Thursday, February 26, 2015

This lady and her tramp…oline.

trampoline on a cloudy day

 

I have to admit, I don’t know what came over me. I don’t think we’d ever discussed getting a trampoline, but it sure made its way to our house in a hurry once I decided that that was my next get-the-kids-to-go-outside ploy. It might have been my last straw too; I was getting tired of convincing them to leave the house, and I was even more exhausted from having to coax them to stay past their usual five minutes. It’s like they’re allergic to the fresh air and sun.

When it was 75 degrees one winter day here, I remember yelling, “DO YOU KNOW THAT IT’S SNOWING IN CHICAGO RIGHT NOW??!” perhaps in my sad, desperate attempt to shame them for wasting such a precious day. Like that would feel punishing to these girls who claim they miss the snow.

When the colossal thing finally made it to our yard, I was already expecting it to fail. Because you know how sometimes you imagine things going a certain way and somehow reality has a way of completely destroying any romantic notions you had of how things might turn out?

Well…it’s kind of like that with the trampoline, except this time – miracle among miracles - the reality is working out to be waaaaay better than what I’d expected.  Who knew a trampoline could be useful in so many ways?


Exhibit A

trampoline joy     

Grownups get to unlock their own inner child. I’d never been on a trampoline before this, and even I can’t deny the glee that comes from bouncing away like a maniac. Oh, it’s also a great workout – the pounding in my chest after ten minutes of gravity-defying stunts says so.


Exhibit B

 

Kitty's day out

We’re warned against leaving small pets outside because they mysteriously disappear in these parts from prowling coyotes and possibly other large that-which-shall-not-be-mentioned creatures. *shudder* I feel bad that our cats will have to remain as indoor cats, even though I see their longing to be outside as they stare out the window. WIth this? Problem solved. It’s like his very own cat condo. He didn’t jump on it, much to my disappointment, but perhaps he’ll get there eventually.

Exhibit C

Booktramp

Butt to chair is so last year. Plus research says all that sitting is really not that good for us. So why not lounge on the trampoline while soaking up some sun and devouring a few thousand words? It’s ergonomic-ish, right?




Exhibit D

Trampoline zzzz

When you spend three hours raking and filling nine yard bags with leaves, this is what happens. You can’t even make it to your sofa in the living room to rest. But hey, look at that! A trampoline is great for some post-hard-labor siesta too.

 



Exhibit E

TrampolineKids 

As you can see, the trampoline can be quite versatile, but this is still by far my favorite of its utility. It’s hard to tell, as I didn’t zoom in on the girls, but this was my view of them from my kitchen window, playing beautifully together after school – without my prompting, might I add. They were bouncing, they were toppling over one another and giggling, they were playing tag, they were sitting together and inventing games, and they were imagining a whole new world just for themselves.

I was so grateful for such glimpses as I cleaned the dishes and prepared the evening’s meal. It was just like I’d hoped before procuring the trampoline. The best part? Instead of begging them to stay outside a little longer while I finished preparing their meal, I had to call them in for dinner. It’s the kind of thing I’d (naively) romanticized about having a family before I actually had a family – parents doing grownup things inside the house while kids enjoying kid-like things under big blue skies, and then they would all converge at the dining table together after the mom calls out: “Kids! Come inside for dinner!”

I cannot tell you how happy it made me to actually be able to do that today. It’s a little ridiculous that so much pleasure could be derived from something so simple, but you know what they say about the little things… Although, I’d argue that a 14-foot trampoline really isn’t all that little is it?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Year of the Sheep begins with eyes of the fish

IMG_0170

As you may well know, I’m proud of both my Chinese and Indian heritage, and I try to share some of the traditions with which I was raised with my daughters just so they get to experience diluted (as in watered down to .02% concentration after having lived in the States for the past 20 years) versions of them. They’re part Chinese and Indian after all.

But it wasn’t until yesterday, when we were having a celebratory Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner (two days early because My Guy has a work thing two nights this week) as a family, that I became convinced that Little Miss, my six-year-old, may be more Chinese than I thought. More Chinese than me even.

You see, while we were shopping at the Chinese grocery store, I explained to Little Miss, who wanted to know why we didn’t just go to the regular H.E.B. (a Texas-based grocery store, also one of my favorite things about this state), that we were there to get a whole fish, specifically the white pomfret, because it’s an auspicious dish for the Lunar New Year, and it would be impossible to procure it anywhere else.

