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Friday, June 30, 2006


Rants in my Pants

I Need a New Drug
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Excuse me while I bitch and rant for a minute. Or twenty. But, argh! Sometimes I find this whole motherhood gig so absolutely frustrating. And thankless.

For example, something that I knew would be expected of me when I became a mother is that I become a giving person. Good-bye selfish person, hello nurturer. But I'm not sure if I realized to what extent I would have to be a giver. Give, give, give. Every minute of every day is filled with catering to the needs of others. And not just others who are my children. Oh, no. That would be too easy. No, sometimes it seems that every other person we encounter in our daily meanderings through our already challenging life together has expectations of me, my kids, and my mothering that results in me giving, me trying to please, and me invariably failing in these missions.

Frustrating. Thankless.

For example, who doesn't love a well-behaved child? You know the kind I'm talking about. In public, they sit quietly, don't make a fuss, and basically adhere to that old adage that children should be seen and not heard. In cafes, they don't run around in a way that's distracting to the patrons. They are perfect. And they are mythological creatures. The stuff of legends passed around by generations of well-meaning people to describe the ideal child, the child to which your child should aspire to be more like. The child that doesn't exist.

And even though people love a well-behaved child, they don't necessarily enjoy bearing witness to the upbringing of said well-behaved child. And that's what annoys me at this point in time. I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't. If I take my kids into a cafe and let them run around unchecked, I get the looks and stares from the other patrons. If I take my kids into a cafe and constantly monitor their behavior with a running commentary, I get the looks and stares from the other patrons. Emily, sit, please. Thomas, please pick up that bagel from the floor. Emily, I asked you nicely to sit in your seat. Those breakable knick knacks are not for touching. Emily! Sit right here or we will have to go. Thomas, your juice is spilling, please hold your cup upright. Thank you for asking nicely for the banana. Emily, leave the straw in the chocolate milk; it's dripping all over the chair. Thomas, get back here! Would you like some bagel? Okay, the answer is no. Throwing it on the floor is not an appropriate answer. Emily, sit here, PLEASE!

Now, you tell me. Would you rather be distracted by a kid running around and bumping your chair or would you rather be distracted by a constant stream of hissed reprimands coming from a harried mom who sounds like she's schizophrenic and looks like she's about to lose it?

Ya, neither situation sounds appealing to me, either. So is my only option then to keep my children at home until such time that they are old enough to go out in public? And at what age would that be? And how will they ever know how to behave in public if they aren't taught that there's a right way and a wrong way to behave in public? Am I the only mom who actually wants to take her child out into the world with her? Or does SAHM stand for "Stay at Home, Mom?"

And another thing, what is it with these kids?! Why is crying and whining so integral to their personalities? And don't tell me that they're little; I know the truth. This will never end. The general whining now will give way to even more directed whining in the future, and the I want this, I want that, PLLLEEEAASSEEEE syndrome. The crying over the slightest, smallest bump, scrape, hurt feeling, snatched toy, hunger pain, thirst, diaper issue, lack of diaper issue--the list could go on forever--will eventually give way to the crying of two siblings in constant friction with one another: She took my whatever! He touched my this-n-that! Mama! Thomas hit me! Mama! Tell her to give me back my toy of the moment! MAMAAAAAA!

And OMG, the thankless expectations! That there will always be That bananas will always be in the fruit basket. That snacks are a right and not a privilege. That meals will be served promptly. That somebody else will clean up the bag of goldfish spilled all over the back seat. That it's okay to take your shoes off whenever you feel like it because somebody else will always put them back on your feet before you step on hot pavement. That dragging your blanket on the sidewalk is perfectly acceptable even as it's gathering years of dirt in its fibers. Why should you care? Whenever your blanket is dirty a clean one magically appears to take its place.

My children have been watching T.V. for the twenty minutes it took me to write this. I love T.V.

It's almost three and I'm feeling a little better. Rosa is coming over tonight, and Mike and I are going on a date. I am going to wear non-sensible shoes and drink wine while laughing merrily with other adults. There will be no whining, no crying, and no silent stares from people who have an opinion on the way I mother my children. I can't wait.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006


When Good Things Happen to Bad Children

She's already embarrassed of me, I can tell

Emily turned three on Monday, but if feels as though we've been celebrating her birthday for the entire month of June.

Because we have.

The look

First there was the trip to Disneyland, for which I am still waiting for my thank you.

Hiding behind daddy

Then there was her official birthday lunch, which she spent huddled in the corner of the booth crying.

Extremely not happy to be having a birthday

Then there were the dozens of presents from Tutu, Auntie Jennie, Da Da, Cousin Marnie, and Aunt Nancy. Presents that any child would cry after receiving because who wants new toys and frilly nightgowns and money? I mean, really!

Not even happy at the new doll bed

Then there were the dozens of presents from mommy and daddy. Presents that would make even the sweetest little girl turn her little nose up in horror.

For me!

Then there was the box of presents from Grammie Martha. Around this time, Emily realized that getting presents actually is a good thing and that smiles and laughter might be appropriate. I guess it takes a while for a three-year old to warm up to getting showered with gifts.

A box from Auntie Dee Dee!

Then there was the box of presents from Auntie Dee Dee. Auntie Dee Dee is a name little children remember because it is synonymous with lots of cool gifts. This time no prompting was needed for Emily to be VERY VERY excited at the prospect of new toys and even more frilly nightgowns. (Apparently, blogging that your kid doesn't have enough nightgowns is a good way to get a whole bunch of them.)

Spoonfeeding Thomas

Then there was a gigantic plastic teacup set from Rosa. Since Rosa actually plays with my kids she knows what they like. The excitement in the air was palpable.

Having fun

Then there were cupcakes shared with playgroup and a trip to the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito. I always know Emily and Thomas had a good time somewhere if they throw a tantrum when we have to leave. Let's just say that they LOVED the Bay Area Discovery Museum.

And now there is a mom too tired to do anything except take photos of herself and put them on the Internet for people to ridicule.

There is a lesson in here somewhere, but I'm too tired to figure out what it is.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Suburban Housewife Takes Navel Gazing to New High

Originally uploaded by marytsao.
I like clothes. Don't laugh. Notice I said "clothes," and not "style." I like style, too, but I'm not sure if style likes me.

Enter Liz Thompson's recent BlogHer post Dressing For Success: Have You Been Bitch-Slapped, Today? which got me thinking about the clothes that I wear. 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?

Another BlogHer post that caught my eye turned me on to a Flickr group called Wardrobe Remix. Members of this group take a photo of their outfit every day for two weeks.

I thought the idea was pretty cool, but I worried that my outfits weren't Harajuku enough for Wardrobe Remix. So I decided to do it on my own.

That's right! Every day I will take a photo of what not to wear, errr, what I'm wearing, and I will post it to Flickr. I won't always blog about it (you can thank me later), but you can go to my Flickr set What I Wear: Suburban Housewife Edition to check out my latest get up or just to laugh your ass off.

I imagine the imaginary pressure will inspire me to try a little harder when I pick out my outfit in the morning. Also, these are full-length photos so look out for that butt, girl!

Let the games begin.

A funny quote: You look like my mommy after her box of wine. -Ralph, "The Simpsons"

A sad sight: This mommy tipping the box of wine to get the last of it out. When did the box of wine replace the keg, people? I'm officially old.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Links to Pass for a Post

Originally uploaded by Psycho Crow.
These count, right?

