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Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Top 5 memories of 2011

5) Starting a new job that I really enjoy:

New office (after 3 weeks)

4) Jude successfully defending his dissertation!

Title slide

3) Sophie turned 2 in August:

Cake 2

2) We welcomed my beautiful niece, Julianne, into our world :) Such joy!

Arrival of Baby Julianne

1) Spending Christmas at home, surrounded by family, basking in much love :)


Farewell, 2011...

Little chums

Sophie's always been sort of a parallel play sort of kid- we'll have play dates with friends and for the most part, she'll be playing along side other children but not really with them. We're not really worried- her teachers tell us that most of the toddlers in her class do the same and it's a developmental thing that she'll outgrow soon enough.

So it was really nice when we found Sophie playing wonderfully with her little friend, Sean, at a play date today. Sean is my brother-in-law's nephew and just a week younger than Sophie. We had a little meet-cute for them the last time we were home but back then, it was more an excuse for the grown-ups to have a popiah party... :) This time though, they were old enough to actually interact with each other and it was such a joy to watch them together! Maybe it's because we had prepared Sophie for the play date beforehand (she actually woke up in the morning reminding us that Sean was coming even though she has no memory of who he is...) but there were no meltdowns, no possessive grabbing of toys, lots of good sharing, and tons of happy squealing and chasing around the house and garden. Basically, loads of fun was had all round. It definitely helped that Sean is such a sweet boy with such a gentle disposition- every time Sophie was out of his sight, he would call out "Sophie!..." or jie jie ("big sister" in Chinese, which was what his mom asked him to call Sophie). On her part, Sophie would happily call out, "Sean! Oh... Sean!"

Here's to more play dates with Sean every time we come back- he seems to bring out the best in Sophie!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


I grew up being really close to my cousins on both my paternal and maternal sides. In fact, we remain close till today and one of the joys of coming home is hanging out with all of them again. Sophie has no idea what or who cousins are yet-- I think the whole concept of family is something she's only beginning to grasp. But in the past two weeks, she's spent some time with both sets of cousins and if nothing else, she has developed a real affection for them and enjoys their company a whole lot. On my side, she's become really fond of showering Julianne with smoochy kisses whenever she can and gets really concerned when Julianne starts to cry ("Why is Baby Julianne crying, Mama?"). She also likes watching my sister and brother-in-law give Julianne her baths, which is really quite sweet.

On Jude's side, even though she's technically met Amelia and Aiden once before when we came back two years ago, it wasn't until Christmas that she really got to interact with them properly-- playing with playdoh together, attacking the Christmas piñata with gusto, and hitting the playground with equal relish. They even had a blast at the beach together yesterday, where Amelia schooled Sophie on the finer points of sandcastle architecture while Aiden modeled the proper way to enjoy the seawater splashing about you...

Being so far away-- at least for now-- may mean that Sophie won't get to play with her cousins as much as her Mama did with hers; but I'd like to think that familial ties are stronger than geography. I love my cousins dearly and-- if she doesn't already-- as she grows older, I want to believe that Sophie will love hers too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I miss her so much...

This hasn't been an easy post to type. I started three times and had to stop each time because my eyes just kept welling up. Not being in Singapore when my grandmother passed away will always be one of the saddest moments of my life. She was peaceful at her deathbed, I am told; and for that, I am grateful. But it didn't make visiting her grave any easier.

It was important to both Jude and I that Sophie was with us. She obviously didn't grasp the gravity of where we were and what we were doing, but I think she understood that we were there to visit my Por Por (what she calls my mom) and was uncharacteristically quiet as she laid the flowers at my grandma's grave. She doesn't remember meeting her exactly two years before of course, but she'll have pictures. And my memories.

Sophie meets Great-grandma (Ah Ma)
26th December 2009

At Serene's Grandma's grave
26th December 2011

How do you take a Christmas family photo?

1) Negotiate the terms of agreement with a tantrumming two-year-old (I believe it was a bowl of udon soup in exchange for getting up for the family photo)

Getting Sophie ready for our family photo

2) Mill about while everyone gets their act together (a.k.a our Modern Family moment)

Our Modern Family moment

3) Make the best of the slightly blurry but otherwise really festive seventh take:


Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It doesn't matter what the climate

A beach is a beach whether it's almost freezing cold in Saugatuck, Michigan or tropical humidity in Changi Point, Singapore...

