Sunday, September 30, 2012

In the not-at-all-bleak Mid-autumn

Lanterns lit!
Celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival, a.k.a. Lantern Festival

One of the things we've been sad to miss out on the past nine years away was celebrating festivals like the Mid-autumn Festival with the family. It was always one of my favorite festivals as a kid and I'm glad we got to be home for it this year, and more importantly, to share the experience with Sophie.

The cultural symbolism of it is lost on her right now, of course, but the fact that she got to spend the evening surrounded by lit lanterns and carrying one around the grandparents' neighborhood-- just like my cousins and I used to do growing up-- was more than enough excitement for the three-year-old :)

Lantern walk
A first for both kiddos!

As for me, I was just happy with that delicious meal my mom painstakingly prepared and basking in the love and laughter of family. By the time the night was over, Sophie summed up everyone's sentiments fantastically, "I'm having a great time, Mama." So did Mama, Sophie. So did Mama...

More pictures here (thanks to the brother-in-law!).

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rediscovering an old love

I used to be an English major. Which basically means for four years, it was pretty much my job to read everyday. But that was for school, and ironically, there was little time for me to read things I enjoyed as opposed to things that were prescribed in the syllabus (if you put a gun to my head and asked me to read Samuel Richardson's Clarissa again, I'd tell you to shoot...) Over the years, between being a teacher, a grad student, then a grad student and mom, and then a working mom, I've tried to carve out time to read, mostly before bedtime, although I haven't always been as successful as I'd like.

Since we've been back though, I've tried to make a greater effort to clock in some good reading time- I schlep a book with me everywhere so if there's any downtime-- when I'm having lunch alone, while in line for something, waiting for a friend, etc., I have a book to occupy me. It's really a more productive use of my time than constantly checking my email or Facebook on my phone (and shaves off data plan usage on my phone plan too...). I also try to spend half an hour to an hour reading before going to bed. It actually helps wind my mind down for the day.

Books I've finished in the past month:
Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World (Lisa Bloom)
The Marriage Plot (Jeffrey Eugenides)
Life of Pi (Yann Martel)

In the midst of:
An Everlasting Meal (Tamar Adler)

In the queue:
Wishful Drinking (Carrie Fisher)
The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes)
The Glass Castle (Jeanette Walls)
Possession (A. S. Byatt) (I'm going to try starting a tradition to reread this once every year. That's how much I love it)

While I do most of my reading in bed, Jude and I are also starting to read more with Sophie. As in, reading our books as she flips through hers. Initially, I worried that if I sat and read a book of my own, I'd be ignoring her. But then I realized that I'm modeling a healthy habit for her- a child who sees her parent reading for pleasure quickly gets the message that reading is pleasure. And so we made a book nook in our room for all of us to read together-- Jude has his POÄNG chair from Ikea, we got Sophie a kiddie-sized one too, and I usually just sit on the bed. We filled a basket with some of her books (that we rotate every week or so) and after dinner or bathtime, we'd just all flump down together with our own books for a little bit before putting Sophie to bed. It usually isn't for long-- 20 minutes at the most-- but it's a nice way to just be quiet around each other and unwind from the day. Sophie understands that this is a special reading time and she doesn't ask us to read to her; besides, she knows she'll get a bunch of books read to her in bed just before she goes to sleep.

It's so trite to talk about how soulful it is to read but it's hard to find any other activity that feeds your soul and mind so richly as reading. Books have always been a huge part of my life-- in one way or another-- and as I grow older, I can only hope that they will continue to be. For me, and for Sophie.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


No, please do not adjust your screens. Really, my niece is exactly as cute as the photo suggests... :)

LOVE this photo so much!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

34 boxes

I've never been happier to see our vacuum cleaner. Or our can opener. Or our books. And don't even get me started on how happy Sophie's been now that all her toys and books have arrived.

And arrived they have. All 34 boxes.

1. And our boxes have arrived!, 2. More boxes..., 3. Sophie's room in disarray, 4. So.Many.Books

It feels great to have all our things in one place again. For a while, it was a little tricky getting certain things done-- like opening a can (I know that sounds so silly...)-- because I didn't want to spend money buying a can opener just for the moment when I knew I had packed our awesome one somewhere in those boxes. There was also some anxiety about whether our boxes would arrive unscathed and all accounted for- I've heard too many horror stories about international moves. But thankfully, we got a great moving company and nothing was broken or lost in the transit.

Most importantly, Sophie is ecstatic that she has all her beloved toys and books with her again. Mostly her books. Since our boxes arrived, we've been able to pretty much leave her in her room while we prepare dinner and this is what she'll be reliably doing:


Like I said, happy camper :)

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Setting up home

So let's see- we've been to Ikea probably half a dozen times in the last 3 weeks, I have the nearby DIY store on speed dial, and I've probably bought enough 3M Command products (mostly hooks and hanging strips) to qualify for stock option...

Setting up a home from scratch has been more exhausting than I had expected and this isn't even taking into account the 32 boxes of stuff that are sitting at a warehouse somewhere in Singapore waiting to clear customs. The major things were out of the way fairly quickly-- our apartment comes furnished with the big items like beds, desks, and closets and our families have been so helpful with things like household products, pots, silverware, linens, etc. But it's one or some other little thing that needs constant attention almost everyday- organizer boxes for the bathroom (who knew they'd be so important?), foil and parchment paper (we used to buy these in bulk and never had to think about them), or basic medical supplies like band-aids or paracetamol.

Thankfully, I haven't started work yet and with Sophie at daycare for most of the day, I've been exploiting the fuel efficiency of zippy Honda and driving about town getting stuff done. And in the process, I've learned that I no longer derive any pleasure from shopping. Oh, I will shop if I have to get something, but if nothing in the store is on my list of things to buy for the day, then I'm not going in. I used to love just walking around malls- soaking in the atmosphere, browsing the racks just because I could. But I think a combination of having had Sophie (anyone with a kid will tell you that the first buzzkill of window-shopping is a clingy, whiny 3-year-old) and having lived in a city where we only went to the mall once every three or four of months (and only because there was something specific to get), I no longer have the patience nor fortitude to bustle at a crowded shopping center.

Which also explains why we keep going back to Ikea and to the same DIY store- I know where things are and who I spoke to last. And that's what's going to help me get things done in the shortest amount of time so I can get out of there and conquer that next bit of household minutiae.

Don't get me wrong, I'm actually enjoying this whole process-- yes, it's been tiring, but I'm also appreciating the me-time to do my own thing once house stuff has been overcome. I'm reading a lot more than I have (just finished this and have this and this started), writing quite a fair bit too, and also setting aside time for Sophie.

When Jude and I were both working, our days were a harried blur of breakfast- daycare drop-off- work- daycare pickup- dinner- bathtime- books- sleep. And while I know we'll be replicating that once I start work, it's been nice these past couple of weeks not to have to do that. Sophie can see the expressway from her window and so we take some time to watch the cars together after I rouse her as she slowly wakes up on my lap; or I pick her up early from daycare whenever I can. Most of her toys and games are spread out in those 32 boxes so we read a lot, and do art, or just talk about our day. She's at that age where she can fully engage you in a conversation so we just lounge on the couch and chat. She tells me about not drinking chrysanthemum tea at school because it was too bitter and I tell her about having to return the water filter because it broke.

Speaking of which, our 32 boxes are scheduled to arrive on Monday. Just as we got comfortable and have the house as set up as it can be...