AaarrrrrRRR

Sean had a spell of conjunctivitis + flu and he’s been a miserable little lump all week – off his food, tired, grumpy, and really whiney.

So I tried initiating some [less active] indoor imagination games – pirates! I made them pirate patches and taught them a few things about pirates.

They liked the pirate talk bit – but really, who doesn’t? – and kept going AARRRRR MATEY! to each other until it drove me crazy.

But then my 3¾ year old wanted to know WHY pirates had eye patches, and WHY they made people walk the plank, and WHY they had peg legs, and WHY they liked to fight and shoot canonballs… and it came to a point where I couldn’t answer anymore questions without censoring the interesting bits (ie. the VIOLENT bits).

So now Callum thinks pirates are really quite boring, and that was the end of that.

Speaking Chinese

I’ve been teaching the kids some basic Cantonese. I speak very little myself, so I’m planning to practice with the kids too. Everyone I’ve spoken to, tut tuts me and say I should teach them Chinese (Mandarin). But I don’t know anyone who speaks it! Everyone from my extended family speaks Cantonese. And we’ll have no one to practice with. Who knows, maybe we’ll learn both.

Most of my ABC (Australian Born Chinese) friends don’t speak Chinese or any Asian dialect, and like me, they all want their kids to learn it. The ones with kids have enrolled them into weekend Chinese classes, but hmm, I think my kids are still a bit young.

I used to go to those weekend Chinese classes! I think I was 8 years old. The only thing I can remember is Wo Ai Ni (I love you) – and that wasn’t because of the classes haha. Plus I know some awesome Cantonese swear words, as every Asian kid should.

Anyway, I remember having a traumatic time in those weekend classes. In fact, everyone I knew seems to have the same story – our parents forced us through those classes, everyone put up with it, and everybody hated it and inwardly loathed it with every bone in their body. So, no. Probably not a great learning outcome, you think? I dunno, maybe things have changed since then. I should check it out.

I have a friend who’s a Chinese teacher. She just had a baby, and I’m hoping that she’ll hold little home-based playgroup classes where parent and child learn Chinese words together. That sounds like much more fun. But for the time being, my mum teaches us all a new phrase each week and we all practice around the house. Even my husband is picking up a few words!

Sean calls Callum, gor gor (big brother), and Callum calls Sean, di di (little brother). Which makes my heart go soft.

And I once heard Callum saying “Sean! Fi dee! Will ya?!” (which means, hurry up!).

He also knows that people who don’t speak Chinese, won’t know what Poh Poh (grandma) means, and will refer to her as “my grandmother”. But I don’t know if he understands the general connection between people’s appearance/race and their language (haven’t explained that one to him). So I don’t know with what information he’s deciding to use the different words.

Anyway, I’m hoping speaking Chinese will come a lot more naturally to our family as time goes by. It’s definitely not natural at the moment. And I can see it’ll be hard work as the kids go to school. But you know, half this family is Chinese! And remembering who you are is probably a good thing.

Sean at 20 months (1¾ years)

Sean’s verbal skills have exploded in the last month. He can say heaps of new words! He’ll try to repeat everything we say. He can pick out words from songs and repeat them. And we often catch him talking and muttering to himself, stringing multiple words together, as if practicing this strange new talking thing.”Bear! Bowl? Bear bowl gone where? Hee hee. Bear bowl gone!”

“I got lotsa glue. Lotsa glue! Mmm. Eeew. Glue yucky.”

He does this cute mishmash with his songs, it’s reeeeally cute.

“Tinko tinko daaaar! Dumpy dumpy fall! E, O, E, O, AYE!”

And I can’t help but join in!

Wedding Again

This weekend we went to the wedding of a really close family friend. It was a beautiful and small ceremony – probably the smallest I’ve ever been to – but some of my closest friends and relatives were there, so it was fantastic and felt really special. Ceremony was held at the always gorgeous, Sandalford Winery, followed by a cocktail garden party. Here are us Cheng girls (my sister, my mum and me!) hanging out under the grapevines pigging out on the cocktail oysters.

I’m wearing the “pillowcase dress” I bought in Sydney. I paid an embarrassing sum of money for a sack with two well-placed elastic bands.

I’m hoping that one day I’ll steal the pattern and make myself one for each day of the week.

We were also in a rush to head out the door and I forgot to put on my necklace! I felt so bare and un-blinged.

Dinner was in a Chinese restaurant. We were on a table with excellent company – full of laughter, chatting, baby stories and crazy antics. My poor husband (who’s allergic to crustaceans) literally ate only 2 of 10 dishes served. The pigeon, and the fish. Even the vegetable dish was sprinkled with shredded scallop. Thankfully he ate earlier.

We were one of the low-priorty tables placed next to the kitchen. That was fine, we probably made the most noise anyway.

But where I was sitting, I had a clear view of the chef and his chopping board – and I could see him chop and hack open a basket full of live crays, and the crays desperately trying to scramble their way across the benchtop. Plus I could see raw chicken carcasses hanging from hooks, dripping fluids into unmarked bowls —

OK I’m writing this as if I’m horrified and disgusted. But really, I thought it was all very amusing, and in a way, I kinda liked it. It made my Chinese eating experience feel more authentic and fresh.

Anyway, the bride and groom looked great and extremely happy! The speeches were funny and touching. The MCs did a great job. I ate sooooo much food (after all, I ate Andrew’s portion of crustacea). We had lots of laughs and took lots of photos. We had a fabulous time!

Starting 4 Year Old Kindy

Callum starts school next year. And I’m a bit emotional about it.

Last week I had an information session with Callum’s new teacher. She seemed like a fantastic teacher and a passionate nurturer. She ran through the program, her routine, school policies, parent involvement, things the children need to bring etc. I was impressed and overwhelmed at the same time.

I kept thinking – Aaaak! My baby is going to own a lunchbox? I don’t know if I’m ready for that!

I was particularly distracted by the child-themed busyness of the room. Everywhere I looked… colourful charts and artworks were splashed on every inch of wall, containers of paint, crayons, pencils, markers, glue, craft bits, puzzle boxes, toy boxes, shoe boxes, a wall of hand prints, painted fish shapes, fruity cellophane mobiles, blobby butterflies, crushed paper flowers, teeny tiny chairs, miniature tables – it was all so deliciously youthful, but I felt my heart twang with heaviness knowing that my little baby will do all this cool stuff, and I won’t be there to see it.

Ok honestly, I’m really excited for Callum and this new phase in his life. As a kid, I loved school. And I hope that he will too.

But deep down, a part of me is utterly terrified of all the negative new experiences and influences he’ll face without me. Dealing with peculiar social norms that rule the kindy playground, friendships, disappointments, loneliness, rejection, embarrassment, bullying, fighting. I talk endlessly about these things to Callum, not with any clear conclusions, I just ramble away casually about anything and everything… hopefully so he knows he can talk to me and ask questions whenever he feels like it.

I guess other than that, I just have to learn to let go, have a bit of faith and remember that life is full of good things to learn and experience too, especially for a 4 year old.