Acceptable and unacceptable eye rolls, your own experiences vs. your kid's present and future, and why military bases aren't the always the worst

I will spare us all a blow by blow from last night's school district community meeting about the boundaries because 1) you don't care and 2) nothing new happened. More tone deaf gobbledygook from the district, though I suppose it did reach an impressive new level of condescension, much of which, disappointingly, came from the involved principals. I guess the new thing is that I went from "assuming we've lost and wanting to burn things down" to "whoa, there are a LOT more people pissed off about this now, maybe we still have a chance?" So. 

(What I really want to rant about is the exhortations from the future principal of the "overconcentrated" school to "just believe!" and "think positive!" and "trust us!" as if we are idiot children who think a substandard crappy building will also be full of horrible teachers who will lock up the disadvantaged and underserved children in kennels for six hours a day while they snarf down donuts in the staff room and play Candy Crush. But I already wrote an incredibly bitchy (for me) comment on a local school blog about that and now it's out of my system. Well, not really. But I'm TRYING HERE, OK?)

There is one parent who made the same comment I've heard her make a few times now, and it always makes me think. Her child will be assigned to the substandard school building (mine won't) and she's mainly trying to make peace with it. So she stood up and told the district folks that that neighborhood is exploding in population and what's to say that this tiny neighborhood school won't be instantly overcrowded within a year or two and the boundaries will have to be redrawn all over again? She wants stability, community, and a place where her son will make "lifelong friendships". And I thought: HUH!

Because honestly, the "having to pull a kid out of second grade and send him to another for third grade" is not at all what I find scandalous about this whole situation. And I would bet this parent wouldn't rank it at the top either - she's firmly on the side of This Shouldn't Be Happening. But that's the added consideration for her and, I know, tons of other parents who are facing the redrawn boundaries in all of North Seattle. They are all about not "disrupting" kids and making sure they have "stability". I'm sure a lot of MY unconcern and lack-of-thinking on the topic has to do with the fact that my kids will stay in the same place. But as I thought more about it I also realized how much of my own background has to do with my perspective. How every time I hear a parent talk about "lifelong friendships" I involuntarily (nor do I stop myself) roll my eyes. 

The summer between fourth and fifth grade I moved to a new school in an entirely different country. I did it again between sixth and seventh grades, including the new country part. And again between ninth and tenth grades, to a school in, you guessed it, another new country! (Well, actually, one of the countries I'd already lived in. But the opposite end. Eh.) Andthe  community I was in during those years, that was, like, hardly moving at all. Those military families had been moving every 2 years their whole military lives. My friends had lived in ninety-seven different places before I met them. What stability? 

Which is not to say that I think switching schools and moving and a life that gets turned on end every couple of years is no big. None of those moves were easy ones. And now that I can look back with an adult's eyes, I have more understanding for behavior and attitudes I encountered from my fellow students, especially in high school. I have often thought friendships that began in elementary school would be amazing to have, especially when I was a very lonely college freshman and my roommate had a gang of insta-friends from her high school to do things with. (Of course I thought this was way lame at the time. HIGH SCHOOL. SNORT.) It would be so fun to have peers who knew me way back when, instead of, say, my PE teacher from 2nd grade who stayed friends with my parents all that time. 

But I think there is also a lot to be said for Something New, and I think if capacity issues (which are huge and real in our district) required my kids going to a new school, I don't THINK I'd freak out about it. I probably would freak, but more for my own self (having to get to know a whole new school/principal/teachers/system) than the kids. Last year Molly didn't stay with the cohort of 2nd graders who'd been mostly kept together since kindergarten because the parents (and kids) were so happy and gelled together. She made new friends in her new class and this year she's back with much of that cohort, but also knows all the OTHER kids. Granted this is Molly, the most easy going child on earth, but this would have been good for Jack too. I shared this with a parent friend who is upset with the class her daughter is in this year in hopes of encouraging her. Sometimes change is really good. 

I see, though, that this is me looking back at my experience and thinking, "I turned out okay!" (RIGHT?) I am actually often wowed by the idea that my kids WON'T move, that they'll live HERE and be from HERE and won't be 25 or 30 until they feel like they're FROM somewhere. My kids are going to have a completely different experience! WHOA! (An eye roll here WOULD be appropriate.) 

