Monday, March 2, 2015

Life Lately: Love, Family Tradition and Money

Embrace your husband today. Whisper a prayer each time he walks out of the door. You don't know the struggle, the temptation and the tests that he might be facing today, and what he's willing to bear, sacrifice and put up with to protect, provide for and love his family.
 

I found this picture on the internet a long time ago and I liked it so much, because it is well represent how I think wives are supposed to send their husbands away for work every morning. Well, let's admit. I'm still sleeping in bed whenever my husband leaves the house early in the morning, but I never fail to give him a hug, a kiss and a little prayer each day. I want him to know that I appreciate his going to work every single day, rain or shine, whether he feels like it or not, to provide for me and our family. I also work outside the home, but I'm so blessed not having to be the main breadwinner with all the pressure that comes with it (I know not all of us have that privilege).

Spend time with your children on consistent basis. Make it a priority. Soon they will grow up and will no longer deem spending time with you as that important. Your place will compete with friends, hobbies and other interests. So spend time with them now, when they still want to be with you.

 
 
There are times, more than I care to admit, when I desperately want eight o'clock to roll around so it's Michael's bedtime and Mommy is free to watch videos on YouTube or finish reading that new, captivating book. However, once I get down to it and play with my son, read him story, cuddle with him, tickle him and hear all his happy laughters and giggles and squeals of joy, I realized that everything else takes the backseat. Especially when his Daddy is also playing with us. Family time cannot be substituted with anything else. Not money. Not other, more glamorous-sounding activities. I make it a daily priority. Hubby and I are so blessed that we don't have three-four hours commute many other Jakarta parents do. We have the luxury to spend time with our son everyday.
 
Playing can be educational as well as fun. Expensive toys are not neccessary. Michael loves cars and pretend-driving. His all-time favorite YouTube nursery rhyme video is The Wheels on The Bus. The steering wheel toy at the toystore costs a bundle, so my Dad made him his own from old sewing machine wheel, planted in a cheap plastic bucket, as you can see here. He totally loves it and would spend many happy hours playing with it. When Mommy and Daddy are playing along, he would ask us to sit at the back, as his passengers, and he would provide money box for us to pay tickets, just like riding on real bus.
 
The time spent on the "bus" with him, gave me ample opportunity to teach him about many things: money, left and right, how to queu, working shifts (we taught him about bus driver's seven-hour working shift), etc. It was hillarious and all three of us would end up rolling on the bed, roaring with laughter!
 
 
I also teach him about dressing up when attending mass, because, hey, we dress well when we go to the mall, why not dressing up when going to the House of The Lord? Michael gets bored in the Church, but he is learning on how to behave and sit still for 90 minutes during mass. Sometimes he would hum softly to himself, or play with my bag, or drink chocolate milk (I always prepare a small pack of chocolate milk in my purse for him), climb to my lap, but overall, he behaves really really well at Church. He doesn't cry or make a huge fuss. I read once not to underestimate the self-control of little children, that a two-year-old toddler CAN sit properly for 90 minutes for mass, if it is expected of them. Now I know it's true.
 
Sometimes I feel bad for him because I know he's bored. It is so tempting to give him my cell phone to play with, but I restrained myself. It would be a bad habit and rob him the opportunity to learn self-control. He CAN master himself to sit and behave, he doesn't need distraction like my cell phone, and Mommy is going to help him with that process of learning, no matter how much I want to say: "Oh, he's too young to start learning that kind of discipline." He is not.
 
Instead, the "distraction" I give him is teaching him about the Lord and the order of service and what's going on during the mass. For example, I tell him when it is time for Bible reading or the Liturgy of The Word, "Now, the pastor is going to read from the big book." When it's time for Presentation of the Gifts, I give him money to put in the collection box. When it's almost Communion Rite, I tell him, "Now, all of us are walking up front to receive the bread. See? Everybody is getting some bread. You can get some also when you are older." After a while he's getting used to the order of the mass service, and would tell me outloud, "Now it's time to get the bread, Mommy!"
 
 
Have respect for family custom and tradition. Children and young people also need to be taught about family history, stories, and attend family gatherings. You might think it's old-fashioned and boring, but this is an opporunity to learn and practice manners, entertaining, hospitality, respect for the elderly, catch up on family news, and have a merry time together.
 
