Archives for posts with tag: tips

Simple but flavorful meal tonight – lotus root cakes, garlic lemongrass salmon and eggplants over minced pork. Been trying forever to find ways to keep the hue of the eggplant. It seems every time when I stir fry or deep fry the eggplants, they turn out brown. With the less appealing color, I’ve tried many ways to work around it (adding salt to the water, adding oil, not covering lid, blanch it cold water, boiling water). This one is the best I did so far using this method: right after cutting it, I dumped it (2 at a time) in boiling pot of water, with white part facing up. I used the ladle to hold the eggplants all the way down until it’s soft enough. I don’t know if there’s a better way, but so far, this is the most color I’ve seen cooking the eggplants.



When your boys have too much energy and they have a few minutes before their next activity, you need to give them “work.”  All of a sudden the house is calmer and I have my sanity back to continue with dinner. img_5685

Yay! Today is the deadline for all the high schools Dai Bee is applying to. Sometimes this process is more demanding than applying for college. Anyhow, glad it’s over and now we’ll just sit back, relax and wait. It’s out of our control at this point. We should know by mid March.


Here are a few tips I can share:

  1. Start early – last year when Dai Bee was 7th, I’ve researched about schools through talking to parents, and/or read reviews online. By end of 7th, I have a short list 8-10 of schools I wanted to see. Because as soon as 8th grade starts, schools are ready to offer dates for tours, test dates, student interviews, parent meetings, etc. I need to jump on it right away.
  2. After touring the schools on my list with Dai Bee, we (he and I) discussed about each and every one and narrow down to 4-5. TIP: When I tour the schools, I took notes (recorded on my phone) for every school to remember what I liked/disliked about the school. This is helpful especially when I (parent) fill out one of the most common questions on the application – “why do you think our school is a good fit for your child?” 
  3. The application process, as you can see, entails more than just filling out an application. It requires parent and student applications, testing, collecting documents from school, etc. Luckily now, many independent private schools share the same hub, so the child doesn’t have to fill out the general questions however many times.
  4. Some of the applications have pages and pages. It can be an overload for the child, especially some require extensive writing. So we would take 30 mins every weekend to work on it, bits and pieces. That way,  it doesn’t seem too overwhelming to do everything at once. Again, start early, because he/she may need time to edit as he/she go.
  5. Schools won’t allow to set up student interviews if the parent application is not submitted/paid. So again, start early in order to save a seat for the interview (which in some schools is mandatory).
  6. Once he knows for sure the schools he wants to apply, I suggest send transcript request forms from your child’s schools and math/english teacher recommendation request forms. This gives the teachers and counselors ample time to complete. At Dai Bee’s school, it’s hard to get a recommendation letter from his school counselor since they don’t interact much. Hence, his school counselor gave him a questionnaire to tell her more about him. This may take time going back and forth. Again, start early.
  7. In parochial schools, the child takes the HSPT and for independent schools, he/she takes the SSAT. Dai Bee didn’t study for SSAT. I signed up a time slot and he just took the test (cold turkey). The child can take the SSAT as many times as the child wishes, just pay $127 each time. He/she might want to take it early fall, so he/she can retake if scores are not as satisfactory. However, it’s 4-hour test, so a bit draining if he/she has to take it too many times.
  8. The final step is the student interview (which should have set up by now). Basically the school wants to know the kid a bit more. It’s very casual meeting one on one with questions like how do you like the middle school, his/her interests, etc. The tip I got from the admissions director is have the child be him/herself.

Sundays are busy days for me with grocery shopping for the entire week for the entire family. IT’s also when I replenish the “snacks drawer.” Now the boys know exactly where to find “goodies.”


Boys have been coming home hungry, yes, they are growing. They have been digging through the pantry for snacks after camps. Instead of loading up the pantry with chips and cookies, today, I designated a snacks drawer in the refrigerator just for them. I filled it with fruits, baby carrots and cheese. Every week, I will replenish it with energy-boosting food to give them more healthier options.