At my response, her eyes widened: “A whole fish? You mean the head too? Yaaaaay! Yes! Yes! Let’s get the whole fish! I want to eat the eyeballs! Mmmmm….eyeballs!”

Since then, until one such eyeball actually made its way to her mouth, she wouldn’t stop obsessing over it for the rest of the day.

At the store:

“Yes, yes, pick this one - let me see the eyes. Oooh...look at that. I like that one. I can’t wait to eat the eyes!”

At home:

She sauntered into the kitchen and asked: “Where’s the fish? Is it ready yet?” Then she turned to her sister and excitedly announced, “Pickle, we get to eat the eyes! It’s going to be sooooo gooooooood…”

Actually, she’s never had fish eyes.

“Can I see? Can I see?” Naturally, Pickle caught the fever since whatever her sister does, she must too. “I want fish eyes!”

I don’t even know where this obsession came from. But Little Miss has had fish eggs (salmon roe nigiri is one of her favorites), ox tail, cow tongue, chicken heart, pork liver - and they were truthfully introduced to her as such -  so I suppose eyeballs didn’t seem odd to her.



IMG_20150216_173400

Ah, memory lane…

 

The thing is, while I’d enjoyed every part of the fish as a child, I was never into the eyes, which made her fervor even more amusing to me. Even I, the one who’s technically more Chinese, who grew up immersed in a culture that consumes all kinds of animal parts, whose favorite part, as a child, of helping my mom cook was to wash and gut fish (yes, really), would gladly avoid eating the eyes.

When we finally sat down to eat, we, of course, went straight to the business of eyeball consumption.

“Mmmmm…..this is delicious!” declared my big girl.

As for the little one, who got to try the other eye (thank goodness most fish come with two), this was her only comment after some chewing, “Can I spit this out?”

Hah! That’ll teach her to blindly follow her sister. As for the rest of the fish? We ate it all up. Everything except the bones, of course.



IMG_20150216_182436 


IMG_20150216_182456

 



IMG_20150216_182502  

* * *


Kung Hei Fatt Choy everyone! Wishing you luck, joy, and prosperity from our house to yours.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Valentine’s Day romance

 1940013_10205334824637512_1933511893480736572_o
It’s our first Valentine’s Day in Austin, which means we won’t be going on our traditional Valentine’s date to the Chicago Auto show this year. Bummer. That was so us.

Time for new traditions, as with all the holidays we’ve celebrated here, I suppose, but instead of forcing to create a new one, we’re hoping to happen upon it eventually. For now, we’ve planned a teeny tiny road trip to a quaint and historic little town not too far from here - Fredericksburg, TX - in “the beautiful Texas Hill Country” (says the travel literature) to experience a small slice of German culture. Because, come on, don’t schnitzel and spaetzle scream romance to you?

Romance. Hah! Technically, we’ve only been married for a whopping three-ish months, which still puts us at the honeymoon (think chocolate covered strawberries in bed) stage. In reality, however, we’ve been together for nearly 10 years, which kind of puts a different spin on romance. There are strawberries in the fridge, and there’s chocolate in the pantry, and never shall the twain meet and be consumed in my bed. Are you kidding me? Can you imagine the mess?

Don’t get me wrong—romance isn’t dead. Not exactly anyway. But gone are the big showy bouquets of flowers, gasp-making blush-inducing gifts, and elaborate Hallmark cards that celebrate romance, although, come to think of it, I don’t remember those either. Now, Valentine’s Day means a celebration of love for the whole family. We make heart-shaped crafts with the rest of America, we make cards for loved ones, we have chocolate (that are mostly leftovers from Christmas), and we make (unromantic) plans to commemorate the occasion together.


10930199_10205334820437407_8474276320280792086_o


But romance isn’t dead, no. The grand statements of love have just morphed into everyday kindness, which doesn’t necessarily shout love over the rooftops of the world, but it gently reminds me that I am loved. Sweetly. Unequivocally.

Like when I went out for a run one Sunday morning and agreed to meet my family at the store for some errands soon after. My Guy brought the girls, and despite having to get them ready himself, which can be quite the monumental task, he still remembered to bring me coffee that he warmed just before leaving the house because he knew hot coffee would feel pretty great for me after a chilly run.

