Saturday, 28 December 2013
When I asked Cooper what was going on, he responded, "It's okay, Mom. I am handling it". He was trying his best to use whatever methods he knew to take control on his own. I was so proud, but of course a little skeptical. I wrote an email to his teacher to tell her that I knew that this student was giving Cooper a bit of a hard time and I wanted to keep in touch about it, but that Cooper was doing his best to figure it out.
I think I got a response in about 90 seconds. And of course it referenced the word "bullying". I was quick to tell her that I didn't think the bullying term need be applied in this instance but I appreciated her reaction.
I think there is a real problem in the United States that needs to be addressed...IT IS NOT ALL BULLYING.
If someone makes fun of your child a few times, it is NOT bullying. If someone makes fun of your child relentlessly, it IS bullying. You cannot, no matter how much you want to, erase the fact that some kids will do these things. But the stupid kid stuff that you are trying to call bullying is diluting the term.
When I was about 16, someone prank called me to say I had a "pig nose". Maybe they weren't far off (and I am pretty sure I know who it was) because yes, my nose turns up a bit, but wow I felt terrible. Was that bullying - NO. But I bet many parents these days would disagree. You cannot protect them from everything, and if you try, you will be doing them a disservice.
Kids need to try and fail. Their confidence and wit need to be challenged a bit. It isn't easy to live in the "real world" and they should be able to realize this as they grow up. What are we teaching them if every time someone treats them with disrespect that we can throw the bullying card?
I know that bullying exists. And I know it is a horrible thing. Please stop making it harder for us to take it seriously. And please stop taking away from letting our teachers and administrators do their jobs. They have enough to worry about with all the testing prep.
Sunday, 15 December 2013
One in particular is on my mind though. My mom and dad are on their way to Singapore, in the air somewhere above Eastern Europe, and I am very much looking forward to something in their suitcase - VELVEETA CHEESE.
My dad's mom, "Grandma Lehman", is responsible for my processed cheese infused potato obsession, and god bless her for it. She oddly insisted that peeling the potatoes AFTER you boil them is the secret in her recipe, but that is obviously a joke. In fact, I think she's looking down on us from heaven, burning the hell out of our fingers trying to peel hot potatoes (who has time to let them completely cool - I want to eat the potatoes THAT DAY), and laughing. She always did have a funny sense of humor. She's like "I can't believe they thought I was serious." Well joke's on you Grandma - I stopped that practice years ago. And it tastes the same.
And I just realized that I only need HALF of the big block of orangy fake cheese for my dish, so now I can fantasize about how I will use the other half. The possibilities are endless.
NOTE TO KRAFT - you totally need to contact Top Chef and have a Velveeta-sponsored quickfire challenge! They've totally sold out on other quickfires so I'm sure if you pay them enough they will go for it. Now THAT would be some good TV!
I need to go to bed since I have to get up super early to pick up the parents at the airport. Sweet dreams my friends. Or in my case, cheesy dreams!
Thursday, 12 December 2013
1. Two Facebook friends linked to a blog post about a stay-at-home mom plagued with "mom guilt".
2. My friend, Rachel, jokingly said she had "mom guilt" because her cookies for the school party weren't coming out right. When I told her to knock it off, she suggested I write a blog post. (Done, Rachel).
3. Five minutes later, I was on People.com and saw another blog post by actress Marla Sokoloff (loved "The Practice"!) about working "mom guilt".
ENOUGH ABOUT THE "MOM GUILT" PEOPLE!
So after some googling, I've gathered that moms feel guilty about every damn choice they make.
They feel guilty about working, not working, giving their kids processed food once a year, not spending enough time with them on a day-to-day basis, leaving them for vacation or even a date night, not putting them in the highest rated schools, denying them material things that their friends have, being too strict, being not strict enough, pressuring them about grades, not being involved enough in their school work, being crazy helicopter parents, letting them have too much freedom.....STOP THE MADNESS.
These articles make it seem like us moms are pathetic, spineless, wishy washy victims who need to band together to lament about these complex parenting choices we have to make. It is like none of us could possibly just ever be confident and GUILTLESS in the choices we make.
Well knock it off, ladies.
Judge me or don't judge me, but here is a little more about me...
