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July 2012

Fat is getting REALLY tired of these pictures

It's past nine o'clock and I am sitting in front of gymnastics. I worked VERY HARD not to find out what happens tonight SO DO NOT TELL ME! I expect to be up until midnight, shoving chocolate into my anxious maw, with a box of Kleenex handy. 

Sports make me all verklempt, people. VERY VERKLEMPT.

Today was the first day in absolutely forever where I did not find it necessary to shout down my firstborn in order to make him comply with my extremely reasonable wishes, like not using the couch as his personal balance beam. (The Cheungs are ALL into gymnastics, if you must know.)

So that was great. Seriously. We visited friends in the morning, came home for quiet time, and tried to get some stuff done in the backyard, but of course I can't have three happy, positive, not-screechy children. The baby was in HOLD ME mode so that's what I did, until the minute Phillip stepped out of his car and I threw her off the deck and into his backpack. 

Our baby observer person (I never figured out what to call her!) is only going to visit two or three more times, then her class is over. I am... okay I'm sort of HEARTBROKEN over this. Apparently we are not supposed to be friends and M (I WILL CALL HER M) has never held or interacted with Emma, since she's "not allowed to influence the subject". But you know, when you have someone visiting your house for an hour, once a week, for an entire YEAR, it's pretty weird to not get to know them a little bit. Also I am sort of, you know, rather transparent about absolutely everything - for all I know M is totally relieved that she won't have to come here anymore and listen to me yammer on about Parenting. (HA HA HA. I am suddenly feeling quite relieved that she stopped taking notes after the first few months. WHEW.)

The truth is that I TOTALLY LOVE M and I am plotting how to keep her ensnared in our little world. Do you think she'll come visit and listen to me talk about EJ for fun? Maybe? The only other person who is interested in these things is my mother. 

But all that to say that OMG EJ IS ALMOST ONE. She turned 10 months last week and I won't lie, that is ALSO making me a bit verklempt. There will probably not be a Cheung Baby 4.0 and when my MIL said that EJ had lost a bit of chin fat since she'd seen her last I MAY have stuck my fingers in my ears and started singing. 

Actually, honestly, I've been less sad about Emma getting bigger than I was with the other kids. I loved every bit of New Baby Jack and I would Serious Sadness over the fact that he was no longer, say, three weeks old. Each month was killer. I mean, I LIKED each month, but I was always SURPRISED that I liked the next month. I kept waiting for that I MISS MY BABEEEEE moment. 

I did this with Molly too, because she was my GIRL baby and I loathed having to put away barely worn baby dresses. Also Molly was just super scrumptious in the cheek department and I've sobbed a time or two over the thinning and stretching out that toddlers do. (NOT A FAN.)

Emma... okay, so sometimes I think the whole hating-being-pregnant and still-traumatic birth was a BLESSING. I sincerely have no desire to do any of that again. Ever. Still. I KNOW. And then there is DEFINITELY a way that I am looking forward to her getting older and doing more stuff on her own (you HAVE read the last week's worth of posts, right?) Most of the time I don't feel sad. EJ's lucky if I notice. (SORRY EJ.)

But then ten months hit and now that First Birthday seems... I don't know. TOO CLOSE. 

Photo (11)

Clearly not profit-oriented

Let's have a change of pace, SHALL WE?

So the other night I'm talking to my SIL, on Phillip's side of the family, because we've decided that if a family vacation is ever going to happen it will be because WE planned the entire thing and then just informed everyone else as to what they would be doing. This is also known as: Taking The Cheungs Out Of The Equation. AHEM. They live in Cincinnati and do you know how much it costs to fly from Seattle to Cincinnati? $550! Holy smokes! AND WHO WANTS TO GO TO CINCINNATI?!

(Sorry, Cincinnati people. I HAVE been to your city a few times and it's very nice. I just... don't need to go back.) 

Anyway, because BIL and SIL and their kids have come out to the West Coast the last couple times we've seen them, we started thinking about an East Coast meet up. There are often airfare sales from Seattle to DC or New York or places like that - WAY cheaper than $550. Phillip has been wanting to visit DC for yeeears and I just thought, you know, that would be a cool and worth-the-money sort of trip. 

Except later that night I'm updating Phillip on the conversation and we come to the conclusion, for various reasons, that actually, what am I thinking saying we can fly our whole family to DC for what amounts to a longish weekend? Do I think we have a money tree in that overgrown backyard? No we do not! BLARGH

This COULD veer off into a blog post about Places I Would Like To Travel [Because I Have A Long List]. But instead it's going to be a blog post about how I don't earn any money GUILT GUILT GUILT! Well no, not really, because no one wants to read that (DO NOT BLAME YOU) so let's instead make it a blog post about the various ways I've THOUGHT about making money. Like, GETTING A JOB!

Except: what job?! Internet, I am qualified to do absolutely nothing. Seriously, I am a verbose and narcissistic English major (hence the blog) who is severely lacking in any sort of motivation. I am HOW OLD and I STILL have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I wasn't doing anything particularly awesome and/or well-paid and/or fulfilling - so nothing I'd want to go back to, even if there was something to go back to. 

I should also point out that being qualified to do nothing means that even if you find a job that doesn't CARE if you're qualified for nothing, it is highly unlikely that said job will pay you more than what childcare costs. SO. PROBABLY NO JOB FOR ME RIGHT NOW. 

I think I am way more inclined to be the sort of person who has an Etsy shop or designs websites from home or does a bit of contract work here and there for whoever. And I would do these things reluctantly, because what I'm TRULY made to do is Write A Novel and/or Sit Around Discussing The Mysteries Of Life (I am SERIOUSLY attracted to work that pays nothing. ZERO. NOTHING.) But I can't even do them reluctantly because, AGAIN, I am NOT QUALIFIED. I have no special talent, no artistic bent, no crafty side, no actual KNOWLEDGE of how to design websites BLARGHITY BLARGH BLARGH.

So all this "what would I do if I went back to work" ruminating almost always leads me to going back to school. And honestly? That's... not that awesome. I liked school when I was a student, but now I'm a wife and a mom and I have moved on and I am BUSY. Students eat ramen and stay up late and have many hours to sit in coffee shops with piles of books. That's not my life anymore. (Okay, maybe the ramen part.) 

