Ravi’s Favorite Books

My sister reads books to her daughters from the time they were born. In her household, reading is a ritual and a family event. Every night before bedtime, she, her husband, and the girls gather by the bedside to read together. Now that the girls are older (seven and ten respectively), they each get to pick a book, then take terms to read out loud to everyone. When me and Mario go visit, they always request we join in and read to them our favorite books from their collection. Such happiness I will never forget.

Mario and I didn’t start reading to Ravi till he was 1 year old.  Before that time, Ravi simply couldn’t focus long enough to get through a page or two before getting distracted by something else. What a different a few months make! Now that he is sixteen months old, he actually “request” us to read to him by bring us books and then sit on our laps to get ready. Sometimes he would want to read the same book a dozen times in a row, sometimes he would hand you a different book before the story ends. He would also try to “help” by flipping the pages, sometimes even before we finish! Mario and I must have read his favorite books to him like hundreds of times by now, and we always wonder how much longer it would take us to memorize them.

Ravi's Favorite Books, including Dr. Seuss and Goodnight Moon

Even though Ravi has many other books, his absolute favorites are still these cardboard books which we keep right by his bedside, because mommy and daddy love these books too and will never be tired of reading them to him.

:na;”>Even though Ravi has many other books, his absolute favorites are still these cardboard books which we keep right by his bedside, because mommy and daddy love these books too and will never be tired of reading them to him.

Outdoor adventures for indoor couple…

I tend to be a very introverted and indoorsy type of person. I used to spend tons of time playing on the computer, gaming (role-playing, board gaming, miniature gaming, etc…), and watching TV. Those were the standard hobbies before we had a kid. Not anymore!! Our little Ravi has tons of energy and wants to walk and hopefully soon run everywhere. In our little apartment mom and I might be in the living room, while he’s walked off to his room, or we’ll come to his room only to see him with his blankie (blanket) walking into the living room. Ravi is always on the move and has a lot of energy to burn. While daycare is awesome for this (a bunch of kids running around all over the place), it kind of sucks for him when we’re hanging out as a family. As a family we need to find outdoor areas for him to explore, and we need to vary them as he has shown he can be bored easily.

To tackle the issue and hopefully get back to a couple activity that Flo and I loved before Ravi we’ve decided to take him walking. We like wide open areas that are grassy, but he’s been showing a true penchant for concrete walkways. I think he still can’t handle inclines and declines well and the flat ground has been what he prefers. My wife told about an episode at their parents where he spent a half hour walking up and down a speed bump multiple times in their apartment parking lot.We used to take him to UCLA and allow him to walk around the sculpture garden on north campus. He really seemed to like it the first couple of times, but then started to grow bored of the same paths and wouldn’t move too far from our starting point. I knew we had to come up with an alternative solution fast. Last weekend we tried two alternate venues- Toys R Us and Temescal Canyon Park. Ravi loved Toys R Us. He found a ball and tried throwing it around, tried saying hi to people that he saw, and tried to run away from his tether. At times he seemed more interested in leaving the store, then in going down the aisles. I think he still prefers open areas as opposed to cramped narrow passageways. It took him finding a ball to get him to move into the store. After that it was big balls, small balls, glittery balls, footballs, etc… Tons of choices.

Temescal Canyon wasn’t as great a hit. He didn’t like the rough nature of the walk and wanted to walk off the trail on multiple occasions. Ravi also doesn’t seem to have a fear of heights. At one point we were on the trail about 15 feet above a lower level that he saw people at and he just started to head on over to say hi to them, almost right off the edge. Granted, it wasn’t a cliff edge or anything, but it was pretty steep and he probably would’ve lost his balance and fallen down the edge to the lower level. We’ll have to keep an eye out for that. Since he’s just started to learn to walk, he doesn’t have a lot of impetus to walk long distances. I think the whole hour we spent there he walked approximately 100ft down the trail. I am hoping that he will take to hiking as Mom and I used to do that all the time before Ravi. Hopefully that favorite couple activity will soon become a favorite family activity.

I’ll keep you posted on how successful we’re at that!

Mario

Egg Tomato Noodle Soup

One thing I wanted to focus on this year is to cook tastier and healthier meals for Ravi.  I believe it is important to introduce him to new flavors and spices, and my approach is to adapt adult recipes for toddlers.

