Playing House

Image courtesy of nuttakit/freedigitalphotos.net

The other day hubby said, “Thanks for playing house with me.”  I laughed because I know what he means.  Sometimes we look at our lives and wonder how we got here – one house, 2 kids, a dog and a (brown) picket fence.  It almost doesn’t seem real.

When I was young, I played with a set of homemade paper dolls, a family with a mom and a dad and a couple of kids.  I used to think about what it would be like to meet my knight in shining armor, get married and have a family.  I always thought about how nice it would be to grow up and do all that fun adult stuff of falling in love and living happily ever after.  Now that I’ve realized that dream, I also realize that playing house is a lot easier to do when it’s with paper dolls.  With dolls, there are no chores to do, no bills to pay and you can go on vacation whenever you want.  But real life is not quite as carefree and also not always quite so romantic.  Marriage is hard work, especially once you get back from a week-long honeymoon in Kauai.  And once you throw kids into the equation, there’s just a whole lotta crazy going on!

It’s been over 5 years since hubby and I have slept side by side in the same bed together, 5 years since we’ve been able to have a conversation without being interrupted, 5 years since we’ve felt young, energetic and sane, haha.  Life has certainly changed.  These days, we spend so much time trying to meet the kids’ needs (in order to stop the crying and screaming!) that sometimes we feel like we’re just 2 nannies living under the same roof.  😛

The ironic thing is that I think having kids has made our marriage better.  Hubby also asked me the other day, “Do you think you love me more now that we have kids?”  (Haha, is that a rhetorical question?)  Well, I think I appreciate him a lot more now that we have kids.  Being on this parenting journey together helps me see how well we complement one another.  And suffering does bring people together, doesn’t it?  🙂

We just have to remember what brought us together in the first place and make it through this crazy stage of life with 2 small kids.   There’s no other person I’d rather play house with than my hubby…because no one’s got what we’ve got going.

Here’s a cute song by Charlene Kaye, featuring Darren Criss, called “Dress and Tie“.

What does “playing house” look like for you and your spouse?

Not Missing A Thing

So it’s been five whole years since I changed careers to be a SAHM (stay at home mom).  It’s been a wild ride with so many unexpected ups and downs and through it all, I can honestly say I am glad I have been able to do it.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t miss working outside the house…there are many times when I feel a sense of regret when I hear my former classmates say they are now licensed counselors and I wonder what I’ve been doing the past five years.  Being a full time mom is unlike any schooling or career I’ve ever had; there are no tests (well, maybe every day is a test – of patience, that is!) and no quarterly reviews or promotions to work for (and definitely no pay increases!).  It’s truly been a learning on the job experience even with all the parenting books out there (which I believe are good for general information, but those authors have only had experience with their own kids, not mine!).

I wish there was some way I could evaluate my work as a SAHM and get a grade or just a piece of paper that could tell me I’m on the right track.  It’s hard to see progress when you’re stuck in the every day mundane-ness of it all.  When I see old pictures of the kids though, I see how much they have grown, so that must mean all my blood, sweat and tears have done something productive, right?  And it’s nice to get complimented by random strangers in restaurants (it’s happened 2x so far!) on how well behaved E and C are; it makes me feel like I must be doing something right (and grateful these people don’t see the kids when they are melting down right before naptime).

But enough with the moaning and groaning.  To fully appreciate any job, I think the best thing to do is to look on the bright side.  So with that said, I have come up with the top 5 list of reasons why I like being a SAHM.

1 – I get to wear whatever I want to cause my kids don’t care how I look.
2 – There are no long lines at the grocery store during a weekday.
3 – I don’t have to be stuck in traffic going to and from work.
4 – I can take naps during the afternoon.
5 – And best of all, I get to see all the kids’ firsts – first word, first step, first time going down a slide alone, first time when they are successful with the potty…the list goes on and on.

Witnessing my munchkins’ first time holding hands 🙂

I’m sure when the kids are all grown, I’ll look back on these early years with lots of gratitude that I could stay at home with them.  Paychecks and promotions can wait, but childhood can’t.  And I don’t want to miss a thing about seeing them grow up.

