Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day extravaganza

For many of us, Memorial Day may be our first real holiday weekend of the year. And to have it at the end of May, when nearly half the year is over before we get our first taste of a short break, is almost cruel. In fact, when I was growing up in Malaysia, we had at least 14 federal holidays, not counting the state holidays that would increase that number by at least two to three more days. By the end of May, we would have had six days off. And now I’ve traded them in for this ONE measly day.

Pre-baby, Memorial day meant a break from routine and nothing more. We either went to parties and visited family or just stayed home, but the point was, we did absolutely NOTHING.  Not even laundry. We took the word “break” very seriously. Post-baby, this break comes in the form of sleep. No, Little Miss still wakes up at her usual 7:30am (yaaaaay…), but when we’re awake, we are constantly on the go. With temperatures in the  80’s, it’s our first real taste of summer, and we take full advantage of it. We eat outside, play outside and even entertain outside.

What’s Memorial Day weekend without a BBQ with friends? So that’s what we do. Except Little Miss has so much fun she refuses to sleep, delaying her normal bedtime of 7:00 to 10:00pm! We are astonished by her energy but she is probably intoxicated by the heady scent of grilled meat and citronella, and does everything she can to fight sleep. With so much going on, she doesn’t want to miss out. And who can blame her?

The next day, we pack a picnic and head to a park by the river. We pass a few playgrounds and with each, she exclaims “Pawp!”(Park) “Size!”(Slide) “Sching!”(Swing) in her broken Toddlerese. When we finally reach the one of our destination, she goes to town. There are people all around us, playing volleyball or bags, BBQing, celebrating with balloons or just enjoying the shade from trees older than our city. Once Little Miss has her fill of the size and sching, she joins us for a bite, feasting on leftovers from the BBQ.

For the first time this holiday weekend, we finally take our break on our picnic blanket, reading or just drinking in the summer with our eyes closed, interrupted only by a toddler whose brave, barefooted explorations result in a giggling fit. But we also know that she is mostly giddy from waking up in the morning or from naps to both parents being home these past few days. We can tell that this rare treat is her favorite part of the holiday.

Because it is ours too.

Runninghowever far she goes, she always comes back


Nooked mommy’s girl


CPUreaderdaddy’s girl


GoofyTentgoofing around


Toppledtiiiiimber…! (oops)


Smilesbut she’s alright. In fact, she’s more than alright.


She’s absolutely amazing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

To see the summer sky


To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie --
True Poems flee --

~ Emily Dickinson








Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend. May it be filled with BBQs, sunshine, love, laughter and hugs.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New toy! It doesn’t vibrate, but I still love it.

&#@*%$*$@#*&@#!!! That's usually what comes out of my mouth, piercing the quiet of our nights in our home office. That's me when I'm blogging. I've been blogging with our a six-year-old laptop at home and while it has served us well over the years, lately, I’ve found it slow to respond to my needs. The blogs I read take longer to load, and the photos I try to access from our home server (yes, I live with a geek – how can you tell?) take three life cycles of a bee to appear. And for someone who loves efficiency above cleanliness (you’d agree too if you saw my desk) and who is all about instant gratification, coupled with the fact that patience is NOT my virtue, it’s been frustrating, to say the least.

Many a night, I’ve slammed my hands on the keyboard because the computer just isn’t cooperating and while My Guy tries to help, I turn him away because he’s often busy with “real” work that pays the bills and to drag him away from billable hours to troubleshoot issues related to my blog (a.k.a. unpaid hobby) seems ludicrous to me. And so I continue to wrestle with the keyboard and spew expletives at the screen. We have four other computers in the house – I’m not even sure why I continue to fight this one. Maybe it’s the principle.

However, all this ended when My Guy came home with a surprise one evening. He urged me to stay in our bedroom until he was ready, and in 15 minutes, he walked me to our home office and showed me this:


My jaw dropped. It's an all-in-one computer with a 22” LCD screen, and for the first time in a long time, I fell in love with a piece of technology. The last time this happened was with my Atari, and some of you may remember just how long ago that was (circa early 80s and boy does that age me).  Granted, the geek in My Guy is all over this baby, but I’m not worried because he has his own uber machine (that I will no longer hog the moment he leaves his chair now that I have my own super swanky one).

