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    October 01, 2015

    This week's Two A.M. Feed

    Oh hello, Neglected Blawg. Here's this week's Two A.M. Feed! And here's where you can sign up for email delivery! 


    The Are You Serious, Seattle School Board? Edition

    Last week I linked to a podcast and a New York Times article about school integration issues. This week I found out there's a school integration issue happening in my district. In my neighborhood. The boundaries in question are the boundaries for my kids' school. There's nothing to link to (yet) and I'm not ready to do that anyway, so for now let's just read Nikole Hannah-Jones' reporting in last year's Atlantic about school segregation in Alabama and examine these charts about segregation in New York City. And here is a report called Housing Policy is School Policy that looks to be extra relevant, though it's still sitting in my bookmarks folder feeling lonely because 57 pages. But hey, when you are someone who generally avoids having opinions in public, when it looks like you'll need to use your timid little voice, you attempt to be as informed as possible. 


    [cleansing breath]

    Okay, so this is some horrible Facebook clickbait, but you guys, I love love love Shirley Temple and I bookmarked this link to show to my kids. My grandma had practically every Shirley Temple movie recorded on a neatly marked VHS tape and I saw every one of them, sitting on her living room floor eating an ice cream cone. Oh, now I miss my grandma. Dangit, Shirley Temple! (Oh, and watching this is super weird now that I have a seven-year-old girl.)

    One of my favorite Twitter follows, LZ Granderson, on Faith: It's Not Just For Straight People Anymore.

    I used to think (maybe still do think) that the absolute best job in the world would be a guidebook writer. This blog post from the Rick Steves site (but not by Rick Steves) maaaay take away some of my perceived glamour, but he still got to see The Last Supper, so whatever. 

    Speaking of travel, here are 25 Unusual Foreign Travel Warnings For Visiting The US

    Phillip and I had a whole big conversation on this lady poker player and her feminine wiles the other night. Read the transcript or click the link to hear her story on All Things Considered.

    and now it's time for!

    This Week In Nazis: I really enjoyed this article about WWII obituaries, especially all the ones it links to! And here's a piece about all the gold rushers in Poland thinking they've found the hidden Nazi train and now a maze of tunnels

    This Week In SeattleThe head of the teacher's union is a tough guy in this interview. He came off as Mr. No Personality the one time I saw him on TV, but I suppose that could be the effect of staying up until 3 in the morning asking the school district for more recess. 

    Tonight I go to a meeting related to the above Boundary Madness and then the Cheungs escape to Great Wolf Lodge for the weekend. If you can call that an escape. My kids will certainly think so, but I may hide under the bed with a flask of wine and one of those Magic Quest wands, thwacking away anyone who tries to pull me out. I hope your weekend is just as exciting.

    September 24, 2015

    "Normal", church, gyms, anxiety, babies. So. The topics you've come to expect.

    SOOOOOO everything should be good, now, right? Kids are in school AND taking the bus, which is pretty neato for all of us. Emma goes to preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She'll start going MWF if a spot ever opens up, but honestly, I'm already over the driving schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I'm not in a huge hurry for her to switch. And when they're all out and occupied I've been grocery shopping, drying and folding laundry (not just leaving it in the washing machine to mold for days on end) (you do this too, don't lie), and also a lot of staring at blank walls which is something I feel I deserve. At least for a little while. 

    Like the gym? Yeah. I thought Emma HAD a MWF preschool schedule so I was going to do the gym each of those mornings. But she didn't get a spot (fine) and now I only have TWO Emma-free mornings and that feels like so much less time than THREE Emma-free mornings. Also, on one of those mornings I somehow mostly-committed myself to what I thought was a bible study. At the time I thought Emma could go with me and be in the new co-opy childcare set up (Catholic churches: Y NO BABYSITTERS?) and we would have four out of five mornings nicely scheduled up, but now I'm all WAIT. I'm going to be spending one of my only two kid-free mornings HERE? It's not a bible study either, it's a lay Dominican spirituality class (my church is a Dominican church. Parish. Something or other.) Which is cool if you are into that sort of thing, but I think I am not? I liked the lady leading it, but all the kid noise was distracting and several times I found myself thinking, "I COULD just read a BOOK." Of course, the point was to MEET some of the other women at my church because I'm actually ready to stop being a crotchety run-away-as-soon-as-Mass-is-over Catholic. But I don't know. One of the few women I know at my church is the ORGANIZER of this ministry thing, so I could just say HEY, plz invite me over for talking and wine with the other ladies. Then I wouldn't have to learn about St. Dominic. 


    Anyway. It will take a bit for me to figure things out, I guess. I decided that next week is the week I make myself go to the gym and get back to the place where I LIKED going to the gym and it felt like a regular part of my week. Oh, this reminds me to update you on my Dosage Lowering Experiment. I was supposed to go down one step, and if I was feeling fine after a month, go down another step. Well, I haven't gone down the second step. It isn't that I'm experiencing anxiety, but I feel like I'm hovering in the place where I could easily tip over the edge. Sometimes it feels like an actual LINE, or a FENCE even, that I'm sitting on top of. A feather could knock me into the abyss. I'm not QUITE on that fence yet, but I feel like going down another step MIGHT put me there. This may not make sense unless you are crazy like me. But I'm trying to reason with myself. I could try it and see what happens. But I could also NOT try. It's not like I HAVE to try. It's not like anyone's out there pushing me to try or shaming me into it... except my own self. I really think the only hope I have for losing this weight is to consume less of this medication. But... it seems I'm not just SAYING "not anxious is better than skinny", but am actually living it out. 

    I might take that step down still. I haven't completely decided. My brain doctor is out on maternity leave and there's no appointment set up for me to say definitively what's going on. I have space. I like that.

