Monday, August 30, 2010

What I have learned so far

SleepingTarget

Yes, that’s my Little Miss in the middle of Target. You think she’s trying to tell me something? I have learned to recognize her cues – she’ll twirl her hair when she’s tired, be very still and quiet when she’s out of sorts – but when I ignore them, she definitely knows how to make me listen. Helping herself to a pillow and blanket on the bedding aisle at Target is one way. Yes, she is adamant. And resourceful.

You know what else she has taught me? In the 21 months and 10 days of being Little Miss’ mom, I have also learned that:
- our schedule with a baby may be more rigid but it doesn’t mean life is over. In fact, a bigger, more exciting journey awaits me and this is just the beginning.

- life is a box of chocolates…that we hide from our toddler or eat when she’s asleep.

- no parents and kids are alike, so unless someone is doing visible harm, I shouldn’t judge other parents based on the differences in our decisions.

- paying attention to how I look does not make me shallow. It makes me feel good about myself. And if it doesn’t affect how I parent, why not? A hot mama is still a mama.

- no one party has it better – stay at home, work full time or in-between – there are pros and cons to every situation. Even if you’re Brangelina.

- no matter how perfect a parent seems or well-behaved a baby is, teething makes everyone its bitch.
- I can be the most confident person in the world and still be unsure about every little decision I make for and about my baby.

- whoever who coined “sleeping like a baby” obviously never had one.

- reveling in a good day is OK, even encouraged, because most assuredly, there will be bad days.

- kids’ clothing sizes run the same mysterious way women’s sizes do. A Toddler Size 24 Months that fits my daughter perfectly in one store can house two of her in another.

- running into a store for five minutes is no longer a quick jaunt, it is a hassle luxury, which is why drive-thrus are god sent (see why on my favorite daddy blog).

- kids can remember more than I give them credit for but yet they still manage to forget their inside voices at restaurants. all. the. time.

- society will sometimes have different ideas for and about my daughter but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with them.

- my kid has given me a whole new definition of messy, surprise, frenzy, desperate, joy and laughter.
- my daughter's discovery of language is quite possibly the most exciting journey I have ever experienced. I think I would say the same even if I’ve been to the moon.

- there are constant surprises, but whether it’s good or bad is sometimes just a matter of perspective.

- there will be a crisis every now and then. How I handle that is not determined by my personality. It’s whether or not I’ve eaten just before that.

- patience with my daughter and myself will be called upon and tested more than any other virtue I possess.

- there will be a love affair with animal crackers one day and World War III with it the next, which means procuring toddler’s favorites in bulk may not be the best idea unless I’m planning on stocking a fallout shelter.

- my mother does know what she’s saying sometimes. But I still need to parent according to my own instincts.

- the differences between girls and boys are magnified not by their genes but by society and what we teach them, which means I have to be mindful with my words and actions if I want my daughter to know that girls can do math and boys are also expected to help out in the kitchen.

- the time I do not have an extra set of clean clothes is when the spectacular poop blowout happens.

- my body can do amazing things, like create a life, so it deserves more respect than I often show.

- teaching by example not only means modeling good behavior; it also means my daughter will just as likely mimic my bad habits (boy have I learned this lesson!).

- it’s definitely harder to be more spontaneous with intimacy during the day. But that’s what nap times are for. Oh, and an episode of Barney if we’re really desperate.

- I was strong before my baby, but it’s uncanny that with her, I feel both powerful and powerless at the same time.

- every commercial and news about kids in unfortunate situations will make me cry and hold on to my girl a little tighter.

- to sleep is perchance to dream but I’m usually so exhausted that I don’t even have the energy for that.

- my partner is not my punching bag. He is an equal parent to my child, and he too deserves a say in how we raise our kid(s).

- there is often joy in the little things; waiting for a special occasion to lift my spirits (vacations, anniversaries, dessert at the end of dinner) only means I’ll be missing out on the biggest thing: my own life.

Well, this is by no means an exhaustive list because at the time you’re reading this, I would’ve learned something else. And since no two experiences are alike, tell me, what have you learned from your parenting journey?

Friday, August 27, 2010

We are one and the same

TokyoPoliceClub

We went to see one of my new favorite bands, Tokyo Police Club, at a late-night concert last weekend. Before that, we stopped in at a bar on a whim and had a martini each - Belvedere vodka with blue-cheese-stuffed olives. Then we made our way to the concert hall and walked in to the middle of the opening act. As soon as we planted our feet at a spot, we were rapt. They were really good. Don’t you love that? A surprisingly great opening band? At one point, I closed my eyes; my heart reverberated synchronously with the music that filled my ears. It suddenly hit me: this is good. Life is good.

Our daughter’s asleep at home and our dear friend is babysitting for the night. He also happens to be her favorite “uncle” who she absolutely adores. Leaving our daughter with someone like that meant a worry-free night. She would be fine. He would be fine. And I would be fine.

That night, in that music-filled hall, singing along with one of my favorite bands, I recognized that old weightless feeling of being carefree and unencumbered. A night on the town with My Guy and not once did I check my phone for messages or calls. That was WILD.

