Kids, Food, & How to Kill a Chicken, Improvised.

Poultry chart via etsy

My kids, overall, are good eaters. I won’t go into my philosophy in detail just that I take a French-mother/Man Who Ate Everything approach to feeding them. It seems to be working for us –despite the occasional protests.

One thing I have always tried to do is make sure my girls know where their food comes from. I do not want to find myself, burger in hand, facing my kid around 12 suddenly stricken with a look of horror saying:

Wait you mean burgers and cows are the same thing? So what was the animal we ate last night?

Me: Well we had venison so you could say we ate Bambi, well probably her mother.

Living in Thailand has made this pretty easy. Granted, we have not passed Daisy the cow on our way to ballet class, but we have waved hello to many other edible friends. I knew I was succeeding  with my mission when upon seeing new animals, SweetPea would point to the creature going by and ask first:

What is that

followed closely with

Can we eat it?

Both girls love chicken but for SweetPea, it’s an obsession. She will choose chicken over any other food including sweets and cake any day so chicken features pretty regularly on our menu.

While eating chicken for dinner the other night:

P: Maman why can’t I see the chicken’s blood?
Me: Well they remove it before they sell us the chicken.
P: How do they remove it?
Me: They cut the chicken’s head off and hang him upside down.
(At this point I know that chickens get heads cut off and pigs are bled so I am just trying to piece this together)
P: Like this? (Showing me with her dragon piggy bank conveniently located next to her).
I nod in agreement.
P: Maman can I please do that next time we have chicken for dinner? And how do we catch a chicken?
Me, quiet worrying about a Dexter in our house.
P: And I want the chicken blood.
Me, thinking it is time to redirect this conversation: Well how about some boudin noir which is blood sausage?

Close call.

The next day, I worried as we head out of the house. There’s been a trio of scrawny birds hanging out by the front of our mobaan –a cluster of houses, like a little village. I didn’t want SweetPea getting any ideas. Fortunately the chickens were so scrawny. They were like the Kate Moss of chickens: breast-less, always in black, and in need a good meal and long night of sleep. I figured she wouldn’t find them appetizing enough to want to make the kill.

Right, I must brush up on my art of butchering skills. Til the next time readers.

Expat Blog Entry: Ten Words for Me Please?

Expat Blog Entry: Ten Words for Me Please?

Expat Blog Awards 2013 Contest Entry

I’ve entered this competition. I normally avoid them. They just make me stressed as I teeter between just letting things be and wanting to do everything possible to win.  That said, the prizes here are amazon vouchers. Why is that so special? Well in Thailand, imported English books are P-R-I-C-E-Y! And as a homeschooling mama, I am always in need of them. So since I regularly poor out my heart and words for you, I am asking you for just ten words in the comment box of my entry.

Also I’ve tried to keep it as short as possible and I hope it will make you laugh at least a little!

Thanks everyone!

Living with Pigs. Taking Media One Step Too Far.

peppapig muddy puddlesThis post is written the October Multilingual Kids Blogging carnival hosted by one of my favourite blogs The European Mama . The theme this month is Media. I see various forms of media as tools. And like all tools, they can be wielded skillfully and help you build something, like using a hammer to mount a blackboard. Or à la Trinity killer, you can use it to crush someone’s skull.

I apologise for the graphic nature of the last sentence but that’s really it. In most cases, it isn’t that extreme, it may just be a black and blue fingernail, but one should always think carefully about what the purpose of the media is and what you hope to achieve with its use.

When I first found myself incubating a wee one, I thought “yes, I’ll abide by The American Academy of Pediatrics’ advice and not allow my child any television before the age of two.” Then, as the stench wafting from my un-washed armpits caused my husband to dry heave when he made it home, reality set in and my desire for regular showers led me to rethink my decision. Perhaps a few soothing Baby Einstein videos wouldn’t be so bad. (AND no, I never thought nor cared for my child to be a genius. I am more of an ‘ignorance is bliss’ kind of gal). No more than 10 or 15 minutes top, I swore to myself.

