Chineseness

What I'm doing about it

You may have heard some jubilant shouting on Twitter last week - that was me announcing that the school board voted the right way. I know. I KNOW. This thing for which we completely lost hope suddenly turned around and the school board HEARD us and then made the right decision! And I do say "right" because the options were 1. let ALL the kids in our school go to the fancy just-built school in 2017 or 2. let everyone but the lowest income, not-white, English language learner kids go back and put those undesirable ones in the super crappy substandard building. I am not exaggerating. This is what the boundary change amounted to. When I used the words "outrageous" and "scandalous" and "segregation" in my letter to the school board I was stating FACTS. 

But the school board voted the right way. Want to know why? Because when the school year started, the REST of North Seattle caught wind of how THEY would be affected by the boundary changes. And they were not happy. Their kids were going to have to move schools for no discernible and/or good reason. Safe routes to school became an issue. Leaving friends became an issue. Getting jerked around by the school district just because became a very big issue. And those parents began to turn out in droves. They showed up to Saturday afternoon school board director meetings at public libraries. They swamped the school board email account. They went to the school board meetings which take place at 4pm on a weekday south of downtown - nigh impossible to get to for a North Seattle family - and signed up for testimony slots. They were mad, they had a voice, and they were making themselves known. Guess who benefited. 

It's clear that the turning point for our issue happened when those families - from whiter and wealthier schools than ours - started advocating for themselves. Several longtime advocates were instrumental in communicating to those families how our specific boundary issue was tied up with theirs. And through Facebook posts and a local blog and communication between PTAs, those families at other schools began to care about what was happening at our school. It was easy to tie in our issue with theirs when testifying before the school board. The school board directors could see the connected dots AND THEY AGREED WITH US. Then they voted the right way. 

Phillip has a less magnanimous and probably more realistic view on this. Because the school district staff got the boundary stuff so incredibly wrong, EVERYONE was angry and we just lucked out. I like my theory better, but I'll accept this one.

It feels good to have this victory so soon after the election (upon which I received a text from my husband, stuck at a work conference in Texas: "I feel like everything I understood about the world is wrong.")

Grappling with what it all means has meant, for me, that I've had ten times as many conversations about race as I've had in my entire life. Some of these are conversations about "ok, white friends, how are we going to be more engaged in this issue." And a lot of them have been, "ok, white friends, here's why your pro-life or anti-Hillary or I-just-want-some-freaking-change vote is frightening to people of color." I have been surprised that people need an explanation. But some do, and I've been providing it. At some point I came to the (terribly belated) realization: I want to do the work of making sure fewer people need this explanation. 

Is this a very low bar? I think it is. But it's more than I've done before. I've talked about race a LOT - with people who are safe. People who think the same as me. People who know more than me, so I can learn and listen and ponder... and what have I done with it? I've kept it to myself. I've avoided awkwardness and confrontation and risk. 

Well, I'm sorry I've avoided. Not that any intervention I'd engaged in earlier would have changed, say, an election result. But I have a better understanding, now, of what my friends of color are working with. Phillip has often talked about being the token Asian in a group, having to explain martial arts or fielding questions about model minority myths. Maybe it's MY turn to be the Race Ambassador. I can be the one to explain why the melting pot metaphor "melts" everyone into sameness and is hurtful. When someone says "I don't even SEE Phillip as Chinese!" instead of rolling my eyes I can say, "But he doesn't have that choice." When someone tries to make racism a "strictly interpersonal issue of hatred and intolerance" I can talk about stuff like, you know, housing segregation and its effect on, say, PUBLIC SCHOOL BOUNDARIES. (That quote is from this article, which resonated hard for me.) 

Today we went to a panel/workshop/discussion thingy about race and public education, put on by a multiethnic church who is committed to having these conversations and promoting justice. For me, and everyone else there, the "church" part is a very important part of this conversation. Or, rather, all of us in this work need Jesus to fill in the gaps. I'm going to say something stupid. Someone else is going to lose her patience. Someone else will misunderstand. All of us may have different priorities. But knowing that we all rested in Jesus made this a truly "safe space". In our fumbling and confusion and awkwardness, Jesus is there to fall back on, to help, to pave a path, to make a Third Way. 

Phillip will say this a lot to himself when it's just the two of us struggling to figure out the marriage things we are always struggling to figure out. We both want to find a solution so badly, but sometimes there isn't one. Sometimes we just are the way we are, and Phillip will finally say, "I guess this is why we have GOD." Like, FINE THEN. I GIVE UP. 

I think, on this race issue (and I should say, there are PLENTY of issues to engage in right now, this is just the one I feel called to), it's best if we come to the table already surrendered. Especially us white people. Listen! And then believe what you hear. Do it over and over. Eventually God will give you something to say, probably something to share with other white people. I think that's what's happened with me. 

