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Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

 

Sometimes you feel like a Gastropoda; sometimes you don't


Gastropoda
Originally uploaded by marytsao
It was a long, productive day. I addressed and mailed invitations to Emily's birthday party, sent a card and check to a cousin who graduated high school, did laundry (natch), cleaned house (of course), dropped off dry cleaning, returned a movie, went to a parent-teacher conference for Emily, attended a meeting in my recovery program (more on that when I'm not so tired), worked with Emily to create a family tree for her to bring to school, and enrolled the kids in summer camp.

Enrolled the kids in summer camp! That deserves a paragraph and exclamation point all its own. For three weeks this July/August I will be free as a snail from 8:30 to 11:45 on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. No kids. Wow. Summer camp is basically one step away from becoming a soccer mom. There's no doubt in my mind that I am as mom-like a creature as a person can be.

I definitely did not feel like a Gastropoda today.

Monday, May 28, 2007

 

Let me go crazy, crazy on you, your playroom, and your clutter


Praise for mommy
Originally uploaded by marytsao
It must have been a great three-day weekend because my back is aching. Also, Thomas now sleeps in a big boy room instead of a nursery, and the playroom is now officially family-friendly. Oh, happy day.

Why re-decorate half the house, you ask? Well, it all started with a blog post that the amazing Chris of In the trenches of motherhood wrote about aesthetically pleasing, child friendly, and most of all practical toy storage advice. In her post, she writes:

"Even though we have a large house, we do not have a dedicated playroom. Why? I have not met a single person whose children will go into a playroom and play. It becomes essentially a huge closet to store toys. No matter how organized it is, it becomes a mess. Kids don’t want to go somewhere separate from you to play in a room alone. They want to be with you. Make the play room a room that you enjoy spending time in."

When I read that paragraph, a light bulb went off in my head. Aha! She was so right. Our playroom was cluttered, dark, and dirty with too much crap. I had been meaning to breathe some life into the room for months but had put it off for one reason or another. Suddenly, today, I couldn't take it anymore and decided to bust a move.

The first thing I did was move two couches all by myself. Have I told you that I've been lifting weights since the beginning of the year? Dood. I think it's paying off. Mike spotted me to make sure I didn't careen the dolly through a window, but because his back is shot, I moved those damn couches all by myself. Today I was on fire. En fuego, baby!

After that I took down the dark curtains, and when the light came into the room, everything else fell into place. I slipcovered my old couch, took the rug from the kitchen, moved stuff around, bagged two bags of garbage, dusted, re-arranged, organized, and voila! I told Mike that I know I've done good when the kids are excited to hang out in the room. It's not too surprising that kids like a clean, clutter-free environment, too. At least, mine do. Do you think it's nature or nurture?

I also share Chris's philosophy that less is more when it comes to toys. Too many toys is a waste of money. I don't buy my kids a lot of toys so they don't expect me to buy them toys. When we go to Target we never stop in the toy aisle unless we're buying a present for somebody else. And yet, my kids have plenty of toys. They have so many toys that I'm routinely giving away bags of them to friends and charities. I don't have anything against toys, per se, just too many toys. My attitude has less to do with the idea that toys rob a child of an imagination and leave him unable to entertain himself and more to do with the idea that I hate clutter of any kind. Out, damn toys!

So if you want to know all about how to de-clutter your growing collection of kid stuff, go check out Chris's post. As I write this from the couch in my newly cleaned playroom-turned-family room, I can tell you that it's worth the aching back. Definitely.


P.S. Her advice is for any room that is shared by adults and kids, not just a dedicated playroom.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

 

Thoughts on becoming (perfectly) ordinary


Iceberg Rose
Originally uploaded by marytsao
In sobriety, you are given permission to be ordinary. --AA Slogan

I've been thinking a lot lately about what to write or what not to write about this process I'm going through of quitting drinking, of becoming a sober individual. Of course I would love to tell you everything, the whole sordid tale starting with my first drink at age 10 and ending with my last at age 38. I would love nothing more than to share with you all of the good times, the bad times, the reckless times. (And oh, what times they were!) I'd love to tell you stories from my life to shock and amuse you. It would make a great memoir, similar in some ways to Caroline Knapp's classic, Drinking: A Love Story except it would include lots more emotional abuse and drugs besides alcohol, too.

But here's the truth: People can use that kind of information--stories about your sordid past, your illicit drug use, and your alcoholism--against you. People like employers, husbands trying to gain custody of your children, people who want to deliberately hurt you, people who are looking for your Achilles heel and are more than happy that you revealed it to the world in a public, timeless forum.

I've already said too much.

The problem with blogging is that it feels safe, but is it? There are so many things I don't reveal on this blog that I wish from the bottom of my cold, black heart that I could. Oh, do I. Sometimes I feel as though I am constantly protecting and promoting the images of the people in my life. If I don't have something nice to say, I tend to say nothing at all. According to this blog, everybody I know is an absolute angel. Ha! In this case, the person I need to protect is me. It would be foolhardy of me to go into the details of my issues on this blog, and that's unfortunate because blogging is therapeutic for me in many ways.

