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.

Choosing To Be Content With Less

We decided to pass on the bigger home. Turns out, Hapa Papa doesn’t want to work until he dies. Slacker.

Although part of me is disappointed and had already envisioned our family in the bigger house, (especially my books in that glorious built in bookshelf!!), mostly, I feel relief. As awesome as the house sounded (and it was so awesome!!), in the end, it boiled down to what Hapa Papa wanted for our lives. He wanted flexibility to be with our family and to have the freedom of paying off the mortgage right around the time Cookie Monster heads to college. (Paying for 3-4 kids in college would also be difficult if we had a huge mortgage to consider as well.) He wanted to replicate what his father had: possibly fifteen or so years of his own time during retirement before passing. Plus, he didn’t want me to feel constrained with our budget.

I want what makes Hapa Papa happy.

Also, I definitely didn’t want to hear Hapa Papa blame me for this financial burden any time something cropped up. And he would blame me! Well, not necessarily blame, but he’d definitely mention it. A lot.

To this day, he still gives me crap about moving to NorCal without discussing it with him. He rightly alleges that if he hadn’t have followed me up north, we would’ve broken up. He’s totally right. But he did move up north so it all worked out in the end. (Never mind the fact that I didn’t take into account how he felt or thought about anything at all and just up and moved.)

And to be fair, I do agree with Hapa Papa. I just like to pin all the responsibility on him because now, I can get a bunch of stuff done to my current house due to misplaced guilt on Hapa Papa’s part. (He told me it was an excellent bluff strategy on my part. After considering an expensive house, all my remodeling requests sound really cheap.)

But as much as I joke about it, I am satisfied with staying put. After all, Hapa Papa is right. We would be trading our easy lifestyle for one that was considerably harder for what? A larger house? What is the point of working so hard (and in order to pay for the bigger house, Hapa Papa would have most likely had to get an even higher paying position which would require more in terms of time and effort) and never seeing the kids (or me)? Why would we choose to forgo swimming, martial arts, art, dance, and music classes for the kids just for more space?

Of course, this doesn’t preclude us moving to a bigger house in the future if our financial and family circumstances change. But for now, even though we could afford the house, ultimately, the trade-off wasn’t worth it for our family. Also, I think I get new hardwood floors and a custom built-in out of this experience (shhh… don’t tell Hapa Papa). So in the end, I still come out on top.

Many thanks goes out to our fantastic realtors, Brady and Erica Hobby of Hobby and Associates Real Estate Services. Their incredible knowledge, competence, and patience made this whirlwind palatable. I am only sorry that this is the second time I’ve engaged their service with no payoff for them. (The perils of me being impulsive and Hapa Papa being the sensible one of the family.)

And thanks to all of you, dear readers. Your comments and messages helped more than you know.

Counting Down

This morning I woke up and thought it was Saturday. I started to freak out until I realized that it was Friday. Whew. I have three days until my trip to Taiwan and despite my friends constantly asking, I have yet to start packing. Mostly because what is the point of packing things we use every day? That would just serve to piss me off and confuse me if I had to constantly repack stuff I already packed.

Also, I am crazy and feel the need to have all the laundry done and house cleaned before I leave. (I always have this problem before trips.) There is nothing I hate more than returning to a house full of dirty laundry and bathrooms. I think it’s because I’ll be bringing enough dirty stuff back as it is.

Hapa Papa has generously told me that he would clean the house after we leave so I don’t have to stress about it. I love this man. However, the thought of him cleaning my bathroom makes me ill. Why? Because I don’t trust him to clean it right. sigh I am an ass. I will let him vacuum and do the laundry though. 😀

What about you? Any crazy pre-trip rituals or quirks?

 

The Gatekeepers of Heaven

As I’ve gotten older and more life experience (as well as met more people with different life experiences), I’ve become more and more liberal in my theology and thinking. (Oh gracious, I’ve become more and more hippie-like and this disturbs me.)

I feel as if there are fewer and fewer lines of distinction on what it means to live a “Godly” life. Evangelical Christians would have you believe that you have to do XYZ and look a certain way before you are “Saved” but really, I think that’s just bullshit. That’s just the new Pharasaical order.

