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Location: Northern California

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Halloween 2007 update: This was the first year that the kids went door-to-door pimping for candy and they did great! It's amazing how shyness disappears when the stranger is holding a bowl of candy. My mom and I took them to several homes in our neighborhood, then Mike drove them to our friend Erik's house, both to admire his Halloween decorations as well as to see his new baby and do some trick-or-treating in his 'hood. I stayed home with Grammie Martha and handed out candy. Mike decorated our house, too, and we had scary music and LED decorations. We handed out tootsie pops and blinky necklaces. The older kids liked the necklaces! All in all, a good Halloween here in the 'burbs.

I've learned there are three things you don't discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.

--Linus Van Pelt
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Halloween: Are we there yet?

Halloween 2007
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Thanks for all of the votes to help me decide which photo(s) I should submit to Mamazine's Mama Focus photo contest! I haven't tallied them yet, but it looks like it will be close. Gee, winning that contest will be something nice to look forward to as I'm slaving away on my NaNoWriMo novel. NaNoWriMo (and the month of November) starts Thursday! Yikes!

In the meantime, there's still one day left to the week-long holiday known as Halloween. Thank goodness we're down to the last day. I'm already burned out on all of this pumpkin-carving and costume-wearing hullabaloo. Today we were happily getting ready to go to the Google Halloween party when it became known that Emily's costume had gone missing. We searched high and we searched low and we could not find that ridiculous yarn wig, pink nylon shorts, and damn fake backpack. Argh!

Lucky for me, Emily adapts to change easily and we decided instead to make her a mini-me, a child witch to match mama witch. A quick raid of the dress-up box yielded a witch hat and a fancy dress (worn by cousin Jessica in another lifetime. Thanks, Barb!) Add to that a string of pearls, some black boots, and a stuffed cat, and voila! A costume as good as any bought in a store.

You know, of course, we did find the Dora costume when we got home from our Halloween party. Somebody (*cough*Emily*cough*) had been playing with it and had stuffed it into a little-used cupboard. At least that certain somebody will get to wear it to school tomorrow for the big preschool Halloween parade. How cute will that be?

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007


Please help me get into focus

Mamazine is hosting a Mama Focus Photo Contest, and I need your help!

First, you can enter the contest. Rules here. Get out your camera and get snap happy, mama. Here's what they're looking for:

"In our Mama Focus photo contest, we challenge you to get artsy, take a self-portrait, give your kids the camera and let them do a mama photo shoot. We don't care how you get the picture, as long as you (mama) are the focus (the photo's actual technical focus is optional). We hope to see photos that show us what modern motherhood can be like: the ugly and the beautiful. We are looking for pictures with a fresh, unique perspective or that capture a moment, convey a feeling, or tell a story. We want interesting and unexpected shots that give us a peek into real mamahood."

Second, I need you to help me decide which two of the following four pictures I should enter in the contest:

Snuggle time
Option #1

Shadows of a mother and a daughter
Option #2

Burning Man 2007
Option #3

Burning Man 2007
Option #4

Leave your opinion in the comments. Or, if there's some other photo you like better from the 5,014 in my Flickr stream, leave the link. Thanks!

Sunday, October 28, 2007


We're all in this together

Grammie Martha and Thomas
Originally uploaded by marytsao
My mom and I took the kids to see Disney High School Musical: The Ice Tour today at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. Go Wildcats! The show was a lot of fun, high-energy and action-packed. It really held the kids's attention for the entire hour and forty five minutes (including intermission). Thomas did get a little antsy at the end and asked two times if the show was almost over, but he did it in a very polite way and didn't cry or fuss when he found out that he would have to keep seated for just a tad bit longer. I'm proud of his ability to sit through a musical extravaganza; he'll make a fine partner to some lucky person one day.

Emily told my mom that her favorite part of the show was the singing, while Thomas proclaimed his favorite part was the skating/dancing. My mom can't get over how wholesome the show is -- a real throwback to the days of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney musicals: "Let's put on a show in the barn!" There certainly was nothing offensive about the event, except maybe the price of the tickets, and I'm glad we went.

I have a good feeling about Emily and Thomas's ability to withstand even more entertainment torture; I'm thinking about getting tickets to a local theater troupe's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It's supposed to be appropriate "for all ages." We'll see!

Saturday, October 27, 2007


39-year-old body, preschooler mind

Tie-dye preschool project
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Yesterday morning I helped at Emily's school; her teachers needed a parent to assist the kids while they tie-dyed T-shirts. I had the time of my life. I love hanging out in classrooms, watching teachers do what they do and observing how activities are organized. Plus it was so cool to see Emily in her preschool environment. She loves story time and sits in the front row, hanging on the teacher's every word--eventually actually hanging on the teacher--while she reads the story. Yesterday she made a few comments about things in the picture book that weren't necessarily part of the story, and her teacher would make it a point to reinforce her observations and point them out to the rest of the class. I hung out in the back, bursting with pride. It was a great morning.

