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.

Sometimes, Parenting is a Slog

I came to an unexpected realization tonight. I don’t think I’ve been happy lately. A lot of it is due to me feeling overwhelmed about Glow Worm and then my two older kids on top of that. Then, I feel stupid for feeling so overwhelmed because let’s be honest. Glow Worm’s skin issues aren’t life threatening. (The infections may have come to that had I allowed them to rage on, but I didn’t and he’s much better now.)

After going to Stanford pediatric dermatology, they gave me some skin regimens that though labor intensive and a pain in the ass, are quite doable and are working. My main gripe with them is they care more about treatment versus prevention. They seemed skeptical about what I think is the root cause of Glow Worm’s eczema (protein sensitivities from food). So, short of repeated treatment (granted, effective treatment), they aren’t really helpful in terms of preventing this from occurring in the future.

I find this both disappointing and infuriating. It’s not like I suggested Glow Worm’s eczema was caused by aliens doing scientific experiments on him. FFS, be useful! It is NOT a fait accompli! Blergh.

So, hopefully, this is just a phase that I’m going through. Sorry my blog is nonstop complainy lately. Please don’t think I am not grateful for my life and my kids. It’s just a tough (for me, anyway) time at the moment.

What I am SUPER grateful, other than my family, are my awesome friends who go out of their way to babysit my older kids so I can take Glow Worm to doctor appointments without also having to deal with two small children, as well as offer to pick up and drop off Cookie Monster from school. It so strange how it was initially very difficult for me to accept this type of help. Now, I’m all for it.

Truly, I don’t know how people do it without any help from friends or family. I would just curl up and cry (more).

I am so tired that my house is a mess (I haven’t really cleaned it in at least a month – which in the grand scheme of things, is not a big deal, but the part of me that likes to get things clean and done cringes), my kids are barely fed and clothed, and I just pretty much let Cookie Monster and Gamera fend for themselves. In fact, this morning, I realized that not only do I have no idea how to play with Gamera when Cookie Monster is at school, I have no desire to.

I am not sure whether or not that is a good, bad, or neutral thing.

Part of me thinks that one of the perks of bearing multiple children super close in age is me no longer needing to entertain small children. The other part of me thinks that I am a lazy, half-assing parent. (Perhaps both opinions can be simultaneously true.)

I know several of my friends have suggested that I hire a baby sitter to come and watch the children while I decompress. While I appreciate that suggestion, the thought of doing so just causes me more stress. My kids have only been watched by family or close friends. Hiring a babysitter to watch all THREE of my kids (that is THREE kids four and under) is costly (around $25/hr or maybe more) and likely, traumatic for my incredibly clingy children. In fact, I think Glow Worm would be the most accepting of a baby sitter. Also, I find it really wasteful since the whole point of me being a SAHM is to STAY AT HOME. This is my JOB.

Keep in mind, I also do have a reasonable amount of alone time when Hapa Papa is at home or my mom comes over. I do leave the house sans children. Of course, when I come back, I usually have to be OK with the house looking as if a tornado swept through it and my kids in various states of disarray. (Not that this is not the situation when I watch my kids by myself, but it is even MORE overwhelming when I have just been all peaceful and happy and then walk home into what seems like a Disaster Zone and have to switch back into parenting mode. Then I find that all that Zen-ness immediately leaks away and my shoulders tense right back up.)

Anyhow, I find myself constantly tired and annoyed – even with going to sleep when the kids sleep (around 9pm). Granted, my sleep is constantly broken, but I AM sleeping. I finally got around to watching some TV the other day (I haven’t made a dent in my DVR in at least a month) and my reading seems to have picked up again. But mostly, I feel as if I’m treading water and anything I do to decompress just piles up the To Do list higher and higher.

Compounding this is Hapa Papa traveling a lot as well as my mom being gone for about two weeks with her own travels. Yes, yes. Cry me a river. I realize that so many people out there are single parents and have to deal with this AS WELL AS work full time. I get it. I am not special or unique in my travails. I’m not trying to start a “Who has it harder” pissing contest. I am just telling it like it is for me right now.

No doubt, I just have to chug through this and in a few weeks, Glow Worm will be markedly healed, I will get more sleep, my kids will miraculously listen instead of looking at me like I’m making suggestions until I yell at them and even then, they move SO FUCKING SLOWLY – oh right, I was in the middle of telling myself that it will all be better soon.

I know I would seriously feel less stressed if I did the following:

1) Sleep more.

2) Build in more time to account for the unaccountable SLOWNESS of my older children doing ANYTHING that requires haste.

3) Stop caring HOW my kids do things as long as they do it. However slowly.

4) Eat more fruits and vegetables. (Oh, let’s just be honest. Eat fruits and vegetables. That would instantly make it more.)

