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Location: Northern California

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Mary Tsao, this is your life

It's been some time since I've done one of those "A day in the life" posts, so I thought I'd do it today. Like I am fond of saying, I do believe that twenty years from now these will be the most interesting of all my posts. Remember that when you are bored to tears while reading this today.

Here goes:

A day in the life of this suburban homemaker and mother of two
June 28, 2007

6:30 AM -- Wake up to the sun in my face and the sound of voices in my ear. Emily is awake and Mike is about to leave for work. Then Thomas is awake and I am, too.

6:45 AM -- Pee and weigh myself. 141.2. I still have three pounds to lose from vacation indulgences. I vow to eat less cake.

7:00 AM -- Check email. Leave comment on my own blog. Read some blog posts and contemplate a future post of my own.

7:15 AM -- Realize the kids are playing a game that consists of pulling all of the tissues out of a box of Kleenex and using them to put a glass candle holder "baby" to sleep. Agonize over the changing of the climate and our own (now) un-green home.

7:30 AM -- Move load of clothes from washer to dryer. Put some clothes away. Clean towels from floor of kids's bathroom. Make beds. Water front lawn. Make coffee. Make oatmeal for kids and a leftover pork chop for myself.

7:45 AM -- Clean up art supplies so kids can eat at kitchen table. Contemplate day ahead. Decide to document for this blog post and posterity's sake. The kids finish their oatmeal and demand turkey sausages. I make sausages in the microwave and give to kids.

8:00 AM -- Put kids in front of Max & Ruby. Exercise for 25 minutes on elliptical. Do 5 minutes of strength training using hand weights. Continually ask Emily to go get dressed. Finally resort to my mean voice. She gets dressed in pink shorts and matching shirt. I am impressed and tell her so.

8:35 AM -- Get Thomas dressed while singing a made-up song about getting dressed. I am pleased that he doesn't resist. Not sure if it's the song or if he's just in a compliant mood.

8:40 AM -- Realize I don't have enough time to shower before having to go drop Emily off at preschool. Take a sponge bath with a washcloth. Liberally apply deodorant, get dressed, tie my hair back, throw on large sunglasses and decide to channel my inner, unwashed Jackie O.

8:50 AM -- Leave to drop Emily off at school. Praise the children for being able to leave the house without a struggle.

9:00 AM -- Take kids into Emily's preschool. Sign in, hang out for a bit while she signs up for her activity (Art), watch Thomas do some mixing, then leave with Thomas.

9:15 AM -- Arrive at grocery store. Shop for weekly groceries. Also get copies of Vogue and InStyle magazines. On the way out, rent "Because I Said So" from the in-store movie kiosk. Hope it doesn't suck as bad as people say.

9:45 AM -- Arrive home and put groceries in house. Put perishable items in refrigerator. Hop back into car with Thomas and drive to playgroup.

10:05 AM -- Arrive at Vista Park in Hillsborough. Hang out with friends and chat while Thomas plays with a dump truck, the swings, and the water fountain. Experience no major meltdowns. Bring him to pee behind a bush. Feel proud that he's potty trained. Wonder if I had anything to do with it. Leave around 11:45 to go get Emily.

11:55 AM -- Pick up drycleaning on way to get Emily.

12:00 PM -- Pick up Emily. Chat with some parents while Thomas and Emily play with trucks and dolls.

12:20 PM -- Arrive home and contemplate the afternoon. Put away rest of groceries. Decide to put together a picnic lunch and go to the beach.

12:21 PM -- Revise plan. Decide instead to make english muffin pizzas and then go to the beach after lunch. I eat an english muffin with butter, ham, and cheese. Emily and I have nectarines for dessert. Thomas has applesauce.

1:00 PM -- Go online and lose myself in the Internet while the kids trash the bathroom.

1:45 PM -- Give both kids a three minute timeout. Throw some towels, sunscreen, water, and grapes in our beach bag.

2:00 PM -- Leave the house to head for the coast.

2:01 PM -- Decide that going to the beach is a bad idea; I can see fog over the coastal mountain range. Instead, we go to our local Aquatic Park, which is built on a shallow inlet and has a small beach and several play structures.

2:10 PM -- Arrive at park. Apply sunscreen with SPF 50 to kids and myself. Read my InStyle magazine while the kids build sand castles and eat grapes.

3:45 PM -- Leave park. Thomas falls asleep on way home.

4:00 PM -- Get home. Emily and I take a shower while Thomas naps on the couch. I give up the unwashed Jackie O look for the washed Mary Tsao look. Briefly lament the fact that nobody on the Internets will see my outfit. Realize that I am wearing the same exact thing I wore on this day last year.