    And quite honestly, the only thing fattening up this much as really changed about my life is that it's much harder to find clothes I feel good in. Which is a big deal, but not the hugest deal. I can still find SOME cute things. I don't ALWAYS feel like a whale. I haven't, you know, lost any friends or been kicked out of parties. 

    I suppose there's the looming specter of diabetes. HEH.

    All the moms I know are exhausted. We're all feeling a little guilty, because HELLO, school was supposed to solve all our problems. But the starting of school - getting up early, making lunches, homework, piano practice, shoehorning everyone back into that routine - is sort of exhausting! We are HAPPIER, but man we're tired. Phillip wants to take the big kids to do some outdoorsy thing with friends on Saturday and because I avoid outdoorsy things like the plague and Phillip doesn't want to deal with the still un-potty-trained four-year-old, Emma and I are going to have a nice long boring day by ourselves. 

    Did I forget to tell you my baby is four? My baby is four. That birth story from hell is now four years old. I know I'm still not over it because every time someone tells me THEIR birth story my whole body contracts in fear. But my baby is FOUR. I am delighted by her every day, and also kind of heartbroken. I've got big kids now. All big kids. I'm good with babies. I'm a good mom to babies. There are a lot of babies in my family, but none close by. No one has a baby I can just borrow for a few hours to tamp that feeling down. I told Phillip last night and he was super jokey and dismissive and I got MAD. This is a real feeling. And I'm not saying I want to have another one, but I also don't feel done with taking care of them. So I don't know what to do with that. 

    OKAY I THINK I'LL STOP NOW! Time to throw some pizza at the kids and head to a [deep breath] PTA meeting. WOO HOO!


    September 13, 2015

    No school tomorrow

    Until I went to college, nearly every adult I knew was either a teacher or in the United States Air Force. All my parents' friends were teachers, and all my friends' parents were in the military. While I think living on military bases overseas exposed me to a great diversity of people, all of those people worked for the same dude: The Government. Systems of promotion and raises and time off were pretty standard across the board. And while I was absolutely certain I did not want to be in the military and fairly certain I did not want to be a teacher, I didn't have a whole lot of ideas about what I COULD be. (Seriously, until I decided to get married, my best guess for my future was teaching English in Europe somewhere - maybe the best of both teaching/military worlds!) 

    So it's been PRETTY FREAKING WEIRD to ride shotgun along Phillip's career, a path that's taken us down a mostly Big Time Corporate Tech Dude territory. Unfortunately for him, I was never career-oriented, being mainly concerned with just making enough money to travel. I don't think he was particularly hard core on career until we had Jackson, though, and since I was very happy staying at home, he had the space and also the pressure to actually DO this work thing. And that's when Work became WORK. 

    But even before it was WORK, Phillip's perspectives on it were so different than mine. I used to chalk it up to White/Asian stuff, which a lot of it was (and is!), but it's also about what our own parents did and the other adults we knew growing up. My adults were teachers/soldiers. His were white collars on corporate ladders. Before we had kids I would rant about people who couldn't leave work at work, who traveled too much, who answered every email at any time of day, who cared too much about (ugh) money. 

    Little did I know that I MARRIED one of those people. HA! And THANK GOD. Want to live in Seattle and have kids and a house and maybe dinner out once in a while? YOU NEED A JOB.

    Phillip has spent GOBS of time strategizing his next career move. It's amazing. I STILL come from a place where you want to be a thing and you become that thing and you do that thing and hopefully you're paid enough to do the fun stuff you want to do in your life and that's pretty much it. Phillip thinks that's nuts. Phillip's dad likes to say, "You always have to be thinking about the next job!" Which *I* think is nuts. My husband's crafty strategizing, his willingness to take advantage of opportunities, his annoying work ethic, and his NO FEAR for asking for raises/promotions is amazing. Even if I WERE career-oriented, I'm positive I'd be far behind him, terrified as I am of promoting myself or asking for anything. I do a lot of leaning OUT, people. 

    He's now at a company he's wanted to work for for a long time. He's happy there, happy to be part of this big Seattle tech thing that's happening. And I'm happy for him, even if the t-shirts and morale-building emails make me want to barf a little bit. (They don't just make a product, you guys, they make a way of life.) He's a devoted employee AND likes his job, which is mind blowing to me, someone who has NEVER liked an office job. And also, again, THANK GOD.

    ANYWAY. My whole point of writing this. I'm getting to it. It's been a brain twist for me, or like a REWORKING of ideas I've always had, that you could go to work for a company and maybe move around within it, doing different jobs. You could RISE. And as you did that, you had frequent conversations about your performance, what you could be doing better, what you're awesome at, and what your compensation should be. You don't just wait around for the next across the board pay raise for your chosen career, you don't just hope things will be different that year, you negotiate it. If you're Phillip, you do a crap ton of research on nine million websites, develop your self sales pitch, and ask for more. Because you CAN. You might GET it. 

    And you know what I feel like Seattle teachers are doing? This is their self sales pitch. This is their "Look. We are incredible assets to the company and we have sat around waiting for this company to get its shit together for too long." There is not one thing on the list of things that Seattle teachers are striking for that I disagree with. Or don't want for my own kids. 