When I think about going back to school, which is not often, and which is also totally overwhelming, I guess I think about graphic design. It's sort of the one "career" that I am mildly interested in. I really enjoy the nerdier parts of building websites - the little that I know how to do - and I think if I were truly motivated (ha) I could teach myself, go to community college classes, attend those certificate courses at UW. Blah blah blah. But I don't think I can teach myself graphic design. This is where I get sort of bogged down - don't graphic designers already have some sort of innate artistic talent? WHICH I DO NOT? But then I think about how I have, like, vicious and unbending opinions about fonts and maybe I do have some of that in me after all. 

From what I hear, though, it's a tough job market. I know a few graphic designers and they're either not doing it or they're not able to move out of where they are right now. Of course I would have my own little blog design business OBVS but still, I don't know. Do I really want to do something like that? Is that me? (You know what IS me? To think about WHAT IS ME OMG SHUT UP.)

But I have this other weirdo idea, well, weirdo to a lot of you, I'm sure. Did you know you can go to SCHOOL and become a spiritual director? Like, they have PROGRAMS for that? Classes? Faculty? IT'S A THING? It's called a Master of Arts in Transforming Spirituality and they offer it at a Catholic college in my city and I am the wackadoo that thinks that sounds incredibly awesome. There's always the MDiv, but honestly, I'd go the touchy feelier route requiring even more awkwardness when someone asks "Oh, so what are you studying!?" "Uhhh, spritual discernment?" HA HA HA

Seriously, though, when I think about going back to school, THAT sounds like school I'd want to do.

You are thinking, "Poor, poor, Phillip." I know. I am too. Also how I will never be financially successful and move into a mansion next to Bill Gates. SIGH.

Anyway! I hope you enjoyed how this blog post started with "how can I make some extra money?!" and ended with "Our family should take on more student loan debt so I can have a low-paying job 20 years from now!" (THIS IS WHY I JUST STAY HOME.)

With a bit more perspective

This morning Jack stormed into our bedroom, indignant that Molly was already there playing his precious iPad (this is how Phillip and I score a few more minutes to sleep in the mornings, GO AHEAD AND JUDGE) and half-shouted, "MOLLY!" - I leaped up and said, "WE ARE NOT GOING TO HAVE THAT KIND OF DAY TODAY." 

So what kind of day are we going to have? Augh, who knows. 

One thing I am always asked: "do you get a break?" 

I CONSTANTLY get breaks, you guys. Yes, Phillip will go away for work Monday through Friday, but I am very good at finding other people to watch and/or co-watch my children. I am EXCELLENT at escaping on my own. This is because I have a husband who encourages, promotes, pushes, happily agrees, does not even really have to be asked first about the escaping. I had plans with friends yesterday for a late afternoon happy hour, a happy hour that extended to, ah, eleven at night. And it was no big deal. I was away ALL AFTERNOON stuffing my face (two separate desserts and dessert venues, TWO) and hanging out in front of various waterfronts with my not-on-the-internet ladies, while my husband took care of dinner and bedtime and everything else drudgey and messy and frustratey. (He prefers his trophies in potato chip and Amazon gift card form.)

Then I stayed up until midnight watching the Gymnastics Heartbreak (insert NBC rant here) and now I'm... foggy. But okay. (Also: GAWSH, leave that girl ALONE, NBC REPORTERS!)

The struggle, for me, is the daily finding of something to hang each day on. Even last year we were doing preschool just three days a week and I still had Molly to occupy (though admittedly, that one is easy. She likes shopping and snacks just like her mama.)  Summer's been harder, though. It's SO important to give Jack a THING. "What are we going to do TODAY, Mommy?" and when I don't have a THING, everything goes to pot. I mean, sometimes it goes to pot ANYWAY, but our chances for a half-decent day significantly increase with a Thing. I'm terrible at things like the zoo (GOD I HATE THE ZOO), but I'm not bad at scheduling morning get togethers with friends or going to the lake with some buckets or setting up the backyard with the tent and the sprinkler and gardening tools - kind of lower key stuff. But even still, just the daily thinking up of The Thing can get so tiring, just like cleaning up the same messes, washing the same clothes, fixing the same lunches.  

Jack has been pestering me about the children's museum, but: getting everyone ready, packing the diaper bag, packing lunches, getting them into the car, finding parking, hauling out the stroller, paying a painful amount of cash to enter, and then being happy the kids are having a good time but being personally BORED OUT OF MY MIND... give me the lake or a friend's house ANY DAY. 

BUT. This is why we are so VERY MUCH looking forward to school. I honestly thought I would be sobbing buckets about my baby going to kindergarten, but HA HA HA we are both so incredibly ready. I can't give him the constant structure and projects and activities and purpose that he keeps asking for, not with his two little sisters to take care of too. Sometimes, like last week, I feel SO HORRIBLE about that. I'm like, I'm a SAHM! I don't DO anything else! This is it! There is nothing else to distract me! (Except the shiny shiny internet, I suppose.) But the truth is that a lot of SAHM days are long hard slogs and if I can keep diapers changed and meals ready then I am doing my best. 

Let us not discuss homeschooling mothers who are a breed unto themselves. 

So it was absoultely positively FANTASTIC to get the letter on Saturday (Saturday! already! HOLY MOLY) from the school district assigning my five-year-old to the neighborhood school, with start times and end times and a first day and everything. Double awesome to have the email conversation with the principal this week requesting a specific teacher, discussing the possibility of a K-1 split, finding out how they wecome the incoming kindergartners. 

I HATE to be all, "Just a few more weeks!" but I kinda feel like, "Just a few more weeks!" You guys know I love my kids and I really do love staying home with them and I have every confidence in myself to find something fun to do with all three of them today. But I don't feel like there's anything wrong in looking forward to school and Jack going away from 9 to 3 (OMG) every day to be with other people and learn stuff and start becoming a Kid Who Goes To School And Maybe Doesn't Want To Hold His Mother's Hand Anymore WAAAAHHHH. 