And while he all but salivated while fondling this machine to set it up for me, all the programs he installed on the computer were specifically for my blogging ease. He knew I was struggling with the Blogger editor so he did his research and found another program that apparently works better - Windows Live Writer - which he loaded onto my new computer, hoping it would end my blogging woes (so far so good…). New machine, new blog editor, neither of which I had asked for, but here I am, reveling in the ease at which I’m flying through this once painstakingly slow process. For the first time since I started blogging, I'm not plagued by computer issues and I don’t have to decipher HTML codes to get a post to publish right (Hallelujah!). All because someone cared enough to listen. And cared enough to do something about it.

I admit, this is an extravagant indulgence for which I half-heartedly chided him but he assured me that it was a special occasion. A celebration of my passionate pursuit, of my writing, of finally finding the courage to share these words. It is by no small miracle that I am consistently here in my little corner of the inter web, battling my demons - the insecurities, the fear of judgment and failure, the fatigue from a full-time job, the demands of parenthood, the (now ex-)laptop that couldn't, the worry of offending people and the constant race against time. Yet, here I am.

My Guy knows how important this is to me, and by this virtue alone, he makes it important to him. It’s evident in the effort he put in this surprise, those nights he insisted on making dinner and cleaning the kitchen just so I could have more time to write, the chair and keyboard he got me to enhance the ergonomics of my workspace at home and his firm handle on his role in our partnership that enables me the freedom to share my world with others. These words that you read here may be mine. Even this gorgeous and highly efficient piece of machinery – mine. But these often invisible hands that prop me up comfortably at my desk and the voice that soothes these words out of me are his. If it wasn't for his loving support, and his remarkable ability to really listen to me and respond in kind, I wouldn't be here. Chugging away. Getting these last few words out late into the night. Especially these ones:

Thank you. For this.

For everything.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Operation Me, Myself and I

My Guy and Little Miss went to visit her grandparents on Sunday morning, and for the first time in ages (as in I really don't remember the last time), I had the morning completely to myself. I was thinking about this all week - excited, nervous. What could I do? What should I do? Sans baby? It's a strange territory for me these days to not have to work with a circadian rhythm that consists of naptime, snacktime, and pottytime. A rare indulgence to tune in to myself and little else. I knew I wanted to relax but with so many possibilities, yet so little time, I was beginning to stress out. Yes, only I would be stressed about relaxing.

So what did I finally do? I thought I'd give you the play-by-play. Maybe you can grade me on my performance.

8:30  Said goodbye to family. Blew kisses again. And again. And then another for good measure. Because saying goodbye to my little one is never easy. It's a good thing that it's her dad who drops her off at daycare every morning. If it were up to me, I'd never be able to get to work. Ever.

8:30 -9:00  I ate cereal and checked my email, Facebook and Twitter (the Unholy Trinity of what had become religion in my life). Then before I got completely sucked in by this diabolical web, I forced myself to log off. It's a beautiful day - I'd shoot myself if I squandered away these precious hours behind the computer. I closed my laptop and left the office. Success!

9:00 - 9:45  I threw in a load of laundry just to feel productive and took a long, hot shower. I had no appointments and no work to rush off to, so even the shower felt different today. Cleansing, not just cleaning.

9:45 - 10:00  Made the weekly phonecall to my mom who's a woman of few words in person, and even fewer on the phone. Without Little Miss around to "perform" new tricks and words she picked up throughout the week for her pati (grandma), the call was even shorter.

10:00 - 10:30  Power yoga on the porch - probably one of my favorite me-time activities. I was cursing myself for jumping the gun on the shower. Oh well - it's not like I was going to a hugfest.

10:30 -11:00  Dressed to get out of the house. I deliberated - makeup or no makeup? I decided on the former, realizing that every time I look like I just rolled out of bed is when I bump into someone I know, and of course today, it didn't happen. 

11:00 -12:00  I finally left the house on a mission to save myself. From ugly feet. The weather has been cold and dreary for the most part, so hiding my feet was easy. But the forecast promised 80s for a good long spell. Since the forecasters are always right (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha) I decided on a pedicure. A little treat for myself (and for others, really). Besides, we had a birthday party to attend that afternoon, and I refused to be the only loser with socks on when everyone would be wearing sandals (sure enough, they were). 