    There ARE crappy teachers out there. I KNOW. You can't have two teachers for parents and know all the other teachers by their first names and not be aware of some REALLY CRAPPY TEACHERS. But the teachers I know and love are crazy amazing people. The teachers at my kids' school especially. I'm serious. I don't know all of them, but I have a pretty good sense of the camaraderie at that school, the devotion to their students, the heart they have for the work they do, and the extra miles they go out of school. There are several stories I can't share here, but they feature teachers who made school families part of their families when it was most needed. We are not a Catholic school like I hoped to go to, we are not a private school which a lot of people choose since supposedly Seattle schools are so terrible, we are not a gifted kids school, or even an average neighborhood school - my kids' school is over 70% free lunch. There were three and a half white kids in Jack's class (Jack was the half). The kids at our school have names I can't pronounce because they were born in different countries. Our school doesn't even try to have an auction or a carnival because the volunteer base isn't there. Creating community in that school is hard work, but I LOVE my kids' school and that is almost wholly because the teachers have made it a wonderful place to be, for both parents and kids. I 100% support them striking for more recess, less testing, and equity for students of all backgrounds and I 1000% support them for asking their bosses for appropriate compensation for HARD WORK. 


    September 10, 2015

    This week's Two A.M. Feed

    Phillip is all, "Why don't you just post it on your website? What's the difference with this newsletter thing?" The truthful answer is I DON'T KNOW and maybe it's all redundant and stupid, whatever. Sometimes I sort of wish certain blogs still had the old school "subscribe by email!" link so maybe this is that. ANYWAY. Herewith is this week's Two A.M. Feed, just delivered via email and posted here for non-subscriber yet faithful blog reader enjoyment. (Or boredom.)

    Subscribe here!


    The We Support The Teachers! Edition

    This Week In Seattle gets bumped to the top this week because OH MY GAWWWWD the teachers are on strike andit does not look good. The Two A.M. Feed is the proud progeny of two Washington state public school teachers, one of whom spent many an evening away as part of a bargaining team. In Two A.M.'s teenage years she was forced, on multiple occasions, to give up her bedroom so the visiting DoDDS union rep could sleep over, so it's not like she's TOTALLY pro-Union, but she can't really argue with anything on this list.  The Seattle Times thinks the teachers are "at risk of becoming a symbol of excess for those who oppose more school spending", but when you read this condemnation of the Washington State legislature, you feel like throwing your shade towards Olympia instead of the picket lines. 

    In other news!

    Picking vs. inheriting religion: Catholics Who Aren't Catholic 

    Where are the rich Gulf states in the midst of the refugee crisis? Social media is wondering the same thingMore from the International Business Times. No idea how I started following Hisham Melhem on Twitter; this piece of his is intense and makes you think. 

    Wondering where to give or how to help? This list of organizations complied by CNN seems legit. The work being done by Migrant Offshore Aid Station is especially inspiring. Catholic Relief Services has good information too. 

    I admit it. I mocked. And now I take it back. Evidence the ice bucket challenge may have worked.

    This piece on Madeleine L'Engle made me feel rotten for not liking her books. Maybe I should return to them as an adult (albeit one who still hates reading fantasy) and give her another shot. 

    A brief history of the British royal family. This is so so great. 

    Bucking a trend, some millennials are seeking a nun's life. (I know a handful of young women living in an old convent near me. Some are discerning, some aren't, but none of them have taken me up on my offer to spend a few hours a week with three delightful children UNFORTCH.)

    And now it's time for...

    This Week in Nazis: I cannot WAIT to read this book. The Atlantic interviews Timothy Snyder who has a new book on Hitler himself: Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. When you read this stuff you can't help but apply the things you've learned to what's happening in today's world, and the interview goes into a bit of that. Fair warning (though pointless as there is probably exactly one of you who might read this YO RACHAEL!): Timothy Snyder's previous book, Bloodlands, is the last book I had to stash in my freezer, Joey-style. I don't expect him to hold back in the new one either. (GONNA READ IT ANYWAY)

    Nothing else happened this week. Let's hope next week's Feed consists of celebratory SCHOOL IS BACK IN SESSION articles, shall we? Excellent. 

    September 08, 2015


    As it seems likely the teachers will strike tomorrow - the first day of school - we will begin today's blog post with a moment of silent prayer. 


    Thank you. 


    SIGH. Brisk clap. Phillip and I had a productive weekend, by which I mean our friends talked some sense into us (by which I mean him, obvs) and Team Cheung is plugging away. One thing I learned this weekend is that Phillip is BURNED. OUT. Probably anyone else could see this and talk about it, but I think because burned outness is something I completely deny/ignore/avoid/fight when it happens to me, I'm pretty terrible at identifying it in someone else. It's kind of like I don't see the POINT of being burned out. I mean, you still have to keep going, right? It's not like I have the option of throwing myself on my fainting couch and letting the au pair take care of the laundry and grocery shopping for a week. So I just don't let myself get there. [If you are thinking, "Hey! That sounds like a good way to propel oneself into a confusing anxiety attack!" YOU ARE CORRECT.] 

    So, poor Phillip. It's not like I don't KNOW that he's struggling, but for whatever reason I just expect him to Power Through the way I do, forgetting that Powering Through is actually one of my special superpowers, not an average skill everyone is born with. 

    What IS good about living with a person with the superpower of Getting Shit Done is that once said person finally figures out her husband really IS at his rope's end, she prints out a calendar of the year and starts inserting deliberate down time into any potentially stressful week or month. We now have a fun family weekend planned for October and a relaxing just us retreat weekend planned in November. A weekend in Vegas in January thanks to my crappy trip out of the Colorado Springs airport last year and the vouchers I got for complaining about it. A potential family trip planned for midwinter break in February. And maybe turning last year's Husbands Ski Weekend into an annual thing. (December is just going to be a mess. December is always a mess. Even a wife with special superpowers is no match for December.) 

