Do you have a Thing? Here's ours:

So! you have been saying to yourself, How are the Cheungs doing?! 

WELL. This weekend it was decided that Emma will not be entering kindergarten this fall and will do what we're going to call her Super Senior Year of preschool. (Pre-K. Fives Program. Whatever.) This is alternately No Big Thang and OMG I Need To Go To Therapy, so we're just going to avoid the topic for now, ok?

Molly plastered herself with temporary tattoos at a friend's house recently, and has been going about in public with a seriously giant black and gold tattoo necklace on her chest because I couldn't scrub it off. (Someone recommended nail polish remover? But that seems... toxic?) 

Jack bit it on his bike the other night - when we had a babysitter, oops - and due to the resulting road rash on his arm, has been walking around like Bob Dole. It's a big scrape for sure, and it looks pretty terrible, but I am not exaggerating his wounded war vet posture and am considering getting him a pen to hold. It doesn't seem to slow him down when the kids play Just Dance, though. I'm just saying. 

Phillip is in SAN DIEGO where he is a customer at a customer conference and the morning he left he said, "So, is it okay that I'm kind of really looking forward to going away for a bit?" 

As for ME, I am a bit of wreck. A highly functioning wreck. Between the kindergarten thing and the sudden mass of Important Things I Have To Get Done The Week Phillip Is Out Of Town and the thing I'm about to tell you next, I shall require my own week away. 

Okay, so the THING is... how a scarcity economy plays out in marriage. [SNORE] (But wait!) 

Basically, Phillip has a limited amount of social, emotional, and physical energy. Say he has 100 units. A large number of those units go toward work and what he has leftover goes toward, you know, barking at the kids to practice piano, grilling hamburgers for dinner, fixing the toilet that won't stop running, talking to the friends his wife keeps inviting for dinner, whatever. He GAINS units by, say, binge-watching Silicon Valley episodes, preferably with his wife next to him, preferably without her asking questions about compression algorithms. 

And then there is me. I have a limited amount of energy as well, but I have, say, 1000 units. And I THINK I have 2000. It is a rare opportunity or idea or offer to which I say, "I do not have time for you." Not because I'm one of those people who always has to help someone out or volunteer or SERVE. No saintliness for me, this is all about Fun Stuff I Wanna Do. Let's start a baking business! AND write a blog! AND commit to the kids doing this and that! AND volunteer for this thing at church! AND invite friends over to eat all the time, even though there are few things I hate more than making food! AND devote major major time and effort to ANOTHER church thing that requires one night away each week! Oh, what about spending more time getting to know this group of people? THAT WILL BE AWESOME!

(All that is in addition, of course, to my Regular Job, that being the caretaker of everyone and everything in our household.)

Oh, and I suppose I gain units by... doing cool stuff? Meaningful Conversations with friends? Actual sleep?

So what you have here is a husband who is completely exhausted and a wife who feels trapped. 


I mean, this is not new news. We are well aware of what makes us tick, we know our Enneagram types! But it's really in my face right now. (And his, I guess. This having to take another person into account does not, surprisingly, get easier the longer you are married. LAME.) 

Here is where I would unpack this idea a bit more, throw in a few examples, and end with something revelation-like. Maybe not an answer, but a new idea, something to chew on, something possibly helpful to think about. 

But I got nothing. This is The Thing. Do you have a thing? Most of my married friends seem to have a Thing. A trust issue, a family of origin thing about money, a perfectionist personality matched to a just wanna have fun personality. The thing you always butt heads on. It manifests in all different ways, but this is ours. I want to see as much as I possibly can in London, Phillip wants to nap on a beach. Phillip wants to have a lazy playful morning with the kids on Saturdays, I want to Get Stuff Done. I want to have a huge Christmas party, Phillip... goes along with it. I want to start something new, Phillip sees all the things I'm already doing. I think I can handle something, Phillip doesn't see how I can possibly have the capacity to handle this additional thing. 

If you have this one figured out, be sure to let me know. In the meantime I'll just be over here scream shouting "I ALWAYS HAVE THE CAPACITY, PHILLIP CHEUNG!"

Anyway. Phillip is ordering room service in San Diego and I am going to church meetings and a school boundary meeting and taking Jack to the orthodontist and packaging cookies and arranging deliveries and making friend dates and babysitting nephews and packing lunches and braiding hair. It's okay. I'm going to visit @lizritz in Chicago in August, did I tell you that? For nearly a week, so I have no complaints about Phillip having to go on a WORK trip with a hotel room on the water and room service, especially when it means I don't have to make a real dinner all week. FISH STICKS FOR EVERYONE. 

