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    138 posts categorized "Jackson"

    June 19, 2014

    Time to sit back and unwind

    Last day of school. I cried at the assembly. I mean, I'm a crier, but it was such a good year for my big kids. They go to a small neighborhood public school. It's one billion years old and it shows. Everything in it - the furniture, the walls, the fixtures, the windows - is grimy and worn and unappealing. Everything except the teachers, that is. They are bright in every way, happy to be there, and happy to see my kids. Ever since Jack's first day of kindergarten my mom's been advising me to make myself known in the school, make sure the teachers know I'm paying attention, make sure I have relationships with people in the school. So I'd probably be standing around after school talking to the teachers anyway, but it turned out to be fun. They are fun, creative, interesting people who invested big time in my kids and maybe it's a little weird that Jack's teacher and I made plans to hang out later this summer but OH WELL YOU ARE JUST JEALOUS. 

    Like, I'm sad-in-advance for Jack to go to middle school, not only because he'll be a middle schooler (ACK) but he'll be leaving THIS school. Oh, the crying that will happen THEN. 

    It was an early dismissal day (honestly, I haven't seen the point of going to school this entire week) so Emma didn't nap and I didn't exercise and I feel like a bloated slug right now, especially after our celebratory ice cream snack and restaurant french fries dinner. But it was a super good day. Jack's class sang Sara Bareilles' 'Brave' as a way to "send" the 5th graders to middle school - when I heard they were doing that I thought it was a bit weird/awkward. Isn't that kind of a grown up song? But of course Jack's teacher found a way to first grade it up, with hand motions and shouting the "SAY WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY!" and: tears. Molly's class sang "Let Us Eat" to the tune of "Let It Go" to honor the lunch ladies. And her teacher gave me a shout out at the assembly for helping him come up with the words (except I'm pretty sure all I did was say, "Do you want me to make Elsa capes?! I can make Elsa capes!" and him going, "Wellllll...")

    More tears on that one. 

    These things make me cry anyway, though. I could never get through even the first round of Pomp and Circumstance as part of the high school band playing at graduation, even when I didn't know any of the graduates. I remember going to the end of year ceremony at the Catholic school when Jack was going to preschool there. It was the most TOUCHING and MEANINGFUL THING and I still want to weep about my kids not going to that school!

    Except they're at THIS school, which is wonderful, and we love it so. 

    Our chunk of the city is growing the fastest, which means more money for stuff like building a new school (breaking ground 2016! Supposedly! Who really knows!) but also much larger new schools, I'm betting. Our school is one hallway big. I swear all the kids know each other. It's a hallway in major need of structural updates and plumbing from this century, but it's been such a good hallway. 

    I spent a large chunk of my kid-free time worrying about the bakery. I'm not going to hash out today's anxiety here, though I am VERY TEMPTED. It feels so good to write out all one's worries! But I tried hard to focus on the big kids today and not let the bakery stuff overwhelm me. We took pictures, we got ice cream, we spent a long time on our school year scrapbooks that I never remember to update until the last day of school. I'm so proud of them. 

    Tomorrow we'll sleep in, not get dressed until we feel like it, then drive to Grandma's house where cousins are staying for a few weeks and just... hang out. It's summer. There are no camps, no lessons, just a lot of family vacation time and driving-our-mother-crazy time. And then, maybe next week, a furious looking up of camps and lessons that still have availability...

    And now it's just going to be like this for the next twelve, thirteen years. First grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, a whirl of steps up a ladder until one day they're gone OH NO THE TEARS ARE BACK.

    May 13, 2014

    Dirtball: A Pictorial

    FIRST. The birthday boy.

    Jack's Birthday 2014 009

    Being shy at school.

    Jack's Birthday 2014 018

    Sir Jack

    Jack's Birthday 2014 020

    My mom MADE those felt "knight tunic" thingies. Plus, like, eight more. Anyone want to come over and play Medieval Times? Also, those party hats? I paid Top Dollar for those suckers and NO ONE WORE THEM. (Except Phillip. Phillip wore one all through the entire party. Only Phillip. Who is 35.5 years old.)


    All right moving on. The last two days it's been 1) absolutely fabulous weather and 2) empty of bakery tasks. So! I've been working on the outsides of my house. Specifically: The Deck.

    The TRUE outsides of my house, ie: the YARDS, fill me with panicked woe. They aren't huge, but they are bigger than anything I know how to handle, and both front and back yards are brimming over with giant overgrown plants that worry me. They COULD be beautiful, but I would have to learn how to MAKE them beautiful and I just haven't yet. Last year I dug out a giant space in the backyard to start a garden, but about two days after I planted all my seedlings, some horrible rotten animal came along and ATE THEM. At least, all the seedlings were TOTALLY GONE. It didn't matter anyway, because we decided to spend the kids' college money on rebuilding the deck and my "garden space" was turned into "the place where the deck guys cut all their boards". 

