Friday, September 30, 2011

Dear Healthy Snack

Dear Healthy Snack,

How do you like our weekly rendezvous on Thursdays?  This school year, I am Dear Son's preschool's PTO Healthy Snack chair.  It has made my life interesting, healthy, busy, connected, and full of numbers.  Here are some number facts about our PTO-funded Healthy Snack Program.

5: Number of weeks we have done this so far.

208: Current number of preschool student enrollment.  The count goes up throughout the year after 4 scheduled screening dates.

26: Number of AM plus PM classes.

3: Number of ads I look at to find the best deals on fresh fruit or produce for the week.

2: Days before Thursday when I go shopping for the food.

1: Number of times I email the teachers, school nurse, school principal, school administrator, and PTO President what I am serving each week.

1: Number of times I go shopping for Healthy Snacks at a produce market per week for its great values for Healthy Snack.

1: Number of times I go shopping at the same market for myself, stocking our fridge with fresh fruit, vegetables, and other groceries at a great price.  (Two birds, one stone).

2: Number of times I go to the preschool on Thursdays for Healthy Snack, AM and PM.  It's a blessing that I only live minutes away.

2: Number of large, blue IKEA bags I use to haul all the food to school.  I call myself the bag lady.

2: Number of healthy snack items we serve each time.  So far, we've had: watermelon and oranges, apples and bananas, cantaloupe and grapes, carrots and cucumbers (with ranch dip), and apples and cheese.

3: Number of parents working the AM shift.

3: Number of parents working the PM shift.

5: Number of moms that have volunteered to help me in AM and PM sessions, who are committed to come every single week.

Infinite: Amount of gratitude I have for these parents to make my job easier and more efficient.

Tons: Amount of fun I have chit-chatting with these moms while we work.

2: Number of cutting boards we use for cutting snacks.

3: Number of knives we use for preparing snacks: 1 chef's knife, 2 paring knives, (oh, and a peeler), and I bring my own knife.

4: Boxes of gloves in stock for us to use. We are the only people who walk up and down the halls of the school in blue nitrile hospital gloves with trays of Healthy Snacks in hand.

2: Number of bowls we use for holding cut foods, and number of trays we use for delivering snacks.

4: Capacity of paper food wells in which we serve snacks, in ounces.

53: Number of golden delicious apples I bought for this past week, at 49 cents per pound.

1/4: Fraction of apple each student received, cored and sliced.

13: Pounds of Wisconsin cheddar cheese I bought for this week, at $2.99 per pound.

1: Approximate ounce of cheese each student received, cubed.

$23.86: The least amount of money I have spent so far on one Healthy Snack day for the whole school.

$45.52: The most amount of money I have spent so far on one Healthy Snack day for the whole school.

1: Number of hours it takes 3 parents to wash, peel/cut, distribute, and deliver snacks to all classrooms (it's like a really well-oiled assembly line). 

Priceless: The value of our preschool kids eating freshly prepared Healthy Snacks. 

Just for that last number fact, I am happily dedicated to you, Healthy Snack!  Not to mention, I also benefit from buying fresh produce weekly for myself, and I am able to serve yummy healthy snacks to my family, all week long.  Win-win.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dear Same As

Dear Same As,

Of late, Dear Son is having a serious case of "you followed by his big sister."  In other words, he always wants to be the exact Same As his Jie Jie ('big sister').  ALL. THE. FRIGGIN. TIME.  Dear Daughter finds this both endearing and annoying, depending on when you ask her.  Although this seems like an innocuous problem, when it happens everyday for weeks on end, well... you get the idea.  This is how we start each and every day, for the past many weeks:

Me: What would you like to eat for breakfast?

DS: What did Jie Jie eat for breakfast?

Just before we leave the house together, every time:

DS: What shoes is Jie Jie going to wear?  (Pick one: Crocs, flip flops, sneakers.  Must always be the Same As, which may or may not involve taking off or putting on socks, even when we are running late).

DD has been reading the Harry Potter series.  DS also "reads" Harry Potter books.  He literally flips through every single page in those 500+ page books, during different sittings, using a bookmark to keep track, exactly the Same As Jie Jie does:

DD: I love Harry Potter books.  I'm on book six.

