Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 103 - Lush Green

Thought of the day: When I was walking in the neighborhood today, I was mentally transported to Hawaii for a while.  It was lush, green and refreshing after yesterday's rain; there were lights, shadows, and colors everywhere; birds were singing happily and their songs echoed in the trees.  It was like walking in a tropical forest.  I was glad to have my camera with me to record this magical moment.

Photo of the day:

A leaf in the sea of lush green.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 102 - Purple Magnolia

Thought of the day: My dad transformed the yard while I was away.  Instead of a messy yard with abandoned planting boxes scattered here and there, it's now neat and clean with lots of blooming flowers.  As I heard from the neighbors, the previous owner had green thumbs as well, but she got too old to take care of her yard.  There were unfinished projects here and there.  My dad took it over and pretty much made it into his full time job.  There is no real winter in the bay area, neither is there a summer or a fall.  It's pretty much spring all year long!  Perfect for a gardener.

Photo of the day:
It rained for much of the day.  I took some photos of the flowers in the yard after the rain finally stopped.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 101 - Su Hong

Thought of the day: It's a beautiful day in the bay area.  This morning I biked with my dad through parts of Palo Alto, Los Altos and Mountain View.  The income disparity in the bay area was clearly visible on our route - we didn't even need to leave the peninsula to see that.  As we biked on, the neighborhoods with nice houses and well manicured lawns slowly morphed into neighborhoods with tiny houses and even tinier yards and sometimes the yards were so cluttered with stuff that they looked more like roof-less, wall-less living rooms than some leisurely outdoor space.  And then along the University Avenue, there's the infamous 101 divide between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto,  and crossing the freeway would take you from a neighborhood with picturesque homes on large lots into a neighborhood that's bleak and dangerous.  I heard that it was even more extreme in Oakland, where an urban ghetto and a neighborhood with multimillion dollar mansions were just a few blocks away from each other. The sad reality is that there are still so many really bad areas in the US, tough places to live in and even tougher places to grow up in.  As my direct relatives and close friends are all living in the better places now, it's easy to ignore or forget that reality and pretend that bad places are things for the movies instead of where real people live.

Photo of the day:
Lila sat next to a fire cracker decoration in Su Hong Chinese Restaurant.  I must admit that I have not been able to find a restaurant in Colorado offering Chinese food nearly as tasty and authentic as some of those in the bay area.  The food alone, in addition to spending time with my parents, is worth a trip to the bay area!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 100 - Sunset Flight

Thought of the day: It's the 100th day of my blog. Time really flies! And today I flew to California to spend a week with my parents in Palo Alto.  We are going to celebrate the Chinese New Year here and hopefully do a bunch of other things in the meantime.

Photo of the day:
The airplane was chasing the last ray of sun.  Afterwards, a sunset lit sky accompanied us for much of the way from Denver to San Francisco.

Week 14 - BVSD Food Project

Boulder Valley School District has been working on its healthy food project for a while now.  Unfortunately, Jasmine has been complaining about the small food portion.  She couldn't supplement that with milk and soy as she was sensitive to both.  She felt that she didn't get enough to eat from school lunch.  So she is only getting it once a week now and bringing her lunch from home for the rest.  For that reason, I was reluctant to support the school food project.  However, I still think it's a great idea to rid the school cafeteria off processed food and bring only healthy, cooked from scratch meal to the kids.  So I've decided to support the project after all.  Maybe we'll eventually figure out a way for Jasmine to get enough to eat at school.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 99 - Calico Critter

Thought of the day:  Egypt has apparently cut itself off the Internet today.  In this information age, having access to internet is like having access to water, air, you name it, and to be suddenly cut off completely must feel eerie, and even scary, for the people inside the country.  It's such a drastic move by the government as it must have a negative impact, in both short and long term, on its economy as well.  A number of governments have the power and even authority to essentially pull the plug.  But there is a big difference between using the power to block the flowing of information during a politically sensitive time and using the power to protect critical national interests during a global cyberattack. Well, what's happening in Egypt is shocking, and I hope this will never ever happen in this country.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine showing me her favorite critters at bedtime.  I am glad that she is enjoying her "low-tech" toys.  They are tangible and completely reliable!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 98 - Lila

