Life is Good

In case you couldn’t tell, I am an extrovert and for the most part, I enjoy and thrive in social situations. Don’t get me wrong. I do need time to recharge and read and be away from people – but in general, I love being around friends and talking to people. I prefer smaller gatherings because they are more conducive to deep and real conversations versus just repeating the same small talk over and over again. However, larger parties can also be fun because there are so many people to talk to (unless I don’t know anyone – that can be a little less fun) and often, that is my only chance to see large groups of my friends together all at the same time. So, bonus points for efficiency.

Anyhow, one of the more difficult aspects of being a SAHM for me is how lonely and isolating it can be. If I don’t make a conscious effort to set up play dates or activities, often the only social interaction I have is from texting my friends or Facebook. (Yes, I really am on Facebook almost every waking minute. Yes, I really do read, like, or comment on almost every thing. Yes, I am aware of how that is kinda sad and desperate. Thanks for noticing.) Otherwise, the only adults I speak with in person on a daily basis are Hapa Papa and my mother. Nothing wrong with them (I do love them very much). I just need more.

Because Hapa Papa is awesome and loves me and wants me to be happy, he consents to me throwing a big party every few months because otherwise, I’ll go crazy. Every year, we throw a big New Year’s Eve party for fellow parents and celebrate the countdown at 6pm because hey, we have kids and we’re tired and we’ll never make it to midnight. Of course, there are the kids’ birthday parties which are fun and an excuse for me to invite my friends over. Occasionally, I throw a July 4th party although this year, I think I’ll pass because we’ll be leaving for Taiwan right after. But by far, my favorite event is our annual Easter Egg Hunt.

When Cookie Monster was fifteen months old, I took him to one of the best events I had ever gone to – our East Bay Asian American Parents’ (EBAAP) Easter Egg Hunt. I recall training Cookie Monster at home. We practiced picking up eggs and putting them in his Easter basket and that served us well for the actual event. I saw some old friends and their kids, Cookie Monster had a great time, we got some awesome photos and videos, and I was amazed at how well-run and fun the event was.

The next year, I realized that our annual LA/SD trip would force us to miss the EBAAP event and I was incredibly disappointed. I didn’t want Cookie Monster to miss out on an egg hunt so a few friends and I got together on one of our Mandarin Mommies play dates and threw a small egg hunt in our backyard. It was adorable. Last year, since several of us had more kids and once again, our trip would force us to miss the EBAAP event, I thought, “Why don’t I just put on my own egg hunt?” So, I did.

I blatantly copied all my favorite parts of the EBAAP Egg Hunt and then invited a few families for a BBQ/potluck at a local park and asked everyone to bring twenty eggs per participating kid. I provided another 400-500 eggs just in case people forgot or didn’t have time to bring any. Nothing is worse than going to an egg hunt and getting only a handful of eggs. (Trust me, I know because I took Cookie Monster and Gamera on three or four egg hunts last year and many of them ran out of eggs almost instantly or they had a limit and that was LAME.)

Anyhow, we had so many eggs that the kids got tired of picking them up and just left them on the lawn. We had about sixty people attend and it was a big hit. I decided then and there to have an egg hunt every year until my last kid was too old to enjoy them.

Fast forward to this year. Between inviting Cookie Monster’s preschool class and our Mommy and Me class, in addition to our usual gaggle of friends and some of their friends, we had close to 100 people attend. (After all, you can’t just invite a few people from class. You either invite none or all! Otherwise, that’s just mean.) I can definitively say it was a smashing success!

Even though we had close to 1,000 eggs, this time, the kids descended like a throng of locusts and all the eggs were scooped up within a few minutes. I think it’s because the kids were older and much more efficient. There was plenty of food and drink, pop-up tents and easy-ups, bubble machines, bubbles, T-ball, scooters, bikes, and two playgrounds. I couldn’t believe it was 90% people I knew!

My only regret was that we were so busy having a good time, we neglected to take any pictures of the kids picking eggs! Hapa Papa managed to take a few pics of the scene, but mostly, we dropped the ball and spent all our time running after babies, shoveling food in our mouths, and talking to new and old friends. Fantastic!

Gamera was so tired, she barely finished dinner and fell asleep on the couch by 7:30pm. (That may not be that impressive to those of you with obedient children, but considering she didn’t go to bed until past 10pm the night before, we were thrilled.) I had to take a nap in order to make it through the rest of the afternoon and Hapa Papa passed out around 9pm. Cookie Monster somehow was still standing and only fell asleep at 9:30pm. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET THIS KID TIRED?

