Poetry In Your Pocket Day

Poetry In Your Pocket Day

Jin wrote 2 poems for the boys last week.  They’re such a riot I just have share them with you.

But first let me explain how this came about.

It was Poetry In Your Pocket Day at school.  Every child was encouraged to write down at least one poem (by any poet including themselves), place it in their pocket, then share their poem(s) with others at school that day.

However, we didn’t remember until about 30 minutes before school.  I was frantically cooking breakfast and packing lunch while urging the boys to jot down a poem, any poem, to carry to school in their pockets that day.

I suggested copying a favorite poem.  Or making up a little something.  How about a limerick?  What about one of those Roses are red, Violets are blue type thingy’s?

The kids were making up silly rhymes all involving either poop or dying.  Jin just happened to still be at home (usually he’s long gone to work by breakfast time).  He went right along with their utterly school-inappropriate rhymes, each one wilder than the last.  I have to admit, if it didn’t have to be read aloud at school, I probably would have chimed in with them….

But the clock was ticking and dammit, it was Poetry In Your Pocket Day in now less than 20 minutes.  So I glared at all three of them, said absolutely no poems involving vomit, poop, death or anything else that might earn them a trip to the principal’s office.  Then I told Jin he couldn’t leave for work until he helped them each jot down something to take to school (admittedly, I get a little punchy during the weekday morning rush).

Jin then disappeared to work on his “assignment.”  He reappeared just as we finished packing up their backpacks for the day with a poem he’d created for each boy.  Here they are:

Jin’s poem for Si (borrowing liberally from Dr. Seuss)

I am Si
Si am I
I do not like green tea and chai
I do not like them Si am I
I do not like them in a glass
I do not like them in this class
I do not like them with some cheese
I do lot like them with some fleas
I do not like them with that bread
I do not like them on my head….
But
I really like bacon

Jin’s poem for E (lightly edited by Val)

There was a young boy who claimed to hate meat
He thought it so gross, he swore never to cheat
A vegetarian he’d be
Completely meat-free
Except for
Burgers and hot dogs
Steak and beef jerky
Sausage and bacon
Chicken and turkey
Pork chops and ribs
Brisket and ham
Duck and chopped liver
And maybe some spam
But other than that, he’d never eat meat
Just some lettuce and fruit 
Would make each meal complete

And there you have it.  From Jin to his boys. 

Lego Chess Set

Lego Chess Set

I’m so excited about this Lego Chess Set we just made with Simon’s class.

Our school’s spring fundraiser is coming up.  Each class creates a project to be auctioned off.  I volunteered to facilitate Si’s third grade class project.  I met with the kids and pitched my idea about that Trash-to-Chess Set I talked about a few weeks ago.

I loved the idea of creating something functional from unwanted bits and pieces and hoped our class could create something really special from the “trash” that the children would dig up at home.  But I must admit, I was a little worried about the outcome of this upcycling project since I was opening it up to include a class full of eight and nine year olds instead of just my own two children.

I was utterly delighted by the entire class’s enthusiasm, energy, creativity and cooperation.  Things did get pretty chaotic at times (just imagine 26 third graders and a mountain of Legos), but overall, this was a great experience with a truly cool end result.

Initially, we didn’t know that we’d be constructing our chess set from Legos.  My original instructions to the kids was for them to go look through their homes for unwanted stuff:  nuts and bolts, bottle caps, blocks, orphan game bits or any kind of small toy they no longer wanted to play with.  Once they obtained their parents’ permission, they were to donate in their findings.

When their scavenger hunts were over and all the dust had settled, we looked over their gleanings to find we had amassed an impressive collection of Legos.  And who doesn’t like playing with all these colorful little bricks?  We decided we had enough to create an entire chess set from all the children’s unwanted Legos.

Our first task was to sort all Legos by color.  Next we assessed how much of each color we had.  Then we chose a “Fire versus Water” theme and broke into teams to make the chess set.

One team created the “water” chess pieces.

Another team constructed the “fire” chess pieces.

These pieces were 100% designed and constructed by the kids.  I can’t describe how awesome it was to witness their patience and focus as they built and re-built the pieces to form cohesive sets.

The box team took our idea of “fire versus water’ to the next level when they decided to tile a Lego box half water colors and half fire colors.  Someone had donated a box of K’nex that complemented all the Lego bricks perfectly.

In case you are now inspired to try this with a bunch of kids, I should probably mention that

  • We had 2 other parent volunteers on the actual day of construction
  • The parents handled the gluing.
  • We used hot glue to secure the toy pieces to the cardboard box.
  • We used crazy glue (brush attachment) to permanently attach Legos together.
  • We did not glue Legos together until all pieces were finalized.

I thought the board would be the easiest part to construct.  But in fact, the kids had a lot of trouble with it.  Constructing the board actually takes a lot of pieces.  I didn’t notice until we were actually building, but Lego sets these days actually don’t come with that many of the plain old bricks.  We had many more specialty pieces than rectangler and square bricks.  We were also working in spurts of 30 minutes at a time – not enough time to search for all the pieces they needed before the class had to pack things up and move on to their next activity.  The board team diligently reconstructed the board 3 to 4 times with different colors but weren’t able to finalize it (and not for lack of trying).