Yesterday afternoon I had a short parent-teacher conference with Thomas's teacher. She remarked that he's a great kid to have at school, that his speech has improved dramatically since September, and that he's recently started making friends and showing empathy when other kids are feeling poorly. His "issues" are how he reacts to unpleasant situations (with tears and lots of them) and his inability to correlate misbehavior with punishment unless it's staring him in the face. For example, if you tell him he needs to sit down or he won't be able to pet the dog, but the dog is not in the room, he may or may not sit down. However, if the dog is in the room and you tell him to sit down, he'll most likely sit down. He's not yet three so both of his "issues" are understandable and will likely pass as he matures. Although that loud-and-vociferous crying habit has been a part of his personality since the moment he left the womb, so... we'll see. His teacher joked that he may have a career as an actor ahead of him.

Grammie Martha arrived yesterday evening and right after picking her up, we headed out to our first Halloween party of the season. Emily went as Dora the Explorer and Thomas went as James the Red Engine, part of the Thomas the Tank Engine gang. The party was at our local rec center and we managed to run into several of Thomas's preschool classmates and their families, although the party was unbelievably crowded and we didn't stay long.

I can't get over how cool it was to hang out at Emily's preschool yesterday. I love four-year-olds; they're so unpretentious and utterly lacking in self-consciousness. I want to be more like that. I want to scratch myself in front of people and wear pants that show my underwear and make my butt look funny. I want to sit "criss cross applesauce" and listen to stories as if my very life depended on it. I want to be like the little boy in Emily's class who grinned wildly at me and yelled, "my toenails are painted!"

Preschoolers are the coolest creatures on earth. I'm glad I get to live with two of them.

James and Dora

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Pumpkin patch and pony ride

Fieldtrip to Arata's Farm
Originally uploaded by marytsao
We're adjusting to being home after our whirlwind trip to New Mexico. Yesterday I went with Emily and her class to a pumpkin patch fieldtrip. We went to Arata's Farm in Half Moon Bay, the site of last year's fieldtrip from hell. This year the experience was 1000 times better. Being in charge of only one child (Thomas was in school and didn't come with us) was key, plus I knew where I was going and only got a little lost getting there instead of a lot.

Emily also had something of a minor breakthrough. Remember how she dislikes activities that are new to her? I spoke with her teacher about it and she suggested that I speak with Emily about the activity beforehand and explain what will be expected of her. I did that on the way to the pumpkin patch, telling Emily that there would be an opportunity to ride a pony there and asking her to remember when Thomas rode a pony at a friend's birthday party. I also told her that I went on a pony ride when I was little and it was a little scary but also a lot of fun. I don't know if the pep-slash-prep talk worked, but when it came time to ride the pony, Emily was the first one in line. I was completely shocked and so proud!

Today was a mellow day and the three of us hung around home, alternating between cleaning and relaxing. Tomorrow I'm helping Emily's class with a tie-dye project, then I've got a parent-teacher meeting for Thomas, and tomorrow night we pick up Grammie Martha from the airport. We'll be pretty busy in the days leading up to Halloween. We've got a party tomorrow night and another one on Tuesday. On Sunday my mom and I are taking the kids to see Disney on Ice High School Musical II. Par-tay! It was nice to have this day to chill at home.

Happy Friday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Party, New Mexico family-style

New Mexico vacation
Originally uploaded by marytsao
We're back from our mini vacation and we had a great time. Man, did I eat! But let me start at the beginning...

We flew out Thursday morning super early, leaving here at 5:30 AM. I drove the kids to the Oakland Airport and parked the car in long term parking since we were getting back on Monday when Mike was at work and would be unable to pick us up. [Here's the coolest thing about that experience: I went for the cheapest lot and they gave me a voucher to park in a closer lot and get the cheaper lot price. This is the kind of thing that I need to document in order to remain a Tsao.]

Everything was smooth sailing with the parking and getting through airport security. The kids and I are professionals at this; we travel a lot. When we got to Albuquerque, we met my aunt Davida and niece Jessica, who flew in from Chicago. Then it was off to the rental car place to pick up our gigantic minivan. I even rented car seats for the kids. Many times when traveling with children, problems *can* be solved by throwing money at them. Try it. It works.

Once we got our car, we were on the road north to Santa Fe, where we stopped for lunch at Dave's Not Here. I had chile rellenos made with New Mexico chiles. The best! After lunch we hit Whole Foods to stock up on goodies for dinner. My cousin lives in a remote, rural area and there are no corner stores.

My cousin Rachel and her daughters Julianna and Louise were anxious to see us so we didn't linger in Santa Fe and soon were on the road north. We passed through Pojoaque, then Nambe, then Chimayo, then Truchas, finally getting to the dirt road that would lead us into the valley of Ojo Sarco, where my cousin grew up and still lives.

After we arrived, there were hugs and kisses all around and the kids had a good time getting to know each other. My cousin had worked really hard getting her house ready for our visit, and everything was nice and shiny. After her boyfriend Matt came home we had dinner and hung out, visiting with some friends (Leanna, her boyfriend, and her baby D) who stopped by.

