Saturday, December 27, 2008 ;
1:47 AM
Why is it not such a good idea to have a snow ball fight here?

In a previous post, I mentioned about my instinct.

In Utah, I used to play with the kids in the snow. I lay in the snow myself, to make snow angels too. I rolled snow balls and fought with them. I also made snowmen.

Ah, my instinct about not touching the snow here was unexplainable until we spotted all these.

Now these pics only represent 10% of what we saw in a 10min walk around the estate. There are plenty plenty more, so much so that the kids dare not play in the snow now, how sad. I wish the owners will be a tad more responsible with their pets. Or children? Regarding the pee, at least.

Poo 1


Poo 2 and 3


Pee 1
Pee 2

Pee 3

Oh yes, we saw a lot of sputum too. But that's too tough for an amateur photographer like me to pick up, since most of the sputum are foamy and transparent, against the white snow, hard to capture. So no pics there.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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;
1:32 AM
The kids received some Xmas gifts on Xmas eve!

Dh's business partner gave it to the kids, asked Dh to bring home. Something like transformers, it can be modified, and it has sounds and lights. The kids loved them of course.

I was initially still tolerant of them until the next day, when I was faced with 12 hours of the blasting noises of shooting and fighting sounds emitted from both toys when the buttons were pushed.

My grocery shopping hours have been lengthened cos of the 2 kids' presence. But we get to enjoy KFC brunch with H. Most branches of KFCs have kids play area. But usually they are very crowded with kids wearing open crotch pants, so I normally don't allow them to play there. That Tues, it was empty, since local kids are in school, so they had a lot of fun.

The 3/4 sized cello that Dh is going to string up for his niece in Perth. It costs many many times the price in Australia, so Dh's sis wants to get one in China. Dh says he cannot find good-brand strings here so he will buy the strings in Spore on our trip back.

Ds1 stood beside it to pretend play and it looked like a double bass instead, he being shorter! The kids had so much laughs out of this unfinished cello.

Later on ds1 pretended it was a giant guitar, sitting on the floor with the cello lying sideways on his lap and strumming away. ds2 laughed and laughed away.



rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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;
12:25 AM
The news said that Tianjin has the coldest weather and most snow in 50 years?

Wow, and we had the privilege of experiencing it in our first winter here, without our boxes here yet!

If not for H's loan and give-aways of jackets, beanies, hats, gloves, scarves, comforters etc etc, we would have frozen to death huh!

When I packed all our winter clothing, including a lot of my favorite sweaters, jackets and stuff into the boxes in Utah in March this year, I had full confidence that I would get the winter stuff in time to wash/ dry clean them in time for winter.

Anyway, here are some pics around our estate. Since I have the boys with me 24/7, I can't possibly be cooped in the house the whole day. I gotta take them out and let them burn off the endless energy housed in their tiny bodies.

I don't feel like playing in the snow with them here, don't know why at first. My instinct? But see the next post, and I was mighty glad I have an instinct.

So i just snapped pics and followed them around wherever they ran to.

Saw that the strong winds caused quite a lot of damage to some temporary things, including this half-completed building. The straw linings (?) are all falling off.


My ayi still tried to ride on her bicycle here, but after a day of witnessing many people fall off the bikes and getting seriously hurt in many accidents, she decided to switch to taking the public bus. It got her son very very late for school though, cos of the road conditions.

I mentioned how ill-prepared they are for snow here, and how handicapped many businesses are now. We all thought they were inefficient, but turns out, they never expected this since it is the worst case in 50 years, so they don't have the necessary equipment and stuff to clear the snow and help people get to work or school in time and safely.

The whole week, since Mon, the ayi has been telling me of accidents she saw along the way. Cars, buses, taxis, bicycles, people...

On Wed, she resumed riding her bicycle cos the bus was taking her hours to wait for, and finally get on, to wait longer during the slow journey. (She now works just 2hrs for me so she can get home in time, was thinking of asking her not to come instead but she works for another Korean family near me in the morning, so she says she has to come anyway.) Then her bicycle got spoilt somehow. She said she half pushed her bicycle at points where ice and snow hampered the bike's progress, and then half rode it. Then suddenly the battery failed. She tried to pedal after that but got very tired soon after.

So on Thurs, she sent it for servicing, and today she had the day off. She says she is handicapped without the bicycle, and her poor son has to rely on the unreliable buses to get to school and home. (Xmas not a holiday here, school as usual.)

As for Dh, he also couldn't catch a cab this week, he waited for 45 min, then decided to take a bus, walked to the bus interchange, found no buses operating there! In the big interchange! So walked back out. Finally he called a contact who drove a taxi. Fortunately that contact could come pick him up to get to work. After that, he always fixed a time with this cabbie, cos he's so afraid he cannot rush out his work before we go back to Spore.

He's been returning very late too. Transport always a problem this week.

Thankfully the kids' school has the hols now. They are oblivious to all the troubles others are having this week, and just blissfully enjoying their snow.

Here they climbed onto all the ledges in the park within our estate.

And they spied someone else's Snow Mound Man. Quite cute, with pebbles for eyes. Not enough snow to build a snowman by this day, I guess. It was taken on Xmas day.


