Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dear 2013

Dear 2013,

Soon the sun will set and we will bid you farewell. We will replace our wall calendars and try to remember not to pre-date anything by like a year. We will pour bubblies and watch something drop--could be something in Times Square or our own eyelids way before midnight. Even though today is really no different from tomorrow, you will become a thing of the past: a was, a has been.

But before you go, I'd like to thank you for a few things you have taught me.

I have learned that it is really okay to not fold clean laundry right away. Or just never. I say that because parenting is hard work. Dear Son is finally starting to grasp the futility of getting upset over making mistakes during violin practices. He is finally understanding that's why we practice. Instead of of the ugliness that usually ensues, he now asks, calmly and quietly, Mama, can you help me? or Can we try that again? To which my mama heart just melts into globs and globs of sugary goo. Even though it only took seventeen months for that to happen, it happened. He's trying. The growth I see in him makes me feel like I've done something right. And for a parent, that's huge. I would cup his baby-soft cheeks in my hands and tell him how proud I am of his progress. He would answer back with a smile matching the sheer delight behind mine.

But what does this have to do with folding laundry, you ask? Let's just say that at that Happy Moment, neither one of us cared whether our knickers were stored neatly inside our drawers or sitting wrinkled in the laundry basket. Whatevs.

Oh, and same goes for the dishes that are okay to sit in the sink overnight. I'm sure I can think of some other proud parenting moment to justify that crime.

I have learned that tweens must know everything. To whom am I texting. What book am I reading. Why am I chuckling at my phone. And what am I doing with walking towards you with that roll of duct tape in my hands??? During every one of my conversations with Dear Husband these days, I am sure to hear: Who? What did you say? What did I just miss? What are we talking about? To which I would reply: We, as in your daddy and I, are talking about someone you don't know doing something you don't need to know. DH is always much more loving and patient than I, giving Dear Daughter some explanation or details. I, on the other hand, lament the fact that I can no longer have a conversation with DH without interruption or one-hundred-one questions. But I know--the wisdom of foresight tells me to tolerate this while the tween still engages in conversations with us.

Cuz maybe 2016 will teach me something else.

Anyway, moving on.

I have learned the meaning of "lucky." It is still having the chest flutters at the sight of him across the room. It is I finishing his sentences and he spot-on with my thoughts. It is the privilege of knowing the stories behind our graying hairs and wrinkled smiles. It is in the glances that speak, the actions that tell, and the signature smirk that says, You're the one who wanted children.

Yep. I'm the lucky one with the children and their snarky father.

I have learned that besides being a mother, I am happiest as a teacher and a writer. I belong in the classroom, and my fingers belong on a keyboard. Being able to carry out both of these roles has been my accomplishment this year. I am grateful for the opportunity for teaching and learning with children, and I am thankful for this little space I have here as my playground for words and photos.

I have learned to never forget the practice of expressing Gratitude. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who continues to come here to read my Letters and relate to my stories. It is an incredible honor to send my words out into the interwebz have have readers receive them with their eyes, heart, and mind. From the bottom of my heart: Thank you for going on my ride.

So, Dear 2013, you have taught me well, and I will remember you the same (thank goodness for this blog). And to mark the end of an era, I have learned to finally accept the modern typography practice of using one space (instead of two) after a period (or the end of a sentence). Shocking, I know. But even a 40-year-old mule can still learn, and miracles do indeed happen.

Good day, 2013, and as you descend into history, we will all take a moment and reflect upon the events and milestones that brought us to where we are standing. Whether we see moments of joy or sorrow, events grand or trivial, memories vivid or fading, we have traversed your time and shall now move on. I hope that you feel as accomplished and remarkable about yourself as I do.

So long, and farewell.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Dear Holiday Newsletter 2013

Dear Holiday Newsletter 2013,

In keeping with our holiday tradition each year, we scrambled and sent out holiday cards along with you, again penned by my better half. And I didn't even have to beg very much this year, yay!