Before the nail salon, I stopped for my first iced coffee of the season in celebration of the first really hot day of the year and continued my way down, soaking in the delicious heat. During my hour of pampered bliss, I devoured hungrily the book I was reading for my book club: The United States of Arugula. With a book about food, it was easy to satiate both my passion for literature and for food. I almost forgot what it felt like to leisurely read during the day, and I savored every word. 

12:00 - 1:30  Next, it was time to wander around aimlessly in my neighborhood to check out the independently-owned stores that line this particularly busy street. I love that they're so close to me, but I rarely get to visit them on a whim - it is usually with purpose. Today, I had no agenda. I let the windows do the work - the better the display, the likelier I was to go in. It was time for a shopping spree! I ended up with one shirt for myself. I know - I was out of control. 

1:30  I ordered takeout sushi and was picked up by my family on their way home. Little Miss flashed me the biggest welcome smile in the car as I got in. To me, it confirmed that the morning apart was good for the both of us. She connected with family, and I connected with myself. Both essential in their own right.

Never-before-seen footage (hah!), and I'm sharing this with you because I trust you will still come back after this (I'm also hoping you're not that shallow). My brazen choice of photo may also be due to the fact that I was a little tipsy from this drink you see next to my pedi-cured from the uglies-feet. It's the cocktail du jour: sweet tea vodka with sparkling lemonade. You know, to help with my quest to relax and to make my feet look even better. Wow - is that the longest photo caption ever or what?

So how did I do? What would you have done were you in my shoes? Sorry - I meant SANDALS.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Play awhile in their shoes

As parents to a toddler, playground visits are par for the course. Sometimes we stick to the neighborhood ones, and sometimes, we take a short drive to one of the several "destination playgrounds" as I'd like to call them. Recently we visited one that blew us away. It wasn't by the beach and it didn't have panoramic views of the city like the others we've been to, but this one had an old-school wooden play structure that made My Guy and I nostalgic for the playground of our childhood. 

This is the mother of all structures - like it was built for kids by kids. The tunnels, the nooks, the towers, the tubes, the sandlot - the works! It is also right next to a small farm animal zoo area and a children's spray pool! Yes, a kiddie nirvana right here in our own backyard-ish.

Little Miss had a blast, but secretly, so did we. We weren't just parents there. We became kids ourselves. How could we not?

Just think...if you were a kid, what would this be like for you?

 You wouldn't even know where to begin

You would want to explore every tunnel

Scale every height, be like Rapunzel

or the Count of Monte Cristo

Traverse the nearby minefield of dandelions, experiencing them for the first time

And end your day with a cone from the ice cream peddler - every kid's best friend.

Wouldn't you? I know I would. 

She definitely did.

Enjoy your weekend, wherever you go. You know where we'll be.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Soap in my mouth

The moment I feared finally happened. I knew this day would come; I just didn't realize it would be this soon.

I picked Little Miss up from daycare yesterday, and she was in great spirits - must have been the two hours she spent outside with her playmates. It has been cold and dreary the past few days so the clear blue skies and 70-degree weather felt glorious - even Grumpy the dwarf would be smiling on a day like this.

In the car, Little Miss Chatterbox was having animated conversations with herself (or an imaginary friend - you never know). She was also enthusiastic about pointing and naming things - "Duck!"(Truck) "Dhee!"(Tree) "Dah!"(Car). Her enunciation’s not quite there but at least I could understand her (for the most part, as long as there was context. Had she pointed at a feathered creature waddling across a pond and said "Duck!" I would've guessed she didn't mean truck. I’m a genius).

Often, in our 10-minute car ride home, if we weren't blasting a Lady Gaga tune from the radio (at her request, in case you're frowning at me - I would have gone with Phoenix), I’d go through a string of words and she’d repeat them back to me, a game/lesson she adored. She mispronounced words in her tot-like fashion, but the gusto with which she said them, so happy to finally be able to communicate and so proud of herself, prevented me from correcting her - usually because I was too busy laughing. Occasionally, her synapses would misfire (more specifically, in the opposite direction) because yesterday when I said "Cup", she said, "Puck!" That made me laugh, which sent her into a giggling frenzy, completely unaware that she has flipped the consonants. Then, channeling her daddy's juvenile energy, a lightbulb went off and I said, "Little Miss, say Cuff!"

