Displaced Stay At Home Californian in rural N. Carolina

The Many Faces of Joy

The Many Faces of Joy

Friday, December 30, 2011

Bok Choy

We got a quick visit this week from my Mom, Step-dad, Niece and Nephew and it was wonderful to see them and enjoy having them with us even if it was only for a couple of days. We got to do a little eating, a little catching up, a little playing, a little eating out, a little shopping and even a little fighting (the kids). In anticipation of cooking for crowds and also in accordance with my New Years Resolution to cook with more greens I bought a bunch of baby bok choy at the Asian market. Unfortunately it sat in the refrigerator because at the last minute my Step-dad decided to take us all out for dinner last night and so we got to sit and have someone else do the cooking.

I had been thinking about the bok choy all day today and wondering how I would prepare it. I have a great recipe I stole from my friend The Foodinista, Heather and I love it but I wanted to try something new. So here is what I did, I washed the bok choy really well (the dirt likes to hide in those leaves) and then I chopped it fairly small. Then I put 4 cloves of minced garlic in a skillet with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sliced up about 10 mushrooms and sauteed them together for about 4 minutes and then threw in 8 or 10 baby bok choy boys (as we like to call them), added some salt and pepper and tossed until shiny and hot. The bok choy is different than spinach and kale in that it doesn't wilt completely into a pile of goo. So there is still a good crunch and it stays juicy provided you don't overcook it.

The tricky part of this recipe is getting the kids to eat it. While I have made a commitment to serve more greens, kale and leafy vegetables this year I am not sure if my kids are going to embrace this decision. Even though I love the greens, the kids are not so easily convinced (or the husband since we are on the topic). One day they are all over something new and the next day it is the stuff of nightmares. I wish they would try more new things but I'm gonna keep on trying even if they still prefer chicken nuggets and those apple slices that are clearly dipped in sugar water.

As I'm serving up some bok choy, rice and fried tofu for dinner, I say to my husband, (who by the way is serving himself some chicken nuggets and split pea soup), "my Mom would love this meal." He says, "it isn't weird enough for her" and proceeds to tell me that this morning for breakfast she enjoyed a toasted bagel with avocado mashed on it and then a large spoonful of Ollalieberry Preserves spread on top of that. He is right, it isn't weird enough for her, but it was plenty weird for my kids who each managed to try a microscopic taste of the bok choy, which is all I ask of them.

Try something weird in 2012, Happy New Year weirdos!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Funk Take 2

I am sick this Christmas. I am taking antibiotics and I am sick. It started with the last week of school when our littlest came down with a fever and nasty head cold. I made the foolish mistake of commenting not once but several times to several different people, "My kids haven't been sick once this fall!" And of course you know what happened, one kid gets sick, passes it on to the other kid and then sometime between Space Mountain and Autopia, Mommy gets sick and I swear to God I nearly threw up/passed out getting off of not one but 4 rides. And then I was sick all the way home. And then I woke up the next day with a sinus infection and the inability to stand straight.

When I was single and childless I used to leave the country at Christmas. I found the best way to handle the holiday greediness, gluttony and commercialism was to get on a plane and find a place where the lights weren't as bright or flashy and spend the holiday there and not tell anyone where I was. It saved me the stress and irritation of dealing with family and Christmas and I usually had the best suntan when I got home. Now that I am married and have children I find that is harder to accomplish because the kids want a tree and they want stockings and they want peppermint sticks and they want wrapping paper.

I asked my husband yesterday when I was at the depth of despair induced by my sinus infection and feeling like I was swimming in syrup, if we could start our own tradition and take our kids on a trip each Christmas and make that our family tradition. But then I sat on my bed last night and looked at each stocking stuffer and turned over gifts I had bought or made and lovingly wrapped each one and put a name tag on each one and imagined how exciting it would be to watch our kids open each little package. And I was able to sit up and enjoy myself because I had already had two round of medicine and I was returning to the land of the living.

As a child I remember some of the best Christmases being the ones that were different. I remember in Jamaica we went to the beach and swam on Christmas. I remember one year going to Miami and freezing because it was in the 60's and we weren't used to the cold weather. And I don't remember whining or complaining. And I don't remember being dissatisfied with our adventure. And I don't remember wishing it was the way it always was. And I don't remember fighting with my siblings. (although trust me, I'm sure that between the 4 of us, we managed to drive my Mom and Grandma C-R-A-Z-Y).

So Happy Christmas everyone and stay healthy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Funk

This is the last 2 days of school and we have one sick kid and one Mommy that feels rotten. It was too perfect that this week go off without a hitch. If something was going to go wrong, it was going to go wrong this week. The girls had no ballet and no ice skating and no piano, we only had to get to school and home without incident when the little one got a fever. All the play dates got cancelled. All the cookie decorating gigs got cancelled. All the shopping trips for this and that got cancelled. All the baking and truffle making got postponed. I managed to sneak out last night for a ladies night out with gift exchange and sat and yawned through the whole affair. But at least I made it out!

We are trying to go away next week and we can't decide what to do with our 5th family member Sally Tomato. I originally asked my brother but I could tell he did not want to house sit and pet sit for us. Then I thought about asking friends with pets but it is the holidays and everyone has stuff planned and since I thought my brother was going to do it, I didn't line something up sooner. And then I thought we should just take Sally with us, he misses us dearly when we are gone, he sleeps in our bedroom on the floor now even though the stairs are tough to climb sometimes. We still haven't solved this problem but I'm sure we'll figure something out.

I am babysitting for friends on Friday night so they can go to their holiday party. And I am babysitting for some other friends on Sunday because they have a holiday party. And no one will be babysitting for me because my husband has not had a holiday party for 3 Christmases now. I guess I shouldn't be bummed out about this but I am. I should just be happy he has a job and that I can buy all the yarn I want, within reason but I'm not. I want to get dolled up and buy a cute outfit and strappy shoes and have a drink and dance once with my man. After all, we only really ever get to do that at weddings and until some of our friends start getting divorced and remarried, almost everyone we know is married already.

I went to the doctor this week and the nice Kaiser doctor that wowed me and rocked my world at my first visit, pissed me off by giving me attitude. She also called me "Mrs. McKeon" in her Russian accent at least 12 times even though I told her to call me "Joy". In hindsight she might have not been giving me attitude, it most likely was her accent and I just thought it was attitude. But I didn't enjoy my visit with her this week and I got the feeling like she wasn't having a good day either.

And finally my dear little Aunty Muriel died this week. She was one feisty lady. She gained fame among my circle of friends when she came to visit me in Spain for a month and we traveled Europe together. She slept with one eye open, she knew every time I snuck out after she went to sleep. (maybe it was because I went to bed fully clothed) She kept called Italians "Loh-mans". But my favorite story was when she landed at Madrid Barajas International Airport there was a janitorial strike, there was trash all over the airport and it was something of a mess. She wrote home to her girls that Spain was so dirty. "The genitals are on strike". They could not figure out what she meant for the longest time until we figured out that she was saying that the janitors were on strike. We laughed our crazy heads off when we realized what she had been trying to say. We definitely had our differences and we definitely made memories and while I won't get to say goodbye tonight at her memorial, I will say goodbye to her in my heart and that will have to do.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Cheer

The holidays are a wonderful time of shopping, buying, rushing, spending, eating, relaxing, drinking and so much more. I was at Costco when I got to experience the "so much more" of the previous sentence.

For those of you that shop regularly at Costco it is mostly hurried, busy, frantic and annoying, starting with the parking lot and ending with the long lines. If you don't get hit at least once by a shopping cart at Costco then something is wrong in the universe. For example, yesterday I got pushed forward in the line by the person pushing the cart behind me. It was pretty obvious that I was waiting in a long line just like they were and even after several directed looks to this person they continued to bump me every time they pushed the cart forward. So finally I said something like "please stop doing that" and the woman smiled at me, nodded her head and kept on doing it. So I stepped to the side of the cart and which point she started bumping my cart every time I pushed my cart forward.

Anyway - I'm getting away from my story. I only went to Costco to get shampoo, conditioner and sliced bread. This is the worst time to be at Costco by the way because what you expect to be a quick trip, in and out, turns into the same amount of time due to the many shoppers and the long lines. So I purchased my 3 items and headed down the ramp to the parking lot. This ramp is always fun too because there are people who think, "why wait to get down the ramp behind the person in front of me, I will just make 2 lanes of traffic going down the ramp and speed past them!" Of course for the nice folks coming up the ramp this is a huge hassle, because their motorized disabled chairs or their shopping carts are now blocked because someone in a huge rush has decided to pass without clearance or consideration for anyone else, namely the oncoming traffic. Again, I am getting away from my story.

