Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer to-do

What have we been up to since school let out? Besides taekwondo?! Well, here is a little sampler. I am sure it is "To be continued":

Well, first of all, there was two weeks of summer camp at the school. The kids had a full day, every day, of sports, swimming and arts. The program was well-run and they had a blast. I didn't get many pictures as my role was only 'drop off and pick up' but they were excited to go each morning, and exhausted and happy each afternoon. So tired they'd barely stay awake through dinner.

A little playstation game sharing is nice too - when it is too hot to be outside.
Brian likes to invade my laptop. He's reading Aunt Christine's blog "The Ukraine Train" here. We all want Dennis home as soon as possible!
A dress-up Princess tea party is a nice way to spend the afternoon with a friend.
Followed by a dress-up Princess - and not dress up Prince - Chinese take-out party in the evening.

Not all is for playtime though. We have to do some work too. Honor likes to wash the balcony and plants - it gets very dusty out there. She gets it very wet out there. Good way to play outside, splash in some water, and actually get some good work done too.
Thirsty plants - but not for long, when Honor is on the job.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daddy's Home

Well, we hate it when Brad has to go away without us. This time was over 3 weeks, and finally! Daddy's home! The kids have been working on a couple of surprises for Brad for when he returned. One was a journal - a notebook in which they wrote about things they did while Daddy was gone, they drew pictures, and we pasted in drawings and other activity pages that they did, at summer camp and at home. The other was a 'Welcome Home' banner for our entryway.

Here, Supergirl works on her end of the banner.
While on the other end, her brother carefully colors in a rainbow heart.
They worked very well together. (the cats helped, but I didn't catch them in action)
Ta-daa! What greeted Brad - along with two very bouncey kidlings - when he arrived this afternoon.
After dragging Daddy away from Brian and their catching up on Age of Mythology game strategy, Honor gets some snuggle time.
Welcome home sweetheart! We missed you!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


For my blog friend and fellow crustacean :-) Mama Seoul.

I do not understand much about astrology... numbers and dates...eep! What kind of pagan am I anyway?? Not very mathematical or detail oriented, that's what kind! But I find astrology fascinating because it can be so very accurate. I became a believer after our children were born and brought their personalities into our lives. They fit their sign types so well - it's amazing to me! I may never understand how it all works, but that's ok, it's still interesting.

Here are some good links to play around with:

Evolving Door Astrology. Look for the the definition of your sign and those of your loved ones.

Aries - Traits for the sign of Aries are: pioneering, direct, courageous, fast, enthusiastic, on the move, wilful, flirtatious, youthful.

Capricorn - Traits for the sign of Capricorn are: structured, cautious, responsible, leader/authority, realistic, serious, ambitious, logical.

Guess which one of the two signs above goes with which kid? Brad and I are both Cancer.

Cancer - Traits for the sign of Cancer are: nurturing, intuitive, feeling, caring, heartfelt, protective, family/home oriented.

Now, if you want a really in-depth astrology chart (free- so many others charge) and explanations, try Astrolabe. I think the similarities of these readings, to the real personalities of my loved ones, is striking.

More fun with Chinese horoscopes. Those nifty little placemats in Chinese restaurants that tell you what your Chinese sign is by what you you were born in, may have been fibbing. The Chinese new year doesn't always match up with the western new year, and did you know, you also have a sign for the month, day, and hour as well.

Try this calculator: Chinese Astrology calculator. This just has the year, the animal and aspect, for example, Brian's aspect is Metal, animal is Dragon. Brian actually has 3 dragons in his chart... based on his year, month, day and hour - and yes, it fits him perfectly.

This page has good, basic, definitions too: Chinese Astrology Year Chart.

This website has a calculator for your four pillars. You will need your birth time.

Have fun exploring! :-)

(btw... Brian is Capricorn, Honor is Aries. I bet you guessed correctly.)

Picture credit to: Astrology Weekly

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I can't resist

More Taekwondo pictures. But I am so proud of the kids! Honor is working very hard and listening well to the instructor. Brian is getting more flexible, stronger, and confident. I love to watch how intense they are when they work out like this.

It was another 2-hour class day for Brian. At least there was another blue belt there so there was less pressure on him. Honor got her new uniform and immediately went to change.

After class, two tired kids begged to go out somewhere to dinner. Class, plus 8 hours of summer camp activities before that, I was worried they'd be very tired, so we compromised. We'd go to the club for dinner, but a quiet, short dinner. No pool. No playground. Then home to bed. They thought that was good and so that's what we did. They were very tired. Barely had them in bed before they were asleep.

