Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dear Catching Up

Dear Catching Up,

So I feel like I am always a step behind.  I always hear about things after the fact.  I make a crash landing via parachute onto the IT train long after it has long left the station.

I joined Facebook after most of my friends ("You're still NOT on Facebook yet?").  I didn't own a music player until long after they had been around.  I didn't start watching every single one of my favorite shows (American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Lost, Grey's Anatomy) until the second season.  My mom was blogging and using PowerPoint long before I.  And (now don't laugh... too hard) I didn't even know that a blog is short for "weblog" until recently (okay, shoot me).

My explanation for all this?  Children.  Raising my high maintenance children and living my life around them.  Everything became secondary to the welfare of my kids.  They get computer time before I do during the day.  They own their iPad and iTouch (gifts to THEM) before their parents. They get to go see a movie in the theater on opening weekend.  Sure, I am a part of what makes all this happen, so that really isn't the true reason.

The real reason is: I'm lazy (although it sounds better to use my kids as an excuse).  Doing something new requires time and commitment.  Creating a new account on Facebook requires the determination to reach out to people and allow them to look into your life.  Until I was ready for that and the time it takes for it, I just hadn't been interested.  Now you cannot pry me away from Facebook.  Owning a music player means actively listening to music.  Who had time to listen to music?  (I didn't, when my days were spent trying to recover from sleep deprivation).  It means sitting down and uploading tons of music onto your music player, creating playlists, and deciding which songs make the cut to make them all fit.  But once I had one, I remembered why listening to music was so enjoyable; I surrendered and allowed myself to get lost in music while I cleaned or fell asleep.  Watching a TV show requires even more commitment, even with the blessing of a digital video recorder (which has been a lifesaver in my tiny world of entertainment).  It means hours spent on watching shows each and every week.  But once hooked, the emotional involvement proves that it was worth the time.  I realized that if I hear enough buzz about something, eventually I will be attempted to try them.  Then afterwards I wonder why I didn't hop on board earlier.  So I guess it takes a monumental push to get my lazy ass into motion. When the excitement meter rises above my lazy gauge, then I make a go for it.

Suffice it to say, I am not a huge fan of trying new things.  I am happy with the status quo, either out of sheer laziness or simple contentment.  But once I succeed, commitment takes root.  As I have recently started to write my blog, I have had to take pictures.  Since I am publishing posts often, I need to upload photos onto the computer on a fairly routine basis.  Prior to this, I had only done it a few times, with help.  Why would I ever do it when my Dear Husband always did all the work?  Now he just snickers at me and joyfully exclaims how he never has to upload pictures anymore.  As I got more comfortable with my blog, I even started inserting videos into them.  I really broke down and had my DH show me how to transfer videos from the camcorder onto the computer.  That, my friends, is dedication.  But now I have no more excuses.  I can't pretend I don't know how to do it anymore. I can't just be lazy anymore.

So I got myself an invite to Google+ (Google's beta version of a social networking site), trying to get on at least one train at an early stop.  And where did that take me?  An account with a bunch of empty circles.  I guess my motto shall still be: better late than never.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dear Guardian Angel

Dear Guardian Angel,

My most sincere thanks to you for watching over my Dear Son today.  DS was in an accident that could have been, at best, skinned knees and elbows, or at worst, a visit to the ER with broken bones or head trauma.

At a birthday party, DS was in a collision with a kids' electric ride-on car while he was gaining momentum after riding down a mini roller coaster ramp on a 4-wheeled seat.  As I saw the other car approach him, I was too far away to do anything, and wishing madly to higher powers that the car would miss him.  He wasn't so lucky.  He was hit so hard in the front that his 35-pound-light body bounced out of the roller coaster seat from the impact.  By some miraculous intervention, DS landed on the pavement and jumped right up.  He escaped disaster without nary a single scrape.  No blood, no bruises, no tears.  

I, however, was in shock even HOURS after the event. Whatever good I have done to deserve this I promise to keep doing.  Whenever I think of all the other possible outcomes of this accident, I shudder like no other.  I just want you to know that I am not taking this incident for granted.  It could have been SO bad. 