I get to my section of the parking lot and notice an elderly gentleman slowly pushing his cart to his car. Not only had he selected a shopping cart that was pulling to one side, he was quite elderly and having a hard time walking so I sped up with my cart and tossed my items in my car very quickly and ran back to offer him some assistance. I asked him "would you like me to help push your cart for you?" To which he loudly replied, "NO! You are running around like a crazy person and you are going to make someone fall down with all your hopping and skipping. Leave me alone!" And he proceeded to slowly push his gimpy cart to his car and slowly start to unload his 3 items, jumbo salami, a bottle of Vodka and potato chips.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Every year my Mom's club has a big garage sale to raise money to buy toys and clothes for kids at Christmas. It is a big deal, we go through our closets, garages and storage facilities and donate as much stuff as we can. We also go around our communities and ask for donations so we can sell other people's stuff too. Every year we seem to top the previous year by selling more and more and that allows us to buy lots of clothes and toys to help families out that do not have as much as we do. I am humbled by how hard we work each year and how far our money goes.

Last night I had the opportunity to go out with my friend Whitney and buy coats, hoodies, make-up sets and watches for teenagers that for whatever reason won't be getting gifts this Christmas. It warmed my heart.

And after the buying of the gifts, Whitney and I warmed our tummies by sitting in an empty Mexican restaurant and sipping something ice cold and blended and munching on chips and salsa.

Ho Ho Ho!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


My good friend Sally who knits beautiful things and who answers us when we call the dog, (also named Sally) gave us 3 tickets to see her daughter dance in the Nutcracker this weekend. It was lovely. The music was so pretty, the dancers were so graceful, the costumes were fantastic, the seats so close to the stage. I am always amazed at how they dance all those dances and don't forget their steps, don't fall over and everyone remembers where they are supposed to stand and children don't vomit on stage from stage fright.

At one point during the ballet there was a man in very tight pants dancing with a lady in a sparkly and flashy tutu and he lifted her up as they both faced the audience and perched her somewhere on his collarbone and turned very gracefully without dropping her. It was amazing. As he was doing this, my oldest daughter leans into me (she is 7) and whispered very loudly, "He just got a face full of butt!"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Falling in Love

We spent Thanksgiving with my mother, my step-father, my niece and my nephew in a small town in Northern Northern California this year. We wish we lived closer to them or that they lived closer to us so that seeing them does not take so much time in the car but we enjoyed every minute of the time we spent with them and that was worth more than money.

My mother has a close friend who lives down the road from her. She lost her husband about 20 months ago, her husband of over 40 years. My mother's friend is 75 and her husband was over 80 so the death was not so shocking, he was old, he was frail and he had been going downhill for some time. While the death might not seem so shocking for someone reading this, it was sad for my mother's friend, after all, this was her companion for many years.

Since her husband has passed on to another place she has met a new man who is around 80 years old and who is single just like her. I had not seen my mom's friend for at least a year, at least since she started seeing this new man. So when I saw her on Thanksgiving, after the customary Thanksgiving greeting and giving her a hug, I decided to jump into the topic and asked her about the new man in her life. She did the cutest thing, she blushed bright red and giggled. And it made me feel good to see that a lady can fall in love at any age.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I celebrated a birthday last Sunday and my gift to myself was a trip to Spokane Washington to visit some dear friends that occasionally put up with my annoying birthday behavior. When I was in my 20's and 30's and I had no partner or children it was easier to go visit them and trust me when I say that my behavior back then was much worse than my recent trip. Anyway - the only way to get to Spokane Washington is to get on an airplane and sit there for several hours and then get off, get on an even smaller airplane for another hour or so and then get off of that one and you are there.

I love Spokane Washington in the winter. It is freezing cold. It also has some of the most friendly people you will ever meet. You can buy sweaters at a really good price. There are other things that are cheaper than they are in Silicon Valley too such as gas, food, restaurants, alcohol, land, housing but I'm getting off track. I love the Northwest and someday hope to move back there with my husband, children, dog and cat.

I hate flying. I can't say exactly when it started but sometime in my early 30's I realized that I was not a big fan of flying. It has gotten progressively worse until I can safely admit that I hate it. I am not going to go into all the random and annoying things I go through to get onto a plane but lets just say that at this point it is a good thing that my husband and I only travel together once in a while. I don't think he could handle flying with me every month.

When I was in my 20's I applied to United Airlines to be a flight attendant. Yup, this is gonna be a good story. I convinced my then sister-in-law (she is no longer my sister-in-law) to come with me and apply, she didn't have a job and was tired of staying home and cooking and cleaning (her house was a nighmare) and needed something to do with all her free time. United Airlines was doing open interviews in Sacramento and so I put on my best suit and brushed my long hair and picked her up and we headed to the Marriott or Hilton and sat with other 18 - 30 year olds that had dreams of serving drinks and snacks at 30 thousand feet.

We went through the speeches and the presentations, took a short pop quiz which I aced and then were told we would be giving impromptu speeches about ourselves and our dreams of becoming flight attendants. They told us that if we were not bilingual to leave right then, they were only hiring bilingual flight attendants! I knew that this job was in the bag, impromptu speeches were my forte, I spoke Spanish fluently, I was born to talk in front of other ladies about myself! I wrote a quick outline and looked over at my ex-sister-in-law, she was not doing so well. She had blotchy pink spots on her face and looked like she was going to pass out. She swallowed sickly and told me that she hated talking in front of people and didn't think she could do it. Not just that, she added that when she was stressed out, her English got really bad and people complained they couldn't understand her. I didn't let her obvious distress ruffle my feathers, I knew I was going to get that second interview call to fly to Chicago and meet the big wigs.

As it turns out I didn't get that call to Chicago and based on my physical reactions to our trip to Spokane it is a good thing. No one wants a flight attendant hyperventilating, swallowing repeatedly, closing their eyes, refusing to take off their seat belt and clenching and un-clenching their fists when they should be serving drinks and assisting passengers. My ex-sister-in-law did however get a second interview and for years I was convinced they confused the two of us, since we were sitting next to each other and we both had long straight hair and I was half Korean and she was full Korean. But as it turns out, they did me a favor since my skill set would someday include me being a not so good airplane passenger.

I don't think that my dislike of flying is accidental, my mother hasn't been on a plane since 1983, my youngest brother won't step foot on one either. But until they start implementing the kind of transport used in Star Trek, I will continue to get on planes to travel from place to place. Especially if it is to fly to Spokane and hang out with good friends. Thanks Jill and Lamont!

Monday, November 7, 2011


I had a conversation with my mother this weekend. It went like this:

Ring Ring Ring:

Me: Hello?
Mom: Hi so I made the appointment and we had to wait nearly a month and I am sorry but we can't miss it.
Me: What are you talking about?
Mom: Heidi's appointment with the doctor.
Me: Mom, what are you talking about?
Mom: Well if you listen to me you will know what I am talking about.

My niece is staying with us. And we want to keep her until Thanksgiving since we are going to visit my folks and we can take her back with us. There are several reasons for this - it saves money on gas, it saves me driving for six plus hours when I don't have to, it saves wear and tear on our car, it is more efficient, it makes more sense . . . to me. When we made these plans my mother and my niece didn't remember this Doctor appointment that she had scheduled and now my mother is out of town and trying to clue me in to this appointment.

I asked my Mom to please try to call the Doctor and reschedule, I asked her to consider my position, I have 2 smaller children and am trying to juggle our one family car and this 6 hour trip back to Northern California, I thought I was being reasonable. But the more I pushed (albeit gently) the more frustrated my Mother got until she hung up irritable and inflexible. I ranted a little (or a lot) to my husband about it but let me tell you, if I had a dollar for every time I complained about this personality trait of my Mother's I would be sitting on a healthy sized stack of money.

I have to stop here and congratulate my husband on not pointing out the obvious every time I sounded just like my Mom. For those of you that are married, you know exactly where this would land him. I also have to stop here to say that my mother is much worse than I am, this story would not work out as well if I admitted that I was the biggest offender. But obviously she is older than I am and so she should be more set in her ways and less flexible, and me being younger I not only have more energy to be flexible, I also just am that way by nature.

After I hung up, I realized the obvious, I am JUST like my mother. Not similar, not kind of, not having some or a few of her personality traits, I am JUST like her. I am inflexible. I am un-budging. I am unwilling to compromise. If pushed, I push back and hate to back down when the subject gets heated. I can be reasonable once I have had some time to cool off or to think about it but in the heat of the moment I can be very stubborn. And then I gripe about it for at least a week, ask my husband, I really do! And I wonder where I got it from?

