Thursday, October 14, 2004

Bilingualism. Yeah Right.

Certain friends of mine in Japan have been bugging me about teaching my son and daughter Cantonese, which is one of the languages that I grew up with. Basically, this is how it breaks down. I was raised by my family to speak Cantonese, which is a Chinese dialect. My mother's family speaks it in Malaysia, and my father's family speaks it in Singapore. When I was starting Kindergarten, we often spoke Mandarin a lot as well, which is the main language in most Chinese culture. Then when I started St. Andrew's, my primary school, the main spoken language was English. Though most of the kids I started out with spoke Mandarin, eventually after all the teachers and instruction converted us to English. Mandarain was taken as a mandatory second language.

I was never formally taught Cantonese; it was just spoken around the house. I never got really great at it, because I always had to rehearse what to say to my grandparents during Chinese New Year. See, we would serve tea to our elders, and wish them a happy and prosperous New Year, and say something witty and wise to them. I always had to rehearse mine. We spoke Cantonese in the house, but I used English to fill in a lot of blanks because my mom could speak both.

So this is my argument about teaching my kids Cantonese. I would LOVE to, but it will probably not be very possible. I spoke to a co-worker at work, who speaks Italian and whose parents were immigrants. We discussed how she came to pick it up, the environment involved, and how her kids don't really speak the language, but do pick up a few words here and there.

The first setback, which is a crucial one, is that my wife doesn't speak Cantonese. Without another person to converse to, a child will have trouble picking the language up as easily because there is only one person who can speak the language, and that person would have to do some pretty weird conversational monologues by himself. I do that in English plenty, but I don't even think that I could come up with enough material in Cantonese to blabber about.

The second setback is that I don't speak Cantonese that well. Sure, it's holds up better than most people with their high school Spanish, but when your only practice is occasionally with your mother and what little Hong Kong films I watch, it's doesn't qualify as fluent whatsoever, and I probably would have problems conversing with someone who only spoke Cantonese.

My co-worker and I agreed that it was because she always had family around conversing in Italian that it wasn't hard to pick up. Her parents spoke Italian, so she was raised on it. Her kids however, hardly know the language - but they do pick up a few words here and there.

The obstacles of teaching my wife and children Cantonese is tough because I'm not that great of a speaker, and Asian languages are tough to master. Granted, if my children learn early enough, the linguistic pronounciations will come naturally, but even my own pronouciations are very stilted. I'm all for kids knowing different languages, but I'm sure that the language will likely die with me.

Interesting though, I remember reading somewhere that children who learn some Asian languages, Chinese in particular, are less likely to be tone-deaf because of all the different tones and pitches inherent in the language. I found this article that relates to that.

I thought that was pretty cool.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Wicked Games

People sometimes wonder about my wife and I, what she's doing with me, what with her being so beautiful and me looking like a tanner version of the Philsbury Doughboy. The fact of the matter is, we get along so famously because we're incredibly childish and we do extremely silly things that can induce vomitting by people with weaker constitutions. I decided to list some of the games a while ago, but since I've had babies up to my neck, I haven't had the chance to do so. But here it is...

You Know What?

One of the oldest games in our history. For unknown reasons, it became a game even though it started off innocently enough. I would say, "You know what? I love you." Then it became that when I said, "You know what?" and she asked, "What?" I would say "I love you" and I would win. So, the trick was not to say "What?" when that question was asked. We became so aware of the game that we had to resort to trickery and layering of conversations to catch the other saying, "What." I would pretend to be injured to throw her off guard, I would do it in the middle of a fight, and once when I got her to say "What?", she actually pushed me into traffic. This game is pretty much non-existent now, because we just avoid using that phrase. But once in a while, we still get each other.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Probably not the safest game in the world, but my wife and I would physically abuse each other when we're driving. I'm usually driving, so I would pinch/smack/grope/molest/tickle/harass my wife, and she would get back at me by doing the same. Since she's to my right, and she exacts her revenge on my right foot, which is also my gas/brake foot, sometimes we flirt with death by playing around. Fun!

If I Had a Million Dollars...

We found this Barenaked Ladies song long after its initial release, and just fell in love with its sweetness and simplicity. So, we would emulate by switching lyrics like this...

