Sunday, July 20, 2014


A couple of years ago--well, precisely 4 years ago--I took DD to see Ramona and Beezus on the big screen. I remember walking out of the theater with all the feels. You see, I had read Beezus and Ramona, by Beverly Cleary, to DD the summer after her kindergarten year. Then she proceeded to read the rest of the 8-book series on her own over the next year. The movie was not a cinematic masterpiece, by any means; it was rather a girly, feel-good movie that appealed to a small, mostly young and feminine part of the population. But it got to me, because it was the first movie that I had watched alone with DD.

I remember feeling excited and calling it a Mother-Daughter Movie Date. We settled in with our popcorn and beverage, and watched the characters laugh, cry, falter, grow, and triumph on the big screen. I laughed and cried (can't help it--I'm a sentimental schmuck) and my heart swelled, willingly accepting the spot-on manipulations of Hollywood and its cheese. It didn't matter, because inside that dark, cavernous theater, I felt like a little girl all over again. I curled up my feet and munched on popcorn, much like the little seven-year-old next to me. My little girl.

Source: Wikipedia

Fast forward four years.

Two months ago, I had finally relented and gave the book The Fault in Our Stars to DD. She is a voracious reader, and is constantly seeking new books to read. I read this wildly popular John Green book earlier this year, and I noted that it was recommended for grade 9 and above. Probably because it's a love story, about cancer and dying, and portrays some tender, intimate moments between young adults. But it wasn't so much the themes of dying and sex that held me back from letting DD read this. (Okay, well, it was, to a degree.) It was more that she hadn't reached the adolescent stage of developing romantic relationships or experienced the emotions of falling in love. I wasn't sure how much she would get out of reading this book.

Source: Amazon

But I had it on my Kindle and she was asking for a new book. Again. 

So I decided to let her have a go. She could always read it again later and may be able to relate to it on a deeper level. Not surprisingly, she really liked the book, and we talked about many aspects of it afterwards, just so I'm sure she didn't have any questions about the intimate moments or about cancer and dying.

Yesterday, we had another Mother-Daughter Movie Date.

This time, some things remained the same, and some things were different.

Source: Wikipedia

We got our popcorn and beverage, watched a few movie trailers of dystopian books that we/I have read (namely, The Giver and The Maze Runner, and they both looked good--I sense more Mother-Daughter Movie Dates soon), and began watching the movie. Halfway through, I leaned over and said to DD, "Um, get ready for my waterfall, cuz it's coming." She chuckled and handed me a wad of popcorn napkins. I gave one back to her, just in case.

Then I cried my ugly cry during the second half of the movie.

Because Hazel Grace and her big, huge watery eyes. Augustus Waters and his dashing, boyish smile. Oh. My. Heart.

I cried the feels of my forty-some-odd years of life experience on love and loss thus far and what is to come. I cried for the journey that lies ahead for DD--what love and loss she will come to know and live. I cried for the meaningless injustice of cancer--the lives it took and what Life have been robbed of those that are left behind. I cried for the privilege of having been able to love and having been loved. I cried for the fortune of my blessed, rich life.

That pathetic wad of napkins had no chance.

I knew that this was another one of my very special moments shared with DD, even though it was just the two of us watching a movie. And when Hazel and her mom embraced after a heart-to-heart shouting match, my mama bear heart exploded and I cursed at the wad of wet napkins--unrecognizable because it had been torn into mushy pieces many times over--too weak to handle the weight casted upon these fragile apron strings.

After the movie, I thought back to the time DD and I watched Ramona and Beezus, when her defined cheekbones were still masked under her round, bouncy cheeks--when she was just a young tendril unfurling and reaching for anchor. Now, she is a woman child, about to fully grasp and support her Self, on the cusp of adolescence, teetering between a girlhood of silly giggles and a young adulthood of delicate modesty.

Oh, how Time slays me.

As for DD, who watched the movie with a book critic's eye, used her age-appropriate analytical brain rather than the cognitive emotional brain of an older adolescent. My little girl, who claimed that she almost cried, didn't need that single napkin after all. Like I said, she's not quite there yet. But she will be. She's just starting out and there's a long road of feels ahead. And if she's anything like her mama, one day, she will cry Niagara Falls, too.

But I know that some things will never change, even when the movie titles do. We'll always have our movie dates, and there will always be movies that stand out for us. Most importantly, no matter how tall she gets or how mature she becomes, she'll still be my little girl and my Star upon shiny Stars.


Friday, July 11, 2014


Summer school is over and my summer has officially begun. Like a little kid who has all the time in the world and no obligations whatsoever, I've been indulging in Summer Bliss.

Not surprisingly, I've been busy in the kitchen. I've reacquainted myself with my oven, oven mitts, measuring cups and spoons, stand mixer, stove, cookware, and the pantry, and I even have fresh ingredients in the fridge and from the backyard The Farm to work with.

Bliss, I tell ya. Bliss.

