Tuesday, December 29, 2009

SANTA PRESENTS!

To say I had been looking forward to this Christmas is probably about as big of an understatement as you can make. It felt like it was two years in the making

I think it's easy for new parents to look into the eyes of their newborn and bubble over with warm thoughts of the future. First word. First steps. First time they show signs of understanding the concept of Santa and presents.

Or, in Alli's case, she just calls him "Santa Presents."

My mom bought us this absolutely gorgeous advent calendar to hang on our wall. It's shaped like a Christmas tree and has little decorative felt pockets for each day. Instead of filling them with candy, I bought a Santa ornament, and we moved him closer to the Santa pocket each afternoon as a family. And every day we asked Allison, "Who's coming on Christmas?!" And she would yell, "SANTA PRESENTS!"

She certainly didn't disappoint. I positioned myself in a good spot in the living room to take video of when she came downstairs Christmas morning. Jerry runs in first so he can get a good vantage point, too, and Alli follows closely behind in a sprint, BunnyBear in each arm. She sees her gigantic pink princess castle that Santa left, pauses a moment as an "Oh" escapes her mouth, drops Bear as her one arm goes limp, regains composure and picks him up, then beelines in the tent and starts playing with the other toys inside.

It was one of those moments of parenthood that I wish I could relive forever.

But, really, the entire weekend was a blast.

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My sister Lisa spent much of Christmas Eve in the
laundry room because Allison wanted to play in there


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Stealing great-grandma's Chex mix.


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When I went upstairs to grab my camera, I just had to take this shot.


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Playing "bubbles" with grandma.


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I think she was doing her best Santa Claus impersonation.


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Christmas Eve was a bounty of salmon and crab legs.


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She would yell "PAP!" when she bubbled Jer's face.


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We tried to get a photo of all the siblings and significant others, dogs and Alli.


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By the time we got Alli, the dogs dispersed.


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I think Jer was just as excited as she was.


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My brother Sean had a lot of responsibility Christmas morning.
Like playing music and putting her figurines in the swing again and again.


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Dave taught her to cheers.


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Hilarious.


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Hanging out in the princess tent. I had to draw balloons, Bunnies and Bears.


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Believe it or not, this was after we gathered the wrapping paper.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I'm savoring the fact that my little one is savoring each present. No tossed paper chaos here this year. Each gift is getting played with and loved before moving onto the next.

I hope everyone has a wonderful day with family.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2 years, 1 month

Dear Alli,

So this is what the terrible twos are, huh? Demanding declarations. Temper tantrums when you don't get your way. Crying fits for little to no reason. Screaming "NO!" when I ask you a question. Refusing to eat. Throwing things in a rage. Spitting on the floor when you're mad.

Daddy calls you Kim Jong Allison.

(To help you get that reference years from now, Kim Jong Il is the nuclear power-obsessed, attention-seeking dictator of North Korea. Trust me, the comparison is hilarious.)

We're in a battle royal right now. A test of wills, patience and sometimes even strength.

You're trying to break us. You're trying to get us to give up and feed you nothing but string cheese and fruit snacks while you run around in a diaper and a hat, bouncing on the bed watching cartoons in a loop.

Some days I'd love to take the easy road and just give in to your demands. Allow you to write on the walls, throw mashed potatoes on the floor, not make you pick up your toys or treat Toby with compassion.

But then I think how horrible the world would be if Kim Jong Il was left completely unchecked. If he was able to do whatever, whenever without other leading nations attempting to keep his crazy reigned in.

Well, our house would be much the same. The chaos would be palpable.

So whenever you're tensing your entire body against me as I try my hardest to get you in your car seat, I just tell you that I know you're mad, but I'm doing it because I love you.

And it's a good thing, too. Because otherwise we would have sold you on the black market weeks ago.

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Perhaps we have it harder than some parents because you're so smart.

The example that comes to mind requires a bit of background.

I've written regularly about how much you love water, but we didn't realize just how much until we got our bills the last few months. Our water use spiked so high that we assumed a pipe had burst. It was triple what we had been averaging, and when we told both of your Grandmas about it, they said we had more than filled a swimming pool. Every month.

