Visiting My Local Congressman

This past weekend, I attended an open house of my local congressman, Congressman Eric Swalwell. Swalwell had consolidated two offices into one more centrally located office and I guess they were doing a ribbon cutting for the new place.

It was not what I expected – but then quickly became what I expected. (After all, I used to be a board member of my local Chamber of Commerce.)

I got dressed up! (Ok, I mostly cleaned up a little.)

I was a bit nervous. For some reason, I thought I would get face time with the Congressman, like we would all file in and speak to him in his office. And I was nervous because I had no idea what to even say to the guy.

NOPE.

Basically, it was an Open House and the local Chamber of Commerce was there and brownie troops, and booths, and a local taco shop giving out free tacos. They were giving guided tours to his office and I went on that, too.

According to staff members, they had 1500 RSVPs and I’m not sure if everyone showed up, but they looked like a lot of people to me!

The crowd gathered around the stage.

I dressed up a bit because I wanted to be taken seriously on the off chance that I actually got to meet Congressman Swalwell.

I didn’t. But I did see him on stage and now no what he looks like (despite the fact that I voted for him).

BUT, I did learn things, and am thinking of becoming more involved in local politics because if this past election taught me anything, it is the importance of being involved.

Voting MATTERS. Annoying your local representatives matters. Squeaky wheels matter.

Congressman Eric Swalwell giving his speech.

So, how can I complain about things if I don’t call my reps (my phone phobia persists – sigh), email my Senator and Congressman, and most importantly, get to know the people in charge of my town and city and schools.

Thus, I am likely going to be more politically active (if even on the local level) this year and slowly scale up. After all, I JUST HAD A BABY.

So, what does an Open House look like?

I got in line to sign in, got a ticket for a free taco, and got in another line that I originally thought was to see Congressman Swalwell. It turned out to be the line for a guided tour of the office.

Me with Brian Vargas, staff member.

There was a little stage set up with a bunch of girls from a local Brownie troop having folks add their painted hand print to a UNITE banner. I am just paranoid enough to not add my hand print to a banner that might be seen to oppose Trump. (Not that they don’t have my info and prints from a bjillion other places.)

There were also a few info booths set up with comment cards and pamphlets. And of course, a table with free donuts, coffee, and water. I did not avail myself to any of them because I was in line and didn’t want to lose my spot.

Of course, by the time I was the front person in line, they stopped letting folks in because Swalwell was supposed to be coming soon and they didn’t want us to miss it. So, I stopped being anti-social and eavesdropped and then inserted myself into a conversation with the elderly folks behind me.

It pleased me to no end to see a really old white man in a bright yellow t-shirt proclaiming love, wearing a Black Lives Matter pin, and hearing him talk so knowledgeably about volunteering, etc. It made me happy.

The crowd was diverse – so diverse, I even saw a Trump hat. But the most important hat I saw was the Metallica one. The man knows what’s important.

Finally, the Veteran’s Colorguard presented colors, we sang the National Anthem, said the Pledge of Allegiance, and Congressman Swalwell said a quick speech (with some heckling from Trump supporters) after the ribbon cutting.

Some time during the speech, Guavarama and her family showed up and we hung out and then went on the office tour together.

District map and Congressman Swalwell’s office.

I mean, nothing special about the office tour, but it was still cool to see the offices (your typical small office environment), see the people who answer phones and represent constituents, and get a tiny idea of what Swalwell (or any Congressperson) and their staff do.

I didn’t realize they had staff to advocate for immigrants, veterans, police officers, elderly folks having problems with social security, etc. Who knew?

I am going to see if I can get my kids in to tour their offices with some of my homeschool friends. Even though my children have no idea about what this means, I suppose it’s a good time to educate them. (I recently told them about our POTUS as a bad man. Hey, they’re my kids. I am allowed to tell them the truth.)

Anyhow, after the tour, I was tired and wanted to go write and wasn’t sure if we would see the Congressman in person so we left.

As a side note, I didn’t realize folks thought he was eye candy. To me, he looks like a mashup of Dennis Quaid, Timothy Olyphant, and Michael C. Hall. He’s a good looking fellow, but not my cup of tea.