Then, I can't help noticing how blue the skies are, cos the snow probably cleaned the air well. Thankful for the snow! But when I watch the ever-working factories beside our estate, I know the blue sky days are very precious. Soon they'll be grey again. Better take more pics.

The kids are still fascinated with police men, security guards etc. In Spore, when my bro in law (sis's hubby) comes home from work, they always ask him what all his badges are for (he works for SAF).

We often see the guards in our estate marching together, and the kids are very curious and always stop to watch them. Today, they marched and stopped right where the kids were playing, and since I had my camera in my hand, I asked the kids if they wanted to take pics with Mr Policeman (aka 保安 or 公安 here). They said yes!

So I asked them. They were all smiling and nice. I guess it adds a little more spice and interest into their marching rounds.

I got used to them marching around already, but when I first arrived, I kept thinking how funny the security guards in the condominiums in Spore will be, if they followed the same practice of marching around the estate together.

Along the main roads, very diligent and responsible policemen and guards will patrol all the time too. Manpower is not a problem here, so there are a lot of such people helping us keep law and order. I do feel safe seeing them everywhere around this area.

At least these have each other. I have seen so many solitary ones, standing guard at a fixed post. They cannot move, and have to stand ramrod straight. Even in this weather! I cannot help but remark to H, as we passed one of them one day, how bored to tears he must be! So H told me, everytime she pass by, she will wave to him. I usually do that too, and I get the kids to shout, "你好!" to them. So now I know, probably they get a lot of greetings from us.

Another interesting thing is their myriad collection of uniforms and hats. In Spore, it is boring cos uniformed officers have the same old thing to wear the whole year. Over here, they keep changing when the season change. I think I love the winter one best. Don't you just love that Russian-style furry hat?

And their coat sure looks very warm.

When we first arrived in summer, they wore short sleeves and pants. Normal cap.
In fall, they switched to long sleeves with pants. Normal cap.
In cooler fall, early winter, they wore a short jacket, like a blazer, with buttons and badges. The hat looked thicker, but not this furry. The pants looked thicker.
Now, they are in full length overcoat, furry hat, so lovely.

Forgot to list 2 other things I am thankful to them for:
1. Opening the locked gate (to my block) for me whenever I forget to bring my card. hee. Sometimes they are not patrolling around the gate, and I have to get ds to climb over to press the button inside. Or, I climb over if I am alone. I always look around a few times to make sure no one sees me (cos the gate is quite high and will make me lose my regal poise in the attempt to scale it, 失态。)

2. The cabs are outside the estate, remember? Very far for me to walk out, so when I have lots to carry, are stuck with 2 slowly strolling kids and am in a rush, I will call a cab. How? These guards have walkie talkies. They relay message. I call the main guard post, they send a cab in. The guard right at my block area will signal to me as to where the cab is waiting. Nice.

No extra booking cab fee like in Spore. And the nice cabbies always start the meter rolling after I settle all the kids and myself.

You may not be able to see, but that's ds1 and ds2 in front of him (blocked). In front of ds2 is an ayi hired by the estate to hack up all the ice on the ground. Manual labour is cheaper here, than using equipment. I look back, and then in front. I wonder how long she took to clear the path we just walked on. I thanked her as I passed and asked the kids to greet her too. Man, she would need the whole day just to do one path. I did the short driveway in Utah and my arms ached like crazy already.


The blues skies, the beautiful bare tree branches.

Look closely, what do you see? I asked the boys, what are they? They said, "Hornet nests? Bee Hives? Bird nests?" I don't know. Nests, maybe? But the last time I was asked by my NIE honors course lecturer (he lectured me on Urban Landscaping and Horticulture I think), I said nest, and he said it's mistletoe. So I don't know. This lecturer often delighted in asking me Qs he expected I would answer wrongly. But I guess we remember them because of this.

This is called "tipping the equilibrium"? Remember Prof Yeoh lecturing us on teaching science to students. Must keep them constantly excited and attentive in class by upsetting the equilibrium in their minds. I don't know if I recall the correct terms, but basically, introduce activities and events that'd surprise them. If they are always presented with the expected, they will not be so interested to learn more.

In this instance, the kids didn't need my answer, so I left it at that and quickened my pace to catch up with both of them running on their way. (Sarah maybe you can help? :-))


Got a picture of the ayi's bike finally. Wanted to show the interesting attachment to the handlebars that most bike owners install when winter comes.

She wear gloves already and when riding, slips her gloved hands into the fleece-lined attachments. Keeps the hands lovely and warm while riding long distances.



rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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Sunday, December 21, 2008 ;
10:59 PM
20 Dec
Sat
9.30am - 12pm

It's been awhile since the kids had a playdate with H's sons. I invited them over for some baking activity. H brought all the materials over and a new recipe for me. Cheesy Potato Muffins.

Healthy, nutritious and yummy. Sorry I am very lazy to type out the recipe because it is all in Chinese. I take 5 times as long to type in Chinese, because I have to enter the hanyu pinyin and choose from all the choices. I seldom type in Chinese, so there are very few predictive phrases the system can offer me too. Am I right to say that?

This photo shows my boys with H's elder son and H, mixing the muffin mixture. Each boy was holding some cheese to tear and throw into the mixing bowl. Their expressions tell it all -- they were so excited, happy and in anticipation of the product.



rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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;
9:51 PM
First snow here

This is the first snow for this winter. How different from Utah. I guess in SLC, the altitude is higher? First snows had been Sept both years Dh and us were there.