Last month I went to a churchy conference that was pretty much useless except for this one line that I kept hearing in my heart over and over. The speaker said, "Because I KNOW all lives matter, I am not AFRAID to say that BLACK lives matter." Isn't that the truth of it? As people who believe in a loving creator God, who knows our names, who gives us destinies and desires and hopes and joys and deeply desires relationship with us, we KNOW that all lives matter. I repent of the ways I've held back, out of fear.  I'm praying that in the spaces I move in, I will be bold in speaking up for the lives that our broken culture doesn't value as much as mine. 


A stream of consciousness post that makes even less sense than usual

Birthday Week is over. WOE. (Blogless Emily, you win the book! Send me an address!)

Also all my kitchen painting plans were postponed on account of someone feeling a little, "Didn't we JUST DO a big project? Can't we just LIVE HERE FOR A WHILE?" Etc. I still have a lot to say about my kitchen - including meeting with a kitchen designer from Home Depot - but that will have to wait because toNIGHT I was filling out Molly's school enrollment forms and this was the last page:

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I'm not sure what to do with this. I sat and looked at it for a long time. I asked Phillip. (He snorted/laughed/ignored me.) I ended up not circling anything, even though I am a rule follower, because what would I circle? And now I am just wondering what the POINT is. Data - yes, but is something we "consider" actual data? Does it make her eligible for certain things? I am not at all above checking boxes and circling things to GET stuff. 

I don't know. I don't remember doing this for Jack, although I'm sure it was the same form. And I'm not UPSET about it or anything, I just feel like I need some more information. Or maybe it's just another one of those things we will encounter and be confused about. 

We went to see my visiting brother and SIL one last time today. They have three boys and a foster baby girl they hope to adopt. If SIL and I aren't talking about house renovations we are talking about foster parenting and shockingly, Phillip and I are both open to the idea. I think this is surprising to us both. I never thought I could be a foster parent because it sounds like nonstop emotional turmoil and I am already on medication for that. Phillip feels like our family is complete. But there's something about it. I'm not sure either of us could articulate it, although we keep trying, but something about it just seems Possible. I wouldn't say that we are anywhere close to pursuing it, or even wanting to pursue it, but it continues to feel Possible and that's... I don't know. 

And the picture of Raising Children grows ever more complicated. I think I would walk into the fostering process with the intent to be a temporary family, supporting reunification, while remaining open to adoption. Maybe not very open? But open. You hear about those people who've adopted sixteen kids from the foster system - how amazing is that? Am I that sort of amazing? I don't think so, but what a fully lived life, you know? What a right way to be on this planet. So all the possibilities are out there. More kids. Needy kids. Kids who don't look like us. Maybe this is the simplest of the complicated questions on the school enrollment forms I will fill out. 

I'm hoping to find out if I got a job this week. Talk about another Possibility. I haven't quite let myself think about how I'll take care of Emma - maybe that sounds irresponsible, but to me it's just not borrowing trouble. When I thought about foster parenting or having more children I didn't picture having a job. What does that mean? Maybe it means nothing. Maybe I will be going to the Y every morning and putting a baby down for a nap every afternoon like I planned. I don't know yet. 

I went to Ikea last week and bought desks for the big kids. I spent some time looking at beds and I am only interested in beds that maximize sleeping space. Bunk beds. Trundles. We don't have heaps of overnight guests, we don't have foster kids, we don't have people needing a place to stay. But there is something in me that requires making the most of the space I have. I am continually thinking about how many people I can house at one time. 

Sometimes people say they could never have a big house like ours because they couldn't clean it. I just tell them I don't clean it. But you guys I know I prayed for the biggest house we could afford in the city. I feel like there are supposed to be people in here. I feel like the space is not just for me to wander around in, stressing about paint colors. 

I don't know what all these paragraphs are amounting to. I don't know how I got here from a finicky question on a school enrollment form. It's entirely possible I'm just worn out and loopy and need to go to bed.


On biracial children and being a girl

For all the existential handwringing I did over issues I might face raising biracial children, it never once occurred to me that effusive compliments from older Asian ladies would be a source of stress and confusion. But, there you go! Once again intense worry leaves me woefully unprepared. 

For the record, as their mother, I think my children are freaking gorgeous. As a mother does. I would describe my son's eyes as the darkest brightest eyes I've ever seen, which makes no sense. My Molly has the sweetest face, so pure and darling, with absolutely no trace of her mother's giant schnozz. My baby has the best smile, huge and joyful, and her whole face scrunches up in this perfectly wrinkly way. And when Older Asian Ladies smile at me and tell me in their broken English that my kids are beautiful, it's hard not to say, "AREN'T THEY?!" 

