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March 2012

Friday Reads & Recommends: The Mad Men Edition

I don't know about you, but MY week was at the top of the Spectacularly Rotten column and who wants to talk about that? On to the links!

People are taking out loans for kindergarten. HOLY GEE. 

Phillip sent me this article from Lifehacker: 10 Tips and Tools for Budding Web Designers. I usually find these "10 tips" articles tiring, but I thought this one was really helpful. Not that I am a budding anything, but I like to dabble, and this piece had a lot of great links and resources. 

This Why Do We Love Don And Hate Betty article isn't that awesome, but the one minute "Betty Draper's Guide To Parenting" embedded within it is AWESOME. 

Yet another article about too many interventions in childbirth, but I thought this one was really thought provoking in different-ish ways, and also I haven't seen anyone talking about it. Surely the internet is not tired of this subject! I agreed with most of it; then there was this chunk: 

Ethicists love to talk about women's birthing choices as if they are informed and autonomous, but I can't count how many women have said to me that they "chose" pain medication during birth even though they were never told the risks of pain medication, never had anyone express confidence in them that they could birth without medication, and were never offered a doula to walk and talk them through the pain. What kind of "choice" is that? As Libby Bogdan-Lovis told me, "Today's average childbearing woman thinks the notion of an unmedicated birth is the equivalent of suggesting that women should eagerly embrace torture."

This bugs. I would really REALLY like to read a pro-unmedicated-birth lady's blog post about a truly hellacious birthing experience. I'm tired of the "oh, you could have done it if you had a doula!" or "your body is built to this!" stuff. I want someone to say, "Actually, it WAS torture. However! I would totally do it again!" I would gobble that up. I would respect that opinion. (Actually,  LifeInTinyTown did this. And I respect that lady.)

Clearly I am still a teeny weeny bit sensitive to my OWN unmedicated birth experience and CLEARLY I have just deleted about ten paragraphs because this is not a blog post about unmedicated birth, this is a bunch of links! Shut up, Me! FTLOG!

On a completely different topic, I loved - LOVED - this post from Jen at Conversion Diary. I wanted to write a whole Catholic blog post around it, but I haven't had time to do much critical thinking today. Unless you count thinking up 900 different ways to yell at your kids to stop doing something. No seriously, I LOVED THIS POST.

Leonardo Da Vinci wasn't a Dumbledorian wizard type? This review of a Leonardo Da Vinci biography makes me want to read it yesterday.

I really liked The Hunger Games movie. David Thomson did not. Here's the first paragraph:

There are several spoilers in this review of The Hunger Games, and I’ll get them out of the way early. The film shows precious little hunger and no sense of game. It’s a terrible movie, but it grossed $68.25 million on its first Friday. So that’s where your teenage daughters were over the weekend—or what they told you. And that’s why film critics sometimes feel their own futility. 

Spoilsport. (I did not love the books. I have several theories as to why I liked the movie so much, chief among them: it wasn't all Katniss's perspective.) (I hate it when movie reviews make me feel stupid.)

Last, I think this Eleanor Clift essay about Mad Men, but also about her experiences as a researcher at Newsweek in the 60s is SO FASCINATING! (Actually, have you seen Newsweek in the stands? With the retro design? Even their website got the 60s facelift. Fanboy much? Note: do not click on the My Lai article. I've lost my appetite and faith in humanity for the next ten years.)


Playing dress up

Dressing my kids is not my forte. Like, AT ALL. I was reminded of this tonight when Jack peeled off his jeans and there was a HOLE in the knee. 

How did that happen? I'm serious. My kids play hard, just like all the other kids, but I've been wearing MY jeans for YEARS and *I* have not busted through the knee. I call foul on Kid Clothes Makers. 

It doesn't matter, though, since those jeans were getting too short anyway. As was the long-sleeved shirt he wore today. Should I be able to see bare wrists? Then I remember: he IS turning five in May. He MAY be need to move up from 4T. 

(Length only, however. I'm pretty sure both my big kids would be fine with 18 month size waists.) 

But dressing them... I feel like this should be a FUN thing, but most of the time I am just BEWILDERED. For one thing, I can't tell with sizes. I would have sworn half the things I bought Molly last year would be huge and she'd be growing into them, but nope! Those super cute overalls with the embroidered pink hearts lasted all of two months. And there's no point in buying anything for them if the waist isn't adjustable. Even a regular elastic waist is often too big. So THAT is frustrating. 

Then there's the whole issue of buying a bunch of clothes they are going to 1) grow out of or 2) trash. So as much as I love all the matchy outfits at Gymboree and those miniBoden dresses (SWOON), my kids wear Target and Old Navy (good for skinny kids!) and whatever my mom finds on sale at KMart. I'm not picky. If it fits, they wear it! 

