New Home

I’ve finally gotten off my duff and moved all my blogs to my very own site. What does that mean for you? Well, if you primarily read my blog from my Facebook updates, you don’t have to do anything! YAY! If you happen to use an RSS Reader such as Feedly, then please take the time to re-subscribe at my new Mandarin Mama site. If you primarily read through WordPress, you should still be able to subscribe through WordPress at the new site.

The site shouldn’t look too different since I would rather get something up than make a ton of fancy changes only to never make the transition. I know I often fall victim to perfectionism and as a result, procrastinate until some arbitrary “perfect” state which, of course, never arrives in a timely manner (if ever).

Now that I am older and hopefully wiser, I am more okay with the idea that “good enough” is perfectly good enough. I don’t have to have everything perfect and final right out the gate. In true fact, the creative process is rarely like that. (I know. I’ve written about this before.) Of course, since I love detailed and well working systems, this chafes at my inner anal retentive crazy person. But as my old boss used to say, “A mediocre plan executed perfectly is better than a perfect plan executed mediocrely.” Or something like that.

Besides, the beauty of life is that it is always a work in progress. This site (like life), can have one iteration now and a different iteration later. There is nothing wrong with that. I know. So boring when I’m blabbing on and on about the site (“But it’s a metaphor,” she said pretentiously) when who cares as long as it’s working?

Very well. Moving on! (Pun intended. I’m here all week, folks.)

Speaking of new homes, we’ve been at our current house for about 4.5 years and it STILL has mostly bare walls (except for the wall I’ve designated for all of Cookie Monster and Gamera). I am TERRIBLE at interior decorating and my house is so boring and over-run with toys and functional furniture. There are no interesting eye-catching pieces and we will never be featured in a magazine.

Part of me thinks that when the kids are older, we’ll hire someone and re-decorate and be all fancy and modern. (I do enjoy the modern look.) However, I doubt that will happen because even though I like the LOOK of modern furniture and pretty, sleek designs, it doesn’t seem very ME, if that makes sense. I think I am much more of a comfy, slouchy sofa and well-loved furniture type. Also, I HATE knickknacks and clutter. (I do well enough cluttering up my house, thanks!) But perhaps, someone can spruce “me” up a bit. This will be at least a decade off, so I suppose there is no sense in worrying about it now.

Anyhow, hope you like the new place! 😉

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Slowly Moving Forward

I can’t believe it’s almost the end of March already. I thought 2014 just started? *sigh*

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been just slammed these past few months. It’s not even that bad – I’m just slow. I’ve been making excuses for myself, taking advantage of all Glow Worm and my doctor appointments (between his allergic reactions and my back going out), I’ve dropped most of my house-cleaning (except the bare minimum) and paying attention to the mail (eg: medical bills from all these appointments). Plus, my 2014 Goals were just slammed to the back burner and I ignored them.

Well, I’ve been very productive today. Of course, it’s 1:30am and I am also really screwed tomorrow (today?). But I’ve gotten several monkeys off my back. (Which makes me exceedingly happy even though really, these things are just what normal, responsible adults do on a daily basis. Whatever. I’m still feeling chuffed.) It especially makes me happy in light of my previous post addressing stuff I suck at.

So, because I’m four years old, I’m gonna tell you what I finally did:

1) Cleared out and filed approximately 3-4 months of unopened mail. SO PLEASED and SO RELIEVED. Do you know that this isn’t even the longest I’ve gone without going through my mail? I had at least two years worth of mail in several paper bags that I powered through right before Gamera was born. Or was it Glow Worm? I really don’t remember. All I know is that it was pathetic. And yes. Really. TWO YEARS. (This includes medical bills – I really don’t know how I was that bad. It’s not like we don’t have the means to pay for things. I was just really fucking lazy. *sigh*)

2) Gathered my 2013 tax documents for my CPA appointment today. Now, at least I was a teensy bit better last year and started a folder for tax documents (both a physical one and an electronic one). But, of course, I didn’t download all my 1099s and W-2s until past 11pm. (Hey, Cookie Monster and Gamera didn’t conk out until past 10:30pm and I ranted about it on Facebook and then I watched a well-deserved episode of The Vampire Diaries.) And you know, we have a shit-ton of accounts.