For picking up sand and shells

For playing with sticks

And for pictures with Mama...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ode to Parkway

It had been the one unchangeable I could always count on, the one shopping mall I've always been able to find my way around virtually blindfolded since I was allowed to visit it by myself when I was twelve. But I guess two years is a long time to be away and in my absence, my beloved Parkway Parade has finally succumbed to the metamorphosis that seems to have beset so many familiar locales around the island. Having lived in the East of the island all my life, this shopping center has always had a special place in my heart, even with the fancier, shinier, brighter malls sprouting up in the city. In its own modest way, it had (well, still has, I guess) everything I need in a mall-- sundries, groceries, food, shopping, and services like my optician and watch repairman.

And having spent so much time there these past twenty some years, I knew exactly where everything was- every shop, how most of the owners and vendors looked like, even how competitors' prices matched up (particularly amongst the mall's many optical shops). So imagine my utter discombobulation when Jude and I popped by for what I thought was going to be an easy (and quick) errand trip. Armed with a list of things to buy and Sophie happily napping at my parents', I was certain I could get everything I needed within the two hours of Sophie's nap. In fact, I was convinced that if we were strategic enough in our shopping, we might even be able to do it all in under an hour, with time leftover for coffee and a snack. Clearly, I didn't factor in 1) the Christmas shopping crowd; 2) the many makeshift shopping carts that have sprung up in every available space all over the mall; 3) an expanded basement food court that I had to meander through just to get to the elevators; and 4) all the shops that have newly opened, expanded, shrunk, moved, changed names, or closed down. It actually made me feel a little sad-- disappointed almost-- like having an old friend change on you... In the end, we did manage to get our shopping done, but in two hours instead of one. There was coffee-- but to go-- and no time for a snack.

Five years ago, I blogged about something similar; five years later, I pretty much still feel the same way. Like I told Jude as we sat in an inexplicable traffic jam in the middle of the day along Orchard Road last week, every generation of Singaporeans has-- and will-- grow old in a Singapore that is nothing like the Singapore in which we grew up.

Christmas isn't Christmas till

Now that, is what you call a Christmas tree

Thursday, December 15, 2011

And we're baaaack!

In the end, the journey was more forgiving than anticipated- there were a couple of sort-of meltdowns, but they were mostly because Sophie was just really tired from her sleep schedule getting messed up. She did really well on the flights, mostly because we were *very* liberal with the whole watching videos on the iPad thing- basically, for 18 hours, we allowed our toddler's brain to turn into Kipper mush. Oh, and consider this my public service announcement to our vegetarian/vegan friends out there who are going to fly Delta in the future- because I love you, I'm just going to tell you right now to stock up on whatever you can get at the airport to sustain you throughout your flight, because you're not going to get anything (sustenance, nutrition, flavor) from the vegetarian meal option. The only things Sophie (or I) would eat were the fruit platters, a cold bagel, and a side of plain couscous. She basically survived on packets of the airline's complimentary pretzels.

But putting that all behind us, we're home now, and that's what matters. Sophie's been thriving on all the attention she's been getting from family, and really having a wonderful time. She's still a little jetlagged and she literally starts perspiring just sitting still in the living room, but I don't think it bothers her at all. Everything is just so new and exciting for her that every second has been spent just asking and learning about new things. Like chicken rice :) And wild monkeys at MacRitchie Reservoir (where we found ourselves early this morning when Sophie decided to wake up at 5.30). But most importantly, Sophie got to meet Baby Julianne in person, and it was really sweet:

"I give Baby Julianne a kiss."
"I give Baby Julianne a kiss."

Two weeks. At home. With family. And friends. Christmas. Good food. I say, bring it!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Last hurrah for the year

Peek-a-boo, Mama!
Why, hello there!

I guess it's fitting that two days before we leave for the sunny, warm, and humid tropics, we should spend the morning frolicking (and I mean that fairly literally) in the wintry snow and bracing cold. It had snowed a couple of days ago and even though there isn't that much snow out, it was enough for one last sledding attempt for the year. The last two times we tried sledding with Sophie weren't the greatest of successes (the first of which was almost exactly a year ago actually...), but today, what with being much older and even more fearless, Sophie had a whale of a time and couldn't get enough!