Ha, as if. There’s a reason all these DVDs have a repeat button on them. And we all know kids love repetition!

peppapigblogrepeat

I’ve always been one to rationalise. Our brain’s ability to create reasons to justify what we need never ceases to astonish me.  I convinced myself the one way I could ensure adequate exposure to all three heritage languages was through the use of DVDs, programs, songs, etc.  I knew that providing enough language exposure would be a challenge. And a few “Rue Sesame” episodes seemed like just the ticket. No better excuse to pop your kid in front of the boob tube.

As it turns out, my first child was a late talker and I am a worrier. I know you say all parents worry. But I fall on the extreme end of the spectrum. I cross a street by myself and see visions of an 18 wheeler careening around the corner; I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Secretly enjoying the use of TV —insert whatever gadget you wish here as this all started pre-iPad—  I figured if I only got programs in Spanish and French, then any TV watching would be educational and furthering my goal of language acquisition. This seemed like a big win-win for all parties involved.

With the right discipline, or I should say wielding the tool appropriately, this would have been fine. But I couldn’t stick to this regime.  All sorts of cute programs were on and I couldn’t find French or Spanish equivalents. We got rid of cable television so I would stick to DVDs. This worked for a time. Living in Brooklyn with so many spanish speakers, most DVDs had a spanish option but once we moved to South East Asia, Tamil, Mandarin and Korean were more likely language options than Spanish or French.

Then there was the problem of programs being translated but not really culturally appropriate. Sesame Street in French should really be something like Rue Roblochon. And a Spanish Peppa Pig would not be talking about gardening all the time. Maybe siestas? Or long lunches with chorizo? OK maybe not a pig eating pork sausages…

I simply gave up making an effort for a long time and showed them predominantly English programming.  Perhaps I am also admitting that my house is full of TV addicts. And yes, it’s entirely my fault, along with some prone-to-addiction genes handed down. Hindsight is always 20/20. If I am honest with myself,  I always knew there was a problem but chose to suppress it effectively, as so many other things, for the sake of convenience. Until now.

This is the year I’ve started homeschooling. One of my goals, in preparation for their big summer in Mexico next year, is to ramp up their Spanish. Normally if the kids see anything in English for the first time, it is nearly impossible to persuade them to watch it in another language.  With one exception: Peppa Pig. They worship before the altar of this little pink porcine diva.  So desperate are they to watch Peppa and George jump in muddy puddles, they will take it in any language. A newly created Spanish version is my saving grace, despite the Castilian ‘c’ pronunciation -sacrifices must be made!

With this discovery, I was permitting more TV in order to get the girls hooked. Requests for Spanish programs rose and I heard a lot of I can’t wait to speak Español. Here’s the thing: the Spanish program was great, but too much of it wasn’t. Soon, every morning, before I’d even opened my eyes, I’d feel a little finger jabbing my shoulder and a small whispering voice… “mama, can I watch a movie? please? please? please? please? Some Peppa?”.

Despite my emphatic NOs, she continued, laying on the charm thick and fast. Even saying “but I want Peppa Español mama, pleeeeease?”

One night I was putting C to bed. She’d actually watched a bit of Peppa before her shower and had her bedtime story. The lights were off, we were cuddling, and I asked her, as I always do, what song she would like me to sing. Her response? she whispered sweetly: “A movie mama. Can I have a movie?” After about five offers to sing a song, I just kissed her goodnight. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if she fell asleep the words ‘movie’ and ‘Peppa’ still on her lips.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out we needed a major intervention; that I’d used the idea of media as language reinforcement instead as ‘a buy mama x amount of Facebook minutes’, or homeschool lesson planning or whatever other black hole of activity that seems to be sucking up all my time these days.

Instead of genuinely creating a plan, using all the tools at my disposition to create an enriched linguistic environment, I fell into a classic case of plonking kids in front of TV for some peace.