The next day my mother called and she told me that she would try to reschedule the appointment. She told me that she would try to get another date or at least a later time so that our midnight drive to rush my niece back home would not be so frantic. I want to say that she said she would try to compromise because she realized that we had done so much to compromise on our end and meeting us half way was the right thing to do. But she didn't, she just called again and said she couldn't get a new time for the appointment so we would have to figure out how to get Heidi home.

Just like her.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fruit Basket

The other day my youngest asked me what I wanted to be when I "growd up" and I told her I wanted to be a writer. She told me that was boring, she wanted to be a doctor. This is the same child that told me last year she wanted to be a fairy. I thought about all the things that I wanted to be when I was growing up and how I ended up doing some of them and how I ended up not doing some of them and I wondered how I had ended up being a Mom and staying home and sharing these years with my girls and how it would impact them down the road.

It is fall now, we woke up to sunshine today and by late afternoon the temperature had dropped by 15 degrees and it was rainy and miserable. We had soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner and it was warm and toasty in the kitchen so we finished dinner up with chocolate ice cream cones.

My niece is here to stay and if I can swing it I am going to keep her for at least a couple of weeks, maybe even until Thanksgiving. While 14 year olds can be a challenge and can have attitude and can huff and puff and use the word "Whatever" an awful lot, they are also funny, inquisitive, very tech savvy, very very tech savvy and can change their moods in an instant. This can be good when you have a 4 year old that is crying one second and laughing another. This can also be good when you need to run a quick errand and you need the 14 year old to hold down the fort. It also gives me a little sneak peak into what 14 will look like someday.

My husband bikes to work and while he has generously done this so I can be the sole user of our one family car, it makes me nervous and skittish on cold winter nights when the light is gone and he is cycling an hour to work and an hour home. It is on nights like tonight that I wish we had a 2nd car and that we lived 2 minutes from his work. It is nights like tonight that I am reminded that he is one of the reasons I try to be less selfish on a daily basis. He is like Mother Theresa on a bicycle.

I have sent a huge bag of Halloween candy to work with my husband. He does this every year after the trick or treating in an effort to save my girlish figure from a slow descent into a flabby Thanksgiving and an even sloppier Christmas. I keep a little for the girls to snack on but they forget about it by November 4 which is tomorrow. So that means we are back to salads and veggies tomorrow - an occasional bowl of air popped popcorn.

I noticed that I lost a blog follower in the last couple of months. I'm not sure if it is because I made what might be considered some not so patriotic comments or because I have friends that are not US citizens living in the US. Whatever the case - if you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, then get out!

And finally we are headed to Spokane Washington in a few short weeks to celebrate my birthday by visiting some friends. I used to go to Spokane each year or at least every couple of years but it has been a while. And in that while, my friends have built a new house and moved out into sticks and I can't wait to get away and see them and have some good wine and even better company. This is also the first trip my husband and I have made together since our honeymoon and so I hope my Spokane friends have some sturdy earplugs.

Happy Fall everyone!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I was talking to a friend the other day who told me that some of her friends were concerned about sending their children to the schools in the Silicon Valley area due to their children being in the minority as Caucasians. She went on to say that they had concerns enough to consider moving their families to a state like Colorado where their kids would be in schools where the majority of the kids would look like their kids.

As a child it never occurred to me to be concerned that I was considered a minority or to wonder which ethnic group I fit into. As a child of a interracial marriage I could not pass as Caucasian but I also could not pass for Asian. It did not become an issue until we moved to Jamaica when I was 10 years old and it became impossible for me to ignore that I was in the minority. Was it because I was older and more aware of the color of peoples skin? Or was it because we had just moved to a country where 98% of the population was darker than I was?

I was watching a show late last night on PBS about retracing the history of African American families in this country and how slavery and discrimination has wiped out entire family histories and how entire generations have swallowed who they are to avoid censure, it was narrated by Henry Louis Gates Jr and very thought provoking.

As I was watching this show I was reminded of an interaction I had with a nice boy from my church and school shortly after moving to Jamaica. His name was Harold Campbell and he was an adorable 12 year old boy who approached me one day and asked me if I wanted to be his girlfriend. I was only 11 and had never had a boyfriend but I looked at him incredulously and said, "I can't be your girlfriend, you are black".

Even though I went on to have a Jamaican boyfriend (at the much older age of 13) I cringe when I think about what I said to Harold. Understandably Harold never spoke to me again in the next 4 years and I spent the next 4 years trying to get him to forgive me. I wanted to explain to him that I was raised by 2 white women. I wanted to explain to him that I had changed my mind. I wanted him to know that I was too young to have a boyfriend, I wanted to explain to him that I was changing my mind but in that one comment I had sealed my fate with Harold and he never gave me a chance again.

I'd like to think that I am raising my children differently and that by sending them to schools that are integrated and diverse they are becoming color blind and accepting their friends and classmates by their virtues instead of what they look like. I have to let my girlfriend know that the word Colorado means "colored" in Spanish - I am not sure her friends are in the know.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Yummy Yucky

I was in the car today taking my child to preschool when I stopped at a light next to this really nice brand spanking new Subaru Outback. I looked at the woman driving and was surprised to see her really digging in her nose with her pinky finger, obviously cleaning her nose. I was a little surprised and I am pretty sure I made a face but after she pulled her finger out of her nose, she proceeded to put it directly in her mouth and clean her nail off.

Let me stop this fascinating story and tell you that this woman looked to be about my age. She also was driving a brand new car. And she had a nice ring on her finger which means she was married to someone. I can't imagine she likes the taste of what comes out of her nose which prompted me to do some research to see what the World Wide Web says about nose picking and bugger eating.

It turns out that there is a medical condition called rhinotillexomania, it is habitual nose picking. This condition is seen primarily in people with OCD and I am hoping although not altogether sure that it can be treated by some kind of therapy or medication. But back to the lady in the car next to me, after she cleans her nail off in her mouth, she sticks the same finger back in the other nostril and starts rooting around. At this point she looks left and sees me staring at her and I'm sure my mouth was open. I'm not really sure what I am doing at this point, maybe my mouth was open, maybe I am about to scream, maybe I am close to tears, I am staring transfixed, and she shrugs and keeps on picking. Lucky for the both of us, the light turned green and I turned left and left her with her treats.

At preschool the other day a little girl headed around the corner to hide with what looked like a small piece of food or candy and I followed her to see what she was going to do with it. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be chalk, although she didn't seem as alarmed as I was and she was the one eating it. I told her not to eat chalk - that it wasn't good to eat but she continued to chew the piece and swallow most of it. I checked the packaging and it said it was ok to eat and the little girl was back at preschool today so I know it didn't harm her in any way.

I look after a little 2 year old sometimes and today she was on the floor next to Sally, our 9 and a half year old German Shepherd and she was licking things off the floor along with him. At one point they were both heading toward the same cat nibble and I had to pick her up because I was worried that she might make it first. She was having a fabulous time and she seemed to be enjoying the floor treats as much as she enjoyed the bowl of cereal I had just fed her earlier. She was laughing and giggling and screaming in happiness.

I guess the important thing is that it tastes good to you.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I was stopped at an intersection the other day and I looked left and saw a woman sucking long and hard on a cigarette. She was most likely in her 50's but she looked like she was in her 70's, I'm not judging her, remember that is one of the nasty things that smoking will help accelerate. I stared at her longer than I should have, long enough for her to look at me and stare back. She looked like she had been smoking a long time.

I was a smoker for a good number of years but now I forget that I used to be a smoker sometimes and when I see a smoker I wonder what the hell they are doing? Are they stupid? Are they uneducated as to the harms of smoking? Are they out to lunch? Have they not seen that ad with the lady with the hole in her neck trying to talk? Or the ones where they are always comparing cigarette companies to Chernobyl?

It was a tough habit to kick. I tried cold turkey, I tried the patch, I tried the gum, I tried the step down method, I tried Wellbutrin, I tried 12 steps, I tried smoking until I was sick of smoking and the only thing that worked was waking up one day and telling myself I was through and I was. At first it was hard, I would watch movies where people were smoking and feel like I would die if I didn't get my hands on a cigarette right that second. I avoided places that smelled like smoke. I avoided people who smoked. I avoided places that sold cigarettes. I felt like I was powerless so I had to create a world where cigarettes did not exist to be able to stay strong and not smoke.

The other day I said to my husband as a smoker walked past and flicked their butt on the ground and then breathed that lungful of filth on me, "ugh, that is so disgusting, that makes me sick" and my husband stopped short. He said, "wow, I can't believe you said that!" and now to think of it, I can't believe I did either.

