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

Sunday, September 30, 2007

 

Don't stop the rock

Life's been busy and fun lately. What have I been up to? Let's see...

On Thursday the kids and I went into San Francisco to check out the cars at the Art Car Festival. We saw a lot of wonderful cars. My favorite was the VainVan by artist Emily Duffy. You may know her art BraBall, an 1800 lb. ball of bras, part of the American Visionary Art Museum's permanent collection. After checking out a bunch of cars cooler than our own, we had lunch on Chestnut Street. Pictures on Flickr.

On Friday I went for a five mile hike along Crystal Springs (Sawyer Camp Trail) after dropping the kids off at school. It was awesome! The day was overcast and a light drizzle started during my last mile -- a perfect day for a hike. I want to make this a weekly thing. I wonder if I can persuade anybody else to join me for a weekly five-mile power walk. Anyone? Bueller?

Friday night I took Mike to see The Chemical Brothers for his birthday. It was one of the loudest and most spectacular shows I've ever seen; The Chemical Brothers rocked the house. And of course I rocked for figuring out what to get Mike for his birthday.

Saturday morning found me and the kids hot-footing it to Borders to get a last-minute gift for a four-year-old friend before jetting to her birthday party at a local park. Borders is my favorite place for last-minute gifts for kids. They've got books galore, movies, wooden toys, cards, and gift bags. I can get in, get out, wrap and sign in the car, and be on the road to the birthday party in less than fifteen minutes. Hello, mad mom skillz.

After enjoying the company of the birthday girl, her parents, and some other friends, I switched roles with Mike (he took the kids in the family car and I left alone in his car) and scooted to San Jose to meet with the women of the Silicon Valley Moms Blog and with Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential hopeful John Edwards. Elizabeth is a wonderful, kind and gracious person who is knowledgeable about so many issues and also eloquent. It was a pleasure and an honor to get to spend time with her again. Thank you to Jill of SV Moms Blog for the invite! Sarah Granger did a great job liveblogging our talk.

Today was a quiet day and so I did my quarterly deep cleaning of both bathrooms. There's really nothing like the feeling that a clean bathroom can give you. Anything is possible when you've got a clean bathroom.

And tomorrow starts a new month. Can you believe it?
 

Bring on the free spirits

In case you need a chuckle on this fine Sunday morning, here's the video clip of the KTVO Channel News story about Matt Harding dancing in San Francisco. Look for the blond lady being interviewed -- that's me! In the dancing scenes, you can spot Emily in front (stage left). Thomas and I are behind her.

Apparently, I think the world needs more free spirits. Who knew?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

 

PDD (Public Display of Dancing) with Matt Harding


Matt Harding in San Francisco
Originally uploaded by marytsao
I got my fifteen seconds of fame today when the kids and I went into San Francisco to dance with internet celebrity Matt Harding for his new video coming out next June. I read in the paper this morning that he would be dancing this evening in Alamo Square Park and I couldn't resist the opportunity to experience it with the kids.

After we danced and took part in the making of the video, the crowd hung out with Matt for pictures and conversation. He's a genuinely nice guy. My fellow dancers were all great and enthusiastic, too. It's nice to be a part of something that's upbeat and positive; hey, wouldn't the world be a better place if we all just stopped to dance once in awhile?

My fifteen seconds of fame came when I explained some deep and meaningful things about Matt's project to a reporter from KTVU Channel 2 News and they included two clips of my interview on the segment they aired on tonight's 10 o'clock news. I watched it with trepidation, but I have to say that I didn't sound or look that bad. Thank goodness for editing and the warm light of sunset.

Unbelievably, KTVU didn't put the video clip from the Matt Harding segment online. I'm flabbergasted that a story about Dancing Matt with such great sound bites by yours truly didn't fall under the "Top Stories" category. Whatever. Of course, we TIVO'd it, saved it for eternity, and also recorded it using a hand held video camera. I'll try and get it up soon for your viewing pleasure.

Have you seen Matt's 2006 video? It brought tears to my eyes; it's brilliant:



Oh, and Matt, the reporter mentioned in his story that tomorrow's your birthday. Happy Birthday!

Monday, September 24, 2007

 

NaNoWriMo 2007: All I'm saying is think about it

There's this little thing I've done each November for the past two years. It's called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and it involves writing a novel of 50,000 words during the month of November, starting on November 1 and ending no later than November 30.

Doing NaNoWriMo is exciting, horrible, painful, stressful, and also completely exhilarating. Especially when you finish, which I've done twice, once in 2005 and again in 2006. I've written two novels! Two novels that no person, including myself, has ever read start to finish, but still. Two novels!

It's official: Successful completion of NaNoWriMo makes you a novelist. Isn't that cool?

