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Location: Northern California

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Tots on a Tear: Randall Museum and Walter Haas Playground

Walter Haas Playground
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
The kids and I had a great time today on a spur-of-the-moment fieldtrip to San Francisco. I've been meaning to check out the Randall Museum so that's where we went first. After that, we found an amazing playground in the Diamond Heights neighborhood, the Walter Haas Playground.

We got to the Randall Museum around 1:00 PM, which is a great time to visit a children's museum if you want to avoid running into other kids. Most parents and schools tend to take kids on outings in the morning; the Randall Museum this afternoon was almost completely empty. The museum is free, but there's a donation box inside the front door.

The museum has a nice collection of animals and birds, including an indoor petting zoo with ducks, rabbits, and chickens. The kids fell in love with the hands-on lego earthquake exhibit where they built towers with legos, then pressed a button to simulate an earthquake in order to see if their structure would remain standing or not.

Every Sunday, the museum hosts The Buddy Club, which presents magicians, musicians, and other entertainment to children. They also offer a variety of art classes for preschool and elementary school-aged kids. [Update: My friend Mary reminded me that they have art classes for adults, too!] There's a class schedule on their website.

We spent the most time in the Toddler Treehouse room, which was empty of kids during the time we were there but filled with wooden trains, large stacking blocks, books, and assorted other toys that could entertain kids from 1.5 to 5 years of age. The room was large and bright with sunlight from the gorgeous San Francisco winter day streaming in through the wall of windows. I took a lot of photos in the great natural light.

After hanging out at the museum for a couple of hours, we headed home. For the heck of it, I decided to detour off Market Street on our way to the highway to check out the Diamond Heights neighborhood. I was stoked to find a park with a playground at the top of Diamond Heights Boulevard and Addison Street.

The Walter Haas Playground was completely restored less than two years ago, and it is amazing! I've never seen a nicer playground in San Francisco with the exception of the Yerba Buena playground downtown. [Updated: The playground I'm referring to is called The Rooftop Playground and it's on top of Moscone Center, across the street from Yerba Buena Park.]

The Walter Haas Playground is completely fenced and gated (a plus if you've got a toddler!) and filled with great playground equipment that was ideally suited to my two-year old and three-year old. They were in playground heaven. Outside of the playground is a grassy area with a view of The City suitable for a picnic lunch or a snooze in the sun. The whole area was clean and there were no homeless sleeping on benches: two things that appealed to me as a pampered suburban SAHM venturing into The City with her kids. There's also a fenced dog park area, Tutu!

The only parking at the playground is street parking, but Diamond Heights is a San Francisco neighborhood that's off the beaten path so I was able to find parking right away.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the best part about the Randall Museum: It has a parking lot!! Free and plentiful parking in San Francisco is rare and definitely helps to make the Randall Museum a hidden gem, even for moms outside The City who are looking for an excuse to visit.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Thoughts I've been thinking about babies, SAHMs, and sweating

Sometimes I don't write in my blog because I have too many things to write; I delay writing about something because I don't feel I have the energy/mind space/time to adequately compose an entry; my inner critic shuts me down before I get started.

Well, bah to that. Here are some unfinished thoughts about some things I've been thinking. Perhaps this is all they were meant to be anyway.

The decision to have try for a third child
Even though this is the year to have a golden piglet, I do not want to get pregnant. When we discussed having another child, Mike thought about it for ten seconds and said, "I'm ready!" I will now refrain from disparaging remarks about how easy it is for him to participate in the process and how he doesn't have to be pregnant for nine months, etc., etc., because that's not the reason I want to wait.

My reason for waiting is much more practical: I want both of my older kids to be in school before I bring another baby into this house. Emily starts kindergarten and Thomas starts preschool in the fall of 2008; therefore, being pregnant and having a new baby will be much easier at that time.

That being said, I certainly do worry about my age (I'll be 39 this year) and my declining number of good eggs and the increase in odds for having a baby with downs syndrome. I also wonder if I'm crazy to think that as a woman in her fifties, I'll be mentally and physically capable of handling three teenagers. I also worry about overpopulation, the strain on the planet's ecosystem, and the idea of gaining and losing fifty pounds again.