Also? I ELECTED HIM TO CONGRESS NOT TO A GIRLIE MAG.

But hey, I suppose if people comment on female Congresspersons and Senators and Presidential nominees, we can comment on the mens.

Anyhow, turns out, it wasn’t a big deal at all! I’m glad I went and might go to more in the future.

Have you ever met your local congressperson? What did you talk to them about? Tell me in the comments.

Coveting Thy Neighbor’s Life

A few weeks ago, I posted on how I almost spent an additional thirty years of our lives while on a routine walk to my kids’ preschool and our eventual decision to be content with our current home. (Yes, yes. No need to remind me of our first world problems. And not only that, our 1% problems.)

While I ultimately agree with our decision, there is nothing like catching a glimpse of what your life could be like (and only the good parts, of course) to make your current life seem utterly unsatisfying. More than unsatisfying. Horrible. Constraining. Bereft.

Ah… nothing like class privilege early in the morning.

I am an ungrateful ass. I know this. And yet, when I go over to people’s houses and see their awesome four car tandem garages (I didn’t even know this was possible!!!), their large square footage, or whatever else I see and want inside my greedy little heart, I cannot help but sigh and regret not getting the house.

Whenever my house is a disaster of strewn toys, pillows, crafts, junk mail, and life detritus, my heart gets all squelchy and all I can think of is that in the new house, I would have plenty of space for all our junk. In our new house, I would have the perfect life and be the perfect wife and perfect mother.

Is this how affairs start?

I feel like I’m having an affair with another house.

I mean, sure, double the square footage with all that lovely, empty space. All young, and sexy with nary a child in sight. I mean, it’s being shown to potential buyers for Pete’s sake. Of course all its best features are on display!

But once I leave my old house and actually live in a new house, it’s not like all my old problems won’t follow me there. I am sure to acquire more stuff and run out of space to put things. I will have double the square footage to vacuum and bathrooms to clean and rooms to pick up after and get lividly angry about. I will have to spend more money buying more furniture and customizing the house to my liking.

And not only that, my REAL problem isn’t with my current house. It’s with myself. And sadly, moving into a fancy new house will not fix me. It will mask the real problem for awhile (maybe years, if I’m lucky), and after the shine has worn off, the increased mortgage becoming a realer and heavier burden, I will pine after my old house, so perfect and lovely with the haze of sentimental memory.

I think there’s a good reason why Thou Shall Not Covet is one of the Ten Commandments.

I used to think it was such a stupid, bullshit commandment. The only use for it being a shout out in The Silence of the Lambs. But now, now I realize that coveting is a rotting seed of discontent, whispering lies and fantasies into our treacherous hearts.

If only I had so-and-so’s life/job/car/house/children/husband/wife. My life would be so much better.

It’s no secret that I’ve been having a rough go of it lately. My house, my kids, my very existence seem to conspire against me. I am floundering, wrapped up in a bundle of seething frustration, anger, and bitterness. In the midst of all this, I fantasize that if I remodel my house, or trade up for a bigger one, had older children, had another baby, had more free time, ate better, took better care of myself, whatever – that if only I did such things, my life would be drastically improved.

It’s not true.

The things I covet will not make me feel better. The things I covet will only paper over the gaping chasm in my heart, its breadth and width startling me as its edges yawn and sag open.

(Don’t worry, friends. I am getting help. I have the immense privilege of a supportive spouse, health insurance, time, and money so that I can do so.) 

I can only hope to respond in one of two ways to the things I covet:

1) Follow my own advice and if I want something, to shut up and go get it.

2) Use them as a canary in a coal mine and find the root cause of my discontent. And then do something about it. (Be it therapy, life changes, or better living through chemistry.)

Alright, friends. Having a hard time ending the post as usual. Be well.

De-accumulating Pains

So we had our first multi-family garage sale this past Saturday and it was an okay success. I mean, we got some money for some of our stuff. So that’s good. But really, it was a lot of work for little return. It will likely be a long time before I do one on our own again.

