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October 2012

September 2012

In case you were wondering, I am still a head case

Soooo, I haven't mentioned anxiety in a while because HEY, BORING TOPIC and also NOTHING NEW. But the nothing newness is starting to really get to me, so we're going to have a quick chat about it, okay? 

I STILL HAVE IT. I am on my third drug. I recently INCREASED the third drug. I am not better. Sometimes I think I'm better. But then I have a day like Saturday where I think, "Did I remember to tell them I wanted a DECAF latte?" and then a day like today where I didn't have any coffee and I still feel like I drank a vat. I'm starting to get handwringy, like nothing is ever going to work. Handwringy and upset and worried which, obvs, is not particularly helpful. 

There are two things I started thinking about this week that may or may not have contributed to what is definitely an uptick. The first thing is that Phillip is going to be traveling a LOT in October and November. A LOT. We're both resigned to it. We'll deal. Whatever. 

But this past business trip week, even though nothing HAPPENED and everything was NORMAL and AVERAGE, I still spent the weekend realizing how much easier things are when Phillip is home! Even just hanging around in the house! It's just nice not to be alone. I think my subconscious is maybe a little worried about the next two months. (My regular conscious would never admit to this, of course.)

And then the other thing is that the Blathering is coming up and the last time I went to the Blathering (Chicago, 2010) I had a pretty terrible anxiety episode? attack? moment? on Saturday night and it was so awful and... well, I'm just aghast at the idea that that could happen again. Travel and jet lag are sometimes triggers for me, I'm clearly not responding to medication, what if I go berserk at the Blathering again, WOE! DESPAIR! HYSTERICS!

Also, this is the time of year when, even if I've been doing well, I start to not do well. Also my baby still wakes up once or twice a night. Also we're still in transition mode with school and everything. If one of my partial theories is right and regular stress translates to anxiety in my body, then there's enough reason right there. 

This is when I call friends or my mom and not to talk about anxiety but just to re-engage myself with the Real World. It's good to get out, you know? I have a long-scheduled doctor appointment on Friday. I keep telling myself that the doctors WANT me to feel better, that THEY don't think I should just suck it up. That I don't need to apologize for not being better. (WHY THE NEED TO APOLOGIZE, SELF?! FTLOG!)

Sooooo... [DEEP BREATH] .... everything will be fine. Eventually. 

In the meantime I have finished YET ANOTHER book about WAR - you'd think this would contribute to the anxiety, but I don't think it does. There are definitely parts I have to skip, usually the first person accounts of some individual atrocity, but most of the time I am experiencing a sort of enlargening of my world. Yeah, sometimes it's way depressing - like, pretty much the entire time I read this book I was thinking, "Why didn't God send another flood? No REALLY. WHY DIDN'T HE SEND ANOTHER FLOOD?" But I also feel like I understand certain things SO much more, and I'm AWARE of so much more, and I like that. I like being outside of my own neuroses. 

Oh, and there's another thing. @HereWeGoAJen had her [fantastically sweet and adorable] baby quite suddenly and as she started to describe the experience via Twitter I felt Actual Tightening in my abdomen, like I was tensing up for attack or something. SHE is the one who compared it to my experience with Emma! So I feel a little stupid that a year later I still have a physical reaction to quick/dramatic birth stories BUT. Jen told me that she had read EJ's birth story post just a few days earlier and knowing that quick/dramatic was a possibility helped her (somehow) and you guys, this is helping ME (somehow). Really. I've thought of it several times since she mentioned it and felt... I don't know. Kind of like OH. Someone found that helpful! Or useful or SOMETHING. Why this gives me some positivity I'm not really sure, but I'm grateful. 

I guess I just list those things as two spots where anxiety hasn't invaded. 

Please think good thoughts for my appointment on Friday? I'm absolutely certain of looking like and feeling like an idiot in front of my not terribly warm and fuzzy doctor. But I'm also absolutely certain he will take it as a personal affront that his prescription is not doing the trick, so at least there is that, right? Fingers crossed. 


God threw me a bone

You guys, I'm not sure I can accurately describe how much I love kindergarten. How thankful I am for kindergarten. How happy and grateful and relieved I feel to pull up alongside the curb - because that is how we do it now - and watch my five-year-old run onto the playground, and how I don't pick him up until three o'clock in the afternoon. It is amazing. God bless kindergarten. 

That sounds horrible, doesn't it? IT REALLY DOES. What a mean and lazy mother! BUT YOU GUYS. Oh my gosh. I'm not sure I can accurately describe how READY this kid has been for kindergarten for the past, oh, YEAR. 