A new recipe I am cooking today is called Egg Tomato Noodle Soup, and it has been my family’s favorite comfort food for ages.  I have cooked it before dozens of times for myself and Mario, but this is the first time for Ravi.

Egg Tomato Noodle Soup

Ingredients:

1  egg

1  small tomato

16 fl oz  chicken broth

2 oz bundle of dry noodle

very small amount of salt, ground pepper, and olive oil

Key Ingredients to Egg Tomato Noodle Soup

Direction:

Boil 4 cups of water in a small pot.  When the water boils, cook the noodle in the pot for about 4 minutes.  Remove from water and chop to short pieces after it cools.  Here I used dry buckwheat noodle, which has a dark grey/brown color.

Beat the egg, and then stir-fry with a little bit of oil.  Finely chop after it cools.

Blanch the tomato and remove skin and seeds.  Finely chop.  Stir-fry the tomato in a pan with little bit of olive oil for about 1 minute .

Add chicken broth, egg, noodle to the pan with tomato.  Let it cook till the noodle is very soft.  I like my noodle a bit dry, you can certainly add more soup if desired.

Add salt and pepper if needed.  Spoon out the noodle soup and serve.

Egg Tomato Noodle Soup, recipe converted for toddlers

For some reason the combination of egg, tomato, and chicken broth is just irresistable.  My little taster, Ravi, ate half of the noodle soup in one sitting and I am glad there is still enough left for tomorrow.

The tomato is highly nutritious, containing large amounts of vitamin C and lycopene which acts as an antioxidant.  Eggs are also nutritious, and it is recommended that toddlers eat 3 egg yolks a week. This recipe can also be prepared for adults, just skip the fine chopping and go straight to tasting.

I hope you all enjoy this dish as much as our family does.

-Flo.

Weekend Adventures

We’ve had a very special weekend full of wonderful adventures.  The most special thing about it was Mario spent it with us.  For those of you don’t know, Mario has been joggling work, fatherhood, and school like mad for over a year now, which means a weekend together as a family is very precious and rare.

So we woke up on Saturday and daddy says: “Let’s go get dim sum!”  So off we went to New Capital in Monterrey Park.  This place is gigantic and normally packed with people waiting to get in.  Since we got there at 10:30AM, we waited only 10 minutes.

I got my chopstick and tea cup… where is my favorite cart?

Waiting for my favorite dim sum cart to arrive

Afterwards we rode the escalator for about ten times, splashed water in the water fountain, got some tasty pastries and headed home for a nap!

I love ridding the escalator with my daddy!

In the afternoon we went to where the a kid can be a kid — Toys R Us!  We checked out the battleships, tri-cycles, super hero weapons (for daddy)… So much fun!  We wanted to take the whole store home, but the car isn’t big enough so we bought Ravi a straw cup instead.

Back pack, checked!  Binky, checked!  Daddy, checked!  I am ready to go in.

Toys R Us trip with mom and dad

Sunday we took Ravi to Temescal Canyon for his first hiking trip ever.  To be honest, he did better than I expected.  I even brought the baby carrier along thinking that’ll be the only way to get Ravi out of the car, but we did enjoy playing with another toddler of his age, hiking for about ten feet into a trail, and playing on the grass.  It was so much fun we decided to go back.

Hiking with daddy and sharing lots of laughs!

Ravi's first hiking trip to Temescal Gateway Park

Father and son resting before heading home

What a wonderful weekend we had!  I think I will remember it for a long time.  With Ravi becoming older and more capable each day, we will push our limits and attempt new activities.  I am so proud that as parents, we battled our nerdy tendencies and push ourselves to go outside and showed Ravi what a different world it is outside our doors.

-Flo.

Street smarts vs. Book smarts

It is quite easy to quantify whether kids are developing academically. We have constant tests, there’s grades every semester, and homework to practice with. Developing “book smarts” or the ability to excel academically is easily measurable. Yet, time and again, many professionals can point to high school graduates/college graduates/Ph.D.s etc that, while very capable intellectually, have no ability whatsoever in determining when someone’s trying to trick them or take advantage of them. “Street smarts” or the ability to survive intellectually on the streets isn’t taught in classrooms. The ability to understand subtle nuances in voice, body language, and expressions, to determine informal power structures, and to network with clients, customers, and other professionals are all valuable skills. Street smart skills are sometimes as or more valuable than actual book smart skills.