    We ALSO reformulated our plans for remodeling. For the zillionth time. This has been SUCH an annoying process, but I guess we needed to do it. The bathroom HAS to get fixed. It has actual stuff wrong with it, so the bathroom is still on tap for Drastic Renovations. But the kitchen... as much as I despise my tile countertops, the kitchen is FUNCTIONAL. The kitchen can last a lot longer so instead of focusing on big bath and kitchen remodels, we're now looking at throwing some money at the living room. When I asked Phillip what things stressed him out about the house, he mentioned the hole in the carpet, still there from when we removed the fireplace when we moved in. The cracks in the ceiling from the fireplace removal. The fact that all his living room electronics are sort of patched together, wires all over the place, nothing working quite right. So now we're thinking about actually going ahead on that Wall O' Built Ins we've dreamed about, with places for everything, wiring in the walls, and replacing allll the carpet. Expensive, but probably not as expensive as tearing out the kitchen, right? 

    (I've been so frustrated with the not having a remodel plan that I've taken to hunting for new construction houses on Redfin, all located thirty minutes north, of course, with four bedrooms, bonus rooms, dens with full bathrooms that can double as guest rooms, laundry upstairs, and NEW NEW NEW EVERYTHING. After the last move (done while pregnant and Phillip was traveling) I said I'd die in this house, so I should probably reevaluate.)

    You don't care about any of this, but it was helpful for me to write out. PEOPLE TO CALL. STUFF TO LOOK UP. NO HEAD SPACE TO GET IT DONE UNTIL THESE KIDS GO TO SCHOOL ACK.


    September 03, 2015

    Seasonal Angst

    I need everyone to know Seattle Public Schools does not start until Wednesday. Next week. The ninth. Next week. NEXXXXXT WEEEEEK. And! The teachers union just voted to authorize a strike! Mediation begins tomorrow, but it's entirely possible school WON'T start on the ninth. If that comes to pass, I bequeath the blog to the first comment on this post. 

    (HA. Have just ensured no one comments on this post.)

    Tomorrow a pair of sainted grandparents pick up the children and whisk them away for the weekend GOD BLESS THEM. I know I've bored you with this piece of trivia before, but I'll repeat it again - each year on Labor Day weekend we get together with three other couples we've known since college and do a rehashing of our year. What was awesome, what was not awesome, some prayer, some amateur counseling, and lots and lots of eating. I think this is our ELEVENTH year, you guys. And when you have been rehashing your year with the same friends for ELEVEN YEARS, you start to [finally] identify some patterns. As in, every single end-of-August, Phillip and Maggie, no matter HOW lovely a year it's been, IMPLODE. 

    As I've been already rehashing this for a week or so now (I am an introverted internal processor, this is what we DO) with all sorts of people, even including Phillip himself, I have all sorts of insight into our August Dramz. It goes something like this:


    Phillip: Need to get work stuff done so we can go on trips! Vacation! Paying for vacation! Money! Budget! WORK! 

    Maggie: SUMMER! WHEE! *dances*


    Phillip: Need to get work stuff done because we went on all those trips! Still paying for them! Money! Budget! WORK! 

    Maggie: Hmm. Despite library visits, neighbor kids, grandparents, tons o' outings, and emergency afternoons at friends' houses, there is still a LOT OF TIME that these kids are hovering around me asking for snacks and iPad time and more snacks and what's for dinner and what can they do now and OMG ALL THE TALKING LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY. 


    Phillip: STA-RESSSSSSS! House is a mess! Kids are terrible! We've spent too much money! I am working so hard! No one appreciates me! Least of all that woman I live with who last spoke to me four days ago!

    Maggie: *passed out on couch, earplugs in ears*

    RIGHT. SO. 

    During one of our Um, What Is Going On With Us conversations Phillip swore up and down that the kids not being in school doesn't affect him because HE does the same thing every day, no matter what time of year it is. True that. HOWEVER. It sure does affect the moods of his wife and children at the end of the day when he comes home, and it undoubtedly affects what they are DOING. There is no snack, homework, piano practice, reading, dinner routine in the summer. There's no structure. There's no set time for, say, cleaning up the living room so Phillip has an actual path through the house when he gets home. I say we will ALL be happier family members when the routine picks up again. 

    But it's also true that by the end of the summer I am half as productive as I was at the beginning. Maybe I love babies so much because they don't talk to me. I love my big kids, you know that, but the incessant chatter and needing and in-my-space-ing is haaaaaarrrrrd. Any energy I had for doing fun stuff and going places is long gone by the end of August. At the end of August the only place that looks good is my BED. 

    So I'm not, you know, asking Phillip about his day. Or being super aware of what's going on with him. Or, ah, making sure there's something other than cereal for dinner. Pretty bad at that last one. 

    Even though we've had a GREAT! YEAR!, seems like our couples weekend rolls around and things are NOT! THAT! GREAT! But. The benefit of eleven years of weekending and twelve years of marriage:

    Maggie: Seems like we do this every year. 

    Phillip: Huh. Sounds about right. 

    Maggie: It'll get better in a week. 

    Phillip: Yeah, you're probably right, okay I'm gonna keep watching this stupid PRE-SEASON SO IT DOESN'T EVEN COUNT football game if that's fine with you. 

    Maggie: *passed out on couch*

    [You know what? Any weekend is going to be better than last year's weekend, which coincided with the "temporarily raised anxiety levels" symptom in my ramp up to the correct SSRI dosage, wherein I sat shaking and sweating and speechless while my friends drove me to Target for my emergency Klonopin prescription. I have good friends. I also still have that bottle of Klonopin. I haven't needed it since that day, but I like to keep it around. #preparedness This year? DECIDEDLY LESS ANXIETY, THANK THE LORD. More poundage, but a lot less crazy, PHEW.]


    Things I do not have energy to tell you about because see above: my wine tasting weekend in Walla Walla, my big seven-year-old girl's birthday, my haircut dilemma, more cries of desperation re: school not starting waaaahhhh. 