If you think about it and consider the patriarchs of the Christian/Jewish faith and their lives, they really don’t fit into the nebulous “Christian standards” very neatly. Or at all.

For instance, what about Abraham? He married his SISTER. Ok, HALF-sister, but still. EW. He whored her out repeatedly to other kings (I don’t believe for a second that she always remained untouched). On top of that, he had a concubine because his wife was barren.

What about Lot and his daughters getting him drunk and impregnating them? That’s right. daughtERS. Plural. How drunk do you have to be to not realize you’re having sex with your DAUGHTERS?

What about Israel (aka: Jacob)? He had two official wives and at least two concubines and at least thirteen children (of course, we only know the names of his twelve sons and the one daughter who was raped).

Or Judah, Jacob’s son? He visits a prostitute – who turns out to be his widowed daughter-in-law, by the way – and impregnates her. When he tries to turn her out for being a whore (hypocritical, much?), she sends him proof that it was he who did the whoring.

What about Joseph? He married an Egyptian and had two sons and I’m pretty sure they weren’t brought up in his religion, etc.

Or King David? With his hundreds of wives and concubines, he commits adultery and murder. He may have been a great artist and a man after God’s own heart, but he sure messed up his kids and condoned the rape of his daughter. (Well, perhaps condone is too harsh of a word. But definitely doesn’t do a damn thing about it.)

Or Paul? He told people that it was better to be a eunuch for the Kingdom of God than to be married because then you could devote passionately to the gospel. Somehow, I have a feeling that Christianity would’ve died out if that were the case.

Please note, I am only bringing up the “faithful” in a long line of “faithful” servants. They were deeply flawed human beings – and yet, God still spoke to them and favored them. They were polygamous, murderers, incestuous, adulterers, and really, just a product of their times.

And yet, Christians constantly like to draw boundaries and lines of who belongs and who doesn’t. Okay. Let’s be fair. This is not a problem or distinction known only to Christians. This is a human problem.

If I am honest with myself, I, too, have my own ideas of who gets to be a “Christian” or not. For instance, I have a hard time believing that racists, sexists, misogynists, and hateful people can be “True” Christians. Or really, I have a hard time believing many of the vaunted Biblical heroes would be considered “Christian” by today’s standards. They were some deeply troubled and fucked up people.

John the Prophet? CERTIFIABLY INSANE. I mean, Revelations is one crazy work of fiction, right?

My point isn’t to nitpick people and be the Heaven Police. It is merely to say that God seems to cast a wider net than we do. Case in point: the parable of the vineyard workers.

Here’s the tl;dr version. An owner of a vineyard goes out at 6am in the morning to find workers at the local Home Depot. He picks up a bunch of folks and sets them to working, telling them he’ll pay the full day’s wage at the end of the day. He goes back to Home Depot at 9am, noon, 3pm and again at 5pm. At 6pm, the end of the day, he lines up everyone and starts paying the folks he hired at 5pm. He gives them the full day’s wages. So, the people hired at 6am fully expect to get paid their wages and then some. But when it comes to their turn, they get paid the same full day’s wages. The 6am (and perhaps the 9am workers, too) start grumbling about how it was completely unfair. They should have gotten more wages. What the heck? Was this guy a commie?

The owner gets wind of the complaints and asks the 6am workers, “Hey, did I neglect our agreement? Did you not agree to work the full day for this set amount of wages? Did you not think that was fair at 6am? Then what’s it to you if I am generous and choose to pay the later workers the same amount?”

I love that parable. If not because really, who are we to complain if God is generous?

It’s because we feel entitled to certain blessings and good things and “wages” that we start drawing lines around who deserves what and why. But in reality, who the fuck are we to decide who gets in and out of Heaven? When did God say we were the gatekeepers? And who is to say that God isn’t being generous with the wages in the first place? When did we become so fucking awesome? The appropriate response would be gratitude.

I also love it because clearly, I’m also on the benefiting side of the “last minute” workers – and let’s face it, all they really do is show up for an hour – if even that! It’s awesome. To receive unexpected and undeserved blessings. (That’s what I consider privilege: like, what sex/class/race/orientation/ability/etc. that I’m born into.) The appropriate response, again, would be gratitude.