So I don't feel comfortable writing about what brought me to this place, but what I do feel comfortable writing about is how great this place is. I was telling my counselor the other day (Oh brother, here she goes...) how happy I was to be living this ordinary life. Being at ease with the sheer ordinariness of my life means that I'm not constantly searching for that next great high to take me to another, less ordinary place. It means I can live this day--and the next and the next--as they come. It also means that I am dropping or re-defining previous notions of what it means to have a "perfect" life or to be a perfect person, a perfect wife, a perfect mother, a perfect daughter, a perfect in-law, a perfect employee, a perfect blogger. Here's another AA slogan I like: Formula for failure: try to please everyone.

So true, so true.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

 

Three days was the morning


May 25, 2007, 8:07 AM
Originally uploaded by marytsao
I think that there ought to be a moment or two in one's life that it is they -- as an adult -- taking their party to the limit. And that's quite simply what the story is about, so anyone who couldn't understand the lyrics probably has not taken their party to the limit yet. --Perry Farrell

It's the first day of our three day weekend. Monday is Memorial Day, a U.S. holiday commemorating "men and women who have died in military service to their country."

My calendar is pleasantly empty. Today we're going to a good-bye party for Amanda of Mandajuice and her family, who are living their dream and moving on to greener pastures in a more cost-friendly state. I'm so happy for her!

Other things I want to do this weekend include:

  • Addressing and mailing out the invites to Emily's 4th birthday party.
  • Landscaping part of our backyard with rocks. We've got a very shady area under our apple tree and I want to create a circle of rocks under the tree and put some mulch down around that. Not much would grow under the canopy this tree creates and I've already struggled once in my lifetime to have a shade garden in dense shade. No, thanks!
  • Enjoying the beautiful, sunny weather.
  • Eating some barbequed meat and potatoes smothered in mayonnaise.
  • Going swimming at our local rec center. I just renewed our annual membership and got new bathing suits for the kids, who have been growing like weeds lately.
  • Taking in the straps on my new Target dress. This is a common alteration for little 'ol B-cup me. Stop the gap! If I do this in the next couple of hours, I'll have something to wear to Amanda's party. Incentive!

Next week I start an outpatient chemical dependency treatment program. I'll go to three group meetings a week and an additional one-on-one meeting with a counselor. I met my counselor yesterday and she's very nice. She wore pretty perfume. I like her. It's nice to talk to someone who totally gets everything you're saying.

I'm taking my party to the limit.

Have a great weekend, friends.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

 

How far would you go to get Bitten?

OMG! I just saw Sarah Jessica Parker's new Bitten line on a TIVO'd Oprah from last week. Where can I buy all 400 pieces of this affordably priced line of clothing? I asked myself.

Apparently her stuff is carried by Steve & Barry's, and her line comes out June 7. There are no Northern California Steve & Barry's locations. In California, they're all down south.

Now here's the good news: We had already planned on going to Southern California on June 9. Coincidence? Fashion fate? I don't know, but I do know that I'm gonna get Bitten. Very exciting.

That is all.
 

Book Review: From the Hips by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris

I'm blogging today for the MotherTalk Blog Tour for From the Hips: a comprehensive, open-minded, uncensored, totally honest guide to pregnancy, birth, and becoming a parent by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris. For more information about this book, check out the From the Hips website or the authors's blog.

Finally! The book I wish I had when I was pregnant with my first child. I spent so many days and nights poring over The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy--a book I loved--and lingering in the bookstore catching up on What to Expect When You're Expecting--a book I refused to buy on principal because I thought the advice was unrealistic and preachy. If From the Hips had been in print then, I would have made it my go-to book, my pregnancy and parenting bible.

From the Hips is full of good, un-biased information. And besides just presenting things in an objective manner, the authors Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris also present both sides of most issues. Knowing both the for and against arguments of such potential parenting landmines as circumcision, breastfeeding, epidurals, etc. is a must for any mom who wants to open her mouth in a group of other women and speak publicly about her decisions. It's not safe to assume everybody circumcises their sons or everybody breastfeeds. Lots of moms make different choices and many feel very, very strongly about the ones they make. Knowing both sides of any parenting issue can help an indecisive parent make a decision; it also can help a empathetic parent understand how to best support another mom when she makes different decisions.

Perhaps the best way to explain what I most like about this book is to give you Odes's and Morris's ten anti-rules for parents-in-progress:

  1. Everyone's an expert, but you're the authority on yourself and your baby.

  2. Confidence is more important than instinct.

  3. Strive for imperfection.

  4. Parenting is out of control.

  5. There's no such thing as a natural mother.

  6. Shift happens.

  7. Babies are people, not problems.

  8. Frustration, resentment, anger, exhaustion, exasperation, aggravation, jealousy, nostalgia, regret, etc., don't make you a bad parent.

  9. Look forward, not backward.

  10. There is no right way.


Amen, sisters! I like information of this kind repeated to me over and over again. No matter what choices you've made as a parent or think you might make, this book will help you feel you're doing the right thing. I don't know about you, but I need to know that I'm doing the right thing on an almost daily basis. Confirmation, please! Even if you're not getting it from the type-A moms in your playgroup, you'll get it from this book.

