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.

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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.

What I Will Do When My Kids Are Older

Every now and then, I fantasize about all the awesome things I will get to do when my kids are older. (Although if I keep popping out babies, these things will inevitably be pushed back.) Of course, there is nothing stopping me from pursuing these activities now, but I don’t want any of these things badly enough to make room in my current life for it. These are more like “Nice to Haves” versus “Must Do’s.”

I also realize that my time in the future will be just as crowded and full – just with different items. But for now, it is nice to pretend that I will eventually have hours and hours of free time to kill on my own.

So, here in no particular order, are some things I’d like to do:

1) Sleep in. I know. So cliché. But still awesome. I can’t wait for the kids to be self sufficient enough to get cereal on their own and turn on the TV to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings.

2) Take a drawing/art class. Someone I know solely through blogging recommended some good online art classes. I may take them once Glow Worm is more consistently sleeping through the night. Or perhaps after the fourth baby (not pregnant yet, don’t freak out) is sleeping through the night. But I have always wanted to draw – and draw well.

3) Join a choir or singing group. I miss singing in corporate settings. (As in a group, not business.) I suppose some of this would be solved if I actually went back to church, but what I really miss are harmonies and counter-melodies and singing with people who know what they are doing. I am envious of a friend who is part of Vox Femina in LA. She has a baby just a month or two older than Glow Worm so clearly, it’s possible. I am just not yet ready to make the plunge.

That’s all I can think of for now. Sad, isn’t it? Surely there must be more stuff I want to do with my life? But I guess it’s good the list is short. Much more attainable!

What are you looking forward to doing?

What I Miss About College

Late Sunday afternoon I got it in my head to get duck. Not just any duck, mind you. The best Peking Duck in the world. Hapa Papa said I could go after Glow Worm went down for the night so I tried valiantly to get together a small group of people for last minute duck. As you would expect, no one could make it.

Of course I am not surprised. I am friends with people who have children and spouses and actual lives. But I couldn’t help but think that I needed some more friends with zero obligations. (Not that they would be hanging around waiting for me to call randomly on a Sunday night…)

Anyhow, I decided to go by myself anyway. But while I was driving the 45 minutes to get to the duck place (Great China in Berkeley), I was thinking of all the things I missed about being young and carefree. Free to leave at the drop of a hat to go get duck.

So here, in no particular order, are things I miss about college.

1) Living in community

I miss having my friends live down the hall or around the block or like one year, all in the same apartment building. Lonely? Want to go do something? Catch a late night movie? Grab shaved ice at 1am? Drive to Vegas for a breakfast buffet? There is bound to be someone who is up for it.

On top of the silly stuff, I was lucky enough to be friends with folks in the same Christian fellowship and the people were super awesome and supportive for all the drama I entangled myself in. I miss these people.

2) Gads of free time

Sure, if you actually went to class or had a job or studied, you were a bit busier than most, but even with those things, there was a lot of free time. Time to sleep, eat, hang out, read, watch TV, whatever. It was beautiful.

3) Deep conversations

Just by virtue of being in a Christian fellowship as well as being around college people, there were bound to be conversations that delved deep into our lives. Instead of the mundane, we had time and opportunity and desire to discuss God, poverty, money, race, sex, love, whatever. Of course I could still have these conversations now, but it is far fewer and far between. In fact, my brain is usually too tired to talk about more than my children or my husband. Mostly, I talk about the food I want to eat. 

4) The sense of possibility

Yes, yes. I know I am not dead yet so clearly, there are lots of possibilities out there. But I am married. That automatically shuts out possibilities (in a good way, I might add). I have children (THREE), so there go a few more. I want to live a certain lifestyle and POOF! There go the rest! 

I am okay with this as I tend to be the type of person whose future is set and pretty much planned out. But still, every now and then, I miss the exciting sense of “anything could happen!”

5) The ability to eat ANYTHING and have very little consequence

Now, YMMV on this one. But my metabolism was AWESOME until I hit about twenty-five. After that, my cholesterol went up, my waistline let out a bit, and my body broke down. So of course, I took a bit better of myself. But man, I truly miss heading out to Norm’s (a 24-hour diner) for steak and eggs at 1am to “study.” Those were the times!