We have hit a really good groove with this parenting thing. Our daughter’s sleeping well. Her patterns are more predictable, and we’ve been feeling pretty sure of ourselves. It’s a major parenting milestone that affords us much needed peace of mind when we go out, and we’ve been doing a lot more of that lately.

I used to feel guilty leaving Little Miss behind because I was unsure of how she’d react should she awaken to someone other than her parents, or if anything should happen, I wanted to be there. Somehow, I managed to convince myself that the imminent threat of “if anything should happen” was always going to be there and if I were to use that excuse every time, I was never going to leave my baby’s side, and possibly my house. And I couldn’t have that.

Admittedly, I’m a social creature. I enjoy interacting with my peers and just being out there, living. And My Guy’s the same way. I also love our date nights, crying at the movies, stage performances that warrant a standing ovation and feeling breathless but alive at concerts. These were an integral part of my life before my daughter was born. But once she was here, they became dormant as I traveled with unsure footing on my new journey as a parent. 

It was a foggy first few months with a newborn. The long nights. The wild eyes. The tears – hers and mine. I sometimes did what I knew. Sometimes I did what I could. For awhile there, motherhood was all-consuming because I felt as clueless and helpless as the little creature who lay in my arms, constantly needing and wanting and waiting and demanding. But I am surer now. Not 100 percent, because I don’t think I could ever get there, but enough to recognize the me that I had left behind.

And I want her back in my life. Those dancing shoes in the closet don’t just belong to her. They are mine too. I was that singing-bouncing-two-stepping-arm-flailing-fist-pumping girl at the concert hall long before I became a mother. It took me awhile to realize that she is still very much a part of me. The same way motherhood will now forever be entwined with that girl. One does not defy, nor does it define, the other. They – no, we – are one and the same. It is time I honored them both. Because the woman who sings nursery rhymes with her little girl is the same one who bellows this refrain with the rest of the crowd until her voice becomes raspy at the concert:

“...But it's good to be back
Good to be back
Good to be back...”

Yes. Yes, it is.

 

This post is part of Bigger Picture Moments.

 Bigger Picture Moment

Music lyrics from the song, Breakneck Speed, by Tokyo Police Club.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I didn’t teach her this

HarriettePotter In daddy’s glasses. Baby Einstein? Maybe not. Harriet Potter? That’s more like it.

You know what’s better than teaching a toddler and watching her absorb the information you impart on her? Not teaching her and watching her absorb the world around her. She surprises me every day by what she’s learning, with or without help from the adults, and it’s usually a riot (well, it may be so to a new mom like me). Many of them are you had to be there moments, although I’ve tried my best to capture what I could here:

 

I was at home with Little Miss one morning when we said goodbye to My Guy after he grabbed his coffee mug and his murse (man + purse) to make his way to the corporate madder (maze + ladder). After he disappeared from her sight, she looked at me concerned, “Daddy?” I explained to her that he has gone to work. Later that morning, my daughter grabbed her neon pink purse, said goodbye and headed towards the door. Briefly looking up from my computer, I called out to her, “Bye! But where are you going?”

She declared without skipping a beat, “To work!”

Hah. If only she knew what that really meant.

* * *

She is learning that people are not just men, ladies, babies, girls and boys – classifications she has pretty much mastered as she points at strangers. “Man! Baby! Girl!” although the occasional long-haired dude does throw her off - “Lady!”  Now that she is able to associate people by their names, she asks for the people she enjoys spending time with the most. But there are occasional surprises.

When we went to the pool over the weekend, we met a little girl, Grace, who went down the pool slide with Little Miss a few times. A couple of days later, when I asked Little Miss if she enjoyed the pool, she responded yes. When prodded further about who she was there with, thinking she would say Mommy and Daddy, she answered, “Grace”. It took me a second to realize who she meant. I had completely forgotten about the girl because we had not spoken of her since we parted ways at the pool.

The things that her 21-month-old memory bank chooses to retain amaze me. A couple of months ago, her dad pointed at my boobs (you know, as boys often do) after I came out of the shower and cheekily asked Little Miss, “What’s this?” thinking he would confound her except it had the opposite effect when she answered matter-of-factly, “Milk.”

We were floored by her memory retention. The last time she nursed, she was 13 months old.

 

* * *

On one random day…

My Guy: ACHOOO!!!!
Little Miss: Besh you!

I guess if you say it enough, it bears repeating. And now she beshes us all the time. Even the pets.

 

* * *

My daughter, like most kids in America, has developed an affinity for fries; I don’t know WHERE she gets it from (ahem coughcough ahem). But then again who (in their right mind) wouldn’t like fries? Now, before you go Jamie Oliver Food Revolution on my ass, please know that:

  1. I make her healthy meals pretty much every night
  2. She often chooses fruits and veggies, specifically asparagus, peas, mushrooms and zucchini over carbs and meat
  3. I am a believer of “all things in moderation” and “the more something’s labeled forbidden, the more I’ll covet it” and by that token, I’m OK with the occasional indulgence in donuts and fries

But what I am NOT OK with is my daughter spotting hot and sour sauce in a squeeze bottle at a Chinese restaurant and seeing the familiar red, she demanded, “Ketchup! Ketchup!” With dim sum? Really? Fine, I placed some in front of her. She then made the next logical inquiry: “Fwies??”

