Jackson

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. 


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.  


House/parenting/privacy/interior design dilemma. So, like, THE WORST KIND.

I have a post brewing re: How To Intentionally and Positively Address Well-Meaning Comments On My Biracial Kids' Appearances but in the meantime! I have a problem. I didn't think I would have this problem for a while, but it's been popping up here and there, with more frequency as the days go by, and I DO NOT HAVE A SOLUTION.

In short: Jackson would like his privacy, please. BLARGH.

A while back the child who happily and persistently walked in on his parents' showers decided absolutely no one could be anywhere near the vicinity when he went to relieve himself. FINE. We don't want to be around ANYWAY. He didn't say anything about baths - possibly because bathtime at Chez Cheung is more like Fun With Water than Actual Bathing and it's more fun to get every single available surface soaking wet with a partner in crime. But just recently he's been preferring showers to baths with his sister(s) (again: FINE) and more often than not showering by himself in the family changing room after swim lessons. (SUPER FINE.) 

But NOOOOOOW just changing clothes is becoming an issue. A big one, since they share a room. Obviously I expected it to become an issue, but I kind of hoped to know what to do about it when it came up. And I don't. Molly appears to care not at all and that may be because she's a year younger or maybe because she's infinitely less fastidious and nitpicky than her brother. I would LIKE to split them up, I would be HAPPY to split them up, I am OVERJOYED at the prospect of big kids who tend to their own personal hygiene. HOWEVER!

My house is stupid. We bought it knowing it was stupid. WE KNEW this would be an issue. We have four bedrooms, but two are on the top (main) floor and two are on the bottom. Each floor has a (large) bathroom. So when we first moved in, Phillip and I took what seemed to be the master bedroom on the main floor and Jack and Molly shared the smallest bedroom, the second one on the main floor. When Emma was born and ready to move into her own space, we moved Jack and Molly into one bedroom on the bottom floor. So Emma, Phillip, and I sleep on the 2nd (main) floor, Jack and Molly share the back bedroom on the 1st floor. The 4th bedroom is huge, has a huge walk in closet, and an entrance to the 1st floor bathroom, but right now it's home to a full bed, a twin bed, a pack 'n play, and Phillip's desk and Assorted Phillip Stuff. So it's busy right now. We often have overnight guests (mostly family), my niece naps there when I babysit, Phillip needs an office space with a door, and the closet is great and much needed storage. 

The PLAN was to have Jack and Molly's room turn into Just Jack's Bedroom and Molly and Emma would share the other big bedroom downstairs with the big closet and the bathroom. I can easily picture three teenagers sharing that space, turning the playroom into a TV/computer room, staying out of MY bathroom. You know? And if it really wouldn't work to have Molly and Emma share, then Emma could move back upstairs and Phillip would have to work in the playroom or something. We'd figure it out. 

But right now that is not an option, and not just because we're using the guest room as a guest room so often. Emma's just not big enough to sleep on another floor from her parents. Or at least I don't feel comfortable with it. It's hard enough having my 6- and nearly 5-year-olds down there. (Though it's worked out well, thank goodness.) And I'm not sure how it would go with her sharing a room and I don't even want to GO there. 

What's also clear is that Jack isn't ready to sleep downstairs by himself. His room is pretty far from ours and I totally understand feeling nervous by himself down there. (HOUSE = STUPID.) It's possible to squeeze Molly into Emma's room, but the few times I've asked Jack if he wants his own room, he only wants it on the condition that Molly is also sleeping downstairs. 

SO!

I am not entirely sure what to do. For now I think I'm content to keep things the way they are and bark at Jack to go change in the bathroom. Maybe when we move Emma out of the crib we can revisit the room situation, but who knows when that will be? I don't WANT that to be soon! 

The only other thing I can think of is moving Molly into the PLAYroom. You have to walk through the playroom to get to J and M's current bedroom. But they are two separate spaces and they both have doors and maybe that could work. Although it would be annoying. I just reorganized that playroom! 

But the other day Jack asked me if he could have a box for his things, ie: the loads of papers he wants to keep. This kid has so many PAPERS. Phillip had just recycled all our cardboard so I didn't have anything lying around, but OH, I underSTOOD! This was when I decided I had to buy my son a filing cabinet, just like my parents did for me. And I want to get him a desk. HIS OWN DESK. It's not that we don't have anywhere else to do homework or projects, or that I want him to do all his homework in his room, but there is something about your OWN DESK. With your own drawer of pencils and office supplies. With your papers neatly stacked. I GET this kid, is what I'm saying, and he will LOVE his own room and his own desk and his own filing system and I WANT THAT FOR HIM. 

