Archive for March, 2006

Quarterly review of…my life

So it's been over three months that we've made The Big Move (which will be unceremoniously but very fashionably shortened to 'TBM' from this post onwards). It's a good time to take stock of the good and the bad.

I'll start with the bad.

1. I don't have my old friends. I feel blessed for my new ones but my friends, many of them, I've known for over ten years. Some go back to my kindy days. I feel naked without them, by the very virtue of them having seen me with gel-ed up 'wave' fringe in the 80s (and still love me) and will always remember me 100lbs thinner. I really, REALLY miss you guys.

2. I don't have REAL nasi lemak and SS2 chicken rice. There are substitutes and I can very well cook my own but I can't cook very well!

3. I don't have instant coffee (my Davidoff, to be exact). There's only one brand of instant coffee in Starbucks land and it costs two to three times as much as brewed coffee. Monopoly!

4. I don't have my parents, especially my mom. Having spent a year with her (she was helping me with Skyler – and I hadn't lived with my parents since like forever), I really miss our nonsensical talks. And she's come to really see me as an adult, which is a very new experience for someone who's more than shortchanged her parents the aspirations they had for her. Miss you, mom.

5. Help. I used to have a maid to clean for me. Washing dishes. Mopping the floor (now it's vacuuming the carpet). Cleaning the bathrooms. Now all these chores fall on me, being the Housewife. My hands are all chapped and dry from the cold weather and rough work, which no amount of lotion seems to be fixing. It costs like $100 PER CLEAN here. Hmm. Maybe I should start a cleaning service…

6. I am jobless. It still feels very insecure for me to have no income. Although we are in okay shape, being Asian, you always ask, "What if this isn't enough? More is better than less!". I've come to appreciate, though, that what I'm putting aside now is emotional investment with our kids. Still, kiasuness is built in, so…

Okay, enough of the bad. Now the good!

1. I've had much more quality time with the kids simply because I am jobless now. We have outside play hour and music hour and art hour and quiet time together reading (thank God!). Feel blessed to be able to really be home for the girls. They are growing up WAY too fast for me not to be here, documenting every single thing or move they make. Plus they are doing SO well (minus the E.coli incident) adapting to the weather, the strange new faces, the culture and language, school etc.

2. I've learnt to become a much better mom, understanding my kids better, learning from the wonderfully attentive, educated and well-informed American moms who are just amazing with their kids. Their methods for raising independent, emotionally-secure, mature children may take a little more work but it's worth it because I see how Rae's school friends are so much more these things than her. And the whole cooperative preschool experience is so enriching not just for Rae, but for me (maybe even more so!). Feel very, VERY blessed for that.

3. I've learnt to cook! Well, I used to be able to make two really good dishes. I've always suspected I had it in me but because I never really had the time, I never fully developed this 'talent' (waseh!). Let's see how far it goes…

4. I've lost weight! Yea, doing housework and raising children will do that to you…

5. There are clothes my size! You don't know the pleasure of being able to walk into stores again just knowing there is XXL (REAL XXL, not just a label when it's really just XL!). And sometimes, even XL can fit because I've lost a little weight.

6. Fresh food. The fresh produce here is just amazing. I'm eating strawberries at $4 per a really huge box and veggies and seafood.

7. More important than fresh food, is all the convenient household gadgetry and MICROWAVE delights! I love those MW subs and Hot Pockets and pizzas. Not exactly gourmet, healthy food but it's convenient that I can just pop them in for a quick snack when I'm out of time. I have both a microwave AND a traditional oven in our rental home and it's just great. Love it.

8. Cheap and fast Internet access. Blazing through webpages and games and downloads. There are still hiccups sometimes but unlike back home, there are REAL choices here so if our current provider does cock up one time too many, we know where else to take our business!

9. Plenty of really good thrift and second-hand book stores. And they are REALLY cheap.

10. And of course, the lovely weather. Sometimes, it gets really cold and there's the trouble of always having to dress up fully when going out, but I'm really getting to like the blistery climate, especially when Spring is already here. Beats sweltering, humid heat anytime!