Today I will share three recipes with you (because three is my favorite number). Three recipes that only require three ingredients each. It doesn't get any easier, but you'll also be surprised at how good they are with only three ingredients.

First up, if you have these three things in your pantry, you are ready to make healthful Banana Oatmeal Cookies:
  • bananas
  • oatmeal
  • chocolate chips

All you need to do in three easy steps:
  1. Mash up 2 dead ripe bananas, add a cup of oatmeal, and stir in a 1/4 cup of chocolate chips. 
  2. Drop by spoonfuls on a GREASED cookie sheet or a Silpat. 
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until slightly browned. 

If YOU can't help YOURSELF and eat all 15 cookies in one day (ahem), YOU will have eaten 2 bananas, a cup of oatmeal, and a handful of chocolate chips. How healthful are YOU?

(I got this recipe originally from a friend who shared this post on Facebook, and I've made it as many times as I've had dead bananas falling off my banana stand.)

Next up is Blueberry Coconut Ice Cream. All you need is:
  • coconut milk (full fat version)
  • blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • agave syrup

To make (again, in three easy steps):
  1. Blend 2 cans of coconut milk, 3 cups of blueberries, and 1/4 cup of agave syrup in a blender. 
  2. Churn mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. 
  3. Freeze for a few hours and voila! 

And because I had some extra mixture, and I COULDN'T WAIT for all the freezing hours, I got a quick version in my Zoku slushy maker. And it tastes like summer on the beach. And I love the beautiful purple color studded with seeds. It is high in antioxidants, naturally sweet, and best of all, lactose-free! My kind of ice cream!

(This recipe is a hybrid of many homemade ice cream recipes online. A trial-and-error success, if you will.)

Finally, my third recipe is named Summer Bliss, and these are the three ingredients:
  • bake/cook
  • read/write
  • eat/sleep

  1. Make a Playlist named "Summer Bliss" with ingredients.
  2. Press "shuffle".
  3. Press "repeat".

Because right now, EVERYDAY IS FRIDAY.

Monday, June 30, 2014


How often do you mean to say one thing but something else entirely different comes out of your mouth? Better yet, how often do you mean to say A but say B and don't even realize it?

DH is notorious for the latter. He can have an entire conversation with you about one thing but actually mean another thing. Without even batting an eye. Cuz he doesn't even know what he did. Sometimes I wonder how he fares at work, speaking law lingo and having a major brain fart. Without knowing he did. 

DH: Put your shoes on. It's hot today, so just put on your flippers.
DD: Um, you mean flip flops?

Nine out of ten times, he'll miss these two terms:

DS: Can I have dessert now?
DH: Sure, you can have a Dum Dum. Go pick a popsicle flavor.
DS: You mean lollipop.


DH: It's good day for a lollipop. Go get one from the freezer.
DD: Popsicle!

How about...

DH: After dinner, we can go to Baskin Robbins to look at books.
Me: Um, Baskin Robbins to have ice cream or Barnes and Noble to look at books?


DH: Mama made lots of pancakes for your birthday party. You can have one now.
DD: Cupcakes, daddy, CUPCAKES!

Nowadays, whenever Daddy commits a Word Crime, the kiddos all scream about the List--the compilation of his crossed brain-to-speech wires. The one that will give birth to a blog post.

Me: I think we're out of tomato sauce!
DH: Look in the upper cabinets. There may be some potato sauce up there.
DD: Tomato sauce! Mama, put that on the list!

However, the apples don't fall too far from the tree.

DH: Which fruit would you like to eat?
DS: I'm not sure. I'm depending on apples or strawberries.
DD: Um, you mean deciding between?

Even Miss Word Police slips up once in a while! During a conversation where Daddy was telling about his new favorite music artist, Stromae, which is a syllabic inversion (ha!) of the word, maestro, this happened:

DD: Where's his name from again? The word maestro? Wait, isn't that a kind of soup?
DH: Uh, no. That's minestrone.

Yep, it happens even to the best of us.

DD: What's your favorite kind of pasta? Mine's penne.
DH: Yes, we know. I like all pastas except for angel hair pasta. It's too skinny.
Me: Yes, we know. That'd be why I never buy angel fish pasta.
DD: ANGEL FISH? Angel hair!

Yep, this is another example of my inheritance of DH's disorders via environmental institutionalization. Except sometimes it goes outside the home, too.

Student: Mrs. Chang, why is that word misspelled on the board?
Me: Because it's Friday and Mrs. Brain's Chang is full.

Uh, they knew what I meant.


Me: You kids hurry up and put on your flippers! We're going to the Y!

See? There's a good reason why we four peas belong in one Crazy Pod.

In our defense, DH was just talking about the process of brain expunging. We are getting on in age, to the point where when our brains have reached a maximum level of content storage, old things have to be expunged before new ones can enter. DH was telling me how he has to go review some files from a couple of years back in order to do some work for a current client. Because he had already expunged old contents to fit in new ones.