Oh no you did – n’t! I did not just hear my daughter asking for fries in Chinatown! She is a quarter Chinese for heaven’s sake. How could she– the tirade in my head ended when I looked at her Caucasian daddy with the suburban upbringing. That half of her trumps the measly quarter. It explains her predilection. Even though I was well aware that any normal human being enjoys fried foods, I still glared at him. Like it’s his fault that she asked for fries even though he’s happily stuffing his face with shiu mai and har gow (steamed pork and shrimp dumplings).

When in doubt, it’s daddy’s fault.

* * *

Lately, Little Miss has started to string her words to make some semblance of a sentence here and there, like “I see you,” “Where are you?”, “More cherries please?”, “Off the light”, “Shoe on please” and “Here it is” – although the last one sounds like one word when she says it - “Hereitis!” This is exciting for us because the tantrums are fewer and farther in between when she’s better equipped to communicate her needs, and of course, who doesn’t enjoy having a two-way communication with their kids? But I have to admit, my favorite “sentence” of hers is this:

Her bedtime routine usually involves daddy reading to her in the rocker and as I leave them to it, my daughter and I exchange “good night, love you, see you, bye” a few times back and forth and end with a big hug and kiss. One night, after the kiss, she pulled away and in her little voice, she requested, “Daddy kiss mommy?”

Of course we happily complied, and she loved it. Except I think I loved it more.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thank you for keeping my secret

HearNoEvil Truths spoken here not quite for my daughter’s young ears.

My cousin, who’s in his early teens, have asked to “friend me” on Facebook (is this even the accurate term? No one warned me that turning 35 actually switches off the hip and trendy part of your brain). Since I usually post my blog entries on my personal Facebook page, I was reluctant to accept his invite. I wasn’t sure if he was ready for my candor, and therefore politely declined and promised to continue being in touch via good “old-fashioned” email.

However, I received an email over the weekend from him where he said (and I’m very loosely paraphrasing here): “I was surfing the web and guess what I found? Your blog! [That makes me wonder: what exactly were you looking for when you stumbled upon this?] I just want to let you know how cool it is that you’re sharing your life story here and don’t worry, I won’t tell our family at home about this blog. Your secret is safe with me.”

Hmm...that sounds almost ominous. I am guessing that he’s probably reading this and if so, this is what I have to say: Hi S! I just want you know that you don’t have to keep this a secret. It’s quite all right. This is the Internet. There are no secrets here. Thanks for being so thoughtful though. Oh and please send my love to your mom, dad and brother.

Two weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t be so flippant with my reply. In fact, I would've flipped out. I was not ready to be completely honest yet. I was still afraid of what my family might think of me, but last week, I did what I never thought I would. I outed myself and became completely honest about my life. Again, I blame 35. I surprised myself by admitting to the things I was forbidden to talk about at home: my unmarried status, the reason for my divorce, and the boy I fell in love with. Well, he’s no secret as they’ve met him, but I don’t think they’re aware of the eight years between us. Yeah, I was a cougar long before the term became Hollywood cool.

After a week of unburdening, I have deactivated most of the landmines in this space and have thus created a more peaceful landscape where I am free to explore, commemorate and contemplate my present, past and future. I love my family back home, and I can only hope they will understand the choices I made and forgive those which they do not. But I do have to thank you, my dear reader, for being open to the real me. For being understanding and most importantly, for being supportive. Some of you I may know personally, some of you I have never met (although I fervently hope to) but I am grateful to all of you.

Even you, dear cousin, for graciously leaving me this nugget of wisdom at the end of your email to me, “...just don't forget 2 mention us in your blog. It could make your blog a little more interesting.”

Thanks pal. I will remember that.






How do you feel about sharing your life story with everyone you know? Would you be more selective? Are there people who will not understand the decisions you make? Do you feel the need to explain yourself to them? 

Friday, August 20, 2010

I’m not hiding

LittleMissHidingHood

One of Little Miss’ favorite thing to do is to hide. She’ll announce, “Hide!” and when that happens, even when she’s in plain sight (because she’s terrible at this game), it’s code for us to pretend to not see her. If we forget and look directly at her, she reminds us sternly, “Hiding!” Oh. Right.

Inspired by my daughter, I’m making my own announcement: “I’m NOT hiding!” I’m just over at Molly’s place, Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce, to share a story about my own divorce. Yes, I take NOT hiding pretty seriously as this has been quite the week of truths for me. First I came out of the closet, then I exposed my  lusty thoughts and now this. What is in this water?!

Anyway, next week, I’ll be back to regular programming like sharing cutesy pictures and fluffy anecdotes. For now, please click over to my post today and take a look around Molly’s blog too while you’re there. You’ll enjoy her astute observations on the various stages of relationships and marriage, and possibly even get sucked into one of her incredibly thoughtful and insightful pieces.

