My Love is an Act of Will

LoveIn case you missed my performance back in May, here is a video of my reading for Listen to Your Mother SFI’ve included the transcript of my piece after. Also, please do check out the entire line up for Listen to Your Mother SF 2016. They are hilarious and moving and fantastic women with wonderful stories. You will not regret!

“Mama,” said Gamera. “I love Daddy more-er. He’s the funnest.”

Twice a day, my 4 year old daughter, will inform me without fail that she loves my husband more than she loves me.

She has her reasons.

He was her first word. He’s way more fun. He plays with her (especially that awful Cooties game that I would rather stab my eyes out than play). He takes her to McDonald’s and indoor play spaces and to the park.

He calls her “Sweetness” and “Baby Girl” and cuddles with her at night and throws her onto his shoulders and plays Tickle Monster until she collapses into giggles on our bed.

He is the funnest.

And most of all – he rarely yells at her.

For the first eighteen months of my oldest son’s life, I never yelled or raised my voice in anger. I used to be so proud of myself.

Gamera never got to meet that person. She was six months in my belly and had another three months to go. By the time she showed up, I was tired and overwhelmed and had made yelling a way of life.

It was slow at first. A slow ramping up of fury until it broke over my small children in a consistent wave of screaming and yelling.

And later, at two and a half, she would defend herself and her older brother, holding her ground. “You don’t know what you talking about it!” she would stomp, face red with scowling, arms crossed in indignation. “Mama, you’re NOT kind!”

So I totally get why she loves my husband more-er. Who wouldn’t?

Before I had children, I thought love would be effortless, flowing through me as water from snow melt.

Who would have ever predicted it would be like squeezing blood from a stone?

Who knew love could be so hard – especially when it sent the dark corners of my heart into stark relief?

Of course, I knew that love was not always easy. I had plenty of experience of that in my romantic relationships. And I knew from growing up with an abusive father that love for our children could look much different than what I wanted for my own kids.

But I had thought – I had hoped – that I would be better. I would be different. I wouldn’t let my father win.

But I was broken still and my inner beast, the echo of my father – his script, his cadence, his very words – spilled hot and rushed through my trembling lips and clenched fists.

Of course, she loves her Baba more-er.

I accept that she may never know or understand that my loving her is an act of will.

Not because she is not lovable. She is. All my children are.

But I hope and pray that they will never understand firsthand how I clawed my way up from my despair, buried under decades of lies, denial, and self-protection.

That I love her when I ensure that the cycle of abuse will end with me and not be passed onto them.

I love her when in November 2014, I decided enough was enough and asked for help.

I love her when I choose to do the hard mental and emotional work when I go see my therapist every Friday and plonk down $150.

I love her when after a year and a half of weekly counseling, I have finally turned a corner and now rarely yell.

I love her when I get enough sleep.

I love her when I pay attention to what my body is telling me – and when I listen to my body.

I love her when I drop my armor of anger and apathy and allow myself to feel and process pain, fear, and anger.

I love her when I look at the hard truths of my growing up, my coping mechanisms, and their consequences.

I love her when I choose to walk away from her instead of scream.

I love her when I humble myself to apologize and ask her for forgiveness.

I love her when I let her feel what she feels and say what she thinks – even if it’s messy and dramatic and overblown and infuriates me to no end.

I love her when I model how to pursue healing.

I love her when I tell her that even if she loves Baba more-er than me, or is angry at me, or even hates me, that I will love her. That she can never lose my love.

I love her even though she loves her Baba more-er than me.

It doesn’t matter.

Because every day, my love for her is a hard won act of will. And that is enough.

Buffalo Sauce is Awesome on Everything

Buffalo Sauce is Awesome on EverythingI have been tired lately – both from working on stuff for my Year of Risking Dangerously as well as just needing to let my brain run and consume things a bit so I have stuff to write about. Plus, Hapa Papa has been traveling a lot and that is a different type of tiring.

So, as a result, you all get another one of my random mental flotsam posts. I’m told they can be amusing so I hope today’s post does not disappoint. Of course, I also realize the limited appeal of these types of posts to people who don’t actually know me in real life (and quite frankly, to those who do know me IRL, too). To them I apologize, but in a half-assed sort of way because I don’t owe you anything and you don’t own me and…

Whoa. Yeah. Let’s just get on with it, yeah?

1) I have leftover buffalo wing sauce and I am putting it on random shit because I want more buffalo sauce in my mouth without resorting to drinking it. (I have standards, okay?)

Leftover hashbrown? Yes.

Cold mini-pancakes? Yes.

Dimsum? My God, YES.

It is all that I thought it would be.

2) Hapa Papa has been up since 4am Ohio time this morning. What is he doing right now at 11:25pm? Playing fucking Minecraft.

Seriously?

Did I mention he has calls starting at 7am tomorrow?