It's not that he's reading already or doing quadratic equations or incredibly sociable or speaking three languages or in any way unusually Advanced and/or Gifted or ANYTHING LIKE THAT. It's the fact that Jackson Cheung thrives on - no, practically REQUIRES - a project or an activity or a task or a plan or SOMETHING STRUCTURED TO DO all day, every day. Who knows how much money I've dropped at the dollar store on art supplies and workbooks and how many games and toys I've purchased simply to get an hour or two of quiet time. And I'm not GOOD at that. I run out of ideas super quick. Plus I'm impatient, lazy, and taking care of a baby. I do not have the time, inclination, or capability to come up with a Fun! Preschool! Project! morning, noon, and night. 

What did his teacher say at our home visit? OH YES. He is 1) always on task and 2) always ready to move onto the next activity, and also 3) sort of stymied by all the kids who are NOT ready. OMG. 

All summer long I was trying to figure out what to do with that kid. Thank God I found those two weeks of Vacation Bible School (which he STILL talks about, by the way. Score one for Mom!) But otherwise he was stuck at home with me and his sister who is content to play with her magnetic paper dolls for houuurrrsss and his baby sister who doesn't even MOVE and do you know how antsy and twerpy and out of control that kid got? I had to start a behavior chart! GAH!

But kindergarten? Oh blessed blessed kindergarten. Projects and activities and recess and snacks and more projects from nine to three every day of the week. I keep telling myself it's okay to be thrilled about school. Kids are SUPPOSED to go to school. It's not like I couldn't handle him at home anymore and found a full day week-long daycare situation for my five-year-old. It's SCHOOL. It's REQUIRED. He's LEARNING STUFF. With the grand and fabulous bonus that OTHER PEOPLE ARE DOING IT. 

Phillip has been out of town all week and as far as business trip weeks go, this one's been pretty average. No one is sleeping well and everything's a mess, but we've had friends and visitors and junk food and we've been fine. But you know what the biggest factor in being fine is? KINDERGARTEN. Kindergarten has drastically cut the amount of time I spend refereeing arguments and yelling and ordering people around. Molly likes projects too (more and more, unfortunately, gak) but she also loves to just help me do whatever I'm doing or quietly play on her own while I write email or even play nicely with her sister. When Jack is here there's fighting and noise and craziness and I don't trust him with Emma. He's not even being BAD, really, he just NEEDS STUFF TO DO! A business trip week with no kindergarten? I WILL find that full day week-long daycare.

Oh I'm so not even kidding you, I am so deliriously happy about having this kid in school. It is EXACTLY what he wants, nay, NEEDS to be doing. 

On the other hand... it's only Thursday. I am so tired. EJ is doing this new thing where she screams for a good half hour before she falls asleep at night. I don't get it. She's not eating either - maybe because she has a cold? They all have colds (thank you, kindergarten) (I don't care, I'll take the colds) and I've gone through nineteen boxes of Kleenex this week. I've changed wet sheets and bloody nose sheets. I've eaten terrible food and spent an entire day hating myself because I stepped on the scale. I've spent more money online this week than I have in months (it will almost all be returned, I'm sure.) (Well, except for Blathering Dress #3.) (Shut up.) This work travel thing is not so awesome. We're doing it and we're fine, but it's definitely not awesome. 

Still, there is kindergarten, and it is good. So good. You know, I've been indecisive about what to do with Molly next year, with her birthday being the cut off date and all, but she is GOING. HA.

What I love best is the way she squeezes a blueberry in her fist and flings the mess across the kitchen

Always in the back of my mind I am remembering, somewhere, that my mother had five children under the age of five. My youngest sister was born about three weeks before my fifth birthday. In case you're having trouble picturing it, that's a four-year-old, a three-year-old, a two-year-old, a one-year-old, and a NEWBORN, all at once. 

And it's true, my memory of that time isn't exactly good (or existent) and even if I did remember it would all be from a child's perspective and therefore useless to me now. Still, my mom is incredibly able, terrifically creative, with heaps of ingenuity and an ability to let things go that I didn't seem to inherit. And always, in the back of my mind, I know that I compare what I do now to what my mom did then and so often I find myself lacking. I only have three! And there are just so many things that I can't seem to get done. (That's totally unfair to my mom, by the way, who is my biggest supporter parenting-wise and never makes me feel like I'm doing a poor job. This is ALL me.)

It's Emma's birthday today. It's been a whole year of the unsleepingest yet happiest baby ever, and a whole year of feeling monumentally incapable. She even woke up in the night, about 12:15 which is almost exactly when my water broke a year ago. I couldn't go back to sleep, just laid there thinking about what that was like, what happened, how it felt, what I was thinking, how I had absolutely no idea what would happen in the following three hours. That's when it started: I couldn't even give birth right. 

As the world has shifted a bit this month, with the start of school and this rigid schedule, I've been thinking about the last year and what I've learned, even how I've maybe changed, and it seems to be the year where God asked, "What would it be like if you couldn't do it all?"