On one hand this is not a big deal. Plenty of families live in ONE ROOM. Starving children in Africa, etc.! On the other hand I have heaps of empathy for that dawning realization that you need your privacy. And on the THIRD hand I am ALWAYS itchy to fix up my house the way it is always supposed to be, forever and ever Amen. (Which is not logical, I know this, but I have never claimed to BE logical.) 

I could bunk their beds again... that would make a ton of space for desks and filing cabinets... SIIIIGHHHH

Anyone else? When did you decide the boy and the girl were no longer sharing a room?


What we learned this year

The last week of school is going annoyingly. By which I mean it's not Friday yet. It's the regular feeling of "isn't it Friday yet" coupled with "let's get this school stuff over with already" and BLARGH. Today was my last true day of The Schedule and while I did get a bit sniffly at the coffee shop, the rest of the day I traded sentiment for impatient irritation. 

Tomorrow is my last day with just Molly and Emma at home and THAT might be hard. Where it was questionable if Jack would survive the months before kindergarten, Molly is happy at home. She entertains herself, she's happy to fold clothes with me or help empty the dishwasher, she works on projects without needing attention. Not that I have any interest whatsoever in homeschooling, but I can PICTURE doing it with Molly. If I were doing it with Jack one of us would be dead. ANYWAY. All that to say I'd like to do something fun with Molly tomorrow. I don't know what, though. My girl is always game for shopping...

Friday is a silly little day of early releases and I'm going to cap off my year of not hanging out with the preschool moms by blowing off the end of the year picnic in the park. It's at a bad time! Whatever. I actually did make friends, you know. This morning one of the moms said she was going to email me over the summer to do this thing at the library with our babies and while it sounded totally boring, I was all, "HEY. THE PRESCHOOL MOMS LIKE ME!" 

Maybe this whole time they've been seeing me drive up in my minivan, watching my kid hop out on her own, and feeling jealous as I drive away. Maybe this whole time they've been wishing THEY could blow everyone off. 

I really hope I remember to take a picture of Molly and Jack in front of the house on the last day of school, to juxtapose with the first day of school picture. Things are SO DIFFERENT. Molly is just - I don't know the right words. She has grown up SO MUCH. I was so worried about my little preschool drop out and then this year she was all, "I don't need no brother to do all my socializing for me" and had a blast. Jack grew up too, but in a different way. Like he's been exposed to life outside his family and he's trying out all these voices and mannerisms and I have to keep saying, "I DON'T LIKE IT WHEN YOU ACT LIKE [INSERT NAME OF FRIEND]." Also he reads and does math and makes books and his handwriting is terrible and he has blisters on his palms from the monkey bars and every single pair of jeans is holey. His hair is always a mess. He's going to be a first grader. I have a first grader

And Emma? Emma learned to walk. I spent the first half of the year reminding myself to put the Ergo in the car so I could carry her into the school for pick up. She was always bound up next to me, no one saw her face. And then the second half of the year, when I was still carrying her, but on my hip and putting her down once we got inside. And then holding her hand while she walked. And then trying to get her to hold my hand before she gets run over by the hordes of elementary school students running to the bus. Babies change so fast, I know, but the school year really quantifies things, doesn't it. 

It's going to be crazy with Molly in school. I mean the time flying by thing. It wasn't so long ago that I was writing about my two babies. SO CRAZY. Although it's still not entirely certain she'll GO to school - next week we meet with a school psychologist, the second of the two kindergarten early entrance assessments. Her teachers, Jack's teacher, and my personal collection of teachers all say she's ready and I think she is too and I'm not really worried about it, but it'll be nice to make it official. 

And NO, Teachers From Molly's Preschool, I am NOT putting my baby in the Twos program. No no no. 

But first: summer. Lots of summer. Swim lessons, VBS, YMCA camp, Grandma and Grandpa's house, Vancouver, the beach, the spray park, cousins, birthdays, a deck with a SLIDE. It's going to be awesome.

 


Winning

Best day, you guys. BEST.

