Thursday, December 24, 2009

Child Testing

No children were harmed in the creation of this post.

It is commonly known that about 4 years ago, I had close to zero experience with children. They were sticky, touchy, and loud. Now that I have sticky, touchy, loud children myself, I am fascinated by some of the things they do. Therefore, I feel compelled to perform Child Testing.

Inspired by Rocketboom's report about the NOM NOM meme, I searched for NOM NOM on YouTube from our TiVo. It came up with a video montage of NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM with some hamsters and broccoli. So I gave the kids broccoli and turned it on. Here is the result:

It amuses me that Will blindly follows what the TV tells him to do, stuffing the whole broccoli into his mouth while bouncing up and down and making NOM NOM noises. Alex tastes the broccoli initially, caught up in the emotion of the meme, then realizes that he has the ability to question the establishment and reject the broccoli.

And the thing is, it's not because Alex doesn't like broccoli as shown here in this video where the kids insist on eating more broccoli.

Are there any other memes that they should be exposed to? Hamster Dance has been ingrained in their minds.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hello World!

Ok, so I have been lazy in posting to the blog. A terrible side effect of Facebook micro-blogging. (Side Note: It would be crazy if Will had his own facebook page for the sole purpose of playing Farmville!)

What are we currently up to? We are writing our Christmas letter. Yes, I realize that we have only a few days remaining to make it a Christmas letter prior to Christmas. We are trying really hard. It is likely that it will get written prior to Christmas, and possibly mailed after Christmas.

In the meantime, to keep things interesting, here is a picture from earlier in the year when we celebrated Alex's 1st birthday. Yes, it is sad, as a second child he didn't get posts about his 1-month birthday or his 100-days birthday or his 6-month birthday with a giant Bristol Farms 3-layer cake, or even, if you go back to check our January posts, his first birthday. This is just one of the things that I will try to blog about as the year closes.

This picture is great because:
  • The Look on Alex's Face "What?"
  • Lava Letters, "Happy Birthday Alex"
  • The backwards 1. Backwards to everyone except Alex!
  • We had to make a frosting lake because we had water dinosaur figures.
  • There had to be more than 1 candle, because we needed more fire for the volcano. Just in case you couldn't figure it out, yes, volcano cake. It was Will's idea. Seriously. I was talking about how tricky it would be to make a dinosaur cake for Alex's dinosaur party and somehow my then 2.5 year old came up with, "Mom, we should make a volcano cake for Alex's dinosaur birthday party."
  • Creative use of dry ice. Smoking Volcanoes!

Perhaps as we finish our Christmas letter, we will look at the things that we included in it and then do some catch-up posts. That is my Christmas wish. To post some blog entries. Let's see how it goes!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Overuse of Technology

One of the core values of our household is the overuse of technology. We have various desktop and laptop computers with terabytes of harddrive space. We have an excessive number of TiVos (notice I didn't enumerate them, I lost track of the count a bit ago). We have had a SlingBox since 2004. We are connected to our iPhones and believe that every conversation with a question should end with a concrete answer provided by Wikipanion.

Of course, as Dan and I get older, we have started to realize that we are losing our edge in the realm of early adoption of technology. For example, we are committed to the un-jailbreaked version of our iPhones and didn't even really consider taking time to acquire and make the most of the google phone.

However, one of the advantages of being parents is that we can make our children pick up where we leave off in the area of technology adoption. We started to realize this when we acquired Will's laptop. Yes, Will has a laptop. Why? Simply because he needed one. Yes, he needed one.

As you may know, Will is 3 1/2 years old. We got him the laptop shortly before he turned 3. What were our motivations?

  • Will has his own MP3s - I didn't want "The Wheels on the Bus" on my laptop / iPod. In addition to your typical kid's songs, he also has my favorite kids' songs. Specifically, "Beep, Beep" about satellites and "Friction." They can be found at Singing Science Records website. They were actually from old records, so be careful when you let your kids learn about the planets and Pluto is still listed. Perhaps you should get this shirt, just to make sure you have a way to explain the whole planetoid phenomenon to your kids.
  • Given that Will has his own MP3s, he has his own MP3 player. It's one of those SANSA kids' players that you can shake to change the music. So it made sense to have a laptop. MP3 Player + music = need place to store MP3s for transfer to MP3 Player.
  • Digital Photos - As his digital camera does not have a lot of space on it's memory card, Will needed somewhere to store his digital photos. Enter need for laptop. Yes, Will has one of those Fisher Price digital cameras. You know, the ones with the picture on the package of the camera bouncing down the stairs. He loves to take pictures of his stuffed animals, his brother, his books, and, yes, pictures of his parents. All pictures have the perspective of a person who is 3 feet tall. Will got his camera back in November of 2008 and even has some of his pictures printed and framed for the wall in his bedroom.
  • Computer Games - Who among us doesn't like computer games. Will has a few that we got him back in last December. We haven't quite figured out how to set him up to play them on his laptop as he has a netbook without a CD-ROM drive, but that will come. Until then, internet games from kids' web sites work well.
  • Video Conferencing - Will likes to video conference with grandpa. With the built in web cam in his laptop and the use of ovoo software, he is ready and able.
  • You Tube - Will loves YouTube, especially the video of the cat batting at the printer with the shotgun sound effects. He also likes LED Sheep. But oddly, his favorite is a video about Solid State Drives that Samsung makes. He will watch it 10 times in a row if we let him.
  • Movies and TV Shows - Even though it doesn't have a DVD drive, we are still able to transfer over movies and TV shows. Enter the magic of TiVo and video encoding. Dan does this part and it was quite useful on our road trip last spring to Baseball Spring Training in Arizona.
So, what kind of computer did we get? Originally we thought, we have tons of computer parts in the garage, including two bins labeled, "computer guts," why don't we build Will a computer? Then we realized that we would have to acquire a stable, non-flat screen monitor and find a location for the bulky computer. And let's face it, Will doesn't need his own home office... yet. So we went for the netbook. Given the choice between two different kinds that Dan was researching, we went with the one that was more "sturdy."