See you at Molly’s!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

“It’s a nice night for a walk”

{This was my original post on Lust for the Momalom's Five-for-Ten series. I chickened out at the last minute when I saw that most of the entries were NOT of the kind related to the loins. And since this is a week of truths for me, I've decided to unearth this. It's really not that R-rated. It's hardly G. But I'm still a little shy about it. However, this is a special day. And one I've saved this for, so here it is.}

It’s lust. Yes. Not at first sight. But lust nonetheless. Yet, I was in denial. It couldn’t be. I was turning 30. For a twenty-something-year-old, that was huge. I was moving on to the next decade of my life and there came this boy, still in college, all smart and full of life. And totally hot. Yes that’s it. My near-mid-life crisis. A crush on a mere boy can only be explained by my own insecurities about my life and certainly my age.

In the office, people noticed his talent, ideas and energy. I also saw and admired his passion as he spoke about the things that mattered to him. It wasn’t until later that his beautiful hazel eyes caught my attention. It happened when we were thrown together for a project one day, and I remember the exact moment I really looked at them for the first time. Because they caught my breath. Those eyes embraced me as I fell into them. I knew then this was no ordinary moment.

We began to talk more, lunch together and even flirted a little. OK, maybe a lot. I couldn’t tell – I was too busy lusting after a boy. A gamer. A roller hockey player. A nerd. An intern! I figured once I’m over my apprehension of turning the big 3-0, I would be over him too.

As serendipity would have it, a few of us at work organized a trip to a nearby museum after work (a geeky happy hour of sorts) except no one showed up except for the two of us. We tried to focus on the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit, but we were mostly lost in our own world. As the evening wore on, perhaps inspired by the sensuous pieces by Degas, it wasn’t long before his hand found mine, and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

A gorgeous and temperate summer night greeted us upon our exit from the museum. We continued to stroll down the Magnificent Mile with our hands clasped, only that night, it felt more magnificent than any other. Although words were exchanged, “it’s a nice night for a walk” stood out in my mind. It was an understatement that danced on our lips because we both knew it was more that that.  It was a night made for lovers. Amid architectural wonders, bustling city traffic and wandering bodies, we saw only each other.

We neared his apartment about a mile from the museum, and I remember making the conscious decision to not follow him upstairs. I wanted to savor the innocence of our interlocked fingers. And so we lingered on the quieter side of the lively city next to a closed laundromat, our faces lit by the neon glow of the sign on its window. Very romantic, I know. In the background, impatient drivers honked their horns, drunk tourists stumbled past us, music blared from nearby restaurants. I was suddenly acutely aware of the minutiae because these details, the cacophony of sounds and kaleidoscope of colors were at once muted and intensified during one of the most amazing moments of my life: our first kiss. The weeks of flirtation, secret messages, furtive glances and the evening’s tentative hand-holding culminated to this moment. Oh the sweetness. The excitement. The tenderness. The passion. It. was. electric.

That night, that kiss was when lust became love.

Five years later, that boy is in the same room as me as I sit here secretly typing our little story, relishing each delicious detail. Reliving. Pulsating. Only now he is a man - one who is everything I thought he would be. And more. 

Five years later,  when I look at my daughter, I see the shape of those same eyes that caught my breath once upon an ordinary day.

Five years later, we continue to hold our hands when we walk together, and on beautiful nights, we still say, “It’s a nice night for a walk.” With a subtle squeeze of the hand after its utterance, it is our secret understanding, that yes, we have walked that warm and lovely August night together…all the way to this one.

 IMG_0250b

Hey man, happy five years. Will you take a walk with me tonight? (Yes, I got us a sitter and everything!)

 

For "my number one guy"...

 

 

Monday, August 16, 2010

The story of our lives isn’t for everyone

BedtimeTrio The usual bedtime trio – daddy, baby and kitty

HER STORIES

“faeunfo  plane apifai banner fhaifpiaqef up adfaoienie adfoeuin sky dnofeahfgaqehhh”

That was my daughter’s first story to me when we were on our weekend getaway about a month ago. For the uninitiated, in her toddlerese, she was describing the plane she saw with a banner (the kind that advertises beer over a baseball game) in the sky. We saw one on our visit to the park the day before, and it left quite an impression on her. It’s a really short (and dare I say, unexciting?) story, really, but I marveled at two things. 1) She is telling me a story!  2) I understood her! 

Her nouns have grown into narratives. And suddenly, bedtime stories are no longer just reading Curious George, a.k.a. “monkey book”, to her. Now that she finally goes to bed easily with me, I am able to read to her, and when we’re done, I ask her about her day, with prompts like “What did you do today?”, “Did you play with Trevor?” (a boy her age at daycare) and she replies, recounting her day in words she knows and filling in the rest with toddlerese but with such certainty that it’s unmistakably a story about her time spent away from us. Often times, I help guide her, and it becomes a tale of epic-for-toddler proportions.

Slide...fesjnfoen…bug..afneoufn”
You were on the slide and there was a bug?
Yeah! ERenfa… Ben szjrnfuanf Yiayia …efienaue cherries….egegn”
You were playing with Ben and Yiayia (her caretaker) gave you cherries to eat, I see. Who else were you playing with?
“Maya...Trevor...” and she lists the rest of her playmates.

