Wednesday 28 November 2012

Hollywood - LA

Over the thanksgiving weekend, we drove down to LA for shopping and Hollywood fun.

Universal Studio
We spent Thanksgiving day at Universal Studio Hollywood. We love our day there. Whatever rides found in USS are also found here, except for the Madagascar and upcoming Sesame street. It's definitely larger with more rides here, but most of them, in fact, all of them couldn't take the kids. They were under height. The shows were good enough for them though. And, I must applaud the existence of their child switch rooms which allowed the man and myself to take turns onto the ride. We switched turn after each other, without having to re-queue.

I love the studio tour very much, it was about 45mins and awesomely good! Other than touring some famous movies and dramas site scenes, the tour included a 3D king kong show which was really impressive. Totally awesome to see the live scenes from screens.
Scooby Doo!

Desperate Housewives: Susan Defilno's house

Disaster scene
We ended our day with the WaterWorld show. As good as the one in USS too. Just that they used actors from the CSI drama and had more props. Amazing effect it created. The kids love this noise-defying show too.

Ending scene

USH is all fun! Both kids didn't nap the whole day till after dinner. Couldn't believe the stored energy they had.

Celebrities house tour
Next day, we took a tour to the beautiful houses at Hollywood and Beverly hills. It was so chilly when the near 2 hours tour entered into sunset. It got so cold riding on the open top truck. The kids fell asleep midst of the tour. While the grown ups continued to admire the beautiful houses built upon. All kinds of structures and designs, so cool! We saw houses belonging to celebrities like Katy Perry, Michael Buble, Jodie Foster etc. And quiz time, guess which celebrity this house belongs to? Answer at caption.

Keanu Reeves' house

Premium Outlets
Contributing myself to the black Friday sale crowd, I've also shopped crazily at Dessert Hills Premium Outlets and Camarillo Premium Outlets. It's endless shopping that I can do in there. Long lines were already formed outside some shops when  I was there at 12 midnight. I queued for one of the shops that was giving 50% + 20% off the entire store. I couldn't resist, I withstood the coldness to queue. This took me an hour, and with some other shopping, we left Dessert Hills Outlets at 5a.m. Shopping kept me so awake. Oh no no, the man and kids were sleeping at a nearby hotel. My cousin who was on the trip with us, came along to shop with me. And happy shopping is when you think the money is all well spent!
Food Adventure
Along the way, from dessert Hills to Camrilo, we did some food hunt. We had lunch at Mrs knott's chicken dinner restaurant. We were there few years ago and I was thrilled to have re-visited it for its delicious and tender chicken. Their biscuit bun has a memorable taste and texture, and not forgetting to eat it with their jam. All so good and satisfying!

Mrs Knott's chicken
Another hunt that our friend recommended was Jinya Ramen bar. Their ramen is really good and tasty. For a moment, it didn't feel like we were in a non-asian country. The kids slurped up the noodles very fast and quick. 

Ramen is comfort

A very good and fun trip we had!

Give Thanks!

It was another long weekend, the thanksgiving week. It's America's national holiday and also a time when families here would come together for a special meal. A time to express thankfulness for what they have. I thought this day should be more widely observed, so everyone can be more thankful for their lives, and be reminded at least once a year.

Two weeks ago, Jazz's school invited us for a simple thanksgiving meal. Turkey was served and it was a great get together. Even the man could slot the meal in between his timetable. Nice!

Thanksgiving lunch

I like the culture that Thanksgiving is observed every year here. It reminds us to be thankful of life and whatever we have. A time to reflect past achievements and be contented.

I'm really thankful for what I am, what I have and where I am. The list of appreciation is never ending, I'm pretty much contented. More shopping will content further. A heart of gratitude allows more of the receiving. Just as everyone was celebrating the joyous occasion, I made a secret pledge to not fret at the kids, for at least the whole of last week. I want to be thankful for having them as my children, I want to be thankful for the opportunity to raise and teach them. And the outcome of my pledge - I failed big time! But, I will try again.

In everything, give thanks! Roads are sometimes bumpy and tunnels never seemed ending, for everything that happens, there's a sure reason and always a learning point. And what comes after Thanksgiving Thursday is Black Friday! Crazy sale everywhere and I went crazy at premium outlets too. Giving thanks for the 'money well spent'.

Friday 16 November 2012

Homeschooling approach

When Jazz left her school in SG, writing and reading were not in her academics. I wasn't bothered, I left everything to school. Now that I'm homeschooling her, I gain achievements when I see good results. Over the weeks, I've been so frustrated on getting her to write an A. She could write some other letters, but not the 'A'. She would trace so many times on the dotted A, but never able to do without aid.

