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Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Can you graduation me?"

"I will be Dr. Sophie En En Yew."

I think Sophie was more excited about it than either one of us. We've been telling her that we'll be attending Jude's graduation for a week or so now and it clearly has been on her mind ever since. In fact, by Thursday, everyone at her school was congratulating Jude because Sophie had been telling anyone who would listen that Jude was graduating:

Sophie has been talking a lot about Jude's graduation. I asked her what was going to happen at the graduation and she said, "They are going to call Dada, Dr. Jude Yew!" I asked her if she would also have to start calling him Dr. Jude Yew but she assured me that she would still call him "Dada" :)

In the end, I think she was sufficiently excited by the whole experience- even before we made it to the auditorium, she was virtually bursting with anticipation- "It's Dada graduation! I'm so excited!" She probably doesn't have a clue what it means to graduate but we've been talking about it to her enough that she knows it's something worth celebrating. She did really well for most of the ceremony- sat quietly while the faculty proceeded in to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance, waited patiently for everyone to sit and settle in, listened in awe as our friend, Devin, sang a stirring rendition of the national anthem, and was even really good through an opening address AND the Commencement speech (with the exception of that one loud outburst which I'm sure EVERYONE heard because the auditorium was so hushed- "Why did the graduation music stop? Where's Dada? Oh Dada, where are you??" Jude said he definitely heard her all the way up front...)

We think Sophie definitely had a memorable day- she was still talking about it this morning, mostly about Jude's academic dress and what she saw/heard/did in the auditorium yesterday. And this is one of the main reasons why Jude decided to attend the ceremony in the first place. He had actually defended his dissertation in August last year and started his new job the month after, so it's not as if yesterday's proceedings meant a whole lot to him personally. But we wanted Sophie to experience the pomp and ceremony of it all- how many times in your life are you going to witness one of your parents properly receive his Ph.D.? She was only 16 months old when I got mine and probably doesn't remember anything, so we thought it would nice for her to be part of Jude's special day, even if it is just symbolic.

Just so you have a sense of what a difference almost a year and a half makes, here's us three at our two graduation ceremonies:

My graduation, Dec 2010

Happy us :)
Jude's graduation, April 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Toddler problem solving

The problem that Sophie and her friend, Conor, encountered at daycare today:
How to get onto the tire swing all by themselves? (because clearly, toddlers are fully independent creatures who require no assistance from anyone)

1) Work together
2) Find crate to prop themselves up
3) Realize that said crate is too high to get up as well
4) Gather more crates and build a row of them to the slide so that the slide handle can be used as an assist up the crates

Honestly, when their teachers told us what Sophie and Conor had done, we could barely believe it; but when we saw the structure for ourselves and also how proud the two of them were of their accomplishment, that incredulity turned into a profound sense of pride :) According to the teachers, they worked really hard at it and it took them a while to put everything together all by themselves. Apart from being so very very proud of her ingenuity and thoughtfulness, we also appreciate that the teachers allowed them to explore their own solution without 1) stopping them from "making a mess" or 2) solving the problem for them.

Oh, and even better, Sophie managed to do it all without losing her balance or her hat! :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


"Mama, can you wear the sparkly shoes to your office today, please?"

She asked so nicely, I couldn't say no.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Seeking the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich

What do you like in your grilled cheese sandwich?

Jude and I were inspired by the cheese department at Whole Foods this weekend and decided to experiment with a slightly non-traditional take on the classic. We started with some good Zingerman's sesame semolina bread and then several kinds of cheese as recommended by the cheese guy at Whole Foods- a soft sheep's milk cheese for melting and a Parmesan/Asiago mix for flavor. I heeded the advice of Ruth Reichl, former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and former food critic of the New York Times and added some finely chopped scallions and garlic into the cheeses before building the sandwich for an extra layer of flavor. And a couple of slices of capicola ham, which i know, isn't technically traditional, but heck,  it tasted SO good :) As Reichl suggested, I generously buttered both sides of the bread, grated the cheeses (not sliced), and spread a thin layer of mustard inside for a slight tang to offset the richness of the bread and cheese.

Three minutes each side, some squishing of the sandwich in between, and lunch, was served.