It rarely snows here, being nearer the coast and at sea level. We're glad to have some snow. It makes winter more fun than just bleak.

So nice to have it fall on the day of 冬至 (winter solstice) too.
By the way, if most of you are having tangyuan (glutinous rice balls) today cos it's the winter solstice, the northern chinese don't do that. They eat 饺子 (dumplings).

Interestingly, it was a taxi driver who gave me all the info, and interesting nuggets. I took one to school the other day and he asked me if I knew about the 24 节气。I said I didn't know, then he proceeded to tell me.

There are 4 seasons, each season with 6 jieqi, so that makes 24 a year. Ancestors came up with this more than 1000 years ago, with scientific background. The jieqi change with every 15 degrees in a revolution. So after 360 degrees, you have all the 24 jieqi. Ok I didn't understand everything he said so I googled it and got this page. You can read for more details. You can get it translated into English too, but the English sometimes read funny.

http://www.weather.com.cn/static/html/article/20081219/20484.shtml

Anyway, it is all very interesting and intriguing, cos I had only heard of a few of them before, like 冬至,清明。 Makes a lot of sense too.

Actually, I learn a lot from the cab drivers. Each time I take one, they are very friendly and willing to share a lot of information. I am surprised how much they know about all the families living in my estate too. One of them told me almost everything I knew about the Japanese mom whose hubby is Italian (ds1's classmate's family). Now I mostly listen to them and ask Qs about what they say, and share very little info about my own family, because I think they might just be talking about me to others too!

They told me people here eat dumplings on the day of winter solstice because dumplings resemble our ears and since this period is the coldest period in the whole of winter, it'll prevent the ears from freezing. Interesting, right?

Below shows the blanket of snow along the sidewalks and roads.


And in our porch. The winds were strong. Dh said it was a snowstorm.

Over here, when there is a snowstorm, most businesses are handicapped. Why? We are not sure if this is a small thing to them so there are no snow plows, but yes, we didn't see any. And throughout the day, we had to go in and out and Dh attended a quartet rehearsal in the afternoon. There were no cabs.

Cars cannot go normally. There is snow and ice on the roads. Cyclists cannot cycle. I actually called for pizza delivery and I forgot they deliver on their bicycles. I was informed that they don't deliver today cos the snow and winds are too strong!

Ok... In Utah, I could still order pizza because the roads will have been shovelled through by the ever-ready snow plow workers. And they deliver by cars.

So no cabs for Dh too. His friend gave him a lift in the end. And cars don't change to snow tires here too. They will just drive on the ice and ice-skate in the vehicles. I have resolved not to go out on snowy days here, just in case I am walking on the sidewalk and get knocked down by a car who skids towards me.

It was so cold that our Sunday worship visitors came frozen up. We started service late this morning because they all came late, and had to warm up their frozen faces and fingers. I had to serve them hot water too. Poor people. But we were glad they still made it all the way here, despite the weather. They took the bus and walked too!

The kids enjoyed themselves though. They kept asking to go out to play. In the morning, right after waking up they were screaming to get out but they had to have breakfast first. Right after breakfast they went out for snow fights, and making snow angels.

Then we got them in for worship, and after worship, they were at it again. We made them have a quick lunch and out they went.

That's when we took the 2 family pics below.

As we talked, there was a lot of vapour so we decided to take a pic with us huffing all the vapour out of our mouths and throwing snow at the same time. Resulted in the pic below. hee.


It was so cold for us, we wanted to be out minimally. But the kids really would have lived outside if we let them. Their faces were red with the cold, and they refused to wear scarves of course. They weren't even wearing snow pants cos all our ski and snow stuff are in the boxes, which have yet to arrive. Sure hope they don't fall sick.

I had to drag both in, they were so reluctant to come back into the house. Even in the evening, ds1 was still asking if he could go out one last time, but it was absolutely too cold then, without any sunlight.

Below's a video clip of them playing together. Look at their snow-covered beanies! And notice how the howling wind was still fiercely blowing away. All of us felt the wind here is stronger than in Utah (cos of the coast?).

Some other clips show them really brutal with each other, throwing clumps of snow at each other's faces, causing the "victim" to splutter and cough snow out. This one is tamer.

(If you're wondering about the music in the background, it's cos this happened just before worship and Dh was playing some hymns very loudly on the computer.)

video


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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7:11 PM
I usually try and use this blog to record significant milestones in the kids' life, in our family's life..

I think what I am going to write about is significant too, although it has nothing to do with when they took their first step, when the first tooth fell out and so on.

It's a long story but I will still write everything, hopefully when ds2's time comes, it can serve as a reference.

If you will be offended, please do not read further.

Birds and the Bees Talk

Recently I started playing a free online game called Fish Tycoon (just Google this, you'll get many sites from which you can play the trial version). It's something like The Sims, whereby you pretend to be a fish breeder and breed fish. You start with a couple of fish and try to get as many new species as possible, while selling the extra fish you don't want to get more money. With money, you can research fish environment, food and so on to get more species. The aim of the game is to find 7 magic species of fish.

I like it not just because I love Biology and animals, but because I just enjoy this kind of game. I used to be real crazy about The Sims too.

