My Photo
Location: Northern California

Monday, April 30, 2007


Hurt so green

Cala Lilies: After
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
The anniversary of my fourth month of sobriety came and went last week. To celebrate, I decided to cause myself much pain by doing some work on our patio garden. Halfway through my DIY project, I realized that it had become a metaphor for my sobriety at this point.

See, the planting bed that I decided to revitalize was looking pretty good before I started my project. To many people, it was just fine the way it was. But I knew that it could be better. And I knew that even if nobody else cared, I would very much appreciate the fact that it was better. For one thing, I would like it more. I also knew that this wasn't a project that I wanted to outsource. I wanted to challenge myself. Recovery, sobriety, becoming healthy: some things you have to do the hard way; you have to do them yourself.

Many times during this DIY project I thought about giving up. As I loaded up a Home Depot shopping cart with 160 pounds of bricks, 6 gallon pots of star jasmine, 3 pieces of 24x90 inch trellis, and a pair of gardening gloves, I wondered if I was taking on a task so monumental that it might be impossible. Or just plain stupid. Sometimes I wonder if giving up alcohol was a bad idea. I question whether I made the right decision to give myself this difficult task of living in our crazy world without the most popular anaesthetic known to man.

But when nobody looked askance at my loaded down cart and when two women on two separate occasions helped me navigate it down a crowded aisle and over a nasty bump that threatened to topple the whole thing, I realized that what I was doing was hardly unusual. And in fact, other people have undertaken similar projects and have lived to return to Home Depot, maybe even in order to help me get my cart out of that damn store. Quitting drinking is hard work and it's scary, kind of like navigating a careening cart around a crowded Home Depot. But even though I am the one doing the hard work of quitting drinking--I'm the one steering that cart--sometimes a friend helps me over a bump or through a rough patch.

Today my body aches because two days ago I spent many hours putting up trellises and amending soil, re-building the brick retaining wall, and planting new plants. And despite my current discomfort, my project has a long way to go before its final glory is realized. The trellises are in place and the plants are in the ground, but whether or not the roots will take hold and the vines will grow is up to Mother Nature. All I can do now is fertilize the plants, water them, and protect them from pests and harsh elements. Which is also what I'm doing at this point in my sobriety by nurturing myself and by making sure that people or situations that have the potential to jeopardize my fragile state are kept at bay. At this point, I no longer have my old mechanism (drinking) of dealing with things. Now, I just don't know how to handle situations that aren't right with me. That's something I need to learn. When I've learned how to truly handle life and its trying situations without self-medication, I will consider myself fully-rooted in my sobriety.

This post is at risk for becoming extraordinarily cheesy, but it's also what I've spent the past several days contemplating.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Things I want my kids to know: How to code basic HTML

Twirly girl
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
I've been meaning to compile a list of the things I want my kids to know as they grow up and away from me. Kind of a "Mom's Little Book of Life Lessons" or something like that. Today while adding a link in my template to Daisy of Compost Happens, I had an ah ha! moment.

I want my kids to know basic HTML. Knowing how to hand-code a link is one of the most valuable skills anyone online can have. Feeling smug, I turned to Emily:

Me: Do you know what HTML is?
Emily: An H and a T?
Me: H.T.M.L.
Emily: That spells Emily?
Me: HyperText Markup Language.
Emily: Oh! I'm going to go wash my hands with soap now!

Hmm. Maybe the HTML life lesson can wait until she's four.

My Moment

My friend Charlene of Crazedparent and Maya's Mom is hosting a new Wednesday meme called My Moment. She writes:

As parents, we spend so much time taking care of everyone else -- our kids, our spouses/partners, our families, our work -- and we sometimes forget to take care ourselves. Oftentimes our so-called "moments" are confined to when our kids are in bed for the night...and we're too tired to really enjoy our peace.

So let's change that. At least for one day.

I was on the go from the minute I woke up this morning, doing laundry, making breakfasts, making beds, putting address stickers on newsletters, vacuuming the food particles off the kitchen floor... you know the drill. After Rosa showed up to watch the kids, I ran off to do errands: bank, post office, grocery shopping. Somewhere in the middle of my errands, I realized that my stomach hurt. Oh ya, it was time for lunch.

