Adventures in Christmas Decorating

Welp, it’s that wonderful time of year again. You know, Christmas and holidays and trees and presents and magic. Which is great to witness in movies, but a PITA to experience.

Ok. Fine. I have a somewhat squelchy heart made of coal. (How can coal squelch? Wouldn’t that require more soggy material? Clearly mixed a metaphor or two back there. I digress.)

Anyhow. The only reason I even care about Christmas is because I want to create traditions for my children. (Ok, not the ONLY reason since I do believe Christ’s birth and its incumbent scandal is worthy of remembering and celebrating.)

I don’t particularly care for decorating and all of that stuff but my kids LOVE it and actually are old enough to remember doing things in previous years. So, because I love them, I force myself to go through with all this folderol.

Also, I am a sucker for making memories. I know. I am just overflowing with Christmas Spirit.

And since we don’t do Santa (I personally don’t like connecting an old white dude who lives in the North and knows if you are naughty or nice and rewards good kids and punishes bad kids with Jesus’s birthday because it sounds suspiciously like a draconian god and when kids find out Santa isn’t real, why would God and Jesus be real and OMG I AM THE WORST BUT MY KIDS ARE STUCK WITH ME SO TOO BAD FOR THEM), nor do I give the kids individual presents (we do communal presents from Hapa Papa and I but they get presents from family and teachers) —

breathe —

So pretty much the only thing we do is buy and decorate a tree and our bannister with a bunch of crappy shatterproof ornaments from Target, cute crafty ornaments made from their hand and footprints when Cookie Monster and Gamera were very little, and make new ornaments and crafts for the tree this year.

I quite enjoy seeing the old ornaments come out even though some are falling apart already. I guess my heart isn’t entirely ossified. (Don’t tell anyone.)

Anyhow, this is all just to say that the tree and decorating it are THE THING WE DO AT CHRISTMAS TIME in the Mandarin Mama household so even if it’s a royal PITA, I suck it up and do it because this is all we do.

Geez. I really am a kill joy. But I tell you what: I am never stressed out at Christmastime and I don’t have to find presents for the kids or anyone else other than my nephews and my mother and my kids’ teachers.

Anyhow, with that preamble out of the way, here is how our yearly tradition went this year.

1) Bought a Christmas tree with all four kids. BY MYSELF.

Seriously. This is one yearly solo with kids tradition I could do without. I hate it. Hapa Papa hates it. I may or may not have passive aggressively texted my dismay to Hapa Papa.

Good man that he is, he cleaned the house and prepped the corner for the tree and brought out all the Christmas stuff from the garage as an apology. (He also washed the cloth diapers.)

Apology accepted.

2) Had to use clippers and hand cut off more branches because I forgot to tell the Home Depot guy to trim 1.5′ off the bottom instead of the usual 8″ they do.

I have a deep stand, ok?

Try not to make that sound too dirty.

3) Put up Christmas tree and had to go out and buy new lights because I forgot that I threw out all the lights last year.

Bought lots of chocolate as a reward. Kids stole half my chocolate.

4) Put up new lights.

Realized I didn’t have the heart to toss the star last year because it is pretty but should have because I forgot it is broken and doesn’t light up so now I have to go out again and get a new star because Cookie Monster insists.

5) Successfully did not yell at kids for their help decorating the tree. After all, nothing makes warm Christmas memories quite like Mommy yelling because you aren’t decorating right.

6) Listened to Christmas music because it is Hapa Papa’s favorite part of Christmastime. I think. Either way, he is a big fan of Christmas music.

7) Last year, Glow Worm’s favorite thing at Christmas time was to take ornaments off the tree and throw them. This year is no exception.

8) My kids can make even Christmas decorating a dangerous sport.

9) Glow Worm also thinks the ornaments are toys (same as last year) and uses them as balls, food, whatever. He has been driving them around in his Little Tikes Cozy Coupe (which he also) did last year. Glad to see that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

10) And despite my alleged dislike for all the effort it requires, seeing the tree and bannister lit up every time I pass by makes me feel happy.

11) Of course, my entire house is littered with scattered ornaments and the little green hooks from which they hang.

These will conspire to trip me as our tree gets barer and barer and our floor gets more and more treacherous.