I guess that means I am no longer a smoker.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I had the opportunity to spend the day yesterday with my Aunt who has cancer. She has lung cancer but it has metastasized to her brain. I don't know what it feels like for her but she looked like she was not feeling so good. She ate a decent sized meal, went for a walk with my brother and I enjoyed a wonderful conversation with her at several different times but she has slowed down quite a bit. She has definitely slowed down and for a woman who was something of a spitfire in her day, it was hard for me to see the signs of destruction that this disease has done to her body.

When I was 26 years old I moved back home to care for my grandmother who was dying of Parkinson's Disease. At the time I moved in, I didn't think of her as dying exactly, but that was indeed what she was doing. She even asked me once if I was going to care for her until she died and I didn't know how to answer her. The job of keeping her alive and well cared for was what occupied my every moment so to think of her dying was beyond my abilities.

One day I was sitting and feeding her lunch, this was when she could still communicate verbally, and she asked me if I ever thought as a child that one day I would be changing her diapers after all the diapers she changed for me. I had to excuse myself and go to the kitchen and I couldn't avoid the tears that were streaming down my face. It took me several minutes in the kitchen before I could return to the table and continue feeding her.

As my grandmother continued to go down hill I was consumed by anger. I was angry at the way people treated her, staring at her in her wheel chair and talking loudly to her as if she was deaf. I was angry at her church community who never came to visit and especially her pastor, who showed up the day after she died to prepare funeral notes when he never came to visit her when she was alive. I was angry at my mother who was so involved in her work and her new marriage and her new home that carrying for her own mother seemed like a never ending burden. I was bitter and angry at my siblings for placing this burden on my shoulders and leaving the care of my grandmother to me, on days when the tedium of being cooped up with an 82 year old who didn't talk or interact with me seemed endless.

I didn't talk about my anger or my feelings to anyone. I didn't open up about the blame I placed on people for her eventual death from a terribly debilitating disease. I bottled it up and saved it for a nice therapist that got all that baggage as well as a whole lot of other stuff I'd saved up over the years. I will say that now that time has gone by I can look back at my experience with my grandmother and appreciate those last days I spend with her. I feel like I made her last 2 years more comfortable and more tender. I think that I learned many things from the experience including patience and compassion for the elderly and sick and dying. I feel like I can honor the circle of life from birth to death.

I hope someday I get to see my Grandmother again.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I've been trying to start my own business. I've been wanting to find something to do with all my free time. (insert hysterical laughter here) Seriously, I know that someday very soon I will have all my cubs out of the cave and this mama bear will need to do something with her free time that is profitable and that contributes and I also know that I cannot be a stay at home genius forever.

I sat and thought about what I did before I had children and I was no longer passionate about management. I thought about managing adults and what it involved and I realized that after raising children, the thought of managing adults would probably make me crazy. I mean no disrespect to those of you that used to work for me but telling adults when to return to work, how to follow a schedule, coaching them on professionalism, corrective action, performance reviews etc, would be so irritating to me that I am willing to hang up my management hat and try on other hats. I also have to admit that after having worked with children and seeing what goes into raising children, I cannot work in an environment where adults act like children and as a person who worked for many years in management, there is a group of employees that display some very childish behavior. You know who you are.

So my sister makes this beautiful beaded jewelry. And she has sent me a considerable amount of this jewelry hoping I can do something with it. I didn't want to be the Mom at the park with a coat full of necklaces or the Mom asked to leave a playgroup for turning it into one of those parties where you are told you won't have to buy anything but then the pressure is so great that you end up buying a candle for $65 dollars because you didn't know how to say no. I have been sitting on this jewelry for a while now and it has been using up valuable real estate in my bedroom.

So here is what I've done over the last 3 weeks:

Made business cards
Found a shop in San Mateo that will let me rent out a space to display and sell these baubles
Bought display items
Priced the items
Photographed all the items
Inventoried all the trinkets
Purchased packaging for when they sell
Written and a bio and had it framed along with a picture of my sister to sit next to the items

Finally I am ready to launch my little venture this week. I still have a few things left to take care of, for example I need to register a website and get working on creating some kind of online presence but the exciting news is that I have an appointment to go and write up a contract with the shop owner and put out my sister's trinkets and sit back and see if someone loves them and buys them. If you get a chance, check out the store and buy a trinket. If you can't, soon you will be able to visit the website and see what I've done. And finally, wish me luck, whether this grows to something bigger or not, it is exciting to know that I'm in business!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

3 Short Stories

So my 2nd grader looks at me very seriously the other day and says, "Mommy, practically everyone in my class believes in God!" To which I replied, "Wow, who says that public school has taken God out of the classroom!" Actually I didn't say that but I thought it. We talked about what Mommy believes in and what Daddy believes in and why we have given our children the choice to choose for themselves whether they want to believe in Gods or in something else. Thankfully our oldest child is thoughtful and rational and so explaining something as intangible as God is something she can process without too much frustration or confusion. After explaining that she could make her own choice about all the things I had explained to her she replied, "But Mommy, if everyone else believes in God I want to believe in God too, because I don't want to be the only one that is different." Hmmmm

I heard a story on my favorite news program, This American Life about the after effects of September 11, 2001 and what that experience was like for some Americans. It was a very touching program but the one that touched me the most was how Muslims in this country were singled out and forced to endure ridicule, tormenting and name calling and how the hardest hit were children in school. The program mixes interviews and narrative and they interviewed a young girl who was 8 years old at the time of the towers coming down and how afterward in the Midwest town she lived in she was tormented at school to the point where she stopped eating, got sleep disorders and had skin problems. The tormenting continued to the point where her parents were forced to withdraw her from school and keep her at home for her education. She is now 17 years old but she feels like her fellow Americans turned on her and rejected her and held her accountable for something she had no control over.

Lastly, my niece had a good playmate when she was 10 years old. She only has so many kids to play with in her town as she lives rurally and there is a 45 minute car ride to the nearest town or gas station. She really enjoyed the company of her friend and looked forward to play dates as any 10 year old girl would. And then one day the friend told her that her adoptive parents had told her that since the 10 year old took ballet lessons and dancing is a sin, that they didn't think she was a positive influence on their child and so the play dates should stop. My niece didn't realize that she was being asked to make a moral decision regarding her eternal salvation, to her it was just a choice between dancing or her best friend. Naturally she picked what any 10 year old girl would pick, she picked the play dates with her friend. When I asked her 4 years later why she gave up dancing she looked like she was going to cry and she said that she was pressured into it. She said the sad thing was that she was no longer best friends with that girl, and that made me want to cry too.

These three stories can be tied together or these stories can stand alone. Just 3 little (but very big) stories to take you into the weekend.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Today is the day, the first day of preschool for my youngest child. This is also the first day I will be working at Preschool and I hear there will be an orientation to teach us what to do and how to do it. Sometimes I will be a Snack Parent and sometimes I will be an Art Parent and sometimes I will be a Cleaning Parent, and sometimes I will be the Tired Parent but I will get to be a hands on participant in my child's learning and that is exhausting, I mean exciting to me.

We had the opportunity to meet our Preschool teacher and she was very nice. We told her all about our Imaginary Friends. The first friend is Pada and Pada has been around for a long time. Pada and Dagadoo were the first two Imaginary Friends that came to live with us when our Preschooler was about 18 months old. Pada is very naughty, she has a hard time listening to instructions and does things like draws on the wall. Today she is very bratty, at least that is what I was just told. Sometimes Pada is a boy and sometimes Pada is a girl, but mostly a boy. Then there is Dagadoo, and Dagadoo is a baby. Dagadoo cries a lot and uses baby talk and likes to drink milk out of a bottle and needs a pacifier. And finally there is Julie. Julie is in 3rd grade and very big, she can run fast and is a good listener. Julie likes to read and do art projects. Julie bears a very close resemblance to our oldest daughter. We used to have a fourth Imaginary Friend named Noodle but Noodle kept getting eaten by Pada, Dagadoo and Julie so Noodle never came over to play after a while. Anyway, Teacher met all of our Imaginary Friends and met us and was very nice and friendly and disarming. Quite honesty, Teacher melted my heart and won me over by being super interested in our Imaginary Friends.

Our Preschooler has been telling me for the last 2 weeks that she is not going to like Preschool, that she is going to kick and hit and run away and that she is going to cry and not use the potty like a big girl and has been having night terrors and waking up screaming bloody murder. She has been whining and crying at the drop of the hat, fighting and stomping away and making me wonder if preschool is a good idea after all.