I do go through phases. Sometimes I get an email about a sale and I cannot help myself. Sometimes we need Easter dresses and wedding attire. And this last year I did preschool shopping in the fall and went a little nutso (although, when you require an entirely new wardrobe each year, you HAVE to go a little nutso at the outlet mall.) 

But trying to make them cute every day? SO BEYOND MY CAPABILITIES. 

I have Jack, who will wear anything I lay out for him, which is often a pair of fleece pants and whatever long-sleeved t-shirt is cleanest. Lately I've been making more of an effort to look in the closet and pull out a button down shirt or a polo for preschool days. He HAS those clothes, might as well WEAR them. The collared shirts plus the haircut have perhaps improved my standing in his teacher's eyes. 

Molly, on the other hand, has Strong Opinions. I have no energy to deal with those, so as long as what she wants to wear is clean, fits, and isn't one of her poofy dresses, she can wear it. I'd almost given up on making her wear jeans or regular pants (she prefers leggings, as those are "the pants that go with dwesses") although lately I've convinced her on the Old Navy skinnies. (Which are still falling off her barely-there bottom.) But things must be pink or have a certain flower on them or not be brown or SOMETHING IS ALWAYS WRONG WITH WHAT I PICK OUT and it is SO tiring. Today I told her that her panda bear dress was getting a little short (the SLEEVES are too short) and there were TEARS. Whatever. She wore it anyway. Sometimes I feel like I'm getting Looks for, ah, "indulging" Molly in her attire, but you pick your battles and this is not one of mine. 

If things match, if they are clean, if I can scrape Molly's hair off her forehead: that is a good day. 

I have no idea how people manage all these super put together kids. I know a few of them. I am BEFUDDLED. Their hair always looks like someone did more than run a wet comb through the front. Their clothes are from fancy stores. They look trendy. They have a style. Maybe I am just too busy watching TV? (Also, I can't even do this for MYSELF.)

Oh, and all the internet buying clothes in advance? Like next year's coat? Or super cheap pants that will fit in kindergarten? TOTALLY OVERWHELMING. I would forget. I would never remember where I PUT those clothes. I have a tiny stack of too-big clothes for each kid (usually gifts from extended family who have no idea what size they wear) that I keep in their respective closets. And whenever I do the too-small sorting (OH HOW I LOATHE THAT TASK) I try to remember to peek in the pile and see if there's anything that can be added to the drawers. But otherwise... just the storage and organization requirements feel burdensome. 

I think maybe this is just one of those things where I am irrationally overwhelmed, but without any inclination to do otherwise. I had thought, having a girl, I'd be dressing her cutesy every day, in matchy outfits with matchy hair accessories and always the right kind of shoe and never weird socks and she'd have PLENTY of these outfits. But I didn't count on how much work that is, let alone that my kid would have her own opinion. And also have hair that does not HOLD hair accessories. (Poor kid, just like her mother.) 

OH EMMA IS AWAKE. SPLENDID!


Pastries with a side of ineffective discipline

You know I had to unpublish that post, right? It violated all kinds of Blog Policy. I hate it when I do that. Also, I have no more indignation in my system and I don't like to be snippy and LET'S TALK ABOUT PASTRIES. 

Every time my in-laws go to Canada - which is a lot, since Phillip's almost entire extended family lives in Richmond, BC aka Hong Kouver - they come home with a giant box of Hong Kong pastries. A whole bunch of buns, some with suspicious fillings, and often a Swiss roll cake and my favorite kind of dim sum, which I can't remember the name of right now, but is like a delicious flaky pastry with BBQ pork inside. This past Sunday they dropped off a bulging bag of bo luo bao ("bowl - lo - bow" if you want the white girl translation). It's a sweet bread bun with a crumbly sugary crust on top that makes a huge mess when you eat it. 

So, Chinese desserts and pastries are not my thing. They are in the Barely Sweet category which means I have no use for them. We ordered a Chinese wedding cake because it was about nine frillion dollars less than other wedding cakes AND it looked pretty, but I didn't want to eat it. Chinese desserts at dim sum are horrifying - this sweet red bean soup, jiggly suspiciously-colored jello squares and other gelatinous items. As a rule, I stay away. 

But I was starving once and I saw someone's half eaten bo luo bao sitting on the counter and obvs I had to shove it in my mouth ASAP and OH NOOOOOOES I now have another enemy in the Lose The Baby Weight battle. Bo luo bao is SO YUMMY! And my in-laws bring me heaps of them on a regular basis! Ostensibly they are for the children (which includes Phillip), but with Phillip out of town this week and my worry (ahem) that the buns might go stale if we don't eat them quickly enough... SIGH. FINE. I HAD SIX FOR BREAKFAST. 

Speaking of breakfast, the fighting got an early start today (who am I kidding - they start fighting over the baby monitor they second they wake up) so they are eating breakfast at two different tables and neither of them is allowed to even look at Emma (an everpresent distraction) until they're finished. 

