Friday, December 26, 2014

In the wee hours before Christmas

ChristmasTreeGirls ‘Twas the night before Christmas




“Mommy,” I heard Little Miss standing beside my bed, and I forced my eyes open. It was still dark.
“Will you help me with my buttons?” she was referring to her new Christmas long-johns - the one present that the girls got to open on the eve. As I fumbled to help, she whispered excitedly, “Santa came, mama! He came! I saw bikes!”
“Oh yeah? That’s wonderful!” I managed, and looked at the time: 4:40AM.
“It’s four in the morning, Little Miss, please go back to bed, and we’ll open the presents in the morning.”
“Okay mama” And off she went.


“Mommy, I need to go potty!” the little one ran into my room, holding her crotch and doing her usual pee-pee dance. Mind you, she had to pass her own bathroom to come tell me this.
“Then go.”
“I need help with the buttons.”
Dammit! No more freakin’ long-john’s! What the hell was I thinking?!
Once Pickle was done with her business, thankfully, it’s back to bed again.


This time I felt a presence before I heard it: “Moooommmy….”

It was Pickle. “Is it goodmorning time yet?” Never just morning, always “goodmorning time”, like it’s one word, no pause in between.

I looked outside my window and the sky had the soft orange-pink glow of a promising sunrise peeking between the trees. With only sheers covering the window, I loved watching the daybreak from my bed.

“Yes,” I reached over and carried her to the spot between My Guy and me, fully expecting to cuddle. “Yes, it’s goodmorning time. Where’s your sister?”
“She’s still asleep.”
“Okay, let’s not wake her.” I wrapped her little body with my arms and proceeded with Operation Cuddle A Lot.

“Did Santa come?” My Guy asked her groggily.
“How do you know he was here?”
“You told me he was coming!” responded my sweet, trusting, sometimes clueless three-year-old. Like, duh, daddy.
My Guy and I laughed. “Did you go look for the presents under the tree?”
She paused. “No…” I could feel the wheels churning and heard something click in her brain before she bolted out of bed as quickly as her short legs could carry her and made a bee line for her sister, with whom she loved experiencing everything.

“Wait. Don’t wake her!” I called feebly, knowing fully it was too late.

Christmas had begun.

* * *

Not that I minded. Because there were just the four of us this year, it was a completely stress-free and casual day. In fact, we didn’t get out of our pajamas at all, much to the delight of the girls who live for pajama day at home. So laidback in fact that I only served Chinese leftovers for lunch and cooked Christmas dinner (a rib eye roast, garlic and bacon Brussels sprouts, and maple sweet potatoes, plus our usual butterscotch bundt cake) when I felt like it. And yes, we had all three meals in our PJ’s. But hey, we did break out the stemware and tablecloth. We’re classy like that.

Here’s how the day went in a few snapshots:

Open presents.



Take requisite “thank you for our gift” pictures for grandparents (in their new “Frozen”-themed nightgown and fuzzy slippers from Santa).






ChristmasCraft Craft.

Play some more.
(Although it’s really the deep blue sky I was admiring here. 60’s and sunny on Christmas day. Hello, Texas!)


Plus sugary, buttery, bacon-y, chocolate-y treats galore. Because, you know, we need sustenance for all that lounging and playing. 

In short, it was a pretty damned good Christmas.

Hope you had a wonderful day yourself.


Monday, December 22, 2014

More about magic


I’m not sure how I’ve gone a month without posting anything. I blinked, and here I am. But I guess that’s what happens during the holidays. It’s a black hole of kids’ activities and holiday parties, bright-colored cookies and cinnamon-dusted cocktails.

Since this is our first holiday season in our new city, I suppose everything we’ve done so far is a momentous occasion. First tree in Austin. First holiday party in Austin. It’s like reading a fortune cookie and adding “in bed” after every fortune we read, only it’s less funny. The “in Austin” post script, however, does add a shiny new sheen to all of our old traditions.



The Christmas banner we made as a family in Chicago, now decorates our living room in Austin.


I have to admit, I’ve been running myself ragged trying to recreate some of the old holiday magic here in our new house, hoping that our girls would not, during a season where we’re most susceptible to nostalgia, miss their Chicago life because they find the celebrations here different. I’ve even gone as far as taking the girls to a faraway outdoor mall that trucked a ton of snow into the plaza on a 50ish-degree day just so the girls can experience one of their favorite elements of the holiday season in Chicago.

