Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Homestay Parenting Experiences - "mission accomplished"

Hubby and I were contemplating on what to serve our “adoptees” for dinner when suddenly my thoughts raced back to that day when one of our  friends paid us a surprise visit.  It was close to dinner time so to impress her, I showed her a menu and boasted:  “I’ll prepare this for you in no time!”

Crunchy Salad Delight    Poppyseed Dressing
(thinly sliced Brussels sprout, julienned broccoli stems,
chopped broccoli florets, kale and chicory, shredded radicchio
toasted pine nuts, dried cranberries)
Perfectly Roasted Chicken
(chicken rubbed with special spice combination,
minced garlic, lemon, crushed rosemary and coarsely ground pepper)
Rice a la Chine
Watermelon Shimmers
(watermelon cubes drenched in minted and vanillaed simple syrup)
Lemon  Cake a la mode
Sparkling Quenchers

“This is our menu for dinner.  And I can serve this in half an hour or even less.”
Our friend thought I was kidding.
“I don’t believe you! This looks very Frenchie to me.  You’re just putting me on. How can you do all those  in an hour?  Come on!”
“Let me show you. Let’s go to the supermarket to get everything we need.” I said winking at hubby.
“Okay!  Julienne, what name is that?  And chicory, how does that look like! And, for heaven’s sake what is this minced garlic?”
“You’ll see!”
So we went to the market a block away from our place.  I glanced at the lemon cake by the door.  I am always a sucker for lemon cakes so dropped one into the cart.  We went to the fresh produce section.  Took  a bag of cut up veggies.  Wow, the packaging is nice! Everything looked fresh, no brown edges,  not watery. Satisfied. Saw my friend shaking her head. We moved on.  I grabbed a medium sized watermelon on our way  to the deli section.  Across the deli section was a glass covered shelf filled with hot, juicy rottiserie chicken in plastic containers. I took one.  I remember hubby bought several pounds of cherries on sale a day before, so, we’re all set.
“That’s all?”
“Yes. This is all!”
As soon as we got home, I washed my hands and put on an apron. I placed water and sugar in a pot to boil.  Pre-heated the oven to warming temp. Took the roasted chicken from its container, cut it up in serving pieces, placed the pieces in a baking casserole and  in the oven it went.  Just then, I was ready to finish the syrup.  Placed a drop of vanilla and teaspoon of minced ginger.  Dropped some mint leaves and took it out from the stove to cool.
Then I opened the bag of veggies and the packet of nuts and berries and dumped everything in a bowl, opened the dressing packet and poured it over the veggies, tossed everything together, covered the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside in the fridge.
Meanwhile, hubby was ready with the watermelon to which I poured the cooled simple syrup mixture on.  And our friend helped with setting the table.
Remembered to heat the rice I  fried in sesame oil and Thai curry paste and put it in the micro.  Took drinks from the garage.  And voila!  Dinner is served!!!

And that was my inspiration for dinner last night.  After we’ve finished washing the dishes,   I smiled at hubby and told him:
“mission accomplie!”

BTW, my friend saved her cake for later.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Homestay Parenting Experience - Murphy's Law

Sunday, 5:15 pm
Today we pick our last four.  My, my, they are lanky and tall I feel like a midget!
Warren, Jake, Mike and Kevin.  Hah, at last, one of them has  one of my grandson’s name.  I will remember him fast, for sure.
“You can take your luggage to your rooms now.  Freshen up and we will have dinner in about 2 hours.  BTW, would any of you like some water or soda?”
Hubby and I have not even started assembling the ingredients for our standard American  welcome dinner fare when they all came with their gifts.
“Mom, Dad, this is for you.”
“Oh, that’s is so nice of you. Thank you, Warren.”
“Mom, Dad, this is a Chinese saying I wrote myself.  Hope you like it."
 “Of course we will!  What does it say?  I ask as Kevin unrolls a red rice paper and a white one with Chinese characters on it.
“Thank you very much.  This will be nice in a frame.”
Plus chocolates from Jake and cute book markers and envelope openers from Mike.

Monday, 6:15
The hamper that I told them to place their dirty clothes in is still empty.  Hmmmnn, did they take their showers last night?  When they arrived and took off their shoes, I knew that they needed one!   I don’t think I heard the shower run at all!  Boys  boys  boys!