He needs to GTFTS. Mostly because I want to watch NCIS.

3) As soon as Hapa Papa walked through the door this evening at 9:15, I air-kissed the kids and went straight to my local boba shop to get boba (as well as an extra one for tomorrow since Hapa Papa is traveling again) and a snack.

The kids get really angry with me if I go without bringing them anything (understandably so) so I stayed in my driveway until Cookie Monster and Gamera were asleep. Hapa Papa claimed Glow Worm was asleep, too, so I snuck in through the front door only to hear his little voice piping up.

I felt bad so I swapped with Hapa Papa and let him go downstairs. I know. I’m a saint.

Glow Worm wouldn’t be up so late if he hadn’t have napped for 2.5 hours in the car this afternoon. It’s hard on days when we are constantly in the car so of course he falls asleep. And I’m if anything, shortsighted, so I let him sleep. Mostly so I could nap in the front seat of my van while waiting for my older two to finish their classes.

At any rate, I finally heard snoring and risked leaving. Glow Worm has been known to fake snore – but these sounded legit. Who knows, though. He’s pretty tricky. (Turns out, he really did fall asleep.)

4) Tiger Woo told us that she watched a horribly graphic and disturbing video of a seal raping a penguin today. She said the raping was learned behavior.

What I want to know is: FROM WHOM? (Hapa Papa had a similar reaction. This is why we are MFEO.)

Who is going around teaching seals how to rape penguins?!?

I suppose if I had bothered to watch the video she sent us, I would know. But I didn’t; so I don’t.

5) Went to the park today.

People: just cuz some random kid is Asian doesn’t mean he’s mine. Also? HIS MOM IS RIGHT THERE. Watching him like a hawk.

6) My kids are super into Minecraft these days which, I am relieved to say, has replaced Halo as the game of choice around here for Cookie Monster.

Also, Gamera has also started playing. Like, with the actual controls and everything – not just ordering Hapa Papa around, telling him what to do. If you know her at all, you will know she is quite possibly the laziest human child ever. So the fact that she is playing her own game is amazing.

Who said video games are stupid?

7) Because they are super into Minecraft, they “play Minecraft” in real life, too. Cookie Monster and Gamera spent over an hour playing Minecraft in the sandbox at the park this afternoon while Glow Worm ran around going down slides, jumping up and down, going on swings, climbing boulders, and generally parking the shit out of that park.

Then they spent a good part of the evening “mining” our house by knocking on walls and stuff. They kept saying their hands were all bloody from their mining.

Hapa Papa, our resident Minecraft expert, has no idea what that means. I say we just go with it since then I can read in peace.

8) I’m always impressed by how physical Glow Worm is. He has such a physicality to him that Hapa Papa calls him, “The Gronk,” after that fratboy party animal football player.

I just laugh and pretend I know WTF Hapa Papa is talking about. He isn’t fooled but allows me my harmless fiction. Then he explains it to me. And explains it to me again because I don’t listen to him very much because I am a dick.

9) Dude. When is Hapa Papa gonna be done with Minecraft? I really want to watch NCIS but now it’s getting past midnight.

Treachery!

10) I have a problem. I keep starting FB groups. It’s a little bit ridiculous, but I can’t stop.

Also? The majority of these groups have the same people in it.

Womp womp. 

11) Gamera has been blaming everything on me, lately. At current score, it’s my fault when:

– The weather is cold when she hates wearing pants
– That even though she wants to see snow in person, that snow is cold and would require her to wear said pants
– She has to go to school and we go on a playdate with people she loves so therefore she loves Hapa Papa more
– She is soooooo tired and her hand hurts from doing homework and her nose hurts from breathing
– We laugh at her hiccuping
– Costco did not have the breakfast bars she likes and now we’re out of them
– I did not get her milk when she is perfectly capable of getting milk herself and she is SO THIRSTY
– I have not given her a girl cousin

12) In related news, Glow Worm was furious with me because I couldn’t split apart a toy that cannot be split apart.

I am the worst.

13) Also also? If I kiss Glow Worm and he doesn’t want it or like it he will hold the spot I kissed him and cry, “Owwie!! Owwwwwwwiiiiiiiiieeeee!” And keep crying until I kiss him to make it better.

Then, he’ll remember I kissed him and the whole thing starts all over.

14) At least Cookie Monster is sweet and loves me and wants me to hug him and kiss him and be with him.

15) Even though I am super full right now, I still want buffalo sauce in my mouth. Why can’t there be buffalo sauce chewing gum or some type of cough drop that is buffalo sauce flavored? That would clear my sinuses, right?

16) Which reminds me. Where is that bacon flavored gum I have wanted all my life?

Alright. I need to go to sleep since it doesn’t look like NCIS is happening tonight. Also, I think I’m getting a little too loopy.

Thanks for humoring me today! Back to our regularly scheduled programming on Friday.