Click for more photos

When Jude brought her down the first time, I swear the entire neighborhood could hear her squeal of delight :) And all the "wheeeee!"s that came after too, of course... She tried to make a snow angel like what she's seen in one of her books but we had to tell her there wasn't really enough snow to see the full effect.

This time Wednesday morning (Singapore time), we'll be basking in 90F/33C weather in a city 2 degrees north of the equator. Snow and cold will almost literally be half a world away.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

One more week

Sophie gets new headphones
Sophie loving her new headphones

This time next week, we'll probably be sound asleep in Jude's parents' place in Singapore; we would undoubtedly still be reeling from jet lag but relieved to have survived the 25-hour journey from Ann Arbor to his parents' doorstep. And that's what worrying me the most right now- that dastardly flight. It's actually making it a little hard for me to get excited about being home because all I want is to get the flight over and done with first. A combined 21 hours on the plane with a rambunctious 2 year-old who *needs* her fresh air and run-around time (even in winter), and for whom only a fine line divides pure euphoria and a total and epic existential meltdown. If that doesn't send shivers of dread down any parent's spine, then I don't know what does.

I know the flight is only going to be as stressful as I allow it so we're going to try to be as prepared as we can, but also not to get hung up about it too much either. Sophie's actually traveled well on planes the last two times we've traveled recently, but they were only 2-hour long trips and we timed them during her afternoon nap so she slept most of the way. This time though, we're going to have to make sure we have enough to occupy her with or she's just going to go all banshee-crazy with cabin fever... So this weekend, we're going to the Dollar Store to get a bunch of cheap chachkies, wrap them up in newspaper, and give one to her every hour to just unwrap and play with. Hopefully, the novelty will be fun. I'm also packing crayons, a coloring/sticker/activity book, and a couple of "search-and-find" books that usually occupy her for quite a while (like her favorite of the moment, In the Town, All Year Round).

Between Jude and I, we have two iPads with a combined battery life of 16.5 hours, identical sets of kiddie apps, all three Toy Story movies, and as many Kipper episodes as I could download from YouTube. We got Sophie her own kiddie headphones (which she LOVES) so she's all set in the entertainment department. I know, three movies and a whole load of cartoons might seem a little excessive but I've reconciled myself to the notion that a long-haul flight is NOT the time for interactive intellectually-stimulating books or carrot sticks. Sophie's going to get all the mind-numbing animation and whatever snacks she wants/needs to stay calm. Thankfully, her dairy allergies mean that the snacks she loves are mostly crackers and gummies, so they're not even really that bad for her... I'm also packing her favorite snacks because I'm not holding my breath on the vegan meal option I got for her as part of her ticket. I dislike airplane food enough as it is, I can't imagine what the vegan version is going to be like... I'm thinking, what's the worst that can happen? That she has nothing but soy milk, saltine crackers, chocolate bunny rabbit crackers, fruit gummies, and a bowl of udon during our transit in Tokyo over the course of the entire journey? I mean, honestly...

Café Sophie

So we found out a little too late that all Sophie wants for Christmas is carrot. Thankfully, what we did get her isn't too far removed from the vegetable. On top of a second hand lemonade/vegetable stand we had gotten her a while back and a tea set she got for her birthday, Sophie also has various varieties of toy food that have been gifted to her over time. And so for the longest time, her favorite thing to do has been setting up picnics and tea parties with Jude and I and her soft toys. Then when we were at our friends' place for a play date one day, we noticed how taken Sophie was with their play kitchen. She would be all engrossed, talking to herself about what she was doing ("Be careful, the oven is hot." "I put some carrots in the pot." "I'm hungry. I'm cooking."), and playing independently of us, which is something we've noticed she's doing quite a bit of lately.

So we thought it would be a good idea to shop around for one for her for Christmas. We had several criteria: 1) it has to be made of wood; 2) it has to be fairly compact to fit in Sophie's play yard (which is basically all of our very small living room); 3) it has to be reasonably priced; and 4) it has to be well-designed. And we found it all in the Educo My Creative Cookery Club.