Earlier this year (or was it late last year?) I swore that the stress of NaNoWriMo was too much for me and that I wouldn't do it again. C'mon, I've got enough on my plate with mothering, cooking, driving, disciplining, cleaning, and--let's not forget--pleasing the husband. And yet as the days grow shorter and the weather cools, I've noticed that I've got these little things I can only refer to as "characters" running around in my head in circles that I can only describe as "plot twists." Let's face it: NaNoWriMo is addicting, and I'm clearly addicted.

Long story short, I'm gearing up to do it again this year because I'm nuts.

Hey, are you nuts, too? If so, think about joining me. It'll be fun! We can lament about our lagging word count and repetitive stress injuries while sharing secrets about what type of candy is the best for late night writing sessions. And if you live by me, we can meet in coffee shops with our laptops and look like all writerly together. We can also whisper loudly about OUR NOVELS.

Think about it. Sign-ups begin October 1 and you have until November 1 to decide that you, too, want to be a novelist like the rest of the cool kids.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

 

Old faithful mommy


Calistoga
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Today I took the kids on a day trip to Calistoga, a town in the Napa Valley. I was on the search for two things: country and fall color. I found both. Calistoga is traditionally known as a spa town and is home to many spas, but alas, none of them have childcare facilities. I therefore had to discover some child-friendly things to do while reminiscing about the many times I've been there as a childfree person with a penchant for hotel rooms with indoor hot tubs.

Calistoga is about two hours North from where we live. We left early and got there around 10. Our first stop was Bale Grist Mill, a state historic park. It's a working mill and we were the only visitors so I agreed to go on a short tour. And by short, I mean the kids chased a cat while an elderly docent attempted to explain in less than five minutes how the place works. On the way out I bought a bag of pastry flour milled on the premises. We'll use it to make cupcakes when Grammie Martha visits next month.

The next thing we did was go into the town of Calistoga to pick up deli sandwiches and other picnic goodies. I found a parking place right outside the deli, which was clearly a gift from the Heavens. We took our picnic lunch to Old Faithful Geyser.

Old Faithful Geyser is an all-natural phenomenon which tosses a scalding curtain of water anywhere from 20 to upwards of 75 feet into the air. Currently, Old Faithful is erupting approximately every 20-30 minutes, ensuring a minimal waiting period for an exciting and educational experience the whole family is sure to love.

Love is a rather strong word, but we certainly thought it was neat. They also have a petting zoo there with goats, sheep, and llamas that the kids liked.

After being awed by Old Faithful and eating lunch, we headed back into town to visit Pioneer Park. This park is just a block off Calistoga's main street (Lincoln Ave.) and is home to a large playground. The kids played and I wrote some letters. If you asked them, the kids would tell you that this was their favorite part of the day; all they really need to be happy is some playground equipment.

After the playground, we strolled Lincoln Ave. and had some ice cream before heading home to meet Mike for dinner at Chevy's. I wonder how many weeks in a row you have to repeat something before you can officially call it a tradition? We're very close to a tradition with our Sunday night dinners at Chevy's.

Pictures from our fieldtrip up on Flickr.

Yesterday I started on Fall cleaning and decorating. The living room is cleaned and re-decorated in the autumnal colors of plum, maroon, brown, and bronze. Tomorrow I'll tackle the kitchen/family room. I desperately need to sort through the kids's clothing and put away the last of the Burning Man stuff. I'm running out of closet space! That means a carload (or two or three) of stuff has got to find its way to Goodwill. Stat!

Friday, September 21, 2007

 

Full lunch bag moment


Thomas with lunch bag
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Emily and I dropped Thomas and his lunch bag off at school today. This lunch bag holds a special place in our family. Mike bought it for work when we first started going out. He took his lunch in it for at least several weeks, perhaps longer.

Now it's the lunch bag I use to hold Thomas's lunch, which usually consists of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a banana or apple, and a juice box.

Full lunch bag moment.

---

I've been enjoying art museums lately. Last week I went to the SF MOMA to see the Olafur Eliasson Take Your Time exhibit. I also caught the Matisse Painter as Sculptor exhibit. I recommend getting the audio tour if you visit the exhibits (I recommend this for any exhibit at any museum) -- it was helpful in explaining the intention behind many of Eliasson's works, which can seem very abstract and yet they are supposed to be interactive. In my uneducated opinion, interactive exhibits don't work in a venue where it's taboo to touch things. Interactivity in the museum setting is contrived and lame under the watchful eye of museum guards. The opportunity to leave comments about his pieces on a special blog is interesting, but I still would rather see Eliasson's work in his studio or at Burning Man.