Those comments, however, are often (always?) attached to additional observations. All of them are beautiful, yes, but Molly is inevitably singled out as "more Chinese" or "more like Daddy" and Emma is singled out as "more white" or "looks like Mama". Jackson, they feel, is a good mix of the two. The ladies who push the carts at dim sum will stand there and marvel over my children to an uncomfortable degree, as they did this last weekend when we went out with my in-laws. It's all meant as friendly, kind, and complimentary, and I'm determined to take it as such. Whether or not one of my kids has "such big eyes!" says more about the commenter than my child. 

Grocery store checkers, restaurant staff, distant aunties, grandmas at swim lessons, they've all made a point to coo over the kids' mixed race-ness. I have a standard response now when I go to Safeway - "yes, their dad is Chinese." I am happy to satisfy their curiosity and thank them for the compliments, even though I'm often thinking to myself: "We live in SEATTLE. How novel can white/Asian kids possibly BE?"

All that to say that even though the compliments and/or curiosity can be uncomfortable, I'm not offended by these statements. I'm not really frustrated either, and I have absolutely no intention of coming up with a smart retort or pointed response that displays my disapproval. That would be rude, disrespecting my elders, and unkind. So that's not what I'm trying to figure out. 

But for the first time this weekend, when other people labeled one daughter Chinese and one daughter white, in front of them, aloud, publically, I worried. 

They may be saying those things in Mandarin and Chinese, they may nothing but complimentary, but one of the girls they're referring to is nearly five and she can hear them. She knows what they're talking about. God knows what she's learning, thinking, feeling, internalizing. If she's not doing it already she'll be doing it soon, and what will it mean to her to be "the Chinese one"? What will she understand about people observing that her sister has "big eyes"? 

Right now all my kids understand about race is that some of their family members are Chinese and some are not. Being Chinese comes with different languages and different food. White and Chinese are neutral in their eyes, as far as they are anything at all. And it's not that I'm expecting one to become better than the other. I have no idea what values my kids are going to assign to their ethnicity or comments about their appearance. I'm not worried about Jack (which probably isn't right or fair.) I'm not worried about Emma because she doesn't yet understand. But I'm worried about my big girl, who already pays so much attention to the way she looks. Right now she thinks she's a pretty princess. What will she think later?

This particular one is a racially charged discussion, but this goes for any label. The Smart One, the Pretty One, the Fat One, the Talented One, the Outgoing One. I definitely know how I see myself in comparison to my sisters and my friends. I know my daughters will do this too. All girls learn to stare at themselves in the mirror and criticize. But I don't want that to happen yet. I don't want Molly's picture of herself to be influenced by even well-meaning comments from family members she barely knows.

But there's only one thing I can think of to do about it, to stem the tide of self-criticism that comes with being a girl. And that's somehow intentionally and positively addressing the issue. Maybe after one of the aunties inevitably compares the kids to each other and their parents at the big family gathering we're headed to in a few weeks, I can whisper to Molly, "You are my perfect beautiful girl and I love you." I don't know! What do I say?! "You are exactly the way God made you to be." "I think you're beautiful inside and out." 

I don't know if this is paranoid or pointless or what, but if there's ANY way I can impact or influence how Molly sees herself before other people get to her, I want to do it. If there's any way I can shape her self-image before SHE does, I want to do it. It feels worth it, even if it also sounds... I don't know. Oversensitive. (That's my middle name.) 

As I sit here, age almost 34, ashamed and fearful over the fact that I've gained 10 pounds since last summer, feeling like The Fat One all over again, I want better for my girls. As much as I know I can't really do anything about it, I want to TRY. I want to do SOMETHING. I honestly have no idea how those comments will affect my girls, negatively or positively, or what they will understand about themselves. But I know they will understand SOMETHING and I want to try my hardest to give them a good and true foundation for doing the understanding. That they are fearfully and wonderfully made, that they are beautiful, that they can be nothing more spectacular than what they are, that what's inside matters most. 

I've tried to write this post for a few days now and I'm positive there are things I'm leaving out. This is stressful. I feel like this is a big idea and I want to get it right, or at least explain my perspective correctly. I think this is my best effort. I've talked about it with my Asian girlfriends, with my husband, with white friends. It's a thing that translates - wanting to protect your daughter. Let me know if you've figured out how to do it. 


In which my dinner inspires a pointless (as if I write any other kind) blog post

For dinner Phillip and I are having bulgogi over greens with sesame oil/soy sauce/rice vinegar vinaigrette and I am eating mine with chopsticks. (It tastes better that way.) Today I was thinking about how I basically refused to eat Asian food until I was 20ish, and then only because I was shamed into it, and I weep for all the excellent and not-worried-about-gaining-weight eating I could have done in my youth. I am still a finicky eater, but I have come a long long way. 