    My plans for the yard, at this point, involve a lot of digging and a lot of spreading of wood chips. My friend's husband has turned HIS backyard into a veritable ORCHARD and I have solicited him for ideas. (They all involve wood chips. Sigh.) 


    Okay, so first I told Phillip to let the kids pick out plants for me for Mother's Day. So I started with a couple little vegetable plants and then these beauties:

    Photo (16)

    Please don't make me turn these right side up. I'm sorry. This shows you how much I care about my website these days. UNROTATED PICTURES OMGGGGGG

    Can I keep a hydrangea in a pot?

    But I spent most of my time setting up three containers with beans and snap peas against the deck wall (MY DECK HAS WALLS, I KNOW) and filling the rest of the container with flowers. I FEEL SO PINTERESTY.

    Photo 5

    No seriously, this is annoying. Why are they rotated correctly on my computer? And then not rotated correctly when I upload them. ANYWAY. There is a sideways planter. 

    Here is a sideways upside down tomato plant.

    Photo 4

    That looks super weird. It does in real life too. That planter is $5 at Home Depot and I thought: Why not? We'll see if this little trick is worth it. 

    Also, see that little black smudge on the white trim? That would be a caterpillar. I'm going to have to buy some sort of Bug Hellfire Spray for my deck. I am SO tired of all the ants and spiders and creepy crawlies everywhere I look. This is what I get for buying a house in the middle of nine thousand trees. 

    Speaking of trees:

    Photo 3

    This one can BITE ME. I hate it hate it hate it. We have three large trees in our backyard. One is a pretty cypress. The other is a small evergreen. THIS one is a MASSIVE GODZILLA of a tree and it's one goal in life is to drop its @#)*%@(#%*@#(%&@ needles all over my deck. $2K to cut it down. (Another $2K to chop its evil twin in my front yard.) Maybe I should draft a Kickstarter? 

    If you are wondering about the slide, the slide is fine. Maybe a little perturbed by the children who insist on climbing IT instead of the stairs to get to the deck, but hey, that is a slide's cross to bear. Building stairs off the deck continues to be a smashing idea, if also a painfully expensive one. When I get super mad at my gross tile countertops I blame the deck. Dang it, Deck! If it weren't for you I could have counters that don't have 25 years worth of grit and grime in its many grouty crevices! 

    All right, I have to quit complaining. I'm quite excited about my deck! I have a friend coming over Thursday morning and I'm already planning the deck snacks and mimosas. 

    NEWS REPORT: I am meeting with the Food Processor License Lady, the person who gets to decide whether or not I am legal, TOMORROW MORNING. I'm a little nervous because the coffee shop owner (whose space the inspector will be inspecting!) will not be there, and because she's not so hot with email, I'm not even sure if her employees will have a heads up! I really do think it will all be okay, and if there are any problems I'm expecting them to be small ones that can be figured out that day or this week. The licensing lady gave me absolutely no reason to think we wouldn't be approved that day, but still. It hasn't been my experience that anything in this process is easy and I would still appreciate some good thoughts sent my way. THANK YOOOOOOOU

    May 12, 2014

    My seven-year-old can't even get his own birthday post without me yammering on about the bakery

    There are a bunch of Young People sitting in the backyard adjacent to my backyard, with a pile of takeout between them, and beer bottles, and they are laughing loudly and all right, fine, maybe I'm a smidge jealous of their evening. 

    Although I bet none of them have a seven-year-old. I do. We threw him a fairly large shindig on Saturday, his actual birthday, and I'd post pictures except they all have Someone Else's Child in them and that just doesn't feel right. So, hey Mom? Can you email me some pictures? 

    Because they're pretty freaking cute. Jack asked for a castle cake and from there I thought we'd do a little, you know, medieval theme. Except we had a pretty crazy bakery week and I was hanging on by my toenails and my mother pretty much did all the work. She made these little knight tunics for all the kids (who didn't wear them, of course) and found a whole bunch of toy swords at three different stores AND bought the dragon pinata. I... ordered some stuff off Amazon. It was the first Jack party we've had that wasn't nice enough to really play outside, so the party itself felt more crowded and chaotic than I'm sure anyone wanted to deal with. But I think people had a good time? I hope?

    Jack's birthday is right when the weather starts to get nicer and we haven't HAD any parties in a while by the time his birthday comes around, so it's always an excuse to invite all the grandparents and aunts and uncles and all our best buddies and HEY, THE CHEUNGS LIKE TO HAVE PEOPLE OVER. And you guys know that I prayed and prayed for the biggest house we could afford in Seattle and we GOT it so I just feel like I have room for everyone! Invite all the people! WE'LL FIT!