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Naturally, their selective memory only retains the romanticized notions of snow: the snowmen, the snowballs - just the fun parts, really. And that’s what we were there for. Because looking for parking in a snow-covered city and then shoveling our car out of its five-inch tomb? Not so romantic.

Those were the things we didn’t have to deal with, apparently, having moved 1,100 miles south. Instead, we get our fill at a mall and go home to the occasional tank-top weather. I can deal with this. It does get chilly here, however. What I still haven’t gotten used to is the huge temperature changes throughout the day. We’d start the day at 38, peak at 70, and the moment the sun sets, it rapidly drops back down to 60, then 50 and 40. This means whatever I was wearing in the afternoon to enjoy the gloriously warm December, would be completely and utterly inadequate by 7PM, if we were still outdoors doing whatever it was we’re doing. I know, poor us, but we’ll figure this out.

Having gone over four weeks without blogging means I’m backlogged with the details in this memory-keeping business. Perhaps I’ll spend some time on some of the more important occasions in the future, like Little Miss’s 6th birthday party, our wonderful Thanksgiving with new friends at our house, and a pretty incredible Christmas season so far. But for now, I’d like to carve out some time to acknowledge the things that would fall through the cracks - things that are equally meaningful and even momentous, but that would otherwise get lost in the holiday shuffle.

Like, after six long years of waiting, finally being able to start reading Harry Potter with my daughter. One of my favorite kids’ book series, I’ve been dreaming about this day since Little Miss was born, and now that she’s a proficient reader herself, I suppose I could just hand her the book and say, here, enjoy. Except I couldn’t possibly do that. I had to relive every page with her, and now that we’re on winter break, we’ve spent Pickle’s naptime reading about magic and muggles.




Here, she’s reading it to me as I was getting ready for another one of our explore Austin adventures. So far, judging from her exasperation in not being able to continue reading on her own because she couldn’t wait for me to get to the next chapter, she’s loving it. Squeeeeee…!

And here’s something else that happened: Little Miss’ lost her first tooth. On December 19, right after brushing her teeth before bed, My Guy jiggled her already very loose tooth to see if it’s close only to dislodge it from its spot. She’s had that loose tooth for over two weeks, and she was ecstatic that it was finally out because she couldn’t wait to see what the Tooth Fairy would bring her.

You’d think that, with over two weeks of warning, we’d be ready for this night. Us? Are you kidding me? Nope. Not even close. Hey, in my defense, I’d spent the previous week cooking four casseroles and four different types of cookies for our holiday party, while getting the house ready and solo-parenting both girls while My Guy was in Chicago for work the entire week. I had nothing left in me after the party. Not even a measly thought for the inaugural Tooth Fairy visit. Rather, especially so, since it was another task on an already busy season.

My Guy didn’t understand what the big deal was: Why not just leave her money? We don’t have to do anything crazy. Not everything has to be magical.


I had to disagree with him. Sure, I wasn’t exactly prepared, but I also wasn’t willing to just leave money - tooth fairy was not a thing in my childhood in Malaysia, but I knew I didn’t want it to be just about the money. There’s a “fairy” in this myth we’re recreating for our kids, for cryin’ out loud. OF COURSE there has to be magic.

There’s an elf on some shelf somewhere in the house, and my girls have reindeer food ready for when Santa gets here on Christmas eve. Why the hell would we stop at the Tooth Fairy?

They believe, and because they believe, there’s a certain magic that captivates even us, the cynical grownups who know better. It would certainly be easier if it’s just about presents and who got what. But then again, they have a lifetime of cynicism and materialism ahead of them, I’m not willing to jumpstart that very unromantic part of life for them. A childhood of magic and mystery is so fleeting after all. There’s an innocence so pure and joyous in their beliefs that even I feel swept away by them. Why not prolong it as much as we can, to preserve that innocence that we know will all too soon disappear altogether eventually?

That’s when I scoured the internet for ideas at 8PM on a Friday night. I was already in my pajamas so you can imagine I wasn’t already feeling particularly ambitious. Pinterest, as usual, made me feel like the worst mother in the world when I saw just how elaborate some ideas were. For the sake of self preservation, I stopped visiting that torturous site and finally settled for a little note, printed in 5-pt font, from the fairy. Thank goodness for glitter glue, which most mothers of young girls seem to have at their disposal, I was able to create a fairy dust effect on the note and the money. There. Magic. Done.