5) Stop worrying about if my children injure themselves. I can warn them all I want but if my kids seem to have an utter inability to sit in the center of the fucking chair, then they deserve to fall off. Every day. I just. Gah. I suppose that’s why we have health insurance. *sigh*

6) Choose to focus on the good moments.

7) Choose to let go of the bad moments.

8) Drink more peach bellinis. Mmmmm… I need to learn how to make me some of those. I have a VitaMix. And Google. It can be done. (Sigh. Now I’ve become a stereotypical SAHM who drinks. I don’t even drink! But I can start!)

Alright, who wants to have an afternoon (Oh, why lie? Morning sounds fine, too.) play date where we make and consume peach bellinis?

Fighting Dirty

Hapa Papa and I fight the most in two types of situations: Traveling (be it by plane, train, or automobile) or when Hapa Papa works from home.

Traveling seems obvious. Even before we had kids, we would always fight (and not just mere disagreements – full on yelling) when we travelled – especially when we drove. Mostly because we actually had a conversation and discovered that Hapa Papa was surprisingly incorrect on SO MUCH of his thinking.

As for working from home, you’d think that would be awesome, right? No three hour round-trip commute. More time with the family. Some help around the house. Win/Win for every body involved. Especially the children. THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

Well. I was wrong. SO. WRONG.

Yes, it is handy that Hapa Papa is around all day (especially in the evening when the kids are tired and hungry and starting to melt down – and okay, in the mornings, too, so I can sleep in or laze about and the kids are downstairs with Hapa Papa busily NOT eating their breakfast). However, we get into SO MANY fights. Mostly, because poor Hapa Papa still has to work and I think it’s Saturday.

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Monday at the office.

He gets mad because every time he sits down at the couch with his laptop to do something, I ask him to get up and get a tissue/napkin/juice/water/small child/wipe a bottom/change a diaper/just do one more thing. (I can’t imagine why.) I get mad because he expects us to just IGNORE the giant lump of a man on the couch and pretend he isn’t there and not speak or talk to him, or have a conversation, or ask him to do one, tiny thing (though, honestly, it never ends at one). THAT’S WHY WE HAVE AN OFFICE/SPARE BEDROOM. 

I have told Hapa Papa time and time again that if he has to get any work done, he needs to disappear. I cannot think, for even a second, that he is home. Otherwise, I will harangue him ceaselessly because I am selfish and when I see a Hapa Papa with nothing child/home related on his hands, it signals to my brain that CLEARLY, Hapa Papa needs something to do. (Working to pay the mortgage is NOT ENOUGH. Far too abstract.)

He, of course, gets annoyed and sad that I’ve confined him to the office when Hapa Papa really wants to see the kids and play with them for a bit. No one likes to be lonely. But geez! How can he even imagine he’ll get anything done when he does that?

Anyhow, here are my tips for how to survive a spouse working from home when you have small children:

1) Have a set start and end time. Since Hapa Papa is working from home, it is very easy to have work and personal time bleed into each other. Since I am lazy and selfish, I assume Hapa Papa is working with the kids downstairs, but really, he’s not getting much done in between getting the kids breakfast and managing the morning chaos. It is helpful to me to know when I have to be downstairs to relieve him as well as when he will be officially done with work to relieve me!

2) Have a designated work area that is out of sight and has a lockable door. It’s true what they say. “Out of sight, out of mind.” As long as I don’t physically see Hapa Papa, I rarely holler at him to do something for me. I can be good all morning and not need his help with the kids but as soon as he comes down for a beverage or sustenance, all I see is an extra pair of hands that clearly is not being properly utilized.

The lock on the door is when Hapa Papa is on a conference call and actually needs to participate. There have been times when Cookie Monster or Gamera miss their Papa and come storming up the stairs, yelling out, “Papa!” and burst into the office, disturbing a call.

3) Have grace for each other. Obviously, grace is necessary in all situations, but just because it’s a generic thing doesn’t mean it’s not applicable! I have to remember that just because I don’t think Hapa Papa is doing anything, doesn’t mean he’s not. Plus, he’s actually very helpful and feels really torn between helping me and doing the work he’s paid to do (you know, to provide for our family). I have to remember to be grateful for his job, his work, and his presence.

Hapa Papa has to remember that I am selfish and if he doesn’t look like he’s doing anything, I will find something for him to do within half a second. He also has to forgive me ALL THE FRICKIN’ TIME.

That’s it. It’s a short list – but let’s face it. If you’re anything like me, you probably can’t remember to do more than three things at a time anyway. What do you think? Did I miss anything?

