Archive for Housewifehood

Kid cuisine

More than one person from home (one of which is my mother-in-law, who poses the question to me once everytime I call home to check on the old folks) has asked me this past week what my kids and I eat everyday here in the States.

It's as though the US is this big black hole where all manner of edible matter disappears. Or perhaps they don't think much of me as a cook, so keeping my kids and I from the verge of starvation without spending the family fortune on take-out can be quite real a possibility.

Whatever it is, relax guys. I can bang a skillet/wok and a spatula together when I set my mind to it. If you don't believe me, ask my hubby, although I must say his needs are pretty simple to fulfill, Thai Chicken Rice being his only request most of the time. And I don't see my kids complaining. Skyler is skinny not for lack of food, so don't go pinning that on me. She will eat pine chips and plastic tomatoes, so -…

*we interrupt this blog entry with a short message about how cute Jenn's kids are. Again.*

We'd gone to the beach and Rae, my four-year old (omg, she IS four years old!! sigh…) managed to wet her undies so she went up to change herself. Came down with her shorts on backwards.

Mommy: Babe, your panties are on backwards.
Rae: (looks down) Oh! (sheepish smile) Silly me!
Mommy: It's okay, we're at home. You can leave them like that if you want to.
Rae: (looks at me, and then outside through the glass doors, and then back at me again) Did you lock the doors?

*end message*

…she LOVES my cooking, although that doesn't really make me sound very good.

So what do I eat everyday? I call it kid cuisine.

For breakfast, they have some kind of fruit, usually bananas or oranges, and cheese and usually a sandwich. When Lokes is around, he makes breakfast so I can catch a few more Zs, and he makes eggs most of the time. I've managed to convince the girls cereal is yummy, so yay, since that involves not having to turn on the stove. As for me, I eat whatever is left over on their plates. And of course, coffee. Yes, you can EAT my coffee, yum yum.

For lunch, it's more sandwiches, more cheese, more fruit. Sometimes I'll make chicken nuggets or that egg snack they both love if I have leftover bacon from breakfast.

Dinner is the main event which I agonise over the night before. Usually we have one meat dish and peas/carrots and/or rice. I've discovered putting a four-cheese-blend on rice is yummy. I make them into little rice balls, sometimes with steamed chicken and veggies. Sometimes I make Chinese-style chicken and potatoes. These days, we have a lot of pasta, which is Rae's flavour of the month. So again, it's kid cuisine, so long as Lokes is travelling 'coz I can't be bothered to cook for me when the kids will no doubt have loads left over.

By the way, you do notice I have a recipes blog. Motivates me to be a bit more adventurous than just Thai-freakin'-Chicken rice.

Hmm. Wonder if I have some Napa cabbage in the fridge?

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The I’mperfect Cook

For the first time in years, my dinner bombed this evening.

I wanted to make chicken chop (a Malaysian dish of chicken drumstick deboned and grilled/fried and then topped with gravy) but I had only breast meat, so it turned out hard and dry. The Betty Crocker gravy I bought was bland. I ended up eating most of it because Rae didn't want any of it either (she ended up eating a peanut butter sandwich, poor thing). The only person who liked it was Lokes, insisting it was good, the darling man.

I also tried to make soft-baked chocolate chunks but didn't put enough sugar so that fell flat as well.

As a child, I used to think my mom was such a good mother because she used to eat all the burnt, black or ruined parts of any meal she ever cooked.

She would give us all the best portions while she would cook as she eat, cleaning out all the bones, crispy ends and stuff she thought noone would eat so instead of wasting, she would clean it out before anyone could see them. By the time dinner was served, she would be full but she would sit at the table with her small bowl of rice, watching my dad, sis and me eat happily.

Now I know she was just eliminating evidence that she was ever a sucky cook.

Just as I did today.

I should put that as a tip in my cooking blog.

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Excuse me, where can I buy some time?

Yesterday was one of my busiest days here in Redmond since my in-laws went home. Didn't help that I'm sleeping later everyday because I'm just so tired. Reminds me I need to get my fit up soon or I'm just going to collapse nicely in the middle of making dinner.

Because Rae's classmate has a birthday party today, we had to shop for a present yesterday, which needless to say, disrupts our nicely planned schedule. Just managing two kids while trying to browse is a nightmare. Scared Rae wanders off and is never to be seen againlah. Scared she goes and breaks something expensivelah. Scared someone will push Skyler off when I'm taking a closer look at things, and is never to be seen againlah.