Grilled cheese sandwich for lunch
Grilled cheese sandwich for lunch today

The result was crunchy, gooey, and deeply flavorful, all at the same time. Those alliums definitely made a difference to the cheese and the ham added another layer of deliciouness to just round everything off. That and a cup of tangy tomato soup- lunchtime nirvana I tell you :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

S for Sophie

It all started when we received this adorable personalized plate in the mail last week- a surprise present from my sister, Sherri, which has gotten Sophie really excited about mealtimes ever since :) It not only has her name on it, the picture of the little girl with two ponytails looks a little like her too, which of course, thrills Sophie to no end. She's been wanting to eat everything off that plate, including noodle soup and I had to tell her no, but place a couple pieces of popcorn on it just to placate her.

Breakfast on her S for Sophie plate
"This is my S for Sophie plate!"

The other thing the plate has inspired is an interest in the alphabet. When I told Sophie that the word on the plate spells "Sophie," she asked, "What else the letters say?" which got me really excited :) She was showing an interest in reading and learning her letters and I was more than happy to jump in! I explained to her that 'S' is Sophie's special letter because that's the first letter of her name.

Now, it's the one letter she can confidently identify- "S for Sophie!" she would shout, whenever she sees the letter. Like when we were walking towards our neighbourhood grocery store, Busch's yesterday- Sophie saw the two large 'S's on the sign and practically yelled to the entire parking lot- "Two 'S's for Sophie! There are two 'S's for Sophie!" Or when we were reading the book, Spring is Here: A Story About Seeds that she got from school- she was almost delirious with joy :) I think it helps that she thinks the letter looks like a snake and a worm so it's easy for her to remember. We also put a star sticker on the 'S' of a used keyboard she plays with so she easily identifies it whenever she "send(s) Gong Gong (my dad) an email"...

So far, apart from 'S', she can often also identify 'O' and 'P'- 'O' simply because once you mimic the shape with your mouth, it's a pretty easy one, and 'P' because I told her 'P' is for Payton, her best friend at school. I also said 'P' looks like a magnifying glass (I mean, it sort of does, no?) so that helps her a little too. These days, whenever we look at the title of whatever book we're reading, I'll ask her to find 'S', 'O', and 'P'. It's been a fun little game and I'm hoping it helps her slowly learn the other letters of her name. I'm in no hurry for her to grasp the entire alphabet-- she'll get there eventually-- but I think it's been quite the special thing for her to understand that these disparate symbols come together to spell her name.

All this, because of a plate. Thanks, 姨姨二二*!

*This is what Sophie calls my sister, Sherri: 姨(aunt); 二(two/second)

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Lately, Sophie has been keenly interested in her birth story and things that happened when she "was just a teeny tiny baby". "Can you tell me the story of when I was born, Mama?" she would ask, or we'd have to go through photos of her first year for the umpteenth time where I'd describe to her the story behind every photo exactly as I had already did the day before. And as a result, she can now tell us what she calls her "baby stories"; and even more funny, she talks about them as if she actually remembers these things happening. She's internalized everything we've told her to the point that they've become almost like real memories to her.

Sonic Youth @ Royal Oak
Example 1: We went to watch Sonic Youth in concert when I was 7 months pregnant. They were amazing but we had to leave early because Sophie started kicking me so hard mid-way through. We think she might have been bothered by the sheer volume of the music.
Sophie's version: "Remember when I was still in Mama's belly? You went to watch a concert and the music was too loud! I kicked Mama so hard. I'm sorry I hurt you, Mama. But the music was really loud!"

Example 2: I've lost count how many times I've told her our birth story (the abridged version, at least), particularly the parts involving being woken up by contractions, calling our mothers, and the whole pushing her out bit.
Sophie's version: "Remember when Sophie was born, Mama was sleeping and Sophie woke her up because I was kicking and kicking." "You call Grandma and Por Por and said, "Sophie is coming! Sophie is coming!""Mama push and she push, and she push, and then I pop out!"

30 secs in this world
30 seconds in our world
Example 3: Sophie was born 3 weeks early and weighed 5lbs 12oz (2.6kg). She was a really tiny baby and the nurses and doctors ended up calling her Peanut because of her size.
Sophie's version: "Remember, when Sophie was born, the doctors and nurses call me Peanut because I was a teeny tiny baby!"

First bath time
First bath at the hospital
Example 4: Sophie was not a happy camper when the nurse gave her her first bath the day after she was born. In fact, it was then that we knew we have a screamer on our hands...
Sophie's version: "When Sophie was a baby, I didn't want to take a bath. Remember, I cried so loud."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Random daycare daily report #27

The Threadless t-shirt that Sophie wore to school today
At snack today, Sophie was trying to explain to all her friends about her shirt. She said, "The dinosaur is using the bus as a rollerskate and the people are all falling out." Payton said, "Oooo, that's scary." Sophie just looked at Payton and said, "It's not scary, Payton. It's funny." I think maybe Sophie was annoyed that her friends didn't "get" her shirt :) I get it, though, and I think it's hilarious!"