Okay, still mixed feelings. 

You guys like honesty? Here you go.

I meant to sit down here tonight and tell you about the riot fest that was Molly's last ballet lesson.  Seven spacier, out of it, goofy little girls I have never seen, and Molly, who I've actually been WORRIED about, fit right in. I also meant to tell you that this week has been pretty great, and as far as Business Trip Weeks go, it's been downright sensational. Beautiful weather, three hours of VBS every morning, lots of time with friends (both theirs and mine), and EJ sleeping better than she has in months. 

Except tonight it all fell apart and I am so angry, so fed up, so freaking DONE that I am here, where I think it is safer, than downstairs with the kids, where instead of putting them to bed I might put my foot through a wall. 

I just don't feel like it's going to get better. Ever. I think it will get worse. 

I think it's me. I don't think my kids are any more difficult than anyone else's kids. I actually don't think they're difficult at all. I think they're normal. I think they're little kids. I think that I am thirty-three years old and I am the grown up and I am the one who has to figure out how to make things work and make them listen and obey and I'm the one who needs to be creative and you know what? I don't have it in me. I watched that ballet teacher tonight and thought: that girl is a saint. Five minutes of dealing with those space cadets and I would have pitched myself into the nearby ravine. I watched the VBS leader this morning and thought: dear God this is the hokiest thing I've ever seen, but she's good at it, the kids love it, she is doing such a great job. 

Not me. I suck at this. I'm good when it's sunny and we have a plan and everyone's happy and doing what I tell them to do. The second it veers off course, usually the second I tell Jack to do something and instead of doing it he says something that starts with, "But Mommy" I am done. All the goodwill I've built up, all the bonus sunshine points, POOF! Gone. Then I am tired and frustrated and FTLOG CHILDREN WHEN HAS IT EVER BEEN OKAY TO LEAVE YOUR UNDERPANTS IN THE HALLWAY?

I see my mom and my sister work with kids and I think: did I just not GET that gene?

I LOVE my kids! So much! And I hate that after a truly wonderful week, when everything went well, I am still HERE, totally done, totally angry at myself. 

I don't want to be a yeller, but I don't know how to do it differently. I can tell Jack to go downstairs a hundred times - go downstairs! your sister is napping! don't be noisy! don't wake her up! GO DOWNSTAIRS! - and he will stand there debating me. It's like he doesn't even hear what I'm saying. He's so freaking determined to make me hear his point that I HAVE to yell. And not just "yell" but "YELLLLLL" and even then it's iffy. Even then he's still sputtering out his rebuttal as he reluctantly shuffles down the stairs. 

Do you know how much I HATE doing that? 

And it has to be me. I should be making a chart or devising some system of screen time rewards or GOD I DON'T KNOW figuring that kid OUT! He's not that hard! I really don't think he is! I see him obey other people all the time! He's smart and funny and kind and creative and he's NOT the total sasspants I make him out to be on the internet. Except that he IS sometimes and what in the world do I do with those times? 

My parents could silence me with a LOOK. I bust out the LOOK and I get smirks. It has to be me. I have to figure it out.

Poor Molly... Molly, I feel like, just gets caught in my done-ness. She's the slowest person on earth. She's constantly out of it. You could say, "MOLLY! FIRE!" and point at it and everything and she'd still stand there and look around in every direction but, and ten minutes later she might look right at the fire, but hmm, there's something sparkly! or wait, what was she supposed to do now? And that... THAT drives me batty. THAT makes me lose it faster than anything. And getting mad at Molly is the worst thing to do because that makes it all go even slower. AND THEN I DIE. 

I was also thinking that while EJ IS the happy cheery baby I talk about on the internet, in the last month she's discovered her vocal cords, she's discovered she can make me run or pick her up or make her a bottle or give her a toy depending on how much she uses those vocal cords. And this is just additional neediness. Additional people barking at me for things. I CANNOT WAIT until she learns how to say SNACK.

OH POOR ME, huh? At least I HAVE children to complain about. At least I HAVE all day to putz around with them. At least I HAVE family and friends to hang out with and spell me while my husband goes on work trips. At least I HAVE three hours of VBS time in the mornings to go spend money at World Market and drink fancy coffees in snooty coffee shops. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.

DUDE. They're gone ALL MORNING and when they come home they NAP and I STILL cannot handle getting them dinner and ready for bed. 

Why is this cancelling out the great week we just had?

But how does this get better? I can't forsee a time when I don't have to say "put the crayons away" forty-seven times before the crayons are actually put away. Jack because they're not HIS crayons or he doesn't KNOW where they go or but he's leaving them out for LATER or but he's not done with his PROJECT or but the crayon bin is LOST, Molly because she probably heard me say, "Fluffy sparkle snugglepants!" and is dreaming of ponies in tutus. I can't forsee a time when having to yell about crayons does not make me FURIOUS.

I'm just done. I'm going to eat carbs. I'm going to go read about this black-souled megalomaniac who just invaded Poland and thinks he's going to get away with it. I need to go be ragey about something else. 

In which kindergarten enrollment drives me to drink

AS YOU KNOW I have not had good luck with school stuff. This past school year was, in many ways, a prolonged awkward moment and the whole time I kept thinking, "IS IT ME?" Why was my question met with weird defensiveness? How come I didn't know about this? How come I didn't know about THAT? Did I do something wrong? Was I unclear? Why is something so simple so confusing? Am I really this hopeless? Am I really so difficult to communicate with? Why does this feel confrontational? Have they labeled my kid "The One With The Incompetent Mother"? 

After manning up and taking Molly out of that overstuffed preschool, after emerging from the new baby fog, after whispered conversations with other parents, and (the kicker) the day they did not inform the pre-K parents that the school was in lockdown I decided NO, IT IS NOT ME. I will happily cop to my incompetent and clueless moments (YOU GUYS I LEFT THE CAR DOOR OPEN WHILE I DRANK A COFFEE AT WHOLE FOODS THIS MORNING, THE ENTIRE TIME, IN THE PARKING GARAGE, CAR WIDE OPEN, OMGGG) but! I am a halfway intelligent adult and I have a few years of Proper Communication under my belt and NO. IT WAS NOT ME. 

