Archive for » June, 2011 «


Messy Kitchen

I came home late Friday afternoon, and found crayons, markers, coloring pencils all over the kitchen, and there were emptied candy wrappers, half emptied cookie boxes at various random places, not to mention the nook, a few open faced books laying on the carpet, an opened board game with all the contents out, and various Wii controls all over the family room. I hate messy rooms.

“Kids!! This is way too messy. You have to clean up your mess. I need you to stop what you are doing, and clean up the kitchen and family room RIGHT NOW!” Me

My 7-year-old jumped off of the sofa at the sound of my order. I was impressed with myself. Then the kid grabbed one of the open faced books, ran into the bathroom, and slammed the door shut.

My 10-year-old and I immediately shared a look that said, “humm…”, then I immediately pinned it on the one available child, and said, “I still mean clean up RIGHT NOW.” I was not about to allow both kids to weasel out of this.

The 10-year-old marched to the bathroom door, and shouted at it, “Are you reading on the potty just to get out of cleaning?”

“No.” a small voice replied from the inside, then the sound of the fan came on.

“Don’t flush! We want to see some evidence when you are done. You better be producing some poop in there.” the 10-year-old shouted, then stomped away angrily.

15 or 20 minutes later, the bathroom door opened, and out popped my baby’s face, featuring a big wide grin. My 10-year-old and I ran over to the bathroom for the anticipated inspection.

The white porcelain bowl greeted us with a powerful stink, and we witnessed the explosive aftermath of the recently evacuated mushy poop. My poor baby suffered a diarrhea attack. I will spare you a picture of it, so you will just have to take my word for it.

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“I wish our Chinese school was as much fun as our Chinese camp.” 10-year-old.

“Yeah! That would be awesome.” 7-year-old.

The kids look forward to their Chinese cultural camp every summer with as much zest as they dread their Chinese school. To be fair, there are no tests nor homework in the summer camp. Instead, there are arts and crafts, singing and dancing, fun and games, making traditional Chinese treats, and eating them too.

Model of traditional Chinese home

Art of Traditional Lantern

Paper Chinese New Year Scroll

This week-long camp is conducted in Mandarin Chinese. And every year, the camp organizers offer a new and engaging curriculum to teach young children about Chinese culture, art, cuisine, and ancient history. Their program is not just educational, but FUN. Over the past several years, my children have learned many great Chinese traditions through this camp, and that knowledge has lead to pride in their rich heritage.

My kids just finished their Chinese camp last week. And last Friday, there was a big closing ceremony to showcase what the children learned over the week. For just a one-week-long program, their 90-min Friday show is admirably well organized, high quality, and entertaining. The auditorium is always packed with parents, family, and friends with cameras and video recorders in tow to capture their little performers in action.

This summer’s program featured the major Chinese New Year holiday, Kung Fu Archery (no one got hurt), Traditional Rod Puppets, Traditional Houses, and Making Tofu, just to name a few.

Culture of Tofu!!

Traditional Rod Puppet

Traditional Chinese New Year's Eve Meal

Camp Song and Dance

Camp Show Skit

Here is my previous post about this camp: Our Favorite Summer Camp

  • Share/Save/Bookmark was founded from a passion for reading.

Before my life was blessed with children, I devoted much of my leisure time to reading. On lazy weekend afternoons, I enjoyed hugging a good book on the couch, while sipping on a cold drink. My reading list would please any English teacher or professor, for I only have an appetite for books that are well written.

I love classical literature. I have read and re-read the classics by Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, the Bronte sisters, Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Leo Tolstoy, etc. One of my favorite books is Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I have read this book 3 times post college, and even named my second child after one of the book’s main characters. Friends used to joke about only buying me a book if its author is dead.

Actually, I have enjoyed a number of books by alive and well authors as well. I loved John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee; The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and recently I even branched out to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy by Stieg Larsson, and loved it.

