Pushed Out of My Bubble

 

Image courtesy of Feelart/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Feelart/freedigitalphotos.net

Every morning C and I have a routine for getting up. Actually to be more accurate, C has a routine and I get dragged along for the ride. It goes something like this:

Me: “It’s 7:30, time to wake up!”

C: “Push it out, mom! Push it out!”

Then she proceeds to use her feet to propel me towards the edge of our family bed. I groan as her miniature sized toes poke indentations into my back. I also marvel at the strength of her pint sized will to do so. Even though she may be small, she doesn’t let her size or age stop her. That’s how she likes to do things, with purpose and passion. Ever since she was a baby we noticed she knows what she wants and she goes for it. When she has an objective, she formulates a plan to achieve it.

Which is why I was not completely surprised when she said this the other day as we were getting into the car, “I’m not sitting down until you say we can go to M’s house.”

Are you serious? But I could tell from the determined look in her big brown eyes that she was 100% serious.

We had been invited to her classmate’s house for a play date, but there was one glitch in the plan that would prevent us from going. E had a dentist appointment scheduled that same day.

Grrr! I really didn’t want to give in to her demands, but not for the reason you may think. It wasn’t so much about picking battles with my kid or having to rearrange my schedule to meet her wishes. The real truth I wasn’t all gung-ho about the play date was this: I didn’t want to meet new people.

In that moment, I realized how much my little girl pushes me to do things I don’t want to do. Things that make me uncomfortable like getting out of bed in the morning. Things an introverted and cautious person would rather not do. Things like pushing me to make new friends.

Would you believe I have met more people through my alter ego in the past few months than I have in all my years as a stay at home mom? For some reason (probably due to the X chromosome she didn’t get from me), she likes to talk and socialize. She has two really close girlfriends at preschool and several other female and male friends, too. E, on the other hand, never got invited to any play dates when he was in preschool and when he did receive an invitation to a classmate’s birthday party, he chose not to go. And I understood his decision perfectly. C, however, is a whole other mystery to me. 😉

But because I love my daughter and the fact that she is not like me in many ways, I changed E’s dentist appointment and said yes to the play date. I said yes to meeting three new moms and their seven sons. I kid you not. It was C and seven boys that day because the other girl who was supposed to go got sick. But my little fun-loving and brave daughter had no problems fitting right in and even said, “That was fun!” afterwards. And I admit it was. Once I pushed myself out of my little bubble of safety and isolation, I had a good time. I enjoyed talking to the other moms and learning about their families. I even talked about myself a little.

Now when I pick up C from preschool, I actually say hi to some of the other moms instead of keeping my eyes pasted to the ground. I’m learning to take baby steps to put myself out there and it feels good. And it’s all thanks to a little voice that keeps telling me to “Push it out, mom!” 🙂

I picked Wham’s song, “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” for this post because C wakes me up every day and it’s also fun and upbeat, just like her.

In what ways have you (or someone else) pushed yourself out of your comfort zone?

Monday Mentionables: Jitterbugs, Hip-hop Moms & Phyllo Dough

It is Monday… and boy was the morning crazy! For some reason C woke up on the wrong side of the bed and had a mini meltdown all the way downstairs until she got into hubby’s car and I closed the door. All this happened while she was wearing a glittery “Mom and Dad make me smile shirt”, which so did not apply this morning. Hubby and I exchanged bewildered glances through it all and I whispered to him, “Wait till she’s a teenager!”

I hope your Monday has gotten off to a better start. 🙂 Here are today’s mentionables…

1. Jitterbugs. We went to a local museum this weekend and made jitterbugs. Let me say that this museum is a bit nerdy as it’s on the grounds of a university (Go Bears!) and it specializes in science-y things. Which is why we learned how to make electric “bugs” with a motor and a AA battery. It was a fun and educational time learning about circuits and how they work. I think the kids liked the decorating part the most though.

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E’s is on the left; C’s is on the right.

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You could try this at home!

2. Hip-hop Moms. I saw this video going around Facebook the other day and thought is was so true and funny. Makes me want to start rappin’, too! Haha. Check it out here!

