Snow day 2019

Well, snow came and gone this weekend. Like a woman in labor, it began its descent in the early hours of Saturday morning, when we were all asleep, and we woke up to almost a feet of snow. So, what’s a mom to do but take her kids outside for fun in the snow?

Unfortunately, these two were the grumpiest Grinches you can possibly imagine. Not even five minutes in, they both started their whining. Lily began squealing at the top of her lungs (no doubt to get my attention) while James placed his feet firmly on the ground and refused to move. I managed to get the two of them into a toboggan and pulled them up and down a small hill, and snapped a few (grumpy-looking) photos on my phone.

We lasted almost an hour outside. Once inside, they played together and left me alone for almost an hour…which is ironic. Somehow they had a better time playing inside than outside. Oh well. I took advantage of the time and made bagels. My first time ever making bagels. I’m trying out new baking recipes this year–so far, this one I’m the most proud of. Personally, I love bagels and can eat them just about every day, so the thought of being able to make them (despite forgetting one ingredient, it still turned out good), and how simple it was, in terms of ingredients and technique made me excited. I will definitely do more bagel-making and experiment with a variety of flavors in the future.

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On a cold, snowy day what’s a girl to do but bake?

As the snow melted away by the sun this afternoon, I think about how glad I am that it’s over. Despite being in a dreary, cold and often wet part of the country, one of the good things about living in the Pacific Northwest is that we don’t get many days of snow. While the rest of the country is usually blasted with winds, snowstorms, and all kinds of extreme weather, we are sitting here with one day of snow, sometimes up to four, followed by some ice, and that’s it for the winter season. I hope this is it.

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Lily and I watched The Grinch while James took a nap

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On parenting and religion

This afternoon, I was intrigued by what I saw in a New York Times newsletter. It said,

“Consciously or not, many parents either replicate or rebel against their own upbringing.”

This pretty much sums my up entire childhood and how I feel as an adult, as a parent of two kids. I am a rebel, so to speak.

I was born into a Catholic family and baptized at two months old. This baptism somehow solidified me into the religion so I grew up reading the Bible and memorizing them. I even went to a Catholic preschool and attended church every week dutifully. When I was about seven or eight, I experienced my last rite of passage–my first communion.

If you’re Catholic then you know that the first communion is a pretty BIG deal. It’s almost like the quinceanera or the bat mitzvah. There’s a ceremony in which you get to stand with other little kids your age and recite things you don’t understand just because the adults want you to do it. You also do a lot of bowing down and kneeling. Basically, you’re committed to god now. You’ve given yourself to him.

That’s me getting baptized

I remember around the same time of my first communion I also experienced my first confession. Again, as a seven year old, I didn’t really understand why I had to confess. Was I a bad person? Did I do something wrong? What was I supposed to say to the priest in the confession booth?

So I did the only thing I could think of at the time–I made it up.

Yep, I told the priest that I stole something from another kid, even though I hadn’t, and I felt bad about it. He told me to recite ten Hail Mary’s and think about my actions.

It’s that easy? I thought. Once you committed your sins and you confessed, all you had to do to repent was say a few Hail Marys?

It wasn’t until much later in life that I finally understood that justice was not like that at all. To truly repent is not just to demonstrate your guilt and shame and promise to not do it again. It’s a much more complicated thing.

Years later, in high school, I had a friend who got pregnant during her senior year. She wasn’t that much older than the rest of us–it was a crew of about five Asian girls (I also had a Russian best friend) who stuck by each other. So it was a surprise when we found out that she was pregnant. It became hush hush. Nobody ever talked about it. What was she going to do with the baby? Was she going to graduate? What about the father?

First communion

Because religion typically dictates people’s behaviors, it creates a feeling of being immoral when you want to do something that the religion deems as “sinful,” such as sex before marriage. As a teenager, nobody told me that it was perfectly natural to feel sexually attracted to someone and want to do things with them. I never got the birds and the bees talk. It was such a closed door policy. And I truly believed that my religion — or my family’s region — played a big role in that.