Me: If I had a million dollars...
Wife: If I had a million dollars...
Me: I would buy you a chicken...
Wife: A big fat juicy chicken, oh yeah...

Now the 3rd and 4th line are the fun lines, because we get to make up what we're going to buy each other. The receipient gets to glorify the gift some more by emphasizing the value or appearance of the gift like so...

Wife: I would buy you some crack...
Me: Some pure addictive snow-white co-caine!

Stuff like that. We would do this for far too long, and then not play it for a while.


This game was more fun when it was still on the air, but during the opening theme song, there would be clapping. The rules were similar to the "I love you" game, whereby we would have to get each other or the other would be a loser. We'd pretend to not notice, or run in from the other room, to slap each other on the thigh with the theme song.

"Well, no one told me it was going to be this way..."

Slap. Slap. Slap. Slap.


Mostly my wife's sick game. She used to say that I was in a coma and try to revive me with an imaginary noodle. Then it became a true game when I would purse my lips to receive a noodle. But if my lips were normal, I didn't want a noodle. So she had to feed me the noodle at the right time. Most times she was just poking my lips because she did it so quickly.

Killer Koala

Watching an America's Funniest Home Videos clip, there was a koala at the zoo who was at one point nonchalant, looking at the camera and being Koala-ish. Then the little Aussie would bare his teeth and claws, and leapt towards the camera. So I would pretend to be the koala, just sitting around, scratching my face, chewing some curd... and then I would growl and leap at her without warning. It's actually kinda fun, even though you know it's coming.

Ghost Hand

Sometimes I would pretend that my hand's separated from myself, and it would hover, limply, as if possessed by a ghost, and it would drift towards my wife's face. This freaks her out. I laugh my evil laugh. Sometimes I get my comeuppance when she smacks me upside the head.

There. Hope you kept your lunch down.

Relaxation... For Now.

The van's still broken, I still haven't heard from the other job, and our little girl's still crazy with colic, but we're generally doing a little better than before. Last night was so uncharacteristally easy that I actually squandered my freedom by not enjoying it because I kept waiting for the babies to act up. But Zoe pretty much napped through the evening and into the night, and Alex didn't even fuss when it was bedtime. It was surreal. It was so easy that I had to be suspicious. Kept looking out the window waiting for a comet to hit me. Maybe see a clown riding on that comet. Pointing right at me with an evil glint in his eye.

We tried Alex in his Halloween costume, and it was the cutest sight a parent could see! He was a little orange tiger who was walking around, being slightly aware of how adorable he was. Zoe hasn't tried her bunny outfit on yet,but it won't be long before you guys get to see it. Meanwhile, I've been wearing my fat outfit on for a while now. Can't seem to take the damn thing off...

We spent an hour or two today at the mall's playground, and it's fun to see him playing around the lunchbox playground. These are soft foam furniture in the theme of a giant lunchbox, and it's a fairly popular playground for the toddlers. I noticed some playground politics between the parents and the kids, and it's interesting to study the tolerance levels of parents. Some moms don't even bat an eye when her kid is antagonizing other kids, running them over and doing some light bullying. We noticed a mom showing some authority over her kid, but his time-outs were just a mere minute before he was back out there, pushing over other kids. Alex is still in a non-socializing mode, doing a lot of observation and smiling at other kids, but not really playing with them. It's cute when he's running around, smiling at other parents, and walking around shaking his head. It's his dizzy walk.

Alex is getting accustomed to rougher play - he's enjoying some light pillow swipes and our new game borders on being potentially dangerous. Basically, I toss the little boy on the couch, and he rolls off the couch into my pillow-padded arms. It's fun to watch him roll off the couch with a huge grin on his face, and of course, the underlying trust that I'm going to catch him is cool too.

Ahhh. Getting dizzy. Gotta go lay down now.

Monday, October 11, 2004

A smile!

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Worst Week Ever

I expect encouraging comments from friends and strangers telling me that it will get better, and it will get easier, and we do know all that - after all, we do have streaks of normality now and then, but after waiting and waiting for a chance to write something positive about this last week, I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and write something, even if it has been the worst week ever.