First thing: Jack comes home from school and is telling my mom (who babysat while I went to the work lunch thingy) about his friend who had to go to the nurse's office. Apparently she ate something she was allergic to and she got sick. Quoth Jack, "She farts. She farts a lot if she eats something and she's allergic." Me, only after he'd said "farts" about forty seven times: "Jack, do you mean 'barfs'?" Jack, nodding: "Yes. Barfs." 

Second thing: my deck is getting fixed. Finally! Turns out it doesn't look half bad under that plywood. (Check my instagram feed if you just went, "plywood? huh? what kind of deck IS this?") There are definitely rotting places, including a beam that is holding up a WALL, but apparently there are ways to fix this and the contractor tells me it looks good, and tomorrow morning we're meeting before Phillip goes to work to Discuss The Options. This is how it will go:

Contractor: Blah blah blah blah blah

Phillip: Blah blah blah how much blah blah what about blah blah 

Me: WHENCANWEBUILDTHESTAIRS????????????

Third thing: remember I was all, "aiiiieeee my old boss just invited me to a THING!" So I went to the thing today and it was SO GREAT. I mean, it wasn't heaps of fun or super fantabulously interesting and I didn't even see half the people I would have liked to see, but it was so good to see the people I DID see and bringing Molly along was a touch of brilliance. I always had someone to talk to, I always had something to do, and eeeeeveryone wanted to say hello to Molly. I know this will sound weird and creep you out Internet, but the guy who sat across from us, who was just smitten with Molly, PICKED HER UP as we were leaving. If he hadn't said how much Molly reminded him of his grandkids about a million times over lunch I would have been, you know, uncomfortable, but instead it was just super sweet. Which is basically how I feel about everyone in this particular local industry. THEY ARE JUST SO NICE. I thought this when I worked for them too. There are the unpleasant ones, but at these industry get togethers everyone is so friendly and kind. 

I used to go to this thing every year when I worked for my old boss. It's not fancy or a big deal, but it honors an industry person of the year and raises money for an industry-related charity and everyone supports it big time. So there are lots of people there and all the companies donate items for a huge raffle. The grand prize is always a TV and ONCE I WON THE TV. I did not have this blog then or I would have told you about it. My boss bought me raffle tickets AND THEN I WON THE TV. Phillip was super duper impressed. 

I did not win the TV this year. DISAPPOINTING. But I bought a crap ton of raffle tickets just so Molly would win something and feel like it was worth her time and effort escorting her silly mother to this boring social event. WE DIDN'T WIN ANYTHING. 25 raffle tickets people and not even a HAT. Some dude who worked for the charity, though, he won FOUR TIMES. Super bad ticket pickers, right? ANYWAY. They finally pull the ticket for the TV and it's not us and it's this young kid who I assume is part of this other group and he's flustered and I'm all WHATEVER and getting ready to go - 

then my old boss comes up to me and says, "THAT'S MY ASSISTANT. MY ASSISTANT WON THE TV. AGAIN." So. He's the one to take to Vegas. But! I'm leaving and saying goodbye and the assistant, who I will call College Kid, is standing nearby having absolutely no idea how he's going to get his new television home. He lives in the U District like a proper college kid and that's on my way so I offer to take him home. And you GUYS. This kid. He was a TRIP. He was the chattiest, cutest, flabbergastiest, chipper little guy in the WORLD. And I am not exaggerating when I say he was just like the Fred Armisen character on SNL who can't form a sentence. I shall quote from wikipedia: 

  • Nicholas Fehn – a political commentator whose mind races and wanders so much that he is incapable of finishing a sentence without starting a new one.

You know that guy? OMG THIS KID. I couldn't tell if he's ALWAYS like that or if he was just SO! EXCITED! about winning a television that he couldn't emit a coherent thought. IT WAS ADORABLE. 

Last thing: It was sunny. You seriously cannot underestimate the power of sunshine around these parts. I swear, there's forward movement on a house project, I caught up with a former life, my daughter was absolutely perfect, my mom was here helping all day, sunshine, GOOD WORK EVERYONE. Let's make it happen again tomorrow. 

P.S. THANK YOU FOR THE DINNER HELP. I will write a Dinner Update, I just had to get that farts story out of my system first. 


The Memorial Day Club

Okay, writing this post is going to give me something to do while my daughter screams bloody murder from her crib where I have ostensibly put her down to sleep HOW DARE I DO SUCH A THING.

