Quantity vs. Quality

Image courtesy of Daniel St. Pierre/freedigitalphotos.net

Whoever invented the buffet style restaurant must have been Asian cause what Asian would pass up cheap food and lots of it?! Eating a buffet is truly getting more for your money. I used to think it was a great deal, but now that I’ve tasted more foods and visited some fancier restaurants, I understand why some chefs (predominately non-Asian ones, lol) prefer to serve small portions of fresher and tastier foods. It all boils down to the question of quantity versus quality. Do you want to eat a meal consisting of a LOT of so-so tasting food or a few bites of delicious (albeit expensive) food? Of course if it’s possible to have larger portions of the latter (without having to drain your savings account!) that would be my ideal meal.

I started thinking about this whole quantity versus quality issue recently when I read yet another debate about it on a blog. But this time it wasn’t about food, it was about the time parents spend with their kids. To be honest, I think this debate is all an effort to put our parental minds at ease. In today’s world, with all the duties and distractions that we try to juggle in a 24 hour day, it’s easy sometimes to neglect our kids (I’m speaking from experience). But we all know kids demand, crave and need our attention!
Our current family situation is a good example of this debate. Hubby works full-time outside the house, which puts him on the quality time side of the argument (he really does give 110% with the kids when he’s home) and I stay at home all day, all night, every day, 24/7/365 (you get the idea!), so that puts me on the quantity time side. So who do the kids like more – cause they are the best judges of this debate? I’d like to say, “Me, do you even need to ask?” (haha), but the real answer is they like both of us equally, just in different ways. 🙂  They prefer Mama when they get hurt or feel sick or tired and they prefer Baba when they want to play and do fun, adventurous, borderline dangerous stuff!
In thinking more about the parent-child relationship, it seems that there’s a purpose for both quantity and quality time. This relationship is just like any other one and when it starts off, it’s basically two strangers trying to get to know one another. Believe me, if you have more than one kid, you learn they each have their own personality and you have to find different ways of relating to each one. So what better way to establish a new relationship with your child than to spend lots and lots of time together? Specifically speaking, this means spending countless hours feeding, burping, changing, holding and all the other seemingly mundane, repetitive tasks you do with a baby. However, all this quantity time that you spend helps familiarize you with your baby and his/her needs and builds up your baby’s trust in you.
Then as kids get older, there’s less hand-holding (and micromanaging, hehe) and more opportunities for answering questions and teaching life lessons, which definitely count as quality time. I’m finding now that even though E only attends school three hours a day, I already have a lot less time with him. I imagine we’ll gradually get less and less of his time, and C’s too, as they grow up and want to spend time with other people who are cooler than us (sniff!).  🙂
For me, this quantity versus quality time debate is challenging me to change my view of how I spend time with my kids. As a stay at home mom, I can’t just play all day (contrary to what hubby thinks!); I have chores to do, errands to run, all with the kids in tow. It’s hours upon hours of quantity time!  This is in comparison to hubby, whose time spent with the kids is usually fun and centered around what they like to do.  Inspired by hubby, I try now to think of my time spent with them as “shared experiences”, experiences which are mutually beneficial and should be mutually enjoyable (I’m working on the latter for myself!). So now when I’m doing chores, I try to involve them in the activities, which could include teaching them how to fold clothes or how to season salmon.  When we’re buying groceries, I show them how to pick out fruit or what buttons to press on the credit card machine (C’s already good at making purchases!).
What I’ve learned through these shared experiences is that most times my kids don’t care what we’re doing as long as we’re doing it together.  Of course it does require extra time and patience to get things done, but it’s encouraging to know that I can turn my quantity time with them into quality time.  Thinking about my time with the kids in this way makes it more meaningful and enjoyable…instead of never-ending!  It’s the moments when I’m stuck looking at my phone instead of paying attention to them or feeling frustrated that I can’t get anything done with them around that they are neither getting quantity or quality time with me.  I also lose because I miss out on deepening my relationship with them.  And relationships are what life should really be about!  🙂
Now, if there was only a way to turn a buffet meal into a gourmet experience! :pCheck out this fun song by Macy Gray, “Time of My Life“, which I hope describes the way my kids and I view our time together.

What do you think matters more – quantity or quality? 

Bursting My Chinese Bubble

The older I get, the more I realize how much I have been living in a bubble.  This bubble was not completely intentional though; I think it kind of developed out of circumstances and a lack of understanding.  What I’m talking about is the very square environment that I have grown up in and grown accustomed to all my life – the very Chinese bubble.

