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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ladybird, Ladybug, Ladycow......

Bein' a ladybug doesn't automatically make me a girl!
Where I come from, these adorable spotted beetles are called ladybirds. I think  Americans call them ladybugs. Growing up, I've always wondered if the ladybird was named for any particular female trait it possessed.

Interestingly, today I found out that the "lady" in ladybird refers to the Virgin Mary! Legend has it that crops in Europe during the Middle Ages were plagued by pests, so the farmers began praying to the Blessed Lady, the Virgin Mary. Soon, the farmers started seeing ladybirds in their fields, and the crops were miraculously saved from the pests. They associated their good fortune with the black and red beetles, and so began calling them lady beetles. In Germany, these insects go by the name Marienkafer, which translates as Mary beetles. The 7-spotted lady beetle is believed to be the first named after the red cloak Mary often pictured in biblical paintings; the red color represents her cloak, and the seven  black spots represent her seven graces and sorrows.

Here are 10 cool facts about ladybirds

1. Ladybirds aren't really bugs at all, they're beetles!

2. In France, one common name is “la bete a bon Dieu” which roughly translates as “God’s animal”.In Russia, a popular name is “Bozhya korovka” which translates as “God’s little cow”, no doubt referring to the beetles’ spots which are not unlike the kind you’d find on certain cows. In fact, one of the alternate early names for the beetle, before “ladybug” or “ladybird” in English was “ladycow”.

3. Even in cases where the ladybird isn’t explicitly linked with God, it was historically considered by many to be a good luck charm or good omen due to it generally being considered a helpful insect. For this reason, it was less-commonly known as the “golden-bug” in some parts of England.

4.  Ladybirds bleed from their knees when threatened.

5. Over its lifetime, a ladybird may consume as many as 5,000 aphids.

6. Ladybird larvae resemble tiny alligators, with elongated bodies and bumpy skin.

7. Scientists believe ladybirds may lay both fertile and infertile eggs.

8. Ladybird adults hibernate, usually gathering in large aggregations in protected places.

9. Ladybirds practice cannibalism.

10. You can't tell a ladybird's age by counting its spots.

Sources -

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Baby's Full Moon

Baby Shower Cookies
While decorating these cookies for a friend's 'Full Moon', I was thinking how times have changed! Full Moon gift boxes I receive these days from friends and relatives comprise cupcakes and cookies unlike the traditional red eggs, pickled ginger and angkoos we used to give out and receive. If you are clueless about what that is, a full moon is a ceremony held to celebrate a baby's first full month of life when he/she turns one month old. In Chinese, full moon literally translates as  full month.
According to custom, gift packs consisting of red eggs, angkoos, yellow rice, curry and pickled ginger are distributed to relatives and friends as proclamation that a new member has been added to the family. A party is usually held and visitors arrive bearing gifts for the baby.

Every item in this basket has a symbolic meaning
image credit -
Hard-boiled eggs with their shells dyed red symbolize prosperity and fertility
Angkoo ( literally translates as red tortoise cake ) represents the baby's gender. Plain for males and textured for females, this red sweet cake is made out of mung beans and glutinous rice flour and shaped into a little tortoise. Tortoise symbolizes long life, strength and persistence.
Rice to ensure that there will always be food on the table

A modern-day Full Moon gift box with the obligatory red eggs
A full moon party is kinda like a western baby shower, only celebrated a month after the baby's birth. It also marks the last day of confinement for the new mom. The confinement period is a traditional post-natal Asian practice and is so called because the post-partum  mom and baby are 'quarantined' at home for a one-month period, hence the word 'confinement'. Traditionally, they do not receive visitors apart from close family members until the confinement period is over. You wouldn't want to visit them during that time either, trust me! Chances are, the new mom hasn't washed her hair for an entire month. You can read about that here.
So a full-moon gift box is essentially an announcement by the proud parents of the birth of their newborn and an invitation to friends, relatives and co-workers to welcome the arrival of the baby. Hubby calls that a 'summon' as the receiver of the gift box will then be obliged to visit the newborn bearing gifts!

For more information about the taboos and practices during the confinement period , read here

Sunday, June 7, 2015

My son turns 18 today!

Josh, my firstborn turns 18 today - yet another epic milestone in his life and mine. As of today, I am now officially the mother of an adult. How did this happen so quickly?
I am not going to lie and say that I enjoyed every second of his growing up for eighteen years. Oh, we had plenty of imperfect moments. At times, I felt like strangling him when he was hellbent on making me murderous and pissing me off. I am sure we drove our neighbors crazy with our shouting matches! And I am most certain, he was the cause of that perpetual scowl on my face! But I am going to congratulate myself and him for coming out of this turbulent journey to adulthood alive, unscathed and sane!

What do I write about this amazing young man who brings out the best and worst in me? He's the most compassionate person I know. He's generous, accommodating, tenacious, considerate, smart and funny though his younger brother, Rodney, will tell you differently. But even with Rodney, his greatest foe, I’ve witnessed acts of fierce  protectiveness and support when needed.

I believe Josh's best qualities, his compassionate heart and thoughtfulness will serve him well in life. The first time I noticed these qualities was when he was three - we were at the traffic lights when a turtle from a nearby pond was crossing the road behind us and a car rolled over it. Josh cried his eyes out and was inconsolable until we convinced him that the turtle was having a better life in turtle heaven. On his 4th birthday, he requested for a pair of terrapins. At the pet shop, he chose a blind terrapin and another deformed one. Josh insisted on bringing them home 'cos he figured that if we didn't, no one would buy them and he couldn't bear the thought of them languishing in the pet store.  Once, while walking down a street, we stumbled upon a lifeless rat. Josh stopped short , closed his eyes and clasped his wee hands in prayer over the dead rodent! Bless his little heart! And when he was in first grade, he would queue up every single day at the canteen to buy food for his disabled classmate. I see the same compassion in this young man still. Josh actively contributes his time and effort to volunteerism and community services. He teaches kids from war-torn countries at a refugee camp. He intends to volunteer his service at an animal shelter during his coming semester break.

If I could rewind time, which part would I play over and over again? It would most definitely be the stage between toddler and boy. And I would most certainly skip the mid teenage phase!  Shudder!

My perfect moments? When he made me my first Mother's Day gift? The times when he would accompany me everywhere  and didn't think that hanging out with mom wasn't uncool? When he bought me cookie cutters with the prize money he won in the first contest he entered? It's kinda hard to qualify some moments as better than others. Just the other day, I visited his former high school to collect his certificates and the teachers were telling me what a fine young man Josh turned out to be. His school counselor congratulated me for raising him well! That, for me, was my most perfect moment, the culmination of 18 years of parenting.

This young man has tested my mettle, grown me in patience and strengths I never thought I had in me. I guess the time has come to cut the apron strings - to let my baby go and grow independently no matter how much it hurts.

Happy 18th Birthday, son!