Thursday, February 26, 2009 ;
10:51 PM
Today is a special day in the Chinese calendar and they are lighting fireworks and firecrackers again.

My ayi told me it is the 2nd day of the 2nd month, and everyone has to go and get a new haircut. She urged me to bring the boys. No wonder the hair salon was so crowded at noon today when I went out to pick ds2 from the bus stop.

The boys do need a haircut but I am too lazy to queue so they'll get it cut another day.

Recall I mentioned the 24 节气 before? It is now the 雨水 jie qi.

It is quite accurate. Last week and this week saw a lot more precipitation, in the form of snow and rain, and sleet/ slush, whatever you call it.

I heard a lot of sayings too, besides the occasion for cutting hair.
They say we need to avoid eating mutton or dog meat during this jieqi. Avoid oily fatty food in general and take more red dates, lotus seeds, honey, sugarcane, spinach and so on.

This is the chinese version of the things people do on this day, taken from this website:

The Northerners' Beliefs (where my ayi is from and where Tianjin is):

按照北方地区的旧俗,这一天,人人都要理发,意味着“龙抬头”走好运,给小孩理发叫“剃龙头”;妇女不许动针线,恐伤“龙睛”;人们也不能从水井里挑水, 要在头一天就将自家的水瓮挑得满满当当,否则就触动了“龙头”。普通人家在这一天要吃面条、春饼、爆玉米花、猪头肉等,不同地域有不同的吃食,但大都与龙 有关,普遍把食品名称加上“龙”的头衔,如吃水饺叫吃“龙耳”;吃春饼叫吃“龙鳞”;吃面条叫吃“龙须”;吃米饭叫吃“龙子”;吃馄饨叫吃“龙眼”。

Point form translation:
1. have new haircut
2. cannot use needle/thread (for fear of piercing the dragon's eyes)
3. cannot draw water from well
4. eat noodles, popcorn, meat from the pig head? and anything that resembles or is related to dragons

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

10:25 AM
22 Feb

We had a new member who joined us for worship that morning. She is a fresh Uni grad from Mudanjiang and is here to look for a job. We are very encouraged.

Then after lunch, M came over for a playdate. We are suddenly organising a lot of these cos the kids are all at once great pals, when they realise they are going to lose each other soon?

Playing Monkey Magnet.

Playing Nick Jr online games.

They also had snacks together and played some card games. And oh yes, not forgetting the new knights that ds received for his bday.

M stayed from 2.30pm to 5.30pm. Dh asked him if he would like to walk back or ride on the scooter. He said "ride" so off they went. M didn't look very happy when he had to hug Dh though. haha. Dh looked like a robber ya?

Ds2 loves the scooter rides. They take turns going out with Dh alone. This particular day, ds2 rode with Dh to McDonalds to buy food back.

He was overjoyed. He felt important and big. He kept repeating that "哥哥" is staying at home with mommy and he is riding on the scooter with daddy to buy things.

And even stopped to pose for me! That is so rare. He was so proud of himself. ha.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

10:13 AM
21 Feb

Dh came back from Beijing just in time. He was back at 6.10pm and I left at 6.20pm.

I had a Ladies' Night out! Yay!

Y was leaving for good, and she got together a few of her friends so that we can have a nice dinner together for the last time.

I helped others to take pics, and remembered taking many pics using different cameras, but I wonder why my own cam had only 3 pics. Anyway, fortunately they came out clear enough.

The restaurant Y picked was a very popular one, saw many foreigners as I entered. Then I realised why. They served good food, provided good service (very rare here), and had good wine. I don't drink but the ladies had bottle after bottle of various kinds of alcohol, from beer to champagne to wine.

I enjoyed the food a lot because it was so international in cuisine. Y didn't know it, but she ordered a few of my very favourite dishes! There was satay with peanut sauce, a milky lemongrass soup (Thai), kangkong (!!!)... I noticed those dishes that are Sporean (eg satay and kangkong) were decorated with orchids (specifically the Vanda Ms Joaquim) so I was very impressed.

I didn't have time to share with everyone our national flower and other historical facts but I was very sure I would intro this place to Dh and H and other Sporeans/ Malaysians since the food was very like home. Makes me feel really good.

Here's pic, just the 2 of us. N brought us all there in her car so we were all seated together.

Ayi saw the pic cos I printed it out to frame it as a farewell gift to her. Ayi said I looked much fatter than in person. Argh! But no choice, this is the only pic I had.

One side of the table. The VIP room did not have any space for everyone to get into 1 pic, so we took half of the table first. Fortunately Y booked this room early, so we had privacy and there was no smoke from outside. It was very smoky outside indeed.

This photo shows German, Japanese, Taiwanese American, French and Singaporean moms. All of us have kids at the same school. And the coconut drink? That was ordered by the French mom. The Sprite soda can? The German moms mixed it with their wines. I ordered Thai Milk tea. Don't laugh ok, I have always loved Thai Milk tea. It is so fragrant.

The other half. Mostly German moms and mostly here cos of Airbus. Airbus is still sending more and more people here because we just received another new wave of students in school.

I befriended another new French mom at our estate and her hubby was sent by Airbus too. She is taking Chinese lessons now so we could converse pretty well. A lot of other French moms don't speak much English or Chinese, so we just say hi and nod our heads.

Apparently Tianjin is the only final assembly plant for this fleet of planes outside of Europe. And they are filling many orders each month, so more workers are needed. But in a few years' time, they plan to train up enough local Chinese engineers to fill the positions now occupied by all the expats, then the expats can slowly pack up and return home.

Sounds like very good news for the intl school here. At least for 5 years. ha.

We were chatting and eating from 7pm till 11.30pm! I didn't receive any call or sms from Dh so everything must be fine at home.

When we left, several of the German moms were headed to another place to drink and dance. They have a lot of energy!

