A Letter to My Munchkins from their Spidey-Mama

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Dear Munchkins,

As your parent, I feel a little bit like Spiderman. It’s probably because I have a really strong “Spidey-sense” (aka. Mom-with-eyes-on-the-back-of-her-head-skills), but even more, I am left at times feeling like I have too much power. Power to influence your precious hearts and minds in how you see the world. Power in shaping you to be people who will hopefully not only be good citizens, but know how to live a life worth living. And like Spiderman says, because I have so much power in my hands, I feel a great sense of responsibility, too.

I know it is my responsibility to teach you right from wrong. Since I’m a rule-based, square kind of gal, that comes easily to me. But one thing that’s not in my nature to do is to step out of my comfort zone. However, that is the one thing I hope we can learn to do together.

I want you to know that I like to be comfortable, to hang out with people I am familiar with, to go places I’ve gone before, and to do things I’m used to doing. To do otherwise takes a lot of guts and conviction, two things I don’t have a lot of. (Thankfully, your Baba does.)

As I get older (and a little more wiser), I’ve learned a few things. One, life is a lot more complicated than I wish it was. Two, people (myself included) are a lot more messy than we would like them to be. Three, God loves us all the same, through whatever complicated life circumstance we may be in and despite how messy we are at the moment.

This is why I’m learning to lift up my head, open up my eyes and look outside of my bubble more often. This is why I chose to see the man standing at the side of the freeway exit with a sign that said, “Lost my job. Have 3 daughters. Please help.” And to listen to the woman standing outside the supermarket who told us about the abusive relationship she just got out of and the 4 kids she has to take care of on her own. And to talk to the man sitting outside Panera who so humbly asked, “Could you get me something to eat?”

I’ll be the first to admit that I used to (and sometimes still do) pass people by. But there came a point in my life (probably after I became your mama), when I knew I had to start caring. Because if I don’t show compassion to those in need, you likely won’t either.

What began as a “should” on my part grew (and continues to grow) into a “want”. As I see, listen and talk to the men and women we meet, I am learning that they are people, too. They are someone’s son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister. They have a name, a heart and a story.

Though you are both little now, you have great big hearts. Hearts that exclaim, “That person’s holding a sign. Give him some money!” whenever we see a person in need. Hearts that are open to helping and caring for others anytime, anywhere. Hearts that impress me and give me hope that the meaningful things I believe and do are rubbing off on you.

I hope you know that superheroes don’t all wear tights or capes or masks. They come in all shapes and sizes, especially pint sizes. I know this is true because you, munchkins, rescue my heart from denial, selfishness and complacency each and every day.

You are my great, big reminders to live a life of love.

xoxo,

Your friendly neighborhood Spidey-Mama

Take a listen to Sara Bareilles’ song, “Bottle It Up”. I like the part of the chorus that says, “The only thing worth trying to be is love.”

Who do you have a hard time showing love to? 

Multi-tasking = An Overtaxed Brain

There comes a point in your life (likely when you’ve reached the summit of the proverbial hill) when you start diagnosing your own medical issues. This happened to me about a month ago when I began doing research (aka. googling) on some of the “symptoms” I seemed to be exhibiting. I brought up my suspicions with my doctor at a routine check-up and this was the gist of our conversation …

Me: “I think my thyroid levels might be low. Is that what’s causing my high cholesterol, slight weight gain in the past year and my fuzzy brain? I have a hard time remembering simple words that I want to use.”

Doc (with a matter-of-fact look): “No, your levels are normal. Your brain is probably just overtaxed. It happens a lot to people who multi-task, like women. We try to take care of the house, a job, the kids, etc. It’s a lot for your brain to juggle.”

Hmm. No kidding.

I came away from that appointment a bit relieved that my hormones were in sync (though disappointed that I now had to blame my weight gain on the extra sweets I had been eating, haha), but also concerned that I might never get my brain back to normal. Because I’ll be the first one to admit that I am great at multi-tasking. I’m talking about being able to nurse a newborn and cut a napping toddler’s hair at the same time. Being able to listen – and absorb – most of what two little individuals are simultaneously telling me and have an answer for both of them. Simply put, I’m a “doing a load of laundry while cooking dinner while wiping a child’s bottom while opening the mail while crafting my next article in my head while feeding the pet guinea pigs while unloading the dishwasher” kind of multi-tasker. (All you moms out there know I’m only slightly exaggerating!)

Even though I may pride myself on being able to do a bazillion things at once, I have to say the time has come when I’m starting to question whether or not I really want to be a chicken. You know the one I’m talking about – the chicken running around with its head cut off. That’s not a pretty image to conjure up, literally or figuratively.

