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January 2016

In which the Cheung kids discover they're internet famous

The other day we were at Grandma's house looking at her baby books - Grandma has a baby book for each of her (five) babies AND photo albums for each of her (going on sixteen) (THAT'S RIGHT, SIXTEEN) grandbabies - and on the way home Jack wanted to know if he had a baby book at HOME. 

This is something I feel bad about, all right? I STARTED baby books. I just didn't get past the first page or so. Jack has a Shutterfly album of his first year, but no other years, and Molly and Emma have nothing at all. The best I've got is a decorative box for each kid shoved in the closet with copies of report cards and preschool pictures and hospital bracelets. Which is why I said, "No, but you have a WEBSITE." 

Which is how my children found out their mother has been detailing every moment of their lives on the world wide web, for all and sundry to read. YIKES. 

I told them that I wrote a lot when they were babies (remember the daily blogging? HA HA HA) and not so much anymore. I told them that I'd written a lot of stories that were funny or silly, but that because they were so small when these things happened, they were CUTE stories and not EMBARRASSING stories. And thank God that tonight, when Jack demanded to have me read something about him and I found the peeing-his-pants-before-dinner-out-and-buying-him-new-clothes-at-the-downtown-Old-Navy story, instead of screaming at me about his future years in therapy, he merely smirked and smiled at what a smirky boy he was even then. 

I have always thought that my kids might really enjoy having these website stories when they're adults, but probably only when they're adults. I will probably have to take the whole thing down somehow in the next few years, use one of those publishing services to print out over twelve years of near-daily journal entries, and save it for when they have kids. It's so entirely from my perspective that it only seems like something they'd appreciate once they have their own. How many times have I wondered how my mother endured having five children in not even five years?! I would LOVE to read THOSE stories, heh. And of course it didn't even occur to me to wonder until I was up to my ears in not sleeping and pacifiers and bottles and strollers. 

I never ever go back and read what I've written unless I'm looking for something specific. So choosing the 'Jackson' category and clicking 'back' over and over until we were sufficiently into the toddler years was both super fun and nervewracking. What DID I write?! But it earned me this video: 

 

And this one:

 

One more? All right.

 

But we can't leave Emma out!

 

I hope they enjoy this dumb website in the general spirit in which it was written: stories about what they were like and who they started out as, stories that reveal what kind of person I was when they were small. How their parents got along, the places they went, the people we knew, and yes, the reasons why they ended up in therapy. 

As we settle in to 2016, Jack is in third grade, Molly is in second, Emma is in, hopefully, her last year of preschool. I spend much of my free time participating in and helping to grow a healing prayer ministry. When I'm not doing that I'm doing the bare minimum to run a cookie business, helping our neighborhood school fight for equitable boundaries, planning a bathroom remodel, and running the Cheung Family Show - you know what that entails. Tomorrow we're seeing an accountant for the first time about taxes, and I'm bringing my bakery taxes with me which makes me feel a little sick. But the day after that Phillip and I are flying - alone - to Las Vegas for the weekend and that does help with the feeling sick. We've made a greater effort this school year to be more intentional about time with one another, and I continue to be intentional about making time for the many people God has given me since that dreary sophomore year of high school when I was so lonely and begged him for friends. Just one! One would do! And he gave me so many, you guys. You, too. 


ACK BATHROOM REMODEL

IN SPITE OF:

  • the incredibly long, annoying, confusing, and frustrating process of finding a contractor, by which I mean the incredibly long, annoying, confusing, and frustrating process of my husband figuring out if he could EVER be comfortable with ANY contractor; 
  • not really having any idea of how to divide our Why Did They Design It This Way??? main floor/master bathroom in a sensible way;
  • and the remodel money slooooowly yet suuuuuurely drying up (thanks, Stock Market!); 

WE ARE GOING TO REMODEL THE STUPID BATHROOM. 

In April. Our contractor dude will probably start demo the week we go to Hawaii for spring break - oh, did I mention that? - which is why I will not be at the Blathering this year. I can't go on a family trip, remodel a bathroom, AND see Britney in the same month. I am extraordinarily self-indulgent, but even I have limits. 

Here is the CURRENT floor plan and the DESIRED floor plan. 

