Monday Mentionables: Lifetime Movie, One Word 365 & My Facebook Page!

Hi there, it’s Monday again! I know I said I was taking a break from blogging, but I happened to find time in the wee hours of the night to squeeze this in. 🙂 I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas (and if you don’t celebrate this holiday, hopefully you enjoyed your day off). 

Here are today’s mentionables…

1. Lifetime Movie. I know it’s past Christmas, but this movie, “Love at the Christmas Table” will still get you into the holiday spirit. Although it’s a Lifetime movie, several of the actors/actresses are well-known and the acting is very believable. It stars Danica McKellar (of The Wonder Years) and Dustin Milligan (of 90210 – the new one, not the one I grew up with), Lea Thompson (of Caroline in the City) and Scott Gordon-Patterson (of Gilmore Girls). The film follows the characters of Kat and Sam as they grow up together from preschoolers to adults in their early 30’s. It’s a sweet story and there is really good chemistry between the leading man and woman who happen to be 10 years apart in age in real life. I really enjoyed it, especially the extended dance scene in the middle of the movie. If you love chick flicks, you’ll want to check this one out. 🙂

2. One Word 365. As we approach the start of 2014, you might be thinking about making new year’s resolutions. But how about instead of making specific goals for yourself, you could just focus on one thing? This site promotes the idea of choosing one word to sum up how you want to be or live for one year. It’s a different, more encompassing view to take and perhaps something more attainable. What word would you choose for 2014?  

3. My Facebook Page. I am excited to announce my newly created Facebook page, 2square2behip! I hope to be able to communicate more with you lovely people there because it can get kind of lonely at times typing by myself on this side of the laptop screen. 🙂 If you so desire, please hop on over and converse with me there. I plan to use the space to share about makeovers of all kinds – home, fashion, hair, etc., but especially of the heart and mind. It would be great to hear suggestions and ideas from you, too!

C literally kissed my phone when she saw this picture!

Also, here’s an update about C’s beloved Chicky: It’s back! Well, actually this is not the original toy C lost, but a replacement we found on eBay (thank God for eBay!). It cost 3x more than the first one and took 1.5 weeks to arrive, but was totally worth the money and wait. C was ecstatic to receive it and finally stopped crying at bedtime every night! Now, if we can also get the original Chicky back, all will be right in C’s world again. 🙂

Alrighty, have a great week and happy new year!

Monday Mentionables: Chicken Wings, Holiday Shopping & Christmas Songs

Oh my, I think this post qualifies as an “Almost-Tuesday-Monday Mentionables”. Haha. I am realizing that blogging while my munchkins are home on Christmas break is going to be challenging (cue the broken record of whiny voices asking, “Mo-om, what can I do?”). So in the spirit of trying not to be perfect, as well as, making my best effort to be present with my kids, I’m giving myself a “blogging pass” for the rest of the year. I hope to recharge and come back with a bang in 2014, so stay tuned. 🙂

In the meantime, here are today’s mentionables…

1. Sweet & Spicy Rubbed Wings. Thanks to hubby, I have fallen in love with chicken wings from Wing Stop. But since I am also frugal (aka. cheap!), I decided it would be more cost efficient to make them myself. I found this recipe online and it was pretty easy to follow. I did make some changes though: I left out the spicy ingredients and the coffee for the kids’ sake… and the paprika for my wallet’s sake ($8 for a small bottle!)… and the cinnamon for hubby’s sake (he dislikes it). So, I guess I just made sweet rubbed wings. 😉 But everyone liked it! Let me know if you try the recipe as is and how it tastes. 

Sorry for the poor lighting – gotta change out the lightbulbs over the dining table!

2. Holiday Shopping. In light of all the retail therapy that is being done this week, let’s not forget the poor men who get dragged to the malls by their wife/girlfriend/sister/daughter. Check out this link for photos of miserable men and the dark side of holiday shopping. 🙂

3. Christmas Songs. Just wanted to share four of my favorite Christmas songs.

#1: Little Saint Nick by the Beach Boys

#2: All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey (performed here with Jimmy Fallon & The Roots)
 
#3: Underneath the Tree by Kelly Clarkson
 
#4: O Holy Night (sung here by Jackie Evancho)
Here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! 