I can totally relate. On my elliptical machine, I must concentrate really hard to do everything I need to do. I need to tighten my abs or else my lower back will ache the next day. I need to keep flexing and releasing my right hand on the handle bar or else my fingers will fall asleep 10 minutes into my run. I have to keep wiggling my left toes or else they will fall asleep in the last 10 minutes of my run. Right hand, left toes, abs. Right hand, left toes, abs. Let's just say that the percentage of time that I can keep all three up simultaneously is only about a measly 10. The rest of the time my brain is too full cuz I'm either enjoying the music (too much), wondering how much time is left, or worrying about how my right fingers and left toes will be falling asleep.

So, EXPUNGE, rinse, and repeat.

But speaking of old age, this happened eighteen long years ago:

18 years and we're still on our way to becoming gray and wrinkly together. Oh wait, he's gray and I'm wrinkly ALREADY. I guess that means we still complement each other pretty well.

And we'll probably have a lot more expunging to do when we're both gray and wrinkly.

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Mine, Mine, Mine"

Week One of Summer School, DONE.

And I lived to tell!

The weekend before summer school began, I was a nervous wreck. It was all about not knowing what to expect. Sure, I was expecting incoming third graders, but I knew very little about the students' levels, compatibility, habits, and backgrounds. I did know a handful of kids from our school, which helped a bit, and I was excited to have them in my class.

It's been a while since I've done a #TopTen, so here's my list of the Top Ten Things I Learned from the first week of teaching summer school:

10. It gets easier. If the Sunday night before summer school was a total blank slate, then by Monday after school, the slate was 80% filled already. By the end of the first week, I've pretty much GOT THIS. And I just met a new student on Friday who is joining us on Monday, but even that's no biggie now.

9. Planning. I realized that I was trying to squeeze way too much into a 4-hour day, so I swiped a few lessons or simply pushed them back into the days ahead. The thing about summer school is that it is pretty much up to the teachers what to teach, so I tried my darnedest to find appropriate, common core standard-aligned, and interesting materials to teach. It's like pulling things out of thin air if you ask me. But I've got my resources (teachers and internet), and I thank them very much. Last week I was planning day by day. This week, I'm pretty much all set.

8. Kids need to move. When I student-taught back in the days, my cooperating teacher did daily exercises with her class. The kids loved it and always looked forward to it. Now, we have a sleuth of technology for everything, so instead of simple squats and leg lifts, we now have YouTube. We've been doing the Sid Shuffle for days, and the kids are enamored with it. Three minutes is all it takes!

7. Daily Read-Aloud. We are reading the book, The World According to Humphrey, a chapter a day. It is about a classroom pet hamster named Humphrey, told from his point of view. I am surprised at how much I'm enjoying reading this to the kids, as I do my squeaky impersonation of Humphrey while the kids LAUGH-LAUGH-LAUGH at me. And I am surprised at how well-behaved the kids are during the readings. They do crack up whenever Humphrey talks about his "poo," though, as one would expect from goofy 8-year-olds.

 Go to

6. Nostalgia. I did these Pasta Art Butterfly Life Cycle with my first class of second graders 15 years ago. So of course I wasn't going to give up the chance of doing it again with these summer school kids! First we read nonfiction texts on life cycles, compared life cycles of salamanders, frogs, and butterflies, and then concluded the lesson with the Pasta Art Butterfly Life Cycle. I colored the pasta shapes the night before (ditalini, rotini, shells, and bow tie) in half-alcohol-half-water and food coloring, and the kids used them to create a life cycle of egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly. This isn't a rare or extraordinary project by any means, but it's one very close to my heart. And it's colorful and informative, no?

Click on photo to see details.

5. "How many more minutes?" And always followed by the words, "until recess." (In summer school, the most popular question is not "Can I go to the nurse?") At which time I just produce my most innocent look, break into my my biggest smile, and say, "I have no idea!"

4. Encouragement. A little encouragement goes a long way. Finding something positive--however minor or trivial--to say to kids really makes a big difference. It's hard to do for some kids who aren't apt to finish their work or follow directions, but I believe that the students most difficult to say positive things to are the ones who need it the most.

3. "Mine." I haven't been able to say this for a while, but this is my class and these are my students. Their well-being is my responsibility. Their achievement is my pride. And their laughter is my smile. Just take it from these seagulls from Finding Nemo:

2. Reward. I grew up immersed in the Confucian mindset of humility; the proper Asian way of responding to compliments is to deny them (confidence-boosting much?). But I've also lived in this culture long enough to have learned to simply say "thank you" when someone says something nice to me. I've had several compliments come my way since summer school started, from students and parents alike. It's just a wonderful feeling to know that my effort is paying off. Coincidentally, I've also learned that my perfectionist instincts prove to be no more than superfluous, time-wasting feats that can be quite unnecessary. But baby steps. At least I have the luxury of time to waste this summer <blush>.