I am still teaching Chinese, 4 nights a week, right after dinner. Yes, it’s tiring and sometimes I want to skip it. Then again, it has become a routine now that the boys (Ah Lo, mostly) asked what’s for Chinese? This is the drive to keep going because he initiates it. There are nights when we have more time, like tonight, where lessons are longer. I’ve even learned a great strategy to teach Dai Bee first. Often times he is ahead of schedule because he still remembers many Chinese characters. Lately after teaching him, I ask him to teach Ah Lo. This helps Dai Bee review his material and also to help Ah Lo learn from his peer. I do chime in when Dai Bee is too harsh on Ah Lo, which he can be sometimes.

Tonight I am teaching them the measurements.


This is my first cup of drink in the morning, every morning, on an empty stomach. While I prepare the kids lunches and breakfast, I slowly sip the hot cup of honey and lemon. Here are the top eight heath benefits of this drink:

  • Keeps constipation at bay
  • Hastens weight loss
  • Can improve functioning of the colon
  • Helps cleanse the lymphatic system
  • Can give your energy levels a boost and improve your mood
  • Aids in cleansing your urinary tract
  • Helps beat bad breath and improve oral health
  • Gives you clear skin and a natural glow

You can read more about it here.


When I share with parents my boys’ development, many are very impressed followed by remarks like “you are so lucky,” or questions like “how do you do that?” or even as hideous as “your kids are naturally bright, you don’t need to do anything.” Well, my friends, I am lucky, yes, I know. However, please don’t assume bright children have it made, and so do their parents. Just like any other parents, I still need to wear the parent’s hat 24/7. I devote a considerable amount of time and energy to keep them engaged, to support their learning, and to keep the communication channel open. I have to constantly look for ways to impact their growth and development, in or outside the home environment. I work relentlessly to find ways to help build confidence, through projects, sports or extracurriculars. Parents need to put in your hours for things to happen the way you want. It just doesn’t happen overnight.

I don’t have a manual or reference book to go by, but I do know a few things. I know both parents have to be on the same page, have to be consistent and support each other. I know that from early infancy, when parents provide consistent, loving care, it strengthens the relationship between my boys and I. I don’t have any special tricks up my sleeves or magic potions to feed if you are wondering, although there were times I wished I did. I know I have to do all of the above in order to raise happy kids. Because I truly believe what Michelle Obama said, “when your children feel loved, everything falls in the right place.”

Not only am I lucky to have bright boys, I am also lucky to have my parents to guide and mold me as a person as I am today – from my dad, who always led by example; from my mom, who through constant nagging have instill good values in my life overtime without me knowing.

Today the truth is told.

Yesterday my boys and I discussed about our family’s “budget.” I know that most parents wouldn’t want to burden their kids (especially at such young age) with financial issues.  I think it’s important to start teaching kids early about financial concepts, savings and budgeting. Hopefully this will put them on the road to financial independence early on and make good financial decisions in the future. With paychecks shrinking and prices rising, we laid out our monthly income and expenses.  To my surprise, Dai Bee took out a notepad and conducted a brief family meeting on how to cut down our expenses. Here’s what was on his list:

  • Instead of having cleaning lady twice a month, we’ll clean up ourselves. We’ll spend one hour a weekend to clean the entire house.
  • Eat out less, eat more at home (we’ve been doing this already).
  • Shorten time of showers
  • Ah Lo promises to end his swimming lessons sooner
  • On a cold day/night, wear more clothes instead of turning on the heater
  • Don’t buy any snacks, unless they’re on sale
  • Less driving, more walking and biking
  • No more shopping for clothes until they outgrow them
  • Stay healthy
  • Be careful with belongings so don’t have to buy new ones when they break
  • Don’t waste paper
  • Read more books instead watching TV
  • Practice more music, less electronics
  • Grow our own vegetables
  • Buy what we NEED and not what we WANT

At the end of the meeting, they realized not only are they saving money for the above, but they can help our world turn into an eco-friendlier place. I was surprised that they were engaged in the budgeting process and jumped right into finding solutions.

UPDATE: just this morning, I heard Dai Bee asked Ah Lo turning off the lights in an empty room while he was patrolling kitchen area.

“Today I am thankful for a slow day at work…”