Two Sides of the Same Coin

I am not superstitious at all, but I have to admit that this past Friday, the 13th had “bad luck” written all over it. What should have been an ordinary day went downhill when I got to C’s preschool to pick her up. As usual, I signed her out, met her at the playground fence and took her to the bathroom. Then we walked over to her cubby to retrieve her beloved chick toy that she brings to school every day.

Chicky going for a bike ride with C.

We always find it sitting inside the white painted cube, its round black eyes watching out for C to come over and joyfully scoop it up. This day though, it was no where to be found. My heart dropped as soon as I saw the empty cubby.

“Where’s Chicky?!” C asked anxiously.

We looked everywhere for that chick. In all the cubbies, on the floor, in the classrooms. We also asked the teachers and the office staff if they had seen it. With each passing minute, I could see the worry growing on C’s face. I felt her little hand tighten around mine as she began to whimper. Even though she was trying to be brave and hopeful, I could tell she was on the verge of tears.

I felt so helpless in that moment. And upset. Sure, I know Chicky is an inanimate object and can be replaced, but I also understand how much it has meant to C. She has loved and cared for this toy every day for almost two years, which to her is half a lifetime. Chicky has gone everywhere with our family – on vacations, to doctor’s appointments and restaurants and has slept in our bed every night. I knew this was a great loss for C. And as the reality of her loss began to sink in, she became more inconsolable as the day passed.

C sobbed at nap time that afternoon. As we lay on the bed beside her watching helplessly, E whispered to me, “Mom, what do we do?”

His genuine concern for his sister touched me. I sighed and replied, “I don’t know. Hopefully someone will find Chicky.” We had gone back to school earlier that day to hang up “Lost Chick” signs by the classroom, but now it was just a waiting game.

E thought for a moment and then said, “I know, let’s ask Bob (short for Baba) to buy her something before he comes home.” I nodded enthusiastically at his plan and gave him my phone to text hubby.

Hubby came home later with a stuffed blue bird. C brightened up a little at the sight of this new friend, but only until bedtime when she again cried herself to sleep.

I confided in hubby the next day about how unfair and sad the situation was. “Why would God let this happen to C? She’s so young and innocent. It breaks my heart to watch her cry!”

Then I sighed as a thought went through my mind. “The only bright side to this is seeing E be so nice to her.”

Her big brother had really stepped up his game to cheer her up. He’s usually kind to her (when he’s not teasing or harassing her), but on the day when he found out Chicky was missing, he kept thinking of ways to console her. He had offered to lend her one of his stuffed animals to keep until Chicky was found again. And I had witnessed him reach over and give C a long hug at bedtime.

Sigh. I don’t like it, but I have to admit that good can come out of the bad. And if you really think about it, if it were not for the bad things in life, we might not ever experience the good. Goodness – lived out in the forms of compassion, generosity and empathy – thrives the most where loss, pain and sadness exist. Such irony, isn’t it? But such harmony as well. The good and the bad are like two sides of the same coin.

This truth has brought some comfort to my heart. I hope it does the same for you.

I love Simon and Garfunkel’s song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water“, which talks about being there for a friend in need, something I was blessed to see lived out by our son this week. This cover by Tessanne Chin (who just got crowned as the winner of The Voice) is just amazing.

How have you seen good come out of the bad in your life?

P.S. I am very thankful that we only lost a toy and it was not anything worse. There are many other children out there who have experienced way more traumatic things, such as serious illness and loss. My heart goes out to them and their parents. I do not presume to even know what they are going through. I was just sharing my thoughts as a parent who hates to see her child in any kind of pain.

P.P.S. We think we know where Chicky is (it was last seen with a younger sibling of one of C’s classmates). We are just waiting to hear back from the family. Will keep you all posted! 🙂

Monday Mentionables: Pumpkin Chai Latte, Sing-Off & Carved Leaves

‘Tis the season for sneezing, coughing, aching and wallowing… 🙁 I love all the Christmas cheer in the air, but I hate the germs that accompany it. It seems I could only hold off the bugs for so long because I finally got sick over the weekend. Thankfully the rest of the family is holding up okay (probably cause they gave all their germs to me). 😉 Anyhow, my brain is a bit fuzzy so I’ll keep this short and sweet. 