In the morning, she rushed to find us with the money and the note, thrilled that the Tooth Fairy came, grinning proudly to show off the novel gap in her teeth. It wasn’t much, but apparently, it was enough. She believes, and that’s all that matters.



I know I’m among so many parents who do what we can to preserve the childhood innocence in our kids. As adults, our views are dulled by the constant barrage of news of violence and cruelty, and it’s in this season that we have to work especially hard to add that magic back into our lives. To make sure that it’s not just about the presents or cookies.

It’s about family time, it’s about sharing and giving, it’s about creating magic in a world that is sometimes rampant with ugly realities. As I listen to NPR’s report about the evil execution of over 100 children in Pakistan, about Ebola taking yet another life, and the unrest in New York and Ferguson from police brutality, I see flour strewn everywhere on my once clean kitchen floor because of a certain three-year old who’s helping me with the cookies for the first time this year, and I just suck it up and resign myself to an afternoon of more cleaning when she’s napping.

To hold on to this magic, even if it feels like grasping desperately at the most delicate, most breakable straw, it’s the very least I could do.



Thursday, November 20, 2014



I suppose I should write about Halloween and the girls’ costumes this year. That Little Miss was surprisingly not Queen Elsa from “Frozen” - she chose to be Wonder Woman instead - and Pickle was very surprisingly (and very oddly) a pink fairy princess, per her request. That My Guy and I were both confounded because of all the kids we know, she’s the least pink fairy princess of them all.





But really, what I want to write about is the weather. I know, how boring, but for an ex-long-time Chicago resident living in Austin, the weather is the most exciting thing to me. And since we’re kinda sorta on Halloween, let’s start with that.


For the first time in forever (cue the song from Frozen...because I’m a mother of two girls, hello?) the kids were trick-or-treating in just their costumes, minus the heavy coat and gloves and hat. They went door to door after a romp at a mini neighborhood block party where kids jumped in a bouncy house, in short-sleeved or skimpy costumes nonetheless, and no one, not a single person, was cold. It was a glorious (and I use this word a lot to describe the current season here, just so you’re warned; that way you can be judicious with your eye-rolling) 70-degree weather that had us ex-Chicagoans giggling like schoolgirls - is this for real?

On a day where old friends and neighbors from Chicago posted about a day of snow, hail, and freezing rain, as well as a flooded Lake Shore Drive from abnormally high waves from Lake Michigan, it didn’t seem right that we were enjoying a day like we had this Halloween. But then again, I told myself, we had done our time in snow, hail, and freezing rain. We were there last year when our girls were drenched in icy rain while trick-or-treating; barely two blocks into it and we had to call it off. It was just too much.

I knew how my Chicago friends felt this year, and my heart went out to them. It just wasn’t fair to the kids. I couldn’t in good conscience post about our Halloween on Facebook that day; I’m pretty sure that’s the quickest way to get unfriended en masse. But I choose to write about it now because the weather is all I think about these days.

As a transplant from the north, everything here in the south is still so new to me, especially the weather. We left Chicago for many reasons but chief among them was that we’re just so done with the harsh winters that sometimes linger long past their welcome. Snow in April? Fuck that.

Granted, the Fall here isn’t as spectacular, color-wise, although the temperatures have been rather glorious (ahem) - 70’s and perfect blue skies for weeks! I was seeing only the candy colors of summer well into the end of October, and the green leaves remained a vivid green, mocking me with their vibrance. For someone who relishes the warm and ruddy colors of this season, I was a little annoyed. I can’t help it; I’m a freak for Fall. I make banners with colorful fallen leaves, mull wine with aromatic and decidedly autumnal spices, pick apples at an orchard with my family, look forward to all things pumpkin, and happily get cozy in a warm hoodie and tall boots. So far, Fall here meant a lovely reprieve from triple-digit heat, which was great and all, but I needed more.

And then came November, when all the leaves were on the ground in the northern part of the country, probably covered in snow, and something magical started to happen. The leaves started to change. Gasp! The green hills are now textured with varying shades of amber, yellow, and orange. It’s not like New Hampshire or even Chicago; heck, it’s not even close, but I will take what I can get.


The picture doesn’t do the view justice, but how cool that this is in my neighborhood



And this along my drive home

I know I should be recording details of Halloween for the girls (they had a great time and a basketful of goodies, what more can I say?), or even the fun Frozen birthday party we had at our house for Little Miss, but really, all I can think about is that the leaves are changing, the leaves are changing, THE LEAVES ARE CHANGING, and it’s finally gloriously, wonderfully, truly Fall y’all!