Here’s Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”

How do you make the most of your time with your kids?

Fighter

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

It’s amazing how something that happened almost 30 years ago still affects you today.  And strange how I didn’t realize it until yesterday even though I had dealt with it before, or I had thought I did.  

Yesterday, C was mistreated by a little boy and I wasn’t there to protect her.  When I told hubby about what had happened, he fell silent.  He really does not like it when our kids, or anyone for that matter, get taken advantage of by other people.  And he really didn’t like it that I wasn’t there to watch the kids and therefore couldn’t protect C (which I will totally change next time).  In my head I knew it was not a good situation, but there is a part of me that feels like I can’t stand up for myself so maybe I tried to make light of it.  But now that I am a mom, my tiger instincts should really kick in and I should be protecting my kids the way a tiger would protect her cubs!  Now I understand why I felt so helpless…

When I was seven or eight years old, I was a witness to domestic violence.  I don’t know if it was the first occurrence (it certainly wasn’t the last), but that one incident has stuck in my mind and colored my world ever since.  I felt helpless, afraid to move, just wanting to stay still in the background and hope the storm would pass.  It makes sense now why I put on a front of “I’m okay” to everyone and want to do things myself and not have to rely on other people.  But underneath it all, I feel neither tough nor invincible.  Instead I play the victim in my mind and have let myself be put in humiliating situations where I felt too helpless to fight back, where I just let things happen to me even though in my mind I wanted to say no.  

But I can’t let this go on…especially when I have kids to protect and be a role model for.  I want E and C to know they have a right to stand up for themselves and for other people.  I want them to be able to fight back when they need to instead of fading away into the background out of fear.   

And as for myself, this needs to be a new start.  I need to remind myself that I am not that little girl anymore and I am not helpless.  May God help me know that I can be a fighter. 

Here’s Christina Aguilera’s song “Fighter“.

What is an area in which you would like to be a role model for your kids?

I am a Rock… I am an Island

If I had to pick an animal to describe myself, it would probably be a turtle.  Not for the reason that turtles are slow (though I do tend to run on “Chinese time” a lot), but for the fact that they have a nice, hard shell around them.  I like how they have their own built in armor, which also serves as their home, so there’s no need to look for a place to stay when on the road.  Turtles may not be the most menacing of animals, but they seem pretty tough and self-dependent in my opinion.  🙂  And being the firstborn/almost-only-child that I am, I like to be strong and rely on myself.  So the idea of asking for help is like a foreign concept for me; I even realized recently that I think suffering is “noble”.  Well, suffering when the situation is out of your control should be admired, but it’s another story when it’s self-inflicted because I’m too stubborn to ask for help.  😛  And to make matters more complex, I also go to the opposite extreme sometimes and like to be co-dependent.  This is where the analogy of the turtle becomes this:

A teenage mutant ninja turtle! (Image courtesy of kidsprintablescoloringpages.com)

I think my overly-responsible and perfectionistic tendencies go into overdrive at times and I want to save the world – or just whoever needs help fixing a problem at the moment.  Hm…it’s all starting to make sense now why I chose a career in counseling.  Just kidding!  😛

But one can only function as an island for so long.  As I’ve learned over the years, it’s a bit hard to be on separate teams when you are married.  My hubby, the youngest of four, is great at cooperating and compromising and has put in a lot of hard work teaching me how to be a team player.  He says I still need work in the listening department; in my defense, I think I have the listening part down, it’s the following part that I need to work on.  😛  It’s hard for a self-dependent person to admit that maybe, just maybe, someone else might have an idea that is better that mine.  Another reason I’ve come to realize that it’s good to ask for help is that it really does take a village to raise a kid.  When you have more than one kid, the odds go up that one of the many dishes you are juggling every day (figuratively and literally!) will come crashing to the floor.  I have to say there are days when I would be much happier if I would just admit that I can’t do everything by myself (did I just say that?!).   
 
Recently hubby helped give me a new perspective on this whole issue – sometimes it’s for the sake of the other person and your relationship with them that you want to ask for their involvement.  This is where self-dependency and co-dependency become inter-dependency and there is mutual giving and receiving.  This is the way relationships ought to be and what I’m working towards.        
 