Funny, but sometimes it's hard for me to know what the heck I want to do for lunch when I'm alone. If the kids were with me, I'd ask them. If Mike was with me, I'd ask him. I have to really think in order to answer the question when I'm alone.

But I remembered Charlene's post and realized that here was a perfect opportunity for me to have "a moment." (Quit snickering, please.) That's when I realized that what I wanted to do for lunch was read a trashy magazine cover to cover while hunched over a fast food chicken teriyaki and rice bowl.

And that's exactly what I did.

What will your moment be today? Go tell Charlene!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Thoughts From an Unambitious Mommyblogger, or Don't Cry For Me, Leslie Bennetts

I've been feeling a little underwhelmed by my lack of ambition lately. I purposely turned my schedule down a notch after almost suffering a nervous breakdown at the end of last year, and now I'm wondering if that was the right thing to do. Not because I'm bored or because I long for more, but because I'm *not* bored and because I'm perfectly content with my work life as it is. Have I lost my ambition, my drive?

I am a stay-at-home mom to a preschooler and a toddler. I am the newsletter editor for my local mothers club, a job that requires about 10-15 hours/month. I have two freelance jobs on my plate this year: one for Disney's and the other for a company-that-has-yet-to-be-revealed. Combined, both jobs probably require another 10-15 hours/month of my time. I write two personal blogs: this one and Burning Family, which is a temporary commitment.

In my mind, I work enough. In Leslie Bennetts's mind, I don't and I'm also an absolute fool for leaving behind a 9-to-5 job and trusting a man to take care of me. I have friends who say that being a SAHM is the hardest job they've ever had. I'm not sure if that's true for me. I have worked harder at crappier jobs and for more difficult managers. I have driven long commutes and longed for weekends when I could talk shit about my difficult co-workers while drinking many pints of beer. Right now, I enjoy the fact that I don't have a job. On good days, I consider my life a vacation. Yes, with kids, but still a vacation.

I had a random, drive-by discussion with another mom today after preschool pick-up. We were chatting about the relative merits of swing sets and trampolines; she was in favor of trampolines. She mentioned that she worked from home and I asked her what she did. I said that I sometimes did freelance writing-type gigs but that the pay was lousy, especially after one considers the increased tax rate that applies to freelancers. I told her that I enjoyed what I did, but that I wasn't sure if I would do it when my kids were in school or if I would return to full-time work. I'm busy now with kid-related stuff, but once the kids are in school, what am I going to do all day? She hesitated not a second before telling me that if she had to do it all again, she wouldn't be a work-at-home mom. In fact, she strongly advised me not to work at all, if there was any way I could avoid it.

Not work? What? But what would I do all day? And how does one measure one's self worth if one does not work outside of the home, especially when one no longer has babies?

She explained that a parent's responsibilities to take care of children don't necessarily ease up when the children start school. Instead, they change. With one kid in elementary school and another in middle school, she does a lot of driving to and from schools and classes. And because she works part time, she has no spare time, no time to call her own. She had intended her earnings to be money for life's little extras but instead it just goes toward the usual bills: gas, electric, water, mortgage. She's tired and said she's going to quit her job soon, except that since she's working for a friend, she feels obligated to continue. When she told me this, I felt a familiar pang. As a woman, I understood both of her dilemmas: don't work and feel like a societal leach, or work and have no time to yourself; and don't leave an unhappy situation because it might disappoint another, or leave and consider the fact that you are replaceable.

I thanked her for the conversation. It made me feel good to hear what she had to say, to hear a perspective that didn't seem to have a veiled agenda. I having been making decisions lately that allow me to work less rather than more. Some days I have nothing to do except laundry and going to see Meet the Robinsons with my kids, and those days make me very happy. I can't take every opportunity that comes my way simply because it was offered or because it's what will look best on my resume when my husband divorces me and I am forced to fend for myself in the big, cruel world. I have done nothing my entire adult life prior to being married except take care of myself and I can do it again. Don't cry for me, Leslie Bennetts, and quit trying to ruin my good time.