There. In summary, things are looking up for TBM. Seattle isn't home just yet, but we're getting there.

Slowly, but surely.  

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Fickle

I'll change my theme if I want to, Snooks. Stop telling me to stop!

🙂

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The end of an era

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Having trouble weaning your kid off her pacifier?

Take her to the dentist!

Raeven had her first dental visit today. Her full account (as told by her mommy, of course) is here.

And boy, was it worth every penny.

Although it was just a routine check every American kid her age goes through, and all they did was brush and count her teeth, today, the 29th of March 2006, was definitely a milestone – and the end of an era.

The era of Raeven's Shooshoot aka her pacifier aka a binky, as the Americans call it.

We've been trying to wean Raeven off it and her addiction to her best friend had been reduced to just bedtime (she used to want it everytime she needed comforting, and that was like a LOT).

Today, at three years and nine months old, Raeven gave her habit up because "Dr Stephanie said I have to say goodbye to my shooshoot because the shooshoot fairy needs it and she'll leave me a penny."

It was THAT simple.

And to think of all the cajoling and threatening and bribing we did. With the simple wave of the pediatric dentist's magic wand (not to mention her YEARS of practice with little kids), Raeven slept peacefully tonight, shooshootless. No fuss. No muss.

Now why didn't we do this sooner?

Something cute she said at about 20 mins after lights out.

"Mommy?"

"Yes sweetie?"

"The shooshoot fairy is taking too long." (stern look)

Sigh. My baby is SO grown up.

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In the spirit of Spring

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Rae and I made a Spring Hat today (thanks to instructions I got from this site). Of course, she got to stick all the Happy Faces while I did the flowers.

Pretty isn't it?

Can hardly fit over her head though.

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Need a bigger plate!

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Bugs and bees over fondue

No, this isn't a new recipe, so rest easy.

Three of Rae's preschool moms and I went for our monthly Moms' Night Out yesterday night and it was just a blast. We went to a place called The Melting Pot which serves – you guessed it – fondue. It was my first time eating melted cheese and chocolate despite having seen the partaking of this sinful gourmet experience on TV many times and lets just say it's not going to be on any of those low-carb diets anytime soon!

Karli, the organiser, Caroline and Tracey are just lovely, lovely girls to hang with and I'm so glad I got the chance to know them better. What better way to know a place than by hanging out with the natives, right?

Of course, the conversation started with first our kids, and then the preschool, and since we were looking to buy, these fabulous girls also recommended some good places to live. And then, as with any good evening (and a little alcohol!), our conversation veered to the bizarre, when we started discussing the creepy-crawlies of this here rainy city, which is apparently, a smorgasbord of all kinds of many-legged 'friends'. And if that wasn't scary enough, we started to talk about The Blair Witch Project and other horror movies.

And then it hit me: Even here, when women get together for more than a couple of hours, we almost always end up talking about ghosts or horror movies or someone's friend's friend went somewhere and saw something?

Good to know women this side of the world are NOT that different after all!

Anyway, it was good to get out and the evening was a resounding success as far as my experience was concerned. Just four girls, fondue and fine conversation. Thanks Karli!!

BTW, fondue is da bomb. A melted pot of a variety of different cheeses with jalapeno and salsa, used as dip for bread, chips, apple. And then melted dark choc and marshmallows and pecans with fruit, and MORE marshmallows. I am SO going back there.

But no, I am not trying celery sticks with peanut butter!!

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Cheapskates beware!

Seems there's a website out there for those in the service industry to gripe about bad tippers! LOL!

Beware you chiap people! Not only will you get DNA in your food, you can get on a black list if you're not careful!

I used to be a waitress for years during college and good tips meant I had better meals, so come on you cinapeks. Fork it out for the good of all malnutritioned working students!

Hey, apparently, those in the service industry are pre-taxed for the tips they will get for the rest of the year. So if you give them a shitty tip, they would've been overtaxed. Is this true?