In high school, I rebelled. I started thinking deeply about religion and why I had to go to church all the time. I questioned the horrible things that happened, like 9/11–if god did watch over us, then why did he let these things happen? Why did he let my friend get pregnant? Why did the Holocaust happen? Why do humans seem to want to dehumanize each other?

I think it’s ironic that people use religion as a moral backbone to dictate their behaviors, and yet, at the same time, they also use religion to justify the injustices that they bestowed upon other humans. What was the Ten Commandments for if not a great fallacy? It didn’t make any sense to me.

I didn’t tell my mom any of this. I just wasn’t comfortable enough. Even after college and after I got married and now that I have kids, my mom would once in awhile, sit on my dining room table chair and declare that abandoning my religion is turning towards the devil, and because I have done so, I am turning over a satanic leaf.

My husband told me to ignore these comments, but he doesn’t get it. My mom is one of those people who wholeheartedly and truly believe that whatever religion you’re born into you must remain in it, no matter what. She’d say, “Your husband may not be Catholic and that’s okay–he just doesn’t understand…but you–YOU are a Catholic girl! You must stick with our god! You must! Or you’ll go to hell!”

Young Catholic life

So when I read Julia Sheeres’s article in the New York Times about raising her children in a non-secular way, I was reminded of myself. For as long as I’ve been a parent, I’ve rarely taken my kids to church or steered them towards any particular religion. We don’t say grace or Hail Marys in our house. We have a statue of the Buddha in our home that drives my mom crazy even though the reason we got it was not to worship him–we simply thought it was neat. My daughter has seen me naked plenty of times. She knows the roles that women play with their body parts. I don’t hush her when she asks about girls bodies. I simply let her ask the questions, because that is what I would have wanted for myself. I wanted to have a mother who was more open to discussing safe sex, relationships, our bodies, and religion as a choice especially the fact that there are more than one religion in the world, that Catholicism is not the dominant one. I would’ve wanted her to listen to my fears and reaffirm them with wisdom and kindness. But that was not what I had, and therefore, why I rebelled against my religion. I want my kids to understand that religion is a choice that only they can make. It was a choice that I did not have.

Madison High School

Last weekend, I stepped out into the cold and took some photos of my alma mater before they tear it down in March for a major renovation project. This is a big project that ironically the company that I currently work for is working on, and it’s going to change many lives. So I wanted to preserve the memory of the old Madison High with these photos.

I am so so SO glad that they’re getting facelift–they really need it.

The school has been in the same state of being ever since I went there. Cold tile floors, an old weathered gym, dark auditorium, flanked by broken lockers and even more outdated classrooms. And yet, this school was a special place for me. It was where I had my first kiss, met my best friends and my husband, and generally had a lot of fun. (Also, where the movie Twilight was filmed, in case you didn’t know). My only regret is that I wasn’t involved in a lot of different extracurricular activities — it might’ve helped me land a full ride scholarship somewhere. It wasn’t until many years later I realized that high school is what you make of it.

Can you guess the school colors? Yep–red, white and blue.

My first kiss was underneath those bleachers.

The track & football field

In case you’re curious, here is the architectural rendering of the new Madison High School.

Weekend in review: January 19-20

Last weekend was full of rain, indoor play, gluten, and more gluten! In case you’re wondering–yes, there was a lot of baking!

Prepping croissant rolls. It was my second time making them EVER.

Waiting…

And they turned out great!!

Pretty proud of myself

James’s room

Morning coffee

The living room, before the kids came out and made a huge mess

James

Lily

Silly girl

Wet days in January

…which is the more reason to bake!

Banana bread

More rain

Later this week, I’ll share some photos that I took of my old high school. It’s a special place that deserves its own post. Stay tuned!

Life with two

I’m sitting here sipping my afternoon cup of coffee after having put my son James down for a nap. Normally, he lays in his crib and babbles on for an eternity, sometimes as long as an hour and a half, before falling asleep. But today, he is surprisingly quiet right after I put him down.