However, after meeting Teacher and having her meet all our Imaginary Friends, something tells me that even if my little one, Pada, Dagadoo or Julie doesn't like preschool, it doesn't matter because I am going to like it very much!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Good Will

I am not a decorator. In the past we never had money to buy nice things, using our money to buy food, pay the bills and keep us afloat until our ship came in. But now that I have a little spending money I thought it would be fun to go out and buy nice things for our house. It turns out that it is impossible because not only do I have a terrible sense of style that gets worse with each passing year but I also can't ever decide on what to get because having been poor for so long I now have no desire to spend money on something that I will end up hating a 2 weeks or have someone criticize because it doesn't match or is ugly.

I walked into the Goodwill looking for used Halloween costumes that I could either make over into something my kids will wear or that I could save money on and walked out with a heavy wooden Buddha picture that now lives in my downstairs bathroom. I almost put it back because I couldn't decide if it would look nice with all the other second hand and used stuff I own but when I saw it was only $13.99, (yes, Silicon Valley Goodwill is pricey) I decided I couldn't pass it up. I have to say that for the time being, it looks great in the bathroom.

I don't usually post bargain purchases on my blog but I wanted to pass along my Goodwill find and maybe you will find Good Will in something today, too.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


My father came to this country in the 60's in a time when people had to ask him where South Korea was because they didn't were not familiar with Asian countries. He married a Caucasian woman in a state, Maryland, where you had to prove you were not Black because Whites and Black's were not allowed to marry in this state. My mother tells that he had to convince the marriage license person he was not from the Philippines because Filipinos were on the list of people that had Black mixed races and the license issuing person didn't know where South Korea was in relationship to the Philippines. By the time I was born he was an American citizen, increasing the immigrant headcount by one more and for many years making me feel like this was a country that welcomed people from other places and situations and that made it a great big melting pot.

I have a good friend from Mexico that told me a story yesterday about her family's first trip to American soil. Her husband is a brilliant engineer and she is his brilliant wife. When they first got to Houston and went through customs they were met by a lady of Italian descent, I'm not sure how my friend knew she was a child of immigrants but that is because my Spanish is not as good as it once was and because there are holes in my brain. But she told me that the woman asked why they were coming into the U.S. and her husband told the woman he had been recruited by an important U.S. company to do brilliant things for them. This is the part of the story where I will be ad-libbing the exact dialogue that went down between these two. She looks at him and says, "Did you know my son has been out of work for three years?" My friend's husband very eloquently said "I don't have the pleasure of knowing your son but I am certainly sorry for his hardships in his career". To this the woman says, "it is because of people like you coming into this country and taking jobs away from Americans that he has no job", and then she waved him into the room here you go and have all your stuff X-rayed and you get treated like some drug smuggling mule that has a constipated look from carrying cocaine filled condoms up your ass for 12 hours.

I could go into the psychology of this woman and how medication or a job change would have helped her through her obvious problems with being a customs officer in the United States of America. Or how maybe her terrible parenting skills resulted in a deadbeat son who didn't have a job. Or how the company recruited my friend's husband and he had no fault - should he have turned the job down and said to the company, "Sorry Great Company but I really would like that Immigration lady's son to have this great job so maybe I'm gonna turn your lucrative offer down this time around but hang on so I can get you his number". Or how the U.S. should try to not employ complete morons at our customs departments, nothing like an incompetent and unprofessional welcoming committee. Or how our immigration and residency system is just as efficient and effective as the Coyote Human Smuggling system, that for big sweaty handfuls of cash, you can get residency the legal way just like the same big sweaty handfuls of cash will get you a trip over fences, through tunnels and in the dead of night with some guy named Francisco who might get you arrested and killed.

Part of my daughter's routine in school is to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and here is how mine goes: I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it Stands, One Nation under God, Indivisible with Liberty and Justice for Some.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Old School

When I was in high school there was a newspaper that came out every month or so and it had articles written by teachers and students it it, as well as pictures and poems. I can't remember what it was called, maybe Campus Connection or something prosaic like that, although I do have some old copies tucked away somewhere. It was very basic because you have to remember this was pre-internet and pre-photo-shop and pre-digital cameras - I'm sure there are some of you out there that can remember those days.

Anyway - I don't know about the other students at my school but I loved this paper. I loved reading about all the events at school and around school and seeing who contributed and if there were pictures of me, etc. I will have to admit that because I went to a small Prep school it made it even more fun to always be featured in some way in this paper. It made me feel like I was making my mark. It made me feel popular.

There was a section in this paper called Eyes and Ears. It was exactly what it sounds like, a gossip column. It was fantastic and whoever wrote it knew exactly what was going on and who was dating who and who was seen parking at the local make out spots and who held hands to Barry Mannilow during couples skate, who spent more money at the fall festival kissing Todd in the kissing booth and and more. I was always accused of being the person who wrote this but I wasn't and I would defend myself vehemently when accused because not only would I not expose my friends in this manner, I couldn't figure out who it was that knew so much but felt that also felt comfortable putting it in the school paper. When I look back, some of the stuff was pretty rude but the paper sponsor must not have had enough time to edit every article or maybe it was over their head.

I had a really good friend in high school who was always bemoaning my popularity, I didn't give it too much stock, I figured it was just a competition thing with her and brushed her off whenever she would start in about why she was never invited to parties or invited on dates by boys. I also felt very awkward whenever the subject would come up. I didn't want to admit I was popular because I didn't feel good about accepting that title but I also didn't want to have to address the things she was doing to cut herself out of social settings and invitations. Instead what I did was I went to parties and events and lied and didn't tell her or made up stories that my mother wouldn't let me go and had restricted my ability to go out. I lived in constant fear that she would find out I was betraying our friendship in this manner and would call me out as the fraud I knew I was.

It was either on graduation day or several days later we got together to talk about our lives when she revealed with great excitement that she had been the editor of the Eyes and Ears column and that she had gotten all her good gossip and tidbits of information from me! She said that she would giggle inside whenever I would get accused of being the editor of that column because she knew she could not tell me while she was writing it for fear I would stop telling her all the good stuff. I distinctly remember feeling sad and I knew that it had changed our friendship forever. I wasn't upset that she had taken the things I had told her and written them down, I was sad that we hadn't been honest with each other.

In the end, she never asked me how I knew all that stuff. And I never told her that her not telling me she was the editor of Eyes and Ears, had hurt my feelings. We are no longer in touch with each other and I ran into a mutual friend about 4 years ago and was told that she had told her that "Joy and I are no longer friends" and I wondered if that was part of the reason why?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


The former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger once said that if children attended Preschool they had a greater chance of going to college or obtaining a higher education than children that did not go to preschool. In the latest round of budget cuts before Governor Schwarzenegger left office he proposed to cut state funding to all child subsidized care except for state run preschools. He really liked preschools.

I really don't like preschools. I have always erred of the side of caution when asked about preschool for my kids because I know that my answer tends to get people riled up. I remember once seeing a picture in my favorite magazine, People, where the caption read, "Brittney Spears picks up her 1 year old and 2 year old from preschool" and thinking, "aren't they a little young for preschool? Isn't that just a nice way of saying daycare?" (Tomato, tom-ah-toe) But really I think that all the good stuff, the productive stuff, the stuff that really sticks in the formative years, is taught and learned at home, not hanging out with Jayden James and Sean Preston. (this is what I like to call: my opinion)

So we have signed our youngest child up for a Cooperative Preschool near where we live, what a novelty! And it is a bonafide Coop. I have to volunteer one day out of the 3 that my child attends per week. I have to belong to a committee that requires me to volunteer 10 hours per school year. And I have to volunteer in a general capacity 2 work weekends a year. And I have to go to meetings that are in the evening every couple of weeks and they are from 7:00 to 9:30pm or until the meeting is over. And I have to clean out paint containers. And I have to fill paint buckets. And I have to scrub play dough toys. And I have to make play dough. And I have to fill art bins. And I have to do much more.

My head is swimming right now with the amount of things I have to do to have my child go to this parent supported, hands on, process not product, discounted Preschool so that someday I can look back and feel good about how I gave my youngest child this opportunity in education. Because lets face it, she is not going to remember this Coop at all. Just like I can't remember the majority of grades 1, 2 , 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. I originally relished the idea of doing homeschooling preschool with my youngest like I did with my oldest but the crazy eyes look I got from other parents when I used the word Homeschool as well as the fact that my youngest and I are so much alike and we would drive each other c-r-a-z-y pointed me in other directions. I also have to add that she is a very tall child and sometimes I get questions like "why isn't that 12 year old in school?" (this is what I like to call: exaggerating)

So she is going to preschool in a few short weeks. And if she doesn't end up going to college I guess we will know who to blame, although from the look of things, the former Governor doesn't need any more bad press, he is doing fine on his own. Just as I am sure our little one will do fine on her own, in Preschool.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tiger Mother

Someone in my book club suggested reading the famously controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. Since I love to read I figured that I would get it from the library in case it got picked as a book club read. Since it is a newer book, I expected to be 150th on the list, imagine my surprise to find that no one wants to read this book at my public library, I got it in 1 day! It might have something to do with the fact that over 50% of the town I live in is Chinese. Regardless, I got it today and dug right into it.

