Monday, November 23, 2009

Elizabeth's first school evaluation

I am proud to announce that Elizabeth is doing well in all areas of study -- her report card rates things on a scale from 1 to 4, 1 being "far below grade level standard" and 4 being "proficient at grade level standard." All 45 points of evaluation are marked "4" from her teacher.

All the students rotate through five specialists throughout the week: art, music, Spanish, science, and PE. Each specialist has three or four different spaces to evaluate different areas (concepts, effort, behavior, etc.). She got a 4 in every space from every teacher except for one from her PE teacher (I'm inclined to call him a stinker for messing up her perfect straight 4's!) who gave her a 3+ for "physical development," whatever that means.

I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about going into the conference on Friday because she's the youngest by far in her class, hadn't had the full kindergarten preparation that all of her classmates had under their belts, and has so far missed three weeks of school in her current classroom (the first two weeks were spent in kindergarten, and we were gone for a week on a cruise two weeks ago), but she's doing well. She's in the highest reading group in her class (somewhere between a upper 2nd - 3rd grade level) and can spell all of her first grade sight words (next week she'll be beginning the second grade sight words, and the teacher is sure that she'll fly through those as well). Her math skills are nothing to sneeze at either -- many of the things that I see that they will work on next trimester are still going to be review for her.

Yeah, I'm a proud mama.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A birthday party (written originally on April 7, 2009)

I found this post (written April 7, 2009) which I had forgotten to publish.  It's more than half a year since this brief conversation took place (and frankly I had forgotten about it!), but I still want to share this with you.

************************************

Eliz: Don't you want to come to a birthday party?
me: What birthday party?
E: A between-birthday party!
me: A between-birthday party? What is that?
E: It's between Abigail's and daddy's birthdays!

Abigail's birthday is 2/14 and daddy's birthday is 5/7, and today is 4/7, very much between their two birthdays.

Cruisin' -- Part 7 -- Friday and Saturday

Friday morning we were back in American waters.  We left the ship sometime in the morning after breakfast, and got back to the car.  We got our luggage and loaded it up into the minivan, hopped in, and prayed that it'll start.

Not a problem.

The problem was that Elizabeth was a bit carsick on the drive leaving Long Beach, which was unexpected, considering that she'd never complained of being seasick while on the cruise, and also hadn't complained of being carsick on the drive from Northern California to Southern California.

But after getting some fresh air, we were able to finally drive to BCD Tofu House in LA, where we celebrated our Koreanness by eating soon tofu soup, galbi, and bibim-bap, accompanied by spicy salted clams and kimchi.  Although we ate to our hearts' content and enjoyed all kinds of foods cooked to perfection every day on the cruise, nothing hit the spot quite like Korean food, especially when I didn't have to cook it.

Afterwards, we dropped off my parents at a car rental place at LAX so they could visit my gomo and my grandmother, and we went to see my husband's brother's family.  We got to hang out, and let the girls play with their son (who is less than a month older than Abigail).

I also found out that it take a couple days after the cruise for the floor to stop rocking.  :-S

The next morning my husband went on a long bike ride with his brother along the beaches, and after lunch with BIL's family, we picked up my parents and drove back home.

We had a great time.  But there's no place like home.  And I gotta get back to cleaning and the laundry.

Cruisin' -- Part 6 -- Thursday

Thursday was our "Fun Day at Sea."  We decided to take the girls swimming, so we went to the children's pool area, which took us a long time to find.  After a few wrong turns (no thanks to the incorrect diagrams at the elevators), the girls were splashing around in the "warm tub."  It was a little pool, about the size of a hot tub, and the water was warmed to about 92 degrees.  I sat right outside this pool, and was getting splashed left and right, and decided it would be much more comfortable to be inside than outside, so I hopped in to join them.  Unfortunately about two minutes later, some cruise employee shooed me out of the pool, pointing out a sign that I'd deliberately ignored which read "No adults in the children's pool" or something to that effect.  It was quite annoying that I wasn't allowed to be in there with my kids, and even more annoying that I wouldn't be able to "swim" with my kids (not that they actually do any independent forward propelling in the water on their own, mind you), but I suppose it's to make sure that the grownups don't hog up all the hot tubs on the cruise.  (There was another similarly sized hot tub about 25 feet away, and there were probably about 10 adults crowded into that one.  It was too crowded and too far from where my kids were playing, so I ended up just sitting on a lounge chair, watching them from a safe-but-not-too-far-away distance.  When my husband finally found where we were, I left him in charge of the girls and grabbed lunch for all of us from the buffet, and brought it back so we can eat poolside.

Afterwards, we went to a towel-folding workshop where we learned how to fold dogs and elephants.  (Quite interesting, but I'm nerdy like that.)

The rest of the day was homework (Elizabeth, under Daddy's supervision, at the library) and nap (me and Abigail).

A good day.

Cruisin' -- Part 5 -- Wednesday (revised)

Wednesday morning we found ourselves floating on Mexican waters at Ensenada.  We looked out our window and the first thing we saw was the harbor and a HUGE MEXICAN FLAG in the middle of it.  Yup, we were definitely in Mexico.

We went to see pretty much what Ensenada is famous for:  La Bufadora, a marine geyser.  Basically as the waves pound into the coastline, pressure builds up in a particular cave, shaped in a particular way, and shoot up into the sky, 80 to 100 feet up.  On the walk there, we had to walk through a flea market, where the vendors sold all manner of trinkets and souvenirs, as well as tacos and seconds-old churros.



The girls were well-entertained on the rest of the cruise thanks to some magnetic bead necklaces that my mom had bought for them.  They'd wrap them around their wrists, loop them around their necks (loose per Mommy's orders!), and stick them to the walls in our stateroom on the ship.  Yes, those wallpapered walls were magnetic!

Unfortunately, there was one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad incident that occurred in Ensenada.  We finished the tour of La Bufadora and were waiting around for my parents to come back from shopping so that we could take the bus back to our ship.  While we were waiting, we saw a huge jump house for kids to play in.  We asked if we can let our girls jump around in there, and they said that's what it's there for, so we let them play.  Abigail was tired by this point, so she napped in my arms while Elizabeth jumped in there alone.  A few minutes later she was joined by about five other kids, who were all happily jumping around.  Four of the kids got out after a few minutes, and sat down to eat in an enclosed patio next to a bar, leaving Elizabeth and another boy, who looked to be about 8 years old.  Next thing I know, he grabbed her, tackled her, and BIT HER LEG.  I couldn't do anything because I had a napping Abigail, but my husband jumped up and almost ripped the kid's head off (don't worry, neither one of us laid a finger on him).  He got Elizabeth out from the clutches of this monster-boy (sorry, anybody who attacks my daughter and leaves toothmarks and scraped skin on her leg will get called monster-boy), and I ran around looking for his parents.  They were nowhere to be seen.  I went to him and asked where his mommy is, and that's when I saw that he had Down Syndrome.  And that's when he spit at me.  I asked again where his mommy is, this time in Spanish, and he spit at me again.

His mommy was still nowhere to be seen.

My daughter's leg had a huge bite mark on it.  I could count the number of teeth that he had just from a look at her leg.  And I could see two spots of scraped skin right where his incisors were.

I went up to the enclosed patio and finally saw a woman walking toward the stairs, and found out that it was her son in the jump house that had bit my daughter.  But at this point, what could I do?  I can't beat her up.  I can't get mad at her son.  I can't rip her son's head off.  All I could say was "where the heck were you?  You NEED TO SUPERVISE YOUR CHILD!!  I don't care that you need to grab a glass of water, YOU NEED TO SUPERVISE YOUR CHILD!!  If you have to leave the area, BRING HIM WITH YOU!!"  But what's done is done, and really, what could she do other than apologize up one side and down the other?  She did apologize, but it was quite obvious that she couldn't (or wouldn't) get control of her son.  She tried to get him out of the jump house but he wouldn't comply.  She tried for a minute or two, and then gave up.

Ugh.

Anyways, my husband washed off her leg, and I got some ice for her leg, and we tried to make the rest of our time there better.  And stay the heck away from that boy.

Well, about 10 minutes later, I saw a man trying to talk the boy out of the jump house.  What?  Is he the father??  Now I'm angry again -- two parents, and neither one was supervising their son??  I also saw that the boy had a similar wristband that my girls had gotten on the cruise.  Great, this boy is on our boat.  And who knows who'll supervise him (or not), and when he'll bite again.

Ugh.

Cruisin' -- Part 4 -- Tuesday evening

Tuesday evening was the formal dinner.  It had been ages since I'd worn anything fancier than "church clothes" and that's not saying much, considering a good population of our church wears all manner of jeans, shorts, and t-shirts to church on any given Sunday morning.  The girls, on the other hand, love dressing up, and do it every chance they get.  And my husband?  He can wear just a toga and he'll be dashing.  Unfortunately, the entire evening he was the one behind the camera, so you'll never know how handsome he looked.