Some people flock together as a big family. They vacation together, spend the weekend together, when one holler the other come, some even live in the same house or neighborhood. Our family is not like that. Hubby's have a group chat and they often speak to each other with their cell phone, but they don't conduct regular family gathering. My family connects with Facebook and we don't often chat, but we do have an annual family gathering during the auspicious Lunar New Year. It suits well for everybody because we don't live close to each other, so meeting once a year to celebrate is just perfect and we always look forward to it.
 
February was the auspicious Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year. Every year, all over the world, people who still have Chinese bloodline - regardless of nationality - celebrate this occasion . Since I am Indonesian Chinese, my family and I also celebrate the coming of the year of the goat with family lunch. This year, we celebrate at our home because my parents happened to be in town, and it is a custom to gather at the house where the eldest member of the family was present. My parents happened to be the eldest now, since Grandma passed away in 2012.
 
Chinese people have a lot of rules about anything. Not just fengshui, but also the type of food to be served for Chinese New Year. I don't follow the custom to the dot, but we still follow tradition in a broader sense. Food should be plenty. Lack of food on the first day of the year is a big no-no. Everybody must eat until they're full. No diet on New Year, because a full belly represents prosperity. On the day, we should not throw away anything out of the house, so all the trash bags were collected in the garage, waiting to be thrown out the next day. You should wear festive colors, preferably red. If after the celebration we still have leftovers, that would be considered good luck. Also, if it rains the night before Chinese New Year, it is considered good luck because rain is signified as bounty and prosperity.
 
Well, I'm happy to say that it rained heavily on the Chinese New Year's Eve! The food was plentiful, every guest was sent home with a bag! The family lunch was such a great success. My Mom said so, because guests stayed for a long time and were not in a hurry to leave. It means that your house is homey and the guests loved to be there. That means good luck to the host and hostess. We ordered food from Duck King, a famous Chinese restaurant that specialized in grilled duck. Guests also brought additional food such as ice cream, fried fish, cookies, fruit salad and pork kebab. I was so busy being a hostess that I ate almost nothing until after all the guests had left, but I was so happy that the lunch was so successful and I got to meet family members who we seldom have a visit! There were so many family members to greet, so many stories to tell, so many fun memories to revisit. It was really fun!
  
 
 
Here are my niece and nephew. Chinese New Year is especially thrilling for the children, because you get to get angpao, which is a red envelope with some money inside. If you are a child, you do your pai-pai greeting (like the picture below) to adults, then you will get angpao. It is also tradition to wear jipao or cheongsam like my niece wore here for the day. Isn't she cute? She got the dress in Hongkong.
 
 
Here's my auntie, my Mom's younger sister with Jonathan and Ella.
 
 
This was Michael's first Chinese New Year. My Mom made this shirt of light blue batik with cheerful, colorful little people print on it, trimmed with happy color red, especially for him. The read short was last year's birthday gift, but it's still in mint condition. I already taught him the day before how to do the pai-pai greeting, and he got a lot of red envelopes with money! I told him that he could keep the money for train ride at the mall in the upcoming Saturday.
 
 
 
Make time for occassional date nights with your husband. Keep the sparks and the romance alive. It doesn't have to be expensive. It could be as much as having movie night at home for just the two of you, but just do it. Your spouse deserves a very high place in your priority list, second only to the Lord.
 
On Saturday, my parents took Michael to the mall for the promised train ride, while Hubby and me went out on a date to an Italian restaurant at another mall at the other side of the town.
 
 
The food was OK, but both Hubby and I realized that our days of spending a bunch of money to eat at posh places are practically over. We are no longer two young people on Saturday night dates. We don't really care to eat at places with so-so food where we have to pay premium price for the dimmed lighting, see and be seen with glamorous people, and jazz music in low volume. Not anymore. It's only reserved for special occassions - just for a change so we won't get bored - like once or twice a year. We have been there, done that, seen it all during our younger years. Now we much prefer good food in our neighborhood restaurants. I asked Hubby how the food was, and he made a face. "Next time, let's just eat our dinner at the mall food court, then hang out at this kind of luxurious, overpriced establishments for coffee afterwards. That way we can get the best of both world without spending overzealous amount of money on so-so food, " he said. I totally agree!
 