4:30 PM -- Start dinner: leftover pork chops, twice-baked potatoes, and green beans. Sunshine makes me hungry! Before starting dinner, I brew myself a cup of iced coffee with half-n-half and sweetener. Decadent and delicious. While the food is cooking I load the dishwasher and check my email.

5:15 PM -- Mike gets home from work. Pleasantries are exchanged.

5:20 PM -- Dinner is on the table and Thomas wakes up from his nap when he smells the food. We eat.

5:40 PM -- Mike decides we should have a family speech night. One by one, each family member gets up and tells about his or her day. Afterwards, the rest of us clap. The kids aren't very good at the speech part but they are very good at the clapping part.

5:45 PM -- I leave for my relapse prevention meeting.

6:30 PM -- Have a good meeting. I'm getting to know my fellow rehab'ers and we joke and laugh about our addictions. During group we discuss ways we will avoid relapsing during the 4th of July holiday. I am going to take my own bottled sparkling water to the party we're attending.

8:00 PM -- Get home to find kitchen exactly as I had left it two hours earlier. Put food away, empty and load dishwasher. Mike is giving the kids their bath.

9:00 PM -- The kids are in bed and I start this blog post. I want to be finished by 9:30 so that I can watch my movie and eat a small snack of 10 Triscuits with 1 ounce of jalapeno jack cheese.

9:30 PM -- Finish entry and post. If you're still awake after reading this, good night!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


The triumph of the individual

It's a quiet night. The kids are fresh from the bath and we're all enjoying a TIVO'd episode of Max & Ruby.

Our busy June is almost over. Tomorrow is the first day in a long time that doesn't involve something that has to get done. I'm looking forward to it. This past month we've attended a birthday party; gone on a lagoon cruise; got some nice things in the mail; attended a party celebrating the end of Emily's first year of preschool; took a week-long, Internet-free, family road trip to Disneyland and Los Angeles; hosted my aunt, niece, and cousin for what turned out to be Emily's birthday weekend; went to the Pride Festival in San Francisco; rocked our socks off dancing to the Hipwaders at Emily's 4th birthday party; and posted the last photo in my year-long project, What I Wear: Suburban Housewife Edition.

Oh, and yesterday I celebrated my six month anniversary of being a sober person. Go, me!

I am feeling the stress of an overload of interpersonal interactions. Every day I see teachers, friends, random people at Target and the grocery store, family members, therapists. I am rarely alone. The outpatient rehabilitation program that I am in requires that I attend three sessions/week. That's a lot of interacting with people. It can sometimes seem like too much, especially coming in addition to my regularly scheduled programming.

Mike is in charge of the kids on Sunday and I am planning a day of relaxation and self-pampering. Maybe I'll book a massage or perhaps I'll just get in my fancy car and see where the road takes me. The thought of having a day unplanned and alone is making me very happy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


And then I am four years old

Originally uploaded by marytsao
And then I am four years old
By Emily Tsao

This day I bring cupcakes and my dad. And then I was going to school to play with my friends. And then I was going to play with my new friends.

And then he threw a cupcake away. And then we played and then we go back home.

And then that was the end.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Why are there so many blogs about rainbows

Portrait with auntie
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Tomorrow is Emily's 4th birthday party. I've lined up The Hipwaders to perform in our party-ready backyard, and we've got family (Auntie Davida, Cousin Michael, and Niece/Cousin Jessica) in town visiting for the big event. I'm glad they're here to celebrate with us because Mike's in Las Vegas playing in a World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournament and is going to miss it.

Tomorrow is the San Francisco Pride Parade and today we went to the festival in the Civic Center to stock up on our rainbow goods. It was a lot of fun, a beautiful and sunny San Francisco day. Quite a treat to be enjoying a happy event with family we don't often get to see.

I hope you're enjoying a wonderful summer weekend of your own.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


I wonder if I should be worried

I just realized that the nice game the kids are playing quietly in the other room consists of them sitting in a cardboard box, pretending to eat babies.

Oh wait, now they're eating broccoli.

Nevermind. Back to surfing the Internets.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Eyeliner, shoes, and business cards

mwahme blogger
Originally uploaded by marytsao
OMG! BlogHer is going to be insane! I finally got my shit together and paid for a registration. I say finally because I had my room reserved and my shoes bought months ago. What do my shoes look like? Girl, you know I can't tell you that.

Oh, okay. They're hot pink cork wedges! Squee! I've decided that hot pink is the new red. In shoes. So there.