I am forever indebted to you for your act of kindness.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dear Betwixt and Between

Dear Betwixt and Between,

I lost a silicone cupcake cup (this is what happened).
I received a Michaels coupon (50% off one bakery item).
I purchased a new set of silicone cupcake cups for $5.00, yay!
(I paid $25.00 for my other set of silicone cupcake cups).
The new cups feel skimpier than the $25 set.
I now have 23 mismatched silicone cupcake cups.
Like the ten thousand men of the Grand Old Duke of York:
I am neither up nor down.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dear Grass

Dear Grass,

You are not something that I give deep thought to on a daily basis.  Things that do occupy my mind everyday, for example, are the battles I choose as a parent or the twisting plot of an exciting book I am reading.  But I have come to realize that the notion of your being has been changing, for me, in varying stages of my life.  As ordinary and common as you are, I value your existence.

When I was little, maybe 5 or 6, I was very mindful of what my teacher told me.  I worshiped my teacher, and so everything she said was heeded.  She once said that we should be kind to nature, and to never hurt it unfairly to benefit our lives.  I took that to heart.  Way back then, when there was a lot more grass than buildings in the little village I grew up in Taiwan, I was mindful of the existence of grass.  I knew that grass was a living thing.  It can grow and it can die.  But one thing that I was not sure of was whether or not it can feel pain.  I knew I was a living thing, and if I got stepped on, I would hurt.  So I wondered if it hurt the grass when we stepped on it.  But grown-ups stepped on it all the time, and so did I when I was walking with them.  But somewhere deep inside my heart I somehow believed that stepping on it made it hurt, and we only didn't know it since it couldn't talk; it couldn't complain to us that we were causing it pain.  So whenever I could, I would walk only on dirt or paved paths instead of its neighboring grass to avoid inflicting pain on the poor little tufts of green beings.  It wasn't until much later that I learned about the intricate physiology and anatomy of nerves to be absolutely sure that only animals who possessed a nervous system could feel pain. 

Fast forward to young adulthood.  Living in the fast-paced city was a convenience as well as a necessity. But in an area inundated with buildings, skyscrapers, and streets after streets, there was very little grass to be seen.  At that time of my life, grass to me meant a special kind of luxury.  The kind that provides the opportunity for you to sit on a picnic blanket, enjoy some yummy food and wine, and listen to a musical concert on a bright sunny day or a starlit night.  Green, lush grass was the act of bringing spring and summer to existence.  Coupled with bright-colored flowers or large, shady trees, grass was the exuberance of life.

Now, having moved to the suburbs into a house that has grass in the front and backyards, grass has taken on a completely different meaning to me.  During our first two months living in this house, we watered the grass by the schedule the sprinkler company set for us: 20 minutes in each of 5 zones three times a week around sunset.  As soon as we received our first bi-monthly water bill, we turned off the automatic sprinkler system.  I believe that every single one of our neighbors did the exact same thing due to sticker shock.  Our neighborhood went from having abundant, dense, green grass to the sorry look it has now.  Parched, dry, and so near death that you can see the tracks made by the lawnmowers.  Green grass to me now means spending the extra HUNDREDS of dollars per water bill that we don't have in this atrocious economy; it is now an unaffordable luxury.  So since then, we manually set the sprinkler on for 15 minutes per zone only during days of high heat or long periods without rain.  We are only keeping our grass almost alive.  As long as we don't have the brownest lawn on our street, it is probably good enough.  Sad to say, grass in this period of my life has fallen to the depth of a financial burden.

I hope that grass will continue to change its meaning for me in the future.  When I am old, I want it to welcome me walking through it in my bare, wrinkled toes, whilst knowing for sure that I am not causing it pain.  I want to be able to smell freshly cut grass without having to first ingest Claritin as a part of my breakfast.  Above all, I want the responsibility of watering grass to be someone else' burden. 

But for now, on this night after a scorching, hot day, the little kindergartener-me again wonders if grass can feel...  And if it could talk, it would complain about how hot it is.  And as we prepare to end the day, I will hear every blade of parched, dry grass whisper to me, "Give me some water, you cheap homeowner!"  At which time I will turn to my Dear Husband and say, "Think we need to water the grass tonight?"