I didn’t really have much say about this bubble when I was younger; my family immigrated here from Taiwan when my parents were in their early 30’s, so it was of course a foreign land to them.  Naturally they felt safer and more comfortable with Chinese friends and going to a Chinese church.  The only exposure I had to “foreigners” (though truthfully speaking, I was the foreigner) was when we lived in Union City and I had mostly non-Asian friends (gasp!).  But that however was short-lived because we moved to Fremont when I was in junior high and even back then, the schools there had a good Asian population (nowadays, they are predominately Asian – it’s scary how we are taking over the city!).  So I surrounded myself with Chinese friends, went to a Chinese church and continued this pattern throughout college and well into my working years and married life.  So, as you can see, my bubble became quite hardened (made more of concrete than water) and was almost impenetrable, albeit for a few non-Asian friends I met at work and grad school.

I never realized how limiting and harmful it is to live in a bubble until just this past year.  Hubby and I made the big decision to change churches – from a Chinese one to a multi-ethnic one – and this decision has blown my bubble to pieces!  It has been so liberating for me to slowly shed the prejudices I had before about people – prejudices that were there only because of how I perceived people to be based on their appearances.  But beyond their skin color, tattoos and clothes are people just like me.  Our stories may be different, but we are all people who have been made in God’s image and who struggle through life’s ups and downs.  More importantly, we are all worthy of acceptance, love and respect.  I’m ashamed to admit that I used to think that people who followed God had to be Chinese and square (like me!).  Nowadays, I try not to make judgments that are so shallow and instead try to get to know people for who they really are.  

The best thing about our transition out of the Chinese bubble is that our kids will grow up in a more balanced and accepting environment.  They will know that people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, attitudes and dress and to love people for their insides.  And they will have a better glimpse of what heaven is like – a place with all kinds of people who love God, not just square, Chinese ones!  😛

Image courtesy of digitalart/freedigitalphotos.net

Here’s Rob Thomas’s song, “Streetcorner Symphony“, a cool song about people of every color.  🙂

What bubble(s) do you find yourself in?

Unwritten

Now that E is getting older, he’s been asking more complicated questions and trying to wrap his head around bigger concepts. Once when we tried to explain to him that there was a time when Mama and Baba didn’t know one another, not even each other’s names, he asked, “Did Baba know his own name?” Lol. 🙂  His question got me thinking that it can be a strange idea for kids to grasp, that there was a time when their parents were not their parents. For kids, it’s hard to imagine their parents as individuals who lived and experienced disappointments, hurts, losses, successes and adventures before they entered the picture.

For myself, when I see pictures of my parents from their younger years or hear stories about their past, I find it easier to understand the people they have become, who they are and why they do what they do. Likewise, I hope that as E and C grow older and know more about hubby and me and our pre-parenting days, they too will understand us better. I hope they will understand that although I believed I was ready to have kids (yes, I was disillusioned!) I came into parenthood with a lot of baggage. My dreams of being a perfect mom were really just that – dreams, because I still had plenty of issues to work on and a lot of growing to do (and still do!!). With that said, I hope they will be gracious and forgive my parenting mistakes.  They can blame me all they want to their therapist, but I hope they end up learning from my mistakes and not repeating them!  😛  My wish is that when they become parents one day, they will be better parents than me – more patient, more nurturing, less square, more fun, less dysfunctional and overall, more mature.

So, where does that leave me? I know I’ll never be a perfect mom, but I know I can move on from my past and make changes to be a better parent and moreover, a better person each day. The best part about life is that everyone gets to write their own story and regardless of how it starts, it’s the middle and ending that count. And with God’s help, I am aiming to fill in my unwritten pages with stories of growth and hope.

Image courtesy of anankkml/freedigitialphotos.net

Check out the song “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield.  I like these lines the most: “We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can’t live that way” and “Live your life with arms wide open”.  🙂

What do you hope to write down in the unwritten pages of your life story?

Getting Out of My Own Way

I have always enjoyed writing, whether it be poetry, song lyrics or this blog(!) and have been happy and encouraged to receive positive feedback from people who have read my work.  However one of my dreams has been to have something of mine get published, so that I can have proof that my work meets professional standards (cause publishers have to be more objective than your family and friends!).  Recently I entered a children’s ebook writing contest and was disappointed to find out that I hadn’t made it to the final round of voting.  So it was a total and complete surprise to me when I got an email last week from the publisher telling me that they still want to publish my book!!  I was THRILLED and when I say thrilled, I mean I was doing a “happy dance” for two minutes straight and getting funny looks from E who has rarely seen me, his 2 square 2 be hip mom “cut loose” before!  🙂

My book!!  Buy it at meegenius.com!

It’s just so exciting and amazing for me to fulfill a goal that I never thought would be possible to reach.  I would say I’m usually a glass half-full or very full kind of person when it comes to other people’s lives, but when it comes to my own, my glass tends to run low.  This doesn’t mean I don’t try my best; when you are a recovering perfectionist, you of course put out your best effort.  But my pessimistic side is always at work; even now I half expect to receive an email from the publisher saying they have changed their minds! 😛  This is all because of my greatest fear – rejection!  And rejection means failure and failure only leaves you feeling like a deflated balloon and who wants to feel like that?