Thought of the day: I have just watched Obama's State of the Union Speech that he made last night.  It was a good speech and reminded me of the inaugurational speech he made two years ago, but with more specifics and incorporated the hard realities of the past two years.  There's no point in denying that I had been a big fan of President Obama two years ago and I am still a big fan today.  Besides the numerous speeches I watched on youtube, I also had the opportunity to see him twice in person. I saw him the first time in his democratic party nomination event in Denver's Invesco Field with 84,000 others.  I was so far away from the center stage that I could barely see his face.  It was a very exciting evening nevertheless.  The second time was in a much smaller event in Denver last year, where I shook his hands (he is impressively tall!) and watched and photographed his speech.  Many people were disappointed by his administration.  I can see why as I am also disappointed that things are not better than it is today, but on the other hand, things are actually going remarkably well considering the perilous situation the country was in when he was inaugurated.  The Great Recession was not of his making, but he and his administration helped steer us out of it.  A lot had been achieved in the past two years in many areas of governing and legistration, much more than many people would give him credit for.  And I like his visions in the clean energy future.  A lot needs to be done including finding the source of funding for new research and infrastructure projects but it's utterly important that someone lays out a vision on the national stage and we know that he really means it and is trying his best to achieve it.  I, for one, would be more than willing to help by paying higher taxes - including higher gasoline taxes to reflect the true cost of fossil fuel (other countries have been doing it all along, why can't we?) - as long as I know that they are going to a good cause.  It's our responsibility to make sacrifices, or shall we say, investments, towards a better future for our children and our planet.

Photo of the day:
Lila.  She was lucky to be born in the US - the greatest nation on earth which has inspired so many other nations and hopefully will continue to inspire in the years to come.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 97 - Hands

Thought of the day:  The homeopathic doctor we took Lila to see today was impressed by how well she was holding up despite her high fever.  She was clearly very weak and tired but she remained calm most of the time and played whenever she gained some strength.  It's more difficult for myself to stay calm with two sickly kids.  Toddlers are a perfect example of living in the moment. They feel, think and act in the moment and for the moment.  Grownups carry way too much baggage - baggage of memories, baggage of duties, baggage of sometimes overreaching imaginations - to do the same.  But to live freely in the moment is what would free us from unwarranted fear and anxiety like what I felt today.

Photo of the day:
Lila lying on the floor and playing with her hands.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 96 - Boots

Thought of the day:  Both girls were sick so we spent a mellow day at home.  It was nice that we didn't have to go anywhere for the entire day.  We did venture out in the afternoon for the girls to play in the snow for a little while.  Other than that, we enjoyed a quiet day at home and the girls were happy despite their physical discomfort.  I feel so lucky to have two sweet girls who are so easy to cheer up.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine playing in the backyard.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 95 - Red and Blue

Thought of the day:  It looks like the Superior Chinese Mom controversy just won't go away.  After two weeks, you still read or hear about it pretty much every day.  That really makes you wonder why.  I think the book plays into people's insecurities and fears.  Insecurity - the book raises or reinforces your doubts in your own parenting.  We all want the best for our children, but children don't come with a how-to manual or guidebook and different experts tend to say different things, so we all struggle to find the right way to raise our kids.  We are afraid that we may be either too strict or too lenient, too vigilant or too inattentive.  We are most afraid that we may not get them to develop into their full potentials.  And there's also fear - as China is a growing economy that competes with the US, a book pitching Chinese style parenting to be superior to Western or American style parenting can strike a nerve or two in people, especially at a time when the American education system is considered lacking by some parents.  The style of parenting advocated by the Superior Chinese Mom is certainly more prevalent in China than in the US.  But in my university in China, some kids lost their bearing after they left home, and the most disoriented ones even took their own lifes when they realized that they were no longer at the top of their class.  And anybody who is exposed to the current Chinese society through personal experiences or current literature could see that there's a downward spiral of moral in the society.  The moral level seems to go in the opposite direction of the economic development.  It's very sad that a culture with such a long and rich history can go so low so fast.  Let's hope that it's all temporary and that it's just an inevitable cost of fast paced economic development.  But if the focus of parenting is on producing an adult who is academically or artistically or athletically superior and is capable of winning degrees, awards and medals, instead of an adult with sound moral principles and is capable of being good and just, something is amiss and the society will bear the consequences.