Scatter Brain

As many long time readers know, my mind retains the dubious talent of going from A to Z in about half a second. As a result, my brain is always flitting from one thought to the next and sometimes all the incumbent possibilities of each idea. It is exhausting. 

Also, it makes it very difficult to write a focused opinion piece on a topic. At least, lately it has. The only time I have been able to write a long focused piece has been when I have a very specific topic (like my Chinese Immersion blog articles) because there is clear direction and mostly information versus open-ended opinion. (Alright, I do editorialize, but everyone knows that even “non-fiction” writing still is biased and presents an opinion.)

As a result, it has been near impossible for me to write anything remotely resembling honest or authentic. Add to that my recent feelings of being closed and invulnerable and everything I write comes off flat and meh. 

Unless, of course, I am delineating the chaotic thoughts of my overactive mind. 

Anyhow, this is just a long preamble to another one of my disparate posts. So, without further lead up, here we go:

1) How is it that it’s my third kid and I still have no idea how to potty train? I’m getting owned! 

Mostly, we pantsless potty train here so at least I get a lot of naked baby butt. Mmmmm. But that also means I get lots of poop surprises. Especially since I forget about Glow Worm and then go upstairs and come back to him desperately trying to show me his poop. He has even decorated his poop. I’m afraid I find it hilarious. And gross. But mostly hilarious. 

2) Gamera woke up yesterday morning and barfed all over Hapa Papa, herself, the bed, and Cookie Monster. She had even pooped in her pullup. She also had a slight fever. This never happens so clearly, she had a stomach bug. 

She also pretty much barfed up everything she ate yesterday (as well as multiple times in the car all over herself and the carseat). Needless to say, I have been doing a lot of laundry. 

3) In addition, Cookie Monster has been randomly breaking out in hives almost daily or every other day since mid/late-July. I finally took him to the allergist and it looks like Cookie Monster has chronic hives. The doctor says he has no idea why but about 25% of the population has it and I basically have to drug Cookie Monster for at least a month. And even then, he may still break out into hives. 

At least it isn’t food related (which is always a concern because Cookie Monster is allergic to peanuts). The doctor says if it’s food related, onset is always between 5-10 minutes after ingestion. 

4) Incidentally, Gamera is totally milking her sickness for all it’s worth. 

5) Also, no more caffeine for me. I’m shaking and my heart rate is elevated after having an Earl Grey iced tea. Clearly I am an amateur caffeinator. It’s been hours and I still feel shaky. Pathetic. 

6) I buy a lot of used clothes and toys for the kids so the kids are used to having things that are not brand new. I’ve never been worried about them feeling “poor” because they don’t have that concept. 

However if I were ever inclined to worry, I should be reassured by Gamera’s reaction to getting new to us clothes and toys from our friends.  She thinks it’s because they love her and sees them as reminders of her centrality to the universe. Who am I to disabuse her of that notion?

7) A few weekends ago, we went to Sacramento and visited one of Hapa Papa’s best friends, Psy. While we there, Cookie Monster asked Psy to help him in the bathroom because he had to poop. 

As Psy was waiting by the door, he kept asking Cookie Monster, “Are you done yet?” 

Every time, Cookie Monster would reply, “Not yet!” Psy would wait about five seconds and then ask again. 

Eventually, Cookie Monster had enough and yelled, “Stop asking me!” Of course, Psy waited a bit and then asked him again. And then Cookie Monster yelled back, “Yes!”

Nothing like exasperating almost six year olds. Heehee. 

Of course, guess who now nonstop asks if I’m done pooping? He even said he was being like Uncle Psy.

Well played, Psy. Well played. I WILL REMEMBER THIS. 

8) Sometimes, I feel as if my kids are in a food scarce world because I never have any nutritional food for them. I know it’s not the same so no need to lecture. I just mean that I never have any idea what to feed them. And they must be nutritionally bankrupt. I know this because as soon as I gave them a good multivitamin, they actually started growing. Yes, even Glow Worm

All right. That’s about all I am capable of writing today without becoming totally useless as a person. Happy Wednesday!

More Random Thoughts

Again, too lazy to construct my thoughts into a single, coherent piece. You’ll just have to deal with it until I can get my head out of my ass. (Or, alternately, when Glow Worm decides to go to bed earlier than 10:40pm. FFS, child. WHERE IS YOUR EXTRA BATTERY PACK? And can you hand that sucker over?)

1) Started Cookie Monster on his Singapore Math workbook today and he breezed through 53 pages out of 157. I would be more excited and proud of him if it weren’t super easy stuff (the book is for the first half of Kindergarten and covers easy things like the numbers 1-10). However, 53 pages really is a lot – but he wanted to do them.

He got so bored practicing writing number 1-5 that he started to write them in Chinese characters. I think that has me the most excited.