After making my daughter her lunch (PB&J, cut into small cubes, and pretzels), I proceeded to finish the last eight pages of my book. Ten minutes later, I’m done, and I can smell the banana bread that I just put in the oven wafting its lovely aroma into my nose. Outside, I can hear the rain trickling down in small droplets. The house is quiet. This is our normal weekend routine.

As I sit here, my daughter is playing games on her iPad while she eats her lunch; the dishes need to be done and the laundry needs to be folded, but that can wait–I feel accomplished already. After all, I’ve gotten the kids out of the house, even on a rainy day, to the mall’s play area (our default outing location), and I’ve done some baking, took some pictures, and finished a book.

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Random hugs

Several years ago, I never thought that I would be able to get this much done in a day, or even a weekend, because weekends meant that I was working nights. Four nights a week for almost a year. I’d get home at midnight and go to bed at 12:15 a.m, then around 5:30, my husband leaves for work, and by 6:15, Lily is up an running. Needless to say, I was very tired.

Perhaps because I was pregnant with James or because I was in the midst of the “terrible twos” I didn’t feel like doing much during the day. It was just my daughter and I, so normally we’d take a walk down to the park nearby. She’d throw rocks into the pond while the ducks glided by while I sat there, counting down the minutes until her nap time.

Back in the old days…

Back then, nap time was everything to me. It consumed my thoughts. Nap time was time for me to recoup, relax and enjoy some peace and quiet. However, at two and a half, Lily became less interested in napping, so much so that the only way I could get her to nap was to take her in the car (sometimes bribing her), and go on a drive until she fell asleep. Usually, this took about 25-30 minutes.

In the summer, it was tough. Back before we bought our current car, we drove an old Mazda that was not only a gas guzzler but had a broken AC. Thus, I rolled down the windows as much as I could. Then, when she finally fell asleep, I’d park the car in a quiet residential corner about five minutes away in my neighborhood and sit there…and wait.

Sometimes I’d marvel at the beautiful tall trees that loomed over the block. Other times, I’d wince at the thought that my bladder was acting up again (pregnancy woes), and I had to figure out how to relieve it without waking my daughter up.

Most of the time, though, I would sit there and read…or try to, anyway. I never finished any books, but finished many articles on my phone. Finally, at around 2:30 p.m, an hour and a half after I parked the car in the shade, Lily would wake up, and we’d drive home to greet daddy, who was usually home by 3:00 p.m.

On days I had to work, I’d leave at 3:15 p.m, and didn’t come home until midnight.

This went on for awhile until I had James. This little boy has surprised me in so many ways as a parent. For one, he is still napping at 2 1/2 years old. Besides his babbling tendencies, he goes down without much of a fight. He is the exact opposite of Lily in terms of napping.

That’s what came into my thoughts today as I’m sitting in the car and driving home with my kids in the back–how different can two kids be? I’m not just saying they’re different because they’re different genders; they’re different in so many ways.

You see, that is a revelation that I had today.

As obvious as it seems, it never occurred to me that the second (or subsequent) kid will be different than the first kid. If and when you have a second child, you should take whatever expectations you had with the first child and throw it out the window, because they will be nothing like each other. James, for example, will kick me in the face as I’m trying to change his diaper. He can be tough sometimes, but he gives me more hugs than I can count in a single day. Lily never kicked me whenever I changed her. She’d lay there quietly and wait until I’m done. I don’t recall any major struggles with getting a diaper on and off her.

Holding hands

Today, he kicked me as I’m trying to change his diaper. He also babbles incoherent words, which I assumed was something to do with the bottle that I promised him. As soon as he finished the said bottle, he grew so angry because I only gave him a 9-ounce bottle, and he was hungry. He screamed at me, asking for more. I managed to calm him for just a minute, then I asked him, “Can I pick you up?”

“Yes,” he said. So I did.

A few minutes later, he’s quiet. His head is resting on my shoulder. I’ve burped him. Finally, I asked him if he’s ready to be put down, and he replied, “Yes.”

And the house is quiet again. For a few hours anyway.

Weekend in review: January 12-13

Last weekend, as told through photos.

My little kitchen helper

My first time making cream biscuits — it was a success!

