Sunday, November 30, 2014

Big Hero 6

I can say with 100% honesty that watching Big Hero 6 has changed our lives forever.

Literally!  Because I know that none of us will ever be able to see another fist bump without saying, "Ba-la-la-la" in our most robotically musical tone.

Honestly, though, we loved it. I appreciated both the smart-kids-can-be-cool-too theme and the biracial main characters.  The boys loved the action. We laughed, we cried (well... we didn't, but the man behind us cried enough for all of us!) and we cheered!

We are satisfied with our service!  Thanks Baymax.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Jungle Books

As a child, I didn't devour books the way M does, desperate for new words and thirsty for information. But I was a bookworm, and I loved the library, with its row upon row of treasures, free for the borrowing.

We had shelves of books at home, too, of course.  Second hand, mostly: a mix of old favorites and 10 cent yard sale finds.  My parents let me read for hours and didn't fuss when I read Baby Sitters' Club a little (or a lot) longer than I probably should have.

One favorite was The Jungle Books.  We had an old, hard bound, green and gold two-volume set.  They were a favorite of my mom's, a love passed down from her own father to her, and on to me.

The language was intoxicating. When I was reading, jungle law somehow seemed truer than the world around me.  The seal lullabye brought a tear to my eye.  And Mowgli was like a friend.

Despite no neighborhood library, my boys have found that love.  I'm so thankful for their love of reading. And their school librarian, who makes sure they never go a day without four new books in their backpacks.  

And as for The Jungle Books?  M found it this morning.  It may not be that green and gold set of my childhood, but the magic is the same.

Happy Thanksgiving

We're still enjoying our government-mandated school break thanks to Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease.  

Whim, no longer a stay-at-home Papa, couldn't be with the boys all the time I needed to be at work, so I took a few days off and we made a real Thanksgiving break of it.

I loved having some unexpected quiet time at home with the boys to read and snuggle and play and bake and make ninja turtle masks.

And luckily we had plenty of family time, all together, too.

I'm so thankful for these three, my whole little world.

Happy thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Snow days

I keep a running list of "Thai snow days". It never snows here, but schools close for all kinds of other interesting reasons.

While teaching in Thailand I've had:
Flood days
Political unrest days
Coup days
Toxic garbage dump fire fume days
ASEAN conference days (all schools closed for a week to reduce traffic jams for the visiting leaders)
And now: Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease epidemic days.  

Which just goes to show, all those kids across the US who are praying for a snow day are thinking much too small! 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Weekend woes

During the school week, our weekend-only computer game rule seems genius.  We don't have TV, so they are free to read or play, practice piano, draw, do a puzzle, ride bikes... 

We'll often watch a movie together in the evenings, which I don't mind one bit, and the boys even have e-books they read online for their reading homework, so the school-week isn't screen-free.  We're just protected from constant requests to play games and watch YouTube videos, since they know the rule.

But the weekend is when it gets a little tricky.  In theory, I'm not against games.  I grew up with lots of tv and Nintendo time, and I was fine, a very good student and normal person.  I just don't like how everything that entertains the boys midweek is forgotten when the computer comes on.  M reads books for hours.  He would read all day if we let him.  But once the computer is fired up, his books are forgotten.  L loves to play creative, imaginary games... Just not on the weekend.

They know they aren't allowed to play "first thing in the madrugada" but there isn't a set hour.  So sometime after breakfast, one or the other of the boys will wander upstairs and then it starts. And once it's on, that's all they want to do.

I institute technology breaks at random intervals because I want them to do other things and have fun without the computer.  But I'm just as bad.  If I don't have anything going on, a whole hour or more can trickle by while I mess around on my phone.  Mildly entertained, but not really doing anything special.

If I want my kids to know there's more to life than passively using technology, I need to show them.  I know it's not rocket surgery, but if I'm not exposing them to fun and interesting things to do offline, why should I be surprised that they keep going back to the computer?  Art projects, outings, cooking or baking, experiments, sensory activities, exploring, writing, building, board games... I need to step up my game.  I have often told myself (and them!) that I am not responsible for my kids' fun.  But I do have some say in how their preferences form.  No more slacking.

Yesterday we made oobleck and slime.  For a while, technology was forgotten.  

Just a while.   But at least they know how to make them now, and might think of them again.