The next day was Friday and we all piled in the van to go back into Santa Fe. We had lots of shopping to do to get ready for my aunt Paula's party the next day. She passed away five years ago, and the party was a celebration of her life and an opportunity to place her headstone on her grave and to see old friends. In Santa Fe we went to lunch, the party store, Trader Joe's, and the grocery store. While Rachel and Davida were at the grocery store, I took the kids to a park. It was too difficult to navigate busy, crowded Santa Fe parking lots and stores with a group of eight people.

After shopping for our perishables, we had to get back on the road to Ojo Sarco. About an hour later we were home. We ate a quick dinner, then Davida and I took the kids to Louise's basketball practice, leaving Rachel home alone to start preparing the food for the party. While she made pumpkin pies from scratch (yes, that means from actual pumpkins), we watched my 5'4", fifth grade cousin practice with the rest of her team. That was fun. The kids had a good time watching the coaching and sweating from the bleachers.

Saturday was a busy day filled with cleaning, cooking, balloon filling, and finally, partying. Everybody gathered at the Ojo Sarco cemetery to remember my aunt. My uncle David spoke, starting out with, "Five years ago today I lost my best friend..." My aunt Paula was a wonderful woman who touched many lives. The last time I visited New Mexico she was alive. It felt rather odd to be there and to have only memories of her.

After the cemetery, we all piled into Rachel's cozy house to feast on turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, red chile with pork, posole, salad, black beans, pinto beans, bread and jam, and a whole table of desserts including homemade lemon cheesecake, brownies, pumpkin pie, and tiramisu. A feast in a Thanksgiving style, which was fitting because my aunt Paula was the queen of Thanksgiving. She even raised and butchered her own turkeys. As one guest said on Saturday, "Thanksgiving died with Paula." We did our best to bring it back with her spirit gracing the party in our thoughts, words, and actions. It was a wonderful way to remember her.

On Sunday the kids and I took a side trip to Los Alamos, to visit Krisco of Crib Ceiling and her family. What a treat! It was nice to have my rental car and to be able to break away from the family for half a day. The kids played dress up while we chatted, and our visit was over way too soon. We had to leave to get back to Sarco, and it was a good thing we left when we did because we got caught in a snow storm on the way home. Crazy, typical New Mexico weather. On Saturday it was 70 degrees and sunny. On Sunday it was 35 degrees and snowing.

We couldn't do much on Sunday night because of the weather, although we did manage to celebrate my cousin Ben's girlfriend Melissa's birthday with a cake that Davida baked. Our family believes in two things: celebrations and desserts. No snow storm can stop us!

Monday morning we had to leave Ojo Sarco by 8:00 AM in order to make it to Albuquerque for our afternoon flights. Even with the snow on the ground, the sun was out and we had no problem getting out of the valley and onto the highway. Northern New Mexico was particularly beautiful with a light powdering of snow on the mountains and on the trees. It was a fine way to end our special, whirlwind vacation.

I'm so happy I got to take my kids to this place that I've been visiting since I was five years old. I hope to take them back some day and to spend some time exploring more of the area. I'm also happy that they could meet that branch of my family and play with their cousins. Today we're back here in San Mateo, doing our thing, but we are all thinking about our latest adventure and, yes, looking forward to the next one.

As always, pictures on Flickr.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


From people pleaser to people alienator

I'm tired so this post is going to be short and to the point.

I think most readers of this blog understand that what I post here is a partially inaccurate portrayal of my life, but for history's sake, I feel I need to set the record straight. Yes, there's lots of good times and happy moments, but there are just as many difficult times, harsh words, aggravating moments, and events that I can't write about because to do so would violate other people's privacy or just make me look like a raving bitch.

And let's be honest; it's rarely one's intent to write a blog that reveals the dark side of her personality. I don't want to be remembered as a bitch, but sometimes I am one, and sometimes I am a less-than-perfect mom. For example, I rarely write about instances like the one I put my kids through today when I--sick and tired of their crying and whining--slammed on the brakes so hard their chicken McNuggets flew out of their hands and onto the floor. Oh, and then when I threw their Chicken McNuggets back at them, I screamed, "Here's your fucking Chicken McNuggets!" Definitely not one of my finer moments. Not to mention the fact that it was the second day in a row the kids have eaten McDonald's for lunch.

So please don't read this blog and feel inferior about your own life, your parenting skills, your housekeeping skills, your wardrobe, or your future. (I threw the last one in for comedic relief.) There's as much to my life that goes unwritten that gets carefully edited and put out on the Internets.

Also, I had to fire my part-time nanny today so if you were envious of the fact I had one, you can be envious no more. After telling me the reason she didn't make it to my house by 12:15 PM was because she had taken a sleeping pill and overslept, and after realizing I was going to have to take two kids to a parent-teacher conference, I thanked her for the two years she had taken care of my kids and told her I'd send her a check in the mail. Of course, this isn't the first time she's been late, called in sick, or completely flaked on me. But this is the first time I decided that I can't put up with it any longer. Apparently my months of therapy are paying off and I'm developing a backbone. Huh. Feels both really good and really horrible.