After dinner (a few of the appetizers were stuffed mushrooms, pumpkin cream soup, and chilled strawberry soup, which tasted like cold melted strawberry ice cream-- yum!  And one of the entree choices was lobster tail and shrimp.  Mmmmm, seafood...)


 
we all went to watch the show at the Normandie Lounge.  A good time was had by all, but of course, it would've been more relaxing if the girls hadn't taken turns needing to go potty repeatedly.



And no worries, I'm fully dressed.  ;-)

Afterwards, we saw a stand-up comedian,  whose name I can't remember for the life of me.  He was hilarious.  My mom had graciously offered to babysit the girls so we could go and have a date night.  We had a great time, but I couldn't help but feel just a *teensy* bit bad that I was having a date night while my mom was babysitting, on a cruise that we had taken her on, to celebrate HER sixtieth birthday.

Happy birthday, Mom.  You're the best.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cruisin' -- Part 3 -- Tuesday


Tuesday morning we woke up on the Carnival Paradise.  Our room was clean and my bed was very comfortable -- I dare say it might be even better than ours at home.  It's a small room, about 10 feet by 10 feet, and they got four beds into there -- two pushed together side-by-side like a king-size bed, and two suspended on the walls, one above the head of the king-size bed and one on the other side of the room.  The thought of having the room permanently arranged like this was a bit overwhelming, but this is where the cruise housekeeping earns their gratuity -- every morning they'd straighten out the sheets and fold up the wall beds, in addition to replenishing towels and other hotel-y stuff, and every evening they'd turn down the beds, open up the wall beds and set up the ladders to climb up into them, and leave behind a short stack of mint chocolates next to an origami towel animal.



Breakfast was buffet, with an omelet bar -- my favorite kind.  I was surprised to see how people had left their good manners behind on this trip though.  A few people ahead of me in line was a (large) man, getting food.  Right behind him were probably about five or six people waiting for their scrambled eggs and pancakes.  One of them got up a little too close while reaching for a ladle, and he suddenly yelled at her to apologize for having bumped into him.

Great, I'm on a boat with this guy.  Ugh.  Oh well, whatever.  I'm glad I didn't bump into him (quite literally) during the rest of the cruise.

Anyways, Tuesday we went to Catalina Island, apparently taking the longest possible route from Long Beach.  I estimated that if we traveled all night long, in a straight line without stopping, we would've had to go the breakneck speed of two miles an hour.

On Catalina we took a bus tour to the middle of the island.  We got to see some bison

and some crazy good views from high up on an island.


That's our ship!

We also got to hear some of the bus driver's punny jokes.  I'm a sucker for puns, and he had quite a few of them.

What did the mommy bison say to her son as he walked away?  "Bye, son."

What did the eucalyptus trees say when the tour bus scraped against the bark?  "You clipped us."

Cruisin' -- Part 2 -- Monday's adventure

Monday morning we woke up at 4am and left home at 5:30am to drive down to Long Beach.  It was a very quick uneventful drive, and we got down to southern California by 12:30.  We had to make a couple of pit stops at that point to pick up a prescription for me and to get my parents some swimsuits.  We got to Kaiser, and while I was waiting at the pharmacy, my husband was waiting in the car, listening to some music.  When I got back to the car, we discovered that the car won't start.


We drove 350 miles without incident, just to have the battery die on us right before the last 15 miles.


We got the car jump started, and after some quick thinking, we decided that it would be best to buy and install a new battery before we leave the car in the parking lot for five days.  We dropped off my mom at Del Amo to hunt down a couple of swimsuits, and then drove around looking for any auto parts store.  Not too far away we found one, close to a furniture store.  I took the kids into the furniture store to play on the couches and mattresses, and let my husband and my dad figure out the whole car battery thing.  After about an hour we came back out to the car, to find out that Dad and my husband had had a mini-adventure while we were killing time in the furniture store.  My husband had bought a battery and a monkey wrench to get the nut off the long bolt that was holding the battery into place, and went to work on the car.  The monkey wrench didn't work well, so he went back in and got a socket wrench.  Everything went swimmingly until they tried to secure the new battery into the car.  Somehow, the long bolt fell out of its place.  Fell.  Deep into the engine.  Too deep to try to reach in with the fingers, too deep to try to reach in with the wrench.  So they decided to try to shake the bolt out of the car.  By speeding over the speed bumps in the parking lot.   Stinkin' Honda Odyssey had too smooth a ride to shake anything on those speedbumps.  So he now went back into the store to turn in the dead battery, and came back out with a telescoping magnet.  It was a great idea in theory: extend the magnet to its full length, reach down and grab the bolt, and pull it up.  Unfortunately the entire car is magnetic.  The stupid magnet kept sticking to everything on the way down to the bolt.


And that's about when I came out of the furniture store, girls in tow.


I took a look at the situation, got a pretty good story from my husband, and decided to try my hand at fishing out this bolt.  So I took the telescoping magnet, extended it, flipped it UPSIDE-DOWN so I'm holding the magnetized end and the handle is deep inside under the hood, and knocked the bolt down to a hole in the underside of the car.  Then I went under the car and grabbed the bolt with the magnet, and handed it to my husband, who I'm sure was standing there dumbfounded.


Yeah, I felt pretty good about myself.  I fixed the car.  In front of my husband and my dad.


Well, after that, they got the bolt and nut back on, and we picked up my mom from swimsuit shopping, and got to the ship around 2:30pm.

Thankfully the rest of the day was a whole lot less eventful.

Cruisin' -- Part 1

November 6 was my mom's sixtieth birthday.  In Korea it's a really big deal to turn sixty.  The three traditional "milestone" birthdays are 100 days (baek-il), first birthday (chut-dol), and sixtieth birthday (hwan-gap).  No Sweet Sixteen, no rite of passage into adulthood, no over-the-hill.  Just a big fifty-nine-year gap between big birthday bashes.

It's normal for the children of the birthday-girl (or birthday-boy) to give a gift that puts to shame everybody else's gifts to their parents' sixtieth birthdays, and it's not unheard of to throw big dinner receptions, buy a luxury car, or send the parents on a trip, on the children's tab.  So when it became my mom's hwan-gap, my husband and I decided that we'd take my parents on a cruise.

So we went on a four-night cruise to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico.  We took the kids and my parents, and we had a great time for the most part.  The food was great, the entertainment was entertaining, and there was free(!) childcare until 10pm.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Wicked Night Out

My husband and I went to go see Wicked at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco on Saturday night.  It was a totally last-minute decision -- decided to go on Friday afternoon, secured babysitting on Friday evening (thanks, R & G!), and bought tickets 20 hours before curtain.

Earlier on Saturday, we went for a bike ride, and so we basically had about an hour to get ready to go out.  We had no idea where we'd eat for dinner; we figured we'll just look around once we get there. We got to the city around 6:15pm, and finally after walking around for what seemed like an eternity (it probably was only about 20 minutes, but I was on heels and I never wear heels), we found a little Thai restaurant.  Yum.  After a leisurely dinner we got to the theatre with about 15 minutes to spare, and we found our seats.  Perfect.

It turns out that we had pretty much the best seats in the house. We sat in row J, seats 101 and 103.  That's ten rows from the stage, the two seats just left of the center aisle.  We were within spitting distance of the singers -- we could practically count their teeth.

Once we got settled into our seats, I flipped through the program to look for familiar names, particularly in the orchestra pit.  It turns out that the violinist was a guy that I knew from my Youth Orchestra and college days.  My first year at SFSYO, I was sitting in the back of the second violins, while he was the principal second violinist. The next year, he was concertmaster.  After Youth Orchestra, we both ended up in the same university, majoring in music.  Of course he practiced much more than I ever did, so his music career flourished, while mine, not so much.  I'd like to say it's on hold for now.

Anyways, I went to the orchestra pit and looked around.  It was neat to see how the pit was so much more roomy than any pit that I'd ever played in.  I found the violinist and said hi, and he said to meet him at the stage entrance after the show.  Soon afterwards, the show began, and we thoroughly enjoyed the show.  We had watched The Wizard of Oz in June at a local movie theatre (free noon movies during the summertime!), so the story was still fresh in our memory.  It was neat to see the familiar story from a different perspective.

After the show, we went to the stage entrance and the three of us went out for a quick drink.  It was neat to hear his adventures after college and to see what he's up to now.  It's neat to see that he's a successful musician, enjoying what he does, and not struggling or starving.

It was a good day.   Good family bonding time in the morning and afternoon, and then a good night out:  good food (eaten hot!  Without kids!  No potty breaks!), good show (no potty breaks!  No incessant questions!), and good meeting an old friend.