Did I mention it had cheese inside? Cheesy biscuits – yes please!!

Thumbs up!

James

James close up

Lily loves to draw

Showing me her drawing

My kitchen

This is the face of a boy who did NOT want his picture taken haha

Much better

Happy boy

And we’re still drawing…

Messy house. The usual.

Sadly, these biscuits were my first baking failure of the year 😦

The picky eater

It happens like clockwork. Every night, when we sit down for dinner (sounds crazy, I know, but we do it), my son James will take one look at his plate then immediately says, “nana” or banana.

This request frustrates me to no end. Many nights, I sit there seething, glaring at him while my daughter concurrently tries to eat as slow as possible. She picks at her food and spews out at least five sentences before putting two bites in her mouth.

But my daughter’s dinner habits are nowhere near as frustrating as my son’s. James always asks for a banana, and he always gets it. That’s because my husband and I realized that in order to keep the peace at the dinner table, it’s better to just give the little man what he wants. Besides, it’s just fruit. There are worse things to be addicted to, I suppose.

On days when we don’t have bananas on hand, and he asks for them, and we tell him no…boy oh boy–those are the nights when we all incur the wrath of James.

Luckily, tonight we do have bananas and as usual, my husband hands him one. He takes a bite of the banana while my husband and I eat and Lily chirps away with her words. My husband then said to James, “Here, try some.” (He does that a lot). He takes a tiny bit of the curry that he made and tries to get James to taste it.

Oh boy, I thought. Here we go. Another attempt, another failure.

But instead of refusing it, James reluctantly takes it in…and it was like my whole world erupted in fireworks. Then, much to my surprise, he asks for more!

“More!” he says, “More!”

It was at that moment I realized two things–one, my husband is brilliant! Not only can he cook waayyy better than me (I will never be able to compete, even if I become a better cook than I am now), he is also slick in his ways of getting our son to eat the foods he makes! This is why I married him! (Not the only reason, of course, just one of many).

As he continues to feed James, he said, “This is like that time he ate most of my duck curry at the Thai restaurant.”

Ahhh yes, I remember. Several weeks ago, we all went out to eat on New Year’s Day, at a Thai restaurant nearby and by husband ordered a roast duck curry, and he had to feed it to James because James was so into the sauce.

“I guess he’s a big fan of the saucy, pudding type of textures,” I said.

Just minutes before this event happened, I had lamented to my husband, “He eats like 50% of what you make, and like 10% of what I make,” to which he responded, “Well, at least he eats most of what I make.”

“It should be more like 80%,” I said.

Now, here I am, moments later, sitting there watching my son eat and realizing that not only is my husband a brilliant cook and good at toddler convincing, this is also like stepping back into the past.

You see–I was a picky eater myself. When I was around James’s age, I refused to eat most foods. It didn’t matter if it was catered by the world’s best chefs–the only thing I would eat is rice with sugar sprinkled on top. So my parents gave in and gave me that. It’s not really healthy and it certainly doesn’t help your teeth, but hey my parents are like us–they didn’t want a ruckus at the dinner table either.

Much to my chagrin, my son turned out to be pretty much the same way. Granted, he’s not as picky as I was–he still eats a lot of different foods for breakfast and his lunch is still a bottle of milk, but it’s only dinner when he gets the nerve to ask for a banana, knowing that he’ll get it every time. I, on the other hand, was very strict in what I would eat.

James

Luckily these days I am no longer a picky eater. I grew up to be a very flexible eater. I love trying new foods, and I’m open to just about everything.

See, that’s the thing that they don’t tell you–that if you were a picky eater yourself, you might end up with the same kind of kid! It’s a 50/50 chance but chances are pretty high to me. It’s almost like fate telling you, “Hey, how about them apples huh?”

I think we know for sure that James will eat curry in the future. And oatmeal. And yogurt. He loves all of those gelatinous, mushy, soft pudding-style kind of foods. He’s definitely my kid.