I could pick them up and put them back on the tree but then Glow Worm wins.

12) I must have succeeded in hiding my actual feelings because Cookie Monster kept commenting how I must love Christmas (or something to that effect). So yay, me!

Anyhow. May your holiday traditions be in full swing and full of joy for you and your families. Happy Wednesday!

Adulting Like a Boss

People. I have been wearing my Big Girl Panties lately. Heck. It’s really only been a week but come on! We take our wins when we can get them.

And because I am twelve, I am hereby listing the things that I adulted even though technically, I don’t need to start until January 1, 2017. 

1) Spent most of a day sorting (and opening) all the mail from the last half year. I usually toss spam right away so pretty much the only things left are outstanding medical bills. 

2) Paid off all the outstanding medical bills. I also had a few random insurance related things to pay off, too. 

3) Paid first chunk of property taxes. 

4) Made dinner a few nights in a row. Bonus because kids ate it. 

5) Paid DMV car registrations. Transferred a car title. Smog checked two vehicles. With a newborn in tow! And occasional siblings who had to poop mid-transaction at AAA! Thank goodness for the DMV desk at AAA. Worth the cost of membership alone. 

6) Got the mail in a timely manner and actually OPENED the mail and PAID medical bills (new ones thanks to The New One aka Sasquatch) the SAME DAY. 

A minor miracle. 

7) Took all four kids to see Dr. T because Hapa Papa was in San Diego for “vacation.” I bet Dr. T was NOT expecting to take a 5 year old to the potty when she went into work that day. 

8) After that, took all four kids to kungfu class. 

9) After that, took all four kids to our city’s tree lighting. BY MYSELF. #kneelbeforezod #imafuckingrockstar

10) Have been attempting to brush my hair in the morning, brush my teeth and floss at the end of the day, and wash my face at the end of the day. Occasionally I remember to take vitamins. 

This is a step up, friends. A major step up. 

11) Somewhere in between this nonsense, I went to Costco with the younger two kiddos and was in and out under an hour. 

Applaud me. 

Alright. This seems to be enough bragging about stuff normal people do and do well without expecting adulation. Anymore and my bravado will turn into weeping because ffs. People do this thanklessly everyday. 

May your Monday be full of adulting and perhaps some adult beverages. 


Shiny, Delicate, Lovely Things

For those of you who didn’t know me when I was working, it might strike you odd to hear that I love jewelry. After all, I rarely wear it, don’t talk about it much, and in general, don’t buy any. (In fact, the last piece of jewelry I bought was likely before Cookie Monster was born.)

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t like shiny, pretty things. It just means I don’t enjoy Stella & Dot or some of the stuff that is out there (especially at the prices they boast).

I’m picky about my jewelry because quite frankly, even though I may like the look of chunkier pieces or statement necklaces, they are often too heavy for me and cause neck pain. And even I have my limits of “beauty before pain.” The same goes for super long, heavy earrings. They don’t cause me neck pain, but I am endlessly afraid of Glow Worm ripping out a huge hunk of my ear so I tend to stick with either studs or go earring-less.

As a side note, since I rarely wear earrings, my pierced ears sometimes start to close so when I do put in earrings, they swell and hurt. To avoid that, I rub a little bit of tea tree oil on my ear lobes and on the “stick” part of the earrings. Voila! No more swelling!

Anyhow, the other day, I saw my friend, Yuliana, post a quick blurb about a chance to win a necklace that she made and she posted the cutest pic. I was immediately intrigued. Particularly because our kids went to the same preschool for years and I never knew she designed jewelry.

I quickly Googled YSM Designs and stalked my friend’s Etsy store. Before I clicked, I do have a confession to make. I was really worried that I wasn’t going to like Yuliana’s stuff. After all, who knows if friends actually have any talent? But I remembered that I have always found her to be incredibly stylish and effortlessly beautiful so why wouldn’t her creations be?

I was not disappointed.

In fact, I loved her designs so much that my only problem was limiting how many I was putting in my cart. The prices were reasonable ($25-$35 range for most pieces); the pieces delicate, whimsical, and artistic. I bought two (thus far). In gold. And I am not a fan of gold.

But how could I not? These two necklaces are gorgeous and I got them in the mail super quick. They are light, airy, and make me feel so pretty.