And, finally,

1. That this is SO my thing. It's taken some time to get back into the act of teaching--standing in front of kids and presenting academic materials. But now I find it inexplicably comforting to be in a classroom full of kids, to be the facilitator of learning, the setter of examples, and the mother hen of these wide-eyed children. Don't get me wrong--it's not all always easy; there are excruciating times, challenging kids, and moments where my blood pressure is in danger zone. But among these little (most-of-the-time) kindred spirits, it's really my privilege. Especially when I'm given the gifts of smiles, achievements, and flowers.

One week down, two-and-a-half more to go.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


My hands are gripping tightly on a rope, and I feel the rope slipping. My mind anticipates each slip and prepares for the sharp pain of rope burn that accompanies it. 

You see, these are screen shots of my substitute teaching calendar beginning from April 28 to June 5, 2014. Blue squares are the days I worked. White squares are weekends/holidays, and gray squares are days I took off (one for chaperoning a field trip with DS, and one for a coffee/lunch date with my bloggy friends, Shannon and Kari). Today is June 4. Tomorrow is the last day of school. 

And summer school starts NEXT MONDAY. (I can't even think about all the things I still have to DO!)

Every year, the month of May is one of sheer madness. We have two birthdays, Mother's Day, violin concert and recitals, year-end school performances and events, and all the regularly scheduled activities LIKE BREATHING AND SLEEPING. 

In attempt to avoid rope burns, I grip tighter. A slipping rope would definitely cause pain.

Within eight days, DD turned eleven and graduated from her Elementary School. It is almost strange to see her feet nearly clearing the foot of her bed when I wake her in the mornings. Who is this giant child I'm looking at? Her feet are ginormous, legs long, fingers slender and delicate, cheeks twice the size of the ones I used to zerbert. Yet there she is, sleeping like a baby, so peacefully. I stare a few moments before continuing the hustle and bustle of the day, yanking her out of bed, again racing against the clock. 

For her birthday bedroom surprise this year, I went with lights again, except these ones have beautiful mini lanterns on them. They have been hiding in my closet for a few months, and I couldn't wait to put them in her room. But now that "birthday room surprise" is a thing in our family, it was not so much a surprise for her than a "wow, it's pretty!" Which is good enough for me.

Now that she is months away from middle school, we wanted to update her "girly" room with something more practical as she gets older. If you remember from last year's birthday room surprise, she still had her play kitchen, a birthday present from her auntie from when she turned two. 

That kitchen had been loved and cherished, and now has come full circle and found a new home--living with the gifter's children: my nieces. It will continue to be blessed with little hands cooking with wooden food items and plastic plates and cups. 

DH found a really nice desk/hutch that matches the white of her bedroom furniture. The entire desk weighed over 200 pounds, and I'll leave it to your imagination how we got the two pieces upstairs to her room. Think: PIVOT-shouting-matches, dripping sweat, overexerted fingers, arms, lower backs, and a snickery DS who watched the entire spectacle without having to flex a muscle. 

1, 2, 3, GO! 
1, 2, 3, PULL! 
1, 2, 3, <GRUNT>!

Two days ago, the kiddos' school had its Fifth Grade Farewell. Being the sentimental schmuck that I am, I had fully expected to be weepy. I drove to the event with a bouquet sitting in the passenger's seat, thinking about how those flowers represent all of the six years DD spent at the school and everything she has accomplished there. Where are my tissues?  

What I didn't expect was to be overcome with joyful emotions looking at all the fifth graders, because I have taught--at one time or another (and some more than others)--almost every single one of the students walking in the processional of the ceremony. Many made eye contact with me and smiled or said hello. I was so very proud of them all. To see them dressed up, not acting goofy, and embracing the celebration for them made me incredibly happy. 

DD wore her floral dress, a ladies' size 4, you guys! She played with the orchestra and recited a part of her poem. She received an award for Leadership, sang "Today is the Day," and walked the recessional. And then, she graduated from grade school. Proud Parenting Moment, I tell ya!

A sudden burst of strength surprises me. I shift and readjust my grip. 

Throughout this crazy month and the few leading up to it, I've felt like I've been slipping. Slipping from household chores, slipping from mommy duties, slipping from sanity. Which is understandable seeing those calendar pictures up there. But what was scary was the fact that I felt less and less inclined to write. I'd have thoughts about possible posts, but never having the time or wherewithal to write them. As time passed, those posts just seemed to slip away. I didn't know how to feel about that. Should I be okay with it? Should I not? 

But I do know that I shouldn't force myself to do anything. Least of all, make myself miserable.

And the answer came to me today. My first day off since FOREVER ago, I've been incredibly productive. I've put the kids on the bus, been on the elliptical for a great workout, run a load of laundry, and written an overdue, three-posts-in-one blog post. And now it's clear as day: when I can, I do. 

When Life throws me a day off, I do what makes me happiest: write, edit, and publish.