What crazy overuse of technology is next for our kids? Well, Alex will probably not end up with a laptop, or if he does, he will get Will's old one when Will gets an iPod touch. Hopefully not anytime soon. :) Until then, perhaps we will get them a theremin to develop their muiscal talent.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cooking Kids
(Product Placement Post)

The kids love to cook. It is calming to them, it seems. What do they cook? Here, they use an apple bread mix from Trader Joe's.

Mixing Apple Bread

It worked out really well. Since one box makes about 12 muffins, I didn't want to make 2 batches, one for each kid. Instead, I split the box between the two guys. We easily separated the milk and melted butter into two parts, plus, the recipe called for 2 eggs, one for each bowl! As with most quick breads, this one warned against over mixing, but the kids love mixing and thoroughly mixed the top layer of their batter. They even paid attention when I told them the melted butter was hot and almost completely complied with the 'don't eat raw eggs' instruction.

After the kids were done mixing, Dan took the two bowls away to combine them and make sure there wasn't any dry mix in the bottom while the kids put cupcake papers in the muffin pan. Then Dan demonstrated how to fill the papers. The oven temp and cooking time need to be adjusted a bit for muffins as compared to the instructions on the bread loaf box. they turned out a little dark. However, we will do this again after our next trip to Trader Joe's. The muffins are good for dessert and breakfast the next day!

What else do the kids cook? Well, since Alex has decided the correct answer to "What do you want for dinner?" is "PIZZA!" we have tried making our own starting with some Boboli pizza crust. Here he is with his own creation:

Yummy! Even Uncooked

Ok, so most of the pepperoni and some of the crust bypassed the pizza on the way to Alex's tummy, but he basically got the idea about putting ingrediants on the crust. Here you can see two kinds of cheese and some brocolli. I like brocolli pizza, so that's what the kids get.

Will has also cooked cupcakes in the past and apple pie. What should we try to cook next?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Will's First In-Theater Movie

I have ruined my child for all future movie experiences. I took him to see "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" today... with an IMAX screen... in 3-D. And it wasn't even with the cheesy paper 3-D glasses either. The glasses looked like actual sunglasses and had big lenses so that you didn't have to keep adjusting the paper nose piece of other glasses every 2 minutes when they tried to fall off. Or when you moved your head to dodge the cheeseburgers that were raining down from the screen.

Of course, I remember my first movie theater experience. My family went to see "The Care Bears Movie" in 1985. It was at Studio 28, I believe, and was not in 3-D. I was nearly 10 at the time, and Robin was likely 7ish, so while there was a scary part of the movie, I don't think our parents were as concerned as I was today about the potential for needing to leave the movie theater with a distressed child.

Will did amazingly well during the movie. It helped that, unlike Disney films, there was no real villain. It was more of a story about someone wanting to be liked by others and gain his father's approval. It's tension came from the disaster movie part of it where a food storm threatens the small town and the world. There were none of the topics that Will has trouble with, such as getting lost from parents or just things getting lost in general. Oddly, the topic of attacking giant gummy bears was acceptable.

So, even though I wasn't able to capture any cute pictures of Will in 3-D glasses and post them here, I figured that I would blog anyway since Facebook is making me lazy.

And no, Alex doesn't get to go to a movie in a theater before he turns 4. Not because he is a 2nd child and unspoiled like our beloved 1st child. Unlike Will, he just doesn't have the attention span. Or perhaps he just isn't addicted to TV like our little Will.

I will try to blog again soon. Perhaps about the un-related, but matching eyebrown +stitches injuries acquired by the kids.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Our $5.47 worth of Fourth of July Fun

The longer we live in California, the more we realize that you really can't do much here. While most people view California as a laid back sort of place, it's really quite restricted by lawyer-induced regulation. One of those restricted areas happens to be fireworks. At least in Redondo Beach.

When we realized that Will was not going to take a nap today, we also realized that there was no way we could keep him up until 9:30 to see the start of the fireworks, much less later than that. So we went to Target to buy some last minute fireworks, thinking we would light them off in our backyard.

The guy at Target: "I think we have some sparklers over here" when I inquired as to whether they had any fireworks. Not that I would ever let my kids play with sparklers. I mean, they are burning magnesium at like 1000 degrees. But I figured, if they sell something dangerous like sparklers, certainly they might have a few cone-type fireworks that we could light and watch sparks fly up in the air while the kids maintain a safe distance?

This is what they had...