And I waited. And waited. Nothing.

Oh well, I tried. That would've been HI-larious. Yes, not quite the high point of my parenting career, but I was certain her daddy would have been proud I came up with that all on my own.

By then, we were getting close to our neighborhood. I accelerated to change lanes only to narrowly miss the car that appeared from my blind side. I didn't even realize I cleared it until this car-that-wasn’t-there appeared in my rearview mirror and startled me. I gasped and yelled, "Shit!" and immediately, as if we were still playing her favorite game, my daughter yelled back, "She!"

I almost veered off the road. That was a bigger shock than the near accident.

Was that really -? No... It couldn't be... But I think it was. Wasn't it? Her first naughty word? At 18 months??! Oh no. What have I done?!

OK, so it wasn't intentional, and she didn't know what she was saying, but it was definitely a great reminder to really watch my words around her these days. My 2010 new year's resolution to swear like the Brits worked as well as most weight loss plans do that time of the year, as in it didn’t. Perhaps, I should go with the tried and true method of washing my mouth with soap (ala A Christmas Story) every time I utter a naughty word. Seems a little drastic, but soon enough, she’ll master this whole talking thing; I will no longer have to trick her to say these words, and I’ll be in deep she, which means the joke's on me. Except it won’t be so funny then.

I guess it's time to whip out that bar of soap... Cuff!

image source:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's not me, it's you - or is it?

This is part of Momalom's Five-for-Ten series, where a group of bloggers write about the same five topics in 10 days. This post responds to the fifth and final topic, Yes.

So much can be said with Yes, the last Five-for-Ten topic, yet nothing comes to mind. And I thought Lust was difficult. Actually it was - I had written a different post altogether. But I was late in my submission from a busy weekend and I managed to catch a few posts of the same topic from fellow bloggers. I was startled by the fact that very few people actually wrote about the sexual nature of lust. Most opted to lust for specific foods, a certain aspect of life, and objects both tangible and intangible.  I started to panic. The PG-13 nature of the lust posts made me rethink my own strategy - did I dare voice the one thing that's on everyone's mind but not their blog posts?

Apparently, if you caught my last entry, you'll know that the answer is No. I scribbled a cop-out post in 30 minutes and went with that instead. With my homage to a piece of meat (as in for dinner), there was no rocking of boats from my end. I was safe, albeit a little disappointed with myself. It wasn't just what the others weren't saying that influenced my decision, but the post I prepared contained elements that would make certain people in my life fidget uncomfortably in their seats. They might even furrow their brow. I wasn't being purposefully incendiary; in fact, I think "the post that wasn't" turned out rather mild. However, I'm sure not everyone will agree.

Frivolous young love, foolish desires, S.E.X. are taboo where I'm from, and to write about them? Unfathomable. I'm not saying I wrote about sex (although I don't personally think there's anything wrong with that either) but knowing that I have family members, friends, coworkers (even my boss!) reading this, I just can't dive in unedited. Or can I? I've grappled with this for awhile now: Am I the keeper of their feelings? If the post isn't even about them, am I still culpable for hurt feelings or offenses because I crossed their boundaries even though I'm well within mine? Should my audience be able to edit my thoughts, and ultimately my words?

Gentle reader, here is what I would like to say to you: You are here by your own volition, and if you delight in being privy to these diverse facets of me - ones you don't often see - you have to be open to seeing all of them, and not just what you are prepared to see. You'd like me to be cautious with your sensitive soul but would you believe me if I say I'm neither here to hurt nor offend you? I just want to write as I think, not as you think I should. I have thoughts buried deep within me that feel as though they require your permission to be unearthed. It also seems that I have to apologize for how I live my life, and that stifles my passion to write. I know that part doesn't concern you, but it does me. I want to be able to write honestly, but sometimes, you can be so touchy, so judgy. I'm asking you to please stop.

This isn't always about you. In fact, it never was. This is about me.


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p.s. Due to the Momalom series, I will be posting on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of this week. I will be back on my regular MWF schedule next week.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My favorite hunk of meat

This is part of Momalom's Five-for-Ten series, where a group of bloggers write about the same five topics in 10 days. This post responds to the fourth topic, Lust.