Who all is going? Well, Izzy asked that same question and then used her mad skillz to organize a BlogHer Head Count. So if you're going, let the world via IzzyMom know. M'kay?

I kiss you.

P.S. In case you need some persuading, here are the pictures I took last year.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Our 2007 Southern California Adventure in 164 words

Hollywood Walk of Fame
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Road trip.

Embassy Suites Anaheim. Only four nobodies walk in L.A. Downtown Disney. House of Blues. The Elwood. Pasadena. Hurry Curry. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Blended coffee drinks. Santa Monica Pier. Arlington West. Sunscreen. Bitten. Disneyland. Mickey Mouse. Scared children. Train ride. Shopping. Beverly Center. Beverly Hills. Garlic Chicken. Cafe Versailles. Venice Beach. Children in trouble for throwing sand. Disneyland. Souvenir T-shirts. Goofy family portraits featuring children not looking at the camera. Fun in the sun. Cookies and iced coffees. Staying up late to watch fireworks. Fireworks canceled due to winds at high altitudes. Waking up early. Standing in line over two hours to ride the new Finding Nemo submarine ride. Seeing Disneyland through the eyes of a child and recognizing the magic. Sprinklers! Traffic! The Getty Museum. Great gardens. Lots of pictures. No Internet. Hollywood Blvd. Worshiping at John Travolta's star. Dinner at P.F. Chang's. Third Street Promenade on a Friday night. Total vacation weight gain of 4 pounds.

Home, sweet home.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Happy Father's Day

Venice Beach, California
Originally uploaded by marytsao
I know. I totally lied when I wrote that I'd be blogging during our family vacation to Southern California and Disneyland. Not only did I not blog, I didn't go online even once the entire week!

The whole Internet-free vacation was Mike's idea, and it was a good one. Even though I did have several dreams during which I was randomly surfing the net, I survived the week and had a lot of fun partying like it was 1995. Speaking of Mike, Happy Father's Day to all of you sperm donors (ha ha) out there.

An extraordinarily long and probably boring post outlining the details of our vacation to follow. First I need to wade through thousands of unread emails and wash a week's worth of clothes. In the meantime, you can giggle over the photos.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Rockin' the tired, happy, and excited way

Originally uploaded by marytsao
I'm borrowing this idea from Bethany of Mommy Writer Blog. She asks, "What three words describe how you are feeling right now?"

Right now I'm tired, happy, and excited:

Tired -- The day started with Emily, Thomas, and I going to a preschool end-of-year party and picnic. After that we came home and I did laundry, cleaned the house, broke down an amazing number of cardboard boxes for recycling, and packed three suitcases and other assorted bags for our vacation. I can't say I *made* dinner since we had peanut butter on toasted bagels. After dinner I altered the dress I never got around to sewing two weeks ago. Then I cleaned the kitchen and did a quick thirty minute workout (20 minutes of cardio, 5 minutes of hand weights, 5 minutes of crunches, stretching, and push ups). In between doing all of the above, I refereed fights over the following items: a Hello Kitty board book, a bike, a baby doll, a bagel sandwich. Oh, and whose turn it was to turn off the television. These things are why I am tired.

Happy -- Everything's done! The kids are nestled all snug in their beds! I've got that wonderful feeling of satisfaction that comes from having done many jobs and all of them well. Also, I chatted and had a good time talking with lots of friends at the preschool picnic and never once did I fall into what Grace would call a downward social spiral. Oh yeah. Happy dance.

Excited -- Who isn't excited the night before vacation? I'm especially stoked because Mike is excited, too. He's been working his behind off for a long time on a project that finally released last week. Hurrah for him! This vacation will be a truly relaxing time for him and a nice break for the entire family. Woot! Disneyland, here we come!

(Don't worry, you'll be hearing from me while we're on vacation. In fact, we've already set up and paid for wireless access so we'll probably only be offline for the six hours it takes us to get to Anaheim.)

Thursday, June 07, 2007


The day the Internets smiled on me

Mommy wears Ryka
Originally uploaded by marytsao
The best things in life are unexpected - because there were no expectations.
~Eli Khamarov, "Surviving on Planet Reebok"

Last month I entered mod*mom's contest for a complete Ryka outfit, and guess what? I won! I got to peruse the Ryka website and pick out anything I wanted, including shoes. When I told mod*mom what I wanted (shorts, cami top, shoes), she gently suggested that I get a jacket instead of a cami top. She's smart; I took her suggestion.