Photo of the day:
Lila wrapped in her two favorite towels after a bath.  She is blissfully unaware of all the talks and worries of the silly grownups on how to properly raise kids like her!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 94 - Poetry Bookstore

Thought of the day:  I spent an afternoon in the new Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Cafe with Jasmine.  The bookstore is located in University Hill and owned by two poets.  It's small but apparently it's only the third bookstore in the country that sells exclusively poetry books.  It has a good collection of children's poetry books and Jasmine was excited to buy one that she really liked.  We went through a whole pile of books.  One book that really stuck in my mind was The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  We read the book and were both very touched.  Jasmine was particularly sad because of the sacrifices the tree made for the boy.  I was touched by the beautiful and poignant relationship between the tree and the little boy.  Is the boy selfish?  I don't think so.  At least he is not any more selfish than a normal human being with a life to live.  Is the tree too eager and forgiving?  Perhaps, but "people" like that do exist.  I personally know a few and feel blessed to be included in their lives.  These people are blessed too because they live useful and happy lives by making others - especially the ones they love - happy, just like the tree in the book.  At the end, the boy did come back to rest on the tree and both their lives were happy and complete.  The story also reminded me of the relationship between the human and the earth.  One difference is that the humans just take things from the earth without even asking.  The other big difference is that we actually live on the earth and by depriving the earth we are depriving ourselves too.  This book can definitely make you pause and think a bit.  It's amazing how much depth can be contained in so little a book.

Photo of the day:
View from the window of Innisfree Bookstore and Cafe.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 93 - Colors

Thought of the day: We spent a fun morning in Lafayette's WOW Children's Museum.  It's small so not too overwhelming for the little ones (and their parents).  What a fun place to be in a chilly winter morning!  It has giant bubbles, model railroads with moving trains, wind room, mini construction site, pirate ship, and many educational toys and games.  It's amazing how many fun, creative things can fit into such a small space.  The only thing that's missing is a coffee and snack station next to the eating area, or am I getting too greedy now?

Photo of the day:
Lila running down the pirate ship in WOW Children's Museum.  (Cell phone photo)

Week 13 - WOW Museum

I am very impressed by the WOW Museum at Lafayette.  It provides a unique enrichment opportunity for the kids.  The museum is navigable even by the little ones and well contained so parents can feel less stressed about the safety and whereabouts of their kids.  I am getting in touch with the museum to see if there are specific things we can support them for.

Update: We are getting some qualified families free access to the museum through the museum's Scholarship Fund.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 92 - Changed Landscape

Thought of the day: It was a big surprise to hear that Eric Schmidt stepped down as the Google CEO today.  For the past ten years, the triumvirate of Eric, Larry and Sergey had been inseparable from the image of Google.  It's hard to imagine how it will be like with Eric stepped to the side.  It's a surprising move for sure.  And it seems to disrupt the perfect balance of maturity and vision - the yin and yang of a large technology company.  But maybe that's the idea.  Google thrives on surprises and unpredictability.  Maybe this is exactly what it takes for the company to stay on the edge and become a visionary again.

Photo of the day:

Changed landscape after snow.  I took this picture of our front path in a freezing temperature.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 91 - Walking Panel

Thought of the day: I went to a Flip the Switch event today in a local school where we celebrated the installation of solar panels and a monitoring system in the school.  Two enthusiastic volunteers from the school, including a teacher and a parent, put together a proposal and won a grant from CRC (Center for Resource Conservation) ReNew Our School Program to make this happen. Some kids and teachers wore costumes for this event.  It felt like a Halloween all over again.  But instead of dressing up for candies, these kids dressed up for a good cause.  It's more meaningful, and no less fun.  The sun shined on their happy faces all morning.

