Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Who says you can't have fun when it's snowing out?

Unless it's extremely frigid out or if the snow is coming down too hard, Sophie spends some time outside everyday, even in the winter. That's what she does at daycare and that's what we do over the weekends as well. She just needs the fresh air and runabout time, even if it's cold. We tell her she can't be outside too long and she needs to wear her hat and gloves if she wants to go out (optional pieces of winter gear for our child if given a choice...) We got her new winter boots this year so she's been relishing stomping in the snow and slush- something she enjoys doing even more than sledding.

Everyone had their "favorite" food with toast
Tea party with Dodo and Tess

So this past weekend, after a rather delightful (if gastronomically eclectic) tea party where all present (including Jude and I) had the pleasure of being served "toast" with a side of "onions", "fish", "mushroom" and "candy", we bundled the munchkin up and headed outside.

1. Kiss break on the way up the climber, 2. Swing, 3. Ice at the end of the slide, 4. Letting the sensation set in :)

I sometimes wonder if it's worth the trouble for everyone to layer up the winter clothes just for 20 minutes outside; and then I see how much fun Sophie has and how much she savors every second of that time, and I remember why we do it each and every time :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ode to our slow cooker

How do working parents who arrive home at 5.45pm every evening get dinner on the table by 6.30pm? No, not take out. Or delivery pizza. Or make everyone eat crackers, cheese, and salad. I'm talking a hot, home-cooked, healthy, and delicious meal.

Answer: the slow cooker. It rocks. Really. It truly has been the best kitchen purchase we've made since... oh I don't know... our microwave? Jude got ours for my birthday last year and since then, we've made everything from congee to carnitas. I love the fact that I can just turn it on in the morning and almost like magic, 9 hours later, we return to a house that smells as if someone had been slogging in the kitchen all day. It's especially comforting during these winter months when all you want when you get home is something hearty and warm.

Most slow cooker recipes require some element of prep- some chopping, searing, seasoning, etc., and so what I do is get everything ready the night before, throw the ingredients into the slow cooker insert, and put it in the fridge. And then in the morning, as I'm waiting for my coffee to brew, I add the liquids (if they're called for), or simply put the insert back in and turn the cooker on. Voila! I've even put frozen meat in there and it still manages to turn our wonderfully tender by the end of the day.

It helps that our particular slow cooker insert is made of stainless steel and goes on the stove top so I can sear and sauté first and then move the whole insert into the slow cooker- no need for a separate pan for the pre-cooking. And then when we come home in the evening, all I have to do is to make some kind of starch (rice/pasta/potato) and/or veggie and we're all set for dinner, like last week when we made BBQ baby-back ribs. I followed the suggestions of the reviewers and made some adjustments and it turned out beautifully. All it needed was a salad and some sweet potato fries, and we had a $50 meal on the table for a fraction of that price. Sophie would not touch the meat but she was more than happy with the fries and some chicken I quickly cooked up for her.

We may never eats ribs outside again.

Some of our favorite slow cooker recipes:
Beef, leek, and barley soup (adapted for slow cooker)
Bean and kale soup with ham
Chicken congee
Whole "roasted" chicken (yes, you can cook a whole chicken in the slow cooker!)
Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic
Teriyaki chicken (made with store-bought teriyaki sauce)
Beef stew
Sausage lentil soup
Bolognese sauce (a.k.a. dinner tonight)

Monday, January 23, 2012

恭喜恭喜 everybody!

Sophie wishes everyone a happy lunar new year from frosty Ann Arbor! She may not have any idea what she's missing, but her Mama and Dada sure are missing those pineapple tarts and kueh bangkits!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Everyone goes potty

So about our potty training weekend...

I don't think it was a complete failure-- Sophie actually did manage to pee in the potty a few times (see star sticker chart below), but I think it was more out of attrition-- we made her sit on the potty with a book for about 15 minutes-- than her actually telling us she needed to pee.

Star-sticker chart for potty-training
Five stickers- that's the total number of times Sophie
went to the potty all weekend. It's a work in progress...

Intellectually, she knows she should poop and pee in the potty- she can say to us over and over- "When I need to go potty, I have to tell Mama and Dada." or "When I need to go potty, I run to the potty NOW!"; but physically, I think she's a little afraid to do it without the security of the diaper. In fact, there were a few instances when she told us that her bottom was hurting because I think she was holding it all in.