The outfit arrived today and I LOVE it. The shorts fit well and are really comfortable. The jacket is so soft, and--this might seem silly--the zipper is wonderful. I'm so sick of cheap zippers on jackets. Are you with me? The shoes are so nice I don't even want to wear them out of the house 'cause I don't want to get the soles dirty. Here's some pictures of me looking sporty in my new outfit. Thanks, mod*mom!

Mod*mom does lots of great giveaways. In fact, she's doing a Father's Day giveaway of a boon high chair. Tres hip.

The other unexpected surprise that arrived on my doorstep was from Nintendo, a copy of Big Brain Academy and my very own Wii Degree. Awww shucks. Thanks, guys!

Although not related to the Internets, another nice, surprise thing that happened today was that Mike invited me and the kids to lunch at his work. Hangin' with daddy is always fun and the food at his work is worth the drive.

So even though there were some lots of moments of Thomas being a stereotypical "terrible two" today, it was cool that packages filled with goodies arrived with my name on them and I got to eat a custom-made salad for lunch instead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

A good day.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Deep in the heart of stressless

Puzzle lover
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Life goes on, each day filled with a series of tasks. Some tasks are discrete and ends in themselves. Others are only parts of a whole. The amazing thing is that I'm getting things done and I'm not feeling stressed about it. Yes, there's lots to do, but as long as I move from one moment to the next, taking care of one thing then another, I can accomplish everything I need to and feel happy while I'm doing it. I found something online at Mama's Village a couple of weeks ago about the higher purpose of tasks. I like it a lot:

"The victory of success is half won when one gains the habit of setting goals and achieving them. Even the most tedious chore will become endurable as you parade through each day convinced that every task, no matter how menial or boring, brings you closer to achieving your dreams."

Og Mandino
1923-1996, Author

It's possible I should not be so relaxed about my workload. After all, we're leaving for vacation in just two short days and the suitcases are still in the closet. Shouldn't I be stressed out and frantically compiling lists of things to bring and do? I will contribute my current stressless state to the fact that I've been slowly working towards the goal of our vacation for weeks. Every day I've done a couple more things towards preparing us for our getaway and now that we're just two days away, there's not much left to do except put our clothes in the suitcases, make a goody bag of toys and books for each kid, pack a cooler of treats for the journey, and hit the road.

(Oh, and clean the kids' bathroom before we go. In my odd, cleanaholic fashion, I can't leave behind a dirty "boy in the midst of potty training" bathroom. How horrible it would be to come back from a relaxing vacation to the stench of a dirty bathroom. *Shivers*)

Maybe I'm not stressed because we go on vacation a lot. Packing for a family of four no longer boggles my mind. I just do what I've done before and know that if I forget to pack something, we'll just detour to the nearest Target and pick it up. No problem. We're only going to Southern California; it's not like they don't have stores down there.


Tomorrow is Emily's last day of preschool for the year. Speaking of stressless, I didn't stress once this past year about her enrollment in preschool. (Once I got past the stress of whether or not I should put her in preschool.) To thank her teachers, I got each of them a thank you card and a $25 gift certificate to Target. I figure everybody loves Target, and I am very thankful that she's had a great first year of school. Just think: this was her first year of 15 years of preschool, grammar, middle, and high school. And then there's college, too, and maybe graduate school and more. This year of learning set the stage for many more years to come. When I think about the positive experiences she's had this year and the effect that will have on her lifetime of learning, I understand that there's no gift certificate big enough.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Mommy, love thyself

hot tub
Originally uploaded by marytsao
I saw something on Oprah a couple of weeks ago that really stuck with me. Allow me to share.

Life coach Martha Beck was on the show and she was reassuring a mom who had escaped an abusive relationship that it was okay for her to take care of herself. The mom was worried about her kids and the abuse they had seen and how it was going to affect them emotionally; she also wished for her son's forgiveness.

From the Oprah synopsis of the show:

Martha explains to Wendy that if she wants her son's forgiveness, she must first forgive herself. "Our children model what we do to ourselves, not what we do to them. So if you see unforgiveness in his eyes, it's because you're not forgiving yourself," Martha says. "Your only job is to learn to love yourself. The children, that's all they're waiting for you to do."

According to Martha, a mother who lives her life well is going to have happier children. "Let me tell you my favorite story from a psychiatrist who spent 20 years dealing with neurotic patients. They'd always say, 'I know my mother loved me, but…,' and then they'd go into the problems," she says. "One day she met a really, really healthy man, and she thought, 'Gee, I wonder what a normal person's mother is like?' She never heard that. … She thought he would say, 'My mother loved me perfectly. She made no mistakes at all.' Instead, he said something she had never heard before from a patient. He said, 'My mother loved life.'"