Ok. Your turn. What do you miss about college? 

Embrace Empty Space

Up until recently, I always thought the point of cleaning was to get as much stuff as possible into my closets and cabinets. I would clear out and give or throw away items we didn’t use and then, there was all that empty space just burning a hole in my proverbial pocket. I would plot things I could put in the newly cleared area (whether stuff we currently owned or stuff we were going to currently own) and sure enough, within a week or two, that space would be jammed full of stuff and I would have to clear out crap again.

It was as if I was physically incapable of having any “wasted” space in the house. In my mind, if I had an empty cabinet or shelf, I wasn’t efficiently using my house. My possessions were like gas molecules, expanding to fill the whole space of my house. That, and apparently my nature (not the actual Universe) abhors a vacuum. (Nerd alert! Two, count ’em, TWO science allusions in one paragraph! Whooo!)

In reality though, the point of clearing out my house is to have more SPACE.

This concept blows my mind.

In the same vein, before I got a smartphone and kids, I was always late. I wanted to maximize my time and use it as efficiently as possible. Therefore, I hated being early. I always plotted ways to arrive as close to a meet up or start time as possible. Of course, because I never built in a time buffer, inevitably I was quite often late. Apparently it was ok to waste time as long as it was other people’s.

Once I had kids, I realized I hated using my children as an excuse for my poor planning even MORE than I hated being early with nothing to do. (And with kids, I now never have nothing to do.) So then, I started to build an extra half hour to my travel times and still I sometimes run late. (Amazing how quickly that half hour gets eaten up. My favorite is when the kids are all strapped in and ready to go and somebody poops. Explosively.)

Plus, on the rare occasions I go out without my kids, my incredible fears of having the dreaded “Nothing to Do” is ameliorated by my joining the 21st century and finally having a smartphone with internet capabilities. Now, I rarely have Twiddling Thumb Time. (No, I am not talking about texting. If I were, it would be a lie. I text practically every waking moment.)

But now I have to wonder, just what is my problem with empty space (be it literal or figurative)? What is so horrible about being bored or mentally unoccupied?

In regards to the actual physical space, it is hard to break free from a hoarder’s mentality. The overarching fear that as soon as I get rid of something, I will need it. If I give away this toy or this fondue pot (never used after 7 years), what will happen if the kids should all of a sudden want to play with that toy again? Or OMG, if I NEED a fondue pot?

But the truth is, my kids would only think about that toy if I take it out (and even then, they’ll briefly play with it and seem to be ok when I tell them we’re giving it away). Plus, I have NEVER needed a fondue pot. I wish I did. Or more likely, I wish I weren’t so lazy that I would’ve actually used it. Mmmm… fondue…

As for mentally unoccupied times, for awhile, since I was actively avoiding thinking terribly deeply about my life and only living on the surface of things, I hated those still moments where my brain would inevitably go find the one thing I didn’t want to think about and then think about it. Nowadays, I don’t mind the stillness so much since that’s when I come up with blog ideas or insights into my life. However, I don’t make nearly enough room for myself.

I find that when my house or my life is crammed near bursting, I can go weeks (or months, even) without a single deep thought (or if I think it, no time or desire to pursue it). When I am surrounded by things and the stress of finding places to put these things (and the new things I keep buying), I feel crowded and cramped and boxed in. But when I clear out my house, I feel fresh, clean, and free. As if my things no longer own me.

Unfortunately, it seems as if I never learn this lesson and each time I make room, after a few days, I pile on the stuff again. Now in some sense, I suppose that is just the way of things. Clean spaces will eventually accumulate the detritus of five people going about doing stuff and I will have to clean them again. (I try to do a monthly sweep in all the corners of my house. This is clearly an ideal and does not happen once a month, but I do try!) However, other times, I use the clean spaces as an excuse to buy another item since hey, I just de-accumulated – don’t I deserve another something?

Well, this year, I am actively going to try and keep empty spaces empty. I already wrote about not buying new toys in 2014 (that includes new to us toys). But I also think I need to make room in my mental space, too. Instead of always filling my time with reading, surfing the net, texting, and a myriad of other “white noise,” I will attempt to allow my brain to wander and God forbid, think.

What about you? Does your life need more empty space?