7:15 –
“Good morning! Breakfast is ready” to the two who were up and already playing with their gadgets.
“Knock, knock. Wake up. Wake up!”
Warren tried to open his eyes to look at me.
“Hello!  Good morning. Breakfast is waiting for you!”
“Good morning mom.”
“Good morning mom,” followed Mike.
“We will leave for school at 8:30.”
By 8:05 I decided to look at my printed schedule and to my horror, there glaring back at me, was the printed time we are supposed to be in school: 8:10! Why was I so sure their class starts at 9:00?  That was Mt. SAC, this is SAE!  So I harried them up and I could hear my heart thump thump thumping.  They still have to put their shoes on and one has shoelaces!  Oh, please, hurry up (to myself). 
Jake was still looking for something inside his luggage but I told him: 
“No more time.  Be in the car, NOW!”
Grateful that the traffic lights seemed to be cooperating with me we reached the school at 8:27!  “We’re late.” I told the boys as I was turning the curve to the parking lot.
“OK, as soon as I stop the car you all go out fast, fast, ok?”  And as if on cue, we were inside the gate as the principal was checking on the students walking to their rooms.
“Don’t worry,” Nida, our lead assure me,  “You are not late.  See? They are just getting inside now.”
I am reminded of Murphy’s Law.
“If something, or anything, is bound to happen, it will happen!” Not an exact quote, though.

8:00 pm
I can hear the shower running! What a refreshing music to my ear, LOL!

Aaaaaaahhhhhhh.  I will have a good dream tonight!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Homestay Parenting Experiences - Like A Box of Chocolate

We picked up our latest four boys Sunday afternoon.  We look forward to this change.  We always anticipate what the chocolate is filled with.  Remember Forrest Gump?
“What are your American names?”
Unlike our color guys, this group reminds me of a Mission Impossible actor’s’daughter, at least it sounds like it,  an actress’ s former bodyguard/husband, a Beatles member, and a naughty prince. I will remember their names in no time, no time at all!  Great!
Will they still like hamburgers?  Didn’t they say they’ve been to New York?  Aahh, but that is what hubby and I have already planned on serving them for their first dinner in California, so we started assembling our mise en place for the burgers: onion rings, tomatoes fresh from our tiny garden, lettuce simply torn, mayomustketch blend, and cheese.   Oh, and chips plus soda, for to me,  an American burger is not American without that glass of  bubbly cola on ice!  And a  bowl of cut-up watermelon.
“Dinner is ready.”  I announced, as I passed by their rooms.
“Oh, I like this. I like this very much,” says Guy, who finished his two even before the others had started with their 2nd.
“Me, too,” echoed Yuri.
Paul looked at Yuri for help.
“He said he likes it too.”  
“I like it but I think I will go back to sleep,” says Harry who was roused from his nap to have dinner.
“That’s fine.  I will keep your burgers till you wake up,” I assured him.
At the dinner table, they talked about their families and their dreams or ambitions, and their trip to the East Coast.  Each revealed interesting answers.
I can already see/observe many differences between this group and the others that we have hosted.  For one, they talk in whispers, … also, they walk on tiptoes and they ask permission for almost everything, even taking the shower. This is just my observation, but I think that the lesser a place in China is mentioned on google, the more conventional or traditional in their ways the children from that place are. ( I hope somebody agrees or disagrees with me on this.)  And, best of all, this is the very first group that I didn’t have to wake up in the morning.  They beat me to it every morning!

Day 2-
“Good morning.” The prince greeted me, smiling.
“Good morning, you are early. May I hug you?”
 “No….. what does it mean?” prince said backing away from me.
“You know, hug (while I make the bear hug form) like this.”
“Oh, yes. You may.”
Then he started examining the kitchen with his eyes.
“What are you doing?”
“I want a house like this for my family.”
I thought to myself:  poor baby, he still hasn’t seen some of where his friends are housed.  Where he is in right now is just a guest house, lol.
“Well, thank you.” I answered amazed at how a 12-year old can think so and dream so for his family! Later at dinner, Yuri told hubby and me that in China only the very very rich can own individual homes like we do here in America.
Another thing that this group is so unlike the other is how they use their cameras:  the others that came before them clicked at everything – where they are, what they eat, where they sleep, what they visited; whereas,  current  group hardly take out their cameras.  I still have to see them take a picture of anything!

