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LAB Work: The Vaiseys

Today I give you....Rebekah

I have a plethora of sisters-in-law.  
Each extremely beautiful and brilliantly vibrant.
But none more spectacularly colorful as the ever-refreshing Rebekah. 
A fine girl with a fine mind...she's a wife, mother, girlfriend, and blogger in her own right....never ceasing to bring the Sunshine, even on the gloomiest of days... my own or hers.

When I started the LAB, I wasn't sure where I was headed with this whole thing.  I knew my old career well, but was charting into new territory as a SAHM.  People would ask me questions about Zo's space, our home classroom set up, our daily routines, and on my thoughts regarding walking away from a "glamorous" (not really) design career just to do house chores all day.  I needed an outlet.  

"HapaLab:  Changing the world, one cabinet at a time..." ~ Bekah. 

And with that quote, she kept me going.
It's not a matter of actually changing the world, but the feeling of being valuable, to oneself.  Exactly who you are, where you are, and nothing more. 
Ah life.  It's all really silly anyways, why not just laugh along the way?

Bek always has a way of squeezing that laugh out of you.
Belly busting gut laughs.  Gut.  Laughs.
Today is Bekah's birthday.
So on her special day, here's a HapaLAB Transformation from the vault!
A labor of love, on last Labor Day.

Work Budget:  As little as possible
Total Cost:  Some muscle & hustle
Location:  Berkeley, CA

This is a most beautiful and busy family of SIX.
It's tough getting them all to look at the camera at the same time let alone much else some days.

Needless to say, anything that would lessen Bek's daily TO DO list is MOST welcomed.  Some serious structure to her toddler room was in order, as much as can be expected in a busy young household.  The "Littles" are 3 and 5 years old.  This is always a challenge...a shared mix gender toddler bedroom.  These two active kids...live hard and play hard.  Bring it on.
HapaLab is willing to take on the challenge.

This bedroom has 3 hats to wear:
1)  Dressing Nook
2)  Play Zone
3)  Bed & Rest Area

The Dressing Nook
Let's face it, these open face bins don't work too well for sorting toys.  They just get junked up, more of an eye sore than an organizer.  Since the kids needed "dressers", these existing bins were a nice option.

We went one step further and label-maker'd (is that a word?) each bin to note what type of clothing went inside.  If you are new to label makers, they are one of the top "Must Haves" in organizing a home.  No pen or paper needed, just type it, print it, stick it.

The open top nature of these dressers allowed the kids to sort their own clean laundry and help themselves get dressed each day. Yes.  It DOES say "SOFT Skorts" and "CRUNCHY Skorts."  Again, kids and dad can help sort the clean laundry.

The Play Zone
Baskets and cubbies, the perfect pairing.  A good initial pass on the books helped to remove any extras that they've outgrown.  This loosened up the bookcases and allowed the remaining toys to be separated and displayed for more frequent use.

The Bed & Rest Area
Having bunk beds really open up this shared room for playing during the day.  A couple of cushions on the floor under the window provides a good reading area for the kids.  A cute train track rug to anchor the play area, dress ups stored below the bed in bins, a laundry basket in the corner, and the room is finished.

After the "Bigs" visited the NEW "Littles" space...we overhear this:
"Awww...their room feels SO nice, why can't our room be nice like that too?"
Now why do you have to go and do that
Ok fine. 
We'll do the "Bigs" room too. 
Just a quick face lift.

This was a trickier space.
Small room, two older kids, boy & girl shared, and a reptile named Felix.
Bek did fabulously on her color pallet for the room!  Brick red, apple green, dusty blue, and accents of white.  Perfectly fun and gender neutral.  She had turned bedding into curtains by simply clipping them up onto drapery rings.  She then took the shams from the matched set and placed them on each bed to tie in the red to the beds.  The dresser did it's thing in the same apple green and Bek refreshed some cork boards in the dust blue to match.  Bunk beds, again, saved the day in this room.

Most of this room was done already, so what did HapaLab do?
Space planning...or simply, pushed furniture around.