No school tomorrow

Until I went to college, nearly every adult I knew was either a teacher or in the United States Air Force. All my parents' friends were teachers, and all my friends' parents were in the military. While I think living on military bases overseas exposed me to a great diversity of people, all of those people worked for the same dude: The Government. Systems of promotion and raises and time off were pretty standard across the board. And while I was absolutely certain I did not want to be in the military and fairly certain I did not want to be a teacher, I didn't have a whole lot of ideas about what I COULD be. (Seriously, until I decided to get married, my best guess for my future was teaching English in Europe somewhere - maybe the best of both teaching/military worlds!) 

So it's been PRETTY FREAKING WEIRD to ride shotgun along Phillip's career, a path that's taken us down a mostly Big Time Corporate Tech Dude territory. Unfortunately for him, I was never career-oriented, being mainly concerned with just making enough money to travel. I don't think he was particularly hard core on career until we had Jackson, though, and since I was very happy staying at home, he had the space and also the pressure to actually DO this work thing. And that's when Work became WORK. 

But even before it was WORK, Phillip's perspectives on it were so different than mine. I used to chalk it up to White/Asian stuff, which a lot of it was (and is!), but it's also about what our own parents did and the other adults we knew growing up. My adults were teachers/soldiers. His were white collars on corporate ladders. Before we had kids I would rant about people who couldn't leave work at work, who traveled too much, who answered every email at any time of day, who cared too much about (ugh) money. 

Little did I know that I MARRIED one of those people. HA! And THANK GOD. Want to live in Seattle and have kids and a house and maybe dinner out once in a while? YOU NEED A JOB.

Phillip has spent GOBS of time strategizing his next career move. It's amazing. I STILL come from a place where you want to be a thing and you become that thing and you do that thing and hopefully you're paid enough to do the fun stuff you want to do in your life and that's pretty much it. Phillip thinks that's nuts. Phillip's dad likes to say, "You always have to be thinking about the next job!" Which *I* think is nuts. My husband's crafty strategizing, his willingness to take advantage of opportunities, his annoying work ethic, and his NO FEAR for asking for raises/promotions is amazing. Even if I WERE career-oriented, I'm positive I'd be far behind him, terrified as I am of promoting myself or asking for anything. I do a lot of leaning OUT, people. 

He's now at a company he's wanted to work for for a long time. He's happy there, happy to be part of this big Seattle tech thing that's happening. And I'm happy for him, even if the t-shirts and morale-building emails make me want to barf a little bit. (They don't just make a product, you guys, they make a way of life.) He's a devoted employee AND likes his job, which is mind blowing to me, someone who has NEVER liked an office job. And also, again, THANK GOD.

ANYWAY. My whole point of writing this. I'm getting to it. It's been a brain twist for me, or like a REWORKING of ideas I've always had, that you could go to work for a company and maybe move around within it, doing different jobs. You could RISE. And as you did that, you had frequent conversations about your performance, what you could be doing better, what you're awesome at, and what your compensation should be. You don't just wait around for the next across the board pay raise for your chosen career, you don't just hope things will be different that year, you negotiate it. If you're Phillip, you do a crap ton of research on nine million websites, develop your self sales pitch, and ask for more. Because you CAN. You might GET it. 

And you know what I feel like Seattle teachers are doing? This is their self sales pitch. This is their "Look. We are incredible assets to the company and we have sat around waiting for this company to get its shit together for too long." There is not one thing on the list of things that Seattle teachers are striking for that I disagree with. Or don't want for my own kids. 

There ARE crappy teachers out there. I KNOW. You can't have two teachers for parents and know all the other teachers by their first names and not be aware of some REALLY CRAPPY TEACHERS. But the teachers I know and love are crazy amazing people. The teachers at my kids' school especially. I'm serious. I don't know all of them, but I have a pretty good sense of the camaraderie at that school, the devotion to their students, the heart they have for the work they do, and the extra miles they go out of school. There are several stories I can't share here, but they feature teachers who made school families part of their families when it was most needed. We are not a Catholic school like I hoped to go to, we are not a private school which a lot of people choose since supposedly Seattle schools are so terrible, we are not a gifted kids school, or even an average neighborhood school - my kids' school is over 70% free lunch. There were three and a half white kids in Jack's class (Jack was the half). The kids at our school have names I can't pronounce because they were born in different countries. Our school doesn't even try to have an auction or a carnival because the volunteer base isn't there. Creating community in that school is hard work, but I LOVE my kids' school and that is almost wholly because the teachers have made it a wonderful place to be, for both parents and kids. I 100% support them striking for more recess, less testing, and equity for students of all backgrounds and I 1000% support them for asking their bosses for appropriate compensation for HARD WORK. 



As it seems likely the teachers will strike tomorrow - the first day of school - we will begin today's blog post with a moment of silent prayer. 


Thank you. 