In the end, I hauled the leftover Legos home.  Simon and I took an entire evening making the board.  Then I got the pleasure of deconstructing the whole thing and super-gluing it all back together again.

So here it is.  A chess set created from a class worth’s of cast off & donated Legos.  The kids are wild over their project. Many (including my own) have begged their parents to attend the auction and get this set for them.  Personally, I think this set is awesome.  Part of me wants to bid on it at the auction myself.  And the other part of me wants to make it again – but this time, I want to be the one to design the chess pieces!

Momsy’s Cucumber Salad

Momsy’s Cucumber Salad

Here’s the super simple recipe for Momsy’s crispy cucumber salad.  This was one of our side dishes to our yummy dumpling dinner last week. 

Ingredients are

  • Mini seedless cucumbers (I used 7)
  • Salt
  • Sesame oil
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Garlic (optional)

Wash the cucumbers.  Cut the ends off.  Place your knife flat on each cucumber and use your free fist to lightly pound 3 to 4 times over the length of the cucumber.

The cucumber will crack open in places (but not necessarily uniformly).  Cut into pieces approximately 1 inch in length.

Place chopped and slightly crushed cucumbers into a mixing bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt and mix thoroughly.  Cover and let sit for 2 hours.

You’ll note I stressed 2 hours.  I’ve tried to do this in a shorter amount of time before (under 1 hour), but the cucumbers end up too watery and not crispy enough.  So I recommend waiting the 2 hours… go read a book for a while  or cook the rest of dinner.. or take completely silly pictures of your kids with cucumber ends as eyeballs…. just be sure to give the salt time to do its work on those cucumbers.

After the 2 hours are up, drain all the liquid.  Taste to be sure the cucumbers are not too salty.  If they are, give them a quick cold rinse in water.  Drain.

To make the dressing, simply mix rice vinegar, sugar and sesame oil to taste.  For the 7 mini-cucumbers, I used 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil.  If you are using sweetened rice vinegar, you can skip adding sugar.  You may want to use a little more of everything if you want a stronger flavor.  You can also mince in a bit of fresh garlic for an extra kick.

Toss the dressing with the cucumbers and that’s it!

This really easy salad is refreshingly light, and as you see, quite simple to prepare.  It was a big hit with my kids so I expect to be making it often this upcoming summer.  Enjoy.

The Fishing Game

The Fishing Game

What to do when your kid is suffering his first bout of hay fever?  When the itchy eyes and non-stop sneezing make going out to play not at all appealing?  When you’re not quite ready to plug your kid into that TV just yet…

Such was my situation yesterday.  What I really wanted to do was curl up with a book and read… or maybe cruise around the internet for a while… but it was our last day of spring break and I felt that we needed to do something together before I let them lose themselves in a movie or computer game.  I suggested we make and play The Fishing Game.

We haven’t played this for quite some time.  In fact, I think we donated our last set to Simon’s kindergarten class years ago.  I was a little worried that Si & E were getting too big to enjoy this game.  But they surprised me with their enthusiasm, tweaks to the “rules” and the genuine pleasure they both got from this afternoon’s activity.

I’m sure you can buy a ready made version of this activity.  But I enjoy sitting down and drawing with my kids, so the real fun for me is the making of the  game.

Here’s what we used to make the Fishing Game:

  • Large sheets of paper (butcher paper, cut up brown paper bags or just standard office paper works fine too)
  • Felt pens
  • Crayons
  • Paper clips
  • Magnets (I recommend the extra strong kind, rounded and with a little weight to it)
  • Masking tape
  • Wooden dowels (or anything that can double as a fishing pole)
  • String (I use old drawstrings from sweats)
  • A bit of fabric (or a small pouch) & rubberbands

When the boys were small, I did all the drawing for this game and they helped to color everything in.  We used to joke about all the things we might actually drag out of the river if we went fishing.  Our list included:

  • Fish
  • Starfish
  • Frog
  • An old shoe or boot
  • Heart underwear
  • Crushed soda can

Pretty darn cute, huh?  I thought we’d be continuing in this vein yesterday.  But the boys had their own plans.  They left me to my drawings as they each worked on their own ideas to add to the pool of things we’d be fishing for.

Ethan started with jellyfish.  Then he drew a turd (yes, that’s right, a brown square of poop).  Followed by one red sock, electric eels…

And lastly a shark that swallowed his jellyfish.  When he finished his page of “fish” (and turds), he agreed to help me color my fish if I’d cut out his art.

Simon sat at his end of the table and laughed non-stop as he penned his page of guys.

Si produced a couple of fish, a tire, more starfish, a pair of cracked glasses, a decomposed skeleton and a big-headed Frankenstein-like orange squid.

But the thing that he was most proud of was his smoking fish…

Actually, I thought it was pretty funny.  But the mom side of me tried not to show it.

