Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mommy full-force

I have fully immersed myself in Maylin’s classroom. The regular teacher has been on maternity leave and will not return until mid-November, so I have been doing the best I can to help the substitute who is very nice and very receptive to all my ideas. I have started a weekly newsletter to keep all the classroom families informed. I have also started teaching art and music once a week, for a half-hour per subject. That totally fulfills my need to teach, work with children, and do something creative! I love planning out my lessons and getting supplies. My first project was mini-books (only folding and cutting, no gluing/taping/stapling), and the second was alphabet books bound with rainbow yarn. This week we tackle bleeding tissue “paintings.” You can’t imagine how hard it’s been to locate this rare bleeding art tissue. Joann’s Superstore in El Cerrito didn’t have it (they didn’t even know it existed), Michael’s in Emeryville neither. Dick Blick’s (a real art store) had two packs left. Phew. I’ve never worked with this stuff before, but it sounds amazing. I’ll do a few tests before presenting it to the class. You tear up the tissue, place it on your paper (I got large, high-quality watercolor paper), and brush it over gently with water, leaving the color to bleed for 10 seconds. Remove the paper to see the watercolor effects underneath, or glue on for a different effect. The really great thing is that you can layer different colors on top of each other. I’m curious to see how they will blend. This should prove to be an extremely creative project. Upcoming projects will include Mexican paper-cutting and papier mache.

I just started teaching music last week, which will be in a similar format as last year’s when I taught Maylin’s kindergarten class. It’s so great to see the kids come alive in both the music and art classes. It seems this is what kids are meant to do – move about and be creative. It’s tough when they’re expected to be in their seats for most of the schoolday.

I asked Maylin which class she preferred, music or art. She chose art, which should be no surprise. She’s always coming up with ideas for her own projects (it’s hard when she HAS to finish a project and it’s bedtime). Some notable projects which I should photograph include a mermaid costume made entirely out of paper, a dog house for her favorite stuffed dog, Coconut (who got married over the summer to a friend’s stuffed panda, Alex), and a 3-D forest scene complete with real wood pasted down to look like a felled log, and standing colored cut-outs of trees, a deer, and a rabbit.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wardrobe makeover

I didn't have anything to wear. You know how women will say sometimes, "I don't have anything to wear!" Well, I truly didn't have anything to wear because my body has changed so much and because I had given away most of my clothes that didn't fit anymore (too small, but also too big). I am also getting tired of my standard solid black or gray color scheme and feel the need to express my artistic self though my clothing because our bodies are like canvases.

I visited Crossroads Trading Company and Buffalo Exchange in Berkeley and came out with some terrific finds! I have only bought second-hand clothing two other times, and this was by far the most fun clothes shopping I've ever had. The condition of the clothing is great, the quality can be quite high (some great names in design), and the prices are perfect. I always get bored with the selection in department stores, but in these two stores, you'll always find interesting stuff. I decided that I was going to wear more stylish things and more whimsical things. Because I want to be stylish and whimsical. I found an incredible Anthropologie ruffly wool cardigan (originally $118) for only $30 at Crossroads Trading. To get finds like this, you basically have to buy them the same day they get put out on the floor in the store. In other words, you kind of have to stop by everyday. At Crossroads, I also found a fun Paul Frank (google it, you'll get the idea) hoodie for $18. I got a cute Elmo t-shirt that says "Wanna play?" from Buffalo Exchange, as well as a Paul Frank long-sleeve tee.

Shopping is finally fun!

Maylin glowing

Maylin started ballet at a new school this year (she was getting bored at the former place) and she enjoys it so much. It's a relatively small class, fewer than 10 girls, but they're all 5-6 year-olds, have their hair up, wear black leotards, and smile and laugh as they move across the floor. Their teacher is very effective in getting them to move beautifully with their arms (the different positions), and Maylin moves her whole body with strength and purpose. Of course, I can't help but think she's the prettiest girl there with her awesomely long legs which I never had as a little girl.
What struck me the most about her was her smile, her radiance. This was childhood joy at its best. An incredible glow and sparkle about her that made me glow inside.