Little Miss is not quite Ray Bradbury, but she’s also not quite two. It amazes me that she is now able to answer my questions, and not merely repeating the words. I’d ask Who did we see yesterday? and she would respond with accuracy the names of the people with whom we met. She even knows the right pairs. When asked “Who is Uncle Rob with?” she’d say “Auntie Meissa” (Melissa) and it blows my mind. She is constantly observing, processing and regurgitating that sometimes I feel I can barely keep up.

Because of that we are able to share these moments, where she is excited to tell me about her day, where there is real communication. And I hope this continues because I want her to always feel comfortable to talk to me. Whether it’s her frustrations or her triumphs, I want her to be able to find words for them and usher them into listening ears, mine or someone else’s, because it’s important. And it’s healthy.

 

MY STORY

I came from a family of non-talkers, perhaps even a culture that doesn’t encourage communication of feelings and emotions. There’s a million and three topics of taboo that we all dance around and brush under the mats. And in this silence, for fear of judgment, shame and retribution, misery is born.

If you’ve followed my stories for awhile, you would’ve noticed that I don’t talk about my dad. That’s because he is no Father of the Year. In fact, he’s far from it. But as much as I resent him for being an absentee father, the shadow that he cast on my mother’s life was far bigger and more sinister. I witnessed the unraveling of their marriage, but bound by the implicit knowledge of silence, we didn’t speak of it.

And even though my mom’s own parents and siblings, and even her friends, may have known about my wayward dad, her false fa├žade, as transparent as it was, was enough for everyone to look the other way. And my mom, who is a product of her time, believes that to talk about her unhappiness would be to air our dirty laundry in public, and that’s just unacceptable. It would be a shame upon herself and her family to leave a marriage, and so she stayed. It would be a shame if she admitted to his failings as a partner. And so she suffered. But how could they not see? At family gatherings, we were usually there without my dad. And it was always one flimsy excuse or another to explain his absence, until one day people stopped asking. They knew. But no one said anything.

And that makes me angry. At my mom’s inability to give her misery a voice, to break away when she should have. At my family – her siblings – for looking the other way because their silence makes them complicit. At a culture that values archaic traditions over its own people. Where fear of shame tethers you to your choices, good or bad. Where someone’s need for happiness is trumped by the culture’s need to establish social order. Divorce? Ridiculous. A family shame.

And that’s one of the reasons I left. One of the myriad reasons why I’m here and not there, where my family is. As much as I love them, I do not love the oppression of tradition. I am proud of my heritage but I will not place the preservation of ancient customs over the preservation of my self.

I vowed I will never let what happened to my mom happen to me. I will not let the unreasonable social and cultural constraints, unnecessary pressures and caustic judgment prevent me from living. I don’t ever want to feel trapped that way. I learned a lot from what my mother did in her life but in this instance, I learned from what she didn’t do by choosing the opposite.

Where she failed, I will succeed. Her suffering taught me. I will stand my ground if it feels right, even if I am one against the world. I have left an unhappy marriage when everyone thought I was crazy. And when people say things to hurt me or my family, I will not be silent. And I will not be silenced.

Because talking helps. The truth, while it may hurt, is more important than living a lie.

And here’s a truth I have danced around on this blog for awhile because of my culture’s residual effects on me: I am not married, contrary to what my own family believes. Because that is the only thing they want to believe, and so I didn’t correct them when we went to visit them this year. In their eyes, having a baby out of wedlock is wrong. It’s shameful.

But I’m not ashamed. I’m happy. And so very proud of my family and MY GUY, my not-husband, the love of my life, that I can’t stand being behind this wall of shame any longer. A marriage certificate or a blessing from the High Holy Whomever does not make our union stronger. We do. And I can tell you now with absolute, unequivocal certainty, it is strong.

It is wonderful. It is real. 

So there you have it.

 

OUR STORY

This voice, this speaking freely, is scary, but it’s also liberating. And I want the same for my daughter. I want her to always be able to speak her mind and share her experiences, especially with me. I would like for us to have the type of relationship I never had with my parents. I want our story to be different.

And so in her limited vocabulary and life experience she begins by describing her encounters with bugs and planes to me. Someday it will be more. Much, much more.

And I will be there to listen.

Friday, August 13, 2010

He brought me Paris

Because I like you so much, I’m going to be straight with you. Since it’s still my birthmonth, I’m continuing on my path of narcissistic self-indulgence. Just because My Guy doesn’t think I deserve a whole month doesn’t mean I have to agree with him. I’m a rebel like that. It’s a birthday-celebration-heavy post, but just in case you were wondering what that sweet man did for me...

Earlier in the year we had discussed going to Paris for a birthday/anniversary extravaganza. Except we spent most of our PTO (“paid time off” for those of you fortunate enough to never encounter this term) on our big trip to Malaysia and have to save up for BIG expenses on the horizon. Hence, au revoir Paris.

And so for my birthday surprise, My Guy decided that because we couldn’t go to Paris, he would bring Paris to me.  He had carefully planned and executed all the little details, unfolded one at a time, each an absolute delight, over the course of my birthday weekend:

  • procured early morning croissants from our favorite cafe so we got to eat breakfast as a family before work on my birthday
  • asked my best friend to drive eight hours to join us and to cook me a French-inspired dinner, and she did (!!!)
  • ordered delicious Eiffel Tower cupcakes
  • signed up my BFF and I (both shameless foodies) for a French cooking class for at the Alliance Francaise
  • dinner for the three of us at a classic French bistro

 

!!!