Already, I can’t wait for next year.

A Cure for Resentment

Some days, everything Hapa Papa does is golden. He takes the children out to the park, drops them off at school, plays with them, feeds them, does everything for them and all I have to do is kinda show up and breathe. He will do the dishes, wash the diapers, and on top of that, do work. It is easy to love him then.

Other days, (especially when Hapa Papa is busy working), he can do nothing right. I notice every tiny infraction and point them out with little kindness or grace. I complain when he doesn’t immediately respond to my barked orders (let’s not fool ourselves and pretend I’m asking him nicely to do anything). I get upset that I’m spending all day wiping tiny baby butts and picking up after preschoolers with sieves for mouths and he gets to spend time in glamorous hotels like the Hilton and the Comfort Inn, fly to exotic locations like Nebraska, eat filet mignons, and gets a full night’s rest.

In turn, Hapa Papa gets annoyed that I am always tired and needing massages or a break, that he can’t get any work done at home, and that the burden of providing for five mouths is all on his nicely shaped shoulders. He thinks about how if I had just stayed on the marketing track instead of jumping ship to financial advising (something that I hated and wasn’t particularly good at), we’d both be in VP positions and paid comparably and then we’d be in even better and easier financial straits. He gets mad when he thinks about how I “squandered” my UCLA education and stay at home, reading, watching TV, eating snacks, and spending all his money on Amazon Prime. (Ok, that part may be true.)

Our resentment leaches out in acerbic comments, dirty looks, and heaving sighs full of portent and misery. We snap at each other and play the “Who’s got it harder?” Game wherein we both lose. Hapa Papa is better at holding his tongue, but when he doesn’t, his comments are barbed and mean. I have no such self-control and I go for the jugular and speak to kill. We explode into a few short and cruel sentences and stomp off (that would be me) to nurse our wounds. We find plenty of ammunition for self-pity.

Inevitably, Hapa Papa apologizes and I huff a bit more because sometimes, I enjoy clinging to being an injured party. (He apologizes first 99% of the time because he is a good man, a grown up, and kind. I am getting better at apologizing first, though. Or at least, letting things go a bit quicker.) We rarely are angry at each other longer than an hour unless I’m willfully being a brat and holding on to my grudge as if it’s a prize.

From our awkward détentes, we briskly move back to normal – usually with the aid of a few more apologies, stabs at attempted gratefulness for the other person, and a few self-deprecating jokes. But most importantly, it is our willingness to be grateful and see things from our spouse’s perspective that breaks us out of our tightly held resentments.

The truth is, both of us have roles that have their shitty and stressful moments as well as sublime and awesome moments. But when I start focusing only on my sacrifices and difficulties, I start thinking I am entitled to having a better life, a better husband, a better whatever. I get bitter, cranky, and cruel. This is when Hapa Papa and I start sniping at each other. It’s not always me starting it, but since I have no control over my husband, I can only point to my part of the problem. 

The easiest way I have found to stave off resentment is to choose gratefulness. To willfully remember the sacrifices Hapa Papa makes for our family on a daily basis and then thank him for it. The other way is when I notice my spoiled brat inner self starting to make objections, to highlight the absurdity by making a joke out of it and saying it out loud.

For example, if Hapa Papa mentions that he has to be on a call so he can’t help me with the kids, I might say something like, “But it’s Saturday!” To which, Hapa Papa will gamely reply, “It’s Wednesday.” Then we laugh and I remind myself that hey, Hapa Papa actually has to work occasionally and I’m already incredibly fortunate to have him at home 80% of the time.

See? I can be a grown up, too!

At any rate, it’s hard to go on and on about how hard I have it without sounding like an entitled prat (because, well, I’m being an entitled prat). I’m just glad Hapa Papa is a good sport and is so quick to turn the other cheek. What do you do to stop resentment in its tracks?

Why I Am a SAHM

Sometimes, I think I am damaging my children’s understanding of what women can do by being a SAHM. Are my boys going to look for wives who will only be homemakers? Will my daughter think her career options are limited? Am I reinforcing gender stereotypes?