I mentioned this to a friend tonight and she snorted - the last time she saw me I had a baby on my hip, I was making scones and homemade bread, setting the table for Molly's birthday party, and fixing the big kids' lunch at the same time. She doesn't have any kids and I know, to her, I look like SuperMom. And you know, sometimes I am. But I know I'm not SuperMom, I'm just the sort of person who is determined to do all the things I want to do. I'm just going to find a way. I will build the Blathering website during the month that Emma wakes up every hour, every night. I will throw a Christmas party in the middle of my most anxious season. I will lose 35 pounds before my 30th birthday. I will arrange every moving detail, and pack our entire house by myself, while pregnant and solo parenting. 

And this year feels like the year I [slowly] said to myself, "Well... actually maybe you shouldn't try to run every day." Maybe I shouldn't have another party right now. Maybe I shouldn't join that group. Maybe it's okay not to write on my website every day. Maybe I don't have to make a spectacular cake for EJ's birthday party. Maybe I can just give those jeans away instead of hating myself for not fitting into them. Maybe it's okay to take naps. 

So say God asked me that question months and months ago. For the longest time I've ignored it. I've denied it. I've fought it, big time, kicking and screaming the entire way. Until... now? Maybe a few weeks ago? Maybe when I started driving everyone to school? There's a way where I realized that this schedule is the new normal, and no we're not used to it yet, but I already see how limiting it is and how it divides my day into often inconvenient chunks. I already know that I can do just one thing on preschool days, maybe two things on no preschool days. 

It feels like God is questioning this thing about myself that I don't want to let go of. Like he's questioning something so me that it's my identity. Being responsible, reliable, dependable, determined, committed, capable - all good stuff. What's wrong with being those things? I won't give them up. I won't not be those things. 

Except... there is a way that being those things... I don't know. Instead of being someone who can be described with those words, I tell myself I AM those words. That is all of me. That is who I am. If I am not those words I am... no one. 

Will God love me more if I lose all the baby weight? If I make a beautiful birthday cake? If I throw the best Christmas party? If I do two more loads of laundry instead of napping? If I write the best blog posts? 

Emma is an entire year old today, and only now, just now am I beginning to hear what he's really saying. Getting it all done, accomplishing everything, remembering everything, doing all the things I want to be able to do, being a good wife and mother and friend by doing things and doing them well... that's not WHY he loves me. So if I don't get it all done, if I mess it up, if I forget, if I fail, he doesn't love me less.

My sweet adorable birthday baby, she does nothing. Nothing! Some days she won't even deign to feed herself to put her own chunk of pear in her own mouth. She doesn't crawl or cruise or walk, she doesn't speak, she doesn't do any work or produce anything, and the only thing she gives back is her happy face. And yet there is no way I could love her more. I don't need her to be anything except exactly who she is: my beautiful perfect daughter. 


Why yes, I think I will

In the mail today was a wedding Save The Date from the girl who observed Emma all year. She started in late October and finished up a few weeks ago. We were both mopey about it and she wrote me the sweetest thank you card. Our circumstances don't make us natural friends, but she's marrying the brother of a good friend of mine, so it makes it a bit easier to keep track of her. Plus I've already decided we're going to her wedding. Which is in Montana. Next summer. (WHAT.)

I love that a friend emailed a random request: "Hey, my future sister-in-law is looking for a new baby and mom to observe for an infant development class." And I love that I said yes, even though it really did sound sort of annoying and intrusive and crazy. And I love that it turned out to be AWESOME. I looked forward to her visit every week! Towards the end we were sort of breaking the rules and getting to know each other better and I TOTALLY love that she's inviting us to her WEDDING. 

I think the absolute craziest thing I've ever said Yes to was a proposition to hang out in China with a complete stranger for two weeks. It wasn't totally without context - at the time (the first year we were married) Phillip and I had missionary friends in China. They were coming back to the states for the summer, but one of their fellow English teachers was staying behind and housesitting by herself. Our friends told us she was the extroverted type, likely to be very lonely, and they knew we had just turned down our own opportunity to teach English in China for a year. Did we want to just go visit? And hang out with their friend? We could stay in the apartment she was housesitting. She spoke fluent Chinese. China is cheap!

The decision to not go to China ourselves, which I've written about a various times, was painful - a major place of "failure" for me. Plus I was battling big time anxiety and feeling guilty about putting Phillip through the whole rigamarole. To be perfectly honest, China was pretty far down on my list of places to visit, and while it doesn't seem totally strange to me NOW, I was DEFINITELY NOT the sort of person who happily agreed to spend two weeks with a total stranger. 

Except we said yes. Why not? We didn't have kids. We had plenty of vacation time and disposable income. We applied for visas, bought our tickets, and prepared for three weeks in China - two and half of them in Xian. We may have emailed once or twice with the girl I blog nicknamed Blondie, but I'm not sure. It didn't matter - when she met us at the airport we were instant friends. 