I am looking forward to eating like a pregnant woman.

Thoughts on dropping out of the workforce to be a SAHM
I wish we as a society didn't consider it a death sentence when a woman drops out of the workforce to stay home with her kids. Even the terminology--drop out--suggests that the woman is dooming herself to a life of stagnation, that she will never be able to return to satisfying paid work.

I think that's bullshit.

I have had two careers in my life already. After I realized I no longer wanted to be an insurance underwriter, I quit my job ("dropped out") and returned to school to complete my BA degree. Several people I knew at the time thought this was a foolish move and that I was throwing away my hard work. Sound familiar? While in school, I realized that I did not want to pursue a degree in Biology as I had originally thought so I changed my major to Technical Writing. Again, people questioned this change of plans; people apparently hate change. I graduated with a degree in Technical Writing and within six months, I was making the same salary I had been making when I left my insurance career three years earlier. Within two and a half years, I was making almost double. Also, I was happier than I ever had been working in insurance.

There's life after thirty. There's life after having kids. If you have even half a brain, there will always be work for those-who-are-called-mommy in the workplace.

Exercising with toddlers and preschoolers
I started a new class held at my local rec center called Mom's Gym. It's fantastic! The kids love running around and chasing after balls while I burn up my thighs doing hundreds of lunges. We also dance like silly people and run around laughing. I highly recommend it!

The class has so inspired me that yesterday after I worked out on our elliptical, Thomas and I kicked soccer balls up and down the length of our backyard. When we got to each end, I did 10 lunges for a total of 100. Then I felt like mom of the year, and it felt pretty good.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Friends with Soup

Tuesday, January 23 is National Soup Swap Day, a fact I found out while reading today's paper. (And look! They have a blog!) I thought this was an interesting bit of information because just yesterday I made a large batch of lentil soup with rice and chicken, and today I brought a tupperware container of it over to Jennie's house. I'm like, so ahead of the times. Except she didn't give me any soup in exchange so I didn't actually participate in a swap, per se. But that's okay; who knew that Tuesday is National Soup Swap Day?

Now that you do, you might want to consider making this lentil soup to swap with a friend. This isn't instant soup--it takes five or six hours to make--but one batch makes at least 10 servings, it's easy to make, it freezes well, and it's good.

Lentil Soup with Rice and Chicken

* 1 chicken, rinsed well
* 3 stalks celery, cut in half
* handful of baby carrots
* 1 white onion, quartered
* bay leaf
* salt and pepper

* 1 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1/4 cup white rice
* 1 large can diced tomatoes in juice
* 2 T lemon juice

1. Put the first 6 ingredients in a 8-quart stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 hours or until chicken is fork tender. Periodically skim chicken gunk foam off top with slotted spoon.

2. Remove chicken and set aside. Remove veggies and set aside. Throw away bay leaf.

3. Place lentils, oregano, and rice in pot. Cut up veggies from the chicken and put back into pot. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 hours. Stir occasionally.

4. Add tomatoes and lemon juice, stir, and continue cooking for an additional 1 to 2 hours. Stir occasionally.

5. Meanwhile, remove chicken meat from bone and shred with fingers. Try not to eat all the dark meat while standing at the counter.

6. When soup is done, stir chicken meat back into pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


What I won't do for love or money

Fork, part 4
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Like most moms, I kiss a lot of boo boos. It's kind of amazing how a crying child will hold his hurt, little finger out to you and whimper, "kiss it!" in between sobs, then completely stop crying as soon as you do. Moms are powerful people with miraculous healing powers!

Today Thomas bit his tongue at breakfast. Do you see where this is going? He stuck his tongue out at me, then managed to lisp, "kith it!"

I refused. Some things just ain't right to do amongst kin folk.

Friday, January 19, 2007


What a good day looks like

Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Today I had the kind of day that I could have every day and be very happy. It was the perfect mix of mom time, me time, and couple time. I've re-arranged my nanny schedule so hopefully every Friday will be much like this one.