One thing I DO feel strongly about is the experience of attending diverse and equitable schools. There was ONE school and EVERYONE went to it. We were all different ethnicities and races, and while there were socioeconomic factors, the base commander's kids went to the same school as the lowest NCO's kids and everyone partook of the same resources and offerings. The first time I realized this was my first week on the University of Washington campus. There were tons of white kids, more Asian kids than I'd ever seen in my life, and the handful of black students were all, as far as I could tell, athletes. Were there Hispanics? No idea. I remember calling my dad and babbling incoherently about it. (And then my best friend from high school, a Filipino-Chinese guy who went to Berkeley came up to visit me and and marveled about my "whitey" campus. Which - could there BE more Asian people at a campus? APPARENTLY SO.) 

I don't know that American Department of Defense schools overseas are the model of integrated funded schools (hello, your taxpayer dollars funded many foreign country crazy fun extracurricular trips for me, thank you) but it does give you a certain frame of reference. 

Because I went to those schools I also got to go to very small schools where everyone knew you (it helped, perhaps, that your parents were teachers). And if I got to choose for my kids, they'd go to very small schools. Our school has grown from 250 to 350 and next year the brand new school can fit 660. It's not my ideal, but we live in Seattle where the reality is that there is no space for a whole bunch of small schools and maybe not even enough space and funding to build the giant schools we need. I don't want to live in Small Town, WA so this is the trade off we make. I may have had the opportunity to play sports AND do drama AND be on the student council AND be in the band AND pretty much everything else my high school offered, but I hear the giant local high schools will have way more opportunities and pathways not to mention all different kinds of people than the tiny somewhat stifling 50-person graduating class I had. 

Speaking of high school - moving during high school was probably the Premier Formative Event in my personal history and I probably will do everything I can to make it so my kids don't have to switch high schools because it was so miserable for me. Does this negate everything I said above? Hopefully not - even if my kids had to move high schools, it wouldn't be the same experience I had. It could be worse (but I think because it wouldn't also be in a new country with all new everything and where everyone's dad is off bombing Bosnia a few times a week and a Thick Dark Existential Fog hangs over the community it would be easier... but I digress.) 

ANYWAY. The fact that Seattle Public Schools is, in essence, creating a segregated school FROM SCRATCH remains utterly scandalous, in my opinion, and yes, my own experience colors this and I need to be more understanding and open to the other reasons other people object to it. I need to save all my eye rolling for principals cautioning us to "speak positively" about the decision, even though THEY are the ones creating the negative environment, not ME. FTLOG. 

I don't really know if I made a point, if I was trying to make a point, or if I was exploring my own convoluted thoughts on a convoluted subject AS PER USUAL. I've just noticed this idea has come up in my brain more than a few times and sometimes getting it out on virtual paper at least reminds me that I told myself my thinking should expand. I  have now spent all of preschool time writing this instead of writing the most interesting PTA newsletter on earth, YOU'RE WELCOME. 


In which I have no act to even pull together

I am probably the only parent in the world who is struggling with the start of school. All the other parents are off eating bon bons in their bath and hosting mimosa brunches and, I don't know, turning cartwheels and eating cookie dough right out of the tube. All things I fully support and would be doing myself if I could only GET MY ACT TOGETHER. 

I have a list of things to blame. Obvs. First up is the change in school bell times for the big kids' school. All of Seattle Public Schools switched up bell time to accommodate a later high school start. Most elementary schools are now an hour earlier (because of buses, because of money, it's always money, I will not rant about the boundary issue, I will not). WHICH IS FINE. I am just fine with the kids starting earlier and high school kids going later and I AM A COOPERATIVE PARENT but you GUYS it is HARD to get UP. Possibly because by the end of summer none of us, including the four-year-old, were going to bed until 10. I don't know. The guiding force in our parenting is Sloth, followed closely by Inertia, what can I say. 

Anyway. The lucky thing is that Phillip has to get up for work (no bon bons for him!) and he's always berating himself for not going in earlier and guess what! Now he does! Because we have to get the kids to the bus stop by 7:15. (We were rolling out of bed at 7:15 last year. Sigh.) So this is hard for me. I need my beauty rest. And my beauty rest is more like Just Enough To Speak Coherently Rest, beauty has nothing to do with it. Unfortch. 