Oh yes, they smoke pretty much too. Once in a while they will leave the VIP room to go outside to smoke.

I was happy they did that, that they respected us that some of us may not be comfortable with the smoke inside the small room. See, that is courtesy and manners. So I did have an enjoyable evening, unlike when I have to accompany Dh to his business functions and I will be almost choking the whole time.

Furthermore when we get home, I still have to dry clean all our wool Zara jackets/ coats. Cos the smell wouldn't go off for days.

There was a teary moment though. At one point, Y used her clanged her fork on her glass and we all quietened down. She began telling us how great our friendship was, and how much it means to her. How she will miss us so much when she returns.

Then everyone toasted, said various well-wishes to her.

She gave out very pretty stationery with her Japan address and contacts on it to each of us. So sweet.

We also had very interesting discussions on various topics throughout the meal, from cosmetic surgery, to dieting plans, to kids, to hubbies, travel... Politics in the school... They also compared the teachers. Cos most of our kids are around the same age and in 2 different classes. Most of them felt the teacher teaching ds1 is not so good. Hmmm, I refrained from commenting because ds1 is happy in class and happy with her. So I'm fine.

Then guess what? In the next VIP room was the school board, the school directors and principals and some teachers and their spouses! The secondary school principal was having his bday celebrated there.

It seems it is rare to find a good restaurant here that satisfies most nationalities so whenever I go out to dine, we always meet people from the school as well!

All the moms who were criticizing one school staff member (not a teacher) were like, oh no, were we too loud just now? Could they hear?

By the time we got home, it was midnight, and I arrived home to see all the 3 males fast asleep already.

I should do this more often, even back in Singapore, with my Spore friends too. It is therapeutic and refreshing to be away from the kids and have my own identity for a while.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

7:36 AM
This morning was just like any schoolday morning.

ds1 knows exactly what he has to do, eat breakfast, go to the toilet, wash hands, wash face, put on moisturiser, lip butter, wear his jacket, mittens, beanie, shoes, grab his bag, say goodbye then get out of the house.

ds2, every morning without fail, will be dilly dallying. He will take a look at his toy cars, insist we listen to his story about a dog swimming, walk into the study room and survey his books... Upon our urgent calls to get ready, he will walk towards us and start to sing songs, or chatter incessantly about nothing important.

When asked to go to the toilet, he will spend a long time washing his hands. When asked to put on his jacket, he will finger the material of the jacket, pretend he cannot find the arm holes, pretend he cannot find the zipper...

When asked to put on moisturiser, which he is perfectly capable of doing himself, he will sniff at it, comment how nice the mango smell is, and ask whether we can eat it. Even though he knows the answer very well.

All these drive me and Dh crazy.

He has no sense of urgency, even when we are running late and about to miss the bus.

I am certain my blood pressure increases dangerously each morning because of his couldn't-care-less attitude. Are all the youngest ones in the family like that?

As I am placing their snack boxes into their bags, I have to keep shouting at him. I have to dash around like a madwoman making sure he is on task. If we're really really late, I have to slather on moisturiser and lip butter on his face in a hurry such that he sometimes goes to school with blotches still on his cheeks.

The part that drives Dh mad? He and ds1 will already be outside the gate, on the scooter, waiting for ds2 to finally step out of the gate. But ds2, who is all geared up, will stand in the front porch, checking out the satellite dish, seemingly deaf to the honks of the scooter. Dh will even be shouting from outside.

I'll be shouting from the door, screaming at him to hurry up and move his feet out of the gate. He'll then talk to me in the most lazy manner, "Mommy, will Isaiah be in school today? Is Ms M going to make waffles? Will you pick me up at the bus stop? Will we go shopping today? Are we going to do the nosey nosey?" Sometimes he even does a little dance and song before finally moving out.

Argh! Usually I am still in my sleep clothes, so I don't rush out to manhandle him because I risk being caught sight of by neighbours and risk catching a death of a cold.

This particular morning, ds2 said "Mommy, you are going to wash the broccoli and cook the spinach now right? Then you will pick me up at the bus stop. That's your job!"

Then he slowly hopped like a bunny, out of the gate.

No idea why he says these things out of the blue and no idea why he is soooo irritating in the morning. Don't know whether to laugh or cry.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 ;
10:00 AM
It snowed again from 18th to 19th of Feb.

I decided to keep the boys at home and didn't send them to school. Partly so that they won't catch a cold in school, and partly because it was troublesome rushing about in the snow. (Ok, I'm very lazy to walk around in the slush and clean shoes with ice several times a day.)

So we arranged with H and her younger son who is still on holiday to walk to the store within the estate to buy some eggs.

The 3 boys playings, shrieking and running in the snow. They are always so happy when it snows.

We went out early in the morning, so the snow was still powdery and clean (read: sputum, poo and pee-free).
Having snow fights:

Then wiping snow off every single rock they saw along the way:

The next day, it was still snowing, so I let them stay home again but we had to go grocery shopping, so I lugged them there together with H and her son.

Had a lovely time at lunch (Sinense restaurant). This place is in the same building as E-mart. Food is only average but the ambience is nice. Not expensive either.

After that we went to E-mart. The kids went wild there. ds1 and H's son were a little hysterical. Laughing non-stop and pulling each other's hand or the trolley.

Not many people were in E-mart then. Otherwise everyone will be staring at these boys.

Most kids here are the only child in the family. So they tend to be quieter, more serious and more mature for their age. They don't get much chance to play together in a noisy or rowdy fashion because the times they get together with many other kids their own age would be in school. And school's where they go for learning.

So 3 boys playing together attracts a lot of attention indeed.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

9:52 AM
Dh went to Shanghai then Suzhou, and then Beijing with his bosses, who came here from USA (Feb 14-24th).

