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

Monday, July 30, 2007

 

My big, fat BlogHer post


Me in the bean
Originally uploaded by marytsao
As I sit down to write this post, I realize that I dislike writing posts about events after the events are over. Life goes on. Today I woke up and the conference was in the past, my life resumed its usual pace. I drove the kids to summer camp, ran some errands, exercised, showered, grocery shopped, and did a bunch of things I typically do on Mondays. During the course of the day, I wiped butts and made beds. At one point I contemplated taking a nap. For dinner, some friends from out of town stopped by and we caught up on life's happenings over the pizza they brought and the salad I made. The kids played.

This year's BlogHer conference was a great experience for a number of reasons. One reason is that it took me away from my regular existence for a couple of days. It was nice to travel on an airplane and not have the kids with me. It was nice not to have to wipe butts or make beds. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed wandering the city on Thursday with nothing but my purse and my camera. I love my moments of solitude and I'm glad I was able to squeeze in some alone time before my life went a little nutty with non-stop socializing.

The socializing was the second reason why BlogHer was such a great experience for me. I chatted with so many other people, some of whom I expected to see at BlogHer and others who I had no idea would be there. It was a great three days of seeing friends both old and new. I roomed with Krisco of Crib Ceiling, and we spent hours every night talking and getting to know each other better. You might think that two bloggers have nothing new to share with each other, but you'd be wrong! In fact, I never once thought, here she goes again with that story she blogged in December of 2006... Nope, the conversation never got dull and having a roommate was a lot of fun and way better than sleeping alone.

I was proud of myself for doing all of the socializing that I did at BlogHer without feeling the need to drink. It was a bonus that I wasn't hungover once the entire weekend. In many ways, this conference was a huge challenge to my newfound sober lifestyle, and I did good and stayed on course. The fact I didn't relapse during a booze-filled, three-day party is one more reason that I can think about the conference with happiness in my heart and a smile on my face.

Lastly, the educational aspect and the complete immersion in all things bloggity is the best part about BlogHer. Being with folks for days on end and never once having to explain what this blogging thing I do is all about... that's heaven on Earth.

Now that I've written it, I notice that this post is much leaner than I thought it would be and contains far fewer links than I wanted it to. Perhaps I'll produce another, beefier, linkier entry in the future, but I most likely won't. I'm already mentally moving on to the next big thing: our upcoming family trip to Burning Man at the end of August.

In conclusion, BlogHer 2007 was a lot of fun and a smooth experience. Thanks again to Lisa, Elisa, and Jory--and to all of the people who are part of the BlogHer organization--you did a great job, ladies.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

 

Back from BlogHer


BlogHer 2007
Originally uploaded by marytsao
After three gate changes and an hour and a half delay leaving Chicago O'Hare, I finally made it home.

Home, sweet home. I kiss this place.

BlogHer 2007 was such a great time. As JenB of jenandtonic put it: "This, for me was the best BlogHer." I couldn't agree more, and I want to write all about it but right now I'm kind of tired.

Here's a one sentence summary: A tourist checks out parts of downtown Chicago, rooms with the best roommate ever, attends a blogging conference with some of the most beautiful women on teh Internets, and breakfasts with an auntie known as Dee Dee before flying home to her two wonderful kids and one swell husband.

I did get my pictures up on Flickr so go check them out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

 

How can I love you if I don't go away?

My nails are painted, my bags are packed, and in less than ten hours, I will be on a plane headed to Chicago for the 2007 BlogHer conference.

At some point in the beginning of the year, I wasn't sure if I was going to go to this year's conference. I went in 2005 and learned a lot; my attendance that year really changed how I felt about blogging, my blogging. That conference energized me and also got me some recognition that I hadn't expected. Not long after attending the conference, I realized I was getting comments on my blog from people who were not related to me. What was this? I thought to myself. I began learning about community and all of that good stuff. Neat!

Then I got even deeper into the professional side of blogging and started blogging for BlogHer. I did a lot of research and wrote some pretty good--if I do say so myself--posts about a variety of topics that fit under the umbrella of "Mommy & Family." It was fun and kept me busy. It also meant that I knew A LOT more people when I attended the 2006 BlogHer conference. Wow. It was overwhelming at times.

Late last year I burned out on blogging. It was right around the time when I was doing NaNoWriMo as well as NaBloPoMo in addition to all of the added joys that the holidays bring: shopping, cooking, and celebrating Thomas's well-planned December 6th birthday.

I was stressed and something had to change. I was involved in so many different communities, both online and offline. My inbox was always full. I was never caught up on my email. My feedreader was always bold with unread blog posts. I was never caught up on my blog reading. I felt pulled in a hundred different directions. Also, I was drinking a lot and I didn't like that.

So I quit. I quit drinking and I went on a vacation with my family. When I came back, I quit writing for BlogHer, I quit putting ads on my blog, and I quit obsessively checking my stats. I quit a couple of online communities that had generated tons of email, and I quit a job I hadn't even started yet. (When a job is stressing you out and you haven't even started it yet, that's a bad sign.)

I returned to doing what I did before I had readers: I wrote blog posts about my life and things that interested me.