For some reason, I got really mad when she couldn't get it right after so many days of traces. The Asian parenting in me, push push and push. To certain extend, I felt that I was forcing her. Ok, I was. I felt her fear in me when I started to yell and threaten. I didn't want to instill that learning fear, but it really isn't easy to homeschool our own child. We all have different expectations too.

So then, after that one fearful lesson with her, I warned her against watching TV, ipad or any fun indulgences, until she can write 'A' independently. I lowered my expectations too - No rush, give more time, practice drawing lines and curves again. I knew I was wrongfully wrong to get so impatient. The next few days, she asked me for the TV, I said, "Do you know how to write your 'A' now?" She said, "Let me try." I love hearing the word 'try' rather than "I can't do it" upfront. With her piece of paper and pencil, she wrote me an 'A' independently! I was impressed and what worked? Not the tiger parenting in me, but the motivation. The TV was her motivation. She put in all effort to achieve her reward. Couldn't believe this worked so wonderfully for us.

All by herself - Her first time

She's also progressing well in reading, which I'm happy to be coaching her through. A mother, a teacher. The multiple roles we play. Every child is different. Some work well under pressure and some with motivation. It's all about experimenting the approaches. Maybe a combination of styles work.

She was reading a book from the library which I read to her less than 2 times. Next moment I saw, was her attempt to read the book on her own. I was delighted. I've been reading and guiding her to read books with simple words and short sentences. Her phonics foundation really helped. Thanks to her ex-teachers. Together with some sight reading and those very repetitive words for beginners, it helped in her reading journey.

After this fearful 'A' lesson, I told myself, never should I be yelling and forcing this way again. I know, this is easier said than done. I will try. 

Learning milestone: 3 years 7 months

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Trip to San Diego

It was the long weekend again, together with our friends, we drove down to San Diego for its ZooSea World and of course the Premium Outlets at Carlsbad, where I lost sanity to 2 pairs of lovely shoes. I did 1/3 of the to driving journey, it was a good drive, except for the slow traffic when we were crossing LA. Jare was surprisingly the better behaved passenger than Jazz. Jazz drove me nuts a few times. The journey was about 10 hours each way.

We visited the zoo on Saturday. It's huge with many species of animals and I'm glad we could view most animals by hopping onto the guided bus tour. The kids had fun viewing the animals and it sure feels good to be touring the zoo in the breezy weather than the hot scorching sun.  
Cotton candy look alike clouds
Two humped camel

Can't remember what animal this is
The animal that attracted the most crowd was the panda. It was heavy human traffic at the panda's habitat. 
The very shy panda
Jaguar and Leopard are differentiated by their spots
Buys for the zoo!
It was good fun at the zoo, but honestly, I think Singapore zoo is much more fun and experiencing. It's also in the top ten list of World's best zoo, some sources have even listed Singapore zoo as number 1. 

On Sunday, we visited Sea World, which I enjoyed it more. I love the shows, especially the one featuring killer whales. Killer whales aren't as threatening as its name sounds, they look kinda awesome to me. I bought a killer whale plush that day. We called it 'Shamu.' As how they named their performing star.   
Awesome flip!
I wish to give it a stroke too

Up close with Stingray
I was at Sea World 4 years ago and there wasn't much fun for little children. This time, there was a little theme park opened for the little ones - Sesame street Bay of Play. There was some kiddy rides and adventurous play for kids of different ages. Water play area was closed due to the very cold weather. Rides within the area are themed to Sesame street and we even took pictures with some Sesame street pals, Elmo, Grover and Telly.

Spinning fun

Elmo and Grover
And what made parenting easy when we are out is the possession of our new twin stroller. Where they sit, snack and sleep in. Finally having mercy on our arms. Road trips are exciting yet torturing when the kids don't take it well. These days when we hop into the car, Jazz would question, "Is it a long or short drive?" Car journey phobia I guess.

Monday 5 November 2012

Daylight Saving Time

Turning back time? Possible if you heard of Daylight Saving Time (DST). It simply means turning the clock back by an hour during fall and moving forward by one hour during spring (Depending on one's location). It's my first time hearing about this and I thought, what's all the 'time mess' about? The biological clock in us is already a routine, so much so that even an hour makes a difference. And so, after reading about Daylight Saving Time, I felt it was a smart invention. 

The history was way back to 1784, when one of United States founder fathers, Benjamin Franklin suggested Daylight Saving Time, with many happenings in between, this was only adopted by United States in 1918. From Fall to winter, there's less sunlight during the days than during Spring to Summer. It allows us to make better use of daylight in the evening, and possibly use less electricity too. That gave sense to the term. 