Enter kindergarten enrollment. 

SO. My mother, horrified that I had not yet enrolled her precious grandson in kindergarten, told me that I needed to call that school ASAP and sign him up. GET WITH IT, WOMAN! (This was months ago, by the way. Ahem.) Eventually I got around to that. I had a free morning, and I was under the impression that you mosey on down to the individual school, fill out a bunch of forms, and there you go. My mom told me they might even have a little play area for younger kids to hang out while you filled out your forms. Jack would get to see his new school, maybe we could snoop around a bit. This made sense to me, at least, and apparently this is how you enrolled when my mom was doing things. 

Anyway, I called the school so I could make sure I'd bring all the proper documents. I said something like, "Hi, my name is Maggie, I want to enroll my son in kindergarten at This School, can I do that today? What do I need to bring?" And the secretary was all, "HUH?"

SERIOUSLY. It was like no one had ever called and asked her that question before in her life. Sure, I was on the phone, but I could SEE her face and her face was saying WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME, YOU HOPELESSLY INEPT AND PATHETIC EXCUSE FOR A PARENT.

What she actually said, I think, was, "WELL. Did you call the ENROLLMENT CENTER?"

And I said no, because I had no earthly idea what an enrollment center WAS. 

And she said, "WELL. You need to call the ENROLLMENT CENTER. Do you have their NUMBER?"

I suppose I was lucky she GAVE me the number instead of hanging up right then and there assuming I would find it on the internet. 

SPEAKING OF. If that's the kind of response you get when you call your kid's future school to find out how to get him IN, heaven help the parents who do not have the resources I have. Resources like internet access and speaking English and the time and wherewithal to listen to a stupid voice recording (that basically tells me to go look it up online, why are you wasting your time on the phone?) and make forty dozen Google searches. 

I have now brought this up with I don't know how many fellow parents and none of us have an answer. I'm not saying the state should be sending me a reminder notice in the mail ("Our records indicate you have a five-year-old! Have you considered public school!") or anything, but I HONESTLY WONDER how some of the parents out there figure this out. I mean, they're not ALL overinformed, anxious, my-kid-better-get-into-the-gifted-class city parents! 

ALL RIGHT SO ANYWAY. That enrollment center phone number? Totally useless. You couldn't talk to a real person. It was impossible. It gave me absolutely no information. So I gave up and went online, which I'd done ORIGINALLY, but I'd made a phone call in the first place because the website is TERRIBLE! Blargh! 

I figured it out, though. I learned that I needed to download eighty-four different forms, fill them all out, and turn them into the one, lone, single, solitary, ONLY ENROLLMENT CENTER on the total opposite side of town from me, before 4pm. HA HA HA HA HA

No way, dudes. NO WAY. One of the options was to email everything and that is the option I chose. I am savvy! I am internet smart! I HAVE A BLAWG!

But you should have seen me tonight. It was the sorriest picture. First my wireless printer was out of paper. Then I printed the wrong forms. Then I filled out of them out wrong. Then I had to figure out how to SCAN them so I could make PDFs. But I needed Phillip's computer to do that, so I found it and set it up and CRAP, I have to switch his Mac to the Windows operating system because I am Mac Stupid. Fine. Did that, then for some reason it is not connected to the network so it can't connect to the printer which is also the scanner and that is when I started to cry. 

Once I figured out another way to do it, just scanning all my forms probably took me an hour. I had to seriously rethink my entire IT'S NOT ME stance. Half that time was just looking for a USB stick (during the process I found another secret stash of chocolate and a handful of birthday/Mother's Day cards my husband never had the children give me HARRUMPH). Eventually I got the forms scanned and loaded onto the stick - but as JPGs not PDFs HMMM - and then I was worried the email wouldn't be able to handle all those attachments so I ZIPPED them...

And then I started remembering what sort of people I used to work with in an office and what sort of people are generally found in school district offices and I am not INTENTIONALLY being mean but WHAT IF THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH A ZIPPED FOLDER? FULL OF JPGs? WHAT? Do they MEAN IT when they say you can email your admission forms? 

So NOW I am sitting here thinking I should have just mailed the stupid things. Why didn't I do that? I am just asking for trouble and/or a huge continuation of the Awkward Moment, I KNOW IT. I wanted to do it as quickly as possible because 1) I've waited so long and 2) I need to hurry up and request a particular kindergarten teacher. But I am feeling very doubtful about how much time I've actually saved. It might be NEGATIVE. 

I've decided that I will call on Thursday or Friday to confirm whether they got the forms. I thought about mailing them in too, but that would just make it worse. HOW DO I MAKE THINGS SO COMPLICATED?!

It makes me even more grateful for the Molly Preschool situation I have lined up. We're back at Jack's old school, where I NEVER felt awkward, where I was ALWAYS informed, where the teachers really knew my kid and had something to say about him at every pick up. I am paying for it, but it feels totally worth it. I ran into the teacher the other day (the preschool has relocated to the church where the kids are doing VBS) and even though I was only there one year AND I left last year, she grabbed me and gave me a private tour of the new space and shared TONS of information and fun stuff with me AND I LOVE HER. If you are local and looking for a 2s/3s/4s/pre-K program in the North Seattleish area, let me share the love. 

I am REALLY excited about kindergarten (and not just the free time!) and I know all this paperworky phone cally stuff has no bearing on what JACK'S experience will be. But I do wish I didn't feel like such an idiot about everything. I do wonder how people who don't have ready access to the internet are accomplishing the same tasks. I am not terribly impressed with the assistance I've received. IT'S NOT ALL ME. (RIGHT?!)

He's mine

Tonight some ladies came over for the inaugural Moms Prayer Group Or Maybe Support Group Where We Pray For Our Kids Or Something Like That? and I think I referred to my children as "jerks" about fourteen too many times. And I am not sure this is the sort of group that will condone calling your children jerks. So. We'll see how that goes. 