That same morning, because we took separate cars to get to the store, we drove home and arrived at a different time, with me dragging behind with the girls. When I stepped into the kitchen, My Guy had already reheated the breakfast tacos, which he had made that morning, for me so I could refuel.

See? Love. So unexpected. So real.

I’m not writing this to justify the lack of overt romantic declarations, but rather to let him (you, if you’re reading this, my love) know that I notice them. That I always notice every single gesture, and I am always, always deeply grateful for them. For you.

Because, really, who needs a dozen roses when I have hot breakfast tacos waiting for me at home?

 

 

10863928_10205334826397556_2175319797959057216_o

 

 

* * * 

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! May you have love in abundance, in whatever form it takes shape for you, that day.

Friday, February 6, 2015

An afternoon’s magical surprise

You know you’re leaving your kids’ babyhood behind when you record milestones that no longer has anything to do with how they’re growing as human beings, but rather who they’re becoming as a person. And I think we tend to celebrate, especially, when they choose to do the things we enjoy as well.

Like Harry Potter, for instance. Little Miss finished reading the third book, “The Prisoner of Azkaban”, which was one of my favorites, and absolutely loved it. We then both decided that it’s a good time for a break in the series. As the characters get older, the story gets darker and more complex, and I feel the concepts would be a little tricky for a six-year-old to decipher. Surprisingly, she suggested she should wait a year before picking the next one up to read, and I agreed (although I think it’s really the 700+ pages that’s daunting her). In the meantime, however, I had a surprise in store for her.

This past Wednesday was her school’s Early Release day, where classes ended at 12:45PM. Since it’s rare that her little sister, who’s at preschool, isn’t home for long stretches of time like that afternoon, I decided it’s the perfect opportunity to screen the first Harry Potter movie at home. It would be our mommy and big girl date, which delighted her to no end. From the moment the movie started, she was enchanted (pun intended).


IMG_9983 (1)


The milestone? It was her first experience of a screen adaptation of a novel she’s read. I know, whoop de doo, but hey, it’s pretty big for our family of readers and movie watchers; don’t judge. So there I was, watching my little girl completely immersed in the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and I was having that moment. You know, the moment when parents realize their kids are mini versions of themselves, seeing the world through same-different eyes, and we get to experience something we love all over again in a whole new way? Yes, that. 

I could tell she was thrilled to be familiar with every scene, every character even before they were revealed to the audience. She also noticed and mentioned when the screen version was different: “They skipped some parts.” But she understood why. She squealed at the exciting Quidditch match, shut her eyes and ears when (SPOILER ALERT!) Harry, Hermione, and Ron confronted Fluffy, and clapped when Gryffindor won the House Cup. You could tell that she was loving every moment of having one of her favorite books come to life before her eyes. (Can’t blame her; I still feel that way when I see my favorite books on screen.)

As if the movie wasn’t a treat enough, I got us some shrimp chips to share too, because, well, that’s what happens in a half-Asian home.

 

IMG_9998 (1)

I know in my last post I seemed pretty down about my career (or rather, the lack thereof) and uncertain about my role in life. But then I get days like these, where I am free to volunteer at my daughter’s school during their Book Fair (and seeing me at her school always makes Little Miss happy) and then bring her home for an afternoon of just Harry, her, and me, and I remember why I chose to scale back in the first place.

That spot next to my big girl, nestled under a warm blanket in the middle of a cold Wednesday afternoon? It’s a damn fine place to be.


  IMG_9990 (1)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Inside and outside

Can you be inside and outside at the same time?

I think this is where I live.

I think this is where most women live.

- from “When Women Were Birds”, Terry Tempest Williams


The passage refers to the time when the author landed herself in jail for a night, unable to pay her speeding ticket, and it struck a chord with me. I found myself nodding to the sentences: yes, this is where I live.

No, not in jail. But inside and outside. Not physically, even though the limitations of the inside feels real sometimes. At the start of the year, I was gung ho about my resolutions. Having eschewed them for many years - nah, I’m not the type to make resolutions - I had an earnest desire to pursue something this year.

Perhaps it’s because this is the year I turn the big 4-0. Suddenly there’s an urgency for dreams and convictions. Like someone had set a deadline, and I’m finally attuned to the countdown. Tick tock, tick tock to 40. Isn’t this when we run marathons? Push ourselves to be all we can be? Reflect on the last four decades and try to make something of what we’d learned?