I hope to do it again soon.  Who knows when though.  Hopefully sooner than later.

Family Bike Day

We bought a bike trailer a couple of weeks ago off of Craigslist, and we took it for a 22-mile spin yesterday.  We had a three-family, six-adult, six-child, three-trailer outing.  We met at a friend's house just past 10am, and rode up the Iron Horse Trail to Danville, a little town about 11 miles away, to have lunch at a little restaurant called Chow.  Then we rode back, returning to their house around 3pm, and got home.

It was quite an adventure.  My husband managed to load our two bikes plus the new trailer (which we discovered isn't collapsible) into the minivan, which is a feat in itself.  Once we arrived at the starting point, it took a good amount of time to get everything set up and ready to go.  We finally got going (my husband pulled the trailer with both kids in it), but had to stop quite a few times along the way due to certain events including screaming children, a flat tire, and a wheel that fell off (these were all separate events).  Thankfully nobody got hurt anywhere, and the return trip was uneventful.  We returned sweaty, happy, and safely.  And the kids who needed it napped in the trailer.  Bonus!

Once we got back, all twelve of us had some ice cold water (Coke for those who wanted it) and popsicles as a reward.

Unfortunately I didn't think to bring a camera.  Sorry.  You'll just have to take my word for it that I actually voluntarily made myself sweat.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Handy Daddy

A couple of months ago, we found chipped paint on the floor in the corner of the kids' bathroom. We had no idea where it came from. A little bit later, I saw that our bathroom mirror, a hulking 74" x 42" glass behemoth (yes, I just measured it right now with the tape measure), had come completely unattached from the wall, and was precariously kept from falling to the floor in a billion pieces by the medicine cabinet. So, being the handy woman that I am, I just pushed it back against the wall, and declared it fixed.

Then a short while later, we found the mirror decided to now push the bathroom counter off the wall, and slide down the wall, behind the cabinet. I asked my husband if he could fix it. "Nuh uh" was the response. I threatened to call a handyman and *gasp* spend money to get it fixed. "Knock yourself out" was the response. Okay! I felt like I was just given carte blanche. I went onto Facebook and asked if anybody knew of any handymans in the area, to fix our mirror. A friend quickly responded with a phone number, a website, and glowing reviews of how the guy was so friendly and professional. So I gave them a call on a Friday night, and left them a message. I figured that since it's a Friday night, I won't hear from them until Monday morning. I think I probably let a couple weeks pass before I called them again. They finally got a guy to come out for an estimate, and it took another week to get the estimate.

These guys wanted over $500 to fix the mirror.

Never mind. We'll try Plan B.

Problem is, what's Plan B? I didn't want to hop back onto Facebook and ask for a different reference since I'm sure my friend would ask what happened to the guy she so glowingly reviewed, so I just sat and twiddled my thumbs.

Just over a week ago, I was driving home from preschool when I saw a van on the freeway: Daddy and Daughter Handyman and Maintenance. There was a phone number on it, so I figured why not give them a call. So right there on the freeway, I pulled out my Bluetooth (stinkin' cell phone law!) and called them up. I thought I'd get a receptionist or a daughter or something, but nope, I got the Handy Daddy himself.

Two days later, he was standing in our kitchen (his daughter was playing with Abi and Eliz), giving us an estimate for not only the mirror itself (he quoted less than $200!), but also for
  • changing out our medicine cabinets (I've hated them because the shelves were unmovable),
  • changing out our wobbly toilet,
  • whacking away the vertical columns between my kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors (can't fit anything in my cabinets because of those stupid columns in the middle of the opening!),
  • straightening a kitchen drawer,
  • re-taping and painting the peeling ceiling, and
  • installing new blinds in Elizabeth's bedroom.
All the labor for significantly less than $500. Of course we'll pay for the new toilet, medicine cabinets, and blinds in addition to the labor costs, but what handyman out there would pay for those out of his own pocket?

Well, today, I'm happy to say that our bathroom mirror is now firmly reattached to the wall, we now have medicine cabinets that have movable shelves (and we can now fit taller bottles inside instead of laying stuff across the shelves!), our new, shiny low-flush toilet is now no longer wobbly, and Elizabeth's blinds no longer require my entire body weight to lift 18 inches. We expect to see him again on Tuesday to work on the cabinets, the drawer, and the ceiling.

If you need stuff done around the house, let me know. I'll send the Handy Daddy over. Sorry, I'm keeping my own husband though.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kimchi with the Kimchi Mamas

Growing up I felt somewhat lonely because there wasn't really a unified voice for People Like Me -- people who straddle the divide between two very different cultures, two very different languages, two very different cuisines. Growing up a Korean-American, in an area that wasn't Southern California, meant for me not really knowing what's Korean vs. what's the lifestyle that's just unique to my family, what's American vs. what's the lifestyles that are unique to my friends' families.

Anyways, probably over a year ago, I was surfing the Internet looking for a Korean recipe. It may have been for "gamja tang" (which I've still never cooked) or something else, who knows. Anyways, in my search for this elusive recipe, I stumbled upon this blog called Kimchi Mamas. I've been pleasantly surprised to find that these women who write to the blog are moms, writers, and Korean and/or married-to-Koreans.

A few weeks ago, Northern Californian Kimchi Mama meetup was organized, and we finally got together on Saturday, at Sahn Maru in Oakland, right across the street from Koryo SootBoolJip. Afterwards, we went to a noraebang. It was determined that for this inaugural get-together it'd be just us moms, without kids or husbands in tow. Of course the thought of meeting a group of complete strangers is always a little scary (especially in Oakland!), but I figured since it's in a brightly lit Korean restaurant, it shouldn't be that bad. Anyways, it was great fun and great food.

Figuring that I'm going to be meeting a bunch of Korean women, I'd better make sure that I'm wearing something a little different from my favorite uniform of shorts and t-shirt. I mean, Korean women get dolled up to just go to the grocery store! Okay, not so much me, but still. So anyways, I was getting ready to go out that afternoon, and feeling pretty good about myself -- my hair was neat, my clothes were non-wrinkly, and I had a touch of eyeliner on. For those who've seen me more than a handful of times, you should know that this is a big deal. I even knew exactly what shoes I was going to wear, too -- some cute black and gold sandals. Anyways, I got ready, jumped into the car, and drove off, just in time to arrive right at 6:01pm. As I got on the freeway, I felt something... rubbery... between my toes.

Operating on autopilot, I'd thrown on my $1 Old Navy blue flipflops. The ones that I wear in the shower at the gym. The ones that I wear when I go out to check the mail or pull weeds.

The meetup time is at 6pm, and I'm already a minute late as it is. Should I turn around and change my shoes and be incredibly late, or should I keep my flipflops on, arrive on time, and be incredibly mismatched?

I opted for keeping the flipflops on. I figure, why start the act now? Let's keep it real. I rarely get dressed up, I rarely put on makeup, I rarely have all my clothes match with all my accessories. Heck, I hardly ever even wear accessories. So, braving the potentially judgmental stares of the Korean women I'm about to meet, I confidently walked into the restaurant, right on time (enough for me) at 6:01pm.

Like I said before, it was great fun and great food. And they didn't say anything about my flipflops. These Kimchi Mamas, they keep it real. Yes, they dressed well, and they even wore accessories and makeup, but we all had a good chuckle about "those Korean women who get dolled up just to go to the grocery store." And I'm looking forward to the next meetup. Who knows, maybe I'll even wear matching shoes this time.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Last day of kindergarten

I'm proud to announce that Elizabeth has graduated from kindergarten after just two weeks.

Okay, not really. Turns out that a spot opened up in first grade, and Mrs. D, her kindergarten teacher, called me and said that she thinks first grade will be a better fit for Eliz than kindergarten. So after finishing up one last day in kindergarten, we told her after school that we're going to meet her new first-grade teacher across the hall. She was surprised and it took some time for her to process it, but she seems like she's happy about it.

I'm excited for her because I know it's a much better fit for her, but I'm just a little nervous about it. Her school day will no longer end at 12:10 with the kindergartners; she'll stay in school until 2:50. I now have to pack her lunch every single day. I'm HORRIBLE at that! Because her classmates will have been together as a unit for two weeks already, she'll already be pegged not only as "the young kid that came from kindergarten" but also as "the new kid." Hopefully this won't cause instant ostracization from the other kids. Thankfully she's probably only a month or two younger than the next-youngest kid in her class, so she isn't *that* young. I hope she makes some good friends. I'm also a little sad that she won't continue to be in Mrs. D's classroom. She's a mover and a shaker in the school, serves on the school's leadership team, has been with the school since its inception, is the kindergarten lead teacher, and brings 17 years of teaching experience to her classroom. I've heard only sparklingly wonderful things about her, and despite my high expectations, she's met all of them. I'm sure her new teacher is good, but I just don't know much about her yet. She seems nice, so that's a good start, I guess.

Her school provides weekly classes with five different specialists every day to their students beginning with first grade (but not kindergarten!), so now she'll have, on a weekly basis, PE, Spanish, art, music, and science.

Anyways, I'm glad the school isn't as inflexible as I originally thought. And I'm glad that the school is proactive about identifying, investigating, and dealing with "different" kids. Not that she's *that* different...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The wiggly, woggly, wibbly, wobbly tooth

Elizabeth's tooth finally came out today. It took a full month of wiggling, and this morning we noticed that the new tooth is already beginning to poke out through the gums behind the loose tooth before it even came out.

This morning she showed us her loose tooth and it looked like it would come out with a good tug. Her tooth was so loose that you could actually see the jagged bottom edge of the tooth -- the part that's supposed to be embedded in the socket.

Before naptime I thought I'd give it a tug and see if it'd come out. It would wiggle, it would woggle, wibble, and wobble, but wouldn't come out. Thinking I just had to get a good grip on it, I told her to take a nap, and I'd get a gauze pad to pull the tooth later. After naptime I tried again, and she actually started to cry and said that it was hurting. I read somewhere that if you pull a loose tooth before it's ready, you could actually leave behind bits of the tooth's root and cause an infection. So of course I let it go and decided to let it stay to be pulled another day.

We went out for dinner at an ice cream parlor with some friends later, and after dinner and dessert (ice cream sundaes of course!), she said her tooth is even looser. She began to play with it, and discovered that she can spin it around in its socket. Next thing I knew, she pulled it out. By herself. No blood, no pain, nothing. Just a tooth, and a 5-year-old girl with a new hole in her smile. It was too easy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First day of kindergarten

Today is Elizabeth's first day of kindergarten. We woke up at 6:30 and found a sign on our front lawn that says "Welcome to kindergarten" along with her name, her school name and mascot. A little freaky because we weren't expecting it, and who knows when the mysterious School People came onto our lawn and put up the sign. Middle of the night? And they know where we live! Freaky. But still, it's pretty exciting that these mysterious School People make an effort to make their youngest students feel welcome at the school.

Anyways, I don't know who's more excited about her first day of school, me or Elizabeth. She seems to be very whatever about it, whereas I'm the one with the camera, taking pictures of everything left and right pertaining to kindergarten. But I don't feel teary-eyed, and I don't feel sad that my baby's growing up. I'm happy for her that she's growing up and participating in this next step. I'm not sure if I'm taking pictures because I want to remember this Momentous Occasion or because other parents are taking pictures too and I gotta keep up with the Joneses. Maybe it'll hit me more later. Who knows.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Turning "24"

Yesterday we had an early celebration of my birthday by going out to dinner at Casa Madrid. It's a little restaurant in Pleasanton, probably no more than fifteen tables indoors. We were the only ones in the restaurant most of the time, which made me a little worried (don't other people like this restaurant?), but it was nice to have the whole place to ourselves. We ordered the Vieiras al Ajillo (scallops in lobster sauce), the Calamares Andalucia (calamari rings), the Tortilla EspaƱola (potato and onion wedges), the Pinchitos Morunos a la Casa Madrid (Casa Madrid spicy pork) and the Paella Valenciana (seafood and meat paella). Yum. My favorite dish by far was the scallops. The calamari was a close second. It could be the simple fact that I'm a sucker for seafood. But nonetheless it was really good. I'd love to go back just to have two orders of scallops and two orders of calamari.

Today my husband had to go to work (stinkin' work! It always takes him away from us! Oh well, at least it pays the bills) so I had a busy morning with the girls: bangs trim, gymnastics, lunch at Sushi-Ya, and painting a couple of bowls at Cafe Art.

The afternoon was a mad rush to get dinner going before Elizabeth has swimming lesson and I have my first day of school. (I'm going back to school for my Early Childhood Development certificate.) Throughout my entire school career, until today, I've never had school on my birthday. Before college, school always began the Tuesday after Labor Day, and always ended the second Friday of June. Summer school always ended the last week of July. August was always a slow, quiet month, with nothing really happening -- not even holidays. During college, school began dangerously close to my birthday, one year even daring to begin on the 18th of August, and summer school ended dangerously close to my birthday as well, one year even daring to end on the 16th of August. But I always figured society considered the 17th of August as a day exempt from any academic or scholastic responsibilities. Until today. Today was my first day of school. It was fine -- I just had one class, and it was 3 hours long, giving me some time away from the kids. While my husband took the kids to Elizabeth's swimming lesson.

When I got back from class, the kids were well on their way to bed, until Elizabeth asked me if we're gonna eat cake. Cake? What cake? Apparently he took the kids to Baskin Robbins and picked up a small mint-chocolate-chip ice cream cake for me. And they were looking forward to not only having ice cream and cake, but also delaying bedtime. Who am I to delay bedtime? So we got Abigail out of bed, sat down at the table, sang Happy Birthday, and ate cake at 9:45pm.

It's been a good day. Despite the fact that I had to go to school on my birthday. I suppose worse things could happen.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Swimmingly

The kids have been taking swimming lessons this summer. Elizabeth is finishing up her third session of Level One today, and Abigail, her first preschool swimming session.

Abigail has adjusted well to the routine of swimming lessons. She doesn't exhibit any hesitation about going into the water or leaving the steps in the shallow end of the pool. She follows instructions well, about as well as a three-year-old kid typically does. (Actually I'd like to think that my kids follow instructions better than typical kids their ages...)

HOWEVER...

I was frustrated with Elizabeth just a few weeks ago because she hated going to swimming lessons. Every day she'd say how she doesn't want to go because they're going to make her "do bobs" -- put her head underwater. She has been able to do it through most of the summer, but she would only do it when she's fully acclimated to the water -- something that would sometimes take a full half hour to happen, while the swimming lesson is 25 minutes long. Of course the lessons all build on this one skill, and if she's refusing to do it, then basically nothing gets learned.

Well, about a week ago Elizabeth had a breakthrough: she practically sat down on the floor of the pool (about 3 feet deep), blew bubbles, and stayed there until she ran out of air, about three seconds. She has been doing it at every lesson ever since. Her confidence level has skyrocketed. After a summer of frustrating non-progress, she's now trying to swim independently. Of course she'll go about six inches before she has to stop to come up for air, but still -- just a few weeks ago she would get mad if we left her in the middle of a 3-foot-deep pool and walked away. Now she feels confident enough to try to swim to the side of the pool, without crying! And yesterday I saw her swim across the width of the pool alone with a kickboard.

Such a change from the second day of swimming lessons last summer: she refused to even sit next to the pool, preferring instead to throw a tantrum because I even dared to bring her within a mile radius of a swimming pool.

Friday, July 31, 2009

We're expecting*...

* We're expecting a visit from the tooth fairy sometime. Don't know how long loose teeth sit in the mouth before finally falling out, but this morning Elizabeth came into our bedroom and said her tooth hurt. I took a look and saw that the two bottom front teeth are loose. The ones next to them are rock solid, but the two in the middle have just a teensy bit of a wiggle, the one on the left a teensy weensy half of a bit more than the one on the right.

My baby's growing up!!

I never thought this would affect me. Her going to preschool didn't cause me to bat an eyelash. The idea of her going to "real school" in the fall doesn't bother me (yet). When she was first learning to crawl or walk, I was just excited that she's hitting this milestone, but I wasn't sad that my baby's growing up. But this loose tooth thing! My baby's growing up!

*snif*

Monday, July 27, 2009

House rules

I wonder, sometimes, if my rules are too strict, and prevent my girls from making enough mistakes to learn from them and doing things "outside the box". What do you think?

Some of my non-negotiables:
  • Hold hands when walking anywhere that cars go: streets, intersections, parking lots. This rule is to be followed even when there are no cars to be seen for miles around.
  • Stay within sight of the parents. No running too far ahead, no lagging too far behind.
  • No jumping on furniture unless it's a trampoline or inflated jump house.
  • No throwing anything heavier than a balloon inside the house.
  • Naptime is to be strictly enforced.
  • No TV before naptime, and even then, not too close to bedtime, and certainly no more than one hour of it. Preferably just one half-hour episode of a short list of approved shows: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Little Einsteins, Handy Manny, Electric Company, Between the Lions, Sesame Street, VeggieTales. Absolutely no Tom & Jerry, Spongebob Squarepants, Pingu, or Hanna Montana. At least for now.
  • Sweets (candy, cookies, ice cream) are to be eaten only on weekends, and only once a day then, unless a special day is declared by me or my husband, either because of guests, a birthday party, or just because it's Tuesday and somebody wants to go out for Baskin Robbins.
  • Milk is to be the beverage of choice. Next is water. Juice and soda usually don't exist at home, unless we have had guests recently.
Am I too strict?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pictures from July, finally.