Of course, if the service is crappy, do what you must.

The general rule is double the tax, or 15-20% of the pretax bill. Check out this useful article on tipping in the US.

And this article for laughs.

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The Cool Moms Club

In my extreme eagerness to dive into this whole suburban American minivan-driving, organic-food-championing, camp-organising supermom experience, I decided to attend the quarterly board meeting of my daughter Raeven's preschool yesterday.

This is when the committee members elected by the preschool, and the people paid to run it, would sit and talk about things like the shape of our finances, protocol, syllabus and leaky faucets. I presume this is pretty standard admin stuff.

Anyway, so the big question on your mind, my dear reader, would be:

Am I one of the members?

Nope.

Then what in the name of all that is good and pure was I sticking my big nose in there for?

I don't know.

Our parent leader had invited everyone so I thought it would be good to go see what it was about. Turned out I was the only non-committee member who actually accepted the invitation.

Idiotic? I think so too.

I mean, it was Form One all over again. You walking into Interact/Drama club to discover a room full of seniors who give you that smile which seemed to say, "You're welcome so long as we can tolerate you". The friend who said she would go with you is nowhere to be seen and the only person you know is your class monitor everyone hates. You can't go home because your mom has driven off. More importantly, you know you HAVE to stay or suffer the label 'that weird new girl' the rest of the school year. And so you try to blend in with the furniture by choosing the most obscure seat at the BACK of the room by the stinky broom and dustpan, only to be dragged into the spotlight five minutes later to introduce yourself because you ARE the only strange face there. You stutter through like it's the first day you used your mouth to form actual words and then walk backwards while bowing apologetically for having ever presumed you were cool enough to intrude into this secret sacred cool kids club.  

Of course, I am 33 now. And acting 'cool' in the presence of tired mommies who'd spent the day chasing after toddlers isn't as bad. Or maybe I'm still covered by the "she's new to the country" policy, which is a Get Out of Ridicule Free card for all kinds of odd, unexplainable third-world behaviour (my unintelligible pseudo-British-Chinese gibberish, for one) and the asking of stupid questions such as "Why do you call it a lockdown?" (because we LOCK DOWN the doors?).

The culture shock is just non-stop! Anyone in my position would just sit quietly at home, act blur and hope there's enough food in the pantry to go through yet another month of never ever having to go out and actually interact with people, but no, not me! I say, bring it!

Anyway, the highlight of the evening wasn't me being grilled as to why I chose to enroll my child at the preschool (thank God!). The interesting bit began when the board started discussing what to do with a couple of parents who'd defaulted on their commitments to the preschool.

You must be wondering if I'd somehow enrolled Raeven into some sort of prep school cult but when you get your kid into a cooperative preschool, because of its very low fees (only 1/4 of the price of other private preschools in the county), you are signing up for many commitments that take your personal time and effort. You get not only school duties, but you must also attend monthly meetings, participate in school cleans, as well as organise activities such as fund raisers and so on.

Naturally, you get some parents who are just unwilling to do things like spend two hours to clean the school (even when it's only twice a year). You know how some ladies are, thinking this type of work is beneath them. I can just imagine back home, if our government schools were to start demanding that the parents of each child spend some time cleaning the school twice a year. We would take their kids to more expensive private schools so fast it would make the heads of headmasters/mistresses spin. That, or we'd hire an Indon maid to do the job for us.

Either way, we won't get our own hands dirty, that's for sure. Who cares if our kids learn in stinking rot!

So, all in all, it was an enlightening experience, to say the least. One thing's for sure: I'm gonna think twice before chickening out of any of my commitments. These committee ladies are scary.

Also, I cannot help but respect how initiatives such as this preschool started, and how the tradition has been passed on through the 30 or so years it has existed. Just a group of concerned mommies who pooled their resources together, hired some teachers, rented some space, so that kids of average-income families could also put their pre-kindergarten kids in school.

Just awesome.

Maybe some mommies in Malaysia can start!

Lia, you go!

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