But none of the ceilings had collapsed. The walls weren't dripping with water. The basement was dry.

We went down to the borough water authority and demanded they inspect our water meter. Surely it must be broken, we thought.

But when the rep arrived and said it wasn't spinning wildly out of control and we were on track for a similarly high bill, it forced us to take a long and hard look at our water habits.

Sure, adding you to the household has necessitated more laundry and more frequent dishwasher runs, but a swimming pool's worth? On a regular basis?

Then I remembered that you've been taking two baths a day -- with the shower running because you think it's a water park. Yes, I got joy out of watching you dance around in the tub, but not if it's going to cost more than a car payment.

So we started restricting your baths, which was very hard on you. (Think smoker trying to kick the habit.)

You took to desperate measures. You tried announcing, "SHOWER TIME! YAYYYY!" instead of asking. When we changed your diaper, you'd sprint naked to the tub. And sometimes you'd throw your toys in there and tell us they were dirty.

One night when Dad told you it wasn't time yet after you asked repeatedly for a shower over and over, you got very quiet, thought a moment and changed your tactic.

"Juice, Daddy?"

He told me that in the time it took him to recap the juice and put it in the fridge, he turned around to see you dumping the liquid all over your head.

When he angrily asked what you were doing, you put the cup down and smiled.

"Shower, Daddy?"

Oh, you're smart alright.

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here are very few things you like more than water, so getting you out of the tub is like trying to get a pebble out of concrete. You twist, you turn, you resist. Plus, you're slippery.

So one night a few weeks ago, Dad had a brilliant idea. He turned on your favorite song.

For months, he has been playing Owl City's "Fireflies" for you. It wasn't anything special at first, but then it turned into a game. You bounce on the bed, and when the hook hits, he swings you back and forth in the air. Over. And over. And over again.

Now it's an obsession. You ask for the "fire song." You know the lyrics. You sing "Planet Earth turns slowlyyyyy."

And even right now as I write this, you've asked "more fire songs, Mommy?" every time it comes to an end. I have to play it because we're in that room. Just our mere presence upstairs necessitates the fire song. By the time I'm done writing this, I'm sure I'll have listened to it upwards of 50 times.

So when we need you to get out of the tub, we turn on the fire song, listen to you squeal and then Dad swings you dry.

I thought having one song on incessant repeat was more than enough, so I have been very cautious not to play any one album too frequently when you're around. But lightning does strike twice. No matter how many precautions you take.

You and I drove to meet Dad for lunch a few days ago, and because it's frigid out, I had the car running before I put you in your seat. I didn't realize it at the time, but the song "Party Hard" was running from Weezer's new album.

You fell in love instantly.

Now when we're in the car, you want "the party song." Over. And over. And over again.

As much as the first few notes of those two songs makes my brain want to turn into liquid and ooze out of my ears, I love seeing the ridiculous joy it gives you. You light up when you hear them. Your entire body responds in such a way that I can't help but feel it, too.

Everyone should have a song that makes them feel that good.

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Other than baths and dancing, I'd say your favorite activity is drawing. Grandma and Grandpa got you a craft table and chairs for your birthday, so I dug out a huge box of crayons and dumped it into a big plastic container and put it next to your coloring books.

That was a hit for a little while, but you much prefer blank paper and a pen.

I can't remember exactly how you got the pen, but I'm pretty sure you grabbed it off the dining room table, which has morphed into my work space where I run my business.

Dad and I have argued about the pen situation. He thinks under no circumstance should you have a tool that has such high potential to cause damage. I think you should have open access to something that encourages you to be creative.

Basically it boils down to I let you have a pen and Dad confiscates it when he comes home.

He won a few "I told you so" moments when you drew all over the couch and your pajamas, but thankfully I was able to get the marks out, giving my stance a little more ground.

Bottom line, you could spend hours drawing. You filled an entire ream of paper on both sides with swirls and circles. The concentration you pour into your creations is astounding to watch.

But once you're done with your drawing, you're done. You don't want to add one more line to it. When you had gone through all of the paper in the house, including envelopes from bill companies and the inside of cereal boxes that I had ripped open out of desperation, I suggested you go back and fill in some of the blank spaces.