On the outside, I take my girls to school, I tidy the messes that come with living a six- and three-year-old, I freelance part-time in the solitude of my home while everyone’s away, working on their dreams and shaping the rest of their lives, and sometimes it feels like plenty. I look around me and I think, how lucky I am to have this life.

But on the inside, I think, is this it? More importantly, is this enough? And I’m often torn. There are times when I think I should do more, be more. But that requires work, and it requires a certain courage that I’ve convinced myself over the years that I don’t have. That I don’t need because I’m happy. Or so I tell myself.

And so I shirk from the responsibilities of wanting to be more, content to hold the fort at home while I support the dream chasers in my house. A cop out really, because then I don’t need to put the work in and face my own fears of failure. What if I can’t be more? What if this really is it for me?

The resolution dissolves with each passing day. The urgency of the ticking clock becomes a distant sound, like the train that rumbles through the town in the middle of the night. Who am I kidding anyway?

But then I read this passage the other day from “Lit”, a memoir by Mary Karr, who was reacting to her aging mother’s hurtful remarks that rose from her fear of leaving and losing her home of over 40 years:

But I spent all day throwing out all the canvases you never had the balls to paint on. Every shit-sucking day of my whole life, you blamed me and Daddy and Lecia for you not painting. The truth is: you never had the balls to paint, Mother.

Ouch. What if I become that person? Bitter at 80 because I never had the guts to pursue the things I’d long-ago envisioned for myself? But then again, what am I pursing? Not fame. Not fortune, exactly. Success?

Success in what?

I have not yet determined what that is for me, so how do I even start setting my sights for a goal that isn’t even clear to me. And there is a discourse about success that I don’t think I need to get into, but you know the gist - isn’t success relative anyway? If you’re doing what makes you happy, whatever it may be, aren’t you, in a way, succeeding?

That’s what I hope to teach my daughters anyway. Do what you love, so you will love what you do, because I think that’s integral to living simply and therefore, happily. But is this where I am?

When I showed up at Little Miss’ school the other day to pick her up from an after-school activity (running, much to my surprise, when she suggested she’d like to be involved; this girl who hated soccer because of “all that running!”), we ended up at the park with three other moms and their kids. An impromptu playdate on a beautiful 75-degree January day. Our kids were happy, and I was happy.

An impromptu playdate. Such a simple thing, but I’m also aware that it’s such a privilege to be able to afford to do that. It’s not lost on me that many moms would probably love to be where I was then.

Yet, when I read or hear about my friends’ career successes, even though I’m truly happy for them, there is a nagging doubt that emerges from a deep and dark place within me - why can’t I be that too?

If I lean in, according to Sheryl Sandberg, can I also be out in the sun with my girl? What riches could feel better than the warmth of the sun on my skin and the joy in my daughter’s face that January day in the park?

I hope to raise my girls to be strong and independent so they may pursue their own goals, but actions speak louder than words, as they say. What will they learn from me? What can I teach them about achieving their dreams when I never had the balls to paint myself?

Or is this it? Is this life of playdates and soccer leagues my canvas? Does this not teach my girls that they can live this simple life and be happy. Isn’t this enough?

I’ve been drawn to memoirs recently - “Wild”, “Glitter and Glue”, “Lit”, “When Women Were Birds” - and I realized that central to each person’s story in all of these books is the author’s relationship with her mother. I hadn’t planned it that way - all of these books found their way to me quite by accident. Yet here they are, each successful author, examining their lives as daughters, describing their mom and the role they played in their lives, each with their versions of this complex relationship with their mothers.

Not everyone’s mom was successful in the traditional sense. In fact, one of them was downright abusive and crazy. Many were loving and supportive, despite the broken homes. And these moms - no matter who they were, how they were, and what they were - all shared one thing in common: they had a daughter who, regardless of circumstances, pursued her dreams and succeeded in becoming a writer.

I am comforted by this fact - a mother’s career success (whatever that means to each individual) does not shape her daughter’s future (whew!) although it could certainly be an influence. Good for the daughters. Really. I am glad for them. Because what mother doesn’t want her kid to reach great heights, to go beyond her own wildest hopes?

But what of the mothers? What of this mother? What is my great height, my wildest hope? Will I ever get there?

Or am I already there, only I don’t notice because I’m too distracted by watching others chasing theirs?



Tag

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails