A Mini Examen

DESOLATIONS

I bought Molly a super cute jean jacket. Tonight I asked her where it was. She doesn't know. We have determined she left it at school the very first day she wore it, which was probably like a month ago. I bet it's gone for good. This is the second jacket she's lost in a matter of weeks. I JUST. 

Jack is still walking around like his arm might fall off and it's making me insane. 

Emma has been SO tired and whiny and awful and maybe it's the heat? But also maybe it's Four and have I forgotten all the random bouts of unpleasantness with the other two? Did I never think Emma might be moody or temperamental or maddening? 

I started losing weight, which was great, but the last month or so has been a standstill because Life and Tired and Meh. I had a goal in mind for when we visit Phillip's brother in Cincinnati and I don't know if I'm going to reach it. 

Our school boundary situation remains unsatisfactory, to say the least, and now a group of parents from lots of schools are gathering on their own to talk boundaries and what to do tomorrow night. Half of me REALLY WANTS TO GO, even though I have to drag the kids along (Phillip is still out of town), because I just want to stay in the know. And then half of me wants to have dinner at a friend's house and let the kids go wild on the trampoline and have actual fun, because now that lots of parents from lots of schools are getting het up about their boundaries, more reason for the school district to look at ours and go, "Oh, we can't change it because of the domino effect." Seattle Public Schools has made me a cynic and I'm mad at them for it. 

SOMEONE in my neighborhood smokes pot outside and stinks up my backyard nearly every night.

I have bug bites.

I am REALLY annoyed about that jean jacket. 

I hate how I can have a great day with the kids, but then homework/dinnertime/bedtime/clean up/teeth/no REALLY we need to CLEAN UP can undo so much of what was good. 

 

CONSOLATIONS

Oh you guys. I HAVE consolations, I was getting ready to write them out, but as soon as I finished typing CONSOLATIONS, Jack tip toed upstairs and gave me this card: 

IMG_2920

I RILLY don't like it when I'm like this EITHER. I'll keep trying to be better, kiddo. 


Do you have a Thing? Here's ours:

So! you have been saying to yourself, How are the Cheungs doing?! 

WELL. This weekend it was decided that Emma will not be entering kindergarten this fall and will do what we're going to call her Super Senior Year of preschool. (Pre-K. Fives Program. Whatever.) This is alternately No Big Thang and OMG I Need To Go To Therapy, so we're just going to avoid the topic for now, ok?

Molly plastered herself with temporary tattoos at a friend's house recently, and has been going about in public with a seriously giant black and gold tattoo necklace on her chest because I couldn't scrub it off. (Someone recommended nail polish remover? But that seems... toxic?) 

Jack bit it on his bike the other night - when we had a babysitter, oops - and due to the resulting road rash on his arm, has been walking around like Bob Dole. It's a big scrape for sure, and it looks pretty terrible, but I am not exaggerating his wounded war vet posture and am considering getting him a pen to hold. It doesn't seem to slow him down when the kids play Just Dance, though. I'm just saying. 

Phillip is in SAN DIEGO where he is a customer at a customer conference and the morning he left he said, "So, is it okay that I'm kind of really looking forward to going away for a bit?" 

As for ME, I am a bit of wreck. A highly functioning wreck. Between the kindergarten thing and the sudden mass of Important Things I Have To Get Done The Week Phillip Is Out Of Town and the thing I'm about to tell you next, I shall require my own week away. 

Okay, so the THING is... how a scarcity economy plays out in marriage. [SNORE] (But wait!) 

Basically, Phillip has a limited amount of social, emotional, and physical energy. Say he has 100 units. A large number of those units go toward work and what he has leftover goes toward, you know, barking at the kids to practice piano, grilling hamburgers for dinner, fixing the toilet that won't stop running, talking to the friends his wife keeps inviting for dinner, whatever. He GAINS units by, say, binge-watching Silicon Valley episodes, preferably with his wife next to him, preferably without her asking questions about compression algorithms. 