DS: I love Harry Potter books.  I'm on book five.

At a restaurant today, we took out their juice boxes.  I always pull up the triangle pieces on either side of the box (we call them 'ears') so the kids can hold the juice boxes by their 'ears' to avoid squeezing out juice.  I automatically did this for DS.  But DD didn't want her juice box ears pulled up, which was okay with me, since she has better control to keep from squeezing out her juice:

DS (panics): Jie Jie's not pulling up her ears.  Push mine back, NOW!

Me (through gritting teeth) to DD: JUST PULL THEM UP before he screams and gets us kicked outta here!

I must admit that DD comes out on the short end of this stick.  We usually cave in to DS' demands of having to be the Same As Jie Jie, just because it's easier to do that than to provide logic to an illogical preschooler.  DD oftentimes must bend over backwards to cater to her little brother:

DD: Why does he always have to do the same things as I do?

DS (sounding the Same As Jie Jie): Why does he always have to do the same things as I do?

The explanation to DD that her little brother thinks she is so cool that he wants to be exactly the Same As her only works some of the time:

DD: I want to be Nurse Joy.

DS: I want to be Nurse Joy.  There are lots of Nurse Joys.

DD: Then I want to be Officer Jenny.

DS: Then I want to be Officer Jenny.  There are lots of Officer Jennies.  (Well, in the world of Pokemon, he's right.  DD is thrilled.  Her eyes cannot roll farther back into her head.)

They say that kids go through these phases and move on eventually.  I choose to see it as DS' sign of love and admiration for his big sister, although sometimes I just want to shake him and say, "YOU can have your OWN opinions, TOO!"  I guess the upside to this is that to get DS to do something, we just have to say that Jie Jie does it, too.  But in the meantime, DH and I are both about to go nuts over you, Same As.  I can be only thankful that DS has not pushed too hard (even though he has asked many times) to grow out his hair as long as Jie Jie's and paint his toenails hot pink like Jie Jie's.  But I'm sure that's a whole other story in about, what, ten years?


Friday, September 23, 2011

Dear Fall

Dear Fall,

You are here!
Leaves of orange, yellow, and red are starting to appear
On masses and tufts of upright greens.
They sense that their time has come to
Transform their hues and alter their pigmentation,
To paint the world an entirely different mood.
And then the leaves will
Fall, Fall, Fall down.

Summer's thick, smothering atmosphere has lifted.
The air is now cool and crisp, like the crunch into a fresh, tart apple.
That first breath of brisk, morning Fall air whisks away any
Last hints of sleepiness and grooms me for the day.
I prepare to witness Mother Nature
Turn the dial down in the next few weeks
As the temperatures
Fall, Fall, Fall down.

After a summer's worth of television hiatus
And brain deactivation,
New shows premier, and old favorites return.
Determined not to miss out on the biggest new hit,
The good old DVR is prepped with an awesome lineup.
Clear out those old kids' shows.
Get ready for some tube time, as our bottoms, into the comfy couch
Fall, Fall, Fall down.

Moreover, as football season begins,
So does DH's weekly Saturday rendezvous
With our satellite TV. 
Cheers, commands, and other exclamations spew out
For all of our sakes, I pray that our team avoids any fumbles or interceptions
By hanging on to that odd-shaped ball for dear life, so that it does not
Fall, Fall, Fall down.

A fruitful season arrives to provide us with bountiful
Harvests of delicious fruits and vegetables.
Better I now enjoy my butternut squash soup,
Pumpkin pies, and apple cider
Before the dread of winter, its long dark hours
And chilling emptiness,
Take a hold of my spirits and make it
Fall, Fall, Fall down. 

You are my notice to turn over a new leaf.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Dear Childhood (童年)

Dear Childhood (童年),

You are and always will be my favorite song from childhood.  I have always been extremely proud of the fact that I remember all the lyrics to this Chinese song, all five verses long.  Recently, as I tried to sing it to myself, I realized that age is starting to do a number on me.  I could NOT remember one line from one verse.  Then it dawned on me that the answer is just one fingertip away, on the internet.

I found it.  And it took me down memory lane.  My nose stung, you know, the way you feel just before you start to tear up, just reading the lyrics.