SIGH. Brisk clap. Phillip and I had a productive weekend, by which I mean our friends talked some sense into us (by which I mean him, obvs) and Team Cheung is plugging away. One thing I learned this weekend is that Phillip is BURNED. OUT. Probably anyone else could see this and talk about it, but I think because burned outness is something I completely deny/ignore/avoid/fight when it happens to me, I'm pretty terrible at identifying it in someone else. It's kind of like I don't see the POINT of being burned out. I mean, you still have to keep going, right? It's not like I have the option of throwing myself on my fainting couch and letting the au pair take care of the laundry and grocery shopping for a week. So I just don't let myself get there. [If you are thinking, "Hey! That sounds like a good way to propel oneself into a confusing anxiety attack!" YOU ARE CORRECT.] 

So, poor Phillip. It's not like I don't KNOW that he's struggling, but for whatever reason I just expect him to Power Through the way I do, forgetting that Powering Through is actually one of my special superpowers, not an average skill everyone is born with. 

What IS good about living with a person with the superpower of Getting Shit Done is that once said person finally figures out her husband really IS at his rope's end, she prints out a calendar of the year and starts inserting deliberate down time into any potentially stressful week or month. We now have a fun family weekend planned for October and a relaxing just us retreat weekend planned in November. A weekend in Vegas in January thanks to my crappy trip out of the Colorado Springs airport last year and the vouchers I got for complaining about it. A potential family trip planned for midwinter break in February. And maybe turning last year's Husbands Ski Weekend into an annual thing. (December is just going to be a mess. December is always a mess. Even a wife with special superpowers is no match for December.) 

We ALSO reformulated our plans for remodeling. For the zillionth time. This has been SUCH an annoying process, but I guess we needed to do it. The bathroom HAS to get fixed. It has actual stuff wrong with it, so the bathroom is still on tap for Drastic Renovations. But the kitchen... as much as I despise my tile countertops, the kitchen is FUNCTIONAL. The kitchen can last a lot longer so instead of focusing on big bath and kitchen remodels, we're now looking at throwing some money at the living room. When I asked Phillip what things stressed him out about the house, he mentioned the hole in the carpet, still there from when we removed the fireplace when we moved in. The cracks in the ceiling from the fireplace removal. The fact that all his living room electronics are sort of patched together, wires all over the place, nothing working quite right. So now we're thinking about actually going ahead on that Wall O' Built Ins we've dreamed about, with places for everything, wiring in the walls, and replacing allll the carpet. Expensive, but probably not as expensive as tearing out the kitchen, right? 

(I've been so frustrated with the not having a remodel plan that I've taken to hunting for new construction houses on Redfin, all located thirty minutes north, of course, with four bedrooms, bonus rooms, dens with full bathrooms that can double as guest rooms, laundry upstairs, and NEW NEW NEW EVERYTHING. After the last move (done while pregnant and Phillip was traveling) I said I'd die in this house, so I should probably reevaluate.)

You don't care about any of this, but it was helpful for me to write out. PEOPLE TO CALL. STUFF TO LOOK UP. NO HEAD SPACE TO GET IT DONE UNTIL THESE KIDS GO TO SCHOOL ACK.


Seasonal Angst

I need everyone to know Seattle Public Schools does not start until Wednesday. Next week. The ninth. Next week. NEXXXXXT WEEEEEK. And! The teachers union just voted to authorize a strike! Mediation begins tomorrow, but it's entirely possible school WON'T start on the ninth. If that comes to pass, I bequeath the blog to the first comment on this post. 

(HA. Have just ensured no one comments on this post.)

Tomorrow a pair of sainted grandparents pick up the children and whisk them away for the weekend GOD BLESS THEM. I know I've bored you with this piece of trivia before, but I'll repeat it again - each year on Labor Day weekend we get together with three other couples we've known since college and do a rehashing of our year. What was awesome, what was not awesome, some prayer, some amateur counseling, and lots and lots of eating. I think this is our ELEVENTH year, you guys. And when you have been rehashing your year with the same friends for ELEVEN YEARS, you start to [finally] identify some patterns. As in, every single end-of-August, Phillip and Maggie, no matter HOW lovely a year it's been, IMPLODE. 

As I've been already rehashing this for a week or so now (I am an introverted internal processor, this is what we DO) with all sorts of people, even including Phillip himself, I have all sorts of insight into our August Dramz. It goes something like this:


Phillip: Need to get work stuff done so we can go on trips! Vacation! Paying for vacation! Money! Budget! WORK! 

Maggie: SUMMER! WHEE! *dances*


Phillip: Need to get work stuff done because we went on all those trips! Still paying for them! Money! Budget! WORK! 

