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September 2013

Wondering how you a) manage recycling and b) after school activities and c) yes, this is a really boring post

Okay so I have two questions for you tonight. For comparison purposes. I don't know why I am obsessively thinking about these things today, maybe because I'm going out of town and therefore can't do anything constructive, which is the BEST sort of fretting don't you think? And knowing what OTHER families do will help me fret even BETTER. 

The first one is about garbage and recycling. HOW DO YOU MANAGE GARBAGE AND RECYCLING? We have Lola, the fire engine red garbage can, and two smaller bins for recycling. However! Only one recycling bin fits under the sink and the second one just sits out. For a long time I was diligent about putting the second one out of sight, but for whatever reason our family is generating so much recycling that the two bins have found permanent places in the middle of the kitchen floor. We can recyle paper, glass, cans, and lots of plastic, so these bins are CONSTANTLY full. Constantly. And it makes me crazeeeeeeee

I feel like this problem won't be solved until Jackson Cheung is old enough to carry the garbage and recycling out of the house by himself. Our kitchen is on the second floor. It's not terribly convenient and/or easy to carry a giant bag of garbage and two overflowing bins of recycling through the house, down the stairs, and out to the garbage and recycling bins on a regular-ish basis. At least, not when it's just me at home and I'm getting lunch ready or I'm late for school or WHATEVER. I feel like this is a Cheungs Are Just Supremely Lazy problem, but also: SO MUCH RECYCLING/GARBAGE! Maybe it's all the diapers? I don't know. I always think of this columnist I used to read who was married to a woman born in China and how that woman's family would generate one small plastic shopping bag of garbage PER WEEK. Now. Granted I am a modern middle class lady living in the USA, but STILL. For shame! 

Don't get me started on composting. Again: when a certain someone is big enough to cart the food waste out of the house when his mother orders him to, maybe we'll compost THEN. 

My SECOND question is about After School Activities. I have never been ANTI after school activities, but I've also been decidedly uninterested in becoming the mom who has practice every evening and games on Saturday mornings. At least not now. But it's occurred to Phillip and me that Jack, at least, could really use an outlet for all his crazy energy, and he's been interested in tae kwon do (he saw it on TV). So today I sat down and looked up all the martial arts/sports/dance classes at the community centers and the Y, trying to figure out if it's at all possible for us to pull off the activities thing. BUT. Molly has no interest in martial arts and there are NO community center classes she'd like to do at the same time Jack would be doing karate. We'd have to go to Jack's class one night a week and Molly's class another night a week and I'd have the two extra kids with nothing to do while we wait for the other one and UGH. 

At the Y I can put them in a gymnastics class or indoor soccer league together, but the Y isn't close and it'd be at a crappy traffic time and what would I do with Emma and that's another night a week when dinner is crazy or we don't see Phillip until bedtime and UGH. 

If I wait until Emma is older, Jack is missing out on some prime years of learning things. And it's not just that my friends' kids are on soccer teams and stuff, I've got the Asian in-laws asking me when they're going to start piano lessons. ACK! I don't know!

And I want them to do these things, don't get me wrong. I would LOVE for Jack to pick up a sport or hit blocks with his forehead or find something fun like that and I know Molly would love to take dance lessons. I TOTALLY want them to take piano. I just don't know how to fit all those things into our week while still maintaining some sort of relationship with their father, for starters, and not eating McDonalds twice a week and all that. 

But I also know that I have never been as talented as many of my friends at Activities - I've known this since Jack was a BABY. I've never been good at going to the zoo and the museum and hitting up all the kid goings ons. And our family is a little different than my good friends spend their free time with two big kids in one soccer league with the same schedule. I feel like for me to be successful at managing Activities, they need to be close to our house and overlap OR be something they do together AND I have a clear idea of what to do with myself and Emma while the big kids are busy. I haven't hit on that combination yet. 

So, what are YOUR kids doing after school? Are you driven to drink every evening? I really do feel like Jack and Molly are missing something... it's not exactly peer pressure or family comparison or whatever, I just feel like you don't have a lot of time for pee wee soccer and tap shoes. 

All right. I now release my stress into the internet!

A Not Stressy Post About The Blathering!