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Random daycare daily report #26

@ daycare
Our little imp at daycare
For art today we made a collage of pictures of our favorite places. I thought I was prepared with the pictures of Singapore, the Hands-on-Museum, and California. But as we got started, Sophie looked up at me and said, "Where is the Muppet Studio?" How could I forget?! So I printed some pictures of the Muppet Studio and Sophie had a great time putting all her favorite places together in one place :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Princess Duckweed of Black Pond

There were no eggs or rabbits or chocolate for Sophie on Easter Sunday, but there was lots of walking in forests and among trees (nope, no bunnies there either...). With the Hands-on-Museum and YMCA closed for Easter, our usual Sunday afternoon plans were pretty much shot; but we knew the one place that would always be open and that Sophie enjoys is the Leslie Science Center. The trails and raptor enclosures are opened all year round from dawn to dusk and since it was too beautiful spring day to squander indoors, we decided to do a little impromptu hike.

Hiking along the Leslie Park trails

Sophie's never gone on a hike before and I wasn't sure how she'd take to all the walking. But it would seem that we have a little woodland nymph on our hands and she walked through the woods like she'd be doing it all her life. We took a mile-long trail through the Black Pond Woods towards Black Pond and she never once asked to be picked up. She was too busy picking up sticks, looking at insects, and trying to sit on fallen logs or tree stumps. It was really quite wonderful to see her enjoy herself so much :)

Hiking along the Leslie Park trails

But what she really loved was sitting on the bridge at Black Pond and stirring the duckweeds around with a huge stick. We were literally there for close to 45 minutes, basking in the quiet of the woods, watching her play, listening to her little running narrative about catching us fish for dinner and cooking it in black soup. She even said to us, "I don't want to go home. I want to stay here, please?" We were compelled to ceremoniously crown her Princess Duckweed of Black Pond :)

Black Pond

We promised her that we would come back often and that Black Pond wouldn't be going anywhere anytime soon (we didn't tell her that it probably dries up in the hot summer months, though...). We then took a shorter half-mile route back to the science center and by that time, it was obvious that woodland nymphs get tired too...

Guess who had to be carried by the end of the hike?...

It thrills us that Sophie doesn't really need fancy toys or gadgets to amuse herself. Give her a stick, some duckweed, sit her by a pond, and then let her imagination do the rest :)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Sophie cheers for Singapore

It's funny how things come around- I spent the bulk of my doctoral program studying children's notions of national identity and wrote a 250-page dissertation on the topic. I spoke to 140 students from both Singapore and the U.S. as part of my research and read everything that can be read on the topic. So you would think pretty much nothing can surprise me when it comes to little kids talking about what it means to be a citizen of a country. Unless it's my own two-year old that is.

So apparently, Sophie's teachers have been talking to them about the upcoming Olympics at daycare (I'm not sure what kinds of conversations toddlers can have about international sporting events but ok...). One of her classmate's parents are from Canada and so he kept saying, "I cheer for Canada!" According to her teachers, Sophie was not to be outdone and declared to everyone, "I cheer for Singapore!" Now, on the surface, that doesn't seem surprising. But Jude and I have never talked to Sophie about her citizenship, about how she's born in the U.S. but both her parents are Singaporeans. I wasn't even sure she knows what a country is, lest of all that Singapore is one. So how she knows to cheer for a country which she only remembers traveling to once is beyond me- as far as she's concerned, Singapore could be like Boston or Chicago- the two other places she remembers visiting.

It might be that it's the only place we talk about frequently- we hardly make references to Ann Arbor specifically or the U.S. in general since living here means we sort of take it for granted (or talk about local places instead, like the library, grocery store, or the museum, etc); whereas Singapore is "there", where family is- her grandparents, her aunts, uncles, and cousins, and where we spent Christmas and New Year. I doubt there's any of those ephemeral feelings of belonging or allegiance that are accompanying her "support" of Singapore for the Olympics (honestly, I'm wondering if she even really understands what it means to cheer something on), but right now, it's obvious that to Sophie, Singapore is just different, special somehow.

Look at this picture we took of Sophie's artwork that's on display right now at our neighborhood cafe. It has a little sign in the corner about how old she is and what her Likes are. Sophie's Likes- "The Muppets, Singapore, singing." :)

Sophie's artwork up at Cafe Marie
Sophie's artwork on display at Cafe Marie