I know I got it kind of easy this time around, I mean you don’t usually reach a big goal on your first try.  I’m contemplating writing and submitting more work now (don’t worry, I’m not quitting my day job yet, haha), but I’m trying to get in the right mindset for it, knowing that I will very likely face rejection.  But like they (whoever they are!) said, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  So I’ll just take it step by step, with courage and hope and remind myself that if all else fails, I’ll at least have one book published in my name.  🙂

I just love this song, “Nothing Ever Happens” by Rachel Platten and the words of the chorus (it describes me perfectly).  I think it’s time for me to “get out of my own way”.

In what ways do you need to get out of your own way?

A Whole New World

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve heard people compare a newborn’s experience in this world to that of a person who travels and assimilates into a foreign country. For babies, there is a new language to learn and new customs to follow, but eventually they become familiar with it all. Well, I think the same can be said for new parents, that having a baby immediately transports you to what seems like a new planet and you find yourself learning and doing things you never imagined knowing or doing!

It occurred to me the other day that I now possess knowledge of a whole new set of vocabulary, words that unfortunately don’t make me sound more intellectual. Let me give you some examples: boppy, ergo, bumbo and bjorn. Google those words and you’ll see various baby products, all of which are supposed to make a parent’s life easier.  My brain also has a new compartment for all the sleep theories I’ve read up on – those by Dr. Sears, Dr. Ferber and Dr. Karp, to name a few. And I’m sure every new parent can recite the 5 S’s for calming a crying baby: shushing, swinging, swaddling, sucking and sighing – hm, actually that last one may be what parents end up doing when the first four don’t work! It’s no wonder my memory isn’t what it used to be because my brain is now full of baby lingo, baby concepts and anything else having to do with babies.
It’s interesting how being a parent changes your views on what’s important. One thing I never got excited about before I had kids was poo. Yes, you read that right. But poo was one of the things that hubby and I were so happy and relieved to see that first week after E was born because it meant his jaundice was getting better! And that was the same kind of excitement that I felt when both E and C poo’d in the potty for the first time! I even took pictures of those momentous occasions (gross, I know) so I could have proof that all the countless times of rushing back and forth to the bathroom had paid off! If you had told me before that bowel movements would mean so much to me, I would have asked you, “What planet are you from?!”  I can safely say that I have been assimilated into parenting’s strange ways. 🙂
So, it’s been 5 and a half years since I arrived in this brave new world. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been a part of an alien invasion and my mind and body have been taken captive by these small beings who showed up one day. It’s crazy how everything changes once you become a parent. But what was once strange and foreign seems normal and familiar now. And what was once a whole new world (of parenthood) is now a place I can call “home”.
It seems only fitting to include the song, “A Whole New World” (sung here by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle) from the movie Aladdin for this post. 🙂
What have you discovered since entering this whole new world of parenting?

Seasons of Love

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It’s that time of the year again when I find myself wondering, “Where did the year go?!”  I think time passes by especially fast when you have kids cause life is busy, busy, busy and you just look forward to the end of each day when you can lie down in bed and rest (this is assuming your kids sleep through the night so you can, too)!  But even though the year seems to fly by in a blink of an eye, the days that make up the year can sometimes drag on and on, especially when they are filled with diapers to change, kids to feed and entertain and chores to do.  And for some strange reason, time slows down considerably more during the hour right before hubby is supposed to arrive home from work. 😛

The other day I realized that I spend quite a bit of time waiting – waiting for the hours to pass by… waiting for the kids to grow up and be more independent… waiting to gain some of my freedom back.  But I realized that while I’m looking forward, I’m missing out on the present.  Sure, life now can be tedious and frustrating at times, but there are special parts to it, too that we will never get back again.  I remember there was one morning when hubby was eating breakfast with both E and C on his lap and he asked me to take a picture of them because the kids would never be that same age again.  I got out the camera (while rolling my eyes at how sentimental he is, hehe), but got to thinking that he was right.  Our once chubby babies (with non-existent wrists and ankles!) are now much taller and slimmer.  Their cute, sometimes incomprehensible baby talk has transformed into clear speech that is full of funny comments and big questions.  Before we know it, they will be talking on the phone with friends and driving us around and quite possibly, sleeping in their own rooms (that will be the day)!  

So this is a reminder to myself to be present and to fully live in the moment of today, this hour, this minute.  Here’s wishing you a very happy new year and may we all enjoy living the 525,600 minutes 2012 will bring!  🙂

I love musicals, and even though I haven’t seen Rent before, I really like this song, “Seasons of Love” (sung here by the movie cast).

How do you plan on spending this new year of 525,600 minutes?