I very much liked the Matisse exhibit because it was a retrospective of sorts and showed how his sculpture evolved over his lifetime and the impact it had on his later works of collage and paper cut outs. Again, I learned a lot from listening to the audio tour.

Today I visited the Legion of Honor in San Francisco's Lincoln Park. I had to take some pictures outside the museum because the weather was just gorgeous. The Rembrandt to Thiebaud: A Decade of Collecting Works on Paper exhibit was interesting and I recognized some of the photographs and prints. I also cruised through the museum's main collection of European paintings and decorative art.

I think the next museum on my list is the de Young, which is hosting the Nan Kempner: American Chic exhibit that my inner fashionista is dying to see.

---

It's raining here right now and it's supposed to rain tomorrow, too. I'm looking forward to a relaxing Saturday and maybe an out-of-town fieldtrip with the kids on Sunday. Happy weekend to you.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

 

Someone productive this way comes

I wasn't really all that productive today, but I like the title of this post. I've got Halloween on my mind, which may seem unnatural given that it's only September and that Halloween isn't happening for over a month. But you know me; I don't like to be caught unprepared for any major holiday.

Besides, when you're a kid Halloween is a holiday that lasts the entire month of October. It starts with pumpkin patch fieldtrips, moves on to parades and parties at school, and ends with that hallowed day when you face your fears about talking to strangers and traipse through your neighborhood with sack in hand, ringing door bells in the hopes of getting fistfuls of chocolate.

In preparation for the month-o-Halloween, the kids practiced trick-or-treating today. They held up their bags to me and said in their most saccharine-sweet of voices, "trick or treat!" They were so cute I had to gift them a few jelly beans. (I'm saving the chocolate for after they go to bed.)

I actually owed them the jelly beans as a bribe for posing for a picture suitable for our Halloween card. I took photo after photo of the children in various stages of grimacing and bouncing around, all the while saying things like, "Be still! Look at me! Smile nicely or you're not going to get any jelly beans!"

When it comes to holiday photos, I'm a total mommy dearest.

After taking 53 photos, deciding 6 were contestants, and uploading 3 to Shutterfly, I finally decided on the one that will grace the cover of our Halloween card. I know you're dying to see it, but you'll have to wait until October 31, unless you're one of the nineteen lucky family members who will be receiving a card in the mail sometime in mid October.

Oh, and I finished the October newsletter for my mothers club and got it off to the printer. Compared to trying to take a non-blurry photo of two preschoolers, that was a piece of cake.
 

Mother of my own destiny

I've been thinking a lot lately about my life as a mom, particularly my life since I became a mom to two kids.

Emily is 4 years old and Thomas is 2.75 years old. My kids are seventeen months apart, which means that in early 2004, when Emily was 8 months old, we were trying to get pregnant again. We succeeded, and Thomas was born in December of 2004.

After writing nothing for months, I started my Mom Writes blog on January 31, 2005 and posted one entry in which I wrote, "I've started a new online journal. Hopefully this will make it easier for me to post my musings."

The next entry I posted was in June, when I wrote, "I'm having a hard time finding the time to write in my blog."

Life was hard; I will not lie to you. Even though I made Emily an "I'm the big sister" T-shirt when Thomas was born, she was still very much a baby. She still drank her water and juice from a bottle and wore a diaper. She couldn't get in her car seat by herself. I had to carry her when we crossed the street because she had no concept of cars or even of walking in a straight line. She still sat in a high chair to eat.

Thomas was a baby who liked to nurse, cry, and wake up a lot during the night. He demanded--and got--a lot of my attention. I wore Thomas in a Baby Bjorn for hours every day. I wore him when I made breakfast, when I exercised on the elliptical, when I made lunch, when I went grocery shopping or to Target, when I made dinner. I wore him at playgroup and when I took Emily on outings. Every night I took off that spit-soaked Baby Bjorn with a sigh of relief. Honestly? I don't think my back will ever be the same.

Life with two children--two babies--became a series of well-rehearsed routines: what we did morning, noon, and night; what we did each day of the week and on the weekends; how we got into the car; how we stocked the diaper bag; what we took with us when we left the house. Leaving the house was always challenging.

I struggled to keep happy during January, February, March, April, May, June, July, and August of 2005. I often felt isolated, alone, misunderstood, and overworked. I did a little bit better in September when Mike and I decided we could afford to get me some help. Hiring a nanny to come over two days a week improved my outlook considerably and the skies again looked blue. Just like that.

I could end this post right now with the advice that if you're stuck in a mother rut, get help. For me, it worked to hire a nanny who could also double as a nighttime babysitter if we needed her. We never again had to miss important events because we had nobody to watch our kids. That was big.

