Suck It Up, May


How is May over?

You know what this means, right? Almost 1/2 of 2017 is over. That seems way too fast.

As usual, here is my monthly check in to see how I’m doing with my yearly goals, aka: My Year of Sucking it Up.

1) Take family and personal health seriously.

What does that look like? I want to:

a) Cook at least 5 meals a week. Still hitting the numbers but May was a month where I felt blah about food and my cooking it. I bought $30 of meat that I was too tired to prep and it rot in my fridge. 

I cooked, but not with joy. It was kinda meh but we ate. And that is important. 

The new thing is that I finally broke out the 愛玉 (ai4 yu4) seeds and made my own 愛玉 (an herbal jelly-like dessert)! This has totally cut down on my trips and cravings for T4 and I am super pleased.

Now, I make my own Taiwanese drinks (Earl Gray and Mother’s Milk teas + homemade 愛玉 + a spoon of honey) and my wallet is happy and so is my mouth!! 

Because I didn’t really get a chance to write a lot, I didn’t go out much, so my personal eat out consumption went down. 

b) Be active once a week.

Still nope. Unless you count lugging Sasquatch around everywhere. Baby boy is 22 lbs. That’s WORK. 

d) Take vitamins and supplements.

This has been hit or miss. 

e) Go to sleep when the kids sleep 4x a week.

This has definitely been happening and happening a lot. So, of course, this cuts down on alone time and writing and reading and TV time. 
It’s a balancing act and currently, the pendulum has swung toward the sleep like an old lady side. 

Sadly, STILL TIRED.

f) No texting while driving.

This was a really bad month. I even got a ticket for texting at a stoplight. Did that scare me straight?

No. 

I feel as if I am hurtling towards the inevitable smack at the bottom. 

2) Take my responsibilities as a grown up seriously.

Multiple rounds of sick kids. Work. Hapa Papa doing extra work. Supervising the handyman getting work done for the house and a smattering of other things. 

I adulted. 

3) Write.

I didn’t do too much writing this month. However, I DID release my ebook (affiliate link), So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.  

It even shot to #1 in the Chinese Language Instruction category in a day!


Thank you to all my readers and friends who helped make that happen. I really appreciate it!

Now, I am thinking of other books I can write – and then gathering up courage to write it. 

Alright. That’s it for May. How are you doing on your resolutions? Still going strong?

So… I Made a Thing

So, remember how I’ve been talking about finishing my ebook and how I have been afraid and all sorts of stuff?

Well… I finally finished.

And it’s on Amazon (affiliate link).

Here’s my new book, So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese. I collected and updated my popular series by the same name, added a few exclusive new chapters (23 chapters in total) and included an all new Action Plan cowritten with Guavarama

I crammed it full of practical advice, detailed applications, and heavy amounts of snark (although minus the swears) on how you can help supplement your child’s Chinese language acquisition.

Thanks to all my wonderful friends for already starting to share.  

Spread the word and if you do buy, please review on Amazon. That would help out tremendously! Thanks, everyone!

Escaping My Life

Escaping My Life


I have been feeling really scattered lately.

I mean, I know I have four small children. I get that.

But I was really rocking it a few weeks ago. Almost whelmed, even.

And now?

Now, I am decidedly tipping over whelmed.

I can always tell when I’m about to lose it. I escape into TV shows. Read books. Play Two Dots obsessively on my phone.

Anything to avoid dealing with my life, making meals, work (self-imposed or not), and my children.

I am even crankier and crabbier than usual.

Gamera calls me mean. She curses me under her breath. Like, ACTUAL cursing.

She’s 5.5.

And even though I know that my 2017 Theme this year is to Suck It Up and act like a grown up, truthfully, I just want this year to suck it.

Which is weird because this year has actually been going really well.

I have been reaching out to do more writing in different capacities, pitching the occasional collaboration or sponsor, finishing my ebook, and generally doing more than I have ever done in regards to writing.