On the last leg of the Americans' journey, they stopped by Tianjin for just a day. That day (Fri, 20th), Dh suggested we should invite them to our house for dinner. Of course, that would be great, because I ordered some stuff from to be sent to them before they came over to China. It meant the kids can have those things now!

I bought an otoscope (to check the kids' ear for infection) from also, and other than that, the rest were books, DVDs and toys.

There were a couple of books we read before that I regretted not buying when we were in USA, so now decided we needed to collect those books. They are so precious. One of them you see in the pic here is Flotsam. I love it myself, and have influenced both ds to like it now.

Then, I bought 2 DVDs -Wall-E and the Little Einsteins' latest DVD. ds1 seems to be outgrowing Lil Einsteins but ds2 is still all over it, therefore, we have bought every single DVD since.

I have watched Wall-E already, wow, I love it. It'll join Mr Incredibles and Toy Story as those DVDs we don't mind watching over and over again. We'll never get sick of them.

Then there are the bday gifts for both boys.

Dh and I have resolved not to buy any more toys for the kids on normal occasions. Perhaps their bdays would be the only exception. We think they have far too much and even now when I rotate their toys, I find they get a long time to be re-discovered.

Eg. Their soldiers, army vehicles and astronauts will be in one bag. The plastic animals/bugs/ spiders/ dinosaurs are in another. Their trains and train tracks; Lego sets; Ultraman figurines etc are all separately stored. I'll bring out 1 bag and they'll play with them as if they are new, when they get bored with that (maybe in a week or 2), I'll keep those and bring out another bag.

This rotation made me realise they have so many bags that Bag 1 will get re-discovered maybe only half a year later! Or more! I don't know for sure because I just started this rotation after the boxes came in (too much stuff and clutter), who knows it may take more than 6 mths?

So I packed up a lot of toys and gave them away to my ayi, to the locals and to the orphanage.

So ya, back to their bday gifts. They asked for knights. Their wish was granted.

I racked my brains regarding the dinner menu. I know they will stomach whatever Asian dishes during the dinner well but dessert has to be American. From experience in Utah, whenever we make Asian-style desserts for church potluck or other friends there, they don't seem to enjoy it. Stuff like pandan cake (eww, the green colour is disgusting!), almond beancurd longan (yucks, what's that taste?) don't sit well with them.

So I baked a banana cake. Or 2 rather, since I know the kids will devour one by themselves. See ds2 chomping on his 3rd piece the same day I made the cakes. The square one in the foreground would be for the guests. Yes, the smaller one. hee.

To make it more presentable, I made a cream cheese icing and sprinkled some pistachios on top. I know walnuts go better with banana, but I don't have walnuts. Only had pistachios in my pantry. Sorry!

Actually I didn't have confectioners' sugar for the icing either. Had to put normal white sugar into my Magic Bullet grinder/blender, add in some corn starch and pulse. I think I pulsed it for almost an hour maybe! Before it felt truly like powdered sugar.

Even so, the icing wasn't as smooth as it should be when I tasted it. They don't insist on confectioners' or powdered sugar for icing for nothing.

But in Tianjin, this would be the way. Can't find powdered sugar easily and if I do, it will surely cost a bomb.

The menu was very ayi-inspired. haha. Turns out I did most of the dishes she recently taught me. There was an advantage to that.

The Friday itself, I had already fried the pork before she came and gotten the materials all ready. When she came and was cleaning the house, she saw me struggling in the kitchen with so much to prepare, and with ds2 being cranky.

So while I made ds2 nap, she took over in the kitchen and helped me grate all the potatoes and carrots into strips, chopped this and that, and really helped a lot. Ahhh, it's lovely to have another pair of hands in the kitchen when you're hard pressed for time!

Provided that pair of hands just work and not talk. Haha. I realise I don't do so well when it is me and my mom, or me and my mil together in the kitchen. Each woman in her kitchen feels she is the queen, the rest should just shut up, right?

So it was sweet and sour pork, mini-meat cakes, Japanese cucumber, quail's eggs with beef, potato & carrot strips stir-fry.

After a very pleasant dinner with great conversation, they adjourned for a card game of Super Munchkin! Haha. See the boys and men! I was stuck with clearing up the dishes of course.

Then they all had to leave to take a night train into Beijing. Dh went with them and came back the next evening. They had a really packed itinerary this time, the poor tired guys.

When Dh was back, he slept the whole afternoon on Sun and Mon!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 ;
9:33 AM
Y wanted some Ikea bowls and I ordered some things together with H as well, in the same order.

I so love these new mixing bowls! Thought I would share. Not sure how much in Spore but it is reasonably-priced (S$5 for 2), so easy to clean, and so easy to handle and pour my cake stuff or pancake batter out. Comes in 2 sizes and very big sizes too. So happy.

The kids have been using far too much of our printer paper for their many drawings, so I got them a roll of paper. They had a blast, and I am happy it occupied them for a long time.

ds1's procession of foot soldiers, knights and so on.

ds2's sun, and dragon? Some creature I think.

If I can, I will tape rows and rows of the paper, covering the entire living room floor, and have them painting. Better still, hold brushes in between their toes maybe and do kungfu actions while painting flying strokes on the ground. Haha. See if it'll happen. The roll is so long, it might last me a year, and it's so cheap too.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Monday, February 23, 2009 ;
8:26 AM
A friend shared this with me on FB. DH and I watched it together.

It is funny and so entertaining.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Thursday, February 19, 2009 ;
8:58 PM
The Bear in school visited again.

So we baked cookies together with him. See him in the pic below, clutching the vanilla beans?

Then the boys and their beary friend had a lil picnic in the "redwood forest" as ds1 called it. It's actually the upper bunk of their bunk bed, and the climbing up seemed to them as climbing a tree. They made Bear hold the cookie! yikes, I was watching the crumbs stick to the bear and drop on the bed, but I held my tongue. They were having so much fun in their make-believe play. It would be cruel of me to interrupt them.