And as time went on, life got easier. The babies became toddlers, then the toddlers became preschoolers. I like preschoolers, especially when they use words like "please" and "thank you." My kids are best friends who play with each other whenever they're together. I meet with other moms for coffee and conversation, in playgroup settings, and for the occasional mom's night out. Having time to myself on a regular basis keeps me sane. I exercise, try to eat right, and make sure my clothes fit me to avoid the depression that falls when my pants are too tight. I travel with the kids, go on lots of fieldtrips, and take them on road trips, even when I cry at night because I am so tired of being a mother and of having to take care of other people whose needs seem more important than my own.

If you read my blog, you might think that my life is easy, that I have no cares in the world, and that things have always been that way. You might see me as a spoiled suburban housewife, a gym-going mom with a nanny and a lot of clothes who whines and writes in her blog when her lunch at a mid-scale urban restaurant is interrupted by the antics of her typically well-behaved children who aren't even developmentally delayed.

I do have a good life, but it didn't--and doesn't--come without a lot of hard work, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of tough decisions and determination.

I'm proud of the work I've done as a mother and yet I don't think my story or history is particularly unique. All moms work hard. I believe this to be true whether a mom has no nanny or ten nannies; is single, married, or divorced; works outside of the home or not; has children with learning disabilities or children who are gifted.

Whatever the particular circumstances that make the work challenging--whether they're short-term, long-term, temporary, or terminal--the tricky part for me is translating the hard work into the knowledge that my life is good because this is my life.

My life with kids is what I make of it, and I have chosen to make it a good life.

Zeum Carousel

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

 

Ahoy, Internets!


Playing Pirates
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Avast, me beauties and lubbers! It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Arrrrrrr!

If you want to be humiliated like I was, go find out your Pirate Personality Inventory (TOTLAPPI). You've got to do better than I did:

You are The Pirate



Do you remember the last time you took a chance? It was when you decided to leave the security of your mother's womb and headed for the bright light. It's time to head for the next bright light, my friend. Creativity is not your strong suit. You are good at doing what you are told to do and that, in itself, is a gift. It's not a gift to you, mind you, but a gift to those who will be there to tell you what to do. You like long walks on the beach and cuddling, but would never admit that to your pirate pals who think you are okay but can't always remember your name. Tapioca pudding seems a bit extreme for someone such as yourself, what with all the bumps and stuff. It's a good thing you are on a pirate ship, otherwise, you would be walking because you are positively pedestrian. Have a nice day.



What's Yer Inner Pirate?
Brought to you by The Official Talk Like A Pirate Web Site. Arrrrr!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

 

Five random thoughts in ascending order

One
Thomas dropped a ring into the toilet today. Lucky for me--the lady who fished it out--the toilet had been flushed prior to the ring being dropped in it.

Two
Here are two conversations I've recently had with Emily.

Conversation #1:
Me: Emily, do you like art class?
Emily: No.
Me: I thought you liked it!?
Emily: No. I like it a little bit.
Me: What part do you like?
Emily: Snack time!

Conversation #2:
Me: What are you getting out of that drawer?
Emily: Um... another straw?
Me: Emily, no more straws! That's the final straw!

Three
I like to eat three meals a day. I'm a breakfast, lunch, and dinner kind of gal. Recently I've started taking a picture every day of what I'm eating for lunch. I haven't posted any of these, but it's an interesting way to make sure I put a little more care into what I'm putting into my body.

Four
San Francisco is home to four carousels: San Francisco Zoo, Pier 39, Zeum at Yerba Buena Gardens, and Golden Gate Park. My latest child-driven quest is to visit all four. So far we've been to the one at Pier 39. Today we'll visit the one at Yerba Buena Gardens.

Five
I've reduced my workout regime to five days a week. I work out Monday through Friday and take the weekends off. My workout routine is basically the same each time: 25 to 40 minutes of cardio on the elliptical in our living room followed by 10 minutes of arm exercises using 3-pound weights and some stretching.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

 

When in Santa Cruz


Santa Cruz
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Our mini vacation to Santa Cruz was a big success. And I've learned the secret--yes, the hard way--to successful dining experiences when out alone with the kids: picnics!

We started our adventure with a picnic lunch on the beach at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. The kids had peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat and I had my favorite sandwich of all time, avocado and Monterey Jack cheese with mayo on whole wheat. Add clover sprouts if you've got them. Seriously delicious.

The day was beautiful -- warm and sunny with a slight breeze. The ocean was freezing, but the kids loved playing in the waves. At one point, the current got a little unpredictable and a couple of crazy cross currents swept the kids off their feet. That's when I put down the camera and concentrated on making sure they didn't get swept out to sea. I'm such a good mom.

