Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pho Crying Out Loud!

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Lately (as in the past three days), I've been hankering for pho. Aside from lunch dates with VanillaCon in E-town once or twice a year, I've not had authentic Vietnamese food for like 36 months. And to be honest, I haven't really missed it...until now.

For some strange and inexplicable reason (trust me, it's not "hormonal"), I've suddenly been hankering for some Viet spring rolls and a good brothy beef noodle soup. I even forced Hubbs to take me to our first Viet restaurant in Van the other night; it came highly rated on Urbanspoon and it was affordable. I had my beef brisket pho (with extra meat) and an order of spring rolls. It *so* hit the spot (despite the slightly too salty soup), though the extra meat meant that there was absolutely no way I could actually polish the whole thing off (much as I wanted to).

But tonight, I've found myself craving pho again, to the point where I've actually spent an hour reading foodie reviews and searched out my next place to try; I am in the process of figuring out what time tomorrow I might be able to go (you know, after my brunch dine-out with friends at Sandbar). My thoughts drift to crunchy savoury spring rolls dipped in a slightly tart fish sauce, and to aromatic broths filled with al dente rice noodles and thinly-sliced fatty cuts of beef. *sigh*

Seriously! And I just had a gelato too. It's not like my body's hungry. I guess I've just really missed my Vietnamese.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Discipline vs Abuse - A Rant

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Being that it's the summer, I watch a lot of daytime crap TV. It's a not-so-secret-brainless-indulgence of mine. The other day I caught a rerun episode of Dr. Phil, who was following up about a woman who has been charged with misdemeanor child abuse for the way she "disciplined" her 7 year-old.

Her methods? Yelling, hot sauce to "clean out" his mouth, and a super cold shower while he was crying and screaming for dear life. Obviously, Dr. Phil offered her counseling and she (at least publicly) accepted and is learning a better way to discipline. Then Dr. Phil said that "saucing" is a prevalent form of "discipline" in some parts of the States.

Recently I recounted this episode to someone I know, who then informed me that she knew of someone who also uses cold showers/baths as a way to shock/discipline their young (as in preschool-age) child. Apparently this individual throws their child in the tub, clothes and all, and runs the cold water from the showerhead until the child is drenched. I was told that this occurred if the child repeatedly failed to observe time-outs after being placed there.

Really? This happens? To people who aren't on Dr. Phil? What?!?!?

So yeah, I got to thinking. What would I do if I had a belligerent, stubborn child? What is the purpose of discipline? Would I ever resort to desperate saucy or cold water methods to get my kid to behave?
I don't have all the answers, obviously, but this much I know: the purpose of discipline is to correct behaviour. It is to "train up a child in the way that he/she should go," and it should be done, but performed in love (and not out of anger).

Prov 3:11-12 (NIV) My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Prov 15:5 (NIV) A fool spurns his father's discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.

I would hope that I can give my child enough consistent boundaries that he/she would know right from wrong, and good from bad. I would hope to live out my own life as an example, and teach my child that obedience is done out of love ultimately for God and for others. I would want my little one to know that when I do discipline, it is because I love them and want them to be safe and healthy.

And I would make sure that, as much as possible, any discipline I mete out would be preceded by and followed by much prayer, and the discipline itself would be educational or at the very least, appropriate to the infraction. The Dr. Phil lady was punishing her kid for lying. Hot sauce in his mouth won't teach him to stop lying (but maybe he'd try harder not to get caught). Likewise, a cold shower isn't at all appropriate to not observing a time out.

Yeah, yeah. Judgy moms might ask me what qualifies me, a non-mom, to dole out parenting advice. And they would be right in saying that I haven't ever walked that road before, so I couldn't imagine the frustration of dealing with a belligerent child day in and day out.

