Summertime me uses a LOT of caps

Here is a good example of Jack-ness (and also where you say, "Hey, weren't you going to try not to write about your kids so much?" and where I say, "BUT THEN THEY DO STUFF LIKE THIS.")

So I bought all three kids those summer workbooks they sell at Costco. I bought the Summer Fit Activities books for Jack and Molly, and I think those are pretty good, but I bought a different brand for Emma and it's dumb. The big kids are doing Actual Things while Emma is tracing letters. While Emma requires improvement in varied aspects of Preschooler, at age Nearly Five she has better handwriting than her brother and sister. BUT I DIGRESS. 

Right now, in Jack's workbook, it's talking about rounding. Which apparently they did not do in third grade this year? Because Jack is somewhat offended by the concept. He understands how to DO it, and I would I please stop talking to him like he is a CHILD, he GETS IT ALL RIGHT, he just doesn't understand why you would do such a thing. Shouldn't you just say the right number? Why would you not want to say the accurate number? It doesn't make sense. It even sounds sort of stupid. IS THIS LIKE LYING? 

So here I am, rueing the day I bought these stupid books and created incentives for the kids to work through them. Yet another piece of evidence in the Everything You Do That Makes You A Conscientious Not-Lazy Good Mom Is Actually Really Annoying And Drives You To Drink case file. 

Cheerily, the big kids are at a big time VBS this week. May I recommend VBS for the mom who wants to be Conscientious, Not-Lazy, and Good, but really can't hack it most days? Because VBS is basically free childcare for a week in the summer. YEP I SAID IT. We usually do a week of the standard, local, Catholic VBS which goes from 9am to 12pm every day and costs $40 per kid. Not too shabby. But this year we are ALSO doing a week of extremely non-standard (for us stodgy Catholics) not-local (IT'S A HALF HOUR AWAY, THAT'S LIKE DRIVING TO NEBRASKA), Korean megachurch VBS. Okay, I'm not sure if it's really a MEGAchurch, but it's 1) bigger than our church and 2) holy cats, the production values for this VBS, which ALSO cost $40, but goes until 2:30 every day AND includes lunch, ARE INSANE. Like, and I'm dead serious, I'm pretty sure they painted a mural around the entry hall of this church JUST for VBS. There's a giant orange submarine (the theme is "Submerged") hanging from the ceiling. There are nine million people running it and they are wearing matching t-shirts and lanyards and crazy hair bows and they are the most organized and friendliest church people I have ever encountered. This place is NUTS. I watched my kids walk into the sanctuary outfitted with a giant set for the huge song and dance numbers. IS THIS WHAT LIFE IS LIKE WHEN YOU'RE PROTESTANT?!?!

My friend sent her kids last year, that's how I know about it. I'm not in the habit of knowing what's going down at huge Korean churches in the suburbs, but perhaps I should be. 

In the meantime I think I may be booted from my role as a South American saint in the regular Catholic VBS because I would not commit to an hour and a half practice sometime on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. Guess what: I do not feel bad about this at all. If I were part of the Korean church I'm sure I would have started practices like three months ago and all my lines would be memorized, but... it's a little too late to schedule an hour and a half practice with someone in sole charge of her three children in the summertime with mere days' notice. AT LEAST THIS IS WHAT I THINK. So sainthood is most likely off the table for me ("I'll try to find someone else, Maggie, you sound too busy" "WORKS FOR ME!"), but let's be honest, no one thinks I'll get there anyway. 

What was happening last time I graced this blog with my presence? Had we gone to Cincinnati yet? I don't think so! We went to Cincinnati, Internet! We apologize to the locals for bringing our terrible PNW weather with us, but we had a lovely time nonetheless. Phillip's brother and sister-in-law may be the dotiest uncle and aunt who ever doted, plus I made everyone traipse around at least three museums, only one of which had the word "Children's" in the name. A good trip is marked by the number of museums visited, don't you think? May I recommend the Cincinnati Art Museum, which was packed full of good stuff, and the Underground Railroad Museum (Freedom Center?) A bit heavy for our last day and we opted out of the modern day slavery exhibit (I know I have to have SOME conversations, but I didn't want to have ALL of them at ONCE), but I thought it was so well done. If you are going with clueless children like mine, may I suggest starting on the second floor at "how slavery happened" exhibit before you start the Underground Railroad exhibit on the first floor? Jackson's logical little self would have appreciated his mother providing some proper chronology. 

