Archive for the Category »Kids «

No, I did not fall off the earth, just super swamped with the holiday fares on the business and the home front.

Christmas 2015

Christmas is only 2 days away, I hope you all have your presents under the trees, holiday meals and parties all under wrap. I sort of do.

I did carve out some time and hosted a Christmas party for my kids and their friends. We had lots of kids over, all teens and tweens.

They are old enough to entertain themselves. I just had to prepare food and order pizza. The only activity I provided was a gingerbread house competition.

The night before the party, I put together 4 gingerbread houses, and loaded the table with all kinds of candies, sprinkles, and frosting in red, green, blue, and white.

These gingerbread houses are ready to decorate

In honor of my celiac child, these gingerbread houses are all gluten free!!

Gluten free!

The kids broke into teams of 3 or 4, and set to design and decorate their gingerbread house. They were creative and competitive, and came up with 4 uniquely designed delicious homes.

4 finished GF gingerbread houses.

As the parents came to pick up their children, they were invited into our home and got to judge these beautiful decorated edible houses.

Guess which of these is the winner?

Is this the winning gingerbread house?

This one?

Or this one?

Merry Christmas! Wish all of you a blessed 2016.

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I suffered an epic failure in a baking project recently and severely damaged my reputation in the kitchen.

See this puddle of sadness…

Nutella Tart soup

It was supposed to be a Nutella Tart! It’s main purpose wasn’t to be food, it was aiming to be my baby’s science project.

The science project was called “The Incredible Edible Cell,” where my 12 year-old was tasked to make a model of a cell using only things that can be eaten.

Since the baby has celiac disease, we decided that her edible cell must be gluten-free.

The Nutella Tart sounded like a winner, because it is the baby’s favorite food. But soon we discovered a flaw. This tart needed to be refrigerated. In just 90 minutes at room temperature, the tart turned into soup and allowed our cell particle representatives and toothpick labels to swim or drown in the liquid.

Last minute, we needed a plan B!!!

I found this in the pantry.

Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Mix

Hmmm…what if I could use the entire package and bake it into one giant round cookie??

Yippee!! It came out of the oven beautifully; completely intact with not even a crack.

Our Big Big Cookie

I turned the big cookie over to the baby. It was her project, so she got to design and build the edible cell.

She took out the bag of gluten-free candies we bought earlier, along with colorful icings, and set to work.

Jaw Breaker for the nucleus & Gummy Snake body for the membrane

The kid had a blast!!!

Icing to glue the candies to the cookie

Who wouldn’t? This project was fun.

Go ahead, play with your food

Best of all, when she brought the project to school, after presenting the project, she got to eat it with her classmates and friends.

The Incredible Gluten-free Edible Cell

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Every day this week, I have suffered a sporadic sense of regret for having my hair cut too short.

Last Thursday, I went to a new salon to get a haircut. I have sported the same boring hair style for almost 20 years, when it grew long, I cut it shorter, always to about shoulder length. But my young stylist suggested to cut shorter, to the neck line. I carelessly said, “Yes.” Why not? It grows back!

My stylist cut and snipped at my hair very swiftly and confidently. I was impressed. She then spent a very generous amount of time to blow dry and style my hair. When they charge you a great deal of money just to cut your hair shorter, they always spend a lot of time brushing it to justify the cost.

I looked good! I beamed into the mirrors as she positioned me to look all around my head.

See, I never bother to blow dry my hair. It is not that I don’t care to look good, but that my laziness trumps my desire to look pretty on a daily basis.

That late afternoon, I went to pick up my 15 year-old from school.

“Wow! Your hair is so short.” teen.

“What do you think?” me, turning my head this way and that for her.

“I like it!” 15 year-old.

“Really?! I am so glad you like it. I was kind of worried. It is so short.” I said happily.

“You look VERY Asian.” the teen.

“What do you mean? I look very Asian everyday, even without this haircut.” me.

“Well. I usually see you as a white Asian, but today, you look like a F.O.B. Asian.” 15 year-old.

I was STUNNED!!! How could I ever be considered a white Asian?!! I am fluent in Chinese, versed in Chinese home cooking, I love stinky tofu, and for crying out loud, I own a business called!!

I glared at the teen, whose charm was taking a nose dive right before my eyes. I am even less happy to be called a F.O.B. Asian.

“What??” 15 year-old asked weakly, sensing maternal displeasure.

“I thought you said that you like my new hair cut!” me.

“I do. You look good, in a very Asian kind of way.” 15 year-old.