And then there is me. I have a limited amount of energy as well, but I have, say, 1000 units. And I THINK I have 2000. It is a rare opportunity or idea or offer to which I say, "I do not have time for you." Not because I'm one of those people who always has to help someone out or volunteer or SERVE. No saintliness for me, this is all about Fun Stuff I Wanna Do. Let's start a baking business! AND write a blog! AND commit to the kids doing this and that! AND volunteer for this thing at church! AND invite friends over to eat all the time, even though there are few things I hate more than making food! AND devote major major time and effort to ANOTHER church thing that requires one night away each week! Oh, what about spending more time getting to know this group of people? THAT WILL BE AWESOME!

(All that is in addition, of course, to my Regular Job, that being the caretaker of everyone and everything in our household.)

Oh, and I suppose I gain units by... doing cool stuff? Meaningful Conversations with friends? Actual sleep?

So what you have here is a husband who is completely exhausted and a wife who feels trapped. 

NO BUENO

I mean, this is not new news. We are well aware of what makes us tick, we know our Enneagram types! But it's really in my face right now. (And his, I guess. This having to take another person into account does not, surprisingly, get easier the longer you are married. LAME.) 

Here is where I would unpack this idea a bit more, throw in a few examples, and end with something revelation-like. Maybe not an answer, but a new idea, something to chew on, something possibly helpful to think about. 

But I got nothing. This is The Thing. Do you have a thing? Most of my married friends seem to have a Thing. A trust issue, a family of origin thing about money, a perfectionist personality matched to a just wanna have fun personality. The thing you always butt heads on. It manifests in all different ways, but this is ours. I want to see as much as I possibly can in London, Phillip wants to nap on a beach. Phillip wants to have a lazy playful morning with the kids on Saturdays, I want to Get Stuff Done. I want to have a huge Christmas party, Phillip... goes along with it. I want to start something new, Phillip sees all the things I'm already doing. I think I can handle something, Phillip doesn't see how I can possibly have the capacity to handle this additional thing. 

If you have this one figured out, be sure to let me know. In the meantime I'll just be over here scream shouting "I ALWAYS HAVE THE CAPACITY, PHILLIP CHEUNG!"

Anyway. Phillip is ordering room service in San Diego and I am going to church meetings and a school boundary meeting and taking Jack to the orthodontist and packaging cookies and arranging deliveries and making friend dates and babysitting nephews and packing lunches and braiding hair. It's okay. I'm going to visit @lizritz in Chicago in August, did I tell you that? For nearly a week, so I have no complaints about Phillip having to go on a WORK trip with a hotel room on the water and room service, especially when it means I don't have to make a real dinner all week. FISH STICKS FOR EVERYONE. 


For the bus stop parents, an explanation of my mood

Pretty sure the parents at the bus stop think I'm the most unpleasant person in the world. But by 7:57 each morning - the last possible minute we can leave for the bus stop - I am already DONE with my day. How many times can one remind her second grader that the field trip form is with her lunch box only to have that second grader totally ignore said forms by the lunch box? How many times can one endure the sorry excuse, "But I didn't have TIME to brush my hair!" And really, how many times can one say, "PUT ON YOUR SHOES!" before one keels over absolutely dead? 

And so, I am a big grouchy grump at the bus stop. Sorry, everyone. 

This weekend is our annual hang-out-with-college-friends-and-talk-about-our-lives weekend, aka our Couples Retreat (that just sounds so goofy, I don't know why, I keep trying to come up with another name for it.) We usually do this over Labor Day, but circumstances require we gather over Memorial Day weekend instead. Most years the week before the retreat is when Phillip and I have our most glorious and breathtaking arguments, hence a weekend of intense couples therapy with the people who know us best. (And thank God, right?) But this year we're not nearly as exhausted and done with each other as our typical end-of-August selves, and so for once I am not gearing up for Massive Character Building. This year I am merely wishing away every single minute until the moment I get to drop off the kids with my in-laws. They haven't been particularly terrible (the kids, not the in-laws, the in-laws are wonderful in every way) and I have a lot farther to go to reach the end of my rope, but I don't feel like I've had an adult conversation with my husband in weeks. I can't remember the last time we went out to dinner with friends and only had to think about ourselves. Sometimes I write things like that and hear judgy voices: "Why should you get to think only about yourselves?" "Who else gets to dump their kids with grandparents as much as you do?" "Oh, do you need a break? You do work so hard, what with your tough blogging schedule and daily coffee dates with your preschooler." 