I'm planning on giving this book to every pregnant mama I know. I also believe it has value for moms and dads who already have a squirming bundle of poop, pee, and--oh ya--joy. From the Hips covers pre-pregnancy and pregnancy, as well as what happens when all of the help leaves and you're alone with your stitches and the thing that no longer wants to sleep. It talks about healing your body after having a baby and healing your mind, too. Adjusting to a life that now contains another is difficult; the authors know this. Do you have questions about formula feeding, co-sleeping, and how best to silence your mother-on-law's opinion that babies should be smeared in baby oil every night? This book has your answers.

I am particularly enjoying the section titled, "It takes a village (but maybe not the one you're living in)". In it the authors provide a modern day definition of family:

The modern family can include single parents, unpartnered coparents, adoptive parents, biological parents, step-people, friends, donor dads, surrogates, baby daddies, two moms, two dads, significant others, ex-significant others, grandparents with significant others, and probably a lot of other possibilities we're forgetting. The idea of family can be flexible, but the reality is solid: "Family" is who the baby learns to trust and count on regularly. They may or may not share genes.

This book is well-written and never feels dumbed down. The graphics are appealing and I like the liberal sprinklings throughout of quotes by real parents, anonymoms. Although I think either a woman or a man would benefit from reading this book, it does seem to be written for a female, mom-centric audience. For that reason, I probably would not buy it for a dad-to-be, but for a mom-to-be, this book could be a lifesaver. I can't wait to turn over the copy I received to a friend who is pregnant with her first.

---
The publishers were kind enough to send me two uncorrected proof copies as well. As far as I can tell, they're very close to the finished product except they're printed in gray scale instead of color. I'm keeping one for myself but does anybody want the other one? First one to let me know, gets it!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

 

Meme: Eight Random Facts and Eight Unwary Targets

Nordette Adams of Confessions of a Jersey Goddess tagged me for a meme. Whee! Here are eight random facts about me. I had to think long and hard to come up with these facts because--really--is there anything about me you don't already know? Here goes...

  • My BMI is 21.9.
  • Every day around 10:30 AM I eat a Caramel Nut Blast Balance Gold Bar. This is the best candy bar disguised as a protein bar that I've ever had. The fact is that I have been known to spend $1.69 of my husband's hard-earned money on one of these bars, although I usually can find them on sale for around $1.00.
  • Every night around 10:00 I eat ten Cracked Pepper & Olive Oil Triscuits topped with one one-ounce pepper jack cheese stick cut into rounds. Yum. The fact is that I like these crackers because the kids don't.
  • I will be blogging tomorrow about a new book called From the Hips: A comprehensive, open-minded, uncensored, totally honest guide to pregnancy, birth and becoming a parent. The fact is that I have not yet read the book.
  • Next year the hubby, the kids, and I are going on a month-long trip to New Zealand and Australia. I think I've hinted at this, but I'm not sure if I've revealed any details. The fact is that I don't have any details to reveal at this time, but our plan is to spend three weeks touring the New Zealand countryside in an RV, then to fly to Sydney for a week on the beach.
  • I have a crappy memory for names and for faces, too. The fact is that I could look at your picture every day from now until BlogHer, and I still may not recognize you when I meet you in person.
  • The fact is that I am going to BlogHer 2007 in Chicago. You should, too! The mommybloggers are giving away a ticket!
  • This is the week I do the newsletter for my Mothers Club. The fact is that I am procrastinating by doing this meme. I'm good at procrastinating.


And my eight unwary targets are:

Ann of Ann's Attitude
Dana of The Dana Files
Mommy Coder of Thoughts from a Coding Mommy
JenB of jenandtonic
Daisy of Compost Happens
Gift of Green of Gift of Green
Mamacheryl of Red Pens & Diapers
Kari of Kari's Couch

Whew! Now I'm off to work on that newsletter!

Monday, May 21, 2007

 

Putting the mum in Osteospermum


Patio: new pots, new plants
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Thanks for all of your nice comments on my previous post. I do need to seek professional help; that much has been clear for over twenty years now. Perhaps this will be the year I enter therapy. Then I can say things like, "My therapist said..." and "Wait until my therapist hears about this!" or "Let me check with my therapist and get back to you."

I'll let you know how that goes. Right now the only thing I can say is, "Why is it so hard to get a therapist to call you back?"

In the meantime, I am throwing myself into projects. Today the kids and I went on a quick shopping trip to IKEA to pick up some ceramic pots for the patio. On a typical short visit to IKEA we skip the showroom section of the store and go straight to marketplace. This time we entered at the checkouts and swam our way upstream to the garden section. (I realize that what I'm saying will mean nothing to you unless you're a dyed-in-the-wool IKEA fan.) Anyway, we bought our pots and a few random items that found their way into our cart, got our frozen yogurt (the kids think it's ice cream! shhhh!), used the family bathroom no less than three times, and finally left the place.

Our next stop was Home Depot. I loaded the cart with as many plants as I could before Emily started complaining that the leaves were getting her. I threw in a bag of tiny rocks to use as drainage in my new pots, and we were out of Home Depot faster than you can say, "See you tomorrow when I come back to get some paint for the front door!"

Once at home, I became the mad mom planting machine and managed to get all of our new plants in dirt, fertilized, and watered in time to make dinner before Mike got home. Damn, I'm good. Once I got going, the how tos of planting container gardens all came back to me: start with a large pot, add an inch or two of rocks for drainage, throw in a bunch of new soil, tap and squeeze the container of the plant to loosen the roots ever so gently, slide out the plant with root ball intact, put plant in new pot, add other new plants and more soil, keep soil loose and not compacted, sprinkle with some Miracle Gro, water deeply, and--voila!--shell-shocked plants that will most likely look better in a couple of days.