“You called me a F.O.B.!! It is generally considered an insult, in a name calling kind of way” me.

“I don’t mean it as an insult. You look like people in China, Taipei, Hong Kong.” 15 year-old.

“You never even been to Hong Kong!” me.

“I was in their airport once.” the teen.

I turned to stare her down.

My teen stared back at me, then broke into a big smile, “Now, if you just dye your hair reddish color and walk around wearing a mask, you would perfect that look.”

Reddish haired Asian woman wearing a face mask...

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Arriving home yesterday, I had a good laugh when I found a brand new Yellow Page phone book sitting on our porch.

A new Yellow Pages arrived at our door

I contemplated taking it directly to our recycle bin… What a waste!

I decided to offer it as a history lesson to my kids, like I did a few months ago when we found a lonesome phone booth.

“Hey kids, check this out. Someone left it outside of our door for us.” I dropped the heavy book onto our kitchen island.

“What is it?” kids. The kids eyed the free book suspiciously.

“Open it and see for yourself.” me.

They opened the book and flipped to a few random sections of it. Clearly, pages after pages of perfectly serious lists of phone numbers had them puzzled.

Just names and phone numbers

“Look, it says plumbers here. It has all their names and phone numbers. What is it for?” 12 year-old.

“Wow, it’s just a list of people’s phone numbers. Is this a phone book?” teen.

“Right. This is the Yellow Pages, a phone book of local businesses. So if you ever need a plumber you can call one of them.” me.

“How do you know which one to call? And where is the review?” teen.

“No reviews! You just pick a name and a number to call when you need service or a product.” me.

“You had no idea and just had to make a call?” teen, frowning.

“The old days were tough on us.” me, sad faced. “Although, miraculously, when we needed a plumber and called someone off of that book, you could expect a plumber to show up and fix your pipe.”

That’s right, I used to get my plumbing fixed without learning how my plumber had previously replaced a family’s old water-heater with superhero speed, or how this same plumber had previously liberated a minor water leak into an all out flood.

I asked my children what we should do with our Yellow Pages. They told me to recycle it. We have Google and Yelp now.

I felt bad for the brand new book, and especially for the poor tree that had to be sacrificed for such a needless purpose. I guess it’s better to recycle it, so it can reincarnate quickly into a more useful existence.

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A Blast to the Past

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My baby

Ah…time flies. My baby will be graduating from elementary school tomorrow.

I got a graduation card and enhanced it with a fine looking $100 bill. All the rest of the family had to do was to sign it.

Graduation card with built-in gift

“Can I put a message on the card too?” asked my 14 year-old.

“Of course!” me.

ARGH!! This teenager.

The coded message

“Hey, I didn’t complain that you had to sign the card with Swag Bean. But how could you put a mean message on her graduation card!!” I gave my teen the death stare.

“That’s not a mean message.” teen stated flatly.

I re-examined the message once more.

“What does the corners of your pie hole reaching for the heavens even mean?” me, too dense to solve the puzzle.

My teen placed her two index fingers to the corners of her mouth, and pushed them into her cheeks, and added, “It means I hope she is smiling big!”

“Oh! That’s nice, dear.” me.

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We just sat down to a late dinner last Tuesday.

“You will not believe what happened to me today.” me.

“What happened?” 14 year-old looked up from across the dinner table.

“You know how I signed up to be Tasterbach’s assistant Volleyball coach?” me.

“Yeah.” 14 year-old.

“Well! Today at the opening, I saw on the roster that our team had no head coach listed!” me, wide eyed.

“So, who is the real coach?” 14 year-old.

“Exactly! I went and asked the site director, and do you know what she said?” me.

“What?” teen.

“She said that makes me the head coach!!” me, even more wide eyed.

“Ha, ha, ha..” teen.

I was not upset with the teen. That was my sentiment also. I only signed up to be the assistant coach, thinking I would be helping out with setting up the court, taking down the court, and running around to retrieve run-away balls for the team in between.

“EXACTLY! I told her that I can’t coach the team. I don’t actually know how to play volleyball, and I have never coached any sport before.” me.

“What did she say?” teen.

“She said sorry. There is no one else to coach this team.” me.

“I am totally stressed out. I don’t know how to coach, and I don’t know how to play volleyball. I am 100% under qualified for this job!” me, totally unhappy with my unexpected promotion.

“Don’t worry, Mom. You just Google how to coach volleyball. It will probably take you to wikiHow, and it will give you step by step instructions on how to teach volleyball to your kids.” teen.

Blank stare at the teen.

“Seriously! Try it. It will be easy.” teen, fully convinced with this advice.