But it doesn't take having a child to know that it is wrong to act out of anger. The Bible admonishes us not to sin in our anger. It teaches us to let our gentleness be evident to all (including our children). I don't think it is possible to parent effectively without prayer, and unceasing prayer at that. I don't believe it is within our sinful human nature to be loving disciplinarians because our nature is not loving. But I know that the Spirit empowers us to do what we cannot otherwise do on our own; the Spirit changes our hearts and gives us new eyes to see our children from Jesus' perspective, and that brings about a love and a compassion that compels us to want to do what is best for them rather than what gives us release or relief in that moment of anger or power and control.

I'm not perfect. Nobody is. So I don't write this to say that these moms are horrible individuals who should be locked up in jails. We'd all be there for one reason or another if our sins were exposed, I'm sure. What I am saying is that there is always a better way, and that better way only happens through the grace, mercy and love that comes from Jesus. May we all learn a better way.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sofa So Good!

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Hubbs and I needed new furniture. We've actually needed new stuff for a while. Reasons? Our dining chairs are falling apart, splintering at the seams and losing screws left, right and center; we bought them cheap and got what we paid for. Our sofa is also sinking into the ground, having stretched over the past decade from daily use and abuse. Finally, we need to increase our comfortable and safe seating for guests who will be joining us for small group come September.

So, where to start? What to buy? How much to pay? It was a super tough weekend for us. We wanted to get stuff that matched our present dining table and entertainment unit (both are dark expresso brown). We wanted a modern look to our furniture, but we didn't want to spend a lot of money and I was picky about having seats with proper high backs (as opposed to the trend of low-backed, clean-lined couches that are so in vogue right now). Both Hubbs and I were also big on comfort; we wanted seats that wouldn't hurt our butts after sitting for an hour and a half.

So, we compromised. By fluke, we managed to find some lovely bonded leather brown parson chairs on sale for half price. We bought 6 and stayed under budget!


Next, we splurged on a Lazy Boy recliner (for me). I've always wanted a leather rocking recliner and in the event that one day I will be a momma, I'll want a comfy chair to rock my baby in. Luckily, we stumbled into the store on a "spin the wheel" day and won free delivery for our Calvin reclining chair, which was also on sale. Perfecto!


The sofa was a far more difficult find. Internally I was debating whether I preferred clean lines or high backs (because both do not co-exist in most stationary sofas), and then there were concerns about matching the style and colour of the sofa to the recliner. We drove to 7 places yesterday and saw well over 100 sofas. The only one we liked cost more than I would have wanted to pay, and was being sold in a store with like the worst reputation ever (I googled them and read the rants - it wasn't pretty). So, even if we wanted to buy that overpriced sofa set, the negative reviews were enough to deter us from considering it seriously.

Today, I was more willing to compromise on the sofa. Because I wanted a high back more than I cared about clean lines, I was willing to consider reclining sofas (the only ones out there with high backs). I also didn't want to blow our budget, knowing full well that in a few years, if/when we buy our own place, we will probably want to furnish it from scratch anyway, making these purchases irrelevant to our new future home. I even compromised on the style of the sofa; I was willing to consider "puffier" options that maybe didn't look just like my recliner, but was similar in colour.

In our first shop stop, Hubbs insisted that we pray before we went inside. Great idea. Within 5 minutes of entering, our prayers were answered: we found the sofa that we both loved. Sure, it was puffy, and a recliner, and not even leather (well, it's bonded leather, but that's not really leather). But it was on sale ($500 off today) and it was comfortable and it had a high back and it was a pretty close match colour-wise to our recliner (I think). After a short deliberation, our decision was made and our purchase was finalized.



Now all that's left to buy are stools (to replace the current crappy ones) and a leather storage bench. Praise God that we were able to find and purchase nearly everything we needed within the budget we had set, and in just one short weekend! :) My only prayer now is that the sofa and the recliner will look good beside one another and that nothing will be damaged during delivery. Here's hoping!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Decluttering Catharsis

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It's hard to throw stuff out, especially if you're a pack rat. Though I come by my packratitis honestly (I swear it's genetic - just visit my parents' place and you'll know), the thinking/reasoning part of me recognizes the need to purge every so often, particularly when space is at a premium, which it is at our place.