Of course, I know intellectually that the whole thrust of feminism isn’t to force all women into the workplace and devalue motherhood and being a homemaker. The point of feminism is to give women and men equal rights and opportunities so that if I want to work, I can work. If I want to stay at home, I can stay at home. (Same goes for my husband.)

Hapa Papa often jokes that I pulled a Bait and Switch on him. I looked good on paper: graduating from UCLA, working in marketing then becoming a financial advisor. And then, BAM! I popped out Cookie Monster and decided I never wanted to work again. (No, this is not a discussion on whether or not caring for children is work. Yes, it is. But I am merely referring to “work” as in an occupation for which I am paid taxable dollars.)

I always assumed I would work after I had kids. My mother worked and my brother and I turned out fine (dare I say, AWESOME?). But I do know that as much as I appreciated the freedom of being a latch-key kid and the hours and hours of TV we’d watch after school, I envied my friends whose mothers were home. Part of me longed for someone to welcome me home when I got back from school, perhaps with snacks.

Please don’t misunderstand me. My mother never missed a concert or school event. She always knew the gist of what was going on at school. (This is especially impressive since she was an immigrant and this was all PRE-internet!) She knew who my friends were and was incredibly strict regarding who I was and wasn’t allowed to hang out with. I am incredibly grateful – especially now that I realize just how easily influenced I am! (I am no stalwart independent. I am quite the follower and easily misled!)

At any rate, as soon as I took one look at Cookie Monster, I knew I would never work again. I didn’t want to miss a single moment of his little life and the lives of his siblings. I wanted to shape my children, for better or for worse. When the kids eventually go to school, I want to be there at pick up and drop off. I want to know their teachers. I want to be involved in the PTA and their classrooms. (Ok, I take that back. I definitely do NOT want to be Room Mom. NOPE. Not for me.)

But mostly, I want our home to be a sanctuary. A hub. I want the kids to bring their friends over after school, play, hang out, do their homework, eat, and bask in the inanities of life. I want to be in the background or foreground (depending on what is needed). I want to be the constant heartbeat of their lives until they launch themselves into college and young adulthood. I want to be their security. Their home.

I want to provide my children with the stability I never felt when I was growing up. I want to be their rock.

Of course, many parents provide these things even while working. But to me, I want to be home full time. Even when all the kids are in school, what place of work would have me work from 10-2? No one in their right mind would hire me unless it were shift work. Plus, I am more than certain those precious child-free hours would be quickly eaten up by the millions of little things it takes to manage a family of several children.

I am just so grateful that Hapa Papa’s job makes enough money so that we can live comfortably on one income without hardship. I am grateful that Hapa Papa supports me being at home. I am grateful that I get to be present for almost every glorious, boring, mundane, infuriating moment with my children. It is an incredible honor.

Grief on the Side

An old co-worker and friend of mine died yesterday morning. He would’ve been 44 in less than a month and leaves behind a wife and two teenage children. Although I knew it was inevitable (he had been in a painful struggle with cancer for a long time), it is still a shock to my system. (Obviously, my grief is nothing compared to his family and closer friends.) 

It’s a mixed bag, right? When people we love and care about die after suffering so much physical pain. On the one hand, we do not want them to be gone – for death seems so final to me (although the thought of a Heaven and him being in it brings me comfort). On the other hand, we do not want to prolong their suffering and pain. So though I am sad he has left us, I am relieved there was an end to his pain.

I must admit though, part of my grief (despite losing a friend who was a person who drew others in with his fun and positive personality – geez, even my attempts to describe him fall so flat, as if reducing him to a caricature of himself) is the thought of this happening to ME. I am sad for his family who are left behind, and I cannot stop thinking about ME. How I am so grateful that this is NOT happening to ME.

I am a selfish ass.

When I consider the possibility of my babies in a life without Hapa Papa, I can’t breathe. Not to mention just the practicality of WHO WILL PROVIDE FOR US? and OMG IT WILL HAVE TO BE ME!

Of course, my mind veers to the practical, daily providence side of things. Because to think too hard or too long of an actual LIFE without Hapa Papa, I just can’t. I feel an ache in the back of my throat and eyes just thinking about all the things that my kids (and by extension, my friend’s kids) will miss and all I want to do is cry.

After I heard the news this afternoon, I just stumbled about, letting my kids zone out on the iPad. All I could think about was how grateful that we were all healthy and alive and that I loved my kids. Of course, fast forward to this evening right before bed when I reached new heights (in terms of volume) of screaming and yelling at Cookie Monster and Gamera (POOR Glow Worm!) and I feel even more like a giant piece of turd.