From Defamer:
Star Jones Leaves 'View' To Spend More Time With Gay Husband

Via Jinkies (Love you, Tracey!):
Housewifes Tarot
Etsy - your place to buy and sell all things handmade

Via BlogHer (Yes, I wrote the post. So what? It 's a good one.)
Mother Talkers: Rants and Raves about Modern Motherhood

From Mommybloggers:
Holy doodle! An interview with JenB from Jen and Tonic, whom I will always be indebted to for not shunning me at last year's BlogHer when I picked her as the person I would be brave enough to talk to first.

From my Inbox:
Kids Can Travel, a new website devoted to "outstanding family vacation ideas and the tools to get you there." I haven't fully explored the site yet, but right away I found a link to the Association of Children's Museums, which is pretty damn cool and solves the problem of what the heck you're going to do when you're visiting grandma in BFE San Antonio.

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Monday, June 26, 2006


Berkeley Cybersalon: Mommies Online

As I commented yesterday, the Cybersalon featuring online mommies went well and I did not get sick. It was nice being with other women whom I know and who were presenting viewpoints similar to my own. When I asked Mike if I sounded like a dork, he replied, "No, you sounded like everybody else." Okay. The "everybody else" consisted of Lisa Canter from Lisa's Room, Jenny Lauck from Three Kid Circus, Grace Davis from State of Grace, and Joan Blades from Moms Rising.

If I had been sitting in the audience, I would be able to provide a better recap of the event. When I wasn't worrying about needing to burp and how bad that would be if I did, I remember we discussed the following:

Sylvia Paull opened the discussion and asked each of us what got us into mommyblogging. I'm pretty sure I said something similar to what I wrote here. Jenny told about how she had started blogging after being actively involved with online new mom forums.

Joan spoke about how she was new to blogging, but how excited she was to be able to get the word out about the plight of mothers today, particularly working mothers who have no maternity leave. She spoke about the Motherhood Manifesto, which can be found on her website, Moms Rising. She also has a book.

Other topics we touched upon were the issues of privacy and whether or not we blogged anonymously. Also what are our limits, i.e., what do we *not* blog about. I wasn't surprised to learn that some of the panelists who blog using first and last names and seemingly hold nothing back (Lisa!), admitted to not blogging about everything. I admitted that while I don't blog anonymously, I also don't blog about more of the sordid details of my relationship with Mike. In other words, I try not to bitch online about my husband or talk about our sex life.

Some of the other bloggers don't blog about their teenaged children. Grace does.

We definitely talked about BlogHer and also about Jenny's site Mommybloggers as places where the audience members could go to find more mommybloggers as well as daddybloggers. BlogHer is also a good site to visit to find out more about the conference and to read more from women bloggers all over the world.

There was talk about stats and how our stats confirm that we do have international readers, even if they don't comment. We try to read blogs written by moms in other countries but admitted that we could do a better job reading blogs in other languages, e.g., using translation engines and making more of an effort to seek them out.

All of us saw ourselves blogging even after we no longer considered ourselves mommybloggers. Some of us also saw other writing projects in our futures. Jenny admitted to having a book or two in her. (Go, Jenny!) I confessed to having done NaNoWriMo last year and was reminded by the audience that not everybody knows what NaNoWriMo is. National Novel Writing Month! Go to their site to find out more.

An audience member asked about a disconnect between online media and offline media. I made the comment that I think in the future everybody will have a blog. Grace and Lisa thought otherwise. Lisa mentioned her husband Marc Canter's upcoming software release, which will solve all of the problems in the world. Or something like that. I remember she appologized for not being able to describe it in other than completely technical jargon-y terms. It reminded me of work meetings back when I was a technical writer. I miss that kind of talk.

I'm sorry, I know we talked about more, but all I know is that I didn't fart or burp and I remembered to keep my legs crossed so as not to give the audience a peek at my undies. If the other participants write about the night, I'll link to their posts. In general, it was a good experience and the response from the audience was positive and interested. I was happy to be in such good company and I extend my thanks to Sylvia Paull for inviting me to be on the panel.

Go, mommybloggers!

[Update: Here's Lisa's write up. She remembered other stuff I had completely forgotten! Thanks, Lisa.]

Lisa Canter

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Sunday, June 25, 2006


Some thoughts on being a (mommy)blogger

When I started blogging almost four years ago, I didn't realize that less than four months later I would be married and that less than a year later I would become a mommyblogger.

But thanks to the power of journaling, I know exactly what I did realize three years ago yesterday:

"tomorrow marks the start of week 41 (aka: 7 days overdue and yes, i'm counting).

yesterday we had our non stress test and our 41 week appointment with dr. katz. the NST went well and baby tsao passed with flying colors. during the test she moved a lot and when she moved her heartrate increased. this is a good thing. to check her reaction to stimuli, the nurse placed this buzzing beeping thing on my tummy right next to her head. that made her move. a lot. it didn't seem very nice, but mike and i both thought it was funny. we're sadistic parents already! "

I also know exactly what I looked like three years ago yesterday:

And thanks to the power of the Interweb, all of my family knew both my thoughts as well as what I looked liked; that is why I started mommyblogging. Keeping an online journal has helped me to share my life and my children's lives with people who care. It started with people in both my family and Mike's family, and now it has expanded to included others. Whether they comment or not, I know that people come here to read about my life and it makes me feel good, important, supported, loved.

Thank you.

If you are in the area, I do hope you can make it to the Mommies Online Berkeley Cybersalon tonight. I'm already nervous at the thought of sitting in front of a crowd of real live people and telling my story. Hey, I'm a blogger! I'm obviously used to (and possibly more comfortable with) writing my story and staring at words on a monitor. My two goals for tonight are: don't vomit in front of the audience and remember to take a picture of the sea of faces. Somebody {{{hold me}}}.

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Friday, June 23, 2006


Live blogging: The Emotional Life moderated by Lisa Williams

Sylvia Paull and Kristie Wells
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Lisa came to the blogosphere to be alone and she found all of us.

The blogs are her home: food blogs in her kitchen, gardening blogs in her garden, and all of us in her living room.

she's been blogging all of her life, in a way. she had a diary, but then her boryfriend read it. for a couple of years she couldn't write in her journal because of this. And yet even though one of the reasons she no longer kept a journal was because it was no longer private, she now (when she started her blog six years ago) was going to blog and let anybody/everybody read it.

Her first entry she untied the knot of her secrets and wrote, "I don't give a flying fuck about your proprieties, little man! Free at last!"

She talked about desert island blogging. And then, one day, a comment. It's like a note in a bottle washing up on the beach instead of you continually lobbing them into the ocean. Blogosphere. Interchange. Communication. And now she's here with us today and wants to know why we blog. What was the most serious thing we ever blogged?

(While I was thinking of my own answer to this question, Terry answered the question). "On April 15 I found my wife dead on the bathroom floor. We were married 18 months. She was 41." The first thing he did after he got home from the hospital, was to blog about it. That's when he truly understood the power of the blogosphere and the community aspect of it. 246 comments and as many emails. BUT it offended certain family members who felt it wasn't appropriate for him to put his grief out in the blogosphere in this way. He thinks the community aspect is often overlooked in discussions about the blogosphere, but he knows it and feels it and says thank you.

Lisa found her own father dead in his house and she also blogged about it. But she closed comments and she put most of the entry behind a "more" tag because it was graphic. It's graphic when you find a body.

Chris Pirillo: I've led a very public life online. Have revealed a lot about his personal life. Was writing Lockergnome for more than a decade. He blogged about his previous marriage. The most difficult blog entry he's ever had to write was the one announcing his break-up. He received lots of backlash and he was the bad guy; he took the fall. Now he's engaged to Ponzi and even though she knew his past and what blogging was about, she wanted in and she blogs, too.