3. Phyllo Dough. I made turkey and cheese “turnovers” with Trader Joe’s phyllo dough this weekend for a potluck with old friends. If you like puff pastries, you’ll be happy to know you can make your own with phyllo dough. It’s easy to use – just defrost it overnight in the fridge, unwrap the dough (with dry hands or else the dough will stick), add your own insides (sweet or savory ingredients) and bake! I wish I had taken pictures of the finished product for you guys, but we had to rush out the door. Here are some recipes to get you started (warning: don’t look at the pictures on an empty stomach!).

As mentioned before on my Facebook page, I’m very excited to have my story, “Forced to Pause” published in Women’s Memoir’s new anthology. Special thanks to people who have bought the ebook already and for your encouraging feedback! I’m still waiting for the price to go down to $0.99 on February 1 (8AM PST) to buy it. 😉

Have a wonderful week!

Human Beings, Not Doings

I was listening to a sermon the other week when something our pastor said hit me like an overturned bucket of icy water on my head.

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“Why do you say you’re just a mom?”

I raised my eyebrows and my eyes darted quickly to my right and then to my left. Is he talking to me?! I wondered. How does he know?

Yes, how did he know? How did he know that ever since I quit my job and became a stay at home mom 7.5 years ago that I have labeled myself as “Just a mom”? That when people ask me, “So what do you do?”, my immediate reaction is to respond in a hesitant voice, “I, uh, stay at home.”

Why do I (and people in general) feel the need to base our worth on what we do? For moms, why is staying at home with the kids not enough? Maybe because in this world, we have been conditioned to base our value on what we do. We grow up thinking we need to get the best grades, go to the best school, secure the best jobs and make the most money. We do, do, do… until we are no longer human beings, but human doings.

With that in mind, another thing our pastor said that made me ponder was this: It’s not just the bad we do (that should concern us). It’s also the good we do that we do with the wrong motives.

For me, it’s the hectic scramble to clean the house – even at the expense of ignoring my kids – before guests arrive, so I look like I have it all together.

It’s the effort to say everything’s fine and redirect the conversation to the other person, so I don’t have to share about my struggles.

Lately, it’s the need to tack on a “I do some writing on the side” to the “I stay at home” response, so I can make myself sound more important.

There is nothing wrong with tidying the house, extending a listening ear to a friend or sharing about my writing endeavors. But when the reasons I do these things stem from a place of fear or pride, I fall into the trap of doing and not being.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of being a human doing. As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve had plenty of experience doing all the right things at all the right times. What I’ve learned is that when you’re constantly doing, there isn’t much room for error… or for enjoyment. You end up kind of like a zombie – alive, but not really living. And if you’ve ever seen a zombie movie, you know those usually don’t end well.

So I’m on a quest to start being – to be okay with who I am, to make mistakes, to let go of my need to appear calm, cool and collected all the time. It’s time to be a human being, not a human doing. I hope you will join me, too. 🙂

Demi Lovato’s song, “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen” is a great song for this post.

What do you need to let go of in order to be a human being, not a human doing?

Monday Mentionables: MLK, Jr. Quotes, Elephant and Piggie, Baked Salmon & Frozen Medley

Hi everyone, welcome to the start of a new week!

Here are today’s mentionables:

1. Quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr. In light of today’s holiday, I wanted to share 15 of MLK, Jr.’s most inspiring motivational quotes. He was truly a man who understood and lived out the power of love, change and perseverance. It’s hard to pick just one quote from this list that is the most inspiring to me because they all make me pause and reflect. Which one touches you the most?

2. Elephant and Piggie Books. My kids love these books by Mo Willems. In this series, you get to meet best buds Gerald (the elephant) and Piggie (the pig – haha). They are opposites in their personalities – Gerald is a bit high strung while Piggie is more laid back – which makes for lots of funny conversations. E and C both love We are in a Book and have borrowed it three times from the library already (which means I have read it at least nine times). 😉 You can check it out in this read aloud video of it here.