So of course, I feel all my writing juices drying up. Leaving me withered. A husk.

I feel all out of words. Or at least, all the good ones. You know, the coherent ones.

Coherent words are good.

(See? I have been reduced to caveman speak. Words good. No words bad.)

Now that I think of it, it makes TOTAL sense why all of a sudden, I want to dive under the covers and disappear until 2018 or perhaps forever.

I am afraid.

I am afraid that because I have had some marginal success that more will be expected of me. Or required of me. And that I won’t be able to duplicate that success.

(And seriously, who do I think is expecting or requiring this of me?)

That everything up until now has been a fluke.

A complete accident. And soon, real soon, someone is going to realize that I am full of shit and that all my bluster is just that: bluster.

Unsubstantiated.

And for crying out loud. I am almost 40.

I SHOULD NO LONGER BE UNSUBSTANTIATED.

When I look back on my life thus far, there are two things that stand out in my mind that encapsulate how I deal with my fear of failure. Coincidentally, they both deal with musicals.

In my last year of high school, our choir and drama program was putting on the musical, Bye, Bye, Birdie.

I really wanted to be in it.

But I was afraid.

So I told myself there was no way I would get a part because I was Chinese – and there were no Chinese parts in the musical. Instead, I convinced myself I would be fine being in the orchestra and told my choir director that I wanted to be one of the pianists.

I didn’t try out at all.

I took myself out of the running entirely.

Four years later, in my last year at UCLA, I tried out for a musical written by Weiko Lin (music by Christopher Wong).

This one, I had a good shot of getting into – not only because I was good friends with Chris. This musical was about the Tienanmen Square massacre – so there were definitely roles for Chinese people.

So, I sucked it up and auditioned and lo and behold. I got one of the four lead parts.

I was ecstatic. And terrified.

And so, I did what terrified people do. I found an out.

I called my prayer partner up and we did “listening prayer” and I somehow convinced myself that God wanted me to turn down the role and spend more time on my floor to evangelize or whatever.

So, I turned the role down.

To this day, I regret making that decision. Not because I would be some famous actress or Broadway star now, but because I let fear dictate what I could or could not do.

Also, how many other chances would I have to be a lead in a musical now? I’m not saying it’s not possible. It’s just not high on my priority list.

Anyhow, I have told these two stories to Dr. T at least several times, and each time, she suggests that I might fear failure.

And of course, each time, I say, “Noooooo. That’s not true. I’m just lazy.”

But she’s right. As usual.

My laziness is the cover story I tell myself. To hide from myself my abject terror in trying out for the things I want – and want badly.

So, of course, now that I am taking some small, tiny steps towards being a writer, I am running scared.

Self-sabotage in the form of procrastination and laziness.

I escape into realms created by other people. Consuming at a ridiculous pace so that I can perhaps satisfy the craving to create something myself without actually having to create anything.

Well, brain. I’m onto you.

You’re just gonna have to suck it up like the rest of me. We’re going full steam ahead.

Suck It Up, April

How is April mostly over?

You know what this means, right? 1/3 of 2017 is over. That just sounds wrong.

As usual, here is my monthly check in to see how I’m doing with my yearly goals, aka: My Year of Sucking it Up.

1) Take family and personal health seriously.

What does that look like? I want to:

a) Cook at least 5 meals a week.
Still doing well in this category. I was getting a little bored with my cooking, but whatever. At least we are eating.

Oh, the new thing I did was pre-made two dozen hard boiled eggs in the Instant Pot. That way, I can quickly add protein to a dish (it has to be separately added because Glow Worm is allergic to eggs) and Gamera LOVES eggs but rarely gets them so she is in Heaven. Hapa Papa is really happy about it, too.

I am a bit disappointed in myself this month, though. I have personally eaten out more, but my kids haven’t. It has been mostly once a week, but that is more than I would like.

b) Be active once a week.

Ha! Next.