I don’t know why the juxtaposition of these two events sits so heavily on my heart. I suppose it’s some trite message about how we never know when we’re going to die so we need to cherish the moments we have with our children.

Mostly, I just feel guilt.

But since I already wrote a post on being a monster, we can skip that guilt-fest for now. I think I am just going to chock all that yelling to misplaced grief, stress, and the sad fact of life for the moment. I’ll make better choices tomorrow.

At any rate, I miss my friend. We had somewhat lost touch in the past few years, but that did not dampen my love for him.

Rest in Peace, Nellie. My heart breaks for your wife and two beautiful children. You are with Jesus now and we are without you. Seems a bit selfish of Jesus if you ask me, but that’s just me feeling sad. You were one fucking awesome guy and it sucks that you’re gone. You are loved.

Why Do I Always Ruin Things?

Before I get started, I just want to say that I know I am a horrible, ungrateful person. With that caveat out of the way, here we go.

My house has a giant tub of Legos (many of which are Star Wars sets) that I got used on craigslist. I have a hard enough time keeping track of those pieces so we don’t pull them out much. Besides, Cookie Monster is barely four. He plays just fine with the Duplos.

Well, I just pissed off my mom because she bought Cookie Monster this huge plane Lego set for $100+ and we already have a ton. Now Cookie Monster wants to build it and Hapa Papa has to cuz I sure as fuck don’t want to.

None of us want to.

And I’m annoyed because now I have to find room for this shit and she didn’t buy Gamera a birthday present but she bought Cookie Monster one!!! Good thing Gamera thinks it’s her Lego set too. (The benefits of me forcing them to share everything. My house is Communist central.)

My mom said I could return it. REALLY? How can I return it after she has shown the thing to him?!? She says I take all the fun out of giving gifts. Blargh. I know I’m an ass but wtf. Boo.

Then let’s say he actually builds the damn thing. There is no way he’ll let me take it apart. So wtf am I supposed to do with it?! I fucking hate Lego sets.

I am a horrible, ungrateful person.

She did this I bet because she feels jealous that Hapa Papa’s mom buys them crap every time she visits. She tried to justify it by saying Cookie Monster’s love languages are presents and time.

Really? So we have to give him even more stuff now? (Rants the person who has like a million toys stuffed away for the kids to share for Christmas.)

To top it off, Cookie Monster’s birthday party is this weekend and despite me saying “No Gifts,” about a third will bring gifts anyway. Which he will rip through with Gamera with great delight (as well as remember who gave him what with startling clarity).

All this to say I may have the kids give some of their Christmas presents to Toys for Tots before I give them anything. Thin the present pile out a little.

I know. My heart is apparently two sizes too small.

Wait, so am I the only person who hates Lego sets? I’d much rather they just play whatever and make their own designs. Or am I missing something? (Besides a soul.)

So, now that I’ve shot off my mouth ill-advisedly, I feel awful. I ALWAYS do this to my mother and my MIL when they get presents for my kids. I get annoyed and mad and instead of just SHUTTING MY GORRAM MOUTH AND SAYING, “THANK YOU.” I am a jerk and then feel bad. Then, I try to soften my criticisms with belated gratefulness, but really, that’s just like taking a fat shit on a cake and then complimenting the cake and trying to eat it but all the while, THERE IS SHIT ON THE CAKE. I’ve ruined the present and the giving and nothing I can do will fix what I’ve spoiled.

I am utterly selfish.

If someone else other than my mother or my MIL gave my kids these presents, I’d be over the moon to their face. Effusive in thanks and excitement. But instead, I rob my family of the joy of giving.

Even before I open my mouth, I feel a minor struggle about whether or not to say anything but before my common sense can intervene and help me be a good person, I barf out meanness. *sigh* Because I am a mean person, people.

Just by saying this, people may comment and say, “No, you’re not mean!” and perhaps cite all sorts of evidence. But truthfully, I am nice to people who are not my immediate family. They can choose to not be your friend in an instant and I want people to like me. But my mom or MIL? They’re stuck with me for LIFE, suckers! So, I don’t bother being kind at all. I am an ass of monumental proportions. A selfish, cruel ass.

*SIGH*

Sin is hard on a person’s ego.