Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dear Halloween

Dear Halloween,

Do we have a lot to say about you each and every year!  You are always filled with lots of ghoulish surprises, sweet treats, school parties, fun costumes, and great memories.  Here are some of our Halloween conversations current and from years past.

On being one of the most exciting days of the year:

DD (joyfully):  Yay, it's Halloween!  I get to wear my costume to school!

DS (Same As): Yay, it's Halloween!  I get to go trick-or-treating and get lots of CANDY!

DH (does not want to miss out on the fun):  Yay, it's Halloween!  Oh, no!  It's on a work day this year.  I'll have to see if I can work from home that day.

Me (it's always about the temperature for moms):  Yay, it's Halloween!  How ON EARTH am I going to keep the kids warm enough in their costumes so they don't freeze their little buns off?

On picking costumes:

DD (decidedly):  I want to be Hermione.  I have my Hermione wand, so I just need a cape. (Wear layers under cape.  Great costume choice!)

DS (agitated):  I have my Voldemort wand.  I want to be Voldemort.  (Voldemort costumes turned out to be too scary-looking).  No, I want to be a Bakugan.  No, I want to be Dan the Bakugan Brawler.  No, I want to have big muscles.  This costume has big muscles.  I want this.  ('This' turns out to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.  My son will be a turtle for Halloween because it has big muscles. @#$%!)  I want to be this turtle.  (...and layers under a turtle costume make a stuffed turtle.  Awesome.)

DH (smiles agreeably):  You can be whatever you want to be.  Just tell Mommy.

Me (still in shock):  My son is going to be a stuffed TURTLE for Halloween. 

On carving pumpkins:

DS (light bulb in head goes off):  Are we carving pumpkins for Halloween this year?

DD (joins in on the fun):  Oh, what are we carving?  A cat?  A scary face?  A ghost?

DH (smiles agreeably):  We can carve whatever you want.  Just tell Mommy.

Me (not surprised):  'Are WE'?  If 'we' means you guys sitting around watching ME carve pumpkins, I guess we ARE, then.

On buying candy for trick-or-treaters while shopping at Costco:

DD (reminding us as the good daughter that she is):  Do we need to buy candies for Halloween?

DS (repeating the question to take some credit):  Do we need to buy candies for Halloween?

DH (asking me because the kids just asked):  Do we need to buy candies for Halloween?  

Me (finding this threesome broken record very amusing):  Do I REALLY have to answer that question?

On trick-or-treating door-to-door:

DD (very excited):  Wow, I just got a HUGE Three Musketeers candy bar!  That's my FAVORITE!

DS (very eager):  Can I eat this NOW?  Can I?  Can I?  Can I? 

DH (very inquisitive):  Did that house give out good candy?

Me (VERY UPSET):  I CANNOT BELIEVE they gave out bags of PEANUTS!  Don't TOUCH THAT!  You're allergic to PEANUTS!  People actually HAND OUT peanuts to children on Halloween?  This is not even peanut CANDY.  It's PEANUTS!  Don't people know ANYTHING about peanut allergies and that kids DIE from eating peanuts these days?  HUMPH!

On kids' school Halloween activities: 

DD (elated):  We are having a Halloween costume parade for the whole school AND a Halloween party in class!

DS (Same As):  We are having a Halloween costume parade AND a Pumpkin Fest at school!

DH (chimes in):  Wow!  How fun!

Me (I chime, too!):  Yep, fun!  I just put about FIVE THOUSAND Halloween tatoos on the arms of 3- and 4-year-olds at Pumpkin Fest.  FUN!

On eager kids after trick-or-treating:

DD (excited):  How many pieces of candy can I have?

DS (doubly excited with his super big sweet tooth):  How many pieces of candy can I have?

DH (eyes me):  Go ask your mommy.

Me (right back at ya!):  Go ask your daddy.

Happy Halloween!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dear Word Diarrhea

Dear Word Diarrhea,

Oftentimes Occasionally I find myself afflicted with you.  You are like a virus; you infect me, and I become symptomatic.