Such is the life of a mother. Almost makes me never want to shop again.

Almost.

I'm SO tempted to get one of those double strollers just to keep the girls in order but the mere mention of it summons the evil eye from Lokes. So I have to contend with putting Sky in the old Graco (Lokes: which we paid like a thousand bucks for!) and Rae has to walk next to me, and you can guess that she doesn't always walk the way one wished all kids would walk: in a straight line right next to you and NOT look and go after the rides or toys and what not.

Anyway, we found a really nice CD for her friend and before I could even – ahem – drop by Old Navy again, the clock struck lunch and I had to pack 'em all home and make said lunch. And then before I could even sit down for MY lunch, Skyler was falling asleep on her crackers again and Rae was fussing because SHE needed her nap as well. And then it was time to prepare the ingredients needed to make dinner or else I'd never have the time. And just when I'd finished chopping up meat and veggies, the girls woke up and it was time to march them to the playground to wear them out again. I even vainly brought my New Yorker there to read but Skyler is still not over her "oooh, yummy pine chips" phase so I've had to keep my eye on her the whole 1.5 hours there.

Then came dinner and then bath time and then bedtime. I had one hour of somewhat solid gaming before my eyelids clammed stubbornly shut.

Note to self: Check eBay and Craigslist for used double strollers.

And buy the gooood coffee next grocery trip.

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The Secret to Successful Stay-at-Home Parenting

There used to be a time when the roles of a housewife and her working husband were, more or less, defined.

The wife did all the housework and took care of the kids and her man. The man brought home the bacon, period.

Sometimes, they'd mow the lawn and fix the faucets, but that was it. It was deemed that spending eight to ten hours at the office was work enough. After all, the man earned the money, and money was the bloodline of the family. This, in unspoken terms, entitled the man to his after-work leisure time of watching the telly undisturbed or sharing a beer at the pub with friends.

And then came a time when we fought for our right to monetary gratification. Most of us opted to get ourselves educated and find a job so that we could also earn cold hard cash, if only to be considered true equals to our husbands. We discovered the pleasures of corporate ladders and fat bonuses, rewards we never received as plain old parents.

And we became addicted.

Today, education and changing times have brought our attitudes full circle. Many women have 'opted out'. And thanks to the Internet and fabulous little ideas like flexi hours, some parents are juggling being at home and working, thus coining the phrase 'work from home'. While in many cases, the husbands still did more of the earning, they were doing a little more than mow.

With all these 'perks', one wonders: Why become a full-time stay-at-home parent? What of the plain housewife who doesn't contribute monetarily? Where do we get our kicks from (other than those from feisty toddlers?)? Without a salary and opportunities for 'career advancement', where do we get our short-term gratification from, and the long-term motivation to keep at our job?

The answer? A generous, loving partner.

If the last week has taught me one thing, it's that a husband's role at home is more than just to help out with the housework and the kids.

Firstly, no matter what you say, sitting at the office, dealing with clients and bosses, will NEVER be as tiring as parenting. Men aren't exactly hunter-gatherers anymore, not in the physical sense, so unless you're working two jobs and one of them involves wrestling cows, you will NEVER be as exhausted as your supermom-wife at 6pm.

Secondly, fulltime parenting is a more than less, a thankless job. In today's world of key performance indexes and increasing emphasis on numbers and tracking and measuring, the worth of staying at home for one's kids is just so hard to fathom, much less embrace. We know being home for our children has SOME benefits and we can SEE it sometimes, but it is rare that we feel the fulfilment of a fat bonus or a promotion. In the end, there is little tangible, meaningful motivation to keep doing your job, and doing it well, unless you have a crystal ball to see into your kids' futures, and are ensured you ARE there for a good reason.

And this is where a good partner comes in.

I believe a husband's primary job today, above and beyond his professional call of duty, is to take extra good care of his supermom-wife, more so than ever.

And after all that's said and done, your husband will be the only thing between giving up on giving your kids the attention they deserve, and trudging on knee-deep in diapers and unwashed dishes.

Yes, you have to TRY and come home on time, work permitting, to eat the dinner she so carefully prepared no matter how burnt it is.