    We did. It was just... I don't know. I think I had a hard week. I did not feel so confident in my making-people-comfortable abilities. But whatever, the birthday boy, who the party was FOR, enjoyed himself immensely and got some pretty great presents and holy cow he's SEVEN. I know I do this every year. I have a FIVE year old! I have a SIX year old. But PEOPLE. Seven seems old. Officially not Little Boy anymore. More like... Boy. ACK.

    After several weeks of bakery insanity (good insanity! we're just not used to it!) we have a week of NOTHING. Which is half depressing and, honestly, half a relief at this point. I need to get my bearings. But then today something happened. 

    I already had a meeting planned for tomorrow morning with our Coffee Shop Owner, the woman we're renting space from. We're going to sign some little printed-off-the-internet contract and I am going to haul in my 9000 pages of liability insurance documents to prove I bought it and then we will have a Real Live Actual Factual Kitchen! Woo! Too bad we don't have anything to bake there!

    BUT THEN! This morning I got a phone call while I was driving and when I listened to the message I about dropped the phone. The OTHER department at the WSDA, the one that reviews and approves Food Processor permits (which is how we are classified), was calling to make an appointment with me to, and I quote, "getcha licensed!" 


    I called her back and she said she could do the inspection this week, did we have time, and I was all, UH YES, and so we are meeting at the coffee shop Wednesday morning (if that's okay with the Coffee Shop Owner, fingers crossed) and I'm supposed to bring a couple examples of labels we will use and she'll poke around the space we'll be using AND THEN SHE WILL ISSUE US A PERMIT. LIKE THAT. 

    I said, "Are there any corrections we need to make to our application? Anything we left out? Anything we need to do?" And she was basically like, "Uh, no?" Actually what she said is that if there IS anything awry we'll just discuss it Wednesday morning, no biggie. 

    The fine print said 4 to 6 weeks. She called us back in 2. It cost $55. Total. She's going to give us a permit. We will be legal. THIS WEEK. WE COULD BE LEGAL THIS WEEK. 

    (If she's cool and we hit it off, I'm totally going to ask her about the cottage food nonsense. Not her department, but still. Totally asking.) 

    Katie and I are both kinda apprehensive. We've been trying to figure this out since October. OCTOBER. Sure, we could have decided to rent a kitchen from the get go, but even the process of FINDING the kitchen and then figuring out what sorts of permits we need for THAT was long and confusing. To have someone call us up and say we can get it done this week feels surreal. We are suspicious, but I'm also just sort of... you mean we don't have to deal with this anymore? WHATEVER WILL I DO WITH ALL MY TIME?!

    What this DOES mean is that we now have to figure out to make money. Like, on a regular basis. Enough to cover our overhead. BECAUSE WE HAVE OVERHEAD OMG. I'm all YAY EXCITING MUPPET ARMS!!! and also oh dear God what have we done. 



    April 01, 2014

    Oh yeah, I used to write about my kids

    ALL RIGHT. Things are looking up. There was a sudden influx of capital to Thumbprints Baking Co., for which the owners are terribly grateful and over the moon. We have picked a kitchen. We have insurance. The next step is formalizing the agreement and the step after that is (OH GOD) going through the county health department food business application process. I am guessing I will need to restock the liquor cabinet. 

    But I want to exercise my mommyblogger chops tonight and write down a few things I've noticed about my kids. Before I forget. So you can leave now, it's okay, I totally won't be offended. 

    So there's this huge amazing CRAZY thing I've been more and more aware of lately and that is the fact that my two biggest kids seem to be best friends. This is wild to me. It's not that they never fight (they always fight) but they also really really like each other. They don't really want to do anything without the other. We keep asking them if they're ready to stop sharing a room (when are a brother and sister too old to share a room?) and neither of them are interested. Well, they're very interested, just not right NOW. Even when I make a point of reminding them that Molly would share with Emma and we'd move the girls into the room next to Jack's so he wouldn't be alone downstairs. No no, they don't want to do that yet. 

    And they play with the same things and play the same way. They would both choose to do an art project over almost anything else (except perform Let It Go in princess dresses for their parents and all their parents' friends.) They make up plays. They build elaborate forts in the living room and pretend that Emma is their kid or their pet or just some random baby they get to boss around. They squabble constantly and accidentally hurt each other all the time, but I'm not sure either of them has ever been purposefully vicious to the other. 

    My brother and I are the same number of months apart as Jack and Molly. I suppose it's possible we liked each other when we were very small? But my main memories of my brother are of him barging into my room (which was 1) not allowed and 2) totally unnecessary, no I am still not over this and have refused to "just ignore him" for 34 years), messing up my stuff, and being mean to me. Always! My whole life! Not that I was a total peach to him - I remember my dad telling me, many many times, "Some day he'll be bigger than you, Mag! Watch out!" So yes, I shall grudgingly admit that I possibly beat up on him too. I sort of remember playing outside with him, making mud soup and charging through the patch of forest across the street from our house and riding bikes. My mom is probably reading this and thinking, "You did TOO have fun together!" Maybe it wasn't until we were a little older that he became my main reason for wanting to hurry up and go to college already. (Like 5th grade older.)