Hubbs, thank God, is quite the opposite of a pack rat, and has no need for sentimental things like wedding guestbooks and Christmas trees and childhood picture books. He is quite ready to throw everything out and just buy again when and if something is needed. The other part of my thinking/reasoning brain also recognizes the wastefulness of such a strategy, so together we balance each other out quite nicely.

The other day, we decided it was time for some belated "spring cleaning" on our storage room, a room that had become so cluttered that it was impossible to actually enter. It was sort of our receptacle for all things seasonal or homeless, from sugary US-bought cereal and lawn chairs to luggage and gift wrap. It was getting to the point that to peek inside the room caused Hubbs and I great anxiety, sort of like when we watch Hoarders and see the stacks of crap that these people have amassed over time.

We had to tackle the room in multiple steps, and then we had to sort through the boxes and items one by one. Some of the things we ended up "finding" and keeping were:

* more Transformer toys!
* my "How to Travel" tips to Hubbs from when he flew to HK to see me
* our framed pictures (I have no idea why these weren't unpacked for 3 years but we're now getting to it)
* old pictures that had been printed out but needed to be sorted and placed in albums (which we did)
* old children's books that we both love and wish to share with our children one day
* our Christmas decorations and tree (I had to negotiate for these!)

Note, however, that we purged much, even though some of the things we tossed are items I'm still not sure if I'll need again one day (though Hubbs tells me it's highly unlikely since I haven't used them in 3 years). Such items include:

* university texts and notes (including education ones)
* old pictures
* well-used, ancient children's books that are so obscure and outdated that no self-respecting 21st century child would be caught dead reading them
* paperback books that the library wouldn't want
* old "memorabilia" like the menu from our engagement dinner
* finished old journals (I shredded these)
* paperwork from forever ago
* random souvenirs
* old computers
* empty boxes (not sure why we kept them around)
* craft supplies that will be donated to my classroom for class use

We're still negotiating on the two back-pack lawn chairs, but I suspect I might be fighting a losing battle over this one.

Anyway, our purge ended up reducing our box count by at least 5 and we were finally able to fit our movable electric fireplace into the storage room (to make room in the living room). Hubbs also managed to rearrange the stored items such that we can now actually walk into the storage room and take several steps to access items in the far corner.

Best of all, we now feel as though a great weight has been lifted from our shoulders; the decluttering has led to great catharsis and relief. It has also freed us up to purchase some much-needed new furniture. All in all, it was a great and productive way to spend a Saturday!

Monday, July 11, 2011

This is What My Nephew Taught Me About Babies...

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... they usually smile when they wake up, even if it's after a scant 20-minute nap.
... when they're hungry, they're HUNGRY. Feed immediately.
... traveling with one, even to the mall, is sort of like a camping trip. You have to pack food and utensils and some sort of a mat, plus entertainment and a million other things.
... they will put everything into their mouths, including hair and toes and Sony DreamCast controllers; ew.
... they are amused by simple things, like saying hello or clapping your hands or making faces (not the scary ones, though; that makes them cry). However, this amusement can sometimes be short-lived and baby tastes are fickle, so what works one day doesn't work the next.
... time is not relevant to them; they might sleep all day and party all night like a university student, and sometimes they only sleep for 4 hours at a time.
... babies like to be carried and not every one of them likes riding in a car.
... mum-mum's are baby crack(ers), and a surefire way to get a whiny baby distracted.
... the moment the teeth come in, their mouths become weapons. Beware.
... there is nothing so beautiful as a baby's laugh or a baby's giant grin. Nothing.

My 7-month old nephew has spent a scant couple of weeks with me (1.5 in E-town and another 1 in Van) and I am pretty hooked on that little guy. Hubbs has melted for him too, as evidenced by how gushy he acts when he has the little one in his arms. I will miss him when he goes home (and I'll miss his parents too) and this month-long hiatus before I see him again will feel like forever. Thank God for Skype!!! And thank you, my little nephew, for being part of our lives! :)