The beds started out on the door wall, leaving the room feeling cluttered and cramped.  The Lab broke the usual rules by pushing the beds up AGAINST the open window.  A typical "No-no" in design.  Then another fault....butting the tall dresser against the window.  Two strikes....in the right direction.

There was SO little space in this bedroom that the heavy casegood sat nicer in the far corner, despite it being infront of the window.  The partial drapery overhang served as a nice "headboard" visual.  Then the apple green dresser was a nice focal point to the room, serving surprisingly well as a near bedside table for the upper bunk.  The sheer scale in height of the bunk beds made the dresser fit in that spot.  This also cleared the walls for two other bookcases which were desperately needed to house all the different books and nick-knacks.  Kids have nick-knacks.  Big time.

So here's to Rebekah...a birthday wish.
May you always find that strength in life to push awkward pieces of furniture against windows...even when it looks utterly wrong, with everyone telling you so, that you know it  feels just perfectly right.



Mama...I'm thirsty!
How many times do you get your toddler a drink at home each day?

Here at HapaLAB, it's all about "Do-it-yourself." 
Much like the KD (knock-down) furniture at Ikea, but significantly less painful, less complicated, and less costly.  We're talkin' a good DIY experience...one where you have all the screws, you can understand the instructions, and there's no glue involved.  And most importantly, that giddy GLOW you get when you finish it...I did it myself!

So...Just think of your toddler feeling that accomplishment while filling up.
Who wouldn't want to be able to grab their own drink?
For Zozie, his preferred drink is:  Water.
It was pretty clear that we needed to add this to his classroom...

A Drinking Fountain! 
Well actually, it's just a glorified water pitcher with a spigot.  
A PUR dispenser...Target $30.  
Slim, 1 Gallon, Filters.  
More independence + Less asking = Happy Kid & Mama
The usual HapaLAB motto.

A tray of tea cups and glasses round off this toddler drink station.

Used glasses are places right side up, while clean glasses are placed upside down.  His friends love getting their own water when they come over for playdates.  We've overheard "Mommy!  I got my own water at Zozo's house!" numerous times...

Spills?  It's only water!  Just think of it as cleaning a spot on the floor that you meant to get to anyways, right?  Plus with every practice, they get better...right before your eyes!
The entire drink station is sitting on top of a recycled wine crate from a local wine storage warehouse.  To maximize our class space, we tucked the cleaning brooms, water bottle sprayer, and sponges below.

As with anything new, they'll want to do it all the time.  C'mon, it's water!  
At first, Zozie would pour a glass, take a sip, say "all done", then pour another, take one sip, then repeat until all 6 glasses were used at once. Other times, he would deliberately fill until overflowing...just to see what happens.   Eventually, after a week, the novelty wore off and it's just used as intended.  Don't let the initial curiosity kill the project.  It really is worth trying!
Got a variation?  Tell us about it!  HapaLab@gmail.com

Let Zo pour you a glass:


Sunnyside Up?

Presentation:  Egg Cracking

Lately, Zozie and our eggs have been inseparable.
He loves eating them, and most of all, CRACKING them.
He's been our in-resident egg cracker since 27months. 
Now, it's just routine.

When doing breakfast, he'll want to crack one for mom, dad, and Zo. 
Each in a different bowl, and beat it up.
The presentation is rather straight forward.

The Goal:
Learn how to crack an egg

The Set Up:
1)  Eggs
2)  2 Bowls
3)  Paper Towels

The Presentation:
1)  Gently tap an egg at the edge of a bowl
2)  Use second hand to hold the bowl steady
3)  Clearly show both thumbs entering the softened spot
4)  A quick clean pull apart of the shells and turn down to allow the egg to drop
5)  Place the empty shell into the 2nd bowl
6)  Repeat with the next egg
7)  Wipe as you go

Now if he can just make me a Garden Herb Omelette with extra cheese...
Too much to ask?

A little peak at our egg crackin' Zo:


Here Kitty!

 Presentation:  Shape Sorting

Now that the holidays are over...
(It's time to get back to some Lab Work.)
Handing out kitty crackers?  
Nope....he's sorting Hello Kitty Pins!