Swimming lessons
Ballet class
So.Cal road trip: the beach, my souvenir, and Legoland

July

Where is the month of July going? Whooooo, it's supposed to be the middle of the summer and I feel like the end of summer is already approaching. This is how our month of July looks:

swimming lessons
drawing camp
dance classes
a college church friends reunion, complete with spouses and kids
a road trip to Thousand Oaks and San Diego
VBS
a No Doubt concert (A date with the hubby!? No way! Way!)
more dance classes
more swimming lessons.

No wonder I haven't been writing much.

Anyways, I'm trying figure out how to get pictures onto here more reliably (I tried to upload a few minutes ago and had too much trouble). Hopefully it'll happen soon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

thoughts

I just realized that Kate McRae is less than a month older than Elizabeth. Just makes it that much closer to home, you know?

Ugh. I hate the fact that she's got this brain cancer. I hate the fact that she's had to spend so much time in the hospital. I hate the fact that she's suffering so much. I hate the fact that her family's suffering so much. Why does cancer have to exist?

I can't imagine what her family's going through. I wish I could give some kind of comfort, some kind of wisdom, some kind of something... just anything. But nothing. Our family prays for them, we also pray for Kate specifically, but I wish we could do something tangible, something immediate, something to make it just magically disappear. Relying on God's timing is so hard. Relying on God's wisdom is so hard. And Kate's cancer, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't really affect our family on a day-to-day basis. I mean, they live what, 500? 600? miles away from us? The last time we saw them was a year ago, and it was quite coincidental. We now live in a different place from when we knew them. They now live in a different place as well. So why is it that I'm thinking about her constantly? Wondering how she's doing, wondering what she's doing, wondering if she is finally able to speak fluently the thoughts going around in her heart, wondering if she is finally able to get her right side moving? Why is it that I personally feel so affected by Kate's cancer? Does it offend her family that I feel this way? Does it offend them that I'm even thinking this out loud, in a (somewhat) public forum?

I don't know. I feel like a dork for thinking these thoughts. But oh well, they're my thoughts, and they're my blog. Take them or leave them. But whatever you do with them, please please please continue to pray for her and her family. Keep checking the Caring Bridge website for updates so you'll know how to specifically pray for her.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Please pray for my friend's daughter, Kate McRae



Kate is just a few months older than my Elizabeth. Her dad was a pastor at the church we attended when Elizabeth and Abigail were born. This just hits too close to home.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Going on a trip with my baby

A short funny:

Abigail said we're going on a trip, and she's driving. She sat down next to me on the couch, made the requisite car noises while waving her fists up and down (as if she's moving the steering wheel). Once in a while she emitted a high-pitched "burp."
K: "What was that, Abigail?"
A: "That was the car stopping at the red light."

She resumed driving (I guess when the light turned green again), and then suddenly made a weird "ptchu" noise.

K: "What was that, Abigail?"
A: "Speed bumps."

Monday, June 15, 2009

100 books

The local library has a summer reading program to keep kids immersed in books while they're not at school. The "big goal" is to read 100 books -- then you get a medal, your picture goes up on the wall in the library, and I think there may be some other rewards as well.

This morning we decided to go to the library before Abigail's gymnastics class. Elizabeth told me that if she checks out 10 books today, reads them all and returns them tomorrow, borrows another 10 books tomorrow, reads them, and then returns them the next day, and so on and so forth, then in less than two weeks, she'll have completed her 100 books.

I don't know about you, but whenever she says things like this, I'm just blown away. Maybe it's just the obligatory mommy pride, who knows. But something tells me that there's something just a little different about her.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Artichokes

A few days ago I asked my husband to buy three artichokes. He came home with two because, frankly, he's scared of them and convinced that the kids aren't going to go anywhere near them. I was pretty sure that he was right about one of the kids -- Elizabeth is a great eater and will try almost anything once. Abigail, on the other hand, will declare that she doesn't like anything that resembles a green vegetable. She'll eat carrot sticks and corn, but she will eat edamame out of their shells (probably because it's fun to eat). Peas and green beans, she'll eat if I put them into her mouth, but she'll try to leave them on the plate if given a choice. Lettuce and fresh spinach, same thing, but with those I have a lower success rate. The best success I have with her vegetable eating is when we get "dda-ddu-goh" -- that's the word for "vegetable" that Elizabeth used when she was about 1-2 years old, in reference to the bag of frozen peas/carrots/corn/green beans. The kids will eat those straight out of the freezer (except the green stuff for Abigail).

Anyways, so he got two artichokes, and it took me a couple days to muster up the courage to prepare and cook them. I've eaten a few artichoke leaves about 20 years ago and thought it was kind of a neat experience, but I've never ever even watched anybody prepare and cook them. Never even saw it on TV. I mean, what's the choke look like? Will I recognize it and not mutilate the precious heart right below it? What if I don't get out the whole thing? Will I ruin the whole artichoke? Will I cause family-wide choking because of this? What if I cut off too many leaves? What if I stain my carbon-steel knives? I don't have lemon slices!

I got the artichokes out of the fridge today, cleaned them (and pricked my fingers on the thorns), got them prepared for steaming, and then realized that I don't have a steam basket big enough to fit two artichokes. Thank goodness that I only had two -- who knows how I would've gotten three to cook at once. Well, I was able to get them into the microwave and cooked. Whew.

After they cooled a little bit, I was eating the leaves and was quite proud of my accomplishment, when Elizabeth (with Abigail not far behind) asked me what I'm eating. I told her it's artichokes, and she wanted to try one. I dipped a leaf in salad dressing and showed her how to scrape the leaf with her lower teeth. Abigail then said she wants to try one too(!), so I did the same for her. Then they both asked for more! And then more!

I couldn't believe my ears -- my preschool-aged girls (Abigail!!) were asking for more artichoke! And then when we got to the heart and stem, I cut them into bite-sized pieces and we all shared them. Now I think Abigail was just happy that she had something with which to scoop up salad dressing, but nonetheless, she was really good about scraping the flesh from the artichoke leaves. And I was happy that she was willingly trying this new and very foreign vegetable.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Holes and haves

I took ten strawberries out of the fridge and washed them. Elizabeth saw me do this and quickly calculated (don't ask me how) that four people cannot easily share ten strawberries. She then told me that I need to pull out two more strawberries -- that way we can each eat three strawberries.

How many preschoolers do you know can do this?

I was thinking at first that the girls will eat two strawberries each, and then my husband and I will eat three each. But instead I decided that this will become a quick lesson in division. I asked her how many half-strawberries are on the cutting board -- she quickly told me there are twenty. Then I asked her how we would apportion twenty strawberry-halves into four bowls. She drew twenty half-circles representing the twenty half-strawberries, and then eyeballed that the answer would be five halves. Then we looked at the five halves and rearranged them to look like wholes -- how many wholes and halves are there when we have five halves? She answered two and a half. So now we went back to the strawberries. I gave her four bowls, cut two strawberries in half, and asked her to put equal amounts of strawberries into each bowl. Just as you'd expect, she put two and a half strawberries into each bowl.

Yes, I'm just a teensy bit proud of my little genius.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mississippi

So Elizabeth and I are looking at the 50 states and reading out their names: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi...

Elizabeth: Mississippi??!?
me: yes, Mississippi. Funny name, isn't it?
E: Mrs. Sippy!! Hahahahaaaaa!

The next morning Elizabeth clinks her milk cup with Abi's sippy cup and introduces the two: Mrs. Sippy, Mr. Sippy.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Raising bilingual children

I came here to the States when I was 2 months shy of 5 years old. My mom had the foresight to teach me to read and write Korean before we immigrated. I began kindergarten three months after setting foot here, knowing not a lick of English. I dropped Korean and adopted English as my language of choice within a few years though; you know what is your primary language when you do your times tables in that language and when you actually think your thoughts in that language -- mine's English.

Thankfully (although I resented it at the time) my grandmother came to live with us when I was 12, and since I commuted from home to college and continued living at home until the day I got married, I had a good 12 years of Korean immersion during which I also had the good fortune of studying one semester of basic Korean at Berkeley.

My parents and my in-laws can speak English well, although not fluently, so it's not absolutely crucial for my kids to learn to speak Korean in order to communicate effectively with their grandparents. However, I just personally feel that, like it or not, if you've got an Asian face, the world will pretty much expect you to speak some Asian language, most likely the one from whom your forefathers came. And at least one study has shown that growing up bilingually gives an IQ boost. And finally, I've got a dear friend (1/2 Japanese, 1/2 white) who can speak fluent Japanese thanks to her mother, although she grew up in California, went to American public schools, and had a father who doesn't speak a word of Japanese. I figure if she can do it, then my kids can too. So that's why I decided my children will speak Korean as well as English. And for free too -- no special classes to send them to, just do it at home.