A few months ago I asked my MIL to help me make fried rice because I couldn't get mine to look and taste like hers. I watched and realized the only difference between my fried rice and hers was that I was not my MIL. I swear, everything else was the same, but her fried rice was still better. We were talking about this the other day and it morphed into my MIL volunteering to make dinner for Emma's family birthday party. She will buy everything, bring it to my house, and cook it in front of me and maybe, one day, I'll be able to make a stir fried beef I wouldn't be embarrassed to serve to guests. 

I was asking Jack what the other kids at school eat for lunch, trying to get a run down of how many eat hot lunch and how many bring lunch from home. But what he told me is, "Aika brings seaweed!" Now HE wants to bring seaweed for lunch. I looked in the freezer where we used to have a big packet of nori, but Phillip had eaten it. 

As far as I can tell, there are only two white kids in Jack's class of eighteen. (I think two or three more are half, like Jack.) This is fascinating to me. Sometimes I catch myself noticing diversity "too much". Like maybe I shouldn't be so AWARE of the differences, and all the different languages I hear in the hallway at kindergarten pick up, all the different clothing - today I saw an honest to God burqa. If I were a truly enlightened and liberal individual I wouldn't notice at all and I certainly wouldn't make NOTE of it on my BLOG. 

Except I sort of think that's a load of you know what. I think it's good to notice differences, and maybe it's the flaming Seattle in me, but I'm happy Jack is around so many kids who aren't like him. I'm as happy about this as I am about the fact that we are friends with so many white/Asian families and he's always around kids like him. 

No one on either side of the family took issue with me (white) marrying Phillip (Chinese). It's never been the slightest thing. But there are so many differences, and so many ways that Phillip and I have become accustomed to the other side that it catches us off guard when our own family doesn't 'get' something. Like Phillip and I made salmon with an Asian marinade for dinner at my parents' house this weekend, and my mother was wondering what to serve with it and I said, "Rice", like, "Duh" and my mom was all, "RICE! OH!" 

Some of my friends' half kids are starting to notice that they are Half Something and Half Something Else and other kids are Not. It's not an ISSUE, just something they're starting to SEE. Jack hasn't said anything yet. He still talks a lot about Chinese "things" - he and Molly will both announce that something is Chinese (cars, food, hairstyles, I think anything they associate with their grandparents). Sometimes they will pretend to speak Chinese. They know that Daddy is Chinese. That's about it, though. I wonder if kindergarten, or just being in school from 8:45 to 3 every day, will change that. 

Hmm. This appears to be one of those blog posts where I have no point and nothing to say, and yet I persist in writing. I think I will go eat more.

 

 


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. 

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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! 

 


Beach Demographics

This morning, having woken up on the Generous side of bed, decided to do something fun with the kids instead of dragging them to Home Depot for the forty-third time. So we went to a little beach park about 10 minutes away. I'd heard about it, but never been there before and it was PERFECT. The perfect amount of grass and sand and calm lake water, no having to drag all your stuff across an acre of sand like at the real beach, and I had kids old enough to entertain themselves in the water and dig in the sand. It was about fifty thousand times better than the wading pool. Never again, wading pool! Even Jack agreed with me. 

So I could tell you all about what a lovely morning we had and how totally exhausted I was when we came home, but instead I am going to tell you that every single person at this beach park was either a white 30-something mom or a white preschooler. If you had been listening in on the conversations (which OF COURSE I was doing) you would know that the big issues of the day were Montessori waiting lists, kindergarten teachers, and mothers-in-law who do not mind their own business. The kids had names like Ava and Lucas and were loaded down with sunscreen and toys and floaties and many of them had obviously had swim lessons and it was all very Young-Ish Mom In The City. 

I didn't have to notice this, right? I AM one of these moms. My kids weren't quite as white as these, but my Asian-American husband didn't make me any different from these women. I am just like them and I had the privilege of not noticing this at all. 

But I did... I don't know if it matters. One thing I've noticed about our new neighborhood is that it has a large population of North African immigrants. There was one time we went to the neighborhood playground and it was packed, but I was the only white person there. (Not counting my kids, though I assume they will identify as Asian-American when they're old enough to identify as anything. Or maybe not. I have no idea.) One thing that is REALLY drawing me to the church and church school near my house is the diversity and the fact that many of the students speak a different language at home. (Other than that, I am MEH on the whole switching churches thing - that's another post.) Our rental house was in a trendy affluent neighborhood. Our new neighborhood feels shabbier, not as well off, more overgrown. And as much as I loved (LOVED) our old neighborhood and would have loved (LOVED) for my kids to attend the excellent schools there, I can also appreciate where we are, the people we run into, the faces we see at our new playground. I want my kids to be part of this. 