That trip was amazing, in so many different ways. (For one, it kickstarted this blog!) I've lived in a lot of weird places, but China was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. And Blondie - maybe it was weird that a just married couple was hanging out with a single girl they didn't know (and who ended up staying in the apartment with us, even though she had her own) but we clicked so fast and so easily. It was such a healing time for me, almost like a consolation prize from God. We had the best BEST time. We even ended up cutting our sightseeing time in Beijing to spend a few more days with Blondie and the Chinese students we were helping her teach.

The week after Christmas I'm going to Urbana as part of the intercessory prayer team. TOTALLY RANDOM. Yes, one of my best friends happens to be super connected to these sorts of things and if she wasn't already going there's no way I would have even THOUGHT of it. But she's going, she invited me, and even though we didn't really have another set of plane tickets factored into the budget, even though I have to leave early the day after Christmas, even though I'll be gone an entire WEEK, I said yes. Or, rather, Phillip told me I should say yes. I still don't really know what I've gotten myself into. If I think about it too much I start to feel sad about being gone so long, nervous about being gone so long, guilty for being gone so long (you get the picture) and also super intimidated. I've never done anything like this before. But so far, saying yes to the crazy stuff has worked out for me. 

A few years ago Emily and Elizabeth were trying to figure out how to get some internet people together, and then we planned this whole weekend in Sacramento, and I was honestly only going to go for an overnight because GAK I'd never been away from my kids before! It was so self-indulgent! It was unfair to my family! But I remember my mom telling me I was crazy not to go two nights and I went for two nights and what is crazier than spending a weekend with people you only know because of your WEBSITE? (What is more AWESOME, am I right?!)

I want to live a life of Saying Yes. Not necessarily to the church committees or school committees or the random day to day stuff. If you say yes to all of that you go crazy and you start to hate everyone. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about sort of the singular stuff, the random stuff you wouldn't have come up with on your own. The things where you'd be, "Well... why not?" I'm lucky I have a husband and family and friends who totally support this kind of thinking, even more than I do sometimes. I feel like my world has expanded so much because of those moments. I know people - I love people - I would have never ever met. 

Now you tell me what you've said yes to. :) 

Shopping spree

When Phillip is away, my online window shopping often becomes actual shopping. 

Today I bought:

Shirt Collar Blouse Dress from Loft


I don't know. I'm curious. I thought it might be cute belted, now that I know how to belt things, and over leggings or my various pairs of thick stretchy pants that I believe are called ponte knit pants. Basically they are the pants that all the middle aged ladies in Italy wear and no, I cannot believe I own the same kind of pants my cuckoo Italian teacher wore every single day.  

I also bought this necklace:


I almost never buy jewelry and I have NEVER bought jewelry online. Oh wait, except for Etsy. Which seems different? Anyway, I like the yellow and silver and thought maybe it would dress up my In Case I Can't Find Anything Else Blathering Dress, pictured here:


The dress is navy blue and if the necklace looks right, maybe some super tall mustard yellow heels? 

That's all the budget can handle this month, and I'll probably end up returning that pajama-shirt-disguised-as-a-dress anyway. But here are the other items on my shopping list. 

Leopard print flats.


Some wear-with-jeans-in-the-rain-to-kindergarten-drop-off mary janes

I look for stupid mary janes EVERY SINGLE FALL and I never buy any. I have this sneaking feeling that they are desperately uncool (these, for example, are a brand called Orthaheel), but they are 1) easy to put on while carrying a baby without being 2) sneakers or boots or other shoes I might wear in the rain. Obvs these will get my cute socks wet right on the instep, but we're mostly talking shoes that won't get upset if you step in a little puddle, unlike those leopard print flats. I have a pair of Danskos that I hate. They MUST be replaced this year. 

Some long shirts and/or sweaters and/or dresses to wear over the aforementioned leggings/Italian lady pants because DUDES one year post-Emma and I am still anti-real pants. 

Pajama shirt barely passing as a dress from Athleta.


Maternity shirt posing as a non-maternity dress from Boden


Apparently I want to wear maternity clothes without having to be pregnant to justify wearing maternity clothes.

Gosh, I like REALLY BORING CLOTHES, eh? OH WELL. I believe it's called Comfortable Pacific Northwesty Rain Repellent-Ish. I own a very cute raincoat, if you must know.

I am sloooooowly purging the closet of stuff I never wear. This category includes: 

  • too-big clothes I kept to wear after having babies
  • dresses I only wore once five years ago
  • too-small clothes that didn't look good on me even when they fit
  • too-small clothes that looked great on me when they fit, but will probably never fit again, and depress the everloving snot out of me whenever I visit the closet so why keep them around
  • clothes that fit, but look terrible, seriously, why did I buy these things?

Emma turns one on Sunday, people. SUNDAY. I am still three pounds away from my goal. Pretty sure I need to make peace with those three pounds and start dressing this only-three-pounds-heavier but differently shaped body. It's been one entire year of not liking what I'm wearing and I'm ready for that to change. 