Eh!

In a bit I'll take Emma to preschool, then I'll come home and clean all the bathrooms, something I'm going to do only because the out of town friends are staying with us. Otherwise I might just let them go until mid-July when our new contractor guy starts the bathroom remodel. Did I tell you that part? That we found someone new? Who only becomes available right smack in the middle of summer vacation when everyone is home and going feral? IT'S GOING TO BE SO FUN!

Yeahhhhh I think we're going to quit this blog post while it can still win the award for most boring on the internet. I mainly wanted to jump on here and go, "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE AND YOUR ABILITY TO DO THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT I TELL YOU EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF YOUR LITTLE LIVES?!"

I've got that out of my system now, so thanks, have a lovely day yourselves. I will probably opt for a nap instead of bathrooms. (Oooh, the judgy voices are coming back.)


Tiger Dad, overidentification, future therapy - typical parenting blog post

I was glad I had a boy first. I had/have a lot of feelings about being The Oldest Girl in the family and I didn't want to assume my oldest was going to be like me and have all those same feelings. I didn't want to subconsciously attribute or assume things about my oldest. I didn't want to INFECT her. So I was glad I had a boy and I wouldn't have to worry about that stuff. 

But I think I've done it anyway. Especially because I think - at least, I used to think - Jack is a lot like me. In some ways he is. A friend of mine was asking what to get him for his birthday last week and I suggested a binder for organizing his Pokemon cards. "A binder?" she said dubiously. She printed out some Pokemon graphics and his name, slid them into the plastic cover of a binder she already had at home, and guess what present Jack wanted to look at in the car on the way home and take to Grandma's house the next day? Jack and me, we like to collect, categorize, label, and organize. We are introverts who need a lot of time on our own doing our alone things. We would rather die than misbehave at school and we think we know everything. (Although, is it really a matter of thinking you know everything when you really do know everything? I mean.) 

Probably the biggest place where I've assumed he's like me, and treated him accordingly - and am now suspecting I am wrong - is in the Being Good At Everything Department. Which isn't to say that we ARE good at everything. No, it's not actually being good at everything so much as cultivating the image of being good at everything. I mean, you don't fully come into this place of crazy until you are a high school senior being awarded Outstanding Female Student at the end of the year assembly and smiling for pictures while inwardly thinking you might die before you can escape to the land of Anonymous Average Student Who Could Flunk Romantic Lit And No One Would Care, ie: the ginormous state university. Wait, did I reveal too much? 

But it starts when you're little and everyone tells you how good you are at this and that and so mature and such a good example and always the helper and omg, what if you don't get 100% on the spelling test and no one loves you anymore? 

So I have made a point of telling Jack, "You don't have to do that." "You don't have to like that." "I am okay with you if that's not something you want to do." 

I am the OPPOSITE of a Tiger Mom. And I've done it on purpose. And especially with Jack, in whom I see so much of me. 

But then we started piano lessons. 

Jack, as we have observed and as we've been told by his teacher, has a lot of potential to be Quite Good at piano. Phillip and I, being people who think being Quite Good at the piano is something that will only be a wonderful fantastic positive in the rest of one's life, think this is excellent news. And while I have mostly left the teaching of piano to the piano teacher, Phillip has become a bit of a Tiger Dad about it. 

It's funny, because Phillip and I are hopeless wusses when it comes to discipline (I'm sure you're shocked), but not only does Phillip nag and nitpick and criticize and fuss and insist and drive our kids half insane, I am 100% behind him. I have found something that I am NOT okay with them not liking. At least not now. He's going to learn this and he's going to improve and if he still can't abide practicing piano when he's 18, he can quit and go to therapy like the rest of us. 

And as we've become more tiger-y about piano lessons, I'm becoming more aware of how things I've said to my kids, and Jack especially, I said out of fear or anxiety that they would end up with my... fear and anxiety. 