Anyhow, my point really is that God lets in who He wants to let in and that culture is constantly changing. The only true criteria seems to be you have to be human (this is not to be species-ist) and a sinner. There is no way we would let in Abraham into the holy Church circles as he was. I mean, come on! What we consider appropriate changes with time. Are we wrong? Do we have to go back to Old Testament times? When if a woman was raped, she was given to the rapist as a wife and all the guy had to do was pay a donkey?

I am SO thankful that I do not live in Biblical times. Or any other time other than now. I am also deeply grateful that the pillars of faith were sometimes execrable human beings. That means I may have a chance at Heaven, too.

Ramblings of a Congested Mind

To quote Gamera, “My doze [nose] not working.” Allergies and a bad cold have laid waste to my poor sinuses and I have a bad headache, can’t breathe, and my entire body aches. Thank goodness Hapa Papa has been around to let me take naps during the day and take care of the kids. He is awesome. I am incredibly fortunate.

I don’t have much to say today except a few scattered thoughts. So, here they are, in no particular order:

1) Listening to Cookie Monster and Gamera play by themselves is one of the sweetest things. Whether together or apart, their little stories are hilarious and lovely.

2) Glow Worm understands a lot of what I say to him. In particular, if I tell him it’s time for bed (even when it’s not), and he’s being held by my mother, he will wriggle away from me and cling closer to my mother. No matter which direction I approach him from, he goes the opposite way.

3) I can’t believe it took me 4.5 years to figure out that I can turn off the A/C and just open the windows.

4) Newborns are the best. So soft and fuzzy and snuggly and snarfly and sweet and delicious and I really need to have another one already.

5) My head feels like it weighs at least a ton. Also, I can barely open my eyes.

6) I am so hungry and want salty bad things but I am also too tired and lazy to get it.

7) Cookie Monster constantly sings Chinese nursery songs now. So adorable. I often have no idea what he is singing.

8) This weekend is blessedly full of nothing followed by more nothing. I will probably mess it up and clutter it with things to do. But for now, it seems glorious.

Alright, faithful readers. My brain is mush and my body is a sad, aching bag of water. Have a great weekend!

Starving the Beast

You guys, I really am an ass of monumental proportions. I really don’t know what is my deal lately, but everything (and I mean everything) makes me angry or cranky or hypercritical or entitled or snipey or sarcastic (which, as much as it is funny to watch on television, is not really helpful to situations or a particularly kind way to deal with small children). Even attempts by Hapa Papa and poor Cookie Monster, who so desperately wants to please me, fall flat and either make me meaner or only temporarily make me feel better. Then I revert back to my horrible, beastly, selfish self.

I really want this to be a hormonal problem. Or an “other people” problem. Or even a situational problem.

But really, it’s a character problem. My character problem.

I really hate that.

I mean, even the way I wrote the first paragraph is telling. I’m some poor victim, reacting and blindly lashing out at all the cruelties and insufferable indignities my lousy children and husband are lobbing in my general direction. It’s their fault I’m cranky or mean. Why can’t they just get their shit together? Why am I the only one who has any sort of fucking sense?

But I know, deep down, that it is all my fault. I am choosing to be an ungrateful, cruel, short-tempered, exacting, whiny little child throwing a pique because I can’t have all the things all right now in the manner that I am accustomed to. I have no care for how my actions affect my children or Hapa Papa or anyone else. All I am thinking of are my needs. My wants. My preferences. My desires. Everyone else could just go suck on a rock.

Of course I know what I’m doing. I am a grown up who is not completely oblivious to social cues and how people work. And yet, I keep feeding my selfish inner beast. I choose to be a jerk and each time I give in to my baser desires, the choices become less and less obvious and become more and more a way of life and a way of being. It is becoming harder and harder to stop. (Oh, let’s not sugarcoat. I rarely rein in my sharp tongue these past few days and weeks. I’m not even sure for how long it’s been going on. This is a super big problem.)

Telling myself to knock it off already isn’t really helping either. I’m just going to have to accept the fact that vices are easy to fall into, but climbing out of them is like detoxing – rather difficult and full of withdrawals. I think first and foremost on the list is for me to just STFU. That awesome zinger I want to throw at Hapa Papa? Not helpful. (Particularly when he’s been graciously swooping the kiddos out of the way of my immediate wrath.)