Tomorrow the kids and I leave for the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico, to visit my cousin and her family. We'll be in a little valley just off the high road to Taos and she has no computer. How novel is that? So until next week, you can find me here:

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Happy Person of Difficulty Day

Today is Boss's Day here in the U.S., "a day for employees to thank their superior for being kind and fair throughout the year."

I've had my share of bosses in the fifteen or so years I worked in the corporate world. I sometimes felt like celebrating them, and I usually understood when they were being "difficult." For many years, one of my most valued skills in the workplace was my ability to deal with difficult people. It's a good skill to have although over time it eats your soul and you find yourself unable to talk about your work without spending at least thirty minutes bitching about your horrible boss.

I'm sorry if I've just described you.

I'm glad I have this opportunity as a stay-at-home mom to enjoy life without the daily annoyance of a person of difficulty. My new bosses--although often deserving of a time out--are quite likable and pretty darn cute, too.

Santana Row, San Jose
Boss #1

Santana Row, San Jose
Boss #2

Monday, October 15, 2007


This feminist housewife's story

This morning I had the pleasure of being interviewed and photographed by two young women, graduate school students in the Social Documentation Graduate Program at UCSC. It was a fun experience because of all the things I most enjoy doing, talking about myself ranks pretty high.

I answered questions pertaining to feminism, being a housewife and a stay-at-home mom, and blogging as activism. I broke down when they had me read some of my old blog posts, namely this one about my and Mike's courtship and this one written when I was thinking about quitting my job to stay home with Emily. And I remembered the angst I felt back in 2004 when I read my post worries of a feminist housewife:

i was ok with knowing that i am a surrendered feminist - a closet traditionalist - when i thought i was hurting nobody but myself. but then i read 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships : What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It by david niven and found out that one of the secrets is "share the housework." uh oh. and then i read Strong, Smart, and Bold: Empowering Girls for Life by carla fine and in the appendix "101 ways to empower a girl and improve her world," way #3 is "make sure that household chores...are shared equally by girls, boys, men, and women in your home." eek. these books are telling me that my happiness with housework eventually will cause the ruin of my family and the emotional frailty of my daughter. ahhhh!!!

why i read books that cause me to question my life i do not know. all i know is that i am a feminist because i believe in equality of the sexes. and even though i currently am a stay at home mom who takes care of the kid while my husband works outside the home and is the sole contributor to the household income, i consider myself a positive role model for my daughter. i'm teaching her to be strong, to be interesting, to be independent, and to believe in herself. even if she does see me doing a lot of changing diapers, shopping for groceries, and vacuuming.

So what role does feminism now play in my life, three years later? Have I buckled under the weight of a thousand loads of laundry and now think that men have it better than women? Have I surrendered to a conformist identity and lost my unique sense of self? At one point I worried about my own feminist image and whether or not I was in a position to raise children who would grow up to understand that a woman could be anything she wanted to be, even if what she wanted to be was a (gasp!) mom. If my children never see me leave for work in the morning, will they still know that women have the capacity to rule the boardroom and the world?

Here's the thing: my current, self-described feminist belief structure now has more to do with happiness than with who folds the laundry. And I don't mean brain-dead, glassy-eyed, wake-me-up-when-it's-over happiness. I mean the kind of happiness that comes from a hard job done well. I am happy being this housewife that I am. My kids know me as a happy mom, one who wakes up with a smile on her face. In the long term, I hope they know me as a woman content with the decisions she's made in her life, but also one who strives for a better world, both inside our home as well as outside of it.

Whew. Anyway, the interview process was fun and I think it's interesting that blogging and its social ramifications are being studied in universities. I had another student email me recently to tell me that my blog would be discussed in a Women's Studies class. I find all of this attention highly flattering. Too bad it doesn't mean that I don't have to now go slave over the November issue of my mothers club newsletter.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


What a feeling(s)

I'm having a rather intense internal (and now, external!) debate about whether or not I want to continue to take four-year-old Emily to activity-based birthday parties.

Here's the deal. Emily is great at house parties. She loves to run around and play with kids she either knows or has just met. She loves unstructured environments where there's no focus on her and no planned activities she is required to partake in.

But a lot of the parties we've been going to lately are activity-based. What I mean is that they're at a gym or a pool or a tae kwon do studio. The expectation is that the kids will all participate in structured play or the equivalent of a class, e.g., a gym class or a tae kwon do class. Emily does not do this kind of stuff.

When we go to activity-based parties, she's great at the beginning, refuses to participate in the class (preferring to sit on the sidelines looking horrified or to hug my knee while I talk with the mommies), then lights up again when the class is over and the pizza and cake are served.

My dilemma is that I'm not sure if I want to go to a party just to watch my child be miserable. I am going to start refusing these types of party invitations, at least for the time being. Frankly, I just don't see the benefit. I'll miss the company of my mom friends, but oh well. Emily's shyness and hesitancy in unfamiliar, physical learning environments means that what should be a fun event usually ends up being a torturous one, for both her and me.