Martha says parents who neglect to love themselves raise kids who don't show themselves self-love, either. "They don't treat themselves the way you treat them. They treat themselves the way you treat you," she says.

I want to remember this.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Going short(s)

Originally uploaded by marytsao
After a rather busy week last week, I had a nice, relaxing weekend. I'm trying to put into words what was nice about it besides a litany of what we did. The time flowed well, I did some work and accomplished some goals, and there was a nice balance between social time, family time, and me time.

I don't have any pictures of the me time, but if I did they would be of me puttering around the house, me making myself lunch of crab cakes with corn relish and iced tea, me reading a book while sitting in the sun on the front patio, and me napping on the couch in the family-friendly playroom. A truly glorious day.

Mike and I worked well together this weekend. I took the kids to a birthday party on Saturday and left him alone for four hours to relax and do his own thing. I didn't even ask him if he wanted to come; I knew it wasn't how he wanted to spend his time. It was nice being at the party without him because I didn't have to wonder if he was bored and I didn't have to leave early because he was. A win-win situation for both of us. Today he took the kids to visit his mom and I got my quiet time, which I very much enjoyed. It's nice to be able to share parenting responsibilities in this way. I'm sure the kids benefit from the dedicated parent time, too. They're used to being with me; it's Mike they rarely get all to themselves.

So that's pretty much it, a peaceful weekend with nary a fight in sight. I suppose I also could mention that I went shopping for shorts on Friday and found three pairs that I not only don't hate with all my heart, but that I actually do love with all my big 'ol booty. Shorts! That I love! Shorts are tough for me to love because as a pear, I tend to prefer A-line skirts that camouflage my assets. But I actually had one of those rare positive dressing room experiences on Friday that left me mighty happy with all that is going on down there. *Waves hands around butt, hips, and thighs.* Based on this one shopping trip alone, I can tell this is going to be a damn good summer.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


When the worst that could happen is nothing at all

The other day I was sitting in a recovery meeting that focuses on relapse prevention. About twenty of us were sitting in a circle and one by one, each of us told the group our name, our drug of choice, how long we had been sober, and the negative repercussions we would face if we were to use drugs or alcohol again. What was the worst that could happen?

I told my story and gave my reasons why I don't want to drink (or anything else) anymore: My marriage could fail. I could get into trouble or kill somebody from driving drunk. My kids would never know a mom whose moods were genuine and not induced by alcohol or being hungover. I would never know the reason why I like to self-medicate and have done so for most of my life. Nobody (including myself) would ever know the real me.

If you've ever been in recovery--of any kind, for any reason--or to an AA meeting, you know that you can always find somebody whose story is worse than yours. They've been drinking for fifty years; you haven't been on the planet that long. They would binge drink for days on end; you would always stop drinking sometime around 2:00 AM and rarely missed a day of work, even when you were totally hungover. They no long have a driver's license because they got three DUIs; you were never pulled over for drunk driving. They went to jail; you've never been to jail. They cared so much about getting high that they lost everything they had: the job, the house, the kids, the husband; most people were surprised when you told them you had a drinking problem because they never thought of you as an alcoholic.

But when you're honest with yourself that alcohol, drugs, binge eating, gambling, whatever is a problem in your life, then you no longer compare your story with other people's. You no longer say to yourself things like, I'm not an alcoholic because I don't drink during the day. That falling down drunk on the corner is an alcoholic; I'm not like him. Some nights I don't drink at all, which proves I can stop whenever I want. or Look how great my life is. Why admit that I have a problem when it's possible that if I never say anything, nobody would ever know?

I can't say that sobriety is easy. It's actually quite painful and horrible a lot of the time. One thing I've learned from my recovery program and from self introspection is that my drinking and using drugs has stunted my emotional growth so that emotionally I'm closer to the age I was when I started using, which means that I'm probably about fourteen years old right now. Great.

Driving home from that meeting, I realized that despite what I said to the group, the worst consequence if I started drinking again would be nothing. It's possible that nothing bad would happen if I started drinking again. I wouldn't lose my family or friends. I wouldn't lose my kids or house. Life would go on exactly as it had before.

And yet I also wouldn't gain anything. I wouldn't know how wonderful my life could be when I no longer wake up feeling the shame from getting too drunk the night before and wondering what I said or did. I wouldn't know if my feelings for someone were real and deep or shallow and the result of alcohol-induced joy. I wouldn't know if I was being the best mom I could be or the best wife I could be. I wouldn't know if I was living up to my creative potential or being true to myself. I wouldn't know what it means to be truly alive.

I might lose nothing if I started drinking again except all that I stand to gain. And that's a lot.