Does watching my children be active count?

d) Take vitamins and supplements.

Again, I’m still remembering to take these most days. I consider it a win.

e) Go to sleep when the kids sleep 4x a week.

Better than last month, though I have yet to sleep early 4x a week. But I do sleep when the kids sleep at least a couple times a week.

Sadly, STILL TIRED.

f) No texting while driving.

I did better this month although I slipped up again near the end of the month.

One good thing about these posts is that I catch myself texting or reverting to my naughty ways and I force myself to stop because I don’t want to tell you guys how I am endangering my life, my children’s lives, as well as the lives of other people.

2) Take my responsibilities as a grown up seriously.

Pretty sure I did a bunch of unpleasant adulting. I even got a handyman and a housecleaner.

Hey. Part of adulting is delegating.

WIN.

3) Write.

I did awesome this month!

I finished writing and editing my ebook!!! I finished the first draft of my action plan that goes with the ebook!!! I wrote a bunch of posts!

And get this. I got my first sponsored post! (You will get to read it Friday.)

And I also volunteered to write for a few friends’ sites as well as swap posts with some other sites so look out for those next month.

So excite!

Alright. That’s it for this month. How did you do for April? Let me know in the comments.

Slowly, Slowly

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how I felt as if the “shine” on my “new” life had worn off already and we were back at my baseline of meh. Well, it’s gotten a bit better.

Now, I am under no illusion that this time, the shine will stay forever, but I do feel somewhat better. Mostly because I chose to do something about it versus do nothing and stay in that uncomfortable place any longer.

Of course, we do not always have the ability to get out of a funk just by doing stuff. Sometimes, our environment and life conspire against us. But generally, I have found that doing nothing keeps me stuck – whereas doing something shortens the duration of my malaise.

So, what has happened in the intervening two weeks?

I got off my ass. Proverbially speaking, of course.

Despite a bout of the barfs hitting Cookie Monster and Gamera, because our weekends finally freed up and Hapa Papa was a peach and let me disappear for most of a weekend, I kicked ass and took some names!

I finished proofing and writing my ebook – as well as the action plan I tricked Guavarama into outlining for me. (Don’t worry. She gets credited and paid!)

I even got my first gig reviewing a product – so look out for that!

I scheduled a house cleaner to come by and give an estimate. And let me just tell you. This dour Eastern European woman came to my house and judged my squalor. Judge away, lady! Just take my money and clean my bathrooms and kitchen, please! The rest of the house can go to shit.

I finally got someone in to re-grout my shower – only to be told that it didn’t need to be re-grout at all. Only needed them get rid of and then re-seal something. YAAAAAAAY! And it only cost me $60.

Plus, I found an awesome new handyman who will get started on all my honey-dos as soon as I get him my list. (I have it. Just have to send it and perhaps buy things for it.)

But the best part is that now, I do not get irrationally angry every time I take a shower.

I even managed to read a book and two graphic novels.

So, despite the barfs (OMG the BARFS), and my having a really rotten cold, things are looking up.

I feel productive.

And really, I think that is the key to me getting out most of my funks. Sometimes, being productive can just be taking care of all my miscellaneous things. But since I was on top of that already, it no longer was a new sensation so didn’t give me that pop of YAY!

Anyhow, I know I’m slow at acting like a grown up. But eventually, I’ll get there. Hopefully, before my children turn into grown ups.

Super short post today, friends. I just wanted to give a quick update on the state of Mandarin Mama and my sadz.

How do YOU get out of your BLAHs? Let me know in the comments.

How the Instant Pot Changed My Life (and How I Use It)

This year, one of my resolutions was to eat healthier – but that is so vague. So I said that I would cook 5 meals a week and limit eating out to once a week. We used to be at McDonald’s twice a week.

TWICE A WEEK.

I wasn’t exactly proud of turning my children’s blood into sludge. But it was hard and stressful to think of cooking twice a day for my shitty kids (we homeschool so I don’t get the option of a school lunch).