Yesterday was a loooooong haul of barking at them to stop doing that, stop doing this, what do you think you're doing, you KNOW you're not supposed to do that, seriously what are you doing, I TOLD YOU TO STOP DOING THAT I AM NOT SHOUTING AT YOU FOR MY HEALTH. And it didn't matter what tone of voice I used, how I phrased something, how nice I was, how mean I was, how screamy I got - I received the same Look every time. The Look that means: If I'm just still for a minute and make it LOOK like I'm listening to you, you'll stop bugging us and we can go right back to whatever it was we were doing which is WAAAAAY more important and interesting and meaningful than anything you can possibly say to us. 

It's like they're just biding their time. A little conspiracy against the mad woman whose job it is to feed them fruit snacks and drive them to parks. Two against one. That look drives me around the bend. But I have absolutely no idea what to do about it. None. Time outs? Useless. More yelling? Pointless. Nicely phrased reasoning? HA. Calm? HO HO! The only thing that EVER seems to work with these kids is Giving Them Something Else To Do, but you know, I only have so many Something Else To Dos up my sleeve and also I have a snarffly six-month-old and I SWEAR this is why God gave me a backyard. Let us all pray against rain today.


No one ever asks me if they're adopted, probably because of the hair

Jack's homemade sitting-in-the-bathtub-in-his-underpants haircut was taunting me. It didn't look so bad if you just glanced at it, but since I had to LIVE with it, I saw every uneven line, the lopsided sideburns, and the long hairs I missed wisping out of the back. So today I took him to a cheap little salon down the street and BOOM. Now he's ready to ship out. 

Photo (81)
This is what Jack does when I tell him to look cute for the Internet.

So anyway. That is that. I'll get him a little military outfit - a flightsuit, YES! - and it'll be super cute. 

And, like the salon we used to go to near our rental house, this new salon is staffed by very nice Asian ladies who are CLEARLY discussing you while you sit there totally ignorant. Well, not TOTALLY - with all the attention they were paying the kids, I had SOME idea of what they were talking about. They gave them lollipops! Patted them on the head. Everything they were saying was said with a smile. (Oh, and Jack, who was SUPER PISSED about having to get his haircut was a NEW MAN when introduced to his lollipop.)

Anyway, they were all chat chat chatty chat and then one of them cocks her head and says, "Your husband, he..." And I TOTALLY know what she's going to say and I start nodding my head and she goes, "Korean?" I don't know why I thought that was so funny. But it was? I don't know. And I said, "No, he's Chinese" and they all go, "Aaaahhhh."

Usually the Asian ladies leave it at that (because it's ALWAYS the older Asian ladies who ask me about their dad) but these kept going. They wanted to know where in China Phillip was from and I told them he was actually born here and there was another, "Aaaahhh" though I didn't quite know what that one meant. Then they started talking about how my children would be movie stars in China and Jack was so handsome and the Chinese people would want them to model and I'm all YES YOU HAVE MY BUSINESS FOR LIFE. Flattery gets you EVERYWHERE with me, people. Take note!

They also said something that didn't translate very well, something about how "people are confused" when they see my kids because I have dark hair. I'm not sure what they meant by that, but the Asian Ladies Who Comment On My Children also often reference my dark hair. Sometimes I think I know what they are saying, but then I lose it and THEN I decide I am Reading Into Things So Stop It Already.

Somewhere in the dark deep depths of this blog is the story where a Chinese girl is very suspicious of my American-ness because I have dark hair. Aren't Americans BLOND?

Anyway, there is nothing deep to be gleaned from all of this, just another "experience". Also because I don't have AMC and therefore cannot watch Mad Men which is KILLING ME. 

P.S. Phillip is leaving in the morning which, eh, whatever, but EJ is sick (again) and I'm kind of nervous about the nighttimes. Light a candle for me! 

 


Resume

My first job was through the summer hire program on base and I was assigned to the Pass & ID office. This was back when you still made paper ID cards and ran them through the laminator. I earned $4.75 an hour. In what was to be a common denominator in my future work experience, I was terrified of screwing up, and I managed my terror by being as quiet and busy and reliable and worker bee-ish as possible. I am absolutely positive the staff sergeants I worked around thought I was the most uptight and irritating high school student they'd ever had the displeasure of being around. 

My second job was being a commissary bagger, a job that earned me considerably more money. Toni, the head bagger, was a four-foot eighty-pound woman with a craggy face and suspicious disposition. She owned the express lane and ran a well-oiled team of teenage miscreants. You did not cross Toni, you did not even talk back to Toni, because if you did you were instantly fired and the only other option for you was scooping ice cream at the BX food court. Your best hope, as a commissary bagger, was to score a family shopping on payday. You'd get at least two carts' worth of bags and at least a five dollar tip. More if the family knew your family. And because my parents were elementary school teachers, LOTS of families knew my family. 