I wonder what the new box of chocolate will hold.  Hmmmmnnnnnn…..

Friday, July 12, 2013

Not Made In America

Yesterday afternoon was another shopping day for the boys.  This time, they would be buying gift items for their family. Great!  So hubby and I drove them to Ontario Mills.  Wow, it is really quite a long time since I shopped here!  I thought I lost my turn cuz I couldn’t see the landmarks that used to guide me around.  Oh, there’s the familiar board with arrows…. And the theaters.  I’m in.  But wait, where is the complex that house the stores? 
“There,” hubby told me. 
“Where?” cuz all I could see were trees. 
“Just drive on and we will be there.”
Finally, we  were parked.
“Okay, will 2 hours be fine with you?”
“Please make it 2 ½.” Green said.
“Okay.  Make sure you look after each other, and Green you are the oldest so be in-charge, okay?”
Green smiled as he nodded.
Hubby found a bench and settled in.  Walking is not his cup-of-tea.
On the 1 3/4 hour mark, I saw Toni and told me  that he lost the other three.  Poor, Toni, because he got so engrossed in what he was choosing, he didn’t notice that the older ones have already left for another store!  This wasn’t new to me.  Same situation happened the day before.
“Did you have fun?”
“Yes, but I didn’t like it.”
“Everything I chose says “Made in China”. I just don’t like it!  What is happening to America.”
I smiled silently.
“I still have to get one more for my grandmother.”
“Oh, that’s great.”
When he came back he showed me a shaving set for his dad and a towel-pot-holder for his grandma.  The day before, he bought a Disney T-shirt for his sister and a make-up kit for his mother.  Such a thoughtful boy!
When we got home everyone was complaining of not finding anything made in America!

What would you tell these boys?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Homestay Parenting Experiences - Got Lost in Translation

Afraid I might lose my parking space when I pick up the kids, I told the air-con man to please hurry with whatever he is doing.  Motioned to him that hubby and I need to be out of the house in 5 minutes.
“Yes, I will.  I don’t want to mess up with a princess!”
As we entered the parking lot, a van was easing out of its spot. How lucky can one get specially on a very hot summer day!
Before I could get off the car, I saw one of our boys sitting where we parents usually sit while waiting for their dismissal.  Luck again, we don’t have to wait much longer this time.  Then I noticed the teacher.  Oh gee, they are still in class!  But it didn’t take too long before Green came rushing to me and declared excitedly:
“I want to get a snake!”
“Yes, a snake. To eat!”
When I asked again, he put his two palms together, as in prayer, and did a gliding motion with them.  I was convinced he really wants to try a snake!  Maybe they talked about exotic food in class, I thought to myself as my brain processes the idea of eating a snake!.  
“OK, get in the car and I’ll take you to a supermarket where they might carry exotic food like a snake.  You can even talk to the cashiers in Chinese.”
I thought I sensed excitement in the four boys as I cruised thru fwys 71  and 60.  When we got home to retrieve my wallet (and yes, I drove without a license!  Oh, my!) I can’t help thinking,  how do I cook a snake!
We reached the supermarket. It was Gray, who is now Toni, who asked the cashier. Cashier told them the aisle number.  I led them to where the frozen food were.
And so we went to the aisle were cartons and cartons of snack items were piled.
It was not snake!  It was SNACK they want!
Then we continued with our journey to another market.  This time to get some items they want to bring home to China!
BTW,  when Green did the slithering motion, he was actually telling me, “Oh no, not a snake!” but my stubborn brain wouldn’t listen!!!

How do you translate that?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Homestay Parenting Experiences - What a Difference!