It was like I had insulted your artistic integrity. I might as well have told Leonardo da Vinci to give the Mona Lisa a more intense smirk.

Being out of paper with you in the house was worse than being stranded in a desert without water. I posted a desperate plea on Facebook, and your father came home a few hours later with a huge stack of computer paper like my knight in shining armor. Screw a dozen roses. I couldn't have loved him more at that moment.

When I was relaying the story to a few coworkers at the paper that night, they suggested I take home one of the rolls of blank newsprint. When the rolls get too low to use on the presses, the guys put them in a gigantic bin near one of the loading docks to be recycled.

That morning when you woke up, I told you I had a surprise. We went downstairs, followed our usual routine of milk and one of your favorite shows, then I rolled out the newsprint and cut it to fit the size of the entire table.

Your eyes grew so wide, you just stared as if you were envisioning all of the possibilities.

"THANKS FOR THE PAPER, MOMMA!"

Those are the little moments that make life exceptional.

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But despite your being very strong-willed at the moment, I still think 2 gets a bad rap.

You are so fun right now. We're communicating better than ever before, you can occupy yourself for long stretches at a time, you love to help and you're finding your independence.

Dad routinely calls to say goodnight when I'm at work, and just this month I started asking to talk to you, too. Up until now it was kind of pointless. You couldn't really carry on your half of the conversation.

But now you're getting there. Just last night when I asked what you and Dad were doing, I never could've anticipated your answer.

"Daddy clippin' the toenails."

Apparently dad was clipping his toenails. I definitely needed to know that. The randomness of the information and the clarity with which you told me had me laughing so hard, I had to set the phone down for a second.

We talked about what you ate for dinner, how you were playing with your train set and wrapped up with lots of good nights and I lub yous.

So even though there are times I want to lock myself in a closet just to steal a quiet moment for myself away from the barrage of demands and questions and chaos that is our house filled with toys of many parts, I wouldn't ever give it up. Not one second.

Not the tantrums, the hitting or even the spitting.

You're coming into your own. The path is never easy, but the journey is what counts.

Remember that.

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Lub,
Momma

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bri

Tyra Banks would be proud. As I took Bri's senior photos, I kept thinking, "This girl's look is FIERCE!"


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Aiden & Maddelyn

These two adorable little ones are the children of a longtime friend. When oohing at my things, they reminded me that life is full of wonderment.


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Kim

I recently did a headshot session for Kim, who plans to use them in a variety of ways to promote herself and her dance business. Not surprisingly, she had absolutely perfect posture!


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The Clippingers

This family was tremendous fun. Sometimes I have to jump through hoops to get a kiddo to smile, but not these two! They were just full of great expressions.


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Lindsey

If this girl doesn't win Best Eyes for senior supurlatives, I'll know the vote was rigged! They just pop in every photo. Here are some of my favorites from Lindsey's senior photo shoot.

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Alexis

I had a blast with this 3-year-old. I first met Alexis at the expo I did at the mall in late August, and her mom called me to schedule a full session for her birthday. One benefit of being born in November is being able to do a birthday and holiday session in one!


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Bennett

I photographed this little guy a few months ago. For their most recent holiday session, we did family shots, too.

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The reasons behind my lack of posting

A huge crop of photo posts are forthcoming. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Running tally

The Christmas decoration casualty count at this point is as follows:

Allison: 6 colored balls, 1 window candle, 1 snow globe
Jerry: 1 colored ball
Me: 1 headache

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nothing works like fear to improve bad behavior

Conversation I overheard at the bank between a mother and her 4-year-old.

Mom: Don't touch the tree, sweetie. Just look.

...

Mom: Lexie, honey, don't touch it.

Lexie: WOW, MOMMY! LOOK! A BUTTERFLY!

Mom: Yes, I see it. It's a very pretty ornament. But remember, it's just to look at.

...

Mom: Lexie. No touching. I mean it.

Lexie: (after being yanked from the tree) I WANT TO SEE IT!

Mom: I told you no touching.