池塘邊的榕樹上  知了在聲聲叫著夏天    
操場邊的鞦遷上  只有蝴蝶停在上面  
黑板上老師的粉筆   還在拚命嘰嘰喳喳寫個不停 
等待著下課  等待著放學   等待遊戲的童年  

福利社裡什麼都有  就是口袋裡沒有半毛錢    
諸葛四郎和魔鬼黨  到底誰搶到那隻寶劍  
隔壁班的那個男孩  怎麼還沒經過我的窗前    
嘴裡的零食  手裡的漫畫  心裡初戀的童年  

總是要等到睡覺以前   才知道功課只做了一點點  
總是要等到考試以後   才知道該念的書都沒有念   
一寸光陰一寸金   老師說過寸金難買寸光陰   
一天又一天 一年又一年  迷迷糊糊的童年    

沒有人知道為什麼   太陽總下到山的那一邊  
沒有人能夠告訴我  山裡面有沒有住著神仙    
多少的日子裡總是一個人  面對著天空發呆  
就這麼好奇  就這麼幻想    這麼孤單的童年   

陽光下蜻蜓飛過來   一片片油綠綠的稻田  
水彩臘筆和萬花筒   畫不出天邊那一條彩虹    
什麼時候才能像高年級的同學 有張成熟長大的臉  
盼望著假期 盼望著明天  盼望長大的童年    

一天又一天  一年又一年  盼望長大的童年

( : )

Here is my translation of the lyrics.

On the banyan tree next to the pond, cicadas call, "summer, summer!"
On the swing next to the track field, a lonley butterfly rests on it.
The teacher's chalk is still squeaking endlessly on the blackboard.
Waiting for class to end, waiting for school to end, thus is my childhood of waiting to go play.

The convenience store has everything, but my pocket has nary half a coin.  
So will it be Zhu-Ge-Si-Lang or Mou-Gui-Dang (legendary comic book characters) who gets the treasured sword first?
How come the boy from the class next door has not walked by my window yet?
Mouth full of snacks, hands filled with comics, thus is my childhood of experiencing first love.

It's always before bedtime that I realize that I have only done a little bit of my homework.
It's always after tests that I realized I didn't study what I should have studied.
Time is gold, but my teacher says gold cannot buy time.
Day after day, year after year, thus is my childhood of time perpetually spent in a daze. 

No one can tell me why the sun must set over that hill.
No one can tell me if there really are immortals living in the mountains.
How many days have I spent gazing aimlessly at the sky, all alone?
I'm just that curious, I'm just that imaginative, thus is my childhood of quiet solitude.

Under the rays of the sun, dragonflies fly over the green, lush rice fields.
Neither watercolors, crayons, nor kaleidoscopes can replicate that rainbow in the sky.
When will I be able to have the grown-up, mature face like that of the upper grade students?
Waiting for vacation, waiting for tomorrow, thus is my childhood of waiting to grow up.

Day after day, year after year, thus is my childhood of waiting to grow up.

(Written and composed by Da You Lo)

Then I found videos of this song on YouTube.  I definitely was welling up by then.  The following one is a compilation of images that corresponds to the lyrics, and sung by the original writer/composer.  I am posting this one so that my non-Chinese friends can sort of get a sense of the lyrics. 

Thinking back, I probably learned this song when I was in second or third grade, just about the same age as my Dear Daughter.  I started to wonder if this is how she feels right about now.  Sure, there are days when DD probably wishes that school was over for the day, or maybe her imagination takes the best of her and she dreams an afternoon away.  And then there's that longing wish of wanting to be just like the upper grade kids. 

But then I realize that while there will be some commonalities of childhood and growing up, her experiences will really be so very different from mine.  Hers is of a brand new generation, in a different culture, with a different language, and under completely different circumstances.  But I do know that she will have her own childhood memories to cherish.  And as she walks down her memory lane one day, I hope that she will experience that same feeling of warmness radiating from inside her chest, and the same nose stinging when she sees reflections of certain great moments of her childhood.  Most of all, I hope that she will also associate the recollections of her childhood with a song that elicits the same tender, sweet sentiments as my song does for me. 