Photo of the day:
A boy dressed up as a walking solar panel.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 90 - Waiting Dog

Thought of the day:  Today I spent some time in the Whole Foods store on Pearl.  It just finished an expansion in December and now it occupies a whooping 66,000 square foot space.  It felt a lot more spacious inside now and you could actually walk down an aisle without constantly bumping into people.  I still heard "excuse me" a lot as it was still very busy.  There was a much larger selection of prepared food and a huge seating area to eat.  People just hung out there to chat, drink coffee or use the free wifi.  It was completely packed - so typical of Boulder in the middle of a work day - with an interesting mix of students, hippies, mothers with small children, and the lucky folks who have the freedom to work in a cafe.  Unfortunately, other than the expansion of prepared food section, the grocery and food selection had not improved much.  And of course, it was still crazy expensive.  We did most of our shopping in a regular grocery store and only shopped here for items we couldn't find there.  And I ended up spending more here than in the other store!  This seems wrong.  Healthy food should not and need not be so much more expensive than regular food, as demonstrated by other natural grocers like Vitamin Cottage and our local Sunflower Market.  Whole Foods brought a bad reputation to healthy food by making them so unaffordable.  It got away by offering a larger selection than other stores and by doing things that no other stores could possibly afford like this huge expansion.  It could also afford to donate large amounts to charities.  With good publicity and a lot of feel good signs all over the store, it was successful in creating a positive image and a cult-like following.  But in the end, healthy food should be affordable to everyone and Whole Foods is certainly not making this happen.  By shopping here, I am encouraging their irresponsible behavior.  This huge expansion served as a reminder to me that perhaps I should shop somewhere else.

Photo of the day:
A dog waiting for its owner in front of Whole Foods on Pearl St.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 89 - Oriental Lily

Thought of the day: It's a beautiful day but I almost had it ruined by a misunderstanding in a Sushi restaurant.  Yes, in a Sushi restaurant, of all places.  "almost" is the keyword here - my day was definitely not ruined and I even learned a few lessons out of this experience.  First of all, don't eat out when you are hungry and tired.  That's not going to lead to a fun experience.  Secondly, don't get emotional in an argument.  When you do, walk away and continue the discussion in a different setting or medium when you are calmer.  Thirdly, and most importantly, always assume first that others have only the best intentions.  This can be hard to do because it's often impossible to know what others are really thinking, and instinctively we want to assume that they have bad intentions so we can sufficiently protect our own interests.  If our instinct had not worked this way to protect us, the human race would not have survived until today.  However, if my past experience tells anything, people around us often do have good intentions or at least they are trying their best.  The self protection instinct can be harmful in our day to day interactions with people. It may take some mental power and practices to override our instinct, but with more trust in others, we can live our lives with less anxieties and more happiness.

Photo of the day:

It's easy to capture the beauty of a flower.  It's harder to capture that in people.  But it's there, all we need to do is to try harder.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 88 - Watching Basketball

Thought of the day: Last week was Lila's first full week (3 days a week) in preschool and it was also the first time for her to move out of the crib and sleep on a real bed.  Much to our relief, she handled both transitions pretty well - no cries in preschool, no climbing or falling out of the bed in the middle of the night - at least not yet.  Maybe it's just my perception, but she seems to be playing more independently and expressing herself more verbally than in the past.  One thing is for sure - she is able to play with Jasmine like never before.  Perhaps the change of routine stimulated her brain development and sped up some changes that were bound to happen sooner or later.  Traveling seems to have similar effects on my kids.  Jasmine took her first steps when we were in Switzerland.  Lila learned to sit up when we were visiting Hawaii. Changes can be stimulating and kick one out of the usual routine and accomplish something new.  I am also wondering if changes can have the opposite effect of slowing down the development of little kids as well.  Maybe the outcome has to do with the temperament of each child and how well s/he reacts to external changes.  Perhaps I should get a book on child psychology/development and read about studies done on this subject - there must be plenty as it's an interesting topic for anyone who has ever raised or observed a child.