As winter turned to spring, I realized that I once again was enjoying blogging. Did I want to go to BlogHer this year? Yes! I reserved my hotel room at the W and bought my ticket. It felt like the right thing to do.

Now, less than a day away from partying (sans alcohol) like it's 1999, I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones. I'm excited about getting a lot of schwag. I'm very interested in talking to my blogging friends who now blog professionally and have multiple blogs. I want to absorb people's stories and accumulate a bunch of business cards. I plan on admiring pedicures and taking lots of photos of beautiful women on leave from their families.

But I'm not interested in walking away with a different perspective on what blogging means to me. I'm definitely interested in what blogging means to other people and what it could mean to even more people. But for me, this is it. This--all that you see here--these stories of my life and about my kids, these pictures of my world, this is 100% what I want from blogging at this point in my life. Everything I want, I have.

With that knowledge in my mind and with this hot pink nail polish on my toes, I know this year's conference will be the best one yet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

 

Dear Placenta


Dear Placenta

Oh Placenta, you did serve me well
And nourished Emily
And when I birthed you after her
I said, "I want to see!"

You lay there in the plastic pan
You made it look easy
And I could only gaze with awe
To think: Biology!

Emily's cord still attached to you
Our girl had been set free
For nine long months we held on tight
You gave her life, from me

I thank you, dear Placenta
Not often, but I do
You did your job and did it well
I'm forever grateful to you


Click here to see a picture of my dear Placenta.

Monday, July 23, 2007

 

Do you want to see my placenta? Vote yes or no.

Via Marrit of Baldo, I found out about a woman in Las Vegas who went to court to get her placenta back from the hospital where she had her child.

A woman has won a court fight to keep the placenta after her daughter's birth. She had planned to grind it up and ingest it as a way to fight postpartum depression, but now plans to bury it.

In her blog post about the story, Marrit reveals that she never got the chance to see the placenta after her son was born. "[Her] placenta remains a mystery."

I saw the placenta each time my child was born. After Emily was born, the midwife carefully explained to me and Mike its role in nourishing our baby. Mike even took a picture of it. We did not take it home with us.

I am a person who doesn't mind if people see her naked; I'm cool with breastfeeding shots and all of that. However, I thought twice before posting the picture of my placenta on the Internets. I hesitated because it's bloody. It looks like a giant lung with an umbilical cord attached to it in a hospital pan covered with blood.

Is my placenta TMI?

Do you want to see a picture of my placenta? Vote yes or no. You may comment anonymously if you wish.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

 

Where, oh where, did the weekend go?


Sometimes life is funny
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Ack, I can't believe it's Sunday night! This was a busy weekend for our family. Yesterday we attempted to go to the Grand Opening of Strike Cupertino Bowling Alley, but our attempt was thwarted by Thomas's fear of the giant, costumed bowling pin, the flashing lights, and the loud music. Ditching our plan to go bowling and eat inexpensive hot dogs and fries, we instead went to Benihana to see expensive meat cooked in front of our eyes. The food was good but our lunch was easily five times more money than it would have been at the bowling alley. I don't mind spending that kind of money if I can linger and enjoy my food, but with the kids... let's just say it was more like gobble and go.

After lunch we came home and I yelled at the kids for a bit for bugging me while I was trying to take a nap. Then I took those same kids to a barbeque party at a friend's house and allowed Mike some alone time and a chance to get his hair cut. (Finally!)

Today we went to two more parties. First, Emily and I helped celebrate her friend's 5th birthday at a local Jr. Gym. All of the kids--except for Emily who is quite shy in these types of settings--ran around and acted crazy while the moms stood around and talked. Emily observed the other kids from a safe distance while they were running around and playing on the gym equipment, but she eagerly joined them for pizza and cake afterwards.

One of the other moms, whom I really like, told me that her oldest son was just like Emily and really hung back until he was a couple of months into kindergarten. Emily sometimes reminds me of a turtle in social situations. She prefers to be in a safe space and peek out of her shell every once in awhile. That's why I had a huge birthday party for her this year. She actually does much better when people's attentions are scattered and she is not the main focus. It will be interesting to see how her personality evolves over time. I was painfully shy as a child and that lasted until first grade, when I learned how to read. I think I was still shy after that, but at least I could hide behind a book and when I did so, fewer people bothered me. My friend said her son is a voracious reader and can read two books a day. Sounds like me when I was little; I wonder if Emily will have the same appetite for reading as I did.

When the birthday party was over, I dropped Emily off at home and headed out to my last party of the weekend. Stefania of CityMama is the latest mom blogger to host a Wii party. Sponsored by Nintendo and catered by Zibibbo of Palo Alto, the party was a lot of fun. I showcased my incredible Wii bowling talent and tried hard to humiliate myself at Wii Boogie. As we left, each of the moms got a cute Wii controller keychain and the opportunity to buy a Wii direct from Nintendo. Oh, and a box of cookies that I assume were from Zibibbo. I don't know for sure, but I do know that they were so good that I tried one while the kids were in their bath, then promptly hid them to avoid having to share. As soon as they went to bed, I devoured the entire box. Heaven!