3) Paid a lot of slightly past due/about to be past due medical bills. What? I kinda mentioned this in #1? Pffft. This is so awesome it’s worthy of it’s own mention. (Admittedly, this is a lot like being proud of NOT beating my own children. But I don’t care.)

4) Started back on my housecleaning schedule again. Ok. I didn’t only do it today. And I am still letting a lot slide. But baby steps, ok?

What? You were expecting more? TOO BAD. That’s all I’ve got. I really need a wife.

Things I Inexplicably Suck At

I am good at many of the mundane things in life: doing dishes, tidying the house (for the most part), making sure my children are fed and alive, buying groceries, breathing. You know, the important stuff of every day life. But somehow, I utterly fail out other things. No excuses. Just complete sucktitude. Here they are in no particular order.

1) Paying medical bills. Seriously, why can’t there just be an autopay option? Stop sending me bills. Start auto-billing my credit card.

2) Playing with my children. I don’t know if I was always terrible at it or that I started being terrible the instant I gave Cookie Monster a playmate, but dude. I really don’t enjoy playing with my kids. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. I constantly feel as if they should play by themselves and with each other and leave me out of the equation entirely.

3) Brushing teeth. (But flossing, I’m good.) Both for myself and for my kids. I don’t know why.

4) Bath/Bed time routines. Yeah, my kids are cute in the bath but really, I find myself especially short-tempered at night. I feel as if it’s the home stretch and FFS WHY ARE MY KIDS STALLING IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE JUST BATHE AND SLEEP ALREADY!! GAH!!!

5) Remembering things. I originally started thinking about this post while trying to put the kids to sleep. I know I had another item on this list but I just can’t think of it. It’s been at most ten minutes since I first thought about this subject and then started typing.

6) Getting out of Costco and spending under $100. Impossible. In my entire lifetime, I think it’s only happened once.

7) Bringing in the mail. I’m excellent at bringing in my Amazon packages. Utterly pathetic at bringing in the mail.

8) Filing taxes on time. In my entire lifetime of filing for taxes, I have never filed by April 15. EVER.

9) Using everything we buy. Especially produce. I am really bad at remembering to cook real food. I throw away a lot of stuff. *sigh*

10) Doing anything that requires a phone call. (I finally remembered the item!) Scheduling doctor appointments? Calling customer service? Disputing something? Bah! Why can’t everything be done via email/text/online forums? WHY MUST I SPEAK WITH A HUMAN? For some reason, the phone becomes an 800 lb gorilla when I have to use it for anything that is not ordering take out. (Even then, I am annoyed I can’t order online.) It’s 2014. GET WITH IT, EVERYONE.

Welp, there you have it. A non-exhaustive list of the stupid things I’m terrible at. Am I utterly alone in this? Tell me in the comments.

What I Learned On My Girls’ Weekend Getaway

This past weekend, a few fellow mommies and I went to SF for a Girls’ Weekend out. We lolled about, walked without considering small children, ate a ton and drank in the day time! Heck, we even drank at night! Awesome! It was so enjoyable and relaxing and truly fun. Thanks, ladies and husbands!

Here are a few things I learned this weekend on my first weekend trip without the kids in two years.

1) I didn’t really miss my children. Not even the baby. But I did talk about them at least 65% of the time and checked in with Hapa Papa every few hours.

2) Hapa Papa did fantastic with all three kids – even without having lactating breasts! Clearly, this is a sign that I need to leave more often.

3) Getting to know new friends is really fun. I’ve slowly been getting to know some of the moms at Cookie Monster’s preschool better and it has been wonderful. I don’t know why I worried so much about getting along with the other mommies. It gives me great hope for the future when the kids start elementary school.

4) Finding out what the other moms did before becoming SAHMs was a revelation. In our group, we had two lawyers, one child psychologist/school counselor, a financial advisor, and a preschool teacher. I had the least amount of education out of them all. They were all slumming it!

5) There is such a thing as too much chocolate. We attended a chocolate festival at Fort Mason and by the end, I was a bit sick of chocolate. Also, turns out I prefer truffles over bars. The best thing that I put in my mouth this weekend.