In a miraculous display of Thinking Ahead and Using My Smarts, I have been laying out clothes and making lunches the night before. We haven't had to drag the kids out of bed yet, which surprises me (just wait for the gloom and doom of late fall and winter, though) so it's just me wandering around in my jammies and rat's nest hair, barking about being late and put your shoes on and is that a milk mustache on your face? I even made a bunch of breakfast burritos so no one can force me to make scrambled eggs in the morning. 

So far so good. Painful but possible. 

The other stuff is just stupid. Like school uniforms. SO SO STUPID AND YET SUCH A BIG DEAL. 

When we signed Emma up for pre-K at the Catholic school I received a packet of info which included a letter from the teacher saying UNIFORMS WERE NOT REQUIRED. But a dress code was enforced and if we wanted to dress "like" the uniform, to buy certain kinds of clothes and colors. Which I duly did because WHEE! Emma in a little school uniform jumper CAN YOU EVEN? 

About a week before school started I took a closer look at the uniform section in the handbook, which the school staff thoughtfully emailed out to all the parents just in case they hadn't felt like they spent enough money yet, and I realized that the primary age students didn't wear NAVY shirts, only WHITE. And they didn't wear KHAKI skorts and pants, they wore NAVY. Oops. So I took all the wrong things back. And Emma wore navy pants, a white polo, and a little navy hooded cardigan on her first day. 

But allllllllll (ALLLLLLL) the other pre-K kids were wearing the regulation uniform. 

I told myself I was paranoid. 

The next day I picked up Emma and she was wearing the regulation school cardigan. Her teacher said, "I just keep this sweater here and she needed it." 


That same day I noticed that not only were alllllll (ALLLLLLL) the kids wearing brand new regulation uniform clothes, ALL the girls were wearing SKIRTS. I said to myself, "Self, a school cannot POSSIBLY demand girls only wear skirts in 2016. That just cannot be the case." But see above: paranoid and also Rule Follower, so I asked the teacher. "Is it okay if Emma wears pants?" 

And she said, "Hmmmmm... you don't have one of those?" And she pointed at a little girl's jumper. 


When I got home I threw all my pride out the window and wrote a panicked whimpering email to the school. WTF IS EMMA SUPPOSED TO WEAR? WHAT DID I DO WRONG? CLEARLY I CANNOT FIGURE OUT, REQUIRE DETAILED ANNOTATED LIST, PREFERABLY WITH LINKS. 

A few hours I received an email from the school. "We are so very sorry! Pre-K IS required to wear the uniform." 

But! Pants are OK. 

You guys, I am ashamed of how stressed I got (sort of still am) this uniform thing. Everyone loves uniforms! I loved uniforms! Why was it so hard! Why didn't I just fork over the $50 per skort and jumper instead of buying the $9 navy skort from Children's Place?! That's what I get for trying to save a little money! That's what I get for assuming the papers in the information packet were correct, even when every single email I received from the school made it pretty clear that everyone wore the uniform! CLEARLY THIS IS ALL MY FAULT. (No.) (But.) (You know.) 

Really, though, there is no easier problem to throw money at. I jumped online, bought a handful of sweaters and vests and one jumper because $50 for a size 5T jumper I JUST CANNOT. The school had a used 4t skort that I could use right away and poor Emma, she's wearing it because 1) her mother needed her to be in uniform RIGHT AWAY and not wait for the jumper to arrive and 2) her mother doesn't care that it's a little tight and a little short. Pull it down below her belly, it's all good! 

We've covered early bell times and uniforms, what else? How about the PTA! You guys, not only am I on the PTA, I am on the PTA BOARD. How did that happen?! I don't know?! I volunteered to do all the newsletter/Facebooky things because, well, I can DO those things and also if I do those maybe I don't have to do anything else. But this board meeting yesterday made me realize what a poor excuse for a human being I am that I am not volunteering at school NOR DO I WANT TO. What sort of stay at home mother AM I? Everyone is so! excited! And I am all... eh. But after I finish this bit of drivel I'm going to figure out how to send HTML emails from Gmail and draw up a production schedule for sending this stuff out and can they do THAT? 