IMG_1386

For a while we considered keeping the double vanity and putting the toilet on the other side of the bathroom with the shower, but marriage is about compromise, friends, and Phillip Cheung wants the biggest shower he can possibly get. With a foot or so saved for some type of deep linen closety storage (the above picture is not to scale, heh), his new shower is really not going to be all that bigger than his current shower. But configuring it this way earned me some wife points and also ensured that we'll have to pay more for plumbing. SURE, WHY NOT!

I still have to get in touch with our Builder Dude and discuss exact measurements and all that, but I have a GENERAL idea of what I want and how it will look. That is, until I start thinking about it a bit more and then everything is back up for debate. Maybe I really DO want to have a tub and we'll do a shower tub combination with this lovely piece of porcelain, isn't it pretty? With a shower curtain because is there anything more hateful to clean than a shower door? I'd lose my storage there at the end, but I'd have enough space for a tiled shampoo ledge/bench. Who cares about where the towels will go!

Speaking of tile, I'm a big fan of sparkling white with MAYBE some aqua glass tiles thrown in somehow, but you know what's nearly as hateful to clean as shower doors? GROUT. I HATE GROUT. Which is why, when I stayed at a fancyish hotel earlier this year, I spent the better part of every shower examining the... vinyl? wallpaper? siding? material?... that lined the shower. I mean, it was NICE. It was like waterproof textured wallpaper. All white. Vertical grooves. Only a handful of seams in the whole shower. IT WAS SUPER COOL. And I cannot find anything like it anywhere on the whole internet, which makes me think maybe it WAS wallpaper and what were they thinking putting it in the SHOWER? But I loooooved it and I would totally put that in my house. 

(OR MAYBE I can put in a narrow stall shower and one of those tiny Japanese soaking tubs. OOOOOOOHH. (No.))

As for bathroom vanities, I don't like anything. And I have looked at all of Pinterest, all of Houzz, and all of the rest of the internet. I want modern, but not ugly. I want clean, but not operating room sterile. I want as much storage as possible, while realizing you don't get that much in a one sink vanity. Do I want one that comes with the countertop included? I want an undermount sink (pretty much all of my choices are based on what is easiest to clean). How does a built in vanity work? Can you put something together with kitchen cabinets? 

The thing I hate most about my current bathroom is the linoleum floor. It's ugly, torn, coming up in places, UGH I HATE IT SO. What is an AWESOME floor? Dark? Tiled? WHAT? 

The small guest side of the bathroom, I kind of don't care. Probably whatever floor we pick for the other side, a teeny tiny wall mount sink that I assume I'll get at Ikea, and a super plain shower - heck YES we are ripping out the tile we put in ourselves. In addition to it's ugliness it wasn't a very good job and although we needed to do it at the time and it worked out and we saved ourselves a few bucks, if we're going to remodel everything else we're going to get a PRETTY shower too GOSHDARNIT. And because it won't be used that often, I'm more okay with grout. White subway tiles sound nice, but so do those ginormous rectangular tiles where you need, like, seven for the whole shower. Clean lines, white, boom. 

Anyway. Do you have any THOUGHTS? Feel like throwing me into additional design tailspins? I'm planning to buy everything before April, stash it in the garage, and then Hail Mary my way through the actual process. I am fine making nine million decisions about fixtures and grout color and blah blah blah, but I would like to make them NOW. 


SAHMing, and realizing the end of an era quickly approaches

I'm feeling extraordinarily proud of my momming today, you guys. I took Emma to the local library story time, which she loved, and then there was crafting, which I actually participated in, and then we picked out books and now we're home eating lunch. I feel like a proper stay at home mom instead of a mom who stays home and spoils her kid in coffee shops every morning and spends too much money at Target. 

Now that it's January I feel acutely aware of how much full time momming I've got left. Emma's birthday is a few weeks past the kindergarten cut off date, but in the opinions of me, Phillip, my former teacher parents, and my current teacher friends, she will be totally ready for kindergarten in the fall. (WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE POTTY TRAINING ISSUE, which we will discuss in a moment.) So if she actually does go to kindergarten in September, I've only got six months left of Big Kids Go To School, Little Kid Hangs Out With Mommy. I expect All Kids Are At School to be really really different. Moms already in this position tell me that I won't have as much time as I think I'll have, but I still expect it to be DIFFERENT. The preschool driving back and forth, the figuring out what to do with us on not-preschool days, the eating lunch together, the snuggling in bed and waiting until the absolute last second to pick the kids up at the bus stop... those days are quickly flying by and I'm feeling the pressure to Cherish! Every! Moment! 