Later that afternoon, we (finally) took down the boys' Halloween things and decorated a paper Christmas tree on their door.  It may not be much to look at, but it represents an hour that nobody asked if they could watch Ninja Turtle videos on YouTube or play Snailbob.

This morning we built a city before anyone could bring up the computer.

And now?  As I type?

Now they're playing games.  Baby steps.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


I saw your dad once, his beard is weird!
"One day you'll grow up and have a beard, then we'll see what you say."

Your hair looks like mama noodles!
"Yes! I love mama noodles!"

You don't get to have any of the cake, nyah-nyah!
"That's ok.  I can make cake at home when I want to."

M loves practicing what he'd say if someone started teasing.  The guidance counsellor at school gave a lesson to his class about responding to teasing a few months ago, and he's been asking to practice ever since.  I truly don't think his classmates tease at school.  But maybe he just wants to be ready.  

He treats it like a puzzle- you have to answer quickly, not be rude back, and not rise.  He's good, though I take care to only "tease" about silly things or things I know won't bother him.

L, on the other hand, has exactly one line. But it is unstoppable.
No matter the taunt, his response:

"Mandude, that's how God made me."

Who could go on in the face of such cuteness?

You're a baby!
"Mandude, that's how God made me."

And the bully combusts into a poof of smoke!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Only child

This week, Whim and I spent some one-on-one (two-on-one?) time with M.  He had a few doctors appointments with a specialist that had to be done during the school day- the perfect excuse for lunch out and a post-appointment coffee shop visit, just the three of us.

With two sons, close in age, who share a group of friends and are enrolled in the same school and extracurricular activities, I appreciated the chance to shift focus to him, to let him be an "only child" for an afternoon or two.  And L, who was picked up after school by a beloved auntie instead of me, felt so brave and mature and special, too.

They get along well, fighting and playing as brothers do, making the most of a shared bedroom and a constant companion.  But everyone needs to be recognized individually, to be seen, from time to time.

I never liked the dating your children thing- "mother/son dates" aren't for me.  But I think it's time for some only-child outings.  L's up next. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

No title springs to mind

I don't get it.  Does your child turn six and then all of a sudden he is a grown man and off to business meetings?  Is that how it is?

I stubbornly stamp my foot and insist that I am not sentimental.  I'm not sad my "babies" are growing up.  I'm just bewildered.  When did this happen?  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lazy day

The boys and I are under the weather.  Not miserable, thankfully, just sick enough to want to indulge in a quiet day snuggled up in bed, which we did.  It was glorious.

I'm not ashamed to say the laptop was a constant companion.   We have strict limits during the week, but I figure a sick Saturday in bed is not the time to worry about screen time.

We started the day with youtube drawing tutorials - if you ever need a teenage mutant ninja turtle face, I'm your gal- and the boys both read and played games all morning.
Then, yesterday afternoon, only five years late to the party, I signed M up for Khan Academy.  I am geeked. He loved it.  L was busy (writing fan fiction aka a paragraph called "Teenage Mutant Ninja Cars" and starring -get this- Materangelo) but I'll sign him up today, too.  I think it could become a part of the puzzle in finding ways to challenge them at home and feeding the curiosity beasts within.

Finally, last night, the boys and I ushered in the season with one of our holiday favorites by creating a family elf yourself video.  It's tradition. L made a silly one of his baby cousin Naan, too.

The good thing about a lazy lie-in is that you're all the more ready to get out and do something the next day.  Now if somebody would just wake up...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Day tripper

I took this picture of L last month, covered with smooches from his almost-cousin Posie.

He's so big now.  He's still the tiniest one in his K4 class, but it doesn't seem to stand out so much anymore. 

He had his first field trip today.  He carried his little sachel, stocked with a nothing but a water bottle and packet of seaweed, on to the bus and I didn't sweat it for a second.

I didn't even think of spare clothes until it was all over and he was back at school safe and sound.  I was patting myself on the back, to be honest.  How calm and cool I was, not stressing unnecessarily about him.  Trusting that he could handle a half-day trip away from school.

He hasn't had a single seizure at school yet (63 days and counting) and only one close call during a fast-paced PE game.

But how comfortable should I let myself get?  Sure, it's been months, but he could have had a seizure today.  I make sure that he has spare clothes in every classroom he visits throughout the week and I sent him out today with no backup.  It wasn't even a calculated decision.  I just forgot, completely.  Am I getting over-comfortable?