It's nice to have the time, money, and energy to garden. I've missed it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

 

Paradise lost, please return. Reward.


Self Portrait in Big Sur
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
I'm feeling the need to document something about the past few days. Hmm... What to remember and what to forget? Well, our visit to the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur was really nice. Our cottage was perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was incredible. The service was excellent, the food was great. We loved everything about the place: the serenity hot pool overlooking the ocean, the exercise room, the spa, the trail to the restaurant that wound through a redwood grove, the ice chests placed periodically on the path that held bottled water, the intimacy and privacy of the grounds, the lack of electronic media including computers and televisions, the constant sound that is the ocean beating in the distance, the sunlight and the perfect weather and the light breeze, the pool and how we had lunch delivered while we sat under an umbrella reading. It was Paradise on Earth and we were lucky enough to experience it for a couple of days.

I needed the break but it unfortunately wasn't enough. Not sure exactly what would constitute enough or if the foul mood I've been in for weeks is here to stay forever. As I approach the anniversary of being five months sober, I would have to describe my overall state of mind as completely miserable. Oh, maybe that's not 100% true. Maybe I'm completely miserable about 50% of the time and totally happy the other 50%. And maybe that's normal. After all, who is happy 100% of the time? In that case I would have to describe my overall state of mind as moderately miserable with occasional light showers.

The kids are in bed now and the house is quiet. I can hear the trees outside moving in the wind. Maybe I'll find something wonderful on the Internet that will cause my mood to shift. If not, there's always tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

 

Assess for Light, Obsess Accordingly


Playroom Photoshoot
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
It's official: I'm an amateur photographer. Hurray for me, I have a hobby and it's not breeding! My latest photographic obsession is natural light; I much prefer to take photos without a flash. These days, lighting dictates whether I'll take photos in a given situation, rather than the situation itself. It's all about the light. I especially like strong indoor light, morning light, and twilight. Maybe one of these days I'll upgrade to a fancy camera that will require me to learn about apertures and F stops and stuff like that. But for now, I'm happy with my Canon Digital ELPH, aka my trusty point and shoot.

Since starting my Flickr account in August, 2005, I've uploaded 3,297 photos. Amazing.

Today was a busy, fun day. The kids got hair cuts in the morning, then we went to a noontime surprise birthday party for a two-year old friend, Kate. After lunch, I dropped the kids off with Rosa and had a relaxing afternoon. First I got a mani/pedi, then I got my hair cut, and I finished off the afternoon by shopping for--and finding!--something special to wear this weekend when Mike and I go on our romantic getaway. It felt like a successful day because we got a lot accomplished and we had fun. Also, my nails look good.

Tomorrow morning we pick up Grammie Martha. Not sure what else the day will hold, but I do know one thing: pictures will be taken!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

 

Book Review: Good Kids, Bad Habits by Jennifer Trachtenberg, M.D.

When Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children by Jennifer Trachtenberg, M.D. showed up on my doorstep, I was eager to dive into it. I wanted confirmation that I'm raising my kids the right way, that I'm instilling healthy habits in them daily, and that I'm building in them a foundation of activity and exercise they'll be able to build on throughout their teen years and long after they leave my nest.

Good Kids, Bad Habits begins with a test you can take to determine just how healthy your child's habits are. This step, identify, is the first of four steps that make up a framework for building healthy habits in kids. After you have identified which of your child's habits are healthy and which aren't, you can use the information in the book to inform, instruct, and instill. Your goal is to teach your child how to form and master good habits and how to break or avoid bad ones.

Trachtenberg will show you how to create healthy food habits, get your kid to play more than video games, encourage personal hygiene including teeth brushing and flossing, teach good homework habits, build your child's self esteem, protect your child from injuries, and keep your child healthy now and in the future.

Good Kids, Bad Habits is a wonderful reference book. When I read it, I got the confirmation I wanted that lots of what I'm doing for my kids are the right things to do, and I also got lots of good ideas for things I could be doing better. Ideally, parents would read a book like this when their child is still an infant and when most of the information in it will seem irrelevant. I believe that it's much easier to raise a child with good habits from the beginning of his life, rather than attempt at a later date to modify bad habits that have evolved over years.

---

Do you want my dog-eared copy of Good Kids, Bad Habits? Let me know in comments! I promise I won't judge you. The only way I could get fifteen minutes uninterrupted to write this review is if I plied my kids with cookies and Sponge Bob Squarepants. Don't tell Dr. Jen, m'kay?

Monday, May 14, 2007

 

Coming to my senses: What I'm grateful for

Sight of Emily and Thomas playing with their water table

Sound of the dryer indicating that the clothes are dry

Touch of a small, sticky hand in mine

Smell of grass, freshly mowed

Taste of leftover fruit salad, cold from the fridge

Mother's Day 2007


Today's a new day. That's the wonderful thing about life and time.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

 

Rose Garden of Thorns and Sippy Cups


Front patio: rose garden
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Mother's Day was a mixed bag this year. It started out spectacularly with breakfast of french toast, bacon, fruit salad, and coffee served with flowers and sunlight, but then Mike and I got into a discussion-turned-argument over an issue that I wish would just go away but that probably never will. Cryptic, I know, but it's not really bloggable. Let's just say that life is not always what it seems. Also, I sometimes want to crawl under a rock and live with the bugs. ALONE! Except for the bugs. They can stay.