(as always, you can click on this slideshow and go to Picasa to watch this slideshow)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

No more waiting

It's like my birthday, only better, it's not my birthday at all - it's the adoption of my newest nephew. I can't wait to open the 'package' of my sister-in-law's next blog and see what there is inside. Christine and her husband John are in the Ukraine, right now, working through the official process to adopt a child. A young boy named Dennis. Christine has brought us all along with her on this journey, and I am happy to see them so close to reaching this point. I won't say 'destination', because adoption will only be the beginning, but it is a important place along the route.

I won't pretend to understand how this process works, but I am thrilled with how thrilled they are to have taken this step to bring a child into their loving family. I am also praying that Dennis will be going back home with them as soon as possible. They've been working on this adoption for so long now, it seems wrong that he isn't already back in California meeting his new siblings! His new cousins are also very anxious to know that he is 'adopted all the way' too. Ok, I know... it's best that this lengthy process exists, for the sake of the children, but oh my! please hurry and get him home! :-)

Next time we gather at grandpa and grandma's, I want to repeat this photo, with the two new Reed boys added in! (and later, I'll just have to figure out how to photoshop in my sister's kids, so we can have all our nieces and nephews in one picture)

Update: How many did it take to change that bulb?

Well, it's still a work in progress, but at least the facilities guys have saved the day (again) and know what to do. I'm glad they do... actually, that isn't true... I wish they didn't have to deal with these halogen light fixtures either. They just aren't very nice lights and I wouldn't wish them on anyone... but since this isn't our personal property, and I cannot rip the fixtures out of the ceiling and chuck them in the Nile, I'm glad facilities knows how to make them behave.

List of things to NOT look for in a home:
Gas leaks
ruptured sewer lines
broken windows
foundation built over haunted burial grounds
recessed halogen light fixtures

Placating the marauding invaders

Brian and Honor were trying to play Battleground. It's actually a very ingenious little war game set. You arrange your pieces on any flat surface - they usually take over a part of the floor - and use rubberband powered catapults and crossbows to try and knock over your opponents pieces with little plastic missiles before they knock yours down. I am sure there are more complex rules and scenarios for older players, but this is simple enough competition - with cool action - for Brian and Honor.

What makes it hard though, is when they set up on the floor, sometimes the battle is joined by giant-sized, furry forces. The rules do not quite cover who gets a point when your castle is knocked out by a cat. Ramses was determined to play, so they went away from the game and tried to call him off the battle field. Ramses came over to them... but brought in a reinforcement! ah well, it was game over, bed time, anyway.

Another reason to hate those stupid halogens

I had planned on going shopping today, but instead, I am hanging around at the house waiting on the maintenance guys. Why? Because I needed to change a lightbulb. Can't anything be simple? Our entry way has about 7 recessed halogen light fixtures in the ceiling. I am sure this type of lighting looks good in magazines, but in real life, they're a pain.

Dust collects around the base so it looks like we've had a fire. I realize it is very dusty here, but with the holes in the ceiling, and the AC vents up there, a lot of dirt is pulled onto the ceiling - where it sticks - and looks awful. And of course, it doesn't wipe clean easy... I really do not feel like putting down tarps and using chlorox clean-up overhead!

The bulbs burn out - often. Maybe they are supposed to be better than incandescent, but I am not convinced. They are not always available at the inconveniently located stores that carry them either, which is why all 7 are currently dead at one time. No bulbs! Otlob ought to have a section for lightbulbs, I'd use it.

They are a pain to change. Any lightbulb that requires pliers to remove, is WRONG! They've got this metal c-ring that expands into the opening to hold it into the ceiling, with tiny little ends to use as handles.. impossible to grip!... so you have to use pliers and carefully compress the ring. Don't want to slip and smack the bulb, don't want to pull too hard and get it out-of-line and stuck, don't want to pull the whole obnoxious fixture out of the ceiling! The bulb itself just plugs into the socket on a dangling wire - the only easy part. Returning the bulb and c-ring is the same pain, but backwards.

To make it more interesting, about 3 of the fixtures require a smaller size bulb, which is set into a rotating socket with the same c-ring attachment... requiring even more fiddling and 'magic' words to change because of the smaller size and tendency to wriggle around!

So, all bulbs went dead. I got to a store that had new bulbs, both sizes. Got home. Changed one bulb. Started to pull the second one out, and this is what I found:

Some wiring casing from something else up in the ceiling melted onto the fixture - yay! And it's not like this is a drop-ceiling where I could open it up and see what's going on, no, it's solid.