The hardest year

Phillip is out of town Monday through Wednesday this week, then Monday through Friday the week after that. The trips aren't scheduled yet, but it's practically for sure that he'll be gone a week in October and a week in November as well, and two trips per month is a strong possibility. The other night he timidly suggested he might be asked to travel the week I go to the Blathering. And I said, "....." (That is not happening.)

The good news is that the oft-postponed project he's been working on, for over a year now, has a Deployment Date (or something like that) and supposedly everything should be finished up in November. SUPPOSEDLY. Phillip has worked SO hard and I love that he's getting to finish this out. As hard as all the travel has been, it's also been really important for him to do it. I'm proud of him, I believe in him, I'm happy he's had the opportunity, and I FULLY support pretty much whatever he wants to do career-wise. I am on board. 

Also, I would like to point out that I have come a looooong way from the days where just the SUGGESTION of work travel was, for me, A Dealbreaker. We had fights about this when it wasn't even HAPPENING. But a few years ago his small local company got bought out by a Huge Conglomerate with headquarters in an East Coast time zone and any sort of advancement in this company now requires travel. Lots of it. 

I'm a stay at home mom, I make absolutely no financial contribution to our family, I have zero interest in careers, and the work I am qualified to do pays peanuts, so THANK GOD the lanky computer nerd I married somehow morphed into an ambitious and aggressive worker bee. Through a combination of Growing Up and Counting My Blessings I've been a little more accepting of each week Phillip spends away from our family. Slowly, slowly, Phillip has gotten better at acknowledging how hard it is for me and how much he appreciates it (VERY important to me) and I've become marginally better at not freaking out about it and reassuring him that we're (I'm) fine (VERY important to him). 

Last night we stayed up too late talking about where we want to go for our 10 year anniversary trip next summer. I can think of 10,000 places, but Phillip really only wants to find a nice beach in Mexico and sit there for about a week. I can work with that, but it was telling - he's so tired. It's not like he enjoys five-hour plane rides in middle seats and rental car lines and suburban office parks. He doesn't even really get to sleep through the night, what with being three hours behind and sleeping in a strange bed. (Although, it's true, sounds pretty good right now.) 

Anyway, I say all this because it's only night one and I lost it on the kids. The kindergarten/preschool transition has been a rough one for all of us, I think. We are big fans of kindergarten and preschool, but we're still not used to the schedule, two small children are constantly tired, Molly often misses a nap she still likes to take, and even though it SEEMS like I should have more time, I feel busier than ever. Plus Emma's got a cold and isn't happily diving into her crib at bedtime and I NEED the big kids to clean up and get their PJs on and do all of this without fighting or whining. This, of course, is impossible. 

I am trying REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY HARD to let stuff go. Like my yard? My yard is a horrible ugly disaster. It totally stresses me out. There are about 9000 things I want to do to my yard and I want to do them NOW, but I just can't. I'm going crazy with all the grown out clothes I have to organize, but I have to do it one tub at a time. I want to volunteer at Jack's school, but I have a baby at home. I so wish I could let Molly stay an extra hour at preschool sometimes so she can eat lunch with the other kids (ALL of them stay that extra hour!) but I have a baby who naps right then. I want to write more, I even want to CLEAN more! But this stuff just isn't getting done. I can't even water my houseplants.

And so I keep telling myself, "Self? This is your hardest year. THIS IS THE HARDEST YEAR." Three kids doing three totally different things. A baby who must be toted around and entertained every second. A husband who frequently travels. I mean, unless we have a fourth and Phillip decides to move to the beach in Mexico all by himself, unless something totally out of the ordinary happens, this really is the hardest year. And this is helpful for me. It's helpful tonight, when all three of them are whining and crying and ALL of us are worn out and tired and missing Phillip. 

I know it's not a REAL thing. I know years aren't hard just because you have small children or rough schedules. I know so much can happen and things can be so different from what you imagine. But there is definitely something about the fact that this year is only going to happen once. I will only have one kindergartener, one preschooler, and one immobile baby for this one year, and after that, things will be different. 

I think what's amazing is that I can still have nights like last night, where all three kids were hilarious and laughing and Phillip and I were awake enough to enjoy them and each other. Nights where I don't really WANT things to be different, ever. 

Your depressing non-fiction reading list!

Here's your reading list: 

The Rise And Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer

Berlin Diary by William Shirer (WAY INTERESTING, especially if you want to know what it was like being a foreign radio correspondent in Nazi Germany. Hint: CRAZY.)

Hitler: A Study In Tyrrany by Alan Bullock 

War Brides by Helen Bryan (cheap on the Kindle, historical fiction, kind of Potatoe Peel Pie-ish? With a big dash of old time New Orleans? Fun, quick read. Almost Luxe-ish, with all the intertwined romances.)

Double Cross by Ben Macintryre (this got much better, though it was still confusing, but I think maybe the story of double agents totally screwing with German intelligence IS confusing, also AMAZING.)