Here then are some thoughts I had about the process:

1) If your neighborhood ever has neighborhood garage sales where someone else (usually a realtor) does all the advertising, signage, and organizing, do that instead. Prepping and advertising a garage sale is a real pain in the ass. Plus, you will likely have a lot more foot traffic.

2) Don’t wait until the night before to price your stuff and make signs. That just means you will pull an all-nighter (I did) and ensures you will take all of Sunday to recover. (Hapa Papa is a saint.) I know this is obvious and we all knew it going in and yet we STILL procrastinated. So painful.

3) Don’t price your stuff too high. We fell into this trap thinking people would haggle. People did not. A lot of people just walked away. Some money is still better than no money.

4) Good signage is KEY! We had very good signs. (I am biased since they took me several hours.) Letter sizing should be 3-5inches tall in dark, thick ink. Ours were on bright poster board and I included huge arrows.

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I was super anal retentive and drew down lines so the letters would be the same size. Also, I first wrote in pencil so I wouldn’t have one of these situations:

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On the front, I also numbered each sign and had it correspond to a number on a map that detailed each intersection and direction the arrow should be pointing. The back of each sign also had that same number as well as the cross streets and a small map giving the approximate location.

I know. Perhaps I spent too long on the signs. But without good signage, how can people find your house? My crowning achievement was multiple compliments on the signage. It’s the little things, people.

5) Make a pact with your friends (or yourself) to immediately donate your leftover garage sale items. Don’t bring them back to your house. You will feel better.

6) Have a cooler with drinks and maybe some snacks on the side. People will buy them. We didn’t intend to sell food and drinks, but we did anyway.

7) Be prepared to possibly have more stuff at your house than you started with. Especially if your house is where the garage sale is held. That’s because some big pieces or random flotsam will be left at your house until people have time to pick it up. Also, you will inevitably swap stuff with your friends.

8) Clothes aren’t usually a big seller. I say next time, just donate it first.

9) Have lower expectations about how much money you will make. This is NOT Clean Sweep. That being said, our combined loot was around $4-500. Some folks made more than others.

If you have the time and energy, perhaps multi-day sales are a way to go. But in general, I don’t think the ROI is there.

10) Combine garage sales with your friends. You’ll have a lot more loot and a lot more fun. Even if you don’t sell much, you are at least still hanging out with your friends.

Look at all our loot:

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11) At the cashier, you should have at least two people. One person to tally the total of the sale. One person to tally how much goes to each person. To cut down on adding, I made a grid with our names and various prices. That way, I could just mark off a price versus add for a person. In other words, if Fleur had three items purchased, one at $0.25, one at $1, and one at $10, I would make a hash at $0.25, $1, and at $10 versus adding up $11.25.

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Ok. That’s all I could come up with. Those of you with more experience, let me know what I missed.

What Liam Neeson and Hapa Papa Have in Common

Okokok. So perhaps this title is a bit misleading. But stick with me for a few more seconds.

You see, lately, it’s become ever more apparent that Hapa Papa and I are totally failing at our respective roles. We are totally half-assing things and while amusing for the short haul, it is somewhat alarming (in a climate change-y kinda way) for the long run. Because Hapa Papa is fortunate enough to work from home most days (unless he’s “on vacation”), our kids have no concept of what it means to work (and work hard). I think they vaguely think that work means to be on the computer, go to airports, and stay in hotels. (Cookie Monster demands a Facetime tour of every hotel room Hapa Papa stays in. He particularly likes seeing the bathrooms. He’s a weird kid.)

Anyhow, Hapa Papa is always marveling that he used to work hard but now he has completely lost that ability. In fact, it has gotten so bad that work tasks that used to be easy can occasionally be stumbling blocks.

When I expressed concern over his job security, Hapa Papa responded, “Don’t worry. It’s like Liam Neeson in that movie, Taken. I don’t work hard, but what I do have is a very particular skill set.”

Here’s a clip of that scene for reference. You know, because I’m helpful like that.

Also, should I be offended that Hapa Papa includes me on the Mediocrity Train? Because when he is home, I cede all parenting duties to him and go out with my friends? (To be fair, it was my birthday.) And then when he has the nerve to actually go into work, I have  no idea what to do with my kids when they’re not in school or napping.