One beef I had against Catholic school (before I started investigating the local Catholic school options and therefore had no idea what I was really talking about) was the idea that it might be loaded with rich white kids who could afford it. I wasn't sure if I wanted them to be in that environment. I couldn't really explain WHY, but something about it just didn't feel REAL. I grew up on military bases and there are ALL KINDS of people living on military bases. I never ever thought about diversity or race or anything like that. Even though I hung out with almost exclusively Filipino kids - and talking to them a few years past graduation they confessed they never thought about it either. 

But I remember walking onto the UW campus at age 18 and being floored - seriously - by how WHITE everything was. (And how many Asian people there were, to be honest.) It was so different than where I came from. It was STRANGE. I got used to it (and it was easy for me, being white!) but now, having kids, I'm aware of it again. And my kids... well, I hesitate to say what they'll think or how things will be when they grow up, but I'm assuming they won't have my "advantage" of not noticing. I want them to be around differences as much as samenesses. 

I am making a huge deal out of going to the beach, huh? I didn't have a friend along to distract me, so this is what you get. Overwrought melodramatic discussion over a trip to the beach. This is why I blog! Anyway, I want to be sure you know I am not, like, JUDGING the beach moms or anything (except for the one who named her child Diego), especially as I am ONE OF THEM, but we're part of a pretty privileged group, I think. It's not wrong to acknowledge that. 

Do you guys do this? Sit around and see what kind of people are doing what you're doing? Who they are, where they come from, what the stories are? I suppose I need a little more in my life than paint and pregnancy, eh? 


I'm sorry Future Jack, but this story must be written down

OH YOU GUYS. 

Okay so tonight was the big Chinese New Year dinner. I was expecting our family plus one other family, which is pretty much what I got, except for the part where the other family consisted of, like, ninety people. 

But wait! I must back up!

This other family is a family FIL has been our case to meet for YEEEEARS. Literally. Phillip had met them once or twice, and I FELT like I'd met them, as I hear about them ALL THE TIME. The patriarch is FIL's friend and he has a son who (!!!) married a Caucasian girl TOO! I've been under the impression that the patriarch really only wants us to meet because 1) we have children and 2) his son does not have children and 3) he would like some grandchildren. But that's just my IMPRESSION. I don't KNOW. 

But wait! I still have to back up!

So BEFORE dinner, before Phillip even came home, I gave the kids a bath and dressed them up all cute-like. The only thing I really know about this other family is that they are sort of fancypants and since I wasn't sure how the kids would behave, I at least wanted them to LOOK nice. So I put Jack in his nice jeans and a collared shirt and Molly insisted on her Christmas dress and you guys I was so on top of things that we were EARLY. By, like, fifteen minutes. That never happens! And of course Phillip's parents weren't there yet, and we had no intention of introducing OURSELVES to the other family, so we hung around outside, waiting for Phillip's parents to show up. 

This was even sort of fun. It was freezing so I had the kids running laps between two posts and the hostess inside the restaurant was even smiling and waving (THIS IS HOW CUTE THEY WERE) and I'm wearing makeup and my hair is behaving and Phillip dressed himself super nice without any help from me and then Jack is looking at me sort of worriedly. He says something about being wet. And I look at his pants and, well, yes. They are wet. And oh look, there's a puddle forming by his shoes. SPLENDID!

But wait! I have to back up AGAIN!

Yesterday, at preschool? Molly and I were hanging around outside the door to pick up Jack instead of in the car like usual. When the teachers came out they said, "Oh good! We wanted to talk to you!" So then I was all, "Oh!" because OBVIOUSLY they were going to tell me some special tidbit about my amazing brilliant child and didn't want the other parents to hear and get jealous. Then Teacher Nancy smiles apologetically and says, "Jack had a little accident" and hands me a garbage bag full of pee clothes.

THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. 

Teacher Nancy adds, "His shoes were soaked" and I look and see my kid standing there in his socks, a stupid grin on his face. I had to carry him to the car, a block away, and Jack was not at ALL embarrassed (which is good) and extremely chatty about the incident (not as good) and I had to throw his entire outfit, shoes and all in the washing machine. 

His shoes only dried out completely this morning. 

The same shoes he was wearing at the restaurant tonight when he peed his pants AGAIN. 

Phillip and I looked at each other. All, "WHAT DO WE DO NOW?" I usually have an extra diaper in my purse, but I am not accustomed to carrying around a brand new outfit for my THREE-YEAR-OLD. And we totally couldn't just bring him in the restaurant. I mean, we have some shame.