So, in order to change a lightbulb, and perhaps prevent an electrical fire, I had to submit a work order.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why he's a housecat

Misty was born in a barn. A old stone structure somewhere out in the dales in North Yorkshire. He's a big strong cat and would have made an excellent farm cat. Note, I said 'would'. That's past tense. He has always been our mighty hunter... for things he could get after in the house. Bugs, toys, insects, the red dot from the laser pointer, his brother, etc. He even made a huge effort to get our rat! He will even still play a mean game of soccer, and believes nighttime is the perfect time for yodeling. But after many years of living the easy life of a globe-trotting, but strictly indoor, cat, he's lost some of his instincts. Like the concept of stealth, or camouflage!

I was trying to get the kids in bed, and as Honor was brushing her teeth, I herded Brian into his room to brush his hair. Misty, all 20+lbs of him, snuck in after us, and although he were looking right at him, stealthily (he was quiet, but we did notice him!) snuck up on Brian's bed, and burrowed under a pillow... "They'll never find me here!"... oh yea? Nevermind that he is too big to fit under a standard pillow, he also forgot to pull in his tail.

oh yea Misty - you are so busted.

He was determined to play hide-n-seek though. We stole his pillow, but as soon as we opened the bed, he was burrowing in the bedcovers at the foot of the bed!

As seen through the lens of...

I like to see what the kids think worthy of, or interesting enough, to photograph. Thank goodness for digital cameras! We can afford to let them experiment. They are actually getting much better at lining up shots and holding the camera still. There's hope that you will be seeing more shots of Brad and I, instead of Brad with the kids, or me with the kids, etc.


and Honor:

Friday, June 20, 2008


Brian made this lovely picture with Paint. I think he is doing very well with computer apps and different software. I really liked his sketch.. So much so, in fact, that I had to sneak it over to my computer, add some little tweaks with Paint Shop Pro, and I'm going to put a copy of the tweaked version back on his computer as his desktop picture. Can't wait to hear what he says next time he logs on!

Back off Tooth Fairy!

Brian lost his 3rd tooth yesterday evening. It's been very wiggley and bugging him to no end. I told him if he kept wiggling it, it would come out faster. As he was watching TV after dinner, he kept after that tooth. Eventually, he decided he'd purposely go the route that got tooth #2 out on accident, he aimed for the tooth, and hit himself in the mouth! I kinda saw him do it. Wasn't sure what he was up to. He said "Ow!" and at first seemed a little disappointed, but that instantly turned to excitement when he realized he gotten it. "Mom! I did it!" And then pandemonium ensued as we cleaned him up and his tooth, and then found a little baggy to put it in. He'd said that he'd consider letting the tooth fairy take this one, but he changed his mind! Not sure why he wants them, but I'll go with it and store them in a little keepsake box. Who knows, maybe he wants to save up and put a whole mouthful under his pillow at once. Does the tooth fairy have $20's??

I was less queasy with this one... I tend to be strong-stomached, and I clearly remember pulling my own baby teeth as soon as I could because the loose ones drove me batty. I know it only hurt a second and then, what a relief! But there's something about my boy handing me his bloody teeth that gets me. I've managed ... he's always so excited, so I've been able to enjoy it too. Honor was freaked out this time though. She didn't like the blood and has decided that she does not want her teeth to come out. She quizzed Brian repeatedly, how much does it hurt? How much blood? Why do we have to have our teeth out?

Sorry tooth fairy... maybe next time!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A boy and his hydra...

And a girl and a unicorn. The kids worked hard to earn the money to buy these, and we enjoyed shopping for them. Brian wanted a cool 'myth' creature. Honor needed something soft, cute and pink... of course! I wasn't so sure of how these would turn out... sometimes it is hard to tell what a toy is made of, or exactly how big it is, etc. from a website. They chose well though. These are great. The trouble now is, what, exactly, do you name a 9-headed blue hydra??

Monday, June 16, 2008

Twocando Taekwondo

Honor has been fascinated with Brian's taekwondo for awhile now, especially so since his last test. She is too young to start taekwondo as an after-school activity at CAC, but I was able to sign both kids up for a summer session at a nearby community center - with the same instructor that teaches at CAC! How is that for consistency?

Brian actually got more than he bargained for - although I think he enjoyed it, and he did very well for a surprise change of roles! The beginner's class was first, and when the instructor saw Brian, who had already changed into his uniform, he came to me and said that this class was 'too easy' for Brian. I explained that Honor was there to have her first class, and Brian was signed up for the intermediate class that followed the beginner's class. (Same day, one after the other. Consistent and convenient!) And so, Brian found himself drafted to be the teacher's assistant... a surprise responsibility that he handled very smoothly.