EiffelCupcake

12 of these babies showed up at my house. About six of them ended up in my happy belly.

 

!!!

ChaiTeaFrenchToast

To-die-for Chai tea stuffed French toast at brunch right before our cooking class. A Francophile may argue its authenticity, but hey there’s French in the name. Good enough for me. (And yes, someone already took a bite before he took the picture. Ahem.)

 

!!!

AllianceFrancaise

My BFF, in yellow, watching our instructor score the semolina cake. 

 

!!!

100thPostFlowers

Flowers sent to the office in celebration of the 100th post on my blog this week. Yes, My Guy’s a keeper.

 

!!!

FrogBoots


Today, Little Miss is 21 months young(!!!). When I look at her face, I think, Mona Lisa Schmona Schmisa. Besides, I’ve been to the Louvre, and I’ve seen the Mona Lisa. While it was quite a sight, it doesn’t come close to my very own masterpiece right here.

 

!!!

Undoubtedly, a trip to Paris would’ve been a grand affair. However, it’s also a little too far beyond our grasp right now. But it didn’t stop My Guy from trying, and he did the best with what he had. Through his thoughtful little gestures, it felt like he had opened my palm and laid Paris in my hand.

And along with it, his heart of gold.

 

 

This post is part of Bigger Picture Moments and Intentional Happiness!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Celebrating 100 with Seven

This is my 100th post (fireworks and champagne in my head!), and to commemorate the occasion, I’m going to be a little self-indulgent. Well, more than usual anyway. I am the proud recipient of the Beautiful Blogger Award. It’s my first award ever! I thought this would be a good day to share with you my acceptance speech to mark a milestone of sorts. I didn’t think I’d last this long when I began memory keeping in this space, but here I am, 100 entries later and still not completely sick of it. Yet. Unlike Random Tidbit #3 below. But that’s for later. For now, let’s get the party started shall we?

beautiful-blogger-award

As part of the acceptance speech we have to do three things:


Thank the person who gave you the award.


This part’s easy. The Absence of Alternatives, thank you!!!

I’m so honored. Not just for the award. It’s because I’m a big fan of the person who bestowed me with this honor. We have plenty in common - we’re immigrants with Chinese genes, we speak “good Engrish”, love writing, came to the States around the same time to go to school but ended up staying here because of a boy, and coincidentally, she also lives in beautiful Chicago.  But what I love most about her are her wit and versatility because she can do beautiful and poignant, she can do thought-provoking, and she can do bad-ass with her middle finger on the pulse of all that’s wrong with the world today.


Anyway, enough about my benefactor, who so eloquently said in her own acceptance speech, “...because this post is all about me. ME. ME!!!!!”  Let’s move on to the most exciting part of this award. The part about ME.


List 7 things about yourself your readers do not know.


1. I thought hard about random things but it kept gravitating towards the latest adorable antics by Little Miss and the sweet gestures of My Guy. I guess this tells you that the number 1 random tidbit about me is that I’m really not very interesting. If I am, I wouldn’t have to depend on others for fodder for my blog posts. Or maybe you already knew that…(gulp)

2. I love coffee. Period. (Just cream, no sugar, thank you.)

3. Once, I wanted to pick up a new hobby because I was tired of listing the boring ones for myself – reading, cooking, writing – so I decided to try knitting except I didn’t know how. My BFF taught me how to start knitting a scarf (because it’s supposedly failsafe) but we didn’t get to meet for a long time in between so she couldn’t teach me the next important step - how to “end” the scarf. But I just kept going. So what started out as a scarf became the size of a table runner. Project Knit Fail. I quit and went back to reading. And the alpacas thanked me.

4. I heart veggies. I’ll eat them any way I can as long as they’re fresh. I’ve never met a vegetable I don’t like. Yes, even Brussels sprouts. In fact, it’s one of my favorites. Right up there with bacon.

5. I have a thing for younger men. The Mr Darcy, George Clooney types? So not for me. But give me Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jake Gyllenhaal any day baby! This may explain my choice in life partner. For the longest time, I dated older men until I met My Guy, and that’s when it truly clicked. Can’t beat the effervescent energy of youth, topped by really smooth skin and…HELLO, PG-13 blog!

6. I once met Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Lady Gaga for a business lunch. OK, fine. I totally lied. What gave it away? Mandela? Thought I’d spice things up a bit (see Random Tidbit #1). How about this instead: I met Gwendolyn Brooks and even got an autograph from her when she read at my school one day. I was star struck. Yes, I’m a lit geek. If you know who she is, you may be one, too. Just sayin’.


7. I don’t do patience well. Or selflessness. Or forgiveness. Or creativity. So this whole motherhood thing is totally cramping my style. But I get brownies for trying right? Or is that brownie points? Do I get to pick?
So there you have it. Random. And uninteresting. Unlike the following, the last part of my speech.