Dandelion necklace

The dandelion necklace is my favorite and just as I had hoped it would be! So light, bouncy, and fun. It makes me feel young and cool and hip and happy.

As for the rose necklace, I didn’t read the description carefully enough so didn’t realize the necklace was really long and ended at my stomach. I hiked up the necklace so you can see the details better. Not sure if I will keep it on the long chain because I’m positive I will get it caught on something and break it which would give me the sads. But the actual charm is beautiful and not at all heavy.

Anyhow, after I pulled the trigger, of course I immediately did two things:

1) I texted a bunch of my friends about YSM Designs and they all gushed, too.


Rose necklace

2) I FB messaged Yuliana to see if I could feature her on my blog. After all, it’s near the holiday season and maybe you, or someone you know, would love to get a little pretty something.

Plus, there is nothing I love to do more than to support my friends who are busy doing things they love and creating. I try to support my friends and their businesses if and whenever possible. Especially, when they are totally deserving.

Yuliana graciously created the coupon code: MANDARINMAMA2016 for my readers to use. The coupon is for $5 off any $30 purchase. She is also running a sale THIS WEEKEND so the coupon will also layer on top of the sale.

Many of her pieces seem to have only one item in stock so personally, I think it’s better to go to YSM Designs ASAP to make sure you get the piece that you want. No dilly-dallying, okay? If you can’t decide on one, buy two. There’s a coupon. You will not regret it.

*I was not paid or given anything by YSM Designs for this post. All views are my own.


The New Normal

People, it is hard to write lately. Not for lack of anything to say, mind you. But lack of free hands.

Sasquatch is still in the phase where he prefers to be held or on a human. And because he is my last baby, I find myself reluctant to shunt him to his crib.

Plus, co-sleeping makes the night feedings bearable and he is really an easy baby and I think if I used a cloth insert, he would sleep all night. (I already went a size up for cloth diapers. An insert would make him enormous.)

Shoot. I tandem breastfeed at night and in the morning because Glow Worm falls asleep at the breast (or comes really close) and that is way easier to deal with than his usual shenanigans.

Yes. I breastfeed two babies at the same time (I’d post a pic but even I have my limits) and cosleep with them, too. This helps me to sleep earlier because it’s really hard to get out of bed while wedged in between two sleeping babies. (Albeit, one is 3 years old.)

Seriously. How did this become my life? Welp, the tandem co-sleeping life chose me, I didn’t choose it. (This sounds like a great title to a really bad mom-rap.)

And during the many periods of breastfeeding, instead of writing posts on my phone (the technology exists and is actually pretty easy), I waste time playing Two Dots. (I got Cookie Monster hooked on the game, too. In fact, ALL my kids like it.)

I tell myself it’s because I prefer the tactile feeling of typing on the laptop. (I do so enjoy the clickety clack of a keyboard. Something about it just does it for me. Plus, my thumbs are fast but all ten fingers are even faster.)

Yes, I know I could turn on the keyboard sounds but that just pisses me off. And even though my kids can sleep through the apocalypse (yes, all four of them), I don’t actually want to test that theory by making more noise than necessary while they are sleeping.


So I end up wasting all this prime writing and thinking time not doing anything productive (even reading fiction books would be more productive) and my inner critic rears its judgy head and wonders why I haven’t done more writing already.

I am such a jerk.

Truthfully, I am having a hard time adjusting. Not to motherhood for the 4th time. That has been pretty chill and easy. (Sorry. I have easy babies and a super awesome and useful husband.)

Rather, I am having a hard time adjusting in the same way I had a hard time with being pregnant. Nothing was actually hard hard, but my brain still hasn’t figured out that oh yeah, I pushed a turkey out my vagina and perhaps that might have changed my life somewhat so writing will no longer look like it used to and won’t for at least a year so get used to the new normal – it’s not going anywhere until you pump enough milk to leave. (So lazy. Not happening.)

So what if the formatting is not as pretty or easy as it used to be on a laptop? Or whatever small thing is causing resistance?

If I want to write, I will write.

So here I am: writing.

Is it the deep or soul-searching stuff I have on the back burner? Nope. It’s not even the useful and informative crap I have queued up mentally.