A hectic but fun weekend. I didn't get much done around the house but since both kids start summer camp tomorrow, I suspect I'll have the time to catch up on housework and other stuff that needs to be done before I leave for Chicago.

Both kids at summer camp. Woo hoo! Fingers crossed that all goes well...

Friday, July 20, 2007

 

If I had you all to myself for ten seconds...


mwahme blogger
Originally uploaded by marytsao
...then I would tell you all about me:

Woman, wife, mommy, blogger, recovering alcoholic, reader, writer, exerciser, photographer, self-proclaimed suburban fashionista, SAHM, and person who used to take a picture of herself every day and post it to the Internet.








Thank you to Mocha Momma for coming up with this idea. Play on your blog or over at BlogHer.

P.S. You don't have to be going to BlogHer to play along, but you do have to be able to condense your definition of self into a ten second burst of wordy goodness. Up for the challenge?

P.P.S. This post made me remember that I started blogging on July 12, 2002, which means I've hit the five-year mark. Hey, that's longer than my first marriage!


Thursday, July 19, 2007

 

When I'm lucky, I'm very, very lucky

Sometimes when I go to bed at night, I find this:

Emily and Bear


I'm a lucky woman.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

 

On The road with Mommy Spice


Hitting the road
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Somebody give me a medal, please. Why? Because I took my kids on an overnight adventure all by my little mommy self without beheading one of them, and I lived to blog about it! Go, me!

Some of you guessed our destination and some of you were pretty close. The official answer is that we went to Monterey to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Big round of applause to all of you travel-savvy people!

We left here Monday morning and reached Capitola by lunch. Capitola is a cute, little beach town just south of Santa Cruz. We ate Pizza My Heart for lunch and I tried to teach the kids their answer to "What kind of pizza do you like?" "Cheese pizza with thin crust, please."

After lunch we hit the beach for a couple of hours of wave splashing and playing in the sand. It was a nice time. Then the kids got chocolate ice cream cones for a treat and I had a mango smoothie. While we were in the ice cream shop, a teenage girl dropped her scoop of mint chocolate chip on the floor and another, random pre-teen boy picked it up, asked for a bowl, and ate it. Eeew! I'm not cringing about the dirt, but that floor was covered in sand. I can't imagine crunching my way through a bowl of sandy ice cream. That boy was one brave and hungry soul.

Back on Highway 1 for another 20 or so miles until we hit Seaside, a town just north of Monterey and one that contains cheaper hotels. And by cheaper I don't actually mean inexpensive. That whole area is a much-desired destination and even a weekday night at the Holiday Inn is over $100. I'm writing about the cost of our hotel so that when I re-read this entry in thirty years when this Holiday Inn costs over $1000 (a trillion billion!) a night I can have a good chuckle.

I think it was during our dinner at Chili's when I realized that I had had enough with the constant disciplining that is hanging out with small kids. When we got back to our hotel room I made them watch the news and Victoria Beckham: Coming to America while I ignored the fact that they were jumping on the bed and were this--><--close to busting open their heads on the nightstand.

[Off topic Spice Girl dish: The best part about Beckham's show was when she met up with celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. That lucky dog! (Beckham, not Perez) Other than that tidbit, the show just wasn't...what's the word... spicy enough for me. I don't want lots of drama in my life, but I sure as hell want to see lots of drama in other people's lives. As far as I can tell, Victoria Beckham seems to be a nice person who does ordinary things, even if her definition of ordinary includes always having an entourage of personal assistants, hairdressers, and makeup artists around her and taking a cavalcade of black Cadillac Escalades every time she leaves the house, which is also known as the compound. *Yawn* I can tell that the Beckhams just ain't the Barkers. Oh well.]

On Tuesday morning we were up early and had breakfast at McDonald's before heading down to Monterey and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium was awesome, but the kids didn't last in there as long as I thought they would. After a quick lunch and a couple of Thomas tantrums, we left after two and a half hours. On the way back to the car we stopped in the children's museum My Museum--conveniently located alongside our parking garage--and spent some time playing with wet sand (Emily), building a giant bubble cocoon (Thomas), and taking pictures (me). After I had enough of kid-centric activities, I got the kids back to the car on the promise of juice boxes and took off to explore the California Coast on the 17-mile drive.

For some reason, I hadn't realized that the 17-mile drive was a tourist attraction that costs money. I paid $9.00 to check out some beautiful houses, extravagant golf courses, and the famous Lone Cypress Tree. I have now officially "been there, done that." Although I might do it again for a visiting tourist.

At the end of our two-day Tour de Capitola, Seaside, and Monterey, I met Mike at my group therapy appoint and traded cars. He got the car with the kids. Woo hoo! Hey, even Mommy Spice needs a break from the touring every once in awhile.

Pictures are on Flickr.

---
This just in -- Strollerderby thinks I deserve an award, too!



Aw, shucks. Thanks, peeps.

Monday, July 16, 2007

 

Where in the world are the Tsaobugs?