Early Christmas present
Early Christmas present

We decided to set it up early since we'll be spending Christmas in Singapore and there is no way we are going to haul the kitchen set all the way across three continents just so Sophie can open it on Christmas morning. It's been a couple of weeks since she's had it and she LOVES it to bits. Even her teachers at school know about it because apparently she talks about it all the time. She has a field day putting all manner of toy food into the pots, stirring and frying, putting things into the "oven" and "refrigerator", checking to see if they're cold/hot enough, and taking them out. We've also been using it to teach her new words like spatula, salt and pepper shaker, and temperature.

And even though she's more than happy to play with the kitchen set by herself, it's actually been a lot of fun playing along with her. She asks us for our orders, we tell her what we want (Jude always gets a sandwich with everything and I have a burger with red peppers and onions), and she'll make it for us. Of course, service is not always the promptest at Café Sophie- Jude's been waiting on his last order for six days. Every time he asks Sophie where his sandwich is, she'll open the "oven", peek in, and tell him, "Be patient, Dada, it's in the oven. It's hot."

Monday, December 05, 2011

Meeting Santa for the first time

So- guess who we bumped into at the farmer's market yesterday?

Guess who we bumped into at Kerrytown today?

I'm quite sure Sophie doesn't comprehend exactly who Santa Claus is or what he represents but she was excited enough to see him nonetheless. We didn't know he was going to be there and I guess no one did either because we barely had to wait 5 minutes before it was Sophie's turn to sit on his lap. Maybe because there was none of the hype or anticipation that sometimes accompanies the first Santa meeting, Sophie was actually really comfortable being held by him. She duly answered his questions (What's your name? How old are you? What would you like for Christmas?, which she breezily answered with "carrot"- I wish we had known that earlier coz it would have been much easier than what we've gotten her- for another post...) and was more than happy to give him a hug and snuggle.

She was still talking about her little tête-à-tête with Santa later in the afternoon and so I think it did mean something special to her. We haven't decided if we're going to do the whole "Santa brings children gifts on Christmas thing" but if we do, we know she at least likes the idea of the guy... :)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Got milk?

Hot chocolate treat on blustery day

We were listening to The Muppets channel on Pandora when Rufus Wainwright's version of "Hallelujah" came on (don't ask- I haven't yet figured out which music gene in The Muppets is somehow related to this track...). About a minute into the song, Sophie asks quizzically, "Why is the man sad?" Now, while I appreciate her sensitivity to melancholy, anyone who's heard the original (or better yet, Jeff Buckley's version) would tell you that Rufus Wainwright emphatically does not sound half as sad, but what does Sophie know? She thinks Elmo is the paragon of normal... Anyways, before I could suggest that she have a conversation with Leonard Cohen about his songwriting, this is what she offers as a solution:

"Maybe he needs to drink some soy milk."

Now if only she were right and epic heartache could be cured by a dairy substitute...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Random daycare daily report #20

I've never seen a child more excited about playing in the snow than Sophie was today. All morning long, she kept going over and trying to put her snow boots on. Then we were finally getting ready to put on snow clothes, we had a hard time convincing Sophie that her boots has to go on last. She was excited about those boots! :)

Incidentally, at drop-off this morning, Sophie basically burst into her classroom and shouted out loud, "ARE WE GOING SLEDDING??!!" I guess they sort of did :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are you smiling?

First family photo booth picture

How about now? :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Counting down 14 days

A week ago today, Anthony Bourdain's new show, The Layover premiered on the Travel Channel, and for the second time, he launched a new series/season with an episode on... you guessed it, Singapore (read about our excitement over his No Reservations episode on Singapore here). You've got to give it to the guy, I've not met another non-Singaporean who is as passionate about Singaporean food as he is. And I'm not talking about the chi-chi, often pretentious, marked-up-by-a-1000%, white-table cloth, reservations-only experience; he loves-- just as much as we do-- the food that put Singapore on the foodie map of the world. We're talking sup tulang, bak chor mee, pig innards soup, chicken rice, fish head curry, etc.- street food, hawker fare, that lies at the heart of our culinary heritage.

And so, inspired by the episode (and by our recent success with char kway teow), Jude and I spent the Thanksgiving long weekend cooking up a trifecta of Singaporean hawker favorites: chai tow kway (fried carrot cake-- which bears absolutely no resemblance in any way, shape, or form, to the carrot cake here in the U.S.), laksa, and mee siam. Admittedly, the latter two came from premixes from the good people at Prima Taste, but they tasted as authentic enough as we could get them with whatever ingredients we could find here in our little town in the Midwest (laksa leaves in Ann Arbor?- c'mon, who are we kidding?...)