Inferno by Max Hastings (reading this now, more general overview-ish, but I know it gets into places like Burma and Kenya and I have NO IDEA what was going on THERE during the war)

World War II London Blitz Diary by Ruby Alice Side-Thompson (this was also cheap on the Kindle. SUPER depressing, but mostly because this woman was married to a creep, not because she was getting bombed every night)

Recommended by commenters, also my dad who sent me a big You Finally Wrote About Something *I* Am Interested In On Your Weirdo Website email:

The Guns Of August (my dad says I should start here with WWI)

Defying Hitler: A Memoir by Sebastian Haffner (recommended by a blog reader's husband! yay!)

Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre (who also wrote Double Cross up there, recommended by @antiangie, which obvs I must read because spies! WWII! SICILY!)


In other news, the Cheungs had a lovely weekend, thank you very much. Jack's kindergarten teacher visited Saturday morning for about half an hour - kindergarten home visits are a new thing this year, and I think maybe only at disadvantaged schools like ours? I'm not entirely sure. I was anxious about it, but it was great. I like her even more, she was super forthcoming about absolutely everything, and talked a lot about what she notices about Jack. Namely that he's a VERY focused, studious, patient, people-pleasing sort of kid at school (HE IS NOT THAT WAY AT HOME, LET ME TELL YOU). And I sort of knew this? I mean, she didn't say people-pleasing, I added that in. Just that he's always on task and making sure he's doing what he's supposed to be doing and quietly waiting for the other kids to finish or transition to the next thing when they might be going crazy... anyway, I only say this because I heard her say it and when sort of nuts. Well, not VISIBLY nuts. But inside I was thinking: OH NO OH NO THIS IS ME THIS IS ME THIS IS MY ENTIRE ACADEMIC CAREER MY POOR KID I HAVE SCREWED HIM ALL UP! Because being Perfect at school is actually sort of HARD. 

I was talking to Phillip about it later and he was all, "Well no, this is good! Because you'll be able to talk to Jack about it!" Which I think is a nice spin on "you've passed on your Need To Appear Perfect to your innocent child". But clearly I was projecting. I mean, he has been in kindergarten for all of a week and a half. He has PLENTY of time to loosen up. And he probably will. He certainly screwed around last year in his Pre-K class. I mean, not that I WANT him to screw around, obvs, but the way his kindergarten teacher was talking, all I could see was his future in high school, ie: ME in high school, trying not to disappoint all the adults with high expectations PROJECTING PROJECTING PROJECTING!!!

Blargh. This school stuff isn't going to just be all sunshine and roses and lots of free time is it. (In summary: I HAVE ISSUES.)

The gutter came to power

I was going to write YET ANOTHER post about how this whole school/nap/life schedule is going down, but I think we should discuss Hitler instead. Deal?

So NOW I am reading Double Cross, about double agents in Britain who misled the Germans about D-Day and HOO BOY is it convoluted and not written HALF as fantabulously as either of the big fat Hitler books I read earlier this year, and how disappointing is that? This is a book about SPIES! And eccentric, bizarre, WEIRDO spies at that! How does it manage to be NOT AS INTERESTING? 

The first big fat Hitler book I swallowed up this year was The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich by William Shirer. Who knows why I read this book. Well, there are two reasons, I suppose. 1) I am interested in WWII and 2) I was browsing for books on the Kindle and thought, "Hey, I've heard of that one." Also maybe 3) I like to read books that may, when I tell my dad I'm reading them, fool him into the impression that I Know Things. (HAAA.)

So I read it and dudes. I KNOW THINGS NOW. That big fat book was utterly un-put-down-able. It was fascinating. Horrifying. AMAZING. Then, because The Rise And Fall did not fully explore the terrible psyche of Hitler, my dad recommended Hitler: A Study In Tyranny, by Alan Bullock, and I read that. EGAD. So THAT book I checked out of the library and it was ancient and underlined and had notes in the margins and I had to renew it the maximum number of times PLUS go to the library and ask for MORE time, which they granted because no one had a hold on it (FANCY THAT). It was much more academic than The Rise And Fall, a true horror story told by a journalist. It was also - I feel funny saying this about a Hitler book, but whatever - beautifully written. After a while I started dogearing pages so I could copy down quotes. 

There are few more ghastly pages in history than this attempt to eliminate a whole race, the consequence of the ‘discovery’ made by a young down-and-out in a Vienna slum in the 1900s that the Jews were the authors of everything that he most hated in the world. 


In making use of the formidable power which was thus placed in his hands Hitler had one supreme, and fortunately rare, advantage: he had neither scruples nor inhibitions. He was a man without roots, with neither home nor family; a man who admitted no loyalties, was bound by no traditions, and felt respect neither for God nor man. 


No man was ever more surely destroyed by the image he had created than Adolf Hitler. 