As I said earlier, I think in English. Unguarded, the first words that pop out of my mouth are invariably English. When I speak Korean, I must first think the thought out in English, and then translate into Korean. It's a laborious process (at least in my mind) and I wish I didn't have to do that. But it's something that I set my mind to do from the very beginning. And we all know that with raising kids, consistency is key, no matter what the issue.

So from Day One, I spoke only Korean with my kids. I did this from Day One because I know it's almost impossible to speak one language with them for three or four years and then suddenly decide that we're going to speak a new language every day all day long. And the many words I didn't know in Korean? I just threw in the English words, but kept the sentence structure Korean. ("Umma-ga reach mot-hae" for "Mommy can't reach," "Oori freeway taja" for "Let's ride the freeway," etc.) So their vocabulary isn't so good, but their basic sentences are pretty good, as are their accents. I've even gotten comments from fluent native-speaking Koreans that my kids speak Korean better than their mommy does, and they're always surprised when they find out that mommy's the one that's been teaching them everything they know about the Korean language.

My husband, unfortunately, doesn't support me in this endeavor as much as I'd like him to. He doesn't oppose me speaking Korean with them, but he would rather converse in English with them; he says he feels closer to them when he speaks his primary language, English. Ironically, he lived in Korea from 5th grade all the way up until college, so his Korean is so much better than mine, but I dare say that he feels like his relationship with his parents (which is very good) could've been even closer if they shared the same primary language. So although his Korean is better than mine, unfortunately my kids are stuck with learning Korean from me.

(My husband and I speak English with each other (he and I agree that it feels absolutely silly to speak Korean to each other), and so our kids are exposed to English every single day. And despite my reluctance to communicate with them in any language other than Korean, their English skills have not suffered a single bit. My firstborn can read chapter books in English at the second grade level and she hasn't begun kindergarten yet. And she has absolutely no accent in either language. (Yes, I'm just a teensy weensy bit proud of her.) Jury's still out on my secondborn -- she's only three, so her Korean is still much stronger than her English, but she's moving along a similar trajectory as her sister.)

I know that this chapter will probably close soon though. My Korean skills are probably no better than a kindergartener's, and there will soon come a day when the level of sophistication in my conversation with my kids will need to be much higher than my Korean language skills can handle. I'm a little sad at the prospect, because that probably means that there's a good chance that by the time they're in middle school they will only know how to say their name in Korean. But we'll have to cross that bridge when we get there. Until then, I speak to them in Korean and insist that they speak to me back in Korean.

One big fear that I have about raising my kids bilingually is that I'm putting an artificial burden on my relationship with my children. You know how they say that it's very important to keep the lines of communication open, especially when they're going through those difficult years? Am I setting myself up for alienation between me and my kids? And the other big fear that I have is have I set up my kids for alienation from their peers at school? Right now they're in preschool, but there and elsewhere in public I insist on speaking in Korean with them, even in front of others. In a couple of years they probably will be embarrassed by me, and their classmates might also make fun of them for speaking a "ching-chong oriental" language. Am I doing the right thing?

*sigh* How can doing the right thing (according to the studies I'm boosting my kids' IQ for free!) be fraught with so many potential drawbacks? It makes me question whether I'm doing the right thing or not, but I'm given encouragement every time I hear somebody say that they wish their parents had taught them the language of their forefathers.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ten years and one week

I've now been married for ten years and one week. Boy, what a ride! Two days after our wedding we went on our weeklong honeymoon to Hawaii. As soon as we got back, we went on our weeklong drive across the country to live in Michigan. Lived there for 3.5 years while Sam finished up his PhD, and then lived in Illinois for 3.5 years where we became parents to two beautiful baby girls (two years apart), and then came back to California three years and a few weeks ago.

That first year was horrible -- I won't sugarcoat it. We were both young and immature, and still had a lot of growing up to do. Here I was, never having ever left the comfort of home for more than three weeks at a time, suddenly moving across the country where I knew not a single soul except for this poor husband of mine, who I expected to not only sweep me off my feet every day, but also entertain me, sing and dance for me, and put the toilet seat back down. Every day. And what in the world is all this football and basketball he's watching? Never when we were dating did he ever mention being a sports fan. Needless to say, neither of us really enjoyed that first year. But never -- not once -- did I ever regret having married him.

But you know what, after that first year, it got so much better. I learned to give him space and not harp on him, and he learned to not ask for so much space, and even began to harp on me. *laugh* And although he doesn't sweep me off my feet every single day, this man of mine (who grew up with no sisters) does consistently put the toilet seat back down. And you know what else? He planned a little weekend getaway for our anniversary.

We drove 50 miles east to my parents' house to drop off the kids. And then we drove 100 miles WEST (50 miles back, past the house, and then kept going another 50 miles) to spend the night in the city. We had sushi for dinner (some of the best we've had in a long time), shared two desserts that we didn't have to share with two dessert-hungry kids, and then went to sleep whenever we felt like it. The next morning we woke up whenever we felt like it, then had dim sum for brunch, walked around Chinatown and Union Square for a while, and then had frozen yogurt before going back to pick up the kids. After the kids finished napping, we took my parents out to a Thai restaurant for dinner. (My dad loves peanuts and had never tried Thai food!) We had a good dinner, then went back to their place to watch some basketball (okay, my husband watched), and then trekked 50 miles back to our house.

It was a good 10 years, and it was a good weekend to celebrate our 10 years. And would I do it over again? In a heartbeat. Even that first year. Because I know it's not the end of the story -- it's just the beginning.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A funny story about a boy at preschool

I work at a local preschool, and today I was weeding in the sandbox as the kids were playing, and had gathered a small pile of weeds on the concrete next to the sandbox. A little boy came to me, selected a little weed from the pile, and carefully planted it back into the sand, making a little hole in the sand for the root and then gathering the sand up around the weed so that it'll stand upright.

Just thought I'd share it with you.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cherry picking

Last night I was a little disappointed because a few friends were planning on going strawberry and cherry picking today, and because I teach piano on Saturday mornings from 10-11, I couldn't go.

This morning I was a little disappointed because I remembered that I had to stay home and teach while my friends are picking fruit with their children. Oh well, I decided to just chill until my students came over, teach, and then just hang out at home for the rest of the day. I offered for my husband to take the kids and go -- that way they'll get to see fruit in their native state, enjoy a little bit of daddy-bonding time, and I'll get to teach in peace. He declined, preferring instead to just go to the gym.

Well, 10:15am and they're still not here. My husband is almost out the door with the girls to go to the gym, but before they leave, I gave my students a call, and it turns out that the mom forgot to tell me that they can't make it today. I'm a little disappointed now because my friends are out picking fruit with their children and I'm sitting at home NOT teaching piano. I'm *almost* mad at the mom for forgetting to tell me, but I remember that just a few weeks ago I had forgotten completely about teaching piano altogether and had flaked on them, leaving them to sit on my porch for an hour while I was at the gym with my husband and kids. I would like to say that it was the first week of this schedule, so I hadn't gotten into the habit of having something on Saturday mornings, but still. I flaked on them and felt horrible. So I guess I shouldn't feel so mad that they didn't tell me until the last minute, although I could have made plans to go fruit picking had I known earlier.

Oh well, let's go anyway!!

So in record time we got the kids dressed (it's forecast for mid-high 90s today), found a couple of beach buckets (for the kids to hold their own cherries), packed a million gallons of water, slapped on some sunblock, and out we went. It's too late for strawberries (they said they'd get to the cherry orchard around 10:30-11am) so we went straight to the cherry orchard. We didn't see any of our friends there except for one other family that missed the strawberry picking too. I guess I could've been a little disappointed that we didn't get to see them, but oh well. Who says that fruit must be picked in the company of friends? Yeah, it would've been nice to see them, but we had our buckets, we had our water, we had our beautiful girls, and we had our camera. And we had sushi for lunch, after feasting on cherries all morning long.

Windmills on the drive along Vasco Road


The lovely Elizabeth


The cute Abigail


Cherries!


And I shouldn't leave out...
The bicep!


And you know what? I wasn't disappointed at all.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How do you tell a sweet little girl that you're not from Japan?

Today a six-year-old girl, I'll call her "Jane," looked me straight in the eye, and said "Konichiwa." She was, I'm sure, showing me in her own little way that she knows a little something about a culture outside of her family's experience. I'm sure any Japanese person would have been delighted that a blonde-haired girl said hello in Japanese. However, we're not Japanese -- we're Korean. In the mind of many Koreans, to be confused with a Japanese is akin to a Jew being confused with a German. Sure, we look similar. Sure, to the untrained eye (and even to many "trained" eyes) all Asians look alike. Just like blondes all look alike. (Trust me -- I'm really bad at telling people apart! Ask my husband -- I can never get any actors' names right.) And I'm not saying that I've got any particular quarrel with the Japanese -- not at all. This is just for context. Anyhoo...