After drying off in the sun and enjoying the big container of orange slices I had brought, we went back to the car to change into dry clothes and headed back to the Boardwalk for ice cream and carousel rides. We didn't see nearly as much of the Boardwalk and Wharf as I thought we were going to see; after being in the sun for over four hours, I was ready to get to our hotel for a bit of washing up and relaxing before dinner. Judging by how easy it was to persuade the kids it was time to go, I knew they were ready, too.

We spent the night at the Best Western Suites hotel on Soquel and Ocean. It was nice. The room had a jacuzzi bathtub and a working fireplace, both of which we enjoyed after dinner at Thai House, a Thai restaurant right across the street. Frolicking in the sun and surf is tiring! The kids and I were all asleep by 9:00.

With only one small mishap during the night when Thomas fell off the bed, we slept until our usual wake up time of 6:45. The hotel offered free breakfast of eggs, waffles, potatoes, cereals, etc. At 7:00, the only other people in the lobby eating were a German family with kids the same age as Emily and Thomas and a man who told me he remembers when his kids got up early but now he couldn't get them out of bed to save his life. He didn't say it, but I knew we were discussing teenagers. *shiver*

After checking out, we went back to the beach to see the ocean at mid-morning. It was still there; waves were still crashing ashore. There was movement and energy and people staring out, mesmerized by the phenomenon that never stops. When I went to Chico State, I was best friends with a girl who was from Laguna Beach. She dropped out of school our sophomore year; she couldn't stand being so far away from the ocean. I didn't understand it at the time. I understand it a little more now.

By 11:00 we were strolling the streets of downtown Santa Cruz. I wanted to get coffee at Bad Ass Coffee, which I read was a "kid-friendly" coffee shop. It was definitely kid friendly, with a large play area in the front of the store devoted to gym mats and large foam building blocks. The kids loved it and even made friends with another little boy who was there with his babysitter. They didn't want to leave.

But I wanted to find a souvenir, something to commemorate our time spent in Santa Cruz. When I saw Old School Shoes, I knew what it would be: Vans! Because seriously, when in Rome... Also, can you get any cooler than a preschooler wearing Vans? I don't think so. Emily loves hers so much that I caught her trying to wear them to bed tonight.

After buying my kids the coolest shoes in the Universe, I decided another picnic was in order and got lunch to go from New Leaf. Back in the car, we searched for a park with a playground. We found one not too far from downtown and enjoyed our sandwiches at Laurel Park. The playground was empty and the kids had fun on the play structure for about an hour while I sat and read the paper. It was the most relaxed I felt all weekend. I think being alone helped; I didn't have to worry about the kids getting lost or some other horrible scenario.

After the park, we decided to end our retreat and return home. Mike was very happy to see us and even carried our suitcase from the car into the kitchen. Then he took us out to Chevy's for dinner. He had a good weekend although not as good as he wanted; he's a little behind schedule on his top-secret hobby project. I guess that means the kids and I have more reason to venture out on our own in the upcoming weekends!

Pictures from our weekend are up on Flickr.

Friday, September 14, 2007

 

Supporting hubby's hobby habit


Burning Man 2007
Originally uploaded by marytsao
This post is all about what a great partner I am, except that I can't reveal any of the specific details about what makes me such a wonderful and supportive wife. All I can say is that Mike has spent many hours this year working on a big personal hobby project. If you think about it, any big personal hobby project = time you aren't doing things like washing dishes and driving your kids to school. But that's okay. As long as you have a partner as wonderful as me.

Smiley face!

Mike's very big personal hobby project requires him to keep his nose to the grindstone for the next month or so, and he's particularly busy this upcoming weekend. In order to give him the space to study uninterrupted, I'm leaving town with the kids tomorrow on an impromptu overnight jaunt to Santa Cruz. We'll cruise the beach and the Boardwalk, and we'll wander around downtown. We might get ice cream more than once.

We'll miss Mike but hopefully he'll be able to get a lot done without the background noise of children being children. Also, we wish him lots of luck tomorrow morning even though we can't talk about why.

Expect lots of pictures when we return on Sunday! Hope you've got something fun and spontaneous planned for this lovely fall weekend.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

 

The emancipation of Mary Pat


2nd grade
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Carmen of Mom to the Screaming Masses did the Middle Name Meme, which involves writing a post using each letter of your middle name to describe something relevant to your life.

Coincidentally, Carmen and I have the same middle name, Patricia. When I was little, folks called me Mary Pat. And no, I am not Irish, except for the bit that comes from my grandfather's mother, my great grandmother.

Only family is still allowed to call me Mary Pat.

Here's my stab at the Middle Name Meme:

P is for Perseverance. You may call me a victim of some type of Protestant work ethic, but I am a firm believer in diligence and hard work being good for the soul. Plus, it gets things done. That said, I am also a firm believer in the proverb all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. (see Relaxation, below.)