Ponzi replies! She had opened up about a vacaton she had been on with Chris and it was ugly, but it helped her to blog about it. Unfortunately, most of the comments were negative. And since then, she hasn't blogged that way and completely opened her heart. Now she thinks more about it or doesn't blog that day (if she's feeling down.)

Martin only blogs about his professional life. He keeps his family and everything personal out of it. He just can't let his family be exposed to something like that -- he does have an audience.

Doc Searls started blogging everything. After 9/11 he came out as a pacifist. Then he started getting weird comments and people driving by his house, which freaked out his wife. He only very ocassionally blogs about his family, and it's all based on a deal he made with his wife. He doesn't think his blog is as good now that he's not as personal.

Lisa's husband hasn't asked her not to blog anything, but her own maxim is: Don't blog what you don't own. She also has a friendly stranger rule. Would she tell a stranger at a bus stop the information? If so, it's blog safe material. She doesn't want her friends to think that anything she says to them is blogable.

Niall Kenedy has had a conversation with his family. Some things he doesn't blog about for good reasons.

Rex Hammock refers to his kids but not by their name. He wants them to create their own online references on their own.

Will wrote last year about a friend who had died last year and it was a good blog post that lots of people --friends of his friends-- came to and posted about their friend. So that was good. But a few months ago, he broke up with his girlfriend and since one of her gripes was that he had never blogged about her. So that night he did a youtube video of her breakup. The next day it was a Digg (favorite?) and all over the blogosphere. It also connected his job and his girlfriend so it was just bad. He took it down and deleted the post but random strangers will find out who he is and reference it.

Liz thinks that the more things like what happens to Will happens, the world will be more tolerant of them. She also wonders how Lisa can not blog things that she doesn't own.

Lisa says it's a loss that she can't blog about her husband but that it's a good thing she can't complain about people online because that's a waste.

Kevin has found blogging as an ice breaker is great.

Lisa says she's used up her lifetime supply of small talk. Blogging cuts to the chase.

Kristie spoke about blogging on the desert island but then a post about sinus infection was linked to from a friend's blog. She was shocked when something was critical of the post. She hadn't thought about somebody as either reading or caring. That slowed her down for a month but now she doesn't care and she puts it all out there and thinks that's important.

Lisa admitted to screwing up people's lives with linking -- she linked to a friend and her friend hadn't told her mother about her blog, but Lisa had "outed" her. Later her friend also got fired about her blog.

Robert Cox reminds us that another emotion is anger. He wanted to let us know that every single day he gets an email from somebody who is getting sued over something he or she wrote on his or her blog. Defamation law suits with good cases that probably will pay out. He suggests people incorporate their blog so that if they do get sued they won't lose their house. Especially if they have any readership at all.

Lisa was kind of freaked out at SXSW when random people would take her picture and then she'd find them on Flickr. There was no asking permission.

Jory says that blogging has cleaned up her life. Nobody in her family talked about much until she started blogging. She blogged about the death of her father and then her mom (Joy of Six) started her own blog and finally started blogging about stuff. She still doesn't talk to Jory about stuff but Jory will find out from her blog.

Elisa doesn't blog about her relationship. But she did talk about how writing is different from telling. She blogged about 9/11 things that she never spoke about at the time. The thing about sharing the story and finally getting it out , she's really glad she did it. That was the most emotional blogging she ever did.

Mary Hodder thinks it's amazing that years ago in Eastern Europe, men were spying on their wives and now we just put everything out there involuntarily.

Jay never puts anything personal on his blog every. And yet, blogging is still a very emotional thing for him even if it's not a private thing. It's the freedom. To say what we want, to address what we think needs addressing. And that to him is a very emotional and powerful thing because that's what this country is about. The freedom to say what you want is to be what you are. Also, his career was fine before blogging but everything he wrote as a published writer had to pass through an editor and that was frustrating. No longer having to deal with editors is freedom. And the freedom to create yourself online.

Lisa made a comment about about backing up the only part of herself that can be backed up.

I commented that even (and especially) when we are blogging about personal and difficult things and that can help others. In particular, PPD for mommybloggers. Knowing that we aren't alone. It can be hard to read but it's important both for the writer and the reader.

Marc is giving a shout out to Lisa -- an amazing mommyblogger and his wife.

Nick Bradbury wrote about leaving a legacy for his kids and allowing them in the future to know him in a way that most kids don't know their dad.

Blogging as a way to preserve our humanity.

Sylvia brought up the idea that Jews in concentration camps could not express their thoughts and how wonderful it is that we now can.

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Thought snippets from BloggerCon

Citizen journalism
Originally uploaded by Steve Rhodes.
I am at BloggerCon IV in San Francisco. This picture is proof.

Things I want to remember for later:

* I never wrote up my notes from the ASJA convention I went to in New York. I want to do this. Jay Rosen unknowingly reminded me of this during his session about user-centric journalism and about new media getting the attention of old media.

* Do mommybloggers realize how important we are to advertisers? There is a lot of potential for mommybloggers to wield their collective power through public acknowledgement of this fact. And at any rate, just being informed is a good thing. These thought snippets are based on what I already know is true and confirmed with a brief conversation I had with Lisa Stone in the hallway. Hurrah for hallway conversations!

* Bloggercon is okay, but BlogHer will rock. Honestly, this un-conference pales in comparison to BlogHer and just makes me even more excited for July 28.

* Mother Goose Mouse is organizing all of the mommybloggers (and others) who are going to BlogHer. Visit her and give her your information. She will amaze you with her awesome spreadsheet powers. See you poolside! Thanks, mgm.

* Oh, and thank you for that beer you sent me a couple of months ago. I kind of just got it, drank it, burped your name, and forgot to give you a shout out. Stick a big L on my forehead and call me a Loser.

* I have been to Thirsty Bear for lunch twice this week. I am one lucky woman.

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Live from BloggerCon IV in San Francisco

Phil Torrone
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Tool talk. Talking tools with Phil Torrone. What do we need? How to get "mainstream" media, lawyers, MOMS to understand how life-changing are the tools that we use all of the time?

There is a webcast of the un-conference.

More later.

My photos on Flickr.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006


Dear Tommy T


Just a quick note to let you know that you are the cutest, sweetest little boy I've ever known.

Today, when you sat down with your cousin Grady of your own accord and let him teach you how to eat an ice cream cone? That was the cutest thing I have ever seen. And besides cute, it showed me what I already knew: that you are a loving, gentle little boy who gets along with others. And likes ice cream, too.


And then when we got home and it was hot and I took your dirty clothes off? You decided you wanted to wear Emily's new fancy, frilly Dora nightgown that she got for her birthday. One day you might hate this photo (or you might love it, who knows?); but right now I love this photo, I love the fact that you are completely comfortable wearing a pink, nylon nightgown, and I love you.

T in Emily's nightgown

And sweetie? You are oh so pretty in pink.

Love, Mama

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Intergalactical Blog Reading Day

I am declaring today Intergalactical Blog Reading Day. Thank you for stopping by. I expect I will be very busy later reading through the (don't faint) 150 blogs on my Bloglines blogroll. When you consider most of those blogs have somewhere between 2 and 10 posts that I haven't read, well, you can imagine that I have a lot of reading to do. Hence the need for Intergalactical Blog Reading Day. This is bigger than local, bigger than national, bigger than international! It's intergalactical. I hope all of you out there will join me.

Please note that marking all as "read" doesn't count.

And speaking of reading, would you like to receive a weekly eNewsletter filled with the best of mommy and family blogging from around the blogosphere? I thought you might. Go here to get this wonderful thing, put together by the fabu Lisa Stone from BlogHer.