I've met her parents, and they're not bigots by any means. To her parents' credit, she does know how to greet Japanese people in their language -- shows she's broadening her horizons, learning about cultures other than the one in her home. But how do you tell a sweet little girl that you're not from Japan, that you're from Korea, and the two are not the same?

Jane: Konichiwa.
me: Oh, you said "hello" in Japanese! That's great! But you know what, we're not from Japan, we're from Korea.
Jane: Konichiwa.

Uhh...

I was thinking about this little conversation on the way home, trying to figure out how to explain this to a little girl, or actually anybody, that it's not cool to expect Asians to speak any other Asian language than their own. It's a totally innocent mistake, but still, one that gets on my nerves. I've had to explain this to classmates ever since I was in second grade, I think. And I'm sure some of them still don't get it. And you know what, it won't stop with my generation. I'm pretty sure that my kids will have to deal with the same thing as they grow up. Elizabeth has already told me once or twice that people have called her Chinese. And even after she corrected them and said that she's not Chinese, that she's Korean, they still insisted she's Chinese.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Nut allergy

Elizabeth was diagnosed with a nut allergy last year. For the most part it doesn't really affect our day-to-day lives since I'm not a huge nut fan, although I do appreciate a good candy-covered nut once in a while. But it's not something that I insist on eating, and frankly I could go my entire life without tasting a nut and I'll be fine with that.

Elizabeth hasn't had an anaphylactic reaction where her throat closes shut and she stops breathing, but she has broken out in hives and complained about her mouth hurting. The allergist has told us to keep an EpiPen around at all times, just for that reason. It's a prescription that hopefully we'll never ever have to use, but it's there, for that slim chance that we might need it.

I'm generally good about checking for nuts when I give food to Elizabeth, and she's generally good about reading the ingredient list as well. And if something has nuts in it, she knows to avoid it, even if it's a tempting treat that everybody else is happily munching on.

Recently I realized that Indian food (one of my husband's favorites) commonly contains nuts, so we're very careful to ask about everything that we order when we go out to eat.

And on Friday we had a potluck lunch at the girls' preschool, and once again, we were careful to ask about the common offenders. Thankfully the suspect items (a banana muffin and an Indian dish) were homemade, so the parents were able to say that the food that they brought didn't have nuts in them, and I was able to give the girls a taste of each.

Unfortunately there was an offender that I didn't know about until after Elizabeth ate it all up. It was a sandwich. The bread was a sweet Hawaiian roll (nut-free), and the filling looked like it was a tuna or chicken salad (apparently nut-free, at least in all of my previous sandwich-eating experience). I'm not a sandwich-type of person, especially for potlucks, but I know the girls will eat them, so I put one on each of their plates.

Elizabeth ate all of hers up, along with everything else on her plate, and she said her tongue tickled. I asked her if it felt like an allergic reaction and she said it didn't, so I just let it go. And then Abigail ate about 2/3 of everything on her plate, so I finished off her food, including half her sandwich. (Yeah, that's how I get my seconds at buffets now.) A few bites into the sandwich I realized there's some texture in there that's a little different from your typical sandwich filling, so I took a closer look and realized that there are chopped almonds in there.

Folks, I just fed my nut-allergic daughter a chopped almond sandwich.

Thankfully her only reaction was the tickly tongue, but it could easily have become a much more dire situation. I don't know much about allergic reactions other than what the allergist and a few allergic-children's-parent-friends have told me, but I have been told that a reaction to nuts that involves the face or mouth can easily become a reaction that involves the airway closing shut.

And that scares the crap out of me.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Happy birthday, honey!

Today is my husband's birthday. Won't tell you how old he's turning today though.

I'm picking him up from work in Tracy, about 25 minutes to the east of us. And then we're going up north another 30 minutes to Stockton to eat dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory (haven't been in years!) and then drop off the kids with my grandparents. And then after that, who knows what we'll do. I know, it sounds like so much fun. Probably we'll end up going to Borders, sip coffee, and read magazines across the table from each other while not saying a single word to each other, close the place down, and then see a movie. Maybe. What an adventure, huh?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Not that I celebrate it or anything, but...

Happy Earth Day.

May your environment be... uhh... Earth.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

sickie in the house

On Saturday morning Abi played normally after eating a normal breakfast of cereal and milk, but right before lunch she suddenly complained of a stomachache. She'd complained of stomachache in the past and sometimes it turned out to be because of diarrhea, but many times it turned out to be nothing, just a call for attention. Anyway, her stomachache on Saturday quickly turned into vomiting. After her nap she said she was hungry, so I gave her yogurt, which she promptly vomited back after ravenously snarfing it down. She ended up throwing up 4 times on Saturday. I tried to limit her intake for the rest of that day, basically giving her popsicles and apple juice.

At the end of the day, though, she kept saying she was hungry, so I gave her a few bites of plain watered-down rice. She kept it down okay, and was fine all day Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, playing, eating and pooping normally.

I had had a pretty unpleasant case of stomachache/vomiting/diarrhea the week before, beginning Saturday and ending on Tuesday, so I thought she had what I had, until I saw that she was fine and didn’t even have loose stools.

Fast forward to today. She had a normal breakfast of yogurt, half-bagel, and cream cheese, and a sippy of milk. After breakfast, however, she lay on the floor, which is totally not normal of her. She’s usually busy playing and running around. Anyways, she said her tummy hurt (sometimes she’ll say that right before she goes poop), so she went to the bathroom, but only peed – she said her poop wouldn’t come out. I don’t think she’s constipated though – she had a normal poop yesterday, and she’s never been constipated, even as a baby. She then went back to lying down, took a five-minute catnap, and then woke up saying her stomach hurt again. I asked if she needed to throw up, and she said she did. This turned out to be about a three-second warning – she ended up barfing her whole breakfast again, all over her clothes, her hair, and the living room carpet.

So off to the shower we go, and now that she's all cleaned up and I finally got the carpet de-nastified, she's playing like normal and claiming she's hungry.

Color Abi sick :-( , color me confused :-/.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

the Mommy Voice

Like most mommies, I've developed that Mommy Voice. You know the kind: the one that says "I mean business, and you better obey me or else the toys will revolt and all run away in separate directions in a blink of an eye."

Well, today I was folding socks and underwear with the girls, and Elizabeth, in true form, tried to sneak away to play in the middle of matching socks. Many times. Finally, I said in my sternest Mommy Voice: "Elizabeth, you come right back here and finish your folding." (Don't worry, I just make her do her own while I do the rest of the family's. I try to get Abigail to do her share, but her attention span is about the size of a gnat.) Thankfully the Mommy Voice worked, since really, it's hard to look authoritative while holding up a pair of undies.

Do you have smelly foods from your childhood?

Whether it's kimchi or gefilte fish or some kind of curry, we all have food that smells up our childhoods.

-- Amy Sue Nathan

I found this quote today and it reminded me of a time when my parents would brew han-yak in the garage. Basically it's this nasty concoction of all kinds of herbs and strange things, darker and smellier than burnt coffee, but supposed to be oh-so-good for you.

A quick Korean lesson: "Han" = Korean. "Yak" = Medicine.

So han-yak is, quite literally, Korean medicine.

And whenever somebody in the house got sick or injured or something, and medicines from the drugstore didn't cut it, out came the han-yak. And then the whole house would smell (even when it's brewing in the garage!) for weeks and weeks (at least it seemed like it at the time).

And I really have no idea who Amy Sue Nathan is. Hopefully she's somebody I'd like to have coffee with, not That Embarrassing Friend whose calls I have to screen via caller ID.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

wild things just running around all over the place

so we're getting on the freeway this morning on the way to preschool, and we see this huge field of yellow wildflowers growing on a grassy hill. eliz asks me what kind of flowers they are, and i really don't know, so i say "maybe they're wildflowers," figuring that's good enough of an answer.

eliz: wildflowers?
me: yes.
eliz: do they run around?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sometimes I'm so immature...

I was thinking about Abigail's standard mispronunciations. Here are some of my favorites...

