Posted in Food and Drink, sadie the sequel

let them eat cake (and plastic and artificial dye and excessive sugar and …)

Despite the fact that I am regularly reminded that I haven't baked a loaf of banana bread in forever*, I really do like baking. That's well-documented in my blogging, too.

I look forward to birthday baking in particular, but I think that for Sadie's sixth birthday, the right thing to do is leave my cake pans in the cupboard. You see, she loves accompanying me on grocery-shopping trips to the Co-op. Her singular purpose is to run to the bakery section and gaze longingly at all of the decorated cakes in their display window. There are princess cakes, of course. There's a cake with cars. A cake with Dora the Explorer.

I remember the attraction of bakery display cases. I loved it when I was staying with my grandparents when I was little and we'd walk over to the B&A Bakery in Edmonton. The bakery smelled like sugar and yeast, and they'd always have a gigantic sheet cake with piped icing in the case to celebration one occasion or other, and multi-tiered wedding cake or two, usually with a fabulous (and now, heteronormative) topper. If you had asked six-year-old-me, I am sure that I would have said those cakes were more special than anything homemade. 

So Sadie's been picking out prospective birthday cakes for the last nine months, and I guess that her birthday is the day to make one of her wishes to come true.

I will admit that I have thought of baking and frosting a cake from scratch and popping a bunch of little figurines on top, it's not the right thing to do Firstly, the little sets of Frozen figurines are going for $40 in these parts, and secondly, I spent many a birthday celebrating with my mom's favourite kind of cake (World Class Chocolate ice cream cake from Baskin Robins) instead of my favourite kind of cake (I think that it was flan when I was a dairy-sensitive adolescent), and I still think that wasn't very cool.  Having the birthday person pick their cake is the way to go in the twenty-first century, yes?

* My husband ought to be thanking me for that five pounds of banana bread-weight that he isn't sporting, right?

Posted in ex-pat confidential, Little Person Updates, sadie the sequel, Traveling with Madeline

how i spent my summer vacation: a study in awesomeness

At the beginning of August, my family loaded itself onto a Qatar Airways 777 and flew across the Atlantic. We spent a lot of our summer vacation in transit – it's a long flight between HCMC and Doha, and an even longer flight from Doha to Washington DC. 

The DC-area is where we experienced the first awesome things about our summer vacation. Starbucks! Iced chai lattes are one of my favourite things in the world, and I have to travel to other countries to find them, so yes, that was a big deal. I had my first iced chai latte of the trip the day that we landed. Another awesome thing: TLC – a channel we don't get here! I totally indulged in garbage tv on our holiday. Whenever we were staying in hotels, I watched a lot of Say Yes to the Dress and Toddlers & Tiaras. I threw in a little HGTV on the side when I was feeling more adventurous. Another awesome thing: I went to an actual Athleta store (yay Tyson's Corner!) and tried on the Nectar dress that I've been admiring for about two years. Turns out it looks absolutely horrible on me, so it's a good thing that I waited and didn't spend a crazy amount of money shipping one to Vietnam. I bought a pair of Dipper shorts instead, and they are pretty terrific. Tyson's Corner also had a store where my children spent their birthday money buying their un-Canadian dolls outfits that cost more than the ones that they were wearing on their very own bodies. But that's what birthday money is for, right?

Part of the attraction of heading back to North America over the summer is the opportunity to fill up on some of things that we miss while we're living overseas, like family and wide open spaces. We stayed with Chris's sister in Maryland for a few days, and it was just lovely to watch my kids play in a fenced backyard, take them to a playground, and even just eat a picnic lunch outside on benches. (The part of this visit where Madeline conspired to play with her five year-old cousin to the near-exclusion of the other three kids was unplanned, though).

Wegmans! We stepped into a Wegmans somewhere in Maryland and Virginia, and it was crazy to be in a regular grocery store again! Gosh, it was spacious and well-stocked in comparison to the types of places that I get to buy groceries here in Saigon. Despite accusing me of going overboard in Target (where I re-stocked our medicine cabinet for the next year), he went a little crazy in the snack-and-drink aisle at Wegmans. The drink where pellets dropped down into the bottle for mixing was kind of neat, but I passed on his super-sized bag of crystallized ginger. 

Part of heading back to an English-speaking county during the summer is about shopping, but the longer that we live overseas, the more content I am to live without a lot of the consumer items that I used to haul back to SE Asia in my suitcase. This trip, we mainly brought home pharmaceuticals, birthday/Christmas gifts for the kids, and a few odd things that I can't locate in Saigon, like duct tape, cork sealer for my Birkenstocks, and sport laundry detergent because my regular clothes were beginning to smell too much like my gym clothes. 