And speaking of newsletters, I finished my mothers club newsletter in one day! I did not procrastinate! Good for me. Two pats on the back and a large Pinda Colada.

I'm off to shower and take the kids to the post office, the printer, then to lunch with Auntie Jennie and Tutu in The City. But I'll be back later to participate in Intergalactical Blog Reading Day.

I leave you with a picture that captures the very essence of childhood: Children enjoying the simple pleasure of a cool sprinkler on a hot day. This is also a picture that captures the very essence of relaxed motherhood since it was taken by a mom who let her kids run in the sprinkler even though it meant wet clothes and shoes and two kids who would never want to leave the playground. This time let's skip the pats on the back, but I'd like two cherries and an extra shot of rum in that Pina Colada, if you don't mind.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Berkeley Cybersalon presents Mommies Online

More good geek stuff, this time specifically mom-centric. Sylvia Paull has asked me to be on the panel of one of her infamous Berkeley Cybersalons. Here's the information, which I lifted directly from the announcement she wrote.

If you live in the Bay Area, I hope to see you at this event! Go to the Berkeley Cybersalon site to see how you can RSVP. A few friendly (and hopefully, non-yawning) faces is always a good thing to see from the stage.

Berkeley Cybersalon
Mommies Online: Another Feminist Revolution?
5-7 p.m., Sunday, June 25

Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley

Come meet some of the most outspoken women of our times: mommy bloggers. Grace Davis runs marathons and her family plus a personal blog, State of Grace, and raised more money than established relief funds through her Hurricane Katrina Direct Relief blog. Jenny Lauck’s known for her irreverently hilarious blog, Three Kid Circus, and as cofounder of group blog Mommybloggers.

Our other panelists include professional blogger Mary Tsao, who writes for BlogHer and Literary Mama as well as her personal blog, Mom Writes. Lisa Brewer Canter, who worked in music licensing before motherhood, blogs candidly about life with husband software entrepreneur Marc Canter and two young children at A surprise mommy blogger might appear from momsrising, a new organization dedicated to supporting the rights of mothers and families.

Admission is $10 for pizza and drinks, and the panel discussion, which starts around 5:45 and ends at 7. Feel free to bring family, including children – we have a room where they can play and we’ll enlist a supervisor on the spot.

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Monday, June 19, 2006


Mom's Going Geek

Scott Beale is calling this San Francisco Geek Week because of the amazing amount of geek-related events taking place, including Bar Camp San Francisco on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and BloggerCon IV on Friday and Saturday. (And a whole bunch of other events he's listed here.)

I am happy to report that mama's going to BloggerCon. Aww yeaaahhhh. My friends Elisa, Jory, and Lisa from BlogHer will be there along with Liz Henry and many more. And Lisa Williams, whom I met at the ClubMom mommy blogging focus group thingie, will be leading a discussion on The Emotional Life of Weblogs.

Can't wait. Events like these are a blogger's dream come true, a chance to explore unique, mind-expanding ideas with other people who truly, definitely, do not mind talking about blogs, blogging, user-centric new media, the power of the blogger as blogger (and why that's so powerful), why "what is a weblog?" is not a dumb question, collaboration!, standards! and oh, so much more.

Expect liveblogging from the event this Friday. Power to the blogger.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006


The Curse of the Lucky Stay-at-Home Mom

What a weekend! On Saturday we celebrated Emily's third birthday with a party at the San Francisco Buca di Beppo. I totally copied Jamie from Blonde Mom Blog and decided to take the celebration off-site. Unfortunately, Emily fell asleep on the way there and woke up in a funk. When I dropped off her, Mike, and our presents and took Thomas to park the car, she saw me drive away and started crying and calling out, "Mama!...Mama!..."

That pretty much set the tone for her enjoyment of the party. Which is to say, she hated it. She kept her head on my lap almost the entire time, wouldn't eat anything, refused to smile for pictures, and was so distraught by the end that Mike had to take her for a walk. The waitress was very surprised when she showed up with a big piece of brownie cake and a "3" candle and realized that Emily was MIA. Oh well. Instead we sang Happy Birthday to Thomas, who looked a little stunned but at least he wasn't crying or hysterical. As Tutu Jewel pointed out, this will be one of our "stories" of Emily. That basically means she will never get to forget about this as long as she lives.

Ha ha! I just realized that I can laugh about it now!

Of course Emily and her spirits perked up IMMEDIATELY upon our leaving the restaurant. She fairly skipped to the car, then we went home and opened the presents and she and Thomas fought over his new un-birthday present of a microphone, and life was suddenly back to normal. Welcome to the threes, I guess.

Today I did yard work and set up our new patio furniture and bought flowers that some lucky stiff at Home Depot planted for me. Here's our new table and chairs seen previously in the photo of my butt. We had breakfast on the patio! It was very California lifestyle-esque. Mike played online poker and enjoyed some alone time. Happy Father's Day, honey!

Saturday night was the Berkeley MotherTalk with Judith Stadtman Tucker. If the fact that we chatted until midnight was any indication, we obviously didn't want the evening to end. Yes, it was an interesting and informative night. The other MotherTalks I've attended tended to center around our personal experiences as mothers and also our experiences as mother-writers. Saturday night's salon was slightly different because Judith's personal focus with her organization The Mothers Movement Online is more about global issues surrounding caregiving, work, family life, and public policy. She was a wonderfully articulate speaker and conversationalist and brought to the conversation facts, figures, theories, feminist opinion, must-read books, writers to explore, and much more. I have two full pages of notes and I hope that my own reading and writing in the upcoming months will incorporate some of what she suggested.

In the meantime, if you haven't been over to The Mothers Movement Online, go check it out. There's a fair number of essays, opinion pieces, book reviews, and more about issues that affect mothers. One of the essays on MMO that we talked about last night is titled "Lucky." In it, Shannon Hyland-Tassava explains how even though working moms tend to call her "lucky" that she's able to stay home with her daughter, it actually isn't luck, but "effort and sacrifice." She writes:

"What I really want to say, in a necessarily non-politically-correct kind of way, is this: It's not luck that is allowing me to be a stay-at-home mom, okay? This is what it is. It is living on 1-1/2 incomes instead of two, and banking the other half, for over two years before conceiving our first child. It is consciously and deliberately living a minimalist lifestyle now, one that is not easy or always particularly comfortable, because it is important to us to raise our own child, not put her in daycare for ten hours a day.


It is a conscious choice involving material sacrifice in the name of our family's personal values. It is hard work. It is not luck -- at least, not the kind of luck most people seem to think."

What do you think about Shannon's essay? On the one hand, I agree with her and think she has a right to resent being called "lucky." On the other hand, I think she's being overly-sensitive about some casual comments that probably weren't meant to judge her lifestyle in the way that she thinks they did. If you're a SAHM and you're not living the lifestyle exemplified by the reality TV show "Real Housewifes of Orange County" (which Morphing into Mama recently spoofed), do you find yourself wishing more people understood the extent to which your family is making sacrifices in order for you (or your husband) to be home with your kids?

Or do you just wish that your three-year old understood the sacrifices you made in order to have her birthday party at a posh family-style dining establishment long enough to sit up and smile for at least one picture?

Just wondering.

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Friday, June 16, 2006


What the Butt?

My husband and his mother like to take pictures of my butt. This seems odd to me. What do you think? Am I being violated in some way? Should this bother me?