Maybe it was because we really needed a break from all the turkey and stuffing we were regaled with over the weekend (although bowlsful of coconut milk, spice, and fried carbs aren't really detoxifying by any means...) or maybe it was our bodies' way of getting ready for our impending homecoming, but those three meals awoke in our tastebuds sensations that have laid dormant for too long (two years to be exact, if anyone's counting). We're not just talking about spiciness here (many cuisines in the world relie heavily on spice as well), but that complex and rich amalgamation of sweet, savory, spiciness, and of Chinese, Malay, and Indian flavors I associate only with Southeast-Asian cooking. It's food you can get no where else in the world. It's the food of my soul.

We leave in exactly two weeks. I. Can't. Wait.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Life's a happy song

"Mahna mahna movie!!"

I guess technically, it's not really Sophie's first movie (see here), but I doubt she has any memory of herself at 9 months old, so as far as she's concerned, she went to her first movie today :) We've building up her excitement for The Muppets movie since showing her the Mahna Mahna video and app and so when she woke up this morning, the first thing she said was, "I so excited! I go to the theatre and watch mahna mahna!"

We knew ahead of time that there was going to be a sensory-sensitive screening of the movie early in the morning and so had already bought advanced tickets. These screenings are specially designed for young kids or children with autism or ADHD which means that the house lights are left on and the sound volume lowered so that children aren't scared and/or overstimulated. Also, the theatre informs everyone before the show begins that during this screening, the audience is free to sing along or move about, which is just perfect for the little ones.

And because of that, Sophie had a blast of a time without even coming close to a toddler meltdown as we had feared. There were parts of the movie during which we had to let her walk up and down the steps or run along the seats but she wasn't fussy or noisy, and no one minded at all since that was the whole point of the special screening. She loved the big song-and-dance sequences and didn't need any prompting to start dancing and bopping along when they happened. And she was completely mesmerized when her favorite "Rainbow Collection" came on, basically sitting still in her seat, watching the screen in pure awe. And by the end of the grand finale, she even gave a huge applause and a loud cheer :)

As for Jude and I, we grew up with the Muppets and loved that we were reminded of the self-depreciating, affectionately clever humor of the characters. Then there was the army of cameos from celebrities like Feist, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris, Emily Blunt, David Grohl, Jim Parsons, etc., that we had a field day identifying. Most importantly though, it was the deliriously infectious soundtrack that had us completely sold. Three songs were written by Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords fame so we knew we weren't in for run-of-the-mill kiddie movie songs. Bouncy, fun, but also witty and sort of deadpan in true Flight of the Conchords style, till this morning, all three of us are still humming the theme song from the movie, "Life's a Happy Song". In fact, as Sophie was moseying about her play yard setting up a pretend picnic, I overheard her singing, "...everything is great, everything is grand..." over and over again ;) Listen for yourself and I dare you not to start tapping your toes to what is surely to become the next great Muppet song.

You know what, listen to the entire soundtrack. You won't regret it, I promise.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How did your Thanksgiving meal look like?

Sophie's Thanksgiving meal
Sophie's dinner (from top-left): dried cranberries, chicken nuggets, sautéed green beans, plantain chips, pasta, honey-roasted sweet potato, steamed peas, (repeats), and chicken-turkey sausage

Not like this, I bet... :) I take no credit for it, though- I came up with the idea to serve Sophie's Thanksgiving dinner in ice-cube trays after reading about something similar on one of the mommy blogs I follow. There's much in Thanksgiving foods that Sophie can't have (all that butter, milk, and cream) so I knew I'd have to bring Sophie-friendly foods up with us to Lansing where we spent another gastronomically successful Thanksgiving with Rick and Emilee (more photos here). I wanted to do something festive and fun, but also with variety so Sophie could enjoy a "spread" just like the grown-ups. And so I filled the tray with different things that she loves (pasta, peas, and chicken nuggets) and also some dairy-free versions of Thanksgiving favorites like sweet potato, cranberries, green beans, and turkey. We later refilled it with "dessert" options of banana and apple slices, and chocolate bunny rabbit crackers. Simply ingenious, if I should say so myself... Emilee was so taken with the idea, she asked Rick if he could pack her lunches in ice-trays from now on :)

It does take a little effort to prep the different foods but we're more than happy to do it for our own Thanksgiving meal, so why not for Sophie's? Besides, it was all worth it when we set her personal buffet in front of her- she was so excited to tuck into her meal, picking and choosing the different things she could eat. She never once asked to eat off our plate-- why would she when she had something so fun all to herself?-- and actually sat in her seat for almost the entire hour it took us to eat because she was so pre-occupied with her food.