Hmm. This is more of a declaration rather than a debate.

I don't suppose it will surprise anybody to know that I dreaded birthday parties as a child. Just like Emily, I disliked the activities that called on me to demonstrate my prowess, although in my day the activities were mainly party games like pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs. Blech.


In preparation for my mom's visit at the end of the month, I ruthlessly cleaned out my office/spare bedroom, including the closets. AND! I even loaded up the car and dropped everything off at Goodwill. Goodbye extra throw blankets that we never used. Goodbye giant nylon leaf from IKEA. Goodbye motocross boots that I haven't worn in over five years. (Man, those things were bad ass.) Goodbye assorted items from craft projects gone by. Goodbye unopened picnic backpack thingy that I kept meaning to re-gift but never did. Goodbye wicker chair that a well-meaning neighbor gave us for Emily but that just ended up floating from room to room being ignored no matter where we put it. (I hope he wasn't looking out the window when I shoved it in the car.) Goodbye one dozen square mirrors from IKEA that made it from the store to the car to the closet, never to be seen again...

And cue Irene Cara:

What a feeling, bein's believin'
I can't have it all, now I'm dancin' for my life
Take your passion, and make it happen
Pictures come alive, you can dance right through your life

Yes, that's how good I feel. I can't have it all is right! I highly recommend a closet purge to anybody who is looking to feel good about themselves.

Perhaps if the birthday parties I went to as a kid had featured games involving organizing and cleaning, I might have enjoyed them.

Happy Monday.

Friday, October 12, 2007


The revolt of all captive balloons

24th and York Street Mini Park
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Yesterday I took the kids on a fun San Francisco fieldtrip. First we hit Clement Street and had lunch at a little dim sum place on 6th Ave. and Clement, Wing Lee Bakery. The food is cheap and yummy. For $4.60 we got three steamed pork buns, two pot stickers, and three har gao (shrimp dumplings).

After lunch we checked out Green Apple Books and splurged on some new titles. Emily picked out a Power Puff Girls book and Thomas picked out a Where's Waldo book. I got Eric Clapton's new autobiography. I also bought A. Lamorisse's The Red Balloon, a children's book. The book is based on a movie I remember seeing when I was little. The title of this post is a quote from the book. Here's another quote I like: "People with dogs walk. People with packages take taxis. People with balloons leave them behind."

Now that's profound.

After our book buying spree we had ice cream (kids) and a peach smoothie (me) at Toy Boat Dessert Cafe. This place features San Francisco's own Double Rainbow Ice Cream and lots of kitschy toys. The kids didn't want to leave, but our parking meter (.25 cents for 10 minutes with a 60 minute limit -- I want to remember this for when I refer to these as "the good 'ol days.") was about to expire.

Saying good-bye to the Inner Richmond, we got back on 19th Ave. (Park Presidio in this part of The City) and made our way north to the Marina and the Exploratorium. The kids ran around the Exploratorium for a couple of hours while I desperately tried to take a photo worth posting on the Internet. The kids are a little young to really understand many of the Exploratorium's exhibits and their attention spans are definitely too short for much interactive play. They basically run from display to display and twist knobs and touch things. I know they're absorbing tons of information and that being there is a good thing, but it does get a little weary chasing two preschoolers around a crowded place, especially when they're running in different directions. After ninety minutes I was ready to go. On our way out we hit the gift shop to get a present for Emily's friend who is turning four this weekend.

We still had some time before we had to be home for dinner so we swung by the Mission and a playground on 24th and York Streets that I've been meaning to visit. It's a mini park that features lots of great murals and a Quetzalcoatl mosaic snake sculpture. The kids had a good time running around with another little girl about Thomas's age. She was cute.

The 24th and York Street Mini Park is just down the street from El Farolito so of course I had to pick up burritos and quesadillas for dinner. Another inexpensive meal -- I think I spent $12 for a steak burrito, a chicken burrito, and a cheese quesadilla. The cheapness of our eats helped offset the cost of the Exploratorium (about $23. plus an astonishing $6.78 for two bottled juices at the snack bar.)

All in all, a fine day in a beautiful city. I love visiting San Francisco. Having lived there the longest of any city I've ever lived in, I will always consider it home. I'm glad we live close enough to go there regularly.

Pictures of our latest adventure are up on Flickr.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Me three

Thomas's language skills are progressing at an amazing rate. Preschool, which he has loved since the first day I dropped him off, has been good for him. Check out this exchange and marvel at his advanced comprehension and skills:

Me: I love butternut squash!

Emily: Me, too!

Thomas: Me, three!

Even Emily didn't understand this joke. She tried to explain to Thomas that he wasn't three, that he was only two.


In honor of the number three, here are three websites that I have discovered lately and that I really like:

  • Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project
    When I find myself focusing over-much on the anticipated happiness of arriving at a certain goal, I remind myself of one of my Twelve Commandments: “Enjoy the process.”