Please note: I realize that this post is coming from a highly privileged perspective, but I won't appologize for that. I am who I am and this blog is mine. I encourage your comments, but please don't tell me that I am only allowed to have thoughts like these because my husband makes enough money to support our family. That is understood. Also, I have not read Leslie Bennetts's book The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much, and it's possible this post is a knee-jerk reaction to the premise of her book and propelled by my own personal baggage. In addition, I reserve the right to change my mind in the future and in fact, I probably will.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Five things that I like about myself

Carmen of Mom to the Screaming Masses has given me and you (and you and you and you) a mission. Come up with five nice things about ourselves, then post them on our blogs or in comments on her post.

Here's my list:

  1. I exercise regularly.

  2. I make sure we always have diapers in the house. We've never once run out of diapers in almost four years and two kids.

  3. I'm a decent cook and usually don't sweat getting dinner breakfast, lunch, AND dinner on the table.

  4. I tell my kids I love them every day.

  5. I know how to make small talk and can socialize even with total strangers in uncomfortable social settings.

Thanks for the idea, Carmen!

The age of dress up

Something girly is happening to Emily. She is very keen on dressing herself now, and she has taken to carrying around a jewelry box full of some old jewelry of mine. She calls the contents of the box her treasures. Today we had the following conversation:

Emily: Mommy, I have a ring and we're going to get married.
Me: [...]
Emily: We're going to get married but we're not going to have a baby right away.
Me: [...]
Emily: We're not going to have a baby right away, but we just have a baby and he's going to sleep with us in our room, and he's just very good.
Me: Okay. Whom are you going to marry?
Emily: Thomas.

Yesterday, we had a mother-and-daughter day with lunch, a birthday party, and then some light shopping at TJ Maxx. After Emily helped me pick out a swim suit cover-up, we checked out the kid section. After carefully browsing through the aisles of books and toys, she found something she wanted, a Dora and Boots purse.

How could I say no?

New Dora and Boots purse

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Don't even try to figure this one out

It was raining or maybe he was just a sloppy kisser, like that guy I kissed in Jr. High while Waiting For a Girl Like You by Foreigner played in an infinite loop on his record player. That guy that who never came up for air and left me with a rash on my chin from being bathed in drool. My face was wet and he was kissing me and saying, "I love you so much." "You do?" "Yes," he replied, "I love you for all of your accomplishments."

That's when I knew I was dreaming. Not because I haven't accomplished things, but because guys slobbering on you don't say things like that.


It's possible I haven't been getting enough quality sleep lately.


To all of the administrative professionals out there reading blogs instead of working, I hope you have a great week.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


There's no place like home

View from a couch in an Eichler
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Home! And this is my room - and you are all here! --Dorothy, "The Wizard of Oz"

It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home. --Edgar Guest, "Home"

Today we went on a tour of ten neighborhood homes (With the exception of one, all Eichlers) that recently had been remodeled. This tour was put together by the PTA of our local elementary school as a fundraising event, and judging by the turnout, was a huge success.

Touring the homes was a lot of fun, mainly because we did it with another couple whom we really like. They brought their dad along and the five of us oohed and aahed over new bamboo flooring, master bedroom suite additions, and ultra hip and cool posmodernist kitchen make-overs complete with $100,000 worth of Aster Cucine Italian cabinets. Have you ever seen a built-in espresso maker? I have. It's neat.

But for all of the beautiful houses we saw, I can honestly say that my humble home with its DIY paint, vintage cabinetry, and lack of continuity because of an ill-devised--yet probably affordable--90s remodel is the most beautiful house I saw all day.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Don't sit under the Japanese Maple tree with anyone else but me

Japanese Maple and Thomas
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Ugh. I have to admit that I have been in a foul mood lately. Personal things are getting to me and the massacre at Virginia Tech is, too. It's hard to quell the feeling that I want to run away with my kids and husband and live on an island. If only that were possible.

And this is the year I decided to give up the drink? What was I thinking?!