The object of my lust: Homemade barbacoa tacos - on a weeknight.  

Food and me go way back. Born in Malaysia, it was inevitable for me - it's a nation of proud, unapologetic food lovers. Lately, with Little Miss in my life, my food obsession has become even more prominent as my excitement in sharing my passion increases with each new food discovery of hers. To watch her consume a little blackened salmon here and a little dim sum there is my culinary nirvana. 

But now, it's all about the barbacoa. Thanks to my new favorite kitchen appliance, the slow cooker, we were able to come home to one of our favorite preparations of beef. If you've been to Chipotle and ordered their barbacoa, you know what I mean. 10 hours of stewing and immersing in flavors enriched by these simple ingredients, cilantro, onions, garlic, jalapeno, salt and pepper, were all it took for our divine taco night. 

When I was at work the day this three-pound meat was in the cooker, I could hardly concentrate - all I could think of was the barbacoa, the piece de resistance of our dinner that night. Walking into the kitchen that evening for the first time was like walking through the Pearly Gates, minus the judgment, the questions and the awkward small talk. 

Just me and my meat. At last.

Find other perspectives on this topic through Momalom.

p.s. Due to the Momalom series, I will be posting on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of this week. I will be back on my regular MWF schedule next week.

Friday, May 14, 2010

18 months baby!

This is part of Momalom's Five-for-Ten series, where a group of bloggers write about the same five topics in 10 days. This post responds to the third topic, Memory.

My dearest Little Miss,

Today you are exactly the age the label on your shirt says - 18 months! Just thought I would leave you a note to commemorate this milestone. It's a pretty big deal after all. If not, why would it be on your shirt?

So far, things have been pretty unremarkable - in a good way. You continue to grow and hit your milestones as you should. When the experts said you should be sitting, standing, walking, talking, you did. Now the experts say you should be walking on tip toes and you do. Not sure why it's textbook worthy, but there you go, balancing on your toes, looking like you just stepped on cat poo. It's really cute. (Your tippy toes, not the poo.)

Speaking of cats, Macavity is still your favorite; you call him Mac. We got you a stuffed cat that looks just like him - steel grey with tufts of white in the right places - and you also call it Mac (go figure). It is now your favorite next to Baby, the doll you feed and tote around in the mini stroller (you're not quite there with the creative names yet, obviously). When she's missing, you panic - "Baby! Baby!" - and at night, you insist she's tucked in with you. Along with Mac, Pig, Dog and Monkey. (You're so lucky they don't snore.) Yes, you have a thing for animals. We love that you do, because we think this predilection helps create a kinder, gentler soul. Unless you start torturing them. Then I blame myself for watching all those episodes of Dexter while you were in the womb. (But it was such an incredible show!)

Personality-wise, you are very independent and pretty laidback - until you don't get what you want that is. Then it's Little Miss Tantrum. Uhm, hello overachiever, it's called the Terrible Twos, not the Terrible One and a Halfs. Of all the milestones to accelerate, couldn't you have picked speech or a musical talent of some sort? The oboe perhaps? Well, at least you're not always pitching a fit. Most days, you just play quietly by yourself. Mimicry and imaginative play are big now; I love it when you pretend cook with the kitchenware you borrow from me and feed your stuffed animals the pretend steak frites or whatever it is you 18-month-old gourmands make.

At this point, you may even be curious about the kind of people your parents were back in the day. Just to give you an idea of what your daddy's like, the other day, your daddy brought you to me, all excited, "look, what I just taught her" and then he turned to you and asked, "Where's your butt?" I rolled my eyes. You of course had it right, pointing at your dimpled behind. He was beaming, so pleased with himself. THAT'S what your daddy's like. Who knows, he may still be that person as you read this. God help us, although between you and me, I hope so. As childish and silly as he can be sometimes, it's his boyish charm that drew me to him - he makes me feel alive, and it's electric. But this boy before me is also very much a man. One who is in passionate pursuit of his dreams but even then, he always makes time for us. For you. Always.