I had a lot of questions when I started - probably the biggest was "how could this have HAPPENED?" And in answering that question, specifically, I realized a lot about, well, ME. (OH HELLO NARCISSISTIC BLOGGER!)

I realized that I have no real framework for imagining the sort of government, or lack of one, the German people had at the end of WWI. I'm used to presidents who step down after four or eight years. Two political parties. DEMOCRACY, even. I just couldn't think about "how it could have happened" within in my 21st century picture of American politics. 

That probably sounds incredibly simple and stupid, but it was a big lightbulb for me. 

Also issues of culture and history and tradition, the place of the German military in public life, senses of honor and betrayal, the crushing humiliation of defeat. Until I read these books, what I knew about the war was largely about the Holocaust. It was SO disturbing to read that the Holocaust was... well, there were all these other elements that made it POSSIBLE. Hitler didn't come to power and start a war because he hated the Jews - that was just PART of the plan. And it blows my mind that something as massive and evil and tragic as the extermination of millions of people was just PART of what was going on in that demented mind. 

A long while back I read a biography of Churchill, mainly because of reason 3 up above, and I found it fairly boring. Political intrigue, especially in the parliamentary system that I still don't understand, and military strategy were, I decided, not my thing. Churchill himself was an interesting subject, of course, but all the political and military minutia, of which there were tons, of course, made my eyes cross. 

Not so with Hitler. Halfway into my books I realized that, when posed from the perspective of a raving madman, political intrigue and military strategy are suddenly fascinating. You understood Churchill's motivations without reading his book. I've read a bunch of Hitler books now and I'm still baffled by his decisions. 

The German generals... they could have stopped it all. At so many points along the way they could have stopped everything. Although that was one strange aspect of reading solely from the German perspective - certain characters are sympathetic. Rommel, a handful of other generals, and (especially in The Rise And Fall) Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law and Foreign Minister. I had to keep reminding myself that Ciano was a Fascist, that he was in MUSSOLINI'S camp. But there are ways that even Mussolini is a sympathetic, or, at the very least, pathetic, character in this history. 

Neither book concentrated too much on the particular evils of the Holocaust, but every time I sensed I was about to read something truly horrible I quickly flipped the page. I can't read more of that. 

But troop movements, diplomacy, treaties, conferences, secret deals, economics, strategy - my head was pounding. I found myself looking up books about specific battles, like Stalingrad, which I have never ever done before. Who am I? MY FATHER?!

My friend who's as into personality tests as I am gave me a book called Strengths Finder. It had a code inside to take the quiz online and I was sort of surprised by my top five "strengths". Three of them I could have easily guessed, but the other two were "Input" and Context" (the book comes up with vagueish names, perhaps so you are forced to read the book.) Anyway, "Input" is basically liking to read and collect information and "Context" is sort of "looking back to understand the present". So. My current fixation with Hitler books is explained, eh? This is from the "Input" section of my "personal report" (a more detailed explanation of my particular strengths and how they interact):

Because of your strengths, you are inclined to read about major wars.
While some people find this topic boring or irrelevant, you are quite 
fascinated with it. Whenever you read about global conflicts, you feel
impelled to collect more information. One book or article is likely to
lead you to another then another.


Anyway. So many things crossed my mind when I was reading that I can't possibly remember them all and write them down here. You are thankful. But I'm still going to be annoyed when I publish this and realize I FORGOT SOMETHING. 

I think... I have a much better understanding of what happened, obviously. And a more sober, I suppose, viewpoint on current events. My dad is fond of saying that you can't understand WWII until you understand WWI so I suppose that one is next. After this spy book. And maybe that book that came out recently called Inferno, which tells more personal stories of WWII from all over the world. I kind of want to read that one too.

Did you guys see the movie Valkyrie? With Tom Cruise as the guy who tries to blow up Hitler? I copied this down too - as a way to honor them, I think.

Tresckow to Stauffenberg: “The assassination must be attempted at any cost. Even should it fail, the attempt to seize power in the capital must be undertaken. We must prove to the world and to future generations that the men of the German Resistance dared to take the decisive step and to hazard their lives upon it. Compared with this object, nothing else matters.”

GAH I'M SORRY. But it's Friday, you can just move along, and rest assured I will be back with more heartwrenching stories about how a schedule and routine of my own making is trying to kill me. 

Will you be my carpool friend?

Okay, so days with kindergarten AND preschool? Might kill me. 

8:40-8:45: take Jack to school, hang out on the playground until the bell rings, he goes inside for school 

8:45 - 9:25: drive to preschool neighborhood, find a coffee shop, drink decaf drip while Molly devours a chocolate croissant, keep Emma from dumping my purse on the floor

9:30: drop Molly at preschool 

9:45 - 11:25: Emma naps (maybe I shouldn't let her nap THAT long, gah)

11:30 - 12:15: retail therapy at the mall

12:30: pick up Molly, throw her a snack because she's starving

12:45 - 2:45: feed girls, entertain girls, keep girls awake because at 

3:00: we pick up Jack


3:15 - 3:45: try to get Emma to nap

3:45 - 5: Emma naps, Jack and Molly play the computer and do homework and draw pictures and miraculously do not fight

5 - 6: make dinner

6: Phillip comes home, dinner, I say, "DUDE, TODAY WAS ROUGH."