Two--no, make that three--things have made me happy in the past week. One, I finished the May newsletter for my mothers club and got it to the printer. Two, I had a blind playdate with a mom and her little girl and it wasn't horrible at all. In fact it was quite nice, and Emily and I have been invited to the little girl's birthday party this Sunday. Three, Thomas and I stormed our local independent nursery (Carlmont Nursery) on Tuesday with diagram of yard in hand and left less than an hour later with a receipt for all of the plants needed for our current yard project.

With the help of a wonderful saleswoman who realized immediately that I meant business, we picked out thirty three plants, eleven different varieties, including two Japanese Maples. It was an exhilarating experience because it was fast and furious, and sometimes that's the best way to make decisions. I'm also proud of myself for acting as our landscape designer. Last time, we paid somebody to suggest plants. This time I felt much more confident that I could figure it out myself with an accurate diagram of the yard that included measurements, direction, and sun exposure, and with the help of the woman at Carlmont. They're wonderful there. I don't mind going to a big box store if I know what I want and am okay with no service, but nothing beats the knowledgeable advice and helpfulness of the folks at small, local nurseries.

I've Flickr'd some pictures for those of you whose thumbs are green and who drool over Podocarpus and Nemesia.

Tomorrow we've got weekend day babysitting arranged (so decadent!) while we go on a neighborhood tour of newly-remodeled Eichlers with some friends. The kids are excited because we're sharing a babysitter and they get to spend most of the day with their little friends, and I'm excited because there's nothing I like better than seeing the inside of people's homes. I guess that's the voyeur in me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Hi, how are you?

The Thinker
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
I have a friend whom I always enjoy hanging out with because whenever she sees me her eyes light up, she gives me a quick once over, then she exclaims, "You look great!" She then asks me how I am, and her tone is genuine; she really wants to know.

I strive to emulate traits in others that I find desirable. I often talk a lot about myself; it's a bad habit that sometimes is exacerbated by this here blogging habit of mine. Free to be me, me, me?! Sounds perfect!

But in my never-ending quest to be a better person, I want to ask you something:

How are you?

Leave me a comment. Feel free to rant or rave or simply reply, "fine." This post is all about you.

P.S. You look great! Have you lost weight?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Time of the Season

Originally uploaded by marytsao.
It's official. I just got off the phone with El Monte RV Rental and we've got a 26 foot RV rented for the last week in August.

We're going to Burning Man.

With our kids.

And I've started a new blog Burning Family to document this experience. First post is here.

We're crazy in a good way, people. Crazy in a good way.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


The Caterpillar Whisperer

Emily talking to caterpillar
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Mike and I had a tag team weekend with the kids. He took Saturday and spent the day with the kids at his mom's while I stayed home and worked on the newsletter for my mothers club. I took today and spent the day on the Stanford campus at the Stanford Community Day festival while he stayed home and worked.

At the Community Day the kids and I saw dancers and children's musician Andy Z perform, ate lemon ices, checked out some of the Rodin sculptures at the Cantor Arts Center, and marvelled at the many caterpillars hanging from the trees by silk strings. It must be caterpillar season. I really wanted to view the Richard Avedon photography exhibit at the Cantor Arts Center, but it took me about 10 seconds to realize that the kids weren't going to behave for a quiet tour through a gallery. I'm going to try and get back there later this week.

The weekend flew by, and tomorrow will be a busy day, too. We've got our regular chores of cleaning and grocery shopping, but the highlight of the day will be when my sister Barb and her friend Jim show up from their day of fishing for Pacific Ocean salmon. If Captain Smitty is to be believed, they'll be bringing with them lots of fresh salmon. Hope that's true! I'm looking forward to barbequed salmon for dinner tomorrow night.

Have you ever heard of Desiderata by Max Ehrmann? It's an inspirational poem about happiness, and I discovered it while reading A Hole in the Fence and her post Things I Love or Don't Love About Technical Writing. Her post was great and as a former technical writer, I completely related to it. At the end of the post she quoted a bit from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. Desiderata is Latin for "desired things". I found the entire piece online and very much enjoyed it. Maybe you will, too.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


The Not So Bad Mommyblogger and Former President Bill Clinton

Hey! Julie of Mothergoosemouse is guest blogging over at Her Bad Mother and she's posted a Bad Mommyblogger Purity Test. I took the test and here are my results:

You answered "yes" to 11 of 25 questions, making you 56.0% Bad Mommyblogger pure (44.0% Bad Mommyblogger corrupt); that is, you are 56.0% pure in the Bad Mommyblogger domain (your Badness is 44.0%).