It's your typical, mild-mannered Party Poppers on the right. And on the left, it looks like cone-shaped fireworks. And something that says TNT on it? Surely these must be great, right? Oh, but wait, they are actually just slightly bigger Party Poppers. Yeah.

Fortunately, our kids are 3 and 1 years old and therefore easily impressed.

One of the Successful Pops (there were some duds)

Both kids enjoyed the "fireworks" and want more

The kids were ready for bed around 7:30 (yes, Will picked his bedtime outfit himself). Maybe next year we will see live fireworks. Or maybe we will hang out at home and watch the HD presentation of fireworks on TV like we ended up doing this evening. Clearly, we won't be finding any awesome legal personal fireworks. :)

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Best Home Improvement Ever

In our house, there is a lot of whining. I think it has something to do with having a 3-year-old who copies the 18-month-old who thinks he is now a terrible 2-year-old. One of the whining things that happens a lot is when Will wants to go to play in his room or go to the bathroom...

It's daaaaaaaaaaark!

Finally, the solution!

We installed these kid light switches. In the same week, we also started letting Alex sleep in the bunk bed. (No, we did not put either of the kids on the top bunk. The bottom bunk is a full-sized bed, so there is plenty of room for two little kids.)

For the last 3 years and 3 months, our mornings would start with yelling from the kid(s) room. Will has always woken up crying, probably because he was lonely. Alex is a much calmer waker. When they were in the room together, Will in the bed and Alex in the crib, the mornings would be somewhat calmer, with less crying, but still with the "mmmmommm, mmmmmmommm, mamadad!"

Now, with the kid light switch and the sleeping in the same bed? Mornings are much more enjoyable. Will gets up to turn on the light and start playing. Alex wakes up and gets out of bed to play too. They are not silent by any means, but are sometimes quiet enough to sleep through for a few more precious minutes. It's so much more peaceful than rushing to the room of crying/yelling kids.

And, since the light switches allow Will to turn the light on for the bathroom and his room when they are dark, less whining! Now, if we could just get the kids to find breakfast on their own in the morning.

Update: This morning, July 4th, they wandered out of their room, found apples to eat, and pillaged the "Hello Panda" cookie supply.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mounting the TV to the Wall Project

The kids didn't nap today, so we put them to bed at 7:30pm.  This meant we had the whole evening free to do a project.  We mounted our TV to the wall, then pulled all of our "components" from the cabinent that had been under the TV.  This is part of the extraction results:

Notice the pile of wires in the background.  I got the job of separating them into individual wire units.  We had at least 8 ethernet cables and 3 routers in the stack of stuff.  We had all sorts of audio visual cables, including 5 cables that I had never seen before.  Somehow,  in the end, we had 9 left over wires and 2 ac adapters.  

Some organized wires

While sorting through the pile of wires, I felt like I was on some sort of "So you Married a Geek" reality show and this was one of the challenges.  You know, the wife decides to acquire a new piece of furniture (our old one was made for a corner, this one is much more streamlined) and the husband geek must deconstruct his entire electronic component set-up and reconstruct it on the new piece of furniture while the wife plays some sort of useful role.

Not Quite Finished

So that's what we ended up with.  I think it still needs some conduit or at least zip ties for the wires.  Also, we might put up some sort of shelf or backboard for wire concealing.  You may notice that we only have 2 TiVos and 1 Verizon DVR set up here.  Why would we use so few TiVos?  Well, let me explain.  While we do own 8 TiVos or so (it's hard to keep track), the TiVos shown here are special.  Or at least the one on top is special.  It is a series 3 and can record in HD.  It has 2 tuners so it can record 2 shows at once.  Plus, it has the Wombat drive to the left which stores an additional 500 gbs of shows.  So that's why we only have 4 DVRs (2 TiVo in living room, one in bedroom, one Verizon DVR in living room) running at this time in our house.  

Also, we get to try the same thing with the TV above our bedroom dresser.  There is only one TiVo in there which will remain on the dresser, so we won't have to assemble a cabinet of any sort.  

One step closer to organizing our house!

Picture Time!

As the children can now play for a few minutes by themselves, Dan and I have started on the 'home improvement project.  What do we have in mind?  We would like to do some of these things:
  • Install skylights in our odd dropped ceiling.  It is in our dining/dan's desk area of our living/dining room space.  It looks like a school ceiling, complete with eerie florescent tube lights.  It needs some updating.
  • Install solar panels on our garage roof after re-roofing it.
  • Replace our carpet which seems to be taken out of a "My Name is Earl" episode when they have the flashbacks to growing up in their parents' house in the 70s.
  • Remove the ugly kitchen wallpaper.
  • Replace the tile counter top and maybe even the whole super low kitchen island.
  • Paint!  So far we have only painted my office (orange), Will/Alex's room (green), and recently, the guest bathroom (sky blue).  Everything else is icky white.
  • Mount TVs on the wall.
  • Hang Pictures.
  • Organize Kids' room. We have some toy bins ordered.  We anticipate them working better than the dumpable toy boxes and drawers they use now.
  • Get some sort of playground surface for under the merry-go-round.  Right now we have those connectible work mats.  They help to protect the kids from scraping their knees when they fall down, but it would be great to have something that doesn't blow apart in the wind. 
Right now, it is picture time.  I was thinking about buying some sort of artwork.  
We wanted to start with the bathroom since we just painted it.  But then, I thought, why not just print out some of our travel pictures and put those up.  So last week at IKEA, we bought a picture frame to try out.  We sent some pictures to to print to 20" by 30" size.  We bought more IKEA frames.  And now, we have 4 large framed pictures with which to decorate our walls.  Yea!