 
My Mom collects the traditional Indonesian batik fabric. She has a huge closet filled with the most beautiful and exquisite handstamped or handpainted print batik fabrics in the most ornate detail. From time to time, when I went to visit her at my hometown, I would choose a piece or two to be sewn into dresses for myself and shirts for my husband. These are two of them. I like to pick coordinating color and patterns for me and Hubby, but not exactly matching. I don't want to look like Hubby and me are wearing exact similar uniforms! This time I choose batik in deep electric blue color.
 
  
 
 
Despite everything that is going on in the world, it is OK to pamper yourself once in a while. You deserve it. Because there is still hunger and poverty and cruelty in the world, it doesn't mean you have you deprive yourself of beauty, luxury, and loveliness.
 
Ow, for Valentine's day, Hubby bought me a new Coach Borough bag in retro glove tanned leather. It is of the most beautiful caramel brown color which I love. I have always wanted a Prada saffiano tote in similar color, but refused to justify spending USD 2,000 for a bag, so I keep postponing and postponing my purchase. When I saw this luscious bag that doesn't cost an arm and leg, I know it's the answer of my prayer! I don't want Prada bag anymore, I prefer this bag even more that I do Prada because the leather finish is kind of soft, just like how genuine leather is supposed to look and feel, in my opinion. It is not scratch resistant like saffiano, but it has a patina that will grow even more beautiful with age. Borough bag was a last year's style, so the price has pretty much reduced. I got this bag for less than USD 350, including shipping from the US. You might think it's expensive, because you can get it for USD 200-something at the Coach factory outlet, but shipping to Indonesia can simply cost more than a hundred bucks! I totally love this bag and plan to carry it for many many years to come.
 


Instead of depriving yourself, why not do a real thing to help? It doesn't have to be a big thing like starting a foundation, a charity gala, or be a missionary. Just do what you can do to help others and be kind to others. Little things. Big things. Just do what you CAN.
 
If you ever been in Jakarta, you would notice that in almost every traffic light, there are street sellers who would approach your car when the light is red. Many of the sellers are adults who sell things just like all of us work for a living, but some of the sellers are children aged as young as about six years old. If you dig deeper to their stories, you will find that some of them go to school, and some of the don't. But all of them work for a living. It's not about pocket money, it's about doing what is neccessary to help putting food on the table.
 
When I'm driving on my own I almost never buy anything from street sellers, because I heard one too many scary stories about scams where the seller turned out to be criminals who will hypnotize you to steal your car or even worse. But when I'm with my husband, I try to buy something from the children. Last week I bought these two packs of tissues. Do I need more tissues? No, I've got plenty at home. But how can I not buy something when the seller is a twelve-year-old boy? So got two of them. I could always use them later.



There is nothing sinful about wanting to prosper. On Chinese New Year, we greet each other with "Wish you a prosperous year ahead." Money is not the root of all evil. The love of money is. Money is just a tool to buy things that can help you as well as other people to better your life condition. Money is a good servant, but a very, very, very bad master.
 
This year, as a Chinese New Year's greeting on my social media, I tried something different. Instead of cheerful, cute pictures of prosperous looking people or children in read, I posted a series of pictures of an old, wrinkled man who looked tired and sad. He sells drinks on the street, and he cried since that day, almost nobody bought anything so he made very little money to bring home. The pictures were taken by Hubby's cousin - who proceeded to buy some drinks from the old man, of course. I posted the picture because I want to remind myself, and my friends, "Why do we want to prosper?" And I wrote "This reminds me of one of the main reasons why I want to be prosper, so I can do more and give more to help people who are in need like this. In every bounty that the Lord provides, there is a portion that doesn't belong to us, that the Lord meant to give to others with us as His tunnel of blessings. I pray that I will always remember that. Happy Chinese New Year, everyone!"

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Life Lately: Flood N Family Time

 
 
"Don't just sit there and wait for life to take you to your destination. Be proactive and drive to where you want to be." --- That thought crossed my mind when I was looking through pictures taken from the previous two weeks.
 
In any situation , there is still something to be grateful for. Even if you wake up to this view off muddy river right in front of your doorstep... And inside your house.
 