When my two children came along, I found that I had virtually no free time left for myself, and had to put reading on hold for a few years. But having children introduced me to the fascinating world of children’s books.

When my first child was born, friends and family far and near sent us gifts, and many were baby books. We got a total of 7 new copies of Goodnight Moon!! I got the hint that Goodnight Moon must be special. And it was!! It was my baby’s favorite book. The first and only book that was able to capture my infant’s attention. As I read the simple text on each page, I found my 2-month-old stared at the pages with purpose. I think it was the black and white, and the bold red and green colors that attracted my baby. It was this book that kicked started our family’s nightly reading routine.

Goodnight Moon’s favorite status was long lasting. Despite the fact that we quickly built up a huge library of picture books, Goodnight Moon was tirelessly requested and read well into my baby’s toddler years. My favorite memory of this book was when my child was two, and my mother-in-law came to visit. At bedtime, my mother-in-law offered to read to my child. When I walked by, I heard my two-year-old reading Goodnight Moon word for word and page by page in that cute baby tongue to Grandma! (From memory of course! My 2-year-old could not read.) Even today, whenever I see the familiar Goodnight Moon book cover, I react with special warmth for the book.

A good friend from Taiwan often visited and stayed with us in the summer over the years. She always brought books over for my kids. She is a mother too, and gave us really good books. It was then that I recognized the added bonus of reading to my children in Chinese, especially the old favorites from my own childhood.

Our nightly reading ritual was a much cherished part of our everyday family life. And there is no getting away with reading for just 5 or 10 minutes with my kids. They expect to read until the wee hours every night. They were good at taking turns begging for just one more book.

Reading to the kids was always a blast! It was hardly an event to induce sleepiness, especially when they were younger. I often made special sound effects for them, and the children often participated in acting out the scenes in the books in their silly and sometimes frivolous ways. I used my children’s names instead of the names given on the book, and the kids loved being the main characters in their favorite stories. Once in a while, I would surprise them by making up a twisted ending of my own to their favorite books, and watch their little frowning faces fade into giggles.

My children are older now. They are no longer easily impressed by the silly twists I could throw into the books. Actually, they are good readers themselves now. At bedtime, they can just grab their books and go upstairs without me. But they still do need me!! They can’t read Chinese. They still recruit me to go upstairs to read them the next chapter in their Journey to the West book, the next story in the Chinese History Stories. My 7-year-old has an unusual fascination with scary stories, and is anxiously waiting for me to start reading stories from the Strange Tales of Ancient China book.

In 2006, I quit a career I loved to start my own company with a great deal of uncertainty. Today, I love what I do now even more. I feel very blessed and lucky to have founded I still get childishly excited when I come upon a good book. I still get to read with my children, and even have time to start reading to myself again.

Garage Warehouse in 2006

Expanded Warehouse in 2011

Previous related post: The Nook Color, the iPad, and the Way Things Used To Be

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I hosted a rather elaborate party for my kids and their friends over the weekend.

The party started at a traditional English tea house where we had lunch and tea. I booked a private room for an hour and 45 minutes for our group of 16 (13 children, 3 adults). And I was smart enough to bring along a large bag of Arts-and-Crafts kits to the party, and that kept the kids entertained after they finished eating. The kids played and giggled, while myself and my two friends yapped away at our adults-only table. It was the perfect plan….having our own room meant no waitress had to come over to tell the kids to keep quiet and stay in their seats.

Kid's Tea Plate

After lunch, we walked across the street to the Winchester Mystery House for our own private tour. The Winchester Mystery House is a bizarre Victorian mansion featuring about 160 rooms, 10,000 windows, built and re-built over 38 years, non-stop, around the clock!! This fascinating mansion is the result of the imagination of the eccentric Mrs. Winchester and the spirits believed to have guided her.