    But I don't see that with Jack and Molly. Really. I suppose it's possible and I'm sure one day they won't want to do the same things all the time and play with the same kids and feel bad that having a "boys only" birthday party means Molly can't come. (Jack is turning 7 next month. Omg.) But still. They really really like each other, they look out for each other, they give each other heads up when their mom is on the warpath. I'm starting to wonder if they're going to be the kind of brother and sister who are buddies growing up. Who don't have to turn 30 and live in separate houses before they finally tolerate each other. (You may think I'm being snotty about my brother, but I bet you anything he would agree. Also, he called the other day to talk about the bakery and wanted to give me some feedback and he had to say, "Look, I'm not being a jackass like usual, I'm really trying to help." SEE? EVEN HE SAYS SO.)

    And you know what, I'm writing this on April 1, which is basically my brother's personal holiday, the day on which he switched out my morning cereal for dog food, shortsheeted my bed, and set my alarm clock to go off in the middle of the night. HOW APT.

    So yeah, my heart IS warmed over by the affection my two oldest show each other. (Ask me again when they're teenagers.)

    Emma, however, worships the very ground on which her brother and sister tread. All day long I am reminded that something is Molly's, something is Jack's favorite, something is what Molly wants, something is what Jack did. Everything - EVERYTHING - relates to her two favorite people, some way or another. She will play any game they want to play. The big thing right now is "putting Emma to bed" - in the middle of the day, for whatever reason, and she gaily goes along with it, climbing into her bed with her stuffed cow and her pacifier and staying there however long they require. She's the baby and she has her manipulative moments, her fickle devotions, her sudden wails of distress. But for the most part she's all about being where they are, doing whatever they are doing. Including homework. Emma does lots and lots of homework. 

    I just think they are the neatest. I could have never dreamed them up. My creative, sensitive, sweet little boy. My absentminded, giggly, kind little girl. My utterly charming, delighted by everything two-year-old. They are just perfect.




    February 06, 2014

    A former overachiever stops projecting onto her own kids. (For now.)

    To hear my mom tell it I was reading Nancy Drew mysteries by age two. (No.) But "reader" has been part of my identity as far back as I can remember. And for someone who thrives on Nice Things People Say About Her, In Particular Her Teachers And Parents, it's been super important to me to be a GOOD reader. Of course, being a "good" reader loses nearly all of its meaning as you realize there are no special points for learning to read before you go to kindergarten, and then instead it's about how many books you read, what kinds, whether you can nod superiorishly when someone excitedly tells you about a new author they've just discovered. 

    (By the way, I think I've completely dropped the ball on Being A Good Adult Reader. I don't read super fast, the only new books I keep track of are British and Italian murder mysteries, I've only read a handful of the books everyone raves about on Twitter, and more than two thirds of the books on my Kindle (and ALL the books on my nightstand) are 20th century history books. I am no one's idea of Well Read. Sigh.)

    ANYWAY. All that to say it was important to me, to the point where I just naturally ASSUMED, that my kids would also be Good Readers. 

    (Let us pause while I roll my eyes at my own self.)

    Oh yes, I ASSUMED, in fact I EXPECTED, Jackson Cheung to be reading chapter books by kindergarten. And I'll just say right now that I did absolutely nothing to PREPARE him for such a feat. Along with the assuming and expecting was, I think, the presumption that reading Nancy Drews in preschool was something that just came naturally. It wasn't something I THOUGHT about. It wasn't something that I was consciously waiting for, even. I just thought one day it would happen!  Like out of thin air, one day my kid would just start reading. 

    Other things I assumed:

    • He would opt to read over, say, play Subway Surfer on the iPad.
    • He would beg me to go to the library. 
    • Once at the library he would provide me with a two-foot high stack to check out. 
    • He would never EVER groan or make an Unpleasant Noise when asked if he would like his mother to read to him. 
    • He would have Favorite Books.
    • We would BOND. Oh the BONDING! Over BOOKS! Tra la la!

    So yeah. None of this happened. We always read books before bedtime, but otherwise Jack never showed much interest in reading on his own or wanting to be read to. Molly seemed to like listening to stories a little more than her brother, but again, I pretty much stopped going to the library with them because they were such pains. They were barely interested in the books and when they discovered that you couldn't just sit down and play a game on the computers they were all, "Can we go to the playground now?"

    Of course I determined that I'd done something hugely wrong in their first years. I encouraged and offered and hunted for books they'd enjoy, but no one ever wanted to read them and after a while it was like, "Why am I doing this to myself?" 

    Then last year, in kindergarten, Jack began learning to read. And it was... kind of crazy. 