I used to play when I am free when the kids are in school, but they're on hols now. And I've been too evil, cos I ban their Ben 10 (no TV), and no longer let them play computer games, but I'll check my fish once in a while. So then, after both of them displayed especially good behaviour, I allowed them to watch me play the game.

Now, to breed more fish, you have to mate them. To mate them, you have to choose the species you want, say, a goldbulb and mate it with a beta. When you mate them, the game has a kissing sound effect. Unfortunately, the kissing sound is very loud.

This led to the Q, "mom, do you get pregnant by kissing too?"

Ah ha..

In the past, they used to ask me how babies are formed, and so on. Which I honestly truthfully answered the scientific way, since that's how my mom taught me and hey, I am a Bio teacher.

I tell them you need a sperm cell and an egg cell, to combine together. It will grow and grow until the baby is formed completely and ready to be born.

I will tell them the sperm comes from the daddy and the egg from the mommy so in the animal world, and for humans, you usually need a couple to get babies. We're leaving out asexual repro and parthenogenesis here, ok, students?

They are satisfied at that. At various times, I might elaborate on the stages of the baby, like what is formed in them (heart, lungs etc), when they mature... And I might tell him that once he hits puberty, then his testes will start producing sperm. And girls already have all their eggs in the ovary.

Well, today I replied to his earlier Q, "err, no, you can't get pregnant by kissing alone." Which is the truth. I cannot lie to him.

This will surely beg the following Q. "Then mom, how do you get pregnant?"

Me: "You remember right? The sperm must combine with the egg?"
ds1: " Yes, but the sperm is in me and the egg is in the girl, how to combine?"

Ok, in the past, it has not ever led to this stage yet. I thought for a while... Is it time yet?

To stall for time to think it through, I asked him back.

Me: "What do you think, how can they combine?"

(Meanwhile, I was thinking if telling him meant he will tell the whole world cos he does often talk his head off, especially in school. And whether he has the maturity to understand it.)

Turns out, I think it was a good way. I'll probably ask ds2 back too, if he gives me the same Qs in future. Because if ds2 is not ready, then he'll probably come up with funny ideas and we'll just laugh together and that'll be it. Unless the child is very persistent, then we can take a step further?

So ds1 said: "How does the sperm even come out?"
Me: What do you think? How many holes do you have from which it can come out?
ds1: "Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, anus, penis." He pointed them out to me.
Me: "Good. So which of the holes are nearest the sperm factory?"
ds1: "The penis"
Me: "yup, you're right. That's where it swims out." (He already knows it has a tail, like a tadpole.)

The moment I used the word swim, he had this funny link to the beach!

Ds1: "Oh, so the sperm come out on the beach to meet the egg?"
Me: lol
ds1: "How to find the egg with so much sand there?"
Me: rofl

ds1: "If not, how?"
Me: "The egg doesn't come out. The egg cannot swim, remember?"
ds1: "Oh ya, baby grow in mom's belly hor. So sperm must swim inside to find the egg?"
Me: "Yup."
ds1: "How to go inside?"
........censored.....

I did proceed to give a brief explanation, just fyi. And he was satisfied with it, because he moved on to say he's going to find someone to marry once he grows up because he loves babies and wants as many as possible. He even mentioned how much he loves Eva, Ravel and Joshua. So I quickly discussed more about babies and how adorable they can be. And I quizzed him about who he wants to marry.

He does say different names at different times, and once it was Charlene, but now it is Minxi. :-) haha.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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Saturday, December 20, 2008 ;
2:24 PM
We have a really cool week ahead, with a range of temperatures all below 0 deg C. Our warm clothing are mostly in the boxes that have yet to arrive, so we won't be going out a lot.

Some pics of our life at home now:

ds2 fell asleep on his brother's violin case. He was carrying his brother's Xmas gift from school, a furry tiger pencil case. He likes all his brother's stuff more than his own. When ds1 returns from school, he is the first one to rush to him and unpack his bag.

When his brother has homework, he keeps bugging me for homework too. Nursery kids don't have homework, I say. But he insists, so I have to sit him down and pretend the activity books are homework. So now he calls the mazes and join-the-dots activities "homework".

And he was the one who opened all of ds1's Xmas gifts from school. He got so many cards and gifts that I felt guilty. Am I supposed to let him bring gifts for his friends too? I thought people in China won't celebrate it much, but they seem to embrace it with more fervour, even though there is no religious attachment for it.

They like to put up Xmas trees, have parties and exchange gifts too.


I had a lot of cooking fun too. Ayi taught me more stuff. This particular day, she showed me how to make Korean Beef Bulgogi. I've been learning how to pronounce the words properly too. I used to just pronounce "bulgogi" the English way. Now I learn to speak through my nose a little more. At least, it sounds like it needs more nasal effect to get it right, hehe. I'm sure I still sound really funny though, cos she always makes me repeat it again when I attempt any word.

I think I'm hopeless in Korean. She's shown me how to read all the food labels once already but when she leaves, I forget them all, and have to ask her again the next time. I better scribble it down in English next time. All the characters look so foreign, and so different from Chinese. She says she can decipher Japanese too, since a lot of Korean and Japanese words are similar. My!

That's her. Very petite and gentle lady.