    What do you think? Do you have a yearly pattern like this? SEASONAL ANGST? I think we have some others, but this is probably the most pronounced one. And it's another thing where having good friends/community is SO HELPFUL because you can be whining about something and they'll look at you with annoyance and say, "GAWD, I swear you guys do this EVERY YEAR."


    August 25, 2015

    In which the bershon might kill me

    At dinner I make everyone say one thing they liked about their day and one thing they didn't like. (Why yes it IS a mini examen.) I have transcribed a bit of tonight's conversation. Some pertinent background information: today we went to Jack's well child exam, did some back to school shopping, and spent the afternoon playing iPad while Mommy did the semi-annual Hated Clothes Sort.

    EMMA: My good thing is that I went sopping with Mommy! And my SAD thing is that DADDY went to WORK. 

    JACK: Welllll... I can't think of any good things right now...

    JACK'S PARENTS: Okay, well start with your not so good thing and you can think about good things later.

    JACK: Wellll... my bad thing is that today was just .... we didn't have any plans. So it was pretty .... boring

    JACK'S MOTHER: What are you talking about? We got new school shoes today. I let you pick out a new backpack! Those aren't good things?

    JACK: Shoes just aren't very important to me. 

    JACK'S MOTHER: You sure acted like they were important when you didn't like the first fifteen pairs I picked out for you. 

    JACK: [heavy sigh/quasi eye roll that would do a thirteen-year-old girl proud]


    *later on*


    JACK'S FATHER, WITH THINLY VEILED SARCASM: So Jack, tomorrow we don't have any plans either. How can we accommodate your needs?

    JACK, NOT GETTING IT AT ALL: Welllll... I like to do things. Like maybe we can go to the Science Center. Or go to a friend's house. 

    JACK'S MOTHER, ENTHUSIASTICALLY: You can do laundry. You can do dishes. Oooh, I know! You can clean the toilet!

    JACK: [cracks a smile because he thinks his mother is not serious] [his mother is totally serious]

    MOLLY: MY good thing is that Mommy got me new shoes! And I got to pick out my own backpack! And I had a frozen GoGurt for a snack! I am happy about everything! All the time! My bad thing is... I don't have a bad thing! I LOVE YOU, WORLD!!!!!!1!!!

    JACK'S FATHER: What about doing some of those Lego sets you have half built?

    JACK, WITH UTMOST CONTEMPT: Most of those are broken. And the other ones you dumped out in the other bins and all the pieces are mixed up

    JACK'S FATHER: ... So. You look for them. 


    MOLLY: But the doctor said you had good vision!

    JACK'S MOTHER: [falls off her chair laughing]

    It's just... I mean, a whole summer FULL of this! And it's getting worse! And most of the time I react by staring speechless because HE IS EIGHT! He is not a teenage girl! I had YEARS to mentally prepare myself for this attitude problem, didn't I? 

    Last week I printed out calendars for August and September, wrote down all the big things (appointments, Molly's birthday, weekends away), and listed out the rules for when he can ask me if he can play Minecraft. The Minecraft thing has been better since then, and that's totally my bad for not doing it at the beginning of summer. Master Jackson has always done better with Clearly Defined Structure, being the sort of person who wants to know what we're doing tomorrow, and at what time, and what we'll be doing directly after that. 

    [I just heard him ask Molly if they can make their own schedule in the morning where they play chess because 1) I won't let him play the iPad on weekday mornings and 2) "otherwise I get bored".]

    I feel like I could have done a little better maybe, figured out some Pinteresty projects for him to work on, gave him something to investigate over the summer and make a book or a report or something. He LIKES stuff like that. But no, instead I decided we would go to the library at least once a week and we would have at least a half hour of reading each afternoon and OH, this is not how he would like to spend his time. 

    If the little girl on our street is around, both big kids will spend the entire afternoon and evening riding bikes and hanging out with her. But she's on vacation until school starts. I FEAR FOR OUR LIVES, INTERNET.

    I want him to quit being such a butthead about EVERYTHING. All the time. About our whole day. The sighing, the almost-stomping, the almost-eye-rolling - enough to make us think he's being a butthead, but not enough to warrant a shouting throwdown. (Although I did send him to his room at 7:08 this morning. I think I'd been awake all of two minutes.)

    So yeah, I want to respond better too. Tonight I was sarcastic and snippy and laughing at him, which wasn't satisfying since he didn't realize I was laughing at him. But that's not... I don't know. The part of me that remembers being a kid doesn't want to totally disregard him like that. 

    And when we DO regard him... like right now my sainted husband is playing one of his giant silly board games with all the kids and Jack is ENGAGED. He is happy and into it and likes us again. When I spend an extra 10 minutes chatting with him before I turn out his light at bedtime, those are well spent 10 minutes. And when we DO have plans, it almost doesn't matter what the plans are, he's good. Yesterday his main companion was a 10-year-old with Down Syndrome and autism who says only a few words, and Jack was awesome with him! Included him and had fun with him. He is not the horrible, unfeeling, apathetic, super selfish BUTTHEAD he sometimes acts like. 

    BUT DUDE. I am not his cruise director! I am not his teacher! Or his grandma or his babysitter or any of the other people invested in making sure Jackson Cheung has a good time! Man, some days just making sure he eats three meals is the best I can do. There are nine million toys in this house, not to mention piles of paper and art supplies, a garage full of bikes and scooters and balls, a backyard with a FREAKING SLIDE. Make your own fun, eight-year-old boy! Quit talking to me like my main function is to make sure you are entertained all the livelong day!



    Okay. It might be out of my system. For now. I'm going to hide in the bedroom while the rest of them are having this little family moment. I think everyone will be happiest that way. 