Here are some pictures of the framed pictures.

Snowy Tokyo Park Scenes

California Wave and Kauai Lighthouse

Yes, they look much cooler in person.  We are thinking about putting a set in our guest bathroom and are not sure what we will be doing with the other set.  We have many blank walls, so I think we will come up with something.  

So then, I got to thinking, in the grand scheme of organizing the kids room, we will be putting up pictures on their walls too.  We have a picture of Katsushika Hokusai's "The Great Wave".  We have a glass picture of a fish.  But what else to put on the wall?  More of the pictures that Dan and I have taken?  Nope.  Since Will has his own camera, we thought we might try letting him use some of his own pictures to decorate his room.  He gets excited about the process of moving the pictures from his camera to his laptop with the USB cable.  Then he talks about sending them to the printer.  What kind of shots did we end up with for hanging?  Here is another IKEA picture frame, but this time filled in with 3 of Will's pictures.

Will's pictures are interesting.  What he chooses to photograph and the angle he shoots at just can't be duplicated.  Some of Will's other shots include me pouring dishwasher detergent into the dishwasher, pictures of his llama and his puppy posing, and pages of books he likes to read.  Then, there is that time he ran into the bedroom when I was getting dressed... we deleted that one immediately.

The Alex picture is funny because whenever Will takes a picture of Alex, it is always blurry.  They just can't both stop moving long enough at the same time to get a clear shot.  Maybe we will have to try some outside in bright light.  

Will actually chose the Alex picture above over another one.  He said that Alex was doing something funny and that he also thought the bib was silly.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wiggly Will

In an effort to post things to the blog, I offer Will... trying to wiggle his nose.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Nothing Happening?

Perhaps you were wondering if our failure to post on the blog means that nothing is happening here in Southern California. On the contrary, we have now had two medium sized earthquakes in the last couple of days.

One on Sunday Night that was 4.7.

And one during work yesterday that was 4.0.

Now we do have earthquakes on a regular basis, but the thing about these recent quakes is that they have epicenters that are about 5 miles from us. Close enough to cause some adrenaline and send us towards a safe place under a table.

The kids slept through the Sunday Night quake, Alex not even stirring when we took him out of his bed. Our original nighttime plan involves us grabbing Alex and joining Will on the bottom bunk of his bed since it would probably be a reasonably safe place to be. However, that evening we experienced a tough time of getting Will to bed, so during the quaking we changed plans to shelter in a different place. Waking Will up would have been unpleasant.

For the second quake, the kids didn't really care either. When I picked Will up from school and asked if there was an earthquake, he said, no, there was just a bell and they were practicing their earthquake drill. Alex had no discernible comment related to earthquakes.

Other things going on? I'll post soon, I promise.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Alex's Word Quiz

Back in September 2007 when Will was about 18 months old, we posted his first 50 words. Now, as we are continuously comparing our children, we realize that, according to Dan, Alex seems to be into sentences. So, I thought I would quiz Alex on words even though he is only 15 months old.

Will only words in blue. Will and Alex words in red. Alex only words in green.
hey, hi, hello, bye bye
dad, mom, baby
, dude, Asha, Sidney, Alex
ball, box, block, truck, book, bubble, balloon, slide, swing
go, shoes,
up, down, door, this way, outside, step, open
car, key, airplane,
bird, dog, puppy, bee, bear, dinosaur (di-di), duckie
no, mine, me, you, oh-oh, oh no, thank you, please, more, yeah, I, all done
ding, beep, pop, crash, dance, boom (the sound dinosaurs make when they walk)
bath, shower, towel,
nose, eye, ear, teeth,
chair, food, hot, eggs,
cheese, banana, cracker, water, milk, fork, cup, straw, bib, bowl, bottle, apple, melon, oatmeal, snack, eat
drawer, rock, dirt,
hat, pen, phone, book
that, there, yea

48 words so far. And, since both Will and I can sign some words, Alex has actually learned how to sign apple, cheese, all done, wind, cold, more, and hat. Although I have to give credit to Zimry for teaching him more.

I have to say, my favorite word that Alex has learned is "yeah." Oddly, Will didn't learn a positive yes word until much later. With Alex, we can actually ask him if he wants something and he will say "yeah." In fact, when he wants anything, he will sometimes point to it and say, "that, yeah" but most of the time, I find him simply nodding and saying yeah over and over, not quite sure what he wants. It's also funny when he vehemently shakes his head "no."

Alex has also figured out what duckies, frogs, birds, vehicles, dinosaurs and puppies say. The puppy part is mostly due to the fact that Will has developed his first imaginary friends. He has a group of imaginary baby puppies that go places with him. He made me open the car door to let them out after I got him out of the car the other day. We quiz him on how many there are, "a lot" and what their names are, "they don't have names yet." Although today he named one of them Max. Max joined us on a walk to Starbucks. Will is also convinced that he is a puppy, making the rest of us "mommy puppy," "daddy puppy," and "baby puppy."

Here is an example of Alex explaining what dinosaurs say.