Then ds1 had to write and draw and paste pics into the journal on what he did and pass on to the next kid in school.

The pic below shows them on a typical school morning. They get their 15min a day DVD fix in the morning cos playing the cartoon's music loudly is a great way to make them open their eyes.

Despite sleeping between 7.30pm-9pm at night, and waking at 6.50am in the morning, and for ds2, another nap in the afternoon which can stretch up to 2.5hrs, they still can't wake up by themselves in the morning.

So I turn on the DVD, let the music run, and carry them out to the sofa. ds2 is the more serious DVD addict, so he normally opens his eyes first. ds1? He loves his sleep too much.

See, he's still in dreamland after 10min of the DVD playing.

Why the blanket? It's still really cold now, especially in the mornings and nights. Still below 0 deg C. Our apartment's living room is huge, so the heating isn't that efficient in the main living area.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 ;
7:59 PM
Most of the foreigners who come to live here would meet with some culture or adjustment shock. That usually applies to any move to any country.

For different nationalities there are different adjustments, some don't know the language, some know it, for example. However, a few adjustments unite all the foreigners.

1. Spitting - a few cities might be much better than here. We saw that Beijing was really quite clean. But over here it is still rampant, even women who are very well-groomed spit. I just had one old lady's sputum end up on my stroller yesterday while I was waiting for ds2. Eeew!

2. Toilet condition - not used to the stench, wet floors, open cubicle, no tissue to be thrown down the toilet bowl and most of all for the Western expats, the squatting toilet.

3. Pollution - air and water quality is poor.

4. Traffic and driving conditions.

On the Thursday before Valentine's, factor number 4 hit home so close, it hurt.

People who drive here need to be very alert.

They have to look out for pedestrians who cross at any point along the road and who may stand in the middle of lanes while waiting to cross more lanes of the road.

They have to look out for cyclists and other various types of small vehicles who are all not licenced, and who do not follow traffic lights and regulations. They are also capable of riding opposite to traffic flow or cross lanes without warning too.

Then there are fellow motorists who can change lanes abruptly without notice, and who try and squeeze 2 cars in one lane, or continue driving past lights not in their favour, without so much as checking the oncoming traffic at the junction.

For people like me, who rely on public transport, we try to increase our security as best as we can. For example, in Spore, if I had to take a cab, I make sure all my kids and me are belted up, because we already don't have car seats in a cab, and the least we can do is to belt up.

Not here though. I still haven't found a seat belt in the backseats of cabs, and most seat belts in the front passenger seat are filthy or not working.

That fateful Thursday, ds1's classmate's mom Y had an accident. While sitting in a cab.

She was already on the way home from grocery shopping, and was already very near our estate. She was in an older cab, whose model is smaller than the newer ones. According to her, the cab driver crossed the junction when a big Toyota (maybe SUV) zoomed past the junction too, right into the cab she was in. She couldn't remember whether the traffic lights were in her favour or not, but she knew one of them crossed the junction when they shouldn't.

Because the Toyota crashed into the back portion of the cab, the cabbie was unhurt. Because the Toyota is a huge vehicle, and that driver was in an elevated seat, he wasn't hurt as well. Poor Y. The door of the cab was totally wrecked. If she had been sitting right beside that door, it would have been fatal. Thankfully, her groceries were there. She was seated in the middle.

Even so, she was hit, and she said the shock of it made her forget what happened. All she remembered was that she was stuck and couldn't move and several bystanders (men) had to carry her out. She also remembered that a crowd had gathered by then.

Coincidentally, my neighbor H was about to pick her son up from school then, and passed by the junction in her car after Y was sent to the hospital in an ambulance. She recalled thinking how badly the cab was damaged and wondered if the passenger was still alive or not!

Y said she was also in shock because she didn't understand what happened, and even after the police arrived and tried to explain to her what they were going to do, she was still very confused. (She's German Japanese). Fortunately, she said the police and many bystanders were very very helpful. The police called someone at his HQ who could speak very good English who explained to her that they called the ambulance already, and it will bring her to wherever she wants. She then told them she wants to go to SOS (the International Clinic), because her insurance covers her there.
(I didn't know all of these on that day of course.)

After that she called her husband who was at work and he would join her at SOS. Then she remembered her ayi and her 2 girls at home, and called them too. Her ayi was worried that she could not communicate with the locals and decided to bring the girls out to meet her before the ambulance came. Then she remembered her son. Her son was not back from school yet!

So she called me.

When I got the call, I was at home, preparing all the materials for baking the Valentine Day cookies. Friday was both ds' celebrations in school. I was going to let both ds bake the last batch of cookies.

If I was still holding my mixing bowl, I would have dropped it. She told me she got involved in a car accident and cannot pick M up. Can I please pick him up and bring him to my house and care for him till she gets home from the hospital. She wouldn't know how long it will take, so can I please just keep him there till she gets home. I agreed of course. I was very worried and wanted to know how she is, because she was only telling me it's an accident. She was crying also, and her voice was already not clear over the phone.

When my mind is in turmoil, I cannot think properly, and what I wanted to know is, how is she, but I asked her, "Can you walk?"

Man! Kicked myself after that.

Anyway, she said she can, so that made me very relieved. Since she said the ambulance is there and it was very noisy and she was crying so much, I told her to take care and not worry about M. Asked her to update me after she got checked at the hospital.

After the call, I just couldn't stop worrying and since I couldn't concentrate anymore, I started keeping all the cookie materials. Tidied up, called Dh and asked him to come home earlier from work and get some McDonalds on his way back. He was hesitant initially, I could tell he has a lot of work to do, but I mentioned Y had an accident and he agreed at once. Fortunately his work is flexible enough to do me and my friends such favours.

I was scared for Y also, because I know exactly how I'd feel if I got into an accident alone, and not knowing what extent my injuries are, and without my family and friends with me. And in a different and unfamiliar system from home.