I settle in my stance. I hold my grip. With newfound power, I pull. Life is a tug-of-war, vacillating between slips and tugs. 

And, occasionally, pivots.

I came upstairs last night and saw this:

And I know that all is good in the world, and all of our tugs and pulls, slips and rope burns are all worth the fight.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


If my life were a book, I would be ending a chapter and beginning a new one.

Sunday will be my last day of teaching my Chinese Toddler Class. After five semesters and a great many children and parents, I say goodbye to a very rewarding Chapter of my life.

My little two- and three-year-olds have filled my Sundays with song and dance, laughter, stories, crafts, games, and intangible fun. Each time a lesson ends, I feel an incredible teaching high. We've gotten our routine down so nicely that the kids and parents go through each lesson like a well-oiled machine--gears turning and syphons pumping--ever without a hitch. But in order to have everything go smoothly, a lot of preparation is required. And time has not been on my side these days.

I'll always remember a few wonderful moments over the last few years. Last year we played a game during a lesson on Clothing. I had asked the children to take off one shoe and randomly put it somewhere in the classroom. Then all the children went shoe hunting for someone else's shoe, and we tried to find its owner by practicing saying our color words. It was all good until two of my youngest kids (still age two at the time) began to cry great, huge drops of tears. Because they weren't allowed to pick their own shoes. This year I brought colorful pairs of socks to play this game instead. No tears this time--lesson learned.

Each week, we always start the class by singing a Welcome Song to the tune of Frere Jacques: "Ni hao, lao shi. Ni hao, xiao peng you..." which translates to "Hello, teacher. Hello, children..." And one little girl has always--and still continues to--insist on calling me Ni Hao Lao Shi. As if my last name is Ni Hao. Why, hello, Mrs. Hello! It always brings a smile to my face when she greets me. One time this little girl got defensive because another child took a prop of mine. She immediately said to the child, "Give it back! It's Ni Hao Lao Shi's." I couldn't stop giggling at the possessive use of my new name, complete with the "apostrophe and s"!

And then there's the time when a child happily shared what was on his underwear (superhero character) during story time; or when I heard a child tell me how to say something in Chinese for the very first time; or the time when we made flowers for Mother's Day and I asked a child to tell his mom "wo ai ni" (I love you) and he did it immediately even without knowing what the heck he was saying; or the time when I came back from our Toronto trip, having missed two classes in a row, and a child said to me, "I really missed you!" (in Chinese!). Yes, these are the moments I will never, ever forget.

Chinese New Year Celebration Performance

As for why I made this decision to stop teaching Chinese school: last month, the principal of my kids' school asked me if I would be interested in teaching summer school. Would I ever be!? Of course I'd jump at the chance to do something for a school at which I have been comfortably substitute teaching for over a year now. The class is for incoming third-graders in reading, writing, and math. It will be four hours a day for four weeks. What better way to get a good feel for teaching my own class than a short-term, laid-back, summer class with a classroom full of my own kids? How lucky am I that this opportunity came knocking on my door? Huzzah! 

A few weeks later, DS's (first grade) teacher, who is expecting her second child in July, asked me if I would like to take her maternity leave assignment in the fall, which covers from the start of school until November, or January (if she can combine two leaves). I couldn't even hold back from smiling ear-to-ear before she had finished asking. What an incredible opportunity--again! To be able to ease into a classroom from the start of the school year, have help from a teacher with curriculum planning, and experience having my own class during the regular school year for a couple of months! And, and, and, since I have been the go-to sub for our school's kindergarten teachers, I already know the incoming students for next fall. I felt like the teaching gods were tossing me gold.

After receiving these two wonderful news, I was feeling all the feels: excitement, trepidation, nervousness, gratitude, and, occasionally, a "I've-got-this." I was also afraid to tell people for a little while cuz I didn't want to jinx anything.

And now they are definitely official. So.

Do you remember my Zero-Sum Theory of Life? The "you win some, you lose some" theory? The "you have some good, you get some bad, and it all evens out" rule? Well, I started to wait for the other shoe to drop. Two great news must mean something terrible might happen to even things out.

And... Bam! ROOT CANAL.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Ba-Bam! STREP THROAT.

Well, that about sums it up. Zero-Sum. We're now even.

And if you're laughing at my crazy theory, I will make one more attempt to convince you why my theory holds true and it all evens out:

At the start of this school year, a first grader asked me how I know DS having heard other children say we know each other. I said to him cleverly that DS and I have the same last name, and asked how he thinks we're related. He replied, "You're his grandma?" Ouch.


A few weeks ago, a classroom full of 7th graders swore up and down that I appear no older than 25. For reals.


Zero Sum.

And so, for me, a chapter ends and a new one beings. With much anticipation, I begin another journey in my professional life. And as necessary as it is to move on from Sundays at Chinese School, I'll always cherish my most special name, Ni Hao Lao Shi.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Last week, I was tagged by Lisa of Expandng to join the Blog Author Tour, where bloggers share details of their writing process. Though I have written about this topic a few times in the past, (on why I love to write, my blogging anxieties, and my writing process), I know that introspection and reevaluation always help one grow, especially in the area of writing. Here are the four questions to answer:

What am I working on?