And I WANT to. I'm not being obnoxious or sarcastic. Even on the rotten days when my kids are horrible and I'm exhausted and out of patience, I've been thankful for the option of being a stay at home mom. I quite enjoy not having a boss or responsibilities to other people besides my family. It's given me space to devote to the not-paid things I'm really interested in doing. I am a terrible housewife and a lazy mom, but I'm good at lots of other things (and other aspects of being a mom!) and I can do all of that because I stay home. I'm suited to it, which really does surprise me, and because I stay home my career-oriented husband has had near complete freedom to pursue his goals. I struggle with not earning money and the paycheck=worth feeling, I sometimes feel useless or not as accomplished as my working mom friends, and the full-time working husband/stay at home wife dynamic can be confusing in 2015. But ninety-nine percent of the time, I'm confident in my role. 

So what will it be like when Emma goes to kindergarten?!?!

I've had MANY more-experienced-parents say to me that as your kids get older it becomes more important to be around for them. I... am not sure about that! I mean, we'll see how it goes, right? But just on a daily taking-care-of-everyone's-needs basis, it seems like things are only going to get simpler. (Until my kids start demanding to be driven to sports and social engagements, I suppose. I'm sort of hoping they are couch potato nerds on that front.) People might start being actual helps in the taking out the garbage department, the cleaning up of the kitchen department, the laundry department, and the - could it BE? - cleaning the toilet department. (All things I am notably lazy and bad at, btw.)

And when all three kids are in school I expect finding time for bakery emails and the gym and meeting up with church people and PTA social media and whatever else I've dipped a toe in to be MUCH MUCH EASIER. I will probably not go back to work, the big reason being that I don't have a Work to go back to. I was "in publishing" (the scare quotes are super valid) before and have no interest in going back. The career-type jobs that interest me (design, coding, user experience stuff) feel very hard to get into at age 36. I think I missed the boat on those things, which is probably just how it goes when you have absolutely no idea what you want to be until you're no longer in your 20s. And the stuff I'm ACTUALLY interested in (almost all church-related things) aren't paid. Ha. Honestly, if I went back to work it'd probably be as a part time admin or a barista or some job at the kids' school, something where I would leave all my work at work and still have enough time to do the things I'm involved in now. And I could see that happening. If something presented itself, I'd seriously think about it. Grad school? HA HA HA. What for? I can't justify however many thousands of dollars for an MFA, which is really the only degree that sounds awesome. Phillip went to the iSchool (I like to think of his master's degree as my third child, Emma being the fourth) which could potentially be up my alley, but again, I don't think I want a Real Job. Maybe some sort of spiritual direction type certificate, but when I'm, like, 50. That's got plenty of time to percolate. 

ANYWAY. ALL THAT TO SAY. These last (hopefully) months with just Emma and me at home, that's an Era coming to an END. I just want to be aware of it and make the most of it, while also reserving my right to fall down foaming at the mouth on Terrible Children Days. Library story time, which I regret to say I didn't even bother to look up until this morning, is every Monday. What if we did the gym after the bus stop and then headed to the library on Mondays? That would be a GREAT routine! Preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays - more gym and plenty of unpaid-work-that-I-still-have-to-get-done time for me. Wednesdays and Fridays reserved for our typical coffee and shopping, or visiting Grandma, or hanging out with Mommy's friends, or folding clothes in front of TV. 

Maybe all this stuff is also on my mind because of how BIG Emma is getting. She's just a big girl these days, with plenty to say about everything. She's the little spoiled sister in our family, but when it's just her and me I can see how much her brain is expanding: her vocabulary, her ideas, her thought processes. IF ONLY this would extend to the bathroom! I keep saying I'm going to take her to a naturopath, so I should actually get on that. I think I've been slow because in my heart of hearts I suspect this is a LEARNED ATTITUDE, not a physical issue, and I am not going to get the potty training timeline I prefer. What kid do you know who's been dry overnight with nary an accident for 1.5 years, yet will not even TELL you when she needs to go poop? (Sorry Future Emma, but the fact that I have to resort to discussing your habits (or lack thereof) on the blog is YOUR fault, not mine.) I mean, I devoted my Christmas novena to this issue. I AM PRAYING FOR HONEST TO GOD MIRACULOUS HEALING. 

Let us all direct our good juju to the potty training gods and the people who decide whether a four-year-old-but-turns-5-in-3-weeks gets to enter kindergarten in Seattle Public Schools. I thank you for your efforts. 