I was also scared for myself and my kids. Before this, I always thought somehow that even though people drive so dangerously here, no one I know had gotten into an accident before, so maybe the chances are still rare. Maybe people here are dangerous but still careful?

With this, I know anytime it could be me or my kids, and who knows we may not be so fortunate to live to tell the tale?

We take cabs so often, the probability is so high!

And then, my mind raced to the task I have at hand. Taking care of a boy who wouldn't know why his mom did not pick him up (and I don't intend to tell him either). And occupying him till his mom gets home, which till now is an unknown.

So I quickly arranged the activities and toys I think the boys might be interested in and organised them around the living room. Prepared some snacks.

Then ds2 woke from his nap and I got him ready to walk out to pick both his brother and M out.

My heart was really beating very fast when I was standing there waiting for the bus to arrive. Ds2 was playing with pebbles. I noticed I was holding both hands together very tightly.

The bus arrived, I told the bus ayi I was taking M (cos usually the ayis can only release the kids to the assigned caregiver, which in this case is Y). She trusted me and left M with me. I told M his mom had something on and he was to go to our house to play with ds1 till his mom got home.

He stood there for a while, not moving, and not heeding what I said. He craned his neck and looked at the direction his house is, and where his mom always walked out from. I continued telling him what he can do with ds1 at our house. He still stood there and said something in Japanese.

Just as I was running out of things to say, I suddenly remembered the McD's, and told him we will be having McDs for dinner, why don't we head home right now! To my relief, he responded! So we walked all the way home. Dh had arrived with the McDs already! Great!

So the boys had snacks and filled their tummies first.

I briefly told ds1 that Y had some very urgent things to do, and cannot take care of M, so will he please take good care of his friend and make him happy?

To my surprise, ds1 really did a good job. He brought his card games out and taught M how to play Super Munchkin. He explained all the superhero cards to M and proceeded to let M win all the games! That made M very happy indeed. haha. I am surprised at ds1's generosity too because he usually hates to lose.

ds2 was also ecstatic with M around too. He brought out the WeirdnWild Creatures cards, animals and so on, and showed them to M. However, with M around, somehow both the older boys did not want ds2 to bother them! They kept telling him to keep quiet, and kept dismissing what he offered them till ds2 came running to me, dejected and almost crying. haha.

So the rest of the evening went by with me entertaining ds2! The 2 older boys kind of entertained each other.

Thankfully Dh was at home too. He was able to occupy ds2 so I could keep introducing new games for the older boys to play together.

I was so happy that they got along so well. Cos in school, M and ds1 do fight a lot, and I was worried that'd happen at home.

Then it was time for homework. They have a reading book everyday and after reading with parents, they have to answer 2 Qs orally with the parents. Then the parents sign in a book that they have read and answered the Qs.

We read M's book first. I realised then, that the teachers have a lot of work each day! The books are catered especially for the kid's level. I didn't know that earlier cos I thought ds1 just picked his own books but apparently now they tell me they pick their books from different bins in school. M's 1st lang is not English, so his level is different. However, all 3 boys enjoyed that book too.

Then we did ds1's book. It was an interesting story so everyone was engaged too. And I realised ds1 is more motivated and eager to answer his Qs when his friend is around. He was definitely more enthusiastic. Dh took a pic of us.

After that, we had more snacks and milk. M drinks a lot of milk indeed. Fortunately I had a big carton. He does look much bigger than ds1 (not the height but the bone structure).

Then we did some painting and art on computer. I didn't let them watch TV or play computer games cos I didn't want them fighting, and I wanted them to enjoy interacting with each other.

M especially liked painting on the computer. So much so that, after both ds left to play with other stuff, he was still there.

However, later on, ds2 showed M how to get to the Nick Jr games site! So I saw M playing a computer game later on. It was a submarine adventure, not so bad.

I think he finally left at 9pm?

Dh escorted him home as it was raining.

Y was still not back yet but his ayi was home at around 7.30pm and called me, saying that M can go home anytime. I did ask M at 7pm but he didn't want to go home! haha.

Y told me the next day that she was sent to SOS, and then referred to a local hospital. But the advantage in this is one SOS staff will accompany her to make sure everything at the local hospital is done right and will help translate also. She said she had X-rays and other tests done.

She had a bump on the head, and chest injuries. But no broken bones, thankfully. However, because her chest kind of experienced trauma, the lungs could get infected easily, so she had to stay at home for 2-3 days. And the pain was bad, she cannot breathe properly due to the compression at the chest, and was prescribed a lot of painkillers. She was not allowed to carry heavy things or her kids also, for at least 10 days.

But at least, she could recuperate at home and she finally reached home at 10+pm I think.

Thankfully she is fine now!

When I met her again on Mon, she was headed to SOS for a follow-up check and she said she is so afraid of passing through junctions now that she will close her eyes as the cab passes the junction.

For me, I try not to take cabs as far as possible now. I.e. I try to avoid going out unneccessarily and if I go to the kids' school, I will follow their school bus. When I go grocery shopping, I will go only when H goes, because at least she drives in a careful manner.

We can't control how others drive but we can maximise our safety by doing whatever we can, right?

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

7:55 PM
Didn't take pics of ayi's 2 new dishes. Sigh. By the time I remembered, both boys had polished off almost the whole plateful of potato cakes.

So there are 2 miserable cakes left here:

Both boys love it. So I will have to make it again.

I'll try to recall the steps. I realise I have to blog it because after some time, I will forget the steps and because there is no recipe, it will be hard to replicate without regular practice. She never cooks with recipes and she doesn't have measurements for any ingredient. Older women who are very experienced cook like that, including my mom and mil.

Like when I was learning how to make and wrap rice dumplings from my mil, everything had to be learnt by observation. No quantitative amounts of ingredients are known, you feel by hand, and see by eyes to know how much to put.