Maggie: Hmm. Despite library visits, neighbor kids, grandparents, tons o' outings, and emergency afternoons at friends' houses, there is still a LOT OF TIME that these kids are hovering around me asking for snacks and iPad time and more snacks and what's for dinner and what can they do now and OMG ALL THE TALKING LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY. 


Phillip: STA-RESSSSSSS! House is a mess! Kids are terrible! We've spent too much money! I am working so hard! No one appreciates me! Least of all that woman I live with who last spoke to me four days ago!

Maggie: *passed out on couch, earplugs in ears*


During one of our Um, What Is Going On With Us conversations Phillip swore up and down that the kids not being in school doesn't affect him because HE does the same thing every day, no matter what time of year it is. True that. HOWEVER. It sure does affect the moods of his wife and children at the end of the day when he comes home, and it undoubtedly affects what they are DOING. There is no snack, homework, piano practice, reading, dinner routine in the summer. There's no structure. There's no set time for, say, cleaning up the living room so Phillip has an actual path through the house when he gets home. I say we will ALL be happier family members when the routine picks up again. 

But it's also true that by the end of the summer I am half as productive as I was at the beginning. Maybe I love babies so much because they don't talk to me. I love my big kids, you know that, but the incessant chatter and needing and in-my-space-ing is haaaaaarrrrrd. Any energy I had for doing fun stuff and going places is long gone by the end of August. At the end of August the only place that looks good is my BED. 

So I'm not, you know, asking Phillip about his day. Or being super aware of what's going on with him. Or, ah, making sure there's something other than cereal for dinner. Pretty bad at that last one. 

Even though we've had a GREAT! YEAR!, seems like our couples weekend rolls around and things are NOT! THAT! GREAT! But. The benefit of eleven years of weekending and twelve years of marriage:

Maggie: Seems like we do this every year. 

Phillip: Huh. Sounds about right. 

Maggie: It'll get better in a week. 

Phillip: Yeah, you're probably right, okay I'm gonna keep watching this stupid PRE-SEASON SO IT DOESN'T EVEN COUNT football game if that's fine with you. 

Maggie: *passed out on couch*

[You know what? Any weekend is going to be better than last year's weekend, which coincided with the "temporarily raised anxiety levels" symptom in my ramp up to the correct SSRI dosage, wherein I sat shaking and sweating and speechless while my friends drove me to Target for my emergency Klonopin prescription. I have good friends. I also still have that bottle of Klonopin. I haven't needed it since that day, but I like to keep it around. #preparedness This year? DECIDEDLY LESS ANXIETY, THANK THE LORD. More poundage, but a lot less crazy, PHEW.]


Things I do not have energy to tell you about because see above: my wine tasting weekend in Walla Walla, my big seven-year-old girl's birthday, my haircut dilemma, more cries of desperation re: school not starting waaaahhhh. 

What do you think? Do you have a yearly pattern like this? SEASONAL ANGST? I think we have some others, but this is probably the most pronounced one. And it's another thing where having good friends/community is SO HELPFUL because you can be whining about something and they'll look at you with annoyance and say, "GAWD, I swear you guys do this EVERY YEAR."


The Great Pet Plan

Soooo I have been spending a LOT of time browsing I KNOW. I mean, maybe you don't think I know, but I KNOW. I KNOOOOOW. 


We're not getting a pet. We aren't. The reasons are as follows:

1. Phillip only wants a cat. 

2. Maggie only wants a dog. 

3. Phillip doesn't want to pick up dog poop. 

4. Maggie is terrified of cats. 

5. Phillip is ALLERGIC TO CATS. ("I'll just take a Zyrtec!")


I continue to browse Petfinder in hopes of finding a nice fluffy white living stuffed animal doggie in need of a Furrever Home (GAG!) who wants to curl up in my lap while I watch TV and follow me around the house while I do laundry and basically be a Sweet Sweet Doggie Friend. 

The closest I've come to convincing Phillip is: "Maybe when all the kids leave home and you NEED a dog." 

We had a dog when I was a teenager, but as I had already mentally removed myself from Family Life by the time he showed up, I honestly don't even remember paying attention to the dog, let alone enjoying him or taking care of him. I have no idea how to take care of a dog. I don't know what you're supposed to do. And I admit it, there are many things about owning a dog that would potentially be terrible and maybe it would be terrible. 

Then again, I've talked to several people lately who are in love with their little dogs. People who love the addition to their families and going for walks and seeing their kids interact with a pet and having a little furry companion. I THINK I COULD BE ONE OF THESE PEOPLE. 

I do not want a big giant slobbery dog, although I occasionally enjoy other people's big giant slobbery dogs. My neighbor dog is one of these dogs and if I happen to leave the garage door open she will invite herself in and make herself at home. It's okay because in addition to big giant and slobbery, she is friendly and lovable. But I want a little stuffed animal dog, preferably some sort of Poodle mix, no terriers. Today I found myself perusing the sites of people who breed mini goldendoodles. OMG SO ADORABLE.