I flipped open to the first page and read the Tiger Mother's check list of things their kids could never do:

  • attend a sleepover
  • have a play date
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin

I have to stop now and tell you that my mother is not Chinese, Korean or Japanese, she is good old Heinz 57 American mix that I like to call "White". She had a list similar to this list but not limited to these items. I remember begging to have a sleepover and not being allowed to until I was 12 and I was graciously allowed to sleep over at my 2nd cousin Wendy's house (Wendy if you are reading this, you now know why I reacted so strangely to spending the night at your house). I can't remember the details exactly but it seems to me that I only met Wendy about 20 or 30 minutes before I was told I could sleep over at her house. This most likely explains why I was so uncomfortable around her and why I was shocked and horrified when I found out she had two older brothers who would tease us and pick on us. And having never heard popular music and not being allowed to dance it will also explain why I didn't know what to do when I heard my first Billy Joel record and my cousin started to gyrate very rhythmically to the songs. I always wondered if Wendy wondered why her older and practically-a-stranger, fundamentally conservative and religious-in-a-vegetarian-no-TV-watching kind of way, violin and piano playing cousin was suddenly spending the night at her house. Regardless, she was very kind and polite and played with me and screamed at her brothers and told me I could scream at them too and asked her Mom to make Macaroni and Cheese out of the box for me because I wasn't allowed to have that at home. And we went swimming and I wasn't called fat by anyone in her family when they saw me in a bathing suit because Wendy and I looked a lot alike, we were both round and brown skinned. And I got to watch TV and go to sleep really late. And I developed massive crushes on not just one but both brothers (2nd cousins people!), And I ate too much sugar, I think. In short, I had the time of my life on my first sleepover. It would be at least 4 years before I was allowed to have another.

Let me also say that after reading the first two chapters of this obnoxious and self congratulatory book I had to stop. I was drinking ice coffee at the time and I felt like I had acid refux which now I realize was just a physical reaction to Amy Chua's writing. At this point I flipped to the back of the book and read the fly and this is what it says:

"Amy Chua is the John M. Duff Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Her first book, World on Fire: How exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, a New York Times bestseller, was selected by both The Economist and the UK's Guardian as one of the best books of 2003. Her second book, Day of Empire: How Hyper-powers Rise to Global Dominance--and Why They Fall, was a critically acclaimed Foreign Affairs bestseller. She lives with her husbands, two daughters, two Samoyed's and her 4 brains in a jar in New Haven, Connecticut."

Ok, I added that part about the 4 brains, but if you read her bio, you get a picture of who Amy Chua is and why she felt compelled to write about how great her parenting skills are and why she feels like she is the best Chinese American Mother of the century. I just need to warn those of you that are going to read this book about the 3rd chapter (and the last one I will read) that tells of a stand off with her 3 year old during the below zero winter months in Connecticut and how the 3 year old was outside, shivering and chattering in a light sweater while Amy was inside and the 3 year old was winning.

She said that she had to change tactics immediately and that she couldn't win this one. She said she was worried she would be locked up by the authorities for abuse. She said she started begging and bribing and really working to get her 3 year old back in the house. The line that clenched it for me as far as being the shortest book I've ever read was the last sentence of this chapter:

"But Lulu (the 3 year old) had underestimated me too. I was just rearming. The battle lines were drawn, and she didn't even know it." Oy vey!

With all due respect to Amy Chua, the book should really be called "I'm A Law Professor And I Write Smart Books With My Fantastic Education And I Decided To Write About Parenting And I'm Sorry To All The People Who Used Their Hard Earned Money To Buy My Book So Please Go And Check It Out From The Public Library Because There Is No Waiting Time If You Want To Borrow It".

Friday, August 19, 2011

New Doctor

Today I got to take my 4 year old in for a check up to a new doctor and a new system. I have complained loudly and repeatedly to anyone that will listen to me that my husband works for a medical hospital and yet when he went from being a resident to a staff vet at said medical hospital we had to seek cheaper health care because the one we were using we gouging us mercilessly. I have also said repeatedly and loudly that "everytime I write a check for rent or for health insurance I die a little inside" but I digress. So this morning we woke up, we got our best outfits on, shined up our faces, grabbed our new insurance cards and drove to a new Medical Center and parked the car.

There was a woman standing in the doorway that greeted me as I walked through the door. She asked me where I was headed and when I said Pediatrics she ushered me to a person who looked me up in a computer and sent us on our way. When we got to the Pediatrics Department there was no line and they did not hand me 20 pages of medical history to fill out. And the most shocking of all was there was no co-pay! NO CO-PAY!!! I don't want to incite panic in those of you that are reading this so if you really must know the name of this fantastic place, keep reading, I'm not through.

The medical assistant came and got me within 5 minutes of us checking in at the Department. She was very efficient and friendly as she took measurements, weight and blood pressure. She then took us to an examination room and told us the Doctor would be with us in a few minutes. I hunkered down, helped my little one put on the gown, got out some books and prepared for the wait.

Imagine my shock when as soon as I tied the last tie on the hospital gown, there was a knock on the door. The Doctor came in and first introduced herself to my child and shook her hand before she turned to me and introduced herself to me. I melted into the chair and then slid all over the floor.

She then charmed the pants off my 4 year old, had her laughing and smiling at the end of the visit and then gave me her email address and phone number in case I wanted to contact her personally. PERSONALLY!!! And the best part is, that we were in the car and pulling out of the parking garage by 10:34am (we got there at 10:00am).

Thank you Kaiser.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Happy Campers

If you were at my house right now you would see my husband (who just turned 36 yesterday) sitting on the couch with his two children and his niece and nephew clustered around him as he reads book after book to them. We started with an old favorite, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss, then it was Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory by Margret & H.A. Rey, and then Goodnight Me, Goodnight You by Tony Mitton, the next is a personal favorite, Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park followed by More Spaghetti, I Say! by Rita Golden Gelman and then The Little Puppy's Bad Day by Cathy West and finally Little Red Riding Hood by The Grimm Brothers.

My husband treats these children with as much and warmth and generosity as if they were his own children. My children treat their cousins with as much love and warmth and generosity as if they were their siblings. It touches my heart to see them sipping chocolate milk and listening to him read at the end of the day when I know he is tired and wants to just put his feet up or turn on the television. We have been camping for 3 days and are just plain tired and want to relax.

Those of you that read this blog regularly know that my sister and her ex-husband are both in jail in Oregon. Before they went to jail they had 2 children and while the children live with my parents in Northern California, we are the lucky recipients of them each summer for 2 weeks and sometimes for a few days around Christmas. We love having them and we take as much or as little time as we can get. This summer we got to take the kids camping with several other families and it was a lot of fun and a lot of work.

I have to be honest, this last week and a half was a stretch for me. I deal with ongoing anxiety issues and having too many people in my personal space can sometimes be devastating for me. I find that I can't sleep or focus or concentrate or be a nice person when I feel like I have too much going on around me. The kids were here, my folks were here, my brother is still here and he has a new "friend" and she is here and then some kids I babysit for the neighbor's, and so you can imagine that I was not exactly pleasant all of the time this week. I tried to count to 10. I tried to take deep breaths. I tried to not be bitchy. But knowing that I would be the one to entertain and cook and clean and organize and pack and wash and do all the things needed for 4 kids, 2 parents, a brother and his "friend", and the kids I babysit for the neighbor's, made me do what anyone else in this situation would do - I unraveled a little bit here and there. (mostly at my husband and mostly where only he could hear me) At this point I don't feel the need to explain the square footage of my house to you because even if I lived in a very large house - that many people would unravel me.

Here's the truth: I can be selfish. And I can be bitchy. And I can be particular. And I can be a clean freak. And I can be judgmental. And I can be conservative. And I can be in the middle of a massive panic attack, but I'm lucky to have a partner that I respect and admire and that makes me feel like I can take whatever gets tossed my way.

And that having been said, we are done camping for the summer. I need the next 10 months to prepare for next summer!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Oh Brother!

I was talking to my Mom last night and complaining about my brother. She tried to make very non partisan comments for a few minutes and then she tried to shush me and then she resorted to ignoring me. I got really hot at her response and so I went upstairs and complained to my husband. He listened to me, validated me and consoled me and then agreed with me. He did all the things that make him both the most perfect husband in the world and the smartest man in the world ever!