On a whim and a prayer, I'm taking the kids on an overnight fieldtrip. We leave in T minus 2 hours.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to guess where we are going. Here are your hints:

  • Where we are going is close enough that we could drive there and back in one day, but I've decided to make it an overnight trip because who doesn't like a nice dip in a hotel pool?
  • Where we are going is warm this time of year, but not as hot as it might be even an hour in another direction.
  • Where we are going is very close to a major body of water.
  • Where we are going is a place that is home to a major attraction that is one of the largest and most respected of its kind. (Bonus points if you name both the place and the tourist attraction!)
  • Where we are going, we have been before. And lived to blog about it.


Okay, locals, let's give the out-of-towners a chance at this one. Good luck!

P.S. Your prize is my undying appreciation of your awesome powers of deduction.

---
I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want: Don't forget to watch Victoria Beckham: Coming to America tonight. C'mon, you know you're fascinated by that unsmiling little bird of a woman. Let's dish about her tomorrow!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

 

Offending toy collectors everywhere


A kid and her toys
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Today I heaved a large sigh when I came to terms with the fact that I would need to clean out the closet in Emily's room if I was ever going to put away the camping equipment that had been lounging in our living room for the past two weeks. I know...I, too, am amazed that little cleaning fairies didn't come and put the stuff away. Maybe they're on strike or something.

Back to Emily's closet: When we moved into this house three years ago, I was five months pregnant, Emily had just turned one, and we were two short weeks away from having five houseguests for ten days. Those three reasons are why many boxes of totchkes (vases, framed pictures, ornamental doodads, stuff I had carted from my old job, etc.) found their way into our storage room closet.

Since that time, the storage room has become Emily's bedroom. But the closet in the storage room still holds our camping equipment, our forty spare rolls of toilet paper, tons of random stuff from Mike's bachelor days, and yes, those boxes of totchkes.

Today I forced Mike to admit that he no longer needed his old stereo speakers, VCR, multi-disk CD changer, and tape deck. That stuff now is sitting out on our driveway with a Free! Works! sign on it. Then I admitted to myself that I no longer needed all of the toys that once adorned my desk at work and labeled me as "cool" and "unlike you."

Less than thirty minutes ago, I committed the most heinous crime of toy collectors everywhere:

I took the toys out of their protective plastic packaging.

And...

I gave them to a child.

The horror!

Emily is now playing happily with a bunch of detailed scale replica motorcycles and a plastic figurine of Elvis that's permanently stuck in an odd position; he was never meant to leave his box.

The best part? I'm not sorry in the least. Also, the camping stuff is back in the closet. Hallelujah and praise Elvis.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

 

Weekend of Meme, Day One: Thinking Blogger Award

Kris of Wonder Mom tagged me eons ago for The Thinking Blogger Award meme. Kris is a wonderful writer who has made me think on many occasions; I'm honored she tagged me for the award and I'm sorry it took me so long to get around to accepting it.

The Thinking Blogger Award rules are simple:

  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

  2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

  3. Optional: proudly display the “Thinking Blogger Award” with a link to the post that you wrote.


This award definitely caused me to think, and after much thought, I am awarding the following five bloggers:

  1. Julie of A Little Pregnant. I learn something new with every post she writes. The people who comment on her blog tend to be brilliant, too. She's a witty, profound, and much-loved writer in the Blogosphere.

  2. All of the bloggers who write for BlogHer. This may be cheating a bit, but BlogHer is a site that teaches me many things every day. I usually check it out right after I read Google News and the Daily Dish. I can't single out just one BlogHer writer; they're all brilliant.

  3. Penelope Trunk of Brazeen Careerist. Hey, I'm not just about the mommyblogs and the gossip blogs, people! Her posts--like this one about starting conversations with people you don't know--are well-written and provide practical, good advice. I'm looking forward to seeing her speak at BlogHer.

  4. Elizabeth of Half Changed World. Honestly, I would never want to be seated next to her at dinner because I fear my tongue would twist and I would have absolutely nothing brilliant to say back to her, but I do very much like lurking in her little corner of the Blogosphere on a regular basis.

  5. Her Bad Mother is a damn good writer, and I get the feeling she's no bad mother, either. Unless bad means good. In which case she's sick. Or ill. Anyhooo, HBM has a wonderful way of putting mothering thoughts into words that reek of brilliance and bravado. Sometimes I can't even comment on her posts because they're just so beautiful. Oh, that bad mother. She puts me in tears at least once a week.


Happy Saturday night to you.

Friday, July 13, 2007

 

Life in Pink

I'm dressed in blue for a hot pink date night with the old man. We're going to go see La Vie En Rose, the film by Olivier Dahan about French singer Edith Piaf. I hope it's good; I'm fascinated by women like Piaf who burn so brightly yet end up meeting tragic ends. In my heavy drinking days, years ago, I romanticized living a life with the motto "better to burn out than fade away." Luckily, I got sober before dumb mistakes made my fantasy a reality.

Here are the lyrics to Piaf's famous song "La Vie en Rose."

Hold me close and hold me fast,
This magic spell you cast,
This is La Vie En Rose.