On this vacation, I learned that my kids are generally cooperative enough that I can take them swimming by myself without being way out of my supervisory-and-water-skill league. The first time I took them solo was in Pinehurst, NC when Chris was off golfing. I did get a little nervous when the water they were playing in got deeper than I was comfortable in. This was an awesome development, especially since the alternative would have been hanging out in the hotel room for the entire day instead. This also paid off again when I hung out with my kids at the beach and hotel pool when we were in Hilton Head Island and Chris was off elsewhere in South Carolina watching a professional golf event of some sort. No one drowned, my kids monopolized the water slide at our resort as much as they could, and we came home with new pool noodles and sea shells. 

I also have to mention here that the cleanliness of the public HHI beach was awesome. I certainly wasn't imagining that we'd find an un-ending stretch of sandy shore with no litter or rocks or general ocean sludge. I'm not making this up – it honestly looked like this:


My eleven year-old self (who used to watch Space Camp on a near-daily basis) would have thought that our vacation was totally awesome because we visited the National Air & Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center and saw this:



Awesome is the only appropriate word.

One aspect of this holiday that I was day-dreaming about before we even left Vietnam was the food. There is a distinct lack of southern BBQ here. However, it wasn't hard to find in the Carolinas. Our first stop after crossing into North Carolina was at some dive in Raleigh where we enjoyed chopped BBQ pork sandwiches and collard greens and stuff. In Charleston, we polished off a helping of boiled peanuts:


And learned exactly why peanuts are a legume instead of a nut. 

The final awesome thing to say about our road-trip holiday is that Madeline and Sadie were good little passengers. They didn't complain much at all about how we strapped them into the back of our rental vehicle for some very long hauls. Madeline usually read or was content to stare out of the window, and Sadie napped or watched Doc McStuffins over and over again on Chris's iPad.  I remembered how I felt about road trips when I was a little kid, and was expecting a lot more tears and tirades. But they didn't happen, so … Awesome. 


Posted in sadie the sequel

best laid plans

Photo 25See this green thing? I thought that it was the main weapon in my arsenal for fighting Second-Child Syndrome (TM). 

I was going to write down all of the cute and/or important moments in Sadie's first year in this calendar, and then it was going to become my cheat-sheet for eventually producing her a baby book equal to Madeline's. 

(Let's skip over the fact that Sadie is nearly 3.5 years old).

(Let's skip over the fact that Madeline's scrapbook was the first and only one that I've ever made, abandoned for the expedience of photobooks and the challenge of finding scrapbook supplies here in SE Asia). 

So, I'm a couple of months into Sadie's book (making it in My Publisher, of course – keep those coupon codes coming), and I'm realizing a few flaws with my "Baby's First Year" calendar plan. One of them is point form. The boxes for the days are small – it's a calendar, naturally – so I was restricted to scrawling down things like

  • "really bad baby acne"
  • "more head control"
  • "screamed at the Canadian Embassy"

which don't really tell the story behind why I was motived to jot those comments down for November 2008. Why were those things once worthy of recording? I'm obviously missing something!

The second thing with my calendar cheat-sheet is that it's boringly generic. I should have thought things through more before buying it, or thought about just writing down Sadie stories in a notebook (which is what I did for Madeline's scrapbook). There isn't much space for recording notes in the calendar, and the space that is provided is divided up under run-off-the-mill headings like "Your sleeping pattern is" and "Your favourite toys are". 

I'm not abandoning my project, and despite it's limitations, the calendar is useful. I just wish that my memory of Sadie's first year was a little less limited, and maybe that I'd blogged more to supplement. 

Remind me to never put Madeline's and Sadie's books side-by-side, though, okay?

Posted in Little Person Updates, sadie the sequel, school daze

those kids that I write about sometimes are still around

There is something sort of backwards about parent-teacher conferences here; I had a twenty-minute chat with my three year-olds preschool teacher (memorable comment: "Sadie applies yellow to all colours indiscriminately") yet had a mere ten minutes to cover four months of progress with Madeline's second grade teacher. 

Regardless of the brevity of the latter conference, everyone is doing fairly well. Even if I don't like how much of an informational black box Madeline's school is, she's happy to participate and her teacher has really been encouraging her reading skills. Madeline's entire grade – so, about 115 students – put on a play last week; Neverland had an astoundingly large population of pirates and Lost Boys, but Madeline sang and danced and spoke her one line in the play with enthusiasm.

Sadie is moving up from the Caterpillar Room to the Butterfly Room. Her preschool supports the multi-age classroom concept, and I think that she's the oldest kid in her current class. I am a little sad that she won't be finishing off the year with her current teacher and friends, but I also think that it will be nice that she'll be familiar with the new room and teacher before the summer break. In theory, this should make the transition back to school in August easier, right? 


Posted in sadie the sequel

drama queen

For many months, I'd been thinking that the film Tangled was near perfect, as far as Disney movies featuring princesses go. This is largely because I adore Donna Murphy and she rocks her scary-manipulative-mom song, but also because I love the spirit of adventure in the movie and that Rapunzel and Eugene are flawed and multi-dimensional characters. My three year-old loves Tangled as well, so much that she's taken to offering me her own dramatic rendition of the film as she follows the action on our small tv screen. 