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dear Careful

Dear Careful,

Growing up, you were drilled into my head.  My parents always told me to be careful, as I do to my kids when they go off to school or to a gymnastics class.  I am very careful about certain things to avoid property damage or bodily injuries.  I am careful about putting away sharp things so no one gets hurt.  I am careful about not dropping things to dent the hardwood floor.  Well, it's one thing to damage your own property, and another to accidentally damage the property of someone else.

On a very windy day in the Windy City, I picked up my Dear Son from school and walked to our car.  One of the things I am very careful about is not dinging another car with my car door.  The kids know this well since they hear it ALL THE TIME: "Be careful opening your car door!"  On windy days, I even hold the door with my leg or arm while I am strapping DS in his seat, as I did that particular day.  After I got into the driver's seat, a mom signaled me to roll down my window.  Clearly annoyed but very civilized, she said to me, "You need to be careful because you just dinged my door."  I saw her pristine blue car with the silver ding.  I was so embarrassed and felt terribly.  I apologized profusely to her, and she just said briefly, "It's okay; the wind did it."  For the rest of that day, I felt awful because what I didn't want to happen happened despite my being very careful.  I must have let go of holding the car door at some point and the wind got to it.  My car is full of dings, but it is 7 years old.  Yet all those dings do not undo that one ding I made that day on that woman's car. 

But what can possibly be worse than damaging someone else' property?  I needed to sew a pair of my Dear Daughter's shorts as it grew a hole in the back seam.  Instead of leaving the kids downstairs to run wild, I thought I would take the opportunity to do a sewing project with the kids.  I had everything I needed at home, so we proceeded to crafting.  We sat on the carpeted floor of my bedroom in front of a sunny window.  DD wanted to learn how to sew, so I made cautionary remarks about the dangers of a needle, how pointy it is, and how careful she has to be.  After she finished sewing, I took the needle and placed it next to me out of the reach of the kids.  When we finished the project, I asked the kids to help me clean up.  I am usually very mindful of where a sharp needle is, and always remember to put it away so no one gets hurt.  As DD was picking up the scrap pieces of felt, I suddenly remembered to put away my sewing needle.  At that same moment, she exclaimed, "Ouch!"  She had swept her hand over the light-colored carpet to pick up felt pieces and jabbed it right into the needle.  Not the pointy side, but the eye of the needle side, which meant the wound is a gaping hole.

Shocked, I immediately apologized and took away the needle.  A few seconds later, DD began to cry.  Not an "ouch" cry, but an all-out wailing cry.  I guess it took a few seconds for the pain to register.  Now some children don't show as much as a flinch to a boo boo.  MY children get a scrape on the knee and cannot walk for a day.  DD would get a cut and become totally undone.  (We honestly don't know how she will ever survive labor pains and childbirth).  As the tears streamed down her cheeks, I watched her and felt horrible.  What a horrible mom to cause such bodily injury to her own child.  I understand that accidents happen, but to me, this kind of accident is unbearable, simply because normally I am SO meticulous about such things.  This is admittedly ten times worse than dinging someone else' car!  To add to DD 's misery, her violin lesson is one hour away, and she has a wound right between her third and fourth fingers on the palm side of her left hand.

To be an even worse mother, I HAD to take a picture of the finished products for my blog (and I mentally slapped my own hand as I took the picture).  I compromised by not including DD's teary face in the picture.  Of course, DS, who rarely willingly poses for photos, smiled so sweetly that I just had to take the darn picture.  After lots of sorries, hugs, kisses, and ice, DD felt better.  I was still kicking myself long after she was better.  So much for being careful. 

Nothing is worse than being overly cautious about something and have it backfire on you.  So Dear Careful, please continue to watch over me and not let me slip too often.  As a member of the middle-aged club, my brain is just not as efficient as it once was, and I do need a little extra help from time to time. 


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dear Alter Egos of My Children

Dear Alter Egos of My Children,

Why do you sometimes make me feel so inadequate when it comes to teaching my own children?  As a former teacher who always felt confident teaching her students, I oftentimes cannot seem to grasp the reason why my kids act totally different at home and in school.  My Dear Daughter and Dear Son are model students at school.  DS's teacher once told me at a parent-teacher conference that she wished she had 18 of him in her class.  DD also does well in school and borders on being a teacher's pet.  At home, however, it is a different picture.