Another blog topic for another time: why, whenever I feel inferior, is my first instinct to hunt around for something in which I CAN feel superior? #poorexcuseforhumanbeing 

But you know the worst thing? And I mean worst in that it's the hardest and also MAKES me the worst? Our bathroom still isn't done (maybe by my 40th birthday?) and after I drop the kids off I can't just go home and go back to bed. BECAUSE THERE'S A DUDE IN MY BATHROOM. Hence the hiding out in a coffee shop this morning and writing to you. Otherwise you know I'd be passed out on my couch. Is there a bigger and more I-should-be-ashamed-of-myself first world problem? NO THERE IS NOT. 

Here's to hoping you are handling the transition back to school with more grace and intelligence than your trusty blogger. 

In which I move to Canada

Hi Internet

I'm writing to you from the other side of the street fair, our third so far, and does anyone have a trick for figuring out What's Worth Doing for street fairs? I spent a long time today staring at the [really lovely super nice] ladies selling jewelry next to us and thinking, "If THEY have a bad weekend, at least they don't have to throw out all their inventory!" We had a good Saturday and a not so hot Sunday, which is how these things go, I think, and, well, we made SOME money? I haven't sat down to calculate exactly how many hours Katie worked and how much she got "paid" per hour, mainly because I'm afraid to know. The food business, guys. I don't know that I recommend it. 

That said, I kind of love sitting at these street fairs. We've only done the one in my neighborhood, which is pretty small and tame, but I suspect the bigger the fair, the wider the swath of Bizarre Humanity. The older I get the more fake extroverted I become (fake because I still need that alone time to decompress no matter what) and I quite enjoy interacting with all the various Batty Ladies, Toothless Vagabonds, stressed families with babies, people who can't decide, people who ask me if my macarons and sugar cookies are sugar free, people who think we're selling soap and can't BELIEVE you can EAT THOSE!, Spacey Teenagers, people who can't walk past a Seahawks-themed cookie without feeling obligated to buy it as a token of their devotion, people who want me to open a store, people who come back for seconds, Random Conversation Starters, people who pay in dimes, THEY'RE ALL AMAZING. Especially the ones who walk by, stop in their tracks, and squee because OMG MACARONS THEY'RE MY FAVORITE. These people inevitably ask what MY favorite is and I always say, because I am a tremendously bad liar, that I prefer a massive fudgy brownie to one of these foppish silly little cookies. I know, I need to work on that. 


So here I am, wanting to unwind in front of some fun Olympics television viewing, and I CAN'T, because stupid NBC has me on a West Coast tape delay. I am not a huge Olympics/sports fan so I don't know why this has me so het up, but I keep getting excited to watch certain events with my kids and I keep getting disappointed/frustrated because nothing comes on until so late! And we already know the results for all the swimming because hello, internet, and UGH why don't I live closer to Canada so I can watch THEIR Olympics coverage. 

Maybe Trump will win and the Cheungs will relocate to Phillip's company's Vancouver location and we'll get to watch Canadian Olympics coverage NEXT time!

I come up with the greatest solutions to things. 

We're starting week 4 of Bathroom Remodel. (SEGUE! THERE WASN'T ONE!) It's... ok. So it's going slow - this last week was a hard one for our contractor dude's personal life - but I'm dead serious about having the lowest of low expectations and I am unfazed by Slow. And I think we're actually out of the really slow part, where it's all boring plumbing, and we've moved into framing and actually putting in some bathroom-looking type things. I really like the guy we hired, even though he wasn't around much last week. I also thought having the kids at home during a remodel was going to be horrid, but instead it's made me feel less awkward about having a stranger in my house all the time. Kids give me a reason to do stuff in my own house rather than feeling like I need to escape every day. We've had some design issues come up, but nothing we haven't figured out. I'm nervous the final product will be terrible because 1) I picked everything out and can you trust me and 2) what if the design sucks? But... too late for that! 

I am so Fine about the bathroom remodel that I've been sitting here looking at kitchen remodels on Pinterest during the NBC sucky coverage. I KNOW. 

