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?

Advertisements

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!

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? 

Sometimes Showing Up Is All You Can Do

Lately I have been having a hard time writing posts. It’s not that I am out of things to say (although that certainly is a minor worry of mine), it is more that I do not feel inspired nor inclined to put in the mental effort of crafting thoughts into a coherent and interesting piece.

A tiny and ever increasing little voice in my head seduces with words like, “Why don’t you take a break? This isn’t work or anything important. Who gets hurt if you don’t post? What’s the big deal? It’s just for fun. Just skip today. Or a few days until you get back in the mood to post.”

I want to listen to this voice.

Currently, another, louder, more insistent voice is holding a slight edge. “Get up,” she urges. “If you give in now, it will be easier to give in the next day and the next. Pretty soon, you’ll blink and it will be months from now – maybe even years! Then it will be even HARDER to continue writing. And you want to write, don’t you? So get your ass up and write something. Anything. Even if it’s crap.”

So here I am. There is a post for today.

Writing on this blog three days a week is part of my goals for the year – one small goal in a series of goals I’ve set for myself. True, nothing bad will happen if I don’t do it. But that’s like most things we want or work towards in life, right? But then again, if I do nothing, nothing I WANT will happen, either.

I used to believe many lies about art and creating art. Shoot, it doesn’t have to be art – it could be anything (like getting in shape, studying, a career). I erroneously thought that art required inspiration and without inspiration, it would be hack work. That anything that was “forced” and didn’t come in a flurry or an immediate “in the zone” effect was worthless because it required effort – and True Art was supposed to be effortless. Furthermore, not only was art supposed to be effortless, it was supposed to come out perfect right out the gate. (While we’re talking about stupid art myths, how about we add the “tortured artist” to the list?)

What a load of tripe. (Mmmm… tripe.)

Most art and anything worth attaining is acquired by hard work. Yes, talent has some say in the matter, but talent can only get a person so far. (A post for another day.) And sometimes, the hardest part is overcoming inertia and just showing up and hacking away until you press pass a block. Maybe the block will last a minute. Maybe it will last years. But unless you show up, putting in the time, pounding out words (in my case), IF and WHEN inspiration strikes, you might not be in the place (talent or expertise-wise) to take advantage.

I highly recommend reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (Amazon affiliate link). Here’s a sample:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance…Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.

This book wormed its way into my brain and I am glad. It helps add fuel to the voice which urges me on, pushing me past the dreaded blank page. “Want to be a writer? Then write.”

So here is my exhortation for you this Monday: Want to be a writer/programmer/analyst/consultant/parent/musician/runner/etc.? Then write/program/analyze/consult/parent/compose/run.

Somehow, it always comes back to this for me: Fake it til you make it.

The Things We Do

I don’t know how parents of kids with special needs or severe illnesses do it. For the last few weeks, I’ve been driving Glow Worm about 1.5 hours away to see a famous Chinese medicine doctor for his eczema. (Glow Worm kept breaking out no matter what I ate and was scratching his head so bloody that his sheets looked like the site of a massacre.) On top of that, I’ve taken him to Western doctors for steroid/cortisone creams and have so many unguents and creams and ointments, I should open my own store!

Obviously, Glow Worm doesn’t have anything seriously wrong with him. (Although, I would say the boils and pus-filled blisters, bloody scars, and general discomfort were getting to be very serious.) But all these appointments and trips to the special doctor take time and energy and money. Incidentally, I also have Cookie Monster and Gamera to take care of. Thank goodness Hapa Papa has a pretend job where he can watch the kids or take them out to fun places. Hapa Papa’s out on vacation next week in NYC so I am going to be juggling a lot of kids and doctor appointments. It should be interesting.

Now, Glow Worm is much better thanks to a combination of my diet changes (I call it my Extreme Love and Sadness Diet) and the steroid/cortisone ointments and creams. I feel as if I haven’t seen my older kids in weeks. Also, I’m exhausted. (Did I mention that I’ve been fighting off a pretty bad cold?) Hapa Papa is exhausted, too. We are all exhausted.

I am also incredibly hungry. The Chinese doctor said I can’t process proteins very well so I am passing all these unprocessed proteins to Glow Worm in my breastmilk and his poor system was so overwhelmed that he started to react to everything I ate. So, I got put on a cleanse of sorts and my diet is pretty restricted. I am also undergoing a lot of acupuncture, acupressure, and dietary therapy. I have to avoid dairy, gluten, fatty and/or fried foods, eggs, soy milk, seafood (fish is ok), and an assortment of other random things.

I am SO HUNGRY.

Hence, the Extreme Love and Sadness Diet. Extreme because, HOLY SHIT WTF CAN I ACTUALLY EAT? Love, because, I do this out of love. Sadness because, well, I also love food and these dietary restrictions make me full of The Sads. And now, I am full of The Hungers. But Glow Worm is much improved so I will keep this up. (Pretty much until he’s weaned. SIGH.) The only other plus side is that I’ve dropped a lot of weight in a very short period of time. So, you know, if you ever want to drop weight, all you have to do is STOP EATING EVERYTHING.

It is totally not worth it if it’s just for weight loss. I was pretty cranky the first few weeks.

Also, did I mention that I AM SO HUNGRY?!

Anyhow, this is all just a long, rambling post to say that I have so much respect for parents of children with actual, serious situations/illnesses/problems. I don’t know how they do it (other than they HAVE to so they DO). I don’t know how their other children do it. (Again, they HAVE to so they DO.)

All I know is that I kinda miss Cookie Monster and Gamera. But then they have insane nights like tonight (they were both exhausted but refusing to sleep and Gamera basically went ballistic) and I think, “I don’t really miss that. Have fun, Hapa Papa. I’m outta here.”