    August 11, 2015

    Side effects

    I went to see the brain doctor today. Before I say anything else, I want to tell you how much I LIKE my brain doctor. With the exception of my beloved but not entirely effective naturopath, she's the only medical person I've seen about anxiety who trusts my reporting of my own symptoms. Does that make sense? I felt like every other doctor was either comparing me to the last anxious/depressed person they saw and copying their prescription OR filtering everything I told them through a Can't Trust A Half Crazy SAHM With An English Degree filter. This doctor BELIEVES ME. 

    So going in today to talk about WEIGHT GAIN was not as painful as it could have been (and HAS been in the past. Previous Brain Doctor: "You're probably just eating more." YA THINK?) Well, it was just a checking in appointment, but since weight gain is basically my only side effect, that ended up being the topic of conversation. FUN TIMES. 

    The bad part is that I've gained a lot of weight. Sometimes I feel okay about it. Most of the time I don't. And then there are days when I feel horribly ashamed and hate myself. Like, more than the average lady is ashamed of and hates her body. 

    The good part is that my doctor agrees that the meds have played a large part in my extra padding (even when I told her how much cake I eat - she said, "I don't know, this is more weight than just CAKE") and she suggested a few options. The one I'm going with is lowering my dose for a while and combining that, when school starts again, with the Taking Care Of Myself routine I used to have before meds made eating well and exercising feel totally pointless. I was going to the gym pretty regularly before school got out and even though I wasn't losing weight, being active made me not hate myself as much. You know? And it was SO GOOD to have a regular schedule for exercise. Sometimes I beat myself up for not being able to lose weight when I was able to lose so much weight after having Molly, when I had TWO BABIES. But I remind myself that they were BABIES and had nowhere to go and were nice long nappers in the afternoons. I DID have more "me" time then! Believe it or not. 

    ANYWAY. We'll see if that makes any difference. I don't feel particularly hopeful, but I do like having a PLAN. Or something to TRY. It will require me stepping on scale, something I haven't done in a few months, and I am horrrrrrrrified at the prospect. But my doctor doesn't trust me so much that "just going by how my pants feel" will be enough data for her. Unfortch. If it works and I'm still feeling like a normal person, then yay! If I get anxious, I'll go back up to my current dose. WE SHALL SEE.

    In the meantime I remind myself over and over and over that I would rather struggle with how clothes look on my body than be anxious. THAT IS HOW MUCH I DO NOT WANT TO BE ANXIOUS. I would rather stress about what shirts hide my muffin top and if they go with these pants or that skirt or maybe I should just give up and wear that maxi dress for the nineteenth day in a row. I would rather not be able to wear most of whatever they're selling at the Loft than be anxious. (Not that I like anything at the Loft these days. Hit or miss, that place.)

    Phillip completely wholeheartedly agrees and does not seem to mind my expanding size at all. He says so often and I almost believe him. I really really wish that made me feel okay about myself, but guess what! It doesn't really help! Is that a women-in-general thing or is that just ME? It seems like it should help. It helps right when he says it, and then I go back to wondering how to cut my hair because I think my neck is too fat for a pixie.

    Anyway, this was not meant to be a Woe Is Me post or a I'm Doing So Poorly post... I just really wanted to write about What It's Like and be honest, for my experience anyway. I don't want to blame it all on the meds, I mean, I eat a LOT of cake, especially when NOT eating cake doesn't appear to have any benefits. I think the truest way to say it would be that meds have made it next to impossible for me to LOSE weight. I am a responsibility taker! I take responsibility for the cake!

    But my doctor, who has DEGREES and an OFFICE and a PRESCRIPTION PAD thinks it's a bit more than that and it is VALIDATING. She had ideas and that is HELPFUL. And when I told her that I've been chubby my whole life and that my two sisters are cute and thin and so much smaller than me, but *I* have a SCINTILLATING PERSONALITY, she laughed. Does it sound like I think she's a fantastic doctor because she likes me? YOU'RE RIGHT AND I'M KEEPING HER. 

    I am not my pants size. And even if I could fit into the size 8 jeans I keep stashed in the back of my closet, I would not be a better person. I might even still not like the way I look. I would probably still take issue with many parts of me, just like every other woman I know, of every size. The "celebrating the body that produced three amazing humans!" perspective doesn't completely speak to me, but I do think the person INSIDE my body is pretty awesome. I like me. It's been nearly a year since I started this new med and it's been a good one. Lots of great stuff happening, new stuff, fun stuff. It's a near-daily struggle not to let a year of weight gain cancel out all that great stuff, but it's a struggle I generally near-daily win. 

    August 04, 2015

    My mother would like to know what the point of having a blog is if I'm not going to write about her grandchildren so HERE YA GO, MOM

    As this is/used to be/poses as a Mommy Blog, I thought I'd throw a bone to at least my mother and write about the kids. I have kids! Do we remember them? This used to be all about them! Now they are... big. They also have absolutely no idea that I write about them on the internet. I suspect all three would be pleased in some way, though the only one who would ACT pleased is the middle one and for sure the oldest one would have some sort of cheek-sucking, "Well, I don't know how I really FEEL about that..." comment. Though the cheek-sucking is there to contain the Secretly Pleased that he can't help but show whenever anyone is paying attention to him. And then the youngest, I mean, she's still trying to color her whole self with pink highlighter, so does her opinion matter much?

    But I'm not sure how much longer the Pleased will continue. The oldest is eight. EIGHT. And now he is all tanned legs and knee-length baggy shorts and sports camp t-shirts and "Can I play the Xbox? Can I play the iPad? Okay then, can I play your PHONE? And can we get a new game?" This reveals poor parenting, I know, but I feel that I can blame this particular flaw on my husband, seeing as how HE is the one who had to have one each of the the Xbox, Wii, Apple TV, Roku, Newest Phone, Newest Laptop, ETC. How am I supposed to stem the tide of Screens when I am married to that? 