Photo of the day:
Lila watching kids playing basketball in North Boulder Rec Center.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 87 - Dress Up

Thought of the day: Jasmine and Lila played happily together for a long time today. They ran giddily about in the house and played skiing, eating out, going on vacation, sleeping over, dressing up, among other things.  Jasmine mostly led the games but Lila said "I have an idea!" a lot and contributed to the games too.  We couldn't be happier.  In the past, one of them would inevitably scream for help after they were together on their own for more than a few minutes. Jasmine liked to do her own things but Lila always wanted to play with her, sometimes trying to grab her big sister's attention in a rough toddler way, so Jasmine was usually the one screaming for help.  Somebody must have flipped a switch somewhere in the universe yesterday, as Jasmine suddenly discovered that it was "really fun to play with Lila", and they had been playing happily together ever since.  We surely hope that this will last for a while!

Photo of the day:
Girls dressed up for a pretend Halloween - they each got a piece of real chocolate for their pretend Trick or Treat!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 86 - Alteration Shop

Thought of the day: Today I had some clothes fixed by an alteration shop in the University Hill.  The seamstress was a very nice, older Turkish woman.  When I was there, a young man, who looked like a student, dropped in and inquired about fixing his jacket that was a little too loose for him.  After the seamstress  informed him that it couldn't be fixed in the same day, he left without leaving his jacket as it was the only one he had and in this weather, he couldn't do without one for more than a day.  Poor guy!  Walking down the streets of University Hill was like walking into my own past, it definitely brought back memories.  In many ways, this area was similar to the university neighborhood in Tucson, with dingy restaurants, shabby store fronts, and sidewalks crowded with busy and energetic students who live on a shoe string budget.  College, and graduate school in my case, is an interesting stage of one's life: you're young, you're learning, you are motivated, your future is full of possibilities and full of hope.  You may be poor in your pocketbook but not poor in your spirit.  In fact, you have the right to be poor as a student - it feels natural and can even be invigorating.  A poor student is a much more enviable person than someone who is at the opposite end with a rich pocketbook but a poor spirit.

Photo of the day:

Lila walking down the steep steps of the alteration shop.

Week 12 - CU

It's a good thing to have a university in town.  It makes Boulder a more vibrant and interesting place.  Spending some time in the university neighborhood reminded me of the financial difficulties of some college students.  I shall explore some ways of helping needy CU students, perhaps in form of scholarships or such.  Let me know if you have some ideas!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 85 - Farm

Thought of the day:  An article titled "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" appeared on Wall Street Journal last weekend and created a firestorm on the internet.  It's an excerpt from a new book "Battle Hymn", written by a Chinese-American woman who raised her two daughters with very strict discipline.  For example, she disallowed play dates, TV, computer games or any choice of extracurricular activities.  Extreme methods like scolding, threatening and even name calling were employed.  It was all very harsh, even in the Chinese standard.  The article definitely struck a nerve in me and it has been on my mind all week.  I agree with her on some things.  For example, I think it's a good idea for kids to have higher expectations of themselves and learn early on that being really good at anything takes hard work.  However, I disagree that parents, or anybody for that matter, should or could design the destiny of the kids.  Her draconian approach may work for a while, but it will not work in a long term. Actually, it may even backfire.  I think the job of parents, and of anybody who is interested in the future of a child, is to help her find and develop her potentials, give her plenty of opportunities to explore, provide support when she hits a roadblock, and cheer for her when she finds her calling.  True happiness can only come from finding your own path and destiny, not from walking down a designated path and performing tasks that you were programmed to do, no matter how good you are at them.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine is showing me her farm.  Her dream is to become a farmer someday - a dream that will surely be banned by a "superior Chinese mother".