2) Speaking of Cookie Monster, I am starting to sense that some of the hardest things for him will be to actually follow directions in the workbook versus doing whatever he wants. I find myself telling him that if the instructions tell him to circle something and he colors it, he’s doing it wrong.

Is that too harsh? I mean, on the one hand, it seems somewhat draconian to force a kid to circle instead of color, but part of life is learning how to follow directions, right?

I compromised and let him circle stuff and color the circle in.

3) Also, I really need to teach Cookie Monster the calendar. He is confusing the crap out of me with him confusing his actual birthday with how many months UNTIL his birthday. Part of it is because the months in Chinese are literally, “1 month, 2 month, 3 month, 4 month” and the other part is because he isn’t using proper grammar so I have no idea whether he is talking about the actual month or if he’s talking about the quantity of months.

Was that too convoluted? I swear it makes sense when it’s happening. (Or rather, it doesn’t make sense, but I understand why it doesn’t.)

4) I’m getting excited about homeschooling Cookie Monster. Especially since it seems like he really takes to doing workbooks and learning new things. Hopefully, this excitement for learning keeps up and I don’t end up crushing his happy little heart.

5) I’ve also outsourced a lot of Cookie Monster’s education. I have signed him up for two Chinese classes, a Math Squared class that meets twice a week, Kung Fu, piano, art, and swimming. However, because most of these classes accommodate traditionally educated students, the classes take up a lot of evenings. Since my mother usually comes over in the evenings, I’m sad that my kids will miss out on key Ah-Ma time. (Especially Glow Worm since he’s the youngest and has the least amount of time with her.)

We’ll figure it out, but I always freak out a little bit when I see the amount of time with my mom dwindle. I immediately think that my mom will no longer spend any time with the kids and they’ll forget her and be robbed of her presence.

I know I’m being ridiculous and over the years, because of the many times my mom has had extended absences due to travel, schedules, or illness, I know things are not really that dire and that the kids still get plenty of time with her.

However, try explaining that to my panicky brain.

6) Glow Worm is finally talking more. Unfortunately, most of what he says is, “No” (with a finger wag). And if he gets annoyed with having to say, “No” too often, he switches it up to, “You, Go!” (with accompanying finger pointing). It is pretty hilarious and still adorable. Not so much at 10:40pm when he’s supposed to be sleeping.

7) Speaking of sleeping (or the lack thereof), Glow Worm is crazy. WTH, kid? Go to sleep already. I don’t understand how this kid just doesn’t sleep. I used to judge my friend, Not Another DB MBA, for letting her son (also the youngest of three) stay up until 11pm or whatever and how he wouldn’t nap and just be insane with sleep.

I apologize, Not Another DB MBA. I was wrong. So wrong. And as you can see, karma has bitten me in the ass.

8) And what of Gamera? Well, a few weeks ago, I discovered she had a year-long con going on with one of her teachers. One afternoon, her teacher, GLS, excitedly exclaimed to me that Gamera finally learned how to use scissors and was cutting out stars and how this was wonderful because Gamera didn’t know how to use scissors all year and even held them incorrectly.

I just stared at GLS and said, “Gamera already knows how to use scissors. She uses them rather well and cuts things at home and at her other preschool all the time.”

“What?” exclaimed GLS. “I knew she must have known in order to improve so much!”

When I related the story to Gamera’s other preschool teachers, they told me she tries to pull that same trick on them as well. But they make her do it anyway and practice.

I’m so screwed.

9) Although, my therapist tells me not to worry because children are supposed to manipulate people to get what they want. That’s how they get people to do things. Our job as parents is to teach them appropriate ways to get what they want. (Like asking for things. Or explaining how they feel.) Dr. T also suggested that when I think Gamera is being manipulative, to try and think why she may be doing so.

In regards to the scissors incident, perhaps Gamera wanted extra attention. Maybe she was lazy. Or maybe she didn’t want to use scissors. So many possibilities.

10) I tried to keep this in mind when two weeks ago, Gamera kept refusing to participate in kung fu class. She would throw a tantrum and just stand stock still like a statue while her classmates did warmups around her immobile body. Then, when the kids started in on the forms, she would allow herself to be dragged in to participate. After three or four of these occurrences in a row, I decided to use my brain and ask her why she wasn’t participating.

I forget exactly what she said, but I eventually figured out that she was throwing the tantrums on purpose in order to get out of doing the warm ups because they were hard and they made her tired. I told the Head Sifu and he gave her a stern talking to about practicing and she’s been fine ever since.

Did I mention that I’m so screwed?

11) This week was the first time (well, first time since last summer in Taipei) that Gamera has been in a class without Cookie Monster and she was very upset and would start to cry every time I tried to prepare her for this inevitability. Well, when I dropped her off at camp yesterday, she was so happy to see her teachers and friends that she forgot all about how sad she was and went off without a hitch.