Constantly criticizing Cookie Monster for whatever four year old thing he did to get attention because his mommy has been a real bitch lately? Not kind. (Gamera constantly scolds me for being unkind to Cookie Monster. She is quite a fierce little sister. Also, when I scolded her this morning, she growled, “You can’t talk to my ear! You don’t know what you talking about it!” She escapes most of my criticism because she is very good at manipulating me. Cookie Monster, however, is like a giant golden retriever puppy. All enthusiasm. No cunning whatsoever.)

But really, who wants to be a screeching banshee all the time at their kids? I’m not even yelling at them so much as tearing them down, little by little. Gamera might hold up just fine since she’s a brawler, but Cookie Monster? That sweet boy’s soul is withering right before my very eyes. (Although, come to think of it, he’s a pretty good manipulator, too. He constantly looks up dolefully with his big, brown eyes and says all wobbly, “You scream at me, Mama.” Even when I didn’t! Just because he knows I will immediately apologize and then he’s wriggled out of getting in trouble. My children are way too smart for me.)

Anyhow, before I got sidetracked by the brilliance of my own children, where was I? Ah, yes. Shutting the proverbial fuck up.

We are going DefCon1 on my inner beastie. It is times like these when I pray desperately, “Help me not be me!” I think it will take both divine grace and all my humanly power to fight my natural evil inclinations. I know at the root of it is my heart being a hard and recalcitrant piece of coal. I can only hope that a combination of God’s mercy and my tackling the outward symptoms of being mean will help.

As for being silent ? That will require a miracle. Or some metal wire.

Spring Break Fun

Every year, we pack up the whole family in our Swagger Wagon and make the trek down to LA and San Diego to visit family and friends for about 9-10 days. By the end, the kids are super homesick and we’re exhausted, but it’s always a good time. Here are some of the highlights from this year:

1) I used to stress out about when we would get to see Hapa Papa’s family but I don’t anymore. If they have time to see us, great. If not, well, we made an effort to drive to LA – they can make an effort to see us. And they do! It’s great. Once I stopped stressing out about it and started setting up meetings with my own friends and then just letting his family know our availability, things were much better. I was far less grouchy.

2) The house we rented this year was FANTASTIC!! 2 bedrooms (KEY when you have an infant), 1 bath (with tub), full kitchen with dish washer, a living room, dining area, washer/dryer, spacious front yard, and plenty of free and easy parking. WONDERFUL.

3) As usual, we met up with a few friends (quality vs quantity) and the best times were had when we were at either their house or ours. Meetings in restaurants tended towards chaos and the utter inability to hold an actual conversation.

4) Seriously, I cannot stress enough how awesome the place we rented was. I didn’t realize how stressful our last place was until we stayed in a stress-free environment this year. Totally worth the uptick in cost.

5) As always, San Diego is my favorite part. It’s the portion where I can actually call a vacation. (Everyone with small children knows that traveling with said small children is NEVER called a vacation. In fact – it is several times more work!!) We stay a few days with my dear elementary school friend, CB, and her family. She plans out all our meals, activities, and all I have to do is show up. It is MARVELOUS.

6) Of course, I also got to see some other friends in San Diego. Our yearly visits are a treasure.

7) What I found most awesome this year was my complete lack of doing anything. We saw friends and family. That’s it. No outings. No zoo trips. No sight seeing. Nada. Just seeing and enjoying people. My favorite. We’ll make a separate trip this year for Disneyland where we will see no one and immerse ourselves with four days with the brainwashing money-making machine known as the House of Mouse.

8) The trip back up from San Diego took almost twelve hours. That’s right. TWELVE. Between the three children (two of which are potty trained), we had five poop stops, (three of which were within the first two hours), two food stops, and one general rest stop. Because they’d been cooped up for so long, we stayed a bit longer at the rest stops to give the kids adequate “airing out” time.

I swear it was easier when the kids were still in diapers but we finally made it home. The kids were all asleep and transferred beautifully to bed.

9) My house was a disaster (which always makes me cranky) but I did some minor cleaning and I feel much better.

10) I picked up some parenting tricks (well, I will be attempting to apply said parenting tricks) and imparted a few of my own. This ALSO makes me very happy.

How was your Spring Break?