1. I left my firstborn, Sophia, overnight with my parents when she was 10 weeks old. It was for my best friend's wedding and I chose to stay away overnight even though it was a few minutes away. I wanted to party and my mom was drooling at the thought of having her for a whole night (The only bad part was the unfortunate showing I made in that strapless maid of honor dress that I picked out months before because I was SURE I was going to lose the baby weight quickly).
I have left my children with friends and family way more times than I could ever count (even for ten days!) and my kids will not be in future therapy for it (maybe for other things, but I know it won't be for that). Here's another take on it - if you don't leave your kids overnight with people, you are damaging their independence and self-confidence, as well as their opportunity to bond with their grandparents/friends/other family members in a way that is only possible with extended visits. You may disagree with me, but the times I spent with my grandparents by myself, sometimes for two weeks each summer, are my favorite childhood memories. My kids have no separation anxiety (I admit my younger, Cooper, had some in preschool, but never with me leaving other times) and they are two of the most independent kids I know.
Additionally, you and your significant other NEED alone time. How can you possibly be good parents when you're never taking a real break, never having quality adult time to remember why you got married in the first place? You say you'd rather stay home with the kids - I call bull. I'd like to know what your husband really thinks of that. You say it's more trouble than it's worth to leave the kids, that their bedtime routine is too complicated (I've heard that one over and over)? That's because you've LET it get that way and you never go anywhere! You have bred those little monsters and you need to turn that ship around! I understand if money is tight - but go stay at a friends house for the night. We do it all the time!
2. I feed my kids hot dogs. *Gasp*, right? Seriously...this is what you're worrying about, moms? I admit I have never purposely bought organic food. I also barely breastfed my kids - I hated it. Seven weeks and two weeks respectively, then happily moved on to formula. And guess what? My kids are healthier than most of the kids I know who were breastfed for 18 months. Get over it. My kids eat a lot of fruit, almost no veggies, and they sometimes eat Lucky Charms for breakfast. My daughter's favorite food is salmon. My son's...chicken nuggets. I do my best to get them to eat different foods (we live in Asia) and Sophia is great about eating trying new things - Cooper...not so much. I ate horribly as a kid so I know they will grow up and eventually eat a more varied diet. I'm not suggesting we all go to the McDonald's drive-thru each night, but there is a ridiculous amount of guilt out there about what we feed our kids. Everything in moderation folks! Knock off the self-righteousness! (That statement is inevitably going to come back to bite me!)
3. I don't work. A long time ago I did. Then I had Sophia, quit and started a business. A few years later, I moved to Asia, and gave the business to my mom. I'm not sure I will officially work again...I have no idea. But I don't have guilt either way. Kudos to you working moms, it must be really hard. Of all the "mom guilt" posts, I get the working mom ones the most. If you need to work to put food on the table, or because you are a better mom if you have a career, then good for you! Stop the guilt! If you feel that bad and can afford to quit, then do it. Just be happy in your decision either way. The guilt isn't helping anyone - certainly not your kids.
4. So many moms and dads are terrified to move with kids. Do NOT think it is a bad thing to move your kids to a new state, or even a new continent. Change is GOOD for kids. I understand as they get older it gets harder, but having kids adapt to new things builds traits in them that will carry them far in adult life. For more on that one...read this post!
5. As far as discipline, here is where I actually do care what you do - because your decisions affect my children. Don't feel guilty if your parenting style is different from mine, AS LONG AS you raise polite, kind and respectful children. If your kids are mean, violent or rude, something has to change. It is not always your fault, and I get that, but still - something has to change. I rarely even go to the pool in my complex on the weekends anymore, because so many parents think that they should just let their kids "cry it out". Your kids are not MY kids, and it is unfair to subject other people to that. Please be aware that it's not all about you. I am a super strict mom, and if that doesn't work for you, and you are raising some stellar kids, then more power to you!
The bottom line is please own your decisions and stop wasting so much time worrying whether you are doing the right thing. Usually you just have to look at your kids to know the answer to that. If you are not sure, then you can bring them to my house for a few hours and I will give you my full report. That was a joke! Well....maybe.
Feel free to share :-)
Tuesday, 10 December 2013
So here it is - my very public apology to my mother for being moody, mouthy and sometimes very mean to her while growing up. I am sincerely sorry.