SO THEN. It was this crazy mess of dragging the kids back to the car, stripping Jack and wrapping his legs in my scarf so he wouldn't freeze to death, and fighting about how to get to the downtown Old Navy so we can buy a new OUTFIT. (For the record, I knew exactly where I was going. Why Phillip perpetually insists on contradicting me about DIRECTIONS I have NO CLUE.) I flew out of the car and bought the first pair of jeans, socks and shoes (SHOES!) I saw and flew back out to the street right after Phillip finished his first lap. And of course Jack was ASLEEP.

AAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!

Then we rushed back to the restaurant, dressed Jack (in a DIAPER, OMG) and ran into the restaurant to meet all these fancypants people and MAYBE I NEEDED A DRINK. That said, we were only 10 minutes late. GO TEAM CHEUNG.

Anyway. Dinner was delicious (except for the part where they dumped a bunch of cilantro on top of the fried rice, NOT OKAY) and the kids... oh, the kids were DARLING. I mean, for real. They ate, they were friendly, they were super cute, and all of that was especially wonderful because it became Rather Clear that we were there to be The Grandchildren Example. (In fact, as I type, Phillip's dad is on the phone reiterating this. SIGH.) The kids were just SO PERFECT I could hardly believe it. They fawned over someone else's new baby, they fist bumped FIL's friend, they made adorable conversation, they smiled on command, someone actually said to me, "They get along SO WELL!" And I totally lied and said, "THEY DO!"

But at eight they were obviously worn out and we were terrified of losing our Perfect Family status. So we came home and put them to bed. Not before I ate almost the entire plate of honey walnut prawns by myself. The End. (Well, hopefully. If I have to wash shoes again tomorrow I'll be having wine for lunch.)

P.S. I wrote about Chinese New Year-ness at Parenting, for those of you who read my drivel there as well (you ARE my best looking readers).


In which I do not exaggerate, not even a little bit

I intended to stuff the kids into the double stroller after their naps and drag them to the Asian grocery store up the street, but of course it was pouring. So we drove instead, and I felt silly bringing the three of us and our car to the store for a bottle of hoisin sauce and a tiny nub of ginger, but there you go. Both of those things are outrageously expensive at Safeway whereas they are dirt cheap at the Asian grocery store. Whatever. 

(Oh, and I was buying them because I am trying to make New Recipes and the glazed pork loin I made tonight wasn't half bad, if you don't count the facts that 1) I didn't cook it long enough and had to microwave the middle pieces and 2) I don't like pork.) 

Anyway. We walked into the store and were immediately confronted with red and gold tackiness because hello, it is Chinese New Year. OH RIGHT. 

*********EXCEPTIONALLY LARGE TANGENT ALERT!

Okay, at this point the post was going to veer off into a nice multicultural discussion of Chinese New Year and our previous celebrations, but I'm going to skip all that in favor of telling you what I have been doing in between every paragraph. Ready?

I took the kids upstairs at seven and had them in bed by seven-thirtyish. Phillip has been downstairs since seven doing school stuff. WHATEVER. 

There was jumping and giggling and the usual Not Going To Sleepness. I went upstairs a time or two to Instill The Fear Of God. Then I hear Jack saying, "I have to go PAAAAAAHTTY. I have to go PAAAAAAHTTY." So I run up there and yes, he HAD to go potty, but he went in his pants. LOVELY. 

I clean that up. 

Next I go up there because they are OUT OF CONTROL and I have HAD IT and they are now going to REGRET IT. And they do. Much howling, wailing, gnashing of teeth. I take a breather in my bedroom because: DUDE. This sucks.

I go downstairs. More crying. I am immune. Then Jack starts saying, "I have a runny NOSE! I have a runny NOSE!" in this awful sing songy voice and I run up there because, well, runny noses are lame and if I don't wipe it he's going to get snot everywhere etc. So I run up there and guess what - SOMETHING STINKS. And its name is Molly. 

So I clean that up. That involves turning on lights, removing the offender from her bed, additional actions that completely cancel out my Mean Mommy act from a few moments earlier. But what am I going to do? I HAVE TO CLEAN IT UP. But I am not nice about it. 

I go downstairs. They jump and giggle, like they think I CAN'T HEAR THEM. What is UP, Children?! I decide to ignore them. My mother calls. I whine. I whine A LOT. I decide that it's nearly nine, I better go yell at them again. Or move Molly into my room. Or something, because this is ridiculous.

So I go up there and something stinks AGAIN. Jack went potty in his pants AGAIN. I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING. 