This was so fun to put together and really such a brilliant idea, we're definitely going to do it again for play dates and maybe Sophie's next birthday party (although probably with just fruit and snacks that don't require cooking).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What we're thankful for

Fearless climber
Your fearless invincibility

Happiest child in the neighborhood
Your laughter

"Smoochy kiss"
Your loving nature

@ the Boston Children's Museum
Your sense of wonder for all things around you

She insisted on wearing her new helmet all through breakfast this morning
Your silliness

"Earthworm, you there?"
Your endless curiosity

We're thankful for YOU!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mahna Mahna

It doesn't matter how old you are, the Muppets' Mahna Mahna will always be rib-ticklingly funny. Always.

Sophie watched this clip for the first yesterday and she laughed from the very first viewing (yes, there were multiple viewings, of course...). Because there's just something so intuitively delightful and joyful about the whole thing. There are no words, no narrative to parse apart, and it's not meant to teach you anything; just a simple, repetitive melody and a bunch of adorable muppets. Just hilarious!

As part of the publicity for the new Muppets movie (which we're seriously considering bringing Sophie to), Disney has rolled out a Mahna Mahna app on Facebook. Watch Sophie in action! Click here.

Be duly warned though- you-- and the toddler in the house-- are going to be humming the tune for hours after, if not days... ;)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sophie_isms omnibus

Girl with balloon
Girl with Balloon

The firemen are going to the farmers market too! To buy some onions and pears.

I just woke up! I was hibernate. I slept for a looooong time.

Mr. Squirrel is hiding the acorns in the tree. He doesn't want Sophie to eat them.

Did you call me 'pumpkin', Mama? I'm not a fruit. I'm a sweet girl!

I want to be the owl. Then I can go hoot-hoot...

Cookie Monster's favorite food is watermelon.

Sophie and rubber duckie are swimming in the bathtub. We're going to Canada.

Bob Dylan gives Sophie a guitar. He has no guitar anymore. He's sad.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Random daily daycare report #19

1. Spreading the sauce, 2. Yay Erin!, 3. Erin flipping the pizza dough!, 4. Helping to slice peppers
Sophie was so excited to make pizza this morning. She spent a long time cutting up green peppers and mushrooms. Then she helped spread the sauce and sprinkle the toppings. She was very proud of her work and was excited to share her pizza creation with the other classes :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sophie reads Madeline

In an old house in Paris, that was covered in vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines
In two straight lines, they broke their bread,
And brushed their teeth (and went to bed)
And the smallest one was Madeline
She was not afraid of mice,
She loved winter, snow, and ice
To the tiger in the zoo,
Madeline just said, "Pooh-pooh!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What a difference a year makes...

Earlier last month, I posted something about how stoked Sophie was for Picture Day at school. Considering the catastrophic FAIL that was last year's class photo, we were just holding our breaths that this year's would turn out at least half decent so we can frame a couple up for the grandparents.

Fortunately, thanks to the excitement drummed up by her teachers and her heightened familiarity with cameras thrust into her face (thanks to the bigillion photos her parents take of her), this year's photo was a resounding success. Have you seen a child more happy and adorable? No. No, you haven't.

School picture 2011

Oh, and about that picture from last year... See for yourself.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Counting down 30 days

It's exactly a month until we arrive in Singapore.

And in preparation, Jude and I have been talking ourselves into a frenzy about the food we're going to be chowing down during our 3-week trip (as always...). It started with this list that he stumbled upon (which I barely agree with, but then again, we haven't been home in two years, so who knows what's come and gone in the Singapore hawker food scene?...) and then tonight, in a spur of inspiration, Jude decided he was going to make char kway teow, a much beloved fried noodle dish from home. Greasy, sweet, savory, and pungent- char kway teow encapsulates all things yummy about Singaporean hawker food. I was beside myself with anticipation...