According to the scoring guide, your Bad Mommyblogger experience level is: A Pretty Darn Awful Mommyblogger, that's you. But nowhere near Bad.

I swear I used to be a total bad-ass, but you wouldn't know it from my mommyblogging skills.

In unrelated news, I hung out with Glennia of The Silent I, her husband Frank, and Alix of Med Nauseum tonight at the launch reception of Bill Clinton's foundation, the Millennium Network. We rubbed elbows with San Francisco Mayor McHottie Gavin Newsom, Miss Chinatown 2007, and Biz Markie, before finally getting the opportunity to hear Clinton speak about the work that his foundation is doing to fight HIV/AIDS nationally and childhood obesity in the U.S.

The crowd was young and beautiful and eager to let Clinton know that they approve of his work. The room had a lot of energy and I would have felt energized myself if I hadn't been so darned hungry! The reception started at six, but I got there early to meet with my host Sarah, and I completely forgot to grab a snack on my way out the door. When the reception ended at nine, I was famished. Thank goodness for the double arches and the fact that I remembered there was a drive-thru on 16th and Potrero. A cheeseburger and chocolate shake never tasted so good.

[Updated 4/15/07: I forgot to mention that Glennia spent all night Twittering the event. She and Grace Davis are Twitter junkies, or Twitterettes, as Grace refers to them. Also, Glennia has written up a much more compelling post about our night so you'd be smart to go read it.]

Friday, April 13, 2007


Friday Gratitude

Girl and Daffodils
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
I am grateful for kids who like oatmeal, carrots, sugar snap peas, and other healthy foods.

I am grateful for healthy kids.

I am grateful for this time in my life that, if all goes according to plan, is between babies. It's nice to have a respite from the near-constant demands that a baby makes on my body, mind, and time.

I am grateful for my husband, who is a rock of logic when life seems to be full of nonsense and insanity.

I am grateful that I have lots of time to spend with my kids, to play, to be serious, to be silly, and just to be.

I am grateful for this sunny day, for a loving nanny who allows me time to play without kids in tow, and for the fact that this afternoon my twin sister, her friend, and I are going to relish this beautiful day while talking, laughing, and enjoying all that Caifornia wine country has to offer.

I am grateful for peace of mind, which comes easier with age.

I am grateful for a good night's sleep and for the fresh perspective on life that each new day (each morning cup of coffee?) brings to me.

I am grateful for this blog and for the ability to put words to thoughts and feelings in a coherent manner.

I am grateful that people care enough to read this blog, and I thank you for being one of those people.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Tea, T, and Spontaneity

Barb, Jim, Emily, Thomas
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
I've decided that the British are very wise with their idea of taking tea. I participate in the ritual now, too. My tea time is around 3:00, in that lull time of the day that begs for either a nap or a drink or, in my case, a cup of tea and a moment in which I can ponder the day and think about what I'm going to make for dinner. Tea time!

Sometimes I also have a small snack with my tea, say a handful of almonds or a banana. Now you know.

Tonight after his bath, T was jumping around with a football and ran smack into the wall. He now has a bump on his forehead the size of his nose. Ouchie! I can feel my Mother of the Year award being snatched from my hands as I write this.

Moving on to the spontaneity party of this post... I sometimes chastise myself for not being more spontaneous. But it's not that I don't want to be spontaneous, because I do--really! I blame my lack of spontaneity on the system. It's difficult to be spontaneous when life seems to be made up of a multitude of events, all of which require me to purchase my tickets at least thirty days in advance and preferably the minute they go on sale. Have you noticed this? If you're a mom, of course you have. Let's take preschool for example. I had to tour and find a preschool for Emily nine months before she started, and some moms thought I was nuts for waiting that long. Today I tried to book a hotel room at Disneyland for mid-June. Were there any rooms available? Of course not. And to top off the idea that spontaneity is a dying art, I tried to get my sister and I reservations for dinner at French Laundry.

For tomorrow night.