I am the weirdo proud person who has coined this phrase, at least amongst my friends.  My definition of 'Word Diarrhea' is when you have so much to say that your tongue cannot maneuver fast enough to spew the words out.  By the same token, if your audience is on cyberspace, then your fingers cannot type fast enough to get the words onto the screen.

A good story has a beginning, middle, and end.  You do your story no justice if you start telling it in the middle or just give up the punchline.  You must set the scene, describe the characters, provide the event sequence, highlight the major points, elicit the 'ooohs' and 'aaahs,' and finish with a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am.  Therein lies the term -- Word Diarrhea.

Some days, I'm mellow, quiet, and content.  But some other days, when DH comes home from work, I am like a loaded cannonball waiting to fire at him.  (Inside my head I see bullet points and highlighted text to cover).  After all, he goes to work, and we all know that nothing much interesting fun happens at work.  I, on the other hand, have all kinds of fascinating things happen to me, all day long.  From kids to schools to Facebook to Twitter to blogs to errands to cooking to turtle and Fish #2 to miscellany, well, you get the point...

I have a lot of things to say.

When I talk about something I am excited about, I get really animated.  My voice gets louder and louder (if we're in public, DH has to gently remind me to pipe down); my arms swing ever which way (DS' head gets knocked if he's in arm's reach), my face makes about a thousand expressions within minutes, and after a few, I sometimes have to stop mid-sentence to suck in some oxygen because I had forgotten to breathe. 

When talking to an acquaintance, Word Diarrhea is not appropriate for many reasons.  You never want to be so rude to take the floor and keep talking nonstop.  Even if the story is really good.  There must be some semblance of a ping pong ball, back-and-forth sort of conversation.  Or else you will never get the opportunity to talk at to that person again. 

But a DH and a BFF is different.  They don't really have a choice other than to listen to you rant.  (Did I mention that while I am the host to this virus, the victim -- and true sufferer --  is really my audience?)  My poor DH listens and listens, and halfway through my ten minute monologue, he gives me a discreet Smile of Understanding.  I've seen that smile a million times.  It's the you-are-so-funny-you-actually-have-that-much-to-say look.  And that's when I realize I have to get to the point.  Fast forward spewing words, waving arms, and making facial expressions.

My BFFs have received texts and emails from me titled 'Word Diarrhea.'  Watch out, 'cause here comes the flood!  Pages of single spaced, 12 point font typing with very few paragraph breaks.  But because my BFFs cannot see my arms and expressions, those are written in the text.  I'm that good.  I guess I don't feel as bad writing a Word Diarrhea email, because my BFFs won't don't have to read every single word.  Reading every seventh line will probably give a good enough summary of my OMG Story.

Recently, I've noticed that a couple of smaller versions of me have appeared.  DD and DS come home from school and start to spew out events, facts, happenings, and stories at me.  At which time I must stop what I am doing and concentrate to hear what they are saying.  I know, I know...  This is 'me' getting a taste of my own medicine.  But what I do love is seeing their little arms flap about and their grins and wide-eye looks as they tell me something exciting that happened at school that day.

Well, this Letter has turned into Word Diarrhea in and of itself.  I guess I've done it again: I've created another monologue and splattered words all over the screen, and the reader doesn't even get a chance to get a word in edgewise.  So I shall stop now.

Word Diarrhea, you are cleared out of my system.  As... of... NOW.  Until next time!


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dear Scents from a Promised Land

Dear Scents from a Promised Land,

Every time I get one whiff of you, I'm swept back to early elementary school, in the little village of an island where I was born and grew up. 

Sometimes magically, our senses can trigger past memories through sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch, whether it's in the form of a picture, a song, a scent, a flavor, or a texture.  The other night at a restaurant, I opened a package of crayons for DS, and my inadvertent inhale of those crayons made me remember some other scents that will always have a special place in my heart.