We had to adapt the original recipe a little to suit Sophie and also the ingredients we could (or couldn't) find. Which means 1) no fresh cockles and 2) spaghetti as a substitute for egg noodles because of Sophie's allergies (no scoffing, you purists- it worked brilliantly). It was actually quite easy to find fish cake and preserved Chinese sausage so we at least managed to preserve the integrity of most of the main ingredients.

Jude hard at work at the wok
Chef Jude hard at work at the wok

Jude made two batches of noodles- one Sophie-friendly version with no egg or chili paste and the other with the works, i.e. extra garlic, stir-fried egg, and a pungent, spicy chili paste. And both were equally A-MAZING. I was literally standing right next to him, picking up the noodles with my chopsticks as he was still stir-frying... It was that delicious.

Our grown-up version

We weren't sure how Sophie would take to char kway teow- she hasn't actually had anything quite like it. But clearly, being a Singaporean foodie is in her blood and she practically inhaled the noodles from the moment we set it in front of her. When I asked if she could share her noodles with us, this was her response:

Hogging her char kway teow
Shielding her char kway teow from her parents

Best of all, throughout the evening, Sophie called out several times, "Thank you, Dada for making me the noodles!"

Singapore hawker food, watch out- we'll be unleashing Sophie Yew on you!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Flip!

It snowed today. Yup, first snowfall of the season. Brilliant.

And just in time for that, guess what skill Sophie learned at daycare today?

Our daughter is officially the coolest person in this house.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The week after Halloween

It's a little like buying Christmas wrapper on Boxing Day except that you don't have to wait a whole year before using it again. What happens when you walk into Target and find out that all Halloween costumes and candy are now going at 70% sale? Well, buy your daughter her own dinosaur costume to add to her dress-up collection, of course.


Winter's just round the corner and we have to find interesting ways to keep Sophie occupied during those snowy months when spending too much time outside will just become unbearable. If yesterday afternoon/evening was an indication, our new dinosaur friend is just the perfect thing to help with that- Sophie was so excited to step into the costume (even though it's still a little big for her) and was happy simply "riding" it up and down the living room and going about her normal play routine dressed as a dinosaur. She even kept the costume on as we read together on the couch. Best $9 spent!

And as for Jude and I, we were just happy with our bag of discounted snack-sized Kit-Kats :)

Monday, November 07, 2011

What is Dada good at?

Walking to Oval Beach
At Oval Beach, Saugatuck

This afternoon, as I was changing Sophie's diaper, she suddenly declared, "Dada is good at changing my diaper." It was a funny moment- I wasn't sure if she was trying to make a statement about what now appears to be my less than stellar diapering skills or if it was just an observation about the things Jude is good at. So I asked her, "Sophie, what else is Dada good at?" And what did she come up with?

Poking my nose.

Shaving his pokey chin.

Rockabye baby
(Sometimes, she still asks Jude to carry her like a baby in his arms.)

Do the dishes.

and my favorite...

Hugging Mama.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Bye bye Sophie the Giraffe

Over breakfast this morning, we introduced Sophie to Julianne by going through all the Flickr photos my brother-in-law has been posting. Sophie has known about Baby Julianne for as long as she could see my sister's growing belly and was so excited to finally see her cousin- "I want to see Baby Julianne on the compooter, Mama!". Sophie was of course adoring of Julianne-- "Oh Baby Julianne shooooooo cute!"-- and we're really looking forward to the two cousins "hanging out" more when we go home for Christmas.

Later, on the way to daycare, Jude asked her if she would pick out a toy as a gift to Julianne- not something new but something that belongs to her so that it would be special.

Jude: Sophie, when we get home tonight, can you choose one of your toys so that we can give it to Julianne as a present?
Sophie: Errr, ok.
Me: Pick one. Something that you play with.
Sophie: And then we can surprise Baby Julianne!
Jude: That's right, we can surprise Baby Julianne. What will you pick? Which toy?
Sophie: (after thinking about it for a while). Squeaky giraffe. I give my squeaky giraffe to Baby Julianne so that she can surprise. Yah, I can give squeaky giraffe.
Me: Are you sure you want to give Julianne your squeaky giraffe?
Sophie: Yah. I think she will like it.