The super cute thing is that as soon as she gets into the van after school, Cookie Monster will quiz her about her school day. And since he knows EVERYTHING about how class works, he is able to get way more information out of her than I ever could. Of course, the first thing he asks her about is what they had for snacks (and what she chose and how much of it she ate). He quizzes her on what crafts she made, what books, who had what role, who the new people were, and what toys she played with.

It’s adorable. Also, creepy. But mostly adorable.

12) Ok. It is really late and Hapa Papa is on “vacation” in NYC and I’m really screwing myself over for tomorrow morning. I’m trying to prepare the kids for no screen time before breakfast/school (because truthfully, I don’t care that the American Pediatric Association warns us not to exceed two hours of screen time a day – sometimes, we hit that number before breakfast – STOP JUDGING ME) and lack of sleep really doesn’t help!

13) Although, related to this is that I really started to feel exceedingly guilty about the kids’ excessive screen time so I made (and of course, cut and laminated, too) eight 15 minute “coins” for the kids to cash in throughout the day for screen time of any sort. They each get eight and if they are done by breakfast (although again, trying to avoid this), then they are done for the rest of the day.

It took a few days for them to get used to it, but now they are pretty good about rationing. Cookie Monster is especially aware of how many minutes he has left and when he realized the minutes didn’t rollover to the next day, has been militant in using up all his minutes by the end of the day. He is also getting really good at controlling his iPad time in order to get more Halo time. I don’t know whether or not to be happy or unhappy about this development.

I’ve also started to take away minutes when they’re being punks. Again, this works much better on Cookie Monster.

Kids, let this be a lesson to you. Don’t allow your parents to know what you love. All you’ve given them is leverage.

Ok. For reals now. I’m going to sleep. (No guarantees on this being the last post with disparate thoughts. This type of thing may continue for some time. Possibly because I’m tired. And exceedingly lazy.)

Thanks for reading and Have a Wednesday!

Random Observations

Sometimes, I have snippets of thoughts that might not flesh out into full-fledged posts of their own and thus, I have nowhere to shelve them. Well, I”m shelving them here in a sort of catch-all for stunted ideas. Is it really the idea’s fault though? Surely their stunted state of being is more the problem with the ideator? And is that a word? If so, it’s a pretty handy yet utterly awful buzzy type word. It’s one of those words that sound entirely fabricated and make me want to punch someone in the throat. I hate it already.

Anyhow, why should my laziness and lack of follow-through deprive you lovely people of my pithy and, dare I say, profound (but not original), thoughts?

So, here they are, in no particular order:

1) The other day, someone asked me in all sincerity why I was so dressed up. I was wearing yoga pants. I may have reached a new sartorial low.

2) I had stopped posting Time Out pics of my kids for awhile on Facebook because I rarely put the older two kids in time out anymore. Thank goodness Glow Worm has stepped up to the plate in that regard and filled that niche in so timely a manner.

That pouty face!

That pouty face!

3) I despise silly putty.

4) Rubbing alcohol gets rid of silly putty and their incumbent stains. It also gets rid of permanent and/or non-washable marker stains.

5) I love rubbing alcohol. (In either noun or verb form.)

6) Why do I insist on taking pregnancy tests when it is too early to tell? It’s as if I enjoy starting the day out disappointed.

7) I feel churlish and ungrateful for being disappointed that I’m not pregnant yet. In part because I used to just think about getting pregnant and then, BAM! I’m pregnant. But mostly, so many of my friends have had actual difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant or both that it feels unseemly to complain.

I’m still complaining.

8) As vapid as I find Taylor Swift’s lyrics (although, no more so than your typical pop song), they are just so dang catchy!

9) Incidentally, I find 90% of current music unbearably bad. And even the tolerably good ones, I find the lyrics abysmal. At times, this state of affairs even makes me angry. Not just angry, FURIOUS. (This may turn into an actual post some day if I can actually get off my duff and write it.)

10) Now, get off my lawn.

11) I “like” too many things on Facebook. I admit, my likes are worthless. In my defense, what’s not to like about cute kid or pet pics? I desire people to like my pics. Why wouldn’t I return the favor? And really, I like a lot of things. You should be worried if I don’t like something of yours. Don’t you crave my good opinion? Oh. You mean you didn’t notice?

I hate you.

12) Getting stuff ready for Cookie Monster’s kindergarten registration makes me want to homeschool even more. (Yes. I would rather homeschool than fill out paperwork.) The only reason I’m even registering is to keep my options open next year. (We’re in an impacted area so there are too few spots for too many students. And isn’t it better to have a spot and not need it than to need a spot and not have it?)

You’ll be pleased to know that I somehow, successfully finished registration before the deadline. It was a near thing though since apparently, I gave the school the wrong birth certificate. Too many kids with the same starting letter to their names.