My junior year of high school I took trigonometry. And by then I knew I wasn't good at everything. Like trigonometry. I worked so hard, harder than I ever had at any school subject, and probably harder than I ever did at anything in college where I knew no one cared. And I STILL couldn't get an A. One day my teacher, who I loved, listened to me as I desperately asked her what I could do to improve. And she said, "You know, Maggie, maybe a B is the best you can do and that's okay." 

There are probably a lot of people who think that is a scandalous thing to say. I've told this story to some teachers and they all disapprove. But MY GOD that was the most freeing thing anyone had ever said to me. It was the best thing you could say to someone with my particular brand of crazy. I didn't hear, "You don't have to work so hard anymore because you're never going to get better," I heard, "Getting a B is not the worst thing in the world." I heard, "Maybe you DON'T have to be good at everything." I heard, "Maybe this just isn't your thing." 

(Trigonometry is SO NOT MY THING.) 

And because that mindset, that people only valued me for Being Good At Stuff, had so much to do with my early 20s anxiety breakdown, I really pay attention to how I talk to my kids about what THEY'RE good at. And what I expect from them and what we want them to do. I tell my kids over and over how much more I care that they are kind, generous, empathetic people than being smart and talented. I see how lit up Jack gets when we praise him for school work well done, and I purposefully counteract myself with praising something about his character too. Of COURSE I want them to be smart and "mature for their age" just like everyone said I was. But I am terrified that that's how they'll begin to identify themselves. Good kids who make everyone pleased and impressed. ACK

Just like I have to tell myself that God will not love me more if my pants size gets smaller, I am compelled to tell my kids that all the good stuff they do and how much other grown ups are pleased by them is not why I love them. 

And then I also have to remember THEY ARE NOT ME. 

I suspect Jack cares significantly less than I did about impressing people. I can tell from all the times he says, "Well, I'm just really not that INTERESTED" in whatever I'm trying to get him excited about. And if anything, our job as parents might be to knock his abundant self esteem down a notch. No need to fear Jack doesn't feel loved. (We were watching some PBS show about a piano prodigy and said, "Jack, if you work really hard you might able to do something like that!" and he said, "Well, I can kind of already do that." OOOOOOKAY.)

And as I sit here typing and listening to Phillip berate one of our children at the piano - "No, start over, come on, seriously?, again, start again, why is this so hard?" I feel a snicker coming on, not a tenderhearted urge to stop him. Because those kids WOULD play computer games all day if we let them and it appears that Molly just spent half an hour practicing the wrong song because... she's Molly. You guys, I think I DO have some unsympatheticness in me after all! 

Hopefully the right amount, and for the right things. And at the very least they'll take themselves to therapy for different reasons than I did. 

 

 

 


More cookies, less cake

Despite all odds, the best efforts of local government, and zero marketing, Katie and I still have a cookie company. And it is truly a cookie company now, as the only things we do are custom sugar cookies and French macarons. No more cakes, no more dessert tables, no more specialty cookies. It's funny that we're selling the two things we least like to eat, but those happen to be the two things people 1) want most and 2) are most profitable. Plus they're easy to store and transport and gone are the days I drive to a venue freaking out about a cake falling over in the back of my van. 

This weekend I delivered treats to our last wedding dessert table. This bride booked her date in January, before we'd made the Final We Don't Do That Anymore Decision. And then, because I am a moron, I scheduled Jack's birthday party for the exact same time. So while Phillip was managing a pool party, I was driving to a country club in a downpour with mini cupcakes, tartlets, macarons, cookies, and cream puffs, and barely made it back to the pool for the cake cutting. Let's not do that again. 

For a while we considered expanding. And what expanding looked like was bringing on a third person as a sort of Pastry Contractor, someone who could do the things we couldn't or wouldn't do, so that we could say yes to more orders and hopefully make a little bit more money. We planned to pay the pastry contractor a percentage of the items sold. I went back and talked to our kitchen owner, I started on the licensing application, I found a handful of potential contractors... but then... nope. It was weird, because not one person thought this was a bad idea. We had enough money to try it out and how else are you supposed to get bigger and do more? But it turns out neither of us really have the bandwidth to deal with anyone but ourselves (and honestly, we are enough for each other) and also, we're actually pretty happy with how things are. I mean, what if I actually started MARKETING our business instead of just sitting around waiting for people to call us? Enough people actually do call us, that maybe a bit of marketing effort might be all we need to kick it up a notch. We could work on finding a third or fourth person to help us during the holidays, when we know for sure we'll have more than we can handle. 