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 84 - Sunflower

Thought of the day:  Today is the one year anniversary of the devastating Haitian earthquake.  The magnitude of the disaster and the depth of the human tragedy had been beyond imagination.  A lot of aid poured in after the quake, with a large percentage of US households opening up their wallets (I heard a 60% number on NPR today).  There were even fundraisers in Jasmine's elementary school and they were surprisingly successful.  I remember the days after the quake were filled with shock - of the scale of the disaster, wonder - of the generosity of people all over the world, and hope - that a better Haiti will emerge from the ruins.  Fast forward one year and the current situation is: the government is nowhere to be seen, NGOs are operating in disaster relief mode, tons of rubble covers the capital city, more than a million people live in tents...sounds familiar?  Those were the words used to describe the situation immediately after the quake, and they are still accurate today.  On top of that, there is a cholera outbreak which has claimed many lives and is putting many more in danger.  It's a very sad situation indeed.  Haiti really needs to pull itself up on its feet, create a functioning government, make a master redevelopment plan, rally to regain attention, sympathy and support from governments and donors, begin reconstruction and bring jobs and hopes back to the people.  As challenging as it may be, it's time for the country to move forward and close the sad chapters in its history.

Photo of the day:
Sunflower, a symbol of hope.  I saw it in a yard in Boulder, dangling in the wind and basking in the late afternoon sun.  It was a happy find!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 83 - Bird Banding

Thought of the day: Being able to unconditionally forgive is an admirable virtue, and it's such an incredibly difficult virtue to attain.  Often times there is a history behind a grudge you carry, a face attached to it, and a vivid memory of disappointment, betrayal, anger, or even pain associated with it.  How can you forgive when you believe that you have been wronged?  How can you forgive when the perpetrator does not show any signs of remorse?  How can you forgive when you know that your forgiveness may very well be unwanted or unappreciated?  But forgive you must.  Carrying a grudge is more harmful to yourself than to the person you carry the grudge against.  Forgive in you mind, and where used to be shadow can now be filled with positive energy.  Forgive in your heart, and where used to be bitterness can now be filled with joy.  Forgive, forgive truly in your heart, and that will set you free.  All these are of course easier to say than do.  The first thing I will do is to face the grudge squarely, visualize it, verbalize it, understand it.  Then I will try out different techniques: role reversal, meditation and even reprogramming the brain (something I just learned from a friend today).  And I will start with something small, something easier to forgive, and build up my confidence from there.  One day, when my heart is cleared of grudges, I shall celebrate.

Photo of the day:
Dr. Oak Thorne, the founder of Thorne Ecological Institute, was holding a bird he just banded with one hand and writing notes in his banding journal with the other.  Dr. Thorne devoted himself selflessly to the ecological and environmental education of kids, including kids of fewer opportunities, for over 50 years.  The bird was "jailed" temporarily before it was released back in the air.  Watching the struggling bird made me want to ask for the forgiveness of a number of birds I mistreated when I was little.  They didn't fare nearly as well as the birds trapped by Dr. Thorne.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 82 - Coming Home

Thought of the day:  On Jasmine's request, I am teaching her Chinese myself this semester.  We had our first "lesson" this afternoon.  We read a little book, worked on pronunciations, made flash cards and, most surprisingly, had a lot of fun doing this together.  I wish I had done this in the past instead of sending her to Chinese classes.  I have always thought that it's better to have someone else, especially if s/he is a trained professional, teach your child.  Now I have reason to think that it may not always be the case.  Perhaps soon enough I will regret our decision to have home lessons,  but right now I am pretty optimistic that it will work out.

Photo of the day:
We had a beautiful, sunny day with white, fluffy snow everywhere from yesterday's snow storm.  Jasmine had fun going to school and coming home by sled.  In the background, a neighbor's kid was walking home from her high school, presumably after a hop on the bus.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day 81 - Dinner Game

Thought of the day:  If only we could step into somebody else's body and live their life for a day, our perspective on life and on ourselves may change dramatically.  Empathy can only go that far.  Most of us mortal souls need first-hand experiences to really understand circumstances and viewpoints that are different from our own.  No amount of seeing, reading or imagining can compare with experiencing things in person.  The next best thing to do is to live in a foreign culture for a period of time with open eyes and an open mind.  That will certainly contribute to personal growth and may even be a life changing event for some.