I settle disputes between my kids all the time. I listen to them complain about each other too. "I wanted to play with that Polly Pocket" or "I was going to play with that first" or "stop touching me" or "she is ignoring me right now" and I think I do a pretty good job of either resolving their issues or getting them to redirect their energies into something more productive. But I will admit that there are times I want to scream, pull my hair out, hide in the shoe closet or get in the car and drive far far away.

I wonder if there will come a day when my kids will come to me as adults and complain about each other or if they will work hard at resolving these issues between themselves. I don't usually complain to my mother about my siblings because I see her so infrequently and get to spend so little time with her I hate to waste my energy and precious time on something so trivial. And I figure that if I can't resolve the issue with my brother, what will my mother do?

I can't say exactly what my response will be when that time comes. I can say that I fancy myself a good communicator and have had a myriad of jobs that utilize my good communication skills. I have only met a few people in my life that stump me when it comes to getting a point across, one was an ex roommate named Star, one was my sister's ex-husband Norman and to be perfectly honest sometimes talking to them was like speaking Chinese to a German and vice-versa.

I do know that regardless as to the subject of my kids disagreement I will love them and hopefully support them until the hair pulling is over. And if not, I hope they have fantastic partners that listen, validate, console and agree with them.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Taking a Break

I had a chance to go to LA last weekend for a much needed Mommy break and to visit an old friend to celebrate her birthday. It was everything I hoped for and much more. Here is a list of the stuff I packed into a little more than 2 days:

Eating out (breakfast, lunch AND dinner)
Holocaust Museum
Drinks and dessert with friends
Wii games that involved some dancing
Walking dogs
Sleeping in
Watching whatever I wanted on TV
Wearing a new outfit and not spilling anything on it

It was impressive. You would think that I would be exhausted by trying to fit this much stuff into 2 short days but I'm here to tell you that I had a wonderful time. And I came home with some good swag and well rested. My girls were excited and happy to see me, I got lots of hugs and screams from the car when they saw me. I have had many "I love you's" in the last 2 days since I've been home. And it makes me realize that sometimes all a Mommy needs is 2 days in LA.

Friday, July 22, 2011

To Pee or Not to Pee

Today we spent some time at a big mall doing some back to school shopping. The back to school shopping turned into a contest to see who could drive me crazier and then lots of whining began and I decided it was time to have lunch. Here is how the conversation went:

"Does anyone have to go to the bathroom before they eat?"
"No Mommy, I just went"
"No Mommy, I am just starving!"

I broke down, headed to the food court and bought the girls their favorite lunch of all lunches, it includes the word Happy in it and to make me feel better about consuming this crap we like to call it "Old Macdonalds" after the song. I got the girls situated, their 2 pounds of ketchup each, their straws in their sippy cups and in front of a huge television playing music videos. I then had to order my food, which happened to be a stir fry dish with rice and kimchi right next to where they were sitting. As soon as I sat down to eat, one of the girls grimaces at me and says, "I have to go pee really bad!"

I did what any hungry and irritated parent does, I asked her to hold it. After one more french fry she told me she couldn't anymore and it was at that moment I asked my big girl to go to the bathroom on her own in a huge mall. We have trained for this moment for months, we have gone over the steps we take and we have talked about what we do when faced with awkward or uncomfortable situations in public bathrooms or anywhere else.

As I sat there with my eyes on the bathroom door (of course we picked seats right in front of the bathroom, what do you think I am, a rookie?) I was reminded of a story my mother tells about my brother. My father had recently passed away and my mother was left with 3 small children one of which was a very stubborn 5 year old boy who until this day, was not demanding emancipation from bathroom accompaniment. So my mother decided to let her 5 year old man have his moment of privacy and sent him into the men's room alone. In my mind, we are in an airport but lets face it, the setting doesn't matter, sending a 5 year old child into the bathroom alone in any public place can be terrifying. Then she stood there by the door, balloons in hand, with her 2 daughters, waiting for her son to come out.

Within about 3 minutes the sound of a child wailing, "maaaaaaaaammmy, maaaaaaammmmy, wipe my bottom" comes floating around the corner of the public men's room. My mothers version includes the entrance of a well dressed kindly looking man heading into the bathroom who noticed the concern and frustration on my mother's face and offered assistance. He walked out of the bathroom a minute later with my brother, apparently he helped wipe him, get his pants up and wash his hands. As a child this story was hysterically funny but as a parent it is more concerning and panic causing. If you don't believe me, read it to a single person with no children and then read it again to someone with little ones.

I was so proud of my girl when 3 or 4 very long minutes later she came out of the bathroom all smiles, mission accomplished. She retold how she focused on the task at hand, flushed the toilet with her foot like I'd taught her, and then washed her hands with soap and did it as quickly and as efficiently as she could. She put a french fry in her mouth and said, "Now I can eat my fries, they aren't too hot anymore".

I was going to breathe a sigh of relief but her little sister cut me off with "Mommy, I have to go poo-poo bad!"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Passing Judgment

Someone recently called me judgmental. I have to say that it smarted and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind. This same person also called me conservative but I've run that idea past about 12 friends so far and it was met with peals of laughter so I have disregarded that comment as just plain silly. But the judgmental comment rankled me and I haven't been able to shake the feeling that the person who made it is judging me unfairly.

Does it bother me because I am judgmental? Does it bother me because I don't want to be seen this way? Lets face it, in our own way we are all judgmental. We bring our upbringing and our bias and our education and experience to every situation and we judge all situations based on our biases and where we come from. I once saw a picture of 3 little kids in the backseat of a car somewhere in South Dakota on a reservation. All 3 of the children were under the age of five and there was not a single car seat or harness or booster in the backseat of the car, so I asked "where are the car seats?" I can say without a question of a doubt that I immediately judged the parents of those 3 children for not buying the adequate safely equipment and installing it in their car. There are charities out there that will give you a car seat or car seats if you don't have the money to buy one so your children can travel safe, so saying that they cost too much money was not going to be an acceptable option. I was told that "in South Dakota on the reservation they don't follow those rules". Since I didn't know those people or those children, I had to let it go. Judge and release.

This morning I took the girls to Target and in the parking lot of Target there was a domestic dispute between a woman and a man. The woman was sobbing and the man had taken her car keys and walked into the store leaving her alone and with no way of driving away. She was screaming at the man as he walked away and it was unclear if she was drunk, angry, or just plain crazy. Either way, my heart went out to the woman and I immediately judged her and wished she would get out of that relationship. No man should walk away to the sounds of his woman sobbing in pain, anger, frustration or craziness. And no woman should stay in a bad relationship, no matter how great that guy is in bed.

So maybe I am judgmental. And maybe it is something I need to work on. But in the meantime, here is a list of people who are going to be judged by me:

People who text while driving will still get dirty looks from me. And people who smack their kids in public will still get dirty looks from me. And people who intentionally pick on someone who is smaller or weaker will get a few words from me. And people who answer my questions with a bible verse will get raised eyebrows. And people who cut off cyclists on the road will get honks from my car. And people who cheat good waiters out of a good tip will get a comment from me. And if I see you kicking or hitting your dog, I will steer clear of you. And if I hear of you driving around town with your kids in the backseat and you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, I will judge you. And if you post pictures of yourself doing stupid stuff like smoking pot with your kids on Facebook, you got it, I'm judging you. (there is more to the list, if you want the whole list, email me and I'll send it to you)

And if you call me judgmental, I'll most likely blog about it so that all 16 of my blog followers can read it and judge the both of us.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I went to Peru in my 30's on vacation. I went with a friend who left 24 hours after we got there for a job interview in Paraguay or Uruguay or Chile - I can't remember where - and left me alone for about a week. I speak Spanish fluently and had I had done some traveling in my life so I wasn't worried about getting around in a foreign country. I was also staying in Miraflores which is an upscale and touristy area that foreigners pump money into to avoid having to visit Lima. It is like going to Jamaica on your honeymoon and staying at a Sandals resort. I might as well have gone to Atlantic City or Waikiki.

Anyway - when we landed in Peru and walked out of the airport with our bags, we were met by what felt like 3 million taxi drivers or "taxistas" asking us to choose them. I was impressed by a fellow who spoke pretty clear English and who followed us through the parking lot as we pretended we knew where we were going. It was 2 or 3 in the morning so taking a taxi to a hotel instead of a bus was what we were going to be doing. We ended up riding with this fellow who had lived in Dallas and joined the ranks of undocumented illegals who come to the US to make a better life for their families.