When you kiss me, Heaven sighs,
And though I close my eyes,
I see La Vie En Rose.

When you press me to your heart,
I'm in a world apart,
A world where roses bloom;

And when you speak, Angels sing from above;
Every day words seem to turn into love songs.

Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be

La Vie En Rose.

La Vie En Rose.



Beautiful. Life in pink, indeed.

[Hi. If you've tagged me recently for a meme, I promise I'm getting to it. I've declared the upcoming weekend THE WEEKEND OF MEME. I'll be back tomorrow!]

Thursday, July 12, 2007

 

I love mornings


First cup of coffee
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Just let me state for the record: I am a morning person.

I usually wake up around 7--which I consider the most perfectly civil wake-up time--and after I pee, weigh myself, and wash my face, I'm ready to start my day. At least, I'm ready to go turn on the coffee maker. I love reading the paper while I drink my coffee; my brain absorbs information much better in the A.M. I love doing chores in the morning and I'm most happy if all major appliances in the house are on and humming no later than 9. For most of my twenties, I preferred exercising after work, but now I prefer to do it right after I've had that morning cup of coffee and while my appliances are making my life easier.

Somewhere in that definition of my morning, I can include making breakfast for Emily and Thomas, kissing Mike good-bye when he goes to work, and reminding the kids to hurry up and get dressed because we're running late. Sometimes I also can include taking a shower, but not always.

What about you? Are you a morning person or a night owl? I am assuming that there are only those two options, unless your definition of "morning" falls after noon.

Just curious.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

 

Me, We, and Family


Family of four
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Having a good life while married--especially after kids come into the picture--can be challenging. Finding a balance of me, we, and family time can be difficult. In our case, it doesn't happen organically. What happens organically is that the kids come first, then we take time for ourselves, and once in awhile we remember to spend quality time with each other having a conversation that doesn't also qualify as a fight.

Mike and I want to give our children the luxury of having both a mom and dad who not only live together but who love and care for each other, who treat each other with respect. And we both know that if we want to keep our marriage alive and well, we have to work at it. This isn't news to most couples, but I'm blogging about it to remind present me and future me of my feelings and intentions.

This summer I'm spending a lot of time on the me part of the equation. The outpatient rehabilitation program I am in for drug/alcohol abuse is all about me. I'm taking these twelve weeks to really focus on my behavior. I'm learning a lot about how I feel, why I may do the things I do, and how to be honest with myself and others about both my behavior as well as their behavior. I'm learning skills like listening, relaxing, self-awareness, assertiveness, and more. A lot of the groups I am in encourage self-discovery and honesty, and it's sometimes horrible and sometimes great. But it's always about me and that's what's nice about it.

Other things I do for myself include working out, eating healthy, caring about what I wear and how I look, spending time away from the house when Rosa's here or on the weekends, having hobbies such as blogging and decorating and gardening and photography, keeping abreast of what's happening in the news, having friends whom I see without bringing my kids, and going on mom's weekends away.

Being a better me helps me be a better we, but that doesn't mean that I don't have to work at my relationship with Mike. One thing that we have come to realize is that we tend to spend most nights once the kids are in bed working on our own, solo projects. He's usually on his computer and I'm on mine; we may or may not be in the same room. We rarely even watch TV together and he tends to go to bed before me. This isolation on weeknights would be fine if we spent more time together during the day, but with Mike at work and me at home, that doesn't happen, although we do eat dinner together every night and spend almost every weekend together as a family.

In an effort to make time for us, Mike is going to restrict his online poker playing to one weekend day instead of playing every weeknight. I am going to try blogging in the afternoon, while the kids are playing, instead of blogging at night. With our new time together, Mike and I are going to watch more movies. I'm re-joining Netflix and I bought a book called The 501 Best Movies of All Time. It doesn't really matter what we watch, but hopefully the films will inspire intelligent conversation.

We still have our weekly date night when we go out to dinner and reconnect without the kids, and occasionally we get to do other, more elaborate nights out and weekends away.

I'm also making plans to take golf lessons and one day I'm going to get my scuba certification. Both of these hobbies--golfing and scuba diving--are ones that Mike and I can do together. They're also great hobbies for travelers, and I hope that our future together contains lots more traveling, too.

We seem to be pretty good at spending quality family time together. We frequently go away on vacations and we spend most weekends at some child-friendly venue. We do eat dinner together every night and because I'm a SAHM, I spend most days with the kids going on fieldtrips and taking them to parks. We spend several nights a week hot tubbing together after dinner, and Mike recently started having us do a nightly, public speaking-inspired project where we each spend one minute talking about a specific topic.

If these efforts seemed contrived, it's because they are. That's what I meant when I wrote that having a good life when you're married with kids is challenging. While some of the decisions I make about how I spend my time are strictly my own and that's exhilarating and brings me the joy only spontaneity can, I also make conscious decisions about how I spend my time and when I do, I consider the wants, needs, and desires of my husband and my kids. That's what marriage and family life is all about.

But it's not all about schedules and forced fun; it's more about the idea that this partnership that I've entered into requires maintenance and care. It requires attention and love and lots of deliberate action. It requires that I communicate even when I'd rather not, and it requires that I always keep in mind the consequences if I choose to neglect it.