The year: 2003
The scene: The taking of our annual Christmas card. I am laboriously fluffing pillows or something.
The photographer: Husband


The year: 2004
The scene: The annual Eggstravaganza event held by my Mothers Club. I am laboriously setting up the cookie decorating table for which I baked 150 sugar cookies.
The photographer: Mother-in-law


The year: 2005
The scene: The decorating of the Christmas tree. I am laboriously and carefully putting ornaments on the tree in a symetrical pattern.
The photographer: Husband


The year: 2006
The scene: The setting up of our new patio furniture. I am laboriously taking off yards of protective plastic wrap.
The photographer: Mother-in-law


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Thursday, June 15, 2006


The Tutu's Back In Town

Mike's mom is in town and we're having a blast. She's staying in The City with Auntie Jennie, but she came down to the madhouse our house today and watched the kids so that I could join Ep, Squid, Grace, and Badgermama for Bad Mamas Coffee. Thank you, Tutu!

Smiling for Auntie Jennie
Emily, Tutu, Me, and Thomas

She also deserves a giant meaty Thank you! for the humongous carton of food from Omaha Steaks she had delivered to our house. This lazy cook was mighty happy at the following sight:

A freezer full of meaty goodness
It's not all meat. Some of it's potatoes.

See how happy the kids are when we feed them?

Eating mommy's protein bars. Grrr.
Damn, they found my stash of "protein" bars.

Now I have a favor to ask of you, oh might mothers. Do you know any baby shower games that are fun but not painfully silly? Please advise; I'm hosting a baby shower soon and I need some insight. Thanks in advance!

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Mothers talking the talk

This one's for my Bay Area posse. There will be another MotherTalk salon this upcoming Saturday evening, June 17. This one will feature Judy Stadtman Tucker from The Mothers Movement Online and should be a spirited evening filled with lively discussion, thoughtful women, and fine wine. Leave a comment if you'd like an invitation to this event, which will be held in Berkeley.

Judy Stadtman Tucker was at a MotherTalk in Philadelphia back in March. After the event, Miriam Peskowitz from Playground Revolution wrote about Judy:

"All I can say is that she's the kind of person that when she looks around the room at 11:30 pm, after several hours of conversation, and says expansively, "This is the revolution," well, you feel like indeed, you're part of the new century's take on the early 70's famed CR groups. You see yourself as part of history. She has that effect on you."

Judy's organization--The Mothers Movement Online--"provides resources and reporting for mothers and others who think about social change." From the About page:

"The Mothers Movement Online was founded in April 2003 as an open source for information about social, cultural, economic and political issues that affect the wellbeing of mothers. Our purpose is to serve as a clearinghouse for reporting and resources that support social change. Our intention is to promote economic and social justice for mothers and others who do the caring work of our society."

I've been to a couple of MotherTalk events, and both of them were inspiring and wonderful. This one promises to be equally as stimulating. Let me know if you want to go! And for the rest of my posse, I'll be sure and do a write-up of the event.

On an entirely different note, please check out the next American Idol, toddler edition:

Don't you just love it?

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Turning stuffing my face into an adventure

I like to eat out. Would you like some proof?

Sunday night:
Beach Chalet, San Francisco
Decent pub-style food -- something for everybody. A full bar with a large selection of their own beers and a much better lemon drop than you will find at the Embassy Suites in Anaheim. Much.
I ordered a crab louie salad and ate most of the fries off the kids's chicken strips plate.
Dress code: Medium casual
Pluses: Big noisy room is good for people with small noisy kids, view of the Pacific Ocean, live music on many nights, good booze and food.
Minuses: More expensive than Red Robin.

Tutu enjoys her round of beers

Monday afternoon:
Sai's Vietnamese Restaurant II, San Carlos
Inexpensive, homestyle Vietnamese food made for whitey. Cloth tablecloths add a nice touch to a meal that costs under $20.
I ordered my favorite: fish noodle soup. The broth was clear and good; the fish was fresh. The calamari wasn't too rubbery and the fish cake was tasty. Emily liked the broth, too. I was happy they automatically used vermicelli noodles and I didn't have to request them.
Dress code: Casual
Pluses: Arriving before noon means you have the place to yourself, decent rice dishes, something for everybody, EXCELLENT iced coffe that kept me wired until way past my bedtime.
Minuses: I ordered beef chow fun for the kids and they were... OUT? WTF?! That seemed wrong.

Mommy's seafood noodle soup. My favorite.

Tuesday afternoon:
Phil's Fish Market, Moss Landing
A wide variety of fresh, freshly-smoked, and freshly-fried fish. Beer, wine, iced tea, and seafood to go if you're so inclined.
I ordered the caesar salad with cracked crab and it was delicious. It came with a piece of broiled bread that was so-so. However, when I saw my aunt's plate of fried scallops and shrimp, I knew I was a fool for getting what Emily calls, "leaves."
Dress code: Casual
Pluses: Local crowd, dog-friendly, nice wait staff, excellent fish.
Minuses: For the price, the ambiance leaves a little to be desired.

Lunch at Phil's Fish Market

More pictures on Flickr. P.S. Don't blame me if you have two lunches today.

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Monday, June 12, 2006


Nightgowns don't grow on trees

Emily is entering the girly phase of toddlerhood; the phase in which--given the choice--she would wear a frilly princess nightgown every night and every day, only taking it off to change into another, even frillier number.

Unfortunately, Emily has only two of this type of nightgown, both gifts from Auntie Dee Dee, distributor of all things outrageous and special and costing much more than I would ever pay for anything.

So the other night a minor uproar occurred when Emily realized that both of her special nightgowns were dirty and she was going to have to wear (gasp!) a pair of fleece footie pajamas. Oh, the horror! In an effort to rationally explain to her the situation, I told her that the nightgowns were in the wash. To which she replied in a sobbing voice, "We need to go to the STTOOORRRE!"

Oh, the horror.

Mike and I understand full well that our children have much more than we ever had as children. I'm not talking about love, but I am talking about material things: a big house; pool memberships; regular dinners out at restaurants with tablecloths, bedrooms decorated with colorful, petite furniture; a playroom filled with toys designed to propel a child straight from Sesame Street to Pennsylvania Avenue; matching, brand-new clothes; new shoes that cost more than my entire summer wardrobe. And yet we want our children to grow up with a strong work ethic and with the humility that comes from not always having everything handed to you on a silver platter. You know, the same things that K-Fed wants for his kids.

Which is why the idea that Emily thinks a new nightgown can be bought at the merest inclination, desire, or need for a clean one is kind of sickening to me. Is it possible we've been spending too many afternoons meandering through Target together?

How to teach kids about money and the rewards of hard work is a whole blog in itself, but without knowing anything about how to effectively incorporate a piggy bank-based reward system into our everyday life, I do know something that makes sense in almost every parenting situation I've ever been in: kids learn by example.

And that is why I am so excited about Mir from Would Could Shoulda's new blog According to Mir's witty FAQs, "is all about having it all with less." She's hoping her "site will become a resource for anyone trying to live a fulfilled life without benefit of endless buckets of money." And with that, she is speaking the language of the Tsao family. Thank you for becoming my personal bargain hunter on the web, Mir.

Because it is with bargain hunting and setting good examples of how to spend--or not spend--money that I am hoping Emily and Thomas will learn about financial responsibility and the value of a dollar.

And if that doesn't work--or maybe if it does--I guess they'll be working the counter next to Sean Preston.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006


Fork U

Apparently my rigidity, anal scheduling, and observance of things that are right and therefore must be done has resulted in two children who simply aren't capable of lounging around all day in their jammies, grazing and swilling the child equivalent of cheap Italian champagne.

They are also incapable of eating food without a fork.