Potato cakes
1. Peel 1 large potato and grind it by hand through a grinder device with holes.
2. Beat an egg into the ground potato.
3. Add other minced or ground veggies if you like. In this case, we chopped up carrot into very small bits and added it into the potato mix. Ayi says if adults eat it, they add chilli. Very spicy, very shiok.
4. Add about 1-2 tablespoons of flour. You can use plain flour, or the Korean tempura flour. Just to thicken it a bit and make it a little crunchy.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Heat frying pan, add some oil, and place spoonfuls of the mix into the pan, shape into circles. Fry both sides, and you're done!

The ground potato oxidises very quickly here. I don't remember potatoes turning brown so quickly back home, but anyway that's why the potato cake turned out brown in colour! Any way to avoid that? As she was grinding it, it turned brown already.

It's a rather nutritious snack, I think, and the kids certainly devoured it.

The other dish is a Korean beef and seaweed soup. Forgot to take pics. This one was enjoyed more by Dh. Ayi says Korean women especially like this dish. The health benefit of this particular seaweed is supposedly to improve blood circulation and is very important for females, ayi emphasised. She said something about replenishing blood. I couldn't understand all the terms she used, but I think it maybe works like dang gui (the Chinese tonic).

The kids likes the soup because of the beef but would pick out all the seaweed strands. They think it is slimy and yucky, haha.

Beef and seaweed soup
1. Stir-fry the minced beef or sliced beef to brown it. Add sesame oil liberally (she says Koreans love sesame oil).
2. After it is browned, add the seaweed which has been soaked and washed into the frying pan and stir-fry together for just about 2 min.
3. Boil water in pot and add the seaweed and beef to the boiling water. You may add some onions.
4. When the water boils vigorously again, lower the heat till it simmers. Let it simmer for 10-15min.
5. Add soy sauce and a whole lot of minced garlic to taste. Wait till it boils again, then remove from heat. It is done.

We ate it with rice that evening, and the next day, I cooked Udon noodles with the soup. So 2 meals were settled with that simple pot of soup.

Kids' argument on paper

The kids had always fought on a daily basis. It could be anything. They sometimes push each other and fight physically. Sometimes there is no contact, but they'll shout and scream at each other. Sometimes they don't shout, but they taunt or tease. Mostly, it has just been physical or verbal. Now, they have taken it to the written level.

They were first playing individually. ds2 was playing with his Blues Clues stuffed toy that his Sunday school teacher gave him (from Utah). ds1 was pretending to be a Grizzly Bear and playing all around the living room, eating berries, growling and such.

Suddenly, they started insulting each other, calling each other names and so on. So I told them to shut up and stop that.

Surprisingly, they did listen to me this time. All was quiet and peaceful for quite a long while.
Then ds2 was the one who came to complain. He showed me this piece of paper and had a very pitiful look on his face, as if he is the victim. He says his brother "scolded" him.

I read it, and hey, who had the last word? ds2! And he had the cheek to come and complain!

If you can't make the words out:

1st 2 lines by ds1: blue is... blue is not good.

ds2: Grizzly:BEAR not GOOD... BlUE is Good... J

So they were still insulting each other on paper!

Other misc stuff:

Vanilla bean
My Bourbon Vanilla Beans came in the boxes from Utah and I started using them in milk, sugar, flour, almost everything I can flavour with vanilla. I could even do Vanilla Coke I guess, but I didn't want to waste the good beans on fizzy drinks.

Fortunately the beans kept well in the glass bottle so they were still good, very fragrant and flavourful.

I made some banana milkshake with the vanilla milk. You can still see the vanilla bean floating in the milk in the plastic jug in front of the kids.

The best thing about these beans is - they can be washed and reused again and again until you feel they don't have any flavour left. They flavour liquids very well, cos they get soaked in my carton of milk for eg, but even my sugar has a vanilla taste now, and I love it!

Cheesey potato muffins. Actually I was trying to use up the pancake mix. One box sure can make many things. I still have some left after making blueberry muffin, 2 rounds of cheese muffins, cheese biscuits, blueberry pancakes and normal pancakes.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

7:43 PM
Some of the art work I saw at the kids' school when I was there on Friday.

Collage by Nursery kids.

Investigation on homes (the Unit of Instruction this term):

The field trip for this Homes UOI was amusing. The kids went on a trip to visit about 4-5 of their classmates' homes and the last stop were the 2 teachers' homes.

The teachers gave us a circular saying that the objectives of the field trip was to observe and compare different homes. Eg, big vs small, house vs apartment, various cultures and different materials used to construct the home and decorate the interior.

I find it interesting of course, and would have gone if it were open to us parents, since it wasn't our messy home they were visiting. It was mostly the mansions of his European friends'. So of course I would love to go and have a look at how beautiful the palaces are.

But, everyone knows that it's just a "for-fun" trip. The first thing ds1 said when he came home on Wed (11 Feb) when I asked him "How was your field trip?" was "Awesome! I had a strawberry popsicle!"

Yes, I could tell, there were still red marks around his lips. And I asked, "What else was interesting to you?"
ds1: "You know, it was so fun! We played Wii at E's house and then again at N's house! Then at Mi's house, we played Nintendo DS!"

Me: "wow! That sounds fun! So did you notice any differences between all the homes?"

ds1: (thoughtful for a long while) Err. I think Mrs M's house is small, all the other friends' houses are very big. 4 storeys. Very beautiful.

And that's all he can remember. haha.

They had hotdogs and juice while watching Cartoon Network at the teachers' apartments while at the rest they just snacked a little and played most of the time.

I was fine with that, but Dh was incredulous. He said, "You mean I pay so much for him to watch TV, eat junk food and play Wii?!?" haha

The V Day gifts ds1 got from school:

How did I spend Valentine's myself?

