Thursday, February 24, 2011

I’m a neighbor with a dilemma!

Psst, I’m technically not here. I’m visiting The Kitchen Witch – you have no idea how thrilled I am to be her neighbor this week. Like, super super thrilled. I’ve been reading her stories and recipes for a long time now and each time, she leaves me craving more, absolutely in awe of her ability to make me laugh, cry and hungry, all in one post! Oh yes, she’s that talented.

Anyway, here’s my lame-ass attempt at Kitchen-Witching - imitation is the sincerest form of flattery no? If you’d like to know what my impending move to a new home has to do with fresh shitake mushrooms, click on over!

And don’t forget to stay awhile and snoop and sniff away at her wonderful site – I guarantee you’ll love it there.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Get You

Last week, I participated in Amy’s wonderful “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” series by being a guest blogger on Amy’s site, and today, I’d like to welcome a neighbor of my own into these parts. I’m excited to host Cecilia’s words here today. When I discovered her blog, Only You, I didn’t just find a fellow mom and blogger, but someone who truly is a kindred spirit. Her honesty is refreshing, and her voice is absolutely endearing; I’m so happy to have her here today.

Please help me welcome my neighbor, my friend, Cecilia, as she talks about her relationship with her husband, and I hope you’ll hop on over to her site for a visit. I think you’ll really like it there.


I GET YOU by Cecilia

Marriage has been on my mind a bit lately, between Valentine’s Day on Monday, my husband Max’s birthday today, and our 10-year wedding anniversary trip starting tomorrow.

I’ve also been thinking about it because Max and I are both under the weather and we’ve been bickering and fighting on and off all week.

I remember our first kiss, our first exchange of “I love you”s. I also remember our first real fight.

It happened when we were engaged and I was living in Japan, where we had met. While Max was at work one day, I was thinking about our – or his, I suppose – finances (I really don’t remember at this point), and I shot him a quick email saying, “I don’t really understand this part. Please tell me, because I don’t think I can marry you until I understand…” Within two hours the front door flew open and Max was standing in the doorway in his suit. “I felt sick to my stomach when I saw your email,” he cried. “I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t work.”

I was shocked at how strongly he had reacted, and then later, at how carelessly my words had come out. “I didn’t mean it literally,” I backtracked, trying to convince him that I wouldn’t walk away that easily. On top of gender differences and our inherently imperfect communication styles, we also come from two different cultures and speak two different languages.

For the next several years our conflicts would unfold in similar dramatic fashion. For better or worse, Max and I are a passionate pair. Everything is felt and expressed to the nth degree. When we separate because of travels, we cry. When we watch movies about someone losing a loved one, we grab one another and weep. When we can’t get through to the other person, or feel misunderstood or unappreciated, we scream, we threaten, we slam doors, we leave the house.

In the early years of our marriage, we were a textbook case of the ideal relationship. Yes, we fought, but we also made up well. We reached out, apologized, took time to talk to one another calmly, tried to see things from the other person’s perspective, and promised to do better next time.

Sometime over the last five years, we had started to fight differently. I’ve noticed that we have stopped apologizing. Not always, but often. We’ve also spent less time talking post-blowups. Unless it was a significant issue – a 7 or above on the marital Richter scale – we have typically gone from an abbreviated silent treatment to gradual warm-up and then complete normalcy without any discussion whatsoever.

When I first noticed this change, I had put another mental marker in the “My fairy tale marriage has gone sour” column, right alongside the preference to sleep or read blogs over making love, the conscious decision to not shave my legs or take a shower. Another sign of marital neglect, I thought.

The other evening, Max came up to me in the kitchen and said, with great irritation in his voice, how I need to teach our 6 year-old to be more mindful of his belongings (Fred had, for the second time in three days, left his jacket on the school playground). If you’re a fellow mother, I probably don’t need to explain the rationale behind my blowup that spattered two seconds later (and keep in mind that I was not feeling well at this point). “Do not start with me!” I turned and looked Max straight in the eye, suddenly feeling slightly disarmed by the lack of intensity or anger in his face. But like a pre-programmed robot, I left the dinner I was making and stalked off upstairs to our bedroom. In the past, I would have stayed there, sullen, waiting for Max to come get me. This time, I simply didn’t feel enough anger to continue with my charade. So I walked back down and finished dinner.

Max was chummy again after we ate, and I didn’t have the energy or ill will to stay mad at him. We didn’t bring up the pre-dinner incident, and there was no apology from either side. Somehow, I knew that he didn’t mean what he had said, at least not in the way that it came out. And he must have understood why I reacted as I did. We both knew, too, that it was our cold viruses and headaches talking. Apology and discussion were not needed. But this time I realized it wasn’t because we had neglected our marriage; indeed, we have been paying plenty of attention to one another these last 10 years. We no longer have to air everything, or explain everything. I get him now. We get each other.


* * *

How do you fight and make up? Have you also noticed changes in the way you deal with conflict over the course of your relationship with your significant other?


Thank you Cecilia for sharing this intimate part of your life with us. Have a wonderful time on your trip, and congratulations on 10 years of marriage!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The thing that goes bump in the night (and day)

25monsBoost My first belly pic!