This morning in the bathtub I got Molly to put her face in the water. Just barely, but after weeeeeeks of shrieking if water was anywhere near her eyes or nose, this was a huge HUGE step. First, I bribed her with one of those Usborne dress up doll sticker books. There are about ninety different versions at Barnes & Noble and Molly Cheung is on a quest to own every single one of them. So with that hanging over her head, and through a mix of teeny tiny steps and putting my OWN face in the bath water (UGH) I got her to submerge her nose and a chunk of cheek for about three seconds. Without screeching. WIN! 

Off we went to B&N then, leaving Phillip and Emma at home. Molly picked out her next sticker book (this time the dress up girls are going to Parties!) immediately while Jack hemmed and hawed. He ALSO got a sticker book if Molly stuck her face in the water. Bribery for everyone! So Usborne makes "boy" sticker books too. In the "girl" category we have Weddings and Bridesmaids and Pop Stars and Fairies and Ballerinas and on and on. In the "boy" section we have PIRATES! and EXPLORERS! and WARRIORS! and my personal favorite: Second World War. 

So yes, it is indeed a book full of pages of cartoon dudes in their underclothes in various WWII scenes and pages of sticker clothes to dress them in. I am not entirely sure what I think about it. On one hand, I think it's super cool. Each scene is sort of a different part of the war (the Blitz, Russia, prisoners of war) and there's a little blurb about what you're looking at and explanations of what the clothes and accessories are. It IS educational. It's just WEIRDLY educational, yes? Especially when your daughter is oohing over the fairy wing and crown stickers. (There ARE "girl" educational sticker books - Fashion Around The World, Historical Fashion, oh and also SPORTS girls.) But yeah... I am not at all opposed to boy things and girl things, I am totally fine with Molly wanting the Ballerina book instead of the Explorers book, whatever. It's more the... WAR AS A STICKER BOOK that I'm not quite sure I appreciate. 

ANYWAY. 

I tried very very very VERRRRRY hard to get Jack to pick the WWII sticker book because, let's face it, I want to look at it. Despite my mixed feelings. IT IS NEATO. And he had picked that one over the Explorers one (which IS educational AND cool AND without mixed feelings) and this was a pleasant surprise for me - until I saw the SUPERMAN sticker book and knew he would much prefer that. And any time I see something my kids would like I have to show them, even if I don't want to get it for them. IT'S A COMPULSION. 

But this is how my kids figured out it was Memorial Day. "But it's Memorial Day, Jack!" I pleaded. "We should get the WAR sticker book!" (THAT JUST SOUNDS CRAZY.) 

He said, "We can get that one NEXT time, Mommy." 

Fine, whatever. We bought our sticker books plus an HGTV magazine and went home to do absolutely nothing for the rest of the day because it was POURING and I also decided to wash every single sheet in the house. (And I did.) 

IN THE MEANTIME! My kids were very very busy in the playroom downstairs. I found this a lovely change of pace as I folded clothes in front of Love It or List It and placated my shrieky baby while reading Entertainment Weekly. But after dinner Phillip and I were invited to Memorial Day Club. 

Memorial Day CLUB. And it turns out that Memorial Day Club is basically being invited to the playroom so Jack can pretend he is the teacher (or, as he subtly put it, "the boss") and play school. We did a bunch of worksheets - and we actually HAVE worksheets because my sister is a 4th grade teacher and gives us all the leftover sheets she would have recycled. This is our drawing paper at home. But I was supposed to do the worksheet side and I was supposed to write a rule for figuring out fractions that are equal (omg I'm not even DESCRIBING it correctly) (obvs I couldn't come up with the rule). And then we played Sight Word Bingo. And then we played some horrible game where everyone kept winning except me. And then we got sort of bored which royally peeved the boss who reminded us he was, indeed, The Boss, which only got him fits of giggles from his mother. More peevishness ensued. 

Anyway, this is how the Cheung family honored those who are no longer with us. That and changing all the sheets. 