The next summer I worked at the Public Affairs office on the fancier side of base with the fancier people. So I thought I was fancy. I worked on the base newsletter with another "probably going to major in journalism" high school student and we thought we were awesome. There are two things I remember about this job. One was that I could have gone paragliding off the side of the mountain and written about it for the paper, except that I chickened out at the last minute. (I do not regret it.) The second thing is that we worked right on the flightline and there was a near-crash landing and the pilot was one of the dads of of our friends and it was Really Super Scary. 

I got a job my first week at college. I worked at a campus bakery/coffee shop/cafeteria type place. Again, I was terrified. Again, my coworkers thought I was a huge stickinthemud. This lasted until I finally figured out how to make espresso and then I prided myself on being crazyfast and remembering certain professors' drink orders. I worked there at least a year and eventually even made a few friends. 

That summer I "waitressed" and "housecleaned" at an assisted living facility. I learned how to fold fitted sheets. I grew to love - really, truly, deeply - Old People. 

My second year I worked at the university press in PR. Basically I sent out review copies of excruciatingly boring books. Again, I was terrified, Again, my coworkers were mystified. I thought I was being professional. It was a long time before I realized that grown ups don't always act like grown ups and it was okay to have a personality at work. Maybe when one of my middle-aged coworkers at a future job asked me if I wanted to come smoke pot with her. 

My third year I left my beloved PR ladies and went to work in the business office, which was the most boring thing EVERRRRRR. I did, however, learn a thing or two about the book business, and also about databases. I am very good with details. Unfortunately, being super good at details does not make people think you are super fun. Oh well. 

I had to quit that job the next year. I had to do something different. This was after I blew all of my savings on a summer in Europe. I missed my old people and I saw a listing for a caregiver at an adult family home. I did not know what an adult family home was. I wish I had never seen that listing. So began a couple of the worst work-related months of my life. I only worked on Saturdays (a 12 hour shift), but this time I was REALLY TERRIFIED because my boss was CRAZY. Seriously. I don't even care if she reads this, which she won't, but I MEAN IT, she was INSANE. Of course, she APPEARED to be normal, which is the most dangerous kind of insane. I could probably write an entire memoir based on that job. I grew to hate Saturdays so much and eventually quit - but I actually really missed 1) the old people and 2) the coworker (of whom I was, of course, originally terrified). 

So then I went back to offices. This time I worked for a lobbyist in a fancy downtown office building. It was not awesome. Well, there were awesome parts, like getting to write and research and plan events and call senators and meet important business people and make connections and all that kind of stuff, but there was also the time when he yelled at me for booking him the wrong flights WHICH in my defense, he was ALWAYS CHANGING ANYWAY. But at the time I thought I might die. Literally. Perhaps by melting into my shoes. 

I worked for him for a long time. An extra year longer than I planned, because at that point I was afflicted by Anxiety, except I didn't know it was called Anxiety, and I was just trying to survive each day and I thought trying to find a new job might make that more difficult. 

But after having me around so long and seeing that I really was good with details even though I messed up that one flight that one time, my boss really liked me (he still likes me, he has met Jack and Molly and sends me Hanukkah cards) and thought I should maybe do something with my life and tried to get me hooked up with all these other jobs. I was not always enthusiastic. There was one job that both of us really wanted me to get. Sort of a foothold in local public policy. I knew a lot of the people already. I was one of the final two candidates. And when I didn't get the job they told my boss it was because I wasn't chatty enough. And he was all, "DIDN'T YOU EVEN TRY?" and I said, "I TRIED HARDER THAN I'VE EVER TRIED!" So that's when I knew: I would never be chatty enough. 

Eventually I went to work for the small local publisher. I did a lot of good things for that company. My job was not awesome, but I had a lot of freedom and was always trying to MAKE it awesome. For the first time ever I was friends with a coworker. I taught myself Access and a little Visual Basic. I went to meetings downtown by myself and organized charity events and learned some web design. I was encouraged and applauded, but there was never support for the next step. I meant to quit, but I knew what I really wanted to do was have a baby instead. I meant to come back part-time after that, but it didn't work out. I put crazy hours into training and preparing my replacement, only to find out months later that she was a huge, huge screw up and my old boss was making excuses for her, one of them being that I had left her in the lurch, with no preparation and no materials. Which is a stunning and ginormous lie and I am still, apparently, angry about it.  

Now I take care of children. I write stupid things about my life on the internet. I spray paint things. I fold laundry. I make my sister's wedding invitations. I plan baby showers. I make amateurish websites for blogging conferences. 

I am always ALWAYS wondering what I am going to do next. 

 


Things I Hate

Business trips. Phillip is going on one next week. Strangely enough I have yet to get bent out of shape about it. I think this is because every time I hear him say "business trip" I think "frequent flier miles" and THEN I think "free ticket to the Blathering". 