This too, on our route home, a few minutes from the house. Also known as my happy place.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A birthday letter to my Little Miss Six-Year-Old

My dearest Little Miss,

You are six today. SIX! I express the disbelief of most parents when I realize that the child I’m holding no longer fits the nook of my cradled arms that seemed like they were meant to protect all of you once upon a time. Now that feels impossibly long ago. These days you hang heavily and precariously from our grasp, your gangly limbs flailing and foreign. When you see us carrying your sister or hanging her by her legs or tossing her in the air, you squeal, “Do that to me! Do that to me!”, not realizing that we might break our back doing the same for you. But still we try. Because we, too, have a hard time letting go of the notion that our first baby really isn’t a baby anymore.  

So much has happened in the last year, since you turned five. Let’s see…we experienced the worst winter ever in Chicago (remember when school closed on the day it was a high of –16? Brrr!). But even then I think you remembered and loved the record snowfall the best, conveniently forgetting the part where it was too cold to even go outside to play in the snow that turned to blocks of ice the very next day. That winter might have had something (a lot) to do with our decision to move here to Austin this last spring, where you started a new life in this new state, at a new preschool, with new friends, and even learning a new language, Mandarin. Then we bought a house and you had to move once again from our temporary apartment that you adored to our new home, uprooting you one more time in three months. Once summer was over, you took another giant step into Kindergarten, where once again, you had to make new friends and learn new rules. You even learned to take the school bus.

I am wrought with guilt, fear, and worry like any parent, but now that I’ve seen you go through so many of life’s big changes with barely a blip on your radar (except for the part where you had changed your favorite color from pink to blue), it assures me that no matter what happens, you will be okay. And that, my darling, is a wonderful thing.

You astounded me with the grace and vigor with which you had managed these changes. Sure, you sometimes pine for Chicago (I still do), you complained about the heat here (who can blame you?), you miss your old friends (I feel the same) and you say you miss the snow (your daddy thinks you’re crazy, but I secretly miss it too), but that just means you’re normal. Whew! Six years into this whole parenthood thing, I realize now that, for me, normal is the new awesome. Except your standards are a little higher than mine. You don’t just settle for normal.





In the last year, you’ve also impressed us with your aptitude, enjoying multiplications at age five, testing into the best elementary schools in Illinois, and now you’re reading at 5th grade level. All of this became the driving force behind where we bought our home, so you could be challenged in a district with the best schools in the area. You are the reason we strive higher, but it can also be exhausting to have to keep up with your high demands and expectations. With you, we find ourselves constantly questioning if what we’re doing is enough, and this is where we often clash. Why can’t she just be happy? we find ourselves asking that question a lot, and we do everything we can to achieve a middle ground that satiates your voracious appetite for more, more, more but also encourages you to be grateful for what you do have.

I have to admit, I struggle with that greatly, because sweet pea, you don’t just make it easy do you? That is not to say that you’re a difficult child. You’ve always been good with following rules, whether at home or in school. Compared to your sister, who often confuses rules with mere suggestions, you have a penchant for a set structure and the black and white, which helps us immensely when we’re trying to establish a more peaceful environment at home. But that also means you have little patience for your sister, who seems a little feral when she doesn’t abide by the same sense of order that you like. However, in most cases, you just cave in and copy her, which flabbergasts us, although we know you do it because you default to behaviors that yield the most attention. As most kids your age do.


But you also do plenty that most kids your age don’t. I love that you can easily entertain yourself during the two-hour quiet time while Pickle (fights her) naps. At this time, you devour several books in one sitting, you enjoy your limited screen time on your Nintendo DS, you pretend you’re a princess/queen/teacher/mom/baby/sister/witch as you play on your own. I find you lyrics on the Internet to songs on the radio and you sing your little heart out to them, and I laugh when you tell me that you can’t get certain songs like “Cool Kids” and “Riptide” out of your head. Oh I so know the feeling. 

Parents with younger children are often amazed at your age - “she’s only five?” – and how nurturing you are with their toddler, which always surprises me since you’re usually rough and gruff with your sister, but I suspect that’s just a sibling thing. I’ve seen you play gently with Pickle, I’ve watched you try to make her feel better when she’s hurt, and I am warmed by your sweetness. Every time I see this side of you, it gives me profound hope that maybe, just maybe, we’re doing something right.