2019–more baking and more stories

At my work, they have this thing called The Potty Press–which, you guessed it–resides on the door inside each of the stalls in the bathrooms. The idea is that instead of sitting on the toilet with your phone (which is a terrible idea, by the way, and one flaw that I have yet to erase from my habits), you can read the company’s announcements and any other tidbit of useful information that they think you should know.

This month, in particular, there was a column about New Years resolutions. It listed ten steps on how to be successful in your goals. I don’t remember all the steps, but I do remember a few that stood out to me–1) write it down, 2) talk about it, 3) remind yourself of the why, 4) take small steps, 5) keep trying until you get there, and 6) reward yourself along the way. I feel that while they sound cliche, they certainly have their merits, so I decided I’m going to try my best to follow these “rules” for my goals this year.

I call my resolutions goals because to me, goals seems more likely to succeed than resolutions. To me, to resolve to do something is putting a big weight of expectation on your shoulders–but if you’re turning it into a goal, it creates an opportunity for learning, and steps you can take along the way.

That said, I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals for 2019, and what I want to do with this little blog of mine. And the more I thought about it, the more I say to myself, “Who am I?” I mean, who’s actually reading this besides maybe a friend or two?

Secondly, it occurred to me that I have been bouncing back and forth in all directions (I’ve updated the About Me page a bazillion times), trying to make this blog about something specific…and I’m coming up short. Because I don’t know who I am (besides the arbitrary elevator speech I’m an accountant living in Portland Oregon with a husband and two children…blah blah blah), I’ve been struggling to find a niche in which to focus myself with online. I’m kind of all over the place. Sometimes I hide my insecurities through humor pieces (funny to me, perhaps not to others) about parenthood, other times I write about social justice and economic issues, and personal finance, sometimes about millennials and why I don’t understand my generation, etc. Other times, I simply rant and rave about certain things.

And let’s not forget that I am also an amateur photographer, or a photography enthusiast, if you will.

You can see where I’m going with this. I realized that I need to figure out who I am–specifically, what do I want to be known for? How do I want to define myself?

Point is–I’ve been having a hard time trying to figure out what my story is. Am I just a millennial who survived a recession and now here I am talking about money? Or am I a parent with a witty sense of humor and tips to share? Or am I just a girl who’s kind of poor and trying to do better? What do I want my blog to represent about me?

As part of this process, I thought about a couple of favorite bloggers that I’ve discovered on the internet over the years.

One of the very first ones I discovered, Orangette, is known for her excellent writing with food as the medium that connects all of her stories. And there was always a story, even if it’s just her and a few friends getting together on a Sunday. She became known as “the girl who quit her Ph.D program to start a food blog and ended up finding her future husband through the blog, marries him and have a child with him.” That is her story.

Another one is Cait Flanders, also know as “the girl who got herself into a massive load of debt through overzealous spending and unhealthy habits and so she decided to chronicle her debt repayment journey through her blog.” You can find her here.

Finally, there’s Two Red Bowls, or “the Asian American lawyer by day and savvy cook by night introducing us to the world of Asian foods in mixed raced households.

Thinking about all these women and the many other bloggers that I’ve discovered in the past and why I’m so drawn to them, it finally dawned on me that the reason why they are so popular and well known is because they all tell stories. Just about every blog post of theirs involves some element of a story. It’s not just them talking about themselves or their opinions and current news. Like many humans, I’m particularly drawn to stories because it’s so personal. That’s why their blogs resonate with me so much.

I’m more than just a mom

I guess what I’m trying to say is this–I overthink things (which is why it’s taking me more than week to write this post), because I’m afraid of being judged badly. I write in a way that does not truly tell people who I am and what I want to achieve. I realize that most of what I write is something like — this is my opinion about so and so and this is some evidence to back it up [insert link here]. That said, this year it is my goal to be less journalistic / opinionated and focus more on storytelling and narration. This means that I won’t have to dig for information on the internet to support my ideas, but I will have to dig deep into the back of my brain and uncover things that I chose to forget, simply because they are either painful, awkward or just plain awful.