Lexie: I WANT TO ... what's that? Is that a jail? (pointing to the vault a bank teller was opening)

Mom: Yes. That's where they put all the kids who touch the tree.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Because all good stories start with, "So I was on the toilet"

So I was on the toilet, and Allison is encroaching my personal space, as usual. Actually, there is no such thing as personal space anymore. Sometimes I can't even pull on a pair of pants without repeatedly prying tiny hands from my thighs.

This time, I was using the downstairs bathroom, which currently has one of our car seats in a small space in the wall, waiting to be taken outside. Allison loves this setup. She sits in there by herself sometimes, like we were being so thoughtful to have a cushy chair just for her in what otherwise is a fairly boring room.

She has also discovered that it's fun to jump from the seat to the floor, but isn't able to do so without assistance.

So whenever I need to use the bathroom, she sees it as TIME FOR GYMNASTICS.

The toilet's proximity to the car seat is close enough that she expects me to hold out one arm so she can steady herself in whatever antics she prefers for the day. And getting my arm back so I can do more necessary things like wipe, flush and pull up my pants is no easy feat.

Well, today my lovely daughter got bored with the Using My Mom as a Jungle Gym While She's on the Toilet game, and decided to spin rapidly in circles. When she got dizzy and needed to steady herself, she ended up planting her freezing hands on my leg.

They were so cold that it made me jump.

"Your hands are FREEZING, Allison!"

And what did my sweet little girl proceed to do? She spent my subsequent time on the toilet trying to put both hands on my bare skin and laughing when I flinched.

Oh, and would you look at that? All of her cartoons are allllll gone for the morning.

Weird.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

This year, I am thankful for ...

my amazingly supportive and loving family -- the one I was born into and the one I married into, my equally supportive and loving friends, Grandma Ople's Apple Pie recipe, my health (and health insurance), the people who believed in me enough to book a portrait session before I had a portfolio, BunnyBear because they take one for the team on a daily basis, chocolate, the fact that I can wear my hair curly or straight without too much effort either way, Dove bar soap, all of my appliances that do the work for me, but especially my dishwasher, cartoons and the absolute household peace that comes with them, MY DVR for being able to play said cartoons instantly, Jerry's hugs because they can erase any worry for at least a moment, the fact that almost everyone I know and care about is employed, all of our great neighbors who have become great friends, my can-hold-almost-anything-I-toss-it's-way purse, my speed-dial three, which reaches my mom in an instant, the crazy women at our local grocery store deli who provide endless entertainment, getting to spend an entire day on a movie set with Denzel Washington -- something that would've been on my Bucket List had I even thought it possible, having the guts to take a huge leap of faith and start my own business, Wendy's for bringing back it's bacon cheeseburger with BETTER bacon, the things I take for granted almost every day like clean water, an abundance of food, heat, two vehicles and owning my own beautiful home, that I can uncharacteristically let it go and not go back and interject semi-colons where they should go now, and above all else, my neurotic and snuggly dog, my crazy fun daughter and the joy she brings us on a daily basis, and Jerry. He's my husband, my partner in life, my sounding board, my cheerleader and my best friend.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jerryism

Trying to pick up the 100-piece set of miniature plastic food that Allison dumped on the floor:

"This food is like glitter at a strip club. It's just everywhere!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Getting to be a movie extra an unstoppable experience

When news spread about the major motion picture “Unstoppable” filming in my hometown, I won’t lie, I had visions of stardom.

I pictured myself running alongside Denzel Washington toward the runaway train, hopping aboard and saving the day. Of course the director would immediately spot me in the crowd, notice my potential and order the screenwriter to add me to the script.

That said, I wasn’t among those who mulled whether or not they would attend the open casting call for extras. My husband and I printed out giant 8 x 10 headshots and were in line an hour before they were even supposed to start accepting applications.

Afterward, we went to breakfast and celebrated the casing director writing “COP” on Jerry’s form.

We figured we were in for sure.

So when almost everyone we knew got called and we didn’t, it was hard not to be a little disappointed. OK, a lot disappointed.

Conversations of sitting in the front row on opening night and buying the movie on Blu-ray turned to discussions of boycotts.