No two apples are alike. Right?
Well, I believe so…….
Two days ago we picked up our next “adoptees”.   Right away, I notice some differences between this group and the last we’ve hosted.  The oldest one,  17,  has his hair spiked and dons his logoed t-shirts in layers. The next older one. 14,  was in full black the t-shirt of which is not one that is locally made in China. The other two are still younger,  13 & 12 respectively, so they are more, well, should I say,  conformist?
When we got home, the 12-year old went straight to a picture poster of one of our grandsons and examined it.
 “Oh, I got scared when I saw it from the door.”
 Everyone laughed.  That was quite revealing! He was the only one who noticed the poster which has been hanging in that corner of the house  for years!
When I showed them the bathroom the 14-yr old said they already know as if to tell me “Let’s move on!.”    Oh, okay!  Then I showed them where they will sleep. They looked at each other when they saw  the first room with two twin beds.
 “Are we all going to sleep here?”
 “No.”   They smiled.
Then, to my surprise,  two bolted onto a bed each as if to say “this is mine”!
Then I showed them the second room, they peeked then burst into loud, very loud laughter! The room has only one full bed!
“Alright, get settled. Wash yourselves and in 30 minutes we will eat hamburgers for dinner.”  (Before going home, we paid an In-and-Out drive thru a visit.  How is that for a first American experience, ha?)
While we were having dinner, the boy in black (are you still following me? Lol) had both parents who are engineers. 
“So, you must have travelled before?”  (I offered an honest guess).
“Yes, Australia, Canada and Italy.”  
It didn’t surprise me that he is the most vocal in the group.
“Mine are both businessmen.” Offered the spikey. (He is the disciplinarian in this group.)
“My mother teaches history and my father teaches math.” The youngest declared and who, I later observe, is the spokesman of the group, speaks better English and practices it more often.  He is also the gentlest.
One more glaring fact that differentiate them from our previous adoptees:  they chose colors as their English names! Green, Yellow, Gray, later changed to Toni, and Sage.  I think these boys will make our week adventuruous!

When I woke them up for breakfast, I discovered that the youngest had the 2nd bedroom to himself while the other three slept in the first bedroom! 

Friday, July 05, 2013

Homestay Parenting - an Awakening

"Would you like to host some kids this summer?"
"Host?  You mean they will stay with us?"

And that's how hubby and I got into homestay parenting - a friend explaining to us what it entails and how to go about being one.

And, that's how we met Ernie, yes, our beloved coordinator Ernie!  And the rest is history, a cliche that is just apt to use now.

My picture of retirement was reading newspaper over croissant and coffee in the morning.  Add to this visiting places we've never been to and sprinkle it with no-holds-barred talks with friends and relatives on FB, Skype, etc. whenever the mood hits, and then garnish everything with  small perks  like movies, concerts, hobbies, etc.

Alas! Due to unavoidable circumstances, the picture changed! Take food, for example.   Hubby's health and medical diet is the exact opposite of mine. I can eat anything he eats but while I love cheese and tomatoes  the smallest amount of these will raise his potassium or phosphorus level..  Oh, how I love chocolate and ice cream, but the same are taboo for him!  Travelling?    It is like tug-of-war.  We can travel, why not, but the hassle and the accompanying fear of what ifs hold us back.  One thing that is a positive constant to both of us are our grandchildren.  We can both spoil them whenever we like, lol!

Homestay parenting gave us some additional spark every summer.
Last year's was more like a trial and error affair. There were times we were nervous or apprehensive about the unknown.   Now, our approach  is with more surety and excitement. If before we were doubtful if we could do it, now we are very sure we can.

When we received the assignment from Ernie,  I could feel the excitement in my hubby.  He started asking where or how we could get  a twin bed for the other room and I could see the bounce in his step as he went from one room to the other.  He even started writing down a week's menu.  As if, I thought!!  And the best part is, I noticed there are lesser creases on his forehead now! LOL....
He loves our daily drive to and from Kohl's not underscoring the fact that he just  underwent  surgery a day before we welcomed the newest group!

We took care of eight students last year.  We had one who has never failed to greet us on special ocassions (even after a fire) thru e-mail. Then, just the other morning, I was serenaded by four 11-year old boys with a Chinese and an American love songs as I was preparing breakfast.
Now, you tell me, isn't that the best gift one could get out of this program!

To the new "recruits", WELCOME!  I am very sure you will have fun!

Below is one of the  many e-mails I mentioned:

Hi mom :How are you there days ?I have finished this  tern and later i will have an one-month holidy.I do miss you as well as father . Did father recover from his disease? I hope every thing goes well. Fortunately , I got  good grades in my study so our family plan to take trip to Xi'an. Do you know Chinese New Year?About 2 weeks later ,the most important festival in China will come to us . On that day we will get together with our family and enjoy firework .Watching Spring Festival Gala Evening is our major activity as well. We will stay up late in order to "shousui" . Children will receive Lucky money and dress  up to visit friends. Although i am too "old" to get lucky money ,i still enjoy happy time with them. Mom . Happy new year! Best wish ! 