We had a long ride - it turns out that to get to Miraflores from Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chavez it takes a while, so we chatted in Spanish and he seemed concerned that an single American lady would be puttering around Lima/Miraflores alone. He cautioned me about sightseeing alone because of how dangerous Lima was and warned me to stay to the nicer and ritzier areas of Miraflores. The next morning after my friend left for his job interview, I got a phone call at the hotel. It was that nice taxi driver, calling to ask me if I'd like to come and stay at his house as his guest for the days I would be on my own. I hesitated for only 3 seconds and then I said yes.

I had a wonderful 5 or 6 days staying in a very poor part of Lima, eating local food, visiting local markets, taking local transportation, meeting locals and hanging out with my new friends. This family had 4 children, the older two were 20 and 22, the younger children were 5 and 7. This family was very, very poor. The money the dad made each night driving the taxi, which he rented, first went to pay the $40 dollar nightly rental fee and then the rest was used for buying the daily staples for breakfast , lunch, and dinner. Sometimes there wasn't enough left to pay the bills like the $100 dollars they paid monthly for rent. I heard this story a lot in the 5 or 6 days I was there.

It turned into a continual plea for money. I realized that to these people I was like Donald Trump, I had so much money! I had already told them I would be flying to Cuzco at the end of the week to visit Machu Picchu for a week and then back to Lima and out to Iquitos to visit the jungle. These people had only been to Miraflores (20 minute cab ride away) once or twice in their lives. For me to have come all the way to Peru to visit and to travel around their country made me seem like the richest person they had ever met. It was unheard of.

The money plea started to get really old after the second day. I was tired of hearing how if I didn't help them, they would be evicted and thrown out in the street, how the girls would become prostitutes, and how the husband would have to leave again and brave the dangers of coyotes to get to the US to find work and money. The mother told me that her girls were already considering different kinds of sex work to scrape together money. It was heartbreaking and annoying at the same time. How could I be so callous?

When I left these people's house I gave them the money I would have spent on a hotel during the nights I stayed there. It was more money than they had seen in years. The entire family including the father broke down and cried for a long time and just stared at the money. As soon as their tears dried they began to beseech me to send them money after I got home so that they wouldn't become destitute. It was unending and I just wanted to get away from them. As the Dad gave me the last taxi ride to the airport I thought that was the last of them. Imagine my shock and horror when I returned from Cuzco and the whole family was waiting with big smiles and hugs to greet me at the airport.

The friend I was traveling with had lived in different countries and had seen this a lot. He was familiar with this type of ambush and just walked through the crying family members and went out to hail a taxi. I felt terrible because I felt like I owed it to these people to help them find a way back home. At least I needed to take their father's taxi so that he could have one decent fare that night.

I made promises to keep in touch and to send money. I made promises to not abandon this family and to always keep them in my thoughts and prayers, and my Western Union account. I sent them a package and pictures both of which came back to me unopened. They had moved. I sent them money one time and the money was received but I got at least a hundred emails with requests for money. In the last email I got, the mother told me her daughter had gotten pregnant and they needed money for baby things because she didn't know who the father was and she was raising the baby herself. I wanted to reply that I didn't have money at that time but if I did I would try to send it but to them. I felt like I was holding out, like I wasn't helping or holding up my end of the bargain.

In the end, I never replied. I never sent them anything more. I felt like what I did for them was never going to be enough. I can't help but wonder if they are alright and if they have enough. I can't help but feel sad that all I wanted to do was run away or get them to stop begging me for more and more and more. I hope someday I get to say sorry.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sally Tomato

We live in a duplex. We live in a duplex for a myriad of reasons really, the biggest reason being mostly financial, because the duplex we live in is relatively cheap. We also live in a duplex because we don't have a ton of stuff or need a lot of room. We have found that there are downsides to sharing living space with people we don't know very well as well as upsides.

One of the downsides is when we moved in, I asked how much you could hear between the units and I was told you could hear nothing. I realized that maybe if your hearing is not that good, you won't hear anything but my hearing is pretty good and I can hear quite a bit. One of the upsides is when you need help with a quick fix, such as my neighbor who has a baby, she can poke her head out the door and yell, "come and sit on my couch for a minute while I run and pick up my daughter from school?" and the problem is easily solved.

We live in a duplex and we have a dog. We also have a cat, but this is about the dog. Our dog comes from a long line of dogs that are bred for their ability to guard. He is a very good guard dog and when the person we share a wall with, the duplex neighbor, lets her dogs out in the backyard or walks into her backyard, our dog notifies us by barking. He also barks at one other neighborhood husky that he truly hates but the majority of the barking is at our duplex neighbor's dogs and the neighbor herself. He loves this neighbor by the way - she is a dog person and he loves her to pieces and loves to lick her and sniff her crotch when he sees her out on the street. But he has to guard his family and so he tells us when she is out and about in the back yard. This causes a problem for us because our neighbor is also the property manager and she feels like she cannot enjoy the summer and her backyard because of our dog raising up a shit storm of noise whenever she sets foot in the backyard. She has asked us to take steps in training him to not guard his family that involve a can and noisy coins or a cup of water in the face. We have assured her we will try whatever it takes because 1) we would rather not be evicted and be homeless and 2) we need to try to settle this amicably and 3) putting him down or using a bark-less collar or a shock collar is inhumane to us.

Did I mention she has 2 dogs? She has 2 dogs. And they are nervous barkers. They bark at the mailman. They bark at the UPS truck. They bark at the PG&E man. They bark at the Mormons. They bark at the Fed Ex man. They bark at the Arrow water truck. They bark at the garbage trucks. Sometimes in the winter they get started barking for no reason and they just bark and bark and bark and they don't stop for a really long time. One night at 3am they started barking and they barked until I was wide awake. I have been really patient and understanding of our living situation and the fact that we share space and have not made it an issue. I once tried to bring it into conversation casually just to say, "Wow, your dogs do not like it when you are gone" and I got shut down. I got shut down again last night when I tried to bring up that mutual respect and admiration of each others pets is important. I have come to realize that there is not any situation that is going to allow this neighbor to see things from my perspective or my side of the fence.

The biggest bummer in this situation is that I really like this neighbor with the 2 dogs. I really like her a lot. But no matter how I try to bring up the dog situation I get shut down or she gets defensive and I don't know how to progress or how to handle this. No amount of good communication on my behalf is helping me with this. The single hardest thing for people to do is self assess and I guess this extends not just to their kids but also their animals.

I think it is time for us to buy a house.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bathing Suits

One of the things that accompanies having children and getting old is the betrayal of a woman's body. I remember thinking that things weren't too bad after one child and that as long as I kept active and ate healthy things like salad, (all the time) I would be back to pre-baby weight and tip top shape in no time at all. For those of you out there with children, you know this will never happen. You can get back to the pre-baby weight but the bits are never the same. That is to say that nothing will ever look like it used to before it all got stretched out and swollen and then you let the air out.

Combine this with the need to find a good bathing suit for a family vacation that involves lots of swimming and water and chasing kids and hot weather. Keep in mind that the swimming I am doing includes one child holding on to my back and another gripping my arm and so the bathing suit has to withstand being tugged at, held onto by little fingers and all the wrestling, grabbing, tricks and handstands that will take place in the pool. The suit doesn't have to be pretty but it does have to stay on. And it doesn't have to fit like a glove but if it is loose in the wrong places I could end up with embarrassing slippage even though we will just be hanging out with family, there are things that even family members shouldn't have to see.

Next is finding the places where bathing suits do not cost a fortune. Gone are the days when I can throw down big dollars on material the size of a postage stamp and feel good about the hours I will spend at the beach. I remember the most expensive bathing suit I ever bought and I remember being scared to pay that much money for just a bathing suit - I think it cost $120 dollars. And just for the record, I kept that bathing suit for 8 years or something like that because I had spent so much money on it, I couldn't bear to part with it. And when I got tired of it after 8 years I believe I gave it to my friend Julie and she took the remaining elastic out of it.

After losing 20 pounds I definitely want to splurge on a 2 piece bathing suit, who wouldn't? I remember once saying I would NEVER wear a one piece bathing suit EVER. But after trying on 20 to 30 bathing suits in the last month I have compiled the following research data:

1) If it rolls down when you sit down, you shouldn't buy it
2) If it rolls up when you sit down, you shouldn't buy it
3) If it has buckles, ties, belts, straps in areas that require adjusting, you shouldn't buy it
4) If it takes longer than 10 seconds to put on or take off, you shouldn't buy it
5) If you see girls in their 20's or younger perusing the racks, walk away

And remember, buying a cute hat, trendy flip flops, a sassy cover up and a hot beach tote bag can minimize the boring and sensible, black, one piece, 20 dollar, bathing suit.

Happy Summer everyone!