We tried to be excited for our friends, enjoy the helicopters flying over our house and listen to tales of explosions, but deep down, we knew we were missing out.

The next day, the phone rang.

Our home caller ID read: UNSTOPPABLE.

I couldn’t answer it. I nervously handed it over and listened intently as my husband’s half of the conversation got more and more detailed.

We were in!

They wanted me to be a TV news reporter and Jerry to be my cameraman. They could have told us to dress in our underwear and hold a toilet plunger, and I think we would have agreed.

We were asked to bring four outfits each so someone from wardrobe could select something appropriate, and be at the designated meeting location at 6 a.m. Normally I would cringe at having to get up at 4:30 a.m. in order to account for showers and travel time, but in this case, I wasn’t sleeping anyway.

The experience was everything I thought it would be. Sure, there was a lot of waiting and even some confusion at times, but I loved every second of it.

I signed a form agreeing not to give any details about the scene we shot that day, and because I value my freedom, I’ll stick to it.

But I can say it was exhilarating.

After a hot breakfast and stops at tractor-trailers and tents posing as wardrobe, props, and hair and makeup, we were bused over to the set and given a brief explantion of the scene we would be shooting for the day.

I didn’t get to run alongside Denzel, but he stood about 15 paces from me the entire day. It took all of my restraint not to geek out and ask if he would pose for a picture with me, but I took a cue from everyone around me and respected his personal space.

The good news is that it’s the final scene of the movie, so it won’t end up on the cutting-room floor.

The bad news is that it’s the final scene of the movie, so I’ll be fidgeting and wishing I had a fast-forward button while I’m sitting in the front row on opening night.

I’m not ready to quit my job and run off to Hollywood just yet, but if Denzel calls asking me to hold a toilet plunger in his next movie, I’ll do it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The joys of trying to reason with a 2-year-old

While I was trying to get dressed this morning, Allison needed a little hands-on attention, so I didn't have time to toss on a shirt and ended up changing her diaper in my bra.

"Nice suit, Mommy!"

"What?"

(pointing) "Suit. Mommy swimmin'."

"Noooo, this is a bra. Not a suit. It's November. Too cold to swim."

"I want to swim."

"Honey, all the pools are closed. It's too cold to swim. Trust me, you wouldn't have any fun even if we could find a pool that still had water in it."

"MOMMY SWIMMING! I WANT TO SWIM!"

"It's un-der-wear, Allison. Do you understand that? It's called that because you wear it under your clothes. I just need to put a shirt on, okay?"

"Yes. ... Then we go swimmin'."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sad, but true

Conversation with Jerry this morning while we were cleaning the house for my portrait sessions today and tomorrow:

Jer: "Oh, come ON Allison! I JUST put those books away!"

Me: (laughing) "I wonder how much of this we'll have to redo tomorrow morning."

Jer: "I wonder how much of this we'll have to redo in 20 minutes."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bowling party goodness

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Allison showing my cousn Deitrich something of utmost importance.


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My aunt Glrrr decorating Allison's cake before the party.


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When I asked Jer if he had snuck any, he said, "Nope."


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When my grandma asked which color flower Alli wanted to
eat first, she said, "Blue. No pink. No yellow. No purple ..."


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Playing a game at the bowling alley before guests arrived.


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All set up and ready to party!


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Bowling!


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Is it my turn yet?


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Allison won her game, but only because
I got her three spares in a row.


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Playing with the hand dryer.


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Pizza!


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The Cake in all of its awesome Wubbzy glory.


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Realizing she's the center of attention.


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A frosting flower and a forkful of cake.


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That kitty makes a crying sound, so Allison always announces it's sad.


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Her four Wubbzy plush dolls from us.


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Present C-R-A-Z-Y.


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Because a pile of gifts weren't enough.
She wanted to be a Big Winner, too.


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Nicholas gave bunny ears in every photo he was in.


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Back at home in assembly mode.


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Which one isn't stuffed?


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The end of the night in jammies, three skirts, Elmo slippers and
butterfly wings surrounded by new toys while watching Ni How Kai Lan.