We used all manner of bribes-- snacks, juice, videos and even threats-- no snacks, no juice, no videos, and that worked to varying degrees of effectiveness. But I think the most resonant (though not yet successful) incentive is the prospect of preschool. Sophie is constantly fascinated by the preschool classroom next to hers. The kids are only a year older but to Sophie, it's like a whole other world, and she talks about the preschoolers and what they do with the kind of awe and reverence usually reserved for deities or Thomas the Tank Engine. And so we've been telling her that until she's potty-trained, she can't go to preschool (which is only a partial white lie- she still can, but the daycare won't provide the diapers like they do now- we'd have to do it).

In the end though, it was not to be. She had a couple of accidents which made her cry (which I guess is a good thing coz that means she knows she wasn't supposed to do what she did), she developed a fever that just wouldn't go away, and on Monday, woke up with a bad case of hives. For a moment there, I was convinced she was experiencing some potty-training post-traumatic stress disorder, and I felt horrible. But then it turned out that it was a virus of some sort that went just as soon as it came.

So we're going to try again in a couple of weeks and told ourselves we're not going to be too stressed about it this time. I think a bit of our anxiety might have rubbed off on her over the weekend and the last thing I want is to have her associate going to the potty with something negative. In the meantime, we got her a bunch of books about the potty (see here and here) which have been heartily received. I don't know why I didn't think about this sooner- we only just got the books yesterday and we've already read them at least four times each. Because we've read them so many times plus they're fairly simple (I mean, there's only one message), Sophie's got parts of the books memorized and is able to relate the narrative to us. Let's just hope that translates into action when we try this whole thing again next time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How was your weekend?

No pants-down photos of Sophie so here's Jude's Magna(doodle)ficent take on our potty training weekend :)
Potty training #FAIL

This pretty much sums up ours, together with Sophie running a 103F (39C) temperature, her body riddled with inexplicable hives, night wakings for everyone, and tantrums all round (yes, the grown ups included).

So yeah, exciting stuff.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

With great power comes great responsibility

Mesmerized by Rio

Last night, as Jude stood in front of our coat closet looking in vain for a hanger to hang his winter coat:

Sophie: Dada, do you need some help?
Jude: Thank you, Sophie but it's okay.
Sophie: I can help you, Dada. I have super-powers in my ponytail.
Jude: It's alright, Sophie.
Sophie: Tell me! Tell me! I can help you.
Jude: Okay- can you help me find a hanger to hang my coat?
Sophie: Oh. I cannot help you. [walks away]

Even superheroes have their limits...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Random daycare daily report #22

Girl on the run
One of our favorite photos of Sophie during our trip
Sophie is still so proud of her trip to Singapore. Today, a parent was saying to Lucy, "Lucy, you're a big sister now?" and Sophie came running over and saying, "I went to Singapore!" Also, all of her friends take pretend trips to Singapore together. I even heard someone say they wanted to play "Singapore" today. What a sensation our little jet-setter has started! :)
Incidentally, yesterday, as we were picking Sophie up, one of her classmates' mom said to us, "Payton's been wanting to take a helicopter to Singapore. We've had to explain to her that we're probably not going to take a trip to Singapore any time soon..."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sophie loves books

New display book shelf

One of the last things we did before leaving for Singapore last year was put together Sophie's new bookshelf in her room. Until then, she had one bookshelf in our living room downstairs and a whole bunch of books we read at bedtime stacked (ok, strewn) on the futon in her room. We decided it was time to tidy up her room now that she's getting older and more in need of her own space and so when I saw this display bookcase on sale online, I grabbed it without thinking twice. And I have to say, it's been great. Even the books on the highest tier are within Sophie's reach and she can see all the book covers at a glance, which allows her to pick the books she wants with ease. We rotate some of the books with those downstairs so there's always a new variety for our bedtime reading, but there's also a core set of favorites we always seem to revisit every now and then (the original Madeline and Harold and the Purple Crayon have more or less never left her room).

And so these days, our bedtime routine pretty much unfolds like this:
7:30- Finish up whatever we're doing downstairs-- reading/ playing/ post-dinner fruit/ post-dinner TV treat-- and get ready for bath time.
7:45- Bath.
8:00- Get Sophie dressed in her jammies while listening to either The Muppets or the Sesame Street channel on Pandora. Sometimes, she'll ask for some milk during this time.
8:15- She picks three books from her shelf that we bring to the futon with us to read. Often, she even has a specific order in which she would like them read.
8:40- We're usually done with books by this time but she'll almost always start whining and ask for one more. Depending on how long Book #4 is, I may or may not give in (I Want My Hat Back- yes; Owl Moon- no).
8:45 (at the latest)- We snuggle for a bit, put her in her crib, and say goodnight. She's been asking us to leave the door open as we walk out- I think it's just so she can hear us as we jostle about downstairs. It probably lulls her to sleep.