Honestly, all I'm nervous about right now is that there's going to be some sort of Bathroom Emergency when I'm in Chicago this week and I won't be around to swoop in and Make A Decision. But that's what texting is for, yes? Also: CHICAGO. I am QUITE looking forward to seeing two of my favorite ladies and also feeling QUITE guilty about being gone longer than I've ever been for Something Fun. (Volunteering at Urbana is longer, but volunteering at Urbana is for GOD whereas hanging out in Chicago with @lizritz and @notthatyouasked is more like, hmmm, threatening to my liver.) 

All right. I wanted to watch the men's relay medley, even though I already know who wins, but it's almost 11 which is, like, years past my bedtime, and it's like NBC doesn't actually want anyone to watch the Olympics, don't you think? GAH

Update on What Exactly Are You Using That "Race And Equity Toolkit" FOR, Seattle Public Schools?

Ugh. I don't even know where to start. Do we all even know what's going on? I barely know. Okay, so in 2017 we are looking at two schools opening - one brand new, ginormous, full of community resources LIKE A CLINIC school, and one very small, very old, landmarked so you can't knock any walls down, computer lab ON THE STAGE school. The original proposed boundaries will result in Ginormous School having a more white, less poor, more English speaking population than it did before (though still "diverse", statistically speaking) and Small School starting out "overconcentrated" in ELL, FRL, and minority populations. I believe "overconcentrated" is the word I'm supposed to use instead of "segregated". 

Parents pushed back. Teachers pushed back. We had a handful of entirely pointless "community engagement meetings". After the last one, our own Phillip Cheung went out to coffee with a Race and Equity team representative to be all, "WTF, District?" And, shocker, the Race and Equity Team rep confessed that this whole "race and equity toolkit" the district kept jabbering about wasn't even really established. The team was still learning its job and figuring out their role. They hadn't been involved in boundary decisions before. 


Then the district offered to meet with three engaged parents (including Phillip), the principals of the three schools involved (including the future new principal of the new Small School), and members of the Race and Equity team. The district may have been genuine in wanting feedback and finding a compromise, or at the very least, the least bad solution, but at this point, the options are as follows:

1) Open Small School at the right size, but "overconcentrated" 

2) Open Small School with underenrollment and therefore not enough funding (and possibly over enroll Ginormous School, though some of us strongly dispute those numbers)

Also, at this point, the district has announced these small meetings are finished; it will now meet with the three affected principals, and they'll choose a solution to propose to the board in the fall. 

Because despite the race and equity "lens" the conversations at the meetings were focused more on numbers and right sizes, because a right size school is preferred by the incoming Small School principal, because the right size school option makes concessions to the third school's concerns, because the district would obviously like to go with the easier, less angry parent-making right size option, and because OUR school principal left for a new job (we found out yesterday) the chances of the equitable option being chosen are very slim indeed. 

There IS a way to right size the schools AND make them equitable, but it means drawing boundaries in crazypants ways, uprooting tons of kids at tons of schools, and infuriating all of NE Seattle. Ruminating over all of that has led me into the quagmire of neighborhood schools vs. busing vs. the sort of "apply to the school you want" system Seattle had before it returned to neighborhood schools in 2010. Because that's what's really happening here. Small School, in order to be the right size and assist with the overcrowding that's happening all over the district, will draw students from low income areas, where people are predominantly not white, non native English speaking, and in subsidized housing. Because those are the neighborhoods it draws from, that's what this neighborhood school will look like. Meanwhile, the school that used to draw those neighborhoods (and many others) is being rebuilt with plenty of amenities and resources to serve just those demographics. Opening Small School as a neighborhood school means those students are prevented from taking advantage of those resources, as well as the benefits of going to a school made up of families with more resources. 

Some people have said not to worry, that Ginormous School is still going to have its ELL and FRL population, but we'll be drawing those kids from another school and quite frankly I want to advocate for OUR kids who ARE losing out. These are not interchangeable widgets, folks. The neighborhood school system relies on having a "quality" school in every neighborhood. Because many of our current teachers will stay at Small School when it opens, I can say that Small School will have a stellar teaching staff. But they'll be teaching in a run down building with a library stuffed into a classroom, a computer lab on the stage, no plumbing in the portables, and horribly insufficient bathroom facilities. Should they ever have the funding for art or music there's nowhere to do it. 