Eat the Bacon First

Call it my cheap Asian genes, but I have a hard time actually using the things I buy especially if I got a good deal on it. After all, who knows when I’ll get such a good deal again? So, I have lots of perfume, candles, and lotions, etc. that I have yet to open because I find the item “too precious” to use. This has even carried over into the things I have bought specifically for the children. I have hoards and hoards of stickers that I am reluctant to break out and let the kids use because they’ll just blow through fifty of them and stick it on their shirts and then throw them away almost immediately.

The other day, however, it was rainy and I was cranky and tired. So, I broke down and handed my kids an entire bag with hundreds of stickers in them. Cookie Monster and Gamera were practically ripping them out of my hands. I want to say they went through at least twenty to thirty stickers each. The kids had a grand old time placing the stickers all over their clothes, their hands, their feet, their faces, their cars – basically any surface they could conceivably stick a sticker, they stuck it.

I was mentally calculating how many stickers we had left when all of a sudden, I realized something. What was the point of even having the stickers if my kids didn’t use and enjoy them? Who cares if ten, twenty, or sixty minutes later, they are hung over on stickers and I have to pick them off their clothes when they take a bath so they’re not unintentionally ironed onto their clothes after a trip through the washer and dryer? I have them playing with stickers that I have kept since I was a child. SINCE I WAS A CHILD. 

Let’s take a look at that statement. How sad! I was so scared of “wasting” these stickers that I never got to enjoy them! They were stuck in an envelope for decades until I finally bit the bullet and let my kids run rampant through them. The stickers were finally being used for their sticker-y purpose. Can you imagine if these stickers had sentience and wanted to be used for their very stickerness and I just benched them for decades? Some had lost their stickiness due to the cruelties of time! The ephemeral nature of stickers didn’t mean they were wasted when my kids used them as they were meant to be used. The stickers were only truly wasted when I stuck them in a drawer, too scared to enjoy them.

I know. Stickers don’t really have feelings. But my kids do. How awful if I ended up teaching my kids that stickers were to be hoarded and shoved in a drawer somewhere because they were afraid. Afraid that we would run out of stickers and no longer have the means to procure more stickers. Afraid that enjoying something would be wasteful. That somehow, we were made for these stickers instead of these stickers being made for us. 

Every time I cringe that Cookie Monster and Gamera leave bits of dried up play doh all over the floor (other than the fact that I hate cleaning up smushed play doh) because now we have less play doh and it’s wasteful to lose it is living life as if resources were scarce and hard to come by. Every time I get annoyed that Cookie Monster is smashing his cars together and playing and having a raucous good time, I am buying into the lie that nice things are to be set apart and not enjoyed and used.

What’s the point of having toy cars if not to be played as toy cars? Or play doh? Or stickers? Or anything?

How often do I play this out in my own life? Not wearing nice jewelry, my favorite perfume, or clothes because it’s not a “special occasion.” Or saving that fancy chocolate or cake or something yummy until a more appropriate time only to have it rot? Somehow, I’ve got it in my head that using lovely items as they are meant to be used is wasteful and extravagant – when truly, what is wasteful and extravagant is not using items as they are meant to be used!

Before I met Hapa Papa, I used to save my favorite parts of the meal for last. I would eat my cheeseburgers in a circle, eating all the parts where it was just bread so I could end up in the juicy middle where all the pickles and toppings and deliciousness was. Well, one day, Hapa Papa wanted to try my burger and instead of eating it like a normal human being (in a spiral towards the middle), he took a huge chunk out of the center where it was most concentrated awesomeness. I was livid. He was confused. He said, “I assumed you didn’t like that part of the burger because you were avoiding it. I thought if you wanted it, you would’ve eaten it already.”

Once, Hapa Papa snapped up a piece of bacon I’d been saving and when confronted, fed me that same stupid line about him thinking I didn’t want it. Exasperated, I yelled, “WHO DOESN’T WANT BACON?” He said I was stupid to save it since I knew he would steal it so it was my own fault.

Because he did this to me so often (and I was, apparently, a really slow learner), I finally started to eat the things I liked first out of self-preservation. My stomach was transformed. Too many times I had first eaten all the things I didn’t like only to end up being too full to enjoy the parts I did like. No more! If I wanted dessert first, by golly, I’d eat it first. No more delaying gratification until an uncertain future (especially with Hapa Papa around). It was time to be bold and savor what I loved when I wanted vs consuming my food with the fear that I would run out of yummy things to eat.

Now, of course, this doesn’t mean we should all be extravagant and blow through our stash of nice things just because we can. But we are also missing something if all we do is hoard things and not use them due to fear of running out. I am certainly not advocating a “Feast or Famine” type of lifestyle. I am, however, encouraging us to indulge in more of what we love without guilt or fear.

As a SAHM, I am often tempted to put off the things I want for a better time. Let me be perfectly frank. There will never be a better time.