Here are today’s mentionables… 
 
1. Pumpkin Chai Latte. I love Peet’s chai latte (sorry Starbucks’ lovers). The only thing that can match my love for that drink is their pumpkin chai latte. This is a seasonal offering though, so don’t wait to try it. 
Ahhh…I’m nursing my cold with a large one today. 🙂
2. Sing-Off. If you love good singing, you’ll love this show. It’s all acapella, which means no instruments at all. But the best part is that they use their voices to be the instruments. Last season’s winners, Pentatonix, are amazing. One of the members, Kevin, is a beatboxer who speaks Chinese better than me. 😉
 
3. Carved Leaves. I saw this link recently that shows just how creative and amazing artists can be. Check out these photos of art carved into leaves.

Happy Monday! Stay healthy everyone. 🙂

Hidden Treasures in Black Holes

We have a couch in our family room that sits against a wall with a window. It was passed down from my aunt and uncle to my parents and finally to us. Throughout the years in our home, it has survived the addition of one dog (who liked to dull his nails against the leather surface) and two kids (who like to use it as a spring board to jump off of). Hubby and I enjoy using the reclining parts of it (one on each side) to sit back and relax on while we play Mario wii on family game nights. While this couch has been a source of great memories and comfort to us, it has also brought me feelings of great fear and trepidation. Why, you wonder? Namely because of the black hole that exists underneath and behind it.

It wasn’t until recently when I started doing yoga that I understood the extent of our couch’s power. During one of my “downward dogs“, my eyes peered into the foot of the couch and to my surprise and horror, I saw a collection of dustballs and toys hidden there. Sure, I vacuum around the couch every week, but I admit I hadn’t gone farther than that. This explained why the couch had been gradually sucking lego pieces, balls and other knick knacks into its dark abyss.

I knew I had to do something about it. I commented to hubby one day that we should move the couch and clean up the stuff under it. And just to be clear, when I said we, I really meant him, but he didn’t get the message (he’s a smart one, haha). So, I took it upon myself to make it happen.

One morning while the munchkins were at school, I cleared the floor of toys and pushed the couch, one side at a time, towards the middle of the room. I took a deep breath then and peered behind it, bracing myself for whatever I would find. What I saw grossed me out a little, but also delighted me. There was some sticky, blackish stuff that I couldn’t really identify, but besides that I found one vest and jacket of C’s that I had been looking for and several missing toys. Oh, and quite a few marbles – yes, this would be the perfect time to insert a joke about missing all my marbles, but at least I only lost eight. 🙂

Image courtesy of Maggie Smith/freedigitalphotos.net

I set about cleaning the floor, first by removing the treasured items and throwing away the garbage, then by vacuuming and mopping it. By the time I finished, the floor was clean and shiny and beautiful. I pushed the couch back against the wall, exhaled and patted myself on the back.

Our couch taught me a lesson that day. It showed me that it’s so easy to live in denial and pretend everything is good when it’s not. I could have spent many more years vacuuming around the couch, making sure the floor around it was clean and simply ignore the dirt, grime and clutter that was gathering underneath it. No one would ever have to know or see what was lurking and growing there as long as the couch stayed put (and you didn’t do yoga next to it). But I did realize what was happening and I had to make the choice to do something about it or not.

It’s just like life. Often times there’s something we know we should do, but we keep putting it off. Maybe it’s a relationship that needs mending or a degree that needs to be finished or finding a new way to handle stress. Whatever the issue is, it exists and will continue to fester until you decide to deal with it. But if you choose to tackle the area and “clean it out”, you’ll come out stronger and a whole lot happier than before. And along the way you may even find hidden treasures there like I did.

This song, “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors is a good reminder to make every day the best it can be and to not let anything hold you back.

What is something you know you should do, but you keep putting it off? 

Monday Mentionables: Holiday Nail Art, Argan Oil & DIY Felt Ornaments

Hi there! It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. We actually started turning on our heater last week, which is a big move for my cheapy self. 😉 But now that we can see our breath in the mornings when we step outside the door and we actually have ice on the ground today(!), I think winter is officially here in California. Haha. 