I don’t know if all of this makes you a typical six-year-old, but I do know that I am so grateful, so happy and so proud to be your mom. It’s an honor to be able to watch you grow into this beautiful little girl you are today, and I can’t wait to see you become the incredible woman that I know you will be someday. Or maybe I can.

With all the love in the world and then some,
Your mommy.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Our wedding day


The girls jumped into our bed first thing in the morning, and I girlishly proclaimed, “Yay! It’s our wedding day!” although I think the girls were just happy to skip school that Tuesday morning and get into their new outfits. (Priorities!) We rolled around in bed a little more since special days should always begin this way before getting ready for the big moment. My Guy dressed them in their brand new dresses and sparkling shoes, and every adult but me took turns entertaining them while I tried to recall the makeup techniques I learned from YouTube and applied them with a nervous hand. I wanted to look like myself, but I didn’t want to look like I always did, which made it a little tricky, especially for someone with so little training in this department.




The guys left with the girls first, and I drove my best friend and I in the convertible, trailing 30 minutes behind, to the venue in south Austin, 45 minutes away from our home. Because we wanted a simple affair that best reflected our own personalities and values, I decided against a fussy hairdo and went with a simple low ponytail, not that I had a choice. It was all I could manage. However, the result wasn’t half bad when I decided to go with a bridal accessory that I found in the eleventh hour (as in the night before) because the one I ordered from took an unfortunate detour and never arrived (thanks, US Postal Service).

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It was no fluke that the wedding was mostly outfitted by items ordered online (including my dress and shoes, the girls’ attire, My Guy’s jacket, and our rings - oh yeah, even the rings); we were pretty adamant in being ourselves for the entire affair, and if ruled our daily life, why should the wedding be any different? Besides, when you have a wedding to plan in less than a month, who has the time to go dress and ring shopping anyway? We went to a jeweler once for our rings and the experience felt so weird to us that neither of us wanted to go back. Thank goodness for Amazon where you could procure everything but livestock. (Don’t quote me on that – I’m not entirely sure that you can’t either.) 


The dress, however, came from a U.K. based fashion site that I discovered while trolling the Internet for the perfect attire for the occasion. It took me very many painstaking hours to finally decide - long dress? short dress? bridal? casual? white? ivory? some color? no color? modern? cute? elegant? fun? - and asking My Guy didn’t help.

Me: Hey, what do you think I should wear? What would you like to see me in?
Him: Something skimpy?

Ugh. He can be such a boy sometimes.


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When I did find the dress, I was apprehensive about ordering it even though I loved what I saw because it’s always hard to gauge the fit and fabric from a picture, and it would have to cross the Atlantic to get to me. As if ordering sight unseen from a website I never knew existed wasn’t challenging enough (see missing hair accessory above). But I did it anyway because, honestly, I was just so sick of looking at dresses online. The moment I wore it when it arrived, however, I knew this was it. Whew!


In the end, everything worked out. I even got to have my groom stand at the altar to watch me walk down the aisle in my dress for the first time, and while this experience was not new to me, having been married before in a more traditional setting, it was still extraordinary to see My Guy at the chapel, waiting for me.



He looked gorgeous in his jacket, tie and jeans. He’d been in jeans pretty much his whole professional and personal life, and being in anything but would’ve been wrong that day, so there he was, waiting for me, looking exactly like the man I’ve always known. The only man I want to be with for the rest of my life.




The girls walked slowly as instructed down the aisle first, and took their places, one on each side of the chapel, Little Miss with her uncle and Pickle with her aunt. The officiant, who we met minutes before the event, read the vows that we’d redlined and returned to her over email. When prompted for the ring, the girls held a book each (“Harry Potter” and “World War Z” respectively because wizards and zombies, yo!) with a ring on it and carefully walked it over to us. Our little ring bearers then went back to their seats and quietly listened to us exchange our vows the rest of the time, which was all of five minutes.



After we were pronounced man and wife in a ceremony that took about 10 minutes, we rang the 200-year-old bell at the chapel together. And just like that, we were married.




We took more time with pictures than we did for any other part of the wedding, making sure to capture every angle of the beautiful scenery - the hill country vistas, the rugged Texas landscape, the rustic details of the venue, the native plants in the gardens. It was everything I loved about our new state in one small area. The girls, not surprisingly, grew tired of pictures quickly and spent the rest of the time with their aunt and uncle who kept them so well occupied that no one approached us with any issues during the session that ran longer than planned.