I love that Sophie enjoys reading so much- she'll pretty much give up anything to listen to a story or look at a book. Even breakfast...

Madeline's Rescue over breakfast
Madeline's Rescue at breakfast this morning

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Random daycare daily report #21

Sophie with her primary caregiver, Erin
Sophie with Erin on her first day of daycare almost two years ago
Sometimes, Sophie just melts my heart. I returned from my lunch break today and Sophie yelled, "Erin's back!" like she hadn't seen me in months :) Then Sophie came up to me and said, "We love you so much, Erin." What a great feeling! I must say, the feeling is mutual too :)

Friday, January 06, 2012

What did you do in Singapore?

In the car on the way home from daycare:

Me: So Sophie, can you remember what you did in Singapore?
Sophie: Err... I play with Yiyi Sam. And Uncle Sam. 
Me: And what else?
Sophie: I smoochy kiss Baby Julianne so she won't cry anymore. 
Me: That was nice of you, right?
Sophie: Yah. Baby Julianne is so tiny. She needs a floatie. Like Sophie.
Me: When you go swimming?
Sophie: Yes, I have a Shamu floatie. 
Me: What else did you do in Singapore?
Sophie: I eat SO MUCH  tau sar pau and I see the Merlion.
Me: What was the Merlion doing?
Sophie: Spitting water from his mouth. Are you supposed to do that?
Me: Are you supposed to do that?
Sophie: No. You cannot do that. I was 'fraid of the Merlion. But Gong Gong protect me.
Me: Do you like Singapore, Sophie?
Sophie: Yah. We stay in Singapore tomorrow ok? We take the airplane and go to Gong Gong's house tomorrow. That's a good plan.

Bye bye Singapore!
First family photo of 2012, last family photo of our holiday

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The last 10 hours

1) Arrived in Ann Arbor after a fairly eventless flight although we did have one meltdown on the Tokyo-Detroit leg (which involved fellow passengers and one flight attendant actually offering us assistance. Thanks for asking- yes, our daughter does scream like a Tasmanian devil on steroids when she's throwing a tantrum, no, she's not having a seizure-- that's how she wails-- and no, a glass of milk isn't going to make it better...)

2) Was welcomed by a light dusting of snow, a forty degree Centigrade difference in temperature, and a 40% dip in humidity levels.

3) Made a quick instant noodle lunch for Jude and I and some oatmeal for Sophie. For the last 30 hours, with the exception of a bowl of udon at the Narita airport, Sophie only ate toast, pretzel sticks, her new favorite fishball crackers that we had packed from Singapore, and some fruit from her otherwise untouched airline meals. Jude and I weren't that lucky- we actually ate our airline meals.

4) Watched as Sophie reunited with her play yard and all her toys in there like family reuniting after years of being separated by the Berlin Wall or the Korean straits. I really think that was the only thing keeping her from giving in to the exhaustion and falling asleep at 4.00 in the afternoon.

5) Took our first showers in 36 hours.

6) Restocked our empty refrigerator with a Trader Joe's run. We gave Sophie her own kiddie cart and license to pick 5 things to put in it- another attempt to keep her up and awake until a reasonable bedtime. She chose bananas, dried cranberries, dried stuffed ravioli (even though she can't eat it), a bag of onions, and a jar of bruschetta spread (don't ask... it was at her eye-level. She also claimed she needed it.)

7) Put together dinner in a semi-haze- veggie and miso soup with pasta for Sophie (I had made a big pot of it before we left for Singapore and portioned it into freezable bags) and take-out BBQ for Jude and I.

8) Watched as Jude fell asleep in the middle of reading Sophie her bedtime story. Before 7.00pm.

9) Watched as Sophie fell asleep before she could even realize that her Dada had fallen asleep reading her her bedtime story.

10) Fell asleep myself after 8) and 9).

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Years Interview 2012

Here's my project to take a New Years Interview video of Sophie every year to be able to watch and remember her at each age. I think it'll be pretty neat to hear how her voice-- and her answers to the questions-- change over the years :)

So, as of 1 January, 2012:

Favorite book: Meet the Muppets (a spin-off of the movie, and a book that I've been reading at bedtime every night since we bought it two weeks ago)
Favorite color: green or purple
Favorite place: Singapore/ dinosaur museum
Favorite food: cantaloupe
Favorite drink: apple juice
Favorite toy: rubber duckie

Happy New Year everyone!