From the time I was in kindergarten to third grade, I lived with my maternal grandparents while my mother studied abroad in the US.  My mother would come back about once a year to visit.  She told me that when she was able to, she would take me back with her and I would be able to go to school there.  At the time, it was a common belief among my peers that America was The Land of the Best of Everything.  The thought that I would one day be able to move there was very exciting and a grand event to look forward to.  It was during these visits from my mother where I became acquainted with three particular scents.

When my mother came back, I would always smell a certain fragrance, and that scent would inevitably be gone when she left.  It was much later, after I came to the US that I realized that fragrance was Jergens Original Scent lotion.  The trademarked cherry-almond scent never fails to whisk me back to the times I would spend imagining my life in the US.  Now, and for quite some time, I still use Jergens lotion, but not the Original Scent version.  In my need for a better moisturizer, I chose function over scent.  The Ultra Healing version does not have the same cherry-almond scent, but it is more moisturizing, and still has a very nice fragrance.  In fact, so nice, that my DD demands to use it and only it.  So every now and then, when I come across the original cherry-almond scent, I immediately think of how much it used to make me look forward to the promised land.

One of the gifts my mother brought back for me during her visits is Hershey's Kisses.  I fell instantly in love with those beautifully-shape little pieces of chocolates wrapped in thin, brittle tin foil.  Thinking back, I was probably afflicted with OCD at an early age, since I always challenged myself to unwrap those candies without tearing the foil wrappers.  And in doing this so very carefully, I had a lot of time to smell the candy before eating it.  It was just as well, because inhaling the smell of Hershey's Kisses was almost just as good as eating them.  Nowadays, I am rarely caught enjoying them, as age is not so accepting to extra calories.  But whenever I do open a bag for my kids, I always place the opening of the bag over my nose and take a LONG, DEEP breath to suck in all the aroma of sugar, cocoa, and milk.  Like I said, smelling them is almost as good as eating them.  So by the transitive rule, if Hershey's Kisses were heavenly, and they are from The Land of the Best of Everything, then that place must be heavenly.

Lastly, my mother also brought me Crayola crayons.  The crayons we used then were pastel crayons, made with a different binder than Crayola crayons.  Pastel crayons goes on paper more smoothly and results in brighter, more uniform colors.  Crayola crayons are wax crayons, which makes it more difficult to blend onto paper, and they exude a distinctive waxy smell.  Even though from personal experience I liked pastel crayons better, these "new" wax crayons must be better since they are from The Land of the Best of Everything!  This simple difference in the way crayons smelled made the impending move to the US even more desirable for me.

This odd mix of scents -- Jergens' cherry-almond scent, Hershey's Kisses chocolates, and Crayola crayons -- are completely unrelated to each other, but in my mind, they represent the existence of The Land of the Best of Everything.  Incidentally, these are NOT my favorite smells; I don't long to smell them all the time. My favorite smells -- the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, my favorite floral perfume, and the smell of oven-baked goodies permeating the house -- are ones that make my feel happy.  But whenever I come across one of these three specific aromas, I am suddenly back to my seven-year-old self, living in the little flat in my hometown, waiting to be transplanted to a new place to call home.

Now my home is in The Land of the Best of Everything, and I do not forget to count my blessings.  The opportunities I have had in life are probably far more than most of my friends back home.  And each time I catch a whiff of any one of you, Scents from a Promised Land, I am humbly reminded of that.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dear Wedding Gifts

Dear Wedding Gifts,

Seeing that I have been married for 15 years now, I am amazed that many of you are still with me!

The wedding gift registry was something of a foreign concept to my native culture.  Where I'm from, people were more inclined to give cash in a red envelope (or whatever is on sale at the local department store) as wedding presents.  For them, it was a common belief that using a registry meant you were asking for gifts.  But the American practice of using a wedding registry seemed to make so much more sense. Why not receive gifts that one actually likes and needs, instead of a hodgepodge of miscellaneous items that don't match or are useless?  Especially since people were going to gift anyway, as weddings are celebratory events.  At the time of my wedding, my front foot was stepping into the American culture, while my hind foot was still deciding whether or not to move forward.  But I chose to have a wedding registry.