I think I was just frustrated. The ladies were meeting at my house because Phillip is out of town, but that only meant I had to jump up every ten minutes to lay down the law in the Den Of Sneakiness. Jack and Molly share a bedroom downstairs in the farthest possible corner of the house, so I understand that it FEELS like their own personal kingdom, but I keep a baby monitor down there and I hear every.single.thing. that happens in that room. Singing, fighting, bed gymnastics, ALL OF IT. I'm not sure why this is so hard to understand. 

BUT ANYWAY. The final time I marched down there I had Had It and ordered the miscreants to return their toy cars to the toy car bin. (Sometimes I let them have two or three toy cars in their beds when they "can't sleep" which is my way of "escaping before I have to lay down with them".) Molly dutifully deposited her cars in the bin and Jack APPEARED to do the same, but when he dived back into bed I heard clanging under the sheets. Kid had kept his cars! And thought he could get away with it! By being as noisy and un-sneaky as possible! Blargh! 

So I got right up in his face, My Dad-Style, and told him exactly what I thought of little boys who only pretend to do what their mommies tell them to do, and then I went upstairs to rejoin the ladies, flopped on the couch, and called my kid a jerk. 

I really shouldn't do that. I don't like how it sounds. There are better ways to describe it. BUT IT JUST CAME OUT. 

I had the same feeling when I picked them up from VBS this morning. 

OH WAIT. SIDE NOTE: signing those two up for VBS this week may possibly be the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. I dropped them off around ten, and because EJ had slept late, she conked out in the car on the way home and stayed asleep when I transferred her to the crib. I had an entire hour of quiet. REAL QUIET. Not "the baby is napping and I have decreed the next two hours a Be Quiet Or You Will Be Shipped To Military School" quiet. Not "it's the weekend and we're all chilling in front of a movie while EJ sleeps" quiet. Honest to God QUIET, coupled with a startling lack of any crucial task at hand. It was... amazing? All day I've been trying to think of the last time that happened AND I CAN'T. And all day I've been thinking: IS THIS WHAT SCHOOL WILL BE LIKE?!

Okay, so anyway, I picked them up from VBS. My first question was if they wanted to go back the next day. OH YES. Yes yes yes. They definitely wanted to go back. My second question was also relatively simple: what did they DO? 

Now whenever I asked Jack this question after preschool he would ALWAYS give me a nice little preview of the teenage years. "NOTHING." Or sometimes "I don't feel like talking about it right now." WHAT? Whatever. I don't feel like talking to you either. 

So I wasn't particularly SURPRISED when Jack didn't jump up and down and motormouth all the wonderful and exciting things he did that morning. I kind of thought Molly would throw me a bone, but either she was equally unimpressed or just following Jack's lead. They did mention one or two things that I could barely understand because when they DO want to say something positive they MUMBLE. Then Jack busted out this gem: "I was bored." 

BORED! My five-year-old boy, the child who is constantly pestering me for ACTIVITIES was BORED at VBS which is basically ACTIVITIES GALORE. I said, "WHAT?" and he said, "IT WAS BORING." 

And I don't know, Internet, but there's something about that word "Boring" that makes me INSANE. 

Molly had been right about to tell me an additional VBS detail but as soon as her brother blurted out "BORING" she repeated it. "It was boring, Mommy." 

"IT WAS NOT BORING," I started ranting from the driver's seat. "If it was boring you wouldn't want to go back tomorrow! And you said you wanted to go back tomorrow! And it's not nice to say things are boring! You don't get to say anything is boring! That's mean! And if you don't have anything nice to say about Vacation Bible School then I don't want to hear ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT IT EVER!" 

That's pretty much verbatim. 

There was a lot of quiet in the van, then. But not the good kind of quiet. 

Right before we turned onto our street Jack hesitantly shared another VBS anecdote ("There was a boy named Zap. Because he Zaps things!") (later tonight I learned that this boy is named ZACK) but I was sort of over hearing about VBS at that point. It just bugged me. YOU ARE FIVE. YOU ARE NOT BORED. 

There was another time he was not bored recently: at the Big Red House, where he was surrounded by his extended family 24/7, including a handful of fun-loving boy cousins. But poor Jack, he just could not hang sometimes. He was so tired, so out of his element at points. I would look at him and instantly recognize the need for alone time, I could FEEL it - if you haven't guessed by now, Jack and I have a bit in common. Ha. So it was easier than usual to have patience with him, easier than usual to know what to do. Several times I gently extricated him from whichever situation was causing the tears or strife and set him up in my bed with the iPad for a bit. A personal time out. A de-jerk-ifying time. 

OH, JACKSON CHEUNG. That's how I'm feeling right now. OH, JACKSON CHEUNG. You are a sensitive and occasionally sneaky little sasspants and I ADORE THE SNOT OUT OF YOU.

Beggars would ride

You know what is not that awesome? Standing around on the empty, bleak, gunmetal gray Washington State coast, in the almost-rain, clutching your thin and useless hood around your chins, and watching your nutjob children gleefully racing the waves with their nutjob cousins, all while listening to your just-married sister extol the virtues of the Disney resort in Hawaii. AKA where Jesus goes on vacation. WAH, I WISH. And then perhaps, if you are me, you come home from your family beach weekend and start looking up prices for beaches that actually live up to the name.

But FINE - my preference for white sand, blue sky, and 80+ degree temps aside, Family Beach Weekend was a good time. The kids CLEARLY don't care what color the sand/water/sky are, they are throwing themselves into it no matter what. Sand? YES, MORE SHOVELS! Water? WE WILL GET WET! Sky? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT! THAT'S JUST OCEAN MIST!

I walked out to that stupid beach more times than I really wanted to, simply because the best thing about having kids is watching them be kids. You just have to see those skinny chicken legs galloping through icy surf, listen to the high pitched shrieks of frozen joy, grudgingly participate in the building of a the too-cold-for-water but not-too-cold-for-digging dilapidated sand castle. (And, if you are P Cheung and New BIL, a channel out to the ocean to fill up the moat - excellent engineering, men!) 