Oddly, Will has switched from calling us mama and dad (or mamadad collectively) to mommy and daddy. I think he learned this at school. He is also quite sophisticated in his language usage, effectively expressing his displeasure about many things.

The two kids together have taken up syncronized activities. These include nodding and saying, "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah." They also dance, spin, and they stick their tongues out together. Plus, as an added bonus, we have syncronized throw-yourself-on-the-ground-tantrums. Fortunately Alex doesn't quite understand what he is doing and Will does understand that he gets sent to his room if he does this.

Sometimes they are in sync, but sometimes they disagree. For example, when they watch YouTube together, they want to see different videos. I'll see if I can upload the video of them watching YouTube to YouTube. Because that is what comes next. YouTube videos of people watching YouTube.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

No Longer Picky

Did you know that being picky about food is like any other behavioral habit? While it is difficult to quit "cold turkey," you can try to stop over time. Or, you can use a substitute to the picky-ness to get you through the process.

For those of you who have ever had a meal with me, you know that I am one of those people who order food, then modify the order and ask for special sides. Then, when it arrives, I send it back if it is not precisely what I ordered. Being from the Midwest, I tend to be a "food racist" and only eat the white food (chicken, mashed potatoes, corn).

No more! I have decided not to be picky anymore. Now, before you pull out some butter sauteed mushrooms dipped in vinegar with a side of sushi for me to eat, there are limits. and they are basically that. I am still not going to eat fungus. It's not really a food anyway. And uncooked meat? I'll pass for now. Vinegar? I'll eat it if it is in a nice vinaigrette (previously avoided) which happens to come with my meal, but I won't go out of my way to eat it. I feel that these remaining restrictions are OK.

How did I come to this realization that being picky was just not worth it? It sort of started when I was pregnant in Japan. I got used to the idea that food was not going to magically appear in exactly the way I wanted. Now, this did not stop me, at that time, from buying super expensive chicken breasts at the store and cooking them to satisfy my white food craving. It also did not stop me from visiting many of the TGIFs in Tokyo or visiting the Best El Torito in the World in Omotesando (which I believe, sadly, now is closed). However, I got used to the fact that at official company dinners, the person in charge of ordering (Kishi-san) would order every chicken dish on the menu for me which were never made from white meat. And I would eat them anyway. Good thing I was pregnant and had that "excuse" to limit me to the non-fishy chicken dishes or I might have offended Dan's co-workers and caused International Badwill.

Since being back in the United States (for three years now), I have happily gone to Japanese restaurants to eat tempura, katzu dishes, soba, and sometimes teriyaki. Sometimes I want Korean bbq. And, since I now eat more fish, I sometimes order fish at restaurants, always cooked, of course.

And, with my recent decision to not be picky about food, I have even branched out into things like feta, olives, pine nuts, and other Greekish food type items. I am not rejecting goat cheese. I even ate a few onion rings last night at the Red Car Brewery in Old Town Torrance. While this might not seem extreme to you, since onions were not something I ever embraced, it was quite the step.

What next? Perhaps we will visit Japan again and I will actually search out different foods to enjoy. :) Until then, I will order things from menus. Without annoying modifications!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Our First Miniatures Exchange

Will still needs a globe. He keeps asking me where Singapore and India are since that is where our Miniatures Exchange share partners are. Many times I say that they are far away, but when a map is available, we look for them on the map. We saw a globe at Barnes and Nobel that we might get, basically I am looking for something that is a real globe, not one of those plastic kids' globes. I'm not sure where I am going to put it, so I am considering a floor globe, maybe one on a stand.

Anyway, what is this Miniatures Exchange? I posted about it previously with a picture of my sound pocket for "W". It is something that a blogger mom in Japan set up. Our swap partners were in India and Singapore. Here is what we got!

India: Postcards (the Himalayas, India Gate, and Taj Mahal), M - Mirror that folds open to a stand, A small Taj Mahal, P - Puppets (soldier, women), O - owl coin purse, K - kites, S - Stamps, F - flag, hand-made paper envelopes, B - small round pink box, D - Die, E - Elephant, C - Coins, shape shifting toy. There was also a smiley face pin, but Will snatched it and put it in our "H" sound pocket for "happy". I was especially impressed by the little Taj Mahal sculpture. Will loved the mirror and the little box, trying to put the coins and the die in the box. The coins fit.

Singapore: Chinese paper cutting for the year of the ox, Postcards (Clarke Quay, Merlion), F - fish, F - Flower, O - ox, O - orchids, H - house, D - Chinese doll, S - stamp, D - dragonfly handmade using Chinese knots, M- merlion key chain, B/R - Bow/Ribbon, key chain from Sentosa, P - peanut, B - bottle, I - ingot, C - coins (old Chinese coin and Singapore coins). I loved the dragonfly and it was neat to get a little ox, from Singapore, in the year of the ox. I also liked the tiny bottle because it is an actual miniature. That is, I want items for the sound pockets that are small, 3 dimensional versions of real items. Will hasn't had much time to sort through these items yet as we received them right before nap time and he was really cranky. If he actually sleeps today, we will probably be looking at them again after nap.

Most of the items will go into our sound pockets. I'm thinking about getting a photo album, one with the peel back pages, for the postcards and stamps, so that we can start up a book of things from different countries. I'm open to ideas though as I also need somewhere to put the coins too because Will asked if they are for his gumball machine. So far, the countries I think Will should learn about include India, Singapore, Japan, Italy, Austria, Cameroon, and Canada.