We had a really nice time with family this weekend, I got some time with friends, and tonight I got to hang out at the playroom table with my kids, remembering that I used to hang out around that same playroom table when I was their size, with my four brothers and sisters. Which made me try to picture what it'd be like with TWO MORE CHILDREN in that room and... well, I couldn't really do it. And then I could? But then I couldn't? And that is all for another post? That we shall have to password protect from Phillip? HA HA HA HA HA


Six years, three kids, a bajillion neuroses

Even though I could positively karate kick every single person who feels compelled to tell me that my baby doesn't look like much of a baby anymore, they're right. At some point in the last few weeks Emma Cheung morphed into the next version of herself. She's not two yet, but for all the whining and demanding and temper having and sheer personality getting thrown around, she might as well be. And it's as I suspected - there's a loud, assertive, charming little extrovert inside that kid and I admit it, I'm a little intimidated. 

I thought my other kids were full of personality at this age too, but I think they were personalities I understood a bit better. Maybe a little more like my own, or easily handled. I see a lot of myself in Jack, and Molly is a sweet, soft, delicious little spoonful of girly whipped cream. Or maybe it's because I'm familiar with them, I know what to expect, and Emma's self is suddenly exploding all over the house. Even Jack and Molly seemed stunned by the force at times, unthinkingly handing over a toy or snack, immediately giving in, yielding to the emotional noise that is their baby sister. 

Just this last week she's begun to choose walking - a drunken stumble, really - over scooting, and she's high on the experience. "LOOK AT ME!" her face says, as if she started walking at 9 months instead of 20. She talks. Constantly. Repeats everything we say. Yells it. And if she can't form the words she emits this awful mind-numbing "Eh-ehhhh!" until we figure out what she wants. She is sweet and darling and cuddly and loving until the instant she is not, and then she is furious, offended, indignant, and spilling white hot tears of HOW COULD YOU?!?!?!

And while she is still very clingy and attached to me, she has absolutely no fear diving (literally) into her siblings' games and toys and carefully structured pillow forts. Aren't all of these things here for her own amusement? Including the older siblings? Is not this entire house and everything within it simply existing for her own personal enjoyment? 

I feel sorry for my kids sometimes, having as they do a mother obsessed with Myers-Briggs and enneagrams and birth order and various other personality theories and assessments. I don't WANT to assign them traits and characteristics before they can pronounce "enneagram" but dudes, if Emma Cheung doesn't have YOUNGEST CHILD oozing out of every pore. I see it in action every day. She studies Jack and Molly, she takes note of what gets a laugh, and she'll do those things over and over again. She REMEMBERS those things, weeks and weeks after they happen. I'm afraid she'll be playing "steal Mommy's napkin" for laughs until she's thirty-five. Even at not quite two she's the ham in this family, though admittedly she doesn't have much competition. I fear for this child, growing up the lone noisy extrovert in a family of rule followers. But see - I'm doing it again. Who knows what she'll be like! Who knows what the other kids will be like! I don't blame her for capitalizing on being Super Cute Funny Baby Sister, a role I've often envied. 

I think of all the times growing up when I swore to myself that if I ever had kids I would be FAIR! And EQUAL! And I would remember how old the oldest was when she got to shave her legs and not even CONSIDER letting the youngest do it until she was AT LEAST the age the oldest WAS etc. etc. etc. But I cannot fathom a time when Emma won't be my BABY and so much younger than her siblings and therefore needing special treatment and attention. HORRIBLE! But even Jack and Molly fall into this line of thinking, getting irritated when people would try to get Emma to stand on her own and walk, taking over, protectively grabbing Emma's hands and barking, "SHE CAN'T WALK." 

How am I encouraging Jack in his "oldest" role and Emma in her "youngest"? How am I neglecting Molly as the "forgotten middle"? 

It is such a BIZARRE and AMAZING thing to have three brand new never-seen-before individuals living in your house. Where you're observing every minute detail, recording many of those details in a BLOG for heaven's sake. WHO ARE THEY? More importantly, HOW AM I SCREWING THEM UP? 


What the kids are wearing these days

Being proper Seattleites, my children demanded to go to the indoor pool on this beautiful 83 degree day. "How about the sprinkler!" I suggested. "I'll fill up the pool!" That was good for maybe half an hour. "Mommy it's too hooooottttt." After that it was, "Can we go to the YYYYYYYYYY?" 

Damn the Y. But also GOD BLESS THE Y. Best ridiculous monthly bill I've ever signed up for. Now if Emma could just suck it up and stop crying in childcare we'd be golden. 