Photo of the day:
Lila playing with a dinner game.  Happily "trapped" at home all day by the snow, we ate yummy food, watched movies, and played games.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 80 - Holding Hands

Thought of the day:  The shooting occurred in Tucson today of a congresswoman and others is deeply disturbing.  We lived in Tucson for years and are still emotionally connected to it.  It's unthinkable that something like this would happen there.  The shooting occurred when the congresswoman was doing her duty of talking to her constituents in a Safeway store that we had probably shopped in.  Is the shooting politically motivated?  Is the heated political rhetoric in recent months and years a contributing factor leading to this senseless violence?  Will this serve as a wakeup call that will prevent future violence from happening, or will this trigger even more and make the political environment more toxic than it already is?  It's a very sad day.  My heart goes to the victims and to the people who are suffering the terrible loss of their loved ones.  I hope they will have adequate support to help them get through this very difficult time.

Photo of the day:
Lila is getting a gentle but firm help from her dad during this morning's hike.  It's unseasonably warm and a perfect day for hiking.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 79 - Kids and Shadows

Thought of the day:  We have a Reverse Osmosis filter installed in our house today to further purify our drinking water.  We relied on carbon filtration in the past and the water tasted fine, however, after our pesticide exposure incident a month ago, we decided to go one step further and add a RO filter to  remove more unwanted chemicals.  Now, we just need to make sure that the kids bring their own water bottles when we eat out.  Some restaurants serve tap water (or worse) that tasted no better than the water in a chlorinated swimming pool.  In the past few years, we were becoming increasingly more aware of the toxicity in the environment and starting paying attention to what we put into our mouth and use on our body.  We haven't seen the inside of a McDonald's for years.  However, the pesticide incident showed that we were clearly not paying enough attention yet.  That was a wake up call.  Since then, we have been making more changes.  Unfortunately, we're living in such a toxic time that it's hard to see where to stop or even where to begin.  Trying to live healthy is like walking on the wrong side of the moving walkway in an airport.  The momentum is against us.  But with two little kids, we have no choice but to stride on, with a smile on the face.

Photo of the day:

Shadows of me and my friend when we watched over our kids playing in Chautauqua Park.  The kids are born  to be natural beings and they are always as happy as can be when they're outside.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Week 11 - Chinese Books

I decided to help the Parenting Place get some children's books in Mandarin.  It's a small thing to do and may not make a meaningful difference in anybody's life, but maybe it'll bring a few smiles and make the trip to the Parenting Place more interesting for some parents, including myself.

Update on Friday: The Parenting Place rocks!  I sent them a list of books last night and this morning they have already placed the order.  We have such an amazing support network for parents and families here in Boulder, for good times, bad times, and any time in between.  I am happy and grateful to belong to such a wonderful community.

Day 78 - Sunset

Thought of the day: Today I rode the emotional roller coaster with a few people, including two friends of mine.  There are so many disappointments and so much sadness in this world.  And there is so little we can do to help.  Perhaps I can be helpful by just being there with them, and that was exactly what was expected of me, but that's only small consolation.

Photo of the day:
Another sunset, the best yet consolation of the day.  The rock that sticks out is called, befittingly, Devil's Thumb.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 77 - Blizzard

Thought of the day:  I just finished reading Brian Peterson's insightful photography book "Understanding Exposure".  It's an interesting book to read and I learned quite a few things from it.  With the availability of powerful photo editing tools, it's so easy for one to get lazy and start to rely on post-processing to make the pictures exactly right.  It's a real art to get the exposure right, on site, on camera.  If you can see the image you would like to capture and do your best to capture it - right there, right then - you have the best chance of actually getting the image you want.  It can improve your quality of life too - instead of spending countless hours in front of a computer screen touching up photos, you get to spend that time with your precious family instead.