But none of this helped my poor mom back then! With a sister who was critically ill for years, and some job changes for my dad, our house was already bursting at the seams with stress and worry. I wish I had the maturity at that age to realize that it was in my power to help the situation, not cause more problems. Looking back, I realize my parents did the best they could with what they had to work with. As a parent now, I know that it's really all you can do. You make decisions, they might not always be right, but at the time they seem right. Compared to most kids, I had a very blessed upbringing and never doubted for a second how much my parents love me.
So mom and dad - thank you so much. I have a fabulous life now because you were good role models. You weren't perfect, but I was certainly far from perfect - and none of it matters now. I very much enjoy the adult relationship we have. I can't wait for you to visit us in Singapore next week, and I cannot wait until you retire and the kids can run across the street to your house.
I love you Mom and Dad.
And to Sophia - I know we will have our problems, but know that your dad and I are doing our best. Luckily, I think you are immensely more mature than I was at your age so I suspect we will have an easier road. And if we don't, then someday you can publicly apologize to me on your blog. :-)
Saturday, 16 November 2013
We visited multiple antique shops, selling Vietnamese and Chinese collectibles such as statues, pottery, paintings and carvings of all sorts. Sophia happily found a very unique elephant statue to add to her growing collection of elephants from Southeast Asian countries. For Jennifer, it was a beautiful old teapot she found in the back of a locked case, covered with dust. Cooper did the best of us all, however, haggling with a shopkeeper to purchase a set of ten guitar-shaped keychains with “Vietnam” printed on them for less than $3 USD. Gotta love his confidence and business savvy! (his choice of souvenirs though...debatable)
|Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum|
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, built in 1973 and inspired by Vladimir Lenin's mausoleum in Moscow, displays the embalmed remains of the former President of Vietnam. The granite building is massive, and is constantly under the watch of an Honor Guard. It was unfortunately closed during the time of our visit - apparently the embalmed remains of Ho Chi Minh require some freshening up from time to time, so we didn't have the opportunity to view the inside. However, from what I understand, there are some very specific rules regarding dress and behavior inside. For example, legs must be covered (no shorts or miniskirts) and visitors must be silent, walk in two lines, keep hands out of their pockets, and not cross their arms. Just some tips to consider if you are visiting yourself.
|Honor Guard @ Mausoleum|
|Ho Chi Minh Residence|
|Museum of Ethnology|
|Quan An Ngon|
Sunday, 10 November 2013
|Our Sister Ship, The Paradise Luxury 2|
Literally translated to "Bay of the Descending Dragon", Halong Bay has historical roots dating back more than 16,000 years to the ancient Soi Nhu culture who lived on the fish and shellfish living in the bay. Local legend says that the bay was created by Gods to protect early Vietnamese cultures from attack and that a family of dragons lived in the bay to provide protection. Supposedly, these dragons still live in the bay...but uhh, I didn't see any.
|"Traffic" & School Children Along the Way|
Still, the drive was very interesting. Like many of our trips through Southeast Asia, we got a brief glimpse into day-to-day life in Vietnam, albeit through the dusty windows of the van. During the drive we came across children on their way to school or headed home from it. (schools are on a half day schedule) We saw a variety of roadside vendors selling everything from fresh bread and cold drinks, to the occasional shoe salesman with dozens of leather shoes neatly stacked on blankets long the road.
|Look Closely - Basket and bag both full of "Kit-Kats"|
|Arrival at the Cruise Center|
|The rest of our crew|
The ship had four floors. The bottom two each had about about 8 cabins, while the third and fourth levels contained the restaurant, bar, outdoor lounge, and a large sundeck. Though it would have given my parents a heart attack, we put Cooper and his friend Marcus in their own room on the first floor, Sophia and her friend Isla in a room on the second floor, and Jennifer and I enjoyed a "terrace suite" on the second floor as well. Though the rooms were not very large (even by cruise ship standards), they were comfortable, clean, and more than adequate for a two night cruise.