Chunky tomato sauce. I HATE chunky tomato sauce. When I was a kid my grandma used to pull some naked spaghetti out of the strainer and soak it in butter and cheese, just for me, so I wouldn't have to let that awful spaghetti sauce pass my lips. I was TERRIFIED of moving to Italy because I thought there would be nothing to eat except chunky tomato sauce. But plain old spaghetti pomodoro is just noodles with dollop of almost-pureed (so maybe food milled?) tomato sauce. AND IT IS DIVINE. So the other day I finally made that tomatoes + butter + half an onion that you eventually toss tomato sauce and WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG? It's the closest I've come to plain old spaghetti pomodoro. 

Buying diapers. Something I hate just as much as buying diapers: stuffing pocket diapers. But A'Dell's clother diaper post lit a fire under my lazy butt and today I busted out my 23 well-used BumGenius one size diapers and got going. I forgot how cute they are! And now I want to buy all the new colors, but that sort of defeats a large part of the purpose. Also, I HAVE TWENTY-THREE DIAPERS. 

Diets. Which is why I ate about half of that Costco tub of animal crackers my in-laws buy for the kids. Don't tell them it was me. 

Forgetting birthdays. I AM SO BAD ABOUT THIS! The birthday reminder thing is honestly the only reason why I still have a Facebook account. My friend Emily even gave me a birthday CALENDAR and I STILL FORGET. So, sorry My Nephew! Your gift will be late, even WITH Amazon Prime. 

When my TV doesn't work. Between the new TV, the constant "updates" to the TiFaux system, the stupid fancypants remote that NEVER WORKS, and Phillip spending several months installing and wiring speakers in the way upper back wall of the living room, my TV is always acting dumb. This is annoying when I want to settle the kids down with a show so I can make dinner and SUPER annoying when I finally get everyone down for quiet time and I want to watch one of MY shows. Pretty much the only time this doesn't suck is when I can't get the DVD player (aka the Xbox) to play the 30 Day Shred. Oh, SNAP!

Blowing kid noses. LEARN TO DO THIS YOURSELF, CHILDREN. See also: wiping kid bottoms. GAH.

Not going on vacation. The Colorado road trip remains up for discussion, but what was decided upon as soon as I saw the text message was tagging along on a business trip (so maybe I don't hate ALL business trips) to Vegas. Do I care that Vegas is cheesy, that Phillip will be busy all day long, that I don't have any money to blow on blackjack or buffets? UM, NO I DO NOT. Now: how to sweet talk my parents into taking care of the big kids AND the baby? (OMG)

When people don't turn the lights on. I don't know if this is because I am Highly Sensitive and need as much light as possible, or if I'm just crabby, but it drives me BONKERS when Phillip and Jack are sitting in the totally dark living room playing some iPad game. Turn on the lights! They're right there! Come on! Of course I also REALLY HATE IT when they turn on the awful AWFUL overhead spotlights in the living room instead of the lovely collection of table and floor lamps I've amassed since moving in. Perhaps I am picky about my lighting. 

When people do not put food in the refrigerator. SOMEONE is always leaving things out because they're "too warm to go in the fridge". Is this some sort of energy saving ploy? I think it's gross. PUT THE FOOD AWAY.

When Phillip does not put the children to bed on time. Perhaps some of these things I hate are all sort of happening right now, in front of me, and I am passive aggressively blogging them instead of complaining out loud. PERHAPS.

 

 

 

 

 


A change of scenery. For example: OUR CAR

Now the big kids are sick. The big kids were JUST sick! Now EJ is going to catch their cooties all over again. BOO! I have already called preschool to let them know Jack and his river of snot will not be attending tomorrow. I have to give up a preschool morning AND I have to figure out how to entertain a moody four-year-old with a full-fledged Man Cold. 

Perhaps this is why I have vacation on the brain. 

Not that we are GOING ANYWHERE. Oh no. Ever since the Cheung Family Vacation imploded in all directions (no one wants to hear that story, trust me) and ever since I did some forensic accounting on the budget situation and instituted austerity measures, vacation is not an option. 

And not that we have TIME to go anywhere. I just updated my calendar today and HOLY GEE. Have I mentioned one sister is having a baby and one sister is getting married? Just the My-Side-Of-The-Family Events have blocked out my weekends until the end of July. And then there's the My-Side-Of-The-Family beach weekend (HEE! "BEACH WEEKEND"!) happening on the weekend directly following the wedding that I thought FOR SURE would get postponed or canceled but NO, it is ON. And! My sister and her future husband will be there! Either they are KA-RAZY or Future BIL really likes my family. We'll go with Option B. It's flattering.