So that's what's new in the baking biz. I go back and forth about what I want to do, whether it's all worth it, what we're actually doing and why, but you've caught me in a Excited Committed moment. I just uploaded some new pictures to the site and Facebook and now I shall wait for the orders to roll in. (That's how it works, right? Facebook post = twelve orders for next weekend?)

Between that wedding order, another order for 8 dozen macarons, the week of Jack's Birthday-ness, Mother's Day, and the other multiple May events (I swear, half the grandkids in our family have May birthdays), I am WORN. OUT. I took a shower this morning, but am back in jammies (just the kind I don't sleep in, don't you have that category of clothes?) and I have grand plans for vacuuming, de-grossing the bathrooms, and scrubbing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees like a proper housewife. I bet I... load the dishwasher.


Birth day

We celebrated Jack's ninth birthday tonight, with Nai Nai and Ye Ye and friends-who-are-family, burgers and hot dogs and gin and tonics and contests involving the slide we installed when we built the deck stairs. Not a bad way to spend an evening. The sunshine and hosting distracted me from having a nine-year-old, also the gin-fueled conversation in which I established myself as the most #NeverTrump who ever Nevered. (My poor in-laws. "We don't like him either! Leave us alone!")

But now it's 8:40 and I just tucked in a nine-year-old who is most of the way through Prisoner of Azkaban and DUDE, what was I doing nine years ago?!

(I suppose I could go back and look. Ha.) (No.)

This is what I remember from that first week.

Home, which was our bought-brand-new townhouse, with the room I painted yellow for the new baby. But at first he slept in the pack and play next to my side of the bed. He was not a pretty newborn, all skinny and spindly and alien-like, with long spider-leg fingers that flexed themselves in weird ways. He was barely 6 pounds and was the opposite of champion nurser. But because I like to get straight As in everything, I was desperately adhering to the lactation consultant's suggestion that we tube feed until the baby got stronger.

 

Tube feeding sucked. But I barely remember it, because the whole first few days of Jack's life is completely consumed by Speechless Baby Wonder. 

I know, I know, could I BE more "cherish every moment" obnoxious? But each night I would pull that tiny skinny baby out of his bed and stick him next to me while we got ourselves ready to feed him and I'd just STARE. This baby - he was mine! Forever! I didn't have to give him back! He was a whole little PERSON and he belonged to ME and was this my life now?! HOLY CATS 

I wasn't even tired, you guys. The alarm would go off - because OH YES we had to feed him on a schedule and wake him up, HELLO TINY TERRIBLE NURSER BABY - and I was HAPPY to wake up. I was DELIGHTED. I was not tired at ALL. Okay okay, maybe I was a little tired, but then I would remember all over again that there was this breathtaking newness in my life and it was time to stare and wonder over him again. 

This is really all I remember from his first days home. Middle of the night amazement. Quiet staring. Alien baby finger weirdness. More staring. More amazement. More reminding myself that this tiny thing was mine. 

Sometimes I feel terrible - well, every time, really - when I hear moms talk about their first weeks home with their first baby. How crazy and frightening and exhausting and the screaming and the PPD and all sorts of things that I didn't deal with. I had easy babies, for starters, and then I also really do think I have, like, the opposite of PPD. Horribly anxious DURING pregnancy, happy as a fool afterwards. So yeah, that accounts for a lot, probably. 

But I cherish those middle of the night moments with brand new Jack, I really do, however crazy hormone fueled they were. They were amazing. They were perfect. They were unreal. He wasn't himself yet, you know? Or maybe I should say I didn't know him yet. And it was still all about me and this baby as an appendage of me. I hate to say it was like having a new toy, but it felt like having the newest best toy. I KNOW! I AM TERRIBLE!