It started out like most other days. Thomas woke us up around 7-ish, Mike went to work, and I made breakfast for myself and the kids. After eating breakfast and checking my email, I cleaned up the kitchen, did some dishes, put the kids in front of Dora the Explorer, and worked out for an hour. Then I put away some laundry, made the bed, took a shower, and got dressed.

Wait, this will get better.

Around 11, the kids and I drove over to our local rec center for a music class taught by the fabulous Gwendomama. I'm far too lazy to look up the post, but when we took this music class last May, it took Emily several weeks before she truly enjoyed it. This time around it was heaven! She was looking forward to going to class and she participated with at least a smirk on her face the whole time. Thomas dug it tremendously and sang along to all of the songs. The whole experience was really great and I'm glad I signed us up again.

Because... it really helped ease my guilt over leaving the kids with Rosa the rest of the day. Gee, not to mention the lunch of Chicken McNuggets I fed them. In the car, no less, while we were waiting for Rosa's train to arrive. Maybe next Friday I'll make organic peanut butter and low-sugar jelly sandwiches on 25-grain bread for lunch along with baggies of carrots. Heh. Ya, right.

While Rosa took the kids to the park, I drank iced tea and wandered around the shopping mall. For the record, I have had several good online shopping experiences lately. They were good because when the items I bought didn't fit, I had no trouble returning them to my local Payless Shoe Source and Old Navy store. I've never really been much of a "returner" before; I tend not to buy things that I need to return or else I decide it isn't worth it to find the receipt or whatever. Or maybe I'm just lazy. But for some reason, I find it easy to return things that I've bought online. Maybe it's because it still adds up to only one trip to the store?

After an afternoon of people watching and learning things about myself--like no matter how great my legs look, I am too old to wear mini skirts; please don't argue with me--I met Mike at home, changed into something more comfortable, and went out to a nice dinner.

See, the shift in Rosa's schedule is to give me and Mike a weekly date night. He even got into it tonight and picked a fancy restaurant for us to go to, Viognier in San Mateo. And he wore a nice sweater, too. If we weren't already married, I would have wondered if he was going to propose.

But because we already are married, we had dinner at the insanely early time of 5:30 so we were back home by 7:00 to drive Rosa home and call it a day.

And that is what a good day looks like to me.

The end.


Thursday, January 18, 2007


Excuse me while I gloat

Ahhhh. There's nothing like the feeling of having a gigantic list of things to do behind you, and a night of hot chocolate, the boob tube, and relaxing in front of you. With the kids better this week, things finally returned to normal around here. I've been chiseling away at my to do list and tonight is the first night I can truly relax, that I don't have something to do or something I'm putting off doing.

It feels like life has been hectic since before Halloween. Who decided that a major holiday a month was a good idea? And yes, I consider Halloween to be a major holiday, with all of the pumpkin-related festivities that begin sometime around the first of October. Halloween, followed by Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. Oh, and throw in Thomas's birthday between Thanksgiving and Christmas for an added bonus round of planning and organizing and shopping fun. I'm sure it didn't help that I signed up for NaNoWriMo. I might have to re-think that decision this year; I'm not sure I can take another season of being constantly busy every day for months in a row.

I'm going away next weekend for my annual rest-n-relaxation retreat. I'm so excited at the thought of being alone for an entire weekend with nobody to please, clean up after, answer to, cater to, or cook for other than myself that I'm actually tingly at the thought. I'm heading to wine country again although I won't be going to any wineries since I'm still sober. I'll probably spend my time exercising, walking around, shopping, eating, and reading. Last year I took my computer, which I never plugged in once. This year I'm leaving it at home and bringing a trashy novel instead.

Speaking of sobriety, according to the World Famous Sobriety Calculator, I am 23 days, 19 hours, and 42 minutes sober. It feels longer than that, although I realized today that I no longer think about drinking. I really don't miss it, and I'm happy that an added bonus of no longer imbibing 1000 calories worth of alcohol every day is that I've lost over five pounds. Not a bad trade-off.

P.S. Emily's been saying some funny things lately. Among my favorites are, "Uh oh, I'm going to bless you!" (said before she sneezed), and "I'm just getting the nuts out!" (said as she brushed the "nuts" out of her hair). That girl.