  • Curt Rosengren's The M.A.P. Maker [Meaning, Abundance, & Passion]
    Life isn't a static phenomenon. It's dynamic, ever-moving, and ever-shifting. So while the idea of achieving a static state of "work/life balance" is appealing to the part of us that desires the comfort of certainty, it doesn't have much to do with the real world.

  • Michael's Silly Waiter
    There is always some reason we do the work we do, it just might not be the reason you had in mind.


Also in honor of the number three, three items of gratitude:

  • Mickey Mouse still has the power to thrill young children. Thank you, Mickey Mouse. My kids love you!

  • Clean sheet make me happy. My sheets are in the washer right now. That means tonight I will sleep on clean sheets. Heaven.

  • Siblings who share make my life sweet. My kids are pretty good at this. I wish I knew the secret because I'd share it with the world.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Have a boob-e-full day

Breastfeeding Thomas 12/07/2004
Originally uploaded by marytsao
The League of Maternal Justice has declared this the day of The Great Breast Fest.

Fest the Breast!

Because people like Bill Maher would have us hide...

Because Facebook thinks that pictures of nursing boobs are dirty...

Because waitstaff at Applebees and YMCA attendants still tell nursing mothers to cover up or nurse in the toilet...

Because it's illegal to ask a nursing mother to stop nursing or conceal her nursing, and yet people still do it...

Because we live in a society where nobody bats an eye at see-through tops and pasties on pop stars, but in which nursing breasts are considered by some to be indecent...

I breastfed both of my kids and I'll do it again, God willing. To weep tears of joy over the magnitude of the feat of breastfeeding, check out the Great Breast Fest Montage:

Power to the boob.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Teacher or tyrant?

Today Emily was playing with her dolls in a way that sounded very teacher-like. Even though I've sworn never to ask my kids the "What are you going to be when you grow up?" question--which I hated with a passion when I was a kid--I found that I couldn't help myself.

Me: Emily, are you going to be a teacher when you grow up?

Emily: No.

Emily: I'm going to be a tyrant.

Touché, Emily, touché.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Mistress of the Besciamella

Columbus Day dinner
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Happy Columbus Day! In honor of that auspicious Italian who landed on our shores in 1492, I made two recipes out of Silver Spoon, Italy's classic cookbook. Mike got me this book for my birthday two years ago and today was the first day I felt brave enough to cook something from it.

After slaving over a hot stove and oven for two hours, whisking Béchamel sauce while simultaneously mincing a chicken breast I had just sauteed in butter and olive oil, I remembered why I was once very afraid of this book. Cooking is work!

Nevertheless, I pulled it all off, including the Béchamel (Besciamella) sauce, and produced two very delicious dishes: Curried Chicken Puffs (Sfogliatine al Pollo e Curry) and Rigatoni with Meatballs (Rigatoni con Polpettine). Mike liked the curried chicken puffs the best. Next time I make them I'll serve them with baked salmon and a salad of butter leaf lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. Yum.

Here's the recipe. Buon appetito!

Curried Chicken Puffs (Sfogliatine al Pollo e Curry)

* 9 ounces puff pastry dough, thawed if frozen

* all-purpose flour, for dusting

* 7 ounces cooked chicken meat, coarsely chopped

* curry powder, to taste

* 1 cup Béchamel Sauce (here's a recipe)

* 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

* salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and stamp out 12 rounds with a cookie cutter or a glass. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until puffed up and golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Place the chicken meat in a processor and process until very finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and season to taste with curry powder. Stir in the béchamel sauce and egg yolks and season with salt and pepper to taste. When ready to serve, sandwich the chicken mixture between pairs of pastry rounds. Place on a cookie sheet and heat through in a preheated oven, 350 degrees F. for ten minutes.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Things I did this weekend

  • Ate pancakes. Also fresh fruit and whipped cream.

  • Read the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle.

  • Finished that article for the nice company that pays me real money.

  • Read a lot of Eat, Pray, Love.

  • Watched the Oprah episode featuring Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
  • .
  • Baked an apple pie using the apples from our tree.

  • Blew bubbles.

  • Ate lunch at Chevy's.

  • Made a "from scratch" dinner that took longer than fifteen minutes to prepare: Baked Wild Alaskan Salmon, Rice Pilaf, Green Beans, Creamy Brussels Sprouts, and the Apple Pie mentioned above.

  • Got the kids their first pet(s): two hermit crabs they named Thomas and Emily.

Noticeably absent from this list are the items from my To Do list having to do with cleaning closets. Alas, I did not get around to doing any chores of a cleaning or organizing nature. Perhaps the mood will strike me tomorrow? One can only hope.

Except that tomorrow is Columbus Day and in honor of that adventurous Italian, I am going to be adventurous myself and make two items out of my Silver Spoon cookbook: Curried Chicken Puffs (Sfogliatine al Pollo e Curry) and Rigatoni with Meatballs (Rigatoni con Polpettine).

The Italy portion of Gilbert's book has clearly gotten to me. If you've read it, you know what I mean.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Things I want to do this weekend

Emily in the jump house
Originally uploaded by marytsao

  1. Eat pancakes. Also fresh fruit and whipped cream.

  2. Read the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle.

  3. Finish that article for the nice company that pays me real money.

  4. Organize the kids's clothes and bag up the stuff they've outgrown. Figure out if they need anything for our upcoming trip to New Mexico.