Most of our time was spent eating everything in sight and talking grown up stuff while kids played Minecraft. Recommend. 

Oh, may I also recommend @hrcopsey, who introduced me to Taste of Belgium and her husband and boys, showed me around her amazing house, and assured my West Coast Snob self that Cincinnati was full of awesome. (Correct.)

We've been home about a week. Summer is supposed to start feeling like summer, right? Any day now, Summer! I'd appreciate sunnier weather, more drinking on decks, and less staring at one's calendar in terrified awe. 

OH HERE'S A PIECE OF NEWS: First, let's recap. Bathroom remodel! Was supposed to begin in April! Until the day before demo was to begin our handyman was diagnosed with cancer. (He is doing rather well, he thanks you!) We found another do-it-all-himself contractor type who said he was available mid July. When I texted him in mid June, this was still the plan! But the other day when we texted to get a start date, he said that oops, he still wasn't done with the project he was doing when we met him, which was the first of TWO projects he needed to finish before starting ours, and now we're looking at a fall start date? OH GOD. But! Today he called Phillip to say that his second project wasn't actually ready yet and would switch places with us. So now we could start... Monday? OH GOD. 

(I still don't think it will happen. Low expectations just make my life more livable.) 

I have to put kids to bed. Then put myself to bed. Because, you know. Summer. 

 


Now the parking lot is empty

I'm a bit sentimental tonight, Internet, there's your warning. There's a last bit of sunlight streaming through the trees in the backyard and the kids are playing in the living room and Phillip is still at a meeting. It's summer, the doors are open, I have our friend Alexa playing old Indigo Girls songs - I wish someone would have told me that all those hours and dollars I spent in used CD stores would get boxed up in a garage for the rest of time and a small black voice-activated cylinder would cater to my every musical whim. 

We got in very late last night from a long weekend in Cincinnati with Phillip's brother and his family. This was our first trip there with kids. In fact, we've only visited one other time and it was about one year after we'd been married. Twelve years ago. We had no kids then. Weird. We've seen them of course - family trips and visits to our side of the country - but it was good to see them in their natural habitat and have the big cousins show the little ones around. The weather was terrible and it felt rushed and I never stopped being tired, but it was one of those things that needed to happen and it was good and important. I'm glad we went, even if it meant we had a two hour layover in Houston, TX at 11pm. 

But you know, home is good too, even if I'm sitting here staring at the calendar wondering how it's all going to work. I think it was February or March that I said to myself, "Self? This summer is NOT going to be crazy." And here it is, looking crazy. People usually give us a week, max, for bakery orders, so it's hard to plan ahead with that. And there are just so many FUN things to do in the summer and I have Want To Do Everything Syndrome. 

Also random things, like I'm giving a little talk tomorrow night for some churchy folks and honestly, it's a good thing I haven't had much time to think about it because now? OH GOD WHY DID I AGREE TO DO THIS? I wrote it on the airplane from Houston and gave it twice in front of my mirror today while the kids ate lunch and dinner, but it's sure to be horrid and embarrassing and dumb. At least there will probably only be, like, 20 people there, so my humiliation won't spread too far. I hope. The thing is that I think I would LIKE to be the sort of person who occasionally gives talks, but, I mean, I take medication to NOT feel like this. 

I don't know for how long I've been thinking, "Okay, after this weekend, I can get my bearings and get it all under control." SO MANY WEEKENDS. And here I am saying that about this weekend and oh, next week is when we'll start REAL summer and I'll get the kids in a routine of swim lessons and library and down time and HA HA HA maybe I should just give up on that. 

Emma's encopresis nurse gave me her steely-eyed "Don't try to con ME, young lady" stare the other day and said, "You know, it's hard to manage this when you're so busy." And I was all TELL ME ABOUT IT, but also am I supposed to shut it all down? Maybe I should shut it down? Am I being a bad mother because I'm going to send everyone to VBS so I can go to Target by myself next week? 