As for me, I love nothing more than to hear you laugh, and the one person who does that impeccably is your daddy. As I watch the two of you together, belly laughs and all, my world feels complete. There is more I would like to do with my life, but I've put my ambitions on hold just a little just so I don't miss these amazing moments with you. You've inspired me to write, and for that I thank you. You are my perfect muse. And your daddy, my number one supporter.

As a family, our favorite moments are usually when you're nestled between the two of us, where you fit so well. You are and will always be our world, and for now, I'm certain we are yours too. And that feels incredible. Perhaps that's why I am compelled to write you. I want to preserve this feeling, these moments, where we are all you need. For me, this is worth capturing because the girl reading this will have no memory of any of this. She will only have these words. 

Your Mom and Memory Keeper

our little goat whisperer

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Two sides of the same coin

This is part of Momalom's Five-for-Ten series, where a group of bloggers write about the same five topics in 10 days. This post responds to the second topic, Happiness.

Yes, those are the faces of my happiness. This happiness, my good fortune, is akin to having gold coins in my hands. While I’m truly grateful, I’m also acutely aware that these coins have two faces and they're not always perfect. The one side may glitter, but the other may be a little dull from wear. It's the flip side to the euphoria and razzle dazzle in my life, where the mundane, the unromantic, the annoying and the inconvenient reside.

Being part Chinese, I guess it's in my blood to believe in the balance between light and dark, that even in happiness there are two facets. I have an affinity for lists, so here’s one of the yin to my yang:

1) In the car, Black Eyed Peas came on the radio and I whooped - it's my song! - and My Guy promptly turned it off, obviously not a fan. At my protest, he reminded me that I insisted we changed stations too every time Red Hot Chili Peppers came on. Quid pro quo. He was right, but that didn't mean I couldn't sulk as we looked for a more agreeable station.

2) Little Miss came down with croup - on Mother’s Day weekend nonetheless - so instead of a fun two days at the museum, park and beach, we were quarantined at home. She was in great spirits and with no fever, she was active so she really could've gone to those places with us; it’s just the good citizens in us that prevented her from doing so, for fear of infecting others. I have to say doing the right thing sucked. I bet no one even noticed that we did them this favor.

3) My cats and dog have awakened the baby more times than I can count but they’re very much a part of our family so instead of strangling them (which I often feel inclined to), I clean dog puke and cat hairballs. Willingly. In return, I get to pet them, hoping that the research about the connection between pet ownership and longevity is true because on some days I just don’t see any other advantages in a house covered in cat fur, including my dinner.

4) Pre-baby, My Guy and I loved geeking out at a midnight movie on opening night. We were there for Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Batman because we enjoyed being in the company of fellow nerdizens. Can you think of any normal folk who would willingly drag themselves to work the next day after mere two hours of sleep just for a movie? With a toddler, our last midnight jaunt was to catch Star Trek a year ago, during our weekend getaway to Toronto sans baby. With the new Iron Man 2, we jealously read the Facebook updates of our friends who made it to the midnight show and fervently hoped to make a matinee ourselves. If we’re lucky.

5) And oh my god the never ending pile of dishes and laundry! How do three people, one of whom is a tiny, tiny being the fraction of our size generate SO MUCH housework? Of course with baby comes toys! Every. Where. For every two pieces of toy I put away, I find five tucked away inside different shoes and under the cats. It's like someone fed my house after midnight and it's now breeding toys! (10 geek points for anyone who got this reference).

Five to a list seems pretty inadequate, but I’m sure you get my point. The above are the unsung moments of happiness just because, well, they’re not that great really. But while the flip side to those are better, they don’t necessarily make bold statements either. There isn't always a string of pearls and an Acapulco getaway waiting on the other side because it's not often about the grandiose gestures. On the flip side of our movie conundrum, we just accept that midnight shows are not in the cards for us now, but on a particularly warm Friday night, we snuggle on our back porch, arms and legs crisscrossed, and watch a movie on our laptop as we sip on some wine by candlelight - our makeshift dinner and a movie night right at our own (back) door. And as for our foiled Mother’s Day plans, Little Miss, in her sleep that night uttered “mama, mama” ever so sweetly, as if calling to me in a dream, and that alone was enough to turn the day around for me.