    I am surrounded with friends who have precocious little girls reading Jane Austen at age five. I'd just accepted the fact that I was going to have one of those kids who didn't like books and we would have a Hard Row To Hoe (is that the right expression?! NOT WELL READ.) and we would struggle and whatever. Fine. And because Jack wasn't terribly interested, Molly didn't seem to be interested either and FINE. We would deal. I felt certain it would all turn around once they were old enough to read The Westing Game, but for now, FINE. FIIIIIINE.

    But Jack started learning to read. Slowly. Hesitantly. Uncertainly. And it was like a miracle. This thing that I'd been trying to do with him for SO LONG was SUDDENLY HAPPENING. At this magical place called school! Where he seemed to be MUCH more motivated! And I wasn't in charge!

    He still didn't want to read much at home, but whatever, I was pleased. It was fantastic. 

    But then THIS year. THIS YEAR IS NUTS. 

    My kid can REEEEEAD. I am so freaking amazed at how far he's come just from the beginning of the year. And Molly? Based on what I attempted to do with Molly in preschool I didn't have any expectations, but that kid can read levels and levels better than her brother did in kindergarten. She is always surprising me with what words she already knows. Right now they're in their beds reading to themselves before I turn out the lights - my absolute favorite thing in the world to do, they are doing it, and they didn't make a single groan or whine about it. They said, "Well can you get me a few more books?"

    It's just so exciting. There are ten million things I want to share with them, ten million things that I'm all HURRY UP SO WE CAN READ THIS! This part of being a mom is so good, you guys! I get SO SNIFFLY about my kids getting bigger and how they're all elbows and knees and no more pudgy cheeks, but now they can READ. And I think they're beginning to LIKE it. And it doesn't matter at all that they didn't want to sit and listen to books when they were little or had no interest in sounding at words at age four or that neither of them are in the highest reading group like I was (BECAUSE THERE ARE NO READING GROUPS, GAWD MAGGIE), it's happening and it's SO COOL. 

    We planned this trip to Disneyland a few months ago. We wanted to take Emma while she was still little and my mother-in-law is retiring this year and we thought it'd be a fun celebration trip and, well, whatever I do not need any reason to go to Disneyland. But we didn't tell the kids until well after Christmas and then we told them we could only go if they each read 20 books. That's probably a silly number to a lot of you (I'm looking at you, friends with Precocious Girl Readers!) but it was a HUGE one for us. They could only put a point on their chart if they found a book at the right level and read the entire thing out loud to us. 

    We are ALMOST at 20 books. And there has been NO complaining. Only "what book should I read you tonight, Mommy?!" I think this calls for a Squee.

    November 21, 2013

    In which I learn my child has an alternate (and better behaved!) personality when he's not around me. (OBVS)

    Had parent teacher conferences tonight. Pretty much the only thing Jack's teacher wanted to talk about is how much he reads, how much he likes reading, how well he's doing, how he talks about what he's reading with his reading partner, how cute they are when they're reading together, etc. etc. etc. So. Also the part where she said that he's such a great direction-follower and probably knows what to do in the class better than she does - are we talking about the same kid? 

    (Also: my projected fears about J increase with every teacher conversation. If he's so much like First Grade Me, what sort of terrible psychological disorder will he have at age 22? I'm sorry, Jack! I will pay for all the therapy!)

    Molly's teacher knows that my parents are former teachers. Tonight he said to me, "You know, sometimes I think you're reluctant to talk to me because you don't want to be THAT PARENT, you know, the ones you heard your parents talking about. So let me tell you: don't worry. You are NOT that parent. Please come talk to me about ANYTHING."

    So obviously he's now my favorite person in the world. He understands my psychological disorders and showers me with affirmation. 

    We had all three with us for conferences, which I would have rather DIED than do last year, but this year it was just a necessary evil. Jack and Molly alternately showed off and kept busy. Emma talked. And talked and talked and sang and shouted and barked orders at her siblings and I wondered aloud what her first parent teacher conference will be like. "She's a great kid, but she has to sit in this tiny plexiglass cage by herself because no one can hear themselves think."

    What's the other thing I was going to tell you. OH! Katie and I are through with the recipe and label misery! Mostly! There are a few things we're missing, but for the most part, all of the recipes and labels have been typed and edited and YAY. It took me half an hour to write up the packaging process for all of our items and Katie is working on the list of what equipment we will use and how we will clean it. (YES.) Basicaly we're 99% done with the hardest part. The rest of the application will just be writing up some processes, printing everything out, putting it together, and writing the check. And I will be super excited until our packet is returned with a bunch of corrections. SIGH. But I'm feeling motivated and optimistic for now. So motivated that I started working on our bakery website and it just feels REAL! 