I really don’t know why people think I have a hard job. Yes, yes. I have three children. But seriously, short of making sure they are fed, wiping their bottoms, and occasionally separating them from all out brawls, I don’t really do much. No, I’m not underselling what I do. Please believe me when I say, I had multiple children for a reason. So they can play with each other and I can ignore them. Yes, even Glow Worm, the baby. He is very independent.

I can’t help sometimes feeling like I’m failing as a mother, though. Or if not failing, precisely, that I am quite mediocre because I am not making them do flash cards or whatever. It’s because I’m extremely lazy. That’s why I bought all those educational toys. They can learn while they play, right? Playdough and coloring are good, right? Spacial awareness and art and stuff? Tactile and fine motor skills? It’s also why I bought all those Chinese DVDs! They’re not zombie-ing out. They are LEARNING MANDARIN.

But then, I think back to my childhood and you know what? My parents didn’t play with me. I had piano lessons and Chinese school, but other than that, my days were filled with school, homework, hours and hours of TV and books. I went to a good school and turned out fine. (Hapa Papa occasionally likes to mock me and say that I went to a better school than he did but I don’t get paid. Then, I throw back that I don’t have to work and spend all my time buying stuff on Amazon and Costco and hanging out with my kids. Who’s smarter now? He usually concedes the argument at that point.)

Anyhow, not sure what my point is today except that um, yes. I’m a mediocre parent and I’m okay with that. Have a wonderful long weekend!

 

The Last Day of School

Gracious, how are we already here? I could’ve sworn that it was just yesterday I had Hulked Out and was about to commit murder due to poor school communication and rabid American entitlement. Now, I am pleased with the school and considering coming back in two years. (Or one year if I don’t end up having Baby 4 before/around next summer.) The kids are no longer starving at school and seem to love their teachers and are learning a lot of songs and improving their Mandarin. I am very pleased.

With that said, the kids are very homesick. They keep asking to go home to their White Car House (to differentiate from the apartment in Taipei). And true to form, Cookie Monster is excited about seeing his favorite Fun Learning Mandarin preschool teacher (but specifically told me he didn’t want to go to his other class which is silly because he does like her very much and comes home singing new songs and playing new games).

I suppose I want to go home, too. But it’s hard to miss the “Real World” when I am still in holiday mode. Every day is a food orgy! Whoooo! I have to begrudgingly admit that if I extended this trip or lived in Taiwan full time, the shine would eventually rub off and this new life would then become Real Life.

Hmmm. Still think it would be awesome. Of course, this is really my stomach talking. (Now, I am already busy planning the next trip. I have two years to convince other mommies to come with!)

Anyhow, on to the updates!

1) Yesterday, on the way to school, Gamera started jumping as far as possible and kicking the sky. When asked what she was doing, she said, “I kick the sun!”

The poor sun.

2) There is a dance performance this afternoon to show us what the older kids have been working on this past session. We’ve already seen previews from the kids at home, but still haven’t managed to tape it. (To our immense chagrin.) I would tape it today, but I know my kid. Cookie Monster will just stand there and zone out or else he’ll run to me. Either way, he’s that kid who ruins an otherwise fun show for parents. Ah well. Every class needs one of those kids to make other parents feel superior. Glad to oblige, I guess.

3) Fleur and I have made a new friend! Or rather, this lovely woman befriended us! HK Mama Bear approached us last week or so and struck up a conversation and we’ve slowly started to chat more. Yesterday, we hung out all day stuffing food in our faces and shopping and it was awesome. My only regret is that we did not “meet” sooner. She is fantastic!

Plus, talk about small world. HK Mama Bear is originally from SF (she currently lives in HK and is in Taipei for the summer for the same reason we are) and her sister-in-law literally lives across the street from my mother. Like, my mom’s front door opens to her SIL’s front door. On top of that, HK Mama Bear’s SIL’s sister-in-law is a real estate attorney that my mother used a few years ago.

Since my mother lives in a rather small gated community in a town of 43,000 people, that is REALLY CRAZY.

I mean, seriously. MIND. BLOWN.