How to Coach Volleyball on wikHow

I survived two practice sessions with my team of 7 kids already.

Volleyball practice

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“Time for dinner!” I shouted out to the kids.

Kids came running down the stairs, and plopped down to their chairs.

After a couple of gulps of milk, they busied themselves with piling food onto their plates.

“Hey! My cousin just moved out of her parents’ house last weekend!” I said.

The kids nodded.

“It is about time! She is 28 already.” me.

“Well, she did just finish graduate school.” me.

Kids ate rather quietly.

“I did encourage her to move out. Young people must establish their independence, and learn to live on their own.” me.

Kids chewing.

“I love you kids, but when you grow up, you must learn to be independent.” me.

Every now and then, I found myself conducting a conversation all by myself at the dinner table, so their silence wasn’t unusual. (In case you were worried about me.)

“Your mom and dad can not take care of you forever, so you must learn to live on your own, and do it well.” me.

“Just like those cute lion and cheetah cubs you saw in South Africa, those cute little things will need to master the skills to kill and hunt on their own someday to survive.” me.

“It is actually not much different for us humans…” me.

“Mom.” 14 year-old interrupted.

I looked up at my teen.

“When I turn 18…” 14 year-old paused for dramatic effect.

It worked, all eyes were on her.

“You guys are moving out.” 14 year-old.

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On Valentine’s day, I got a card from my 14 year-old with this nasty note written all over the envelope.

Un-Valentine message

I may have done something to deserve this wrath…

Earlier that day.

“Hey kids! You got Valentine’s day cards from Nai Nai.” I shouted out, as I drop the mail on the kitchen island.

14 year-old promptly walked over and tore open her card. A ten dollar bill fell to the floor.

“Ha! MONEY!!!” 14 year-old.

That got my 11 year-old’s attention. The baby dropped the book she was reading, and ran over excitedly.

My two children are always money hungry these days.

I eyed the baby, and said, “Just because Nai Nai give Thee ten dollars, doesn’t mean you will have ten dollars in your card too.”

The baby crossed her arms, and gave me that don’t be silly look.

14 year-old ran upstairs with her money.

11 year-old opened her card, and sure enough, she waved a ten dollar bill at me.

That’s when my head grew a pair of horns…

I took a clean twenty dollar bill out of my wallet, and swapped it with the baby’s ten dollar bill.

“Go upstairs, and wave this twenty dollar bill in one hand, and your card on the other hand at your sister.” I whispered.

A big mischievous smile appeared across the baby’s face. We were in cahoots.

Soon enough, the expected growling and gleaming voices were heard upstairs. The baby is good at acting!

I ran upstairs, pretending to investigate their little crisis.

“What’s going on?” me.

The baby showed me her twenty.

I took the bill into my hands, and gave it a good look.

“I thought you said you got a ten?” I said to my 14 year-old.

“I did get a ten!!” 14 year-old, looking slighted.

“But this is a TWENTY!” I said incredulously.

“Nai Nai gave you a ten, gave your sister a TWENTY?!!” sounding even more incredulously.

14 year-old nodding her head up and down, looking all sad.

“This can’t be right. I don’t believe this. You must have looked wrong. Nai Nai must have given you a twenty too.” me.

14 year-old ran back into her room, and came back with her ten dollar bill to show me.

“Wow, wow…” me.

The baby was conducting her happy dance all around us, waving the twenty.

“Well, Nai Nai is getting old, she must of made a mistake. I am sure she meant to gave you each a ten or each a twenty. I am sure she didn’t mean to give your sister twice more than you.” I tried not to laugh.

“I thought Nai Nai is my homie, but she is not…” 14 year-old pouted sullenly.

“Nai Nai likes me more than you.” 11 year-old was piling it on.

14 year-old looked even more crushed.

“Well, maybe because your sister has Celiac, and Nai Nai knows that her gluten free snacks cost twice as much as your snacks. So, she gets more money than you.” I offered a new theory.

14 year-old shook her head. She rejected my words of comfort.

After torturing my teen for a good 10 minutes, I had to come clean. I wouldn’t want Nai Nai to get into unearned trouble.

I took the ten dollar bill out of my pocket, and swapped it with the baby’s twenty.

“We got you!” I said, as my baby and I melted onto the floor laughing.

“THAT’S RUDE!!”, protested the teen.

Later that night, she handed me a Valentine’s card, it came with a nasty message all over the card envelope. Inside the card, under each word “LOVE”, she written “Bacon” under it. She was professing her love for bacon on my Valentine’s day card!