First thing about Taekwondo is learning how to stand still and quiet - and listen to your instructor! This signals that class has begun. Honor's been practicing - maybe a bit too much.
Then they learned to bow, to show respect to one another.
Next was a chance to tell their names and ask questions. He asked the kids, "Why are you here?" All of them are 4 and 5 years old like Honor, and they really weren't sure how to answer! He wanted them to say, "For taekwondo class.", Then, "Why take taekwondo?" Honor's answer was "Because she watched her brother". This wasn't a serious quizzing, this instructor is great with the little ones and he was just getting to know them a little.
Brian led the beginners in running, and demonstrated all the different styles of running and moving they do. Sideways running, backwards, etc. He also had to count in Korean as the teacher demonstrated moves. He got a good workout. He also learned to really pay close attention to what he was doing. The teacher said that as a yellow belt, he cut him slack, but as a blue belt, he'd give Brian push-ups if he forgot a detail, like giving a yell before starting a move. Brian had to do push-ups once.
As part of teaching the kids a bit about how to punch, and how to give a loud yell, the instructor went child to child and had them shout and punch him as hard as they could in his chest. They thought this was great fun. Here's Honor's turn to give him a few punches. (I know, she's mostly hidden, but I was sitting out of the way.. using the old camera, and no flash to keep from distracting the class - I tried!)
Honor is quizzed on her right and left, and told to give a powerful shout as she punched the target.
I think Honor really enjoyed her first lesson. She wants her outfit though. After a full day of summer camp activities - swimming, playing games, art, etc. - plus an hour of Taekwondo, Honor was tired. We still had to wait for Brian's class though.

Brian's intermediate class started about 10 minutes after Honor's. Brian had only a short time to catch his breath! The workout the intermediate class did was grueling. Mostly aerobic. Lots of running, plus some strength exercises. The last 15-20 minutes was kicking. The instructor held a target, the 6 or so people in his class lined up, and, one after another, over and over, did kicks, kicks, and more kicks. They all looked exhausted after they were finished. Brian had also had a full day of camp activities as well as two hours of taekwondo, and I am surprised the poor kid managed to not fall asleep in his dinner!

Brad called after we ate, and both kids told him Happy Father's Day. They told him a little about camp and taekwondo. They also told him about two new toys that arrived in the mail for them today - extra special toys that they earned for themselves. Then they were done. Before I could even finish talking with Brad, they were demanding to have their hair brushed, etc. so they could go to bed! Now THAT is tired!

but... it's...a... fishstick!

Ramses knows better. He's not supposed to be at the table. But oh my! There are fishsticks for dinner! Rice and corn too. Get rid of the ketchup and put a few marshmallows on the plate, and he'd be in heaven. No wonder he is confused about who's supposed to be sitting in this chair - that looks like a meal fit for a cat! Honor had to push him down and tell him no several times... but he just kept hopping back up as if he belonged.

Actually, a precedent was set, many years ago, and he apparently hasn't forgotten. Brian learned to enjoy fishsticks because of Ramses. I picked some up when he was 17-18mos old because I thought they'd make a fairly healthy, toddler friendly, snack. Fishsticks are iffy foodstuffs in my book, not great, but not awful - ok in moderation. And as Brian was growing fast, I needed to keep things on hand for when he absolutely needed to eat, right NOW!, and they are handy to fix up.

But, they looked too weird for Brian's taste, when I presented them. No. Do not want. Ramses came sniffing over, so I offered him a bite. "See Brian, Ramses likes them." (give it to Mikey, he'll eat anything...) And Ramses did like them, very much. He hopped up next to Brian in his chair, reached out with a paw, pulled a piece of fishstick close to him, and ate it. Very naughty, but Brian thought it was hilarious, so I indulged them. Ramses finished the first, cut-up fishstick this way and grabbed the next to pull it to him - Brian grabbed it back! Brian ate most of it, but gave some to Ramses. So, giggling and grabbing, the two of them finished the snack.

We don't like the cats to beg at the table. They are about 80% 'good' about it too. Nor do we advocate letting kids and animals share the same food - well, not usually! But I guess it is a good way for them to bond and be friends, and this was a breakthrough food for Brian. One of those that I could use to get him to try other new foods without fuss - "Remember how much you liked fishsticks? Maybe you will like this too?" Ramses was also encouraged, by Brian, to try new foods too. He usually wasn't interested, he didn't start broadening his food horizons until Honor came along. She could hand Ramses anything: broccoli, macaroni, a handful of grits, whatever, he'd accept anything from her pudgy little baby fingers... and until now, he always wants to share the fishsticks.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


It was 10pm, and I had these nice photos and some lovely tales of shopping with the kids, swimming, dinner and, yet another living room camp-out with the kids to blog about. But I read my email first. Got my sister's email saying they'd been calling my US cell# but I wasn't in. My mother passed away.