Another Option
So if you think this is a neat thing to do, but you don't have sound pockets and want to do something more simple with your kid? Sign up for the postcard snack recipe swap before March 15 and get all sorts of neat snack ideas.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The "Say Crazy Things" Age

Yup, Will is at that age.  The "Say Crazy Things" age.  This is documented in the raising your child books, right?  Oh wait, I gave up reading back when I gave up eating meals because two kids suck away all of your time.

Will's crazy things range from embarrassing to insightful.  On the somewhat embarrassing side... we were at a restaurant eating and the hostess was seating an overweight woman nearby.  Will tried to explain that "that mommy has a baby in her tummy."  I tried to distract him from this statement.  the woman ended up requesting a different table.  

On the more insightful side... Will was in the office at my desk yesterday since they didn't let us drop him off at school because of pink eye suspicion.  He watched my computer boot and commented on the flags.  
Me: "Yes, Will, the flags are the symbol for Microsoft."
Will (pointing to coffee cup):  "What does this say?"
Me:  "That says, McCafe.  And look, under it is the symbol for McDonalds.  Do you want to learn about corporate logos today?  Look, here is the Dell symbol on my monitors."
Will (trying to say McCafe and failing):  "What does caffeine mean?   
Me (laughing, figuring he is close enough):  "Yes, Will, that says caffeine."
Will:  Does caffeine help you when you are tired?
Me:  Yes.  That's exactly what it means.

I see this conversation as lending creedance my claim about the statement Will made when I was contemplating Alex's upcoming birthday cake back in December.  You see, I was trying to figure out how to make a dinosaur cake.  I figured I could make a cake in the Pampered Chef batter bowl and maybe stick a dinosaur into it or something.  But, I swear, Will said, "We can make a volcano cake for Alex's dinosaur birthday party."  And yes, that's what we did.  

Forget smarter than a 5th grader.  Are you smarter than my almost 3 year old?  I'm sure I could keep up if I got more sleep.  But you see, I am in a Catch-22 there.  If I got more sleep, maybe I could convince Will to sleep more, but I don't get enough sleep because Will doesn't sleep enough. Zzzzz....

Got to go, need to consult Will about how to pull off his 3rd birthday party next month.  It's April 5th.  I'll send out the evite soon.  If you don't get it, drop me a line, I was too tired to remember to send it to you.  :)

Update:  I almost forgot to mention another outlet for Will's saying of crazy things.  You Tube.  You see, we can play you tube on our TV.  I almost have Will trained on the use of the remote.  Until then, I get to be the one to do the searches for Will's whims.  It turns out that not everything is on You Tube.  For example, "I want to see koala bears in the ocean"  didn't quite work out.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Best Chocolate in the World

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! As you may know, Dan and I haven't celebrated Valentine's Day since 2005. Why? One reason is that it is kind of silly to compete with every other couple in the vicinity to book a restaurant, then pay overpriced, special Valentine's Day prices for food, and especially the super expensive flower prices.

The other excuse we have for not celebrating Valentine's Day is (no, it's not because of the children, we try not to use them as excuses unless absolutely necessary)... we decided to be all Japanese about the holiday, and celebrate it like they do in Japan. The women go shopping and buy chocolate for the men. Yes, the women still get to be spoiled on another holiday, March 14th, White Day.

So, for Valentine's Day, I told Dan that he got to choose his chocolate of the day. We could go to Trader Joe's, which has tasty chocolate, Godiva, which has tasty expensivish chocolate, or Leonidas, which has the best chocolate ever. The only problem with Leonidas is that there isn't a branch near super close to us.

When we lived in Tokyo, there were two Leonidas' stores close to us. One was a few blocks away from where we lived in Kagurazaka. We had never head of it. But one day we stopped in. The chocolate was semi-expensive, but not unreasonably priced. We bought some. It was awesome.

So today, Dan said he wanted to get the Leonidas. We decided to drive up to Santa Monica instead of the trek to Pasadena. Success! The chocolate was a little more expensive than it seemed to be in Japan, but fortunately, the taste was as good, if not better, than we remembered.

If you are even in the market for the best chocolate ever, you have got to try Leonidas. Fortunately it is available on, but unfortunately, the shipping cost is absurdly high. Good luck!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Crafty Project

For those of you who know me, you probably know that I am not terribly crafty. However, I am embarking on a crafty project that I anticipate completing. Primarily I will be motivated by Will's excitement about the outcome. He is actually excited by the process too. Who knew an almost 3-year-old could be so interested in sewing.

Here is the first, not quite complete, crafty item:

What is it? It's a Phonics Miniatures Sound Pocket. The idea is that you create 26 pockets, one for each letter of the alphabet, then populate them with tiny items that start with each letter. That way, someone who is just learning about letters and words can figure out that "Apple" starts with "A" or "Zipper" starts with "Z". Will is doing great with letter recognition and he seems to understand that words are made of letters. He is very excited about the felt envelopes and the tiny items.