Because this life that we've made for ourselves is really, really good. And when it's not good, it's great. And that's what I want to remember.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

 

Attack of the four year old boys


Children's Discovery Museum
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Lately I have noticed that Emily is playing more with other kids--kids she meets at parks, children's museums, or wherever. Kids that she has known for all of three minutes. It's super cute to see her make these insta-friends, and it also reminds me that one of my jobs as a parent is to make sure I know her friends. Because I want to be an involved and caring mother. And also? Because a lot of these friends? Are boys!

Boys!

Emily makes friends with girls, too, and I have no problem with those friendships. It's only when I find her alone in her room with two boys, like I did during her birthday party, that my mother bear instinct goes into full effect. My grandmother wouldn't even let me play in my bedroom with another girl, so to find Emily in her room with two boys was startling. Is it possible that I don't trust little, innocent boys?

Okay, maybe right now I trust them, but I don't know if I trust them in the future. And when will the future be here? At what age do these little innocents become little less-than-innocent? Kids are maturing faster nowadays. What if four is the new fourteen? Ahhh! Mother worry has already begun; I can feel my forehead creasing as I write this.

I didn't realize I was going to feel this way until I did.

Today at the Children's Discovery Museum, a cute little boy around Emily's age decided to sit himself at the table where she was having a tea party with Thomas. He was very polite and watched as she pretend poured the tea. He seemed to know that Thomas was okay to have at the tea party, but when another little girl showed up, he hissed at her. She left, and it became clear to me that he wanted to play solely with Emily and had no interest in sharing her.

Thomas eventually became bored with being the third wheel and went over to the ball pit. Meanwhile, Emily and her new friend donned capes and started following each other around in a playful fashion. I hung out with Thomas and watched their friendship develop out of the corner of my eye. When they started lounging on one another, I realized that I needed to make my presence known. I walked over to them, and Emily said to me, "Mama, I like this guy!"

Now, I'm not sure if I'm ready for Emily to go around liking guys other than her brother. So I turn to the little boy. "Hello," I say, "my name is Mary and that's Emily." I didn't mention the fact that Emily was my daughter and that I was her mother, but I think he knew the score.

"I'm Marco, and I already know what her name is."

Oookkkayyy. Red alert! Red alert! "Nice to meet you, Marco." I'm watching you!! is what I'm thinking, but I just smile and look around for his mother. I see that he has one. That's good; he's not here at the museum just to pick up chicks. I return to watching Thomas play with the air ball machine, but I make sure to keep an eye on Emily and this Marco fellow. And when it's time to leave and she doesn't say goodbye to him, I admit that I'm a little relieved. Ha! Take that, Marco! Here today, gone... today!

It becomes clearer to me with each milestone that parenting only gets harder.

Monday, July 09, 2007

 

Putting play on the playlist

Tonight was the monthly general meeting of my mothers club. Jenny Ward, CEO of Playward and a play activist, taught us how to lighten up and put play back into our lives in order to become better parents. She did some talking, we did some talking, and we all made silly faces and danced. It was fun. I vow that tomorrow I'll put aside the "to do" list and spend more time letting the kids dictate what I do. I bet it will be more fun than doing laundry and loading the dishwasher. What do you think?

The topic of the meeting tonight reminded me of something Mike revealed to me this weekend. He realized that sometimes when Thomas misbehaves, he's only behaving that way because he's trying to be funny. Mike thinks that Thomas might be something of a practical joker or--once he goes to school--the class clown. What surprised me the most is that Mike said he used to act like that, too. I never knew that.

This new understanding of Thomas's personality might just help me keep my cool when he's dancing around, laughing hysterically, with his underwear on his head instead of on his behind and we need to leave the house in five minutes to go pick up Emily from school.

Boy on bike with helmet
Understand me, mommy. Okay?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

 

Four people, three days, two nights, one Prius


Boy with stick vs. Tree
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Camping is always an interesting experience. I marvel at how hard I work to get all of the things gathered that we need, only to go on a trip that lasts less than three full days. But of course it's worth it to breathe fresh air; live amongst the California redwoods in a cozy tent; sleep side-by-side with Mike and the kids, everybody in their own sleeping bag; eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner outdoors; and be reminded of how nice it is to return to civilization, a breakfast served to you by a waitress, and a soft couch perfect for a mid-afternoon nap.

It's also great watching the kids having a good time in nature. Hey, they can be without TV for days on end! Actually, on the second day of our trip Thomas requested to sit in his car seat and listen to the Dora CD. I suppose he was having media withdrawal. I'm sure if we had brought a solar powered DVD player they would have been all over it, but we didn't have one (do they even exist?) so the kids were forced to be happy banging sticks against trees, poking at things in the dirt, and treating the tent like a bounce house.