I normally spend hours, no weeks and months beating myself up about these things, but it’s pointless. Instead, I’ve just instituted a clean break. Time for them to reconnect with other things, like the muddy puddles in the yard from the endless rainy season downpours, while I strategize on how I can use these things constructively and in moderation moving forward.

I’ll leave you with my favorite exchange of the week:

Me to P: ‘ello gorgeous!

C to me: NO! I’m gorgeous!

Me to C: of course, you are both gorgeous!

C to Me: No, P is Peppa pig and I am Gorgeous. (aka George)

Mystery revealed. And time to cut down on Peppa episodes. The giveaway should have been being greeted as Mummy pig a few mornings prior.

P.S. What’s the attraction with cheeky pigs?

A Week in the Life of a Multicultural Mom

EuropeanMama_all!I very excited to finally be back from the land of ZERO connectivity. Despite my much-needed break, I am catching up on loads of un-exciting parenting stuff and rather than bore you silly, risking the loss of your patronage forever, I am so grateful to European Mama for this hilarious tongue-in-cheek guest post she let me to snatch for my blog!

Global Children via Plushkies.

Global Children via Plushkies.

So, if you’re a parent, you’re bound to get conflicting advice. Even if you’re a multicultural parent, because no matter how good a parent you are, the French/Chinese/Dutch/whatever do it much better than you do. So, I tried to imagine how it would look like if I tried to take all these advice to heart? I made a plan. Every day of the week, I would parent like another culture, and see what happens. I will stick to the books, “Bringing Up Bebe”, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, and “The Continuum Concept”, and also this article.

Frenchday

So, I go French! I want to start my day with a nice warm coffee and croissants, but the children eat all my croissants before I can even slip into my role of a French mom, and the coffee gets cold before I even get to drink it. Slowly and hesitantly, I assume my role. I tell the children that from now on, we’re going to have a few rules. Such like: no snacking. Food will be served four times a day and not more. And that no actually means no. I take them to playground to practice to practice my “no” saying skills. I try it: in Polish, “nie!”, in German, “nein!”. It doesn’t work, so I try French, “non!”, and that doesn’t help, either. I try to give them the famous French “big eyes”, les grands yeux, but my children only look at me, think that their mom is actually a crazy person and start laughing so hard that they get a belly ache and start complaining. So we go home. They’re hungry and it’s one hour left till dinner! They’re crying from hunger but today I am a French woman and won’t let them do “n’importe quoi”. I am actually kind of lucky that this is French day because I get to pour myself a glass of red wine. And then another. And another. I am starting to panic because I have to prepare a 3 course dinner, and haven’t even started yet. So, another glass of wine it is. I realise that I haven’t gotten the ingredients, so we go to the store to get them. The children are super hungry but I just can’t give in! The trip to the store was traumatic and I’d just skip writing about it. I cook dinner which takes me another 2 hours, and by the time I’m done, the children are too hungry and tired to eat what I prepared: oysters! Frogs legs! Boeuf bourguignon! And cheese! They want me to cuddle with them when they go to bed but I calmly explain that they have to learn to be independent. So, another no it is. I am so tired after this day. I wish my father was here to make his famous crème caramel. I hope next day will be better.

Chineseday

I wake up my children in the morning, calling them lazy and bad people and what will they do without me. Uh Oh. This is not going well. They, of course, rebel against me, but I am a strong mom, a Tiger today. So I tell them that they will get no food if they don’t get up and dressed right now. This ends with everybody screaming and fighting and a scene so ugly that I won’t even describe it here. Let’s just move to dinner. I serve rice and Peking duck. I tell my children to set the table and criticise everything about the way they do it: not neatly folded, not symmetrical, not pretty enough. My children, they’re so lazy. After dinner, I make them practice the violin and the piano for 6 hours. It is true what Amy Chua says: the 5th hour is the worst, for everybody involved. But they can’t go to sleep until they’re done. I am so exhausted and pour myself some sake. I know that it’s not Chinese, but I don’t want to be so discriminating. I am off to bed.