Everything was going okay until I remembered I have to bring snack for kindergarten tomorrow. Last year the teacher would put out a general plea for preservatives and the parents would haul in a box of graham crackers or an industrial-size bag of Goldfish. THIS year the teachers have gone all healthy on us and are requesting fresh fruit and vegetables on scheduled days. IRRITATED PRO-SUGAR EYEROLL. 

We have apples at home, but I'd have to cut them all up in the morning to minimize the browning and I can barely accomplish what's necessary in the morning let alone extra snack tasks. Also, they are honeycrisps and they are MINE. So I just drove to the store to get something that is NOT apples and I saw cantaloupes and "Hey!" I think to myself, "that's a kid-friendly yet not-always-in-the-lunchbox fruit!" And I bought three. Even though they were expensive. And out of season. 

And when I cut one up just now it was half green and tasteless and I will be cutting up all my apples tomorrow morning DAMMIT. 

Otherwise I've been feeling pretty good about, you know, deserting my family on Wednesday when I leave for the Blathering. I still think of it that way. Maybe it would be different if I were a working mom, but being a SAHM who always feels like she's getting away with something, it feels EXTRA indulgent to jet off on a long weekend alone. THAT SAID, I am ready. Childcare is in place, my brother-in-law has been badgered into driving me to the airport, and I even know what I'm packing. Mostly. As I type there is a Twitter conversation going about humidity and temperatures and water breezes and it's getting confusing. Maybe I need a bigger bag. 

I have asked myself if I'm nervous about the Blathering this year and the answer is No. I wasn't particularly nervous last year either, though. I chalk this up to several things. First: the wine is plentiful. Second: everyone is seriously always so NICE. CHARMING, even. Third: I no longer seem to have mini nervous breakdowns over whether people will like me or want to spend time with me. The first thing, the liking me thing, well, the truth is that I AM A NICE PERSON and WHAT IS THERE NOT TO LIKE? RIGHT? As for the second thing, I have some designated people to whom I shall velcro myself in insecurity emergencies, whether or not they consent. 

I used to write Things That Are Stressy About Going To A Big Internet People Gathering posts, but eh. It's not stressy! I mean, I suppose I could MAKE it stressy (I have extraordinary skill in that department), but I am working hard at NOT being that way? So! Here are some Not Stressy Things About Me, In Particular, Going To A Big Internet People Gathering. 

  • I am an introvert, but I LIKE PEOPLE. I am VERY INTERESTED in people! You have stories! I want to hear them! Especially that thing you wrote about that one time - I want to know more about THAT. 
  • I am an introvert, but I am not SHY. Well, I used to be. But then I decided that being shy was lame and actually not really me and remember the part where I AM A NICE PERSON, WHY WOULDN'T YOU WANT TO HANG OUT WITH ME? That helps. I'm not saying I'm not AWKWARD or WEIRD and I'm DEFINITELY not saying I'm good at conversation, but there is limited time to become best friends with everyone and I will not be wasting that time hugging the wall and staring at the floor. 
  • I AM easily embarrassed. I MIGHT spill a drink (or break a glass) and then I will want to die, but probably by this time I'll have had some of the plentiful wine and this will be No Big Deal. 
  • I already KNOW that I will not be the cutest lady there. This helps IMMEASURABLY with my stress level. 
  • I am completely and totally Unstressed about who will be taking care of my kids. Phillip will take them to school in the mornings and then their devoted Nai Nai and Ye Ye will come up, spend the day with their Precious Emma, pick up the big kids at school, and make dinner for everyone. Each day I'm gone. It will be NICER for my family with me gone. Someone is going to COOK for them! At dinnertime! More than one day in a row!
  • All of my real life people know I am going to hang out with my Computer People. I didn't have to lie to my parents or avoid the truth with my in-laws or make embarrassing confessions to my real life friends. I am totally OUT re: The Internet and even my hairstylist knows you guys. (And she thinks you're cool.)
  • Ordinarily, when visiting a New City, I would be all, "Now what are the historical locations of interest! What do I need to read! How many guide books will I need!" But when I go to the Blathering it always seems that at least one person knows where to go and I will always choose Conversations over Sights. (This is why I have to go BACK to Chicago and New Orleans.)

Does that make anyone feel better and/or want to be my friend? Maybe? Remember: NICE PERSON! 