    Things that stink: I am a terrible web designer, I have no graphic design skills, and it takes me forever to do really simple things. However, I do work for free and at this point that's the only job requirement. Also I have a basic grasp of English so people who use our website will at least have the right information. Other things that stink: I really want to start advertising what we can do for Christmas and I'm almost certain we won't be legal by then. More things that stink: wondering if people will actually order stuff from us. I DON'T KNOOOOOOW! NAIL BITING!!!!!!



    November 19, 2013

    Impromptu history lesson in the Cheung playroom this evening (alternately titled: do you have ideas for books for little boys?)

    Holy shnikeys. Okay. SO! I just finished reading my first grader a first grade-level biography of Abraham Lincoln. But I somehow neglected to consider the fact that reading my first grader a first grade-level biography of Abraham Lincoln would STILL involve discussion of slavery and war and assassinations and DEAR GOD I'M GLAD THAT'S OVER. 

    I am tired of Jackson telling me he doesn't like to read. Not like he's said that a LOT or anything, but just the once or twice was enough to make me think OH NO YOU DON'T and develop a Plan. The plan is basically to bombard him with books he can 1) read himself and 2) ARE OF INTEREST. He is moderately interested in the Star Wars early reader books (GAG) but was MUCH more interested in our collection of books about the human body or freaky animals or volcanoes. A while back I was talking about learning to read with my parents (not about Jack necessarily) and my dad said that many little boys appear to be uninterested in reading, but the truth is that they're just not interested in they're offered. He suggested biographies for gifts for my nephews so I marched myself to Barnes & Noble yesterday to look for... biographies a first grader could read. 

    Guess what! There aren't many! Well, I suppose there are if you have an especially advanced reader, but Jack isn't and I didn't want to frustrate him with books that were too hard. Almost all of the biographies and nonfiction early readers were at higher levels (and sometimes I think even level 1 is high!) I ended up buying two readers about George Washington that I thought we could read together, one easier one about Abraham Lincoln and one about storms, both National Geographic readers. Oh, I also bought a book about the First Thanksgiving because guess what! My kids have yet to hear Thanksgiving mentioned in school! I intend to ask why at conferences. Anyway. We've been reading that before bedtime and they seem to be pretty interested AND learning a thing or two! Well done, Me! Parenting Gold Star!

    But anyway, he wanted to read about Abraham Lincoln tonight. And of course I got all excited because HE WANTED TO READ! And he COULD read it! And then we got to the page about slavery and UGH. 

    I don't particularly want to or feel like I should shield him from Very Bad Things That Happened. Not anymore. (Molly, at this point, had taken herself to bed, her being much more interested in books using the words Fancy and Nancy.) That said, I didn't quite feel PREPARED, you know? And I felt sad that I HAD to explain what happened. And wondered how it was going to sit in his brain. What pieces he would remember and what he would think about and it did not help when he said, "oh, so like slavery is like being a kid." OMG YOU GUYS. I might find this funny later on, but I did NOT FIND IT FUNNY THIS EVENING. He was all, "You know, because you have to clean up and obey your parents and do what you're told." (LIKE HE EVER DOES WHAT HE'S TOLD.) And I said, "Oh no. No no no no no no no. NOOOOO. It is NOT like being a kid." And that is when I chose to go into great and terrible detail about what it might have been like to be a slave and how it was not at ALL like being a kid who lives with his nice mommy and daddy and no no no NOOOOO.

    I think he got it. It takes a lot to chasten Jackson Cheung, but I think I achieved Satisfactory Chastening.

    And that was before we even got to the Civil War and the assassination.

    So! Lotsa learning in the Cheung household tonight! I do feel it was appropriate, seeing as how today is the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Best of all, Jack was interested. He asked questions. He wanted to read the whole thing. He correctly answered all the"questions for review" at the end of the book (which HE wanted to do btw, I didn't make him do it.) I wondered if I have switched to reading mainly nonfiction because somehow my subconscious knew that my kid would prefer it and I would want to be excited instead of bummed.

    He DOES like Nate the Great. Not all is lost.

    And Molly will read anything with a pink cover.

    I am starting to feel anxious about what they are learning (or NOT learning, rather) in school. But that's another post. I'll save it for after my conference interrogations. (Ha. Like I actually have it in me to interrogate anyone.) (NO.)

    What books do your little boys enjoy? I need things to tide us over until we're ready for chapter books.  

    November 12, 2013

    Quick bakery update and J. Cheung makes the newspaper

    Hi Internet. Have you been wondering why I haven't written anything about the bakery lately? (Or maybe you haven't. Maybe you're all, "Oh thank GOD she stopped talking about THAT", in which case you might want to click over to something else right now.) Well, I haven't been saying much because what we're doing right now is the Height of Boring. There is really no good way to make paperwork interesting. 