Go ahead and eat that chocolate you’ve been hiding from the kids (even if it means you have to steal away to the bathroom to do it). After all, you never know when the kids will find it and tear through it before you even have the chance to rescue a crumb. Or as luck would have it, a million ants discover it first and render all that lovely chocolate inedible. I confess. I have eaten the chocolate anyway. Isn’t chocolate covered ants a thing?

When Did *I* Become the Grown Up in the Room?

Ladies and gentleman, I am thirty-five years old, have three small children, am married, and own a business with my mother. Yet somehow, when I stop and think about it, I am completely baffled by this turn of events. How have I been entrusted with the daily responsibility of keeping alive three babies? More importantly, how have I kept them alive so long?

I recall about three and a half years ago, I was giving a talk to a bunch of junior high girls for the Soroptimists (I am not one, but an acquaintance of mine was) at a local high school. All of a sudden, someone pulled the fire alarm and we had to evacuate the class room. I looked around for an adult to follow and then stopped short. HOLY FUCKING SHIT. I was the adult. I had to make sure all the girls in my class met at the appropriate meeting point and then accompany them back to the classroom. What the what?

IT BLEW MY MIND.

How in the world did this happen? Who allowed this? To whom should I lodge a complaint?

I don’t know if it’s the Impostor Syndrome, the fact that I think I’m younger than I really am, or just complete denial of reality. But I find it so weird.

Does anyone else feel like this? That their view of themselves hasn’t quite caught up to reality yet?

I mean, I know I am a mother now. A grown up taking care of small children that are MINE (for reals) and that no one is coming to take away. I have responsibilities and I perform them (reasonably well). Yet STILL. It seems strange.

Granted, it is less surreal now than it was about four years ago when I was just about to have Cookie Monster. I wonder if that feeling of “Is this really my life?” will ever go away? Or whether at every stage in life I’ll still be somewhat surprised. I am reminded of these lyrics from the song, Once in a Lifetime.

You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

You may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful house.”
You may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful wife.”

– Once in a Lifetime, Talking Heads

When I was younger and heard this song on the radio, I thought it was one of the stupidest things ever and hated the song. It made no sense to me. How could anyone not know their house or their wife? Plus, I thought the song sounded weird. Then, when I heard it in the trailer for the Nicolas Cage movie, The Family Man, and finally watched it, I started to like the song because it reminded me of the movie (which I really enjoyed). But it was only after I had Cookie Monster that I finally understood what the song was talking about.

I know. I was a little late to the party.

Now, I absolutely LOVE this song. It perfectly captures my bewilderment when I really stop and look at my life. I never in a million years would’ve thought I’d be a SAHM with three kids (and contemplating one, perhaps two, more). I thought I would be just like my own mother and work. After all, I turned out ok, right? RIGHT?

I remember a friend of mine telling me once her son was born, she knew that she was born to be his mother. She put on hold her career as an optometrist (a career she loved) and became a SAHM to three kids. When she told me this, I was stunned. I just couldn’t imagine someone giving up a career (temporarily, obviously) for a BABY.

I clearly lack imagination.

As soon as I saw Cookie Monster‘s squishy little face and huge dark eyes, I knew – just knew – that I was made to be his mother. Three kids later, I still know to the core of my being that being a mom is the best thing that has ever happened to me and that I don’t mind being a SAHM at all. In fact, I LOVE it. It is what I was born to do. I would rather do this than any other job (well, except perhaps the job where I get paid to lay around all day reading, watching TV, and stuffing my piehole with as much food as possible. Or as Hapa Papa would call it, “The Weekend.” As soon as Friday hits, I have a tendency to forget I’m a parent and force him to take care of our children solo.)

Anyhow, this is all just a rambling long post just to say that I can’t believe this is my life – but I am ever so grateful.

And with that, I leave you with the live version of Once in a Lifetime on YouTube since I can’t find the album version of this song.

No Sick Days for Mommy

It’s not that I used to LIKE being sick. But staying at home, sleeping in, reading, and watching copious amounts of TV weren’t exactly BAD, either. Now that I’m a parent, and a SAHM, at that, it’s the WORST.

Because not only am I sick, I still have to take care of my children (who are also sick). My entire body aches, I can’t breathe, and all I want to do is climb in a hole and die. Ok. Maybe not DIE, but disappear and sleep for a LONG while. It’s a good thing I have a high tolerance for my children watching TV. We’ve been working on weaning the kids from TV and iDevices, but that’s all been tossed out the window. Especially since Hapa Papa is on vacation a business trip again. He even had the nerve to tell me he hopes that the kids and I are all better by the time he gets back on Friday. It’s not altruistic on his part. He just doesn’t want to deal with sick people. 😉

So, in light of the fact that I need to go sleep now and not emerge until Glow Worm’s 3am feeding, I am throwing the burden of a post back onto you, my lovely readers. What do you do when you’re sick and have to take care of the kids. Any survival tips?

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