3. Easy Baked Salmon. I love baking because it’s the most no-hassle form of cooking in my opinion. I recently googled for a recipe that uses salmon, spinach and tomatoes (which I had in my fridge at the moment) and found a really easy and tasty one.

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The salmon came out super moist!

4. Frozen Medley. Have you seen the movie “Frozen” yet? I actually haven’t, but I feel like I have after listening to the soundtrack NON-STOP for about three hours at a Chinese restaurant yesterday (I was there having afternoon tea with a girlfriend). I think I know all the songs now, word for word – almost. 😉 Here’s a fun medley of several of the songs from the movie sung by three members of Pentatonix.

Alrighty, I’m off to rescue my munchkins from the TV! Have a great week!

A Better Spouse

Hubby recently told me that one of his friends said, “You married a good wife.”

My reaction to him was, “Huh, what are you saying about me behind my back?” and the one to myself was, Yeah, you go, girl!  😉

I think everyone enjoys getting complimented, right? We all like to feel good about ourselves and to look good to other people. So I was more than happy to hear that someone would think I’m a good wife. And to be honest, I’ve thought the same thing myself on occasion.

I cook, clean, do laundry, buy groceries, take care of the kids, listen to hubby vent, put up with his crazy work schedule, etc. 

I am a good wife!

I’ve even gone to the point of thinking, I’m not just good, I’m better. I’m the better spouse. I’m easier to live with. I don’t leave my socks in random places around the house. I’m so easy going. The list could go on and on. (And my head would grow bigger and bigger.)

I would likely have a very huge ego by now if it were not for an incident that happened one morning. I had just stepped out of a nice, hot shower and grabbed my towel off the rack when something in the trash can caught my eye. Lying on top of a bunch of wadded up tissues was a clump of long, wet hair. I leaned down to take a closer look and realized the black blob had once belonged to me. Over time, I had shed a long lost relative of Cousin Itt in the shower and someone had picked it up and thrown it into the trash. That someone had been my hubby.

In that instant the reality of the situation hit me as strongly as the cold air that had met me when I stepped out of the shower.

Are there things about me that annoy him, like my hair always clogging up the drain? Is there a slim possibility that I’m not as easy to live with after all?! (Gasp!)

Image courtesy of winnond/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of winnond/freedigitalphotos.net

I know my tendency to shed in the shower (and all over the house) is not that big of a deal. Just the fact that hubby discarded my hair without mentioning it shows it’s a minor issue for him. But likewise, hubby’s tendency to shed his socks around the house shouldn’t be a big deal either, yet I confess I have made it into one in the past. This got me thinking – could it be that one reason I believe I am a good wife is because hubby often chooses to overlook my imperfections? In actuality, I know there are things that I do or the way in which I do them that cause him to sigh and shake his head. However, he is quite patient with me and gives me grace as I grow. I, on the other hand, am not so kind. I would rather downplay my shortcomings and focus instead on his. Clever, huh? It’s the classic speck and log scenario, which I admit I fall prey to quite often throughout our marriage (Matthew 7:1-5).

What I’ve come to realize though is that marriage should not be about criticizing or comparing, but about cooperating and giving grace. When two people share the same roof, conflicts and disappointments are bound to happen. A harmonious relationship takes a lot of work and time to achieve. As a marriage goes through its growing pains, the point isn’t to figure out who is doing more or less in the relationship (cause it will never work out perfectly fairly). What matters is keeping the right perspective of our spouse.

When we choose to see our husband or wife as good – essentially as valuable and lovable – a lot of the things that annoy and irritate us will go by the wayside. It will become more natural to show patience and understanding on a daily basis. It will become easier to see the planks in our own eyes. It won’t be a big deal anymore to pick up socks off the floor or hair from the shower drain.

Because when it all comes down to it, the goal of marriage is not to focus on who is or is not the better spouse, but to become a better spouse.

Take a listen to John Legend’s song, “All of Me“. I like the line about loving all the “perfect imperfections”. 🙂

What perfect imperfections have you come to love about your spouse?