Couldn't find a picture of a headless chicken running, so this will have to do! :)

Couldn’t find a picture of a headless chicken running, so this will have to do! 🙂

It’s been gradually dawning on me that my brain might really be overtaxed. I realized this when I forgot to pay a credit card bill on time – two months in a row. And the other week when I picked up a pot of tea and almost poured what I thought was soy sauce into the dish of wasabi I was using for my sushi. And most recently, this morning when I woke up and for the life of me could not remember the name of an acquaintance hubby and I were just talking about last night. (It finally came to me ten minutes later after I ran through a whole list of names in my head.)

Sigh, I think it’s safe to say that we have all wandered around like a headless chicken before. Maybe even in this moment you are feeling rather “fowly” as you attempt to simultaneously read this post, eat lunch and make a phone call or two. (I’ll admit I scheduled an orthodontist and an ophthalmologist appointment while I typed this up!) If so, it’s time to give our cerebrums a break.

Let’s remember to focus more on being, than doing. To remind ourselves that the world will not fall apart (and that thing or multiple things we have to do will still be waiting for us) if we take off our multi-tasking hats for a little while. For me, it was telling myself that it would be okay to write this blog post one day later than I meant to because sometimes schedules need to be thrown out the window. 😉

And just how do we rest our brains? Maybe by spending a few minutes unwinding with a good book. Going on a walk and listening to the birds sing. Turning on the radio and dancing like no one’s watching (even if you’re stuck in traffic). Setting aside some time at the start or end of the day to pray and just be still. Taking some deep breaths and pausing for a moment.

Ahh. I feel a little more rested just by thinking about resting. 🙂

So let’s try to slow down a bit today. Take a moment to rest and renew your brain. Cause if it’s headless poultry you’re after, it’d be best to take a trip to the market than to become one yourself.

Take a listen to Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay“, that reminds us to “waste our time” once in a while. Here’s also a cover of the same song by Sara Bareilles.

What do you do to rest your overtaxed brain?

How to Write a Novel in Just 21 Steps

I was inspired by this blog post, “How to take a baby to the pool in just 21 steps” to write my own 21 step outline. Since I don’t have a baby to take to a pool, I thought I’d do one on “How to write a novel in just 21 steps”.  🙂 Here we go…

Image courtesy of adamr/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr/freedigitalphotos.net

1. Get inspired. This usually means being struck by a lightbulb (ding!) idea while you are in the shower. The best ideas often originate in the shower, don’t you agree?

2. Start creating. Make up the who, what, where, when and why of your story. Get a good sense of who your characters are, what they look like and how they talk and act. Base them off of real people in your life (but change a few details so the real people don’t get a complex should they read your story one day). 🙂

3. Start writing. This is probably the hardest part because you actually have to take action.

4. Keep writing. I’ve heard that it’s best to just get the first draft down on paper and not worry about the grammar, etc. This usually doesn’t work for perfectionists though who get bogged down by the nitty gritty stuff, but try getting the words down and don’t look back (for now!).

5. Keep creating. Continue making up the story while you drive the kids to school, stand in line at the store or cook dinner.

6. Get inspired again. Sometimes writer’s block happens and your characters are stuck in limbo with no place to go. Read books, watch a movie or TV show to gain some new ideas.

7. Sigh.

8. Moan.

9. And groan…because your writer’s block has turned into a huge boulder.

10. Pray!

11. Get back to writing.

12. Repeat steps 4 through 11. Several times.

13. Get feedback. This is another scary, but essential, step. Join a critique group if you haven’t yet and share your story with them. Ask for honest and constructive feedback and be ready to make changes.

14. Make changes.

15. Have a mid-book crisis. This often occurs when you decide to share your story with your husband who tells you it’s a good story, but he’d add more drama to it and make the characters completely different. Upon hearing his ideas, you decide he might have a point and you may need to rewrite half the book.

16. Wallow in self-pity. This usually involves lying on the bed and contemplating ditching your entire story and never writing another novel again.

17. Come to your senses. Realize this is your story and not anyone else’s (namely your hubby’s). 😉 Decide to write what you are happy with.

18. Finish the story.

19. Read your story from start to finish.

20. Start editing. And editing. Repeat this step a million, zillion times.

21. Get more feedback. Find beta readers who are willing to read the whole book and give you feedback. After receiving their feedback, repeat steps 19 and 20.

Whew! I’m ready to take a nap now. 🙂 Well, the good news is that I have made it to step 21. I’ve also gotten the cover art done for the book and am putting the finishing touches on the story now. I can’t wait to share it all with you guys. Soon, I promise!

Now take a listen to Sara Bareilles’ song, “I Wanna Be Like Me“, which is a good reminder to believe in yourself and your own creativity (I’m referring to steps 15-17). 😉

Now that I’ve shared my 21 steps, it’s time for you to share yours. Pick something you are currently working on and write down your 21-step process. Share it on your blog or send me an email at mamaho@2square2behip.com and I’ll post it here!