On a positive note, my rose garden looks great and I planted the two new Icebergs yesterday in honor of Emily and Thomas. I also added a third row of retaining wall bricks, more dirt, and mulch. I'm like a gardening fiend and it's not even June yet. We all went on a family shopping trip this afternoon to our local home and garden store. Mike was excited to find solar-powered LED tiki torches. I was on the lookout for a hummingbird feeder and a birth bath, and I found the mutha of all hummingbird feeders, a 30 oz. baby that's sure to bring many calypte annas to our front patio for my enjoyment and the kids's amazement. I didn't find a bird bath so the birds will have to bathe in Thomas's potty until we can get them something more suitable.

Thomas is 99.8% potty trained. He's said good-bye to sippy cups, too. Next he's going to be asking to move his room out to a small, unheated shed in the yard that he's decorated with black light posters and an old futon matress.

Sigh. I tried to keep it upbeat, I really did.

Here's to a Happy Monday.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

 

Pimp My Mom


Me and my mother in August, 1973
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Yesterday was such a nice day compared to Thursday. I love my Fridays.

After exercising and attending music class with the kids, I got out of the house when Rosa came over. I felt particularly happy as I drove into San Francisco because I've been amazingly on top of things lately. I got out my Mother's Day cards earlier in the week, and my mom got her package and flowers yesterday. Good for me. In case I needed an excuse to go shopping, I decided that would be it. As a back-up excuse, the fact that Sunday is Mother's Day and I am a MUTHA! Rawr.

[Side note: Stacy London is so funny! The girl on What Not to Wear just stated that she didn't like shopping for shoes, to which Stacy immediately replied, "Are you missing a gene?!"]

Yesterday I discovered a great little store in The Castro, Clobba. They carry trendy clothes in cheap fabrics and for affordable prices, kind of like H & M. I got a great purple summer dress; I hope it's warm enough today to wear it. The sun woke me up at 6:30 so I think my wish might just come true.

Today I've got an agenda filled with gardening and shopping for Mother's Day delicacies, basically anything at Whole Foods that looks yummy. In honor of my two children, I will break my back planting two white rose bushes, Iceberg Rose. All of today's hard work will be in preparation for my self-proclaimed day of luxury tomorrow, when I'll do my hair, color my nails, eat chocolates, and refuse to lift a finger especially if it's to clean a poopy butt. Mama, that's gonna be great.

Let me wrap this post up with a small tribute to my own mother, Grammie Martha, who is coming next weekend to babysit the kids while Mike and I take a much-needed mini vacation to Big Sur. If she's not a woman who deserves flowers, I don't know who is!

I've been thinking a lot lately about my desire to take my kids on adventures, including the little trips I do as well as Burning Man this year and New Zealand/Australia next year. I really owe that slightly insane drive to do the impossible from my mom. Even though she was a single mom for most of my childhood, my mom always took my twin sister Barb and me on vacations. From Illinois, where we lived, we would take road trips around the state and into Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

But the trip I'll never forget is when my mom took a month off work the summer before we started kindergarten (or was it the summer before first grade?) and drove us from Illinois to New Mexico--and back--to visit my aunt Paula and her family. We didn't have a lot of money so we alternated between camping and staying in motels. After we picked up my aunt in New Mexico, we visited Pikes Peak (where our motto was, "Whoa, Nellie!"), the Four Corners, and the Grand Canyon. I saw the Petrified Forest and Indian reservations and ate silver dollar pancakes. I also bathed naked in a creek with a bunch of hippy kids that lived near my aunt. It was quite an adventure, one filled with good times and hard times, too. Setting up a campground in sometimes inhospitable conditions with two small kids in tow... Let's just say that I would never once imagine driving to Burning Man in a 26-foot RV with a partner and our kids to be anything other than pure luxury.

Mother, thanks for showing me that what others think is impossible is definitely possible. I love you.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

 

Hell Bent for Sprinklers -or- The Rantings of a Middle Class Housewife


Washer/Dryer/Desk
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
This evening I had to sit down and admit to myself that I am under some stress with our current yard project. Yes, it's almost over, but there's still lots of people/things left to coordinate with the final getting of the hot tub and the installation of it in the yard. Today I had an inspector from the hot tub place come and check out our site. He approved it -- hurray! I also called the woman responsible for scheduling the delivery and we're set for later this month. Woot! Now I'm waiting for the quote from the electrician, and if it's in the ballpark, I'll schedule him to (hopefully) come as soon as he can after the hot tub is delivered. After that happens, a guy from the hot tub store will return to show us how to work the thing so that we don't destroy it.

Gah. So many details, lots of little things that hopefully will culminate in finally being able to relax. I need a hot tub because I'm stressed out from getting a hot tub. I can has hot tub?