But here I am. Writing.

Cheers to the new normal.

Suck It Up, Buttercup

I can’t believe 2016 is almost over. My Year of Risking Dangerously is almost at an end – and for the most part, unchanged since I last checked in at the end of August. (Well, with the exception of Sasquatch’s appearance. However, he doesn’t count exactly as a risk.)

Anyhow, since it is practically Thanksgiving (HOW HAS THIS HAPPENED?!), it has gotten me thinking about 2017 and what I would like my word or phrase to live by for next year to be. 

Yes, yes. These clichés are annoying when you see them as memes and repeated ad nauseam on Facebook, but hey. Who cares? 

It can be useful. 

So this year, I think I did a reasonably OK job and got myself a C in my year of Risk. (I am totally ok with this passing grade, BTW. I have to say it because I am trying to be more gracious with myself.)

And even if I am not entirely satisfied that I did all that I could, I still ended up doing more than what I would have. 

Does that even make sense at all?



Last week, I was complaining to Dr. T about my inability to adult again (eg: paying medical bills on time, going through mail, cooking for the family, taking care of my responsibilities) and though she said I should cut myself some slack since I just had a baby (yay, baby!), she also said, (and I quote), that I just had to “suck it up.”

And so, after much thought, I have decided that 2017 is going to be The Year of Sucking It Up (aka: The Year of Being a Grown Up). 

What does that mean, exactly?

Welp, there are a lot of things that I have been wanting to do for myself and for the family but have been too lazy and procrastinaty to do. And really, the only thing for it is to just do them. 

So then. Here are my goals (thus far) for 2017:

1) Take family and personal health seriously. 

What does that look like concretely? 

Cook at least 5 meals a week. 

My kids are currently 1/3 chicken nugget, 1/3 pizza, and 1/3 whatever. I know eating and health habits are established when people are young humans. I would like my children to not have sludge for blood. 

Be active once a week. 

Yes, yes. Weak sauce. But currently one time more than I am doing currently. And let’s be real. I set a real low bar on the activity scale. This will do for me. 

Wash face and brush teeth twice daily. 

Omg. This is mortifying that this even has to be a goal. But, um, yeah. I will attempt to be a kempt human. 

Perhaps I should also add “Brush hair daily.”

Seriously. I have problems. 

Take vitamins and supplements. 

My body is falling apart. This could be a problem if I want to be alive to see my grandchildren. 

Go to sleep when the kids sleep at least 4 nights a week. 

Because I have a newborn. And I homeschool. And I have four children. 

I really shouldn’t be staying up late playing Two Dots or reading or writing or watching TV or Facebooking because lack of sleep makes me really, really grouchy. 

No texting while driving. 

Yeah. I know. I am a horrible human being. 

2) Take my responsibilities as a grown up seriously. 

This is sad that it even needs to be a goal. But be that as it may, these are the practical ways in which to manifest this “easy” goal. 

Pay bills, go through mail, do shit (eg: insurance reimbursements, opening accounts, any outstanding administrative tasks) ONCE a week. 

I would add more but FFS, this is enough to kill me. 

This actually should cut down on clutter (I am looking at YOU, dining table piled with paper). 

3) Write. 

Whatever I want to write – to WRITE. I did a good deal of it this year, I plan to continue it next year. 

This, of course, includes publishing an ebook by end of Q1. (Since I have totally put it off because I am lazy. I am 95% done. Just need to act like a big girl and do it.) 

It also includes writing for my blog (and perhaps other people’s blogs). I have tabled my goal of being internet famous for now. (Don’t get any ideas that I am somehow less narcissistic. I am just succumbing to the reality of NEW BABY.)

Will I be able to do this? Who knows? But Dr. T says to imagine how much happier I will be if I do end up doing some or all of these things. 

I am reminded of something I read on Wil Wheaton’s blog: Do one thing that will make your future self happy. 

Seems unnecessarily complicated regarding time travel, but the sentiment resonates. 

So, off we go, hurtling towards the future, one inevitable second at a time. If I even accomplish half of my goals, I will still be better than where I started. 

Who’s with me? What are you hurtling towards for 2017?

Incoherent Ramblings of My Sleep Deprived Mind

I am a consummate idiot. 