  5. Stand naked in my closet and try on clothes that I don't think fit me anymore. If I'm right, bag them up or consider alterations. Figure out if I need anything new for New Mexico.

  6. Make a Goodwill run with the stuff that's accumulating in my office and the bagged items from items #4 and #5.

  7. Finish reading Eat, Pray, Love.

  8. Bake an apple pie using the apples from our tree.

  9. Read the Sunday New York Times.

  10. Make a "from scratch" dinner that takes longer than fifteen minutes to prepare.

  11. Go to Decompression 2007.

That's it. Not too bad. In fact, pretty good. And quite do-able as long as item #1 doesn't first put me in a sugar-induced coma.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Ruminations of the haiku variety

Here is my Haiku Friday offering.

Fall is in the air
Another Crystal Springs hike
This time with a friend

Why do flats hurt me?
No height means they should feel good
But toes hurt, heels bleed

Stores are filled with cords
Am I dreaming or do cords
Make my thighs look big

My essay is up
Don't cry for me, Blogosphere
I've been a bitch, too

May your weekend be filled with many-syllabic adventures, like those of the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious variety.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Gratitude on a sunny Thursday in October

Thomas in the morning
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Deborah Norville has a new book out titled Thank You Power: Making the SCIENCE of Gratitude Work for YOU. In her book she writes about something she calls Thank You Power. She explains Thank You Power to Jeneen Interlandi in a recent MSNBC interview:

"How does Thank You Power work? What are the essential steps?

It’s magically simple. Thank You Power can be ignited by the regular practice of finding something in your day that was meaningful and beneficial to you. Maybe it was an e-mail from a long-lost friend, or the magic of all the traffic lights going green when you were late getting to work. They’re not necessarily headline-making events. In fact, experts in this field say it’s usually the more banal moments that, on reflection, are the most meaningful in our lives. I actually have a Thank You list—pretty much everyday I jot down three or four things that I am grateful for in a little fabric covered notebook. Focusing on these moments is an incredibly effective way to put yourself in "positive affect," which is the scientific term for feeling good—seeing the glass as half full instead of half empty."

I'm grateful for:

Strong arms, strong legs, strong lungs, and the strong determination I have to get on that damn elliptical every day.

Picnic lunches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and kids who are "good eaters."

Sunny October days, a house with lots of windows, and the time to take my kids on an all-day fieldtrip to a pumpkin patch.

I'm also grateful to Deborah Norville for reminding me about Thank You Power. Thanks, Deborah!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Happy birthday to my old, younger man

Mike turns 38
Originally uploaded by marytsao
Hey, it's my old man's birthday. In the tradition started by somebody in my family a long time ago, I baked him the best cake of all time: yellow. Last year I made him a chocolate cake, but this year I went back to the ol' tried and true. There's nothing like a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Yellow is the flavor of love.

In this picture Mike's showing us how cute curmudgeonly can be.

Yesterday, when discussing Mike's upcoming birthday, Emily asked, "Is he sixty four or sixty five?" "Neither," I replied, "he's going to be thirty eight."

Today, when inspecting the candles I bought for the birthday cake, Emily asked, "Which one is he mommy, the three or the eight?" "Both," I replied, "he's thirty eight."

Happy 38th birthday to a great dad and husband.

Death of a playgroup

My playgroup is dying.

I've been through this before: moms get busy with a new baby, kids start school, moms return to work, people move, schedules change, priorities shift. The weekly meeting time that used to work for a group of people no longer works for the group; eventually it works for no one. The playgroup dies. Sometimes new recruits will keep the playgroup afloat with their shared priorities and schedules; the playgroup will live on as an entity separate from that which the original members created. A playgroup can be greater than the sum of its parts.

I've been in three different playgroups during my tenure as a mommy. I joined the first one a month after quitting my job to stay home with Emily. I met a woman in my strollerobics class who was nice and seemed "like me." Our daughters were roughly the same age, about six months old. She invited me to come hang out with her and some other moms in a playgroup she had started. I agreed.

My first playgroup experience was wonderful. There were a large group of us moms--sometimes as many as a dozen--and we would take turns hosting playgroup in our homes. A living room would become a sea of babies on blankets, some squirming, some sleeping, some crying. There was usually tea and baked goods for the moms and plenty of adult companionship and conversation. Playgroup was a lot of fun and the friendship of those moms was crucial to my happiness at that point in time. While it can be argued that playgroups are designed for the purpose of child socialization, I've always appreciated them for my own socialization and the opportunity they bring for adult interaction.

Alas, time rarely stands still, even for the good, and as time went on the group changed and got smaller. Some moms went back to work, some moved, some found that our meeting time no longer worked for them. I dropped out because I was pregnant with Thomas and we had just purchased a new home. When I wasn't napping, I was spending my time shopping for furniture, painting, and decorating. Plus, Emily was walking when some of her younger friends weren't even crawling. Going to playgroup was exhausting for me, especially because of my pregnancy. Making sure Emily wasn't touching things in homes that hadn't yet been baby-proofed was difficult.