My Real Life Love Story

As some of you may know, I’ve been working on an adult fiction book for about a year now. I spend much of my day (and some wee hours of the night) thinking, imagining, and trying to breathe life into a love story on “paper”. If you were to look at my computer screen, you would see multiple windows open across the top: Google docs (where I store the literary products of my blood, sweat and tears; AutoCrit.com (a cool online editing tool); Thesaurus.com (for looking up synonyms of words I tend to overuse); YouTube (for playing cheesy love songs in the background); and Facebook (for moments of writer’s block). Add my creative juices to the mix and I’ve got the perfect ingredients for writing romance, right?

Um, maybe.

One thing I’ve learned through my writing endeavors is that you can only write what you know. Sure, fiction allows for a lot of room to invent new characters and places, but the heart of a love story is still about the romance. Which makes me wonder if I should be writing romance at all because truth be told, I’m not a very romantic person. I’m a little too structured to do anything spontaneous. I’m much too cheap to spend money on extravagant things. I’m way too square to behave passionately. 😉

This poses a problem since romance is all about throwing caution to the wind, laying everything on the line, and – this is for all you closet Beliebers out there – believing you can survive starvation, homelessness and bankruptcy because you have love (sigh! haha). Even if it is a bit exaggerated, this idea of romance is what you hope love stories are made of.

So how in the world does an unromantic gal like me find inspiration for a romantic novel?

Simply put, from my own love story. 🙂 Let me share it with you now.

Hubby and I met at church when he and I were 25 and 23 respectively, but our paths had actually crossed about a decade earlier on the final day of a joint church retreat. Although I don’t have the best memory, I distinctly remember noticing the slim, self-assured guy preparing to take our group picture and how he ran over to stand about five feet from me before the camera clicked. Years later after we were married, a friend of ours showed us the photo from that summer day and pointed out that, sure enough, hubby was the photographer who had caught my eye as a teenager.

When we officially met as adults, I remember exchanging names, shaking hands, and wondering if he was younger than me (we both looked like babies back then!). Over the course of a few months, we exchanged numbers from our very first cell phones (which were the size of today’s landlines), emailed each other every day (this was pre-Facebook), and eventually had “The Talk”. Fast forward a year and a half later, he took my parents out for dinner (without my knowledge) and asked for their blessing to marry me. During the week he proposed, he woke up early every day to surprise me with roses and cards on my car windshield and ended the week with a beautiful bouquet delivered to my workplace. That Saturday he took me out to dinner at the restaurant where we had our first date, then to a hilltop overlooking the city skyline. There he turned on the tape deck of his blue Mitsubishi Eclipse, sang his proposal to the tune of a song I liked, and presented me with a ring. I said “Yes!” and the rest, like they say, is history. 🙂

This was hubby's surprise for me for our 10th anniversary. Yes, I think he's the romantic one between the two of us!

Hubby reenacted “proposal week” for our 10th anniversary – the trail led down the stairs to a vase of roses. Yes, I think he’s the romantic one between the two of us!

I share these memories with you because it helps me remember the wonder and thrill of young love. Not only does reliving the past provide great inspiration for my book, but it also injects a new zest for romance in real life, too – specifically in my marriage. I’m reminded to treasure the man whose bright smile I fell in love with. To stand by the vows I spoke to him thirteen years ago (come next Monday). To see the best in him even when we drive each other crazy. And to choose to fall in love with him over and over again.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll grow a romantic bone or two in the process. 🙂

Take a listen to Sara Bareilles’ new love song, “I Choose You“. May the lyrics prompt you to remember your own love story.

How did you and your spouse meet and fall in love? How do you continue to keep the romance alive in your relationship? Please share – I would love to hear your stories. 🙂

Let The Words Fall Out

I am reposting this piece so I can participate in an online Writing Contest: ‘You Are A Writer’, held by Positive Writer. Thanks for reading!

I was at the dentist’s office recently and I had to fill out the customary forms. I wrote down the usual 411 – name, address and phone number. Then I came to this line:


Occupation _______________________________________________


I considered leaving it empty or putting down “none”, which is what I’ve been doing for the past 6+ years ever since I became a stay at home mom (not that being a SAHM is not real work, don’t get me wrong – it’s just not the kind of job where you would have a work phone number to jot down next to it). But that day, I decided to be different. I chose to fill in the blank. 


Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net

I put down “Writer”. 

I smiled cautiously when I read the word in my mind. Then I started wondering if I was justified in calling myself one.


Sure, I love to write. Actually, I really, really love to write. The feeling I get from piecing together a story and choosing the right words is almost euphoric. Sometimes my mood is a little too tied into my writing, which is not a good thing when writer’s block occurs. But the rest of the time, I enjoy the process and feel just plain happy and privileged to be able to do it.