Emily ready to go

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Lang Lang!

Lang Lang
Originally uploaded by Danlynn.
Yesterday while perusing the Events section of my local paper, I found out that Lang Lang was performing at the Davies Symphony Hall. I made a snap decision -- I have to go! -- and purchased a ticket to pick up at Will Call.

It was the best decision I've made in a long time.

The concert was wonderful. For those of you unfamiliar with this man or his music, he is a pianist from China. He is only 24 years old, and his is amazing. Watching him perform, one begins to understand the immensity of the human potential. After watching him for over two hours (including 2 encores after standing ovations), I can tell you that he's a musician who takes your breath away with his talent.

He's charasmatic, too, and the mostly Chinese audience in San Francisco clearly loved him to pieces. It was one of the happiest crowds I've ever seen at the symphony. Many people brought their children, and made it a family affair. I went alone, but because I saved so much money by not getting a babysitter (Mike stayed home), I splurged and got a box seat. Awesome! The view was great. I was able to see his face and the facial expressions he used to explain and interpret the pieces he played. Although judging from this video on Google, watching him from the back is just as good. He's playing Liszt in the video; he played it last night, too, although my audience was stomping its feet in time to the music. Fun!

Some critics fault his showmanship, but he's no Liberace; he's just passionate about the music. His playing will make you consider buying your child a piano instead of a plastic race car. He started piano lessons at the age of three and is an example of a child whose parents didn't ask I wonder what he will become? and instead asked, What can we make of him? In his case, the personal sacrifices his parents made certainly paid off.

If Lang Lang ever comes to your town, go see him!

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Clean playroom makes suburban mom smile

Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Today was a mellow, at-home day. It's cold as heck outside and Mike hasn't been feeling well, so we stayed indoors. I worked out, did some yoga, checked my email, took a shower, and then got so bored with the same 'ol routine that I decided today was the day that I would clean and organize the kids's playroom.

Five bags of garbage and four bags of toys for Samaritan House later, I'm happy to say, "mission accomplished." Here I am standing in front of organized shelves. Woo hoo!

The best part of the event was when Emily and I gathered up all of the stuffed animals in the middle of the room and decided which to keep and which to give to kids who don't have any stuffed animals. I would hold one up and say, "keep or give?" To which she usually would reply, "give!" After we finished with the stuffed animals and were organizing the rest of the toys, she would periodically say something like, "I'm going to give this pumpkin to a kid who doesn't have one," or "Mommy, are you giving that book to a kid who doesn't have any?" It was sweet.

Emily's getting really good at organizing like objects. She can fly through all of our wooden puzzles, including new ones that she's never before seen. She was a real help organizing the toys. She also got dressed all by herself today, and she didn't once ask for help to go to the bathroom. She's also drinking 100% from regular cups -- no more sippys! Lots of milestones at the tender age of three-and-a-half. I have a feeling it won't be long before she's asking to borrow the car keys...

Oh, I almost forgot another one of Emily's firsts: her first stick figure!

Emily's first stick figure

Friday, January 12, 2007


Martin Luther King Day in The City

Freedom Train poster
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
I'm so excited! By a stroke of luck, I discovered this really cool thing that my community is doing to celebrate Martin Luther King Day this upcoming Monday. Mike, the kids, and I will take the Freedom Train into San Francisco and then walk to Yerba Buena Gardens for lunch and a stroll around the MLK, Jr. Memorial Waterfall.

Excuse me while I get up on my blog box for a moment to announce how dismayed I am that brick and mortar bookstores (of any flavor, either independent or chain) in my area seem to be completely devoid of picture books about Martin Luther King. I know they exist; I blogged about some today on BlogHer. I think it's a shame that so much prime bookstore real estate is devoted to books about Valentine's Day and none to books about MLK. I didn't see any books in honor of Black History Month (February), either, but I'm hoping they just haven't found the time yet to put them out.

Tomorrow I'll take the kids to the library; I hope I can find some books there. I'm also going to put in an Amazon order. I know the kids are young, but they've got a billion books that go into excruciating detail about the life cycle of various insects so why not a book about the life of an important person? Harumph.