    I have my own screen habit btw, if you hadn't noticed. 

    Jackson is going into third grade and while second grade memories are, for me, spotty, THIRD grade is when my real life began. So I am tremendously excited and tremendously afraid. This is when all the reasons he'll have to go to therapy as an adult will start happening, am I right? Now he's going to REMEMBER all my parenting flaws. And these are numerous lately, as I contend with a Jackson who is also not being the best version of himself. This summer we've had conversations on what exactly denotes a dirty pair of shorts, how (and why) to not steamroll one's grandparents, how to move about the house your mother is losing her mind with you (pretend you do not exist), why Reading is Important, how much your mother does not care what state that license plate is from on that car up there (like, so so so does not care), and why saying "please" or a "no, thank you" to something you say does not automatically make it good manners. This is the summer that real and true Boredom has set in, meaning it is the summer I have started saying things like, "You could fold this laundry right here and put it away! You could sweep the deck! Do you want to do the dishes? I CAN THINK OF LOTS OF THINGS FOR YOU TO DO."

    He is moody, whiny, and entirely self-absorbed which makes me tremble with fear for his future as a teenager living in my house. He is only eight. Why so much existential angst? How bad can it be when one lives on one's favorite orange processed noodle food, has built approximately thirteen million Minecraft cities, and is continually asked to play by the cute blond girl down the street? Is this such a rough life? 

    That said, the key to getting this kid to be a Good and Decent Human Being, one that does not walk about the house like a Freaking Martyr, is not taking away his beloved electronics or yelling or lectures or solitary confinement or early bedtimes. (Though none of those things are his favorite and can often serve to make his parents feel better.) No, it's actually putting absolutely everything else aside and sitting down with just Jackson in his own space and Asking Him How He's Doing. He will tell you (!) and usually at least half of it makes you want to explode with annoyance or resentment or frustration, but really he wants to be Heard and then loved on a little bit. Reading him a story (even though he's EIGHT and doesn't LIKE READING STOP MAKING HIM DO IT) or playing a game or watching him do his magic tricks or talking about what we'll do tomorrow or next weekend. A little one on one time, a little attention, and suddenly I have my sweet little boy back, the one who draws me get well cards and snuggles and cleans up the living room as a "surprise" for me. He beams with happiness, he gets the giggles, he wears what I tell him to wear, he is kind and loving to his sisters, he actually secretly does like reading. 

    Molly finds the entire world to be a delight and in doing so is a Delight herself. She has her occasional moments of Devastation, for example when Jackson throws a ball and it glances off her elbow, or when Jackson (again) says something less than completely complimentary about her French braid. We understand - after all, we live with Jackson too - but we can usually find a way to move on from these bits of Crushing Despair and move right back into out of control laughing and going along with whatever anyone else wants to do. 

    She's taken to sitting at the table and intently drawing girl upon girl upon girl upon girl, all with different styles and colors of hair and dresses. As I remember doing this exact same thing, I find it enchanting. She makes up stories and her response to Enforced Reading Time is generally happiness for twenty minutes or so, then, "Mommy, can I WRITE my own story?" To which Mommy always enthusiastically nods. (When she is not half asleep on the couch - HER response to Enforced Reading Time.) 

    Molly is all tanned legs, too-short skirts and dresses and shorts because DEAR GOD this child is a weed, and hair that WANTS to be Princess Elsa, but is more (and beautifully so), end-of-the-movie Mulan. She is up for anything at any time. As she kept telling me in Italy, "I want to do EVERYTHING!" A former nearly-seven-year-old girl myself, I know that this effervescent cheer does not last, that one day everything will be terrible, that no one will understand her, that her mother, especially, will not care one ounce about her emotional well being or fragile state of mind or the thousands of feelings she will have in the space of one fourteen-year-old hour - so I am VERY MUCH ENJOYING nearly-seven-year-old Molly who seems to have no clue about Mean Girls and cannot wait to go back to school and see all of her favorite people, which is all of the people. 

    I suspect she takes after her father, and not because she will often a choose a potato chip over a cookie (although this is because she knows her brother and sister will choose a cookie and then she can get them to share, thereby enjoying both a cookie AND a potato chip - smart). Like Phillip, Molly floats along, not really noticing the not so nice people or comments that could be taken a certain way or unpleasant dynamics. I think this will change as she gets older - she IS a girl - but for now I am in awe of this cheery oblivious-ish personality and the lack of drama compared to so many of my friends' girls of the same age. As long as we are wearing a cute skirt and braid and Mommy has allowed her to pick out her own snack, everything is very very good. 

    As for the youngest, she is... the youngest. As the oldest I vowed - V.O.W.E.D. - to treat all of my future children equally, to not lay more responsibility upon the oldest, to not baby the youngest, to not ignore the middle, and especially not to let the younger kids do things at an earlier age than I allowed the oldest. HEAVEN FORBID. While that hasn't been a problem yet (no one is quite asking to shave her legs), I have utterly failed at not babying my youngest. I coddle her, I expect less independence of her than I did with Jack when he was her age. I rarely say no to anything - treats, toys, anything that should be special tends to be the norm with Emma. The thing is, I'm not sure I can help it and (worse) I'm not sure I want to. I KNOW. I AM A TERRIBLE HORRIBLE UN-EQUAL MOTHER AND MY KID-SELF IS FURIOUS. 