I still have a couple days before I leave. I don't know why I'm writing this now. Especially when I could be writing about my son's new haircut (a cross between Punk and Hitler Youth) and how my husband is extra cheery today (the Seahawks made a comeback AND the Breaking Bad finale is tonight!) and the best parts of my conversation with FIL about starting a business (I should have recorded it, it was that good) but BLAH BLAH BLAH I am thinking about my TRIP. YAY!



I think I'm due for a good long parenting rant, yes? I feel like I've had a long stretch of Fine - always the irritations and frustrations, but no full on Parental Meltdowns. Maybe it's the crazy pills. They have yet to kick in today though because RIGHT NOW I AM FURIOUSSSSSSSS!!!

Here are some Truths about living in this house with these three impossible children, ages 6, 5, and 2, ie: PERFECTLY CAPABLE OF THROWING SOMETHING IN THE GARBAGE.

  • If someone's mother graciously allows them a packet of fruit snacks after school, even though the mother repeatedly warns the snack eater that if he/she leaves her garbage on the floor she will send them back to the Dark Ages ie: Before Touch Screens Existed, there is, without fail, a fruit snack wrapper on the floor at all times. 
  • Every pillow and blanket in the entire house comes out to play in the living room every afternoon, and the people who bring the pillows and blankets to the living room swear up and down they have no idea where said pillows and blankets originated. 
  • There are socks on the floor. 
  • As soon as the even-tempered sweet-natured mother gets the kitchen counters cleaned off, someone covers them up with dirty dishes. Usually ones with uneaten fruit, the better to attract fruit flies. 
  • No one knows where their shoes are. 
  • At least one of them won't eat whatever the poor hardworking mother made for dinner. 
  • "Can I watch a show" and "Can I have a snack" are said, on average, 572 times a day. By each child. Even the 2-year-old. 
  • No one knows how to pick up more than one thing at a time. 
  • On nights when there is no dessert, at least one child is positively baffled, offended, and ready to call CPS.
  • The exhausted mother wonders why she vacuums at all, seeing as how the children leave a trail of crumbs, bits of paper, beads, BeyBlades, socks, milk drips, and cap-less markers wherever they go. 
  • No one knows how to flush. 
  • The award-winning multitasker mother can remind her older children a dozen times to put their homework folders in their backpacks and get their lunchboxes and wear rainboots and still one of them will strap herself (HERself, AHEM) into her car seat and wait for her ride to school, coat-less, bag-less, and wearing maryjanes with no socks. And still look at her speechless mother with innocent wonder, like, "Oh? You were talking to ME?"
  • If one dumps out all the Jenga blocks, one is required to pick them up. Every time. Really. This rule even extends through the next day and the next. The mother realizes sometimes it's hard to keep everything straight, but she doesn't see why one can't just ASSUME the Jenga blocks need picking up. Every time. 
  • Just because she is 2 doesn't mean you can eat all her snacks when she's not looking. 
  • At least one houseplant is dying, at least one room looks like a nuclear nightmare, at least one meal isn't cleaned up, and at least one child is whining about how at least one other child is being mean. At all times. Every day. 

Insert a very screechy pillow-thumping expletive-filled SCREAM right here. Don't worry, I've sent the kids downstairs so they can't hear. 

Would you like to add your own House Truth? That might make you feel better. 

Something else that makes me feel better - listing Things I Am Good At. Since today I am so very terrible at 1) cleaning up and 2) being nice to my children, I shall focus on:

  • I make very pretty spreadsheets. 
  • I ran today. Your grandmother could have lapped me in a 5k, but I ran longer than I have in a good while and I'm proud of myself. 
  • Sucking up to my kids' teachers. 
  • Envisioning bakeries.
  • Watching my DVRed news show almost every day. 
  • Saying yes when my husband wants to go out. Like tonight. Damn him. 
  • Eating the CSA fruit before it rots. 
  • Applying white/aqua color schemes. (For example: the bakery.)
  • Calling my mother. 
  • Using sarcasm when I'm screeching at my kids. I am THAT awesome. 





In which no one is surprised I like not working

I am really truly super duper SO happy that I did not get that job. Does that sound strange? It does to me. It's the sort of thing I would go around telling people so that I wouldn't feel stupid for NOT getting the job - except this time it's true. It was the perfect job and it was only two and a half days per week and I am so relieved I'm not doing it. 