The Bank of China branch at our place had a grand opening ceremony for their extension, a special block for their VVIP customers. Very very posh and grand lounge and service areas. Just like Din Tai Fung and many other services here, they cater specially to big clients because people here like to have special treatment and have grand entrances.

These are all the firecracker remnants. By the way, unlike in Utah, where firecrackers can be lit on certain fixed days in the year (eg 4th of July), China doesn't have such laws. So when our neighbor's child has a birthday or someone has a wedding, they just light them up. So very often, and at all times of the day, we hear firecrackers.

We get to hear them almost every week. And I heard from friends that for CNY, we'll hear it all 15 days and even in the middle of the night.


It's getting a little lonely around here since most of the moms I know have left for home or some vacation destination.

Those whose homes are nearby (eg Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan) have all returned home since there is a 3 week hol. Those whose homes are further take the chance to vacation nearby. A lot of Americans are going to HK or Japan Disneyland.

The Europeans chose various destinations. The French mom I often talk with using "sign language" is going to Singapore! But she's already gone and will stay only 4 days, so I won't be there when she is. After Singapore, they're flying to Sydney till Jan and then fly back to Tianjin.

For them, they go home only in summer when it is long enough. 3 weeks is too short to go through jet lag and all the packing. They'd rather explore the area here. I'd do that too. For a lot of them, Asia has a lot of exotic appeal.

We're counting down to next Sat when we get back. My sister's been telling me about the new Jurong Point extension and the SAFRA club that's opening just at our doorstep. It boasts the largest indoor playground for kids in Singapore, so I am excited about that. Hope it's good.

My sis say we need not step into Orchard Rd anymore since every shop seems to have moved to Jurong Point. Even stores like Aussino which I used to have to travel to West Mall for, is at JP now. It also has so many bank branches there, so convenient. The bookstores, gift shops, restaurants... wow, lovely. Din Tai Fung is there too. I haven't tried it yet, can do so now.

So glad to have bought that flat 5 yrs ago. Did not expect so many things to spring up in these 5 yrs. I guess I won't sell it in a hurry. Furthermore my financial analyst friend says the recession will last and things will continue to go downhill within 5 yrs.

Although we are affected by it in that we are stuck here with not a great pay (since USD is down now vs RMB), we are thankful not to have debts or loans to pay. If things fail here, we'll return home and live in our humble abode. At least we won't be homeless and can still survive. No stress there.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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Friday, December 19, 2008 ;
6:54 PM
Funny story on white blood cells...

The kids had been pretty free now that it's the hols. It's freezing outside, and I am loathe to go out. The air is bad also, so we do a lot of indoor activities. And yes, I have occupy both of them from morn till night, for 10 days until we get to go back to Singapore next week. Also have to prepare 3 meals a day for them. Would like to eat out during weekends but it's too cold to go out now.

I've thus been assigning the kids work to do while I cook meals, if not, they run wild, climb up and down and get hurt. (I've since banned the TV, unless they watch documentaries or approved DVDs, and I limit their computer playing to 15min a day, because they fight too much. I blame the TV and computer when they fight, and use that as the reason for not letting them use the TV or computer.) Dh and I started the ban about 3 weeks to a month ago, when ds1 reported a lot of fighting in school too.

Both ds scribble and doodle a lot. I keep some of the doodles I like, and for the scribbling, I think I will just post the ones I like up here, then I need not keep them, else there'll be a huge pile with no storage space.

I'll post more of ds1's, simply because I understand more of his writing, and thus it is funnier. ds2 writes a lot too, and he'll tell the story to me, but a lot of his words do not contain any vowels at all (common starting devt stage of writing) so no point posting them here too frequently.

I like to post ds1's stuff verbatim, cos it's funny to see the various ways of invented spelling. And I don't correct him, so I can keep a record of how his devt goes, based on his own discovery of the correct spelling when we read books together. See how long it takes for him to discover the right way to write also. I think it'll be a fun journey.

His teacher did say ds1 is very willing to write and has a lot of ideas because he is not afraid to spell words wrongly, whereas she has many students from whom she "cannot squeeze any words out of" when there is writing in class because they want to get every word spelt correctly before they start to write. That's quoted from her.

To make it more fun, I'll post his version first, and you can try to decipher it, and check the actual version (he read to me) later in the post.

White blood cell

Once upon a time there was a white blood cell his name was monocyte he looks like this [he drew a drawing] he mate a frand cold lymphocyte and they becam bust frands. Then they desided to Go to a rustschrn and they at happylea avar the End

He wrote this story after he asked me how the body fights infections and I showed him the white blood cells. So the "monocyte" word was fresh in his memory (need to say this in case you think he knows such words normally). He is not a genius. He said his favorite white blood cells are the monocytes and lymphocytes because one engulfs bacteria and the other makes weapons (antibodies) to fight bacteria.

You know how much boys love fighting and weapons. So I had explained them in this manner, and I didn't know he will love them so much.

I just find the story so funny cos of the invented spellings taking on another meaning when they are in this story.

Also, he is still not using capital letters and punctuation consistently, sometimes yes, sometimes no. The letter "G" though, he always uses uppercase, even when in the middle of a sentence. Funny, huh?

Ok, the actual version.

White blood cell.