She actually didn't choose to do ballet. She actually wanted to quit completely after last year, but I somehow convinced her (didn't force her) to try it again with a different teacher. Maylin can be very stubborn at times so I was relieved when she consented. Why do I want her to do ballet? I took ballet as a child and I think it's great for posture, teaches you how to move gracefully, is a great foundation for other types of dance and for sports activities in general (whatever she chooses in the future), and gives her that regular physical activity that she might not always be getting in school.

Stefan, my little prince

Time for an update on the little guy. He started walking at the beginning of the week, but only attempts a couple steps at a time. He won't walk straight to Mommy yet. Stefan seems to just walk by chance, or accidentally. He's trying to get somewhere, takes a couple steps, seems to realize that this new method is awkward, and then proceeds on his way on all fours which is a very speedy way for him. He is FAST! And he's really cute crawling. He lifts up his hands really high when he's so excited.

Stefan can be quite a charmer. I thought he had a particular soft spot for the ladies, but he seems to like to be a ham with both sexes. He'll pat people's shoulders when I'm not looking, do "squinty-squinty" with his eyes (I refuse to let John call them "Chinese eyes"), or move his head down to one shoulder in an effort to be extra cute. But his smile makes everyone melt.

I get many compliments on his cuteness in public. Several people have recommended modeling for him. One of my sister-in-laws even forwarded me a link to Gap's casting call for baby/child models. I haven't decided yet, but I have to hurry because the San Francisco casting days are next Friday and Saturday! I'm not looking forward to staying in a large room with hundreds of other uncomfortable children from 10am-4pm.

He is a very curious fellow. Much more curious than Maylin was. Loves exploring EVERYTHING. I'm so glad he hasn't figured out how to open drawers and cabinets yet.

Stefan has moments when he talks a lot. His syllable of choice for the last few months have been "da-da," but when he's tired, he'll sometimes say "ma-ma."

He's beginning to really hug me (precious) and kiss me on the lips with an adorable open mouth (wet but just as precious).

He also understands so much. I tell him to roll the ball, he rolls the ball. He'll get the car if I tell him to. It's all so exciting. By the way, with balls, he's been a true natural. The first time he noticed a ball in June, he knew exactly how to throw it -- a perfect overhand pitch with follow-through. Amazing! First time he saw a car, he pushed it. Is this innate in all boys?

I suspected he was suffering from lactose intolerance after several nights of his crying from gas pains. (It wasn't beans.) I would nurse him back to sleep, but many times he wouldn't go back to sleep, so I'd keep nursing. These breasts have never been used so much! Anyways, I decided to experiment by cutting cheese (no pun intended) out of his diet. Voila! No gas pains! The next day I made the mistake by serving him cheese crackers. That resulted in another bad night.

I was stumped with the lactose intolerance thing. But babies drink milk all the time right? Stefan doesn't like it though -- he drinks only breast milk and water out of a cup (with me holding it). (By the way, he never took to a bottle, never used a sippy cup properly, but drank out of cup with ease so that's how we've done it for a very long time.) One of my friends whom I hadn't seen in about eight or nine years came up with the solution. He said that the bacteria in yogurt helps with the breakdown of lactose. Well, guess what? Stefan was getting tired of eating yogurt all the time (used to be his favorite food), so I began substituting more cheese so he would get enough fat and calcium. And there you have it. A gradual development of lactose intolerance. So I'm getting Stefan back into yogurt and will lay off the cheese for a while longer.

Stefan's favorite things? His sister, dogs, especially ours, Leo, balls (the ones that are small enough to pick up, his toy train that moves and spits out the balls that you insert, and soft, chewable bath toys.

Changing his diaper at this age is next to impossible. When he was younger, I marveled at how still and pleasant he was during each change. Now, I'm near to breaking a sweat trying to hold him down. He's so active! Oh, and try putting pants on a squirmy baby. John helped me put two legs down one pant leg. See what parental teamwork gets you?