All in all, the trip was a fabulous success. I got everything together to go, and Mike was a genius at getting all of our stuff into our one little Prius, setting up the tent, cooking pancakes on the propane stove, and dismantling our camp to pack up and leave. A fair amount of teamwork is required to venture away from home and its familiar routines, and I felt we worked together nicely during this trip. The kids helped in being old enough to enjoy themselves and in sleeping well during the night. The experience was all together more enjoyable than the camping trip we took two years ago when Thomas was seven months old and decided to cut a tooth and stay up all night crying. Oh my, that was fun. Not.

My favorite part of this trip was when we were snuggled up to sleep on Saturday night. Thomas was next to me and at one point he touched my face, saying, "Your eyes... your nose... your mouth... I love you, Mommy. You're boo-yee-ful!" It was at that point that I understood why some parents co-sleep with their kids long past infancy. Also, that he seemed to know he had behaved badly last time. (Thomas, I forgive you, and I look forward to many more camping trips with you. Love, your boo-yee-ful mommy. )

Friday, July 06, 2007

 

Blog in the family and a whole bunch of gratitude


Jodi's Baby Shower
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Please join me in welcomimg my cousin Megan to the Blogosphere! She's using her blog See Hollywood Run to document her training as she prepares for the 2007 Chicago Marathon. As she writes: I have two legs. I have strong lungs. I have my health to be thankful for and celebrate. Not everyone can run a marathon. By making this commitment, I'm saying that I can, and that with faith I will.

With an attitude like that, there's no doubt she'll accomplish her goal. But that doesn't mean she wouldn't mind some encouragement. Go cheer her on, won't you?

A belated thank you to Gift of Green for awarding me a June Perfect Post Award for my post about sobriety, When the worst that could happen is nothing at all.

Every time I get a nice email, comment, post, or sentence written that is supportive of my blogging, I am reminded that it's okay I blab my secrets all over the Internet. Thank you, Gift of Green, and all of the people who read this blog. Thank you.

A happy, beautiful, and safe summer weekend to you all. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

 

Welcome to the land of four


Pajama Day at Preschool
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Emily and I had a conversation the other day that pretty much sums up what life has been like with her ever since she turned four.

Emily (hands on hips and scowl on face): Mommy, am I one?!

Me: No, you're four. You just had a birthday, remember?

Emily: Then why did Auntie Jennie put a "1" candle on my cake?! I'm not one, I'm four!

Me (puzzled): I don't know. Maybe that was the only candle she had. Let me ask your dad.

I IM Mike: Did Jennie put a "1" candle on Emily's cake?

Mike IMs me: ?

I IM Mike: Emily is upset because she says Jennie put a "1" candle on her cake. Do you know what she's talking about?

Mike IMs me: There was only one candle on Emily's cake.

*GIANT LIGHT BULB GOING OFF*

Me: Emily, Did Auntie Jennie put a "1" candle on your cake or a single candle?

Emily: She only put one candle on my cake and I'm not one, I'm four!

Me: Sweetie, when somebody puts only one candle on your cake it doesn't mean you're one, it just means there's only one candle. Like when we celebrated daddy's birthday last year, even though he's [insert gigantic number here], we only put one candle on his cake. Okay? Jennie knows you're four, and she didn't mean to offend you.

Emily (looking skeptical): Okay, because I'm four!

Me: Yes, you are.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

 

Prepare to be dazzled


Mama and The Dazzler
Originally uploaded by marytsao
As promised, here is a picture of the The Dazzler, the strawberry thing I brought to a Fourth of July BBQ. It was a mother f**king b**ch to make, so I don't know when I'll do it again. But! Once I finished it and realized that the gash I made on my hand did not go to the bone and would not require stitches, I was mighty proud of both The Dazzler and myself. And also? It dazzled. I received many compliments and realized the pain was worth the glory.

Next year I'll be back to making lemon bars.

Lots of fun things have been happening around here, which means I haven't had much time to blog. That's a bummer since when my memory goes--and that's already happening--I'll have only this blog to remind me what happened, and I want to remember the good times, too. Not just the won't-somebody-please-take-these-kids moments. You know.

Yesterday I got a wild hair to drive to San Francisco for a cupcake. Here's one of the things I love about being a slacker without a job: I can plan an entire DAY around getting a cupcake into my gut. Ah, life. Alas, I was foiled because the trendy cupcake place (Citizen Cupcake for those of you who must know) decided to ruin my life and close its doors on July 3 for the July 4th holiday. I know! Those bastards totally took an extra day to no doubt frolic childfree while I got a dozen new brow creases dragging a four-year old and a two-year old through downtown San Francisco and the Virgin Megastore that was filled with people rushing around and getting annoyed at finding a child underfoot on their way to grab the Police re-release. Whatever. I'll be back, Citizen Cupcake! And next time, you'd better let me buy a $3.50 cupcake! Or else. Please.

Even though I was angry and sad about my ruined cupcake adventure, I knew the kids and I had time to race back to the Sony Metreon to catch a showing of Ratatouille. We were fifteen minutes late for the movie but still in time to catch the Pixar short about aliens before the feature started. Good timing! It was a proud and happy moment and I was able to forget that there was no expensive cupcake in my tummy.