Then I saw someone selling a mini goldendoodle on the Nextdoor site. I made Phillip look at the picture and he refused to say the puppy was cute. DOES HE HAVE A HEART OF STONE. 

(Note: I promise not to buy a dog off some random person on Nextdoor.)

I am reminded of the time I was 9 months pregnant with Jack and driving downtown. I'd just dropped off Phillip at work and as I was pulling away I saw one of those downtown apartment dwelling hipster people walking a BABY BULLDOG. And I thought I might die of cute. Seriously. At that moment I told myself, "Self? You just need to have this baby."

Well folks, pretty sure Phillip would rather have a dog than a baby. 

I'll keep working on him. Picture me tapping my fingers together Mr. Burns-like. My goal is to know for sure that I DO want a dog (because it's true, I should weigh more pros and cons than I have) and what KIND of dog and how to acquire such a dog and how to take care of a dog by, say, when Emma is in kindergarten. And then I'll just wear him down until he says yes. Because mawwiage.  

In which I ramble a lot before I get to the Thumbprints part

It's Father's Day. I saw my own dad on Thursday. I gave him an unwrapped book of Churchill quotes and pictures from the Churchill War Rooms gift shop and as I was leaving I said, "Happy Father's Day!" and he said, "I don't believe in these ridiculous Hallmark holidays" and I said, "Oh, then can I have the book back?" and he said, "No." So that's my dad. 

And then Phillip got what he most wanted for Father's Day, which was a day full of shameful lazing about. The kids stayed with his parents last night so we could see The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, or should I say so Phillip could see The Bad Plus Joshua Redman and I could sit next to him and drink cocktails. I have nothing AGAINST jazz, it's just that most of it sounds like a mess (TO ME). I need my jazz to be a steady stream of Gershwin standards, preferably with a singer. But anyway, the kids stayed away and Phillip and I did a whole lot of nothing until it was time to pick them up. Then they all played a Lego Xbox game (their gift to him) and we grilled hot dogs and burgers and now Phillip is out with the big kids at a MAGIC SHOW. A big one at the fancy theater downtown - we kept seeing billboard advertisements for it and Phillip kept saying he wanted to take the kids, but when we realized this was the last night of the show, an impromptu ticket buying commenced. Emma and I are home by ourselves, reveling in the quiet and the sunshine and the advent of summer. YAY SUMMER. 

I should tell you more about my trip, but the parts of the trip I need to tell you about next require the sort of blogging I used to reserve for the Parenting Post. As in, attempt to write coherently, have a point, share actual information, etc. Tonight's more of a tipping my head to the side, knocking my temple, and seeing what spills out of my ear style of blogging. Also I don't feel well. It started last night when my friend and I had left our husbands for the second set of the jazz show while we caught up on each other's lives in the lobby of the Westin Hotel. (Pro Tip: The Westin Hotel lobby is my favorite downtown place for lounging when you don't exactly want to buy anything.) 

HOWEVER I started to feel Queasy and it turns out you can't use the Westin hotel lobby restrooms without a key. I basically stalked someone who had a key and then I felt REALLY unwell and when I came back I asked my friend to take me home. But her husband had her car keys and my husband had my house keys and while I would have LIKED to suck it up and let Phillip watch his favorite musician's second set, I DID NOT HAVE A KEY TO THE RESTROOM. Ahem. 

I was not going to tell you this story. It's slightly embarrassing. 

Anyway. I felt terrible because 1) Phillip and my friend traded places which was sad for both of them and 2) I FELT ACTUALLY TERRIBLE. Jack had a fever a few days ago, Emma had one today, I am wondering if I am getting something too or what. Blargh. I had grand plans for wine and perhaps a chocolate ice cream bar on my deck for when Emma goes to bed, BUT NOW WHAT.

Oh, I remember, I was going to tell you about Thumbprints. 

After what seems like our 47th Come To Jesus conversation, Katie and I made some decisions. Chiefly: Thumbprints is going to become a macaron factory. With a few custom sugar cookies thrown in. After a year of this selling cookies and cakes nonsense and a whole lot of Learning From Our Mistakes, what seems WORTH IT is selling macarons and sugar cookies. I think if you were to pick our least favorite things to eat, macarons and sugar cookies would top the list. But these are the things that appear to bring a profit. And are the things that we can easily store, easily deliver, and easily manage the details of. If we were a STORE, things would be different. But we are not a store. We can't even concentrate on this endeavor full time. Today I picked up a Seattle Magazine and read about a few different food people selling ice cream and other things - they're doing it in a shared kitchen downtown, they have pop up shops, they have dreams for a permanent location. That was me for about 4 months. But Katie moving and the reality of We Both Have Small Children have really put the brakes on Ambition. 