A New HapaLab tool.
Our favorite kind.
Found this random bag of Hello Kitty Broach Pins at our Group Yard Sale.  There were around 40 pins in 5 different shapes, each with a country and it's national flower on the face.  The shapes include:  Square, Circle, Butterfly, Large flower, Small flower.  We just threw all the pins into a cloth bag (a cinch sack that held my Singapore Airline slippers in flight once), found a tray, and a new tool is complete for the lab.  Cost:  Free.
The Goal:
1)  Shape sorting  & counting
2)  Blind recognition of shapes thru touch

The Set Up:
1)  A tray
2)  A cloth bag
3)  A set of shapes (could be blocks, cards, anything else that has various shapes)

The Presentation:
1)  Ask child to bring the tray
2)  Reach into the sack
3)  Take out one pin
4)  Place each new shape in it's own row
5)  Go down the line, from left to right, matching the shape to each row.
6)  Only put it down when it reached the matched row.
7)  When done, ask the child to count how many of each shape they have.
8)  Replace all pins back into the bag.
9)  Can do this again and ask the child what shape they have before they pull it out of the bag (tool extension).

Sorting the shapes.

This was a no-brainer set up and a great pay off!  Zozie instantly liked it because of all the cute Hello Kitty pictures on the pins.

Also, he liked how I said the flowers and names of the countries.  A visually intriguing tool that quickly engaged him in active play learning.  Just what we needed.

what's next?

they are SOOO pretty, mama!

The Prize.
At the end of the exercise, Zo likes to select ONE pin to wear as his "prize."  This selection process keeps him looking and noticing every pin, evaluating the flowers and the costumes that each Hello Kitty has on.  These are all factors that help him come up with his end winner.  Sometimes it's a particular combination of shape, color, and motif...whatever it is, I'm just glad he's enjoying the mini-geography trip around the world!

See the Kitty(s) in Action:


Chinese ABC: ㄅㄆㄇ

Sing A Long:  BoPoMo (ㄅㄆㄇ)

 @ 36 months.
Zo sings the Chinese Alphabet Song:  BoPoMo.
(Mandarin Syllables)


4 U

It's all made up.
So don't buy it.
Hug your child.  Kiss your spouse.  Love your self.
3 Gems.



新年快樂! 恭喜發財!

It is the year 4,709 on the lunar calendar. 
Our Mandarin Playgroup was started over 2 years ago.
Hapa families with Hapa Kids.
Funny how they all sort of look like cousins.
Maybe soon, there might be a Hapa box for them to check on forms.
It's a unique social circle for the kids to share our special brand of multicultural Asian heritage.

This year, the Hare brought the New Year on Feb 4th.  Our 2nd Annual Turtle Potluck is finally catching up to the hopping year...a week later.

The lunar celebration is technically 2 weeks long.
But eating Dumplings is a month-long CHOW-FEST.  
So we are stuffing our faces, proudly.
 Nothing says CHINESE like the word:  Auspicious.aus.pi.cious  [aw-spish-uhs]   Why Red?  It's Auspicious.
Why Firecrackers?  It's Auspicious.
Why Dragons?  It's Auspicious.
Why is that Auspicious?  Doesn't matter...IT JUST IS.
Anything that promises success, prosperity, opportunity, and favored by fortune, it's a Big-Chinese-Thumbs-UP!  Not sure why eating a particular combination of typical Chinese food would do it.... 
but less asking, more eating!
Rice (米飯; mǐfàn) - Fertility, luck, wealth, link between Heaven (Gods) and Earth (Men) Noodles (麵條; miàntiáo) Uncut - Long life Garden Tofu (什锦蔬菜; shíjǐn shūcài) - Family harmony *To include:  Muer Black fungus(木耳; mù ěr) - Longevity  Three Winter Plate *To Include:  1. Snowpeas (荷蘭豆; hélándòu) - Unity  2. Bamboo shoots (竹笋尖; zhú sǔn jiān) - New start  3.  Shitake (冬菇; dōnggū) - longevity, sizing opportunities Fish (whole) - (魚/餘 yú) - Surplus of prosperity Fish ball (魚蛋; yúdàn) - Reunion (Round) Prawn (大蝦; dàxiā) - Liveliness Chicken (whole) (雞肉; jīròu) - Completeness & joy Dumplings (jiǎozi, 子/角子) - Wealth *To Include: Chinese garlic chives (韭菜, jiǔcài) - everlasting, eternity, long life Turnip Cake (蘿蔔糕; luóbo gāo) - Good omen Sweet Sticking Cake (年糕; nián'gāo) 年高 /年年高升) - Advance to higher positions & prosperity. Red Bean Soup (紅豆湯) - Sweet union  Gluten Balls (湯圓 ,tāngyuán) Sweet dumplings - togetherness, reunion Custard Egg(蛋, dàn) - fertility  Fruit Platter: Tangerine (橘; jú) - luck, Grapes (葡萄, pútaó) - fertility, Pineapple (凤梨; fènglí) - wealth, Peach (桃; táo) - immortality, Pomelo (柚子; yòuzi) - abundance, Apples (苹果; píngguǒ) - wisdom, peace.  Boy, I'm stuffed just typing this.