Done laughing yet?

How was I to know that one of the most popular restaurants in the United States allows you to make reservations no more than two months in advance, which is another way of saying there's no way you can call on a Thursday for Friday night reservations. How was I to know? This isn't Pea Soup Anderson's we're talking about! It's the French Laundry!

Having completely given up on the idea of spontaneity existing in my life, I have penciled in my calendar on June 16, make dinner reservations at French Laundry for birthday dinner in August. I hope I live that long. I wonder if I should add an addendum to my will concerning who gets the reservations in the event of my untimely demise?

On a more upbeat note, I was able to make reservations at El Dorado Kitchen so that's where my sister Barb, her friend Jim, and I will be going for dinner tomorrow night after an afternoon of wine tasting in Sonoma. I'm playing the role of designated driver and they're playing the role of Bears fans. I can't wait. It's been a busy week of unpacking and--gasp!--working on some writing projects, and I'm ready for a day of fun.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


The points at which I broke into hysterical laughter

Thomas on the plane
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Just a quickie to say we made it home safe and sound and only slightly crazed. I've put up pictures from our visit to Wonder Works Children's Museum and our Easter luncheon, and I'm working on the miscellaneous pictures.

The plane ride home was particularly challenging. It was in the late afternoon so the kids were jacked up and yet--and yet!--unable to fall asleep. Emily was great (Yes, she'll be going with me to New York later this year *sans* Thomas), but Thomas was the devil in a size 2T. Here are two things I wrote on a scrap of paper when I was at my breaking points, when all I could do was laugh hysterically and ponder my fate in a decidedly non-Zen like way.

Point #1: After the third time I changed Thomas's (#2) diaper in the miniscule airplane bathroom. Will this flight never end?! Also: Why me?! Cue hysterical laughter.

Point #2: Three minutes before the plane touches down. Why is it that Thomas only gives up the sleep fight on long distance flights minutes before we land?! Also: Why me?! Cue hysterical laughter.

When we touched down, Thomas said, "Are we flying?" Argh.

Thankfully, after a full night's sleep, I am back in love with the kid. But I think that airlines should offer flights with on-board daycare. Wouldn't that be great? I'd spend whatever it cost to outsource that particular kind of pain. In a heartbeat.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


This one's for the dads

Dear daddy readers,

Now c'mon. I know you read this blog because once in awhile I'll see one of you at a party and after a couple of glasses of wine you'll let slip that you are "addicted" to mommy blogs, including this one.

I'm not naming names. You know who you are.

All I want to tell you is that Mother's Day is coming up on Sunday, May 13. This year why don't you do yourself a favor and check out the Mother's Day Gift Guide that those fabu ladies over at Cool Mom Picks have put together for you.

No matter if your wife or partner is a domestimama, an eco-chicmama, an alternamama, or a not-yet-but-almost-a-mama, Cool Mom Picks has done the hard part and figured out what your lady might really like. Now all you need to do is dig out that wallet and make sure you order in time for a mid-May delivery.

As Seen at Cool Mom Picks

You're welcome.


With all the frills upon it

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate this day. We're still in the Midwest, Lakewood, Illinois to be exact. "Quality living in a natural setting." This morning the kids learned that the Easter Bunny paid a visit last night and left them each a basket. Emily got a lamb basket with a stuffed bunny and some candy; Thomas got a puppy basket with a stuffed duck and some candy. Thomas named his puppy Godfrey. Interesting.

We've had a nice couple of days visiting with family. On Friday we drove to Oak Park, birthplace of Yours Truly, my twin sister Barb, and Ernest Hemingway, and met my aunt Davida, sister Barb and family for lunch at Pete's Red Hot's. The kids got their first taste of Chicago-style hot dogs and I had a Gyros salad, non-traditional but still very yummy.

After lunch we checked out Wonder Works, a children's museum. It was lots of fun and exactly the kind of place my preschoolers love, love, love. I'm so glad my sister Barb recommended that we go there. After hanging out for a couple of hours, we hit the road back to my mom's house. She's letting me use her car while we're here, and I'm getting the hang of driving a boat Crown Victoria. But I do miss my little Prius and its ability to go 400 miles between fill-ups.