Indigenousday/Kenyaday/Indiaday

I wake up on the floor in my bedroom. I decided to co-sleep today and the result was me falling from the bed. The baby wakes up, and of course, I feed him on demand. This is actually quite nice. Until I remember that I need to go diaper less. That changes the day to the worse, because while my big girl is pretty much potty trained, I have still two more to go. My little girl doesn’t run fast enough to make it to the potty, and the baby, well, he’s a baby. Which leaves me with lots of pee and poop, pretty much everywhere. I need some alcohol, but don’t know what kind. I decide on a shot (or two or three) of homemade nalewka. It’s homemade so it should do. I am busy the whole day: preventing poo tragedies, feeding them when they’re hungry (all.the.time), breastfeeding, baby-toddler-and pre-schooler-wearing. I don’t even have the time to meditate or smell the flowers or go outside to hug the trees. At the end of the day I am so tired I want to go to sleep. But I can’t because the children aren’t tired just yet. So I wait. And wait. And wait. In the end, we all fall asleep on the floor.

USday

So today I can be an American mom. This is harder than I thought because they have all these kinds of parenting methods: attachment parenting (which I pretty much went through yesterday) and there are free range parents and helicopter parents, and it’s so complicated and I only have a day for this! So, OK. Maybe I’ll be a helicopter parent for a while and then I’ll be a free range parent for the other half of the day. I follow my children everywhere. I always ask what they’re doing and why they’re doing them. I also decide to take this one step further and apply to University in their name, and started to look for jobs. I also constantly praise them for how clever, pretty, intelligent and funny they are. After few hours the children are more than annoyed with my constant putting my nose into their affairs (and the constant praise that goes with it) and want to play by themselves. So, OK I go free-range. The plan is, we go to the park, I leave and they go back home by themselves. Sounds easy! We get to the park. I explain that at 2 and 4 years old, they’re almost ready to go back home by themselves! I thought this was a great idea!  They didn’t. They started to cry and cling to me! And at home they couldn’t even wait for me to leave me alone! But I praise them for how well they’re doing and we go home. But I totally forgot about the cheerleading, and baby-genius enrichment classes! I need me some brownies. And a few hamburgers and fries! With ketchup! And pumpkin pie! Any alcohol? Well… maybe some Starbucks pumpkin latte would do? OK, we go to sleep.

Dutchday

OK, as you may know the Dutch are very focused on routines and order. So, I make a schedule for the day. 8:00- we get up. 8.30-9.00 – we eat breakfast. I feed the baby after that. 10.00-11.00 we go to the park. 12:00- we eat lunch, bread with cheese, ham and some tomato (in Dutch, they call it “broodje gezond, healthy bread, I am awesome!). We drink coffee, yes, the children as well, I just add milk to theirs. But wait, I am too late for shopping! What would the employees at my local Albert Heijn (that’s the biggest supermarket chain in the Netherlands) say if I show up too late for my shopping? OK, maybe it’s not that bad… what I’m 10 minutes too late? For shopping! Oh, no…I am so stressed at the supermarket that I buy a bottle of Jenever and some Heineken to help me with this. O, and some Belgian chocolate wouldn’t hurt either… or appelflaps and stroopwaffels, oh, and I totally forgot the apeltaart! I also smoke a joint. But wait, that’s not the time for eating sweets, not to mention the alcohol? Whatever, I eat them anyway. But then, I need to get right back on schedule. I nag the children to finish eating dinner so that they go to bed on time. This day reminds me why I hate schedules. We go to bed.

How good that it’s the weekend and I can go back to my usual parenting style, which is pretty much everything mixed up together. Of course, I didn’t do all the things described in this article (I do, however, have some homemade nalewka at home). And, in case you’re asking, I am not really making fun of other cultures. I am making fun of myself for having such a chaotic parenting method (meaning no method whatsoever). If you manage to parent like the French/Dutch/you name it and it works for you, more power to you. If you set out to do it and failed, don’t beat yourself up. You don’t need to follow one culture. You can make up your own parenting culture that fits your personality, personal beliefs and your children.