What I can tell you also is that there will be lots of effort on self teaching. This year will be the year that I will educate myself on something that is part of my everyday life and yet I know little of — cooking. In particular, baking brings me joy. It’s therapeutic for me…and ironically, I don’t do it very often. I’m very amateur when it comes to cooking, especially baking. Thus, there will be stories about my food adventures as well as stories that has nothing to do with food but is still significant because it is part of me.

SIGH. BIG sigh. Whew! That was a lot, I know. If you’re still reading this, thank you dear reader. Stay tuned for stories about food, baking, love, goals, and everything in between.

Year in Review: Books that changed my life this year

2018 was a year of great discovery and personal development. Or at least, it was the year that I actually put things into action rather than just thinking about it. Like many people, I have this issue with “time.” Not enough of them, that is. I probably make myself sound like the busiest businesswoman in the world, but in reality that is not what I am. I’m a mom of two small children, with a full time job that has very consistent hours. Besides spending time with my family (which is basically just my kids and husband), I don’t doodle too much into other things besides writing and photography.

And yet…I still feel like I didn’t have enough time to do all the things that I wanted to do. This, more or less, spilled into the idea that in America, being “busy” is considered a good thing, and to feel busy is better than not feeling busy. That’s what I thought at the beginning of the year anyway.

Now that the year is about over, and I’ve had time to reflect, I realize how wrong that type of thinking is.

This year, I made time to do some reading. Every morning from January 1st to today (December 31st), I woke up early, usually around 5:30 a.m. and read until 6:30 a.m., then head to work. As a result, I completed–as in actually finished–50 books. FIFTY!

It’s astonishing to me just how crazy that sounds…and how much I’ve learned through the process of reclaiming my time, and reframing my way of thinking. Doing something you enjoy is such a privilege nowadays, especially when you have little kids and believe me, they take up a lot of your time. Then, if you have a partner/spouse, you need time with them as well.

Speaking of spouses, that was how my husband and I ended up with more time together–in the morning, before reading, sometimes we’d talk about all sorts of different things, things that we typically don’t talk about late in the evening when we’re being interrupted by our kids or too tired to talk. Getting up early in the morning and having a cup of coffee together proved to be the wonderful, valuable time that we needed. It was great that he was also reading along with me. I think the mutual activity was inspiration for us to keep going.

From memoirs to personal finance to parenting books, I read it all…50 of them, anyway. That said, here are the books that made the biggest impact this year for me.

The Harry Potter Series (book 1-6 completed)

I had to see for myself why Harry Potter is so popular, and finally after finishing six out of the seven books in the series, I finally understood. If you don’t, you should read it. Enough said.

These are great debut novels. It garnered great reviews, and definitely lived up to its name. Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage opened the intersection between love and justice, whereas Cait Flanders’ book shed light into the world of consumerism and personal finance. Finally, Cary & Kyle’s New Minimalism is a short and beautiful book about decluttering and organizing filled with anecdotes and a discussion of mindsets, which was very helpful for me.

These ones were surprisingly good, not that I expected it to be. Gail Honeyman’s story about a young, sad, boring millennial with no friends proved to be anything but. Twists and turns later, you’ll find out the real truth about Eleanor. Laura Vanderkam’s book might’ve had some things I wasn’t keen on, but in general, she made some really good points about how we can all make the best of the time that we have by simply reframing our way of thinking and prioritizing. Finally, as far as memoirs go, The Glass Castle is truly astounding. Jeanne Walls’ story is an amazing story about survival, hope, and family.

These ones are true, deep and personal. It definitely opened my eyes in certain areas. Sherman Alexie’s is a mixture of poetry and prose, but it was still very good. Susan Cain’s Quiet shed light into the power of introverts and helped me see that being an introvert isn’t such a bad thing. Finally, Daniel Pink’s Drive talks about motivation in such a phenomenal way that I haven’t read about anywhere else.

And finally, my top two favorites of the year….Tara Westover’s childhood is the kind of crazy childhood that I can never fathom and to go into her world was beyond amazing. And Daniel’s book made me think much deeper about the concept of time, and as a result, I learned things that I never knew or thought about.