Why Do I Always Ruin Things?

Before I get started, I just want to say that I know I am a horrible, ungrateful person. With that caveat out of the way, here we go.

My house has a giant tub of Legos (many of which are Star Wars sets) that I got used on craigslist. I have a hard enough time keeping track of those pieces so we don’t pull them out much. Besides, Cookie Monster is barely four. He plays just fine with the Duplos.

Well, I just pissed off my mom because she bought Cookie Monster this huge plane Lego set for $100+ and we already have a ton. Now Cookie Monster wants to build it and Hapa Papa has to cuz I sure as fuck don’t want to.

None of us want to.

And I’m annoyed because now I have to find room for this shit and she didn’t buy Gamera a birthday present but she bought Cookie Monster one!!! Good thing Gamera thinks it’s her Lego set too. (The benefits of me forcing them to share everything. My house is Communist central.)

My mom said I could return it. REALLY? How can I return it after she has shown the thing to him?!? She says I take all the fun out of giving gifts. Blargh. I know I’m an ass but wtf. Boo.

Then let’s say he actually builds the damn thing. There is no way he’ll let me take it apart. So wtf am I supposed to do with it?! I fucking hate Lego sets.

I am a horrible, ungrateful person.

She did this I bet because she feels jealous that Hapa Papa’s mom buys them crap every time she visits. She tried to justify it by saying Cookie Monster’s love languages are presents and time.

Really? So we have to give him even more stuff now? (Rants the person who has like a million toys stuffed away for the kids to share for Christmas.)

To top it off, Cookie Monster’s birthday party is this weekend and despite me saying “No Gifts,” about a third will bring gifts anyway. Which he will rip through with Gamera with great delight (as well as remember who gave him what with startling clarity).

All this to say I may have the kids give some of their Christmas presents to Toys for Tots before I give them anything. Thin the present pile out a little.

I know. My heart is apparently two sizes too small.

Wait, so am I the only person who hates Lego sets? I’d much rather they just play whatever and make their own designs. Or am I missing something? (Besides a soul.)

So, now that I’ve shot off my mouth ill-advisedly, I feel awful. I ALWAYS do this to my mother and my MIL when they get presents for my kids. I get annoyed and mad and instead of just SHUTTING MY GORRAM MOUTH AND SAYING, “THANK YOU.” I am a jerk and then feel bad. Then, I try to soften my criticisms with belated gratefulness, but really, that’s just like taking a fat shit on a cake and then complimenting the cake and trying to eat it but all the while, THERE IS SHIT ON THE CAKE. I’ve ruined the present and the giving and nothing I can do will fix what I’ve spoiled.

I am utterly selfish.

If someone else other than my mother or my MIL gave my kids these presents, I’d be over the moon to their face. Effusive in thanks and excitement. But instead, I rob my family of the joy of giving.

Even before I open my mouth, I feel a minor struggle about whether or not to say anything but before my common sense can intervene and help me be a good person, I barf out meanness. *sigh* Because I am a mean person, people.

Just by saying this, people may comment and say, “No, you’re not mean!” and perhaps cite all sorts of evidence. But truthfully, I am nice to people who are not my immediate family. They can choose to not be your friend in an instant and I want people to like me. But my mom or MIL? They’re stuck with me for LIFE, suckers! So, I don’t bother being kind at all. I am an ass of monumental proportions. A selfish, cruel ass.

*SIGH*

Sin is hard on a person’s ego.

Comfort Food

Now that it’s cold (pity us Northern Californians – it’s been in the 30s at night and the 40s during the day – GAH!!), I find myself craving congee/jook (a Chinese rice porridge) a LOT. When I was younger, I only had the plain rice porridge with condiments such as pickled cucumbers, spicy bamboo slices, mien jing (some glutenous thing), to fu roo (some spicy soy paste), salted duck egg, thousand year old egg, and maybe some pork sung (dried pork bits and pieces).

Then, I discovered flavored congee – the kind you get in the middle of the night at a Hong Kong cafe. Mmmm… delish.

I mean, plain rice porridge is still delicious (especially when I’m feeling sick) and super easy to make. 1 cup rice to 3-4 cups water. Boil. (Or if you have a rice cooker with settings, follow those water levels.) However, now that I know how easy it is to make congee, WELL THEN. Why go back?

Thanks to the internet, I found a great recipe that I followed religiously the first time I made congee. Now, I just wing it and follow the recipe loosely. I’ve been making it once a week lately. It never gets old. Of course, you can also eat this congee with the condiments I mentioned before. It’s not like there are rules. Do whatever makes your stomach happy.

This week, I used turkey bones from Thanksgiving that I froze. But I have used Costco rotisserie chicken bones, too. I use cooking scissors and cut up the carcass and throw it in the pot. The key is ginger! Here are the things I add (that may or may not be in the recipe above). Most everything is to taste.

1) 2 quarts of chicken broth
2) water
3) kosher salt to taste
4) garlic powder
5) white pepper
6) sesame oil
7) ginger (a LOT but really to taste)
8) 2 cups of rice
9) bones (turkey/chicken/pork shortribs/whatever)
10) whatever else you want!

I basically just dump everything into a pot and boil on high for awhile then I lower the heat. (But if you want the fancy directions, the link is good for that.) It takes about an hour to get creamy. I don’t bother with removing the chicken and shredding and then putting it back into the pot as the recipe suggests. I leave it all in. If it gets more congealy because the rice has sucked out all the soup, just add some water and reboil.

Sometimes, if I’m really lazy and I get to the dregs of the congee and then I make a pot of soup with the “leftovers.” That is also delicious.

What are some of your go-to winter comfort foods?