Ratatouille did not disappoint. As I told a group of friends today, Pixar not only makes good animated movies, they make good movies. Period. My friends agreed, and not just because they were dazzled by The Dazzler. Then the two other people who had seen Ratatouille and I all agreed on the best scene. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but it involves a character by the name of Anton Ego. I believe it was the movie's denouement, and it brought tears to my eyes. It touched me like the scenes I wrote about in this post. *sniff sniff* Oh, and the movie also featured a woman with a motorcycle, and I get all goose pimply when I see chicks on bikes, even when they're animated.

I'm not sure if the kids enjoyed the movie as much as I did. Towards the end they got all antsy, and I could have throttled Thomas when he needed to pee halfway through. Sometimes the slacker mommy in me misses diapers.

I don't know what the agenda for tomorrow will hold for us but I do know that this weekend we're going camping. I bought the kids their first real sleeping bags earlier this week. (Oh hey, remind me sometime to rant about how I hate REI.) We're going with a bunch of other families so it should be a crazy, s'mores- and tears-filled weekend. I am not making The Dazzler for this shindig, but I am on the list to bring a tossed green salad. A lot less work but no doubt just as dazzling.
 

Happy Fourth of July!

Here in the U.S., we're celebrating our independence from Great Britain with our annual Fourth of July holiday.

Our family saw fireworks last night at our local elementary school, and today we're going to a parade and carnival. After that, I'm finishing up the world's most dazzling fruit appetizer thingy (seriously, it's nicknamed "The Dazzler" -- I'll post a picture when I'm done laboring over it) and we're off to a barbeque party with friends.

I hope everybody is having a great day!

Happy 4th of July!

Monday, July 02, 2007

 

June Perfect Post Awards: Attention all you writerly mommies

Hey, kids, it's time for the June Perfect Post Awards, hosted by your mommyblogging friends Lindsay of Suburban Turmoil and MommaK of Petroville. Power to the blogger!

This month I am giving my perfect post award to Mama Luxe of Mama Saga for her post 15 Tips for Freelance Writing Success.

*Wild applause*

Many of you mommybloggers are discovering that you are, in fact, talented writers. Many of you are wondering if you can now turn your talent into cash; will somebody pay you to write? Well, you can and they will, but it helps if you know some things about freelance writing and how the business works. As Mama Luxe puts it:

...I am tired of seeing desperate housewives scammed. People are constantly asking me, Should I subscribe to this service? Is this a good offer? How do I get paid to write? Because I don't think this is a zero sum game, I'm happy to share some of what I have learned. Maybe you'll share some tips with me, too, about this subject, or something else down the line.

Bravo, Mama Luxe! I'm all about the education of my people, my fellow mommybloggers. As well as--not suprisingly--the education of myself, the mare bear (as I was once called.)

If you're interested in becoming a freelance writer or a professional blogger, go check out her post. There's some good avice in the comment section, too.

And if you want to see the rest of June's perfect posts as well as all of the hundreds of past perfect posts, check out the Perfect Post Award Library over at Petroville. Happy Monday!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

 

What I Wear: project wrap-up and braindump


6-27-07
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Mayberry of Mayberry Mom was wondering how I felt now that my What I Wear: Suburban Housewife Edition photo project was over.

I feel a mix of emotions: relief that the project is over and I no longer have to remember to take my picture, sorrow that I have no choice but to return to fashion obscurity, happiness that I did the project for the entire year without quitting, fear that I will stop caring about what I wear now that the project is over.

A little over a year ago I decided to take a photo every day of what I was wearing. I'm not sure why I started doing this. Lucky for me, I wrote a post about it. In my post, I explain:

"What do my outfits say about me? Am I an easy-going mom or an uptight mutha? Am I fun? Carefree? Warm? Caring? Bitchy? Classist? Preppy? Hot? Unclear about my advancing age?

All of the above? Decline to state?"

Apparently, I was wondering what kind of an image I was projecting with my clothing choices. Huh. I guess I kind of forgot about that goal as time went by. However, if I was seeking that knowledge, then I like the comment that called my look "casual and comfortable."

Casual and comfortable. I'll take that.

I learned some things from posting my picture every day on the Internet. Nothing terribly profound, but here's the rundown:

  • I am completely comfortable with how I look in my clothes, and I'm happy about that. I think my size is average and I don't cringe when I look at myself in the mirror or in a picture. One of my unspoken rules for this project was never to comment negatively on my body or on my outfit when I posted a picture. That's good practice for real life, too.
  • Looking good (to me) helps me feel good.
  • Different people have different tastes. Some things I hated, other people loved.
  • Sometimes I gave clothing away after looking at my photo of the day; it took a photograph to get me to see when an article of clothing was unflattering.
  • I'm much more comfortable now admitting that I like clothes and fashion and style and shopping and all of those things. It's possible I previously equated style with being "girly" or "frou frou." I still might, but I no longer care if people associate me with those words. This project brought me in touch with my hidden feminine side.
  • It felt good when people said nice things about my outfit. Most people, whether they admit it or not, do spend some time figuring out what they're going to wear. I am trying to give out more compliments now on what people are wearing. For some reason, this is hard for me to do, and I'm not sure why. I'm hoping practice will make it easier.