This year THUS FAR, since I started using the Instant Pot, we have been to McDonald’s twice and Burger King once. (I have eaten out a few more times, but not at these places. And definitely without the children.)

When I look at these numbers, I am astounded.

Let us pause here and give me the praise and adulation I need and crave (but not necessarily deserve).

Thank you.

Anyhow. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

1) I decided to make this change in our lifestyle and I set an easily attainable goal of cooking just five times a week.

Even though part of my goal was to NOT eat out (or nuggets/pizza/crackers), it is hard to track “negative space.” So instead, I tracked “positive space” and recorded in my ink+volt planner when I cooked.

And after awhile, it became easier and easier to cook and I added more and more until it was silly to track the times I cooked because quite frankly, that was now my default mode.

2) I knew that since I am inherently lazy, I needed to support my decision by setting myself up to succeed instead of fail.

So, I came up with some Instant Pot hacks as well as followed a basic formula because I hate recipes and meal planning.

These hacks and soup templates are boring but honestly, I’m not trying for creative here. I only want to make sure my family has reasonably tasty and nutritious food at least twice a day.

3) Cook. Eat what I cook.

Yes, I need to specify eating what I cook because I used to be notorious for not eating the food I made and thus, I would go out to eat a lot after the kids were in bed.

And that’s it. As a result, here is how my life has changed:

1) Thinking about what we are going to eat for lunch and dinner no longer plagues me throughout the day.

I am not exaggerating when I say the thoughts of what we were going to eat for lunch and dinner were so painful that I would avoid it entirely and then my kids would end up eating quesodillas or nuggets or pizza yet again.

And now that I no longer think about it, this psychic pain is gone and I am much more cheerful. Plus, the kids now have consistent meals and meal times and are much better about eating food.

2) My children eat.

This is another minor miracle.

Now that my children are used to eating what I cook, they eagerly (although sometimes, not so eagerly) ask what’s for lunch or dinner. They also like to help prepare the food and look at the soups and noodles.

Keep in mind, we went through a really rough two to three weeks where the kids absolutely refused to eat what I cooked. But after that ramping up/initiation period, my kids actually eat the food I put in front of them. I mean, they’re not perfect, but it’s still a million bjillion times better than it used to be.

Thus, another source of conflict and pain has been mostly removed.

3) I can now train my kids to put away their bowls into the dishwasher.

Now that the eating dilemma has been solved and I am no longer emotionally exhausted from trying to get them to eat their damn food already, I am training them to bring their used bowls/cups/utensils to the sink.

The older kids also rinse them off and I am training Cookie Monster to put his stuff in the dishwasher. In fact, they are at this weird stage where they want to wash dishes and put things away in the dishwasher or put things back where they belong.

So weird. But hey. Who am I to complain and deprive them of wanting to be more independent and responsible?

4) I spend less money on eating out and groceries.

Because I am now consistently cooking, I no longer throw away 100% of the produce I buy. Thus, I waste less food and spend less money on groceries. Now, I buy only what we need and resist the urge to “stock up.”

5) Eating out is no longer as appealing.

The food tastes different, too. Now, I sometimes try to see how long I can go without eating out.

WHO AM I?

6) I am much happier. 

First, because I no longer feel guilty about mealtimes – whether it be over not serving the kids any nutrition whatsoever or not eating with the children or yelling at them to eat their food already – I don’t have to deal with that pain of not being a good mother.

Second, I no longer feel the psychic pain of planning or procrastinating or figuring out what we will eat. It’s boring, but I don’t care. I follow my formula and perhaps make three or four other dishes that we rotate throughout the week. 

Third, I have much less pain involving my children eating. They are mostly used to the things I make now and will even eat the vegetables. 

Now, all the pain revolves around my kids fidgeting or playing instead of eating during meal times. But this is still considerably less painful than it was before. 