When I see people register for gifts nowadays, I always feel a bit of envy.  There is such a thing called a scanner.  Click.  Beep.  Done.  There was no such thing when I was getting married.  I had to manually fill out the form via pen and paper.  I think these scanner guns were just on the verge of appearing at the time, but I was not fortunate enough to have used it.  Shortly thereafter, my friends who were getting married were zapping away at department stores.  Seeing about-to-wed couples with those scanner guns now invariably makes me feel a bit, um, old. 

Some of our wedding presents did not last long.  Like the luggage that DH and I took on our honeymoon.  Let's just say it didn't come back in one piece.  We've replaced the original sets of towels and sheets through normal wear and tear, as well as having upgraded bed size.  I've also downgraded in our dinnerware department.  Our original Pfaltzgraff plates have been replaced with Corelle plates.  Corelle plates are awesome; they are inexpensive, lightweight, scratch-proof, stain-resistant, break-resistant, microwaveable, dishwashable, and a serious must if there are kids around.  We are also on our second set of flatware, since we've lost too many pieces of the original set to ever have company over. 

On the other hand, looking around my kitchen, I see several things that have been with us for for 15 years, through 6 moves, 4 apartments, and 2 houses (wow.)  First up, my Krups coffeemaker.  In WHITE.  It is practically an antique.  But it works!  It even has that gold filter that lasted all this time.  There were a few years where I used a Tassimo instead, but this Krups still found its way back to my kitchen counter.  Next up, my Rival crock pot.  Again, in WHITE.  There are cracks in the ceramic insert, but again, it works!  And it still makes the most delicious pot of stew for the cold months of the year.  Lastly, there's my Osterizer blender.  You guessed it: in WHITE.  It's still powerful and makes a mean smoothie every now and then.  Believe me.  Really.  White was ONCE in.  Now I really do feel old. 

I have thought of replacing some of these small kitchen appliances to have the modern, updated look.  Once considered quite handsome, the whites appliance exteriors were replaced by black, which were then replaced by stainless steel.  My kitchen appliances are stainless steel, so these outdated white pieces do look quite odd in it.  But I have a hard time replacing things that work perfectly fine.  And they have been around for so long that I've kind of grown attached to them. That, or perhaps my hind foot was so deep-rooted in its stereotypical culture of thriftiness that I just cannot bear to make waste.  Besides, my Krups just made me a delicious cup of morning coffee.

Since our wedding, we have acquired several more small appliances through the years: my beloved Kitchenaid stand mixer, a reliable Cuisinart toaster, a powerful Cuisinart food processor, and my spanking new Breville panini press to name a few -- none of which are white, might I add.  Some of these are very old as well, but not as ancient as my coffee maker, crock pot, and blender.  So we shall see which of these three original wedding gifts will outlast the others.  I do believe that there are still few years left in you all yet!


Friday, October 14, 2011

Dear Rain

Dear Rain,

I am awakened by the sound of your impact on the ground in the middle of the night.  It is a gentle drum roll, not the clashing sound that a severe rainstorm brings.  And although I am stirred from slumber, it makes me happy. I feel comforted that the rain will nurture the China holly and green boxwood bushes we recently planted in our yard.

In the morning, the ground is wet, and the grass is doused by a layer of rain beading on each blade.  The absence of the sun makes the air brimming with moisture, as it is wrapped and cradled by a blanket of thick, dense clouds.  But it is not over yet.  The overcast sky hints to brew up more rain.

In my native language, a drizzle is called 'fuzzy rain'.  The start of a rain shower begins with a light mist that feels like see-through fog.  I almost cannot tell if it is raining until my car exits the garage and I see evidence on my windshield.  Tiny drops of water fall on the large sheet of glass before me, and shortly thereafter, two forceful blades abruptly knocks them off.  My Dear Son says he wishes that there are wiper blades on his rear side window as well.