Maybe this is what being a writer is all about. Someone who enjoys the craft and tries to do it regularly. Someone who has gotten positive feedback from others on her work, has been published a few times, and has won a writing contest (thanks for letting me bask in the limelight a little here!). Someone who has yet to get paid for her efforts, but is still hopeful it will happen one day. 


Most of all, being a writer means expressing your thoughts, sharing your convictions, relaying some of the lessons that you’ve learned, and making people ponder. Being a writer means being honest and brave enough to say what’s on your mind, patient enough when the results aren’t what you hoped for, and persevering enough to keep doing what you love.


If this is what being a writer is all about, then sign me up. On second thought, it seems that I already signed myself up that day at the dentist’s office. 🙂


This is a new song by Sara Bareilles (love her songwriting!) called “Brave“. I can really relate to the chorus: “Say what you want to say, let the words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave.” Perfect words for a writer!

What words are you holding in that you need to get out?

Monday Mentionables: Monsters, Literary Mama & Sara Bareilles

Happy Monday! 🙂  Hopefully you all had a good almost 4 day weekend.

Here are today’s mentionables:


1. I Need My Monster, written by Amanda Noll and illustrated by Howard McWilliam, is a very cute and creative bedtime or anytime story. We checked it out from the library (free stuff is always good!) and we’ve read it at least 6 times because Chloe likes it so much. The book is about a little boy named Ethan whose under-the-bed monster named Gabe has gone fishing for the week. Four substitute monsters show up, but he rejects each one because they are not scary enough to keep him sleeping in bed. The pictures are funny and really bring the monsters to life. Check out a read-aloud video of the book here (fast forward to 49 seconds to start listening to the story).

Yes, this kid has a big head. 🙂

2. Literary Mama. In a nutshell, this is a website for moms who like to read and write. I really enjoy reading the creative nonfiction here; they are so good that they inspire and intimidate me at the same time! I decided to start off small and submit a blog post to them instead of an essay and amazingly enough, they are going to publish it in October! Yay! I was walking on air the day I found out. 🙂

3. Sara Bareilles. I absolutely love her songs. She can convey such heartfelt emotions and truths with her words. Some of her songs are funny and upbeat; others are just gut-wrenching. “Hold My Heart” is one of the latter and is one of my favorite songs.

If that one is too emo for you, here’s another one of her songs, “Gonna Get Over You” to cheer you up!
Have a wonderful week! 🙂

Uncharted Road of Life

Image courtesy of Idea go/freedigitalphotos.net

A while back as I was driving to pick up E from school, I encountered some construction on the road and saw a sign that read, Road work ahead. Expect delays. I sighed (and smiled) as traffic started to slow down and thought about how smart it was for the workers to warn us that we’d need to be patient (as if warning us would make us more patient, but you can’t blame them for trying!).

I thought about how nice it would be to have a sign like that about life, one which reads: Life ahead. Expect delays. It’s a fact that we all encounter delays in life, in the form of speed bumps, pot holes, U-turns, windy roads, detours, deer crossing – metaphorically speaking of course.  🙂 Maybe if we knew to expect these delays as we traveled along the uncharted road of life, we wouldn’t feel so much like we were being thrown off course all the time.

In the past five years we’ve faced many delays in parenting our high need kid. But if you know E and how sensitive, cautious and particular he is, you would understand why it takes him a lot longer to adjust to new situations and new people than it does for other kids. You wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he didn’t sleep through the night until he was almost 2. It also makes sense that it took him a whole year to get used to going to preschool! We are so thankful there are no more “I don’t want to go to school!” conversations at bedtime and no more crying at school now; in fact he likes school and is making friends.  🙂

Our current “roadblock” is related to E’s schooling, more specifically our decision to keep him in preschool an extra year (aka. redshirting). I (especially the “tiger mom” in me!) had never expected this delay, but I know it’s the best thing for E to give him more time to build his confidence and to grow socially. Several of my teacher friends say it will be good for him in the long run and wished more parents would do the same for their kids. I seem to be the only one having a hard time with this cause I don’t want him to fall behind and I don’t like having to explain to people why E will not be going to kindergarten this year. I’m thankful though that he’s small in stature (he’s got hubby and me to thank for that!) so he’ll fit in well with his younger classmates.

I guess I just need to accept that there are good and necessary reasons for life’s delays and expect them to occur instead of getting frustrated when I’m “stuck in traffic”. After all, those roads do become a lot smoother once all the “construction” is complete.

Here’s Sara Bareilles’ song, “Uncharted“, which is about traveling the uncharted road in front of us.

How do you deal with roadblocks in your life?

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?