I am about 25 weeks along in my pregnancy - more than halfway through and definitely pregnant enough to look like I’m growing a baby and not just storing access holiday cookies for winter hibernation (although I’m sure there are still remnants of that somewhere). This also means I’m going into my third trimester, where the waddling and bloating take place - my least favorite part of the process.

Because I had a relatively easy first trimester despite the occasional food aversions and constant debilitating fatigue, I am of course foolishly optimistic about the third. The baby kicks are rather constant now, and she’s been sending me Morse code about her preferences. Thumper, apparently, likes her coffee and dessert, which makes me think we’ll get along just fine. She’s also pretty nocturnal as she reserves her somersaults for bedtime, just like her big sister, who already adores her as she peppers my belly with kisses, knowing her little sister is in there, anticipating her arrival with the same fervor as she did with Santa (as in occasionally excited when reminded of them but mostly indifferent otherwise).

While this belly is making space for this growing baby, I can’t help but feel a little guilty for adding this distance between Little Miss and me. My firstborn enjoys hanging on to me for quickie snuggles and bedtime stories on the chair before climbing into her big girl bed. However, this belly bump has made it rather difficult for me to effortlessly continue our daily routines together. Approaching 30 pounds, my little girl is getting a little too heavy for my pregnant self. The nooks in my body that once seemed sculpted just for her tiny form seem to morph into that which precariously fits her shape with mine like a puzzle piece misshapen by a gnawing toothless baby awkwardly trying to claim its spot. Sadly, this space that was reserved just for her is no longer hers alone.

But I know I can’t wallow in what we could lose as Thumper joins us, but rather celebrate that which we’ll gain as she completes our family. Besides, I can take comfort in the fact that even though I can no longer hoist Little Miss as I used to, I know that if I need to, I will carry her on my back. That way, she’ll always, always be close.

One way or another, we’ll make it work. As an only child, I may lack experience in the sibling department, but I know my heart possesses an infinite space for my babies. Bump or not, there will be room for everyone.

Even the cat.


* * *

If you’re a parent to two or more kids, what was your experience like as your family expanded? If you grew up with a sibling, how did your parents make sure everyone knew they were loved equally? Have they ever played favorites? How has growing up with or without a sibling affected your own decisions in the number of kids you’d like to have?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Made with love

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to spend the evening making heart-shaped sugar cookies with my family. Well, maybe one thing: Eating these cookies with them.

He’s usually better at the stuff that requires precision

Mixing Icing
Icing – the best part


This is how you do it

Good student


Taste testing


Works of heart


Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours. And, of course, to the two loves of my life.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I am Amy's neighbor!

Psst...I'm not hiding - I'm just over at Amy's place as her guest today in the wonderful "Won't You Be My Neighbor" series.

Won't you please join us there? Also, while you're there, check out Amy's digs. A fellow mom, writer and traveler, I think you'll really enjoy her acute observations and worldly perspective on things. I certainly do!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Snowpocalypse 2011

Did you know that it’s possible to have thunder and lightning during a blizzard? I didn’t. Apparently, it happens. Very rarely but it does, and I had the privilege to experience it. Because I wasn’t one of the people stranded on Lake Shore Drive for eight hours or on the commuter train for 12, I can truly say I enjoyed the snowstorm. I heard the winds howl, rattling the vintage windows in my house, witnessed the white squall and shuddered at the lighting-thunder combo – it really did sound apocalyptic, but it was also exhilarating. Of course my daughter slept through everything.

However, we did make sure she got to experience the aftermath the next day when it finally stopped snowing. The sun was out and so were our neighbors – we’ve never seen that many people gather on our street all at once. Kids made snow forts and tunnels, and the adults elevated their heart rate, shoveling their vehicle out of snow banks as tall as they were.

20 inches of snow but only the third biggest blizzard here in Chicago. The second biggest happened in 1999 with almost 22 inches. I was here for that too. Not too bad for someone who’s only lived here for 12 years. But I didn’t get a snow day then so I was especially grateful to be home with my family this time. It’s Little Miss’ first big blizzard, and she will probably not even remember it. But I will.

I’ll always have the white squall, the ominous thundersnow, the comfort and safety of togetherness, the beauty of our white city, and the girlish giggles of our daughter enthralled by the wonder of snow lodged in a secret, happy corner of my mind. And Little Miss will have these pictures.



It’s like a neighborhood street fest. But not.

Yeah – I don’t envy them.

Resting on a toddler-shaped nook.


Top of the snow bank.


Snow slide!

Good landing, which always ends with “More daddy!”


For keepsake?

Hmm….maybe not. 


Hope you were all safe during the storm. Oh, I feel a little guilty for not going with my original post about Chinese New Year as it is the first day of the Lunar calendar today. I’m sure you can understand how this blizzard may have eclipsed the occasion a tad bit.

Postless, but nonetheless heartfelt: To my dearest friends and family who celebrate, Gong Xi Fa Cai. May the Year of the Hare bring you much love, joy and of course, prosperity.


*  *  *

Have you ever experienced a freak storm? What was it like for you? Did you ever get to enjoy a snow day (as an adult or a kid)? What’s your most distinct weather-related memory? What are you doing for Chinese New Year?