And so, it's the first Sunday of November, the smart phones, ipads and our laptops' clock have all auto changed. Everyone will have to 'Spring Forward' and 'Fall Backward.' Interesting knowledge I've gained.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Halloween Fun!

Since arriving here, I've been anxiously awaiting to see how the western celebrate Halloween. It sure is one thing that's not common in Asia, though getting popular. I intended to brush through this festival without talking to the kids about it, since it'll only be a short stay here. But it was difficult to avoid, as Halloween decorations are everywhere. There were pumpkins, spooky figurines, costumes, parties held by our local communities, spooky storytelling in the library and there was costume parade in Jazz's school too. It's like a big thing to them. Halloween was even in the cartoons they watched. And alright, I didn't really talk about the history, all I said was about dressing up in costumes and going house to house for 'trick or treat.' 

While getting all excited about this day, my Christian Singaporean neighbours told me they won't be celebrating Halloween. I got curious, "Why not?" Isn't it one festival, we Asians would wish to feel the fun of how the westerns celebrate. I don't celebrate back home too, but why the specification of mentioning not celebrating. They explained as I questioned, and that was when I ended up reading more about Halloween. Obviously, I'm one of the many joining to celebrate without knowing it's origin and myths. Different cultures view and celebrate Halloween differently. In brief, about 2000 years ago, it was a pagan holiday, honouring the dead. Some people view Halloween as a time for fun, putting on costumes, trick-or-treating and having theme parties. Others view it as a time of superstitions, ghosts, goblins and evil spirits. Which is why, some Christians view it as participating in an evil holiday. I perceived understanding after reading and knowing more about this festival. 

With the endless debates going on, we felt taking part in the celebration is dependent on each comfort's level. It ain't gonna be our yearly affair, but no harm having one or two years of Halloween fun, bring home some good memories and stories to keep. The kids were all excited about this day too. Throughout decades, the origin seemed to have been 'diluted', costumes have become cute and tame for the little ones. It became a very commercial festival too. Looking at the amount of candies the kids collected, I really wonder how much candies are sold throughout the world for trick or treat, and costumes too!

These were some spooky fun we had at an event organized by our local community and costume parade held by Jazz's school.

Kids parading around school in their costumes

We also went for two Halloween parties held by our neighbour and my man's schoolmate, which we went un-costumed because we didn't buy. Was great fellowship though.

And so the day came, 31st October. Together with some other families, we arranged to trick or treat together. It was also a chance, I wanted to train Jazz on her boldness and stranger approaching skill, I wished she would be all bold to ask for her trick or treat, but she was all so shy. She followed behind the older kids to get her privileges. At least along the way, she brought forth her words softly, 'trick or treat' and 'Thank you."

It was really happening, before we left home, a group of kids knocked on our door. I was thrilled when they chorused 'trick or treat!.' I gave each child two packs. So happy to see their smiles and hear their 'thank you.' We then left a box of candies outside our door for any kids who came and to not leave disappointed, they can help themselves to the candies. It was half gone when we came home. The sky was dark when we got home, and Thank God I had dinner all prepared before we left. 
Our cart of candies for giveaway
Scary decos
Trick OR Treat
My puppy boy

Webs and scary people everywhere
This got the kids scared
Half filled - More to go
After dinner that night, we went for a Halloween party organized by my man's schoolmate. Adults and kids had treat bags. We indulged in sweets and cakes. The kids had a late night and it all seemed to be caused by the sugar.
Collection of the day
Halloween's over and we all had great fun! Home is now overstocked with candies, which are now treats for the adults. Having stepped into November, we are so looking forward to Christmas! I sure know the reason for celebrating Christmas.

Whale watching

Went sailing away to watch whales and dolphins last weekend. My first concern upon getting the tickets was whether we could catch them in action, and phew! We did. As we sailed along, we saw sea lions, sea otters and dolphins. Towards the deepest part of the ocean, we finally saw whales! Interesting sight to catch whales in their natural habitat, the ocean. Just a pity that we don't hear them singing their tunes.
Life vests for kids
He was terrified as we sailed along
Tail of the whale

Whale splashing water
We're glad to have caught sights of the whales. Our reward for surviving a 3 hours sail trip. I never knew I would be seasick till that day. I threw up twice during the journey. The ride was so bumpy and it made me puked and nauseous throughout. The kids and man were all good. I just couldn't wait to get offshore while I was in the boat.

After the trip, we had lunch nearby, at the Fisherman's wharf. I never thought about devouring oysters after a nauseous ocean trip, but they were at 99 cents each! I ate four that afternoon. Absolutely good and fresh!