So I've told you I have a brother and sister-in-law and three painfully adorable, impeccably dressed nephews in Colorado, right? They show up every once in a while just to make my kids look like urchins. At first my brother and SIL didn't have enough vacation time for both weekends, but because they really wanted the boys to go to The Big Red House (which is what the grandkids call the "beach" weekend), somehow my mom and dad decided they would keep the two older boys after the wedding, take them to The Big Red House, and DRIVE THEM BACK TO COLORADO. I KNOW, RIGHT? 

(Side note: my parents drive to Colorado about twice a year. For people who spent at least half their lives living overseas and flying home to the US every summer, they are incredibly airplane- and airport-averse.)

My mom tells me all of this over the phone and my only thought is that my SIL totally lucked out in the in-law department. Then I get an email from my mom saying, essentially, "We've decided you should come with us!" 

OH HA HA HA

Giant road trip? With my PARENTS? And my NEPHEWS? AND ALL OF MY KIDS? It's true that we have the big van, Phillip MIGHT be able to get time off, we keep meaning to figure out how to visit my brother and SIL, and I can think of at least five other people I'd want to visit in the Greater Colorado-Ish Area, but there's no way this is a good idea, right? 

Oh, and now? My brother and SIL CAN stay for both the wedding and the beach weekend and my parents are STILL going to drive the older boys home. KA-RAZY! 

Would I let my kids go on a multi-day road trip without me? With their beloved grandparents? UHHHH... I mean, my first instinct is to say HELL YES but I would also have to work very hard at wrapping my brain around the idea. I get nervous when my parents drive them from my house to theirs! LET ALONE SEVERAL STATES AWAY. 

But that's not the issue. The issue is: do WE want to do this WITH them? I'm not sure. And everything's totally moot if Phillip can't get the time off. (He has this nagging little project at work that keeps getting pushed back, so all his business trips keep getting pushed back, and if his project goes live in July I'll just die of exhaustion right now.) But if he COULD... I could definitely see the potential for awesome. For one thing, my parents are, like, the most into-doing-stuff-with-kids people you've ever met. My mom is keeping a JOURNAL while they drive (they are driving there! Right now!) of things they might want to do with the boys on the summer drive. They have an excellent (if you are four) or maddening (if you are 32) driving system, wherein they stop for coffees and treats about every two hours. My mom LOVES getting up early with energetic preschoolers! My dad LOVES stomping around Historical Sites and pointing out dinosaur fossils and giving impromptu geology lessons! IT SOUNDS HALFWAY FUN!

But then I think about $4 gas and getting three kids to sleep in one hotel room. I think about packing and all the snacks and diapers and GEAR. And where to stay when we GET there. (Surely SIL does not want in-laws, plus us, plus three more kids in her house, even if there was room, which I do not think there IS.) 

But vacation? Even this sort of work-intensive vacation? Sounds awfully nice right now. A change of scenery. Perhaps some sunshine. Seeing family (even if we'll have just seen them the previous weekend!) Something DIFFERENT. I don't know. Sounds kinda nice. 


Emma: Almost Six Months

Tonight I learned that it is a Hong Kong tradition to include a gift certificate to a bakery with your wedding invitation. I do not understand the meaning behind this tradition BUT I AM IN FAVOR.

So! Anyone want an Emma update? Just my mom? Awesome!

SHE IS PERFECT. I know. Shut up, Me. BUT SHE IS. Seriously, she is just the happiest, sweetest, darlingest, BEST BABY EVER. 

She's big enough now to do this:

Photo (78)
There is woe on 2 counts: that she is big enough, and that I now have to keep this contraption in my living room.

Also we started feeding her solids at five months. Apparently you are now okay to start solids at FOUR months. Anyone else remember when this was the Height Of Child Abuse? Man, sometimes I wish I could go back to my moms group days and slap a few ladies silly. (Including myself.) Anyway! Emma? BIG FAN OF FOOD. I have HATED feeding babies so I wasn't super excited to feed this one, but guess what? She sucked down that cereal and banana like she'd been doing it for years. Craziness! So it turns out that feeding THIS baby is sort of fun! I mean, it's still a huge mess and time consuming and all that, but you actually feel like she's EATING. Which has led to...

INFINITELY BETTER SLEEP OMG. So I've told you that 3 months to four months was killer and I nearly died from waking up every hour and I've never been so tired in my life blah blah blah. Then at four months she miraculously started sleeping longer stretches. And stopped needing to be re-napped every 10 minutes. I could actually, you know, DO STUFF. Or, also, SLEEP. And lo, the world was a brighter place!

She's just been getting better. She's had her off moments, like when we've been in hotel rooms or this last week when she was super sick, but otherwise I think of her as AmazingBaby. She often falls asleep on her own. She's no Molly Cheung in that regard, but she's a far cry from Jackson Cheung: He Who Fights The Sandman [With Nunchuks!]. So I am thankful. 

Also, this is how she sleeps:

Photo (79)
Go ahead, call CPS. I'll be over here, SLEEPING.