I should know. I spent the better part of 20 years developing strong book smart skills while completely ignoring the soft skills necessary in life. My parents would refer to me as “Johnnie head in the air” and wonder on a regular basis what the heck was I thinking? My relational abilities were so weak, that I got taken advantage of on a regular basis. My parents packed me lunches instead of giving me money, because I would get conned out of it and end up with no lunch for the day. (In my defense, I think they exaggerate about the whole situation. I don’t think I was ever swindled more than once or twice…) Even when I started my first ever job I had some smart people saying that I should be getting $30 an hour but when the company offered $20 an hour I ended up dumbly accepting it. I didn’t do an ounce of negotiating nor a single counter offer. I got low-balled and accepted it. I know how much I ended up getting swindled when after a year the company was willing to offer me a 10% raise with very little resistance. Heck, I didn’t even create that big of an issue over the raise. That was when I realized, that I had gotten swindled and had basically left $10 an hour on the table. With a little bit of negotiation and “street smarts,” I could have saved myself nearly 10 years of raises and actually had that pay at the start of the job, not when I became an old man.

Towards that end, I really want to make sure that Ravi develops both types of abilities. I may not be capable enough in the “street smarts” category, but if I start early I can steer him towards activities that might actually give him a better chance to develop those skills. I’ve outlined what I think are necessary hard/book skills and soft/street skills any young child should be working on and developing to help them grow into a competent adult.

Hard/book skills:

Math (Algebra/Trigonometry/Calculus/Probability and Statistics)

Reading Comprehension/Qualitative Assessment

Writing (focused 3 page essays and excellent grammar)

Soft/Street skills:

Basic Financial Management Analysis (NPV, Annuity, Perpetuity, etc.)

Basic Economic Analysis (Supply vs. Demand, Profit)

Basic Accounting Skills (Debit/Credit, Checkbook Balancing, etc.)

Negotiating and Public Speaking Ability

Relational and Social Psychology

Leadership/Team Building skills

You’ll notice that there are more soft skills than there are hard skills. The hard skills are there to develop competency in multiple interfacing formats so that Ravi doesn’t have issues with context and can instead focus on substance. You’ll also might notice that in what I laid out in the soft skills section, there seems to be a bit of math or hard skills included. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that way. The first three skills don’t involve much more than basic algebra and are necessary to be a good judge of options. (Quick Question: would you take $5 million today renegotiate the contract in a year, or a fixed $22 million for four years? Answer: The $5 million). In fact, the first three skills are so basic that they used to be taught to high schoolers regularly. They would form part of a home econ class. Today, you might have to wait till college (or adult community college) to pick these skills up. The last three skills represent the crux of what people today consider soft skills- can I get along and lead others, can I maneuver within and into/out of an existing power structure, and can I figure out when someone is trying to cheat me?

These last three skills have very few academic opportunities to be trained in. One has to find alternate and informal methods of developing and acquiring these skills. I’m not positive yet what activities will lend to the development of them, but I will assess the value in engaging in extracurricular activities within this initial context. If the activity helps develop any of these skills, they’re probably a good choice. If not, it means I’ll need to find a better hobby for Ravi.

Mario.

Forever Young

I don’t celebrate birthdays, not openly anyway.  This is because in my wacky book of wisdom, there’s a page where it says that if a birthday is not celebrated then it is never passed.  So loyally following my book of wisdom, I guard my birthday as a secret and never told a soul.

Despite my secrecy, I still received emails, cards, and gifts from friends and family.  Here I would like to thank them all for their kindness.. I love them and keep them coming please.  This year I received a special gift very close to my heart….

Self Portrait by Velocity H P, 10 Years Old

Self Portrait by Velocity H P, 10 Years Old

Self Portrait by Joule L P, 7 Years Old

Self Portrait by Joule L P, 7 Years Old

Thank you both so much!  I love your art, I love you and miss you very much.

Love,

eFlo.