Alright, friends. I think that is the last of my love letters to the Instant Pot. If you have an Instant Pot, are you as enamored as I am? Let me know in the comments. 

Suck It Up, March


How is March mostly over?

WTH, 2017? How is a quarter of the year over? I do not understand.

Anyhow, here is my monthly check in to see how I’m doing with my yearly goals, aka: My Year of Sucking it Up.

1) Take family and personal health seriously.

What does that look like? I want to:

a) Cook at least 5 meals a week. 

You guys. I am rocking this shit.

I have stopped tracking what days I cook and how often because I pretty much cook every day, twice a day. It’s now easier to track which days I eat out (which is at most, once a week).

I am SO PLEASED.

Plus, I know I mentioned it last month, but my kids are actually eating vegetables and food without much complaint. In fact, Cookie Monster has turned into a little food critic. He’ll beg to check out the food, smell it, taste it, and then say, “Oh, this tastes pretty good.” or “It’s not bad.”

It’s hilarious.

My kids clearly watch too many judged cooking shows.

Also also? Since January, we have only been to McDonald’s once and Burger King once. 

We used to go to one of these places (mostly McDonald’s) at LEAST once a week. And now, down to maybe once a month. Yay!

b) Be active once a week.

So, I let the two Groupons I bought expire. I just couldn’t muster up the energy to go and I was worried that I would injure myself. I am one stupid move from re-injuring my shoulder and since Hapa Papa is working so much, I can’t afford to get hurt.

Thus, we said goodbye to our monies. It doesn’t matter if I can still use the funds at the businesses at a later date. It’s not gonna happen.

However, now that the sun is back out again, we have been meeting up with friends to go to the park almost every weekday. We’ve also gone back out to hike paved trails. And since I have to lug around my hefty Sasquatch in the Ergo the whole time, I figure that’s enough for physical activity.

I’m doing pretty well in this, considering.

c) Wash face and brush teeth twice daily.

Yeah. It’s best not to mention this anymore. But for the interest of consistency, I’m including it. But yeah. No good.

d) Take vitamins and supplements.

I’m still remembering to take these most days. I consider it a win.

e) Go to sleep when the kids sleep 4x a week.

Nope. I’ve sucked major donkey balls at this.

The problem isn’t so much that I’m not sleeping when the kids are sleeping. The problem is that I wake up after sleeping for three hours and then can’t fall back asleep.

This is the same problem I had in Taiwan last summer. It’s like self-induced jet lag.

I’m a consummate idiot.

f) No texting while driving.

I did better this month. Not as cold turkey as January – but not as horrible as February. So,  um, maybe lukewarm turkey.

2) Take my responsibilities as a grown up seriously.

I owned it this month. But mostly because I realized I had to hand in my tax documents to my CPA by March 18 in order to file on time so it took me 4-5 hours to gather all of it. I also finally changed our life insurance beneficiaries. (Turns out only Cookie Monster was a contingent beneficiary. FAIL.)

Also, finally opened a 529 account for Sasquatch as well as another living trust account for me to hide money from myself. I even finally rolled over Hapa Papa’s SIMPLE IRA from his previous company to an IRA Rollover. Now, to transfer it to our Schwab accounts. (I hate you, Fidelity, for making this entire process so cumbersome.)

I also submitted my health insurance claims and FSA claims for Hapa Papa’s old insurance.

I even submitted claims for our NEW insurance. (Because the out of pocket expenses before receiving the new insurance cards were high and painful.)

People, it was painful but it was done.

BOW BEFORE MY ADULTING.

3) Write.

I have barely written this month. Any of the posts that posted this month were written last month. (Well, I suppose except this post.)

I’m tired. I keep saying this, but it bears repeating.

I’m really tired.

So, I’ve shoved writing to the back burner for now because LIFE.

Alright. That’s it for this month. How did you do for March? Are you even still tracking with your goals? If not, there’s no time like the present to start up again.