That said, neither of us want to QUIT and we want to do something that MAKES SENSE. Streamlining down to macarons and sugar cookies makes sense because if we just do those things, getting approved for a home baking license will not be quite as hellish as our attempt last year. SO WE HOPE. The bureaucrats of the State of Washington could still be bored and sadistic and make our application process dreadful. But getting Katie's kitchen approved is the thing that makes the most SENSE. Paying for a kitchen that is too HARD for us to use, plus insurance, is expensive and annoying. So we're going to start that process and, in the meantime, ask our old kitchen if we can go back for a weekend this summer so we can sell stuff at the street fair in August. We're still not totally legal, as our license is about to expire, but WE ARE DOING OUR BEST (@$#*$)!(#%&!!!

I do not want to be a Quitter and you all know that Failure is basically the worst thing that can ever happen to me, but DUDES. Getting a food business going is... I mean, we finally have customers. We occasionally have to turn things down, even. I do enjoy putting money in the bank account. It is FUN to do something new and grow something from nothing. I love doing this with my sister. But everything else is SUCH A FREAKING SLOG OMG. 

Okay I'm going to read my fever baby some stories and put her to bed and reconsider that chocolate ice cream bar. 


On budgeting, SAHMing, and Purpose In Life-ing

Money talk is SO AWKWARD, isn't it?*

Budgeting has not been a strong point in the Cheung Household (UNDERSTATEMENT), but we are giving it another go in 2015. For a long while Phillip paid all the bills and did all the money stuff and I was a proper 1950s housewife who knew nothing about nothing. Then he went back to school and taking over the money stuff was something I could help with - and shoot, I kept myself afloat through college, working and paying my own bills and whatnot, I'm not TOTALLY useless. And I developed my own "budgeting" system (mostly a very neurotic Excel spreadsheet and stacks of receipts), but I'd say that all of the budgeting we've ever done has been more of a "Oh, huh, look at all the categories we overspent in THIS month!" rather than a "Oh, huh, look at that category, we should probably not go out to dinner tonight." You know? I was SUPER GOOD at tracking what big spenders we were, basically. 

Earlier this year when the bakery started taking over my life, Phillip went back to doing the money stuff. And he started using Mint, which I absolutely positively cannot stand. For unidentifiable reasons. I just do. Also Phillip's mode of budgeting was basically the same as mine (excellent tracking! not so much with the cutting!), except he added an element of OHHHH NOOOO and this is where everything went to pot. Many many MANY discussions this year re: our differing approaches to money, our differing views on what is enough money, our differing views on what to do with the money. I should say that we are in full agreement on the big questions; it's the small nitty gritty questions where we butt heads. 

We had another of these painful conversations last night, and a lot of OTHER stuff plays into these conversations too, right? How you grew up, expectations, general levels of stress, how you cope, all sorts of really complicated things that you just have to accept and put aside and deal. We manage to do that by having a fight first, then having a productive conversation. Is there a better way to do this? Probably! We just haven't figured out how yet. 

ANYWAY. For a multitude of reasons, not least because I never understood Mint, we downloaded the free trial of You Need A Budget and set the whole thing up. We are hopeful! I already understand the system better than I ever understood Mint, and Phillip appreciates having everything accessible and uploadable and not color coded in aqua and pink and yellow with circular reference errors all over the place (I didn't say I was GOOD at Excel). 

But we did decide that we couldn't send EJ to preschool like I hoped. It's not a HUGE deal and we WILL find a way to make it work next year when she's four, but stuff like Europe Trips and house maintenance are the big deals currently. And preschool's expensive, even the cheap ones. I cut the housecleaner because they were honestly causing me more stress than helping, but I know that will be annoying as soon as it's time to clean a toilet. We made up good-sounding amounts for groceries and dining out and clothing, but have we ever adhered to those amounts before? This feels a bit like a new year's resolution to lose weight that's bound to crap out by February. I have a definite "oh, everything works out!" personality which drives my poor husband around the bend, so it's in the interest of our marriage that I stay engaged and concerned. And I plan to. I'd like to learn how to SAVE money and go to Europe AGAIN! (Phillip: hanging head)

Any discussion of money, though, takes me into the Is It Okay That I'm A SAHM frets and I feel kinda insecure tonight. Especially reading everyone's tweets about their kick ass working moms today. I know Phillip would have preferred I stay working, though it wasn't a choice I made so much as my job sort of disappeared after I left it and I wasn't sure how to "go back" to work. And also we were making it work on one income. And I never liked my job. Or working in an office. And I really loved staying home. And yes, I have ALWAYS felt like someone was going to TELL ON ME or something, that's how much I loved (love) staying home. 