Yesterday we spent the day at the Catholic retreat center that my uncle runs. The adults attended a conversation on the experience of grief and loss in the context of Easter joy, while my niece Jessica babysat Emily and Thomas. I was happy to be able to attend the conversation because my uncle Jim spoke about his experiences after being hit by a car in December 2005, an accident that left him blind. My aunt Mary spoke about being his caregiver, and others spoke about their own experiences with grief and loss and caring for those they love who are suffering. The general idea is that it's okay to be in a grieving state and that it's possible for that state to last a long time, longer than others may understand.

And here we are on Easter Sunday, getting ready for a large family celebration. We're leaving soon to meet with aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and family friends (Hi, Virginia!) at Maggiano's Little Italy. We've rented a private room and we're going to eat ourselves silly. Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Midwest Living

Apparently, it takes less than 24 hours of being in the Midwest before a mysterious force compels you to wear a holiday applique fleece. Even if you don't own one, one will somehow find its way into your luggage.

Know this.

Our plane trip out here was uneventful. Getting three people and a stroller through the security checkpoint at SFO was comical as usual, but the staff was helpful and once that was over the rest of the trip was smooth flying.

Let's see... Trip highlights thus far:

  • I put on this holiday applique fleece to go running, but I might end up wearing it all day. When in the Midwest...
  • It's cold here by our spoiled California standards, 30-40 degrees and windy. Brrr.
  • The kids were excited to see Grammie Martha, and they love her big, two-story house and the fact that she is willing to cater to their every need.
  • Yesterday we went to Walgreens, Sam's Club, and Target, and today we're planning on going to Costco and Target.
  • I realized that I am addicted to washing clothes, as I've only been on vacation for less than one day and I'm already doing a load.
  • I forgot to take my daily photo yesterday. Too bad 'cause I was wearing a cute travelling outfit of white jeans, a pink shirt, and an ecru sweater. I'm part of the old school crowd that believes one should dress nicely when one travels.
  • Yesterday we visited my aunt Mary, uncle Jim, cousin Kevin, and cousin Peter. We had dinner and made music together. My aunt Mary is a talented pianist and all-around believer that children should be exposed early to music. Boy, wasn't I happy when she asked me what I was doing musically with the kids and I actually had an answer -- Half Moon Music Together every Friday! Whew, passed that test with flying colors, thankyouverymuch.
  • I'm taking pictures, but I'm not going to upload any until I get home. I don't have my laptop with me.
  • Today we're having my aunt Davida and cousins Jessica, Trevor, and Henry over for dinner. Jessica will spend the night. She's twelve and loves hanging out with my kids. It's great to see them together. I'm hoping she can come visit us in California this summer.
  • I can't decide if I should go running or skip straight to eating a giant Italian beef sandwich.

More later! Happy Thursday to you. Lots of people have a vacation day tomorrow; hope you're one of them!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Random Mommy role models

Suitcase after packing
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
How come I'm not asleep?!?! I only write that because in less than five hours I have to get up and catch a 6:10 AM flight to Chicago. I'm taking the kids to Illinois to visit family over Easter. This is the first time since our August 2005 trip to San Antonio that I've flown alone with both kids. And I'm actually not worried at all. We have a direct flight; they each are carrying their own backpack filled with toys, crayons, paper, and gummy worms; and even though I have decided not to bring a portable DVD player for the plane, I'm sure they'll be fine. I'm sure I'll be fine, too.

The backpack idea was one that I swiped from a mom I remember seeing many years ago on a flight to Chicago. I'll never forget this mom. She was flying alone with her twin preschool-aged boys, and she was so efficient. The boys had on backpacks, and the minute they boarded she whipped off the backpacks and took from each the kid's blanket, sippy cup, and toy. Wham, bam, done. Meanwhile, my twenty-something self was lugging a purse, a shoulder bag, and probably at least one plastic shopping bag filled with last minute necessities. I could barely take care of myself and this woman had mastered the art of taking care of two other people as well as herself.

I think of that mom a lot, especially when I fly with my kids. She's one of my mommy role models even though I never met her and my only knowledge of her mothering skills was my observation from that one moment in time when our paths were on a similar trajectory.