At press time, we are slowly recovering from the Orlando road trip.  We* drove over 2,000 miles round trip (including stretches of parking lot traffic on the highways in GA and FL and multi-car spin outs due to snow in the Midwest) to visit Harry Potter, Marvel superheroes, and Disney princesses (last category for our adorable nieces as Dear Daughter would be aghast at any false insinuation).  *The loose use of the word “we” in the preceding sentence referred to Dear Husband's liberal use of the accelerator pedal on the driver side and Dear Wife’s  incessant application of the invisible brake on the passenger side during the drive.  There is simply no better family bonding experience than spending 40 quality hours together in a cozy 150 cubic feet of space.  We heartily recommend everyone to try this as soon as humanly possible.

More than usual, the holidays have snuck up on us this year as we are tardy with the tree, decorations, and cards.  In keeping with the past few years, DW has happily volunteered DH to report to the mass plebeians on the state of our household.  The executive summary version is that the The Household Members are getting one-year older (duh!), becoming snarkier and growing shapelier (longitudinal stretch for kiddos and lateral rings for parents).  If you prefer the fine print, please kindly read ahead for more mundane happenings in our humble family.

  • Dear Son is gradually shedding his protective shell and letting his unique personality shine.  DS now shares personal tidbits with friends at school; belts out greatest hits in the shower; does an uncanny impression of infomercials (something about buy-one-get-one with free gift by calling 555-1234); has inappropriate conversations with his father in Mandarin (he seems to be only fluent with the bad stuff); and proclaims that we need more vacations in warm destinations such as Hawaii.  DS is not athletically inclined, but has “kiapped” his way with conviction to a green belt in Tae Kwon Do in no time.  Armed with his OCD heritage and near-photographic memory, DS is also the household inventory manager as he can readily tell you where any given asset is located in the house; this skill comes in handy since his parents suffer from occasional senior moments and DD is prone to constant daydreaming. 
  • Dear Daughter will be graduating from grade school come end of this school year (yikes!).  DD's bedroom walls can tell the story of growth with evolving posters from cute animals to Selena Gomez to Harry Potter (wonder what/who will grace her walls next?).  As a preview of life to come, DD is already busy juggling school and extra-curricular activities.  In addition to her long-standing violin lessons, DD is in her school band learning the clarinet (finally playing musical  tunes instead of making hair-raising goose mating-calls) as well as participating in the 5th grade girls’ basketball team now that running club season is over.  Additionally, DD continues to improve in badminton at the Chinese school on Sundays; she now boasts that she can put the beat down on her old man (will need to dispel that notion ASAP weather permitting).    
  • Dear Wife reached the big 4-0 milestone earlier this year.  She is now beginning to pick-up speed as the saying goes.  Exhibit A: try keeping up with her while walking.  DW is in popular demand as the go-to substitute teacher at our neighborhood grade school by day and the energetic toddler Chinese school teacher on Sundays.  Between teaching and schlepping the kiddos around for enrichment activities, DW bemoans the lack of spare time to devote to her letters-of-muse blog, FB, and Candy Crush.  However, she always manages to find diversion time for her own happy hour with her beloved margarita or Kahlua and smoked almonds.
  • Dear Husband is hard at work in trying to break his personal record of consecutive days of not working out in a single year.  Alas, this is not a leap year.  At the risk of jinxing the outcome, we are about to close on the sale of our townhouse for a song, but we are ready to cut our losses and to bid farewell to aging property and rental tenant issues.  DH is thrilled that our slumlord days are coming to an end and is fantasizing on ways to spend the spare change that we will get at closing (maybe we can now afford to feel financially stretched).

We sincerely wish you and your family a most joyful Holiday Season and a peaceful and healthy New Year (Year of the Horse)! 


So, Dear Holiday Newsletter 2013, at the risk of seeming overly self-indulgent, we sent you out to our friends and family for a good laugh and some holiday cheer. Now that you've been dispersed, I hope you delivered our holiday wishes to everyone! 

Until next year!

Me and DH

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I cannot remember the last time I made a wishlist for you, but I've been a good girl this year, so here goes my #TopTen list of Ultimate Gifts.  For me.