6) Valet parking in SF is totally worth it.

7) After attending an Asian American Film Festival, I realized I might have to start putting my money where my mouth is. If I want to see more Asians in film, I need to support their work.

8) Even though I’ve had my pixie cut for at least a month, I’m still not used to my new look. I am constantly surprised when I see myself in pictures and reflective surfaces.

9) I still get carsick.

10) Things that I might’ve found titillating or risqué a few years ago are now boring and contrived. Not because I am jaded or inured to sex. I’m just older and wiser and find some of the more desperate actions really sad.

11) I can’t control myself in bookstores. Especially when it comes to books that feature Chinese or Japanese stories for the kids. I’m also a sucker for coffee table books with tons of art/pictures.

12) Staying up until 3am chatting is better than sleep.

13) After coming home, say, “Thank you” to Hapa Papa and try to curb the urge to point out everything you see that is wrong with the house. It makes Hapa Papa feel shitty and me seem like an ungrateful jerk. Which I was for a few moments. Sorry, Hapa Papa. You are an awesome dad and husband and I am so fortunate to have you.

Since all the husbands performed admirably (one hit it out of the park by taking his boys on a spur of the moment camping trip to Santa Cruz), we clearly can leave our children more often. Any suggestions of where to go and what to do next?

My Love/Hate Relationship With Play Dough

For almost three and a half years of Cookie Monster’s life, I banned Play-Doh from our house. The only time he or Gamera got to play with it was when we were at other people’s houses. Anytime someone gave us Play Doh as a gift, it mysteriously disappeared. You see, I hate Play Doh. It crumbles. Gets all over the floor. Ends up on my carpets no matter how much I tell my kids to only play with it in the kitchen. It dries into hard, sharp chunks that gunk up toys. It smells funny. And it dries all too quickly.

I tried to make play dough a few times, but they always turned yucky really quickly (either getting super wet again or getting too clumpy). I gave up on that idea after wasting several cups of flour and salt.

I felt mildly bad since the kids kept watching YouTube videos on various Play Doh sets and how to make fancy ice cream cones or whatever. But I certainly didn’t feel bad enough to give in and buy them any.

However, Cookie Monster’s preschool teacher had the most awesome home made play dough. It was nice, clean smelling, didn’t clump, and had a great texture. I kept putting off asking her for the recipe because I didn’t want to bring play dough into the house. I knew once I did, I would never get rid of it.

Well, one day in the summer, when I was hugely pregnant with Glow Worm, somehow we ended up with a bunch of play dough Cookie Monster’s teacher gave us. She also lent us a bunch of play dough toys (eg: rolling pins, knives, stencils, cookie cutters, scissors). Cookie Monster and Gamera were occupied for hours. HOURS. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a fluke but it wasn’t. They played play dough for HOURS at a time every day and did not stop.

I would overhear Cookie Monster quote the YouTube videos he watched, saying, “Remove the excess.” “Use the molds.” And watch him know what to do with certain play sets because he’d watch the videos over and over again.

It was amazing.

I immediately asked for her recipe and started scavenging craigslist for play dough toys. And now, I make a new batch of play dough every month or two. The kids love it and I don’t hate it quite as much. (Nor do I feel bad about throwing away old play dough because it was cheap to make.)

If you hate store bought Play Doh and don’t mind about 15-20 minutes of work, here is The Best Play Dough Recipe Ever. The secret ingredient is cream of tartar. I have no idea what people use it for other than for play dough. Pro-Tip: after you make the play dough, put it in a ziplock bag unzipped overnight. That way, it doesn’t re-condense and get all moist and yucky right away.

Enjoy!

Why I Am a SAHM

Sometimes, I think I am damaging my children’s understanding of what women can do by being a SAHM. Are my boys going to look for wives who will only be homemakers? Will my daughter think her career options are limited? Am I reinforcing gender stereotypes?

Of course, I know intellectually that the whole thrust of feminism isn’t to force all women into the workplace and devalue motherhood and being a homemaker. The point of feminism is to give women and men equal rights and opportunities so that if I want to work, I can work. If I want to stay at home, I can stay at home. (Same goes for my husband.)