|Paradise Luxury 3 Sun Deck|
|Paradise Luxury 3 Dining Room|
|Paradise Luxury 3 - Our Terrace Suite|
As we pulled away from the dock, I went nuts taking pictures. The bay covers more than 1500 square kilometers and contains several thousand limestone islands, but you'd have thought the only rocks available to photograph were those about one km from the port. (I admit it, I went a little overboard at first with the photos.) After about 20 minutes, we were surrounded by enormous limestone rocks, jutting up out of the water on all sides of the boat, each topped with lush greenery. It truly was beautiful, and with every minute (and 20-30 photos) we sailed deeper into the bay and into even more beautiful scenery. The water was exceptionally calm, so the ship sailed along easily, and steadily...which was good since Sophia doesn't like boats!
|Hang Sung Sot / Cave of Surprises|
Our next stop was Ti Top Island, where we had the option of swimming, kayaking, or walking to the summit, which offered an amazing view of the bay. Jennifer and the kids relaxed on the beach while I made the climb. (Jennifer: To get 2,004 more pictures.) When I returned, the kids were running, swimming, and laughing with their friends, and I was glad Jennifer had a cold Bia Ha Noi (local beer) waiting for me.
|View from the Summit of Ti Top Island|
|Collecting Can Tabs|
|Cooper loved the moped ride|
The highlight of the island visit was easily our encounter with a young Vietnamese boy (maybe 18 months old) who wobbled back and forth across a small bridge to give high fives and grab onto the kids in our group. He was really cute and the kids had a good laugh as he ran back and forth, smiling and laughing each time he approached us. After a cold drink (we saved the can tabs) and a few more high fives, we hopped on board our "chaffeured" mopeds and sped back to the awaiting boat. Again, we all made it back in one piece, but I did leave with a pretty sweet burn from our moped's muffler. I'm fairly sure it's going to be a permanent reminder of this adventure.
|Making friends in the fishing village|
|Exploring caves with Coops|
When we got back on board the boat, it was time to jump from the top deck into the bay. Cooper and Sophia had both looked forward to this since we boarded PL3. Once they started, it was difficult to get them to stop, and they (and the other kids) jumped over and over from the top of the boat. Several of the adult passengers (myself included) did the same, but the kids clearly took top prize for the most creative and sheer number of jumps.
As the day wore on, we headed back to the PL3. On board, we enjoyed another dinner, a fried spring roll cooking class and a "drinking class" during which the adults learned how to toast in Vietnamese while drinking local rice wine. Soon, "Mot, Hai, Ba, Yo!" (cheers in Vietnamese) could be heard from several boats in the bay, as the guests on other boats nearby took part in a similar toast on their sun decks.
|Typical House Boat|
Friday, 1 November 2013
So with the boys in bed, and us about to embark on a mother-daughter service trip to Cambodia, we had a nice chat.
We decided on one concrete thing - it is way better to have to leave all these people than it would be to have never met them in the first place. I had stated that on a previous post when a great friend moved home to the US and it's really hitting home now for us.
But what I really wanted to touch on in this post is the possibility of YOU becoming an expat somewhere. Because you know what, this just didn't fall into our laps. We ASKED for it. You can too. So many of you say you wish you could do what we're doing. Others I know say they would never do it. I get the first half, and I hope to change the minds of the other half.
Here is our story. In October of 2011, I mentioned to Jason that I would love to go overseas. What is so funny, is that a major part of why I wanted to was because of my high school friend, Amy Harrison Thogmartin. She was my best friend sophomore/junior year and her father (love that man!) was transferred to Singapore fall of junior year. So how many of you are now thinking, "I would never move my kids in high school!" Well you know what, she LOVED it and still has a great network of her Singapore American School Friends. And this was before that whole crazy thing called cell phones and internet.
This is what has always fascinated me about moving. Most people think it is a detriment to the kids. In MY experience, it was always a good thing. Because of my father's chosen field, human resources, we moved quite a bit when I was a child. Eight times before I got to settle into high school to be exact. Now, I never had to move in high school, unlike Amy, so I cannot personally speak to that, but the other moves were not a problem for me. I know that my brother and sister (twins) maybe didn't like it as much as I did, but I adjusted well each time and I am eternally grateful for what I consider to be a byproduct of that - an ability to easily meet people.