I love staying home with my kids, that's true, and I'm loving staying home with Emma. And I'm glad our family is still running the way we're used to it running - something that would have changed a lot (even with only two and half days per week) if I were working. 

At the same time, I don't think that's really why I'm relieved. Just that I didn't want to leave my baby or disrupt our life. There's something else, although I'm sort of embarrassed to say it. But I think it's something like: this way all the possibilities are still open. Aiiieeee, I'm a dork! WHAT POSSIBILITIES, you are thinking. YOU ARE A 34-YEAR-OLD SAHM WITH A MORTGAGE AND A PANTRY FULL OF KRAFT MAC & CHEESE. 

So for starters, if I were working, even two and a half days per week, I'm pretty sure I would be totally overwhelmed by this bakery thing (instead of just moderately overwhelmed) and a lot less inclined to investigate it. 

But I think there's also a way I would feel like, "Well, this is what I do now. New phase of life: Part Time Working Mom." I'd want to make friends with everyone at the school. I'd know all the gossip. I would definitely like the paycheck. It would be the thing I talked about. I would like it. I'm pretty sure I would like it a lot and seriously you guys, perfect job for the un-career-minded mom, yes? Yes. 

I just don't think I WANT that yet! Do you know what I mean? Okay, 2 caveats: 1) I am ENTIRELY grateful and very much aware of the privilege I have in getting to choose, I KNOW and 2) it's not like I'm committing to some 10-year plan or something. I could try it for a year and quit! That would be fine! I could do something else!

My brain doesn't really work like that though. I'm the hard core committed sort. I don't really LIKE to dabble or experiment or try things out. God, I sound like a huge entitled idiot. I KNOW THIS. I'm trying to figure out what I mean. Or think. I guess, BECAUSE I didn't get that job I can still potentially do something... crazy. Like open a bakery. 

AND I can go to Charleston for the Blathering, I can say yes to all the prayer retreats and conferences, I can still IMAGINE things. I'm not saying I couldn't imagine things if I were working, or that a job means you're tied down and can't do anything else, but I think for ME, that's sort of how I view it. I'm doing THIS now. I have to put the other things aside. 

Instead I am waking up in the middle of the night stressing about things like five-year financial projections and how much it costs to rent commercial space (omg a lot). I was totally available for a friend who had a family emergency last week. I get to see my sister and my niece all the time. I'm exercising (mostly). I'm helping with a couple different projects that belong to other people and would you believe I've considered writing again? Writing somewhere other than HERE? 

People have started asking Katie and me if we're serious, no really, SERIOUS serious, about the bakery. We say that we are seriously exploring the option. I think if we decide it's possible? Then we're serious. And I love LOVE having the freedom to zoom in on that one thing and give it my all. 

The principal asked me again if I want to sub and maybe I will do that off and on. And maybe there will be another opening next year and maybe I will want it then. I have no idea. Or maybe something entirely different will come up. Or maybe I'll have a giant bank loan in my name and stress ulcers from starting a small business. WHO KNOWS. 

I know I'm so lucky. I know I know. 

Emma's birthday, remembering a birth day

Two years ago last night I texted a good friend right before I went to bed. She was in labor and I assumed she'd have a new baby when I woke up in the morning. I told her I was thinking about her, wished her good luck, and fell asleep.

Of course, my water broke a few hours later around midnight and I was the one with a new baby in the morning, two weeks early. My friend had her baby later on in the day, a few days late. Because I feel like the universe owes me, here's a link to THAT story

But really, the universe ponied up with Emma, my precious third baby, and I am continually - no really - amazed at the universe's generosity. She is such a delight to our family that sometimes I'll think back to the time of Third Baby Negotiations and feel panicky. What if... ugh, let's not think about it. Plus that line of thinking tends to make me consider Fourth Baby and sheesh, let's not do that today either. 

At two years old, Emma is feisty, cheery, talkative, and makes certain you are aware of her presence. Has there been a noisier baby? No, there has not. At all hours of the day and night this kid is running her mouth. It makes more sense in the daytime - "Wash hands! I do it! Shoes! My Dora! Hi Daddy! BREAKFASSSSSSSSS!" - and drives us to tears in the nighttime. What we have here is not so much talking in one's sleep as whining and moaning and groaning and also singing and hollering in one's sleep. She's also a mama's (and daddy's) girl and shy and suspicious of new people, the better to lead them to believe she's sweet and quiet and demure. HA HA HA.