Hapa Papa often jokes that I pulled a Bait and Switch on him. I looked good on paper: graduating from UCLA, working in marketing then becoming a financial advisor. And then, BAM! I popped out Cookie Monster and decided I never wanted to work again. (No, this is not a discussion on whether or not caring for children is work. Yes, it is. But I am merely referring to “work” as in an occupation for which I am paid taxable dollars.)

I always assumed I would work after I had kids. My mother worked and my brother and I turned out fine (dare I say, AWESOME?). But I do know that as much as I appreciated the freedom of being a latch-key kid and the hours and hours of TV we’d watch after school, I envied my friends whose mothers were home. Part of me longed for someone to welcome me home when I got back from school, perhaps with snacks.

Please don’t misunderstand me. My mother never missed a concert or school event. She always knew the gist of what was going on at school. (This is especially impressive since she was an immigrant and this was all PRE-internet!) She knew who my friends were and was incredibly strict regarding who I was and wasn’t allowed to hang out with. I am incredibly grateful – especially now that I realize just how easily influenced I am! (I am no stalwart independent. I am quite the follower and easily misled!)

At any rate, as soon as I took one look at Cookie Monster, I knew I would never work again. I didn’t want to miss a single moment of his little life and the lives of his siblings. I wanted to shape my children, for better or for worse. When the kids eventually go to school, I want to be there at pick up and drop off. I want to know their teachers. I want to be involved in the PTA and their classrooms. (Ok, I take that back. I definitely do NOT want to be Room Mom. NOPE. Not for me.)

But mostly, I want our home to be a sanctuary. A hub. I want the kids to bring their friends over after school, play, hang out, do their homework, eat, and bask in the inanities of life. I want to be in the background or foreground (depending on what is needed). I want to be the constant heartbeat of their lives until they launch themselves into college and young adulthood. I want to be their security. Their home.

I want to provide my children with the stability I never felt when I was growing up. I want to be their rock.

Of course, many parents provide these things even while working. But to me, I want to be home full time. Even when all the kids are in school, what place of work would have me work from 10-2? No one in their right mind would hire me unless it were shift work. Plus, I am more than certain those precious child-free hours would be quickly eaten up by the millions of little things it takes to manage a family of several children.

I am just so grateful that Hapa Papa’s job makes enough money so that we can live comfortably on one income without hardship. I am grateful that Hapa Papa supports me being at home. I am grateful that I get to be present for almost every glorious, boring, mundane, infuriating moment with my children. It is an incredible honor.

Things That Make Me Happy

I have several inchoate posts in the queue and I just can’t seem to sit still long enough to write something coherent and meaningful. (Truthfully, I can’t stay away from the interwebs because, hey! Email! Quizzes! Wikipedia! Facebook! Random articles! Apparently, they are all more interesting than writing a blog post.) So, instead, I’m going to just list a bunch of things that have made me happy lately.

So, here they are in no particular order:

1) I love watching my older two kids interact. They are such good buddies and even their arguments are hilarious. Some examples:

a) Inevitably, the first words out of whoever wakes up second are, “Where’s Gamera/Cookie Monster?” 

b) G: “Top [Stop], Cookie Monster! You listen to me! You have to listen to me!”
CM: “No, thank you! I don’t have to listen to you!”
G: “Top [Stop], Cookie Monster! LISTEN TO ME!”

Mostly, I find this amusing because they sound exactly like me yelling at them to listen to me.

c) CM: “Come play with me, Gamera!”
G: “Okay!” or, “NO!”

Gamera never asks to play with Cookie Monster. She just follows him everywhere and does whatever he does. It’s super cute.

d) Every time we drop Cookie Monster off at preschool, Gamera is sad and begs to join her older brother. She asks every time if she can go to school with him and I have to break her heart every time. She gets super happy when it’s time to pick him up.

e) Gamera plays with trains, reads, and does everything EXACTLY like Cookie Monster. Clearly, I’m not teaching her anything. They even talk and tell stories exactly the same. It’s clear from syntax alone that they’re related.