Instead of going to bed at 9pm last night, and possibly sleeping through the night because Sasquatch seems to be sleeping longer when he is dry (so adding an insert to his cloth diaper was super helpful), I stayed up until 3-4am playing a new to me game called Two Dots.

This is why I can’t have nice things. This is also why I have never tried drugs. Because I have an addictive personality and dammit all if I didn’t spend all day playing this stupid game. 

In fact, I am currently fighting off the incredibly strong urge to play the game in order to write this post. 

So, because I ruined my brain and likely will be super cranky today (my busiest day of the week – great planning, jackass), I give you more of the random firings of my brain. 

1) My unders still hurt. Though I have mostly stopped leaking blood, my baby squeezing out parts still ache and are kinda throbby (and not in the good throbby kinda way). 

I really hope this is normal and not because I have an infection in Lady Town. 

2) I didn’t need to mention that there is a highly likely chance of me being TMI, right? 
No one is new here. 

3) I am ravenous. 

I would say it’s because I am breastfeeding, but mostly it’s because I make poor eating choices. 

So this is the secret to how I always end up losing weight post-baby. It is because my body just does that (sorry) rather easily and also because I breastfeed a lot. (Yesterday seemed to be continuous ALL DAY.) 

But, it is also likely because I am used to not eating dinner with the family and usually prefer to eat by myself after everyone is down for the night. Except now I am super tired and often fall asleep nursing in bed (we co-sleep) and by the time I wake up it’s too late and I just say fuck it and go back to bed. 

And then, when I am up during the day, I never particularly want to eat what the kids eat so I graze and eat mostly snacks so um, yeah. 

I especially eat a lot of chocolate and Halloween candy. It is delicious. 

Bad decisions all around. 

4) Gamera did not sleep well last night. She kept sleep-talking all night and she was NOT happy in her dreams. At least once, she sleep-yelled/whined at Cookie Monster and her frenemie, Rhythm Girl

I love how she gets pissed off even in her sleep. Clearly, she is my child. 

5) So I am bummed that Cookie Monster and Gamera’s eyes have succumbed to genetics and are now both wearing glasses for reading. 


The bright side is that kid glasses are no longer horrible and awkward like when I was a kid so they are adorable. 

6) Our part of CA seems to have finally gotten the memo that it is fall and indeed, has been fall for some time now. 

I am cold. 

7) My butt and legs constantly go numb because I am always sitting and nursing Sasquatch.

I am probably getting tennis elbow because I am constantly on my phone either texting or playing Two Dots

It’s a sickness. 

8) I love getting free books at the library. But I hate how I end up paying so many fines because I am incapable of returning books on time lately. 

9) I need to find new TV shows to watch that are episodic and not a continued story arc. I started Designated Survivor and though I enjoy it, the pressure to keep watching is about to do me in. I just can’t stand all the new episodes judging me in my DVR queue. And now there are so many it seems that watching them will take too much effort. 

I still have Roots on my DVR from summer. Still haven’t come up with the commitment to watch any. 

I need another NCIS or start watching Bones reruns again. Pretty much I just need to DVR old procedurals in syndication. 

Ooooh. Psych is back on Ion. Hmmmm. This shows promise. 

10) I am super excited PharmGirl is having her baby soon. Then we can have three sets of frenemy kids. And most importantly – I don’t have to make new friends so that Sasquatch can have friends. 


Now, to convince my other good friends they want a third or fourth child. 

Alright. That’s it. My brain is done. See you soon!

I Can Still Be Surprised

Hello friends! Thank you so much for your patience and forebearance with my spotty posting these past few months. The last trimester with Baby4 was rough. I pretty much put myself on self-imposed bedrest because being physically upright was painful and hard and awful.

Thank goodness Hapa Papa has a flexible work schedule and job because otherwise, my children would have been orphaned. Or I would have been even more miserable.

But it was all worth it (already, the pain and discomfort and ooze of pregnancy are fading into my typical post-partum amnesia) because now, Baby4 aka Sasquatch is here!

I must confess, though. I thought since Sasquatch was my 4th child, I would be prepared for most things. Certainly I wouldn’t be surprised by anything, right?

Oh, how lovely it is to be wrong in only the most delightful of ways.