Dh had to fly off on a business trip on Sunday morning, so Sat night was spent getting last min stuff ready. Thus we decided to eat at home. I just made something different from normal, which was a simple lasagna. Doesn't even look celebratory, I know (see below).

My V Day gift from Dh. A wooden bangle! It's absolutely beautiful! I love it!

He's the sneaky one. We were talking about what we would like for V Day earlier in the week. We decided we won't go out to eat. And when we were talking about gifts, we both agreed we had no need for anything new now. I asked him if he was sure he didn't want some new electronic gadget since for the past years he had always asked for something along those lines (either birthday, wedding anniversary or V Day). He said yes, very sure.

So we both didn't buy anything, or so I thought he didn't. On Sat, he said he had to work the whole day again, which was not unusual since he sometimes had to do extra stuff. He went out very early (before 5am) and came back at dinner time. He did have work to do, but he used the early part of the day to make the bangle!

He told me what wood he used, but I forgot, argh. Will ask him again. I think the grain of the wood is pretty. It's a little too big though, but it's ok! I will soon have a set of wooden jewellery I think.

He made a wooden ring and a wooden jewellery box in the past years (in Utah, after he started learning bowmaking).

I will ask for a necklace for my birthday then, since wooden pieces are in vogue now. :-)

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

10:34 AM
13 Feb
Nursery class activities

I spent the rest of the day in the Nursery class after the Tibetan cultural exchange.

ds2's teachers have invited me to join them for the day a few times before but I kept having other stuff on. Finally I responded, and what a fun day I had!

When I got to the classroom after the Cultural Performances, I was greeted with such a fragrant smell that got me hungry! The smell of waffles!

See how popular Ms M suddenly is? All the kids crowded around her, waiting for their turn. ds2 is tucking into his heart-shaped waffle.

Also seen in the pic is the playdough station. One of ds2's favourite activities.

Painting time. ds2 does very messy painting and colouring or drawing. I am heartened to see that most of his friends are the same too. Back home in Spore, that is not the case. His peers seem to all draw very well and paint proper things. ds2 just does big and small circles or brushes over the whole piece of paper.

Puzzle time. The teachers apologised to me for the mess. What mess? I don't think it looks any worse than my house, so it's good!

During this time I just wandered around, helping where I can. I was treated to the yummy waffles too!

I realised they didn't need as much help as the preschool ds1 was at last time in Utah though. In Utah, there was only 1 teacher to about 6 kids. So if there was a mess, I could help clean up while she concentrated on teaching.

But here, there are 2 teachers, 1 teaching assistant and an ayi. I was going to help pick up some crumbs on the carpet when the ayi came swooping in with a vaccum cleaner. Then I walked over to pack the playdough away so the kids can have snack time, but the TA who was already working on it said I can go play with the kids, no problem.

So I just slacked the whole time and walked around patting different kids' heads and talking to them. Very fun.

Snack time!
ds2 put his raisins onto his water bottle cover and kept flinging them around as missiles. I was horrified and told him to stop but he cheekily continued. The teachers said he is not usually like that. Probably did that for my benefit!

His main teacher even said, "I know it's hard but kids always tend to behave differently when parents are around. My kids do that to me too."

During toilet time, ds2 was especially clingy too, wanted me to pull up his pants and hold his hand. The TA said he does it himself everyday! But when I am here, I have got to help him! Man!

It was raining outside the previous day and that morning the sand was still wet, but the kids begged and begged to play outside during free play, so the teacher relented. I was freezing when I went out with them. And to think both ds always didn't have their hats and gloves on!

ds2 was running about with his hood on, fortunately, but he refused to wear his gloves. Ah well, he did this for the worst part of winter already, so nevermind. I hadn't expected the school playground to be so cold. I think it is because of the wind, it somehow blows in very strongly (Bernoulli effect?). Even the teacher and I who were chatting while keeping an eye on the kids had to stand in the small spot where there is some sunlight. Too cold this week.

Look at the other good kids, wearing their beanies and snow pants.

Seeing how they play in the sand provides valuable insight for me. I finally understand how come ds2 can get mountain heaps of sand in his shoes, pants pockets, hair and jacket pockets. Also in his underwear!

He also rode the scooter while his friends cycled. ds2 looks like he is more cautious than ds1. If it were ds1, he might have been more aggressive with the skate scooter and got into more scrapes and crashes with the other kids. ds2 got his foot run over a couple of times by his friends on the bikes but it didn't bother him!

This video clip stopped suddenly at the end cos I thought his friends were going to ride right into him once again. haha.

When they got back into class, every kid was having a runny nose. You know, that normal reaction to the cold wind? I was sniffling too but adults wipe the sniffles away. The kids are so cute, every one with 2 runny lines down the nose into the mouth.

No wonder ds2 always returns home with 2 dried streaks below the nose.

My ayi remarked to me before about ds2's shoes full of sand. She said local Chinese schools would pour the sand away for the kids. And they'd dust the kids' clothes well before sending them home. They'd also clean the kids' faces properly.

Another mom told me that local schools ensure the kids drink water at fixed times and go to the toilet too. They also watch the kids when they eat. At preschool stage, they will help feed the kids too. They will ensure the kids finish all their food too.

The Western schools and Chinese schools are different in this sense.

ds2 doesn't drink his water if no one reminds him. But he has since learnt because I got angry with him bringing home the full water bottle every day, untouched. So he does that independently now. And he feeds himself. He might not finish his food, and whatever is left is in the snack box for me to see.

He does get into accidents. Sometimes he pees in his pants on the bus because he fell asleep (and because he did not go to toilet in school at all). And every day he comes home with dirty streaks on his face, paint on his clothes, marker ink on his fingers, sand and dried playdough bits in his shoes, hair and clothes.

Which system do you prefer?