Lately, I've been working on just having some time to sit down to write. I hang my head in shame when I look at the number of posts I've published in April. I'll save you the time to find it on the right sidebar: ONE. I have surrendered to my busy teaching and mothering schedules of late. It's a reality and I simply cannot add more hours to the day. I hate that I have to put this blog on the back burner, but I'm dealing and adjusting to these changes with grace and style.

You know, like the composure Monica Geller would display if her hands and feet were tied as she watched her friends cook in her kitchen with her "fancy guest" towels.

Otherwise, I sneak little bits of time during the busy days and nights to think about topics for future posts. The typing part of the writing is only a portion of the entire process, so getting a mental picture or a few bullet points in my head is very helpful. I'm also mindful of taking pictures of everyday life that can somehow find their ways to posts later. It's always nice to have a stash of photos I can use to illustrate a setting or sentiment.

Like the way I can prove to you that my workouts are still going strong, yay!

But I am always working on learning new things for this blog. I have just made slight changes to the blog template for a newer, fresher look. Over time, I have learned how to make a custom blog header, how to embed video and audio files, photo slide shows, and drawings. See below for my newest self-taught skill: creating and inserting my first-ever pie chart! 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This blog is none other than a personal blog. It is a place where I share my thoughts as a mother, teacher, and writer. I'm not sure that it actually differs from other personal blogs, but I write to make each post more meaningful than a diary entry or a list of "what we did." Each post might begin with something that "we did," but it generally becomes more relevant than "that thing we did." This is not a public diary, and I'm sure readers would be more interested in an idea or issue that they can identify with than be forced to read what we did over the weekend. Although little tidbits of what we did over the weekend might sometimes add a little pinch of spice to the ordinary...

And in case you were wondering what we did over the weekend... Someone had a birthday celebration at a lovely Sunday brunch. She didn't even mind turning forty-one!

Why do I write what I do?

There are a few reasons why I write the things I do. I write to:
  • Capture memories. I'm taking snapshots of moments in my life. It's definitely interesting to go back and see what was going on with the kiddos or what was going through my mind at any certain point. It's an ongoing memory book, if you will.
  • Write. Real writers write often. This blog keeps me going even if my schedule tries to interfere. 
  • Share and know that we are not alone. It is my intent to share some of my parenting mishaps or triumphs, introspective self-discoveries or revelations, and the congested streaming of words gushing through my head. If you read any of it, I would be happy. If you laughed at any of my tomfoolery, I would be elated. If you were able to relate to any of my experiences, I would be jubilant. 

How does my writing process work?

Here's the breakdown for each blog post I write:

I cannot even begin to tell you how long it takes me to complete one post. Because you would surely think I'm nuts. I waste way too much time on editing, fretting over the post, and my social media vice. I am incapable of staying within limits of sensible proofreading time. I venture so far beyond the Wall that I risk being slaughtered by Wildlings or White Walkers. But I digress...


So there you have it. Another exciting edition of my writing escapades. 

Read about Lisa's writing process and see how her blog evolved from a parenting blog to a family photography blog. Another blogger friend, Shannon from Deepest Worth, also participated in this writing exercise last week. I enjoyed reading both of their posts and finally had the time to write my own.

I'd now like to invite two more of my blogger friends to join in on sharing their writing processes: Janna of JannaTWrites and Imelda of My Word Wall. I met both of these writers from a prompt-writing community. Janna is an amazing writer of short fiction as well as longer pieces in series. Imelda is a brilliant photographer and poet. I would love to see how their creative processes work! (No obligations, ladies, but it would be fun!)

Now that I've written one post this month, May cannot possibly be worse than April, right? 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


One important skill on the resumes of all moms is the talent of multitasking.

We've all been there: change a baby's diaper while using one foot to knock away the garbage that your preschooler just dug out the trash can. Or answer a phone call with the most pleasant voice while giving the death stare to your child gesturing, Don't you dare! Or unload groceries, a sleeping child, and spilled Cheerios from the car while remembering to feed the turtle and put the load of wash into the dryer as you pass them. Except your now-awake child is going through the groceries and spilling more Cheerios on the kitchen floor. You wake up in the middle of the night remembering that you forgot to feed the turtle, and you wake up in the morning to find semi-wet "clean" clothes in the washer.

I find multitasking a burden borne of necessity. One does not do it because it's fun. One does it because too many things to get done. It is done out of desperation and survival.

Sure, it's fun to boast one's ability to multitask because moms rock. Sure, it's also fun to tease DH's multitasking ability because he cannot be on the phone and hear all the words coming out of my mouth. 

But you know what the truth is? I am really not very good at multitasking. Everything I do requires methodical planning and compulsive orderliness. (I know--I am my own detriment, and I see it in my poor DS everyday.)