You know the question that goes, “If you ever got stuck on an island, what would you want there with you”?  I think I’d definitely like some sunblock and people, my family and friends, on my island.  🙂
 
Here’s an appropriate song for this post – Simon and Garfunkel’s “I am a Rock“.

What kind of animal would you choose to describe yourself?

Parenting is Unpredictable

I think it’s probably best for people with control issues to not have kids.  Actually, I take that back – maybe it’s a good idea for us because then we would realize there are just some things in life that we can’t control.  

There is nothing predictable about parenthood and it starts right from the get-go.  You can’t control when you’ll conceive and even with all the best estimations, you can’t control when you’ll go into labor.  And there is no way of knowing that you’ll gain 50 lbs during the pregnancy and give birth to a teeny, tiny 5 lb 11 oz baby (to this day, E is still a very picky eater!).  And once the baby arrives, there is no controlling how our minds turn to mush and our bodies start breaking down from sheer exhaustion and exertion.  I understand now why sleep deprivation is used as a torture method, but I think an even better way is to blast a baby’s cries non-stop until you can still hear those cries when you are alone in the shower.  😛

Don’t even get me started about parenting a toddler, especially one who talks in complete sentences at 18 months (C loves to talk so much that sometimes she says she’s talking to herself!).  This is when the notions of maintaining any amount of control start to vanish when this little person with a big attitude wants to have a say about everything – what she wears, what she eats, where she goes, etc.  There is no situation that makes you feel more out of control than waiting in a car for your kid to sit down in the carseat, so you can finally leave the parking lot you’ve been sitting in for half an hour.  Actually, there are plenty of other situations that could compare with this one, but they are too many to list and too frustrating to reminisce about. 😛

However, with all the crazy, uncontrollable parts of parenting comes another side that I had never predicted.  That’s the side that finds so much joy in just watching my kids while they sleep.  And how they make me smile just seeing their delight in the simple things in life, like dandelions.  It’s the part that still finds it unbelievable that they seemed to have appeared out of nowhere and are ours to keep.  🙂

E and C discovering a dandelion

Given everything that is out of our control, it’s a good thing a parent’s love for their child is just as intense as the insanity that comes with being a parent. 

Here’s a fun song, “Smile“, by Uncle Kracker.

What have you discovered to be the most unpredictable part of parenting?

It’s Not About the Money

Image courtesy of Simon Howden/freedigitalphotos.net

If there’s anything I’m good at, it’s finding bargains.  I love walking into a store and heading straight for the sales/clearance area and digging around for treasures.  You could say that I got the “el cheapo” gene passed down to me because frugality runs in my family.

Let me tell you just how cheap my family is – my sister told me a few years ago that she didn’t know cars had windshield wiper fluid because the hand-me-down she inherited didn’t have any!  I guess my dad never bothered to refill it after it ran out, which meant my poor sister had been driving around with a dirty windshield.  And whenever my parents give my kids things that are not packaged, I can be certain that they found it lying around somewhere (and some poor kid is still looking for his or her hat/scooter/swimming gear/nintendo). 😛

While it’s not a bad idea to save some money for a rainy day, I’ve learned that being cheap is not always the best way to live your life.  For one thing, it’s a bit limiting to buy something I kind of like just because it’s on sale instead of buying what I really like at full price.  It’s also kind of silly to have a bunch of almost empty lotion or shampoo bottles taking up residence in the bathroom because I’m trying to squeeze every last drop out of them.  And driving across town for less expensive gas may be defeating the purpose of saving 3 cents per gallon. 😛

When it all comes down to it though, it’s not about the money; it’s about people and how money affects them.  As hubby, Mr. Not-So-Cheapo, has taught me, money is just a tool and should be spent with a purpose.  Maybe its purpose is to buy lunch for the kids at Wendy’s instead of cooking it at home so mom saves her sanity.  Or its purpose is to buy a little plastic toy from one of those money-sucking vending machines just for the sake of making your kid smile (this was hubby’s idea, not mine, haha).