I have been sympathetic to the anti-school choice crowd, because it takes funding away from public schools. But a whole lot of good that's doing for our disadvantaged kids in 2017. "Mitigation" is the new buzzword to make us all feel better about how UNequitable this decision is, but does that money even exist? And all the mitigation funding in the world can't help if your tiny crappy building is landmarked, like Small School is, and you're not allowed to knock down walls or build out. Honestly, if it turns out we do get all the funding we're supposed to get under McCleary, who's to say this bloated opposite-of-transparent district is going to spend that money on the kids? Bring on the vouchers, Campbell Brown. 

In which relaxing is bad for the psyche

This morning I'm wondering if it's possible to have a summer that doesn't feel like it's going 90 miles an hour. I feel like I set out to have a slower summer this year, or at least a more thoughtful summer, if that makes sense, and it's still nuts. 

I KNOW, I KNOW it doesn't help that I like to GO 90 miles an hour. But the last year I've tried hard to be aware of how Me Liking To Do Everything affects my family, especially Phillip, and I'm getting better at saying no to things I really want to do and intentionally preserving empty days in our schedule. This year we had several conversations about how terrible the end of last summer was, so we've planned a family getaway for Labor Day, Phillip and I are going to have our own local getaway the weekend after next, and I found a babysitter for sporadic summer date nights. 

BUT STILL! Sometimes I think it's because I have the bakery (though our bakery July is slow indeed) or because both our families are so close and we do so much with them or because I have so MUCH family living nearby. Maybe it's "Northwest Syndrome" where you need to take ultimate advantage any time there's good weather. But it's not like those are bad things or things I want to say no to. 

I signed up the kids for two VBS camps (on back to back weeks, admittedly) and we start swim lessons this afternoon. But that's it. I never got around to signing them up for the Chinese school summer camp and Jack didn't want to do soccer camp. Maybe August will feel slower? 

I'm not complaining. As I may have mentioned ten times in this post already, I LIKE TO BE BUSY. But when I've tried to NOT be busy ON PURPOSE and it isn't happening? That feels... I don't know. Like I messed up somewhere. What would it be like to have a long summer full of very lazy mornings and afternoons at the community pool with all our friends? Yeah, that 1) doesn't exist and 2) those lazy mornings would probably drive me insane. 

Did I mention our bathroom got demo-ed yesterday? HA HA HA

I turned 37 yesterday. I am fond of the odd number ages for some reason. They feel good to me, so I feel good about this upcoming year. But even though I'm younger than most of my local friends and a veritable spring chicken when you look at the demographics of the prayer ministry I'm in, I have this very Three anxiety around How Many Good Years I Have Left To Do Something Awesome. WHICH IS RIDONKULOUS. And yet! It's there! I am copping to it! In the same way I am looking at my rapidly graying hair and wondering whether to be a) the lady who covers her gray or b) the lady who cares not or c) the lady who bleaches it and dyes part of it pink because HEY if you're gonna dye your hair you should just go all out, I feel like I need to sort of plot out this second half of my life. 

My mother is reading this and her eyes have never rolled so far, I just know it. 

A few weeks ago I gave a talk (on prayer) (to a small churchy crowd) and you guys I REALLY LIKED GIVING THAT TALK. Seeing as how the one time I was asked to be a lector at church I nearly barfed all over the ambo, I hadn't really considered Speaker as a possible String to my Bow. But when you super dig what you're talking about and you feel like you're meant to share it - huh! That's different! So is that something I could, you know, DO? I've always thought creating and leading retreats would be fun. What about writing again? How much can I do when Emma is in school every morning? Can I go to THAT conference and THAT retreat and THAT night and... oh, and here we are at 90 miles an hour. Oops. 

Phillip is reading this and thinking 1) GOD NO MAKE IT STOP and 2) Why can't she want to do something that earns money?

I have to head out to an appointment with Emma's nurse, so that will spare you Part Two of this post, where I get navel gazey about a million other things... (seriously - I just deleted it because I don't have time to properly navel gaze. You're welcome.) 




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
  • 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. 


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


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. 



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: 


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. 


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.