Aaaaand I lose it. I LOST IT. My throat hurts, I am furious, and Phillip just came upstairs asking me what's going on and I can't even TELL him because I am THAT DONE. 

He is up there right now putting Molly in the pack 'n play. 

I suppose this could be the point where I tell you that tonight we got out our calculators and decided we COULD sell our house. Why I am not immediately over the moon over the fact that I could have two separate bedrooms in which to confine and isolate and imprison my children I have NO IDEA. After tonight I should be JUMPING UP AND DOWN. Obviously I am too wiped to think straight.

Okay, so what this post was REALLY about was how Jack wanted to buy stuff at the store and so did I, since buying stuff makes me feel better. So we bought stuff. We bought all sorts of little Asian grocery store treats and we will send them to a Randomly Chosen Blog Commenter. Mostly good stuff. I couldn't help myself on certain items, but I did refrain from purchasing the dried wasabi anchovies. You're welcome. 

So! Happy Chinese New Year! I would like a red envelope full of Goes To Bed Without A Problem! 


In which I solve at least one of the world's ills

GAAAAHHHH Internet I am OVERWHELMED. And waaaay anxious and since the best thing for Anxious Me is to act like I'm not (seriously, I am not being facetious, this IS the best thing) I will now attempt to write something worthwhile! (You: HAAAA!) 

So! This morning, when we were still kidless and cleaning up last night's party, I suddenly brain-vomited, as I am wont to do when we are kidless, all the Philosophical Discussions I bottle up and save for Phillip. He looks like a computer geek but he can be pretty astute, pretty insightful when he wants to be. And this morning he schooled me on Race Relations. It was rough. I cried. I had to think. Still thinking. 

Not to go into the Whole Big Thing, but a series of conversations, an Unbloggable Event, and about ten minutes of an Oprah show I happened to catch last week turned into this Thing. A thing where I thought I was just sharing a bit of my life with Phillip. You know, I'm all, "Dude, blah blah blah, internal processor, here's my already-thunk-out conclusion, all tidy, there you go, the end." And Phillip is all, "Okay, but blah blah blah maybe you should think about that." It's like he's forgotten I don't like to be WRONG. 

And not that I was wrong so much as... realizing I do not take risks in this part of my life and, according to Phillip and everyone else who is smarter than me, maybe I should. 

I am, as you know, a Pasty White Girl. But most of the important people in my life, my husband and most of the good friends I've had since high school, are Asian-American. I don't know why this is, or if there is even a reason to wonder why it is. There is a not-so-nice term for white boys who are attracted to Asian women, but I haven't heard of a term for a pasty white girl who hangs out with all the Filipino kids in high school. Whatever. It is what it is. 

One thing I don't think I've told you about the Non-Denominational College Fellowship was that, at the time I was in school, there was a strong focus on racial reconciliation, mainly between white people and Asian-Americans, because those were the two racial groups in the fellowship. As a result I participated in MANY the awkward facilitated "conversation" and learned to hide my face whenever it was a white person's turn to speak. It's just the nature of the event, right? Minority attempts to gently educate, Majority doesn't get it. Rinse, repeat, cover my face. 

I was never a person who didn't get it, though. Which isn't to say I GOT IT. I think all that really means is that I knew how the things that might come out of my mouth would sound. I choose my words about race very very carefully. I live in dread of being The White Girl Who Thinks She Understands Your Minority Experience. Probably the only person with whom I'm entirely open about this stuff is Phillip, and that's because one day after one of those awkward facilitated "conversations" I went into full tilt Despair re: interracial relationships were IMPOSSIBLE, how could this EVER work, WOE!, MISERY!, I HATE MYSELF! Phillip gave me a few days on that one, possibly weighing his options in the meantime ("do I REALLY want to date this deranged chick?"), but in the end made it clear that I was being a total idiot, would I like to get married now? 

Anyway, that's just to say that whenever I don't get something, or whenever I'm confused about something and need to talk it out in a safe place, I find Phillip. This also means I elatedly tell Phillip whenever I have acquired another piece of evidence that shows I do understand. So here's one thing: I have become discerning about my Chinese food. I know what's real Chinese food and what's White People Chinese Food. I totally know the difference and have my preferences and YES, I CAN USE CHOPSTICKS, but on occasion a Chinese relative will assume I only eat sweet and sour chicken, and compliment me on my chopstick usage. Whatever, no big deal. But sometimes something happens, like the Unbloggable Event, where I distinguish myself from the Stereotypical White Person Eating Chinese Food and okay, I'll admit it, I feel PROUD. Like I know the secret. Like I understand something. And I tell Phillip, fully expecting to be laughed at, but mostly he doesn't laugh, he'll just say he noticed. 