10. More hours in the day.  I need more!  I need to read, I want to write, I'd like to finish that knitting project from last year, I long to take more photos, and I must have coffee/lunch with my long-lost friends!  And I HAVE TO CLEAR ALL THE JELLY!  #MakeItHappenSanta

9. Found.  I cannot handle yet another lost reusable-container lid, sock mate, glove, or pen.  Or my own brain on some days.  #FirstWorldProblems

8. Vision.  "No, you don't have halitosis.  I just can't focus on your face when we're this close."  I'd love more time before having to get reading glasses.  Take pity upon the fact that all my life I've needed to be up close to see things (because I'm so nearsighted); now having to extend my arms to see clearly is just so wrong.  #JustAMatterOfTime

7. Books.  Because I actually met my goal of reading 12 books this year, I'd like to read more books that blow my mind.  I'd like to swim in words that spark those neurons in my brain into rapid fire.  I'd like to travel to another world, into someone else's mind, in another time, all from the works of brilliant writers who use the simple vehicle of words to make that happen.  #AndMakeItSeemSoEasy

6. Mental agility.  I always remember your name seconds after we part ways.  I always remember that vacation experience after about 15 reminders of events that happened.  I always remember the scenes of a movie only after having watched it at least a dozen times.  (So why is it that I cannot remember to feed the turtle but I can belt out lyrics of Chinese songs from decades ago?  The brain works in mysterious ways.)  This noticeable decline in brain function after gaining speed down The Hill is a little bit disconcerting, to say the least.  This aging business is not pretty, so I'd like to keep this forgetfulness at a minimal-embarrassing level, if you please.  #PrettyPlease

5. Inbox fairy.  Help wanted: in need of a responsible assistant to delete emails (and blog spam) because who has time?  I'm busy bringing INGREDIENTS DOWN TO THE BOTTOM!  #WhackAMole

4. Travel.  Now that we've gotten a few real road trips under our belts, I'd really love to see more parts of the world (even if they're nearby).  The kiddos are now big enough to remember and enjoy our family getaways.  Better get them in before they no longer think it's cool.  #CreatingMemories

3. Steady flow.  Of words.  That make sense.  For this blog.  In 2014.  #NotThisSputteringNonsense

2. Patience.  I need it when a first grader asks me to tie his shoelaces for the third time in one hour.  I need it when I'm battling withdrawal symptoms after the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead.  I need it for the sanity of my children and their father.  I need it when I'm stuck on Level 161 for the elevetieth week.  I need it to get through this week until winter break officially begins!  #TheMotherOfAllVirtures

1. Belief.  Dear Son, my logical-no-nonsense-proof-required child, has asked me on more than one occasion, "Is Santa Claus real?"  He's six, in first grade.  (In case you were wondering, the technique of distraction still works on a six-year-old.)  Dear Santa, please make your magic stay a little while longer.  Please extract any doubt in his mind that you embody the kindred spirit of the holiday season.  Please remain in the hearts of children and adults alike, not for the parents' sake, but to honor this time of giving, of family and love, and of childhood memories.  (For the record, Dear Daughter still holds you dearly in her heart, whether it's concretely or abstractly, because she has not and probably never will ask The Question.  And I love her for that.)  #HoHoHo

I clearly wasn't thinking when I thought for a moment to skip the tree this year because our Florida vacation threw off our holiday schedule a bit.  Good thing my senses came to me (pretty much when I saw the horrified looks on the kiddos' faces when I made such a criminal suggestion to Dear Husband).  The tree is up, and the kiddos had a grand time decorating it, as usual.

So, Dear Santa, thank you for taking the time to read my humble list and not laughing-out-loud while you're at it.  Thank you for all your miraculous work and making our holidays full of magic and joy.  Merry Christmas, and safe travels!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dear Kid-at-Heart

Dear Kid-at-Heart,

I usually spot your kind in others--in dads who love electronic gadgets and gaming devices, in seniors whose eyes sparkle at the sight of candy, and grownups who take family games more seriously than the owners of said games.  It was quite ironic to see that spectacle turned at myself.

Here are two truths and a lie:
1. We went on vacation with my SIL's family last week.
2. Dear Husband drove three kiddos to Orlando.
3. I was not one of the kiddos.