I've been meaning to write something about mommy role models, something about how I've cobbled together an image in my mind that's a little bit my mom, a little bit my aunts, a little bit my grandma, a little bit my sister, and a little bit of a whole bunch of women whom I've seen commit random acts of mothering that I thought were cool.

Do you have any random mommy role models?

Monday, April 02, 2007


Moms say 'Wii do'

Playing Wii
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
I've been doing a lot of nice things lately for Mike and he's starting to get suspicious. I'm not plotting anything, I swear! The truth is that after talking to a bunch of moms on my most recent Mom's Weekend Away, I realized that I needed to practice a little more of what I preach, namely that my relationship with Mike is just as important as the relationships I have with my kids. I believe in our marriage, and I know that keeping it alive and thriving takes work.

So When the kind folks over at Nintendo asked me if I wanted to check out the Wii video game console, I agreed. I knew Mike would like it, and I knew it would be something he and I could do together that doesn't require me to shave my legs. If you know what I mean.

I'm not entirely sure what the Nintendo people thought I would do with my Wii console. Perhaps they wanted me to get all excited about it, then have a girl's night out slumber party where the moms in attendance would alternate between braiding hair, throwing back shots of Tequila, and playing Wii tennis.

That still might happen.

But in the meantime, I'm all about pleasing my man with my cool new toy. Now I'm no stranger to getting a guy's game on with the purchase of a video game console. For Mike's 33rd birthday, I bought him a Nintendo Game Cube. He like it, but I hated it. Maybe it was because I was pregnant, but every time I heard the opening music to Animal Crossing, I wanted to vomit.

But the Wii is cool and I am excited about it. I'm not pregnant so maybe I'm just a happier person in general, but I'm very happy about the slender white box that sits so daintily next to our TV. The perfectly weighted controllers are so much more civilized than anything that requires me to have double jointed thumbs, and the games it comes with--bowling, baseball, Wii fitness, tennis--are my idea of fun.

The kids like the Wii, too, and with the exception of boxing, I'm more than willing to teach them how to play Wii Sports. Emily's getting to be a pretty good bowler, and because we play as a family, we can encourage her progress as well as start to instill ideas such as team spirit, rooting for others, and good sportsmanship.

Probably the only thing Mike doesn't like about the Wii is that according to Wii fitness, he's 47 years old. Hee hee.

Yes, I'm a girl and even a M-O-M, but so what. Nintendo is happy as pie to tap into the mommy market and I'm more than happy to help them do it. If you know how to french braid (I'm so 80s), you can come on over and check out my Wii. Doubles, anyone?

Sunday, April 01, 2007


How to get your husband to leave work on time

Garlic soup, husband, date night
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Me: What time can you get out of there?
Him: They moved back our meeting...not sure when it's going to happen...probably going to be late...
Me: That's too bad because the sitter's here and I booked us a room at the Hotel Sofitel.
Him: Give me 15 minutes.

It was a fun weekend for the Tsao family, starting with the date night that will certainly win me Wife of the Year (see above). After relaxing and eating dinner, Mike and I went and got the kids and brought them back to the hotel for a slumber party. On Saturday morning we ate breakfast at Hobbee's, home of the best coffee cake on the peninsula, then headed over to Pleasanton for Baby Loves Disco.

Baby Loves Disco was lots of fun and this time the kids danced up a storm. They also ran around and made friends (Emily) and got into a fight over goldfish crackers (Thomas). Mike spent the whole time watching them while I hung out and chatted with Kari about housing issues and handbag rental sites that work like Netflix. We also talked about a get-together of Bay Area Mommybloggers. We need to have one soon! I'm excited about putting something together, probably a kid-friendly potluck brunch some weekend day in May. Must check calendar...

Tomorrow the work begins on our side yard patio and hot tub project. Exciting! Our landscaper is so great; he's done so much of this kind of stuff that I always trust his opinion, which he isn't shy to give. If all goes according to plan, Mike's dream--a hot tub of his own--will be a reality in less than a couple of months. I wasn't joking about Wife of the Year. I think I'm gonna win it this year for sure.