Did I tell you the lady running VBS asked me to play a South American saint during one of the morning skits? HA HA HA. I said yes, of course. It's as close to sainthood as I'll ever get. 

I'm listening to the IG song about airplanes. Emily and the... those folk singer sisters, I can't remember their names. Come on, if you're an Indigo Girls fan you know this song. It's so right on. I'm glad I'm listening to it AFTER our trip. 

Oh, Rachael @Hopejumper was here right before we left. One of the zillion things we talked about was recurring nightmares and I couldn't tell her mine because it would basically spoil the plot of Bloodline (which is an excellent show if you aren't totally creeped and stressed out by creepy stressful TV) but HERS is AIRPLANES and omg she went on and on and on about AIRPLANES and again, it's a very good thing I'm on medication. 

Summer is Indigo Girls time. They used to play a show at the pier every summer and I always went with my friend Amy who I haven't seen in years and it was just How It Is. Now I have kids and an online bakery and the pier hasn't been operation for concerts since God knows when. I just sent an email to the PTA president saying I can't go to the Board Retreat (fawncy!) on Friday because I actually need to tie bows on cookies so I can deliver them Saturday morning and OH WOW somehow I became the Communications Chair for the PTA and learned how to tie bows and wrote a talk on an airplane. 

Things are different. 

At the airport during our layover I became obsessed with a family a few chairs over from ours. They had three kids, an oldest boy and two girls, but they were college and high school aged. Also something like seven feet tall, and six feet of those were legs. Wearing their respective school sweatshirts and ponytails like the ones I had when I played high school basketball. I felt like THEY ARE US (except for the whole height and athletic thing). The parents, the three not-quite-children. Phillip thought the same thing, without me pointing it out. We just looked at each other and went back to watching them. And I wonder. I can imagine what my kids will be like in 10 years. I can sort of see their faces and what they might be into and the ways they'll interact, even if I'm just fitting them into the ways that my brothers and sisters and I became teenagers who hung out in airports with our parents. But I cannot imagine what it will be like for ME in 10 years. Besides the completely gray hair, obvs. I hope I'll have figured out how to give a talk without requiring extra meds by then.

 

 


What happened with kindergarten, plus Free Time, how do I maximize it?

Emma's not going to kindergarten next year. The story on THAT is: 

  • We thought she was ready to go to kindergarten next year.
  • Our personal experts on the subject - teachers in our family, teachers at the kids' school, ourselves - thought she was more than ready. 
  • We weren't 100% certain we would send her, but we wanted to be able to choose at the last minute. 
  • So we took her to the Early Entrance Screening the district offers for kids born just after the cut off, like Emma
  • AND SHE FLUNKED
  • When I called her preschool to ask for their help appealing the decision they said, 
  • "Oh, we don't think she should go either."
  • Which. 
  • I mean.
  • I'd talked to them about it. They knew we were planning to do this. I sat in the director's office and told them what we wanted to do.
  • They offered some social emotional reasons, things we wouldn't see at home because they're out of context. Things I would have liked more time to discuss and think about, but at that point we had 24 hours to write an appeal and preschool wasn't going to back us up sooooo
  • Emma's not going to kindergarten!
  • And I have made my peace with that, but not so much with the feeling Very Very Stupid And Foolish And Like A Bad Parent when it comes to my interactions with the preschool. HEY, WE ALL HAVE OUR FLAWS. 

Now I am trying to figure out the What To Do With Emma Next Year question and I would like to know what you think. 

I don't swing either way on the send-them-early, keep-them-home debate. I think each kid is different, yada yada yada. It is weird to me that we'll have a youngest-in-her-class (Molly) and an oldest (Emma), there's something about how they are 3 years apart but will be 4 years apart in school that is like a psychological block for me, I wish I could consult the What Kind of Teenagers Will They Be Crystal Ball, but you know, whatever. There were things I WASN'T sure about with Emma and now getting those things right in time for kindergarten is no longer a pressure and that feels lovely. I am happy to give her another year of solo treats and outings with me. (Or maybe I am happy to give that to ME.) 