Lately, I’ve been seeing the purpose of using money for helping those in need.  I really want to pass on a heart of giving to E and C and not a heart of frugality, which can easily turn into one of stinginess (believe me, I know!).  So, being inspired by hubby of course, I now try to keep some cash in my wallet and give to people who are homeless.  The kids have caught on and whenever they see someone standing on the street, they readily want to pull over and help them.  One time, C even wanted to give her fruit bar to a guy holding a sign that read, “homeless and hungry”.  It makes me so happy to see them show concern and being generous towards others.  And hopefully they are learning that it is better to give than to receive (which would be nice to keep in mind the next time we are in the toy aisle at Target).  🙂

I’m certainly not a scientist, but I’m starting to think about doing some genetic engineering.  I think it’s about time to modify my el-cheapo gene cause it’s about so much more than the money.

Here’s a fun song, “Price Tag”, by Jessie J.

Are you a spender or saver?

Opposites Attract

Once upon a time, there was a typical Asian girl who had done the things that typical Asian girls do – graduated from Cal, drove a Honda Accord (and has never gotten a moving violation, haha), spent little and saved a lot and didn’t do anything too risky or adventurous.  One day she met a not so typical Asian guy who hadn’t finished college yet, drove a sports car (and had many moving violations and was once even chased by the cops for speeding!), was definitely a spender and loved to take risks.  And of course she loved how different this guy was from her (and vice versa) and they fell in love and got married and lived happily ever after.

Okay, that’s the Hollywood version of the story.  🙂  Chick flicks conveniently end the movie right before the part where the guy drives the girl crazy when he leaves his socks lying under the dining table…and that this still happens even after years of the girl reminding the guy about where his “lost” socks should go.  

Image courtesy of Suat Eman/freedigitalphotos.net

You would think that after 10 years of marriage, hubby and I wouldn’t be so surprised at how different we are.  Lately though we’ve really been rubbing each other the wrong way, but I think a lot of it is my fault cause I’ve been extra anal about cleaning the house/keeping it clean for relatives who are visiting (his relatives I might add!).  But we have come to a point where we don’t drive one another as crazy as we used to and can poke fun at each other now instead of putting on our boxing gloves.  

It’s so true that opposites attract.  But I really wouldn’t want to have it any other way.  I mean, can I picture myself being married to someone like me?  That would make for a very boring movie…one called Square and Squarer.  🙂

If I look at it in the right perspective, I can appreciate being married to my alter ego.  It’s like what the Bible says in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  Or in my case, hubby is like sandpaper, sanding down my corners to be a little more well-rounded.  I just hope that in the process I am imparting some of my squareness to him so those socks find their way home to the laundry basket someday! 

Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” is the perfect song for this post.

Do you believe opposites attract?

The Queen of Anything

In our family, even though we are not of royal blood, I think it’s safe to say that I have earned my title as Queen … more specifically, the Queen of No’s and Don’ts. I probably say or think ‘No, don’t …!’ a hundred times a day.

Let me give you some examples:
“No, don’t …
hit
put that there
run
throw
pour
kick
touch
yell
call so and so a poo
… etc.!”

Hubby calls me a bubble burster, as in bursting the bubbles of anyone who is trying to have fun. I just like to think I keep things in order. But yes, I do agree that my “no’s and dont’s” do make me a bit of a killjoy (according to urban dictionary, one of the synonyms for killjoy is square!). I guess my sharp corners do cause some bubbles to pop along the way. 😛

The other day I woke up to the sounds of hubby playing with the kids in our room. I heard a high-pitched ssss-shhh as multiple things spilled out of a bag and then the high-pitched voice of our munchkin girl ask, “What is that?” Hubby replied matter-of-factly, “Popcorn.”

The first thing that popped (pun not intended) into my head was, “ON THE CARPET?!” I didn’t dare sit up in bed to take a look at what was going on; I could only imagine tiny uncooked popcorn kernels flying everywhere around the room. (Did I mention that hubby is the “unsquare” one between the two of us?) When I did work up the courage to peek over the covers, I saw the kids shoveling up the kernels and pouring them into their beach buckets. Then hubby made a chute from a long cardboard box and the kids began pouring the popcorn down the chute into the buckets. By the end, there was popcorn all over the carpet as I had predicted.