Our awesome landscaper gave me some rather unsettling news today. It turns out that the landscaping we had done last November was done wrong. And by "wrong" I mean that the elaborate drip system that meanders around every plant in the perimeter of our yard isn't actually attached to anything. In other words, the thousands of dollars worth of plants aren't being watered every night like I thought they were. I've been sleeping peacefully, imagining life-giving water tenderly spraying my japanese maples and podocarpus and lavender, and now it feels like I woke up from a nightmare where my precious plants are only several hot days away from total death. Apparently, dupes of this nature are common in the landscaping industry. The ignorant homeowner sees that his plants aren't doing well and calls back the landscaper, who "fixes" the problem but only after discovering something that requires the homeowner to spend even more money. The whole idea kind of boggles my mind. Now we have to figure out how to handle the situation with the landscaper who dicked us over and we also have to play nice with our current landscaper to get him to fix the problem. It's not about money, but as you can imagine, contractors don't like fixing other contractor's mistakes, especially when they think you should have used them as the contractor in the first place.

[Such a long and complicated story and probably painfully boring to read. This post is such the ranting of a middle class housewife.]

So that's the real reason I'm stressed right now. When everything goes according to plan--even if the plan is long and complicated--I'm cool. But when issues come up that are messy and require diplomacy and patience, I can maintain the cool but my energy is sapped at two or three times the normal rate. Sometimes I can't even maintain the cool and that's when I take things out on Mike. But that's another post. All I can say is not only d0 I owe my friend Jennie for bringing over her son to influence Thomas in the ways of the potty trained, but I also owe her doubly for this gigantic bag of homemade chocolate chip cookies that I've been stuffing my face with all week to ease the stress of this project. Thank you, Jennie!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

 

I can has potty training?


Emily's "pet" moth
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Am I the last person on the Interweb to ROFL over I Can Has Cheezburger? You all know about this, right? Kind of makes me want to get a cat so that I can take goofy pictures of it. LOL!

Is there anything funny about a pet moth?

I had a busy day today and I got a lot of stuff done. The whole potty training thing is exciting but also mentally exhausting, requiring constant attention for behavior (grabbing at pants, standing alone in corner, making a funny face) that looks as though it is preceding #1 or #2. #2 made several appearances in our house today and things had to be washed. Oh, glory day. It just ain't life on the mother road if you're not doing multiple loads of laundry every time you turn around, is it?

I made dinner tonight for a mom who had a baby three weeks ago. She's kosher, which had me freaked out thinking that I would forget and accidentally make her mac-n-cheese or something. I had to keep reminding myself that I was making her oven-roasted salmon (with oil instead of butter), vegetarian lentil soup, roasted red and green peppers, salad with vinaigrette, and strawberries for dessert. A great dinner for a new mom. We had cold rice. No new moms here.

Even though I was super busy all day, I can't seem to remember much of what I did. Again, I've saved my blogging for the last ten minutes before I pass out from exhaustion. Not a good idea.

Is it Mother's Day yet?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

 

Mutiny on the potty


Eating watermelon on a hot day
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Day two of potty training is going well. The weather is warm and without clothes to hinder him, Thomas is a champ at holding his pee long enough to find the potty and pee in it. It's a different story when he's wearing clothes because he's not used to pulling his pants on and off by himself. And let's just say the #2 made it near but not exactly in our little plastic friend.

But, hey, it's only day two and I think that his desire to be a big boy might be for big boy reals. Wow. It's going to be really cool not to have to bring diapers with us to Burning Man. And I just realized that when you no longer have the chore of changing diapers, a changing table becomes obsolete. I see a re-decoration of Thomas's room in the near future. Fun!

It's possible that's all I have to write. When you're in the throes of potty training you don't leave the house and you don't focus on much else. Oh, I guess I could mention that an electrician came by today to give me a quote on getting a 230V outlet and hardwiring our new hot tub, which Mike bought last weekend. I'm so proud of Mike for finally getting the hot tub. When he left to go to the store I shouted at him, "Don't come back if you haven't purchased a hot tub!" To which he replied, "Sometimes these things take several visits to the store!" and left in a huff. When he called thirty minutes later to go over the pricing I was very, very happy. The tub will take a couple of weeks to manufacture, but it's probable we'll have the latest yard project completed in June. Two months start to finish = not bad, not bad at all.

If potty training takes only that long I will be a very happy woman indeed.

Monday, May 07, 2007

 

And so it begins


Me and T, by Emily
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Thomas is growing up. Recently he has begun getting himself out of his crib in the morning and proceeding by himself into the kitchen, where he spends approximately thirty second being happy until he realizes that he can't get his own juice. At that point he comes into our room in search of a peacefully sleeping parent who can wake up PDQ and get him some juice. The time is usually 6:30 AM. Now that he puts himself into his crib at night and also gets himself out of it in the morning, it's possible that it's time for him to move into a big boy bed. But! But! But! My baby!

Then today he decided that hey, guess what, diapers are for Losers and Babies and he is neither of those things. He's now running around wearing Emily's undies, and Mike has the responsibility of stopping on the way home from work and picking up some big boy pants in size 2T. My baby! In big boy pants!

I know. He's going to hate me for this post one day.

And if that's the case, then let me proceed to humiliate him even further. See, today my friend and her son came over and because the weather was so warm, the clothes came off. Emily started it and Thomas and my friend's son quickly followed suit. That's when Thomas realized out loud, "Hey, he's got a weenie like me!" He was very impressed by his friend's ability to pee on a bush, and the rest--as they say--is history.