I go back and forth, but today it didn't feel like a big deal.  If someone had asked me if I was worried, I might have answered, "About what?"

The longer I coast in the "no big deal" zone, though, the worse it feels when it eventually happens. Maybe there is a benefit to the needless worry.  At least you aren't blindsided.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Note to self

"Those kids brought their own private food to the party...weird.  Let's not talk to them!"

A child actually said this in reference to the boys yesterday.  What!?  That's the kind of mean/impossible stuff I dream up to torture myself with when I can't sleep and I indulge in ridiculous worrying!

Surely only kids in my imagination say things like that.

But, lo - ten minutes later, lunch was finished and they were all laughing over loud burps and silly questions, and the 'private' food was forgotten. 

So take that, friend-of-my-children's-friend, who we will likely never see again.  Or more like, take note, self.  Not everything is a big thing.

Note: Kids say dumb stuff all the time, my own kids included.  Stop worrying! 

Friday, November 7, 2014


I've written before about M's deep love of words.  New words exite him more than anything else.

Now I'm beginning to suspect that his multiple-book-a-day habit is just another way to feed his word obsession. He enjoys them, no doubt.  But I think it's less about the actual stories he's reading than the words that are building them.  Or maybe it's a combination of both.

Tintin comics are a favorite, because there's guaranteed to be an unfamiliar turn of phrase every few pages.  Same goes for Harry Potter, with its charming British slang, and Doraemon, thanks to the sometimes-kooky Japanese-to-English translation.

Last week he got a book about carnivorous plants from the library.  He unearthed a beauty within the pages: botanical.  He was so moved he couldn't go on until he shared it with me.  Botanical!  What a word!

He immediately asked to go visit a botanical garden.  I get him.  It's not the flowers he wants to see.  It's the word.  He wants to experience the amazing new word he just discovered.  I totally get it.

I found this later on my desk.  Sweet boy.
Lists like this will always warm my heart.

Yesterday morning in the taxi, he cried of desperate jealousy when he found out that L's middle is the Thai word for "the Word".  His own middle name, a form of Whim's real name, means holy.  I gave him a hug and told him how we chose his name, and how special it is to us.  "I know..." he answered between sobs.  "I just... love... words!"

Yeah, you're not kidding!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Haunted gingerbread house

Royal icing just looks magical, doesn't it?

Whipping up a batch makes me feel like Betty Crocker incarnate.  It's not that it's tricky or time consuming.  It takes 5 minutes and only has two ingredients.  It's just that - to me - it's special.  You only make it for special occasions, like gingerbread houses or fancy cookies.

You never make it in a hurry, or half-heartedly, or absentmindedly.  You make it because you're getting ready to grab on to the holiday season with both hands and sink your teeth in.  It's something totally distinct from regular, day-to-day life.

The boys wanted to use their freshly-gathered Halloween loot to make a haunted gingerbread house.  So we're spanning multiple holidays here.

It turned out as overdone and crazy as last year's.

Just like I like it!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Happy birthday to me!

This year, I got Christmas for my birthday.

We woke up to an unexpected frosty morning...


Just kidding!

But the boys did give me a fake snow treatment and a quiet stroll through Ikea's Christmas department. 

love Christmas, so I couldn't have asked for a nicer birthday.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Happy Halloween

Since Thai people don't really celebrate Halloween, American families who want American festivities have to make them happen.

It can be feel a little contrived, but no more so than turning on Jingle Bells and the air conditioning at the same time.  You do what you have to do.

Friends invited us to two trick-or-treating get-togethers and we went to both! 

Friday evening, L donned his race car driver suit while M was an astronaut.

With their sweet friend Gabi.

The gang.

It was fun, and loud, and crazy, and chaotic.  Mostly fun, though, and the kids had a blast.  It was a race against the clouds and we ended up caught in the storm. 

Saturday, the boys could not conceive of wearing the same costumes again, so they each chose a new look.

I'm thankful our community of friends, who put forth the effort to make things happen.

The boys can't eat the candy, but they don't mind a bit.  That's not what it's about, at least not for them.  (Incidentally, they brought home a huge haul, which they'll be using for a gingerbread house before too long.)

The night after Halloween, we always watch the first Christmas movie of the season.  So the boys and I stayed up late watching a Curious George Christmas.

Happy Halloween to all, and to all a good night.