This was not unexpected. Mom has been very frail and in poor health for many years. She eventually went in for heart surgery, during which she had a massive stroke. The doctors didn't have any real hope for her then. That was 10 years ago. She never regained full capacity, but she kept going. This past year though. She's been quietly going down. She's had more health problems and lately has been sleeping all the time.

We were blessed that my sister and her family were able to find a very good assisted living facility for her. Mom was not mentally able to allow us to care for her, but she seemed to accept the staff and nurses in this home. She was able to have her own apartment, furniture, and pretty things that she'd collected over the years or that Dad had made for her.

My sister said that mom went quietly. The staff had woke her, got her dressed and ready for breakfast. She was talking normally with them and they took her to the dining room. As they sat with her, as she waited for her meal, she dozed off. Within a couple of minutes, as they continued to sit with her, she'd passed on. Peacefully and gently.

I'm not going to be able to make it home for the funeral. Long story, but there would be absolutely too much cost and chaos at this point... my husband is not even in the same country right now. We are supposed to be with my sister and her family by the beginning of July, and we will have a private visit to mom and dad's gravesite then. This is when it really sucks to be far away.

At least I like to think the my parents are happy to finally be back together again. Dad probably met her as she arrived, his arms loaded with her favorite gladiolas - no doubt picked fresh from his celestial garden. Then he probably helped her into their golf cart, popped open a couple of cold MGD's, and drove off across the greens. Going to get a few rounds in before heading home to have dinner together, and then afterwards, plop down into matching recliners to watch Wheel of Fortune.

Bye Mom. Say Hi to Dad for us. We love you.

--- I have to include this poem that a dear friend sent to me, thank you Leila.
Sweet Remembrance

Let fate do her worst; there are relics of joy,
Bright dreams of the past, which she cannot destroy;
And which come in the night-time of sorrow and care,
To bring back the features that joy used to wear.
Long, long be my heart with such memories filled,
Like the vase in which roses have once been distilled;
You may break, you may ruin the vase, if you will,
But the scent of the roses will hang round it still.
~ T. Moore

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ice cream lunch and living room campout

We've been taking it easy this week. It is the first week of summer vacation, but Brian started it with a cold. We've been staying in, cool and quiet. He was feeling better today, but we still stayed in. Had more fun playing and goofing off though.

For lunch, we had ice cream, then had noodles and egg rolls for dessert. The kids made their own ice cream meals. We don't eat a lot of ice cream - it usually stays in the freezer too long and goes completely icey before we make it through a carton and it has to be tossed. They had fun with the chocolate sauce, sprinkles, marshmallows, etc. btw, gotta love what kids wear when turned loose to dress themselves.
After dinner, we got tons of pillows and blankets and made a campsite in the living room by the window. I left the drapes open so we could see the sky. I'd like to say 'stars', but there's too much smog and light pollution for that. We get an occasional airplane. I'll be joining them in a few minutes.. sure hope my back forgives me!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's back.

"Our building", the one we've enjoyed watching go up behind our apartment, has been repaired. At least back to what it was before.

In March, we were saddened to see men, armed with sledgehammers, knock big, gaping holes in the upper floors. There were two prevailing rumors about this. One was the builders had not applied for the proper permits or paid the proper building fees and the govt was laying down the law by force, or, that something had 'collapsed' and repairs were needed. I do not know what the truth is. I suspect the former might be true. Physical destruction seems pretty highhanded, but from the stories I've heard about people violating building codes and ignoring the law... well, what else are they supposed to do?? Building codes are about safety, among other things, and are actually rather important. 'Getting them in the wallet' is, undeniably, an effective tool no matter where you are in the world. Anyway, the 'why' is really none of our business. I only know that we were very disappointed. We've enjoyed watching the construction and have been hoping to see the finished product.

It looks like we may be back on track - ansha'allah! First they rebuilt the walls - bricking them up from the inside.

Next, scaffolding was set up. And yes, that is just boards and rope. 6-8 floors up, not supported from the roof or ground.
Plaster was applied over the bricks and allowed to dry. How you may ask?
By guys who have no fear, safety equipment, safety lines, etc. I don't actually like watching this part.
They don't hold on.
There are no railings.
The planks are thin and well used. Dudes! Don't look down!
Finally though, it's looking nice again. Scaffolding sticks have been taken away and everyone is now working safely inside again... whew!
Since these photos were taken, windows have been installed in some spaces, and there are even lights sometimes at night. I'm hoping to eventually have a 'Finished!' photo to post. We'll see...