    There is one thing about Emma that drives us positively INSANE and that is the fact that she will be wearing pull ups in college. Oh, also that if she happens to sleep during the day, even for five minutes, she'll be up until the wee hours in her bed, singing the Wicked soundtrack and/or Taylor Swift and annoying the entire house. Some people sleepwalk, Emma Cheung sleepsings. Whether or not Emma took a nap that day is a question the entire family asks, every day. We like to be prepared. 

    That said, I have been ridiculously attached to this kid from Day One and that combined with the fact that she is likely our last makes it very very hard to be Objective or Stern. About anything. We find her charming and endlessly entertaining. The other day I found a video on my phone of 1-year-old Emma doing something silly with a toy, and then continuing to do it because it made the rest of us laugh. I suppose that is quintessential youngest child as well? When she's not milking her Youngest Status (and we ALL get suckered by that, her siblings included), she's searching for the thing to say, the thing to do (or sing!) that will make us all laugh. 

    She loves Jack, but she wants to BE Molly. One day she'll hate that all of her clothes used to be Molly's, but right now it is the best! thing! ever! Did MOLLY wear this when SHE was three?! THAT IS JUST THE MOST AMAZING THING SHE'S EVER HEARD!!!!!

    Emma had just started to bloom - happily leaving me for preschool, playing with other kids on her own - when we whisked her out of preschool and went to Europe for three weeks. Since then she's back to her clingy self, getting out of community center ballet class by whimpering, "I miss Mommy!" She's alternately terrified of and in love with other people's pets, glued to my leg while one hand gingerly pets a furry head. You ask her what she wants to do and nine times out of ten the answer is "Go shopping with Mommy." (I MEAN COME ON.) In the fall she goes back to school, now three days a week, and staying for lunch. It will be wonderful, and it will be sad. The only thing sadder will be kindergarten. Let's not think about it. 

    Together they are amazing. As one of five kids, all 1 year apart, I know from fighting and my kids don't do it. Not like we did. Jack and Molly will annoy each other, take each other's thing, accidentally poke or shove or hit, but most of the time they are super tight, two heads put together making up games or shows or the most amazing domino run in the world. They're almost always happy to let their little sister play too, and if Jack can find something better than Minecraft for ten minutes, he's motivating the others and I don't even care that they're destroying the house because ALL THREE ARE OCCUPYING THEMSELVES AND HAVING A GOOD TIME AND I CAN READ THE INTERNET IN PEACE. 

    The little blond girl down the street is absolutely devastated every time she rings the doorbell and Jack and Molly aren't home - they're at camp, or out at the pool with their dad, or something like that - and she is SO. VERY. SAD. And my kids aren't ever like that because they have each other and I'm just amazed and thrilled that it turned out the way it did. It is my deepest dearest hope that they are friends when they grow up - good, close friends like they are now. At swim lessons, Jack and Molly are in different classes, but if they bump up against each other in the water, they're like OH LOOK, IT'S MY SIBLING WHO I HAVEN'T SEEN IN FOUR WHOLE MINUTES HEY HEY HIIIII THIS IS SO COOL! And at school when their classes are passing by in the hallway, they throw out a secret sibling wave that everyone can see. And then Emma is on the sidelines with me, not quite old enough to have her own class yet, and shouting, "HEY I SEE MY SISTER!" and that sister will hear and throw a wave to the other one. I could not love it more. 

    Still need school to start soon. I'm not THAT in love with these kids that they don't need to spend copious amounts of time away from me each day. LET'S NOT GET CARRIED AWAY HERE. 


    July 30, 2015

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    Last night I met a friend at the Barnes & Noble Cafe and over her shoulder I spied a copy of a hunting magazine with a big lion on the cover. HOW TIMELY! I thought to myself. 

    Fury over Cecil the Lion also sparks race conversation
    Why Dems don't want to talk about Planned Parenthood
    And Camille Paglia doesn't like Jon Stewart!

    I got drunk on a cruise ship with Kathie Lee Gifford    

    This was all over Facebook so you might have seen it already, but if you haven't, it's pretty wild (and sciencey) (can something be wild AND sciencey?): The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogota

    This piece about FitBits is... well...

    A FitBit has little tolerance for magical thinking. It says: Eating the 0% yogurt rather than 2% yogurt for lunch after sitting at your desk all morning will not make up for your past three days skipping the gym, any more than finding out why that thing Dad said still hurts you will save your new relationship.

    FitBit tells us back a story of our lives that has become highly abstract. The difference between the springtime run that you take with two friends and the half hour of jumping jacks that you do in the bathroom after not managing to throw up all of a chicken burger will not register. In this life, steps are steps.

    Every form of confession comes with settings that determine what kind of self we get to know, and therefore, be. It also implies a particular vision of society. A kingdom of souls under God. A nation of citizens just repressed enough to get married and carry on reproducing citizens.

    In the Republic of FitBit we are fundamentally alone.

    Oh my. 

    We went to see a Jim Gaffigan show a few weeks ago. Jim Gaffigan is not my favorite (that creepy "inner" voice!), but allll our friends wanted to go and it WAS more fun (and funny) than I was expecting, but now I am slightly obsessed with his wife. Jeannie Gaffigan is a Model for Modern Women. I know that I personally do not aspire to live in a two-bedroom Manhattan walkup with my creepy-voiced husband and our five children, but her perspective on work and creative fulfillment is pretty all right with me. 

    What is a Jumpsuit? No on really knows.

    Time for...

    THIS WEEK IN NAZIS Lithuania tries to forget it's collaborationist pastMike Huckabee compares Obama to Hitler(this quick blip of a story is worth it for the last three sentences), Nazi tunnels under Berchtesgaden, I'd only heard of 1 of these Four Weird Things The Nazis Did (and the last two kinda blew my mind). 

    THIS WEEK IN SEATTLE The Mayor backs downAnd Erica C. Barnett is pissed.