After our errand, we head home.  DS insists on holding the umbrella on the way to the car, of course.  Unprotected, my cheeks greet the fuzzy rain as it gently tickles my skin like the crawl of a caterpillar.  (I say that because 'caterpillar' in my mother tongue translates into 'fuzzy bugs.'  How marvelous that, in a different language, a rain drizzle is related to caterpillars, simply from the feel they both captivate.)  I blink, reflexively and repeatedly, as if my eyelashes are batting away the fuzzy rain. 

As I drive on the splashy, wet road, the raindrops on my windshield grow larger, and the rhythmic taps they make grow louder.  Facing the gray skies and the now steady fall of rain, I begin to daydream about finding a soft, warm down blanket and curling myself up in it.  With a cup of hot Earl Grey in reach, an inviting book in hand, and the possibility of an afternoon nap -- I can think of no better way to spend a rainy day. 

We get home and escape any chances of getting too wet.  I pull up the shades to invite what daylight is out there into the house.  The rain is now cascading down in the view from our window.  It blurs the house across from us, and makes the roses in the front yard nod at me.  There will be no afternoon nap, unfortunately, but I will curl up with my DS and we'll read his library books together.  With tea for me and hot cocoa for him.  And you singing us a pitter-patter melody.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Dear Day at the Zoo

Dear Day at the Zoo,

We've gone to the zoo before,
I think last spring was when.
But it is still so much fun
To go time and time again.

Today was unseasonably warm,
So some animals stayed inside,
But we were able to see four giraffes
Take their slow, grand strides.

Zebra stripes reminded me
Of the lines on a fingerprint.
A large green snake scared me,
But upside-down bats didn't.

I knew that chimps like to swing
And that lions like to roar.
But there were a few things I learned today,
That I didn't know before:

Camels chew incessantly,
Sloths sleep belly-up,
Echidnas waddle slowly.
Gorillas meditate sitting up.

Throughout the relaxing zoo walk,
We collected colorful leaves.
We learned about monocots and dicots,
And we'll press them for keeps.

We also had to stop by
One of our favorite spots.
A large playground for kids,
For all our climbs, slides, and squats.

We pretended to be vets,
And sat in the zoo director's chair.
We explored a musical garden,
And enjoyed the open air.   

We walked on fallen leaves
That crunched beneath our feet,
As more red, orange, and yellow ones
Promise to drop onto the street.

Alas it was time to go,
As the sun sank down in the sky.
We said goodbye to the zoo,
And watched the geese fly by.

Me (through the eyes of an eight-year-old)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dear Carnival Fish

Dear Carnival Fish,

I am saddened by the purpose of your existence.  You are bred by the masses to be taken home in little plastic baggies for the child winner to 'ooh' and 'aah' for a day.  Then a grown-up must take over your well-being while you are still alive.  And that grown up is I.

Dear Daughter won two such goldfish at a recent carnival.  Because I was volunteering as a face painter, I wasn't around to stop the kids from playing the game whose prizes are goldfish.  When I saw DD with her two baggies of fish, one of which she later gave to Dear Son, my heart sank.

I have never been successful at keeping goldfish.  I tried, twice, before I had kids.  The first attempt was when the teacher next-door at my school gave me her goldfish to keep in my science classroom near the end of the school year.  When summer came, I took it home.  I did my research, bought all the necessary equipment, and did my weekly water changes.  So among fish keepers, there's something called a nitrogen cycle, wherein the fish waste becomes toxic to the fish until beneficial bacteria builds up in the tank to metabolize the toxins.  Until that happens, the fish are always in danger from toxic buildup.

The goldfish did not last more than a few months in my new tank.  Unyielding to my defeat, I bought two more goldfish for my empty tank.  This time, even more research taught me to "cycle the tank" by building up the beneficial bacteria with ammonia first before introducing the fish.  I had all sorts water-testing kits to make sure the tank was ready for my fish.  I kept the water at optimal condition (according to my kits), but this pair didn't last more than a few months, either.  Sadly, I took down the tank, swore off goldfish, and had my babies.  Luckily, I knew a thing or two about raising kids.