Monday Mentionables: Give It 100, Car Games & The Drop Box

Hi there everyone! It’s so nice to be here on my own blog site with a new simple and fresh design. It took me a while to find the right (not perfect, haha) template to go with, but I finally settled on this one. Hope you guys like it, too.

Here are today’s mentionables…

1. Give It 100. So, there’s a new trend going around the web called Give It 100. It was started by this girl who wanted to learn how to dance in 100 days. She videotaped herself practicing each day and uploaded the videos to YouTube and voila – the rest is history. (Hearing about all those YouTube success stories is quite amazing, don’t you think?) There are quite a few people posting about their 100 day challenge, which includes everything from weight loss (and loving oneself) to flossing (hmm?) to one of my favorites, trying to get out of the house without yelling (as posted by a self-proclaimed perfectionistic mom of 2 – whew, glad I’m not the only one!).

What would you pick to practice for 100 days? Even if you don’t videotape yourself and post it, you could still try it out. I think mine would be to laugh. 🙂

2. Car Games. Now one way I try to survive long (or short) car rides with the kids is to read books to them (while hubby is driving of course); another way is to play games. I thought of sharing a few that we play and asking if you guys have ideas, too (cause the kids are getting bored of these, haha).

Rhyming game – One person says a word, for example “cat” and the others have to think of words that rhyme with it (ie. bat, hat, sat). This game secretly teaches kids about vowel and consonant sounds and gets their creativity flowing as they try to make up new words (ie. zat).

Animal guessing game – One person thinks of an animal and the others need to guess what it is.

Example: “Does it live in the water?” – No. “What does it eat?” – Bananas. “What color is it?” – Brown. “Does it have 2 feet or 4?” – 2.

Any guesses on what animal I’m thinking of? 😉

Make a Story game – One person begins a story and the next person continues it and so on until you decide to stop.

Example: Person #1 – Once upon a time there was a dog named Woof. Person #2 – Woof went to the park and met a squirrel named Bushy. He asked Bushy, “Do you want to play catch?” Person #3 – etc.

All of these games can be tailored to your child’s age and can be a lot of fun for the parents, too.

3. The Drop Box. I saw this video being shared on Facebook last week and was really glad I watched it. This is the story of Pastor Lee, a man in Korea who, along with his wife, opened up an orphanage out of his own home. He created a “Drop Box” at the orphanage for people who no longer could care for their babies (many of the disabled) to drop them off there, no questions asked. I am so moved by his dedication, generosity and love. He also reminds me of my Grandpa. To watch the video and learn more about Pastor Lee’s work, go here.

Oh and good news, Chicky (the original) made it home! C is beyond relieved and overjoyed. So are we. 🙂

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Happy Monday everyone! 🙂

Faith in the Outcome

I learned a lot during my time in college. I learned how quickly mold grows in a refrigerator; the power of a youthful metabolism to digest a whole dinner at 6PM and require another meal at midnight; the blessing of friendships made and kept 15+ years after graduation; and that I drool when I sleep (as my friends so kindly informed me). I may also have gleaned a theory or two about Psychology along the way, since that was my major. Yet, after four years of higher learning, I must admit there is one important lesson I learned in college that was not from a lecture hall and a professor, but from my own apartment and friends.

During my last two years of college, I was fortunate to live with three dear girlfriends in our own apartment. We had so much fun doing things together – late night talking, studying, eating, cooking, praying, singing, partying and growing. We even had one session of haircutting, thanks to our adventurous roomie R who decided out of the blue one evening to cut her hair. When I say out of the blue, I mean we didn’t even have proper haircutting tools around, but we made do with what we had. 

That evening, R sat down on a dining room chair and another friend took the scissors and a comb in his hands. Now, this was not just a trim she wanted. R wanted a major change, one that would transform the locks that fell to the middle of her back into a bob

Suffice it to say, we were shocked at her decision. “Are you sure you want it that short?” we collectively asked.

“Yes, cut it!” R answered.