 
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with Xein's second birthday party that was held about two weeks ago. Xein's parents are our friends and they held the celebration on the second floor of their fried chicken restaurant, Sawung Petok. Sawung means house, and petok could be meant as chicken, so the restaurant's name means The House of Chicken. It was the first time Michael attended a birthday party and he was the only two-year-old there who had not gone to school yet, so he was a little bit confused. Michael is rather quite by nature, so he just walked around other little children and adults, noticing things, sometimes his eyes would scan the room to look for me, but as long as I was still in sight somewhere, he was content being with other children. Finally he came over to where I sat with other parents and asked to sit with us to eat some soup, holding his own spoon. One thing that we are very grateful for is that unlike most children his age, Michael enjoys eating and we have little difficulties to make him eat nutritious food.
 
Several of the parents happened to be our friends, so Hubby and I had a good time catching up, eating fried chicken and ribs and vegetable dishes and soup served on the long table. Christine, our hostess, made sure that food was in abundance and stream of one delicious dish after another continuously brought out from the kitchen. The children ate sweets and savory snacks and drank chocolate milk and played with pool full of rubber balls, swing, and there was a baloon maker that was hired for the afternoon to make baloon in various shapes for the children: rabbit, motorcycle, flower. Very creative!
 
In the middle is Xein's parents with his elder sister, Angie.
 
 
 
 
At the office, I was given this goodie bag from a coworker, Ms. Lucy. I wondered what's inside?
 
 
Ms. Lucy just got back from business trip to Bangkok, and over there she was tempted to buy these two pairs of pink beauties: a pair of plastic wedges and a pair of gliterry rubber flat shoes. The catch? She's not the pink nor girlie girl type. "I didn't know what came over me that I bought these," she said. Pink is my signature color and everybody knows I love anything with glitters, so she gave them to me. Thank you!!
 
What I love most is because the wedges are very comfortable and they are plastic, so they will work very well for this rainiy season.
 
 
The rubber flats have thick soles which make them extremely comfortable, they have subtle glitters all over, and look at the lovely heart-shaped and flower details on the inner and outer soles. Cute! My Mom, who happened to come for a week's visit to Jakarta, tried them on and liked them, so I gave the flats to her and keep the wedges.
 
 
I also received another package of gift last week: an exquisite baby pink flanel blanket in king size (I forgot to take picture) and these two nautical-style, white and blue giant towels. They are thick and fluffy and I love the cheerful summer colors. These will be perfect to replace my old, tattered towels! My old towels were a nice baby pink, but over the years of wear, the pretty color had faded to be a whisper of yellowish pink. Not pretty anymore!
 
 
I have been having problem with migraine whenever I get my period for years. Finally I couldn't take it anymore and brought up the topic to my high school chat group. Some of them recommend this royal jelly products called High Desert, and I'm giving it a try. It seemed to give me good result, so I decided to become a member of their multilevel marketing program. Not because I want to become an active seller, but so that I can get their member discount, because these were pretty expensive. Well, I am a frugal gal, but I'm willing to pay more to invest in my health. Let's see if this is going to work! I also noticed that after two weeks, my skin allergy reduced significantly, so I think it's a good investment.
 
 
 
When Mom was visiting, she told Michael that later on, when Grandpa is coming to town, they will take Michael to the mall to ride the choo-choo train. Michael was pretty excited to hear that because he is crazy about trains nowadays. Then we received bad news that Dad's cell phone was stolen.
 
Mom said to Michael: "Grandpa's cell phone had been stolen by a bad person." Michael thought for a moment with solem expression, then he said something unexpectedly, "Not going to ride choo-choo train, then." Mom didn't understand, so she asked; "Who's not going to ride the choo-choo train, dear?" And Michael answered, "Me not going with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandpa will need the money to buy new cell phone." When Mom told me the little exchange, and told me how thoughtful Michael is, I made a promise there and then that I would take him to ride the choo-choo train this upcoming Saturday! And we did!
 
 
 
Here's a cute little story. When leaving home, Michael suddenly turned around and ran to the small table where we keep our landline phone, Hubby's junk drawer, plates with keys and coins, etc. He grabbed a coin worth 50 cents, and held it tight in his little palms. I asked him, "Son, why are you holding a 50-cent coin in your palm?" And he answered, "To pay for the train ticket, Mommy!" I almost burst out laughing, but then thought the better of it. When we reached the mall, he strolled proudly to the ticket booth lady and handed her his sole coin. "I'd like to ride on the train, please. Here's the money for ticket." The lady and I exchanged amused, conspiratory wink, then she took his money and gave him the ticket. Of course, I paid in full amount after that! I wish I had recorded that little exchange on video with my iPhone. It was so cute!
 