The pocket above isn't quite done. It still needs some felt sewn on to cover the top of the elastic button loop. We also need to add the letter, "W". You may notice that my button is a wine cask. You may also wonder about the appropriateness of including a wine-theme in a child's educational toy. If you like, ask Will about wine sometime. :)

Of course, this is not something I came up with on my own. I got the idea from a mom who is teaching her 3-year-old using the Montessori method. She has a wonderful blog about some of the activities that they do. She is also very crafty and made much cuter pockets for her son. She also was kind enough to organize a miniatures exchange. So Will helped me to shop for 10 little items that we could also send to our two exchange partners. As we live here in Southern California, we got some small wooden surfboards and some other sea-themed items such as a tiny finger puppet octopus and whale. We also got a neat little rubber lobster and a realistic looking rubber donut. We are still waiting on our packages from our exchange partners as they were sent from Singapore and India. We will post our sound pockets once they are done!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Disneyland with a Kid

I have now been to a Disneyland 4 times. The first time was back in college with Josh, Neal, and Anna. The second time was in 2006 when Angela2 and I went in Tokyo. However, today I actually brought a kid with me for the first time (if you don't count the 8 month pregnant visit in Tokyo). And, oddly, we only spent $14 for parking, gas $, and $3.50 on popcorn. A pretty good deal for 5 hours of entertainment. (Previously Dan and I bought Disney Annual Passes, the cheap ones where you can basically only go on unpopular weekdays, which is when you would want to go anyway.)

Will was so excited. Like many activities, I describe what we are going to do ahead of time. If possible, I use our TiVo to show him a youtube video on our TV about where we are going. This way he knows what to expect and gets even more excited. This tactic works pretty well, except when things don't quite happen the way I described. For example, prior to our New York City trip back in August, I explained the Statue of Liberty and how we could go up inside it. He was very adamant when we got to the Statue of Liberty that we had to go around and go inside the doors and go to the top. However, we didn't have monument passes, so he kind of missed out.

The same thing happened today with the Small World Afterall ride. I showed it to him on youtube, there was a boat going through a tunnel and the song. So he got excited and started singing the song before we even left our house. However, the ride was closed today. I guess it is in transition between Christmas and regular Small World version. Will was pretty disappointed and I had to explain that it was closed and that there wasn't even any water for the boats. That said, we still had fun. After nearly every ride, Will would say, "I had fun on ... "

We started by parking near Downtown Disney. For those of you who are planning on going to Disneyland, I can't promise that I know all tips about the best place to park, enter, whatever, but this worked for us. The alternative is to park in the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure which takes a while to get to, then you have to drive up and up and up and around and around, then take a tram to the park entrance. By parking at the Downtown Disney lot, we paid basically the same price for parking, but were fairly close to the monorail entrance and we didn't have to go in the main entrance, just the monorail entrance. As we had the annual pass, we just scanned that and we were in. I don't know how it would work otherwise. Plus, since Will loves trains and had never been on a monorail, he was very much into this way of entering the park.

The monorail dropped us off in Tomorrowland. We go to ride the Finding Nemo Submarine, which was the scariest ride. Will didn't like the eels and I covered his eyes for the lantern fish. Next we went to Autopia. Will was excited to get a "driver's license" and loved steering the car. Then we watched the Jedi training academy and completed the Star Trek theme by peeking inside Star Tours to look at C3PO and R2D2. Will is under the 40" minimum height for this one. Then, although I was a little concerned that Will would find Zurg too scary on the Astro Blasters, we went and he loved it. I think it helped that I explained that there would be something scary. And of course, you know I am being a great parent when I say, "Don't worry, you can shoot at Zurg with the blaster."

In the Dark Submarine

Will Excitedly Driving

Our next goal was to get closer to Small World since we didn't yet know it was closed. We ended up in Fantasy Land or Storybook Land or maybe both. At this point, Will seemed to realize that he could ask to go on particular rides that he saw. So we went on the Carousel and the Circus Train. He turned down the Flying Elephants, but after watching people get into the spinning tea cups, decided that was something he really wanted to do. In fact, when it was done he wanted to go again. However, we ended up avoiding the fun that was another spinning teacup ride to get to Small World to face our lack of annoying song disappointment.

Will Picked the Pink Teacup

Our final stop was Toon Town. I had been here once before, the first time I went to Disneyland. We entered and Will decided that he wanted to check out the Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin. It was as mediocre as I remembered and Will just thought it was kind of weird. We wandered around Toon Town for a little bit more and I pointed out Mickey's House and asked Will if he wanted to meet Mickey Mouse. He was in favor of the idea. When we went into the room with Mickey, Will was 2nd in line to get a picture with The Mouse. He was a little timid, but through some sort of Disney Magic, Mickey convinced him to come over and pose.

The professional picture is much less blurry

Overall, Will did great. We were there for five hours. I was originally concerned, because I see so many tired, crying kids at The Happiest Place on Earth. Plus, we didn't bring a stroller because I didn't want to deal with parking it and folding it and stuff. The only time Will cried was when a 3-year old pushed him in line and kicked him too.

Real Tears!

He was pretty tired by the end of the day and took a rest on the trolley.