This is what I discovered when I tried to serve my son pizza for lunch. His insistent cry of, "boon! boon!" meant that he his pizza without a spoon. Otherwise known as a fork.

I gave him his fork. He gave me his look. And then he ate his pizza.

With his hands.

Notice how he's fully dressed down to his shoes. If the camera was faced the other way you'd see a mom wearing her best cotton pajama bottoms and last night's makeup trying not to look hungover, and a dad wearing an old T-shirt from a now-defunct Internet start-up and boxers napping on the couch.

Happy Sunday.

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Saturday, June 10, 2006


How to make sandwiches for a bunch of ungrateful kids

This afternoon, Mike, the kids, and I went to a picnic at our local rec center. It was a gathering of a newly formed local parents's group. Mike and I feel it's important that we are a presence in our local community even though we also feel that hanging at home drinking light beer is a fine way to spend the weekend, too. We decided that since tonight we're getting dressed up and going to a wedding party for some friends (No kids! A babysitter is coming!) and chances are a yummy cocktail or two will be involved, that we should forgo our normal "first drink at noon" weekend schedule and drag our family over to the rec center with a tray of child-friendly sandwiches for a bunch of local rugrats to devour ravenously without so much as a thank you.

I swear I'm only this bitter when I'm blogging.

The picnic was very nice even though it was freezing cold. And by "freezing" I mean it was 60 degrees out. Brrrr. Of course, I was wearing flip flops to show off my new pedicure, but really. Bay Area weather is so unpredictable sometimes.

Here's my recipe for how to make kid-friendly sandwiches that will disappear from the food table before you can say go wash your hands! Kid-friendly means that they contain no peanut products, no vegetables, no spices, and wouldn't even be healthy at all if the sandwich bread wasn't iron-fortified.

For an equally unhealthy--but vegetarian--option, omit the luncheon meat.

Kid-friendly ham and cheese sandwiches

  1. On a cutting board, line up as many pieces of soft white or wheat bread as the board will hold.
  2. Slather each piece of bread with a thin layer of mayonnaise.
  3. Place three or four pieces of thinly sliced ham or other luncheon meat on each piece of bread. Lightly press the meat onto the bread and make sure it is smooth.
  4. Place a slice of whole milk, processed American cheese on each piece of bread.
  5. Top each with another slice of bread.
  6. Using a long knife with a serrated blade, slice the crusts off each sandwich.
  7. Depending on the shape of the bread, cut in half lengthwise to make rectangles or crosswise to make triangles.
  8. Arrange artfully on a plate, realizing as you do that no kid will care about your presentation.
  9. At the picnic, manage to get one small sandwich for yourself. Relish its blandness.
  10. Take a photo of the empty plate.
  11. Wish somebody had said, "Hey! Good sandwiches!"
  12. Ponder the fate of motherkind and realize you are carrying the torch.

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Friday, June 09, 2006


I am my grandmother's granddaughter

Me and ma: 1971
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Today I had one of those ah ha! moments. It occurred midway during a bite of cold scrambled eggs with cheese eaten standing up at the sink.

I have become my grandmother.

For one thing, I'm constantly picking up after people. My grandma was always straightening up things. I will never forget the time she cleaned my aunt's "dirty" candle holder. My aunt had taken an old Chianti bottle and used it as a candle holder, carefully burning candles of various colors and turning the bottle to ensure the drips were evenly distributed. One day my grandma cleaned all the wax off the bottle. She'll never do that again.

For another thing, I eat the food off my kids's plates. This is a bad habit, but I just can't let the good food I made go to waste so I do what my grandma used to do: I shove the last remaining good bites in my mouth before I rinse and wash the dish. When you eat food really fast and over the sink it doesn't count, right?

But I'm not really my grandmother; she was much more selfless than I will ever be. My grandma was the constant caregiver. When I went back to Chicago after she passed away, I had a great conversation with an old family friend about my grandma. The friend told me about the first time she ever met my grandma. I was there, but I don't remember this exact incident although I can imagine it with no problem. The family friend visited for dinner and was amazed at how my grandma waited on everybody hand and foot -- making food (we had spaghetti and peas, a dish we had a lot), scurrying around, never sitting, then cleaning off the table when the rest of us simply got up after eating and left our plates where she had placed them earlier. I'm sure she ate her dinner standing up at the sink before washing the dishes while we watched TV in the other room. This was what dinner was like with my grandma. That was what life was like with my grandma. Her giving was so constant; the taking was so easy. It required a stranger to alert me to the fact that it wasn't necessarily the way other people lived, the way other people were treated and treated each other.

I will never be my grandmother, but I will always be my grandmother's granddaughter.

I still miss you, gramie. But you're here with me every day; you know you are.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006


A recipe to end the mommy wars

My review of Leslie Morgan Steiner's Mommy Wars is up on Literary Mama. Check it out if you get the chance!

Speaking of my own personal mommy war, today the checkout guy at Trader Joe's accused me of being a lazy cook. Apparently, he noticed that two of the pieces of meat I bought were the kind that come pre-marinated. I wanted to reply, "Hey, notice how many fruits and vegetables I have in that cart, young man!" but then I realized that all of the veggies I bought were the kind that come pre-washed. I guess he was right; I give up.

At least he carded me and told me I only looked thirty, as if that's any consolation.

Okay, it is.

Here's a recipe for my new favorite salad. It's full of strong flavors and I love it. This salad is easy to make and therefore great for both SAHM lazy cooks and working mom lazy cooks. If you need more protein, add cubed or slivered ham. If your kids don't eat "leaves" or "cheese that looks rotted," serve them the cubed ham with some raw carrots and a small bowl of ranch dressing and call it dipping sticks. Dinner in 10 minutes from one lazy cook to another. Friends?

Spinach Salad with Broccoli and Gorgonzola

  • Bag of pre-washed baby spinach leaves
  • Half a wedge of Wisconsin Gorgonzola cheese (or more is good, too)
  • 2-3 handfuls broccoli florets, roughly chopped
  • Ranch dressing (I like Trader Joe's Organic, in the refrigerated section)

  • Optional: cubed or slivered ham

    Arrange artfully on plate. Dig in.

    Serves 2 - 4

Quote of the day: There's no emoticon for what I'm feeling! --Comic Book Guy, "The Simpsons"

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Let them drink Evian

We made it! We had a fine time down in the O.C., but now we're glad to be home. As a good little post-vacationer, I've got the laundry in the washing machine, I just exercised, and I have totally sworn of all binge drinking and late night snacking.

I'm hungry and shaking; vacation detox just isn't pretty.

To get my mind off my hunger and prove that I'm not always a Wendy Whiney McWhiners, here are five things about the I-5, the highway that runs north/south through the center of California (and also runs through Oregon and Washington) and provides the quickest--and Wendy Whiney McWhiners would say the most boring--route from the Bay Area to Los Angeles.

Shut up, Wendy Whiney McWhiners! Here are five great-slash-interesting things to notice when you're driving that lonely, long stretch of I-5 between Los Angeles and the Bay Area:

Pyramid Lake
As you leave the Los Angeles basin, you drive through a mountainous area known as the Grapevine. At roughly the crest of the area, there's a rest stop and Visitor's Center at Pyramid Lake. It's really pretty.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to stop there today because it was closed.

But a little further north, we found another rest stop area on the water that allowed fishing and boating. Because it was the middle of the week and not terribly hot, we had no problem finding an empty picnic table to enjoy our sandwiches and fruit. Much better than eating at a stinky McDonald's yet again.

One drawback: It cost $7.00 to park there, which is a tad expensive for a 20 minute lunch.