About a week or two later, Jason was approached about a job in Singapore and had an interview with his current boss, who happened to be in New York. They had been searching for someone with Jason's qualifications for a while and had no luck, so they were turning the search worldwide. They clicked and it was soon a done deal. By January, we were in Singapore on our "look see visit". By the end of the month, Jason had a plane ticket out of the US and our house was on the market.
My children have made friends all over the world. Just last week I was talking to the mother of Sophia's best friend. They will most likely move to Sweden after Singapore, and she (Liisa) has already asked if it would be possible for Sophia to be an exchange student for a year in high school. Great friends just left to go back to Texas and I'm about to book a plane ticket for Sophia to go visit her friend this summer.
I just cannot describe how life-changing a decision like this can be. There is nothing wrong with living in the same town your whole life (whole set of different positives) but if you want or are ever offered the chance to do something like this, JUST DO IT. It won't always be perfect...what in life is?? But my friend, Jennifer Krouse Tynes, who is currently on a way more difficult expat assignment in Bologna, Italy, would agree with me. I see another expat friend from high school, Amy Chase Erickson, snowed in for eight months a year (I am exaggerating!) in Finland, but she is so happy! It is still worth its weight in gold. Your kids will gain so much in culture and confidence. Not only am I a different person now, but my children are markedly different little people. They have an awareness of things that I never had as a child, and I marvel at the adults they will become.
And besides all that, it's fun! Jason works his butt off, but we've had the best time ever as a family here. Use your resources and travel as much as you can. We have taken every opportunity given to us, and I just lament not having more time. My favorite places are no longer gorgeous beaches (except one - Batu Batu), but all the out of the way places that I can immerse myself in local culture. I still want to go to Myanmar, Laos, Taiwan, Japan, the Maldives, CHINA, the list is endless....
So here I am, less than five months from coming home to the US. I cannot wait to see my friends and family, but I am sick about leaving the people and places here. I really get how the long-term people here don't want to get too attached to us short-term people, because I'm practically in tears on a daily basis and I'm not even going yet. Luckily, we have plans to attend the wedding of two teachers at the school here in June in Georgia, so we can count on seeing a few familiar faces only three months after our return (thanks Maureen and Andrew!!). It really helps.
Please do your family a service - if you ever have an opportunity to go overseas, no matter how young or old your children are - DO IT. They will thank you, be it sooner or later.
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
|Streets of Hanoi|
Hanoi is the second largest city in Vietnam and is over 1000 years old. It's home to about 6 million people, and by my account, every one of those people travels by bicycle or moped just outside the front door of the hotel where we stayed, on a daily basis. Honestly, I’ve never seen so many people traveling in so many different directions at the same time!
|Live Action Frogger|
We learned late in our visit, “everyone respects everyone else and so you move slowly, maintain your speed and direction and everyone adjusts to avoid hitting each other”... well, at least that's what our guide, Johnny, told us on our final day in Hanoi. But, he also told us the reason people wear face masks as they drive all over town is to keep from getting a tan....not because the city has a slight pollution problem. So, take Johnny's guidance with a grain of salt.
Either way, our frantic, frogger-like hopping across the street through traffic clearly wasn't the correct technique. Instead, walking slowly, directly INTO traffic and maintaining a consistent speed is the best way to avoid bodily harm or death. (Caution – don’t try this at home….unless home is Hanoi)
Unfortunately, we didn’t meet Johnny to get this advice until our final day in Hanoi, so you can imagine the number of expletives screamed at us during the rest of our stay. This video really won't do it justice, but hopefully gives some sense of what the scene in Hanoi is like. You may be able to pick out a few expletives in this clip as well:
The rooms were very clean and spacious and the beds were very comfortable (which I understand is rare in Hanoi hotels). The kids loved the balloons that sat on each bed when we arrived and the hotel had a small living space on the second floor where we spent two nights enjoying a cocktail and game of cards. Though the staff was reluctant to join us in our card game (when we asked) they were quick to bring a bucket of ice to keep our beer and wine cold. Without question, I’d highly recommend the Elegance Ruby Hotel to anyone visiting Hanoi.
|Just outside the door of the Elegance Ruby Hotel, Hanoi|
|Street Market with Fresh Produce...|
|...and More Produce|
|Rent a Bike....Get a Free Kilo of Beef??|
|The Friendly Elegance Ruby Staff Helping us with Luggage|