Once all the drawing and coloring was complete, we cut the pieces out.  We decided cutting around the general shape was good enough & not to worry about cutting exact shapes out.
We masking taped a paper clip to the back of each cutout.  Bigger cutouts got 2 paper clips.

To make the fishing poles, I tied a string to the end of a wooden dowel.  Next, I made a pouch for the magnet by cutting a bit of cloth, wrapping it around the magnet and fixing it closed with a rubber band.  Lastly, I tied the magnet pouch to the loose end of the string.

And then it was time to fish.

When they played this as pre-schoolers, it was enough use the magnet fishing poles to pull up whatever they could.  But yesterday, they added a new dimension to their game:  points.

  • +1 point for an actual fish
  • +0 points for garbage (underwear, soda can, boot)
  • -1 point for anything truly disgusting or dangerous (shark, electric eel, turd)

Highest total points determined the winner.

All in, I think we entertained ourselves with The Fishing Game for a good two hours.

At the end of that time, I asked the boys if they preferred buying or creating their games.  Without hesitation, they blurted out making their own games.  They like creating their own characters and deciding what rules should apply.

I got that gut-deep satisfied feeling.

Productive Family Time.  Check...  

Good game guys…. now you can go watch TV….

As they settled themselves down for a movie, I reached for my laptop to enjoy a little guilt-free electronics time too.

San Francisco Spring Break

San Francisco Spring Break

And just like that… our lovely spring break in San Francisco is over.

We’re home again and ready to tackle the last two and a half months of the school year.  But before we dive back our daily routine, I just want to remember some of the really special things from our week.

Crissy Field.  This was my first visit to this park in the Marina.  The day was almost too beautiful to be real.  Clear skies.  Warm sunshine.  A sharp cool breeze.   Sail boats in the bay.  A view of downtown San Francisco.  And the most surreal part of all was Golden Gate Bridge looming up behind us.

My brother and his family, my cousin and my aunt spent this wonderful spring day with us.  Simon and Ethan relished this opportunity to frolic with their only cousin.  I was equally thrilled to lounge in the sun and catch up with family.

Farmers Market at the Ferry Building.  The marketplace at the Ferry Building is wonderful any day of the week.  But it’s extra special on sunny Saturdays.  The farmers market bursts with fresh produce, flowers and food vendors.  Street musicians.  People bustling about.  It’s big, crowded, festive and alive.

We made our way through every booth at that farmer’s marked and stopped to try buttery soft Cherimoya and crisp Asian pears.  We gobbled down our sample of Cap’n Mike’s Holy Smoke Salmon Candy so fast we simply had to buy a pack to take with us.

We puzzled over some lumpy clumps of wooly lamb… fleece?  The boys wanted to know if I could needle felt more of those baby chicks  with the stuff, but I was stymied by the sheer rawness of the it.  Maybe a little too back to nature for me… so we left the woolly stuff and continued with our exploring.

Rocket.  There’s really no significant reason why this rocket picture is here.  I just liked it.  So here it is.  And if you ever want to find it, it sits right outside the Ferry Building with the Bay Bridge at its back.

Family Time.  And our number one reason for all our trips to San Francisco is to visit Momsy and Dadio.  I believe my dad may be the longest survivor of Parkinson’s disease ever (35+ years).  And I would have to say the reason for this is my mom’s unswerving devotion to him.  Not to mention she was a kick-ass nurse before she retired to take care of Dadio full-time.

He’s drifted further and further away from us with each passing year.  But we were delighted to discover he responded to my E’s scratchy little voice.  E and I counted a full 10 times we got him to react to us this week.  Our favorites were:

  • The first response.  Dadio held 2 fingers up to answer E’s repeated request for him to tell us what (1 + 1) equals to.
  • The translation.  I was singing an obnoxious Cantonese song my dad taught me 30 years ago.  I was also translating the phrases for Simon and Ethan.  When I got stuck on the phrase “Hwoi-mei,” I asked my dad what it meant and he shocked the hec out us by saying “Seafood.”
  • The crack up.  E and I were rubbing Dadio’s hands to try to warm them up.  I was telling stories about my dad and then I did this imitation of Dadio at his silliest…. I pretended to tickle myself under my arm and started shrilly shouting “geely-geely-geely!!” This touched something in my dad because his whole face lit up and he choked out a single laugh before shutting down again.

The day to day gets down right grim for my mom.  But she’s not one to sit around and throw a pity party for herself or for my dad.  So I guess I won’t either.  We were simply happy to have time together. 

Football.  I never thought I’d say it.  But I like throwing the football…. back and forth with Simon, that is.  Si says we’re both so awful, we can’t call it a game of catch… we have to call it throw because we throw but we don’t catch much…

Awful or not, we still had fun.  Si and I made time each afternoon to run down the hill to a near empty park to play a little football.  My boy is getting to be a big-little-kid.  These moments with just the two of us are priceless to me.

By the way, my real problem with the darn football is that I can’t make it spin when I throw.  Any tips for me?

It was a good week in SF.  A beautiful balance of exploring, spending time with family and playing with my boy-os.  And now that I’m home, unpacked & rested up, I’m ready for it to be a good week in NY!