While Phillip took the big kids to the Y, Emma and I stopped at the nearby Fred Meyer. OSTENSIBLY I was looking for flip flops for the big kids, but I ended up buying, ah, summer wardrobes. I keep being delighted with all the clothes I already HAVE for Emma, and wondering why my big kids have nothing summery to wear and/or shoes that fit and/or jeans without holes and/or skirts that aren't scandalously short. I really did mean to buy JUST FLIP FLOPS, but I left the store with something like forty-seven shirts and thirty-nine pairs of capri pants for Molly. Oh, and a few shirts and shorts for Jack. We just finished modeling everything for Daddy and I'm pleased AND horrified that everything fit perfectly. I kept thinking, "Oh, that'll be too big, but better too big than too small! She'll grow into it! It has an adjustable waist, so we're all good!" (WE DID NOT NEED THE ADJUSTABLE WAIST.) 

But you guys, this was the first time I shopped in the Bigger Girl area. Not the infant and toddler section, the 4-6X section, and DUDES. There was exactly one rack of the type of clothes I would dress my kid in. The rest was Mini-Teenager, Mini-Hoochie-Teenager, Branded Sparkly Horrors, and Just Plain Ugly. I have some definite Feelings about age-appropriate clothing, but other than that I don't think I'm too picky. I often let Molly pick her own clothes, I'm learning to get over it if it doesn't match perfectly, and as long as it's clean and fits I will abide the layers upon layers of hot pink tulle. HOWEVER. I was surprised at how many things I would never ever let her wear, on account of Hideosity. Is that a word? It is now. There are always a lot of hideous clothes, but in the Bigger Girl Section at Fred Meyer, the hideous was about 90%.

What was not hideous? The teeny little Carters section where I bought the heaps of t-shirts and capri pants. And one pair of shorts because they were the only Not Booty Shorts That Also Matched The Shirts that I could find. SHEESH. These are just play clothes and all the colors and patterns mixed and matched and they don't SAY things, they aren't BEDAZZLED, they aren't trying to be sixteen. Carters 4Eva! 

I thought I should probably buy Jack some things too, as he's just in need as Molly, he's just not as... well, honestly, he and I are both fine if he wants to wear his googly-eyed shark t-shirt four days in a row. (Not to school. I have a nice assortment of brownnosey polo shirts for school.) But he needed a few pairs of shorts and some new t-shirts and I bought the only three t-shirts in the store that were not 1) camoflage or 2) stamped with skull and bones graphics. NO SKULLS AND BONES. HE IS [ALMOST] SIX. NO NO NO. YUCK. 

Sorry. I have opinions. 

I also don't want things smothered in sports pictures or dirt bikes or motorcycles or cutesy-tough sayings. YUCK! There are certain things Jack likes. For a while I was buying bug or sea creature shirts. Dinosaur shirts. Now I'm on the lookout for superhero shirts that aren't nine hundred dollars. But they still need to be CUTE. These shirts are TERRIBLE. 

And it's not just Fred Meyer, it's anywhere where kid clothes are relatively inexpensive. There are always cute things at the cute stores, but sometimes I just want a stack of five dollar t-shirts he can get dirty at the playground. Is it too much to ask that I not hate whatever is pictured on the front? ANNOYING. 

I feel like I have the rest of my life to disapprove of what my children are wearing. I don't need to start NOW.

Anyway, this is why I buy five dozen plain colored t-shirts from Old Navy before school starts. Of course these are worn out immediately, but at least I don't actively dislike them. 

GET OFF MY LAWN!

Ahem. 

My neighbor? The parking police? She made a point to smile at me as I drove by yesterday. What do you think THAT means, hmm? 

I'm going to go put my kids to bed, open a Beer of Mexico, and make my husband sit on the deck with me and appreciate the weather. Happy Sunday evening. 


Kindergarten homework

IS STUPID. Seriously! Who knows what that picture is! WE HAVE NO IDEA. Today we were trying to figure out the begnning and ending sound of a word, three letters, middle letter E, with a picture of... a paint brush? In a puddle of paint?  Ten minutes later Phillip shouted, "RED! It's a black and white copy! RED! RED!"

Then there was a picture of a diamond. Blank E BLANK. Gem, right? It's gem. What kindergartner knows the word gem? GEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS IS NOT ON ANYMORE.

Jack said, "I think it's JEWEL," and then Phillip says, "no, I think it's GEM. JEWEL has too many letters."

So then Jack asks, "How do you spell JEWEL?" 

Phillip says, "J - E - W - L." 