But we also had two very happy kids playing happily together.

Our corny beach!!

Sigh.

Was having a little mess on the carpet worth it to see the kids, not to mention hubby, having fun?  Um, er, ah … okay, fine, yes. Although if I were to have done it, I would have put a sheet on the floor first and kept the popcorn in a contained area. But then again, I would probably never have done something like that because I would have been too worried about cleaning up (which hubby and the kids did do when they finished playing – whew!).  🙂 And ultimately, I would have missed out on a fun experience with the kids, which is what I will remember and treasure many years from now.

So, it looks like being a queen (of no’s and don’ts) isn’t all that it’s cut out to be. Maybe it’s time I started thinking about trading in my crown and becoming the court jester?  😉

I love this song by Sara Bareilles’, “King of Anything”, which is so perfectly applicable to this post.

Do you have a square or unsquare personality?

Don’t Worry…Be Happy!

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I am a girly girl.  I LOVE the color pink, laugh with my hand over my mouth, sigh and cry during chick flicks (even the predictable ones), try to steer clear of any activity that requires getting dirty, and cannot hit or throw a ball to save my life.  I am good at labor and delivery though, but unfortunately that doesn’t qualify as a sport yet. 😛

So being the girly girl that I am, I’ve always hoped for a daughter to share in my girly-ness and was so happy when we found out our second child was a girl (hubby knew from my voice over the phone what the ultrasound result was even before I told him).  Little did I know though that I would give birth to my alter ego. 

My alter ego is Bumblebee…just kidding!  C loves to try on masks and have me take her picture.

The word that perfectly describes C is feisty.  She is adventurous, spunky, mischevious and loves the color red.  She likes to hold my face with her little hands and smoosh my cheeks together and laugh with delight.  C has no problem holding her own against her older brother (E is actually the more timid one).  Although she does like dolls and stuffed animals, the last toy she wanted to buy was a tow truck.  And she loves to climb on things and isn’t afraid to play rough.  My theme song for her is “Don’t worry, be happy!”  🙂

Sometimes I wonder how she could be 50% of me (hubby likes to say his gene’s are more dominant, haha).  She definitely has my stubbornness and funny sleeping positions, but other than that, we are like night and day.  Which is why C really helps me to see life in a different light.  She is helping this square person to relax, take time to laugh and have fun, which is no small feat for a 2 year old!   I am just so thankful for my little alter ego.  🙂

For a quick pick-me-up song, listen to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.

Are any of your kids your alter ego?

All By Myself

This is SO true!

Having grown up as an only child for 10 years, I got pretty used to being by myself.  It is actually I, and not the hubby, who needs some cave time now and then, haha.  So it came as quite a shock to find out after becoming a mom that I would rarely ever be by myself again.  All the moms out there know this is not an exaggeration.  😛  Not only is my time not my own anymore, neither is my personal space.  

So in order to not go crazy when my devoted entourage starts making me feel claustrophobic, I remind myself of three things. 
1 – Kids stick to you cause they like you.  And they feel safe with you.  This is probably the most flattering way of looking at this.  🙂
2 – It’s good, and necessary, to get some “me time” regularly.  This is especially true when I find myself getting excited about the chance to go to the dentist’s by myself. 
3 – Try to enjoy the attention I get from the kids now cause there will come a day when they probably won’t want to be seen with me.  😛  

It’s true that kids do grow up fast.  And this part of parenting will soon pass.  A friend reminded me recently that there used to be a time when both E and C would follow me into the bathroom every time I went.  But now I can usually go alone.  

Just yesterday I was doing my morning routine and they were playing together in the next room.  E came in 2 minutes later and said, “We didn’t fight yet.”  Smart boy adding the word “yet”.  🙂  Then 2 minutes later, he came back and informed me that C had a poopy diaper.  So much for my alone time.  Oh well, there will be plenty of time to be all by myself in about 16 years!

Here’s Celine Dion’s “All By Myself“, but in my case, I’m taking out the “don’ts” cause I want to be all by myself!

How do you get some alone time as a mom?