Here then, are a few of the ways I have been surprised by the arrival of baby number four. (Or as Hapa Papa occasionally calls him, “The New One.”)

1) All new babies are the same. 

No, I am serious. At first I just thought all my babies were the same. But then I realized that all babies are the same.

They all are squishy and lovable and new and have that smell! That glorious smell! And they all mewl and mutter and burble and snarfle and their sounds are perfect.

And they all scrunch up their faces and do moose hands and have funny expressions and get milk drunk (or formula drunk) and are fantastically new.

2) I never get sick of judgmental babies. 

Few things are as hilarious as angry nursing and angry babies. I mean, they are so dramatic. But I guess everything is new to them so yes, being hungry is the worst thing that has ever happened to them because hey! They have never been hungry before! Or wet. Or tired. Or hot. Or cold. Or out.

Everything is new.

3) It is possible to call a brand new baby the wrong name before they have even heard their actual name. 

I may or may not have called Sasquatch by Glow Worm’s name within seconds of holding him in my arms. And also, perhaps for the first 2-3 weeks of his life.

I am only finally now getting used to his name. Until very recently, when people asked me how Sasquatch was doing, I would be confused momentarily and go, “Who?” before I realized who they were talking about.

Yes. I know.

Worst mother ever.

To be fair, I do have a lot of children and he is brand new.

Thank goodness I am Chinese so when in doubt, I just call him 弟弟 (di4 di5/little brother).

4) Who knew that some of the best parts of having a new baby was watching your older kids fall in love?

Cookie Monster and Gamera were a little too young to process or understand what was going on when Glow Worm was born, but they certainly are old enough now.

They adore Sasquatch.

I wasn’t expecting just how much they would love him or want to be near him or hold him.

I mean, I wasn’t expecting them to be indifferent, I just wasn’t prepared for the outpouring of love and devotion.

Glow Worm isn’t in love with Sasquatch but he isn’t jealous, either. He has been surprisingly good about the whole thing (though I know he misses me).

5) I never realized I would be tandem breastfeeding. 

This is how I know Glow Worm misses me: he started nursing again.

That’s right. Glow Worm has decided to restart the boob.

He only nurses briefly when he wakes up and right before he goes to sleep. It doesn’t really bother me because I know it’s his way of claiming me and reassuring himself that he is still my baby. I find it rather sweet, actually.

But wow. I did not see it coming.

6) I am likely jinxing the whole thing but I am shocked at how easy things have been. 

I don’t know if it’s been easy for Hapa Papa since he’s the single father of three kids while I’m the single mother of a newborn, but I thought it would be more difficult.

Quite possibly, it is because we are both deaf to crying and screaming so it just doesn’t phase us – no matter who is doing the crying or screaming.

Don’t be too mad at us. Sasquatch is still new. I am sure he’ll knock our smugness out of the park with something soon.

7) As soon as I gave birth to a small sized turkey from my vagina (did I mention he was 9lbs 6oz?!?), my shitty mood for the last 39 weeks and 5 days disappeared. 

I guess being in constant pain and discomfort can really wear on a person.

Again, I really hope I’m not jinxing this, but I haven’t been in this good of a mood in a really long time. And trust me when I say that I am pretty tired still and feel overwhelmed on occasion but ultimately, STILL BETTER THAN BEING PREGNANT.

8) I missed Glow Worm the most during my time spent with Sasquatch. 

I am not sure why it doesn’t seem as if I am not spending less time with Cookie Monster or Gamera. Maybe it’s because they are older and better communicators. But whatever the reason, I miss Glow Worm the most.

Perhaps because he was the baby for three years and is still so small and cuddly and needy (though he sure doesn’t act like it). And perhaps because though he recently finally started talking (and talking a lot), he still babbles like a toddler and I feel as if we do not connect as much unless it’s us spending actual time together.

Whatever the reason, I am grateful for our cozying at night when Sasquatch is asleep and I can hug and kiss Glow Worm to my heart’s content (or at least until he’s had his fill of my affection, pushes me away, turns his back on me, and falls asleep).

Alright. This is probably all the coherent thought I can string together at one time. Mostly because I am starving and don’t want to get hangry.

See you Wednesday!