A is for Alcoholic. This is the last week of my outpatient alcohol rehabilitation program. I've learned a lot of things about myself, and I've hopefully learned coping skills that can replace self-medication as ways of dealing with whatever crazy stuff life throws my way.

T is for Travel. I like to travel; it's almost an obsession with me at this point. I see my life as having two main facets: stability and change. The stability part is living the suburban dream and providing my kids with a routine-based life that isn't erratic or unsettling. The change part involves traveling, challenging myself and my kids to be both self-sufficient as well as open to meeting new people and trying new things, exploring the world outside of our suburban paradise.

R is for Relaxation. After I work my ass off, I like to relax my ass off. I like saying no to superfluous work projects, lounging around the house in my pajamas, getting massages and having my nails done, and enjoying afternoons with nothing to do except meander through a shopping mall.

I is for Issues. In addition to my inane desire to self-medicate, I've got other psychological issues. They include being overly sensitive--particularly to criticism, and having traits associated with being a people pleaser.

C is for Children. I have two children and I'm tossing around the idea of having more. There's no doubt that having children changed me in numerous and measurable ways, many of which I can't even begin to articulate in a sentence or two. Perhaps I'll explore these changes in another blog post.

I is for I. When I'm thinking clearly, I realize that I'm the most important person in my life and pleasing myself is just as important as pleasing and taking care of others.

A is for Assimilation. I am a suburbanite. I have drunk the Kool-aid, and I am not ashamed to admit I like having a driveway, a backyard with a lawn, access to clean and beautiful parks and playgrounds, and excellent local schools. If you had told me when I was 25 that I would be 39 with kids and enjoying living in the 'burbs, I would have thought you were just saying that to annoy me.

Who's next on the list to do the Middle Name Meme?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

 

The price of milk in San Mateo

Our local food store just underwent a remodel, which basically means they gave the place new flooring and internal signage, then rearranged everything so that it feels like a new store because shoppers no longer know where anything is.

Oh, and in case you were wondering who was going to pay for this remodel, Mike and I have noticed how all of the prices are higher now than they were when the linoleum was old and scratched. Hello!

But I will admit that my heart beat faster when I went to the grocery store this morning and noticed this:

New cart art
New carts. Clean carts. Carts that don't wobble when you push them. Carts with kid straps that aren't broken. Carts that haven't served as a homeless person's home. Carts with cup holders to accommodate the Starbucks generation. New carts!


This is exciting stuff, but if I had to choose between paying $4.60 for a gallon of milk and carrying my own coffee, I'd probably go with the latter.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

 

Experiencing Patriot Day

When I wrote my cheery "Happy Tuesday!" yesterday, I had forgotten that today is September 11, the day we remember the nearly 3,000 people who died on September 11, 2001, now known as Patriot Day. I apologize if I offended anyone.

I've written before about my memories of that day so I won't repeat myself, but I will admit that the smalls signs that commemorated Patriot Day--flags flown at half-staff and on neighbor's homes--reminded me again of the tragedy of senseless deaths.

It seemed somehow appropriate that I parked next to the AIDS Memorial Grove when the kids and I went to Golden Gate Park today. Emily asked me what it was and I explained that it was a garden in honor of the many San Francisco residents who have lost their lives to AIDS. She didn't ask me any follow-up questions; she's still too young to understand a concept like death.

It's difficult to know exactly how to celebrate the "National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims Of the Terrorist Attacks." I will be interested to see how and in what grade they will discuss Patriot Day in elementary school, if at all. I didn't talk to Emily or Thomas today about the events of September 11, 2001, but I did make sure to have a good time with them and to give them lots of hugs and kisses.

Perhaps the best way to memorialize death is with a celebration of life.

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows. --Pope Paul VI

Monday, September 10, 2007

 

Living a life with less gray and more driving

Today was a rather typical school day around these parts. Mike stuck around to drive Thomas to school, which starts at 8:00, and I worked out before dropping off Emily at her school at 9:00. I love it when I get my workout in early in the day; there's less chance I'll skip it! After dropping Emily off, I went to Trader Joe's to stock up on food for the week, mostly fresh veggies, fruits, cheeses, yogurt, and meats. I've noticed that it's easy to feel good about myself and my family's eating habits after shopping at Trader Joe's. I need to shop there more often.

After returning home and putting away the groceries, I dyed my hair. Did you know that the American people are currently fighting a war over going gray? Apparently, it's the war you fight when you're done fighting in the mommy wars. I'm sure one day I'll stop dyeing my hair, but it might not be for another decade. In fact why don't I declare right now that when I turn 49, I will go gray for my 50th birthday, much like writer Anne Kreamer did. How exciting! My first goal for the year I push 50.