We had a lovely family brunch on Saturday with peach French toast (KILLER RECIPE, PEOPLE) and rainbow cake and mimosas and plenty of Dora-themed birthday gifts. Today, on her actual birthday, we spent a quiet morning with our birthday buddies and blew out candles on an apple crisp. The birthday girl is now passed out in bed, sleeping off the sugar. 

I am so very tremendously thrilled to spend this year at home with Emma. I am so thankful. 


Supah Glam Cheung Photo Shoot: The Results Show








I love them love them love them. I didn't think I would. I mean, I knew I'd love the kid pictures, but I even like the ones with me in them! And these are just the few I ordered. I have a whole box of proofs at home that capture my kids PERFECTLY. And at home, in their space, doing what they do at 6 and 5 and almost 2 years old. That picture of Jack up there? THAT IS QUINTESSENTIAL JACK. (Also, I suppose, my quintessential late summer backyard. Eh.) It's just amazing to me what you can capture!

For my big canvas print I chose the one of the three kids on the couch reading, Molly and Jack looking up at me and Emma looking at them. 

THANKS LINDSAY. We would have never done this without your generous offer and I'm SO GLAD! 

Brain science

The last few days I've been reading a lot about brain chemistry and genes and biomedical therapy and pyschiatric medications and I am feeling FRUSTRATED. And a little bit angry and a little bit confused and I want to demand an interview with God. "REALLY? THIS IS HOW IT WORKS? REALLY!?!?!"

It started a few days ago when I went for my fourth acupuncture appointment. I haven't noticed an overall effect of acupuncture, but I quite enjoy that very dark and peaceful half hour when it's just me and the needles all by our lonesome. My hippie doctor always wants to know what's up with me before she starts sticking me, but this time she had some news. She'd been reading some new information about MTHFR gene mutations and what she read made me think of me. At my first appointment I'd said something like, "At this point it just seems like something is OFF. Like something in my brain is disconnected." Anyway, did you know that there's an MTHFR mutation linked to anxiety? (And depression and ADHD and all sorts of other things, sheesh.) 

Because I have been on the internet a very long time I am familiar with the MTHFR acronym and how it relates to miscarriage. But I'd never heard of it affecting anything else and when I got home one simple Google search immersed me in a wealth of information. Crazy stuff, but stuff that seemed to make SENSE. 

And THEN you guys, i bought a book. Oh dear. 

It was recommended at the end of a most informative blog post and now I am... Well, I am lots of things. First off, I am fascinated. I've had to skip pages full of chemical equations and words that don't appear to be English, but I get the CONCEPT. The thesis is: pyschiatric drugs have taken us a long way, but there's a lot of new science pointing to nutrient deficiences (and overloads) in the brain. If we can pinpoint what a person's particular chemistry is (through blood and urine tests), we can correct the specific imbalances with natural supplements. He takes pains to say that you can't fix mental illness by throwing a bunch of vitamins at someone. You have to really figure out what's going on with that individual, and then a lot of times it makes the most sense to supplement in tandem with SSRIs or whatever other drugs. But lessening major side effects and BEING MORE EFFECTIVE - these are the benefits. I won't even attempt to explain the whys and hows, only that if you are even slightly interested in mental illness, this might be worth reading. 

Then I am ANGRY. Frustrated. I don't have a lot of experience seeking treatment from the Medical Establishment, but what experience I do have isn't all that great. The way it usually goes, as far as I can tell, is someone is suffering from anxiety or depression or OCD or whatever else, and the doctor seems to go, "Well, most of my patients seem to do well on X Drug, so let's try that first." EXCEPT. If this book is to be believed, there are SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO to decrease the whole experimentation phase of treatment. Finding out if a person is over or undermethylated (don't ask me what that means) or if they have overloads or deficiences of certain nutrients - that information could go a looooong way in helping a medical professional choose a treatment, even which SSRI to use. WHY DON'T THE DOCTORS DO THIS?! For some people with a certain brain chemistry profile, SSRIs can be WORSE! 