To explain my absence, it has simply been an overwhelming experience - one made up of schedules, routines, and a lot of sleeplessness. Basically, I work, I come home, I help with the babies until their bedtimes, and then I attempt to do something productive. That often fails because I'm usually too tired or too frustrated to squeeze any creativity from my shriveled brain. On the nights that my wife works, my nights are pretty much shot and done with after six. When I come home at 4:30, we're rushing to do the dishes, cook dinner, and make bottles before my wife has to work at six. On the nights she doesn't work, it isn't much different. Our nighttime routine is heavily loaded with chores because it's the only time we can really get them done - with another parent present to watch both babies. Otherwise, there's hell to pay. My wife watches the babies during the day more often than I do, but even from my own experience this weekend, it's difficult to get anything done. Any free time is spent on necessary things like eating and maybe a minor chore.

The job offer that I received has been unsportingly pulled out from under me - I've emailed and call the guy and he reckons that I don't even warrant a reply at all. On top of that, I've been feeling really depressed about my personal aspirations and self-fulfillment. Some people adapt really well to changes in the family, but I'm getting my ass kicked and my ego shattered by these two babies. I feel as if I'm stuck in a job that has nothing to do with my college degree, and that I'm working for a paycheck and nothing else. All my creative juices are backed up but I can't even release them onto blogs or scripts because I haven't had the time. On top of that, whatever time I do dedicate to the babies seems distressing, because we're certain that Zoe has colic and is terminally inconsolable, and Alex keeps getting new molars in, and he's screaming his head off.

And yes, my wife and I try to convince ourselves that this is just another tough phase, because infants are generally harder to deal with because of their delicate nature and high maintenance. But that doesn't mean that they're simply kicking our asses.

Take today, for instance. It was my turn to watch the babies, and I was fairly lucky because my wife come home for lunch and tended to Alex, therefore letting me sleep in a little. Then Alex got his fingers smashed when he was playing with the glass doors on the entertainment center, and he was scratched pretty deeply by Wilbur, both of which were tough for the little guy. He felt better, and my day with them was actually going quite well, even though Alex did get his fingers jammed in the same glass doors again before his nap. My wife came home at 2pm, and it was my first opportunity to get myself a shower, and dressed for normal life.

We went up to Walmart to get Halloween costumes for the babies, and was doing fairly well with the outfits. We scored two adorable outfits for under $22, from Alex's birthday money. We have been broke all week, and I even had to bounce my rent check. I'm still over 200 bucks short with my bank, but that should figure itself out next payday. Anyway, the babies started fussing, but we were leaving. We loaded up the van, and were ready to head home but the car didn't turn. My foot on the gas pedal seemed to do the trick - it was enough to get the van to travel in despite the unsteady shuddering by the engine.

Unfortunately, it wasn't long before we noticed that we were leaving plumes of smoke behind us on the road. We suspect it's the muffler, but we're not sure. Luckily, the van made it back to the house, after stalling at every red light and having to repeat the gas pedal trick every single time. But the van's done for now - we can't afford to get it fixed, so we're reviving use of the Kia for now. It was cleaned up and ready for sale, but we can't function with just one car.

So we're reinstalling the car seats in the Kia, and I brought the kiddies back into the house, hoping that they would just chill. Well, JL accidently closes the bathroom door on Alex's fingers without looking, and it just snowballed again. He was crying for his poor digits, and we decided to take a walk in order to relax. Halfway through the walk, he starts fussing big time and kept wriggling out of my arms, getting annoyed and throwing a tantrum. Getting home wasn't any more fun, he just kept crying some more. We finally guessed that it was his molars, because of his tugging on his ears. His teeth was hurting him so much that it sorta make him choke during dinner, whereby I had to panic and take him out of the chair and unchoke him. I decided to finish my dinner before cleaning up his upchuck.

Alex did calm down eventually thankfully, and he had fun playing with my wife. I was pretty much gone by then. I retreated to that special place called Numbness, and Alex could do backflips and I could care less. And to top it off, it's 11:43pm now, and Zoe is still refusing to be put down. We've coaxed her asleep thrice now, and everything you set her down, she's crying. So we're letting her cry it out downstairs (so that Alex would be disturbed in his room, and we can get some sleep). We'll get her in half an hour of so and see if she settles down.

And the final downer, I just found out that Christopher Reeve died early today. I mean, it's not like he was my favorite actor or anything, but I shared the same birthday with him and I always thought that was pretty cool. And he seemed like a genuinely nice fellow.