After picking up Emily at 12:00 and Thomas at 12:30, we met my friend Jen and her daughter for lunch in downtown Burlingame. Thomas was cranky and tired; preschool wears him out and he would have loved a nap, but Emily had art class at 1:45 so the timing wasn't right. While our older kids were at art class, Jen and I went for a walk with Thomas in the stroller. The weather is nice this time of year; warm but not hot. A perfect day for a mid-afternoon stroll.

The kids aren't used to this staggered life of his-n-her schedules we now are living. We're spending more time in the car, either driving or waiting for something to happen. I knew that one day this is exactly what my life would be like. I am a pre-soccer mom, a driver of kids, a keeper of time. I suspect the kids will adjust. I will put books, water, and Wheat Thins in the car to ensure a high happiness factor.

After art class, we bid adieu to our friends and came home to relax, check email, watch Tivo'd Wonder Pets!, and make dinner. Tonight I served store-bought roast chicken with Trader Joe's Potato Medley and steamed corn on the cob. Dinner was good, but the best part came later when I carefully picked all of the meat off the chicken carcass and cobbled together a most delicious chicken salad. I mixed the shredded chicken with mayo, stone ground mustard, sweet onion, celery, minced garlic, seasoning salt, and dried basil. Yum.

It's the kind of chicken salad that inspires a picnic in the park, the kind of chicken salad I can plan a day around. Tuesdays are our fun day, when we've got nothing to do except whatever we want; tune in tomorrow night to find out what we did and where we went.

Oh, and a happy Tuesday to you, too!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

 

New (school) year resolutions

I, Mary Tsao, mother of Emily Tsao and Thomas Tsao, hereby resolve to:

  1. Start each school day in a good mood.

  2. Do as much as I can the night before school days to avoid crazy morning run-arounds. This includes making sure clothes are clean, setting out outfits for those who don't hate it when I do this, and making sure we've got lunch and breakfast fixings.

  3. Check the calendar the night before to make sure any paperwork is ready or special needs are met.

  4. Wake up early enough to get the kids out of the house without yelling and freaking out.

  5. Make sure each kid gets something in his or her stomach for breakfast, whether it's oatmeal (good) or wheat thins (better than nothing).

  6. Drop each child off with a smile, hug, and kiss, while they still don't mind being seen kissing me.

  7. Make it a point to smile and say "Good morning," "Thank you," or something else that is friendly and nice to their teachers at drop off and pick up.


Tomorrow is our third day of school and so far, so good. I like Thomas's teachers, and he's jumped into the land of preschool without a backward glance. It feels natural returning to Emily's school for her second year, and I like knowing most of the other moms and having already established relationships with her teachers.

The school year hold lots of promise!

P.S. The front patio is clean and as a bonus, so is the playroom. The Tsao family had a productive Sunday! Hope your weekend was as fabulous as you are.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

 

Saturday tidbits


Gilroy Gardens
Originally uploaded by marytsao
We're going to be part of a Flat Stanley project for a 5th grade class in Wisconsin! Daisy hooked us up. This excites me, and I wonder what it means that I'm already thinking of where we will go and what kind of fun we'll have with our Stanley. It's like hosting an exchange student but without the high phone bills or homesickness.

Too bad Stanley wasn't with us today, when we visited local amusement park Gilroy Gardens, formerly known as Bonfante Gardens for those of you who grew up in the San Jose/Gilroy area. I've been meaning to go to this place for years, but today was the first time I could talk Mike into joining us. It was fun! The weather was perfect, sunny but not too hot, and the place wasn't crowded at all. It's expensive to get in and I suggest you bring your own food and drink, or eat before you go. The food is outrageously expensive, e.g., $6.00 for a hot dog. But the rides are perfect for preschoolers and there's also a number of water features. If it's hot, definitely bring a bathing suit and towel with you. All in all, a great place and worth the hour-long trek from our home. Pictures on Flickr.

The kids and I have finalized our travel plans for October. We're no longer going to New York; neither a family trip nor a me-n-kids solo trip worked out. Instead we're going to New Mexico for the fifth anniversary of my aunt Paula's death. We'll be joining my aunt Davida and visiting my cousin Rachel, her partner Matt, and their kids Louise and Julianna. We'll also be seeing my uncle David and cousin Ben and I'm sure a lot of old friends.

Over the Halloween holiday, we'll be hosting Grammie Martha. The kids and I sat down with some catalogs and decided that Emily will be Dora and Thomas will be Diego. I have their costumes on order. My mom and I will be witches. The kind who look like normal women but who wear pointy black hats.