When we were done, we drove our starving bellies to Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Oak Hill for some “ gourmet Texan” cuisine, where I pigged out on some pimiento cheese dip and chicken-fried steak. Naturally. It seemed that today was as much a celebration of Texas as it was a celebration of our union, and I was okay with that. It’s all one big love affair after all. Pickle took a short nap on her uncle, but when the food arrived, she opened her eyes, looked around and said, “I didn’t know we were here alweady.”


Post-wedding festivities continued after some down time at home. I hired a sitter who watched the girls while the rest of the wedding party (all four grownups) went to three different places for cocktails and food that evening that started out on Rainey street in downtown Austin. More indulgences, more cured and delectable meats, more craftily prepared cocktails and dishes on small plates, more laughter, more of the same, wonderful things we’ve had in the last few days leading up to the wedding since our best friends arrived.


These are friends who expect nothing from us, and maybe that’s why being around them always gives us a sense of complete ease that one often finds in those who truly know who and what we are, from the very core of our beings, and love us no matter what. Who are genuinely happy for us, who understand and appreciate the complexities of our life with our girls, who have always stood by and continue to stand by us without judgment, and who were there solely to celebrate us as a couple. My Guy and I were acutely aware of just how lucky we were that they were there for us in every way that day, and we were so very grateful.

In the end, there was no long white dress, no veil, no bridal bouquet, no cutesy party favors, no Pinterest-inspired decorations, no guests to wow, no clinking of glasses, no centerpieces, no bubbles, no seating charts, not even a flower girl. It was nothing like the kind of wedding I’d envisioned in my dreams as a little girl.




But I’m not that little girl anymore. Over the years, I’ve learned that not all conventions work for everyone, and for two people who came to where we are today by rather unconventional means, it wouldn’t feel right to stick to a script that really wasn’t meant for us. So we rewrote our story in a way that would best represent us - delicious food, supportive friends, and yes, even jeans - and maybe that’s why it was perfect.



It was not the wedding of my dreams; in fact, it was better.




Thursday, October 23, 2014

We’re goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married…

Wedding Chapel 
Yes. We’re finally getting hitched. Tying the knot. Making it official. Or as the song goes, “we’re goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get ma-a-a-rried…” The chapel you see above, specifically. It’s probably news to several people we know as most just assume we already are, what with the two kids, two cats, and one house in nine years and all. And who can blame them?

So why now? Well, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt finally did it - we figured it’s now cool again to get married. (I’m kidding, people. KIDDING.)

Frankly, it’s because - and here’s the unromantic part of why we’re taking the plunge - I got tired of lying. Not that we were purposely deceitful; I never had any issues with admitting that we weren’t married, but now that we’re at a new place with a relatively clean slate, neighbors, friends, and parents of our kids who meet us automatically assume we’re married. Heck, even the UPS driver does.

And when they refer to My Guy as my husband or me as his wife, it’s just awkward to try to correct all these people we don’t know, so we just let it go (this is where both my girls will giggle and break into that song that never dies from “Frozen”). Sometimes, when calling the bank or utility company, just to make things easier, we use “wife” and “husband” to avoid having to use the ambiguous term, “partner”. Which is ironic, considering it’s the best description of what we are - partners in everything we do; partners for life.

Yet, it seems to need a qualifier or further explanation because it’s also a term used by gay couples and those in business together so instead of clarifying things, it only makes it more confusing. As for calling him my “boyfriend” - I’d stopped that the moment Little Miss was born over five years ago. Boyfriend just seems to trivialize what we have. It also feels fleeting or temporary, even juvenile. Like someone I’m “going steady with”, and I don’t even remember the last time I said that. In high school maybe?

I blame society and our culture for not having a term that adequately describes our relationship. Not everyone wants to be married, and even though our relationship is not any less than those who choose the opposite, without a proper reference that captures the breadth and depth of our commitment, we’re left to patch holes in the lexicon with qualifiers and adjectives. When we started filing papers together as a family, we used to joke that we’ll just start calling one another “D.P.” as in Domestic Partners. Maybe we’d start a movement; maybe we could create a new status quo.

That didn’t take, obviously. “D.P.” just sounds ridiculous - even I couldn’t say that with a straight face.

Since neither of us are religious, we didn’t have to worry about sin. We also went to an attorney to plan our estate and had wills prepared. With the religious and legal matters settled, we didn’t really see the need to make things official. Especially since I’d been married before, in a church nonetheless. So if God and the law couldn’t keep us together then, why would I readily jump into another marriage knowing that those are scarcely the ingredients we need for a happy, long-lasting relationship?