Award 5 bloggers who you’ve recently discovered.


Being Rudri – Rudri provides profound wisdom in very few words, a trait that my verbose self admires very much.

Kludgy Mom – Gigi, who has probably received a gazillion of these awards (so what’s one more anyway?), is a generous and supportive blogger who isn’t afraid to say it like it is.

Only You – Cecilia and I share a similar cultural upbringing and with our partners from a nationality different from our own, we share the struggles of raising a child in a house with divergent beliefs and heritage.

The Halfway Point – Belinda delves into life’s deeper issues, forcing us to push our own boundaries, daring us to see beyond our own horizon.

Undercover Mother – Hyacynth is someone whose beliefs are so firmly grounded that it helps comfort and guide even non-believers like me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Feeling special

What a weekend. A birthday weekend that has left me exhausted. In a wonderful way. In fact, I need more time. To savor. To let it all sink in. There were so many delicious details. The food, the company, the moments. My Guy planned a little surprise for me, and executed every little detail thoughtfully and lovingly. Like he usually does.

For now, I just want to take a moment to thank a very patient and creative designer, Marina from Penny Lane Designs, who had to work with someone like me who complicated a simple process with VERY SPECIFIC requests. So 76 versions later, here we are with a new look for this space. It’s not exactly a revamp, but more like a new cardigan and a few choice accessories to spruce things up a bit, if you will. Enough to make a girl feel special. 

Another gift from My Guy, who has been supportive of my blog from the very beginning. If there’s anyone in the world who knows how to make this girl feel special, it is him.

And to this amazing man, I’d like to say, thank you. For everything.

 

BistroNight

 

What do you think of the makeover? Not me, my blog. Please leave me a comment. Let me know what you think. Thanks and have a great week ahead!

 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Looking back and looking ahead…

Birthdaycollage2

 

This is my life. My singular, blessed, imperfect, beautiful life.

- Dani Shapiro, Devotion

 

Happy Birthday me.

 

 

p.s. Sorry, comments are turned off. Who needs to stress about comment count on my birthday right? :)
Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This is so wrong

True stories from our house to yours.

I’m special
Me: Yay, it’s August, my birthday month! What are we doing for the first week?
My Guy: What?? What’re you smokin’? You don’t get a month.
Me (pouty): Fine. What are we doing the week of my birthday then?
My Guy: I have to work late pretty much every night this week.
Me: Every night? But it’s my birthday week!
My Guy: You don’t get a week. You get a weekEND. That’s it.
Me: What?!! I gave birth to your daughter and I only get a weekend??!


Yes, this is what he has to live with. And that argument from me hasn't worked since Little Miss was a month old but hey, I had to give it a shot.

* * *

He beds, she beds
As much as I love spending time with my daughter, I still dread putting her to bed on the nights My Guy is late from work (which averages about once a week). He’s usually on bedtime duty and here’s why:

When mommy does it:
Me: Goodnight Little Miss, I love you.
Little Miss: Nooo… Mama, no…… Waaaaaa
Me: Sorry baby, you have to sleep. I love you, sleep well (and I walk out of her room)
Little Miss: Nooo…!!!! Mamamamamamama…. WAIL SHRIEK STOMP WAIL SHRIEK… Noo….. Mamamamama (for about 15-30 minutes before falling asleep from exhaustion)


When daddy does it:
My Guy: Good night Little Miss
Little Miss: Goodnight daddy. Wuv you. Bye… MWAH!! (big fat kiss)
And he shuts the door behind him and all’s quiet.


Me: It’s not fair! Waaaaaa.....!!!


* * *

Zooshi
We are starving after a visit to the zoo but instead of sitting in horrendous traffic back to the city, we google a nearby sushi place and hit a homerun with some of the best sushi we’ve ever had there. The attentive and patient staff makes it an even more incredible experience. We decide that every trip to the zoo should end with sushi at this place - hence, Zooshi. My daughter, who does not like ice cream, who even refused my rootbeer float at the zoo, devours the edamame, udon noodles and salmon roe sashimi – her favorites. Yes, you read that right. No ice cream for this girl. Just salmon roe, thank you (further proof that she is indeed mine).


Brushing Zoo Goatzoo…


IkuraSashimi …shi


* * *

Escapee expletive 
Zooshi ends late - we are already over an hour late for my daughter’s bedtime when we miss an exit on to the highway, and I react as I normally do - “Fuck!” – except this time, I hear an echo in the form of a tiny voice from the backseat, “fuck!”

My hands fly to my mouth and I gasp. My Guy almost veers off the road – we both try hard not to react. I knew this day would come but I didn’t think it would be this soon – she’s only 20 months old! And I didn’t think it would be me that she would mimic as I’ve made an effort to improve myself and have self-righteously chided My Guy for swearing in her presence. This is of course not lost on him as he rubs it in my face with, “Hah! It’s YOUR fault!”

Yes. Yes, it is. Fuck.


* * *

Attention please! 
At a restaurant, Little Miss decides to pull her legs up to the top of her high chair and begins to squat on the chair. She points to her diaper and says, “Pee pee”. Ohhh...kaaaaay. Thanks for the announcement kid. About ten seconds later, she declares, “All done!” and sits back down.