Her head is half covered in a blanket. There are loose blankets in her bed. AND THAT IS A PILLOW. Okay, so the pillow we instituted last week when she was super coughy and phlegmy and the doctor said to raise her bed and we, uh, didn't quite know how to do that. And now she LIKES it. As for the blanket around her face, she sort of REQUIRES something soft near her face. And she'll nuzzle into it. We make sure there's not enough to COVER her face, obvs, but the child will fall asleep in SECONDS. As for the loose blankets, THEY ARE PRETTY. 

So we swaddle her, cover her up in a soft blanket, hold her sidewise, she's either out within minutes or needs to be put down awake. And OH YES I am bragging about this because did you see the part where she was waking up EVERY HOUR???

Also, last night she slept through. HMMM. There appears to be a FORMULA for sleeping through the night, seriously, but Phillip and I have yet to really land on it. Some combination of a full tummy and timing that we only hit every so often. But she's only really waking up once or twice a night and I have no plans for sleep training. I DO wonder about how much she eats at night and if she really needs it, but I'm not even really thinking about that either. So far my preferred parenting method ("Do not exert yourself! Things will take care of themselves!") seems to work well with this one. 

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Yes, Emma, your mother only took pictures of you with her PHONE during your first year of life. That's what you get for being Third Baby!


Another string in my Cooking Bow*

I had friends over for dinner tonight and GUESS WHAT! I MADE GOOD FOOD!

All the props go to A'Dell, who quick-as-a-flash answered my OMG WHAT DO I FEED THESE PEOPLE email with "Enchiladas, DUH."

See, I LOVE having people over and I LOVE doing stupid stuff like setting the table and setting out the good wine glasses (don't you have GOOD wine glasses?) but I am paralyzed by the cooking. I mean, I have improved over the married years and I now have a [short] repertoire of tasty-ish things I can make without totally screwing up. I think the fact that I don't particluarly ENJOY cooking makes me feel like my dinners aren't very good. I think I could devote an entire blog post to that theory, but I won't bore you (TODAY, anyway! HEH!) SO ANYWAY. The point is: I made food and people liked it! And I feel so proud of me!

A'Dell recommended green enchiladas, a version of which I make every so often myself, so that was no biggie. But then she gave me this recipe for enchiladas with red sauce and this recipe for fajitas AND I MADE THOSE THINGS TOO. I KNOW. 

So I didn't eat the red sauce one because 1) I am low carbing it and 2) I am not a fan of Red Sauce With Things In It. Because I am four. I know. Shameful! And I didn't even put onions in it because one of our guests is allergic to onions! While I just don't LIKE onions! But then he didn't even come! So! But everyone told me those were yummy so YAY. The green enchiladas I made with low carb tortillas and those were yummier than the ones I usually make. And the fajitas, which I ate tortilla-less, were REALLY yummy. That marinade is awesome. And there weren't any leftovers! I KNOW! 

Is this blog post totally obnoxious? It just occurs to me that I sound super obnoxious. But PEOPLE. THIS IS HOW INSECURE I AM ABOUT MY COOKING!!!

Also, people didn't leave till, like, NINE, so we are pretty much screwed for waking up in time for preschool tomorrow. Which isn't to say I was upset about people staying late. Oh no. I love it! People staying late is a sign that you have delivered a good time... oh, I am just adding to the obnoxiousness. 

Okay, all I really wanted to do is give you those recipes. AS YOU WERE. 

*Did anyone ever read those books with the dog named Zero? WHAT ARE THEY CALLED? I have to look it up. Just a second. THE BAGTHORPES!!! (Oh, that was a LOT of behind-the-scenes Googling, people. Yeesh.) I don't really remember anything about those books (besides the dog named Zero) except for where the kids are constantly adding "strings" to their "bows" and I use that expression ALL THE TIME. And only now does it occur to me that maybe other people do NOT use that expression. Hmm. 


Notes For My Sister On Having A Baby: What To Do When Breastfeeding Is Hard

OH FPC. You know your big sister loves you when she decides to have opinions about breastfeeding and publishes them on the internet. HERE GOES.

Breastfeeding: you should try it. And my reasons are: 

  1. It's free
  2. It's convenient
  3. It has potential to be the most useful baby-soothing tool you have

There are a whole slew of other reasons to breastfeed (most notably: it's the best food for your baby!) but those just happen to be MY top reasons, or, rather, the things that kept me going when it was hard. Which is what the rest of this post is about. Breastfeeding is hard. 

I'm sure it is not hard for SOME people, but I don't know those people. Every single mom friend I have has struggled with some aspect of breastfeeding, even the ones who've had a scandalously easy time of it. I mean, you can be the most pro-breastfeeding, hard core, exclusive, rah rah "lactivist" out there and still get mastitis. So I just wanted to give you a list of things you could do when it's hard, because it's worth it to TRY. 