I have gotten used to this one, so I am fine. I wasn't too happy with his dried mucus-encrusted face initially, and his frozen urine on the pants. Cos the wet pants freeze up in the sub-zero temp, and his thighs are pink and blue when I change him at home. But, he hasn't suffered anything serious for this.

The kids learn independence early I guess. In the process, they might get sick a little more, and much dirtier, but they are still happy.

To get them less rowdy and calm them down in an organised manner after the exuberant high from playing outside, there is music and movement!

ds2 got whacked on his head by the rhythm stick his friend was holding and cried, but only for 2 seconds cos the music came on and he started dancing!

Both ds are similar in this aspect. They may not follow the teacher or the music. They dance their own steps. So ds2 also provided lots of laughs for me, Dh and ds1. He was doing everything differently from others!

This is the second part of the "Jack in the box" song. I find this song very cute and catchy. Just listening to it once that day made me hooked on the tune.

Ds2 had this "punch the air" move, wonder who he learnt that from.

There a girl dancing beside ds2 who said "Owww!" towards the end. At first I thought ds2 bumped into her but it was another girl hidden by the bookshelf who did. She only showed herself towards the last part of the clip.

After the action-packed songs, they were then asked to sit down and then sing another song. Also with actions but not as energetic. It effectively gets them to transit into a quieter calmer mood.

Notice ds2 will regularly check if I am still there, watching him? The teachers told me his best friend in class is the one in light blue sitting next to him. They hold hands when they walk to the library, so sweet.

Then it was Library time. Each class has a Library period and during then, the Librarian teachers will read them a story (lower grades) and then they can pick a book to check out and bring home for the week. They return that book the next week when they have Library period again. For higher grade levels, they are given projects or topics to research during the Library period and then they also get to borrow books home.

Since the start of school last year, both boys usually bring home more non-fiction than fiction. Books about dinosaurs, insects, birds, trains, aeroplanes, soldiers etc. Sometimes ds1 brings home DC magazines on Superman, Batman.

A couple of times, they came home with Greek legends, Fairy tales (Aesop fables, Grimm Brothers, Hans Christian Andersen) and some silly tales. I have enjoyed most of those titles they chose. When I was a child, I read a lot more fiction, so I am learning to appreciate their passion for non-fiction and gaining new knowledge each day (eg what kinds of spiders have 6 eyes, 8 eyes?).

ds2's class listening to the Head Librarian's rendition of "Panda, Panda, What do you Hear?". Both Librarian Teachers told me both my boys are always super attentive during the story sessions, and Dh pointed out that this random photo definitely proves that. ds2 does look mesmerized, despite the fact that we have read this same book together countless times already.

After they pick their books from the shelves, they queue up to check the book out. It is very cute to see them observing the rules, saying hi to the teachers and then saying "Thank you!" when they receive their book after it's been checked out.

After this, it was time to go home, cos ds2 is on the half day programme. Only 6 are on the half-day schedule. So I joined the school bus which will bring us back home. Just before going home, ds2 had his moment in giving out the candy and cookies and star boxes to his teachers and friends. He was so happy and proud of himself!

His teachers were so sweet and lovely by gushing over their gifts, even the lone cookie, and giving him hugs and kisses, so you can imagine how delighted he was with the attention.

After we reached home, he said he wanted to bake more cookies to give out again!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

9:37 AM
Valentine's Day aka Friendship Day.

I remember how they loved celebrating it in Utah. Friends at church and in ds1's preschool all exchanged little heartfelt gifts. ds1's wonderful preschool teacher (whom he still misses and remembers) also let them "mail" each other the cards in school where they each had a "mailbox".

So we began baking cookies from Tuesday. To make it really sincere and meaningful, I let them do the baking, and thus used Betty Crocker cookie mix to make it simple.

They took turns to beat the egg, measure out milk, butter and mix everything together. Then they scooped and shaped the cookies. I had to help with that because otherwise all the cookies will turn out in weird shapes.

ds1 made a card for me at school. Actually it was addressed to all 3 of us: Daddy, mommy and ds2. That's the cover and back.

And the inside:

Daddy of course at once asked, "what about daddy?" The diplomatic ds1 said, "I was going to write about how much I love you but time ran out and we had to tidy up!" But actually I think it is the truth. ds1 really loves his daddy and brother too. He is missing his dad so much now when Dh is away at Shanghai and Suzhou.

The cookies were not enough for all of ds1 and ds2's friends because ds1 had 27 classmates in the 2 kindy classes (they celebrate together and I cannot possibly give only his class), while ds2 had 25 classmates in Nursery alone. Initially the teacher said there were 19 in Pre-K too, but I really didn't have enough stuff for so many kids.

So cookies are for the teachers and teaching assistants and special people, since they made it themselves. The friends, who probably won't care if it is bought or homemade, will get other gifts.

ds2 gave out ABC Animal candy. He arranged the candy from A to Z first and he tried to match the letter to his friend's names, but we soon found out that it was impossible. Too many friends' names begun with the same letter while some candies had no takers.

So we did the rest randomly, and stapled his love notes onto the candy. Should have done more and made it nicer but there was not enough time (story about that in another post).

ds1 worked faster and he had more meaningful friendships, being in school for longer hours too, and being older. So I rolled out fondant and we both cut hearts out of pink fondant and stuck them onto Oreos. We didn't have enough Oreos too! argh!

So the rest of the friends got hearts on the cookies he baked.

Then I was left to wrap each cookie in sandwich bags and staple on the love notes. Cos the 2 kids had to sleep by then and the poor mom worked till 1am on Thursday night. Could have been earlier but something cropped up that shook me and occupied me the rest of the day so...

Fortunately the boys drew and decorated their teachers' gifts earlier on Wed. 2 treasure chests for each of ds1's teachers.

And 2 magnetic star wooden boxes for ds2's teachers.

More on V Day itself in the next post!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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