2) Even in sleep, they are close. Their interactions are particularly amusing since one or both of them are asleep.

a) I often find them snuggled together in bed, or alternatively, squashing the other. I have watched Gamera sleep crawl over Cookie Monster’s face and settle on top of his head with her stomach. I have even found them holding hands.

b) When Cookie Monster sleep talks, he usually says, “More!” or “Cookie!” When Gamera sleep talks, she yells, “MINE!” or “No, Cookie Monster!”

c) One time, Gamera rolled over and found herself pushed up against Cookie Monster’s feet. In her sleep, she started yelling, “Top [Stop] kicking me, Cookie Monster! Top!” All the while, hitting Cookie Monster in the face. He was so confused, even in a dead sleep. I couldn’t stop laughing but eventually, separated poor Cookie Monster from his unreasonable sister.

3) Since my college friend, DS, has been visiting this past week, I’ve had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend who’s life is completely different than mine. It’s been awesome to get to know him a little better, as well as have deep conversations (like the kind we used to have in college – even if he did go to USC). My kids are going to be SO SAD when he’s gone.

4) Glow Worm’s random noises crack me up. He’s taken to growling after nursing. Clearly, he takes after his big sister.

5) I caught up on all my TV shows.

6) I made some progress on my 2014 Goals. Incremental steps, but hey, progress nonetheless!

7) Hapa Papa is back from his business trips and as a result, I have ceded all parental duties to him. This past weekend, he took the older kids to two parks each day. That’s three more parks than I took the kids to all week. (Hmmm… wait… that’s FOUR more parks than I took the kids to all week.)

8) Cookie Monster recently told me he loves the song, Counting Stars, by OneRepublic. Hearing him sing along to the song on the radio (and mangling most of the lyrics and surprisingly getting a decent amount of them correct), seeing him glow as he grins and sings enthusiastically, watching him dance along to the music, it is so precious.

9) Glow Worm attacks all the activity stations on his exersaucer. He gets even more excited when he sees his big brother and sister. He wants so badly to be big.

10) Cookie Monster has been really good about speaking more in Chinese after a few months of speaking more English. I’ve been making more of an effort to force him to speak Chinese and pretending not to understand him if he speaks to me in English.

11) Because of my pretending not to understand English and forcing the kids to speak Chinese, Gamera has made up a language. She knows she can’t speak English, but for some reason (either because she’s not sure how to say it in Chinese, or she’s just stubborn), Gamera now either mimes what she wants, or she speaks gibberish such as, “Hee hee ha ha hoo?”

12) I haven’t yelled much at the kids ever since I started trying the techniques in Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood (affiliate link). Although very cheesy and seemingly stupid, the techniques have been working really well for me. I especially love giving my kids choices for incredibly stupid things, as well as having set things to say when I’m frustrated or mad so that I repeat those phrases like a mantra and refrain from screaming at my children.

13) My food restrictions have eased up a bit (due to Glow Worm’s allergy doctor saying I can have some egg and dairy in baked goods even though Glow Worm is allergic to dairy and eggs). So, every now and then, I sneak a food item that makes me feel normal again. Today, I had 2.5 chocolate chip cookies. They were AMAZING.

14) My acupuncturist says I only have to go to a few more sessions. Then it will be mostly on an as-needed vs weekly basis. My Saturdays are going to be free again! (Currently, I drive three hours round trip for the sessions every Saturday.)

15) My mother is finally not sick and healthy again (after being sick for at least a month). So that means my kids can finally hang out with her (and I can have a small break when she comes over). YAY!

16) Hapa Papa. Sometimes, I get a little entitled and become a bit resentful, but when I remember all the things he does for us (especially the kids), I am so grateful. He is a fantastic and involved father and my kids are so entirely spoiled by him. Plus, he really does go out of his way to make sure I am taken care of and happy.

I want to make sure Hapa Papa knows that if I went back in time to tell my college aged self what to do differently, I would ALSO be very upset and sad if the altered past erased HIM from my timeline. He came home Friday night and grumbled, “I noticed that you only mentioned you’d be upset if you erased the babies, but made no mention of me. I noticed because you only included the ENTIRE FAMILY EXCEPT ME. I’m not upset, you know, but it did come to my attention…” Oh, Hapa Papa. You are adorable.

Even coming up with this list made me smile. What is making you happy this week?