  • Call me. At the very least I am always good for sympathy. 
  • Have other people to call. I did this with Jack and I was so thankful I did. I'd gone to some bridal shower right before he was born and met a woman who was a doula and lactation consultant. I asked her if I could call her if I ever had problems and I did, MONTHS later. Jack was probably four or five months old and I can't remember the specific problem, but I was worried about it, wondering if this was going to be the end, not sure if I should keep trying, not knowing HOW to try, and she is basically the one who kept me going another few months. The first thing she did was listen, sympathize, and completely validate my experience. The second thing she did was give me practical advice and things to try. Just knowing I had someone on my team, breastfeeding-wise, was incredibly helpful. It is really hard to build your own self up. 
  • Have a professional to call. We had so many problems with Jack at the beginning that we went to see a lactation consultant in her OFFICE. I will give you the number. The nurses at the hospital were nice, but gave me conflicting information, and I still wasn't sure what to do when I got home. Getting a pro to check me out and give me advice was so helpful. Like, it wasn't before I went to see her that I found out babies make a little soft, throaty "kuh!" sound when they swallow - I'd had no idea if Jack was swallowing or not!
  • Visit the Big Baby Box Store. The breastfeeding aisles are PACKED with stuff to help you out. Lansinoh cream is your best friend, and you can leave it on while the baby eats. Nipple shields get a bad rap, but they saved me with Jack (who was so tiny he couldn't quite manage a good latch) and Emma (whose latch was KILLER). There are gel pads you keep in the refrigerator, and though they didn't work for me, they help a lot of other women. 
  • Go to www.kellymom.com or Ask Moxie, my two favorite feeding-a-baby resources on the internet. Kellymom just has tons of good info and Ask Moxie is packed with real life experiences (and not just about breastfeeding, but EVERYTHING baby- and kid-related.)
  • Pump! I hate pumping. I'm pretty sure no one hates pumping more than me. But in the early days, pumping can be WAY easier than letting the baby eat, plus it boosts your supply, plus it allows someone else to feed the baby, plus IT GIVES YOU A BREAK. 
  • And if pumping is too horrible, try giving Baby FPC a bottle of formula every now and then, or every other feeding (which is what I did with Emma). This has potential to come with a side of guilt (see the end of this post!), but those intermittent bottles of formula allowed me to get to a place (ie: HEAL) where I COULD breastfeed near-exclusively for quite a while. 

Some random things to consider:

  • I know we briefly talked about a breastfeeding class and yes, it does seem strange to do that WITHOUT A BABY, but when I look back I think a breastfeeding class would have been WAY more helpful than a birth class. I didn't even know how to HOLD the baby. I think I could have at least picked that up in a class!
  • Some people have super huge problems with leaking. I didn't! But use those extra pads I gave you, or pick up some Lilypadz - I used those with Jack (the only time I had leaking issues) and they were AWESOME. 
  • It is worth it to buy good nursing bras. GOOD ONES. EXPENSIVE ONES. WORTH IT. The ladies at the U Village maternity store saved my life. 
  • Get some nursing tanks too. I know you, you'll like those.
  • Pain seems to taper off around six weeks. I know that sounds like forever. But it gradually gets better? And then you really do get to a point where it doesn't hurt. I have no idea how that works, but it DOES work, and if you can stick it out for six weeks, you're probably past the worst of it. 
  • If you have low supply, if you don't feel like your baby is eating enough, if she's not gaining enough weight, if THAT'S how breastfeeding is hard: call your people. There are a lot of things you can do. Call them! Don't be afraid! Do it! 
  • If your feet start to ache at night, it might be because you're sitting funny (with your toes pointed, boosting your lap higher) to breastfeed. Or maybe this was just me. 
  • Learning how to feed the baby while lying down in bed is, quite possibly, the best thing you could ever EVER teach yourself to do. 
  • If people around you are not supportive, call the people who are. It's worth it to try and make this work. 

Clearly this is not an exhaustive list. I'm hopeful the comment section will have plenty more tips and tricks and messages of encouragement. These are just the things I'm remembering off the top of my head, on a day where I woke up at 4AM to change a peed-in bed. 

And all that said, FPC, another huge HUUUUGE thing I want to tell you is that it is okay to not breastfeed. It is. It is okay. You are probably thinking, "Um, duh, I know that." But I think that when you HAVE the baby and you have REALLY TRIED to make breastfeeding work and for whatever reason (AND THERE ARE MANY GOOD REASONS) it is just not working, it can feel pretty awful. Mom guilt is like no other (and I know my guilt, right?) So anyway, my next post to you is going to be about Why It Is Okay To Stop (And What To Do Then).

XOXO, YOUR CRAZY SISTER WHO OVERSHARES ON THE INTERNET (BUT USUALLY AVOIDS THE BREASTFEEDING TOPIC BECAUSE OMG)