Happy Blogiversary in Beijing

你好!Ni hao (hello)! I made it to one year! I celebrated my blog’s anniversary just as I touched down in Beijing, China. Enjoy the photos for now…I’m still waking from my Beijing dream 北京梦想. When I’m not ridden with jet lag, I hope to write some reflections down.

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Tips for Preparing your Tot for a Move

pool“It’s messy!” my son exclaimed when he saw the tiniest piece of tissue on his car seat this morning. Last night, when I was talking with another set of parents, the father mentioned that when the child wants something done a certain way, it’s because the child’s world is so small, a child tries to control it and have it exactly his/her ‘way’.

We recently moved to a new apartment in our town, and I have to admit it was a huge undertaking. The rental truck company told us the day before our move that they did not have a truck for us. In the end, we rented from a different company. And thankfully, several friends and family came to help us pack up, load, and unload…for four days! I can’t imagine what it’s like to move a multi-room household!

While we couldn’t prepare for last-minute changes, we did our best to try and prepare our son for the move for his own emotional well-being. Here are some suggestions that we found worked:

  • Have your child pack a box and allow him to open it at the new place (thanks to my co-worker’s suggestion)
  • Continue to repeat that you’re moving to a new home in a few days
  • Allow your child to say ‘goodbye’ to the old home (good suggestion, Daddy!)

What surprised us the most is that a few days after our move, our son used his wooden blocks to build a ‘new home’ for his stuffed penguin. We also pointed out the benefits to the new home: a turtle pond, a balcony, and the swimming pool! When we arrived to our new apartment one afternoon after work/daycare, Lucas said ‘I don’t want this one, I want the other one.’ He probably meant ‘I don’t want this ‘home,’ I want the other ‘home.’ I spoke to him, reassuring him that we no longer lived at the old home, but at this new one. Then I told him we could either go play on the balcony inside or see the turtles outside. He replied that he wanted to go play inside.

That tiny piece of tissue on my son’s car seat represents something that’s out-of-order to him; it’s something that’s not supposed to be there. Whether it’s getting into a car seat or changing apartments, transitions are tough on little ones. Sometimes the little things matter when you are going through a big change, and it helps to practice patience when dealing with them. Believe me, I know! I could have totally told him to just sit in his car seat and not worry about the tissue (I would have done this 9 out 10 times), but this morning I had a little more patience and made sure his car seat was cleaned just the way he wanted, which helped us get on our merry way!!!

Balance, Strength, and Resilience

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I can still remember waking up really early during grade school so that my mom could give my brother and me to our nanny in order to catch a bus to the city (NYC). Or, I can still see my father standing on the foyer in his winter coat and cap, me in the kitchen preparing a sandwich, running down the stairs to hand off to him before he left for a night shift. Or, as we got older, how my mom and dad struggled every day to make it home after an hour plus commute to watch one of my track races, drive me to dance class, or watch one of my plays.

After commuting to-and-from work for a mere 30-45 minutes a day with a 2-year-old in my backseat, I ask myself this question nearly every day: “How did my parents do it?” Sometimes when I get home it takes me over an hour (yes, you read that right) to decompress before I return to my normal self. Some days I power through and have dinner on the table before 7 p.m. Other nights I curl my car around the fast food lane on the way home, thinking “This is it, I just don’t have the energy to cook, and there’s nothing wrong with fast food.”

It’s not just about how I am handling it. It’s about how are we handling it. My husband is a PhD student and I work full time. Fortunately my husband and I both partake in household responsibilities, but at times it can feel imbalanced. This past January, in the middle of my post-Christmas wintry blues, I found myself struggling, not just physically but mentally. And usually I’m good mentally. I mean, there isn’t anything a little shopping therapy can’t fix, right? Wrong. I needed help and set out to find it.

My husband and I changed a few things. First off, my husband started doing more pick-up and drop-off. Since my son’s daycare is close to my work, I just assumed that I would be doing it every day. I think one of the valuable lessons I learned is that with anything involving our son, my husband and I should talk it through. When I brought it up to my husband, we agreed that he would start taking Lucas to school up to two times a week (if Bill Gates can do it, so can you!). Even though it’s been only a few weeks, it’s made a big difference.

And I should stress my point about talking things through and being direct about it—things that I’m not very good at. I am slowly learning to open conversations, trying not to let my emotions overtake a conversation, and also trying to listen, really listen (I know that one is easy to say but hard to do).

I don’t know how my parents juggled everything, but I do know this—they did so much for my brother and me out of love, a love that is generous and faithful, a love that stands by in the midst of difficulty, a love that teaches strength and resilience.

I find myself trying to be there for my husband and son as my parents were for me. As we are working on balancing responsibilities, we are facing these questions: How can I love generously and faithfully? How can I love in the midst of difficulty? How can I love in order to build strength and resilience?

What are some of the questions you find yourself asking as a parent trying to balance responsibilities or childcare?

Valentine’s Day with the one you love

 

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#42 on Rotten Tomatoes ‘5o Certified Fresh Movies…and Chill This Valentine’s Day’

With my husband away and the baby asleep last weekend, I started watching The One I Love  starring Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss. Following their therapist’s recommendation, a married couple, Ethan (Duplass) and Sophie (Moss) spend a weekend away at a vacation house to ‘renew’ their relationship. The vacation house also includes a guest house, and it’s in this guest house where things get complicated. The guest house is where Ethan meets another woman who looks exactly like Sophie, but he knows it’s not her. Together Ethan and Sophie quickly discover that when they enter the guest house one at a time, they encounter another ‘version’ of the other person: Ethan discovers an agreeable, sugarcoated Sophie and Sophie discovers a hipper, more open Ethan.