Image courtesy of kibsri/freedigitalphotos.net

So our friend began to cut R’s hair. And cut. And cut. Throughout the ordeal, I remember I felt very anxious and worried that the outcome would be… to be honest, disastrous. I just couldn’t envision a good outcome based on what I was witnessing. 

Snip, snip, snip! 

Long, thick, black hair fell to the laminate floor… clump after clump. By the end of the haircut, it looked like a little black animal had formed at our feet. R’s remaining hair, having been sprayed with water, stuck plastered to her head, limp and lifeless. And it was short – cut to the chin short!

I’m sure I had worry lines all across my forehead by then, but R had a bright smile on her face. That smile told me she still confidently believed in her decision to chop off her hair. She ran off to get cleaned up and style her new do. We heard the hair dryer whir for a few minutes and then the door to the bathroom opened.

When R came out, I let out a big sigh and a cheer. Her new hairstyle looked GREAT. She had blown it out so there was volume and movement to her hair. The bob framed her face well and showed off her dimples. Bottom line, the new haircut looked super cute! 

Now, what was the lesson I learned in all this, you ask?

It’s this: When we take the risk to make a change, it’s our faith in the outcome that helps us persevere through the uncertainty and discomfort of the process. 

For me, this has has looked like…

Believing that subjecting myself to the “torture” of yoga will make me stronger and more flexible enables me to push through each agonizing pose and welcome each bead of sweat. 

Knowing that humility and cooperation are keys to a healthy and happy marriage gave me the motivation I needed to apologize to hubby for my bad attitude the other day.

Hoping that my kids will learn to value love above perfection reminds me to bite my tongue and respond graciously whenever one of them spills something on accident.

What I’ve learned is that makings changes in your life takes guts. But those small or big changes in your life – the “makeovers” of your health or home or hair or heart – are a lot easier to make when you have faith that the outcome will be worth the process. 

Here’s Sara Groves’ song, “It’s Going to be Alright”.

What changes have you made in your life where you knew the outcome would be worth the process?


P.S. You may wonder, what if R’s haircut really hadn’t turned out so well? Well, for one, I wouldn’t be using it as an analogy in this post! 🙂 But thankfully it did, so no worries there!

Monday Mentionables: Mojitos, Start Marriage Right & Baking Soda

It’s the first day back to school for the munchkins after two weeks at home!!!! (How many exclamation marks can I use here?) I am enjoying some much needed quiet time and it feels so nice. 🙂 I did enjoy our time together though and will miss the “go with the flow”, non-routine-ness of the break, but I do believe distance also makes the heart grow fonder. 😉

Now on to the first Monday Mentionables of 2014:

1. Mojitos. Hubby and I have never been big drinkers, but there are a few drinks we do like from time to time. For me, I love pina coladas because pineapples remind me of Hawaii and for him, it is the mojito. Now since I am frugal at heart, I decided to try my hand at bartending and make a mojito for him at home. I looked up the recipe online, bought the ingredients and gave it a go. I learned the secret to a yummy mojito is in the simple syrup, which you make by boiling equal parts water and sugar and then steeping some mint leaves in it for a hour. 

Steeping the mint leaves from our backyard, which grow like weeds!

If you are not into alcoholic beverages, but you do love the taste of mint, you could use the syrup for other drinks as well (hubby tried it with tea). 

2. Start Marriage Right. I am so thrilled to tell you that I got my first writing “gig”! I am now a regular (monthly) contributor for a cool website about marriage. Start Marriage Right is a great resource for those who are single (and wanting to get married), dating, engaged and newly married. I actually think those who are past the honeymoon period (myself included) can benefit greatly from all the advice and encouragement there, too. I don’t profess to be an expert on marriage (hubby can vouch for that!), but I am happy and honored to be able to share what I have learned and experienced. You can read my first article here.

3. Baking Soda. I think the best cleaning products are cheap and all natural, that’s why I love baking soda. I bought two big bags of the stuff from Costco a while back and still haven’t gone through them yet. Check out this link for 51 uses for baking soda! Did you know you can use it to treat insect bites (#7), clean batteries (#28) and as a fruit and veggie scrub (#51)?