Alrighty then.

* * *

We’re confusing our dog 
We come back from the restaurant and Little Miss still seems indefatigable. With bedtime in less than an hour, we know we have to do something to exhaust that boundless energy of hers. Except we are running on empty from the day’s whirlwind of activities.

And so, like any good parent, we take her outside and fling toys along the sidewalk so she could retrieve them. Over and over. Yes, we are playing fetch with our daughter. As she runs back and forth for her toys, we sit on the steps and watch her amuse all three of us – me, My Guy and the dog.

What? Don’t judge me. She had fun too. (And it worked!)

Fetch
Fetch!



This is a Wordful Wednesday post.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hi, my name is Justine and I am a…

It’s August. My favorite month of the year. Also known around these parts as my birthday month. Yes, in a few short days I will be a year older than I’ve been all this year (in case you were wondering). But dare I reveal that number? Not so much. A few years ago, I would have declared it willingly because I knew I didn’t look that age. It was a point of pride. But now looking youthful is no longer enough, and so I stop myself; the hesitation stems from a number that comes with certain expectations, like I feel that I should have arrived at a specific point in my life, that I should be accomplished in my career and living my aspirations. And the fact that I am not makes me cringe at this number.

But these days, it’s not just my age that bothers me. My preoccupation with numbers is beginning to weigh me down – it doesn’t help that “numbers never lie”, especially these ones:

1. Comments/ RSS feed/ Site visit count on this blog – these are the ways in which I seek validation from my readers; apparently, the lower the count, the more irrelevant my thoughts are. At least that’s how I perceive it. I know, this isn’t good for my mental health, and yet I can’t help myself. Just this past weekend, a fellow blogger who’s light years ahead of me surprised me by featuring my blog on her site (thank you, Kludgy Mom!), and it instantly made me wonder - would that help the numbers? It’s stupid. I’m not even sure why I check my stats on Google Analytics if this blog was meant for my daughter. It’s not like she’s going to love me any less if my blog isn’t as fabulous as others’ or if I’m not as eloquent as other moms...or is she?

2. The 1,2,3’s – we’re not the sit-and-teach type of parents, where we make Little Miss memorize her numbers and alphabets, and we don’t even send her to a daycare that does that. It’s important to us that she learns from play at this stage of her life, but when I hear about certain prodigies at Little Miss’ age, I begin to wonder if I’m limiting her potential. Should I be actively coaching her instead of laughing at her adorable attempts to count? (“Two, two, tree, tree, four, fies, seez......eight, nine, ten!”) Yet, when I see how extraordinary she is, I don’t feel that she is behind. She may not know her ABCs, but she sings it - that counts for something right?

3. The loads (yes, always plural) of laundry - when does it ever end? Is anyone out there engineering biodegradable (and fashionable) disposable clothes? If so, sign me up. I’ll gladly give up the kid’s college fund for this. If not, what the hell are you waiting for?!

4. Speaking of college funds – we have none (I’m throwing in a “yet” here because I’m optimistic). We’re still busy saving up for other things that require $$$.  You know, like EVERYTHING.

5. The last five pounds – ah yes, the neverending cycle of pain we put ourselves through for the mythical “last five pounds”. In reality, I’m healthy, but the last five pounds is never about health. It’s vanity. I readily admit I do worry about how I look in a bathing suit. And jeans. And a tank top. And a cute little sundress. Come to think of it, this may be why Fall is my favorite season. Time to get those last five pounds back under those layers of clothing again, where they can go into hibernation until the next summer. That is if we don’t plan a beach vacation in the middle of winter. But we usually do. Doh!

6. The numbers on the clock – I’m always racing towards the weekend, desperate for the extra hours I get to spend with my family, especially my little girl who I spend so little time with on week days. But I often forget that in my rush, extraordinary moments happen even on an ordinary Tuesday. Thanks to this wonderful reminder from my friend Hyacynth, I realize that I have to stop wishing our lives away just because I have a warped notion that quality time exists only within the realm of the weekend.

Did you notice that the above is also a numbered list? I need help I know. I have to let go of my obsession with numbers, but I think more than that, I just have to let go. Of my need for validation. Of my need to keep up. Of my need to be efficient. Of my need to prove to myself. Of my need to prove myself to others. Of my need to seek a far away happiness and as a result miss what’s right in front of me.

But is it really possible? Can I really let go of this unhealthy preoccupation? I don’t know, but I’m willing to try. And I’m starting with this:

Hi, my name is Justine, and I’m a soon-to-be 35-year-old.

There. Baby steps. And I won’t even count them.

 

Not25Anymore

 

 

If you blog, what do the numbers mean to you? Bloggers and non-bloggers alike, do you have any unhealthy obsessions? Care to share?

What about your age – how do you feel about it? Do you feel you’re close to, exactly or nowhere near where you’d imagined yourself to be at your age?

And on a completely unrelated topic, do you have any idea how I can get rid of the Elmo’s World theme song from my head? Thanks to Little Miss’ own obsession, Elmo, I’ve been singing his damn song for the past three days now and it. has. to. stop. Help!

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