13) My handwriting is atrocious. I clearly rarely hand write anything anymore. It’s laughable. Let’s not even mention my Chinese handwriting. Cookie Monster puts me to shame. He is five.

14) Prepping for homeschooling seems overwhelming. Especially since Hapa Papa doesn’t think I can do it. Not because of any lack of ability on my part. More so that I’m so lazy and put in such minimal effort with my children. I’d be mad about his lack of support but I can’t say he’s off the mark.

15) I find myself no longer interested in movies. In part because so many seem to suck. But mostly because given my limited free time, I’d rather use it for reading. Or eating.

16) I find it so crazy that everyone out there, all those people driving in their cars, sharing the road with me on a daily basis, these are all PEOPLE. You know, with their own lives and wants and desires and hopes and dreams and jobs and families and kids and loves and pets and everything. And there are 7 billion more people out there. 7 BILLION.

I find that mind-boggling.

17) Cookie Monster now makes all these ridiculous poses for the camera like he’s Sailor Moon or some anime character powering up. It is ridiculous and awesome. I blame Taiwan.

Cookie Monster pose 1 Cookie Monster pose 2 Cookie Monster pose 3 Cookie Monster pose 4IMG_0263IMG_0248

18) Glow Worm now refuses to nap. He is so obviously tired but he is like, “FUCK NAPS. FUCK SLEEPING. EVERYONE IS HAVING FUN WITHOUT ME. FUCK YOU ALL!”

He’s literally hopping mad. Stomping his little feet and slamming his hands against the crib. I hope he doesn’t figure out that he can climb out his crib. (His siblings both did before 18 months.) Then I would have to gate the room because baby boy can open doors now. Little stinker!

19) And because I haven’t posted a pic of Gamera in awhile, here are some of her best over-the-shoulder looks when she was about Glow Worm’s age (and younger).

IMG_0821 IMG_0820 IMG_0819

20) And to round out the list to twenty, here’s a recent one of my pretty girl and I:

IMG_0758

 

Alright. Go enjoy your Wednesday and stuff. Be off with you all!

Longing For Grace

For those of you who know me in Real Life, you know that I freak the fuck out and go from 0 to 60 in a eye blink. One second, my MIL is asking Gamera if she has a boyfriend (FFS, she is three years old) and the next thing I know, Gamera will be a stripper who needs men for attention and will be a strung-out junkie with a pimp.

Totally within the realm of plausibility, folks. Totally.

It is possible, perhaps, that my reaction was not in keeping with reality. That my MIL’s one off-hand comment will not forever alter the course of Gamera’s life. But that’s the way my brain works, people. I never said it was pretty.

I blame this all on a sermon I heard once (I think, anyway) about how all the choices we make in life can either keep us on the path of righteousness or diverge and take us away from that same path. Minor bad choices are actually slippery slopes. Like how an acute angle in geometry starts off at a minor angle, with the lines minutely apart, but if we go further out in time, at some point, the lines will be infinitely apart. I am plagued by the idea our choices in life are like these two lines, and if we make the wrong choice, no matter how small in degree, at some point further in time, the distance between the Path of Righteousness and the Path of Ruin will be infinite and they will NEVER MEET AGAIN. One misstep and you will NEVER get back to the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Imagine Time = r, Theta = minor misstep, and s = the space between diverging life paths.

Imagine Time = r, Theta = minor misstep, and s = the space between diverging life paths.

After all, the way of the Lord is narrow. And Hard. And difficult. And the way to Hell is broad and easy.

But what a terrifying way to live. What a stifling and constraining and graceless way to live.

I feel like this is my life. Graceless. Constant self-condemnation and judging. And fear. OMG, THE FEAR.

But the truth is, life is not an immutable straight line. There are infinite chances and opportunities. Infinite opportunities for “course correction.” And who is to say that there is only ONE correct way to live? I mean, just given the evidence based on 7 billion lives on this planet, and the 7 billion unique-ish situations these people find themselves in, I know that is not true.

Stated in a positive way, the idea that there is only ONE way to live, that it is the One Path to Rule Them All, is FALSE. A horrible, pernicious lie. (A lie that I hear often in churches, but let’s face it, comes in any and all directions. Just take your pick: organic, liberal, conservative, you name it, it’s got it.)

True love drives out fear. And if I truly believed that God offered perfect love, the kind of love that drives out fear and offers freedom, why do I buy into this pack of lies? (And it is a worthless pack of lies; a twist of the Truth to pervert and poison and obfuscate who God is.)

I long for freedom. I long for grace. I long to live a life as if it were okay to fail and to fail spectacularly.

I long for my kids to experience true freedom.

My heart breaks that even though Cookie Monster is so small and so young, (too small and too young, to be honest), he is already hampered by fear. He is already so afraid to fail. To look foolish. To be rejected.