Pea Soup Andersen's
This is where all pea soup originates. Just kidding. I think. Along I-5 in Santa Nella is the location of one of the finest purveyors of the finest of split pea soups: Pea Soup Andersen's. Perhaps you've seen cans of it in your local grocery store.

If you stop at the restaurant you will notice that they have a gargantuan gift shop filled with something for everybody, including your grandma (crystal tchotchkes), your foodie friend (spices, specialty food items), and your travel-weary kid (books and craft kits). They also have a large, clean women's room filled with vases of real flowers. And for $7.95 you can get the traveler's special: all the split pea soup you can eat, unlimited soft rolls with butter, and your choice of coffee, tea, iced tea, milk, soda, or a milkshake.

Two drawbacks: No changing table in the men's room (grrrrr) and it's debatable whether or not split pea soup is an appropriate thing to eat when you're on a road trip with other people. If you know what I mean.

Harris Ranch Beef Company has more cattle than the eye can see right off I-5 around Coalinga. If you drive through the area at night with the windows down, you'll be able to smell where you are even though you won't be able to see the animals.

Rather than let the sight of thousands of animals en route to one day being slaughtered get me down, I put on my jolly face and cry out, "Look, kids, it's cows! Can you see them? Cows! What does the cow say?!"

I'm figuring we'll save the conversation about slaughterhouses and how we ate Bessie for dinner last night for when they're 8 or 9.

California Aqueduct
Do you ever wonder how a large, thriving community like the one in Southern California manages to survive given the fact they have very little of California's most precious commodity? I'm not talking about Bikram Yoga studios; I'm talking about water.

California has a large aqueduct system in place that carries water from areas where it's plentiful (by Western standards) to areas where it's not. So when you look out the window and see these large concrete troughs filled with water, you're actually looking at a river of gold. Without the means to get water to the Central Valley, California couldn't produce the crops that it does. And without water in Los Angeles, people couldn't live there. It's a simple enough concept to overlook, but it's definitely an important one to know about.

Seeing the California Aqueduct, reminded me that I need to read Cadillac Desert, which is a great book about the science and politics behind water development in the West.

The Wind Farm at Altamont Pass
Actually, this is on I-580 between Livermore and Tracy, but since we veer off I-5 and take I-580 to get back to the South Bay, I'm going to include this in my list.

The Wind Farm at Altamont Pass is probably the trippiest thing I've ever seen "in nature." The first time you see it, you will trip out. That's my scientific opinion. Thomas and Emily saw it for the first time today and they were definitely tripped out.

The Wind Farm at Altamont Pass is one of the three largest wind farms in the world. It's basically row upon row of wind turbines, aka: wind mills, that are used to generate electricity. When you are in the area filling your gas tank and cleaning the bugs off your windshield, you will notice that it's very windy. I guess some science-minded people noticed that, too, and decided it was the perfect location for a wind farm.

I wanted SO BAD to take a picture for your viewing pleasure, but I was driving. :( I know that hasn't stopped me before, but I resisted this time. For more info, see Wikipedia. For pictures, check out Xah Lee's page.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006


There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware

Can it really be only 8:00 PM? I am so tired that I'm about to fall over on the keyboard. This post is going to be short and sweet. (Note to myself: I promise!)

We were up early again today; no matter how late we put these kids to bed they're always up at the crack of dawn. There's no way we'll ever miss a free hotel breakfast as long as the kids are with us.

Disneyland opened at 9:00 AM. We were there at 9:05. We walked again and felt even more virtuous than we did yesterday. Although judging by the snugness of my waistband, I'm sensing that the walking isn't doing much to offset the huge plates of pasta, gigantic greasy breakfasts, and large quantities of booze that we're consuming. Oh well. We're on vacation, right? They'll be plenty of time for portion control after we get home. Which--since we've run out of clean clothes--is going to be tomorrow.

Anyway, back to today. We hung out in Disneyland for an hour or so until California Adventure opened. We took the kids on Mr Toad's Wild Ride, which actually was quite freaky, and Emily didn't like it one little bit. That set the stage for a very unsatisfactory Teacup Ride. I didn't join them this time; I found out yesterday that the ride makes me nauseated. Emily found out today that being on the ride without me makes her frantic. Mike asked, "When she cries for me does she say that I'm not coming back?" "No," I replied. "That's what she says about you," He told me. Wow, heavy stuff. It's amazing how strong the fear of abandonment is in a little girl who has never even experienced it.

We liked California Adventure park, maybe even more than Disneyland. It was smaller, more manageable, and less crowded than its older brother. It also seemed geared to younger kids, which worked for us. We saw a couple of shows, and did I mention they sell booze at California Adventure? Oh yes, they do. Margaritas and Beer. We didn't have any but it was nice to know it was there if we needed it.

After four or five hours of sun and fun, we took the shuttle back to the hotel and relaxed until dinner. I wrote a BlogHer post about Tuesday memes, Mike played poker, and Emily napped. Thomas was supposed to nap but instead he decided to spend the time bouncing off the walls. For dinner, we went to Mexi-Casa, recommended by Squid. It was yummy and so cheap Mike had to comment about it to the waitress. I think he was in awe that our dinner for four was $20. And I had a glass of wine, too. I have a feeling that if we lived in the area, we would be eating at that restaurant a lot. Thanks for the tip, Squid!

And that pretty much sums up our last day at the happiest place on Earth. Tomorrow we wake up, pack up, eat up, check out, and head out for parts well known: home sweet home.

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Monday, June 05, 2006


A world of hopes and a world of fears

Having lots of fun!!
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Oh, happy cocktail hour. It turns out this Embassy Suites has a "Manager's Party" from 5:30 - 7:30 with--you guessed it--free cocktails, wine, and beer, and popcorn. Oh, and slushees for the kids. Honestly, this is the greatest hotel ever. They completely understand what parents want: free booze. And lots of it. And free. And some sugar for the kids.

But let's start at the very beginning. And we'd better hurry before these free glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon render me completely unable to blog. Oh, the horror.

We woke up bright and early (Not by choice--you understand we have a small infant who awakens at the merest sliver of light through blackout curtains. He's obviously going to be a rock star.) and made it to our free breakfast by 7:30. By 8:15 we were dressed and out the door, where we encountered Mike's dream come true: an overcast day in southern California.

Even though we are born and bred Americans, we scoffed at the thought of waiting for the shuttle and walked the mile or so to Disneyland. The sidewalks were empty; nobody walks in L.A. We arrived moments after the gates opened and meandered over to It's a Small World with a stop first at the Teacup Ride.

We then did the train around the park, which we followed with lunch. Then we hit the Haunted House, Tarzan's Treehouse, and the Jungle Cruise. At this point, Thomas was asleep so we strolled over to Mickey's Toontown, where Emily enjoyed some more toddler-friendly attractions.

Toontown was where I realized that I was getting delirious. Mickey, Minnie, funny cars... it was all becoming too much, too surreal. Even though we were visiting Disneyland on a fairly un-busy day, the hordes of people, strollers, and kids was starting to make my head spin. We decided we'd had enough around 1:30 and made our way out of the park and back to our hotel.

The walk back to the hotel seemed considerably longer, but I still think it's a feasible walk for a family. It did help that it wasn't unbearably hot, but it definitely beat waiting for a shuttle.

After naptime, we had dinner at Buca di Beppo, conveniently located in the parking lot of the Embassy Suites Hotel. We love this restaurant, although the one in San Francisco is so popular we have never been able to go as a family. On a Monday night in the off-season in Anaheim, we had the place to ourselves.