 


In which I am eaten alive

So the first thing you should know about my week in downtown St. Louis during which I volunteered at Urbana 15 is that I got BED BUGS. That's right, folks! Bed bugs. For real. Actual factual bed bugs. Me. A thing that happened. To me. 

THE STORY IS: 

Our first night in the hotel was not really much of a night, seeing as how we didn't get out of our orientation meeting until nine something and our first shift began at 1am. 

[QUICK DIGRESSION: I was volunteering on the Intercession Team, the folks who pray for the conference around the clock. We were divided into teams of 6-8 people and assigned three-hour shifts. My team's first shift was from 1 to 4am the very first night. HOW NICE FOR US.]

Okay, so between jet lag and knowing we'd just have to get up ANYWAY, my friend Ellen and I didn't bother sleeping. I have always used a cute little pseudonym for my friend Ellen whenever I've mentioned her on this here blog, but NO MORE! and the rest of the story will reveal WHY!

We stayed up, headed to our shift, and when we came back at 4am we fell directly into bed and did not move until about noon. Upon waking Ellen told me a funny little story about how she'd seen a bug on her pillow sometime during the night and flicked it onto the floor. Bugs and spiders and things don't really squick me out so I didn't think too much about it. Ellen went off to some meeting and I stayed in bed, my preferred place for snacks and reading library books about Vichy France. But not long after Ellen left, I noticed a bug on MY pillow. A fat-ish black bug. I took a picture of it, texted it to Ellen with the caption, "Apparently you brushed him into my BED". Calmly, because I am Calm about these things, I picked up my pillow, brought it to the bathroom, flicked the bug into the sink, and washed it down the drain. 

Of course, the NEXT morning I woke up and was covered in bites. They were all over my forearms, my hands, and my neck. When I went into the bathroom I could see a few faint bites around my hairline, one by my eyebrow, and one by my lip. And then there were a few in the little slice of skin where my t-shirt met my pajama pants. 

"WE HAVE BED BUGS!" Ellen yelped. 

I... did not believe we had bed bugs. Because. I don't know. Denial? Plus I thought bed bugs were insidious little transparent creatures, like lice, and that there would be trillions of them creeping through the sheets. Not one big fat black bug I'd washed down the sink hours earlier. I tore all the covers off the bed and didn't see any other bugs. 

Ellen declared that bites could take hours to show up. Even if it wasn't a bed bug, there was no way I could sleep in that bed again, right? 

So before our next shift I calmly CALMLY walked to the reception desk and hissed, "I GOT A FEW BITES LAST NIGHT" and showed him the super attractive splotchy red bumps on my neck. I did not hiss BED BUGS or, you know, freak out on this guy, because I am Calm and I don't make scenes and, per my usual meek mousyness, I didn't want HIM to feel bad. Thankfully my brand new revolting skin disease spoke for itself and the hotel staff quickly sprang to action, assigning us another room, not charging me for that night, offering laundry service. We also had dinner that night with friends who were bed bug-educated, saw the picture on my phone and decreed Yes, That's A Bed Bug. 

The next room was fine. I didn't get any more bites. But they were tremendously itchy and also ugly and embarrassing - ON MY NECK. ON MY FACE. - and my dear old wonderful longtime friend Ellen couldn't help telling all and sundry that we had BED BUGS wasn't it HORRIFYING, but they only bit MAGGIE poor MAGGIE can you BELIEVE we had BED BUGS?! poor MAAAAAGGIEEEEEE. After the fifteenth time she declared that the bug must have bitten her too, but her skin just didn't REACT like mine, I beat her silly with my Vichy France book. No, I martyred up and made sure everyone knew the bed bug ate ME because SHE DIDN'T KILL THE STUPID BUG WHEN SHE SAW IT FTLOG.

AHEM!

The second thing you should know about my trip is that I did not sleep. After a few days Ellen and I referred to our schedule as "prayer shifts surrounded by naps". Even though we really only "worked" three hours a day, those three hours were often in the early morning and were themselves often mentally and emotionally exhausting. Plus the conference itself was kinda intense. Racial justice, the persecuted church, getting emergency deployed to the prayer ministry room to help out the prayer ministers because even though there were 50 of them, the line to get one-on-one prayer was OVER AN HOUR LONG. 

That said. It was also kinda amazing. I've been too tired to process it all which is why you got a post about bed bugs. You're welcome.