As you know, I am an English major SAHM who writes on the internet. I have no business spouting my opinions about how doctors prescribe psychiatric medication. Except, whatever, what the book is saying totally makes sense to me and fits with my own experience. I feel like it's all very "let's throw something at you and see what sticks". Even with the pyschiatrist. It's just frustrating. 

The book also goes into depth on different conditions - schizophrenia, autism, depression, behavioral issues - and gives general brain chemistry profiles for people suffering from these disorders. I can just hear my psych doctor saying, "Well, there's not enough evidence" but SHOOT, I volunteer to be in the next study!

And then I feel a little irritated with God. But I might need to save that chapter for another post. I don't feel like I'm too coherent right now, and also I like to not regret things I write on the internet. I'm struggling with God allowing mental illness, which led me to google (of course) the difference between a spirit and a soul... Blargh. Yeah, that's definitely another post. So for now: vitamins! Give them to me!

Happy birthday, my Dad!

It's my dad's birthday today. I won't tell you how old he is, but I've been going around singing a certain Beatles song about getting older and losing your hair and it's wonderfully appropriate. Even though I have a beautiful voice and remember all the words, my dad did not enjoy it. 

Anyway, I thought I would tell you a bit about my dad, even though he 1) doesn't like my blog "persona" (I DON'T HAVE ONE!) (do I?) and 2) would not at all enjoy becoming Internet Famous. But what are blogs for if not to aid you in alienating your family members? 

The first thing you should know about my dad is that even though he is constantly complaining about children - his own, his grandchildren, other people's children, children all up in his business and his house and disturbing his peace and quiet and HE MUST HAVE HIS LIBRARY! - he has five of his own and spent his entire career dealing with them so OBVS he is a BIG FAT LIAR. 

One of my most embarrassing moments turned to fond memories is that of hearing my very own father outside my 5th grade classroom chewing out some delinquent 6th grade boy in the hall. "OOOOOH," everyone looked at me, "is that your DAD?!"

(I once went to a dance with a boy who had been one of my Dad's "problem students". HAAAA.)

He taught several different grades through the years and I am now all of 34 years old, but I will forever think of him as a sixth grade teacher and sixth graders as big kids. Always. The end. I mean, he had a PODIUM. Did YOUR sixth grade teacher have a podium?!

When we lived in Sicily my mom (my MOM!) went on a business trip. And she was going to leave us with DAD? REALLY? But nothing was all that different except for being forced to eat vegetables at dinnertime. I don't ever remember my mother (not a fan of vegetables herself) insisting on us eating something, but my dad would not let us leave the table until we ate one (1) green bean. I believe I finally swallowed mine with a glass of milk, but my sister is still sitting at that table. 

Because of my dad I've seen every ancient Greek or Roman ruin in Italy. Almost.

We went to London one summer and each of us had to write a Case Report. I am still not sure what a Case Report is. We picked our own topics - I chose the British Royalty, duh - and then we had to research and write and illustrate. My only memory from this experience is wondering if our tour of the Crown Jewels was everrrrr going to end. 

Other summers my dad bought math books - Saxon? Is that a homeschooling series? - and we had to do lessons on our own. This was horrible. These books, oh, they were big and fat and heavy and the print was teeny tiny and there were SO MANY PROBLEMS to solve. I hated those stupid math books. And see what good it did me, Dad?! WHY DID YOU BOTHER.

If you ask my dad a question he will give you the entire background, reasoning, thought process, anecdotal details, and relevant reading, in addition to the answer. I used to make fun of this until I realized that, uh, I do it too. Ahem. I bet if my dad took the Strengthfinders quiz, Context would be in his top 5, just like me. 

Twelve years ago yesterday I called my dad on the phone - he was in Italy, I was in my apartment in Seattle - and we watched TV together and cried. 

When I thought I would join JROTC in high school because there was a good chance I could get college paid for, my dad said, "Now... are you SURE you want to do that?"

When I thought I would go to a small liberal arts college in the Midwest where I knew no one, my dad said, "Now... are you SURE you want to do that?"

When I was absolutely determined to go live in China for a year and be an English teacher, even though I was also experiencing High Levels of Crazy, possibly to do with the fact that I was forcing my own self to go to China for a year and be an English teacher, my dad called me on the phone - he was in Italy, I was in a different apartment in Seattle - and said, "Now Maggie? This doesn't sound like a good idea..."