And then there was happy hour and now we're home, safely nestled in our suite. Mike's about to give the kids their bath and I'm about to snuggle up with my latest book, This Book Will Save Your Life, which my book club is reading for June.

Tomorrow we're heading over to see the California Adventure theme park and maybe to the Mexican restaurant recommended by Squid. We're having a great time hanging out as a family. This trip is a nice beginning to our month, which is going to be filled with visitors, birthdays, baby showers, and other family gatherings.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006


A world of laughter, a world of tears


Greetings from the happiest place on Earth--Anaheim, California, home of Disneyland, California Adventure Park, Downtown Disney, and more registered trademarks than anywhere else in the world. We left early Saturday morning and drove eight hours to hook up with our pals Mickey and Goofy, the Mad Hatter, Chip & Dale, you know... the crew. Oh, and let's not forget the princesses, although so far it seems the little girls dressed up as princesses outnumber the real ones about 10,000 to 1. We've seen some mighty cute little girls, though.

Traveling mommy Mary Tsao is blogging to you live from the Embassy Suites Hotel, a family-friendly place recommended to me by my friend Leslie. We're digging the free breakfast every morning (frugal Mike got pretty excited when he found out about the free breakfast), the kid-friendly pool party last night with oldies jams, free booze, drunk parents embarassing their offspring by dancing to Super Freak, and 50 cent hot dogs (again, frugal Mike almost couldn't believe our good fortune), and the fact the place is located across the street from the mommy meca of super stores. You know what I'm talking about: Target. Awww yeahhh. We've already been once and we only got here yesterday.

I-5 was as boring as we expected; Thomas curled himself into a ball of fury and got very angry at several points. The eight hour drive was hardest on his little one-year old spirit. Emily did fine; she's a big girl now--almost three. Mike and I switched off driving and eventually we got here. Our Prius has a nifty GPS system that lets you know what the estimated time of your arrival is based on your current speed. A fairly useless thing to know unless you're anal and obsessive. Which we are.

Today some of us enjoyed and others of us were scared out of our wits at the character breakfast at the Disneyland Hotel. Guess which one of us enjoyed it? I'll give you a hint: champagne was involved. Guess which one of us was scared out of his little guy wits? Poor T. He's still a little young to think giant animals in his face are anything other than terrifying.

After breakfast we checked out Downtown Disney, which is basically an outdoor shopping mall. After walking around sweating off our Mickey pancakes and Goofy waffles, we returned to the hotel to take naps. Except I was the only one who had the sense to take one. The kids waited until we left the hotel for dinner to fall asleep.

Dinner was at the Rainforest Cafe, the kind of theme restaurant where you just KNOW without even looking at the menu that you will be able to get a deep fried appetizer and a big, silly drink. I was rather upset that they lost the reservations I made last week although since we eat at 5:00, they were able to fit us in. But let me give those of you traveling to the happiest place on Earth a tip: make dinner reservations! In fact, if you're going during the summer, make reservations for every meal; there's no such thing as spontaneity when thousands of people have the same goal you do. Yes, that would be the goal of shoving their face with greasy food and sweet drinks.

After a delightful dinner, a swim in the pool, and a horrible experience jogging on a treadmill in front of what seemed like hundreds of mirrors filled with the image of my jiggling behind, I finally managed to get some pictures online. Tomorrow--after our free hotel breakfast, of course--we're heading over to Disneyland, where we are sure to find madness, mayhem, and Mickey. On a Monday, no less.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006


Let's make a deal

Jory Des Jardins has another great post up on the BlogHer site. In this post, she ponders the "demotion" of pregnant ABC News Co-Anchor Elizabeth Vargas. She also writes about women networking with other women and how we don't do enough of it. She quotes Fran Maier, Executive Director and President of TrustE and co-founder of

"In 2004, my MBA class celebrated its 15th reunion. ...I saw many of my female friends and we spoke of the last time the families got together, I began to notice that the guys seemed to be reminding one another not only of social engagements but that deal they worked on or that partnership they formed. At first, I thought I was being overly sensitive, but more and more I saw the truth – the men in my class really did work with one another, not just in spotty, one-time ways but regularly and in significant ways.


After the reunion, I checked in with some of my female friends still working outside the home, and we all agreed that we did not reach out to each other professionally. We keep our professional lives separate. ... we agreed that the lack of serious networking and deal making was one reason we could own for not necessarily achieving the same level of success as many of the men (or having to work so much harder for it). We don't do the deal with each other. We don't hire and seek out one another as much. We need to do the deal. With the guys, for sure, but especially with other women."

Jory ended her post with another remark by Fran: "DO THE DEAL. Reach out to other women. Form a partnership, buy the service, give the reference, hire the talent and when all things are pretty equal (do they have to be exactly equal?) then support the women. Do the Deal. Tell others they need to do the deal. Make it a cause, make it second nature. The guys do."

Jory's post was interesting to me for a number of reasons, but because I am a SAHM, I'll tell you why I thought it was very much applicable to my current occupation of "mother." This is the comment I left for Jory:

"This is along the lines of something I recently was discussing with another woman from my mothers club. She was lamenting the fact that the mothers in the club didn't network with each other. I was surprised when she first mentioned it because I seriously hadn't considered it; I was using the club as a way to meet other moms. I didn't associate the other moms with networking opportunities.

She illustrated some ways in which my thinking was wrong. For one thing, many women in our club also work. They could be using the club email list to find job seekers and yet they rarely do. And many moms might enjoy finding out about job opportunities, too, especially opportunities for part time employment that didn't involve plastic or cooking utensils.

But even more generally, knowing a woman's skill set might come in handy when you were wondering whom to hire to design a website or write an article or sell a house. In the mothers club, we tend to think "mother" is the occupation of a woman once she has a child. That kind of thinking isn't helping the women understand each other's potential outside of the possibility of a playgroup partner. The separation of personal and professional is very much in effect.

It's almost taboo to talk about returning to work when you're with a group of SAHMs. I've found this out the hard (and silent) way. And yet, it's ridiculous to think a woman who opts out of work for a number of years to raise an infant won't one day return to "work," whatever that means. Most women do; most women want to. But the women I've met (many, not all) don't want to think that far into the future.

So perhaps in addition to networking more (networking is not a dirty word!), having goals and a life vision that extends beyond the childbearing years is important, too."

Is what I wrote true for you at all? It certainly is for me. I've written before about the timeline of my life. I knew I wanted kids by a certain age, but after that? I thought I would become a working mother and that would be that. End of story. Now that I no longer am employed, now that I have this wonderful opportunity to stay home and ponder life (my kids's and my own), I am also pondering this question: What do I want to do with my life?

While I've been pondering this question, I've been blogging, and I've been writing, and guess what? The answer is starting to reveal itself, in many ways due to the influence of people like Jory and her partners Elisa Camahort and Lisa Stone. I certainly didn't go to BlogHer last year with the idea that I would be networking, but--lo and behold--that's what I ended up doing.

And it felt pretty good. And it continues to feel good. And it's not hard, nor does it make me feel shameful or dirty. And I write those words with only half a smirk on my face because I know that women still have a long way to go when it comes to looking at each other in the way that men do. Okay, that didn't come out right, but I hope you understand what I mean. Men see each other and seek each other out as business buddies; women don't. And that's too bad.

So I'm helping Jory spread the word about DOING THE DEAL. Do you need to hire a technical writer? Email me; I've got a friend currently doing freelance work. Do you need somebody to re-design your boring blog template? Try Karen Rani. Do you want to buy or sell a house in San Mateo County? Tell Linda Wei that Mary Tsao sent you. What about you? What do you do? How do you want to be known? What kind of a deal are you looking to make?

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