Note:  Remember, they are English learners.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy Birthday, Larry !!!


 Birthday greetings to our friend, Larry. 

I wasn't sure if he'd noticed, after all he has the whole country to celebrate his special day with (July 4th), but knowing him I know he would. He is one-of-a-kind kind  friend. He checks my blog from time to time  (but still has to leave a comment) and  shows concern when I fail to  post anything, which touches me deeply because I know how busy he and wife Fina are with their trip scheds and their going ga-ga over their only granddaughter CJ 

Happy Birthday, our friend.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Homestay Parenting Experiences - Once Again

The text said:
 "Please pick up the students at 10:00... as the flight got delayed."
By 9:30 hubby and I were already at the designated parking lot.
By 9:37 another text arrived that there will still be some additonal 30-minute delay.  We thought: "No problem."
After some more back and forth messages hubby and I gave a sigh of relief when we saw the bus inching into the parking lot.
It was 11:45 pm!

Introductions,  pictures taken for each group,  and off we went.

"Are you hungry?"  I asked the kids  after they got settled in the car and I had double checked if they were belted.
"Yes. Very, very hungry!" chorused the 4-bouncy 11-year-old boys in their charming halting English.

"We're home. Come in."
"Oh. You have a nice home."
"Thank you."

Hubby finished pan-frying the hamburgers that I started before picking up the boys, while I "introduced" the parts of the house to the kids. I can't say if they were instructed to do so, but they expressed delight at every room and amenities in each room.  Oh, how they marveled at the ice and water coming out of the refrigerator door!

As I was assembling the burgers, they sneaked into their respective rooms then came back with their gifts from home.  (That's for another posting).

While at the table, they all asked for milk. Great!  One excused himself for not eating his tomato slices. Then three of them  agreed to have a second serving of the hamburgers and again asked for a third  of the extra that the fourth one didn't eat because of a recently pulled tooth!!
 Wow, they sure were hungry!!!

 It was time for me to get up anyway so I didn't mind being awakened by footsteps and  the closing and opening of their doors.  When asked how their night was, I was surprised to learn that they didn't go to sleep at all reasoning that they have time to sleep in the bus!  AAHHH... 11-year-olds!!!

While I was preparing  breakfast, they hovered around as I poured the pancake batter into the pan.
"What is that?"
"Yes, Sort of."
"I like pancake. We like pancake."

Then they sat around the dining table and finished their breakfast.

Oh, before I forget... they serenaded me with a Chinese and an American love song while I  finished the pancakes.

As I drove home after dropping them off for their day in Disneyland, I couldn't help but wonder:  What experiences and surprises will they share with hubby and me to night?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Still Feel the Same....

While reviewing my old posts I came upon this one and thought I should share it again!

"This is my prayer group.  If you can... do join us!"  the e-mail said.

How could I say NO?  But to be honest, when I first read the invitation and later, the day's program,  my first thought was "Oh, my,  can I stay focused listening to sermons for 8 hours!"  Even the promised breakfast, lunch and snacks couldn't convince me enough.  But she is a very good friend.  Letting her down would be cruel! So,  I hovered my mouse over the YES option and, with a heavy finger, hit the Enter button!  That's the beauty of this tech world, it shortens your agonizing time.
Ever since I came to America, I had been accepting invitations to attend renewal meetings, bible studies, masses, services, etc. from various faiths and denominations. I try to get the best from each session and take it with me with an open mind.  And everytime, I feel more secured in my own religion.  My chosen faith.  My GOD!

The day started with setting up the room and breakfast.  Then before I knew it, it was lunch time.  The journey we took thru the presentations of God's words were so engaging,  and funny at  times, that, along the way, I almost wet myself from laughing. After all I am not that young anymore!  After a sumptuous lunch, we had some sharing moments of experiences through others' testimonials how God makes and lets them know, feel, and see HE exists. I didn't experience any heat or cold sensations, or an out-of-earth feeling during the pray-over, but I knew HE was there with me, guiding me, looking after me. I went home happy, energized, enlightened.
My friend, thank you for the invitation to experience my GOD, our GOD!!!