And I say, from the kitchen where I am bent over a sink full of dirty dishes, wiping the sweat from my brow, realizing that not only must I cook the meals and do the dishes I must also be responsible for ALL THE SPELLING: "OH. MY. GAWD. PHILLIP CHEUNG. J-E-W-E-L."

"Oh right," Phillip says. 

"How come you don't know how to spell JEWEL," Jack asks. "You must not be a grown up." 

I KNOW, JACK. I KNOW. 

Oh, as I'm typing this, Jack, who is still doing his homework, comes over to me shouting, "THIS DOESN'T MAKE SEEEEEEENSE!!!"

I look over it and say, "I don't understand. Everything's right. You did a good job."

He goes, "But WHY do I have to do six plus one so many TIMES when I already KNOW IT?"

#snotbrat


The best Christmas pageant ever

I'm trying not to be horribly disappointed that Jack's school does not do a Christmas program. Or a Holiday program. Or a Winter or Snowflake or Solstice or New Year program. As far as I know they do NOTHING, at least I think I would have heard about it by now. HUGE. BUMMER.

My THEORY is that the school is respecting its fairly large population of Muslim students and their families. With maybe a bit of liberal West Coast overcompensation in the Avoidance Of All Things Remotely Smacking Of Religion (though I should note, with a bit of honest shock, that Jack's school DOES do the Pledge of Allegiance.) 

My other, more worrisome theory is that they just don't have TIME to put on a holiday program. SIGH. 

Kindergarten has been a bunch of surprises for me. Surprise at how well Jack and I both took to this full day separation (ok, maybe not a TON of surprise about that). Surprise at how ACADEMIC kindergarten is. Weren't there TOYS in your kindergarten classroom? Maybe a kitchen and dolls? And plenty of arts and crafts? I thought kindergarten was one big poster paint session. But no, everyone says kindergarten is "the new first grade" and dude, it totally is. I can't believe some of the schooly stuff Jack is learning. I mean, I think it's GREAT and he likes doing it and handles it well and Phillip and I are BOTH so pleased and amazed by how much he's learned so far.

But there are no toys or "centers" and very little art. Jack's school does not have a music program or an art teacher. He's done a few art projects within the context of the curriculum, within his own class, but only a few. I know his teacher sings songs with him and there are heaps of intstruments for older kids to borrow for an after-school band, but there is no music otherwise. 

And once a month I go to the meeting at church where I hear everything about everything, which always includes a lot about the parish school, and every month I wonder: what would THAT be like? An amazing art teacher. And OBVS a Christmas program, with singing, featuring the Baby Jesus. I LOVED the idea of Jack learning that stuff right along with how to read and add and subtract. There's a curriculum and there is OTHER STUFF. 

At Jack's school they barely have time for science. 

So. This is NOT a "I regret public school" post. I don't. At all. There are various little ways that I see how this was an excellent decision for Jack, for our family, and Life In General. I think it's awesome that there is a large percentage of Muslim students. I LOVE his teacher. She's fantastic. I would know this even without my mother, teacher extraordinaire, saying, "She sounds fantastic!" every time I talk about her. We've had a handful of email interactions over the last week or two that have resulted in more friendly and personal communication at school. The school has a focus on character that I really like, emphasizing kindness along with reading. I think their writing program is so great. Jack is really happy there and loves everything about school. 

Still, I am sad - for HIM - that there is no holiday songfest, with freshly scrubbed and dressed up little kids, with parents holding camcorders, with the excitement of going on a stage. He did it last year, at the Catholic preschool. Maybe it was just such a big part of MY school experiences, and my parents always putting on shows with their classes, that I'm irrationally mopey about it. 

I don't know. Maybe they do something in the spring. Maybe his own class will do a little something some day. Maybe he'll play the lead in the high school play and, vicariously, all my dreams will come true. Heh. 

IS there a perfect school situation? I think mine would be a diverse Catholic school, within walking distance, with Jack's current teacher, with his current class, free, unhindered by a budget, with active yet laid back and friendly parents. Dream on, right?

When I was little my mom would put brown towels on my brothers' heads (the big one was Joseph, the little one was a shepherd) and blue one on mine, hand me a baby doll, and make us sing Christmas carols in front of our family on Christmas Eve. I have a boy, a girl, and an ACTUAL baby. We can put on our own Christmas program this year.