4) Just got added to the secret Facebook page of my kids’ preschool. So, on the one hand, thrilled to see all their pics for the last month. And also kinda glad I just found out because otherwise, my phone would be full of pics I saved from FB.

But dude, wth?!? It’s the last day of school. Thanks for the timely add.

Also, because I’ve been liking so many pictures of my kids (since 7/14), and FB’s new app update allows me to quick-scroll and hence, quick-like all the pics with my kids in them, Facebook thinks I’m a bot and suspended my ability to like. I SHOULD BE ABLE TO LIKE MY OWN KIDS’ PICS!

5) Gamera has taken to refusing breakfast this past week. Why? Because when she gets to school, she mows through snacks and toast with jam and lunch and all sorts of yumminess. I guess oatmeal with milk can’t compare. She was real smug about it, too.

6) Also, I am ashamed to say, I had a massive Google Fail this trip. And when I say massive, I mean OMG HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE GOOGLE YOU HAVE FAILED ME IN ALL THE WAYS!!

Before the trip, I was so excited to visit a Taiwan Costco. I had packed my Costco card for this express purpose. But when I got to Taipei and Googled for the nearest Costco, the only one I found was near TPE airport which was a $50 cab ride and an hour away. I love Costco (as my loyal readers know) but even I have my limits. Fleur and I were so bummed.

Well, thanks to our new friend, HK Mama Bear, we just found out yesterday that there is not only a Costco in Taipei, THERE ARE THREE.

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And not only that (which would have been awesome enough), THERE IS A TWO STORY ONE.

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Fleur and I are SO SAD that we are only finding out about this just now.

FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL!!!

So today, we are going with HK Mama Bear to the two story Costco because I care for you, Dear Reader. Research must be done in order to properly evaluate Costco in its current native iteration. Don’t say I never did anything for you.

I am so excited.

Also, I’m sure that is a sad editorial on my life but you know what? I DON’T CARE. STOP JUDGING ME. I LOVE YOU COSTCO FOREVER.

Ok. That is all for today because we are leaving tomorrow and quite frankly, I should pack. But instead of packing, I will be going to Costco because REASONS and also GREAT PLANNING. Also, I have to squeeze in at least several shaved ices.

Our flight is at 11:30pm on Saturday and we will arrive at SFO three hours before we leave here. TIME TRAVEL IS REAL. I AM COMING FROM THE FUTURE.

Ok. Seriously? This post has quite the injudicious usage of ALLCAPS but I find myself hilarious. (Clearly, I have been on too many CAPSLOCK fan sites.)

But I do have to find activities to run my kids ragged before they are stuck on a plane for eleven hours. I will also need to somehow find room for packing an entire toy, DVD, and book store.

Wish me luck! (And see you soon in Cali!)

Why I Like Playdates at My House

I know lately I’ve been Debbie Downer and I do apologize for it. What has been a lifesaver for me during this time are playdates. I LOVE playdates. Even a lackluster one can restore my sanity and provide breathing room. My favorite playdates, however, usually happen at my house. Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy park dates or museums, or activities. But you just can’t beat going to someone’s house or staying at home and having people come over.

Here then, are some of my reasons why I prefer playdates at my house, above all others.

1) It forces me to tidy the house. Otherwise, we would never see my kitchen table. Ever. How does it get filled with stuff almost immediately after? I don’t know.

2) I don’t have to go anywhere but something still happens. Glow Worm can nap and our day will be easy going yet still social.

3) My kids learn to share their toys. Of course, they can still be selfish little punks, but I would say they are better sharers than average. Especially Cookie Monster.

4) Inevitably, someone’s kid pulls out all the toys that usually are stuck in the back of a cabinet and my kids discover their old toys and re-enjoy them for a full day. It’s lovely. Makes me feel as if I didn’t waste all my money.

5) You can get your chores done while other people are occupying your children for you. (Whether those other people are children or adults, who cares? The point is, you end up getting things done.) I get dishes washed, laundry washed, random crap put away, and pantry items eaten. Awesome.