I remained playgroup free for several months. I still got together with other moms and kids, but not in any organized fashion and mostly in parks. Having a bigger home meant we had many more house guests and I was also busy during that time playing hostess to various family members. I didn't miss playgroup, and as my pregnancy progressed all I ever really wanted to do was eat cereal and nap.

Shortly after Thomas's birth, I felt again driven by the desire to be in a playgroup, to interact with other adults. I re-joined my original playgroup, which now had several new members and met regularly on Fridays. It was good to be back among friends. I also joined a new playgroup, my second playgroup, which was comprised mainly of moms with two kids. For several months my two weekly playgroup meetings were the highlights of my life.

But priorities once again shifted and when we retained Rosa the nanny on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I had no problem giving up one of my playgroups; what I needed most at that time was solitude. But when my Friday playgroup stopped meeting because of schedule incompatibilities (It's difficult to find a time to meet when you start factoring in preschool schedules), I joined another playgroup.

I've been in this playgroup, my third, for about a year, and I've watched its membership change several times. I came into this playgroup as a new member to an existing group, but as time has gone by, I am now one of the old guard. Unfortunately, I'm not inclined to find new members to fill the spaces of those who have gone; unless something drastic happens this playgroup I am in will soon be a thing of the past.

The death of my current playgroup doesn't sadden me. I realize that its dying is also indicative of the birth of new lives for most of its members. One mom is moving her family to an area with better schools and where she can get a bigger home for her money. Several moms are busy with the priorities of their older children, who now spend more time in karate and dance class than at the park. Another mom is returning to the workforce and no longer has the time to meet in the middle of the day.

I'm still making the time to go to playgroup, although many weeks find me sitting on the park bench alone. I suspect that as the weather gets colder, the remaining members will agree that getting together is too difficult. There might be talk of reviving the group come springtime, but that's likely not to happen. A more likely scenario is a monthly get-together of just the moms, a regular "moms night out" event when we can talk uninterrupted by crying or whining, use swear words for effect, and eat food that hadn't just been rejected by a child. Paradise outside of the playground!

This playgroup I am in will be my last, whether it lives on without me or not, whether I have another child or not. Farewell, sweet playgroup! And farewell to this time of my life, to the time of having only one baby, to the time of having two babies, to the time of having toddlers. Now that my children are preschoolers, they can make their own playdates. My interaction in their socialization is no longer needed, and my own socialization can occur without the common bond of children.

And in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss: “Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.”

Me and Emily - March 25, 2004

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Mothers are the dung beetles of the world

I was having a great conversation with a friend the other day, one of those conversations filled with agreement, vigorous shaking of the head, and lots of "Yes!" and "That's right!" shouted in glee. During our conversation she mentioned that being a mom was a lot like being a dung beetle and all I could say was, "Yes! That's right!"

All I know about dung beetles is what I remember from a documentary I once saw. Dung beetles spend inordinate amounts of time rolling poo into balls, giant balls as big as they are. They roll as if their lives depend upon it, which they do. They are dung beetles.

The comparison of a dung beetle to a mother is in the similarity of the workload. The mother of our species has a never ending yet monotonous list of chores to do over and over again on a daily basis: the picking up of the toys, the feeding of the baby (kids are always hungry!), the making of the meals, the washing of the dishes, the wiping of the butts, the cleaning of the clothes, the picking up of the toys, the picking up of the toys, the picking up of the toys... You get the picture.

Jeepers, grim lives we mothers lead. But I'm not here to moan and groan about my chore list. Oh no. I'm here to let the world know that I'm on strike. Yes! I can't be a dung beetle when I've got a new book to read. My grandmother always said, "the dusting can wait." Not that I ever dust, but I get her point. She was an avid reader and obviously knew what she was talking about.

So when I'm done with Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love I will return to my regularly scheduled programming of picking up toys and cooking dinner. In the meantime, my new motto is, "Let them eat Taxi's."

Monday, October 01, 2007


Reliving the pain of childhood one essay at a time

[Updated: My essay will be posted this Wednesday (October 3) at Can I Sit With You. How exciting!]

Some friends of mine have started a new blog about the "stormy social seas of the schoolyard."

The goal of Can I Sit With You is to share our schoolyard horror stories not only amongst ourselves, but also with the children who are experiencing this special form of social purgatory right now. We want them to know that even though what they're going through sucks, they're not alone.

These enterprising moms are looking for essays about all of those twisted memories that we'd rather just forget. They're going to compile the essays into a book, with the proceeds funding a Special Education PTA, SEPTAR.

I just submitted an essay I titled "Best Friends." Without knowing any more, can't you just feel my pain? I'll put up a link to it if they decide it's worth posting, the adult equivalent of letting me sit next to them.

Check out Can I Sit With You, and send them your own essay. All of the uncool kids are doing it, which is another way of saying everybody.