    But that's what's going on: paperwork. We actually finished typing up all the recipes and matching ingredient labels (we have 60+ so far). Katie's been through them once and I will do the final edit and print everything out. It feels great to be so far into the process! It is totally discouraging to think about how much we still have to do! The next step is to write out any processing steps that weren't included in the recipe AND the packaging steps. As in, "Using gloved hands I take two cookies and place them inside a food grade plastic bag" type description. That's the example they give you in the application packet. Okay, I'm quoting from memory, BUT STILL. For EVERY RECIPE. And while I am doing that, Katie will be typing out how she plans to clean and sanitize every piece of equipment we plan to use. 

    Aaaaand... okay, it's probably not a wise idea to further express our feelings in such a public forum. Ha ha ha. I'll just say that Katie does a lot of grumbling and I do a lot of "yes, but we have to do it anyway!" and then we both bang our heads against the table and swear at our computers and give up and make cookies. I am under no delusion that we will have this thing done in time to sell Christmas cookies. MAYBE Valentine cookies. 

    Oh, but I have I told you about the friend who is also attempting the CF application, even though she has the option of using a commercial kitchen, because the commercial kitchen is so DIRTY? Yes. That. Can you see where I'm going with this? 

    SO ANYWAY. The bakery. The online version. It is going. Slowly. I feel like maybe this is good practice for jumping through all the additional hoops of opening a storefront? Maybe? When I'm feeling optimistic and generous? 

    I'll cap off this super boring paperwork post with a link to a news article featuring a picture of none other than Jackson G. Cheung, Esq. A reporter visited the first grade and EXCITEMENT ABOUNDS!


    October 13, 2013

    Not that all brothers are uniformly awesome. For example, mine refer to me as Large Marge.

    Phillip likes to say that I am a very hard worker, just not at anything that generates revenue. Today I took that a step further by working very hard on things that COST us money - I am now a proud member of an actual factual LLC. It cost me $200 and about a half hour of googling "do you really NEED a registered agent?" Legal Zoom, which was going to charge me $400, kindly offered to be my registered agent (for a fee, obvs) but it turns out you need a registered agent to, and I'm practically quoting here, accept mail on your behalf if you're on vacation. So. Thanks but no thanks, Legal Zoom.

    You can register an LLC online in the state of Washington (woo hoo!) and now I can check the first step off my list. Once the LLC application is processed I can apply for a business license and after THAT we can put together our giant pile of prereqs for a Cottage Food Permit. I also have a URL, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and many many links in my Bakery bookmarks folder. 

    And I don't know why this is making me think of Mike Birbiglia but it IS... See, I'm doing this with my sister, who I love, even if she prefers dollar store posterboard to Excel. My FIL felt it necessary to pass on some advice his parents gave him - never go into the same business as a sibling. Ha. But I'm so excited to do this with her and it feels SPECIAL and all sorts of other cheesy things that would make her positively  DIE, but whatever. And this makes me think of Mike Birbiglia because we listened to an awful lot of his comedy in the car this weekend and he kept talking about his brother. All these adventures and funny things about his brother. And I got very MOPEY about Jackson not having a brother. MOOOOOOPEY.

    So yeah, did you follow all of that? Bakery to sisters to Mike Birbiglia to brothers? Excellent. That is what I'm thinking about, how Jack does not have a brother and this is such a bummer to me. I am VERY VERY curious how people without a brother or a sister (or both!) feel about this - when they were kids and now when they're grown ups. Phillip, for example, doesn't feel like he missed out not having a sister. I would venture to say that if he had a sister instead of a brother, he MIGHT feel like he missed not having a brother? Maybe? I DON'T KNOW. As someone who has two of each it's hard for me to fathom. 

    I am OVERJOYED that my girls have a sister. I know this doesn't necessarily mean they will LIKE each other, but I feel like the odds are in their favor and it makes me happy. I love having sisters! And it DOES make me feel sad for Jack. Sometimes I see families that are all boys and I think about how awesome that brother bond must be. What is my boy missing?! WAH. 

    Now OBVIOUSLY I know that if the stars aligned and Phillip Cheung was struck by lightning and we had a fourth child, it's not like we would automatically have a boy. Even though *I* think it would be perfect to have two of each, that doesn't mean the universe ponies up. We could have fifteen more kids (calm down, Phillip!) and Jack STILL might not have a brother. 

    So it's not really a "oh, we should have more kids" feeling, but a "oh, this is the sort of family our kids will have" feeling and a big fat wondering of what it will be like for them. I am always surprised when I recognize (remember? acknowledge? dawns on me?) that our family is NOT just like mine! We are different! We do different things! My kids will experience things UTTERLY DIFFERENTLY than the way I did! BRAIN EXPLODING!

    Will Jack have some sort of stunted emotional growth from the lack of a brother? Probably not. Already he seems closer to his sister than I ever was to either of my brothers. He DOTES on Emma. I also take comfort in a boy/girl sibling pair I know who are SO close and SO awesome. AND all of you who are onlies, who are all, "Uh, only is the only way to go." Seems like most people prefer how it worked out for them. 