So what happens to them? Does Ethan fall for the doppelganger of his wife and vice versa? I enjoyed watching Sophie each time she walked into the guest house to interact with Ethan’s doppelganger (Sophie and Ethan agreed to take turns going inside the guest house. They also came up with a set of ground rules). Ethan’s doppelganger says things Sophie wishes her Ethan could say. She becomes hooked and can’t get enough of Ethan’s mirror image. The guest house becomes a space where each person has positive interactions with his/her doppelganger, and of course that’s why Sophie falls hard for Ethan’s doppelganger. This is exactly what could happen in any marriage. We could be wishing instead of doing, imagining instead of realizing, damaging instead of renewing. We lead busy lives. Spouses or partners don’t carve out time for each other, and slowly the number of positive interactions decrease until it’s too late.

So find an evening with The One You Love and make that positive interaction happen!

And, if you want to make some love bites, try baking some almond mini cupcakes!

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The best gift ever

We all know the winter holidays is one of the busiest times of the year, and one of the best gifts you can give your kid is a little extra family time. My friend just posted this Youtube video on what kids really want for Christmas (hard not to shed a tear). Here are a few of activities we’ve done together and I’ve noted an upcoming free activity at Duke Gardens which sounds like a great event to introduce your kid to a myriad of holidays.

  1. Try baking cookies with your kid, let them stir the dough or put the decorations on the cookies. I recently made this M&M cookie recipe using mini M&M’s and let my son top some the cookies with the candies.
  2. Try painting some holiday ornaments. I purchased these wooden ornaments several years ago at an after-Christmas sale at Michael’s (you can’t tell but he’s painting a wooden soldier head). Cloth, construction paper, and newspaper are also good alternatives!
  3.  Go to some ‘free’ holiday events. We brought our son to the 11th Annual American Tobacco Tower Lighting in downtown Durham and he had a blast!

On Saturday, December 12th watch the Chapel Hill-Carrboro holiday parade between 10 am and 12 pm. 

On Saturday, December 19th visit Sarah P. Duke Gardens for a Holiday Celebration: Make & Take Crafts from Around the World.

Verified Asian Restaurants in the Triangle- Part I

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Love me some thin rice noodles at Lime & Basil in Chapel Hill!

One of the nice things about working in Asian Studies is that I get to find out from my colleagues and friends which Asian restaurants are the best in our area. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these verified spots are more than enough to get you started on your Asian food tour of the Triangle!

Chinese

Red Lotus in Chapel Hill (photos below)

This is the only place my colleague has been going to for the past several years. Red Lotus has an excellent Shanghai menu and lunch menu, and they also offer other Asian dishes like curries and Singapore noodles. Over the course of our visits, we’ve had the string beans, spiced fried fish with bay leaf, Shanghai tofu dish, sesame chicken, Thai curry, and Shanghai bok choy. I loved the spiced friend fish with bay leaf (admittedly I had to brush off the hot peppers to minimize the heat). I’ve also been told the pineapple fried rice is wonderful although we haven’t tried it, yet (another reason to go back!). And my mother-in-law absolutely LOVES the hot tea they served!!!

Gourmet Kingdom in Chapel Hill

When we first arrived in the area, we were told that this was the best Chinese restaurant in Carrboro. Gourmet Kingdom serves up some great Sichuan (Szechuan) and was rated by Indy Weekly as one of the best restaurants in the Triangle. We enjoy eating their eggplant with garlic sauce, Chinese spinach (kongxincai also called kangkong in Tagalog), beef noodle soup, dumplings, and sliced beef with green onion. My Chinese friend remarked that their sliced beef with green onion was tasty (I agree!).

Dragon Inn in Durham

While I’ve only been once with a colleague, we enjoyed eating a couple of their dishes. We’ve been told that their hotpot is also delicious. Hoping to return during the winter season!!!

Happy China in Durham

Another Sichuan-style restaurant in the area with a big menu. Try familiar dishes like sesame or orange chicken, or try something spicy like minced pork with vermicelli or fish fillet with spicy Sichuan sauce aka shuizhuyu (I love this dish, but instead of translating it to ‘sauce’ it’s more like a ‘stew’)! Just ask for plenty of water or tea to put out the fire!

Vietnamese

Lime & Basil in Chapel Hill

We’ve been here a few times but what makes me love them is that on Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago, they gifted a plastic bag of chocolate candies on the table to their diners, so very Asian-cute! My colleague says that this is the best pho establishment. I love their beef pho as well as their Saigon street noodles and bubble tea. If you plan to dine on the weekend, just remember that they’re closed on Sundays….

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Pho Super 9  in Raleigh

We were able to eat once at this place because we went shopping one day in Raleigh. I was pregnant at the time, so I think it might of been one of the few occasions I finished my whole bowl of pho! The three color dessert was also very memorable; gotta love beans in dessert!

I realize this is going to take a lot more thought for Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Asian fusion recommendations so that’s it for now. Stay tuned for Part II!