This seems particularly true when it comes to sit-down pencil and paper work.  At school, DD produces excellent writing.  The samples I have read during the school year make me so incredibly proud.  They are detailed, descriptive, exciting, and well-written.  When I ask her to write at home, however, her brain goes blank and takes FOREVER to write half a page.  There are frequent sighs and frowns.  DS also does great work at school.  He brings home crafts and worksheets that show how much care and detail he puts into his work.  At home, he whines and complains about every workbook page that is not a maze or matching.  He demands help with cut and paste activities when he is fully capable of doing them himself.  He especially dislikes coloring, because the act of moving a crayon back and forth makes him "too tired."

It is obvious to me that they do not behave this way at school, nor would they ever be caught dead showing any signs of discontent or displeasure about any work at school.  My frustration over this double standard they both exhibit sometimes infuriates me.  They are infatuated with their teachers and want to please them.  Yet they only put up with their mother and do the least they can to get away with things.  Every time I call them up on this, they pretty much just shrug it off.  I often feel like my words are never as good as that of their teachers.

But one recent incident always helps me regain my balance over this issue.  Once at DD's violin lesson, as she was preparing for a recital, her teacher went over a section of a piece with her over and over and over, and I stopped counting after about 10 times.  DD is much more tolerant of her violin teacher's commands than of mine when I help with her practice at home.  But that particular day, the teacher noted every single inaccurate pitch, rhythm, tempo, and dynamics in that piece of music.  She played it so many times that I began to feel really, really sorry for her.  To her credit, she played and played without showing one ounce of irritation.  Secretly in my heart that day, I promised that I would take any attitude she has toward me during violin practices at home just to make up for this drill session from her teacher.  I was going to be her mother, not her violin teacher.

When people enter into a marriage, they say vows to publicly express their promises to each other and to bind the rest of their lives together.  But when people become parents, the promises they make to their children are unspoken.  There is no ceremony or words to show lifelong devotion, because it is an innate, inherent vow that is honored even before a baby is born, and will lasts a lifetime no matter the circumstances.  The roles we take on as parents are different than the roles that teachers take on in our children's lives, and I have to remind myself from time to time that I cannot simply demand the same behavior the kids exhibit at school in the home as well.  The home is where they can let go and fully be themselves, and where they can totally let their guards down.  The home is their sanctuary. 

This is not to say that I will allow my kids to walk all over me and display no respect, or that I will never teach them anything at home.  So, Alter Egos of My Children, you can just continue to do what you do so well when you are at school.  At home, you are released from duty and my kids can reveal their colorful (sometimes too colorful) personalities again.  And whenever I forget that I am Mommy and not a teacher, just give me a little nudge and remind me that the patience I provide them at home will actually make your work easier when they are with you.

So, truce?


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dear Missing

Dear Missing,

Why do you make me come undone?

While getting ready to make a dozen Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcakes, I discover that my set of 12 reusable silicone cups (to use as cupcake liners) is missing a piece.  What is it about missing pieces of a set that makes me utterly speechless in the most teeth-grinding and fist-gripping sense?  Is it because this set cost me nearly $25?  Is it because I think maybe a guest who came over accidentally threw it in the trash thinking it was a disposable cupcake liner?  My mind races and thinks back to the last time I used these.  Banana muffins it was, but no clues come to mind.  I open every cabinet door and every possible drawer to see if it was misplaced.  I then yell at my poor working-at-home Dear Husband, who kindly comes downstairs to look with me.  Nothing.  Nada.  DH offers a simple solution: go buy another set.  But that just doesn't make up for that one missing one.  What am I going to do with 23 cups?  I'm still missing one!

So now I have to get myself used to the fact that I have to live with 11 silicone cups.  I resign to this incredibly frustrating revelation of the day and that I will never find out where it went or who did it.  In the end, after my rampant search for this piece of yellow silicone, I must reconcile with the one fact that I am most afraid of: that I was the one who accidentally threw it in the garbage. 

In defense of my OCD personality, missing is still missing.  It will always get to me and I cannot let it go.  Each time I reach for my silicone cups I will be missing my one yellow one.  After all, what good is a pair of chopsticks if it's missing one stick?