 
Michael rode the train twice. Once with Grandma, once by himself. Then he wanted to ride on the small car toy attached to the grocery cart, so Mom and I decided to make a quick visit to the grocery store with the funny cart. A slight incident happened after we're done with the shopping. Another boy about Michael's age wanted to use the car-shopping cart. However, instead of waiting until I got the chance to open the lock and let him out, the child just push Michael and hit him from the outside! Michael never had that experience before, so he just looked at the child with bewilderment. He wasn't scared, and it wouldn't hurt him, because the child was smaller, but he was confused, because all his other friends were nothing like this one. What infuriated me was that the mother just stood there watching with proud face that his son was a bully. I told the child kindly but firmly, "Wait your turn, boy. Be patient, OK!" Then I opened the lock and let Michael out.
 
Revenge is sweet because when the child got inside the car and his mother started pushing the cart, he started to cry of fright and his mother looked panic trying to get him out. I know it was a childish and unkind thing to do, but I couldn't help myself. I started laughing out loud! Turned out that the little bully was not so brave afterall and the proud mom totally lost her proud composure! The mother gave me an icy glare, which I returned with a laughing, mischievous smile, and she grabbed her child and went away, abandoning the cart altogether.
 
It's sad that a mother will let her child to be a bully. It's dangerous, too, because Michael is quite big for his age, and imagine what could have happened if he was a boy with hot temper. The little boy could be smacked down!  The mother should realize that not only her child being a bully is not cool, but he might risked being hit back by other children who would not take his attack too kindly.
 
I made a mental note to myself to have a little talk with Michael about this incident. I don't want my son to be a bully, but I don't want him to be bullied, either. Do you have similar experience with bullying? Please share in the comment. Any good advise regarding this matter would be highly appreciated.
 
  
 

Now let me tell you the story of the flood. Every year the road in front of our house is flooded, but we never imagine that this year the water will really flow inside the house! It was a disaster, because it was no clean, clear water, but muddy, dirty water and it also brought lots of insects, cockroaches, and other things. Luckily our house is a two-storey house so we just unplug all electricities downstairs and moved all the living essentials upstairs. The water only subsided two days later, and the smell was unbearable!

Despite the flood, we still have many things to be thankful for. The Lord blessed us abundantly. We still have electricity and running water, also food and drinking water. The utility company shut down power at surrounding neighborhood, but since we live near the City Mayor's house, the electricity is still on. I didn't shower for one full day, because the flood surface was so high, I was afraid using too much water just in case it cannot go down the drainage properly and stay in our plumbing system.

They say that you reap what you sow. Hubby and I have always been kind to  our local helpers and people who work in our neighborhood as garderners, drivers, and security personnels. During the flood, they all came to our house to help moving up furnitures and stuff. They didn't have anything to eat, because they usually eat from local street sellers, and they all closed down because of the flood for two days. We have lots of food, so we shared with them. We gave them instant noodles, eggs, bottled water, bread, rice, and some frozen food. After the flood, they showed up again on our doorstpes, helping my husband cleaning the first floor with desinfectant and rubbing alcohol.

Also, we used the time to play with our son. He was a bit bored, but he was happy to have both Mommy and Daddy at home for three straight days. I wore rubber boots when I wanted to go downstairs, to avoid the risk of get electrocuted, but the rubber boots that I prepared for Hubby turned out to be too small for him, so I told him not to get downstairs at all. Little did I know that late at night he forced to go down in his too-small boots just to get some toys for our son. He hurt his feet, of couse. Poor man.



 
 
 
On the third day the water subsided, and Hubby led the cleaning team to scrub all the floors and desinfected everything that was covered with flood water. We threw away many things, including five big boxes full with old books and comic books and clothes that we planned to sort later. Well, no need to sort them now, they have turned into muddy porridge-like mess! I guess it's a blessing in disguise since we had kept postponing to sort them, and now the decision had been made for us by the flood! Haha!
 
I was having a migraine on the cleaning day, so I just stayed upstairs with Michael while Hubby did the heavy cleaning. That man of mine even went out and bought me my favorite black Toblerone chocolate! Am I a lucky wife, or what!
 
I'm linking up to these wonderful Ladies:

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