Chinese New Year Focus :
1)  FOOD:  Loaded with symbolism
2)  Family gatherings & paying respect to ancestors.
3)  Up keeping traditions based on the moon & sun's cycles.

To kick off the feast, kids enjoyed hand rolling their own rice balls for dessert.  

Then, the party continued with some Bunny hats I made for all the little hares at Circletime!  After some songs and New Year cheers, it was time for a special visitor...

 Our very own.... Dralion.
(Nope, not the Cirque Show...something EVEN better.)

It's mostly a Lion Dance, but Zo insists that he is a DRAGON.  Plus it's usually 2 people to a Lion, but just go with us.

Here we are with OUR version:
1)  A Red Robe (used our Xmas robe)
2)  A Paper Mask (ma & pa made)
3)  A Small Basket
4)  A Red Packet (with $1 Inside)
5)  A Piece of Green (Fake toy lettuce)
6)  A "Mandarin Orange"
(Small stuffed basketball)

reused some old birthday wrapping paper and extra card stock.

A brief story on our dance...
A Hungry Dragon approaches.
We offer a basket of treats to bring in the New Year.
Once he spots the treats, he is happy, VERY happy...and starts to do some criss-cross fancy footwork to show his pleasure.

Then he circles the basket and gobbles up the Orange first (Oranges = Wealth & Luck...or Auspicious.)  Then he sees the "Choy" and is again excited...this time, he may do some rolls and tumbles.
Gulp, he nabs the greens, "chews" it, then spits it back out!
This is a symbolic blessing that there will be an abundance of everything in the coming year.  The red money packet is the Dragons prize.
All this with loud drumming, chimes, and firecrackers to scare off evil spirits.

Our Firecrackers?  Giant bubble wrap!!.
A few good twists and some hardy stomps...can't tell the difference!

The Dralion is HERE...with Firecrackers (Video Clip)

An Encore Performance at his Berkeley Mini-Preschool:
You'll see the "Fancy Footwork" at 1:00 mark on this second clip!

Both routines were self choreographed by Zo, I just drummed accordingly.
Based VERY loosely on the 2 performances he saw in real-life on stage at some Chinese celebrations!
My Prize.  
Already an Auspicious year.



We are often asked what Zo's name means...
If Italian?  It's "Ruler of the Home", or just simply, Henry.
If Japanese?  It's "Circle of Absolute", "The Void", or simply, The Moment.

We chose the more common spelling to make his life easier.
Yes.  Alot of people think Ferrari when they hear it.  
And yes.  It was the 2008 #1 boy name in FRANCE. 
A true international name...a Hapa name for a Hapa boy.

The ensō symbolizes a moment when the mind is free to simply let the body/spirit create. In Zen Buddhist art,  the character of the artist is fully exposed in how she or he draws an ensō. Only a person who is mentally & spiritually complete can create a true ensō .  Some artists will draw this symbol daily for Spiritual practice.   
Very Mr. Miagi circa 1980's.

Zo started to "sign his name" at alittle over 2 years old.  It was open scribbles at first, but now he's deliberately connecting the two end points at 3, closing the circle.  It's so very hip of him...having a name that's a symbol...like the artist formerly known as something that was formerly comprehensible.