My Guy and I were already happy, so what could marriage give us that we didn’t already have?

The truth, apparently. After moving to Texas, the frequency in which I find myself lying (or rather, avoiding telling the truth) about our status just to go with the flow - my husband this, my husband that - has increased dramatically, and I cringe with each incident. When people assumed we were married, we just nodded and smiled. Sure. Whatever.

And I couldn’t sure, whatever our relationship anymore. Not when we’ve been through so much together. Not when we’d fought so hard to stay with each other. And won. Twice! We love how far we’ve come, and we are incredibly proud of our commitment to each other because of the shit we had to go through to get here.

But when we can’t even have our union recognized in a way that it deserves to be, it’s a little very frustrating. I know I shouldn’t need to justify who and what we are to others, but when we’re in mixed company and I find myself admitting we’re not married, it almost trivializes all the work we have put into our relationship. And that really bothers me.

As long as society reveres the sacred union of a marriage above others and exalts the status of “husband” and “wife”, it feels like there would always be this invisible hierarchy among families, and we’d always be second rate. Which is hard for me to accept, because we’re every bit as committed as those who are married. But I hate that there is no way to outwardly express that with one perfect word. And I hate cringing each time I don’t correct someone who assumed we’re married.

Hence the wedding day in five days, when he’s literally making an honest woman out of me. Admittedly, all of this is a rather unromantic way to arrive at the altar. BUT. Romance is not dead.

It will still be a day full of love. It will be a day all about us as a couple, us as a family, as a wedding should be.

There will only be the six of us - the bride and groom, my best friend, his best friend, and our best girls - at the chapel, but it’s a meaningful six. After all, they’re the people who were there at the start of our relationship, and who stood by and supported us as a couple throughout the years, and our girls were the ones who have strengthened it. I love that they get to witness their parents exchange their vows in front of them, so they can see for themselves that yes, we are truly and deeply committed, and that no, love isn’t just about princess fairy tales and long white gowns.

Love can look like this too.

Even though we were adamant that it would be an informal affair, My Guy refused a courthouse wedding. In our search for a place that best reflects us, we found a little non-religious outdoor chapel that’s part of The Wizard Academy (hah! it’s actually a business school but we thought, hey, we both love the Harry Potter books, how perfect!), and it’s perched on the hills of Austin, which is our favorite thing about our new home. 

It’s going to be both simple yet exquisite, because as unromantic as we might have been in arriving at this decision (no, no one proposed; we just talked ourselves into this), it’s still going to be a beautiful day.

It’s the day I get to marry the love of my life after all. In the end, despite all the fighting of the status quo and the hesitation in giving in to convention, the girl in me just can’t wait to really, truly call the boy of my dreams my husband.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Waiting her whole life for the bus

I heard the padding feet before I felt her standing beside me. In the darkness, I moved over and made some space, and wordlessly, Pickle climbed in and snuggled under the covers next to me. I peeped at the clock: 4:10AM.

At about 5:30, despite a quiet house (except for the snoring cat and kid beside me) my eyes opened instinctively and strained to look at the door, where I saw a shadow. Little Miss, who’d learned to be quiet around her sleeping little sister stood waiting, probably for an invitation, and I whispered for her to climb in with us.

I was fully awake by then but the alarm would not sound for another 50 minutes for the morning frenzy to begin. My Guy was in Chicago again for work, and Pickle had decided to keep me company in the wee hours of the morning for the past couple of days - something she once rarely did.  But it seems that we cycle through a new normal every few weeks, scrambling old routines to fit in that which is novel to our same ole same ole. Like starting Kindergarten, then having both girls in different schools, and ramping up on work travel for My Guy.

Just when I think I have a handle on our situation - whatever that may be at the moment - something throws us off, and we make the necessary changes to adapt. I’d mentioned before that I jumped in with both feet to get involved with the PTA at Little Miss’ school, gleefully volunteering to create and manage their Facebook page, and I’m also happy to report that my first big event that I helped organize, the Annual School Picnic, went without a hitch. It was a beautiful September evening, warm enough to entice a large crowd and cool enough for all of us to stay there comfortably to get to know the school community. There were food trucks galore, a magic show, balloon twisters, and face painters - I don’t know about the kids, but I had a great time!