And here’s a news flash for you all: I have decided it’s time this blog had its own home! So instead of renting space at Blogger.com, 2square2behip will be moving to its own site. I am in the process of migrating everything to the new domain name and will hopefully have it up and running in a few weeks. I’ll keep you updated here as well as on my Facebook page!

Thanks for reading and making my blogging time fun and worthwhile! 🙂 Have a wonderful week!

One Word for 2013 & 2014

One word. So much can be said with just one word. Some words, of course, may be more weighty in their meanings, while others are more simple and to the point. But have you noticed that one word in a dictionary typically needs several more words to define it? Many words even have three or four definitions attached to them, broadening the scope of the meaning. That’s the amazing power and beauty of words. That’s why I love writing.

Just the other day, the mom of one of C’s friends asked me, “Why writing? How did you get into that?” 

I smiled and stopped myself from laughing out loud.

It wasn’t the question she asked that made me want to chuckle. It was the wide-eyed, curious expression she wore on her face. You would think I had told her I did belly dancing for a living (no offense to belly dancers who I think are crazy talented and entertaining). 

“I’ve always like to write,” I replied. “I don’t like to talk, but I like to write.”

I could have gone on to say more, but it’s not easy to have an extended conversation when you’re chasing preschoolers around a park. Even if I had, it’s hard to put into words (ironic, for a writer, I know!) what writing means to me. I imagine it’s like a butterfly discovering its wings for the first time and realizing it is no longer confined to the ground. For me, writing is like being set free from the trappings of a cocoon to float into the sky. Expressing myself this way makes me happy and for that, I’m grateful.

Image courtesy of Eddy Van 3000 from in Flanders fields – B – United Tribes ov Europe


I’m grateful God gave me this passion and for the opportunities to see it come to life again. Writing came back into my life a few years ago, and when I say it returned to me, I mean just that. I hadn’t thought about writing for a long time and hadn’t needed to do any since graduate school. But one day when I decided to clean out an upstairs closet, I found a story I had written from my youth (literally from high school). The next day, hubby heard about a children’s book contest and told me about it. Long story short, my entry didn’t win, but the publisher still decided to take my story and turn it into a picture e-book. Yay!

Now, I don’t believe in coincidences because the world is too messy of a place for things to fall exactly into place by chance. But I do believe in God’s redeeming power. And redeem is the one word I think of when I look back on this past year. 

re·deem

 transitive verb \ri-ˈdēm\

: to make (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) better or more acceptable

: to exchange (something, such as a coupon or lottery ticket) for money, an award, etc.

: to buy back (something, such as a stock or bond)

You see, there was a time when I was given the opportunity to apply for the honors English class at my high school. I was not your typical Asian student; I worked hard and got almost straight A’s, but I didn’t excel in any subject area enough to be in the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program… except maybe in English. My teacher recognized this and gave me and another classmate the chance to move up. Unfortunately, she made it in and I didn’t. But what held me back wasn’t my writing skills; it was my shy personality and lack of class participation. 

Grrr. 🙁 That incident brings about some regret, but it is what it is. However it serves as a great reminder that things can change. Because ironically enough, the very same story that got published was one I wrote in that English class 20 years ago, the class that I felt stuck in because I couldn’t advance to the honors class. God took that disappointment and made it into something good. That’s what the word redeem means to me.

This past year was full of redemptive moments; I blogged about a major one here. My writing journey has been another one. It has been an up and down adventure mixed with celebratory dancing one day and head-in-my-hands groaning the next. Throughout it all I have learned that God is faithful and is always doing his redeeming work, which I think is His best kind of work. 🙂

I was going to blog about my one word for this year, but since hindsight is 20/20, it was easier to think of one for last year. So, my word for 2103 is redeemed. 

And now that I’ve seen so much of what God has done this past year, I have more faith for this new year. So, my one word for 2014 is believe.

Here’s a great song about believing – “When You Believe” by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston (such beautiful voices!). 

What is your one word for this past year or this new year?