Once upon a time, there was a white blood cell. His name was Monocyte. He looks like this. He met a friend called Lymphocyte and they became best friends. Then they decided to go to a restaurant and they ate happily ever. The End.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
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;
12:06 AM
28 Nov
Fri
12-2.30pm

The school put up a musical, The King and I at a grand theatre in town. Dh volunteered in the school orchestra accompanying the musical, so I brought ds2 and went for the school matinee.

ds1 went with the school to the same matinee. ds2 was not included because he was a half day student, but I got the tickets from the elementary school head.

It wasn't executed perfectly, but I would say it is a huge success because the school started auditioning in Sept and only got the full cast in Oct. So in 2 months time, to get all the actors singing and acting, all the props and costumes and the orchestra/ band all in sync... that is not easy at all.

Furthermore, schools in USA and such schools are different from Spore schools in that they schedule after school rehearsals many times a week. The school had practices during lunch hour (after the kids have their lunch, they gather to practise). That happened until Nov, when they started scheduling once a week rehearsals on Wed and always ending by 4.30pm.

Only the last week, when they managed to book the theatre for the whole week preceding the show, they had rehearsals everyday.

Having so many kids involved, including some young ones is a big headache too. And Dh also got the orchestra conductor nervous cos he couldn't attend any rehearsals till the last week, and the conductor (school's own music tr) was emailing him a couple of times already. Finally he took time off work the last week and went for all the rehearsals. He played 1st violin, 1st chair.
He looks just like the other students, so no problem fitting in, haha.

The theatre didn't allow any photography, so I don't have pictures. The Korean student acting as Anna sang very well. Another Korean girl who acted as the Head Wife of the King and the girl who is a gift from Burma to the King also sang really well. A lot of the Koreans and Japanese can sing and play music really well. The orchestra is made up totally of Koreans and Japanese too.

The music was very catchy, so both ds were singing and humming "Getting to know you" and "Whistle when I am afraid" and other songs for days after the musical, at home.


17 Dec
Wed
1.30-2.15pm

Staff pantomime

This is the last day of school. So the staff put up a show for all the students and parents. I left ds2 at home with the ayi! First time!

He reached home from school at 12.30pm and was in such good spirits that he didn't want to go out again. I had to leave at 1.10pm to reach school in time for the performance.

Ayi was agreeable, and ds2 was requesting to stay home so I let him.

So much easier to walk out and catch a cab without ds2 anyway.

Wow, it was so crowded. So many dads took leave to be there too! Dh was too busy, so he couldn't go.

After a few speeches from the various Heads, and farewells to students who will be leaving (end of year means some contracts will end, inevitably, and students will have to leave to go home), the performance started.

It was hilarious!

The title is "Jack and the IB Beans". And like Jack and Beanstalk, there was an evil giant (acted by the Elem sch Head), but Jack was supposed to sow the IB beans and his aim was to get the IB diploma. He sold his cow in exchange for those beans. The giant stole his diploma away in the end, and he had to get it back. In the process, of course there are many parts they add in the IB terms, like "IB continuum" (phrase said when sowing the beans), and the "Inquiry Cycle"... Funny. They enlisted audience interaction too, mainly the elem kids, who enthusiastically participated, squealed and laughed. The sec sch kids were quieter, as usual.

That's Jack, and the beanstalk that grew from the beans. (All acted by teachers)

On the right, that's the Head, she's very funny, and she fits the role of the fiery giant well. The kids were so excited and thrilled when the Giant and Jack went chasing each other around down the stage and around the kids.

Descriptions are not enough, here are some snippets. Hopefully the funny parts are clear enough, like the milking of the cow. And the cow's udders dropped out halfway later, which had all the children screaming with laughter.

After the "milk" is collected in the pail, the guy asks the students if they like organic milk, since the cow is an organic cow. They chimed in, "yes!" (since the school started importing and selling organic milk to kids after the melamine milk scare), and then the teacher threw the entire contents of the pail out at them! Naturally they screamed, but it was all sparkly confetti. haha.


video


video

Jack crossing the river to get his diploma from the IB fairy. The song lyrics were changed, and basically it says how happy it is to be at XXX (School's name). Piano playing by school's music tr, and singing by school's teachers.

video


The evil giant who stole the diploma from him. Plus a lot of booing and hissing from audience. There's one part where the guy made fun of another prominent Intl school in Tianjin, run by the British (UK system). Kind of rivals, like RJ and HC, so there was good-natured ribbing, and that got some laughs from the older students.


video


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


;
12:02 AM
13 Dec
Sat

We have tried a couple of Chinese airlines by now. So far, I think I like Air China best.

We flew back to Tianjin on Shanghai Airlines. This flight was far from uneventful like most other flights.

First, the plane was parked in the middle of nowhere. So all of us passengers waiting at the boarding gate were ushered into the open (which was cold) and herded into a bus. The bus was very smelly and they left the engine on and the doors of the bus open. So we were all forced to breathe in the fumes.

I felt very suffocated. Furthermore, they wanted to pack the bus to the brim with the last passengers before leaving so we were squeezed together.

After a long arduous wait, the bus finally moved. Then, I didn't expect the ride to be so long. How come the plane is soooooo far away? Some people on the bus joked that our plane can't be found, because at one juncture, the bus stopped in the middle of the runway and waited for a long time. We were craning our necks but couldn't see a Shanghai Airlines plane.