After 20 years he finally got me to read a few war books. And then keeled over from shock when I said I think it would be fascinating to visit battlefields in northern Europe. (But he will never get me to go to Gettysburg.)

He's told me at varying points that I am named after Margaret Thatcher and/or Meg from A Wrinkle In Time. My mother says neither of those things are true. 

I remember asking him what "divorce" meant and the answer being "you will never ever have to worry about that."

We ate chocolate pie in honor of his birthday this weekend (and sang wonderfully appropriate Beatles tunes), but I bet he's spending his actual birthday afternoon alone in his nice quiet house, a book half-falling out of his hands, snoring on the couch. He's so great. Happy birthday, Dad! 

Please leave us some Future Bakery feedback!

Katie and I got together this morning and talked a blue streak about our bakery. Also, as we strolled our babies to a coffee shop to discuss the menu, we peeked in the windows of some brand new prime retail space. In a perfect neighborhood. With parking. And the right "look". Having an actual space to envision made it feel that much more real. I keep thinking "we couldn't possibly afford that space/neighborhood" but I kind of think we need that space/neighborhood to be successful. 


I do feel inspired, though. It's exciting. It could HAPPEN.

We talked about everything from hiring someone to write a business plan to what happens if we start fighting to decor. There are a couple things I want to share with you and then I'm hoping you can answer some questions Katie and I came up with, a sort of What Would You Want In Your Bakery Survey. MARKET RESEARCH!

Okay so first of all, here are the things we WANT out of and for our bakery. 

  • Comfortable, welcoming, laid back atmosphere for families. Blah blah blah, you know that already. We've dialed back the play space details, but still intend to have small tables and chairs, toys, books, kid-friendly food. 
  • Active in the community. It would be so awesome if we were successful enough to donate money/product. Be a gathering place for community events. 
  • Treat our employees well. Just a few things from Katie's experience in food service that we want to do better - scheduling, pay, communication, feedback. I read an article in a baking magazine (!) about a shop that keeps even its part time baristas informed about finances and goals and how everyone feels invested. Here I am knowing absolutely nothing about business, but that sounds good to me. 
  • Sell delicious baked goods with a little imagination. Not so much imagination that you're not sure you want to try that scone, but enough to keep things interesting. A good mix of sweet and savory grown up treats and kid-sized/kid-friendly items. We decided it's important to have salads (and probably soup) at lunchtime, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables for our kid bento box lunch ideas, but we're focusing on cookies, quickbreads, scones, muffins, pastry. 
  • Special order cakes. But we have opinions about cake and we don't want to be the shop that transfers Disney princess images onto frosting OR the shop that makes giant architectural displays covered in seamless fondant. We like cakes that look like cake and cakes that taste good. We're going to feel this out as we go, but it's good to have some parameters in mind. (Of course, if it turns out the kinds of cake we like aren't the kinds that sell, we are more than willing to change our minds!)

All that said, Katie and I have a few questions about MENU. If you could answer any of these questions, via comment or email or text or messenger pigeon, we would be so grateful. 

  1. Are you interested in standard well-known items (blueberry muffins) or items with a twist (like, uh, blueberry PEACH muffins)? 
  2. At a bakery cafe, what do you want to buy your child in the morning and what do you want to buy at lunchtime? I am the mom who buys her kid the M&M cookie at 9am at Panera, so I am most interested in the answers to THIS question. ANSWER THIS ONE.
  3. What's your favorite treat to get at bakeries?
  4. Are gluten-free options important? How much of a variety is necessary?
  5. Do you expect your bakery to be Mostly Dessert or have a lot of pastry/savory items as well?
  6. What sorts of things would you want to pick up from a bakery on your way to some place else? Just the other day I wanted to buy a bunch of scones to bring to a friend and couldn't think of anywhere but the grocery store. (Oh, I should mention we are not doing bread.) 

AND! If you have any other ideas/questions/advice/thoughts, please share them! Any time. Whenever. We are interested in everything. Like Katie says "what about noise?" and I say "what about it" and she says "do you think it will be too loud?" and I say "well, the space we're thinking of isn't THAT big and also noise doesn't bother me much" but what do YOU think? 

I will be sitting here investigating financing. BLARGH.