Are family in plush relief…

I recently had to come up with a birthday gift for my wife. I’m usually very bad at this kind of activity as I don’t pay nearly enough attention to gifts and gift giving. I found myself two days before her birthday with no real clue what to give her. On the spur of the moment, I decided to check out the Disney store to see if I could come up with any ideas. Flo is born in the year of the tiger and has always had a tiger doll around the place. I myself am a bit overweight and tend to find an affinity with Winnie. “Oh Bother” should be my favorite phrase and while I don’t find myself unnaturally attracted to honey, I am always interested in food. Lastly, I found that you could get Roo plush dolls also. That works great for Ravi. Right now he’s just learning to walk and loves to try walking faster. As a one year old his energy is off the roof. The three plush dolls pretty accurately represent our family so far.

Mario.

Winnie the Pooh, Roo, and Tiger -- what a happy family!

Climber

My parents keep telling me that I was a hyper-active child.  It was like I had nails in my butt so that any act of sitting will drive the nails further in thus cause excruciating pain. This comment is pretty much right on the money from what I recall of my childhood.  I remember I roamed around campus (my parents were teachers so we always lived in large campuses which were the safest places back in the days) every summer looking for something fun to play with, either capturing birds, tadpoles, attempting to fly kites, climb trees… I was always on the look out for something fun to do.  I got into trouble a lot, always had scraped knees and bruised body parts.  But everyday was an adventure, and I had SSSSOOOO much fun!

You ask: what’s the relevance to today’s post?  The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, you see.  As I seperated my attention from Ravi for two minutes to write a note, this is what happened.

Ravi the Climber on top of mommy's desk

While I wasn’t aware, he climbed onto a chair, then onto the table where I was writing the note.  He then took my pen and note pad and insisted on writing himself!  I had to hand over my stuff or else he would cry and I didn’t want to deal with that late in the day.  Later on he let himself down onto the chair again and back onto the floor, with my supervison this time.

Yes, he’s a climber.  A good one.  I did rock climbing for couple of years, I think we can take lessons together someday when he’s old enough.  It would be so much fun just like the old days.

-Flo.

Fake Cry!

I found a picture to accompany Mario’s “The terrible twos!!” post.  Here’s Ravi fake crying, with such conviction!  I know this because about ten seconds later, he accepted a piece of chocolate from me and forgot about his cry like it never happened.  You can also see he drooled EVERYWHERE.  You would think he’s teething, but I haven’t seen a tooth in months.  Seven teeth at 16 months?! Come on baby, grow some teeth!

-Flo.

Ravi's Fak Cry

The terrible twos!!

“The hallmark of the terrible twos is oppositional behavior.”

Last year I joined toastmasters at work to help with my public speaking. We meet at lunch every Wednesday and get opportunities to practice speaking. The speeches are typically 5-7 minutes and are designed to help members build competency in a variety of speaking skills. The current speech topic I was supposed to do was entitled “Your Body Speaks” which was a very tough subject. I’m not usually into doing funny slapstick comedy or pantomimes or whatnot… I mean, c’mon, I’m an engineer. When has the need for expressive visual body art ever been in the job description? Heck, I don’t even have a tattoo. Heck I’ve never really been a fan of public speaking or any other bard-like activity. I have a friend named Chris that used to do that for my group. Heck I’ve actually invited him to party of people where he didn’t know anyone, while I knew a handful, and, by the end of the night, he was one of the most popular people there. Chris strode right in started talking to people, making drinks, and within 30 minutes was the life of the party.

I, instead, go to toastmasters to learn how to overcome my fear of speaking in front of a crowd. On top of that, they want me to do funny gestures or whatnot.

By now you probably realize that I found coming up with an idea for this speech a struggle. It was so much of a struggle that I skipped it and decided to do a later more advanced speech. While that speech was good, the rest of the club asked me why I skipped this one. I had to remind them, nicely of course, um… engineer, hello, two left feet, pot belly, and no sense of balance. I’m not really built for this type of thing. Luckily for me, the club draws from a variety of disciplines within the company that are outside of engineering that are more creative. I got great ideas, but the one that spoke to my heart was to do my speech about something dear to my heart that allows for creative body gestures.

“Do a speech about your son!”

“What types of quirky little body things does he do? Make a speech about that.”

This was a great idea and got me to writing out a speech about my son’s current temper tantrums and attitudes (his tantrums are much more fun to speak about than when he’s on his good behavior). So, without further ado, I’ve titled my next speech “The terrible twos!”

I’ll get into the specifics in my next post. In general though, it’s all about how Ravi ignores his parents and flaunts his wailing superiority at the drop of a hat. I’m sure it will be a riot with the audience.

Mario.