I see it in the way he doesn’t want to try new things at preschool (mostly physical activities). I see it in the way he hovers on the edge of groups, the desire and yearning to join in on whatever activity the group is doing so painfully etched on his face, but him being too afraid to ask to play with the kids because they may say, “No.” I see it when he refuses to ask me for something he wants and instead makes a negative statement like, “I can’t play Halo” so that he has already rejected himself before I can dash his hopes.

I see it in the way Gamera will lie just to get my approval. And the way she cries and clings to me when she thinks that I disapprove of her.

It breaks my cold, dark heart.

I am devastated.

If only I could live my life the way I live my writing.

When I was in high school, I used to resent having to write first and second and final drafts. I found it the height of stupidity and a fucking waste of my time. I would literally have to “fake” a rough draft so that my final drafts looked sufficiently different and altered from the original. I mean, what was the point of writing a first draft? My first drafts were perfect. I would edit as I wrote so there really was no need to go back and change things. I mean, isn’t that what computers were for?

Then, in my twenties, I decided to write a book and that is where my perfect first drafts became my downfall. I would write a section and then edit. And then edit some more. And then edit some more. Then read my perfect words. Then edit some more. Which is great and all, to have a perfect set of 1,000 words, but 1,000 words does not a book make. Most books have about 65,000 words (a little more than your typical NaNoWriMo at 50,000 words), but either way, I was 64,000 words short.

So, I read about writing (because when writing, nothing is more useful and productive than reading about writing) and all the blogs and books I’ve read since then universally agree: you have to write. Just write. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad, utter shite. Nothing is harder than a blank page. You can’t do anything with it. Just write. Accept as a truism: You will write crap. A lot of crap. It doesn’t matter; that’s what editing is for. But you can’t edit what you don’t have, so you have to write.

That’s the beauty of writing: once you have stuff written down, you can delete it, you can write more stuff that is good/bad/meh, you can move entire paragraphs, you can do whatever you want when editing. Whole worlds are created and obliterated during editing. And then you can edit some more. But at some point, you will have to stop and move on. At some point, your writing will be good enough (or, sadly, as good as it will ever be).

Move on.

Accept that there may never be the perfect sentence. Just a bunch of good enough sentences.

And that, I find, is my perfect analogy for life. (If only I could buy into this theory in practice – and not just believe it only of my writing.)

You are never done until it’s done. (Even then, who is to say that is a permanent state of being – well, I suppose, for the sake of this argument, you are done in this plane of life.) There are few permanent mistakes (the laws of physics not withstanding) from which we cannot recover.

Most of life is a rough draft. We can edit and delete, but ultimately, we move on. We accept grace and forgiveness and try our best and we move on until we Move On.

So this morning, I wish you grace upon grace upon grace. Grace enough for parenting fails, for work fails, for life fails. Grace enough to cover a lifetime of sins, real and imagined.

What’s New With The Mandarin Babies?

It’s been awhile since I blathered on and on about my incredibly awesome children. I know. I apologize. There really is no excuse except that I’ve been lazy. So, for your benefit (and my pathetic memory), I give you an unspecified number of offspring anecdotes and observations to enjoy on your Monday morning. You’re welcome.

1) Gamera now hugs books to sleep. You know, as if they were stuffed animals. She also has been known to attempt “reading” them after I’ve turned off the lights. I don’t mind except that the super anal retentive part of me worries about her getting paper cuts on her face, not to mention bending or warping the books. I will not tell you which I am more concerned about. I would hate to admit that I care more about broken books than cuts to her cute little face.

2) Cookie Monster is a generous big brother to both Gamera and Glow Worm. When Gamera first started preschool, he would help her with the bathroom, washing her hands, getting her snacks, and advocating for her to the teachers. If Glow Worm is crying or wants something, Cookie Monster will bring him toys and snacks and will often try and make Glow Worm laugh. Cookie Monster has also been known to randomly hug and kiss Glow Worm and then tell me he’s being kind.

3) Glow Worm adores Cookie Monster. I’m sure he loves Gamera, too, but Cookie Monster is the one who pays him the most positive attention.

4) Speaking of Glow Worm and Gamera… Karma is awesome. There are few things Glow Worm likes better than to grab one of Gamera’s toys and run away, grinning and chuckling as Gamera runs after him, shrieking in fury, “No, no, no, Glow Worm Boy! That’s mine! Come back! That’s not kind!” In fact, the look on Glow Worm’s face is coincidentally the same look Gamera used to have when she did the same thing to Cookie Monster.

5) Gamera and Cookie Monster have Dance Offs in the family room. They will take turns playing songs on an exersaucer and then dance for each other. It is hilarious. Cookie Monster is quite the aspiring break dancer and runs and jumps and leaps and flips and is going to break something someday. He is also goofy and makes crazy faces, runs in place, and pulls his hair. Gamera lives for interpretive dance and will make flowy arm movements and twirl and lift her legs into poses and also make goofy faces. You can tell they watch a lot of So You Think You Can Dance.