* My fananee wub me = My family loves me
* kottattae = Korean for "the same"
* Oodiduh Pooh = Winnie the Pooh
* Sindero = Cinderella
* Toe White = Snow White

and the fact that I giggle at this one reassures me that I'm still immature:

* Seeping Booty = Sleeping Beauty

Monday, March 9, 2009

when it rains it pours

you'd think that as a mommy to two preschoolers, i'd be seeing illness striking the kids and not so much me. but during this past month-and-a-half, i've had two consecutive bouts of sore throat/fever/aches and am now dealing with pinkeye. the kids? aside from a little bit of runny nose here and there, they're fine.

don't get me wrong, i don't wish anything upon them and am so grateful that they haven't had any of the stuff i've had these past weeks, but i thought mommies get illnesses from their kids, not bring it home themselves to share with the family like it's takeout or something.

now i gotta find some wood and knock on it. and then get the clorox wipes and scrub it down.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pre-school daze

I'm becoming increasingly anxious about the upcoming school year, and it's more than six months away. It's now the season for registration for school, and I feel like I have to make a decision soon about Eliz. The local school, or the charter school, or a private school, or homeschool? Kindergarten or first grade? Now for most normal parents of most normal kids, I'd imagine that it's a pretty straightforward answer. But I have a hunch that Eliz just isn't a normal kid. She missed the cutoff for kindergarten last year, and it breaks my heart. How I wish her birthday was just two months earlier.

A partial list of the things she can do with ease:

Read fluently in English, and not-so-fluently in Korean.
Add and subtract to about 20. Count by twos, fives, and tens, to a few hundred.
Write neatly and legibly, using proper punctuation.
Tell time on a non-digital clock.
She's figuring out very quickly the concepts of north, south, east, and west. She's got a very good sense of direction, and also has a firm grasp of left and right.
She has a very rudimentary knowledge of piano, music theory, and appreciation. (This is mostly because I haven't really put in the time to teach her, not because she doesn't get it.)

Now I *KNOW* that this is more than the typical preschooler can do, and I'm pretty sure that many kindergartners struggle with some of these things. And just so you know, I haven't been sitting her down and drilling her for hours on end -- this is just stuff that she found interesting and picked up, mostly from her asking questions. We do have workbooks, but we do them when she feels like it, not according to any specific schedule. Sometimes it's five pages a day, sometimes two weeks can go by without her cracking open a workbook.

So why won't any school take her for kindergarten? Why am I having such a hard time getting her evaluated sometime soon so that we can know one way or another what grade to put her in in the fall? The past few months I have called our local elementary school, the local charter school, a few private schools, and even a few homeschooling ISPs to see if they will either take her a year early or even just evaluate her, and they have all told me that because her birthday is in late January, she's simply too young for either one, and that I'll have to wait until she enters kindergarten in the fall.

I'm so afraid that if she goes into kindergarten in the fall (instead of first grade), she will learn to associate "school" with "zoning out." She needs mental stimulation to remain engaged and interested in school. The last thing I want is for her to develop bad habits in the early years and then struggle later on because she never learned how to learn in a classroom setting.

It irks me to no end because there's a little girl in the next school district over who is in kindergarten, and she's a full month younger than Eliz. *They* were able to get her evaluated and into kindergarten because *their* school district will do that. Our school district, therefore, stinks.

Another thing that irks me is the fact that I don't have the same apparent luxury as those parents of kids whose birthdays fall later in the year. They are able to choose whether or not to enroll their kids or keep them back a year so that their kids will be a year older than their classmates.

Now the more I think about this, the madder I get, and the more I feel like Eliz is getting a disservice from the school district. But then a small, annoying, part of me makes me wonder, how much of this is tied to my own pride? Am I wanting this because it makes me proud to say that I've got an academically gifted daughter? Or am I wanting this because this really is the best for Eliz?

Anyways, I will let this issue rest once she's evaluated and a definitive answer is given one way or another. Hopefully sooner than later.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"What's $ 3 x?"

So Eliz, my 5-year-old, woke up from her nap and was eating a post-nap snack while I'm chilling here on the computer. I'm half-paying attention to her when she suddenly asks something that sounds like "What's $ 3 x?" (Just in case some perverts trawl around looking for pages on the internet with that three-letter-word I'm changing some of the letters. I hope it keeps the pervs out. Anyways...) I'm shocked that she's even heard the word because I'd like to think that I've done a fairly decent job of sheltering her from anything that's more complicated than what I'd like to explain. So I asked her to say it again, and there it was, "What's $ 3 x?" I'm still confused so I ask her where she learned it, and she says it's in her book. Now I'm thoroughly baffled because I am *pretty sure* that she doesn't have any books with $ 3 x u @ 1 content. Finally after lots of asking, she tells me she got it in her "Sweet Success" book. So I go and dig it out of her room and ask her to find the word. I'm hoping I'll find some context, INNOCENT context, with which I can explain this word.

So there it was... "The sacks were half empty."

I almost had a heart attack for nothing!!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

can't sing its praises enough

can i tell you how much i love multigrain cheerios? i really don't know why any other cereal exists now that multigrain cheerios has been invented and is now available at costco. according to the box, it's "lightly sweetened." according to my (and my kids') tastebuds, it's sweeter than the yellow-box original cheerios, but not as sugary as honey nut cheerios. the ingredients list is surprisingly short, but out of the first six ingredients, five of them are whole grains. unfortunately the third item in the ingredients list is sugar, but i'll choose to ignore that for now since it's surrounded by whole grains. and not that there's anything wrong with it (according to the corn people on tv), but there's no high fructose corn syrup either. and the nutrition facts is what really seals the deal for me:

per 1-cup serving:

1g fat
0g saturated, trans, polyunsaturated, or monounsaturated fats
0mg cholesterol
200mg sodium
85mg potassium
23g carbs
3g fiber
6g sugars
14g other carbs
2g protein

and let me show you this:

100% iron, vitamin e, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin b6, folic acid, vitamin b12, pantothenic acid, and zinc.

i challenge you to find me a cereal that's nut-free (eliz is allergic to nuts), not too sweet but still tastes good, doesn't taste or feel like gravel, and has this kind of nutritional pedigree.

otherwise i might just have to buy a lifetime supply for me and my kids just in case they ever stop making it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

valentine's day

since valentine's day happens to be my daughter's birthday, i think it's safe to assume that for the foreseeable future, we won't be going out on dates and leaving the kids with a sitter anymore on february 14.

this year for v-day we spent most of it either preparing for my parents and sister's family to come over for dinner to celebrate abi's birthday. the day before, however, we had our own v-day date. that morning my husband took the kids(!!) and went to costco to go grocery shopping for me, since my cold (cold? flu? who knows) pretty much had my butt kicked and my head in pieces. while he was there, he got the milk, eggs, and bread, and also came home with a dozen red roses. i was shocked because i can't remember the last time he got roses on a routine grocery run, much less on a grocery run with the kids.

anyways, since the price of red roses mysteriously goes up at this time of year, i just had to know how much they were. $15! i was elated! because they're totally overpriced, i never expected a dozen for valentine's day (last year i asked him for ONE red rose, and my man delivered!) anymore, but i think i'm going to have to start expecting them now every v-day for as long as we have costco membership and they keep their rose prices down in february.

so that was part one of the v-day gift.

part two: my mom came to spend the night (she comes over a couple times a week after work so she doesn't have to drive an hour home late at night) so we left the kids with her and went to get a chinese foot massage. an hour long. for $25. they soak your feet for 20 minutes while they massage your head, neck, and shoulders. then they work 10 minutes on your left foot, then 10 minutes on your right foot, and then flip you over and spend the last 20 minutes working on your back. so we got a massage-for-two for a pretty good bargain, considering that you can easily spend $75 (or even more!) on a massage at a day spa. i'm aching to go back already.

part three: we went to our new favorite frozen yogurt place. it's like pinkberry, and i wouldn't be surprised if it's modeled after pinkberry, but we don't care, because there's no pinkberry in our area. (can you tell we like pinkberry?) anyways, this place has the same tart frozen yogurt, the same fresh fruit toppings (my favorite is the blueberry), and the same bingsu dduk (mochi balls). yum! we split a medium, original flavor, with bingsu dduk, blueberries, and mini-m&m's since we didn't have to hide them from the kids. (we usually just get the bingsu dduk and fruit and not chocolate with them.) and bonus: since it was raining, we got a double-stamp on our frequent-buyers card!

part four: we went to see gran torino. it was a pretty good movie. i won't give any spoilers, but i'll tell you this. going in, i knew nothing about the movie other than that it's got something to do with a car and clint eastwood. for some reason i thought it was some kind of lots-of-special-effects racecar type of movie, and really went to see it just to spend time with my husband, not because i really wanted to see the movie. but when it was over, i was so glad that i went to see it. and just so you know, the movie's got nothing to do with racing.

so it was a good day. better than i expected. no ooey gooey greeting cards, no candlelit dinner, no house-all-to-ourselves-since-the-kids-are-with-the-grandparents, but it was all good. my husband loves me, i love my husband, and all is right with the world. it also helps that we got groceries in the fridge, a dozen red roses in the living room, a side-by-side massage for cheap, frozen yogurt that we don't have to share with the kids, and two hours in a movie theater while the kids are safely sleeping at home with grandma in the next room.

who says valentine's day needs to be celebrated on the 14th?