Archive for » June, 2010 «

A violent and insistent phone ringing woke me up at 6AM in the morning over the weekend. To my dismay, the phone was not on the night stand next to my bed as with most hotels. The phone was on a table across the room. I jumped out of bed to answer it, dreading some kind of horrible urgent news, only it was a pleasant recording informing me that this is my wakeup call. But we had not requested one.

“What’s going on?” my husband’s sleepy voice asked. And our two children began to roll in their bed, and rubbing their eyes.

So I dialed the front desk to find out.

“Your wake up call service just called our room at six, except we didn’t request this wakeup call!” I announced the complain in my most irritated quiet voice.

“….I didn’t do it.” the voice on the other end said.

What kind of answer is this?! I found out that the voice belongs to Aldrich.

“Well, who did?” I had to go along.

“…let’s see…the person before my shift…could be Cory,” Aldrich.

This surprised me even more than his first reply. I had not expected Aldrich to actually produce a prime suspect for me. It is too early to keep this going.

“Actually, I don’t care if it is you or Cory, don’t you think you should apologize to me?” I opted to suggest the most entry level customer service etiquette to Aldrich.

“Would you like to speak with my manager?” Aldrich asked me.

“Why?” wondering why he didn’t just issue me an apology.

“Because you sound upset,” Aldrich dryly stated his reason.

I declined Aldrich’s invitation. Because I much rather go back to sleep.

At 9AM, I went to the breakfast room to get something to eat, I didn’t find much I like to eat, as I walk by the front desk, and noted that it was empty of guests, I decided to see if another hotel representative might be feeling more sorry for me.

Marisol did not. Marisol was equally unapologetic, plus a tense and defensive face, minus the humor that Aldrich unwittingly indulged. The conversation with Marisol mostly consisted with a series of possible excuses to explain how none of this is anyone’s fault. The most interesting excuse is that their wake up call system will sometimes just randomly call and wake guests up. Marisol assured me that it only happens about once every 3 months, plus the one time, when their phone system kept call this one room everyday for no reason. She said they are machines, so mistakes can happen with machines.

So, I walked away with human or machine errors and no wording of apology or sorry. Actually, by this point, I had my own suspect in mind.

If it is intentional, it had to be the person that checked me in the previous day. I think her name is Yesenia. We wanted to check in early, and was told the room would be ready by 1:45PM. Well, we didn’t check in until a little after 3PM. Yesenia reminds me of someone who has been in the service industry for too long, and is so jaded, that she harbors a disdain for anyone walking around with luggages. She was unfriendly and rude. As I finally got my room card key, I couldn’t hold it in anymore, and I told her that she could be nicer.

Later that evening, as our family of four were getting ready for bed, I feared out loud what if the wakeup call happens again. Luckily, I married a genius, my husband picked up the phone and called the front desk, and requested a 9AM wake up call. Problem solved!

Not. Their menacing wake up call rang our room again at 6AM! I kid you not!

FURIOUS!! MAD!! I dialed the front desk again. Somehow my furor toned down a bit when I heard Aldrich’s voice on the other end again. He needed to be dealt in a different way.

“Aldrich, Cory woke us up again.” I informed Aldrich. At least this time, he came up with a slightly more appropriate response.

“OH NO!” Aldrich.

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Summer is my best season to spoil my kids rotten. There is no homework, no big school projects with tight deadlines, no Chinese School, no Soccer practices and matches, and they even get a break from their piano lessons. The kids are free to just be kids. Well, almost… The kids are not free to spend their summer days in idle mode, so I send them to various summer camps to keep them busy and learning. Lucky for me, there are many summer camps that satisfy my idea of spoiling the children.

The kids are in Camp Galileo and the Tech Museum Camp this week. I have been sending the children to these camps for a few summers now. I like these two programs due to their success in disguising the learning in the form of FUN. So the kids love them. And their happy faces are my validation that they are duly pampered.

For some reason, my kids get crazy excited about their camp’s weekly theme day, which I think is only a minor part of the camp experience. When I pick them up on Monday afternoons, they are sure to tell me what the camp theme is for the week, and expect me to dress them up on theme day in such a way that will turn heads and earn top praises.

My baby’s camp’s theme day is usually pretty easy. And this week, they have “Jalloween”, I think it stands for Halloween in June. At first, I thought it would be a piece of cake, as we have lots of old Halloween costumes in the kid’s closets. Then it hits me that the costumes are all too hot for summer weather. No problem! I got out an old fanny pack, a backpack, hat, sunglasses, a toy camera around the neck, a couple of maps, and easily transformed my baby into a cheesy tourist. So, then next morning, while most kids show up dressed as princesses or as Batman, we dropped off a wondering tourist, with map in hand, seeking directions to the camp site playground. Ha, ha, we dress up and can play the character too.

My 9-year-old’s camp themes aren’t so easy, as I learned from last year. This week, they have “80’s” theme. On the drive home, I was scratching my head, and popped out images of Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, and the ladies in their leg warmers in their Aerobic videos. I racked my brain and complained out loud that this theme is too hard.

“Don’t worry, Mom. I already know what I want to wear”, offered my 9 year old.

“What will you wear??” I was totally surprised.

“I will show you when we get home!”

Wow, my child must be growing up, and one less thing I have to worry about.

As soon as we arrive home, my 9 year runs upstairs. And within 2 minutes I heard fast footsteps coming down the stairs.

“This!” My 9 year old came to me with a costume.

“Hmmm…….” is all I could come up with at that moment as I stared at a costume that I had purchased for a school play about the American Pioneers!

Finally, I said, “80’s means 1980’s. Not 1800’s.”

“Does it matter? I want to wear this.” 9 year old insisted.

“1980s is not THAT old!! Go put it back!” I roared. And the child ran back upstairs.