I don't think I'm especially GOOD at it or anything. I am not SuperMom. I do as little housework and cooking as I can get away with. When they were babies I hung out with my friends with babies as much as humanly possible. I've done a lot of shopping and coffee drinking and napping. For a while I did a lot of exercising. My kids are clean and fed and taken care of, but am I teaching them to read or doing art projects or playing games? Um, SOMEtimes? Not REALLY? They know their families really well. They know about being kind. They are forced to eat vegetables every couple of days. ???

I think one thing I feel confident about, but also mixed-feelings about, is that because I stayed home with the kids, Phillip has been able to pursue everything he's wanted to pursue. Grad school, business travel, switching jobs several times, without ever worrying about how to manage things at home. I have always taken care of that and I for sure don't know how he would have earned that Master's degree without me holding down the fort. (I suppose there's an argument to be made re: "but YOU'RE the one who wanted to have kids", but that's a dark mental pit that doesn't actually exist in the real world and I try to stay away from it.) 

THAT SAID. I'm not sure what that gets me as a woman in the 21st century. I have family members and friends for whom it's VERY IMPORTANT to be able to earn your own living. And I... can't do that. Something happens to Phillip? Not sure what I'd do. I have nothing to fall back on. And I never found The Thing I Like Doing. Although... I think I HAVE, actually, but no one pays you to be a professional pray-er. (This is my problem, Phillip says. Everything I work hard at is not paid work. ALAS.)

In that respect I feel failure-ish. It's all on my husband to support our family. Even if I WANTED to help, childcare would cost more than whatever I would take home. (At least now, while we still have one at home.) Perhaps I have let myself down? I have not been All I Could Be? Am not fabulous career woman, famous writer, rich business lady, cannot even buy my own lip gloss.

But even THAT... I mean, I LIKE my life! I don't feel unfulfilled or unhappy. I DO feel guilty, sometimes, that I am not contributing financially. And that what I AM doing (bakery work, long weekends for churchy conferences) is somewhat hard on my husband without any financial gain for us. Most of the time I feel like I have plenty of time to figure out what I'm going to be when I grow up, though I suspect it doesn't involve an office or more schooling or any sort of financial independence. Gah. Uh... life would be pretty DULL without me?! **


*I have an Asian-American husband, Asian-American in-laws, and two Asian-American best friends and this means I talk about money in public a LOT. The cultural differences here, they are big time. 

**I KNOOOOOOW. I KNOW I AM WORTHY AND VALUABLE EVEN IF I DON'T HAVE A PAYCHECK. I'm just saying, if I kept writing about that this blog post would be eons long. It's ALREADY eons long. I AM AMAZED YOU GOT THIS FAR. 

I'm allowed to finally tell you that (DUN DUN DUN):

I prepped for this post (HAAAAA PREPPING FOR A BLOG POST!) by delving into my own archives, specifically November 2012 (the reason in a moment) and UH OH. This whole time I've been saying, "We can't have Thanksgiving at my brother's house because it's our turn to go to Phillip's parents' house! Sorry! We TAKE TURNS! We just CAN'T! And also, my mother-in-law makes sticky rice stuffing! Have you TRIED sticky rice stuffing?" But my November 2012 archives tell me that we actually went to my in-laws' last year, which means this year we should be going to my brother's house. So now I feel terrible. A wiser person than me would just keep this little historical tidbit to herself, but I have never been a good liar and even not writing about what I found out in my archives just now feels like LYING and OH GOD DID I RUIN THANKSGIVING? 

Whatever. Phillip and I were both incredibly blessed with families who, upon finding this out, will go, "Eh." Can you imagine the kind of guilt complexes I would have if other people besides my own self were making me feel guilty? I mean CAN YOU? IMAGINE? 

Okay. Now that I've made my little confession there (SORRY MOM) I can get on with the Main Subject of this blog post which is: 

... in the space of what feels like three hours, Phillip applied for, interviewed for, negotiated with, received an offer for, gave notice at his current one, and accepted the offer for: a new job. 

*deep breath*

And the reason I was going through my archives is because it's practically a YEAR TO THE DAY that we were happy dancing about quitting the previous job and accepting the current one! In fact I was having this existential philosophical carthasis about the whole thing. I was just so thankful the TRAVELING was going to be OVER. That things might return to normal-ish! 

That job, that came at what felt like the last minute, that rescued our family, that sped Phillip out of a place where months later much of his team was laid off, it's been SO good to us. The commute is hell, but it wasn't until Phillip accepted the new new job that I realized how RESTFUL this year has been. For ME. There was no travel. There were no late nights. Sometimes there were 10pm conference calls to India in the office downstairs, but mostly Phillip came home in time for dinner and he knew what was going on with us and Work wasn't hanging over everything. 