Presumably, the bus was waiting for another plane to clear the runway before continuing on its journey.

Then we arrived and the bus left after we got off. But then, they wanted to check our passports and boarding passes again! So in the windy and cold outdoors, we had to form a long queue at the foot of the stairs leading up to the door of the plane, and let the officials check our documents.

I had kept the kids' and my jackets in the carry on bag already and had to take them out. So cold, so troublesome. Sigh.

And the wait was very long again. So that's why I could take all these pics, and talked to the kids about the captain who was flying our plane, so they don't get bored queueing for so long. Showed them the turbine too. And they recalled the Mr Incredibles movie when superheroes with capes get sucked in. Funny.



After we got home, we decided to order some Chinese food, and because it was so cold, we yearned for some hot soup. We had not tried ordering soup to go before, but assumed it would be like in Singapore where they put it into a large microwaveable plastic container.

Nope... We were so shocked to see this.. A huge plastic bag, those you use for groceries or trash. Yes, and our pork rib soup was inside. Nice, right.



rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


Thursday, December 18, 2008 ;
1:49 AM
12 Dec
Fri

We packed up in the morning and our host kindly drove us out to Puxi (the other part of Shanghai). We wanted to stay the last night in a motel within the city so that we can go some last minute shopping, and be near the HongQiao airport, since our flight back to Tianjin leaves from there Sat afternoon.

He picked up the lady from Mudanjiang and let her join us too. He brought us to a very nice Singaporean restaurant called Crossroads. It was situated in a hotel, and the waitresses all wore SIA costumes. Their char kway teow, Hokkien mee, sambal kangkong, salted fish bean sprouts were all delicious. Only the chicken rice was a disappointment. Dh insisted on giving a treat, and we found that for so much food, and having fed 6 of us, it was actually very cheap! Our host agreed that Shanghai does have cheap and good food. Ahhh, again, why can't we be stationed here?

Dh had to go to the immigration to collect our passports that had the permits stamped in them, so it was me, the lady, host and both ds. They asked where we would like to go.. I asked to walk along Nanjing Lu, since it is the Orchard Road of Shanghai.

It was so crowded and our host came up with a great suggestion. He told me and the lady to go ahead and window-shop and explore every department store, while he and the boys retreat to KFC. It was a win-win idea for all of us, isn't it?

He is not keen to walk in the crowd and look at clothes. The boys had a gift of toys from the lady, and couldn't wait to sit down to play with them. They don't like shopping too. And their eyes lit up when the host suggested KFC.

So me and the lady got to walk and talk for quite a long time, while browsing all the stores. She was able to tell me a lot more about which Chinese fashion labels were good and so on. She used to sell ladies fashion apparel and then switched to cosmetics and now she is doing jewellery sales.

After what seemed like a long long time being free of kids, we went to KFC to look for the men. I was concerned if the boys would give him a lot of trouble. But I saw the kids with Milos and fries and nuggets, and the host with Coke and sundae, all happily chatting and playing with the toys! ds2 was on his lap too!

He went and got more food and drinks for us, while I asked the boys if they have been good. It's so delightful to have all these voluntary child-minders!

We talked longer and then we received the call from Dh that he has collected everything and has arrived at the subway station near us, so we went to meet him. Our host and the lady then left for the nightly Bible study while our family walked a little more, hoping to look for things we can't find in Tianjin.

There were these ingenious seats in a department store, which let the kids have so much fun playing in the holes in the middle. Kids can even lie down cosily to rest. So Dh sat with them while I looked around. Nice...

After dinner, there were still lots of people shopping and walking along. At night, this street has earned the name of "Las Vegas" of China. However, it must be referring just to the bright lights and not the casinos, since it is a shopping area only.

Below are some pics of the night scene.

Look at the crowd still milling around.

Small trams to ferry people up and down the long long Nanjing Lu. Orchard Road should have something like that, huh. Only 2 yuan and you can hop on and off along the way. Tianjin has this too at the main shopping district.

Drivers of these vehicles will keep asking if we want to go to The Bund (上海外滩)。 It would be lovely if it was just me and Dh but with the kids, we gave it a pass, since the kids would not appreciate the history and the beauty of the skyline at night. Furthermore, it was getting late.

Back to the motel. By the way, most of the motels in USA have branches here! We saw Super 8, Travelodge and so on. We stayed in motel 268 though. It is very cheap but still clean and safe. We took the family suite with 2 bedrooms (kind of partitioned). Each "bedroom" had a bed. One had a larger bed, probably king size, and the other was a double bed. So there was plenty of room. Only 358 yuan (S$70+) a night. Terrific value for the location.

You cannot find a room like that in Singapore, in Orchard Road, for S$70+. In fact, we met at least 10 other Singaporeans there. For example, 3 girls with huge backpacks, travelling together, checking in when we were checking in too. They spoke excellent English (no lahs and lors) but the accent is unmistakeably Singaporean.

You know, sometimes, just the way we say "What?" or "Huh?" will give us away.

Then the next morning, I met a family with 2 young boys too, even younger than mine. They were checking in when we were leaving. It's so funny. The mom looked at me, I looked at her. I glanced at their stroller and their luggage, then I wanted to ask her, but she asked me first, "Are you Singaporean?" haha

We went out to walk and soak in the culture and the way of life some more. Didn't buy anything, just walked around and observe things.