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My Dad is the most optimistic and positive person I know. He really believes every uncertain event and questionable person will turn out good. His strong conviction in his happy endings is always supported by his two favorite phrases: “for sure” and “I guarantee it”. However, he is too often more wrong than right. So much so, that at some point in my life, I began to think of his “for sure” and “I guarantee it” as a curse. Whenever I heard him evoking his famous terms, I felt sure the doomed prediction was destined to fail. Yet, in his 75 years, his unfavorable stats do not faze his own optimism a bit. My Dad continues to happily use his favorite two terms to assure anyone that promises big or small will come through.

I suspect he now knows that his “For Sure” and “I guarantee it” are no longer held in the same high regard as they once were when I was a child. Many times now, I have laughed at his words, and reminded him of the actual outcome of his last prediction, and the time before that. He simply shakes his head and laughs too, and then undeterred, he raises his one hand, points a finger up, eyes widened, and in a voice louder than mine, he says, “Well, THIS TIME I am for sure, and I guarantee it!!”.

Happy Father’s Day.

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Category: Parents  4 Comments

In my house, we have kids in the kitchen on Sundays. This tradition started quite a few years back when both of my children were notoriously picky eaters. During one of our doctor visits our young pediatrician suggested involving the kids in making meals. The idea was promptly put into practice and blossomed into a favorite family eating activity.

One Sunday was particularly memorable. We were hosting a couple of their friends for a playdate and I decided to invite the kids to stay for dinner and be part of our kids in the kitchen. This time, I chose the theme for our dinner: Wild Vegetable Adventure Soup, with a side of homemade hamburgers. The kids were surprised by the menu and looked confused. I promised them a ton of fun, and they cheered.

I drove the 4 kids to our local supermarket and set them loose in the Produce section. I gave them orders to pick out two types of vegetables each. In order to avoid ending up with eight sticks of carrots and a whole bunch of corn in my adventure soup, I added the condition that they could not have the same type of vegetables. Oh, and I hold veto power. My veto power’s only intended target was dreadful cauliflower. I hate cauliflower.

The kids had a blast running all over the vegetable area, deciding, negotiating, and helping one another pick. I waited patiently until they all came running with 8 perfectly picked out vegetables. There was no cauliflower in the mix so I said yes to them all. They cheered.

When we got home, more fun began to unfold. Each child was responsible for cleaning and preparing their own vegetables. The kitchen was full of chatter, giggles, and water splashing, as they gathered around the sink and counter tops to clean, peel, and chop their vegetables. Finally, they dumped their prepared vegetables in the pot I had put out for them. I did have to watch and hover over the two little ones as they peeled and chopped.

For the hamburger, I prepared some ground beef and showed them how to take some beef and roll it into a ball and flatten it into a beef patty. They got to prepare their own beef patty according to how big a hamburger they wanted to eat, and I supervised as they each cooked their own hamburger patty.

Now, our house is full of the aroma of grilled beef mixed with fresh vegetables. My baby chose a red cabbage, and after the soup spent some time on the stove, it started turning the whole soup purple. Even I was surprised at the deep purple colored soup, I had never put an entire red cabbage in soup before.

“Our soup is purple!!!” they cheered.

The purple created so much excitement and fanfare in my kitchen. I felt like I received a special favor from god that day in making my Vegetable Adventure truly wild to the kids.

When the food was ready for consumption. All the fun and energy was properly channeled to the dinner table. The kids each had a big bowl of soup and a small plate for their side of kiddie sized hamburgers. They constructed their own personal hamburgers with the fixings I put out on the table, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves as they ate their soup and burgers. We had a lovely little dinner party that night.

A couple of days later, I got a short email from their friend’s mom. She wrote that her kids wanted to come over and make dinner for us again.

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Category: Kids, Parents  2 Comments

My poor kids can finally breath easy today. They are done with their Chinese final exams! And preparing for these exams was quite a nightmare for the kids, and even took its toll on me. Personally, I think the test is too hard! And preparing for it just for a passing grade is taking all the little fun there is out of Chinese school. The kids call the Chinese exam week-Crazy Memorization Week.

For my 9-year-old’s 4th grade class the verbal test requires reading from a random section of any of the 8 lessons selected by the teacher at the time of the test. Plus a random selection of Chinese words from a list of over 200 words. The written test is much worse. There is a “spelling test” of a full list of 84 characters, and they are expected to write a whole paragraph from a random selection of 4 paragraphs.
Chinese School's Test Prep sheet
The school generously allows 2 weeks for the students to prepare for the test. So, for two weeks, the kids can’t have fun at all. They spent all their extra free time by their little table and chairs, practicing writing the Chinese characters over and over again. I help them by giving them a practice test, and they get most of the characters wrong, so they have to go back and write the incorrect characters a whole bunch more times. Then we will retake the practice test, and they write the incorrect ones even more times… In this two week process, disappointments, temper flares, whining, crying, and crying with real tears can be expected at all times. It triggers bad memories for me when I was a young school child. I feel bad for the kids, yet I still expect them to do their best. So the torture does not let up.

The truth is, I don’t even care if they can write in Chinese, I just want them to be able to speak, and perhaps to read a little. I wish the school would redirect all of their focus from writing to speaking. Kudos to the school, for in only 2 hours a week, my children are actually learning to read entire lessons in Chinese, and the lessons are often a short story or some type of Chinese essay for a 9 year old. Yet, I noticed that they can’t squeeze out a natural Chinese sentence to save their lives.

The kids are happy once again. They already recycled all their year’s worth of zip-lock bags of cut up flashcards for their weekly lessons, their test guides, homework booklets, and everything else in their Chinese school bag. This is how they celebrate the end of Crazy Memorization Week. Next year, maybe I will let them have a bonfire.

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