But Emma needs to go to school. She might not be socially/emotionally ready, but academically speaking she's beyond where Molly was when she traipsed off to kindergarten and 2 days of preschool plus coloring and Shopkins at home is not cutting it and this kid needs something to DO. 

We reserved a spot in the 5s Program at her current preschool as our back up (good thinking, us!). And that's probably what we'll end up doing. There will only be 8 kids in the class, we love the school (the above communication issue notwithstanding), and she's very happy there. 

BUT. The schedule might kill me. BECAUSE. Next year the big kids are starting 45 minutes earlier (oh, I must have spared you the whole bell times debate in Seattle Public Schools, LUCKY YOU). That means next year I will be

  • Marching the big kids to the bus around 7:15, 7:20ish. (OMG)
  • Hanging out at home with Emma - or going grocery shopping? to a coffee shop? Target? - until 9:15 when I drive her to school (which starts at 9:30)
  • She has lunch at school and I pick her up at 1:30, get home about 1:45ish
  • Big kids walk home from the bus, get home about 2:30

Writing that out, it doesn't look like the MOST horrible thing in the world. I have a good chunk of time while everyone's in school, and this would be every day. It's just that that gap between the big kids and Emma is so annoying NOW, when it's only an hour, and next year it will be twice as long. And then hardly any time between when Emma gets home and the big kids, which right now is a peaceful get-some-stuff-done time at home. It isn't very EFFICIENT and you guys, I like efficiency. Having my day broken up like that is doable, but I won't like it. 

But a friend who sends her daughter to Catholic school came over this morning and tried to talk me into sending Emma to the Catholic school PreK. Not doing that, I'd have to drive in rush hour every day, NOPE. But there is a different Catholic school around the corner from our house, and Jack went there for PreK, and his terrible teacher is no longer the teacher, and hmm, let's look at that schedule. 

  • March big kids to the bus around 7:15, 7:20ish.
  • Hang out with Emma at home before we drive the 30 seconds or walk the 5 minutes to her school which starts at 8:30.
  • She has a snack at school, but I drive/walk to pick her up at noon and she has lunch at home.
  • Big kids get home about 2:30. 

What do we think about THAT? 

She's in school less time (half hour less) and this would be 4 days instead of 5 days at her current school (because of how the tuition works out, omg this is so expensive). It's not as much time at school, but I don't spend as much time driving back and forth so MY amount of free time is probably the same. I was thinking she might have to skip a bunch of Fridays anyway because those are the days I usually need to work with Katie on bakery stuff and I wouldn't be able to do all THAT driving with the first schedule. 

As for the actual SCHOOL, I don't know. I am absolutely certain the current school's 5s program will be awesome. We've loved everything about that school, there will only be 8 kids, she'll have so much fun and attention. I am less familiar with the Catholic school. I know it will have way more students, but it will also have the benefit of being part of the bigger school and she'll get to go to library and art and GUESS WHAT WE'RE CATHOLIC and I like all that praying in school. 

Okay, so basically I am writing all this out because I know my mom will read it (HI MOM!) and then she'll call me and tell me what she thinks. The rest of you are bored to death. And Phillip has no idea what he's walking into when he gets home. HEH. 

IN OTHER NEWS:

We just finished a 500 cookie order. I deliver it tomorrow. It was less work (for me, not poor Katie heh) than I anticipated and hey, we'll get paid this month! That'll be new! 

And this is the last week of school for all my kids. We pick them up early from the last day to head to the ocean for our annual my-side-of-the-family weekend in a VRBO house. I am alternately delighted not to have to scream at everyone to get ready in the mornings while making lunch and breakfast at the same time, and terrified by memories of kids demanding I be their cruise director last summer. We have swim lessons, VBS, a few weekend trips, and plenty of friends to play with over the next 2 months, but I won't lie, I live in trepidation of the Surly Sullen Child Who Demands The iPad At All Hours. But do not fear, in the face of surly I respond with unsympathetic momness that insists on checking out SOMETHING from the public library each week. 

Now I'm gonna go collapse face first into my bed before I have to start thinking about what in the world we're having for dinner. 


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.