Except. Phillip likes work. And he never felt completely IN this job, I think. And there was this company that's been on his radar for a long time, a local company experiencing a lot of success and growth and one night he went out for beers with an old classmate who works there and a few days after that he was applying for a job and a few days after that he was interviewing and BAM. He wasn't really looking, he was actually in a great place with the current job, but things happen. This thing happened. Actually, what I think, is that we prayed. Not FOR the job - it's a long story and I have to get permission to tell it - but more like we were trying hard to put God in his rightful provider place in our lives and then... things started happening. I hope I get to share that. Sometime. 

Anyway. He starts December 9. Everything is so amicable and friendly and positive and Phillip is so happy and I am so proud of him. I am delighted for him and slightly nervous for myself. I think there might be a return of Worker Bee Phillip, perhaps a disappearance of the Phillip Who Remembers To Call Me To Tell Me He'll Be Late BEFORE He Is Actually Late. This is what triggered my little anxious episode last weekend (which has completely dissipated, by the way). I stood up straight and said, "SO. I'm a little WORRIED." And told him why. And instead of an argument he said, "Huh! I see what you're saying!" 

MIRACLES ABOUND in the Cheung household, folks. 

THIS is the last day of summer

Up to this point in my year my chief achievements include, and are pretty much limited to:

painting Emma's dresser

spending many thousands of imaginary dollars on kitchen and bathroom renovations

putting a slide on my deck

memorizing all the words to 'Royals'

getting a tan

reading more fun fiction books than depressing nonfiction books

but TOMORROW? Tomorrow begins the first day of Two Big Kids in School, All Day, Every Day and HOO BOY the productivity is gonna start exploding around here. First up is a trip straight to the treadmill after school drop off. EJ Cheung is going to the Kiddie Playland Paradise whether she likes it or not while I try not to die. It's been a while, folks. A long while. I hope the not dying isn't TOO painful. 

THEN I might go to the grocery store or (be still my heart) Target. I have to buy groceries not made of carbs and/or preservatives and also Jack's classroom has requested some snacks and antibacterial wipes and glue sticks and whatnot. Then we'll come home and have some lunch and then Princess EJ will go down for her nap while I... WELL GOSH, I DON'T KNOW! Maybe I will read a book! Watch TV! Nap! HAVE A LUNCH HOUR! Or fold clothes. But I could fold clothes WHILE I watch TV and no one will be bothering me for a snack or the iPad or complaining that his/her brother/sister is breathing on him/her! 


But seriously, the treadmill. It needs to happen. 

SO YEAH. Molly's first day tomorrow. Feels a little anticlimactic, but whatever, we have picked out the first day outfit and I don't expect any tears. From either of us. Well maybe a few from me, but later, in the car, after I've had enough time to Dwell. Molly might be a little anxious at first, but she's had a whole year of going to school every day and waiting to have her own classroom, she's met her teacher several times now, she's totally comfortable with the student teacher, she even seemed to have made a friend at orientation. My little preschool drop out has grown up! Sniff! 

AND today is Phillip's birthday. He woke up this morning mumbling to himself and the only part I could make out was "thirtyFIVE?really,thirtyFIVE?" We left the kids with a babysitter last night and had ourselves a Totally Typical Night Out by which I mean we went to dinner and wandered around a fancy mall wondering what else we could spend money on. I indulged the computer stores and car stores and the half hour we watched a 3D printer make a plastic bracelet. Then today we went to my parents' house where he watched a whole football game without anyone bothering him and blew out candles on a cake from a Chinese bakery. (The sort of cake I refer to as "cake".) 

Last year I wrote a shmoopy birthday post. This year... this year I am not making any comments about the fact that he wants to buy a very expensive Practically Professional DSLR camera when neither of us has any idea how to do anything other than point and shoot. Both things come from a place of love and eternal devotion. 

If you would like to leave a birthday comment or send a birthday tweet, you can say something here or @ him at @pcheung. And there's no real reason to do this other than entertaining me, your trusty blogger pal, and piling up more anecdotes for my future memoir entitled The Internet Is The Best Thing Ever.



One apartment


Three houses 


Three kids 


Three cars


Five (or six? or seven? or eight?) jobs


Nine Christmas parties


One trip to China


Two trips to Italy


Nine frillion socks on the floor


One slide


One graduate degree


Three different TiFauxs


One charming, hardworking, thoughtful, and devastingly handsome Chinese man


One neurotic, anal-retentive, nitpicky, and adorably chubby white girl


Ten years


Photo (50)
This is the only recent picture I have of just the two of us. THE ONLY ONE.