But I did happen to say that this wasn't something I would share with other Asian-American friends. I mean, besides the fact that it's 1) stupid and 2) totally out of context in practically every conversation, it's something I fear would put me in the category of White Person Desperately Trying To Show You That They Get It. So, I told Phillip, I would probably say nothing. I wouldn't want to risk looking foolish/naive/stupid.

So he looked at me kind of funny and I can't remember exactly what he said, but it was like he turned my little rational explanation on its head. Like, why NOT? I have to say, I haven't fully thought out everything we talked about (INTERNAL PROCESSOR!) but I just knew he was right. That I was fearful and prideful, and not wanting to risk in conversations about race, which you have from time to time when your friends are not white, was keeping me from something. Phillip reminded me that if say or do something in love, the other person should respond in love, even if I mess up - something I always ALWAYS forget. When I told Phillip about the Oprah show, and how there was a white woman going on and on about not having any IDEA that African American women struggle with their hair, and how much I just wanted her to shut up and and how much I wanted to climb into a hole for her sake, he said, "But I think that's awesome." 

So many of the important people in my world are Asian-American, and I am deeply invested in wanting them to think I'm cool on this subject. I want to be as aware as I can possibly be, without going around acting like I understand, if that makes any sense at all. And many times I find myself straddling these places. I mean, I go to an awful lot of happy hours with two Asian-American girls, and of the three of us, I'm the only one with an Asian last name. It gets CONFUSING. I tend to play it safe. No, I ALWAYS play it safe. And today I was informed that, just like on Top Chef and Project Runway, playing it safe is kind of lame, especially with people who'll love you anyway. 


Banner day

Molly rolled over yesterday.

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Post-roll over position. Wardrobe by Elephant Ears. (Which was then promptly pooped on. Sorry Elizabeth.)

And in the last several weeks Jack has added dozens of "words" to his "vocabulary", including "Uh! Bah! Mah!" which I think is adorable. Some of these random bursts of vocalization are coherent only to me, but some of them actually make sense. The day he tottered over to the kitchen, pointed at the fridge and shouted, "WAWA!", instead of just howling in thirsty despair, oh, that was a good day. I wasn't really freaking out about the no talking thing (well, freaking out in a very controlled and "eh, whatever" kind of way) but I do have to say I'm relieved to see some progress. He's even saying things without us prompting him first, which I thought was NEVER going to happen. So. Yay.

The last funny thing he did I wrote about here. It involves toilets, for those of you who find that kind of thing exciting.

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I know. My children are brilliant.

So, continuing with the Achievements theme, Phillip worked from home yesterday and made it possible for me to try out the 30 Day Shred, which I wrote about here. And now my entire body has gone on strike.

AAAAAND. Some Chinese aunts were going to visit yesterday. Phillip's entire extended family lives in Canada, all of them in Vancouver except for one aunt and uncle in Toronto. The Toronto aunt was visiting (along with her two sisters, who we are not related to, but of course they are aunties anyway) and  Phillip's dad wanted to drive them up to Seattle so he could show off his grandchildren. (And eat at the best dim sum restaurant. That was probably the point of the trip.)

The last time Toronto Aunt visited I was a Nervous Wreck because 1) we had just bought our new house and 2) I was still wigging out about how I am supposed to behave around the older members of Phillip's family. Being that I am 1) not Chinese and 2) SO VERY NOT CHINESE. It was... hard. Because I didn't know how to talk with them (the older family members only speak English if they're speaking directly to someone they know doesn't speak Cantonese) and they combed over every inch of my new house. Stressful!

So yesterday I was running around sweeping the floors and cleaning the kitchen and basically acting like my mother was going to come stay with us for a week. And then they came EARLY. Gah.

But you guys, should you ever find yourself in need of a good pickmeup, I suggest bringing home a few Chinese aunts. There was endless, and I do mean ENDLESS, fawning over my kids. So beautiful! So smiley! So sweet! So handsome! He could be on the cover of a MAGAZINE! He's so FUNNY! She's so PRECIOUS!

The best part, though, is when one of the aunts who is not really an aunt went on and on (and I do mean ON) about how skinny I look. So, you know. FAVORITE AUNT EVER. And of course I am probably twice her size, but older Chinese people don't say things like that unless they mean it. SCORE.

Later on they were trying to get Jack to perform (he's a pretty snazzy dancer) and he was standing in the middle of the room while everyone else was lined up on the couch. He was just sort of staring flirtatiously at the two younger aunts. They said something quickly to each other and then burst out laughing. "Maggie! Do you know what we are saying?!" I shook my head no. "We are saying that a man has never looked at us this way! It makes us feel so beautiful and special! Jack has made our day!"

So. Banner day, all around. I'm off to soak my weeping muscles in the shower.