The answer, clearly, is Make A Carpool Friend. But I just don't know. I connected with a kindergarten mom and she was super nice and friendly and Jack talked about her daughter more than any other kid in his class, but she left! Gone! Poof! The oldest child was attending a different school and the mom finally managed to get the daughter into that school. Which: yes. That would be crazy. I am doing two different schools! I GET IT. But I am still sad. I haven't pinpointed another Kindergarten Parent Friend yet. 

And the preschool moms are actually super nice and everyone introduced themselves on the first day, but I'm pretty sure none of them live anywhere near me. And I don't have any friends nearby who I can talk into sending their kid to that preschool (for the explicit purpose of carpooling. I AM SUCH A GOOD FRIEND.) 

Soooo. I mean, I think it will be just Be. You know? It is what it is and all that. Yes, it's definitely hard for me to feel like the routine is all messed up, or that the routine is THIS routine, and I feel like I'm shortchanging Emma all over the place. But! She was fine. She did get a little cranky towards bedtime, but she MADE it to bedtime, which was great. And keeping the girls up instead of having a quiet time in the afternoon was lame, but it wasn't ANYWHERE near as lame as skipping quiet time with JACK around. 

Maybe if I only let Emma nap a short time in the morning she's likely to fall asleep right when we get home from picking up Molly? Maybe that's how I will handle this?

It will be okay. Eventually. Or even right now. It will be fine. 

In which my dinner inspires a pointless (as if I write any other kind) blog post

For dinner Phillip and I are having bulgogi over greens with sesame oil/soy sauce/rice vinegar vinaigrette and I am eating mine with chopsticks. (It tastes better that way.) Today I was thinking about how I basically refused to eat Asian food until I was 20ish, and then only because I was shamed into it, and I weep for all the excellent and not-worried-about-gaining-weight eating I could have done in my youth. I am still a finicky eater, but I have come a long long way. 

A few months ago I asked my MIL to help me make fried rice because I couldn't get mine to look and taste like hers. I watched and realized the only difference between my fried rice and hers was that I was not my MIL. I swear, everything else was the same, but her fried rice was still better. We were talking about this the other day and it morphed into my MIL volunteering to make dinner for Emma's family birthday party. She will buy everything, bring it to my house, and cook it in front of me and maybe, one day, I'll be able to make a stir fried beef I wouldn't be embarrassed to serve to guests. 

I was asking Jack what the other kids at school eat for lunch, trying to get a run down of how many eat hot lunch and how many bring lunch from home. But what he told me is, "Aika brings seaweed!" Now HE wants to bring seaweed for lunch. I looked in the freezer where we used to have a big packet of nori, but Phillip had eaten it. 

As far as I can tell, there are only two white kids in Jack's class of eighteen. (I think two or three more are half, like Jack.) This is fascinating to me. Sometimes I catch myself noticing diversity "too much". Like maybe I shouldn't be so AWARE of the differences, and all the different languages I hear in the hallway at kindergarten pick up, all the different clothing - today I saw an honest to God burqa. If I were a truly enlightened and liberal individual I wouldn't notice at all and I certainly wouldn't make NOTE of it on my BLOG. 

Except I sort of think that's a load of you know what. I think it's good to notice differences, and maybe it's the flaming Seattle in me, but I'm happy Jack is around so many kids who aren't like him. I'm as happy about this as I am about the fact that we are friends with so many white/Asian families and he's always around kids like him. 

No one on either side of the family took issue with me (white) marrying Phillip (Chinese). It's never been the slightest thing. But there are so many differences, and so many ways that Phillip and I have become accustomed to the other side that it catches us off guard when our own family doesn't 'get' something. Like Phillip and I made salmon with an Asian marinade for dinner at my parents' house this weekend, and my mother was wondering what to serve with it and I said, "Rice", like, "Duh" and my mom was all, "RICE! OH!" 

Some of my friends' half kids are starting to notice that they are Half Something and Half Something Else and other kids are Not. It's not an ISSUE, just something they're starting to SEE. Jack hasn't said anything yet. He still talks a lot about Chinese "things" - he and Molly will both announce that something is Chinese (cars, food, hairstyles, I think anything they associate with their grandparents). Sometimes they will pretend to speak Chinese. They know that Daddy is Chinese. That's about it, though. I wonder if kindergarten, or just being in school from 8:45 to 3 every day, will change that. 

Hmm. This appears to be one of those blog posts where I have no point and nothing to say, and yet I persist in writing. I think I will go eat more.