Photo of the day: 

Nasty winds in Eldora forced most of the ski area to be closed.  Kids could hardly stand in the wind.  It was pretty much a wasted ski day for me.  The bright side is, I finally got to do some reading as there's not much else to do there as I left my laptop at home.  (cell phone photo)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 76 - Winter Landscape

Thought of the day: Lila and I spent over an hour in her preschool this morning.  If I have had any lingering doubts about her starting school so early, they pretty much all dissipated by the time we were about to leave - Lila was happy as a bug and didn't want to go.  In her school, the kids spend a lot of time playing outdoors.  The school ground was completely covered with snow today, but the air temperature was comfortable and the sun was brilliant, and the kids couldn't be happier outside.  Both David and I grew up without any formal preschool education as there were no such options at that time.  I grew up with my grandma in a Chinese village and spent all my waking hours playing with mud in the field, chasing chickens around and creating all kinds of mischief.  I have fond memories of that period of time and I believe that experience is an important part of me.  David grew up in a small town near Zurich with his loving stay-at-home mom and an active and smart big sister.  I am sure the lack of preschool education didn't hinder his development either.  So, is preschool really necessary?  Well, I think it's more necessary for the parents (to get a break) than for the kids (to get social time or education).  I have read about a Swiss forest preschool where kids spend all the time, even during winter, out in a forest.  That may be a little extreme but I really like the idea behind it.  As long the little kids get to play, explore and spend time in the nature, they will be happy and they will be learning.

Photo of the day:

Winter landscape to the east of Boulder. I really like the openness of this area.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 75 - Lila with Hat

Thought of the day:  So it's officially January - time to ski!  I am looking for a way to get in some mid-week skiing without too much driving.  Of course, our local Eldora ski area would be the easiest one to get to.  I can carpool with a friend or take the ski shuttle from downtown.  Getting to the mountain resorts are more challenging, however.  I found two ski shuttles (Eskimo and Colorado Jitney) that would take you up from Boulder.  But both shuttles have multiple stops in Denver and will take at least three hours each way.  That, for me, is way too much time on a shuttle, however luxurious it may be.  It's surprising that there is no direct shuttle going up from Boulder.  Of course, the ideal solution - allow me to dream for a moment - is to hop onto a train and get to the mountains while enjoying the Colorado winter scenery along the way.  Wouldn't that be nice if we can enjoy the snow and ice as they should be instead of worrying about them all the time when we drive?  This is unfortunately only a dream as even the Ski Train from Denver to Winter Park was shutdown in 2009 after 69 years of operation.  Perhaps some day, we will all move to Switzerland to realize some of our dreams, some day.

Photo of the day:
Winter is also a time for fluffy hats, like the one Lila tried on today.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 74 - No Pictures!

Thought of the day: No more baby furniture for two weeks.  Today we went to Broomfield's Scandinavian Designs and ordered a set of youth bedroom set for Lila as she is getting ready to climb out of her crib any time now.  The new set will arrive in two weeks and, as I was told, it shall last well into her teens.  I am glad that there is a delay, as I now have two weeks to savor every last bit of the baby-ness in her room before it's transformed into a big kids room.  I think Lila is ready for it, but am I?

Photo of the day:
Louisville's Tokyo Joe's.  When husband says "No Pictures!", it's a perfect time to quickly snap a picture for the day.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 73 - Finger Painting

Thought of the day:  We have been staying in town for the entire break, which is pretty unusual for us as we tend to travel whenever we can, especially during long school breaks.  Today, I asked Jasmine whether she liked staying at home all this time, she said yes without hesitation.  She didn't mind not having to be constantly on the move and rush from one place to another.  She had the entire break to read books, watch movies, play games, fool around and relax.  It was good for us too.  We may not have caught up with everything yet, but at least we're getting ahead instead of getting further behind, which often happens after a trip.

Photo of the day:

Jasmine signs her masterpiece...a finger-painted clown.