I've declared tomorrow Burning Man Clean-up Day -or- The Day That All of The Dusty Crap on My Patio Will Get Cleaned and Put Somewhere Day. I'm going to start immediately following my morning cup of coffee. Wish me luck!

Friday, September 07, 2007

 

Haiku Friday: A trio for the morning

Oatmeal to eat
Hot coffee to wash it down
Balanced breakfast, right?

Making lunch for Tom
Sandwich, fruit, and juice box, too
Lots and lots of love

Thinking 'bout the day
An afternoon with the kids
Rosa called in sick

***
Get in on the Haiku Friday action! Check out Christine of A Mommy Story's post.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

 

I dream of Amy Winehouse

Last night I had a dream that I met Amy Winehouse.

I was in London with Thomas. We were at a train station and needed to get on a bus to go to a hotel. I was in London on a business trip, and my co-worker (a guy I used to work with when I worked in the insurance industry) had jumped on a previous bus. I don't know why Thomas was with me and not Emily or Mike.

Thomas and I were in the train station when I looked over and saw Amy Winehouse. She was with one other guy--he looked like a manager-type--and nobody was bothering her. She was pretty with her big hair and eyeliner.

There was some panic on my part about my luggage and where it was... I think I was also missing my purse. I didn't have my camera and that bothered me because I wanted to take a picture of Amy. I went outside to search for my bag. I was also nervous about getting on the right bus and not knowing exactly where I was or where I was going.

There was a feeling that what I should be doing was outside the train station: taking care of Thomas, finding my luggage, getting on a bus. But what I wanted to be doing was inside the train station: stalking Amy Winehouse and taking her picture.

I found my bag outside by the curb and got out my camera. When I went back inside the train station, it was very dark and Amy's hair was flat and wet. I was disappointed because it's her big hair that really fascinates me. I started taking her picture but she looked over at me and I felt bad, like I was violating her privacy. I asked her if I could take her picture, and she said, "yes."

That's when she started posing for me and I was thrilled to get the opportunity to take her picture, but my camera wouldn't work! It was so dark inside the train station that I couldn't get the camera to take a picture, no matter how hard I pressed the button. I even had Amy move to the door, to be closer to the filtered light that was coming in, but nothing helped. At one point she asked that I take a close-up of her face and not photograph her below the chest. Maybe she was worried about her weight. She didn't look as deathly thin as she normally does and she looked healthy. Perhaps she was off drugs.

I never could get the camera to take her picture and then her manager came over and said they had to leave to catch their train. She gave me her phone number but my pen was running out of ink and I could barely get the number scratched onto a piece of cardboard.

The end.

Trippy.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

 

First day of school: last year, this year

Last year:

First day of preschool

Emily was 3 and entering her first year of preschool.
Thomas was 1.75 and still home with mommy.



This year:

Official first day of school picture

Emily is 4 and entering her second and final year of preschool.
Thomas is 2.75 and entering his first year of preschool.


Wow. I need another cup of coffee.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

 

Goodbye, last day of summer

Both kids start preschool tomorrow. I've got their outfits set out and breakfast fixings on the counter. After eating our oatmeal and getting dressed, I'll take a photo of the kids standing at the front door. Emily is an old pro at preschool, but it will be Thomas's first day. He's going to a different school and I need to pack him a lunch. It will be the first brown bag lunch I've made in my career as a mom. A milestone, for sure.

We've had a great summer, starting with our family vacation to Disneyland and Los Angeles. Also in June my aunt Davida, cousin Michael, and niece Jessica visited for Emily's 4th birthday blowout where the Hipwaders performed.

After celebrating the 4th of July here in our neighborhood, we went on a camping trip with my Mothers Club. I took the kids on a mini vacation to Monterey in mid-July, then went by myself to the BlogHer conference in Chicago. The kids got their first taste of summer camp and loved it.

August was spent suffering and recovering from a gastrointestinal bug as well as preparing for our biggest family adventure to date: the Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, Nevada. Stop, drop, and roll, baby! This summer we also went on field trips to San Francisco, Hidden Villa, Children's Discovery Museum, Coyote Point Museum, and various local parks.

I took photos to document all of these events and more, which is good because without them I probably wouldn't remember what happened yesterday, let alone three months ago!

I think I'm ready for Fall. Are you?

Monday, September 03, 2007

 

222 pictures from Burning Man


Burning Man 2007
Originally uploaded by marytsao
We're back! Got time to see 222 pictures? Great! Our pictures from Burning Man are up.

Art, dust, kids, and funky desert fashion. We had a great time and we did a lot, including renewing our vows and taking a scenic tour of Black Rock City from the air. The kids had a great time and were sorry when it ended.

But all good things must come to an end, and now we're busy cleaning and decompressing. More details later!