I wonder if my blog would bear out these memories. I bet not. I bet I wrote evvvvvvery itty bitty detail I'm leaving out here. But I'm leaving them out because I don't remember that stuff. I know the staring happened, it was real, and that's what ended up being the important part of those days. The falling in love. 

Forgive me, Internet. There are few online sins worse than telling everyone how you have cherished every moment. But I think you CAN cherish SOME moments? Even when you have a sterile tube taped to your boob and your husband is micromanaging how you're attempting to latch a six-pound baby at three in the morning... 

This is just what nine-year-old Jack wants to read about himself, isn't it, but lucky for him this blog is not about him anymore. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FIRST WONDER BABY.)


We'll just forget that ever happened

HALLO!

So this is what's up. I stopped blogging. I told myself I was done blogging. I told my friends and family I was done blogging. I MIGHT HAVE CRIED A LITTLE, OKAY?

Then I went to Hawaii over Spring Break, spent a lot of time sitting in the sun drinking cocktails and Mulling Life, and I realized: NOPE. 

The week before we went to Hawaii was a nightmare. 

The Saturday before - the night before Easter - I was about to hide the kids' Easter baskets when I noticed that they were covered, no, SWARMING, with ants. We are fighting neverending battles against ants and they won this one big time. I found myself wandering Target at 10 o'clock at night, damning the entire population of Seattle for buying up all the Easter baskets (because I'd thrown everything away, all of it) and staving off tears by writing despairing texts to everyone I knew. 

Easter Sunday we found lice in the girls' hair. 

Monday we realized our leaky washer was getting worse, what with the ants and the lice laundry. 

Tuesday we paid a company called Lice Knowing You to comb the girls' hair because IT IS THE WORST JOB IN THE UNIVERSE.

Wednesday we worried about the washer. And the water damage on the floor. Phillip left work early to go buy a new washing machine at Home Depot. I had never been more in love. 

Thursday we went back for a lice check. All clear! 

Friday I drove to Vancouver with friends for a much needed ladies' weekend away and our new washing machine was installed.

Saturday Phillip texted to tell me that um, hmm, it actually wasn't the washer, he thinks the leak is in the WALL. 

Sunday evening Phillip called to tell me that our contractor would NOT be starting our bathroom demo on Monday as planned, he needed to undergo a biopsy to see if his acid reflux was actually CANCER. 

That's when I cried. 

(I've since returned to a more balanced human being who is more sad for her contractor-who-became-a-friend than her postponed bathroom. But I might have reached A Limit that night.) 

When I came back from Vancouver the bathroom plans were up in the air, the laundry room was still taking on water, and we were going to Hawaii on Thursday. I asked Phillip, "Are the locusts next?" 

The morning before we went to Hawaii we had a plumber come, cut out water damaged section of wall, and fixed our leaky pipe. I'm not mad about this. I got a fancy new washing machine out of our lack of House Handiness. But, you know, there's a gaping hole in the laundry room wall. 

So I'm sitting in Hawaii thinking about all this and WHAT IT MEANS. And I realize that I really miss my blog. Which I always told everyone I would always write on, even if the only reader I had was my mom. Which was true of my blog's early years! (YEARS!) How many times have I said that I don't know what I think or how I feel about something until I write it? 

I NEEDED TO WRITE. 

So I'm back. And things are better. We're interviewing new contractors this week. Phillip and I are slowly coming back from that edge where everything makes us want to push the other one off. The kids are doing well. The weather has been MAGICAL. 

I took a lot of people off my Twitter and I took Twitter off my computer. I'm keeping my Facebook account because it's basically my mom's Facebook account. I have my phone numbers for emergency texting. I'm dialing it back, for real. But I had gobs of fun revamping this place to look (I realized afterwards) just like my bakery website (shrug) and I MISSED YOU, BLOG, I REALLY DID. 

 


In which the Cheung kids discover they're internet famous

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

And this one:

 

One more? All right.

 

But we can't leave Emma out!

 

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

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


ACK BATHROOM REMODEL

IN SPITE OF:

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

WE ARE GOING TO REMODEL THE STUPID BATHROOM. 

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

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

IMG_1386

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


SAHMing, and realizing the end of an era quickly approaches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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