Mrs. Winchester was only about 4 ft 9, and this huge house of 160 rooms all seemed to be catered to herself. Tiny doors, tiny stairs of steps only about 2 or 3 inches tall, narrow hallways, short ceilings, just the right sizes for our group of kids. They were intrigued by the secret passageways, the door that lead to nowhere, the stairs that lead straight to the ceiling, and the cabinets that open to a wall. They marveled at the countless baffling structures of this house our guide had pointed out, and even asked our young tour guide how he got such a cool job.

After our 65 minute tour ended, we set the kids free, and let them run wild in the Victorian garden area. Finally, at 5PM, the parents came to pick up the kids and we all went home exhausted.

Over dinner, the kids were still talking about how much fun they had at the party. So, I asked my 7 year old, “So, tell me. What was your favorite part of the party?”

My baby’s little face beamed, and said, “Sugar cubes!”

“What?” me

“The sugar cubes. I put 7 of them in my tea.” baby

“Me too!!” my 10-year-old chimed in, “but I only had 3 of them in my tea. I put 4 in my water.”

Sugar Cubes

I almost passed out…

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Category: Humor, Kids, Parents  One Comment

We woke up to another gloomy day over the weekend. Grey skies, steady wind, and a patch of menacing black clouds in the distance. California has been experiencing unseasonably chilly weather this past few weeks. It is not the kind of unusual weather that makes one wonder if summer will ever arrive, it is the kind that makes one think that winter is demanding a comeback.

But hey, this is still California. Our sun has the habit of shining upon us. By around 11AM, the sun peeked out of the clouds, and made a glaring appearance.

“The sun is out! Let’s go to Monterey.” hubby walked into the family room and cheerfully announced.

“Okay!” me, jumping out of the couch.

I love Monterey Bay. It is only an hour and 20 min drive from home, but it feels like it should be hundreds of miles away. Whenever I am in Monterey, I feel like I am on a vacation somewhere.

Monterey Pier

We quickly demanded that the children quit their Wii game, and dragged them out of the house with us.

We arrived at Monterey shortly after, and it was time for lunch. We drove around and found cheap parking on the street, and walked right over to Cannery Row to find food. Cannery Row has a number of sea view restaurants. A young woman offering us free samples of Clam Chowder easily won over our kids, and we went into her restaurant.

After a delicious lunch, the kids wanted to bike. So, we rented a 4 person Surrey bike, and cruised around town.

Our Surrey Bike

It turned out to be quite a nice day, and lots of people had the same idea. We found lots people out on the beach, in the park, some even brave enough to go kayaking in the very cold water.

Beach at Monterey


Ocean Activity Shop

When we passed by the Wharf, it was packed. We felt lucky that we had chosen Cannery Row to have lunch instead.

Monterey Wharf

And not too far from the Wharf, a few seals were out tanning themselves.

Tanning Seals

Seals are smarter than they look.

Oh, there are lots of coffee shops in town, and when I saw a Peet’s, I couldn’t pass that up. I am a huge fan of Peet’s coffee.

Sign pointing to a Peet's nearby

After we returned the Surrey, we went back to Cannery Row. This time, we went to window shop. Cannery Row is only about 2 or 3 blocks long, but it is a lively street, full of various and interesting shops, Cafes, Ice Cream and Yogurt shops, Chocolate and candy stores, more sweets…and our window shopping came to a streaking stop in front of a candy-apple store.

Candy Apple

“Mom. It has been a long time since we had caramel apple.” 10-year-old, and they immediately engaged in pleading and begging.

I did not hesitate to say yes. The only way to top such a pleasant day is by adding caramel apple. What parent would say “no” to an apple!

When our 4 hour metered parking space was about to expire, we headed back to our car.

On the way home, we saw signs to local farmer’s markets, and stopped at one to buy artichokes. And we bought a bottle of local California honey.

Local Farm

Did you know that you should feed your children locally harvested honey? I saw a TV documentary once, that honey harvested locally can help your children build immunity against allergies. It sort of make sense, local bees collect pollens from local flowers. Best of all, local honey will keep your children close by when they grow up… They can still suffer allergies elsewhere.

California Local Honey

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