Yes, you have to hear her bitch about the kids and the clogged toilets because she is the one who took care of it so you can now use it for hours reading your sports magazines.

Yes, you have to, on her birthday and your anniversaries or for no obvious occasion at all, give her flowers or candy or at least a nice, snuggly spoon-hug regularly so she gets SOME short-term feedback for her efforts. Because as much as we love the kisses and hugs and messy fingerpaintings from the kids, nothing beats a little man love after a looong day.

It's not a three-month bonus, but we'll take it.

So before you go entertaining romantic notions of staying home for your kids, consider this: Is your husband going to look at you after a long day at work and say, without remorse,

"Yup, she's got it worse than me."

And then proceed to give you a kiss and a hug, and surrenders the remote control while he rounds up the kids.

Perhaps that's the only question worth asking.

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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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Everymom wants to be hip

Do you remember when you were like 21, and you’re sitting on the couch with your girlfriends, or just your boyfriend, and when the topic veered to a distant time in the future when you would want to have kids, and you told your significant other(s) that you would NEVER be a MOM mom, but your kid’s best friend, and be keeping in fashion with the latest styles, stay in shape, play baseball or video games with your son, or go clubbing with your daughter and so on and so forth?

Never happened. Lies. All of it.

Because by the time the baby comes out, and you’re chin-deep in diapers, and you’ve not washed your face or combed your hair in places hair shouldn’t even be growing, the last thing you want to do is to par-tay.

You think you can get out when they’re older? Try 17 years older. And by the time THAT happens, the only clubs you’ll be going to start with a B and end with an O, or in Malaysia, we like swimming clubs, for some reason.

Being hip – and wanting to be hip – when you don’t have the kids, that’s just mass media putting ideas in your head. Wishful, and naive, and a little presumptous. Perhaps when you’re 21 AND already having kids, you can recover by the time you’re 31, and THEN do all the cool things you said you’d do as a hip mom.

But I got pregnant at 28 and now I’m 33 with two under-sixes.

So the hippest thing I can do now, is blog. Parenting in itself, is crazy enough.

And play video games (like 6 o’clock in the morning, I’d be levelling my rogue, just barely into my coffee but wary of the fact that I just need another 5K of XP before the kids wake up and I can’t go for that big instance this weekend if I don’t level – IF they even let me come since I WILL most certainly quit in the middle unless I wake up like 4am instead of the usual 5am).

So that’s what being a Crazy Hip Blog Mama is to me – to fulfill a small bit of that ambition to be a cool mommy!

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There’s always tomorrow

Hey, isn’t that the name of a cheesy Hong Kong serial? Or was it that Chow Yuen Fatt, Cherie Chung, Leslie Cheung movie?

Anyway, things are much better. Rae is still under the weather thanks to the antibiotics but we took her to the park and I attempted to skate AND push her in her stroller at the same time. Fell down once in front of a couple of strangers but sokay.

There’s always tomorrow.

The second thing that the last week has taught me is that the support of your man is important. Lokes was strong and calm throughout, hugs and kisses, soothing words.

It was nice to know that SOMEone was on my side, even if it seems to be us against our own child. One in unison. That’s how you survive parenthood.

And as a reward, I made egg and bacon swiss roll this morning. Yes, swiss roll! Smells yummy already in the oven.

Have a good week ahead, y’all.

Update

Tada!

eggbaconroll01.jpg

The unrolled product.

eggbaconroll02.jpg

Rolled…

eggbaconroll03.jpg

And ready to eat!

Want the recipe? Here it is:

1 cup of cheddar/cottage cheese, grated
3/4 cup of cream/milk mix (they call it half-and-half here, u can sub with just full cream milk)
1/4 tsp of salt
6oz of bacon, fried and crumbled (churning in blender works well) – substituting with Chinese ‘long yuk’/dried meat may also work!
Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp all purpose flour
9 eggs
Parchment/baking lining paper and baking pan (10-inch by 15-incher)

Method
– Blend half the cheese with milk in blender (leave half of the cheese for later)
– add eggs, salt and flour and process further
– line pan with paper and preheat oven to 375F
– pour mixture in and bake for 30 mins until puffy and golden brown
– once done, take out and immediately spread mustard and lay down the cheese and then lay down bacon on top
– roll up from short end like a swiss roll and wait five minutes before serving

It’s a bit of work but worth it. Yum-my!

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