I just hope it's not a Selena Gomez song.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dear Savings

Dear Savings,

We love you.  Who doesn't love a bargain buy, an awesome deal, or a huge discount?  And I'm not talking about the I-have-a-coupon-for-something-I-want savings, but the I-have-a-coupon-for-necessities-around-the-home savings.  That's why I love Costco.  But I love it so much that I hate it, too.

I have had this love-hate relationship with Costco ever since I became a member about a decade ago.  I love the savings, but I hate that I cannot walk out of the store without a 3 digit receipt.  Every.  Single.  Time.  I love the warehouse discount prices, but I hate that buying in bulk means I end up throwing away food-gone-bad because we couldn't finish it in time, thus making my savings no savings at all.  I love that Costco has huge parking spots, so nice and wide that I never have to walk sideways to get into the car.  But I hate that I have to walk across that humongous parking lot to get the store and back to the car.  I love to go shopping at Costco with my family (so that my Dear Husband can help with loading the goods), but hate that everyone and his or her cousins also go shopping at Costco on weekends.  So to have a quiet shopping trip, I love to go on weekdays to avoid the crowd, but I hate having to load and unload $200 worth of stuff into the car and into the house by myself.  I love getting the cash rebate check at the end of the year (for an almost-free next shopping run), only to do a quick calculation to realize that I hate having spent so much money at one place, in one year. 

Okay, enough ranting.

For my Dear Daughter's second birthday (over 6 years ago), I bought a large bag of red Dixie disposable cups, 16 oz, 240 count, for about $12.99 from Costco.  They are great cups -- sturdy, large, bright red, and very versatile.  We used them for parties, crafts, science projects, planting seeds, etc.  We even kept a stash in the car in case my Dear Son had a pee pee emergency during his potty training days (boys are easier like that).  Since that first party, and every other party afterwards, we dug into that bag of plastic cups. It seemed like a bottomless well.  Every year we checked to see if there will be enough for a kid's birthday party, and every year, we did.  This past summer, when we were getting ready to go on a picnic at an outdoor concert, I finally realized that we have come to the last dozen of these cups.  I suddenly felt a bit sad, since these last dozen have been with us for a long time.  But that sadness was quickly overtaken by the fact that because we have had these cups for SIX years, it undoubtedly validates the SAVINGS I reaped from shopping at Costco!

Shall I continue this mathematics calculation?  When we do finish the last dozen sometime this year, we'll buy another bag of red Dixie cups.  And by the time we finish that bag, my DD will be, what? a TEENAGER?!  Okay, let's not continue.  That is just way too scary a place to go.  But I digress.

So I thought it was quite interesting that everyday I attempt to be cost-effective and save money on little things here and there in this dire economy.  But in the end, it is something I bought SIX YEARS ago that made me feel like I actually saved some money.  Where is the logic in that?  But Dear Savings, I will take you in any way, shape, or form.  And I do wonder how long our next bag of red Dixie cups from Costco will last us.  But I know that I won't have to worry about buying more until DD is at least a teenager.  At which time I will wonder how a couple of bags of red Dixie cups turned my two-year-old DD into a TEENAGER. 


Friday, September 9, 2011

Dear Remembering 9-11

Dear Remembering 9-11,

Each year, as 9-11 approaches, our hearts grow heavier.
We remember what we were doing when we first heard the news.
We remember the people we cared about and loved at the time.
We remember the shock and horror.
An intricately spun web was torn,
Leaving broken strands of web silk blowing in the suffocating air.
We remember the innocent lives lost,
And the living souls that mourn them.
We remember the devastation and disbelief.
A ferocious bolt of lightening flashed down from the skies of dark,
Not born from natural disaster, but from the act of evil intent.
We remember the brave souls of a decade past,
Whose acts of goodwill represented the benevolence of humanity. 
We remember their unfinished dreams.
The greens lie dormant under a thick layer of snow,
But the seasons halt in motion and the white blanket lays frozen and unmoved.  
We remember our separate yet unified movement toward healing,
Repairing and rebuilding, and the pains associated with them.
We remember the scars.
The raw, distorted wound in time closes and heals,
And leaves behind a jagged, visible reminder.
We remember 9-11.
It is our scar.
Feeling that uneven imperfection will always remind us what 9-11 means to us.
We remember. 