Happiness can be the warm fuzzies, and it can also be a pain in the neck. The sacrifices we make to get to this point also deserve a mention because after all, while they’re no starring role in this big Happiness picture, their supporting one is crucial in our appreciation for it. Yes, that side of the coin isn’t always shiny but we endure it because of what’s on the other side. Because of the stuff in between the unromantic, the inconvenient and the annoying. Because of the bright, earnest eyes that look back at us with love, love, love. Because when we look back at them, we may be drowning in a mountain of laundry, spilled juice, foiled travel plans and movie nights, but all we see is the glimmer on the side of the coin that says we're happy, happy, happy.

Even if sometimes it feels like all we ever do is pick up toys, toys, toys.

(What's on your sides of the coin?)

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Monday, May 10, 2010

It didn't feel like courage

This is part of Momalom's Five-for-Ten series, where a group of bloggers write about the same five topics in 10 days. This post responds to the first topic, Courage.

e were recently the target of someone's unreasonable behavior. A family member we cared about. On the one hand, it was not surprising, and on the other, it still hurt. However, without further provocation, this same person went on to plant insidious seeds about me in My Guy's head behind my back. He didn't take it well, nor did I. What started as "an issue" became an assault on our family. He was insulted. I was demeaned. It was ridiculous. Someone had crossed the line.

This someone got away with many things before because the family was used to this type of behavior. But when that venom was directed at us, it was clear that this was not going to work. It wasn't just this one episode, but the culmination of years of thoughtless comments and selfish behavior, that paved the war path. I could no longer turn away from it. My anger fueled my courage. My battle cry was fierce, angry and even scary. The words I used were mine, but I felt detached from the disembodied voices of bottled up feelings and emotions that sprang from the depths of my body.

I defended myself, but I was also on the offense. My words were my weapon. While it was liberating, I took no pleasure in it. I would like to say that I was possessed and that it wasn't me who said all those things. But it was. I was ashamed of it, yet I knew we all have that in us in varying degrees. It still didn't make it right. It didn't feel like courage; it felt cruel. 

As much as I hated how everything turned out, including my own actions, I loved that My Guy was behind me all the way, steadfast in his support of and loyalty to me. To us. This someone tried to drive a wedge between us but a funny thing happened - it only made us stronger. We became fiercely protective of this life we shared. We were a family. We were an us. We were one.

Yet, it didn't feel like courage when I couldn't walk away from this in the beginning, to let things "blow over". I convinced myself that in walking away, it would reinforce an unacceptable behavior. In walking away I would be encouraging a family bully. However, in walking away I would have also been the adult. Except just this once, I was tired of being one. And so I forged ahead. 

In the end, there was no victory in a battle like this. The courage that swelled within me was lost amid the casualties, broken hearts, disheveled lives. This person was family after all, and what happened polarized everyone. Even my little girl, who was of course innocent and well protected from the conflict itself, will be affected by the fall out. We walked away wounded, grateful to have survived the blitzkrieg and proud we stood our ground. Together. But at what price? 

That night, battle weary and scarred, we cried, we kissed, we held each other, we said good night. And then we turned off the lights. In the dark, we clasped our hands, our eyes wide open. 

There was nothing more we could say or do. Except to heal.

(Have you ever felt like you needed to do something you didn't want to do? Do you often react quickly in anger or do you mull over things first? Do you pick your battles? What helps you decide which ones to face and which ones to walk away from?)  

Find other perspectives on this topic through Momalom.

Image: Carpet War by Photomish Dan via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Friday, May 7, 2010

One two three four

taken during our trip to Malaysia this year

ONE family
TWO continents
THREE mothers
FOUR generations

Happy Mother's Day ma - thank you for this life. My life.

Enjoy your weekend, moms and all.


Uhm, no, Little Miss, you are NOT getting a Mother's Day gift. Vinyl babies don't count, even if you do take extra special care of them.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Future awkward conversations with my kid

Apart from the dreaded birds-and-bees talk, I can think of a few other conversations with my kid that may make me squirm in my seat a little. I'm not one for improv so perhaps being prepared for it now isn't a bad idea. Here's a few I can think of (among the many I will encounter in the future I'm sure):