A child's art does reflect on his character in many ways.  Either loose or tight, imaginative or literal, from scribbles to writing, a child's reflection of the world around him is simply fascinating.
Zigg-Zags started to appear in alot of Zo's doodles.
"That's a story mama...like ABC's".

A few of his playmates are now spelling their own names.  Just amazing.
Zo's not there yet, the letter "O" is his best letter, we're lucky that worked out.

Circles became "words."  And now, words became "people."
His latest chalk scribble is of the most beloved people in his life.
At least I would like to think so.

Slowly, the previous empty Void is now beginning to fill.
Words, images, characters...a once clean slate now has inhabitants.
Real or pretend, invited or intruded, these stories of the who we are, what we are, and how we are, are all around us...and in us.
In this lab, I see my subject self filling and being filled.
A mind empty.
A mind full.
The Merry-Go-Round of life has started.


The BIG 3!

3 Years ago...
I was loitering up and down the halls of the UCLA maternity ward.
21 hours later, he was ready.
Within 17 mins, our sweet boy fell out.
Literally, from standing position.

By suggestion of our midwife, I caught him myself.
Feeling his soft round head, I lifted him out and up, to my face.
His tiny eyes unstuck, one at a time...thurp, thurp.
Hello Sunshine.
And we met for the first time...outside of our womb.

3 Years later...
A party to celebrate growth & LIFE.
His Birth-Day.

We asked what he wanted....
"Some cake, and park...with my friends."
Simple enough.

Some gardening gloves at the store sparked the idea.

 Daddy always makes the signs.  And bakes the cake.
Mama designs & dresses it.

Last year's creation...

ICING-LESS designs.
Powder sugar, fresh blueberries, and mint leaves finished the tier cake.
Stacking mini-cupcakes = no cutting.  We just passed the cakes out, post-blowing.

And this year's entry...

A wiggly treat...
Mini loafs resemble blocks of earth for the worms to burrow through.

Strategically placed toothpicks took the place of icing in "gluing" this all together...soil and worms.  Some were cut in half to add to the burrowing effect.

This was a fascinating centerpiece for the kids to investigate...lots of wide eyes and tiny fingers counting the crawlies.

The Garden Buffet.

We designed a "Best Buds" garden where Zozie planted and is growing his closest friends.  A tiny bamboo stake labeled each seedling. 
This was reflective of all the new friendships that we have cultivated since our move to the East Bay.
To see this tray filled with all these SWEET varieties of Cuteness...
This is one crop we are so grateful to harvest.

As for the cakes, we upgraded from Minis...to Full size.  Still without icing, we added the sugar back by giving each child his own worm.  This sparked a variety of conversations amongst the kids:
"I have a red worm."  "I have a green one."  "Where's my cake?"  "Do you have one too?"  "Zozo has the big cake with lots of worms."  To simulate grass, we inserted a sprig of anti-bacterial sushi grass made of cellulose.

They see it, and can't have it...YET.
Pure torture.
A steady stream of 2-3 kids would circulate the Best Buds garden, eye-ing their pot, asking repeatedly if "it's time yet?"  Waiting patiently, or impatiently, until the songs (Chinese & English) were sung and candles were blown.

All 15 kids passed with flying colors!
There really IS a difference between 2 year olds and 3 year olds.
Try this last year?  Ya right.

kids find their name in the garden

got one!

dig in...

mama dishes out the Big Kids cakes...

silly cousins...
The party wrapped with a take home gardening project for the kids.
Sorry moms & dads...it wouldn't be a HapaLab post without some "work" eh?

We sent em' packing:
1)  A potted Peniny of their choice
2)  A small round pot
3)  A pair of gardening gloves
4)  A set of garden stakes and labels
5)  A garden tote (can be used for crafts or art supplies too)
The parents were asked to help the kids re-pot the Peniny when they got home.  Wonder how many of those flowers will remain after a month? 

The day ended with Zozie wiping down his birthday chalk signage:

A recap of the beautiful buddies at our garden party...
See the full album at The Chowda House.