    I know it's sort of a dumb and pointless thing to think about, but I DO think about it. All right, this pause in bakery talk is brought to you by Mike Birbiglia and the siren call of a chocolate bar, luring me out of bed. 

    September 09, 2013

    If this were a paid job I would have been fired ages ago

    Today was one of those days where you realize how much of the parenting you do is Cruise Control Parenting. Or maybe you don't have those days. I will tell you about them. So I am a well oiled lunch making, bottom wiping, laundry folding, hair washing, seat buckling Mom Machine. I do these things day in and day out and when things don't go my way I get angry and frustrated and upset and sometimes I YELL and call my mother and despair that I will ever raise children with even half decent manners. I don't really think about it. The kids are either Good or Bad and my days are either Good or Bad and we are separate and frozen entities. Me Vs. Them. Parents Vs. Bedtime. Telling me about what they did at school vs. "Can I play the iPad? Can I play the iPad? Can I play the iPad?"

    Then there are days like today where a split second before I yell I think: wait. I think this is a Moment. 

    The MOMENTS are the times when you realize HEY. This job isn't just about reminding someone to say thank you ninety-seven times a day. I am responsible for more than that. Maybe my kid is driving me crazy for a reason other than He Does It To Drive Me Crazy. Maybe something's UP with him. 

    Jackson (isn't it always Jackson?) was making us both insane tonight. Tonight? This whole week and last week and probably the week before that. He is SO rough, he is SO wild, he gets SO silly. He's not one of those super rambunctious energetic boys, but he has his own particular kind of zany energy and it often results in hurting a sister or destroying my living room or piercing our eardrums with shrieks or otherwise making us nuts. And on top of that, tonight he was being a real twerp about telling us anything about his day. "I'm too tired." "I don't feel like talking about it." What is up with this SIX-YEAR-OLD who is literally too cool for school? Is he too good for his home? Does he think he's an emo teenager? I mean, does he WANT us to give him something to be emo about because WE CAN MAKE THAT HAPPEN. 

    Out of frustration and annoyance Phillip ordered him to his room and Jack burst into tears and there was my moment. Was he being a huge jerkface to his parents? YES. Did he maybe not MEAN to be a huge jerkface? POSSIBLY NOT. 

    I went to his room, sat down on his bed, and stared at him. He did his very best to meet my gaze, while also sucking in his cheeks to prevent himself from his ultra-irritating brand of Nervous Laughter. It makes me crazy, but tonight I could remember making the exact same face with my parents. Was my dad funny? NO! I CAN'T HELP IT! MY FACE JUST DOES THIS! 

    He was totally expecting me to start lecturing with my Mean Mom voice, but instead I started to ask him about his day. I think we were both surprised, but LO AND BEHOLD he started TELLING me about his day. More information than I've ever got out of this kid before. After a nice long chat about first grade I said, "Jack? Do you think you're just really tired when you come home? And maybe we should make some quiet time for you in the evenings? Would that help?" 

    This is going to sound weird, at least to me, but I have never felt that any discipline worked as well with my son than just sitting down and talking to him. Not talking where you're trying to get him to understand something or make choices (that NEVER works with him), just TALKING. I feel like nine times out of ten he's acting out and making us insane because we haven't MANAGED him well. We don't know what's going ON with him. This kid - this kid who is SO MUCH like me - needs alone time. Lots of it. He needs a desk and a filing cabinet and something to work on. He likes to store and organize and catalog and he is perfectly happy to do this alone and as his parents we need to recognize those times. 

    I'm fully open to the possibility than I am a wimpy softie and making up complex emotional issues where I should maybe just stick him a corner until the next day. But you know, I AM a wimpy softie and I spend oodles of time analyzing OTHER people's complex emotional issues- why wouldn't I do this with my own children? It can be my very own special way of screwing them up! 

    Anyway, Jack and I had a very good talk. About first grade and how he doesn't mean to make Molly cry, he's just "getting his energy out" and do I remember that I was going to get him a filing cabinet? It turns out that when he needs a change he ALSO attacks furniture and room layouts (I've been informed exactly how the bedroom and playroom should be in order to maximize Jack's enjoyment of those spaces). And he said, "I'm VERY tired, Mommy" and I believe him. 

    Molly, whose first day was today, and who has absolutely no complex emotional issues regarding it (as far as I could tell) is much simpler to figure out. We've never had to dream up a million different ways to deal with Molly because she's instantly contrite and changes her behavior. Emma appears to be much feistier than either of her siblings, but responds well to Mommy's I Mean It Voice. Jack... he requires more imagination, at least at this point. A different kind of attention. It's like he wants to sit down with his mom and talk about his feelings.

    I should bookmark this post for ten years from now when my daughters are driving me to drink and my son is as baffled by them as his parents are.