Trolley Rest

Obviously we have to go back and ride the Small World Ride. Will thinks that should happen tomorrow, but really, our passes don't let us in on Saturdays. We will probably go during February, maybe again during March, and of course, on Will's birthday in April since Disney's promotion this year is attend free on your birthday. Then... it is expensive for Will to go since he will be 3 years old. We shall see.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

2008 Christmas Letter, Yea!

If you have been a lucky recipient of our Christmas letters in the past, you may know that we have been very late the last couple of years. Like most of our activities where we are late, we blame the kids. But, for 2008, we wrote our Christmas letter on/around Christmas and have sent most of them out. If you think we forgot you, it is possible (once again, we blame the kids for turning our memories to mush), but it may be that we are in the process of confirming your address. Give it a little bit of time. We should send the remaining letters out shortly.

Now, if you did receive a Christmas Letter from us and you had some questions, here is our 2008 Christmas Letter FAQ:

Q: How much did Alex weigh when he was born?
A: This statistic was in our 2007 "Christmas Letter." Even though Alex was born after Christmas, our letter was so late that we were able to include his birth details in that letter. While we are not sure exactly how much he weighed given that we had a fairly arbitrary fish-scale type weighing device, Dan and Mary Lou and Mary Lou's assistant came to the conclusion that he weighed 10lbs 12 oz.

Q: Other than not being a traveler and hiding things from you, how is Alex different from Will?
A: One difference is in their eating habits. While it is true that Alex will eat anything he can find, it's really about quality rather than quantity. We had to nurse Will every hour for a few months after he was born. Alex actually gave me a break. Then, we had to start Will on solids at 4 months because he was just consuming constantly. Alex we waited until 6 months old for solids. It's just nice to put Alex to bed at night not worried that he might still need more food.
A: Also a difference is that Alex started sleeping through the the night very soon (as opposed to 9 months old for Will). He has formed a bond with his "blankie" that causes him much comfort during the night.
A: Another difference is that Alex has a whole lot more hair. We didn't cut Will's hair until he was 13 months old. We cut Alex's hair when he was 10 months old. He might be due for another cut soon.

Q: Merry-Go-Round?
A: Yes, Merry-Go-Round. It has a custom built metal core and a neat, octagonal wooden frame. It's in our backyard. It's awesome.

Q: Have you LOL-Catted any other pictures of the kids?
A: Not yet, but we will. Don't worry.

Q: What other goals do you have for 2009?
A: Will is going to stop double-dipping.
A: Will is also going to learn how to do more than one thing at a time with the Nintendo controllers. Because it just doesn't work to either jump or shoot or move.
A: Will is considering learning how to video conference on his own. Fortunately Skype is free.

Q: Does Alex really only say "down"?
A: No, he says other words too, but "down" is his favorite. He uses it to get held, to get down from being held, to get out of high chair, to demonstrate throwing food off his high chair, when he throws balls or other stuff, and to get off the couch or our bed. In terms of other words, he is working on mom, blanket (which sounds like ma-ma), dad, up, ball, block, dinosaur (di-di), roar, duckie, quack, yummy, book, remote, box, bird, dog, hat, banana, melon, apple, more, snack, milk, yeah, no, bubble, hi, bye.

Q: Are there any grammetrical errors in the Christmas Letter this year?
A: Of course not. Although there is one numeric inconsistancy. And there is one arbitrary capitalization (as a throwback to old Kroboth Family christmas letters). And, the worst of all, I forgot that Alex went to Minnesota with me for work. As photographic evidence, here he is with Aunt Robin and Uncle Daniel outside the TGI Friday's outside the Mall of America.

Q: What changes will you make as you contemplate your 2009 Christmas Letter?
Ah yes, it seems as though people writing Christmas letters are raising the bar. Now we are seeing 2 different things. First, people are using Snapfish and other photo services to make their included pictures all fancy (Joanne/Steve, Diane/Mike, Cathy/Wes. Second, people are now writing "newsletters" (Angela/Phil, Kay/Gavin). And, of course, people have always been including an actual Christmas card with their letters. We will consider these "improvements" in the future.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, January 02, 2009

I lost 65 lbs without exercising!

What? Is this some sort of infomercial blog post? No, it's actually true. I have found the secret to weight loss. First, get pregnant with your second child. Gain extra weight because you are not living in a culture where walking everywhere is common place. Then, give birth to a 10lb 12 oz baby. Then, stay at home, taking care of 2 kids under the age of 3 for a few months. You will find your day consists mostly of feeding the kids, putting them down for naps, changing diapers, and potty training. It is unlikely that you will have time to eat. A few months later, when you get a chance, weigh yourself.

Don't believe me? I have photographic proof. Here are my before and after pictures:

So as you may realize, I am not making a resolution this year to lose weight. Exercise, yes, I need more energy. But with the goal to lose weight, not so much.

So what is the big resolution of 2009? 2009 has been deemed "The Year of Home Improvements" Yup, that's right, the ugly wallpaper in our kitchen that we have wanted to replace since we moved in in 2006, it's got to go. The carpet that looks like it is from the 60's, with a dull gray cloud pattern, that's probably going to go. We have to see how messy of an eater Alex turns out to be. And we are finally going to paint our living room, dinning area, and Dan office area. Any major construction projects? We shall see. Solar panels on the garage? Maybe. Replace our school classroom-like dining room ceiling? Perhaps. We are definitely going to paint or replace our backyard gates. Who knows, maybe we will even clean our garage or bring our fancy China inside so we can actually use it!

Bored and live in Southern California? Come hang out with our kids so we can actually work on a Home Improvement!