Photo (8)

Photo (7)

Photo (9)

And did I tell you that Phillip goes on a business trip tomorrow? I conveniently forgot this fact myself. Right now I am Thinking Positive: it'll be a good week to get everyone back on my very favorite thing, A Schedule. Would you believe I'm actually sort of excited to put our house back together, get things cleaned up, remember where I put the mop and all that? 

I even had an incredible moment of foresight a few weeks ago and signed the kids up for two separate weeks of Vacation Bible School. The first week fortuitously starts tomorrow YAAAAYYY!!! It's at my friend's church so at least Jack and Molly will know those kids, it goes from ten to one Monday through Thursday, and if nothing else it'll be a few hours each day when all of us are having our own kinds of fun. My friend thinks we should drop our kids off, go find a coffee shop, and blow the rest of the time shopping. I'm not entirely sure if Emma will nap before or after VBS drop off, but I don't see why that should interfere with the coffee/shopping time. That's what Ergo carriers are for, right? 

It's a relief AND a disappointment to know all the big stuff of our summer is over. Until our couples retreat with friends over Labor Day, we are looking at a nice long stretch of Nothing. Usually a nice long stretch of Nothing is exactly the sort of thing to send me into a blubbering angsty-blog-post-writing panic, but it honestly sounds pretty good right now. The only way it could be better is if I had white sand/blue sky/warm water in my backyard.

Yeah yeah yeah if wishes were horses WHATEVER.

Written between breakfasts, fights, messes, and helping people who put their underwear on backwards

Yesterday I stayed up until midnight writing a blog post about, I don't know, this year, I guess, and how I am barely hanging on by my fingernails. I decided not to post it because, ugh, bummer, and also hello repetitive! I thought for sure I'd have something brighter or funnier to say in the morning, but nope! I am sitting here again, ready to delve fingers first into my nonfiction opus entitled Fingernails, Strength Of

I've been saying JESUS a lot lately. (Not in vain, though I am frequently (always) tempted to do so.) No, I'm just sort of saying it because I have nothing else to put out there. His name is a prayer in itself. It means Help. It means I have nothing else right now

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, 
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, 
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, 
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, 
Christ in the eye that sees me, 
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I yelled at my nine-month-old. (Christ be with me.) I'm packing for our beach weekend by myself. (Christ before me.) I'm putting three un-sleepers to bed while Phillip is out helping someone other than me. (Christ behind me.) How can there be so many dishes, so much laundry, when I did these things yesterday? (Christ in me.) Oh God, the terrible news this morning. (Christ beneath me.) 

And on it goes. 

Some people say they don't know how people parent without Twitter. (I'm one of them. God bless Twitter.) But more than that I wonder how people parent without God. I hope that sounds how I mean it - a genuine question, not a judgment. I am in no place to judge right now - the whole gist of my post-that-I-didn't-post was how this year has humbled me, to a humbleness I didn't know existed. I didn't think three kids was going to be hard. I'm not a fabulous parent, but I'm a decent one, and I'm pro-babies and pro-powering through and I'm the annoying eternal optimist and WHATEVER NAYSAYERS, THREE KIDS AIN'T NO BIG THING. I might even be able to talk P Cheung, Naysayer In Chief, into four!

Insert bitter laughter here. Somehow, even with three easyish kids, welcome to quite possibly my roughest year in parenting. (I say "quite possibly" because I honestly don't remember at least half of Molly's first year.) I didn't count on extended months of questionable mental health. I must have forgot about business trips. I most definitely forgot what sleep deprivation is like. 

For an irrational overachiever like me, the fact that I am Hanging On By My Fingernails on a near-daily basis feels like failure. It's not, I know that. But remember, I am coming from the place where I don't think it'll be all that hard. I mean, let's call it what it is: a place of rather impressive arrogance. This much humility is dreadful, you guys, and keeps me running to the kitchen for pieces of chocolate. 

But Christ is before me, under me, to my left, to my right, he is everywhere. How else could I keep washing the same dishes, the same clothes, cleaning up the same messes, breaking up the same fights, wiping the same bottoms day after day after day? How else can I read Twitter, see what happened last night, and think, "But I still have to get ready for the beach."

The other day I was thinking that the next time I'm hard up for blog content I ought to just start writing thank you notes. I'll create a whole Thank You category. Thank Yous for all the individual internetters who've carried me through my rotten days and my anxious weeks, the people who send me surprise presents or random text messages, who enable my retail therapy or just listen (read) while I rant (type) via instant messenger. And today I think wow, I am the nerd who accessed the body of Christ through the internet. 

The desperately grateful nerd. 

I have spent an awful lot of money this month in an attempt to make myself feel better. I've eaten a ton of chocolate. I've looked for affirmation and validation in the work I did for my sister's wedding, even in the ways I interacted with friends and family members in town last week. With every line I spoke, in the way I dressed, in every action I was selling I am a good person, I am doing it right, I have it under control, I'm all right. I do it here. I do it now. I'll do it tomorrow. 

But with Jesus, all of that is futile. There's no point. He sees through me, he sees the places where I feel lost, dead, confused, and so very tired. I work so hard to hide all that stuff, but Jesus doesn't seem to mind. For the millionth time he barely looks at all my hidden things in that dark corner, calls me over to his lit up kitchen table, pours me a glass of Chianti, invites me to put my feet on the adjacent chair, asks me how the blog is going. The invitation, I feel, is to be real. Not to necessarily dwell on those hidden things, my perceived failures, but to admit that they're there, not deny their existence. But not to worry about it - those things aren't me. Those things aren't the death of me. They're just... part of where I am right now. A 33-year-old SAHM with three kiddos, a husband who works hard, a house that needs cleaning, and a fridge that does not magically dispense dinner. 

So after a few sips of wine and I'm calmed down and no longer overshadowed by the corner, I'll say something like, "Ugh, you know what Jesus, sometimes the blog just gets boring. Sometimes I have no idea what to do with it. Sometimes I'm just saying the same boring stuff over and over." Then I feel like he says, "Well, tell them about me." 

So I did. 

And now I have to pack. 