Little Miss scanned the crowd, found a buddy from her class and ditched us the rest of the evening. Really? Does it start this early? While it should have stung, it didn’t; it was comforting to see my five-year-old already so comfortable in her school and independently navigating her social network with such confidence. She even stood in line and paid for snow cones by herself (well, with a friend); it was the first time she’d ever made a monetary transaction on her own, and she even came back with the change! When I see her forging ahead, completely unabashed and unafraid, I forget that she still needs me sometimes. I forget that girl who would love nothing more than to be able to climb into bed with me on those rare but oh-so-delicious nights.

That’s probably why I find myself surprised when she takes my hand these days as we walk along the sidewalk after I pick her up from the bus. Oh yes, the bus. After weeks of Little Miss asking and asking and asking to be on it, I finally acquiesced once I learned that she will be getting off at a stop with several kids, including a classmate who lives down the street from us. I was adamant in making it through the year without having to worry about her on the bus, but this girl had shown me that she could handle more than I gave her credit for, and when I saw her classmates on there too, I realized it was me who was holding her back.

After a day of fretting the details, walking her to the bus driver to introduce ourselves, talking to the school office and the school teacher, taking her to the stop to make sure she learned her route, writing and placing notes for Little Miss in several places about the bus route, and even following the bus home from school one day to stalk it to make sure it was reliable (oh yes I did), I was finally ready. She was excited; I was nervous.

So on the day she was scheduled to arrive on the bus, I remembered the remark that the school transport admin said over the phone after she told me the time the bus was scheduled to be at the stop, “but they’re never on time.” Because of that, I decided to show up right at the time it’s supposed to be there, so I would catch her for sure since it’s bound to be late anyway.

Except it wasn’t. It arrived three minutes earlier than scheduled (GAH!) and from afar, I saw my daughter climb down the bus looking for me half a block away. The driver spotted me jogging towards them, but I don’t think he saw just how disappointed I was that I missed being right there for her, as I told her I would be. The first day on the bus picture completely foiled by my own idiocy. Why didn’t I think to be there earlier??!

BUT. There’s always the next day, I consoled myself after kicking myself in the butt a few times and apologizing profusely to Little Miss who seemed completely nonplussed. She got to ride the bus - that’s all she cared about. Later, however, I saw a cloud on her face and when prodded, she responded reluctantly, “Well...I didn’t get to sit with my friend from class. We have assigned seats, and I was next to a second grader I didn’t know…And the ride was loud and bumpy, and they didn’t even have seat belts!”

Apparently, it wasn’t all that she had hoped it would be. After weeks of anticipation, she was underwhelmed by her first experience, and who could blame her? Every kid is taught to revere the train and the bus since they were born, with Thomas the Train this, the Wheels on the Bus that. I remember Little Miss going to her first musical “The Emperor’s New Clothes” when she was two at the gorgeous Shakespeare Theater in Chicago and shouting a request at the performers, “Bus! Bus!” that I knew meant, Hey, can you sing the Wheels on the Bus?

It was a big deal, that first time. Instead, I screwed up the Kodak moment (when you’re reading this someday, girls, I wonder if you even know what “Kodak” means) and she didn’t have the kind of fun she imagined she would. It probably felt like the world was conspiring against her - the cheery songs, the smiling grownups who sang them, the appeal of the unknown in the form of a massive, clunky mustard yellow monster of a vehicle. It all sounded so good; it wasn’t supposed to feel that shitty!!!

Needless to say, she wasn’t all that excited to go back the next day, and while I would’ve jumped to keep her safe and close to me, and offer her the ride home again every day, I decided that I wouldn’t really be doing her a favor. It’s one thing to see your happy child go forth and conquer, but it’s quite another to see them figuring things out for themselves when things don’t go their way. Handling disappointments and finding their own silver lining -- those too are an essential part of their growth.

At five, I realized she needed help in the silver lining department, so I sat with her and spoke to her about my own bus experiences. About how I sat among strangers on my first day and by the first month, my bus ride home was one of the things I looked forward to the most because I got to know so many people from so many parts of the school outside of my own class. About how she always got along better with older kids, so the second grader next to her was actually an advantage.

The talking helped, and so did getting her back on it the next day. And the next. Now it’s become a non-issue and a new-new normal for us. I’m still that parent who’s often the last one at the stop, but this big little girl of mine is doing well, as I suspected she would.

And hey, I finally got my picture. Actually, pictures.








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