This development started off rather sweetly; Sadie would run off to find a comb so that she could groom her (rather short-ish) hair at the same time that she watches Rapunzel do the same. She even shuffled over to me, holding a handful of her hair out for me to grab, and indicated that I could use it to speed up my entering and exiting of the tv room similar to Mother Gothel with Rapunzel's hair in the movie. I should have predicted that she'd want to hold my hands and stare into my eyes while the lanterns were floating around Rapunzel and Eugene in their rowboat on-screen. Her intensity was a bit unexpected, but Sadie's pretend play still struck me as charming.

Sadie's dramatics took a more daring turn this weekend, as the "I've Got a Dream" musical number in the Snuggly Duckling prompted her to jump up on our coffee table and dance sing along, complete with jazz hands and arm flourishes. Apparently, she's got dreams, too. And needs to sing about them.

Next, I saw that one of the windows in our family room was wide open. Those windows start at the floor and reach up to nearly the ceiling, and thus are covered by security bars. Everyone can easily reach through the bars to turn the lever and push the windows open, which Sadie apparently started doing, having noticed that no one uses a door in Rapunzel's tower – they climb in through the window, of course. The problem with this – well, one of many problems with Sadie playing with the windows – is that it's not manipulative parental figures that will come in through our open family room windows. It's going to be potentially tropical-disease-carrying mosquitos and other insects and small reptiles (and probaby not as friendly as Rapunzel's chameleon friend). The petty thieves around here who would love an open window are not as harmless as Eugene, so it's probably a good thing that those security bars are narrowly-spaced. Safety-wise, opening these windows could lead to curiosity about other windows in our house, and I don't want to go there.

This G-rated film is seriously starting to wreck some havoc on my home! I think that I need to put our pair of cast-iron frying pans into a locked cabinet before Sadie gets any ideas about arming herself like Rapunzel 🙂


Posted in Food and Drink, sadie the sequel, saigon, baby

well, we Canadians do like multiculturalism

This morning, after sweating through a yoga class that I was 95% certain was going to be air-conditioned (it wasn't – gah!), making an unplanned trip to the grocery store to buy a carton of eggs, and then having to shower again (see: sweaty yoga), I found myself standing before my second-hand waffle iron. I was madly trying to churn out waffles for a preschool class of twelve. 

You see, this week my three year-old's preschool decided that it would be fun to celebrate "Internationalism". Apparently, the wee little kids talked about how their families are all from different countries, they looked at maps, and scribbled on flags. I'm not entirely sure what Sadie had to say about Canada. She's only been there for about nine weeks in total! In fact, I'm not sure that she really even understands what Canada is. But I digress … 

Back to the waffles. Sadie's teacher asked if I could come for lunch on Friday and bring a Canadian food item to share with the class. My first thought was to make Kraft Dinner, but then I realized that every single one of my Kraft Dinner cartons in my pantry were mis-labeled as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I absolutely could not bring American-pedigreed mac 'n artificial-cheese to Sadie's international luncheon! My second thought was to bring in a pan of Rice Krispie squares because they're easy, delicious, and I doubted that any of her classmates or their parents would even suspect that Rice Krispie squares aren't particularly a Canadian thing, being from other parts of the world themselves. This plan was too sneaky for my dear husband's comfort level, though, and it was he who first suggested maple syrup. (Maple syrup is apparently the gold standard for culinary proof of Canadian-ness at interational schools, by the way. There isn't one my kids have attended where this Lexus of condiments hasn't been brought out by the Canadians). It wouldn't have been proper just to serve a class of preschoolers cups of maple syrup, though. I needed something for it go on, hence the waffles. 

As I ascended the steps of Sadie's little school this morning at a quarter past eleven, a plate of waffles in my hands and a heroic bottle of maple syrup (with "product of Canada" emblazoned on it's label) ensconced in a bag on my shoulder, I suddenly realized that the waffles might have been a big mistake, or at the very least, misleading. 

Aren't they the national food of Belgium?



Posted in sadie the sequel

“pink” is a misnomer

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, I studied Sadie's crusty eye, mentally thought "Ew!" and determined that she must have sneezed sometime in the night, wiped her nose with her hand, and then rubbed her right eye, thus depositing the now-dried green mucous over her eye lid. About three hours later, her eye started looking a little swollen, too, and I figured that maybe a mosquito had dealt her one further indignity and bitten her eyelid. Another three hours passed, and curiosity got the better of me, and I thought I'd have a little chat with Dr. Google on the topic of the search terms "toddler eye mucous". 

I can't say that I've had a lot of "parenting firsts" with my second child. Madeline has covered a lot of bases for us, particularly in areas like "potty training woes" and "sleep deprivation". But today at the office of a pediatrician at the Family Medial Practice in Ho Chi Minh City, Dr. Google was largely proven correct and I landed my first little patient with conjuntivitis! (No matter that her eyes are not pink). 

It was time for another mental "Ew!". Sadie and I dashed home, had lunch, had a success with the antibiotic drops for her snotty eyes, and when she was napping, I started laundering lots of towels and linens.