Three years ago, we came across some vendors at a Chinatown street fair who were selling baby turtles.  DD begged for one.  Of course, DH happily agreed to buy a $5 turtle for his princess.  I really should have nipped that in the bud.  The turtle was no more than one inch wide, active and happy in his little plastic container.  I, on the other hand, had a lot of work to do.  Research.  Shopping.  Set-up.

It turns out that selling turtles that were less than 4 inches big was illegal.  We just bought an illegal turtle.  It turns out that turtles can carry salmonella.  So only grown-ups I can handle it.  It turns out that this red ear slider turtle can grow up to 8-10 inches big.  Which means more money spent on bigger tanks somewhere down the line.  It turns out that I'm pretty good at keeping turtle.  It is alive, healthy, and always hungry, after three years.  And it turns out that these turtles can live for a long time.  Which means that I may be caring for this turtle until I'm a grandma.  Oh.  Dear.

I'm a softie.  I cannot help it.  Having any live animal in my home means that I must do my darnedest to keep it alive and well.  But I knew that our carnival goldfish were not going to stay alive, and that's why I brought them home with a very heavy heart.  The only container we had at home suitable for keeping these goldfish was a very large vase, i.e. a very small place with no filter for two goldfish to live.  I had already given away all my goldfish keeping equipment, and there was no way I would go out and repurchase them for fish I knew I was going to kill not be able to keep alive.  But I did buy a tiny canister of goldfish food, AND I fed them daily, AND I changed 50% of the water daily, AND I hoped for the best. 

This morning (2.5 weeks later), Fish #1 went to Fish Heaven.  DS cried, because it was his fish.  It's possible Fish #2 will live a little longer, but probably not by much.  (If there are any goldfish keepers/lovers reading this, I really do apologize).

So I need to have the discussion with DH again about bringing any fish/reptiles home just because a child begs, since I'm the only one who ends up with all the work without ever having asked for it.  Once a month, for three years, have I had to spend an hour or more cleaning the turtle tank.  Dollar amounts in hundreds have been spent on lights, filter, media, food, and water conditioner for a turtle that only ever begs for food.  And three years later, my happy turtle has grown from 1 inch to over 5 inches big, and is now begging for a bigger tank. 

I can only wish that fish were not bred for carnival games, but that industry is alive and well and has no "heart" in sight.  We won't have anymore goldfish at home, if I can help it.  So Fish #1, I hope you are feeling better now in Fish Heaven.  Your vase-mate may be at your side again, soon.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dear Backseat Convo

Dear Backseat Convo,

Sometimes you render me speechless as I sit in the driver's seat navigating the road.  What comes out of the mouths of babes are priceless.  Especially when the younger child tries so very hard to check the older sibling's one-ups in order to "save face," while going through a very tender phase of doing everything the Same As his big sister.

Dear Daughter: Mudkip.  (Mudkip is a Pokemon character).

Dear Son: Mudkip.

DD: Let's play this: you say 'Mud' and I say 'kip,' okay? 

DS: Kip.

DD: No, no!  You say 'Mud' and I say 'kip"!

DS:  Kip!

DD (pouts): I'm not playing anymore.

DS (whiney): I'm not playing anymore.

DD (indignant): Super-cali-fragil-istic-expi-ali-docious.

DS (even more indignant): Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-DOCIOUS.

DD: Sphygmo-meter (DD's teacher's favorite word is 'sphygmomanometer.'  She thinks she is saying this "difficult" word to challenge her little brother).

DS: Sphyga-meter.

DD: No! Not 'sphyga-meter.'  It's 'sphygmo-meter'!

DS: (Car-shattering scream).

DD: Super-cali-fragil-istic-expi-ali-docious.

DS: Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-DOCIOUS.


It was late at night.  I had a headache and was too worn out from the day to say anything, so I just listened to the kids going at each other.  Just as well, I thought.  What's more precious than a little sibling rivalry love?  Thank goodness we were almost home.  Sometimes you're entertaining, Backseat Convo, and sometimes you're aggravating.  But today, you gave me a new post.