Here are the #TopTen ways in which I reverted to a kid on vacation:

10. The drive.  Yes, we DH drove.  The drive was 17.5 hours each way, which we did in two days going there and coming back. But because of traffic and a snow storm, we drove 2 extra hours just before our destination both ways.  The kiddos were surprisingly well-behaved during the drive, providing minimal "how many more minutes" and "I need to pee".  They earned an A+ for the drive.  I, on the other hand, scored about a B-. But if you could hear the thoughts inside my head, you would have given me a C-.  This young grasshopper needs a new lesson on patience.  #AreWeThereYet

9. The Meals.  This part was a true vacation for the mama in me.  I didn't have to be responsible for any of our meals.  I was wide-eyed and excited about every upcoming meal--like a kid--because I DIDN'T HAVE TO MAKE IT.  DH even cooked breakfast every morning for us. Lucky me.  #ICanGetUsedToThis

8. The Rides: part 1.  Our last visit to Orlando was during the single worst week of the year.  The parks were so full they were CLOSED to new visitors at midday.  DH woke Dear Daughter up at 6:30 AM in order to get into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  So, this was the first time I got to experience the glory of Harry Potter world.  With NO LINES!  Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was my very first ride of the vacation, and it knocked me out of the ball park.  I'm not a roller coaster kind of gal, but this sort of stay-on-the-ground-but-feel-like-you're-coasting ride is perfect.  I get the thrill without the ill.  Subsequently, the Spider-Man and Transformer rides were similar but less "flighty" that even Dear Son enjoyed them very much.  We all agreed that the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride tops as one of our favorites.  Who was the kid of our family that reached out to grab the banana on the 3-D ride?  #Me

7. The Rides: part 2.  And then there were rides that have height requirements.  In which case my kid-at-heart status trumps my height.  #NoThankYou

Um, no.

6. The Concessions.  DH can attest to the fact that I get more excited about concession stand foods than my own kiddos.  He bought the refillable souvenir popcorn bucket.  For me.  And for the record, I was gracious enough to share some with my kiddos.  Oh, and the BUTTERBEER!  I had to go back for seconds.  The frozen variety rocks.  #Cheers

5. The Souvenirs.  I normally try to be an adult and skip the souvenirs since they are completely EXORBITANT, but this time I gave in to two.  (Even DH got a Muggle shirt!)  #GoForBrokeOnVacay

4. The Bath.  Ask me how many times a year my kiddos beg to take baths and I'll tell you how many times a year I pretend to forget those requests.  Our timeshare had something special in the bathroom: something about water from the ceiling.  Each of my unit mates had a chance to take a bath during vacation.  Now ask me how many baths I took.  #Ahhhhhh

3. The Memories.  "Remember that time when..."  "Sorta."  "Or that time when..."  "Um, kinda."  I'm the most forgetful person I know.  Which is why DH thinks it's great to take me on vacations: he says he can keep doing the same things each time because I don't remember anything.  #He'sRight

2. The Kids Talk.  Apparently, I talk like a kid, too.  After we went on the Nemo ride at EPCOT, we toured the aquarium gallery.  Being aware of the kiddos' hunger meter, I may have been quite insensitive:
Me (to DH): Do you still want to have your favorite fish and chips for lunch?
DH (looking shocked, to the fish): You didn't hear that! (To me): SHHH! They can hear you!
Me: ...

1. The Rude Awakening.  After a week of warm weather, we came home to a snow storm.  The hubs and the kiddos braved the cold and went to work and school on Monday.  I, the biggest wimp, took the day off.  Even my own kiddos are more grownup than I am.  #BackToLifeBackToReality

So, Dear Kid-at-Heart, what better time to be you than on vacation?  I felt like a kid again and enjoyed the magic of vacation fun.  Unfortunately for DH, he had to tote around an extra kid and do all the driving because, like a kid, I'm completely useless when it comes to driving (long distances).  Thank goodness he doesn't mind my uselessness.

At T minus 13 days to Christmas, I have nothing resembling the holidays in my house.  I'm blaming it on this vacation.  Maybe if I remain a kid, Santa will do his magic and help me out this year?