I cannot have food cooking on the stove and still have things to prep on the cutting board; everything must be prepped before anything goes into the pan. Giada cooks and cuts at the same time, easily. The last time I aspired to be like Giada, food ended up on the floor.

I cannot do a whole lot while listening to music. My brain is wired so that the combination of music and reading or writing actually makes white noise. Sure, I listen to the radio in the car, but you know what I really hear when I'm driving to find a new place? White noise. Which might also be why I never know the lyrics to songs; they're usually just tunes and words like "ceiling can hold-ers."

I cannot hear my children talking at me while I'm reading. Again, white noise.

One thing I can do at the same time (woo-hoo!) is stir the liquid in that pot on the stove with my right hand and scroll through social media updates on my phone with my left thumb. Hold your applause, because too many things to get done. 

And it seems that the older I get, the more white noise I am hearing these days. Age is not very forgiving when it comes to demanding tasks such as taking notes from the violin teacher while playing Word Feud on my phone at the same time.

But now that Winter has passed and Spring has arrived (except the hiccup of an inch and a half of snow blanketing the ground this morning), I have had the energy and urge to get movin' again. When your forty-year-old body is inactive for a period of time, well, let's face it, it gets rusty. When your skin is so saggy because there's nothing underneath to support it, it's time to get shaped up!

Let me tell you about my requirements for working out: 1) It must take the least amount of time from getting ready to workout to working out. 2) It must have the luxury of heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. 3) It must be safe so this old body has no chance of hurting itself. 4) It must allow me to do something else other than just the workout. <Gasp! Did I just demand to be able to multitask? Yes, I did!>

I have an elliptical machine in my room. It meets all the requirements. I roll out of bed and can begin working out within 5 minutes (minimal travel time). No one sees me with sheet wrinkles on my face and bedhead hair (no grooming required). There are handlebars to hold on to so I cannot fall off (safe for the knees and old folk). And I can watch TV or listen to music while running on it (multitasking haven). Whoopee!

Because I used to watch TV as an exercise companion, I'd DVR a season's worth of Grey's Anatomy and watch an episode each time I worked out. Except I'd end up sobbing uncontrollably halfway through the workout and forget about actually having to run. To know how well that worked out, let's just say that I haven't kept up with Grey's Anatomy for a couple of seasons.

So this time, I plugged in my earbuds and turned up the music. Picture me: running rhythmically to my upbeat music.


Cuz I'm still sleepy. And I won't fall off. And I get to really enjoy my music and hear the lyrics.

And when I open my eyes again when the album's over, my goodness, I've run forty minutes and enjoyed tolerated every minute of it and it's over! And I didn't even have to cry or check to see how much longer?! Win-win!

This is absolutely Multitasking For The Win! Semi-conscious exercising while enjoying music and hearing all the words!

But don't let this post fool ya.

In the classroom, I know exactly which students are out in the restroom, drinking water, or at the nurse's office.

All while I'm passing out papers, herding a few stragglers to get started on their work, and teaching a lesson on how to be effective multitaskers.


Sunday, March 30, 2014


What's UP?

Spring break is officially over in T minus a few hours. This is how ours went down, er, I mean, held UP.

We drove UP to Toronto, Canada and had a family destination reunion. A first visit for all (eleven) of us, and we were much excited to leave behind the mundane for a change of scenery (and currency).

First and foremost, Toronto is known for its delectable ethnic foods, especially of the Chinese variety. We Yelped the local restaurants and made our tummies super happy. The first place we went to had a beautiful wooden ceiling to go along with the Chinese cuisine. But the dim sum restaurant we went to had hanging chandeliers and giant French paintings on the walls. It was as if the decor justified hiking UP the pricing because French gold-trimmed teapots made better Chinese tea. Nevertheless, we ate UP all the food, sighed in complacence, and stared UP at the ceiling.

As the dutiful tourists that we were, we visited the CN Tower. We went UP and looked at the view of the lake and city. We walked on glass floors and shook on wobbly knees. We studied the height of all famous skyscrapers in the world and sized them all UP.

We also visited Ripley's Aquarium, which we all very much enjoyed. Visitors walked through ginormous aquariums, watching fish of all sorts swim above our heads. Look UP! There's a stingray smiling at us, and a shark showing off all his teeth.

For a week, I had the luxury to stay UP and read. I finished off two books and started on a third. What a total treat that was! I even had my coveted booze accompany me while reading--Kahlua, straight UP!

For this trip, we rented a home to accommodate the lot of us. One requirement UP on our list was free wifi. Well, let's just say that I shook my fist UP at the wifi gods in pitiful desperation because our connection was spotty at best. It's one thing to want to be disconnected while away on vacation, but it's another story when I can't access the internet when I need to. It totally left me all roiled UP. I will never look at wifi connection the same way again. I am home now and I'm whispering sweet nothings to my beloved wifi. I have missed you so!