Stepping off my blog box now.

Have a great weekend! Hope you've got something interesting planned for Monday.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Let them eat banana

The kids are better! I submit the following as photographic evidence of their wellness:


It got worse before it got better, and yesterday we took both of them to the doctor after Emily projectile vomited all over the couch and then curled up in the fetal position crying and complaining that her stomach hurt. I feared appendicitis; it turned out to be gas. Both kids have gastroenteritis, which is the medical term for "uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea for five days".

Yes, I'm thankful they did not get sick on vacation. If my car smelled anything like Thomas's rug, I'd be contemplating its trade-in value.

Not that I've been in the car lately since we're effectively housebound. It's a little bit like Little House on the Prarie except with radiant heat and online shopping and without the snow drifts. But the smell of chicken soup and banana bread is in the air, and the kids have requested and are eating both. Yay! Emily stayed home from school again today, but I anticipate both kids will be up and ready to enjoy the upcoming three-day weekend.

Mike has Monday off to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Lots of museums in San Francisco are open on Monday because of this special day so I'm hoping I can persuade Mike to take a field trip with us into The City. I'd love to go to the waterfall feature of Yerba Buena Gardens to read King's "I Have a Dream" speech, which is etched in the stone behind the waterfall. Before then I'm going to journey to my local independent bookseller to get a picture book for the kids about MLK and why we celebrate his birthday.

Well, I'd better get back to my online shopping. I found these completely non-sensible wedge heels from Abaete for Payless (only $25!) in my latest copy of InStyle magazine. The color will go really well with playground sand, don't you agree?

Monday, January 08, 2007


Three down, mom to go

I knew something was horribly wrong when I saw the dark stain creeping down the side of his sweats. Then I smelled it. Uh oh, could it be...? Yep, Thomas had the runs. And they were running fast and loose. It was one of those diaper changes that I almost didn't know how to tackle; should I try and save the clothes or just throw them away?

Maybe it was a fluke, I told myself. Maybe he wasn't falling down with the bug that bit Emily and caused her to lie in misery on the couch all day next to a plastic tub.

But when I asked him if he wanted dinner and he said, "No," beads of sweat appeared on my brow. Wondering if he misunderstood me, I asked him if he wanted pasta. "No, thanks." Tortilla? "No, thanks." Banana? "No, thanks."

This boy has never once declined food or not been hungry. We just dosed him with children's Motrin and put him to bed. Emily has a temperature of 102.1 and has consumed only Pedialyte today. We're doomed.


Mike is feeling a tad under the weather, too, so he has offered to stay home tomorrow and help with the soothings and clean-ups. I emailed Emily's teacher and told her she'd be home sick. Meanwhile, I'm frantically pounding vitamins and reminding myself how great I feel.

And I do feel good, especially since I got a package in the mail from Beki of Artsy Craftsy Babe. Check out this beautiful purse:

Artsy-Craftsy Handbag

I have it propped up on a chair in my bedroom and the kids are not allowed to touch it. No touch! I'm already picturing the perfect spring outfit to befit such a pretty bag. Thank you, Beki!

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Operation Home From Vacation

We made it back from San Diego. And six loads of laundry later, I can say honestly that I am not all that excited to be home. Oh, and Emily is sick, too. She's been vomiting all day, and she now knows how to go to the garbage can when she needs to get sick. *sniff* My baby is growing up! I'm pretty sure we'll be missing our first Mom's Gym class tomorrow. Poor, sweet girl. I hope this is just a 24-hour bug and that she feels better soon. Oh, and also that Thomas doesn't get it.

The drive north on I-5 from San Diego was uneventful. We stopped off in Los Angeles to visit some friends and have lunch on Sunset Blvd. There were so many stores! Alas, I couldn't go in any seeing as how we were on the road. Maybe it's just as well; after weeks of holiday eating, I'm not feeling my most svelte. I did manage to go to the gym today in between loads of laundry. It was crowded so I imagine I'm not the only person who has "work out more" on her list of New Year's resolutions.