LOVE Bacon

That little pig.

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Move over photography, we need to make room for the arrival of my newest obsession.

Our Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker

Meet our bread maker. It arrived just last week.

Now, why would a self respecting Chinese woman need a bread maker?! Rice is not filling enough these days?

Well, this bread maker’s key beneficiary is my baby’s American stomach.

Our baby loves bread!

This bundle of cuteness loves bread!!

My 11 year-old was diagnosed with Celiac Disease about a year ago, just 3 months after she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Celiac and Type 1 diabetes are both auto immune diseases. So Celiac disease is more prevalent among Type 1 diabetics than the general population, and this double whammy fell into our lot.

There is no cure for Celiac disease, and the only treatment is to follow a very strict gluten free diet. This is not easy. Gluten is EVERYWHERE!!

Gluten is a protein from wheat, barley, and rye. If my baby ingests even a trace amount of gluten, her over active immune system will attack the heck out of it, wreaking havoc on her small intestine, damage the villi on her small intestine, and render her unable to absorb nutrients into her body. This helped to explain why she didn’t grow even an inch in about a year.

So, we have been that “trendy” gluten free band wagon family the media has complained about so much recently. Except this band wagon is no joy ride in a shiny BMW, this band wagon is one endless bumpy ride, driven by an old donkey!

Foods we have taken for granted such as bread was a major challenge. We were able to quickly identify Udi’s Gluten Free bread as our favorite. However, it is almost always kept in the freezer section of the grocery stores, and the baby only liked two types of their GF bread. The only way to eat fresh baked bread was to drive over an hour away to a dedicated GF bakery, called Mariposa’s.

I have decided to liberate the baby from her frozen and boring breads misery. I am going to make her fresh GF bread myself!

“But you don’t know how to bake!!” my husband.

This is true. So I bought a bread maker with a gluten free setting on it.

Gluten Free baking setting

I also decided to start with the simplest GF bread recipe.

The recipe

I went out and bought a list of unfamiliar ingredients, and I met a couple of them for the first time.

GF ingredients for bread making

I was determined to follow the recipe to the letter. Rather than simply measure each of the ingredients with the various cup sizes, I weighed each of the key ingredients down to the exact grams on my kitchen scale.

Carefully weighing the GF flours

My 11 year-old got all excited and joined me in the kitchen. She happily poured 3 tablespoons of honey into the batter mixture, and felt certain that this bread was destined to be delicious.

Adding honey to the mixture

I put the batter mixture into the bread maker, pushed a few buttons.

Loading the batter mixture into the bread maker

A little over two hours later….

Our bread is done!

Oh! Beautiful, further enhanced by the heavenly smell of the freshly baked bread filling the entire house.

A big 2 lb loaf

Our first loaf of gluten free bread did not play victim to any of the typical gluten free pitfalls, such as too dense or too crumbly or too off tasting.

Slice and serve

The four of us enjoyed our first loaf of gluten free bread for dinner. My baby was so grateful to finally be eating fresh, warm, fluffy, and delicious bread.

It was a huge success. I am in love with our bread maker.

I plan to bake a loaf of bread every week. My unhinged ambition and impatience will have me attemping a much more complicated bread recipe this coming Sunday. I can’t wait!

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This is an odd toy taking up space in our house.

Frozen Ball Pit

Santa had dropped off this brand new Ball Pit in front of my 14 year-old’s bedroom door on Christmas Eve.

Ha, Santa must have made a mistake!

No! My 14 year-old could not be more thrilled with this gift on the morning of Christmas day. This is exactly what she prayed for.

Our 14 year-old was greatly burdened by the demands of her new High School curriculum, and longed for the carefree days of her toddlerhood. She saw pictures of herself playing happily in her old ball pit, and dreamed of getting this toy again, to turn her fantasy of spending idle and mindless time sitting in a ball pit a reality.

When the 14 year-old was four...

She shamelessly dropped all sorts of hints of desiring this big silly toy.

Ball pit on the Christmas wish list ball

Santa delivered.

WHAT?! She made it to Santa’s nice list!!?

I find myself staring at this big toy, and wondering when I can give it away to a real toddler.

“No! I plan to take it to my college dorm someday.” said the 14 year-old.

I wondered where I must’ve made an error as a mother.

Then it occurred to me that if my teen had to misidentify with her age group, it is preferable for her to act like a big baby, than paint her face with powerful makeup, wear tiny skin-tight clothes, high heels, and pretend to be a 21 year-old.

The Ball Pit can stay.

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