And so begins the journey down potty training lane. So far I've cleaned up one wet mess and I've decided against leaving the house to go on a post office run. Something tells me I'll be sticking close to home for the next month or so. Wish me luck sanity, k?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

 

The miracle of mundane things


Lunch at Taxi's
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
The weekend was spectacular. On Friday I went into The City to check out Jeremys, a store in South Park that I found out about from SF Bay Style. If you like designer clothing and don't mind digging through racks and stacks--they carry damaged items, customer returns, and clothes used in displays--then this is the store for you. I'm not sure if it's the store for me; I tried on a bunch of stuff and nothing seemed... right. I'll have to try again some day when I've got another free afternoon. It's defintely not a place where I'd bring the kids.

Friday night was date night and that was nice, too. It's good for me and Mike to get out without the kids. We spend so little time alone that sometimes facing each other across a table without the distraction of little ones is rather daunting. If you're married with kids, I'm sure you can relate. It's good for us to spend time together, to reconnect as individuals. Sometimes we even talk about topics that aren't kid-related! Like the house. Heh.

Speaking of the house, I gardened most of today. The weather was warm and sunny and I finally got some plants in the ground that I had bought last week. Our front patio smells so good from the jasmine I planted last weekend and our roses, which are doing amazingly well. I never thought of myself as a rose gardener, but that's probably because my last garden was very shady. Roses like sun and I've got that in abundance here at this house. We also managed to put in solar lights around the perimeter of the backyard. It was a family project: I bought the lights, Mike put them together, and we all put them in the ground. It was a windless, warm night tonight, which is uncharacteristic of our area. We were out in the yard until the kids went to bed, around 8:30.

When I was outside earlier, I realized that I have this habit of jumping from one project to the next. This morning I swore I would sit in a chair and relax while reading a book, and that idea lasted about ten minutes before I no longer could resist the urge to work on an unfinished gardening project. This afternoon I was sitting out on the back patio when I started imagining the color I wanted to paint the back doors and how much better the trim around the windows would be if they were black instead of the house color. Ahhh! I'm a project junky! Not sure if it's a problem or not, but it's definitely a hindrance to relaxing on the patio.

Maybe my project mania is due to the fact this is the first house I've ever had the pleasure of owning. Mine, all mine! And Mike's. And the bank's. But still! Home ownership is the gateway drug to gardening. And painting and decorating and keeping a clean house, too. It's quite a wonderful thing.

Anyway, yesterday I had a great time at the Mother's Day luncheon put together by my mothers club. I sat with two friends and we chatted the whole time while enjoying grilled salmon with kumquats and a fancy chocolate pudding dessert. Yum. Other nice things happened yesterday, too, but I'm too tired to remember what they were. I do remember that even though I was 45 minutes late getting back to my car, I did not get a ticket for an expired meter. That made me happy since the day before I had gotten a ticket outside of Jeremys and now owe the city of San Francisco (where it cost .25 cents to park for FIVE minutes) $50. The fact I didn't get a ticket on Saturday made the previous day's ticket seem not so bad since I really deserved two tickets. Make sense? I know, fuzzy logic at best, and probably not even that.

*Yawn* G'night!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

 

Mother, May I?


Me, by Emily
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
It's hard to believe that we are already in the month of May. Time flies, eh?

Today was a good day. Here's how I described it on Flickr: The park, lunch at Long Life Noodle, the aquarium, some meandering around San Francisco, a visit to a bookstore, then home to dinner, bath, and bed.

I forgot to include the fact that Mike had a poker game tonight so I was on my own all day. It was fine although I did eat two handfuls of Hershey's kisses the minute the kids went to bed. One for each child, I suppose.

I also forgot to mention that our most recent yard work is fast nearing completion. The kids and I came home today to find that all of the pavers are down. Tomorrow the landscaper is going to clean up everything and plant the beds with the plants I bought a couple of weeks ago. He'll be back on Saturday to put down the sod. How wonderful. It's so nice to look out Mike's office window and see the work that has been done. I've been very fond lately of staring out the windows at the yard. Spring is such a nice time of year.

And now it's raining and the sound of raindrops hitting our foam roof reminds me of how happy I am to have a roof over my head.

Let's see. There are some things I want to remember about the kids. Now what were they again? Something about how grown-up Emily has been appearing to me lately. And also how she has been showing much talent as a budding photographer. Oh, and how both of the kids love their new crocs (Sorry, Heather), especially Emily.

Tomorrow there's music class, my afternoon off, then date night with Mike; Saturday's highlight is the annual Mother's Day luncheon with my moms club. I'm not seeing any clouds on this horizon. Hope you have a great weekend planned!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

 

A Post of One's Own: Thoughts About Living With One's Head Out of One's Sandpit While Still Enjoying the Sandpit

[Updated: Via Mamazine, I just came across Rebecca Mead's review of Bennett's book. Titled The Wives of Others, it's well-written and worth a read.]

Nordette Adams of Confessions of a Jersey Goddess and BlogHer wrote a great post on BlogHer about her thoughts to the premise of Leslie Bennett's book The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much.

I started to leave a reply for Nordette but instead I decided to take her post and a comment left for me by an anonymous commenter and springboard them into a post of my own.

A post of one's own. How Virginia Woolf-ish of me.