I know this is nothing compared to what you Easterners face! LOL

Here are today’s mentionables… the winter edition. 🙂

1. Holiday Nail Art. I saw these nail polish ideas that are totally cute and in season. We’re talking about fingernails adorned with candy canes, snowflakes and Christmas trees! I don’t know if I have steady enough hands to attempt some of the designs, but #2 looks doable. Which ones do you like?

2. Argan Oil. The name of this oil reminds me of the Lord of the Rings for some reason, but it’s actually derived from the Argan tree in Southwestern Morocco. I first bought it for our dear son’s eczema, but it didn’t work as well as we had hoped it would, so I started using it myself after hearing about its amazing effects on your skin. It’s also a bit pricey so I definitely didn’t want to let it go to waste! Well, let me tell you, it is the best thing for winter skin! It is considered a dry oil because it absorbs quickly (within a minute or two). I use it at bedtime after washing my face. I’ll apply a few drops all over my face and neck and after a minute it literally feels softer and almost plumper, like a 4 year old’s skin (I have a 4 year old so I did the comparison). 🙂 I bought mine from here and am still on the first bottle. It’s definitely worth the money because a little goes a long way. Here’s also a site with 10 beauty uses for Argan Oil – it can be used for your hair and nails, too.

3. DIY Felt Ornaments. Over the weekend hubby and I went to his company’s Christmas party. My dear sister and bro-in-law graciously watched the munchkins for us and it turned out really well. The drive to and from the city (SF) took 3 hours(!!!!) due to traffic, so they had to entertain our kids for over 5 hours and almost till midnight! Everyone looked exhausted when we finally got home (think red eyes and droopy eyelids), but they had a blast. One of the things they did was make felt ornaments, which I had prepared ahead of time for them. I got some ideas online (one place to look is here) and cut out the pieces, then they glued them together. It was fun for me and them and much cheaper than buying pre-packaged ones from the store. Here’s what they made…

‘Tis the season for penguins, reindeers and Christmas trees!


Have a good week! Stay warm! 🙂

A Father’s Heart

Preface: What I’m writing about today was suggested by my mom. Since it was her idea and I am such a good listener (note my sarcasm!), it took me a while to agree to her suggestion. However, since my blog is all about hope, recovery and change, I think this is a perfect story to share.

My Ah-Ba (that’s Shanghainese for dad) and I are very much the same. Both introverts, both stubborn, both firstborns—need I say more? This is why we can sit in the same room and not say much and it’s okay; that’s just how we’re wired. He is a man of few words and he shows his love through his actions. He and my mom immigrated from Taiwan to America in their early 30’s and worked hard to build a life in a foreign country from scratch. He started out at a pizza restaurant, then took his licensing test to become an insurance agent and later on started his own business. Because of my parents’ sacrifices, my sister and I attended the best schools in the city and went on to complete college degrees—never having to worry about anything financially. Looking back, I can see so much non-verbal evidence of both my parents’ commitment to ensuring that we would have a better life than they did. And by God’s grace, they did pretty well.

In the Asian culture, this is what parents do. The older generation works and works to provide for the younger one. They work so their children always have a place to live, food on the table and a good education. Love is more often shown than spoken.

Which is why it shocked both my sister and me when our dad broke down one morning and poured out his heart to us.

Image courtesy of fotographic1980/freedigitalphotos.net

It was the perfect setting actually. We had just run a 5k, met our parents at the finish line and set out to have breakfast, just the four of us. Such an occasion had not happened since before I got married, which was more than a decade ago. Without the distractions of husbands or grandchildren, we sat down for a good old American meal (ie. eggs, toast and pancakes) … and unbeknownst to us at the time, a history lesson of a Chinese family.

As we ate in silence for a while, I could tell my dad had something on his mind. He face was thoughtful, his posture a bit tense. He set down his fork and began speaking, his sentences mixed with reflective pauses and deep breaths. He relayed information about his past, some of which I already knew and some of which shocked me. He spoke of his gratitude at having our family and my mom as his support all these years. Then he did the most unexpected thing, perhaps the thing I had been hoping to hear from him all these years. He apologized. With moist eyes and a faltering voice, he apologized for allowing his temper to overtake him in the past.