Stefan is all sweetness. I love him so much -- sometimes I want him to stay a baby forever. Holding and squeezing and kissing him is such a joyful activity for me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fun weekend

Last weekend, Maylin had a blast. On Saturday, she had her first swim lesson. I was so proud of her as she dipped her head into the water like the other two students. She had been scared of doing that for a long time, but when she saw her cousins doing it while we were at the family pool party in Ohio earlier this month, she did it with them, and did it again at her lesson. She's way ahead of where I was when I was her age. I just about flunked all my swim lessons from age four on.

After the swim lesson we ran into the Berkeley Farmer's Market and the Berkeley Old Time Music Festival with adults and children fiddling, playing on the banjo and guitar, and singing. She was entranced. Right afterward, we went to her school picnic where she played with her friends for hours. Afterward, we got deliciously greasy New York-style pizza at Arinell's. Walked home, but on the way stopped to gnosh on some cannoli (whipped cream-filled pastries).

Sunday was the Solano Stroll, a street fair in our neighboring city, Albany. The kids section was towards Solano Avenue, so we stayed within those three blocks. Maylin got to see a small chamber ensemble of kids performing from the Crowden School, a music school in Berkley, a reggae band made up of fourth grade (?) boys, girls belly-dancing (one girl from her camp this summer), a rather boring magician, and free cartoons at the Albany Twin movie theater. They also had several inflatable kids entertainment -- an obstacle course, a pirate ship, a giant slide, and a basketball hoops game. Maylin was excellent with the obstacle course -- so fast! And the giant slide was really giant. I would have been too scared to do it when I was her age. I took along Stefan and a friend I hadn't seen in five or six years. We bypassed all the BBQs and headed for a sit-down restaurant just around the corner on San Pablo Avenue named Muang Thai (also known as Da Nang). Great, reasonably priced Vietnamese and Thai food. It's a large restaurant but never has many customers. It's definitely due to the location. Most people just drive by that area too quickly. I highly recommend the Pad See Ew (I never know how to spell that) which is pan-fried wide rice noodles with egg, broccoli, and your choice of meat, the Beef Noodle Soup (request the flat rice noodle), and the Egg Noodles with BBQ pork (but you must substitute with the flat rice noodle -- they will gladly do it). Those noodles are the freshest rice noodles I've ever had (except for those super-wide ones they serve at dim sum restaurants). Chinese restaurants rarely have them this fresh (otherwise known as chow fun noodles).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lost luggage

I am not new to the whole lost baggage syndrome at the airport (someday, I'll get around to telling you all my worst experience ever). We flew to Ohio last week to visit family and due to a too hasty connection (due to a delayed first leg), my bag (with my clothes, Stefan's clothes, and Maylin's clothes!) didn't make it onto the second plane. Sleepily, we put in a request to have the bag delivered to our destination later that night (estimated 1 am delivery). (I apologize for all these parentheses, but I'm feeling too tired and too lazy to write properly.)

Anyways, the bag never showed up that night (they were to leave it on the porch). The next day, we checked the "status" of our bag on the internet and by phone (automated service). It said we would receive it within 6 hours after arriving at the airport, but that there may be some delays. Well, the delay got longer and longer. Finally, four days later, we head back to the airport to find out what's up. They tell us that it's already been delivered! To the wrong address, obviously. Turns out we gave them the wrong address -- "East" instead of "West," but the street is a horseshoe with the "East" part of the street turning into the "West" part. The delivery guy should have called us if there was any question, but he didn't. After getting back from the airport, we decided to drive along the street slowly to see if our bag was on any porches there by mistake. And sure enough, there it was at 6669 W. instead of 6667 E. According to the mail carrier, that house had been vacant for 4-5 months. My cell number was on the bag, so that explains no one trying to call us.

I was actually not bummed out too much about missing my bag because all I really needed was contact lens solution, diapers, and a toothbrush for Maylin (John had an extra one for me, fortunately). Access to a washer and dryer was key. It was kind of cool being able to live comfortably without all that STUFF.

By the way, all our belongings were intact in the the suitcase, but a bit on the soggy side. There was a storm the first night.