everything right and the girl, being a 5 year old, ran ahead of her mom, its not going to make up for anything if I ran over her!

On a slightly different note but still to do with kids and cars, a mother has been charged with neglect after she left her three children (aged 10, 5 and 3) in a car for 10 minutes while she went into a supermarket to pick up three items. She left the A/C and the car running. Under Queensland law, it is illegal to leave a child under 12 unattended for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child. From the article, this lady does not sound like a negligent mother, just a mother that was probably made a very conscious decision to leave her children in a comfortable car and run in to pick up 3 items that she probably urgently needed. 

I'll admit that I've done something similar once. I left Aaron and Adrian in the car while I ducked into the post office to pick up a parcel. They were about 25m away and except for the time I had to speak to the lady behind the counter, I had my eyes on them. I think I took about 10 minutes as well. I didn't leave the car running because I was worried that somebody would come and drive the car and my kids away. 

At first glance at the article, I thought it was a little over the top to charge the lady with neglect. Just as I thought I wasn't wrong in leaving Aaron and Adrian in the car. But, the magistrate made a point that I didn't think of. She said that if something did happen, there would have been a lot of responsibility placed on the 10 year old. 

I've had a day of eye openers in terms of keeping children safe in cars. So much so that I probably drove a little too slowly on the highway (only 15km/h under the speed limit but I was still honked) while I was thinking about these things. That can also be hazardous to the children in the car. Sheesh!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I've Definitely Turned Into My Mother

Firstly, Happy Mothers Day to all the mums out there!

I asked to spend the day at Mt Glorious today. Its a forest reserve with some walking trails that I had read were suitable for young children.

Thats why I say I have turned into my mother. I can remember my mother planning many, many trips to Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. And guess what the number one activity there is? Walking along the trails! I absolutely hated it. My parents still remember me moaning throughout all the walks we had. It wasn't that I found them tiring, I just did not enjoy it one little bit. Not the cool air, or trees, or monkey cups or anything about it.

And now, I've become a mother that looked forward to walking the trails with her son. The difference is that Aaron had a fantastic time. Adrian toggled between being whiny (like the old me) and also having an exciting time.

Aaron was looking for some adventure and after I sent him 'off-trail' the first time, he felt great and wanted more. I'm not saying that I'm a better mother than my mother because she's obviously the best but I made a slight improvement on her way of enjoying nature. I had three little games to play with the boys as we made our way through the 3km trail.

First, I would look out for alternative routes that Aaron could take, away from the designated trail. He would have to work out his own way in the general direction I pointed. They were just short deviations that cut across to join up with the main trail again. Can you see him? For this one, I asked him to climb down from where we were and walk across the trickling stream (without getting his shoes wet) and then wait for me on the trail on the other side.

The second game we played was hide and seek. He got to run up ahead, hide, and then try to give me a shock when I walked past. Adrian joined in on this game and gave them away every time.

I was struggling to think of a third game but it turned out to be the simplest one of all - pretend you're a hunter. Hah! I told him he had to move around without making any noises - no talking, stepping on dry leaves or sticks or even coughing. I used this game sparingly but it worked well.

When my mother gets back to Brisbane, I'm going to drag her along to one of these days of roaming the sub-tropical rainforests. I wonder what she thinks of it now....

Friday, May 11, 2012

Smartphones and Photo Locations

When we lived in Indonesia, friends and family used to ask me whether it was safe there. I think it was. We never did anything that brought any attention to us and I actually felt safer than I did in Malaysia.

The moved to Brisbane came with a definite sense of security. There was hardly any talk of armed robberies, break ins and snatch thieves. BUT, there was a lot of talk about cyber crimes and pedophiles. Initially, I told myself that I would try not to post photos of my children and definitely no photos that give away where we live. Slowly, but surely, I have put up more and more photos of the two boys. They're cute and I can't resist sharing that. Yet, I think I should be more careful.

I just watched this disturbing video about how photos from a smartphone come with information on location. Since I've been slow in jumping on the smartphone bandwagon, I hadn't really paid attention to this type of information before but it looks like this has been known for some time. Its scary stuff!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Strange Eggs

We had a steamed egg dish with rice for dinner tonight. It consisted of four normal chicken eggs, one salted duck egg and one century egg. I love century eggs but have to agree that they look absolutely disgusting.

Just in case you didn't know, they originated from China and are actually eggs preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt and lime. In your hand, they feel a little like hard boiled eggs but when you eat them, the brown part has more of a jelly-like texture. Oh, and in case you're wondering what they smell like, especially, that dark blackish/greenish bit, its sort of like a mixture of ammonia and sulfer. I'm not trying to put you off them, I'm just being honest. Go here to have a look at more pictures.

So, as I was thinking about how I like this somewhat disgusting looking and smelling egg, I wondered about the other types of eggs around the world. Surely there must be some other cultures out there with exotic egg preparations?

I can think of two other types that I've had. The first is the iron egg and has its origins in Taiwan. There is absolutely nothing disgusting about this one. Its just an egg that has been hard boiled and air dried several times until they get a chewy texture. They also have a different flavor to them from the mix of spices that they are repeatedly cooked in. Some that I've had were really almost like iron. It was like biting into a squash ball.