I was stunned by his admissions. I had stopped eating at that point because it was becoming hard to swallow past the lump in my throat. I could only indulge in the genuineness of his words then, which tasted sweeter than the syrup on my pancakes.

This was an epic moment in our family’s history. Even still, it was a bittersweet one. Bitter, because of the memories that were dredged up; sweet, because I was able to see how much my Ah-Ba has grown.

I know for myself that it is not easy to acknowledge my mistakes, let alone apologize for them. However, I also know that character is built over time, usually over the long stretch of days, years and decades. Sometimes through our own refining though, others get wounded in the process. But for the wounded, we are given the opportunity to practice love. It’s a strange cycle of life, not a pleasant one to experience, but definitely a necessary one.

I am thankful for how far my family has come and for my Ah-Ba’s heart, but most of all for love, which “covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

Here’s Jeremy Camp’s song, “Take You Back“, a song about ultimate forgiveness and love.

How have you witnessed love at work (in words and/or deeds) in your family?

Monday Mentionables: Baked Veggies, Stray Cats & Sound of Music

Welcome to the Monday after Thanksgiving, also known more recently as Cyber Monday, but I prefer to call it detox Monday. 😉 I hope you all had a restful and heart warming weekend with family and friends. My family and I had a good time eating, talking, eating and more eating these past few days. I certainly had my fill of turkey for a while, so I thought I’d focus today’s mentionables on VEGGIES. 🙂
 
1. Baked Veggies. Thankfully, I didn’t have to cook much for Thanksgiving, except for a veggie dish. I choose to bake them because they tend to turn out crispier and more appealing to a kid’s taste buds (think pseudo french fries). I did a random assortment of them for a dinner we went to at our cousins’ home (where a friend treated us to a Heritage turkey that was smoked and seriously the best turkey I’ve ever had!). Unfortunately, we were running late that night (what’s new?!) so I didn’t get a picture of the baked zucchini, mushrooms and carrots I made, but I did take a picture of some baked carrots I made another night this week.
These almost taste like yam fries, but are less heavy. I got the recipe here.

You can essentially bake any kind of veggies. The one that the kids love the most though (even our dear picky son!) is cauliflower

2. Stray Cats. Continuing on our theme of veggies, here’s a story I wanted to share about how vegetarians are likely made…
 
C is starting to pick up on words and being able to spell/read them. One of the first words she wanted to know how to spell was chick. Then came chicky and chicken. If you can’t tell, she loves chicks of all kinds. 😉 But with her newfound reading skills under her belt, she made a somewhat traumatic discovery yesterday. She came up to me and pulled me down to her level. With her warm breath tickling my ear, she asked, “Why does Meow Meow’s food say chicken on it?!”
 
Doh. You see, Meow Meow is this stray cat we inherited that has been living outside our house for the past year. We originally had been feeding these two other cats (which we named Bob and I forgot the other one’s name) that our neighbor had asked us to feed when he moved away. Long story short, those cats disappeared and this new one showed up. 
 
So, back to C’s discovery… she was appalled at the thought of a cat eating a poor chicken. I told her with a regretful look, “Yeah, sorry, some animals eat chickens.” Her little face fell at the thought. Then she exclaimed, “Some people eat chicken, too!”
 
Double doh. One of these days, we’ll need to explain to her that the Chinese word “ji” we’ve been using to refer to the meat we eat is the same word we use for her beloved chickens. We might have a vegetarian on our hands in a few years!

Here’s Meow Meow (sometimes referred to as Kitty – yes, we’re not very original when it comes to names, haha) venturing into our house.
Here’s Meow Meow eating her chicken (gasp!) breakfast.

3. Sound of Music. Okay, what does the Sound of Music have to do with veggies? Well, if you remember the opening musical number to the movie, it’s called “The Hills Are Alive“. Hills equal verdant vegetation. 🙂 Anyway, for those who loved the original Julie Andrews movie, you may be interested to know there’s a remake of the Broadway musical coming up this Thursday on NBC. The best part is that it will be a LIVE broadcast. I watched the “making of” video and was very impressed with the cast and the set. Oh, did I mention, Carrie Underwood is playing Maria? I definitely think this will be worth watching. 

Have a happy Monday, everyone! 🙂