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dear Then and Now

Dear Then and Now,

It is bizarre how you have changed so much over time.  Today, I watched a police car outside my window patrolling our community.  It occurred me how differently I used to think of policemen when I was little.  Then: They keep us safe and sound.  Now: What have I done wrong?  Or better yet,  a knee-jerk reaction to look at my speedometer.  Quickly, many other things entered my mind to remind me how life changes accordingly over time. 

On Life

Alone timeThen: Sad to not have anyone to hang out with, and endless fearful thoughts of loneliness the more time I spent alone.  Now: Simply. Priceless.

FertilityThen: Dear God, please tell me I'm not pregnant.  Later: Dear God, please make this round of IVF work!  Now:  Dear God, please just sterilize me, NOW!   

KidsThen: My students, to whom I get to wave goodbye when school is over.  Now: My own offsprings, for whom I must be 100% responsible, 24-7.  

SexThen: People stopped having sex at age 40 (way back when I thought 40-year-olds were ancient).  Now: What on earth WAS I thinking??????

Time spent with DHThen: Dining, movies, cultural events, and occasional traveling.  Now: Feeding, bathing, and hustling kids, having broken conversations over loud kids, and playing Word Feud on our smartphones on opposite ends of our bed.  

On Kids

Video GamesThen: My kids would never be addicted to video games.  Now: Are the DSs fully charged?

McDonald'sThen: We would not feed the kids fast food if we can help it.  Now: What's the next Happy Meal toy and when is it coming out?

Toy gunsThen: No toy guns allowed at home.  Now: I have no comment.

Annie Banks in Father of the BrideThen: I trust your judgment, as you are a smart, college-educated young woman.  Now: What the hell are you thinking getting engaged to a man you just met?  In EUROPE?  Are you OUTTA YOUR MIND?

Public kid tantrumsThen: My child would never be like that child.  Now: I have that child.

On Body

ComplexionThen: OMG, I have a ginormous zit on my nose!  Now: Is that yet another skin tag and more age spots appearing under my eye? 

MakeupThen: A self-proclaimed makeup guru under the apprenticeship of Paula Begoun.  Now: An expected visitor comes over and I realize I had forgotten to put on makeup (gasp in horror). 

InjuriesThen: Results from playing sports or working out.  Now: Results from cleaning (stubbing toe on vacuum, tripping on cleaning caddy, having a sore back from mopping).    

Callouses on handsThen: From lifting weights in the gym.  Now: From cutting 5 watermelons into 1 inch cubes for preschool kids' snack. 

SunningThen: Slather on enough baby oil to look like an slick pig.  Now: Slather on enough zinc oxide to look like a white zombie. 

On Food

CandyThen: Buy bags of Jelly Belly for myself and eat them anytime of the day.  Now: Perpetually saying no to kids asking to eat candy.

DrinksThen: Martinis, margaritas, Kahlua and cream.  Now: Unsweetened tea, iced water, with a wedge of lemon, if the server is nice enough to oblige.

DessertsThen: Creme brulee, profiteroles, exotic fruit sorbets.  Now: s'mores, ice cream, cupcakes. 

CookingThen: Seared sea scallops over a bed of sauteed leeks; Indian-spiced vegetables with homemade naan; citrus pork chops with apples and onions.  Now: Mac and cheese out of a box; pasta in any shape with tomato sauce; miso soup with udon and tofu.

RestaurantsThen: Friday date nights at Chicago's fine dining restaurants.  Now: A mindless rotation of your typical chain, kid-friendly restaurants (i.e. complete with sticky booth seats and kids menus that always offer mac and cheese).

How times change!  But as we know it, it really isn't time that changes, but the experiences during the passage of time that changes us.  So never say never.  But there is one thing that will never change.  And if you think I am about to say something sentimental or lovey dovey, you will be disappointed:

Lactose intoleranceThen: Intolerant.  Now: Still intolerant.  Future: Will always be intolerant.  Here's to a lifetime supply of dairy digestive enzymes in my medicine cabinet (cheers to myself with a milkshake).