At that point, I couldn't have been more proud of our sweet, thoughtful Sophie :) Not only did she not balk at the prospect of giving away one of her toys (although whether she will *really* give it up is still questionable, but still...), she chose one of her most beloved ones.

How many other ways can I fit Sophie the giraffe into my mouth?
Sophie at 4 months with her Sophie the Giraffe

My mom bought Sophie her Sophie the Giraffe chew toy when she was 6 weeks old (we've actually never called the giraffe Sophie just because it would have been too confusing) and it has always been one of her favorites. The giraffe played a huge part in helping Sophie develop her grabbing skills, it was always available for her to gnaw, chew, and suckle during those dastardly teething months, and even now as she's outgrown it somewhat, Sophie the Giraffe is still a constant fixture in Sophie's play repertoire. Just yesterday, she set up a picnic with her dolls, stuffed animals, and Sophie the Giraffe and thoughtfully fed it a hunk of pretend steak. I didn't have the heart to tell her that giraffes are herbivores.

But now, she has decided that it's her cousin's turn to play with the giraffe and tonight, we'll put Sophie the Giraffe aside, give it a good scrub down, and put it in a bag for Julianne. My sister already has a brand new Sophie the Giraffe but maybe that Sophie will appreciate having a companion giraffe from real Sophie and Julianne will have double the grabbing, chewing fun :)

And because she's just that gorgeous, here's another photo of Julianne fresh off my sister's Flickr feed :)

Hush little baby

[Sophie the Giraffe got its own article in Slate earlier this year. Read it here.]

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


And she's finally here! It took a little cajoling but my sweet niece, Julianne has arrived and she's beautiful!

I'm so happy for my sister, Sherri and brother-in-law, Piao Zhou! I can already see them being such loving, doting parents- Julianne is so blessed! And my parents and Sam were finally able to partake in the whole exciting anticipation of labour and delivery. Since we had Sophie here in the U.S., they never got to experience it firsthand. So even though Julianne is technically their second grandchild/niece, it probably feels like their first in a way, and I'm so happy that they got to share in that.

Welcome to our world, dear Julianne! We love you so much already, and can't wait to see you in December!

Sophie the Pig

We've been reading Olivia to Sophie for as long as I can remember. I used to read it to my preschoolers all the time and when our friend, Christine, got the book for us for our shower, I was more than thrilled. I remember reading it to Sophie while she was still in utero, those early months when all she could do was sit in her bouncer and stare intently at my efforts to read to her, and now, when Olivia makes a frequent appearance on our rotation of bedtime stories. The precociously sassy pig who loves building sandcastles, museums, and books and who tires out everyone around her - it's like Ian Falconer was describing Sophie :)

And so, during one of her more tenacious Olivia phases, Sophie and I decided that she would dress up as Olivia for Halloween. I wasn't about to pay an arm and a leg for a custom made costume, and so went about figuring out how I could put one together (see post from last Halloween- there was no way I would be able to sew the entire thing on my own). Thankfully, we already have a pair of black and white striped tights and matching shoes (not intentional); after much scouring, I found a plain red dress at our local children's resale shop (you can't believe how hard it is to find a simple red dress that doesn't make it look like Sophie's dressing up as Santarina); bought the ears from this lady who makes the entire outfit but sells the ears separately, and... wait for it... sewed the collar. By hand. I followed this tutorial and actually managed to make it work even without a sewing machine. Yes. I rock.

I'm pretty proud of myself- it's not exactly like the Olivia in the book, but for how much I spent on it (ears + dress + fabric from Joann's = $12, maybe? $15 at the most), I think it came together fabulously :)

Sophie the Pig!

Most importantly, Sophie had a WONDERFUL time. According to her teachers, she's been talking about dressing up as Olivia for weeks and today, she was so excited to go trick-or-treating, she sat so still and quiet as I put on the layers of clothing on her (it was really cold out), and patiently waited for everything to come together. And the moment we got outside and the parade started, it was like we couldn't stop her. Oh, she didn't bolt and run every which way like we thought she would. In fact, she was extremely purposeful and methodical, making sure she hit every house that had candy available ;) At the end of it, even though she could only have the lollies and gummies in her haul (which just means more chocolate for Dada and Mama...), she was such a happy little camper, I suspect we'll be talking about Halloween for a long time to come :)