Gamera and Cookie Monster dancing and goofing off.

Gamera and Cookie Monster dancing and goofing off.

More dancing

6) Cookie Monster has been greeting me with hugs and kisses and snuggles in the morning. He will come into my bed and let me cozy him for a bit. It is lovely.

7) Gamera will occasionally deign to grant me a kiss and a hug, too. She will very solemnly cup my face or wrap her arms around my neck, and then gracefully kisses me on the mouth.

8) Glow Worm is a Tyrant King. He has taken to throwing himself on the ground when he doesn’t get what he wants and screams his brains out. It is almost impossible to change his diaper now. (It is especially difficult with cloth diapers!) And for a non-talking child (who also refuses to learn signs), he is very opinionated. His mother, for one, really doesn’t understand him and must be quite stupid because she doesn’t carry out his demands at all. You just can’t pay enough for good help these days.

Glow Worm throwing himself to the floor.

Glow Worm throwing himself to the floor.

Glow Worm protesting my utter inability to follow his instructions.

Glow Worm protesting my utter inability to follow his instructions.

9) Cookie Monster is just such a silly boy.

Cookie Monster making a silly pose

Cookie Monster making a silly pose

10) Gamera turned three recently. I find it so strange because she seems to be so much more mature than she is and I feel as if she has been three for a very long time and perhaps should be turning five. How is it possible that she is ONLY just now, turning three?

Happy 3, Gamera!

Happy 3, Gamera!

11) Cookie Monster sweats when he plays Halo 3 with Hapa Papa. His hair gets all wet and sweaty and sticky. Ridiculous.

Playing Halo 3 with Hapa Papa

Playing Halo 3 with Hapa Papa

12) I recently taught Cookie Monster how to play the card game, War, and he really enjoys it. Unless he is losing. Then he weeps. He is very sensitive to losing lately. I try not to cheat on his behalf too much, but sometimes, I do because I can’t stand anymore crying. But mostly, I tell him that part of playing games is losing and that if he is going to cry all the time about it, then we won’t play anymore. He also cries when Hapa Papa beats him at Halo.

13) Gamera is super protective of Cookie Monster. When Hapa Papa beats Cookie Monster at Halo, she will yell at him to stop and scold him, saying, “That’s not kind!”

14) Gamera also adores Cookie Monster. They are still such good buddies and playmates.

15) At school, Gamera clearly has everyone wrapped around her little finger. Not only does Cookie Monster help her with things, one of her teachers will braid her hair into “Anna braids” (from Frozen) or “Elsa braids.” Another time, a little boy ran over and gave her a doll. Gamera looked at the doll, shook her head, and threw it to the floor. The boy immediately ran and got her another doll. This time, she hugged the doll and nodded her approval. I fear for whoever loves my daughter.

16) Glow Worm has started earlier than his siblings and now only wants to eat snacks. Regular meals, nope. But snacks, especially cinnamon rice puff cereal? YES.

17) I really didn’t expect my children to be so different from one another. So it constantly surprises me when Glow Worm has a fever for a week every time he teethes (neither of his older siblings had much of a problem with teething) and then he is super cranky and only wants to nurse. Turns out it is because he always ends up having three teeth coming in at the same time. Recently, it was three molars. And after those popped through, the fourth one started coming. I would be cranky, too.

Also, my other two kids never demanded milk from me. Glow Worm full on tugs on my shirt, or walks and points to the nursing chair in his room, or screams at me until I shove a boob in his mouth.

18) Speaking of which, Glow Worm is really smart. Not that I’m biased. But whenever I take him out the crib, he immediately directs me to turn off the sound machine, turn off the fan, and then sit down to nurse him. I guess he figured it out after I did that after every single sleeping session.

19) When Gamera turned two, we totally failed at weaning her from sucking on her left index finger. I didn’t anticipate a problem because I weaned Cookie Monster from sucking his thumb in three days. Gamera would just switch fingers on me. When I figured that out, she would power through and suck until the bitter stuff I put on her finger either overwhelmed her senses or she sucked it off entirely. So, I gave up and since the dentist said it wasn’t affecting her teeth, I waited to try again until her third birthday.

We warned her over and over that she would no longer be able to suck on her finger after her birthday party. She knew and was anticipating it and seemed ok with the decision. This time, I put the bitter polish on all her fingers, just in case. I found her wiping her tongue off on her shirt in her sleep last night because she sucked on her finger. It was hilarious. She did that again this morning. But it seems like she is powering through again. WHY IS SHE SO STUBBORN?

Alrighty. I think that is quite enough for now, yeah? Gotta save some stories for my annual Christmas newsletter. Thanks for reading about my awesome children. Try not to be too envious of me. They’re mine and not for sale.