Unusually and exceedingly peculiar and altogether quite impossible to describe

So, as you are WELL AWARE, my sister got married last weekend. THIS weekend my side of the family is headed to the beach (well, what we Washingtonians call a beach) for a little family vacation. Because of those two things I made absolutely no plans - NONE, I SWEAR - for my birthday, which is today. I mean, ordinarily there are parades and visits from the president and honorary degrees and all that, but this year I told Phillip, "Low key! Nothing big! Maybe just a catered luncheon!" REALLY. 

I did make myself a cake, though. The chocolate cake and frosting on the back of the Hershey's cocoa box. (RECOMMEND.) Jack and Molly helped by cutting out the parchment circles for the cake pan and licking the spoons. I did take a long leisurely bath during which I read an entire issue of Entertainment Weekly without any interruptions. I did let out a squeal when my husband handed me a card with tickets to Wicked inside (perhaps he's heard me singing along to the Wicked Pandora station lately?) (There's a strange exhilaration! In such total detestation!) (It's so pure so STROOOOOONG!)

Otherwise... my parents and brother and SIL and nephews were going to come up and visit for a while. The FPC would drop by with Rosie. La la la. But then my parents took the kids home a bit after lunch and my brother and sister just... stayed. I think they all had better things to do, but everyone just sort of... didn't get up. And we talked about a million different things and soon we were discussing what to order from the Thai restaurant down the street and opening the wine and I kept thinking: this is why I wanted a bunch of kids. Because maybe sharing a room is a bummer and your brother still beats you up well into your teenage years and no one owns up to their turn to do the dishes, but when you're a grown up, brothers and sisters are pretty awesome. 

My growing up experiences seem pretty different from my siblings'. You can tell just from our high school-centric conversation this afternoon (my two brothers, two sisters, and one SIL all knew each other in high school and half the people they talk about are total strangers to me.) It's me, then two brothers who shared a lot of the same friends and then two sisters, all of us just one year apart. It's no secret that my sole objective from age thirteen or fourteen was to Leave Home And Go To College. Like the FPC more or less said tonight, "You didn't pay attention to us at all!" Maybe things would have been different if my sisters had been born "next" to me instead of my brothers, but she was right. They were the "little girls" and my brothers were, you know, brothers, and surely there was more to life than this miserable box known as high school. 

I always LIKED my brothers and sisters, but I don't feel like we were friends, really, until we were all out of school and living on our own, doing our own thing. There's definitely a way where I feel like I was waiting (whether or not I realized it) for them (especially my sisters) to "catch up" with me. Even though I'm really only a handful of years older! It made a difference. 

And now it's so great. SO GREAT. I just love hanging out with them. I know the FPC, at least, is reading this and rolling her eyes because Declaring Your Love For Family Members On Your Dorky Website is not really something you DO in this family but WHATEVS, FPC. You are stuck with me. 

(I don't know. Maybe they were driving home tonight all, "Okay, so how do we manage spending an entire weekend with THAT?" But I'm just going to pretend they think I'm awesome.)

But we were even talking about a joint trip to Disneyland with our kids, and what it would be like if my brother and SIL moved to Seattle. Isn't that awesome? Not everyone WANTS to go on a trip with their brother's family, you know? But I totally would. I feel so lucky. 

I have a lot of cake in this house, if you're interested. Leftover Thai food? Any takers? 

Tomorrow I have to do laundry and pack and buy a whole bunch of salmon at Costco because Phillip and I are in charge of one of the beach weekend dinners and the only thing we are reliably good at is salmon. (MMM.) We also have an Unbloggable Thing happening tomorrow for which I'd like to obnoxiously request some good mojo. And I have another Revamping The Crazy Pills appointment which... well, I guess tonight I'm not feeling super positive about that. I'm feeling sort of "will this ever end" ish. Blargh. But I have a giant basket full of chocolate bars (they accompanied the Wicked tickets) and Phillip doesn't have to go to work in the morning and HELLOOOOOO I am 33 today! I am pro-birthday. Pro-getting older, even if my stupid brother makes stupid jokes about it. 33 just LOOKS good for some reason. It's a good year, right? I NEED A GOOD YEAR. 

Long boringish recap. No pictures. SORRY.

You know what? I think I could start running again. (Someone ask me in a week or two if I actually started running again. Seriously.) 

Maybe I am only thinking about this because I was within spitting distance of pre-Emma weight and then I decided to eat an entire wedding plus an entire bag of Crappy Day Chocolate Cookies. But really. I think I could. 

ANYWAY. Wedding recap! Sort of! But no pictures. I am tired of posting pictures. (It's my website and I'll be lazy if I want to!) Yesterday I decided to stare down Facebook - I unfriended God knows how many people and restricted about half the people left. IT IS NOT PERSONAL. Well, I guess it is, sort of, it's just that maybe I would USE FB if it were more like my blog/Twitter community and less, you know, people I never talk to anymore. So I did not unfriend YOU, I promise, but I did get a couple friend requests from people I'm not sure I know. What I'm thinking is that you are a reader/lurker, but I either don't recognize your name from comments or you comment with a blog name or something, so if those friend requests are from YOU, could you just tell me you're a blog person? Is this horribly snotty of me? I'm just being REALLY PICKY and I HAVE had total strangers friend me before SO. That's all. 

Wait. All right. So pictures: all the good ones are on FB. If I get anything exceptionally awesome from the other wedding photo takers I will be sure to post them here. Especially if they are of 1) programs/seating chart/invitation/other Maggie-produced wedding item or 2) me looking photogenic because one day I hope to market myself as a lifestyle blog (HAAAAAA.)

As for the wedding itself... nothing went wrong! I mean, this will be a very boring recap! 

Okay SURELY something went wrong. I will think. UMMMM. People disrespected the seating chart? Certain people COMPLAINED to my SIL who was manning the Seating Chart Area that they couldn't find their tables? And she explained that the seating cards were in alphabetical order, this was not a graphic representation of the table area. Which apparently they did not/could not understand and so they just sat where they felt like it? Displacing other people? Who didn't really care and the wedding sort of shrugged it off and continued on? 

