Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Flies, Honey, Vinegar, and Opium

They say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  I've been trying to teach this concept to the kids for years now.  At first, it seemed like a useless cause.  Forget about the behavioral lesson, I had to stop to teach them what idioms and metaphors are.  

Why would you want to catch flies?  I thought flies were bad.

No one is really trying to catch flies.  It's a metaphor.  I'm using an example to show that you'll get better results if you ask nicely than if you demand things in a rude way.

What's vinegar?

That smelly sauce that I like to dip dumplings in.

I don't like vinegar.

Well, neither do flies.  So if you wanted to catch them, you're better off using honey.  So in this case...

I thought we didn't want to catch flies.

No, not really.  Remember what I said about metaphors?

Do you have to use honey?  Could you use sugar instead?

I guess you could use anything sweet.  Basically, all I'm trying to say is to ask for things nicely.

I like honey.  Can I have some honey on my cereal?

It's been a lesson in patience for me.  It must be the Chinese in me to try to use an idiom rather than to just come straight out and say "you'll get better results if you ask nicely."  I remember my dad always prefacing things with "you know the Chinese have a saying..." and then spouting off a whole bunch of nonsense, like "swallowing raw and skinning alive" (which I think ultimately refers to plagiarism) or "pricking your thigh with an awl" (which refers to studying hard).  Thanks Dad, that made things a lot more clear.  

BTW, I'd like the record to state that my dad was not trying to teach me to study harder and stop plagiarizing....

Anyway, I've been trying to teach the kids that throwing temper tantrums won't get what they want.  Hitting each other, or me for that matter, won't help.  Ask nicely, with a "please."  And if I say "no", temper tantrums and fits won't make me change my mind, they will just make me angry and I'll probably end up putting them or their treasured items, or both, in the penalty box for a while.

So, over the past couple months, Ellington started picking up a bad habit of pinching me to get my attention.  At the dinner table, he would interrupt conversations, and if I didn't immediately answer, he would pinch me.  Hard!  To teach him that this was unacceptable, I would make him wait 5 minutes after the pinch before talking to him, and if he threw a tantrum, I would add more time to the wait.  

It took a couple weeks, but the lesson finally came to fruition today!  During dinner, Ellington started to interrupt a conversation I was having with Guinness.  When I didn't respond, he picked up my arm and started kissing it up and down like a little Cassanova.  Talk about high grade honey!  How can you resist that?  I broke off mid-sentence, looked down to find him staring at me soulfully through his long eyelashes, and exclaimed "what a nice way to let me know you have something to say!  What did you want to tell me?"

Guinness meanwhile started squawking (rightly so) since I hadn't finished my conversation with him.  Sorry!  There must be some Chinese idiom or proverb to cover this.  I think it goes "honey may attract attention, but opium keeps it."  Good luck finding a drug more potent than Ellington's juicy kisses!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The. Best. Summer. Ever.

They say childhood is wasted on children.  I'm not so sure.  Regardless, I did my best to give the kids an idyllic summer vacation and am hoping that, as adults, they'll look back and remember this fondly as "the. best. summer. ever."  I think I did a pretty good job, if I may say so myself.

I could tell you about the countless hours I spent researching and selecting the perfect summer camps for them this year:  Stanford soccer, baseball, and even video game camp for Guinness; Stanford gymnastics camp for Cayman; science and art Camp Galileo (highly, highly recommended for anyone in the Bay Area - ask me about it!) for Ellington; Brooks Summer Camp for all three in Boston....  I could tell you how patiently I've been applying and been waitlisted for the Stanford Sierra Camp for 7 years and finally got a spot this year.  Or how I took the kids to a Jason Mraz concert and sat just 14 rows from the stage!  Every kid should be so lucky.  Despite all the planning, or perhaps because of the planning?, the kids probably enjoyed the unscripted moments the best.

My own summer vacation was pretty good too.  In fact, I would be hard pressed to say who truly had the. best. summer. ever.  Me or the kids:

I had a two-hour massage plus body wrap plus facial at the Qua Spa at Caesars Palace.  And while I was caked in mud and wrapped in Saran Wrap, my therapist gave me the best foot massage ever.

We got to swim in the neighbors' pool, and their dog Marley got to jump in and swim with us!

I got to canoe on a beautiful Tahoe lake, whose natural peace and serenity was only broken by Danielle's and my laughter as we paddled ourselves in continuous circles (compulsories, if you will) while unsuccessfully trying to figure out to navigate the damn thing.

We got to go on a catamaran boat cruise, where we pushed our counselors into the lake, where they met a mermaid who gave them a pack of Skittles that magically stayed dry in the water!

I spent a kid-free week in Hilton Head with my college roommate, Nicki, going on daily 7 am sunrise beach walks and enjoying healthy, chicken nugget/pizza-free meals.

We spent a mom-free week with Puo Puo and Ah Yei and got to watch Transformers 2, even though it's rated PG-13!

I went to my friend Albertine's wedding in Minnesota, danced up a storm, and hung out with all my college roommates en masse for the first time in 2 years.

We went to New Hampshire with Yeh Yeh and Nai Nai and hiked the Lost River Gorge where Yeh Yeh got stuck in the Lemon Squeeze and lost his cell phone!

I went for 10 mile walks in the Minute Man National Park.

We went frog hunting in the creek in Yeh Yeh and Nai Nai's back yard and, in one day, caught 35 frogs that we kept in the neighbors' kiddie pool.

I had dinner at Osaka, my favorite sushi place in Las Vegas, with my friend David and had the best uni in my life - it tasted as sweet as ice cream and virtually melted in my mouth.

We had dessert at Richardson's Farm in Middleton, MA, where we got to see baby cows and had home-made, cotton candy flavored ice cream that literally melted in our mouths. (16% butterfat!)

We may never agree who had the most fun.  But we do agree to thank Michael, who slaved
away to fund our vacation.  Although who knows?  With two kid- and wife-free months in Hong Kong, it may actually have been Michael who had the best. summer. ever.