Shanghai's busiest shopping district still has a good mix of alleys. In the small alleys, you can still find slums, illegal vendors, and all kinds of salemen selling wares from their pushcarts and back of vans. Here is an example.

But just another block or street away, you see all the well-groomed, well-heeled locals or wealthy tourists buying top end branded goods.


When it was time, we headed for the airport and flew back to a very cold Tianjin.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


Wednesday, December 17, 2008 ;
10:53 PM
Our hosts had friends from Singapore, Kentucky (USA), Dalian and Mudanjiang over at this time too.

They found out that we talk about food most of the time. The American was always telling our host how good his baking skills are too, while a Sporean lady kept saying her curry is the best. So or host decided to hold a cookout.

We didn't want to be involved in a cooking contest in the midst of our business trip, but we got sucked into it. Hence, after the science museum trip, we went to Carrefour to buy veggies (carrot, corn, peas, red and yellow peppers), fresh mushrooms (brown and white kinds) and so on for my dish of mixed veggies with mushrooms.

While there were almost 6 people squeezed into the kitchen that afternoon and evening, Dh and ds were playing battleship on paper. ds2 played for a while but lost interest and doodled instead.

That's our host at his special stove. Not sure if you can see the sunken pits with the suction at the rim. The lady in the turquoise jacket is their ayi from Henan. Very young but a fantastic cook. Notice how everyone has to wear jackets in the house? It is very cold. No heating.


Our host prepared a number of dishes. This is his dish of grilled peppers stuffed with minced pork, mushroom etc. Very yummy. I love the stuffing.

Host's wife made fried bee hoon (see the huge pot) and those 2 dishes are my mushrooms and mixed veg.


Mudanjiang's representative made jiaozi, from scratch. She even minced the pork by hand, using 2 cleavers. Very interesting to learn from. She said it tastes much better if you mince the pork fresh rather than buy minced meat.

Host's ayi fried Singapore fish balls! We were so excited to see the packaging even. They sell packs and packs of Singapore fish cakes, Singapore fish balls etc in Shanghai. Why not in Tianjin??!?

Dh immediately stopped the battleship game with ds to come and taste all the food. He was very serious in the scoring too. He's so objective that he didn't give me highest marks. Pull his ear.

I don't expect highest marks of course, cos my dish really wasn't that great. It's very normal/ average. But I thought Dh would be loyal and supportive. Hmph!

Host added another dish of green veg with chinese mushrooms at the end of the meal when he noticed veggies were still lacking. He has very good presentation skills, a true blue HKer.


Sporean lady who came from Dalian to Shanghai this time. Her curry had very good flavor, and has an interesting twist because she used purple sweet potatoes instead of potatoes. Most of us gave her a perfect 10 score too.

American's cheesy mash potatoes that earned him many stars and 10s on the scoreboard, thanks to ds1. My cam's flash accidentally came on, so you can't see the details, sorry!

The lady from Mudanjiang is on the left in the pic. She wants to go to a Bible college in NZ to study full-time. Hence from the start, we thought she was very young. She does look like in her early twenties, isn't it? Later on, after I got closer to her and after a few heart-to-heart talks, I found out she's the same age as me and we got married the same year too! I told her she looks so much younger than me, I really can't tell!

I enjoyed this apple pie variation too. The American made it, and the effort is very commendable because he couldn't find many many ingredients he wanted, like Crisco shortening, Graham crackers for the crust, Nilla Wafers...

And he thought the host would have a pie pan but he didn't, so he had to make do with the tray. It's absolutely yummy though, and rare for such an old missionary guy to bake so well. He made the crust from scratch and I've seen so many in USA who just buy ready-made pie shells.

Anyway, from the way he doesn't need to measure his ingredients, and that he doesn't need to peer at a recipe, we can tell he is very very experienced.

For us, like the things I do everyday, I don't need a recipe, nor do I ever measure the quantities. The cakes I often bake, I don't need recipes either. But for an apple pie, I still need a recipe. So I take my hat off to him. I gave him a 10 too.

It was such a fun and fulfilling evening. I stuffed myself to the brim with all the good food, and had the chance to learn from so many chefs. The dishes also transcended so many cultures. Even the jiaozi, we learnt the tricks to making a good filling, and how to boil them perfectly.

After that, there was a Bible study again. This time I had to make the boys sleep, because they didn't take a nap like the day before. So I didn't join in.

The previous night, the boys had a good nap and really put on their best behaviour during the Bible study. ds1 had so many compliments from the rest on his singing and the lady from Mudanjiang kept asking me how come he can read the Bible on his own. ds2 also sang those hymns that he knew well, and he has a much louder voice than ds1 too, so he too received a lot of praise.

So this night, both of them whined that they wanted to join in the lesson! I didn't let them though, cos they were seriously sleep-deprived and I know the real reason why they wanted to join was not cos they really wanted to learn more about the Bible, but cos they wanted to show off their singing (and get more praise)!

They conked out on the bed after I cleaned them up, so I could still go out and join the rest just as the lesson ended.


rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow
____________________________________________________________


about us ;
-{dear-hubby}- dh
-{dear-son}-ds1 T
-{dear-son}-ds2 J
-{dear-daughter}-dd E
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