All day long I was losing my camera and my keys and sometimes my phone. I hated that. I was a huge embarrassing flake all day long. The only thing I was successful at managing was my sister's hair. People I ROCKED the Hair Management. I packed this glorious bag of Wedding Emergency Essentials: your hairspray, your safety pins, your lip gloss, your sewing kit, your anti-diarrheal medication. (Seriously - what if you were having Issues? Wouldn't you be glad I packed that little bottle?!) We had to fix the hair immediately after the hair appointment (honestly, I have never ever had a hair appointment where I did not go home and tweak/totally redo). And we fixed it up halfway through the reception. I was ON TOP OF THE LONG LOOSE CURLS. I was NOT on top of remembering where I put a $$$ camera that did not bleong to me. 

The ceremony was just! beautiful! All those colors really did work together and so many people commented on the multicolored-ness of everything. And it was so sweet and touching too - I wonder if I think it seems MORE touching than other weddings I've been in/attended because my sister is not a teary and sentimental kind of girl. So there was something SO LOVELY about watching her walk down the aisle with my dad and say her vows. Let's just say I was glad I grabbed a Kleenex from Phillip right before the processional began. 

The reception was in an old timey theater that now hosts weddings as well as rock shows and pageants. We put blown up copies of the invitation in the box office along with my sister's engagement pictures (which are gorgeous, I hate her.) The seating chart was stationed in the entry way along with a "guest book" - postcards that said "I remember B when..." and "Love is..." and "R & B should name their kids..." etc. Those were laid out with colored Sharpies and collected in a tall glass vase.

Inside the theater it was dark and felt like a party. There were appetizers and drinks while the bride and groom finished up pictures. The tables were white with tall vases of pink and orange gerber daisies, tea lights, and little white favor boxes with tissue paper flowers on top in all the different wedding colors. My sister bought the Hershey kisses with the cute little wedding sticker on the bottom - those were in the boxes. (Everyone ate the candy and left the boxes. Lame.) White chair covers with gauzy white sashes.

And it was pretty laid back. Nothing formal. People just hung out until the bride and groom showed up. They were announced, then there was just more hanging out until the buffet opened. That was probably my favorite part, just going around to all the different people I haven't seen in a year (or longer) and catching up. As you know I am Afraid Of Chatting, but something about big family occasions and really LIKING everyone and knowing that they really DO want to know about me and that new baby I have now and everything's all FESTIVE and HAPPY... it brings out the talky. SO FUN. 

Eventually there were toasts (which were perfect. PERFECT. The Maid of Honor and the Best Man were SO GREAT, you guys), then they cut the cake, then their first dance to "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" which is a Frankie Valli song from 1960 something, but REALLY is a Lauryn Hill song / the song Heath Ledger sang on the bleachers in '10 Things I Hate About You'. WE LOVE THIS SONG. 

(OH. That is a thing that went wrong! SO. Apparently the venue (also in charge of the music) lost the playlist? Which was only a handful of songs? And called my future BIL during picture taking to ask what the dance songs were? OMG I KNOW. But no one could remember the name of the first dance song which is why my sister and I were singing it at the top of our lungs in the church vestibule while Future BIL was on the phone. AWESOME.)

Apparently they did NOT want to dance in front of EVERYONE and were only doing it GRUDGINGLY and the bridal party had strict instructions to storm the stage mere seconds after their first dance began. But honestly, they were SO sweet and cute that we couldn't bring ourselves to do it. 

Of course, there was pah-lenty of dancing later on. I discovered that my normally quiet, reserved, on the sidelines, introverted BIL (husband of FPC) is QUITE the dancer once he's had a drink or two. Honestly, he was the only one with any business dancing to any of those songs. I knew he had it in him, but the "teaching everyone all the dances" part DID surprise me. 

EJ had a rough time skipping that afternoon nap, but there were so many nice ladies willing to hold her and/or push her around in a stroller until she fell asleep. Which meant I could 1) drink more and 2) dance more. YAY.

I realized, after it was over, that I felt like a GUEST. Which was so nice! I loved the FPC's wedding and was MUCH more involved in it, but I needed therapy after it was over. Something about how the FPC and I were the only ones in the city where the wedding was held made it MUCH more complicated than Other Sister's wedding, you know? (For ME anyway, and this is MY BLOG, I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO COUNTS.) Plus it was at my church and I was figuring out so much of the logistics. This one was in my parents' and sister's town and the reception venue handled nearly everything, and no one needed me to do anything. Of course, you know how I abhor not being needed, but it really WAS nice not having to manage anything the day of the wedding. 

My sister changed into the MOST ADORABLE green dress and then she and BIL escaped. They went to Hawaii. They are in Hawaii right now. I am not jealous at all. 

The rest of us packed up gifts and and guest book cards and flowers and table numbers and gave up looking for lost cameras (PHILLIP HAD IT THE ENTIRE TIME OMG) and then hunkered down at my parents' dining table to debrief. For hours. WAS EXTREME FUN.

I did my own wedding almost entirely by myself. (My parents lived in Italy at the time, my in-laws were helpful but planning our Chinese wedding banquet in Vancouver, my sisters were 19 and 20 so somewhat oblivious to wedding stuff, and my best friends from college had all - ALL! - moved far away. My close friends were only starting to be my close friends then.) But over the years I've helped with friends' weddings and I did a lot for my sisters' weddings. I feel like a know a thing or two now and IF ONLY I KNEW THESE THINGS WHEN I GOT MARRIED!!! (Future post: How I Will Do Things When I Get Married Again.)

I am STILL tired. I slept fine enough last night and even passed out on the couch for a bit this afternoon, but I still have that tired eyes/headachey feeling. So of course I spent hours painting the doors that go on the credenza/buffet thing I bought and painted in JANUARY. Someone needs a new project? 

This was a pretty pathetic recap, it seems. Light on the drama, heavy on the sniffles. But that's the way we want things to go, right? Right. Well done, family of mine. I can't wait for our family beach weekend (THIS WEEKEND) (TO WHICH SISTER AND NEW BIL ARE COMING, I KNOW, THEY ARE CUTTING THEIR HONEYMOON SHORT, THEY ARE CRAZY) (SERIOUSLY) so we can talk about it all over again!!!