6) When I have the kids clean up their toys after the inevitable maelstrom, they learn that even if they didn’t make the mess, we still pitch in to help. Whenever Cookie Monster complains that he wasn’t the one playing with his toys, I tell him I clean up after him all the time and I certainly did not make the mess. Then if he still objects, I send him to his room because it makes me unreasonably mad. He usually ends up cleaning. He’s a very good cleaner-upper.

7) I just really enjoy having regular scheduled play. And if it’s easier for people just to come to the same house every week, it might as well be my house (for all the above reasons). Plus, sometimes, we have potlucks and that makes every thing more awesome. 😀

That’s it. (What? You were expecting more reasons? You’re lucky I came up with as many reasons I did! My brain is worthless lately.)

Ok, your turn. What are you favorite types of playdates?

Too Much Good Stuff

olafI have a problem. I have too many things. Too many toys. Too many books. Too many clothes. Too many everything.

I’ve given away bags and bags of stuff – and I’m sure I could give away more. But at some point, I don’t particularly want to get rid of everything or become an ascetic. I like my stuff. That’s why I bought it in the first place. That’s why I have so much of it.

So, now then, the problem becomes in finding a good storage solution for all my stuff. (I originally wrote, “our stuff,” but let’s be real. The stuff might “belong” to my kids or Hapa Papa, but really, it’s all mine, mine, mine.) Unfortunately, I only have so much space in the house or garage. (The garage is laughable. All the new housing developments have these teeny, tiny garages that can fit almost NOTHING in them. We refuse to park on the street. Our garages must ALWAYS be able to park both our cars.) Furthermore, I like my things to be organized in logical and easy to access places. After all, if I can’t see it, I won’t use it. Which then defeats the purpose of keeping it!

Ideally, if I had all the time and money in the world, I would just blow my wad at the Container Store or some other mecca of clear plastic awesomeness. But I don’t and I think I’ve spent quite a good deal of money already on storage ideas. They are kinda working – but not really.

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One of the bookshelves

My main problem areas are books and things that require the use of a table such as craft/coloring/playdough items. For books, we just have so many – and we keep getting more. It’s because I LOVE books. And even with me not buying a ton, we get them as gifts or party favors and there really are just SO MANY GOOD BOOKS!

I have THREE children’s bookshelves (that’s right, THREE) all through the house and STILL, they are bursting at the seams. I suppose I could also get regular bookshelves, but it’s a little harder for kids (allegedly) to find the books they want that way. Plus, WHERE WOULD I PUT IT? sigh

I suppose I could just swap out books like some people swap out toys. But really, let’s be honest. I am super lazy. I would just forget entirely.

Craft table

Craft table

As for crafts and activities that require a small table, I want all of these things to be within easy access for the kids. If I put them in cabinets, then the kids won’t see them and as a result, won’t play them. I’ve had them in clear bins, but because there are lids, the kids have trouble opening the boxes and also, don’t think to use the stuff.

I just recently switched over to having some things into “kits” (eg: having all the coloring pages and books in the pink box) and other things in the stackable bins/shelves. (Believe it or not, those are from MY childhood. Say what you will about hoarding, it sure can come in handy!) We’ll see how that goes.

My other problems such as clothing can’t really be resolved unless I start giving away all my kids’ clothes. But since I still plan on having one more baby after Glow Worm, I am resorting to storing them all in large 15 gallon bins. (It helps that I lend out the clothes, too. So I’m not having to store ALL the clothes all at once.)

The main issue with clothing is that despite my children having a large dresser and closet in their room, I don’t use them. Why? Because I have all their clothes in my room in a Family Closet of sorts. All their baths and changing occurs in my room anyway. I don’t see why I would make my life harder by having their clothes in a completely different room. Of course, that means that with each baby, I have to de-accumulate more and more of MY clothes to make room for THEIR clothes. I suppose we could super-organize our walk in closet, but I’m not sure I want to spend the money just yet. It’s more of a hodge-podge system right now that kinda works, and kinda doesn’t. Blergh.

Anyhow, I can’t believe I just went on and on about organizing crap, but you know what? It’s important to me and a major thorn in my side. Experienced organizers and friends, what have you done? Please share with me your wisdom!