  1. Why Barbie is not the feminine ideal. Your boobs are just fine.
  2. Slavery and the South; immigration laws and Arizona – making sense of things that don’t make sense
  3. The social hierarchy of high school and playgrounds – why it’s imperative to have good hair
  4. Scholarships – why you should strive for good grades (because we’re not paying for your college)
  5. Why the dog is no longer with us – and the bad things you did to make her go away
  6. Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy and Michael Jackson - same difference
  7. Why your father and I have different last names - and how it has nothing to do with how much we love each other
  8. CDs, paperback novels and newspapers – what these are
  9. Why there are 244,285 pictures of the firstborn and possibly only 230 of the (someday) second
  10. Yin and Yang is a Chinese philosophy, not a glib reference to your privates
  11. Sports - what people who don’t live in this house do
  12. Why the past and present tense of “read” are spelled the same but not pronounced the same way
  13. Be smart about drinking, as in get drunk only when someone else is buying
  14. Why tweeting about your sex life is unacceptable - especially if your parents are your followers
  15. Sarah Palin

Do you have any awkward conversations you’re dreading? Care to add to this list?

Monday, May 3, 2010

My playground faux pas

I think I offended a playground mama. In fact I'm quite sure of it. She spies my daughter going up the slide and comments, "she's so cute!". This mom is with her son, who at that moment looks up at me, and I say hi to him, big smile, wave and all. But I don't return her compliment - I haven't made up my mind yet if he is cute. And then I argue with myself (in my head of course) - will I say her son is adorable too because she said it to me first, or is he really cute? (I have issues, I know.) Does it matter? Do I have to reciprocate? Is that the general etiquette? I'm really not stingy with my compliments but in this situation, it seems so forced. "So is your son" feels weak and disingenuous to me, even if he is cute (and he is, I finally decide).

As it turns out, that's a faux pas on my part. This mom stops further attempts at conversation with me after my failure at reciprocity. Feeling bad that my social skills failed me, I initiate small talk a couple of times. However, my 
How old is your son? and What's his name? are met with an icy one-word response each time before she moves back to her familiar fold of moms - the ones in their matchy-matchy outfits, with kids in boutique attire, in a little clique at one corner of the playground. They remind me of the Pink Flamingos from Grease, only less garish and with better hair (see, I do give compliments). A little further away are a group of foreign-language-speaking nannies and their charge(s), moving in smaller subsets based on the language they speak. And then there's the rest of us stragglers, sporadic in our playground visits.

Little Miss gets plenty of outdoor time at daycare; I don't feel like I'm depriving her of face time with fellow toddlers and the slide if we don't go to the playground every day. After a long day at work, and with only about two hours to do everything from bonding to eating, bath time to bedtime routines, the playground visit is a luxury. On warmer days it's easier to make it a priority, and so we make that three-block trek with the sun on our face.

So there I am amid these groups of seasoned 
playgrounders, with the occasionallers like myself. I'm not a sociopath, but somehow, playground politics is beyond me. When I'm there, it feels like I need to know the secret handshake to fit in. These progenies of the Pink Flamingos mostly play with each other with toys they bring from home, and my daughter, being the uncouth toddler that she is, doesn't know any better. She butts in, takes a toy, and the moms look at me.

What? I didn't do it! 
They're at a playground for cryin' out loud. They can figure out their own pecking order. I'm not going to intervene. And I'm certainly not going to say your kid is cute just because you did. Or is that the secret handshake? Or maybe I just lack common decency. Is that the real reason why I don't have many friends? Perhaps I am a sociopath.

Thankfully, while Little Miss is off by herself climbing, sliding, stealing playing with toys, there are other parents outside of these cliques who do give me the time of day. It so happens one of them is the husband of a Pink Flamingo, also a fellow occasionaller. Few minutes into our conversation about the parents' perennial favorite topic - sleep - he introduces himself, "I'm T, L's husband." I smile appreciatively, say my name and nod, except I have no idea who L is. Maybe it's the mom with the Blackberry in her hand. Or the one with the perfectly coiffed hair. Who knows? I guess I'll never find out.

That's OK; I don't care to either. Playground politicking is not my style. I'm just there to watch my girl play her little heart out. I suppose it all works out in the end.

Our foray into another (less political) playground - our favorite in the area - this past weekend.

(What is your playground like? Is there a social hierarchy there or anywhere else that makes you feel out of place? How do you deal with it? Do you return compliments easily? Do you mean them? What's the secret handshake?)