I missed drinking on vacation less than I thought I would. The only time I really wanted a drink (or two or three) was right before dinner. I'm used to having a glass of wine as a way to relax from the day. And I have to admit that a buzz also makes the whole notion of family dinner less aggravating and more enjoyable. Sometimes all I want to do is eat my dinner in peace and quiet, without having to hear whining, to discipline somebody for banging on the table with his fork, or to witness a child's gag reflex work when he's shoved too much pasta in his mouth. Is that too much to ask? Yes, alcohol definitely dulled the pain of what often feels akin to eating at a zoo.

But hey, it's 9:15 and both kids are in bed. It's so quiet in here I can hear the clock ticking and the occasional car driving by. I've got water on for tea, a secret stash of ice cream in the freezer (shhh!), and I am starting to unwind. In fact, I'd probably feel incredibly relaxed--perhaps even elated--if it weren't for the fact that Emily is in the next room spending her first night with a bucket by her bed. Poor kid!

I've got hundreds of emails to get through tomorrow; If you emailed me in the past couple of weeks and then heard nothing but wind whistling in the trees, please know that tomorrow's my day to play catch up.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Doing and Not Doing in San Diego

Thomas is so cute. He likes to ask us (constantly) what we are doing. Except he pronounces it, "do-yang," as in, "Do-yang, mommy? Do-yang, daddy?"

I haven't found much time to blog on this vacation, which is a drag since this blog is a record of our family life. Here's a list of what we've been do-yang and not do-yang.


  • Driving I-5
  • Stopping at Pea Soup Anderson's
  • Buying more of our favorite salt seasoning at Pea Soup Anderson's gift shop
  • Going to Venice Beach
  • Watching sunsets
  • Eating at Versailles
  • Eating at Cafe Coyote in Old Town
  • Eating fish tacos
  • Eating a lot
  • Going to Old Town
  • Laughing
  • Being woken up by Thomas every morning at 6:50
  • Getting exasperated when the kids take off their shoes and socks minutes before we're supposed to leave the hotel room
  • Enjoying the free breakfast buffet at the Embassy Suites, La Jolla
  • Being driven around (Mike has done all of the driving on this trip!)
  • Exercising every morning in the stinky exercise room in a desperate attempt to stave off the effects of eating out every meal
  • Going on a Harbor Tour
  • Paying too much for one of those silly tourist photos before the harbor tour
  • Eating lunch in the Gaslamp Quarter at a restaurant with crappy service
  • Checking out Pacific Beach, Mike's old stomping grounds
  • Eating more than humanly possible
  • Going to Legoland
  • Taking a nap every day
  • Going to the San Diego Zoo
  • Planning a trip to the desert with a stop for dessert
  • Planning our next meal before we've finished the current one
  • Loving the iced coffee drinks from The Coffee Bean
  • Reading magazines
  • Reading Trinny and Susannah Take on America
  • Checking out the fish at Birch Aquarium
  • Taking photos
  • Enjoying the diverse architecture of the homes in La Jolla
  • Walking around
  • Driving across the San Diego-Coronado Bridge
  • Driving to the border
  • Deciding not to go to Tijuana
  • Appreciating the fact the kids are too young to have any input in what we decide to do
  • Swimming in the hotel's indoor pool
  • Enjoying the 65 degree weather
  • Letting the kids push the button for the elevator
  • Relaxing

Not Do-yang

  • Drinking
  • Spending money on alcohol
  • Wasting time being hungover
  • Fighting
  • Driving
  • Shopping
  • Cooking
  • Reading Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • Cleaning
  • Washing clothes
  • Washing dishes
  • Looking forward to going home

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


If this beach is rockin'...

Life's a beach
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Just a quick note to say that we are on vacation in sunny San Diego, California. SD is a great place to visit with kids; there's lots to do here -- San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Birch Aquarium, boat tours, etc.

More about what the Tsao family is up to in another post. In the meantime, I'm slowly but surely uploading pictures to my Flickr account.

Gotta run. After I work out, we're hitting the Birch Aquarium and downtown La Jolla. Happy New Year!

P.S. I'm still sober!