In addition to yummy foods, we drank UP on my Taiwanese bubble milk tea and Hong Kong milk tea/coffee combo. The bubble milk tea was one of the best I've ever had, apparently a number one brand in Taiwan. The Hong Kong milk tea/coffee combo is from an award-winning cafe, known for its tea and coffee. These beverages are so good that I'd be willing to give UP a meal for each drink. They pretty much made UP for the lack of access to good coffee everyday while traveling.

Lastly, as we were so close, we visited Niagara Falls. The water was not as magnificent as I had imagined it to be, but that is because water flow is reduced by half over the winter season as compared to the summer. There were large, frozen boulders at the bottom of the fall that completely blocked the view to watch the waterfall from an underground tunnel from behind. I guess it wasn't meant to be this time. We did get to look UP at the fall, and stand UP above the fall to see its grandeur. The naturally occurring turquoise colors were beautiful. The moisture and mist at the bottom of the fall were mesmerizing. I just wish it hadn't been so cold and dreary!

Alas, spring break had to end. We had to pack UP, say goodbye, and drive home. None of us are looking forward to getting UP Monday morning and facing reality again. 

But there is one awesome thing to come back to (other than the comfort of our own home and beds): the weather is finally starting to look UP! We will be in the high 60s tomorrow, and believe it or not, all the snow in our yard has melted and I see my tulips sprouting! Woo hoo! It is AMAZING what a little warmth and sunshine can do for the soul! 

Now that spring break is over, Spring must finally be here?! 

Your time is UP, Winter! Ta-ta! Farewell! Goodbye! 

I hope you have/had a wonderful spring break, too! What did you do UP in your neck of the woods?

Friday, March 21, 2014


My Little Guy just turned seven.

My quiet, no-nonsense, highly orderly and deliberate child by day, and silly, goofy, and rambunctious kid by night.

The child uses a timer when he reads. All because he has to log his reading minutes daily for school. Should I even go on? He even stops the timer if he needs to go to the bathroom in between. He doesn't believe us when we tell him he doesn't have to be that precise.

The boy needs a chill pill. Because by-the-books is how he rolls.

When he gets in a silly mood, he will spew out a string of Chinese phrases--all of the inappropriate type (learned from listening to his often-frustrated mama muttering under her breath)--in a thick, tongue-challenged American accent. We, as his parents, naturally try to hold in our laughter and act appalled. I say, You mean I send you to Chinese school and all the Chinese you speak are these? DS, not missing one single beat, recites numbers from one to ten, in Chinese, in the most perfect intonation one has ever heard.

That goof.

They say birth order makes a difference. The youngest of the family comes with a list of behavioral generalizations. As much as we try to stay away from conforming to birth order stereotypes, I still have a hard time letting go of the fact that he's small. Not just the youngest small, but little. DD was always on the high end of the chart for weight and height. DS turned out to be on the low end. He's perfectly healthy; he just has a small frame and stature. He's actually saved us a lot of money since he outgrows his clothes at a much slower pace than DD did.

To me, he always looks younger than he is. He's shorter than most kids in his class. He can wear his shoes forever before needing bigger ones. Even the Tooth Fairy hasn't paid a visit yet--not even once! How can having all his baby teeth in an ear-to-ear grin not make him look little?

DD is tall for her age, and seeing her among her peers makes me feel less concerned about others picking on her. DS, on the other hand, is usually "looking up" at his friends. Being the worrier that I am, I wonder if he needs to work harder to be noticed. Or if he must do more than others to stand out in a crowd.

A parent worries. Whether the worries are warranted or not.

You might remember that we ran out of breath preparing for DD's last birthday morning surprise. Well, I wanted nothing to do with latex and hyperventilation anymore, so for DS's surprise, we strung lights all around his room for an evening surprise. As he stomped upstairs in objection of violin practice, he opened his door to find his room showered with glowing lights. His face turned from utter spite to boyish wonder, all in a matter of split seconds.

We got ya, bud!

My Little Guy is working his rank up in Tae Kwon Do. For his birthday, DH and I decided to get him a belt display rack. We all look forward to filling up this rack with colored belts as we and he gain more confidence throughout this learning process. I need visuals, you know, for knowing that my little one will not be picked on.

This rack is as much for me as it is for him.

Six was the year he finally found comfort in his own bed. It was the year he had the maturity to be introspective about his difficulties during transitions and actively attempted to improve in that area. At six, his smile was an even blend of a contemplative reserve, a trusting gaze, and a radiating beam. I look forward to see what Seven will bring.

If nothing else, hopefully a visit from the Tooth Fairy, at the very least.

Today, I picked him up from school and he unabashedly proclaimed to me in the school parking lot, as if stating an absolute, unmistakeable truth, "Mama, I love you like crazy."

My heart melted into slobbery goo. But not before I said, "You know I'm totally going to blog that, right?"

Happy Seven, my Little Guy!