First, I do like the commenter's analysis of the book:

"Some key points to the book:

1) Have a plan and a strategy
2) Take responsibility for your financial future - at the very least know how much you and your partner are worth
3) Think about what you would do if your partner died, was layed off etc.
4) Work can be more than just a paycheck. It is social, fun and a way to contribute to the outside world."


I wish so much that Bennett had written a book titled, "Dollars and Sense for the Stay-at-Home-Parent: Things Every Mom (and Dad) Should Know Before They Ditch Their Paycheck for the Pampers and Strategies for Doing So Anyway." And then had written a book giving solid advice about how a family unit can be strengthened by all parties understanding what financial security and economic dependence/independence really means in practical terms.

And is the idea of a mom staying at home with the kids all about dependence--a woman being dependent on a man for his income--or is it about interdependence--a family unit that recognizes all partners are contributing equally and to a common goal?

Argh. But, of course, in order to sell books--or maybe because she cares more about sensationalism or validating her own choices--she wrote a book that may have a valid thesis but that uses sensationalism to make women feel bad about the choices they've made to stay home with their children.

Second, there are many things that families can do to ensure that the partner who stays home with the kids feels that she or he is secure over both the financial short-term and the financial long-term, whether that long-term includes divorce, death, re-entry into the workforce, or the decision never to do so. Here are several:

  • Regular family meetings about finances including budgeting, investments, short-term and long-term financial goals, values regarding money.

  • Individual bank accounts for each partner in addition to joint accounts.

  • A weekly or monthly allowance paid to each partner from the joint account. The amount of this allowance is determined by both parties and is dependent on the family's monthly or annual budget. Nobody should have to feel that his Starbuck's latte bill is going to be questioned come budgeting time.

  • An understanding that *all* income is joint income. It's not fair if a man's salary goes into the family pot but a woman's income from side jobs or freelancing goes into her own account. All income earned in a family is joint income. Allowances to each person then come out of the joint account.

  • As a gesture of good will, an individual retirement account (IRA) set up for the stay at home parent. Doing this says that the family unit recognizes that the stay at home parent is also a working parent and thus deserves retirement benefits accordingly.

Third, regarding the other benefits of work, including the social aspect and the benefits long-term to one's career trajectory, any person--whether working or not--should always be aware of networking opportunities. Online sites such as LinkedIn are great for keeping in touch with old co-workers and new friends. Think that family holiday card is all about showing off your picture-perfect family? It is, but it's also about keeping in touch with old bosses, mentors, co-workers, and new friends. Networking is not a dirty word. When the time comes (whether it comes because of a desire to work, death of a spouse, or a divorce), a stay-at-home parent with a network of contacts, friends, and former co-workers my find himself or herself in a better position to re-enter the workforce.

She'll also find herself a happier person in the short-term. Friends are good. But they're also everywhere, not just huddled around a water cooler bitching about the boss. Moms clubs, online groups, AA meetings, Toastmasters, retired neighbors, the barrista at Starbucks. There are opportunities everywhere to have a quick conversation with a willing participant. Sometimes it can turn into more, too.

I don't think stay-at-home moms are more at risk than other women or other people for making poor decisions regarding financial health. Most people live in the moment and are rarely looking down the road to what may be ahead for them in other-case scenarios. I know many people who don't contribute to IRAs or other retirement accounts because they'd rather spend that money now and "worry about the future" later.

Leslie Bennetts hopes stay-at-home moms will read her book, "reconsider their choices and start making more sensible plans for the future than relying on the blithe assumption that there will always be an obliging husband around to support them." But if that's true, then it's a shame that with her talent and expertise as a working mother and journalist, she couldn't have come up with a more thoughtful book, a book that works to help people get the most out of their decisions instead of attempting to scare them into making decisions that--coincidentally--just so happen to mimic the ones Bennett's made.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

 

April Perfect Post Award: Love Your Neighbor


The Original Perfect Post Awards – April 2007
"And really how simple it all is: in one day,
in one hour, everything
could be arranged at once!
The main thing is to love your neighbor as yourself,
that is the main thing, and that is everything, for nothing else matters."
--Fyodor Dostoevsky,
"The Dream of a Ridiculous Man"

It's time once again for the Perfect Post Awards, that veritable institution created by mommybloggers Lucinda of Suburban Turmoil and MommaK of Petroville.

This month, I am awarding Nancy of Mom, Ma'am, Me for her post The dog days of April. In her post, Nancy writes about helping out her elderly neighbors by walking their dog Greggie. It wasn't easy to persuade her proud neighbors that they needed her help, but Nancy didn't give up:


"I knew after this particular accident, it was extremely important to help out with Greggie, if for no other reason than to give Mr. and Mrs. S piece of mind. But this time, instead of asking Mrs. S if it would be OK to walk him, I got smart. I basically started showing up to walk Greggie at certain times of the day, and enlisted other neighbors to do the same when I must be at work. Now when I arrive at her door twice a day, Mrs. S just gives me a resigned sigh, and hands over the leash."


I liked Nancy's post because it's a wonderful example of both neighborly kindness and how it isn't always easy to help others. If we care, we persevere. It feels good to do so. Thanks for the reminder, Nancy!

To see all of the posts awarded a Power to the Blogger Award, check out The Library on MommaK's site.