The second type of egg that I thought of was the balut from the Philippines. I'm very proud to say that I managed to eat an entire one of these but I am never having another one. The short story here is that a group of us went over to Manila for a month to work. Our hosts were extremely hospitable and after work each day, they would show us around the city, take us out for dinner, take us shopping and of course, showed us the fantastic night life they had there. They were very generous. One day, eager to share more of their culture with us, they told us about the balut. I'm not sure I can think of it as an egg because its really the fertilized embryo of a duck.  Anyway, everyone bragged that they'd be willing to give it a go but in the end, only a few attempted and only I ate the whole thing. Our hosts had bought a big bag of these and it looked terrible that nobody would eat it.

Anyway, I've had one in my life and thats all I need. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

Back to my original quest of searching for strange eggs. Google couldn't really help me out and I only found one other strange type of egg. Again, its from China and its the Virgin Egg. I haven't tried these before and I really don't want to. They are eggs that are cooked in the pee of little boys! Their shells are cracked slightly so that the flavors can be absorbed.

How do you like your eggs? Know of any other types of exotic eggs?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

No Family Playdates For Us Yet

Today was one of the most exhausting days I've had in a long while. I don't know about other families but I think we're not ready for family playdates (is there even such a term?). We went out for the day with another family (they had two tween daughters), something that I remember my own family doing a lot of when I was a child. It was so much extra work!

Firstly, I made a mistake in agreeing to going in the one car (they had a minivan). So, the car ride to and fro was spent anxiously trying to turn the volume down on my two noisy kids. And, I've spoilt them by allowing them to have food in our car so they are used to that. This other family also eats in the car but I was so worried about the mess that my children would create that I spent the whole time reaching across trying to prevent spills and crumbs. It was a long day so by the end of it, all their usual misbehavior were magnified several times because they were tired and grumpy. The only thing keeping the peace was the food I was enticing them both with. Yes, a vicious cycle because I then had to try to keep somebody else's car clean.

If we were on our own, I wouldn't need to worry about a messy car. I also wouldn't worry about kids who are noisy because they are excited. And, I wouldn't need to worry about making sure that they were on their best behavior. I would be able to comfortably say "no" and not have to feel judged when there is retaliation to it. Is it just my kids or do children in other families also behave a little worse whenever there is company?

To be fair, I should say that they weren't all that bad. They were actually very excited about the day and were waiting patiently on the sidewalk for our friends to pick us up.

They started off 'good' and as the day went on, and they got more tired, things got a little harder to handle. I think it was more my own paranoia then their misbehavior. Its been a long day so I'm heading to bed early. Tomorrow is a public holiday and I'm hoping to have a quiet one at home with two well behaved little boys.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Time For A Haircut

One of the big perks of having children is that you can do (almost) whatever you like with them. Dressing them and making them clothes has been fun but they sometimes don't like to wear the things I make, and its a little disappointing.

The thing they can't escape from is having their hair cut. They can never resist the screen time they get whenever I have to cut their hair. I usually entice them with Peep And the Big Wide World or Thomas clips. Once thats on, I get snipping. And usually, I can't stop! (My very first when-I-grow-up occupation was a hairdresser.)

I was trying to grow Adrians hair to see how a two year old would look with Justin Bieber's old hairstyle. Unfortunately, his Chinese hair is un-trainable and instead of staying to the side and away from his eyes, they started to poke in. I tried hair bands and tying it back but he pulled them off. What did I expect?

No big deal, I get to do what I love doing. His fringe looked much better when it was wet and combed properly - I  might need to snip at it again. Here are his Before and After shots.

There is always a lot of talk about how the second child looses out (less attention, hand me downs, etc etc etc), BUT, the one big advantage, at least in our house, is that the haircuts get better. Look at poor Aaron here...

I've also been practicing on Richard, anyone else want to give me more practice?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Things He Says...and Thinks.

Everybody knows how hilarious, innocent and often, insightful a child's observations can be. I'm always amazed at how they can sometimes point out details that I never notice or, on the opposite side, the big picture that I failed to appreciate.

When I picked Aaron up from school, he came to me and seemed to be quite excited about something.

"Hey Mama, I think I know something!"

I could see that he felt some sort of sense of accomplishment and pride at this new found ability. I wondered what it was and fully expected it to be something from the classroom. This is what he says next.

"I think I know how to tell if somebody is Chinese." 

I was momentarily caught off guard there. On hindsight, I seem to remember him saying it with the same sort of look that Maxwell Smart used to say things when he figured something out. Sort of like this...

I wasn't expecting that revelation from him and thought it was cute, funny and strange all at the same time. First of all, I always thought that he already knew how to identify a Chinese person. He knows we're Chinese and I just assumed that he would have made the association with other Asian looking people by now. So, I asked him how he figured it out since everybody had two eyes, two ears, two legs, one nose etc...

And once again, with a beady eyed, Maxwell Smart type look, he says:

"I don't know. I can just sense it."

We continued on in this line for awhile and I made sure not to mention skin, hair or eye color. I still expected him to eventually mention this most obvious way of determining if a person might be Chinese but he never did. He maintains that he doesn't know how he knows it but he just has a feeling if somebody is Chinese (I think he actually means 'Asian' but I didn't want to confuse the matter).

One of the skills that is sometimes noted as 'milestones' for children is the ability to segregate and categorise similar items. Of course, Aaron would have noticed people looking different (and his brain is probably processing the skin and hair color subconsciously) but I think that to him, we are all in the same category of 'human'. I'm just extrapolating here but I'm sure that his processing of the various religions that he has encountered, is going to be similar to how he processed race.

I wish I could have a video of these precious conversations that I have with Aaron.